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Monday Movies: Catching up

As promised, the forcible end of my West Wing addiction has brought more movies into my life. This week I watched three, fully turning over my Netflix queue:

  • Sunset Boulevard — I now realize that I discussed this in last week’s post. Since we finished it on Monday morning, I was confused.
  • The Lady Vanishes — kind of a dumb Hitchcock movie, mostly amusing for the role English identity plays throughout. I also enjoyed the “conspiracy without conspirators,” where people had their own reasons for denying they’d seen the missing woman, but the protagonists assumed it was a cover-up involving everyone.
  • Real Life — what’s a boy to do when he’s watched most of Woody Allen’s best work but is still hungry for films by a Jewish writer-director-actor? Apparently he should start watching Albert Brooks movies. This parody of the “first reality TV show” (a PBS documentary from the 1970s about an average family) was remarkably prescient and in many ways renders the next 30 years of cultural development redundant. The only thing he didn’t get was that people would leverage their “reality” appearances to become weirdly free-floating celebrities. For instance, the dad is even worried about the effect the movie will have on his veterinary practice — but he also hams it up for the camera and makes himself look like an idiot, somewhat like David Brent of The Office (though he goes for over-nice rather than over-funny). Plus it’s well under two hours — everybody wins!

In the queue for next week: The American President (I just can’t quit Aaron Sorkin!), Late Spring (Ozu), and Modern Romance (another Brooks movie).


November 1, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. This is wholly irrelevant to the post, but since the blog for those who dare to be ignorant is now password protected, I am resigned to posting this link here. I do hope it gives the readers a chuckle (at least, those familiar with German).;;toc.depth=1;;style=work;brand=mtp#X

    Comment by Rob L | November 1, 2010

  2. I don’t think I watched any movies this week, and if I did they obviously didn’t make a strong impression. I spent my late night TV watching on shows like Tosh.0, Venture Brothers, and Kanye West videos.

    For something movie related, I am curious about the marketing of the superhero cartoon, Megamind. The original commercials set it up as a typical bad guy v. good guy movie with more of a focus on the bad guy. They have now shifted, before the movie is even out, to a reveal that the bad guy is going to step in for the retired good guy.

    This struck me as odd. Were the original commercials not testing well? Or was this the plan all along?

    Comment by mattintoledo | November 1, 2010

  3. Let The Right One In, about which more here
    The Town, which I liked a lot. It had a smoothly schematic plot, broken down here on one of my favorite screenwriting blogs. I also appreciated that it told a story where “justice” wins (after a fashion) but “order” doesn’t — the FBI agent played by Jon Hamm has a very reasonable goal, to stop the bank robbers, and he’s neither corrupt and vicious nor does he finally end up working side-by-side with the criminal he’s been chasing. My hunch is that this used to be a more common theme in Hollywood cinema, but I’m not sure enough of my history to demonstrate it. I’m reminded of a CLR James quote to the effect that popular audiences wouldn’t tolerate complete domination by a ruling class culture industry, and that there’s an awful lot of working class give-and-take in entertainment. It’s a good quote.
    I overcaffeinated Thursday night and found myself flipping back and forth between a number of movies on Netflix On Demand, watching mostly by skimming through the stills. The titles and themes of said movies may be better saved for the Friday Confessional. For more than one reason, actually.

    Comment by k-sky | November 1, 2010

  4. i watched the other day Nights of Cabiria and wrote a long comment, but lost it
    Saturday i watched Diary of a Chambermaid
    so great movies are great because they move, this time disgustingly
    such obnoxious people were the French bourgeoisie, well, anybody who employs personal servants/slaves are, i guess, generally, i guess they were not too fastidious, those upper classes, to tolerate somebody touching their personal belongings! plus of course exploitating somebody, unimaginable for my soc upbringing
    and that that power corrupts, so anybody in their situation must become obnoxious like against their will i guess
    and how must be the chambermaid was lonely in her time, nobody around her worthy of her affection and respect, except an innocent child, all the men there seem so disgusting, petty and pitiful, all the women weak, simple and obedient and she’s so strong willed that is able to sleep with the man she suspects in child rape and murder to know the truth and take revenge on him for the girl
    though she fails, it’s just the superwoman willpower just to try, to overcome disgust for justice and there felt nothing calculating any profit in her motives, so i felt much respect for her
    i felt sympathy for the old soldier who married her, he looked so happy to serve her in the final scenes
    in Nights of Cabiria i thought that it has too optimistic ending, why would she start smiling so soon, then recalled that Nabokov’s quote about hitting the bottom and having no other way than up, so must be it’s natural for one to smile after getting robbed of all her belongings and near death, just because she survived

    Comment by read | November 1, 2010

  5. Persons who enjoyed Rob L’s link will probably also like this.

    Comment by ben | November 1, 2010

  6. my little niece, now she’s almost 4 yo, so she’s being taught English at her kindergarden by an American teacher, a very nice black woman, i think she’s from the Peace corps and maybe volunteers to teach children besides her other duties
    at first she was very afraid of her teacher and would start crying seeing her and all other kids would follow her, so it took some time for them to get used to the teacher
    so she learned now how to say “i’m ok, what about you?” which sounds like – i am ok, barbar you and wouldn’t say it correctly however corrected, very stubborn cz

    Comment by read | November 1, 2010

  7. Ozu, The Only Son, 1936. The masterpiece of his early years. I really think it helps to see Passing Fancy and An Inn in Tokyo before seeing this, because I think TOO extends and comments on those movies, along with taking place in much the same mise-en-scene. Lots and lots of art and technique here, pillow shots, conversation out of focus, visuals that contradict the words. Wonderfully experimental film. Performances by actors are among the best I have ever seen in his movies.

    And bleak. Jeez it’s fucking bleak. Can bleakness be beautiful? Ozu was always and forever outraged and tragic, not resigned.

    And I swear he is using “Old Black Joe” as music to start and end the movie. Look up the lyrics at Wikipedia.

    Not long after this, Ozu was drafted and apparently as a corporal participated in or observed the Rape of Nanking.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 1, 2010

  8. I just read another book section on google that talks of the affects of Ozu’s low camera. It also repeats the mono no aware bs.

    “Tragedy in life starts with the bondage of parent and child”

    …is the epigram to The Only Son, which I think is Ozu’s critical movie.

    Burch and many others dislike the later Ozu because he supposedly abandons much of the overt social criticism of the early 30s, moves up to the bourgeois, and seems more resigned. James Joyce distilled the world to the family in Finnegans Wake and I think this is also exactly what Ozu did.

    My thesis is that Ozu uses the family, and especially patriarchy, not merely as metonym or synecdoche, but as concrete material cause of the horrors of the world. And when you watch Noriko’s horror in Late Spring as her father lies her into bondage, you should also see Ozu crying over the corpses at Nanking.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 2, 2010

  9. Mizoguchi, Akasen Chitai aka Street of Shame 1956. Last film before death. Various prostitutes in a contemporary brothel. Mizoguchi saves his close-ups for devastating final shots. He writes for and directs women very well, very sympathetically and honestly. Each actress got several great scenes in an 85 minute movie. Complicated long takes with many actors and a lot of things happening.

    Book:Understanding Movies, 9th, Louis Gianetti. College Textbook for Intro to Cinema. Terrific.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 3, 2010

  10. i hope BMcM and others all, that, cinematic buffs, will enjoy this
    i’m going to try to find and watch what i haven’t seen there, all look fun cz

    Comment by read | November 4, 2010

  11. Sadao Yamanaka, Ninjo kami fusen aka Ballad of Paper Balloons,1937. Yamanaka at 28 was one Ozu’s (34)closest friends, and after this movie was sent point to the China front and killed. Three of his 28 movies survive.

    18th c Edo slum, humiliated hairdresser and masterless samurai kidnap a rich lord’s daughter. Hairdresser acts mostly out of rebellion, samurai out of indifference. All kinda existential despair stuff, with enough political undertones to get the director in trouble. Studios usual great cinematography and beautiful mise-en-scene. Fine performances. I wasn’t knocked out, but this deserves to be seen.

    I’m getting my head stuffed with gorgeous b & w images. It’s nice.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 5, 2010

  12. Ozu,Higanbana aka Equinox Flower 1958. In his first color film, Ozu manages to reach his full intense idiosyncrasy. Red highlights everywhere, full centered figures in conversation. There is an early joke I think about Ozu’s violation of the 180 degree line,as a character runs around outside the house so we get an opposite camera position. The set-ups were so stunning I missed the subtitles for the first half hour.

    This is, I think, a comedy. Shin Shiburi as father learns women know best in the new Japan.

    One of the very few Ozu movies with no missing family members.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 6, 2010

  13. Saturday:Cameron’s Dances with Smurfs

    Sunday:Shimizu, Japanese Girls at the Harbor 1933, silent. Very fancy directing in a story of two orphaned schoolgirls grow up. Three intense axial cuts; tracking shots; weird dissolves in which people become transparent;lots of pillow shots, mood shots, symbols. Yokohama with lots of exteriors, very Western and modern in sets and costumes. Just one shoji, sliding paper wall-door, in the movie. Interior sets were a little seedy and cheap.
    Fine chick flick, but get the Shimizu “Travels” set.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 7, 2010

  14. Kitano Sonatine, and probably something before that, but I seem to have forgotten. Since Monday Movies is gone, I have started a record.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | November 11, 2010

  15. I saw the Zuckerberg-movie, and I am pretty sure I know why they were confident they would not get sued.

    Comment by Guido Nius | November 12, 2010

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