Posts Tagged ‘all that jazz’

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Star Wars: The Death of Cinema

May 4, 2010

Ok, so, during the course of our budding relationship, Claude, who I must admit is a few years shy of a decade younger than me, tells me that Star Wars was, in effect, the “death of cinema.”  Claude:  “It theoretically and ephemerally signaled the death knell for the great cinematic experiences we had all (meaning him and his 2 friends) come to know and cherish up until that very moment.”

“Wait,” I protested as I spit out my glass of wine.  “Star Wars?”  I remember so clearly being 12 when that movie came out, the first summer I was really interested in boys, and could go to the mall and hang out for hours with friends unsupervised by scrutinizing eyes of parents.  “Star Wars was the first movie I ever attended where I held hands with a boy!” I decried.  “Well, I loved it too, THEN, and I held hands TOO…”  (and then he mumbled…) “.but I was five and it was with my mother.”  (volume increase) “ Then I got older, and saw it for what it was REALLY worth – a huge masturbatory opportunity for one George Lucas who is still in love with himself – hell, I bet he’s in the closet with R. Kelly right now.”

“Wait,” I protested again, and made some argument about how if George Lucas were in love with HIMSELF, he probably wouldn’t be in the closet with R. Kelly.

Claude:  “Just think about it for a minute.  All the great movies with their non-computerized special effects, GREAT films…”

Me:  “Like Mouchette?”  She’s in the damn river, boy…”

Claude glared at me.  I took another sip of wine and batted my eyelashes.  “NOOO,” he protested.  “Like the whole 70’s oeuvre, you know, Bonnie and Clyde, all the Altman stuff, Shampoo, Don’t Look Now, the Peckinpah neo-westerns…”

I agreed that a lot of those were, in fact, good movies, but Star Wars was an EVENT for my generations, which I have recently learned is NOT the tail-end of the Baby Boomers, but rather “Generation Jones”, because we wanted to keep up with the Joneses.  Well, my maiden name is Jones, so I guess people were keeping up with us.  I’m not sure why.  We had ugly green shag carpet and brown appliances and my mother found some crazy seamstress to make all our clothes and we often looked mildly retarded.

Star Wars was, for Generation Jones, what the arrival of the Beatles was for the Baby Boomers.  It signaled something.  It was likely your first date movie.  The visuals were stunning, and fast-paced.  There was a love triangle.  And a big furry thing, who, if you were lucky, you could imitate to the delight of your friends.  Everyone I knew had the soundtrack on vinyl (the cover was black, it had a gatefold, I’ll never forget it).  And, crazily enough, I believe the movie holds up well even today.  It’s not 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I know is a stretch for many, many people to watch,.  But 2001 was truly groundbreaking in its use of special effects (hence the Oscar)  but very hard to understand in the plot department.

Ok, back to Star Wars.  I digress.  Especially about 2001, which I reviewed in another post.  How could this film be the “death of cinema”, as Claude suggested?  What about all the other movies that came out after it that were good and not sci-fi and not directed by George Lucas (or Stephen Spielberg who is also on his shit list)?  What about  All That Jazz or A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy or Valley Girl or Apocalypse Now or The Shining or ICE CASTLES???…I mean, I just couldn’t imagine that Star Wars had made it so that we should have shuttered the theatres and burned all the celluloid a la Fahrenheit 451.

Finally, Claude, after several more glasses of merlot, came around and admitted that there were other good movies after Star Wars, but, by God, that didn’t mean that Lucas didn’t deserve the same punishment as Jim Caveziel in The Passion of the Christ for his misdeeds.  And for the same 2 hour time-span.

Postscript:  The above was written about two years ago.  Over the weekend, I was going through some stuff and found a vintage 1977 official Star Wars C3P0 necklace.  It wasn’t mine.  Proof, as Claude said, that he loved Star Wars as a kid too.  But  he was five when the film came out, so it’s understandable.  And after learning more about Lucas through an unnamed source, I’m going to have to break down and agree with Claude’s sentence of punishment for Lucas.   What a wookie.

Postscript Postscript:  Claude says, “George Lucas is a turd.  So there.”  ‘Nuff said.

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Alfie and Shotgun Stories: Atmosphere and shot selection

February 23, 2009

Alfie and Shotgun Stores:  Atmosphere and Shot Selection

We had a film snob lovers’ weekend this weekend, Claude and I.  The great upside of being married to a film snob is the vast variety of films one will be exposed to, no pun intended, over the course of the relationship.  Some really good, some really bad, but none uninteresting, and never without stimulating a good conversation with Claude.

This weekend, we watched two movies that struck me in their use of atmospheric shots.  I digress for a moment:  I remember dating a man, briefly, before Claude, who was an art teacher.  We went to the local art gallery a couple of times, and he kept asking me how different pieces of artwork made me feel.  I have to admit, I haven’t had the experience of feeling emotions too terribly often when looking at static artwork, but film affects me much differently, sometimes even the most banal of scenes.

Alfie is a well-known film from (1966) starring a dashing and young Michael Caine.  What seems to start out as a light-hearted romp quickly turns dark, and Caine is brilliant in his performance.  But what stuck with me most about this film are the shot selection and the scenery.  In one scene, Alfie and a woman are on their way home from visiting the woman’s husband in a sanatorium.  Along the way they stop and take a leisurely canoe ride.  The shot selection from the woman’s point of view of the sky and the trees as they go past above her and the sun streaming through the branches is really breathtaking, and elicited strong feelings from me.  Feelings of what temporary peace and bliss feel like – you know it’s fleeting, so you want to drink it all in, and its sheer beauty is both bitter in its temporariness and sweet in its ability to sear itself eternally in your brain.  Of course, scenes of London in the 1960’s are also quite interesting, and Sonny Rollins’ post-bop musical score really added to this movie for me.  As I said, having never seen it and only knowing a little about it, I was surprised that it took the dark plot turn that it did, but for that reason, and for the shot selection, I was quite satisfied and would recommend this movie highly.  Our good friend from Turner Classic Movies Robert Osbourne was less than complimentary about the remake with Jude Law, so I would probably stay away from that one.

The other film we saw this weekend was one from 2007 entitled “Shotgun Stories” staring Michael Shannon as a dead-ringer for a young David Letterman.  This film was dark from start-to-almost-finish.  Filmed in the small town of England, Arkansas, the long, lingering shots of rural landscapes where you hear nothing but birds or crickets really brought back what living in the country was like.  A couple of shots in particular were exceptionally stunning – one simple shot of sycamore tree leaves on the ground – I know it sounds boring, but the composition and the color of that one shot is one that will remain with me for a long time.  Those particular shots – the rural, quiet ones, elicit the same bittersweet feeling that I described having when watching the canoe scene from Alfie.  The feeling is almost like being homesick – longing for something you know you can never have, or once had and can never have again, or dreaming of some unattainable future event or place or mood.   Michael Shannon is a remarkable actor, and this movie was very thought-provoking, until its end when it just tied up too neatly for Claude and me.  Claude has conditioned me not to like happy endings anymore, and really, when I look back on the films I liked before I met Claude, the ones I found to be more satisfying are the ones that don’t have a neatly-tied ending.  Even the musicals that I hold most dear are the ones with downer endings – Fiddler on the Roof and Funny Girl and All That Jazz come to mind.  I would definitely recommend Shotgun Stories especially if you have memories of rural life in America in the past 45 years.  It is a dark tale, and has some pretty strong implied violence.  It’s clearly an interesting film both visually and thematically.  I’d give it 3 stars on a 1-4 rating.  I think I’d give Alfie the same rating.

Now for the film snob part – as we’re watching the end credits of Shotgun Stories, Claude says, “A-ha!  I thought I’d see that name pop up.”  Claude has a photographic memory for film details (and book details and pretty much any details except taking food out of the freezer to thaw for tonight’s dinner), and he remarked that one of the executive producers of Shotgun Stories, David Gordon Green, is a filmmaker who directed “Pineapple Express.”  There’s where I just simply will never be able to keep up with the “big boys”, Claude and his friends.  I don’t have a memory for details such as that, and can’t put all the pieces together or get all the references.  I guess that’s why I’m lucky to be the wife of a film snob.