Posts Tagged ‘art’

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Documentaries – The Film Snob Wife’s Genre Choice – Part 1: Pageant

June 7, 2010

I spent the weekend watching documentaries, and a couple of fiction films I’ll review in another post.  It started with several episodes of TLC’s new series, “Disappeared”, which is quite interesting.  Then Claude and I saw where Sundance on Demand had 2 documentaries:  Pageant (available now on Sundance on Demand) was sheer entertainment.  Highlighting the Miss Gay America pageant (at the time in its 34th year…34th!), it follows about 5 gay men as they prepare for the pageant, including one from Raleigh, NC.  This hometown man (at 42 years old) did an impression of Reba McEntire that left me speechless and had hair standing up on my arms.  He was so good that Reba McEntire hired him to play Reba in Reba’s own show.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The men had to interview as men, in suits, which all of them are, simply gay men who can impersonate women, but don’t live their lives as women or want to be women.  The absence of the typical gay-subject matter movie catfighting was refreshing, as was the profile of these men, their real lives, and what drives them to be interested in the artistry that is involved in female impersonation.  Pageant was about the artistry – not the gayness or sexual relationships or transvestite or transgender issues.  It was really incredible entertainment, and showcased how these men put more work into their costuming, (none can have hormone shots or implants of any kind), the quality of their talent performances, (although most lip-sync) and their personalities and intelligence, much of which is absent from the actual Miss America pageant.  Pageant shows the artistic abilities of these people, and this really is art – body art and performance art.  I was fascinated and completely entertained.  I also feel this movie is viewable by most any person 12 and up, so I’d probably rate it a PG-13.  There is minor mention of sex and sexual relationships in the movie, and the introduction of the families and friends of these contestants and  the love and support they show is very family- and love-affirming.

Part 2 will be about Prodigal Sons.

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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.