Rightwing Film Geek

If these people weren’t genocidal murderers, they would be hilarious

Remember in the SOUTH PARK movie when the Canadian Ambassador to the UN denounces the seizure of his country’s two iconic geniuses, points to a pie chart of Canada’s GDP and says “the entire Canadian economy depends on Terrence & Phillip.” Apparently, Al Qaeda thought that was awesome.

crowe_oscarSo the intrepid Jihadis apparently got an idea and hatched a plan to kidnap Russell Crowe as part of a cultural destabilization plot against American icons, according to an interview in Australian GQ with the New Zealand native Crowe.

Can you imagine Madeleine Albright going to the UN and saying “the entire American economy depends on PROOF OF LIFE and 30 Odd Foot of Grunts”? That would have been so awesome.

The plot was apparently foiled or never got very far or the intelligence was faulty. But in the spirit of negotiating differences with our Muslim brethren and avoiding Eurocentrism by celebrating diversity of thought with and within the great Islamic civilization, I would tender an offer to Mr. bin Laden. Why kidnap a onetime Oscar winner, when you twice as well by kidnapping double-winner Hilary Swank, wreck American culture by depriving us of an AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE sequel, and destabilize the American economy by depriving it of the grosses from another KARATE KID movie. Just a thought osamabud.

March 12, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Older films seen during the week


CONFIDENTIAL AGENT (Herman Shumlin, USA, 1945, 6): I was in a Graham Greene mood a few days ago, so I watched this Greene-novel-based film on TCM, and it was effective as long as I could keep a straight face at the basic ludicrousness of the casting. Was there ever a more distinctly *American* star actress than Lauren Bacall? Was there ever a more distinctly *French* actor among Hollywood stars than Charles Boyer? So, why O why, are these two fine actors cast as a British aristocrat’s daughter and a Spanish agent for the Republic during the 30s civil war? Boyer and Bacall weren’t even trying to hide their unmistakable voices. (You also hear Peter Lorre’s rat-fink voice passed off as a Spaniard.) With better casting or even a minor rewrite (it wasn’t as if the Spanish Republic didn’t attract support from leftists in every country in the world), there was a potentially great film here. The plot, involving a republican agent’s attempt to outbid the nationalists for a British coal contract, sound boring, but coal is really just a MacGuffin for a picaresque series of clear, lean and suspenseful set pieces involving characters whom we know only as threats or friends or both or neither. Boyer is more effective than I would have dared imagine at playing a driven, intense and eventually ruthless man. Bacall doesn’t know how not to be alluring. We also see the shards of (what I imagine are) Greene’s novel and his characteristic themes, though smoothed into a straight spy story, in scenes involving some of the supporting characters — the 14-year-old hotel attendant; Mr. Mukerjee, the observer; the pusher of the Universal Language of Brotherhood; the miner whose son was in Spain. In these short scenes and what the actors do with these eccentric characters, you get a sense of what Greene was driving for, while seeing it being watered down for a genre-movie script. CONFIDENTIAL AGENT was the equivalent of an art school student trying to mimic Leonardo or Michelangelo — there’s a great movie among these ingredients; too bad it isn’t what was made.


THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (Josef Von Sternberg, USA, 1928, 9): Sternberg was credited with about six or seven silent films, of which at least three have solid reputations. I’ve now seen two (DOCKS and THE LAST COMMAND; UNDERWORLD remaining). And I’ll commit critical blasphemy by saying that I honestly prefer these two silents to Sternberg’s famous series of films with Marlene Dietrich. Sternberg’s overheated, overripe fantasies and his stylizations in set design and subject matter and acting style seem kind of ludicrous when exposed to sound and the realism of the talkies (although maybe it’s just English; I think THE BLUE ANGEL is great, but I’ve only ever seen the German version). DOCKS is a triumph of magnificent style over a really thin story — in a 24-hour period over two days, a stoker on a ship saves a drowning woman of questionable virtue on his night ashore and the two kinda maybe fall in love, but do get married definitely. As a lark. Or not. This low-life fairy tale is contained within a typically bizarre Sternbergian universe — an overstuffed mix of the glitter and the gutter that must’ve set a young Fellini’s imagination wandering. But it’s not all smoke and nets and roving camera movements over barroom lines and through chair-tossing fights (the camera really seems to move in all four directions and all three dimensions in a way few films from that era did). In the admittedly very stylized way, you won’t see better acting than the interplay between George Bancroft as the rough-hewn stoker and Betty Compson as his wife/prostitute. The looks on their faces and their gestures make words so painfully redundant that it’s not hard to see why many critics until the mid-1930s thought talkies were the death of film. And you keep reminding yourself as you’re watching this sex-drenched film that could probably get a G-rating that you’re seeing a film made in 1928 showing things that you thought were never shown in American movies until the 1960s.

March 12, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not ‘Recut’ enough, apparently

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THE PASSION RECUT debuted this weekend, although ironically it will play in theaters without having an MPAA rating — a practice usually reserved for independently-made films with subtitles and a small-fry distributor. Well … you know what I mean. On the new film’s Web site, Mel Gibson says in the intro clip that he was responding to people who wanted to take “Aunt Martha, Uncle Harry, or your grandmother or some of your older kids … [but] thought that the intensity of the film was prohibitive to those people.” But Scott Von Doviak of the Fort Worth Star Telegram (can’t find article now) makes a valid point about THE PASSION’s intensity — Gibson’s stated concern.

In any case, there’s no way a few missing minutes can substantially alter the overall tone and intensity. If Aunt Martha couldn’t handle it the first time around, she’ll find that the recut is no church picnic, either.

Yes. Tone and intensity are things that require more than minor tinkering to affect.

But what is funniest about this rerelease is that the film’s phenomenal box-office success came despite the handicap of an R rating (PASSION was the biggest-grossing R-rated film of all time). Gibson was hoping to get a PG-13 for THE PASSION RECUT — “some of your older kids” — but failed. At least the largest Canadian province (Ontario) did not change its rating either. So as a result, for probably the first time ever, a recut version of an R-rated film, one already out on video, is going into theaters unrated. Frankly though, it’s hard for me to see why Newmarket couldn’t accept an R-rating for RECUT. The film’s been retitled; everyone is aware of the new film and its basic rationale (“bring along Aunt Martha”). I really don’t think the same rating is gonna cause much confusion. And perversely, the lack of a rating will hurt the film at the box office, since many theaters (particularly in malls and shopping centers) have codes and policies against showing unrated (or NC-17) films.

So we have a case where in order to get a *less* violent version out, a director refused a rating at all (the reverse has happened a lot with indie and foreign films), and will probably lose money over that decision. Huh? This release is one of the oddest exhibits in the ongoing case of the irrationality of the American ratings system, America’s cultural reactions to “adult material,” and the increasingly extreme content of R-rated films. FWIW, I think THE PASSION (along with the majority of R-rated films today) should have been rated NC-17 and that NC-17 films should be as widely available as R-rated ones. But the big movie distributors and studios are not willing to accept widely a rating that says categorically “you cannot take this person’s money”; a broad section of the public is not willing to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a movie that is flatly inappropriate for children, but not shameful for adults; and another broad section of the public is phobic about “censorship” and “free expression” and takes “pushing the envelope” as a term of praise.

March 12, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment