Rightwing Film Geek

The Disney cartoon not for kids

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The Derelict at Stuff O Dreams has an interesting piece about FANTASIA, which she admits disliking on first viewing. I agree that 9 is too young to really enjoy FANTASIA — I didn’t see it at all until its 1990 50th anniversary rerelease, when I was 24. But still, I would readily subject a 9-year-old to “The Nutcracker Suite” or “Dance of the Hours” (plus all the dancing hippos and alligators in the latter).

While the images of Mickey can appeal to children, I don’t know that “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” *as music* really does. And I’m quite certain that “The Rite of Spring” and Bach fugues do not. But the strength of Derelict’s copiously-illustrated piece is to note the connections between the images used in the various sections — the treatment of nature and ultimately, of creation itself.

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June 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

What matters most

chaplin.jpgG-Money unwittingly comments on film fandom and levels of knowledge in his three latest posts. His piece on THE CIRCUS (by far the meatiest of the three) could only have been written by a Chaplin fanboy, a man for whom coming to grips with each Chaplin film means putting it in the context of his whole career and the movies at the time:

Unlike the rest of the clowns, the Tramp does not seem to be playing for laughs–he isn’t in on the joke with the audience and lacks the sort of immediate emotional connection a clown might have. This is what set the movie comics apart from their vaudeville counterparts.

Could this be the fear that was gnawing at Chaplin and his contemporaries [in 1928], that we were moving away from the visual lyricism of silent comedy, and returning toward the wink-wink nod-nod relationship with the audience that characterized humor in the theater? Certainly, the most successful early sound-era comics, especially the Marx Brothers, thrived on a new style that was far more self-aware, that played to the audience in a more overtly comic way. Perhaps, looking forward to a largely uncertain future, Chaplin was writing the story of his own end as an artist.

Yes, he was. Obviously, Chaplin was so huge himself that he was able to continue through the 30s with two basically-silent movies — his masterpiece CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES. But talkies were his death.

But on the other hand, Michael notes that while he liked Harold Lloyd’s SAFETY LAST only some, apart from *the* famous sequence, his 8-year-old brother was completely taken by it. I’ve heard a lot of silent-film fans myself say that Lloyd really appeals to their children. “We forget, sometimes, how magical the cinema can be, unencumbered by critical airs,” Michael writes. “Critical airs” though, are exactly what THE CIRCUS piece was all about. And FWIW bud, Roger Ebert had a similar reaction to SAFETY LAST when he saw it, his first Lloyd … in 2005 (and he got taken to task over it).

tracyhepburn.jpgAnd in his short piece on ADAM’S RIB, Michael noted that his mother (I am closer to her age than to his) told him as if for granted that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy had a real-life years-long affair, which accounts in part for how easy and free their chemistry is. This was something I happened to know before I ever saw the two act together — in WOMAN OF THE YEAR. But he didn’t, and my reaction was “wow bud.”

I cannot imagine watching the Tracy-Hepburn comedies without knowing that the two were lovers offscreen. It was for me (and critics of Kael’s generation) always part of the fun of the pairing, that these films were light-comedy larks, but also substitutes for the relationship they could not have because Tracy was already married. Try PAT AND MIKE, by the same writers-director team, armed with this knowledge (your named problem with ADAM’S RIB will not occur).

June 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to the blogosphere

While I was struggling with this site, I got a note from Martin Harold, an adjunct film professor at John Paul the Great Catholic University (vjm cheers) and a self-described “big fan of [my] work” (vjm gulps), telling me had started a blog. When I restarted, I added him to my blogroll at the right, and here is his site. Some recent items of interest:

— We have different takes with respect to morally dubious acts in movies — I think anything is, in principle, legitimate subject matter. Mr. Harold not so much. I think our disagreement is in his statement: “a sensual aesthetic never reaches its audience on an intellectual level,” which I would amend to “a sensual aesthetic never reaches a sensualist audience on an intellectual level.”

The latter statement is obvious but it underlines that it really matters who your audience is (though in current times, this leads me “practically” to a cultural-political stance probably indistinguishable from his). But I’ve seen unfaked sex in “legitimate” movies and never once been tempted by it — almost always I’ve been repulsed by it, and rarely that I recall to good effect in the context of the work.

— He mentions finding out late about the Fox Faith¹ division and going to the site and being … underwhelmed. His grounds are similar, as noted in his Combox, to Barbara Nicolosi’s glorious rant against not just Fox Faith but also FACING THE GIANTS (“Adult Evangelical Christians watching Facing the Giants is like sex addicts watching the Spice Channel”). Mr. Harold sez:

Apparently the label’s definition of “faith” encompasses anything considered bland and inoffensive like Garfield cartoons and Strawberry Shortcake: Adventures on Ice Cream; there was nothing advertised on its website that seemed worth seeing. Fox wants to cash in on the Christian market, yet still does not have enough respect for Christian consumers to really break the piggy bank open.

decalogue.jpg— He mentions recently having been a bit disappointed by DECALOGUE 4, and mentions that he still has the DVD of 5-7. Oh. My. God. See them soon, Mr. Harold. Soon. I think 5 and 6 are the two best episodes — actually 6 and 5, but what the hey. In fact, DECALOGUE 6 has the distinction of being the only film I have ever watched twice in a single day, seeing it as part of seeing the whole DECALOGUE, all for the first time, in a theater on a single Saturday. I rushed home to pop my DVD into the player for a second viewing and having the same tear-filled reaction to the whole second half reversal as the non-couple meets and hearts and roles change.

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¹ Petty personal aside … I hate, hate, hate, HATE the growing practice of using the word “faith” as a substitute for “religion” or a specific religion. Its blandly ecumenical character manages to be both offensive in its calculated inoffensiveness and imperialistic bad labeling with respect to several major religions.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No inexcusable sentimentality here

landon2.jpgIn some similar veins, Christianity Today a few weeks ago did an interview with Michael Landon Jr., who directed one of the Fox Faith films (and I wouldn’t touch the Love Comes Softly series with a 10-foot crucifix and a year of anti-estrogen pills). But that aside, he had the following to say about making Christian movies, with hosannas from the CT Film editor:

Christians can be a tough audience. They want “truth,” but not necessarily the depiction of hard reality.
Landon:
Yes. And I’ll say this about the Christian audience: Sometimes there is something like hypocrisy that is taking place. The same people who will patronize a secular PG-13 or R-rated movie will have a different standard if there is violence or sexuality or language content in a Christian film. I don’t get that.
There’s a huge audience that claims to be Christian, and a certain amount of hypocrisy that germinates our culture. They go and see some R-rated film that has much more explicit stuff than a Christian-based film where you can’t. How in the world is anybody going to tell a really good urban story if these kids from the streets are saying, “Oh, gosh darn!”? You’re definitely not going to speak to the ones you’re hoping to speak to—kids living in the urban city. They’re going to turn it off in a nanosecond.

CT Film reader responses are here, and it tilted in favor of agreement with Landon. I can understand (though I can’t really say I respect) refusing to see R- or PG-13 rated movies. But to have one content standard for secular art and another for Christian art (and this is not an attitude a Christian will never see, though I wouldn’t exactly call it “common”) is nothing but self-infantilization. As Flannery O’Connor almost put it: “sentimentality for Christians is inexcusable.”

June 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The bad “choice”

Peter Chattaway makes some good and valuable points about the role abortion plays (or rather, mostly doesn’t play) in a few recent films about pregnancies, reacting to this (subscriber-only) piece in Canada’s National Post. To speak only of WAITRESS (I have not seen KNOCKED UP, but probably will — I do not go to blockbusters on opening weekend), as Peter puts it:

I think there may be a little more “discussion” in the American films than Knight allows for — and what’s more, I think the films derive some of their power from the fact that they raise the issue and then point beyond it, claiming the thematic high ground as it were. …

[C]onsider Jenna’s declaration that “I respect this little baby’s right to thrive.” If one believes that preborn children have a “right to thrive”, then what is there to discuss? And consider the powerful, transformative effect that the birth of this child has on Jenna — giving her the courage to ditch her abusive husband and the strength to put certain other aspects of her life in order.

I didn’t buy this last plot point at all — it was far too sudden, far too quick and far too total, and thus came off as a twee affectation, i.e., exactly what I didn’t care for in WAITRESS overall. But it was still a very pleasant surprise in an Indiewood film (and one that has found a wide audience, no less¹) that the a-word was raised immediately, only to be dropped instantly and never seriously noted afterward.
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¹ At the other end, I find it amusing that so many see ZOO as some great landmark in cultural degradation, when it hasn’t played on but five screens nationwide, to audiences that are already “degraded,” and grossed about the annual income of a middle-class household.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment