randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Guess I'm feeling my age these days, but it was a bit of shock to read that Monty Python and the Holy Grail turns 40 this year. I'm not sure when exactly I saw it, but I remember it was at the Lancaster Mall in Salem, Oregon and that my sister drove me and my friend Don "the Glove" Palmer to the theater. We didn't sit with her, because, I guess, we were weird teenage boys. For weeks (probably months) afterward, we would walk through the halls of our high school chanting in fake Latin and hitting ourselves in the forehead with our textbooks. It's curious, in retrospect, that my sister was around to give us a ride, and it may indicate that we saw it during the summer. Don and I (and our friend Reid) already knew Monty Python from the TV show and maybe the albums.

File770.com has a trailer for "a brand new sing-a-long version of the movie will be shown in 500 UK theaters on October 14."

And in case you're wondering, I turn 55 this year myself, so I would have been 14 or 15 at the time.
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
The Furies.jpgAs I've mentioned on Facebook, I've really been enjoying the discussion that has exploded around the new Mad Max movie, Mad Max: Fury Road. The link there is to the review I wrote after I saw the film for the first time, and I've since seen it twice more. Yesterday I read a bunch of blog posts and articles about the movie. I was very pleased to see that Liz Bourke, like me, sees Suzy McKee Charnas' fingerprints: "It draws so much of its arc from 1970s/early 80s feminist science fiction I mean it sort of IS Suzy McKee Charnas. Its arc is a compressed version of the narrative arc of her Motherlines series (REALLY HORRIFIC DYSTOPIA) done as an action film with extra added DEATH CAR STUNTS." In particular, when we discover (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) that Furiosa was raised by two mothers in a tribe that Bourke describes as a "lesbian separatist commune," I immediately flashed on Charnas' novel Motherlines. And when the women with their two damaged male partners take the war to the patriarchy, I was reminded of The Furies, which is the savage and exciting sequel to Motherlines.

After I'd gotten through a whole wodge of posts and comments celebrating the feminism of Fury Road, I did begin to feel like I'd eaten too much ice cream. I mean, I obviously love the movie enough to have seen it three times in five days, but still, all squee and no squall make Max a dull boy. So it was good to read Alyssa Rosenberg's typically questioning analysis this morning: "‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and the political limits of action movies". Rosenberg has written about the political limits of superhero stories before, and the analysis here is similar. As she points out, "There might well be a sequel that explores Furiosa and the wives’ attempts to govern the Citadel now that they’ve liberated it. But these would be very different from the tense, spare chase and race that make “Mad Max: Fury Road” such an effective action spectacle." And that reminded me of Charnas' sequel to The Furies, The Conqueror's Child, which for me was by far the least compelling book in the series. I think it's just inherently hard to write about an imaginary post-revolutionary world, although that of course immediately makes me think of Le Guin's The Dispossessed, which does a better job than Charnas' book of conceiving an ambiguous utopia. Charnas tries to explore the contradictions in the ideologies and agendas of the conquering feminists, but my memory is that it felt schematic, cautious, and dramatically flat. It lacked the bravura of Motherlines and The Furies. (The first book in the series, Walk to the End of the World, is very powerful in its own right, but I believe it was her first novel, so it wasn't quite as well written as the middle two books.)

So yeah, it's easy to imagine that if George Miller made a sequel that focused on Furiosa's new government, it might not be as good as the revolutionary Fury Road. The ellipses in the exposition that allow so much room for "speculative reading" (my phrase for the fannish love of creating rationales for what isn't explicit in the text) would probably be filled with the usual fantasyland bollocks. But it's still worth celebrating what it does accomplish: expanding the roles of women in a big-budget action blockbuster, and not coincidentally modifying the possibilities for heroic male roles at the same time. It certainly doesn't solve the political problems of the world, but it still feels like something to savor. We'll see if it still feels that way after the adrenaline rush wears off.

randy_byers: (blonde venus)
A couple of weeks ago I posted my annual list of movies that I saw more than once in the theater. One thing that's changed since then is that I saw Into the Woods a third time, so it joins Grand Budapest Hotel and Snowpiercer as the 2014 films I saw three times in the theater. (I've also watched the American Playhouse production of the stage version of Into the Woods three times since July, and I've been listening to the original Broadway cast recording of the music practically nonstop, or at least in between listening to a La Scala recording of Puccini's Tosca with Maria Callas.)

I've already seen one film twice in the theater this year: Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain, which for me is his best film since Time and Tide.
randy_byers: (machine man)
Science fiction fans might be interested in the film Predestination, which is a very faithful adaptation of Heinlein's "--All You Zombies--". It's well worth checking out.
randy_byers: (machine man)
I've started re-reading Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's novel, Fury, which originally appeared under their Lawrence O'Donnell byline, and I've been reminded that it's something of a sequel to a novella called "Clash by Night," which I've never read. It seems to be the case that they've never been published together in a single volume, but I just googled those two titles to double-check. The results reminded me that Fritz Lang directed movies called Fury and Clash by Night. Neither of those are amongst my favorite movies by Lang (despite the pairing of Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan in Clash by Night), and I'm left imagining Lang's adaptations of the Kuttner and Moore stories.

Fury is from 1947 and has a darkness and fatalism to it that certainly would have fit with Lang's style. It's set in vast cities called Keeps at the bottom of the Venusian ocean, and that makes me think of the subterranean workers city in Lang's Metropolis. There could be a celluloid fantasia in this, but I need to track down a copy of the Kuttner/Moore "Clash by Night".
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Somehow I missed this Telegraph interview with Viggo Mortensen from May 2014 in which he speaks the truth about the LOTR movies (apologies if everybody else posted about it back then):

Mortensen thinks – rightly – that The Fellowship of the Ring turned out the best of the three, perhaps largely because it was shot in one go. “It was very confusing, we were going at such a pace, and they had so many units shooting, it was really insane. But it’s true that the first script was better organised,” he says. “Also, Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back. In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier. The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects. It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
The Iain Banks novel was published in 1992, and this four part, four hour mini-series was produced in 1996. The adaptation is pretty faithful to the book, although one of the changes is that it moves the "now" to circa 1994 from circa 1990. This is mostly noticeable in that the background war is in Bosnia rather than Kuwait, but some of the other cultural references are also updated, such as Prentice wearing a Nirvana t-shirt to his grandmother's funeral. (One of the reviews of the novel I read made the good point that it's an excellent time capsule of the era it was written in.)

Other changes are the elimination of Prentice's younger brother, James, who was an almost entirely peripheral character in the book. We (and Prentice) also regularly see the ghost of Uncle Rory (played by none other than Peter Capaldi), and I guess that was done to replace the bits of Rory's writing that Prentice reads in the book. Those bits of writing are still in the story, but we don't get as much of them as we do in the book (where we read whole sections of it, although we don't know that until near the end). In the TV show Rory speaks to Prentice, urging him on. Which brings up perhaps the major change from the book: the mystery of Rory's disappearance is the center of the story from the beginning. The TV show is essentially a murder mystery, with moody Hitchcockian music over the opening credits. In the book the murder mystery only slowly emerges, and the genre of the story as a whole is more of a coming-of-age story crossed with a family saga. In the series those elements are subservient to the murder mystery.

If the TV show improves on the book at all, it's by making the story more focused. It feels less baggy than the book. Nonetheless the story is essentially the same, and I had some of the same problems with it. Most of all, I still found Prentice a not very interesting character, which is a fatal thing in a protagonist. His father, Kenneth, for example, is a much more fascinating figure, as is, for that matter, the eventual love interest, Ashley, who is a smart woman working in the tech industry in the early days of the internet. What kind of shit does *she* have to deal with? But I will say that I thought all the casting was great, and it was cool to see the novel's many characters embodied and played. Sometimes I had a hard time understanding the Scottish accents, but listening to the voices did fill me with the desire to return to Scotland and just putter about the countryside for a while, stopping to taste the single malt along the way. So I guess it works as a travel brochure at the very least.


Jun. 4th, 2014 01:25 pm
randy_byers: (cesare)
'What do you want a girl for, mate, when you got a pipe and dreams?' (Confessions of an Opium Eater, 1962)
randy_byers: (yeoh)
A while back on my blog I posted a review of a Chinese film called My Lucky Star, which stars (and was produced by) Zhang Ziyi and which I described as "romantic comedy meets James Bond". One of the things that fascinated me about what turned out to be a fairly humdrum movie was that it was directed by an American television director named Dennie Gordon but was aimed primarily at a Chinese audience. There were a number of other things I found interesting about it as a production.

Well, lo and behold, one of the producers of the film (who I take from comparing the email address to the IMDB credits to be Ming Beaver Kwei, and who I now see is the son of the Shaw Brothers director Chih Hung Kwei) has shown up to give his perspective on the production. For anybody who is interested in film production and what's happening in the mainland Chinese film industry right now, I recommend taking a look. It's fascinating stuff, and he takes a relatively deep dive for a blog comment.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I don't go to Vanguard parties much anymore, but on Saturday it was at [livejournal.com profile] janeehawkins's, which of course is a nostalgia trip for those of us of a certain age. So I put on my Vanguard disguise (a.k.a. the clothes I'd been wearing all day) and headed on over. Amongst other things, it allowed me to return the DVD of Jerry Springer: The Opera that I had borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] roadnotes (thanks again, it was brilliant!), and to bring some of [livejournal.com profile] jimtrash's Tiny TAFFzines and some TAFF ballots, which Jane had promised to flog because she was so entertained by the Tiny TAFFzines I had mailed to her. It was a pretty small party, with many notable figures Missing In Action (no Jerry & Suzle, no Andy and Carrie, no Ulrika and Hal), but I guess that's not unusual these days. Although Frank (of Frank & Molly) said that the last one they hosted was quite a bit bigger, so I guess it still waxes and wanes. Jane had just taken a course in soldering at a maker space on Capitol Hill and has become fascinated with the 3D printers on offer there, so she showed some videos of the printers in action and showed off a few objects that had been printed on them. Very cool! At some point five of us retired downstairs to smoke a little smoke. There was a time when the smoking room would have been full of people madly puffing away on various smokables, but that would have been a time when I still smoked cigarettes, which I don't really miss. Actually I don't remember seeing Jane smoke any tobacco this time, so now I wonder whether she's quit too. Well, it was great to chat with [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer and [livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell just like old times, and there was John D. Berry and Vonda McIntyre and a number of other familiar faces, as well as one new person who came with Janice Murray but left before I got a chance to talk to her.

So that was the old tradition, and a very pleasant tradition it was. On the new front, I have now walked to SIFF Uptown in Lower Queen Anne three times on the weekend to see a movie. It's about three miles from our house and takes me an hour. So far I've always walked there via Westlake and Mercer (always running into a crowd entering or leaving the opera house), then I return home by climbing up and over Queen Anne on Queen Anne Avenue, with a stop at the Hilltop Ale House for a pint and a shot of Crown Royal along the way. The last two times I've done this, I've gotten to the area early enough to eat something in one of the restaurants near the theater, have a coffee at Uptown Espresso, and read a book. Yesterday I was reading Diana Wynne Jones' Hexwood, which is certainly weird and intriguing and very meta so far. The movie I saw was Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, which was the one 3D movie he made and was being shown in that format. Anyway, this new tradition is a fine thing, and I hope I can continue with it, although it depends on SIFF continuing to show movies I want to see. They've been on quite a roll lately. I can't remember how long ago SIFF acquired the Uptown, but they are really turning it into something special for film freaks. One nice thing about this new tradition is I've gotten to know both Lower and Upper Queen Anne quite a bit better than before. The upper parts have always seemed like an island on top of the world, isolated from the rest of the city because you never go through it on the way to anywhere else. Never say never, because now I've found a reason to pass through and to stop at the local watering hole to read a few pages and observe the local wildlife. All in the service of getting more walking in and thus maintaining some semblance of health. Life is good.
randy_byers: (brundage)
Anyone who has been following my series of posts about Leigh Brackett might be interested in my post at Dreamland Cafe about The Vampire's Ghost, her first film credit.

Vampire's Ghost-19
randy_byers: (Default)
The Most Dangerous Game
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

(Via DVDBeaver.)
randy_byers: (Default)
anne of the indies
Anne of the Indies (1951)
randy_byers: (wilmer)
At long last! Years in the making! Now it can be revealed!

I have finally written about Desert Fury -- a movie I've been obsessed with since first reading this description on IMDb:

Back in the forties, when movies touched on matters not yet admissible in "polite" society, they resorted to codes which supposedly floated over the heads of most of the audience while alerting those in the know to just what was up. Probably no film of the decade was so freighted with innuendo as the oddly obscure Desert Fury, set in a small gambling oasis called Chuckawalla somewhere in the California desert. Proprietress of the Purple Sage saloon and casino is the astonishing Mary Astor, in slacks and sporting a cigarette holder; into town drives her handful-of-a-daughter, Lizabeth Scott, looking, in Technicolor, like 20-million bucks. But listen to the dialogue between them, which suggests an older Lesbian and her young, restless companion (one can only wonder if A.I. Bezzerides' original script made this relationship explicit). Even more blatant are John Hodiak as a gangster and Wendell Corey as his insanely jealous torpedo. Add Burt Lancaster as the town sheriff, stir, and sit back. Both Lancaster and (surprisingly) Hodiak fall for Scott. It seems, however, that Hodiak not only has a past with Astor, but had a wife who died under suspicious circumstances. The desert sun heats these ingredients up to a hard boil, with face-slappings aplenty and empurpled exchanges. Don't pass up this hothouse melodrama, chock full of creepily exotic blooms, if it comes your way; it's a remarkable movie.

My first chance to see it was at SIFF Theater in 2007, but I've since watched it multiple times on an Australian DVD that I acquired courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] smofbabe. And now, finally, I've managed to write something about it.

Well, the screencaps might be of interest anyway.


randy_byers: (Default)

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