Category Archive 'Cinema'
07 Dec 2020

“Buffalo Bill” Cody, “..Pioneer Pony Express Rider, Indian Fighter, and Showman – the Most Famous Scout in American History, the Idol of Young America.” (1908)


He’s acting, of course, as he enters, Winchester in hand, and begins crossing the river, but he really is an impressive figure and he actually does successfully convey the impression that he’s looking out for hostile Indians.

Watching him is like watching a myth take shape and come to life.

HT: Althouse.

08 Oct 2020

1896 Snowball Fight

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Original footage by the Lumière brothers, this snowball fight from Lyon, France in 1896 has been upscaled and colorized using the open-source AI tool, DeOldify, a deep learning-based project for colorizing and restoring old images and video.

HT: Vanderleun.

10 Sep 2020

We’re All Mad as Hell, and We’re Not Going to Take This Anymore!

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As American cities burn again and a bitterly-divided country prepares to battle to the death over the upcoming presidential election, Titus Techera finds all of it reminding him only too well of Sidney Lumet’s black comedy “Network” (1976) and some other Seventies cinematic visions of Apocalyptic despair and heroic struggle.

Network is so far-sighted because it takes seriously the shift in post-war liberalism, from the halcyon days of Edward R. Murrow to the transformation of the news into theater. We see the collapse and abandonment of the high hopes of transforming America through technocratic reason. As the administrative state replaces ignorant politicians with ‘experts’ on issues of burning national importance, so the national media emphasizes its objectivity and tells everyone the same stories with the same authoritative confidence.

But the Great Society failed catastrophically as race riots, urban bombing campaigns unprecedented in American history, and Vietnam protests tore the country apart and set students against the Democrats who depended on their votes. Liberalism’s authoritative media speakers lost their authority and became as questionable as liberalism’s authoritative champions in politics. When the political elites fail to act for the common good, how can the journalistic elites do their job? By damning their own ideology or lying. Beautiful fantasies or ugly truths: this is how liberalism comes crashing down.


11 Aug 2020

Harry Potter: Better With Guns

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13 Jul 2020

Ennio Morricone — “March Of The Beggars”

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Ennio Morricone, who passed away on the 6th of July at the age of 91, is best known for the unusually-instrumented title music to “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” (1966).
His “March Of The Beggars” from “Duck You Sucker” (1971) is similarly amusing.

27 May 2020

10 Best Films

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Far Out Magazine publishes Woody Allen’s list of ten favorite films:

The 400 Blows – François Truffaut, 1959
8½ – Federico Fellini, 1963
Amarcord – Federico Fellini, 1972
The Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio de Sica, 1948
Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – Luis Buñuel, 1972
Grand Illusion – Jean Renoir, 1937
Paths of Glory – Stanley Kubrick, 1957
Rashomon – Akira Kurosawa, 1950
The Seventh Seal – Ingmar Bergman, 1957

An overly conventional list, “Seven Samurai” is obviously more worthy than “Rashomon.” “Citizen Kane” sucks. “Paths of Glory” is a tendentious, downer leftie propaganda piece. And “Bicycle Thief” should be singular.


Last year, the same publication gave us Quentin Tarrantino’s list of twelve favorites:

1. Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.
2. The Bad News Bears – Michael Ritchie, 1976.
3. Carrie – Brian de Palma, 1976.
4. Dazed and Confused – Richard Linklater, 1993.
5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Sergio Leone, 1966.
6. The Great Escape – John Sturges, 1963.
7. His Girl Friday – Howard Hawks, 1939.
8. Jaws – Steven Spielberg, 1975.
9. Pretty Maids All in a Row – Roger Vadim, 1971.
10. Rolling Thunder – John Flynn, 1977.
11. Sorcerer – William Friedkin, 1977.
12. Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese, 1976.

“The Bad News Bears”?! “Carrie”!?? Tarrantino’s list is much more populist, but he’s not wrong in rating “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” “Great Escape,” and “Jaws” as great films. Kudos to Quentin for picking William Friedkin’s “Sorcerer,” a neglected, typically unappreciated, but fantastic remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Le Salaire de la Peur” (1953), that is, on the whole, even better than the original.


I’m a major cinemaphile myself. I ran a film society at college. So, inevitably, I’ve got to do my own top ten twelve list.

Intolerance – D.W. Griffith, 1916.
Earth – Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930.
Grand Illusion – Jean Renoir, 1937.
Children of Paradise – Marcel Carne, 1945.
Smiles of a Summer Night – Ingmar Bergman, 1955.
The Seventh Seal – Ingmar Bergman, 1957
Sword of Doom – Kihachi Okamoto, 1957.
La Dolce Vita – Federico Fellini, 1960.
Jules and Jim РFran̤ois Truffaut, 1962.
8 1/2 – Federico Fellini, 1963.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors – Sergei Parajanov, 1965.
Hitler, ein Film aus Deutschland – Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, 1977.

11 May 2020

Want to Become a Great Director? Just Listen to Werner Herzog


I enjoy Herzog’s raps.

27 Mar 2020

Herzog Interviewed


David Marchese interviews 77-year-old Werner Herzog.

[T]o go back again to the need for fresh images: In “A Guide for the Perplexed,” you say that our children will be upset with us for not having thrown hand grenades into television stations. I took that to be a criticism of the poverty of television’s visual imagination. Are Hollywood movies much better?

Hollywood, of course, is undergoing a massive shift. There are new forms of passing your films onto audiences and new expectations and new behavior and patterns of audiences. Everything is in great turmoil, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. But we should not underestimate how we can reach, with our films, to a village in Kenya. It’s phenomenal and strange. You’re sitting in front of a man who is unique. I’m unique in world history. My generation. Not just me. I grew up with pre-industrialized agriculture, with hay being turned around with forks and then hoisted up onto horse-drawn carts. Then I have seen gigantic harvesters, and they have three computer screens inside, and it goes by GPS. And I have seen — may I go wild?

Yes, please.

I have witnessed, as a child, the town crier with a bell coming up the street and shouting: “Announcement! Announcement! If you want to have subsidies for your new septic tank, opening hours will be then and then.” I am coming from a pre-industrialized town crier to today’s world. There’s no one like my generation.

Are you unique in any other ways?

There are no other men like me. I’m quoting from a film of Les Blank.


30 Aug 2019

24 Life Lessons From Werner Herzog

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1. Always take the initiative.

2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.

3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.

4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.

5. Learn to live with your mistakes.

6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.

7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.

8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.

9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.

10. Thwart institutional cowardice.

11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

12. Take your fate into your own hands.

13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.

14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.

15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.

16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.

17. Don’t be fearful of rejection.

18. Develop your own voice.

19. Day one is the point of no return.

20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.

21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.

22. Guerrilla tactics are best.

23. Take revenge if need be.

24. Get used to the bear behind you.

HT: Vanderleun.

14 Jul 2019

Some Films Only Come Into Their Own on Television

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There is a small category of films which failed in theatrical release, but which, when played and replayed on television, found their audience and proved themselves to be authentic heart-warming and important films striking a chord with a very wide audience and proving watchable again and again and again.

Some clear examples would be The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998), both now hugely admired classics.

Kathy Shaidle pays tribute in a review to yet another wonderful case of the same phenomenon, Galaxy Quest (1999).

In a just world, O.J. Simpson would currently be serving the 24th year of a double life sentence; Ronald Reagan would have been president during America’s bicentennial instead of Gerald Ford — and Galaxy Quest would’ve earned half-a-billion bucks at the box office when it came out in 1999.

But inept and indifferent studio marketing (plus competition from another “sci-fi” comedy, Ghostbusters) relegated Galaxy Quest to semi-cult status. Which is ironically appropriate, given its plot:

At a science fiction convention, fans await an appearance by the cast of Galaxy Quest, a hokey interstellar TV adventure series unceremoniously cancelled in the early 1980s. The show’s fatally typecast has-been “stars” (played by Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and Daryl Mitchell) are reduced to reluctantly signing autographs at tacky gatherings like this one, when they’re not cutting ribbons (in full costume) at supermarket openings.

That is, until genuine aliens — who, in cargo cult fashion, have based their civilization on Galaxy Quest re-runs transmitted through space — touch down and beg “the crew of the NSEA-Protector” to help them defeat the villain bent on destroying their planet. The adorable Thermians innocently believe the program’s “crew” are fearless, intrepid space warriors and technological geniuses, not just washed-up actors in laughable uniforms. Their language has no word for “pretend”…

Lazily calling this movie “a Star Trek spoof” unfairly slots it alongside broad, coarse parodies like Blazing Saddles or the soulless Mars Attacks! In truth, Galaxy Quest is a tender, big hearted valentine — more My Favorite Year than Airplane.

That the film’s jokes and, more incredibly, its special effects, hold up so well twenty years later is a testament to the loving care with which Galaxy Quest was crafted. Obeying the first (yet often ignored) commandment of movie comedy, all the actors “play it straight.”

Genre veteran Sigourney Weaver of Alien fame never winks “Get it?”; neither does Alan Rickman, a classically-trained Shakespearean actor stuck wearing a rubber prosthetic forehead, portraying… a classically-trained Shakespearean actor stuck wearing a rubber prosthetic forehead:

While I’d have preferred the director’s original choice for the leading role — Kevin Kline — Tim Allen acquits himself surprisingly well as the pompous, Shatner-esque Jason Nesmith, a.k.a., Commander Taggart.

Cast as Thermian leader Mathesar, Yale Drama alumnus Enrico Colantoni conceived of his species’ quirky gait, rictus grin and off-key speech patterns during his winning audition, then led hour-long “alien school” on set each morning to ensure uniformity and, therefore, believability; of all the Thermians, Missi Pyle’s Laliari is so indelibly delightful that John Updike gave her a shout-out in his novella Rabbit Remembered.

Speaking of famous writers, David Mamet has called Galaxy Quest “a perfect film,” ranking it with The Godfather (and another of my other favorites, Dodsworth.)

But all that came later.


13 Dec 2018

Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Degas on Film

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28 Mar 2017

The Mystery of Stephen Seagal

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Stephen Seagal and friend.

Kenneth Lowe marvels that, old, fat, and ill-behaved as he is, Stephen Seagal is still able to keep making lots and lots of really terrible movies.

    “What you have to understand is that Steven Seagal isn’t about being a good action hero. He’s always about being a complete fucking asshole. That’s, like, his duty. … Steven Seagal is our hero/villain, where he’s apparently the protagonist, but he just does the cruelest, most fucked-up shit that he possibly can.” —El-P, member of Run The Jewels and avowed Seagal fan

Since his falling out with Warner Brothers, Seagal has become an unbelievable workhorse, albeit one who shows up to maybe a few days of filming and looks terrible. With the exception of the couple of years he was doing his reality show and another TV series, he’s put out two if not at least three pictures per year since 2003, almost all of them direct-to-video. I haven’t seen one scene in any of them where he can convincingly throw a punch.

He will never stop making them, because they will never stop making money, because his own salary is probably the largest expenditure of anything involved in the production. It certainly isn’t lighting or locations.

I wanted this to be a handy explanation of why Seagal is still around and why he continues to make pictures, but in tracking his career, I realize I’ve failed. There is no explanation, not in any way that makes sense in a sane and ordered society that rewards merit and punishes incompetence, sloth and cruelty toward others. …

That’s the final paradox of Seagal. He cranked out more movies last year than Jude Law at his height, yet he’s the laziest actor imaginable. He puts people in real bodily danger by his very presence, yet he walks free and enjoys celebrity. He can’t throw a punch in fewer than three cuts yet he’s immune to shame, Man’s oldest weapon.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Stephen Green.

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