A World of Pain–April shame prompt

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The April shame prompt was to watch and report on a film shown at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Now this is an event in which I envy all who attend, since I probably never will. But I perused the list and knew right away which movie I had to see: The Big Lebowski. I have had no end of shame over not knowing anything about this movie, and never getting the cultural references that everyone else seems to get. So I got some popcorn, some raisinets, and settled in to learn something about The Dude, and why he abides. I had high hopes, as I am never disappointed in anything I see Jeff Bridges do.

 

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Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here

 

The coolest thing about this movie is that it is impossible to put it into a slot. Some movies are dead on Noir, Action, comedy, horror, and so forth. This one was a mixed bag of tricks that surprised me. Loved it. I give it a four out of five stars, which is very good for me as I never give anything five except the movies I could watch over and over and never get tired of, like The Third Man, Groundhog Day, and The Big Sleep. Down-side? A bit frequent on the f-bombs, more than my taste, and a pedophile, but then who didn’t deal with pedophiles in the late 90’s?

It was all part of it–the sexually ambiguous 90’s. Nothing clear and standing out like the 50’s where you knew what was morally ‘right’ to society and what you were supposed to do. You knew your role. The 90’s had slackers and hackers, terrorists and sexual predators. Yeah, I know, every era has had them. But now the general public was aware, and bothered–and I would maintain, titilated by the whole situation we’d found ourselves in. But then, this is not an analysis sort of movie review. I really hate those. You know the ones that dig into Nietzsche and Freud and tell you what to think about film history. I know what I think, and I know what I like. I like movies that don’t look like every other movie–and surprise me.

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Speaking of The Big Sleep, I did not expect this movie to feel like a noir film. The premise seemed silly to me. Not that silliness puts me off. I love it. But I thought it would be a straight comedy. It totally wasn’t. What I like about the noir films that have caught my attention is their ability to tell a story and keep me engaged, without necessarily putting closure on the plot. Like life, you finish watching the movies knowing that life will go on with those characters, as it does for us.

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Mark it zero!

 

Oh, and there are femme fatales, of which this movie has two, depending upon your view.

The noirs of the 40’s were pulpy and fiction-y, and the moment and atmosphere felt more important than the plot. Like Raymond Chandler. Oh dear, I do love his writing. I know, I know, it is not Shakespeare. It is not even Ian Fleming or Grisham. It had it’s own style and is very quoteable, even by those who say they don’t like pulp fiction. But I have digressed from The Big Lebowski. The Dude. A lazy-ass sonofabitch who goes to the grocery store at the start of the movie and writes a check for sixty-nine cents.

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Which brings me to my final point about this film, and what I liked about it the best. The running gag, or point, or philosophy, if you must about the rug. The Dude brings it up at the most infuriating of times, to some, seeming to be a minor issue, this rug he feels ought to be replaced by the older, crippled, mega-wealthy Lebowski. I found it funny, odd, and something like I would do. After all, who wants to live in a world, where someone can just walk into your place and piss on your rug, with no consequences?

Well that was enough for me, and alone made the film entertaining, even without the bowling, the white russians, the nihilists, and the kidnapping. But maybe you feel differently. Maybe this film didn’t do it for you, or you prefer to see something deeper into the plot.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

your opinion

 

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You can also read me at  Are You Thrilled
or come and say hello to me on Twitter at @areyouthrilled for poetry and artsy stuff or @movielovebogart for movies and television

 

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Ain’t that a shame: 2018

I post my writing at Are You Thrilled, but you might have seen me around on Twitter talking about movies at So Long Holly via @movielovebogart . This list has been pulled and pushed, items deleted, replaced, and added back in. Tonight, in the spirit of being decisive, I will leave the list as is, and keep the others for alternates to watch when (if) the first dozen are finished. I watch countless films in a year’s time, but I am such a scofflaw when it comes to yearly resolutions. So let’s have at it–there is no time to lose!

  1. The Deer Hunter

In 2017 I had a list but did not officially post it. The two I remember from that list are Raging Bull , which I wrote about in a stand-alone post, and The Deer Hunter. Here is a clip featuring the late John Cazale

 

It is intense, and violent, well beyond what I usually watch. I know, I know, I can be fluffy inside when it comes to violence. But I am told that at my age it is truly shame-ful to not have seen Deer Hunter, so I will gear up with popcorn and Southern Comfort, and hubby will tell me when to cover my eyes.

2. Johnny Dangerously

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Shame Statement 2018

Great to be a part of another year of Shame! I actually accomplished quite a bit. I knocked off a good deal of horror films with Friday the 13th being the big one I wrote about. I also watched and wrote about Straw Dogs which was a very unique viewing experience. Now here we are at 2018 and I have a new list of films to partake of for the first time. This year I want to try for a themed approach. This year I want to focus on westerns, my favorite genre. Not every Shame will be a western though. But I do want to add some more of this genre to my cinematic talking points.

Yojimbo/Sanjuro – Akira Kurosawa

The Hidden Fortress – Akira Kurosawa

The Shooting/Ride the Whirlwind – Monte Hellman

The Revenant – Alejandro G. Inarritu

Romancing the Stone – Robert Zemeckis

A History of Violence – David Cronenberg

Hang em High – Ted Post

One Eyed Jacks – Marlon Brando

McCabe and Mrs Miller – Robert Altman (pray for me here as I typically can not stand Altman films)

Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo Del Toro

Ghost in the Shell – Mamoru Oshii

Death Rides a Horse – Giulio Petroni – Complete

Wyatt Earp – Lawrence Kasdan

Flipping the Tables

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The movies I watch most frequently, roughly 80%, are subtle, full of dark images, deep thoughts, and painted with smoke, mirrors, and chiaroscuro. The movies I tend to walk around, to avoid, even when given four-star reviews, are bloody, action flicks, brutal and gruesome, cruel and angry. My best friend might argue with you, that is exactly what I watch, a mixture of the usual top-ten noir films we’ve all seen with Bogart and Mitchum and their splendid ilk. But I also watch a lot of 1940’s crime films with twisted femme fatales, and a mixture of characters with seemingly no conscience and no regrets. I suppose there is a discrepancy there but we all have our limits and I never did well with brutal, unless it was painted up pretty and put in stockings and a ball gown.

Enter Raging Bull, the top daddy on many critics’ lists, including Roger Ebert’s. I have a long love affair with both De Niro and Italian culture. They feel like family, like the sort of folks I suspect are in a few generations of my lineage and my husband’s. So when I was asked what films everyone has seen that I have not, Raging Bull and The Deer hunter were the first on my mind and out of my mouth.

I sat with my ice water, Raisinets, and popcorn and hit play. I was immediately transported into a painting. The movie is magnificent, and would be even with the sound off. But the combination of the music and the visuals is nothing short of, and the choice of Scorsese to use black and white hooked me from the start.

I was at ringside, not cheering or taking pictures. I was mesmerized by Jake LaMotta in the ring, boxing the air. He was alone in a smoky haze, only the camera flashes from out of the darkness indicating that anyone else could see him fighting his adversaries, and only he knew who he was boxing.

There are 8 boxing matches featured in this film but I don’t think Raging Bull is really about boxing. He could have been a tailor or a policeman or a mail carrier. It gets to the heart of jealousy and insecurity, and how a person can tear their family  and their own life apart with their hands. In that way boxing serves as the perfect illustration of a man that punishes others for their weaknesses and for their strengths that make him feel weak. A man that can punish himself just as easily, and take it. Over and over again.

I grew up enamoured with boxing. I think I got it from my mother, who, though she didn’t watch any sports regularly, except figure skating during the Olympics, but never missed a heavy weight bout. This was during Ali’s reign in the late 70’s–as well as Holmes, Norton, Spinks, et al. I never missed a Rocky movie, and loved all of them. But this is an entirely different animal. I believe that is because it begins as truth, from LaMotta’s own autobiography. I understand there were a few changes, but not crucial ones.

If it was fiction, I would be saying, hey, drop the anger a bit and balance things out. A viewer can only take so much? Lighten a few scenes, take a break with the pressure. But this is real life and Scorsese pulled no punches. We ride the wave from beginning to end, and it never lets up. But I won’t say anything about the end, never a spoiler with me, just in case I am not the only person in the world that has not seen Raging Bull.

The main difference between this and other ‘boxing’ movies, is that clearly each scene has been edited perfectly, edited for effect, and somehow the effects come off without being pretentious or condescending. It is a truly beautiful film. Cathy Moriarty is fantastic as his second wife, and Joe Pesci is brilliant as his brother. Most underrated actor ever, but I digress.

Check this out, one of my favourite scenes, when Jake tells his brother to hit him in the face.

De Niro barely even moves his head and body when he’s hit over and over. I understand he trained with LaMotta for a year to do this film right.

The hardest scenes to watch, but the most interesting are the ones with his wives, especially those with Vikki. They clearly loved each other desperately, but when Jake was jealous, or reacting to something she said, he was an animal, ferocious and unpredictable.

 

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De Niro’s LaMotta reminds me of what Brando pulled off in On The Waterfront, especially showing how a lady can temper the beast, at least for a time, and help him to feel something other than rage. In one memorable scene, Jake is trying to abstain before a fight but Vikki pushes him close to the edge. He pours ice down his pants and she goes to him and kisses him, holding him close. She walks away with a wet spot on her gown.

Between the rage and the passion, my inner voyeur was well satisfied, and now I can cross Raging Bull off my list. I could wax long about not letting anger ruin us and stopping the rage before we tear ourselves apart, but we all know this already, so lets’ be good to each other, and see lots of good movies to keep life rich, capiche?

 

 

 

No Dog in this Fight: My first viewing of Straw Dogs.

The end of Straw Dogs has Dustin Hoffman’s David Sumner driving an uncredited David Warner’s Henry Niles back to town after the climatic showdown in the Sumner house. Henry tells David, “I don’t know my way home.” To which David responds, “That’s okay. I don’t either.” This final exchange sums up the entirety of what  Straw Dogs conveys. At the end of the day, just what are we? 

There will be spoilers here.

Prior to my viewing of Straw Dogs, the only film by Sam Peckinpah I’ve seen was The Wild Bunch. I took that film as a more visceral version of a Leone western. However having only seen it once, I didn’t get the themes that are prevalent with Peckinpah’s work. This film is rife with controversy and complications and interpretations. It is not an easy watch. Things do not resolve themselves. People are not good and don’t nescesarily become better people by the end of this.

This film is certainly one that earned its controversial status. It raises questions. Even if you answer one question, you may not answer the next question the same way.  Is Straw Dogs a condemnation of violent masculinity? One may interpret it that way. Or is it a celebration of that? It may be as well. Is Peckinpah blaming women for the violence that occurs against them? It seems that way, at least to me it did. Early on David asks his wife Amy (a heartbreaking performance by Susan George) why doesn’t she wear a bra if she doesn’t want the leering eyes of her ex-boyfriend and his cohorts focused on her chest. This moment is actually one of many that show her husband is not only meek, but part of the overall problem. He disrespects his wife at times and belittles her. He blames her sexual freedom for the attention she did not ask for. By time we reach the climax, you’ll see David is no better than the brutes who invade their home. It just took him a little longer to get there.


The controversial rape of Amy is still a discussion point to this day. Becuase of how Peckinpah filmed the scene, there are indicators that Amy at first refuses but then acquiesces. Now I do not see it that way. I saw a woman trying to cope with the violation being committed against her. The scene is brutal and uncomfortable and I actually feel uncomfortable trying to discuss it. Yet this is film criticism and I’d be remiss to not mention it at all despite its notorious reputation.


This is a very complicated film, directed by a very complicated man. Did Peckinpah hate the violence within himself? Did he allow that to manifest in this film? Does he think David is a hero or antihero? So many questions. It’s fitting that this film came out in 1971, the same year as fellow controversial director Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Straw Dogs, like that film are not easily watched. Yet both films hold a mirror to the ghastly primal nature of humanity and at the very least, make you look inside and question just what are you. Straw Dogs, structurally is a time bomb, ticking away during its runtime until it explodes in the climax. 

Is it just a matter of time for any of us? Just another of the many questions it forever brings. Endless questions and endless discussion.

February on the way to Yuma…

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Year Released: 1957
Running Time: 92 Minutes

Directed by Delmer Daves and based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, “3:10 to Yuma” is the second feature for my 2015 list of Shame. This one is actually a holdover from last year but I still really wanted to watch this.

Van Heflin and Glenn Ford play Dan Evans and Ben Wade respectively. Evans is a rancher who agrees to escort outlaw Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma to get him out of town before his gang arrives to get him.

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I love movies with constrained scenarios and limited settings. While the setting here is certainly no Rear Window, the taut nature of the plot mainly involving two men as they make their way across the desert intrigued me. I loved the manner in which Wade antagonizes Evans throughout. I had seen the 2008 remake with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale and this sort of banter I expected in a modern western, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it in a film from the 50s. This definitely is not the standard Hollywood western from that era.

I love how this movie was shot. It sort of has a feel that borders on film, yet also 1950s style television. The black and white cinematography is very sharp here. And when I say sharp I mean it as if there are edges you could cut yourself on. It’s almost as if it was something you would see on television then, but that’s not to deride it in anyway. I think that is due to the camerawork and very tight script.

Both the lead actors are fantastic in their roles. Ford plays Wade with a balanced menace to become a pure antagonist without slipping into villainy. Heflin is the dedicated family man who even though he may not say much, you can tell in his body language that he has no issue with handling Wade despite his seemingly meek nature. He is not easily intimidated by either Wade nor the situation they are in.

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One thing I was surprised by with this film is its director Delmer Daves. I initially thought after viewing that this is a guy who should have gotten more opportunities. Then I saw he was involved with other classics that I had seen such as Jubal, An Affair to Remember and Demetrius and the Gladiators. It makes me wonder why Daves isn’t talked about as much in film circles, or was he an early example of a gun for hire director? I’ll have to do some more research on him.

It’s cold here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in February so I’m glad I got to spend a 90 minutes in sunny Arizona watching a very good chase feature. Great acting, directing and writing will always make a great film. 3:10 to Yuma is a classic western that is not like some of the cookie cutter westerns of its era and one that should not be missed.

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2015 list

2015 is here and I must admit I did not complete my penance for 2014 nor did I even watch a movie a month. For 2015 however I am making all attempts to rectify that. Behold my 2015 CinemaShame with some holdovers from last year.

1. Blade Runner

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2. Do The Right Thing

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3. Yojimbo/Sanjuro

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4. 3:10 To Yuma (carryover from 2014)

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5. A Clockwork Orange

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6. Lethal Weapon (seen 2-4 but never the original)

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7. Ace in the Hole

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8. Friday The 13th. (Another 2014 carryover)

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9. Charade

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10. The Hustler

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11. Marathon Man

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12. The French Connection

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This year I’ll be 30 years old. I haven’t completed a whole lot of things but I am determined to finish this list. I wish myself luck!