Author Topic: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things  (Read 1255 times)

Junior

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #40 on: January 20, 2018, 08:26:53 AM »
It is on the long side, but I never really felt it. It moves along pretty nicely.
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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #41 on: January 20, 2018, 04:55:07 PM »
Fontaine is really what makes Rebecca work, because Olivier's character is really hard to like, but she plays that innocence so well, it's impossible not to empathize with her. And yeah, Sanders is tons of fun in that last act, as always.

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #42 on: January 20, 2018, 05:00:15 PM »
Honestly, reminding me that Sanders is in that movie accounts for 50% of why I want to rewatch it.
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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #43 on: January 20, 2018, 07:33:35 PM »
Wonderful review, Junior. I only saw Rebecca a year ago, so also waited a long time to finally get to it. Love the Gothic meets Hitchcock atmosphere.

Also, I was late to the Respond thread, but wanted to add my voice to the others saying how much I enjoyed what you wrote about Call Me by Your Name and how it made you reflect on your own life. Your candor is inspiring. Here's to self discovery! :)
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Junior

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2018, 11:15:58 AM »
Fontaine is really what makes Rebecca work, because Olivier's character is really hard to like, but she plays that innocence so well, it's impossible not to empathize with her. And yeah, Sanders is tons of fun in that last act, as always.

I think that's about right. I liked seeing how Olivier played the role, but he's not exactly a great guy. Understandable, but not great.

Wonderful review, Junior. I only saw Rebecca a year ago, so also waited a long time to finally get to it. Love the Gothic meets Hitchcock atmosphere.

Also, I was late to the Respond thread, but wanted to add my voice to the others saying how much I enjoyed what you wrote about Call Me by Your Name and how it made you reflect on your own life. Your candor is inspiring. Here's to self discovery! :)

The gothic thing was so much fun. I wish I watched this when I was back at Lehigh and could talk to some of my gothic lit friends about it.

And thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
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Junior

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #45 on: March 08, 2018, 03:12:52 PM »
My review of The Double Life of Veronique from oldkid's Top 100 month: https://benefitsofaclassicaleducation.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/back-catalog-review-the-double-life-of-veronique/

And now,

Medium Cool (review with pics and links here: https://benefitsofaclassicaleducation.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/back-catalog-review-medium-cool/)

Those of you who have read more than one thing I’ve written or talked to me for over an hour probably know that Fanny and Alexander is my favorite movie of all time. You may also know that last year I wrote my Master’s Thesis on it (you can read the whole thing here, if you’ve got the time and the inclination), in which I talked about how Bergman sets up storytelling as a way to counter fascist (or authoritarian) narratives. I’m pretty proud of it, and it served as my launching point for my soon-to-begin Ph.D. studies in oppositional storytelling. I began to seek out other works (books, movies, essays) that could potentially become subjects of my dissertation. Medium Cool was one such film. My instincts, in this case, were pretty good too. When I watched Haskell Wexler’s half-drama half-documentary last night, I was stunned at not only how interesting it was in terms of the oppositional storytelling I was exploring, but also how beautiful and moving the film was.

In a supplement included on the Criterion Blu Ray of Medium Cool, Wexler complains that he doesn’t really know what the title of the movie means. He knows that it’s related to Marshall McLuhan’s seminal work of media studies where he outlines the difference between hot media (immersive, kinda) and cool media (those that require a little more audience interaction to put together), but Wexler confesses that he doesn’t quite understand what it’s all supposed to mean in relationship to his film. Movies are generally considered “hot” media because one usually needs only what the film gives you to understand what’s happening, and it often doesn’t take much to put together the meaning(s) of a film. Perhaps, then, Medium Cool is Wexler’s attempt to make movies a little more interactive, to bring the audience (and the people who make the films) a little closer to the subjects of those films, and to obscure, ever so slightly, the full ideas in his film so that audiences can find meanings of their own.

That isn’t to say, though, that Medium Cool is an abstract bit of filmmaking. In fact, you could find in it a very conventional story or two, one about a man and his job, the other about a boy’s summer experiences. However, as all good movie watchers know, it’s not what the story is but how it’s told that counts. Here Wexler uses these basic plots to create a movie about violence, the media, social upheaval, poverty, and police. If the movie wasn’t so clearly set in 1968 (the amazing conclusion takes place during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the resultant demonstrations that rocked the city and the country), you might think it was a movie that came out last year. Robert Forster is a news cameraman and he eventually falls for Verna Bloom’s West Virginian woman who used to be a teacher and now works for the phone company. Her son, played by Harold Blankenship, is constantly dirty, and he’s got a certain fascination with pigeons. The pigeons come from Blankenship’s real-life interest in the birds, but it also ties the movie to a history of progressive films via On The Waterfront. You get the feeling that Harold (both the actor and the character’s name) frees his pigeons because he can’t free himself from the living conditions and educational mire that he’s stuck in. When Forster lets Harold take a shower in his apartment, the look on the young boy’s face is one of joy and discovery.

Forster, too, discovers much in the course of the film. The movie starts with him jumping out of a news station wagon to film a car crash on the highway. After he gets his footage, he calls the accident in to the police. Forster, at the beginning of the movie, is a few steps away from what we see in something like Nightcrawler. But soon his eye turns towards things that don’t get much air-time, what he calls “human interest” stories but are really investigations into good people within the poor black neighborhoods of Chicago, including one man who returns ten thousand dollars and is interrogated by the police for his good deed. When Forster goes into the man’s apartment, he finds a group of black men and women who question his intentions and then deliver monologues to the camera about their experiences and grievances against his profession. It’s a powerful bit of oppositional storytelling, and it shakes Forster out of his placidity. But he soon finds that his bosses still don’t care about what’s happening unless it falls within several categories.

Medium Cool is an indictment of the news media and the traditional power structures that ignored the discontent that was roiling under the surface of a typical election cycle. It asks us to consider who gets to control the stories that the country focuses on, and what they get out of ignoring certain populations (Harold and his mom could be called “economically anxious” in today’s parlance, but the movie views them with compassion and understanding that a thousand New York Times sit-downs with Trump voters never could). It involves its audience in this pattern of neglect and then shows what happens when the neglected do something to change the conversation. Medium Cool is a movie so connected to its historical moment that it works both as a document of that time and as a reminder that our modern problems aren’t so new. Now, where’s today’s Medium Cool?

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Junior

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #46 on: March 12, 2018, 01:13:48 PM »
Rome, Open City

Rome, Open City, released just months after V.E. Day in 1945, is Roberto Rossellini’s fictionalized depiction of Don Pieto Morosini’s life during the Nazi occupation of Rome and its sad conclusion. Because it was based on a real man, because it was filmed just after Rome was liberated, because Rossellini hired mostly new actors, and because Rossellini himself experienced much of the same fear and sadness that permeates the film during the occupation, Rome, Open City is a masterpiece of Italian neorealism. It veers into melodrama in the concluding scenes, but those work all the better for the earlier focus on realism and the dangerous situations that the group of Romans the film follows encounter on a regular basis. It’s a near-perfect movie, and it’s the best movie about WWII that I’ve seen so far.

The two professional actors in Rome, Open City portray the two most important characters. The first is Anna Magnani as Pina, a woman preparing to marry her fiancé and helping his resistance fighter friends. She’s got an easy chemistry with everybody else in the cast even as she carries the weight of living in an occupied city with a willful child. When the kid hasn’t returned before curfew one day, she freaks out and, in one of the funnier scenes in the film, becomes one in a long line of parents waiting to beat some sense into their children as they return from blowing up a fuel truck. Her role in the climax of the first half is extraordinary in its ordinariness, and Magnani plays it beautifully. Also spectacular is Aldo Fabrizi as Don Pietro Pellegrini, a catholic priest who does what he can to help the resistance fighters, acting as a go-between and smuggler. When one German officer tries to appeal to his religion in an attempt to get him to reveal information on some atheist freedom fighters, Pellegrini responds, “I am a Catholic priest. I believe that those who fight for justice and truth walk in the path of God and the paths of God are infinite.” This is the kind of religiosity I can get behind. Fabrizi plays him with an inexhaustible kindness and imbues him with righteousness that never abandons dignity in favor of pomposity. Both of these roles were based on real people who met with the same fate as the fate of the characters in the film. I don’t know if that made Rossellini extra careful in crafting their fictionalized versions, but I’m glad that he captured a version of them on film.

The other marvel of the film is its pacing. A scene never feels too long and there’s not too much time spent on things that probably wouldn’t really happen in real life. Much of the conversations are filled with practical matters, and when the movie pauses to let characters talk about their feelings or their ideas about the war. Too much of this would have pushed the film too far into melodrama and too little would have the characters become basically cardboard cutouts. These scenes never extend for too long either, it’s an impeccably balanced movie. It looks great, too. Shooting on scraps of leftover film, Rossellini crafts a movie that feels like what it is. There are a few fantastic shots that emphasize the depth of the city and the underground network of tunnels and backstreets that allow the resistance fighters to scurry out of harms way, and the same technique is used to show that they have nowhere to go in the wide open squares when they’re surrounded by the Germans and the local police. The setting of the final scene is overwhelming in its starkness and the mundanity of the acts committed in the big grassy field.

There’s a torture and interrogation scene that takes up much of the second half of the movie. It’s a battle of wills as Pelligrini fends off a German officer’s attempts to make the priest turn over names and locations while a subordinate tortures a resistance friend of Pelligrini’s. During a break in the action, the German officer goes into a side room and talks to various other officers, one of whom is a drunk older man who responds to the interrogator’s indignation at the idea that the Italians can adequately fight back against the German “master race” by saying, “Yes, I’m drunk… I get drunk every night to forget. It doesn’t help. We can’t get anywhere but kill, kill, kill! We have sown Europe with corpses… and from those graves rises an incredible hate… HATE!… everywhere hate! We are being consumed by hatred… without hope.” This is one of those melodramatic instances, but it’s also a deft reshaping of the story of the war. Throughout the film we’ve seen the Romans trying to survive and the Germans executing and torturing them with their usual air of superiority. But here’s a German both acknowledging that the idea of a “master race” is wrong and indeed identifying that the German attempts to conquer the rest of Europe has also been its own downfall. He casts the Germans as hopeless and the other Europeans as righteously hate-filled. It’s a poignant scene, brought down a little by the film’s one fault in its portrayal of the German officers as effeminate aesthetes, a portrayal that occurs throughout film history and stands out as being both unrealistic and offensive. But the words are still powerful, especially as contrasted with the final scenes’ depiction of Roman grace under persecution. Rome, Open City will definitely appear on my next Top 100 list, and in a pretty high position.

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #47 on: March 12, 2018, 01:24:16 PM »
Retrospot fever!

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I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Junior

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #48 on: March 12, 2018, 01:31:14 PM »
I actually thought about that as I was watching. It'd be a tough battle between this and Brief Encounter.
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Junior

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Re: Hold On To Your Butts: Junior Watches All the Things
« Reply #49 on: March 14, 2018, 12:50:20 PM »
Paisan

Roberto Rossellini’s follow up to the stupendous Rome, Open City was probably always going to be a bit of a letdown. Rossellini mitigates some of that disappointment by changing up the structure and focus, even if war is still the general topic. Paisan, from a word that is used in Italy to address a fellow Italian as a friend, is really six short films that are connected with documentary footage of the Allied invasion and liberation of Italy. The movie follows a roughly sequential timeline from the early landings to the last battles and jumps from small seaside towns to big cities like Rome and Florence. Because each roughly 20-minute-long segment is completely independent from the others, the characters don’t get quite as much time to make as strong an impression as some of those in Rome, Open City did. Rossellini still manages to craft stories and relationships that leave a mark. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the characters a day later but I can tell you about the wonderfully touching little moments that Rossellini captures them in and his remarkable use of the short story structure to link the segments through thematic and geographic similarity.

Half of the segments are bigger ensemble pieces while the other three are practically two-handers, and even then the first zooms in to focus on an American GI and an Italian woman forced to keep each other company while the rest of the American army men scout ahead on a dangerous path following the Germans’ retreat. The two-handers are more memorable because they allow Rossellini the space to do what he did so well in Rome, Open City: examine how wildly varying individuals respond to extreme circumstances. Take the pair from the second segment, a drunk African American MP is “bought” by a little orphan boy and then dragged around a recently liberated city. At first I was skeeved out by the premise. It’s weird! I soon realized, however, that the MP’s drunkenness was likely some kind of PTSD from the horrors of the battlefield and the orphan boy’s behavior was similarly birthed from a desire for order and control over something in his life. When the MP sobers up the next day he finds the orphan boy and has him take them to his village where the MP sees the conditions the young boy and dozens of others like him were living in. His anger immediately dissipates, replaced by an understanding of how similar their lives have become. In the most powerful scene in the film, earlier in the same segment, the MP anticipates what his homecoming will be like as he drunkenly rambles atop a trash heap. He first imagines a tickertape parade in his honor, then he slowly gets more and more despondent as he foresees his return on a train to his hometown, where he knows he will have to deal with the racism and poverty he momentarily escaped at great cost in the war.

It’s scenes like that where Rossellini makes clear what the title means. He extends paisan’s definition to the Allied forces, mostly, and even performs a few mild critiques of his fellow countrymen in the penultimate segment, another favorite of mine. In that one, three US chaplains visit a monastery and share their chocolate in return for a good meal from the monks there. There’s a sense of geniality that hangs over most of the proceedings, that is until the monks find out that two of the three chaplains aren’t Catholic but rather a Protestant and a Jew. This throws the monastery into minor chaos, and the monks refuse to join the meal they prepared in an attempt to gain heavenly favor in converting the other two Americans to the true path. Echoing Don Pietro Pellegrini from Rome, Open City, the American Catholic chaplain explains, “I’ve never examined their consciences. I’ve never discussed this with them. I’ve never asked them anything because I felt I could never judge them. I know them too well, they’re good friends. Perhaps you here amid this peace, this atmosphere of serene meditation, consider me guilty. I don’t feel guilty. My conscience is clear.” Rossellini shows more understanding that “the paths of God are infinite” than his countrymen do, and in so doing he extends the concept of paisan to those who fight for justice against the forces of evil. He need not judge others so long as they are on the right side of the fight and don’t stray.

I was also thoroughly impressed with the third and fourth segments, the middle third of the movie. In the third, an Italian woman and an American soldier meet just after the liberation of the city they were in happened. They form an intense bond for an evening and then he must go on with his company. But he returns later, looking for her. When he can’t find her, he settles with a woman who also settles for him. Only during his recollection of the first coupling does she realize that she was the woman who he was reminiscing about. The post-war conditions, starvation and depravity, had changed the both of them so much that they couldn’t recognize each other. The fourth episode similarly focuses on a man and a woman, but this time the woman is the American and they both go on a trip into Florence where fighting is still happening in the streets. It’s the most action packed episode but Rossellini also depicts how the lives of the Florentines have and haven’t changed, the British troops’ indifference to anything outside the larger story of the battle and war, and the things that will drive people to risk their lives. While the short film collection structure necessarily prohibits the kind of depth that Rossellini explored in his prior work, it also provides him the opportunity to create a remarkably intimate epic that does double duty as a work of fiction and documentary.

A-
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