Sunday, July 18, 2010

The 10 o' '10

The Ten so far...

I. Kane (1941) - Education / epic / character study - 100 books wouldn't cover it all. Can a movie destroy a life? ...yes, two, in fact.
II. Duel(1971) - 1st film / man(n) v man / nature / machine - Focus is what we have here.
III. Misty(1971) - 1st film / style / suspense / location - My single most inspirational film.
IV. Thing(1982) - Small / scary / tight / open - I love love love The Thing.
V. Buckaroo(1984) - Smart / fearless / committed - This film is absolutely unique - true to itself.
VI. Razor's Edge(1984) - Personal philosophy / experience - Life is beauty.
VII. Psycho 3(1986) - Sequel / dirty / curio strange - Mother talks on her own ...c'mon, how awesome is that?
VIII. Shawshank(1994) - Hope and despair / Stephen King - That a kind man possesses "one of the greatest imagination of our time" is extraordinary. I am a genuine fan of his work.
IX. Zodiac(2006) - Obsession / period piece / real history - What is the truth? ...and why do I need to know? Can obsession destroy a life? Oh, yeah..
X. A Team(2010) - Adaptation and expansion / reverence - If you're going to do something - do it right, but do NOT forget to have fun...even the bad guys.

Now that is one weird list ...but I do believe it is time to look more closely at why I want these 10 movies to influence my future filmmaking skills ...
Starting with the guy who, at 40 in '70, decided to direct his first feature...

Monday, July 5, 2010

LEt sLeePing CorPses LiE: a zombie interlude

Zombies scare me. Fact. I'm not sure why ...they always have. I think it's the inevitabilty ...their patience, if you will...
Night of the Living Dead scared me & it is the classic - no denying it - like The Thing, it's that ending that caps it perfectly, creating a "WTF?" instead of an "aahhh, everything's ok..."
From that I would've jumped all the way to 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead(06), but Jorge Grau's Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is my personal favorite in the genre. I watched it again last night(partially in response to my spiritual tirade earlier) back to back with Slither, which I'll yammer on about at a different point, but I've sampled a lot of Zombie movies, and I think this is the one that both borrows and inspires best.
For starters, Danny Boyle is clearly a fan of this movie - with the "rage" eyes and faster "dead", 28 Days Later is almost a remake...
A friend commented that the movie looks like an Agatha Christie movie ...'til the Zombies show up. It has a very British/70's storytelling element to it ...with just that dash of Italian darkness ...almost like a Stephen King story.
They do some different things here, with the homicidal babies, and the relentless hobo ...things that stay with you a little longer, and despite it's tone, we eventually see blood aplenty.
The acting is great, and the inspector(played by Arthur Kennedy) is a fantastic character, making the film feel more like a mystery featuring the undead, as opposed to a "horror" film. The score is excellent, the suspense genuine, and the outcome is unpredictable. This is an excellent movie by almost any standard, and as I write this I can't wait to show it to someone new...

My Ultimate Zombie Fest would read something like this:

Night of the Living Dead(1968) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie(1974) Dawn of the Dead(1978) 28 Days Later(2002) Dawn of the Dead(2004) Shaun of the Dead(2004) Zombieland(2009) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie(2012) - A remake and functioning sequel/follow-up to Shaun of the Dead(by the same team, of course).

If you look for it - it has about 30 titles ("The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" /"Don't Open the Window"), so you can pick your favorite...

It's worth it it on a misty night me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bill Murray & THE RAZOR'S EDGE

"America" - The last line of my favorite film.
Movies can inspire us ...affect us ...and sometimes they can answer questions we didn't know to ask...
This film, more than any other, sums up my truest philosophy on the human condition:

We all get what we truly want.

I was handed this new perspective at a time I was indulging something I thought I wanted, and it grabbed hold quickly. I was left with the question - what do I need(not want) and what does that need want? They are different. Our "learned personality" covets, and I believe this to be the downfall of North American culture.
I read a story by Kurt Vonnegut years ago called Harrison Bergeron ...about society bringing everyone down to the same level ...I think we do this to each other, but mostly to ourselves ...not so much misery loves company as impotence and fear adore company...
"Keeping up with the Jones'" has tragically created about a billion Harrison Bergerons ...only measuring ourselves against others - the "successful " ones, with no core sense of who or what we really are ...what we really need, to be the best possible version of this assemblage of gifts that any of us is.

Is life distracting us from obtaining our goals? ...or is distraction what we seek? Why does someone stay in an abusive relationship? ...what interior question is being addressed?
We measure ourselves against what we see to be success and decide it's too much ..too hard, and the fear is so warm ...

I believe we are searching, both consciously and un- , from the moment we wake til the moment we sleep, for what we truly desire in this world...
But what is it you seek ...what experience is guiding you? ..what pain or inspiration? ...what self-imposed limitation keeps that goal forever planted in the realm of the someday...?

"I didn't know I was lying, but I was." - I love that line.

Our protagonist, Larry Darrell is still a mystery to me ...but one I think of often. If honest answers are what we seek, how can life not be immeasurably rewarding?
What will make me happy? What will make this experience valuable while I'm in it? How do I affect others?
I honestly believe Bill Murray made Groundhog Day as a thematic sequel(or perhaps a philosophical follow-up) to Razor's Edge ...What is the value in anything ..anyone? How do I engage this experience unselfishly?
But the lesson itself is not soft. What do you truly want? Honest answer...

At one point he visits an old friend who is not well ...listen to Larry's answer when his friend thanks him...

As for the film itself, John Byrum's direction is subtle and strong, allowing the film and the performances be patient when it's necesarry. Denholm Elliot could do no wrong in the 80's and the cinematography is gorgeous. My long-standing crush on Catherine Hicks remains undiminished ...Child's Play, Star Trek IV ...and she's great here(don't hate her) is Teresa Russell - lovely, vulnerable, sad.
I love Bill Murray's performance as Larry Darrell, but I just love Bill Murray ...I think he knows who he is ...or at least, he's not afraid to look.
I could have discussed Ghostbusters - I think it's a perfect movie - Life Aquatic, Broken Flowers, etc...amazing, and I would give him the "best cameo of all time" award for Zombieland, but between the ultimate messages of Groundhog Day and Razor's Edge I think it's the personal philosophy of the actor that gets me most. GD feels more European in tone every time I see it ...and what a message - value what is valuable. That's it.
All the players in RE seek, and recieve ...but, like a great number of our lives I suspect, you have to look back at the question, and realize, that this and only this, provides the answer that is your day to day existence. What do I want?

Mr.Murray indulges both the exquisite beauty and the exquisite sadness that is life ...and honestly evokes that old idiom: If I didn't laugh I'd cry. I thank him and my friend Mike Goodfellow, who knew I should watch this movie...
It's like Jeopardy - sometimes the answer prompts the question itself.
I'm left with a question upon writing this. Do I want to be a filmmaker who measures himself against the works of others? No, I want to answer myself. The way the people on this list have, and then let the world form it's own questions to my answers.

There is a moment in The Razor's Edge when Larry is atop a mountain, burning his books to stay warm ...his last possessions. He is smiling - I envy that smile.