To Hell with my New Year's Resolution

HENRY V
The thing I admire most about Kenneth Branagh as a director is that he hits the sweet spot between Shakespeare's stage and our screen; Zeffirelli or Olivier could set a scene in the middle of an open field and you still sense the proscenium arch over the actors' heads, and as much as I love MACBETH, OTHELLO and CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, these are more Orson Welles' movies than William Shakespeare's plays. I haven't seen V since it was in the theatres, but I really liked how invisible Branagh's directing was and how remarkable it was to see the play adapted as a war movie. I'm leery of this disk being widescreen, for a change -- I understand it was shot at the 1.33 ratio -- but for less than six bucks, I can live with it for quite a while after a new and improved edition comes out.

THE KILLING
It's Stanley Kubrick, it's noir and it has a youngish Sterling Hayden.

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
Another peer-pressure buy; apparently I don't have enough horror movies for some people's taste either. I've never seen this, but I liked THE VIRGIN SPRING and I hear this is really good for a remake. Wasn't Richard Corben working on a comics adaptation of this for DC/Vertigo a few years ago?

THE LONG GOODBYE
One of my more underdeveloped pet theories is that all male movie stars [as compared to actors] can be put into two categories, eventually: guys who are bald and guys with back hair. Usually one or other, rarely both and never neither. Eliott Gould is my favorite back-hair movie star.

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
I'm pretty sure I didn't give this movie a fair shake the first time I saw it. It was no more than a week after seeing a complete print of THE SEVEN SAMURAI for the first time, so you can do the math. But what really sold me on buying this one was a clip I saw recently where all six of Yul Brynner's gunslingers are doing their damnedest to upstage him; it must be a gas to watch the narrative brinkmanship of so many hams in battle. I'd like to know how [or perhaps why] John Sturges made even bigger but more controlled ensemble action movies like THE GREAT ESCAPE and ICE STATION ZEBRA later.

PATHS OF GLORY
Another cheapo slab of classic Kubrick. I haven't watched my copy of SPARTACUS yet, but I consider PATHS the most useful context Kirk Douglas' stiff acting ever got.

THE TRAIN
What I just said about Kubrick & Douglas, but change their names to John Frankenheimer and Burt Lancaster.

WARGAMES
Like RED DAWN, this movie seems to have become oddly relevant again, although not in as through-the-looking-glass a way as DAWN. I like that Matthew Broderick's character isn't presented as cool, capable or even mature -- David's just a kid with more intelligence than sense -- and he doesn't really become any of those things at the story's climax. [I've always read John Wood's Cheshire Cat grin during the final countdown as Falken letting them all sweat and watching to see if David can think of the solution himself; I really like the idea that the Professor, like the Doomsday Clock, is five minutes ahead of nuclear Armageddon.] Anyway, Ally Sheedy's girlfriend character seems to be in the movie only so Broderick doesn't have to talk to himself for the movie's first hour. Even the knuckleheads in the raunchiest teen comedies are changed by their movies' events; David keeps his modem.

Next, a movie I bought as a surprise to my best friend; maybe I'll edit this to tell youse what film once it's been given, maybe I won't. Calm yourself down! I'll tell you when it's time to panic!

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE
After seeing this on cable and having more than half the songs stuck in my head for days afterward, I'm giving in and getting the uncut version of this glorious puppetmation clusterfuck. After the initial novelty wore off, I stopped watching the SOUTH PARK television series, but I loved the SP movie musical; Trey Parker's songs will outlive everything else he and Parker create. At first I thought the jokes and satire in TA were really unfocused and flabby, until I realized how thoroughly they were bagging on those Michael Bay-type action movies, which are moronic at the same they're needlessly complex. That seems to be the most useful framework for a lot of the humor in the movie's second half, rather than being equal-opportunity offenders or "pox on both their houses" moralists -- both worthless non-stance stances -- Parker and Stone's puppets of various bigmouthed Hollywood liberals solve a number of plot problems in a funny way: How would Kim Jong-Il lure the rulers of the world to his rittle country? A peace conference? No, a peace conference starring the biggest names in Horrywood! It's no more contrived a plot development than any you'll see in next weekend's top blockbuster. I think I missed the slow-news-day stories about Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson and Liv Tyler being leftwing firebrands, though. And if anyone would look absolutely awesome as a Supermarionation puppet, it's George Clooney; he's halfway there in real life. Why wasn't he a F.A.G?

ALL ABOUT EVE
I watched a lot of AZN TV while my spine was healing a while ago, especially a K-drama that was unfortunately translated to ALL ABOUT EVE in the States. I'm not a soap-opera fan, but EVE had everything I can think of to expect from a soap opera; a not-too-big cast of memorable characters, dramatic but not outlandish plot twists and many cute girls. I'm pretty sure I missed the last episode of the series, so no one ruin it for me, OK?

HIROSHIMA
Mostly out of curiosity [I've never bought a VCD before] and greed [my subtotal needed a goose to qualify for a gift coupon], I also picked up a copy of this BBC documentary. I think John Hurt narrates this one. It sounds like it gives serious amounts of time to the victims of the a-bomb, so it should bookend nicely with my copy of the History Channel's ENOLA GAY.

Every picture tells a story [or two] don't it

Lately it seems that U.S. media hasn't been as slick as it used to be in packaging its bullshit; I would guess that reportage is trickier to present as seamlessly as stenography.

I never really used Google News until the other day, and just discovered how easy it is to change it settings to aggregate news for other countries. I figured New Zealand would be the best country to get your news from, since they're a day ahead of me and should know more. I bet they're really cocky about it too -- well Cher bra, you kiwi sons of bitches! You antipodean bastards will be eating my dust in a few days!

Anyway, I had scanned the US feed before noticing that you can change it to other countries, and noticed that while the photos for the top stories mostly stayed the same, the headlines where quite different. Here are some of my favorites from today [click for larger image]:


OK, well, AlJazeera may not be as trusted a media source as, say, Fox News. Although their story is filed with the same news sources as the U.S. story that doesn't mention that the killers were/may have been police.


It's funny how CNN and MSNBC [and the others, I would assume] devoted long segments about all the pork being shoved into that military spending bill where the anchor and some c-list pundits acted shocked ["millions for stimulating sales in Christmas trees!" was the one I think Nora O'Donnell was most scandalized by] as if this was the first bill to ever be tagged with bullshit amendments for pork projects. Considering that these 24-hour stations are run with Germanic efficiency, I guess they just ran out of time to simply mention that Congress is making another attempt to raise the minimum wage in their bill.


Ah yes, the fucking LA TIMES. Blergh.


And this one really shocked me -- how much would anyone care to bet that King Abdullah's money quote about the U.S. presence in Iraq being illegitimate will make it to the network news tonight? Speaking of which, could Katie Couric be a more loathsome piece of shit? I've grown to expect less and less from 60 MINUTES, but last Sunday's show is my last.

It seems the King of Saud is more badass [or exasperated] with the U.S. than we're told.

The 1009th step on the last road home.

Inducing brain damage in five, four, three, two,

one:

Questions for the group

In no particular order:

Is COBRA supposed to be funny?

Speaking of Stallone: How is it that Eddie Murphy was the biggest movie star of the '80s but the only movies where he wasn't the second [or third or fourth or fifth] choice for his role were the ones he wrote himself? Gregory Hines, Richard Pryor, Howard E. Rollins Jr., Denzel Washington, et al. were pursued for the role Murphy eventually landed in 48 HOURS; Pryor for TRADING PLACES; Murphy's scenes were a post-test-screenings addition to BEST DEFENSE; Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino, James Caan and Mickey Rourke were sought first for BEVERLY HILLS COP and THE GOLDEN CHILD was a Mel Gibson vehicle. Eddie Murphy was a movie star for nearly 10 years before being a first-choice for someone else's script [THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN in 1992].

I've never seen a baby who slept like a baby -- was the phrase originally sarcastic but lost its meaning over the years?

When you fart audibly, isn't that essentially your asshole whistling?

Now dazzle us with insight and brilliance. Or just your research:

Sunday Comics Mash for March 25, 2007


Click on the link for the whole strip, stupid
.

I still don't think these mashes can be as funny as the old ones -- there's no ANDY CAPP to cut up, for one -- but the panel where the HI & LOIS kid rambles on about womens shoes made me laugh. Enjoy.

The 1006th step on the last road home.

meat-world archive request:

A couple friends of mine have asked me to nail this down in text before I forget it again:

I love crazy girls.

I define "hotness" by "signs of emotional instability/incipient mental illness" but I take virtually no static from these hot maniacs. The reason why is that there are plenty of crazy girls in the sea. Literally. Go look at your nearest ocean; you'll find them bobbing around in the water like driftwood. Whiny, complaining driftwood. Whiny, complaining driftwood that will tell you all about their absent/abusive father if you maintain eye contact for too long.

For example: When I lived in Seattle, I used to watch the big fishing boats go out of the Ballard locks in the morning empty, usually coming back a few days later with piles of crazy girls flopping around on the poop deck. Hundreds of crazy girls just waiting to be examined and tagged by King County veterinarians and then released into the wilds of Ballard, Fremont and Capitol Hill. Nature is a beautiful thing. I mean really, why put up with your two-week girlfriend's growing obsession with Dave Matthews live-show bootlegs when you can go sit in front of Archie McPhee's and hook yourself a new, better girlfriend with a Dave Cooper comic stapled to some fishing line in just a few minutes?

[Here's a fun fact: Often, crazy girls' hair is dyed a bright red to make them more attractive to people, just like the sockeye salmon in your supermarket.]

My old friends are cooler than your old friends

An 18-year-old Binghamton High School student held administrators at bay with a survival knife for almost six minutes Thursday [May 4, 1989] while he broadcast a rock tune on the school's intercom system. Richard Head [name changed by request] of Lisle "isn't sure" what spurred his actions about 9:25 a.m. at the principal's office, he said after his arraignment in city court Thursday afternoon. .... [Head] walked into the office and requested that a secretary, Jane H. Downey, broadcast Dear God, a tune with an anti-religious theme by the British rock group XTC on the school's inter-communication system. .... "We then backed off and let him play his music. Then he turned off the P.A. system, gave the knife to (Principal Joseph) Holly and was handcuffed by the police." .... Another student said Head "was always strange, but now he's an instant folk hero." .... Some students thought at first that the incident was some sort of an attack on the school, said Karen L. Grimes .... "We thought some terrorists were going to attack," she said.

Karen, you're such a wankette. Didn't you know the work of an instant folk hero when you heard it over the P.A.?

I'm fascinated by how this story has spread from a local police-blotter article to national urban legend to international UL. It was surreal to hear one of the callcenter kids tell the story in the Fantagraphics kitchen one day like it was something a friend of a friend of a friend heard about from a friend who was there -- apparently there's a federal law stipulating that all record-store clerks must tell their customer the story before s/he can buy hir first copy of SKYLARKING. And I was told another version of the story from an email penpal in England just a few weeks ago. What's funny is that many versions end with "Dick" killing himself later; actually, he's now an overpaid I.T. guy who lives in the suburbs with his wife & kids and is a Major-General or something in the Xbox-Live HALO 2 army. It's a living death, I suppose.

not to be a hater ................... but

I would have thought that the only dorks with $250K worth of love for that stupid comic & characters were Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird themselves.

The 1005th step on the last road home.

My vow to never drink soda again, Nov. 16 2006-Mar. 20 2007

Holy fucking shit, I can't believe I ever forgot how amazing Kosher Coke tastes; sweet, watery in a good way, actually refreshing and no unwelcome aftertaste or filminess on my teeth. For those of you who don't know, for a few weeks around Passover, Coke [and in some areas Pepsi] put out a small supply of kosher versions of their main brand in 2-litter bottles. The reason why it's so good is that instead of that high-fructose corn syrup garbage, kosher cola made with real cane sugar. From what I understand, Coke-proper hasn't been made with it in nearly 30 years, which would explain why kosher Coke tastes like my childhood.

"INGREDIENTS: Water, Sucrose, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine." That's it. I can easily live with drinking this short a list of chemicals.

Look for Kosher Coke in the Passover/chosen-people cuisine area of your local grocer; the easy giveaway is the bottles' yellow cap, which has "U.P" and/or some Hebrew text on top. The second giveaway comes after you drink your first glass: You'll be satisfied and pleased, not thirsty for another and another and another the way HFCS soda is.

[There's something very Soylent Green about HFCS, except that the Soylent Corp. apparently didn't strong-arm the U.S. government the way that Archer Daniels Midland does ours. Fuck corn subsidies. I would make a drinking game out of every time we find HFCS in the ingredients list of a food that doesn't need it, except that I probably couldn't find alcohol that doesn't contain it too. Also, most supermarkets frown on binge drinking while shopping.]

One of the lesser things I miss about living in a city near the border [L.A./Mexico or Seattle/Canada] is that it's fairly easy to get foreign-made soda, which is made with real sugar year-round -- although I see Mexico is losing their fight to keep HFCS out of their country. I'm not much of a Coke fan, but I liked the glass bottles that Mexican coke comes [or came] in. I don't remember much about Canadian soda, except that their Mountain Dew was good but curiously weak. Still better than Soylent Brown and Light Green ... when you could find it in this country.

Anyway: Hot dogs, pickles, cola [makes you wish there were more Jewy Jews in baseball; I would go see a game if the concession stands served Hebrew Nationals, kosher dills and sugar Coke], chocolate bars, lemon rolls, black & white cookies, brownies, canned broth, whole-wheat crackers -- is there any food the Jews don't make better? No. [They also make the best comedians, crazy girlfriends and mohels but that's like saying oil, blood and water are wet.]

UPDATE: It's been an hour after having my glass of kosher Coke, and I feel just fine. God damn you, high-fructose corn syrup!

The 1001st step on the last road home.

A brief note on the monkee strip reaching its 1,000th panel

I was already sick when I started working on THE LAST ROAD HOME. When I launched it in June 2004, my health was in a full-on downward spiral. Just between us chickens and skipping the gory details, I had every reason to believe that I'd be dead by now when I vowed 2.73790926 years ago to write and post a panel of the strip every day for the rest of my life. Today, I'm pretty close to being healthy and living well with no reasonable explanation for what's changed. I have a bad feeling that the last major work of my life being an annoyingly slow serialization of an assholic monkee's suicide note won't be as funny when I break the oxygen habit 40 years from now, in what almost has to be better shape than what I was 2003-2006, but it will be 40 more years of fighting Endemic Treponematosis. And 15,000+ more panels of the monkee's letter, containing around 45,000+ words. I can do that, sure. Sigh.

While I'm in a confessing mood: I knew while I was writing it that a month of having the monkee run though euphemisms for "whore" was sure to piss away any potential word-of-mouth and benefit-of-the-doubt interest the strip would ever have as well as decimate my initial audience at least once a week for its run, which it did. I regret nothing. "The bags," "the soiled doves," "the strumpets" and "the filthy cum-dumpsters" still make me laugh.

Hurray for Hollywood! Duh duhduh duhduhduhduh Hollywood!

Samwise just hipped me to two prime filets of my favorite breed of film verite:



And



Watch them while you can! I'm guessing at least three lawyers are working to get these deleted from YouTube as I type. All movies have these kind of meltdowns, but Tomlin's are the kind of older-Hollywood baffled-actor ire that make me laugh the hardest. What really kills me in the second clip is that David O. Russell walks off set but comes back a few moments later through the closet-looking door, Hanna/Barbera-style -- it's the kind of sight gag you'd expect from a SCOOBY DOO chase, but with more swearing and less Jerry Reed music. It's telling that Russell is presented as "going ballistic" even though Lily Tomlin is being an even bigger asshole. He really will never be forgiven for pissing George Clooney off while making THREE KINGS.

If I ever have the misfortune of directing a movie, I would include all these in-camera shouting matches in the end credits, like how Burt Reynolds movies had the production's funniest bloopers and Jackie Chan uses footage of his accidents.

9:30pm UPDATE: Ha ha, I told you to watch them soon. Deleted! At least until some wag who saved them reposts them to have them deleted again, etc. Isn't there a deleted-youtube archive somewhere? I'm lazy and I've had my fun, but you rubbernecking googlers should add that to your search queries. Godspeed.

The 1000th step on the last road home.

There was a time when reading wasn't just for fags ....

It better be just a matter of time before video from 300 is reedited with lines from IDOCRACY and posted on YouTube and the like. I think I actually do think less of people who love that movie. [I definitely think less of anyone who has to ask which movie I mean.]

Fortune and Glory, kid. Fortune and Glory.

A friend brought up a nerdy question that I guess is debated in some quarters: At the end of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, do Indy and Henry Jones gain immortality? It reminded me of something I haven't thought about in years; the bible for Indiana Jones stories. Because I'm an asshole, here's how I put it to my friend:

It is written in the the Bible of Indy -- the good book given to all writers chosen and entrusted by The Lucas to inscribe His son's further adventures in any media [video games, comics, novels, whatever] -- that Indy Must Always Lose The MacGuffin And Everything Else He Gained At Story's End, yay, be it the Arc or the Stones or the Chalice. So no, no immortality.


But I've been thinking about Indy further: Not only does he lose the big objects at the end [the Arc of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail] he loses the little ones in each movie's cold-ish opening too [Belloq steals the golden idol, Lao Che gets the Emperor's ashes and keeps his diamond, and the desperadoes steal the Cross of Coronado]. Of course, the main artifacts eventually destroy the villains who stole them, but still.

It's funny how those movies are feel-good adventures when their hero fails in his primary goal every time. Just imagine a final scene in each film where Dr. Jones returns to his college empty-handed from his adventure and has to justify his latest leave of absence to the Dean; it's a good thing Indy has tenure and hopefully a really good, patient Teacher's Assistant to handle his classes. All the rousing John Williams music in the world couldn't keep a spring in your step as you left the theater after that blowoff.

So very, very ... very weak

Avant Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920's and '30's
Two disks of arty-farty silent shorts? Films by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Richter, Jean Epstein and Sergei Eisenstein? A student movie from Orson Welles? Raymond Rohauer, you're my hero. [Thanks for saving all those Buster Keaton movies, by the way.]

Slapstick Symposium - The Charley Chase Collection [volume one]
I've never seen much of silent comedian Charley Chase's work, but I've been intrigued to see a lot more after reading an essay on Chase by the mighty Donald Phelps. [Why isn't there a collection of his essays on silent film, anyway?] He touched on Chase in at least one R. Crumb essay as well, which should add a piquant layer of weirdness to Chase's shorts for me.

A Christmas Past
This one has been in and out of my shopping cart for years, but I've always choked on the price tag. I love Santa Claus -- he's the best superhero ever -- and silent movies so this anthology better kick my ass, even at half-price.

Fritz Lang - Epic Collection
Lang's silents are some of my favorite movies, but I've been on the fence about buying this set since learning that Eureka Entertainment in the U.K. has put out editions of some of Lang's best that probably are superior to their Region 1 counterparts. I know the newer progressive-scan DVD players can easily be converted to all-region machines, but I finally decided not to make that jump until they're the standard; I lend out my movies to friends and family, and I haven't seen that many Reg-2 disks that are unquestionably superior to the Reg-1 edition. [Maybe the Region-2 of SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA: It's is in-print and available, has a Director's commentary and extras but is all in French.] Anyway, the movies in the set:

I saw SPIES at a film-society showing years and years ago. It's a trademark Lang creep- and thrill-fest. I like any movie that has a cripple as the villain.

I've always wanted to see WOMAN IN THE MOON; I prefer Lang's speculative-fiction movies to his American noirs to his German thrillers, so this one ought to be a good time. Even if it stinks, getting the set was cheaper than buying the other films individually, so it's gravy. Possibly stinky gravy.

I've only seen half of DIE NIBELUNGEN; I enjoyed SIEGFRIED but skipped KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE because it sounded like one of those gothic, complicated royal-family revenge epics that always come off as bad Shakespeare imitations to me. Also, it clearly would not have nearly as many dragons and asswhippings as SIEGFRIED did. [This was where my mind was at regarding classic world cinema when I was 20.] Regardless, it sounds like these two have been so restored that I haven't properly seen either.

And everyone's favorite Lang, METROPOLIS! What got me completely off the fence on buying this set, aside from the prog-scan-player issue and a 52% price reduction, was discovering that the none of the editions of this film show it at its proper framerate; I don't know how or why the release soundtrack was scored for a faster projection rate, but the Keystone Kops speed the characters often move at just can't be correct. Well, until the Authorized Restoration is restored to a more human speed and released on DVD somewhere on Earth, I'll watch this disk instead.

L'Age D'Or
For my money, literally, Luis Bunuel had the best first trio of films this side of Melvin Van Peebles; UN CHIEN ANDALOU, this film and LAND WITHOUT BREAD just knock me out. I hope the audio commentary is especially good, because I don't know nearly as much about Bunuel's early years as I'd like.

Wife To Be Sacrificed
I'm tired of my friends giving me crap about the lack of smut in my movie library, as if there's something wrong with me that I don't need more than the "Plans of War" and "Upstart" scenes from DUCK SOUP for spankbait. [Margaret Dumont in black satin? Raquel Torres, in a longish medium shot, slowly swaying away and then back toward the camera? Groucho teaching generations of misanthropes how to annoy and seduce a woman at the same time?] Anyway, I've never seen a "pink" movie before, but the cineaste hardcases I know say this one is the best and it's beautifully shot even if sometimes repugnant.

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
I'm not much of a fan of straight-up German Expressionism; I don't like my surrealism to come tagged with explanatory footnotes, which is part of what makes Bunuel and his lack of visible control in his moviemaking so exciting. But you have to hand it to the Germans, especially the UFA filmmakers; they know how to cast a compelling visual. I'm hoping this disk's documentary is good -- the title doesn't sound promising, though -- because I'd love to know more about Robert Weine, Erich Pommer and UFA itself. CALIGARI is my favorite of the bunch, and it cost me less than buying a pan & scan edition of FATHER OF THE BRIDE 2 from the grocery store. Huzzah!

Bicycle Thief
Do I really have to explain this one? Neorealist sui generis. Propers to Criterion for using a straight translation of the original, plural, Italian title even if no one uses it.

Boudu Saved from Drowning
This one came close to being dropped with LA BETE HUMAINE once the initial wave of Reniormania receded and I came to my senses. It's not one of my favorite Renoirs and I haven't seen it in years, but lately I've been growing more and more interested to see how much of my apathy for it comes unfairly [read: lame '80s remake].

Gimme Shelter
When is a concert film with shitty performances a great concert film? Even without the snuff-film content and the hotness of Tina Turner demonstrating her handjob technique in the middle of "I've Been Loving You Too Long," the Maysles brothers' documentary somehow rises above the crappy pre-monitor concert sound, the often hilariously out of tune instruments and the surprisingly dorky intimate footage of the Rolling Stones on tour to create an effective, almost haunting sketch of an event that had CATASTROPHUCK written all over it. I also love that Charlie Watts does most of the talking/mumbling for the band during the show's postmortem in the film's editing suite.

Grand Illusion
Here's a veteran of my shopping-cart purges; I think this was one of the ones I put in and took out for my very first DVD order. I love Renoir, I love smart war movies and I kept not-buying ILLUSION, I think because it seems like a movie perpetually on the edge of being revised and rereleased like SEVEN SAMURAI and THE 400 BLOWS. Well, even if they do that, I don't care to wait any longer to see this movie whenever I want.

The Man Who Fell to Earth
With International "Record Your Cat Reacting to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" Day so close, I've been thinking about how great the mid-'60s to mid-'70s were for speculative-fiction movies. [Insert STAR WARS/sci-fi insult here.] I haven't seen this one since high school, but it must be pretty great for my feeble mind to retain so much of it for so long. I forget the name of the word-painting guy [I remember R. Fiore wrote a great mini-review on a collection of his for a "Funnybook Roulette" column I published] who either did this one's cover or was ripped off by whoever did, but that's one striking cover.

Pandora's Box
I squeaked with excitement when I saw a full-page photo of Louise Brooks in a galley of that 50 YEARS OF JANUS FILMS artbook, because it was the first official sign that Criterion was close to done with their PANDORA'S BOX release. Brooks was never more elegant or enchanting -- then again, no one else has either. It's all in her neck, somehow. I hope this movie and Brooks' reputation grows with this disk -- I don't know if it was just my circle of snobs or that a lot of people missed seeing this film on VHS and it having taken so long to reach DVD, but I've been shocked at how little this one registers with even film snobs. I think it's the movie I would use if I had to teach filmmaking 101, and I would fail every dumbass who complained that it's not a talkie or in color.

Rififi
I'm late to the Jules Dassin party -- no excuses, just never got around to seeking his noirs out. I liked his much later UP TIGHT just fine the one time I got to see it, though. I've certainly read about this film plenty, since it's regularly cited as the first triumph over the HUAC-Blacklist and Hollywood douchebaggery.

The River
I can't wait to see a cleaned print of this one. This is Renoir's first color movie, and like all but a few master filmmakers, he made a startling debut. It's not a movie that aged well -- Renoir fell deeply in love with India, but expressed it in the kind of condescending love one saves for beautiful and lovable but slightly dim people. But, I'll always forgive Renoir everything for another view of the images and moments created here.

Spartacus
Another Blacklist breakthrough. I avoided this one largely because of Kubrick's hired-gun status on the production -- the experience was famously unpleasant -- but I never knew this disk was quite so packed with rich extras. John Berry's documentary THE HOLLYWOOD TEN alone is what sold me, but the Saul Bass sketches and chockablock commentaries were tempting too. I hope the movie itself is better than I fear, of course.

Walkabout
I like that this movie is so narratively sparse that you're not forced to interpret any symbolism you encounter during the journey. That's not to say that a 16-year-old white girl in the outback is just a 16-year-old white girl in the outback, but I'll read the footnotes some other time. I hear that Nic Roeg and Jenny Agutter's commentary is really great on this one.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
It was five bucks, it's uncut and in its proper aspect ratio, it has a commentary from Paul Ruebens and it was five bucks. Even if this one is being remaindered to clear a path for a new Special Edition or something, I'm fine with with it; I don't think I need much more to appreciate the movie. Also, picking it up with BICYCLE THIEVES makes for an invoice sheet only a hardcore film dork can appreciate.

Dangermouse - The Complete Seasons 1 & 2
Total nostalgia purchase, but it held up fairly well. The theme song encapsulates all that's wrong with heroic fan-fic, at least the not-pornographic kind: "He's the ace, he's amazing, he's the strongest, he's the quickest, he's the best."

Enola Gay
I'm fascinated by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and comparatively little mainstream coverage they get compared to what occurred in the European Theatre of Operations during WWII. Most people -- Americans, at least -- are happy to leave it at "they ended the war quicker and less violently than a land invasion of Japan would have required." I wouldn't equate the A-bombings morally to the Holocaust, but it's interesting to me that the iconic images of the latter are largely of the camps' prisoners -- the emaciated survivors, the stacks of corpses, the bones in the ovens -- whereas the icons of Japanese human loss [as seen in the US, at least] are of objects; the white shadows on steps & walls, the wristwatch frozen at 8:15AM and the Enola Gay. The aftermath of the a-bombings was well documented yet we rarely see it, probably so the "nuclear option" can "remain on the table." Assholes.

16-Ton Monty Python Megaset
You bought sixteen disks, what do you get? All but the four movies, and deeper in debt.

The Presidents
I could half-listen to Edward Herrmann read the phone book aloud for hours. This series presents a surprisingly detailed sketch of each President of the United States, although they start fudging right around the first Prez you remember from your childhood. The bit where they flip a POTUS's official portrait over to show bullet points of his strengths and weaknesses on the other side is kinda funny, like a CGI Topps baseball card. I still have a Chester A. Arthur card in my bike's spokes. BRRRRRrrrrRRRRRrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRR

World at War - 26 Episode Series Collection
I love this show -- it's the rarest of documentaries; one that knows how to shut up. Laurence Olivier's minimalist narration, the rare and often startling images and footage, the eyewitness interviews, the Carl Davis score and the surehanded poetic touches [like the "A Song To My Son" recitation in, I think, the "Red Star" episode], all of it adds up to the kind of comprehensive, clear-eyed vision of war that you rarely see even be attempted. As an added treat, producer Jeremy Isaacs provides short introductions to each episode that often end in him making an angry lemon face [you can almost hear him grunting "oh, fucking hell!" through gritted teeth] when he thinks the camera's been turned off. I assume those were takes where he stumbled over some comment but they, I don't know, didn't have enough film for any do-overs. Those moments make nice minute or so of respite sprinkled over hours and hours of somber, serious film.

The 998th step on the last road home.

The 983rd step on the last road home.

Only one month until IRYCRT2001:ASO Day 2007!

You know you want to participate. You can still get in early enough that you'll have bragging rights on virtually everyone; you have time be into International "Record Your Cat Reacting to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" Day for a while and still be jaded and done with it long before it goes all mainstream and shit.