all along the watchtower? you betcha
television 2008

what i watched last week

The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972). I finally realized that no one was going to watch my new Godfather Blu-rays with me, and since Robin is downstairs, I can watch whatever I want in the evening after the noisy workers are gone. So I cracked open the box and took in Part One of the greatest movie ever made. This time I was particularly noticing that Michael's roots are in America, as opposed to his father's in Sicily (which is made more explicit in Part Two, of course). When Vito tells Michael, "I live my life, I don't apologize, to take care of my family," we know, from Part Two if not before, what made Vito into Don Corleone, know that he means both that he knows what his life has been and he is unapologetic, but also that he did it for family. He may be deluded, but I don't think so ... I think he starts with taking care of himself, then taking care of his wife, then his kids, then his neighbors, then his entire community, then the world, which is all part of his family. Michael is corporate ... for him, it is always business, not personal, and while the first times we see him, he seems quite human, when his Sicilian bride is killed, he loses that ... his personal loss turns him away from the personal, towards "business," and I doubt he ever really believes the stuff he says about family being important. Vito would never kill Carlo, much less Fredo. The essential differences between Vito and Michael are reflected in their assistants: Clemenza and Tessio are old school, Al Neri is a silent suit. 

Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008). Yeah, it's about 9/11, and the YouTube generation, and Godzilla, and a bunch of other cool pop culture artifacts (and in this context, that's what 9/11 is, a cultural artifact). I didn't care much about any of that. And I didn't really care about the long party scene that kicks off the film, where everyone demonstrates how vapid they are, although it was nice to see Lizzy Caplan, whose nude scenes on True Blood have already made her an Internet legend. But the party stuff is merely setup, and I'd say it lasts just the right amount of time ... just when I couldn't take another minute, BOOM! What follows is, as Stephanie Zacherek points out in Salon, "unpleasant to the point of being unconscionable; it's so relentless that there's no suspense, nothing that makes us wonder what's going to happen next." I happen to agree with her wholeheartedly. The difference is, she hated the movie, I thought it was excellent. It cranks up the tension, it brutalizes the audience by sticking us right in the middle of the horrified emotions of the characters that only a few minutes earlier seemed so mundane, it doesn't give two shits about suspense, it's a Japanese monsta movie made in America and taking place in New York, and all of that cultural artifact stuff is irrelevant, although I guarantee this movie will get a chapter in someone's dissertation in the year 2038. And it's only six minutes longer than Booty Call ... hell, if you walk out during the extremely long end credits, you'll spend less time watching than you would even for that immortal classic.

Red Cliff: Part I (John Woo, 2008). John Woo returns to China, makes two-part historical epic, regains his Mojo. I haven't had time to really think about this movie yet ... what it "means." But it's a marvelous thing to watch, with some fascinating battle scenes. The second part comes out next month ... nothing has been released in America yet, but supposedly a one-film condensation of the two parts will come out here. I picked up a Blu-ray of the Part I original, and it's worth it.


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