Previous month:
May 2019
Next month:
July 2019

scotland-argentina

The result here was affected by interpretations of the rule regarding goalkeepers on penalty kicks. Well, that's not exactly true. Goalies are coming off their line, but thanks to VAR ("Video assistant referee"), even the most minute infractions can be spotted, resulting in a retake of the penalty kick, if the first one missed. Unfortunately, that's what a lot of people are going to talk about, when they aren't calling Scotland a bunch of chokers. Despite the above, though, I prefer to note that Argentina pulled off one of the great comebacks in WWC history.

Due to the silly tournament structure (which comes from having 24 participants, and a need to reduce that to 16 teams for the next round), Argentina now has a small chance of advancing to the next round, even though until 74 minutes had passed in this third match, Argentina had yet to score a goal. But again, picky picky picky. Their comeback today was thrilling, except for Scotland, who are now eliminated.


losing it at the movies: la notte (michelangelo antonioni, 1961)

The fourth in a series, "Losing It at the Movies," which is explained here.

The early-60s were a fruitful period for the primary film makers involved in La Notte:

Michelangelo Antonioni: L'Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), L'Eclisse (1962) (all with Monica Vitti)

Jeanne Moreau: La Notte (1961), Jules and Jim (1962)

Marcello Mastroianni: La Dolce Vita (1960), La Notte (1961), 8 1/2 (1963)

In 5001 Nights at the Movies, Kael wrote of La Notte:

In Antonioni’s earlier L’Avventura, which was also about the moral and spiritual poverty of the rich, his architectural sense was integral to the theme and characters; here, the abstract elements take over, and the drama becomes glacial. And his conception is distasteful: his characters seem to find glamour in their own desolation and emptiness. They are cardboard intellectuals—a sort of international café society—and their lassitude seems an empty pose. Marcello Mastroianni plays a blank-faced famous novelist; as his wife, Jeanne Moreau walks endlessly, with the camera fixated on her rear; and Monica Vitti is a brunette with money up to her ears and nothing to do.

Whenever I write about Antonioni's trilogy from 1960-1962, I note that Kael seems to have influenced me in some secret way, for like her, I think L'Avventura is a masterpiece, and also like her, I don't think the other two pictures match the first. At this point, I'm just throwing my arms in the air ... Kael influence or not, I have watched L'Avventura several times, and look forward to watching it again, while the most I can say for La Notte and L'Eclisse is that I'm glad I saw them. There is much to appreciate in La Notte ... the look (Gianni Di Venanzo is the cinematographer, but Antonioni surely deserves a lot of credit for how it turns out), and while the acting is variable, I liked Monica Vitti quite a bit. Mastroianni accomplishes what the director wanted, but the actor is on record that he thought the part should have had more depth, although he accepts that Antonioni wanted something else ("a blank-faced famous novelist", in Kael's words). Thus, his character is dull, although with Marcello Mastroianni, even a blank face is nice to look at. As for Moreau, I fear this was indeed an example of Kael influencing me ... once I read her comment about the camera's fixation on her rear, I couldn't get it out of my head, and sure enough, there are a LOT of shots of Moreau walking away from the camera.

Trying to figure out why I prefer L'Avventura to the others, I once wrote, "Perhaps my problem is that L’Avventura’s greatness lies in part in the way the emptiness is ultimate rather than complete. Claudia’s journey takes us from a place of hope to one of pitiful acceptance, and that journey is key to L’Avventura. In the other films in the trilogy, the emptiness is there from the start; it is complete, and there is no journey." I felt this quite strongly while watching La Notte. There is no Claudia. No one is markedly different at the end of La Notte than they are at the beginning. I don't agree with Kael that they find their lives glamorous. But there isn't a lot of there, there.

A couple of trivia notes from IMDB that don't surprise me. La Notte is one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite films. And La Notte is one of Lars von Trier's favorite films. #237 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.


kael at 100

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the woman who is quoted at the top of every page on this blog. Here is something I wrote for an anthology about Kael:

It was her insistence on the individual, sometimes even the willful viewer, that makes any concept of the “Paulettes” problematic. For the critic who truly wanted to follow in Kael’s footsteps, subjectivity would necessarily be crucial, and that subjectivity would ensure that the critic wasn’t merely parroting Kael. To a question in an excellent 1994 interview from Conversations with Kael by Hal Espen about what she called “saphead objectivity”, she said:

"Our responses to a movie grow out of our experience, knowledge, temperament – maybe even our biochemistry…. I tried to put my background and predilections right out on top, so that the reader could know what my responses came from."

Ideally, criticism is a matter of your intelligence and all your intuitions coming into play…. but you can’t make an objective judgment in any of the arts. Kael’s influence hardly relies on our agreeing with her opinions. Her lasting resonance comes from her perspective to writing criticism, what I would call an “expansive subjectivity”. It is easy enough to reduce Pauline Kael to her pronouncements, and indeed, those of us who remember her with passion will often find ourselves slipping into the Paulette mode of wondering “what would Pauline think?” However, I am writing this essay in an attempt at some explanation for the ineffability, the magic, the lasting power of her voice.


marta

Marta is arguably the greatest women's soccer player of all time. (I'm trying to be fair ... I think she IS the GOAT.) Today, she scored the only goal in Brazil's 1-0 win over Italy that ensured she'll play at least one more game for Brazil.

She has scored more amazing goals ... this was just a penalty. But not just any penalty. It was her 17th World Cup goal, which puts her alone at the top: no one, man or woman, has scored more World Cup goals than Marta.

On Twitter, the #1 topic was about Marta, but it wasn't the penalty. It was her lipstick, which practically broke Twitter. Some were surprised she wore lipstick. Others wanted to know the brand because, as one person tweeted, "I just think it's unfair that Marta's lipstick is flawless 70 minutes into a World Cup game and I can't ever get mine to stay nice for more than 30 minutes on a normal day". The Miami Herald was on it: "Brazil’s Marta and her lipstick get Twitter love after record-setting World Cup goal".

Eventually, the truth was revealed ... Marta was wearing Power Stay by Avon Brazil. Apparently, she has an endorsement deal or something.

I'll use any excuse to post my favorite Marta goal, one of those 17 World Cup goals:


best movie year of 21st century

On Twitter, Bright Wall/Dark Room asks what has been the best year for movies in the 21st century. I elected to take the year with the most great movies, rather than the equally valid best year overall. My choice was 2001, and I cited these films in particular:

Two little-known films, Lantana and Time Out. The start of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. HBO's Wit. Murder on a Sunday Morning. And best of all, Y Tu Mamá También.


losing it at the movies: the fury (brian de palma, 1978)

The third in a series, "Losing It at the Movies," which is explained here.

Here is how I began my post on Dressed to Kill:

Pauline Kael ... was an early and regular champion of De Palma's work ... in my mind, the best example of this is perhaps her review of The Fury, where she favorably compares De Palma to Peckinpah, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Welles, and Scorsese. ["One can imagine Welles, Peckinpah, Scorsese, and Spielberg still stunned, bowing to the ground, choking with laughter."] David Thomson, on the other hand, compares De Palma to Leni Riefenstahl. It may be De Palma's great achievement that both Kael and Thomson's comparisons make some sense.

After Kael died, Thomson wrote about watching The Fury with her:

As it happens, I did sit next to Pauline once in that dark. It was in a Manhattan screening room, and the occasion was Brian De Palma's "The Fury," a picture starring Kirk Douglas, Amy Irving and John Cassavetes. It exists, trust me.

The seat beside me was occupied only at the last moment, after the lights had gone down, by a diminutive woman who made some fuss getting settled and finding her notebook. Well, 15 or so minutes later, I was nudged out of De Palma's film (this was not too difficult) by a sound coming from somewhere next to me. It was scratchy and raspy, but there were little sighs and moans accompanying it. You may find this allusion fanciful, but it was rather like sitting next to Beatrix Potter's Mrs. Tiggywinkle as she beat the little garments of her laundry.

Pauline (for it was she) was writing up a storm in the dark, with a sharp pencil on the notebook pages. That was the rasping. I watched in wonder as her head bobbed up from the page to the screen, and back again, too intent to miss anything, and apparently writing down not just the dialogue but a kind of running shooting script. And the noises she was making -- the tiny hedgehog squeaks and raptures -- were part of a nearly writhing rapport with the film up there on the screen. She was in love with it. She was, nearly, making love to it....

I thought "The Fury" was spectacular nonsense. History may be on my side, but that doesn't really matter. Pauline was putting out for De Palma because she believed in him.

Still, as the lights came up, I couldn't resist saying, "I can't wait to read your review."

"Didn't you like it?" she asked, less in dismay than incredulity.

I admitted not (I felt like a father telling his daughter the guy's a jerk), and our friendship died there. But I kept her example in my head, and I've never forgotten the sound of that sharp pencil slashing at paper. For me, that was The Fury.

In 5001 Nights at the Movies, Kael wrote of The Fury:

Brian De Palma’s visionary, science-fiction thriller is the reverse side of the coin of Spielberg’s Close Encounters. With Spielberg, what happens is so much better than you dared hope that you have to laugh; with De Palma, it’s so much worse than you feared that you have to laugh. The ... film is so visually compelling that a viewer seems to have entered a mythic night world; no Hitchcock thriller was ever so intense, went so far, or had so many “classic” sequences.

I like The Fury, which has a loony quality that adds to its enjoyment. De Palma is busy enough in the movie that it's pretty easy to ignore the stupid plot holes. The acting is generally good ... John Cassavetes is in Rosemary's Baby Bad Guy mode, Kirk Douglas does his usual overacting, Amy Irving does what she can. Fiona Lewis from the legendary Drum is also featured. Daryl Hannah makes her debut in one scene, as does Jim Belushi in a blink-and-you'll-miss it cameo (I blinked). Dennis Franz turns up in one of his very first movies.

John Williams deserves a special shout out. He had been around for a bit ... Jaws came out in 1975, Star Wars and Close Encounters in '76 ... in retrospect, you can already hear the classic Williams sound in those movies, which was solidified later with Indiana Jones, E.T., and the Jurassic Park movies. But the music in The Fury is unlike his usual. He calls on the Hitchcock of the Bernard Herrmann era. This is not a surprise ... De Palma was known to copy Hitchcock slavishly at times, and you have to figure he told Williams what he wanted. But it's so different from what we have since come to expect from John Williams. It's an excellent score.

Meanwhile, there was Kael, as effusive as ever. Referring to the death of Cassavates' character, she wrote, "This finale ... is the greatest finish for any villain ever." Pauline did have a way with exaggerated loves.

Here are some Brian De Palma films I have seen, with my ratings on a scale of 10:

8:

The Untouchables

Casualties of War

Dressed to Kill

7:

Carrie

The Fury

Blow Out

Femme Fatale

6:

Mission to Mars

4:

The Black Dahlia


music friday: elton john

There was a bit of discussion on the Rocketman post regarding Elton's music, so I thought I'd pick my ten favorite Elton John songs. I might say I'm not a big fan, but just being able to choose ten songs means I like him pretty well. I think these are in chronological order. I don't have much to say, so I'm just putting the songs out there.

"Your Song".

"Take Me to the Pilot". Neither Elton nor Bernie Taupin seems to have the slightest idea what this song is about, which is why I think it is the ultimate Elton John song: lyrics that sound meaningful but aren't, but no one cares because the chorus is so catchy.

"Country Comfort". I came to this via Rod Stewart, which explains the link. (My list of favorite Rod Stewart songs would be longer than ten.)

"Tiny Dancer". Repeating the link to the Almost Famous scene I used in the Rocketman post. That scene is really the only reason this song makes my list.

"Honky Cat".

"Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding". My second-fave after "Saturday Night". The lead guitarist's name is Davey Johnstone.

"Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll)". Why yes, I do prefer Elton the Rocker to Elton the Balladeer.

"Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting". My fave.

"The Bitch Is Back".

"Solar Prestige a Gammon". The ultimate extension of the "Take Me to the Pilot" school of lyrics, which are presented here in total (note that Elton sings these lyrics with the same happy abandon he uses for many more "meaningful" songs ... it's all the same to Elton):

Oh ma cameo molesting
Kee pa a poorer for tea
Solar prestige a gammon
Lantern or turbert paw kwee
Solar prestige a gammon
cool kar kyrie kay salmon
Hair ring molassis abounding
Common lap kitch sardin a poor floundin
Cod ee say oo pay a loto
My zeta prestige toupay a floored
Ray indee pako a gammon
Solar prestige a pako can nord