CATCHING UP WITH FILM - THE QUEST FOR A PERSONAL CANON

 

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Canon Entry - The Swimmer (1968)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Since I personally despise any work that glorifies America’s prosperity set in the immediate postwar period of the 50’s and 60’s, I was destined to love The Swimmer. If you didn’t know John Cheever’s story, however, and If you just saw the poster for this movie with Burt Lancaster’s beautiful bod and nothing else, you might have thought this was a story about a middle-aged man’s late life quest to become a competitive swimmer. More on that beautiful bod. If you had to point to a picture of the perfect American (White) man, then

Canon Entry - Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Funeral Parade of Roses was so ahead of its time that it made so much of international cinema of the 60’s look tame in comparison. This is quite a statement when you consider that during the 60’s the French New Wave was in full swing, Britain was witnessing the works of the “Angry Young Men,” and even films behind the Iron Curtain were breaking convention (Czech New Wave). Though this film was not exactly playing in mainstream theaters in Japan at its release, its cultural impact is considerable, especially in the career of the

Canon Entry - Wanda (1970)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Perhaps the most visually striking and poetic scene in Wanda occurs early in the movie, when Wanda is walking in the black coal fields that surround her house. She is a wearing a white dress and the camera lingers on her, as if fascinated by how such a rare creature had found herself in such an environment. Wanda Goronski (played by director Barbara Loden) certainly does not see herself as someone special. In fact, for much of this movie she seems to be merely trying to survive, not even live. When her husband requests that a j

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. The dominant male in an animal species that other males follow is called this. This expression of approval for a performance is also the name of a cable network that used to feature fine arts performances but now broadcasts Top Chef and Real Housewives. This silent film actor made a film making fun of Adolf Hitler in which a lot of the h

Canon Entry - A New Leaf (1971)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. In learning more about director Elaine May, the more I am convinced about how much her gender was a major factor in the brevity of her career as a director. She had the reputation for being difficult and not listening to advice, especially from the higher-ups. What these reports fail to mention is that the other directors of the 70’s (when three out of her four movies were made) were far more demanding and egotistical than she ever was. Coppola’s huge ego was the subject of a whole documentary, Hearts of Darkness, and Kubrick w

Canon Entry - The Pollen of Flowers (1972)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Class struggle is present in almost every society, but it seems that Korean culture is especially obsessed with this theme. It is ubiquitous in Korean popular culture, from the lightest and fluffiest of K-dramas to the most serious films. In fact, The Pollen of Flowers, is quite similar to, the most famous Korean film in this genre, The Housemaid, which has itself been remade at least a few times. My knowledge of Korean history is not as deep as it should be, but I do know the 20th century was perhaps one of the most tumultuous

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. A toy meant to entangle your fingers permanently (maybe?). Potentially fatal form of gambling. This entrepreneur is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and has appeared on Shark Tank. A situation classically involving three people in which no party can proceed or retreat without being exposed to danger. Two ingredients that make up Eggs Be

Theme Tuesday - Twin Peaks - Fire Walk with Me

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks is such a tremendous cultural touchstone (and huge blindspot for me) that I decided to rectify matters and take the deep dive for the month of May. At the time of its release, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me had a profoundly negative reception, from being booed at Cannes (a strange mark of honor historically) to being torn apart by critics. Now, however, I see this film come up quite often when cinephiles are asked about their favorite Lynch works. It has become somewhat de rigeur to declare Fire Walk with Me as a low-key masterpiece, ranking high in the Lynch oeuvre. One thing that was for sure was that this is very much a David Lynch work. Notably abse

Canon Entry - F for Fake (1973)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Perhaps one of the mistakes that any person who watches film, critic or otherwise, is to ascribe meaning to every little thing the film does. For a layperson, this usually takes the form of “what was the plot” or “what was the point.” The only difference between a layperson and a critic or scholar of film may be that a critic is possibly better at disguising that he or she is basically asking those same questions. Orson Welles knows this, which is why he humors us with long anecdotes about his characters - mostly Hoyt and Irvin

Canon Entry - We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. On the surface, We All Loved Each Other So Much is not a movie that really travels well across culture and language. It is very dialogue-heavy and very specific to a time and place that not many people have familiarity with. There is some visual flair and effective use of voiceover, but even the characters’ concerns are too alien to most modern audiences. Additionally, Ettore Scola, while a well-regarded director in Italy, is not a name you hear often when Italian auteurs comes up, even though he was friends and colleagues with

Canon Entry - Sholay (1975)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. It’s intimidating to tackle a movie as monumental as Sholay. At this point in my life, I have seen so few Bollywood films that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I could speak about Sholay as any kind of expert, especially as a Westerner. It has permeated Indian culture for over forty years and everything, from individual lines and scenes to songs, are as ingrained in Indian culture as something like Star Wars is in American culture. So I can only speak, as I do with nearly every film, as an avid amateur who seeks to

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. The band behind these lyrics: “It’s gonna take me a lot to get away from you/ There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do…” The element Ag on the periodic table An old fashioned name for alcohol, especially illegally made and sold alcohol (must fit with the theme). This part of a bird is often broken apart with the person ge

Theme Tuesday - Twin Peaks - Season 2

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks is such a tremendous cultural touchstone (and huge blindspot for me) that I decided to rectify matters and take the deep dive for the month of May. I would compare Season 2 of Twin Peaks to the Beatles’ White Album. There is a lot of good stuff intermixed with a lot of mediocre and perhaps even subpar material, which makes the whole season a compelling, if uneven, whole. Apparently, David Lynch was busy filming Wild at Heart, leaving the show without his guidance and his tight control over the mythos. Mark Frost was in charge creatively for most of the episodes, which may explain why the show started to gain more and more plotlines that weren’t nearly

Canon Entry - In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. In the Realm of the Senses’ original title in Japanese translates to Bullfight of Love, a far more accurate and evocative description of the film than the vaguely pretentious and unhelpfully generic title the French slapped onto Nagisa Oshima’s masterpiece. The two characters at the center of the film, Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) and Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji), have a combative yet suffocatingly (no pun intended) codependent relationship with each other. Much of their relationship is about pushing boundaries, mostly sexually. To

Canon Entry - House (1977)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. When I first saw Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House many years ago, like most people, I was truly baffled. Half the time, I had no idea what the hell I was watching, it was such a hallucinogenic, bizarre and disorienting experience filled with truly weird visuals that it would be a disservice to try to explain them in words, but here goes. An old woman has an extra eye in her mouth. A piano that bites off limbs as a girl can’t help playing it. A head that another girl pulls up from a well, thinking it was a watermelon, which can fly and

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. The actor who apparently knows nothing on Game of Thrones. The Phantom of the Opera’s Angel of Music Famous jazz pianist and composer known for his seminal record “Watermelon Man” The leader of the Confederate army in the Civil War The decline of this creature of the apidae family is of great concern to the food supply as they are nature

Short Film Wednesday - Sight and Sound - Listen to Britain

For the month of May, I will be watching the shortest films on the Sight & Sound list. During the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the USA, one of the lesser known battle fronts was the world of art. In a very broad sense, the Soviets favored realistic art that emphasized the common people and their unity and solidarity. As a response, the US government actively pushed artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, Abstract Expressionists with a very recognizable personal style, so as to emphasize individuality, creativity and freedom. While the circumstances were considerably different during World War II, Humphrey Jennings’ Listen to Britain seems to bear many similarities to this conf

Theme Tuesday - Twin Peaks - Season 1

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks is such a tremendous cultural touchstone (and huge blindspot for me) that I decided to rectify matters and take the deep dive for the month of May. “My dream is a code waiting to be cracked.” -Dale Cooper (David Lynch?) Disclaimer: Many people have written far more eloquently and insightfully about Twin Peaks and David Lynch in general, so in my musings I will content myself with watching this series through relatively new eyes many years after its release. As one of Lynch’s many, if less-impassioned, devotees, I definitely saw his quirks and trademarks come through strongly in Twin Peaks, in some episodes more than others. One thing that I have always

Canon Entry - The Shout (1978)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Watching The Shout reminded me of a nightmare I had once. Like most dreams, the contents of such fancies immediately vanish from your mind the moment you wake up. What I did remember was that even though the content of my nightmare had been genuinely scary yet ultimately evanescent, I remember that I had witnessed my nightmare at a distance. I was more fascinated than terrified by the dream, as if I were watching a film in which I knew that no matter how horrifying the images running in my mind were, I was perfectly safe at hom

 
 
 

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