Archive for category Movies

Sweet Smell Of Success

I like movies. A lot. But the other day, 3/4 of the Murphy Family tried to pick out a movie at our local Hollywood Video and failed. Or almost failed, as after we all agreed we couldn’t find anything we wanted to see or see again for free, I noticed The Sweet Smell of Success. Well, I just had to get it, after reading Libertas:

Have you guys ever seen The Sweet Smell of Success? Man! What a great flick. Cancel your Netflix account now and use that money to buy The Sweet Smell Of Success. And everytime you get an urge to watch the latest piece of junk — liberal or otherwise — that emanates from Hollywood, watch The Sweet Smell Of Success. You’ll thank me for it later.

You know what? Thanks, whichever one of you there that wrote that. While I was the only one to watch it (horrors, it was in black and white!), I loved it enough for all of us. And I never thought I’d ever say this, but Tony Curtis was a better actor than 95% of the people in the business today. I knew about Burt Lancaster, but not Tony.

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A Night At The Museum

Some of the Murphy Family saw Night At The Museum and were very pleasantly surprised. At least I was, as I didn’t expect, but it was funny and enjoyable and a good popcorn movie. Yes, it is stupid, but entertainingly so, not annoyingly so. I guess I don’t mind preposterous history in an unserious film (or at least a film that doesn’t take itself seriously). And it’s a treat to see Dick Van Dyke (I thought he was dead!) again, and to see him dance at his age in the final credits was worth whatever my wife paid. This is only the second movie Owen Wilson didn’t set my teeth on edge — so they must have done something right (like given him a supporting role).

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Can The Dead Sue for Defamation of Character?

I watched Kingdom of Heaven the other night, not all of it though, because I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s a wretched movie, and I suppose what galls me the most is if you’re going to make a work of fiction, don’t try to pass it off as based on fact. And by that I mean don’t use a real setting, with characters named after real people, with some events from the world of reality but most from some other world of make believe. It’s just despicable.

The Wisdom of James Woods

James Woods makes the uncomplicated easy to understand.

Restaurants:

I like to use the metaphor of my buddy Dan Tana. At his (restaurant’s) 40th anniversary, somebody asked me, “Why do you think his restaurant’s successful?” I said, “It’s really very simple. He serves good food and it’s a comfortable place to stick your ass while you’re eating it.” It’s not rocket science. You know these places: You go in and there’s some froufrou guy has fixed everything and they spent five million dollars on the f@&^ing chandeliers and you’re eating some crap on a plate with a bunch of swirly crap on it. If they give you steak, French fries and a f@&^in’ booth, they’ll be in business for a hundred years. You think some guy wants to sit perched on a little wooden chair eating a sliver of somebody’s liver?

Movies:

I look at movies and they’re all so f@&^ing terrible. People ask, “Why aren’t movies more successful?” It’s really a simple answer: It’s because they stink. Three simple words: Because they f@&^ing stink. That’s four words, but you can’t write the f@&^ing word. They stink, they stink, they stink, what’s wrong with you? They stink. Do better movies.  Finally, I saw a good movie : “The Departed.”  And look what it took: It took Marty Scorsese, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, (screenwriter) Bill Monahan — and it’s based on another movie.

There is an amazing parallel between the movie and restaurant businesses though – good product and a comfortable place to park your keister while partaking. That might sum up a lot of businesses actually.

I’d love to hear how he’d uncomplicate women, but I imagine I couldn’t post it here.

Thanks to The Mayor of Television for the interview, and Libertas for the pointer.

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Digital Film Projection…In Somalia

Strategy Page had an interesting nugget buried in the middle of their recent roundup on events in Somalia:

August 4, 2006: […] There are hundreds of impromptu theaters in Somalia, where entrepreneurs use digital projectors, powered by a portable generator, to project DVDs or electronic film files (often taken from pirated collections found on the Internet) onto the inside, or outside, walls of buildings. A small admission is paid, thus providing entertainment for many Somalis. […]
(see http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/somalia/articles/20060809.aspx)

It seems to me that this could also be a model for developing world education, and perhaps a model for how to disseminate information after natural disasters (at least those that leave a wall standing). Digital video cameras would allow current events to be easily captured and disseminated–instead of relying on pirated content off the Internet–you would just need some “out of region” file servers and at lest intermittent Internet connectivity.

The entry was part of a larger piece (buried in those ellipses) on how the Islamic Courts (the name of one of the ruling factions) is trying to censor “non-Islamic” content and tax the “theatres” which, being something of a moveable feast, I would suspect are to assess taxes against or censor.

One of the reasons it caught my eye is that I attended a July 27 Churchill Club event on The Future of Movies that was billed as “a digital age cinema executive roundtable.” It was a good talk, and the Hollywood execs were extremely intelligent and articulate. One of the key barriers to digital film adoption seems to be that exhibitors bear the expense of new digital film projectors while most of the benefits of moving from film to electrons will accrue to other parts of the industry. This isn’t true for the smaller scale Somali “exhibitors” who can probably make do with LCD projectors that are just a few hundred dollars and don’t have any existing infrastructure).

It’s worth listening to the podcast and adding Scott Kirsner’s CinemaTech blog to your list if digital cinema or movie technology is of interest. He did an excellent job preparing the panelists and moderating. Rich Karlgaard also has a good write-up.

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King Kong ZZZZ

I’ve been sick and busy lately (funny how often the two go together, with the former leading to the latter), but I did watch Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong over the weekend. I have to say, it showcases everything great about Jackson, and everything wretched. And here, the wretched outweighs the great. Far outweighs. The only reason I actually watched the whole thing is that (1) I never voluntarily stop watching a movie or reading a book once I start and (2) I didn’t feel much like getting off the couch. I think perhaps Mr. Jackson should just produce giant spectacular movies, and leave the directing to somebody else.

The movie is actually quite boring despite, well actually because of the non-stop action. There is about 15 minutes of plot puffed into three hours of movie (kind of like a three hour porno movie — if anybody was crazy enough to make one that long — and just as believable) and it doesn’t take long before it becomes clear that the criterion was that it didn’t have to make sense, it just had to look good on film. And I’m not saying if you thought about it, it didn’t make sense; it just obviously didn’t make any sense the moment the photons hit your retinas. I don’t mind suspending my disbelief, but I don’t like to be insulted. If more is less, there wasn’t anything at all to this movie, and more is less. I like movies that seek their proper length, whether that is 90 minutes or almost 4 hours, but there is nothing worse for a movie than to be very long and very boring (see The Horse Whisperer).

I should have paid more attention to Dirty Harry.

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The Da Vinci Code

I read the book, enjoyed it even though I thought it slandered the Catholic Church and was generally a bunch of hogwash. So to sum up, I thought it enjoyable hogwash. One of the things that struck me as hogwash is the oft repeated idea that somehow Christianity singled out women to deprive them of freedoms they had as pagans. Steve Sailer has a great look at the Da Vinci Code and women, and you just can’t beat his last line. Thanks to Tim at Random Observations for the tip, and for his reminding us that pagan infanticide is still with us, on a scale probably greater than ever.

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My Favorite Bond Reparte

One thing the Bond movies are known for, besides his women, is his wit. My favorite Bond movie, Thunderball, has my favorite example:

Bond: That gun, it looks more fitting for a woman.
Largo: You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?
Bond: No, but I know a little about women.

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Easy Bake Movies

Dirty Harry at Libertas has another spot on post about Hollywood: Must We Destroy Hollywood In Order To Save It?:

The reason I want certain films to fail is because it might facilitate actual change. Sequels, remakes, old TV shows, and comic book films can all crash and burn. I’m sick of them. Sick to death. And I’m sick of them because they all share one common trait: We know the story before the lights dim. We know the characters, we know the world they inhabit, and we know how it’s gonna end. I want to meet new people, see new places, and not know what happens next. But that requires originality. It requires talent. It requires risk-taking. And Hollywood hasn’t met those requirements since the peak of maverick (and liberal) film making in the 1970’s.

Amen, brother Dirty. Easy filmmaking isn’t good filmmaking, and that’s all we’re getting these days. We’ve seen time and again, make a good, original film and fannies will flood the theater. Make another lousy remake, and you’ll go down like The Poseidon.

United 93

This weekend the funWife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by seeing United 93. It isn’t the typical date movie, and I was worried about seeing it since I’m going to be on some long plane flights this summer, but we went ahead anyway and we were glad we saw it.

It is an amazing movie. Normally Hollywood takes a great story and tries to improve upon it but rarely succeeds. Thankfully, there was none of that for this movie, and instead it was told in a documentary style that let the events speak for themselves. The power of the movie comes from the power of the events themselves, and not from any artificial additions (compare Saving Private Ryan with its miserable phony framing device to Schindler’s List which (by and large) just told the story). This is the second movie I’ve seen where it simply starts – no previews, no title sequence, just the lights go out and the movie starts. It makes for a better experience, IMHO.

The movie starts with the hijackers getting ready in the morning and then the attack of 9/11 is recreated through the story of United 93 – the airtraffic controllers, the military, the passangers and hijackers on the flight. No backstory, no flashbacks, nobody is introduced except through the details of the exposition itself. It’s a hard movie to watch because it brings back all the horror and confusion of 9/11, and sitting through the final scenes of the passangers, scared, confused, and yet ultimately fighting back is especially difficult. And that’s why this is filmaking at its finest – an unflinching look at events very few people really want to look at, but you want to during the movie.

It must have been very hard for the actors who portrayed the hijackers. I know a lot of big stars love playing the villain in a movie, but that really is play acting as those villains aren’t real, and the byzantine plans of mayhem and distruction are pure screen writer fantasy. Not so in this case, where the villains, the mayhem and the destruction were all too real.

The only thing I found odd was that the movie has some European passanger counseling do nothing and even tries to tell the terrorists the passangers are plotting to attack them. Is there some basis for this?

Libertas liked the movie;
A student at Cal Poly didn’t ;
And the final word(s) goes to the ladies of the cotillion.