06 Apr 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 0 Comments Tagged , , , , , ,

Wednesday BL- “ARGH!” – “Street Angel”

Street Angel
USA, 1928, Fox Film Corporation
Directed by Frank Borzage

We often hear of how German Expressionism “invaded” American cinema in the late silent period but the fascination within it lies less in shadows and fog than in American naturalism. After all, cinema had long been expressive, going back to Mary Pickford and Henry Walthall’s anguished cries on the mountain in Ramona (1910). For his final masterpieces City Girl (1928/1930) and Tabu (1931), F.W. Murnau embraced the unadorned world that had always been at the heart of his work, even in Nosferatu, a goal facilitated by America’s superior feeling for naturalistic performances. Mise-en-scene had been rescued from the obvious methods of Dr. Caligari.

Murnau’s sojourn in America profoundly affected many of our finest, not in the least John Ford and King Vidor but also the woefully forgotten Frank Borzage, cinematic poet of love and redemption. Street Angel is marked by the gloominess attributed to German Expressionism but these are not the scenes we keep with us.

The power of the film lies where Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell find love, struggle against the world, lose each other, and discover anew the essence that drew them together, all rendered in environments rich in sunlight, foliage, the warmth of the home, and the presence of God.

The blocking of their parting, the choreography of the long, lonely tracking shot through the crowd (after 83 years still one of the most beautifully executed takes in all cinema), and the simple efficacy of point-of-view in the church, carefully cutting between Gaynor, Farrell, and the painting – all examples of pure cinema, all examples of an art form at its peak.

- Jonas Erickson

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30 Mar 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 0 Comments Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday BL- “ARGH!” – “Win Win Q & A in Seattle”

(SPOILER ALERT!  Key story and character elements are discussed throughout this recording. Press PLAY above to listen to the entire WIN WIN Q & A session with screenwriter/director Tom McCarthy and actor Alex Shaffer. Seattle International Film Festival Creative Director Carl Spence moderated the event following the film’s screening on March 21, 2011.)

Despite my misgivings about WIN WIN as a whole, it is one of the better films I’ve seen so far in 2011.  Let’s face it: for anyone who hasn’t been lobotomized, it’s been a dismal year for film.  (For my Movie Review Cartoon™ of WIN WIN, please go HERE.)

Battle:LA (read my Movie Review Review HERE)?  Mars Needs Moms?  Unknown (read my Review HERE)?  Red Riding Hood?  Drive Angry 3-D (read my Movie Review Cartoon HERE)?  The movie that’s earned the “Making Battle:LA Seem Subtle” prize, however, is Sucker Punch (don’t miss my Movie Review Cartoon this Friday!)

I’m certain many more films will join the Mediocre Film Class of 2011.

If you want to avoid 2011’s full-frontal badness, many options await at your local RedBox, video store, or Netflix account.  As a point of reference, you don’t have to reach further than the creative forces behind WIN WIN.

Here are some highlights:

Paul Giamatti:

He is a consistent workhorse in everything I have seen him in.  Whether it’s a supporting role (as Bob Zmuda to Jim Carrey’s Andy Kaufman in Man On The Moon) or a lead performance (his exploration of depressed comic book icon Harvey Pekar in American Splendor cannot be missed!), he earns your attention.  I even respect his Cleveland Heep in M. Night Shyamalan’s WTF?! cinematic catastrophe Lady In The Water; he fully committed himself and did his damnedest to sell some incredibly preposterous dialogue.  Of course, he is unforgettable in Sideways as the middle-aged disaster known as Miles.

Jeffrey Tambor:

His take as the insecure Hank Kingsley on The Larry Sanders Show is hilarious.  I enjoyed his take on bureaucratic sourpuss Tom Manning in both Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  But, for me, the role that best served his sardonic sensibilities was George Bluth Sr. in Arrested Development, the show that didn’t stand a chance of surviving TV because it was too darn smart (R.I.P.).

Tom McCarthy:

See his  The Station Agent and The Visitor and let me know what you think. (Richard Jenkins‘ performance in the latter…wow!)

Amy Ryan:

Check out her performance as Officer Beatrice “Beadie” Russell in the HBO series The Wire.  (Ryan also worked with McCarthy as Scott Templeton in the last year of the series.)

After reading this and especially after Friday’s Movie Review Cartoon™ of Sucker Punch, there are alternatives to self-torture.  The performances mentioned above are gifts you can give yourself.

– Paul Sundstrom

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16 Mar 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 3 Comments Tagged , , , ,

Wednesday BL-”ARGH!” – “Theaters: Where The Heart’s Not At”

Leaving BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (yes, a movie review cartoon will arrive this Friday on that one) this pictured theater “lobby” display captured my attention.  Not because it’s remarkable.  But the cardboard display and its “hole in the head” reminded about the temporary aesthetic of most modern movie theaters.

The lobby used to be a movie theater’s heart, the epicenter of activity for moviegoers.  Where movie debates raged.  Where lovers held hands as they awaited their popcorn and sodas.  Where young kids stood eyeballing the window for parents to pull the car along the outside curb.

And let’s be honest…these places most of us see films at now: they’re not movie theaters.  They’re multiplexes, glorified TV screens that project blurred images at low-wattage in order to save on the monthly power bill.  Some of these theaters used to have larger screens but they gutted the interior spaces to squeeze in additional, smaller screens in order to remain financially viable.

These modern theater lobbies, to me, feel designed specifically to shuffle you away into the corridors that branch even further into theater pods, or they hurriedly push you out into the parking lot.  It’s like going to the airport.

These words may be considered as the whining of an early-40s guy who pines for these childhood moments.  That’s a valid criticism.  But I can’t ignore how I felt the other day as I watched teenagers squeeze their heads through this cardboard display.

As a kid, I saw a number of films at the Elma Theater in Elma, WA and the 7th Street Theater in Hoquiam, WA. They weren’t Radio City Music Hall, but they were the closest I was ever going to experience that fantasy, living in farm country.  The lobby space was important too.  And so were the inner screening spaces.

The ornate curtains would open for the Coming Attractions and then close.  When a cartoon would sometimes be shown before the main feature, the curtains would open and close.  The curtains weren’t operated by some automated, electronic gizmo.  The theater managers pulled the curtains with their hands.  To me, it was an act of respect and magic.

Sure, the theater managers would also patrol the aisles with flashlights, discouraging patrons from dangling their legs over the seats.  And yes, I did on occasion toss candy at others, then scrunch down in my seat to avoid detection.  I didn’t spit off the balcony though.

I’ll never forget when my mom took my sister and me to see Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein at the Elma Theater.  We laughed a lot.  My ongoing love affair with movies began with the fusion of theater spaces and the movies.  American Graffiti, Orca the Killer Whale, Coma, Saturday Night Fever, Herbie Rides Again, Jaws 2, Damnation Alley, The Deep, The Bad News Bears, Benji, Corvette Summer, What’s Up Doc?, Every Which Way But Lose…so many more and they weren’t all gems.  It nonetheless was a treat going to the movies.

I saw The Empire Strikes Back and 2001: A Space Odyssey in re-release at the 7th Street Theater, two of the more remarkable movie theater experiences of my childhood.

And when I take my boys to the movies, I feel a little sad for them.  The theater space means nothing to them.  And why should it?

- Paul Sundstrom

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09 Mar 2011, Posted by arghcentral in 5. Wednesday BL-"ARGH!", 0 Comments Tagged , , , , ,

Wednesday BL-”ARGH!” – “Comic Book INTERVENTION!”

Recently, Seattle survived another infiltration of stereotypes at the 9th Annual Emerald City Comicon.

Consider this BL-”ARGH!” a public service to future attendees of ECCC and numerous other similar comic book conventions held throughout the U.S. and abroad (San Diego Comic Con, I’m lookin’ at you!).

First, full disclosure: I am a recovering comic book nerd. From childhood thru the age of 35 I avidly collected comic books.

For instance, I used to possess the abilities to discuss: the nuances of The Uncanny X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Saga; the nooks and crannies of time continuums and the scope of evil embraced by Darkseid in The Legion of Superheroes’ The Great Darkness Saga; the gawdawfulness and blatant money-grab/Jim Shooter abomination aka Marvel’s Secret Wars and subsequent sequels.

Yep, bona fide comic nerd.

And, no matter wherever I’ve lived, I’ve had a 15,000 comic book collection follow me. It’s a reminder of my former sickness. Imagine an alcoholic surrounding himself with the empty bottles of his liquid conquests. This mammoth library is also a reminder of the life I’ve left behind.

So, here, I am staging an intervention for comic book weirdos — you know who you/they are. While these tips are to be engaged prior to interacting with the public (read: life outside video games and Wonder Woman masturbation fantasies), many of these tips can be practiced within the comfort of one’s home, too.

1. HYGIENE – Take a freaking shower! (And brush your teeth and your hair while you’re at it… preferably with separate brushes.) Also, is there anybody who loves looking at droopy, dangling, fleshy earlobes with holes large enough you could throw a baseball through them? It’s GROSS!

2. NUTRITION – Those green things in the produce section of the grocery store? No, not the fluorescent green bottles of Mountain Dew. The plant-like things beyond the freezer, processed food section… Those things are good for you. Don’t be afraid of them; most of them haven’t been completely irradiated like The Incredible Hulk. Drowning them in Ranch salad dressing will only increase you to Hulk proportions, however.

3. FASHION – Contrary to what you’ve heard, wearing a Green Lantern T-shirt or whatever is not going to fool any chicks into thinking you are Ryan Reynolds. Try donning something in your size that’s been made in the 21st Century. FYI: turning shirts inside out won’t hide those armpit sweat stains and p.s., keep your superhero Underoos collection a secret.

4. CULTURE – A. Read a good book! And by book, I mean one that does not contain a Star Wars character. B. Embrace a subtitled movie! C. Go to an art museum! D. Talk to people!

I know, I know…

You’ve filled your brain with comic book characters and the regurgitated stories of costumed villains’ (yawn) pursuits to take over the world.

You covered every inch of your dwelling with comic-themed bed coverings and odd comic tie-in trinkets.

You went without heat and water when you bought into the mid-1990s gold-plated double-pressed quadruple foil variant covers scam.

And you’re the master of comic book trivia.

But you owe it to yourself to try something different. If you must feed your comic book curiosities, read comic books that don’t involve superheroes. Many of them are quite good and some approach literature in their own right. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your horizons.

You can do it! I know you can. (Just take a shower first, okay?)

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