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Wednesday, 17 April 2019


hi mike,

with regard to cinematography, i have converted many colour films that i enjoy to black and white and often find that the cinematography can be much better appreciated in the black and white version. vertigo and the godfather trilogy come to mind as looking very beautiful in black and white.

Some good flicks there to be sure, but There Will Be Blood is like an anemic Citizen Kane, a one trick pony where you simply wait for Daniel Day-Lewis to erupt into yet another fit of violence.

Good flicks of late: November, American Animals, Hostiles, Blindspotting...

About writers...there's a screenwriter's book that I once looked at, briefly; the second or third chapter was entitled. "...And the Writer Got Screwed."

My wife likes all kinds of movies. I don't. She once asked me, with some asperity, what kind of movies I liked. I had to think about it, and finally came up with, "I like movies where s*** blows up."

Boogie Nights—been there and done that. To paraphrase soundman Jim Tanenbaum (Avatar) I'm a gaffer, not a censor. I was lighting director (credited as Max Schultz) on several John Holmes films in the mid 1970s.

BTW Boogie Nights co-star William H. Macey, is Felicity Huffman's husband.

For readers who grew up in Northeast Ohio (Cleveland/Akron), Paul Thomas Anderson is the son of the late Ernie Anderson.

Ernie was an actor who was the voice of ABC and a Cleveland television late-night horror movie host known as "Ghoulardi" (after whom Anderson later named his production company).

I watched two B&W films this week one from the 1950's the other an art house favorite from last year.
They were remarkably similar. Odd Man Out was made in the 1950's and is probably James Masons best film. Cold War is a polish film getting a lot of well deserved praise.
Thematically both seem much the same. Both are shot in the same academy aspect ratio. Both are black and white.
I'm not going into detail about the respective plots. TOP readers should just watch them both. Glorious photography, great performances and great scripts. I just happened to land on them one day apart and did not expect all the connections I felt.

A while back you recommended some movies shot exclusively using natural light. Can you point me in the right direction?

As I recall, there is very little blood in ‘There Will Be Blood’. Watch it.

I'm inclined to agree with Ben, and this bit from a Guardian review of some years ago, which might apply to several of his films:
This is certainly a distinctive picture, composed in a startling, even riveting idiom by a director with style. But it is almost entirely depthless: a trompe-l'oeil of elusive ideas and replicant emotions...

So what did you think of Phantom Thread?

And I will definitely have to see the full Boogie Nights, after checking out the 3 minute one-shot pool traverse that is on YouTube.

I've noticed that comedic actors often do very well in dramatic roles. I can't remember in what movie/TV show I saw him, but Dick Van Dyke is another example. Hugh Grant is good in the TV series Very British Scandal playing Jeremy Thorpe. There are probably other examples but I can't think of any right now.

For a second there I thought it would be about Wes Anderson, and I was like, "wait, what?" Cause it's so much not a director I'd ever think you'd appreciate...

The last movie I saw in a movie house was Thunderball, on release.

We used to have a television subscription to a movie channel but gave up on it after a while: everything seemed to be as John Camp says he likes: shit gets blown up. Perhaps it's something in the diets that produce it.

The last directors I enjoyed were Fellini, Antonioni and Woody Allen, the latter for his Jewish humour that seems to me to be so much more advanced that the rest; really clever rather than dumb.

More rewarding, I think, than the cinema is some television stuff. Enjoyed the French Engrenages and Braquo a lot; the nice thing about those is that the characters grow on one (both love and hate) and show a sustained development that has time to appear over many hours of viewing. Can't stand space movies or British detective series, where the Englishness falls on its face (for me) as would songs about UK highways if up against Route 66. It's all on too small a scale and cosy.

People talk about the need to watch movies on big screens. I have a fairly big tv set (Samsung) and one night, watching something on my little iPad, I realised that from where I sit, the screen on the iPad is exactly the same size as the tv one appears to be. As with snaps, viewing distance rules...

All that said, I never could get into Breaking Bad, despite enjoying the first show.

There isn't much blood, actually. The protagonist and the antagonist in that movie made for some edgy scenes; both, well portrayed.

We (my mother, father, wife, and thirteen year old son) went to watch Magnolia when it was in the theatres. As we were walking out, our son said, "I know I'm only thirteen but that was the crummiest movie I have ever seen"! To which, my mother replied, "well, I'm sixty and that was the crummiest movie I have ever seen"!

I need to watch that movie again.

I think There Will Be Blood is my favorite movie, period. I saw it in the theater, and then a few weeks later, I went to see it in the theater again. That's never happened before or since.

I'm completely immune to the charms of PTA. He's a pure cineaste so I should in theory like him. He has a great sense of cinema and cinematic technique. The opening of Magnolia is, for example, a deft piece of filmmaking. But I always end up concluding that his movies are essentially empty of real ideas or feeling, that too much of the experience in his films are taken from other films not from life. I also think he is too permissive with his actors and allows them to chew the scenery ("I drink your milkshake"), which American audiences seem to like and view as 'good acting.' To me it exposes his content as essentially pulp dressed up with art house posturing.

The Master is in many ways a version of Boogie Nights, but about the religious cult industry of the late '40s/early '50s rather than the porn industry of the late '70s/early '80s. If you like the latter you'll probably like the former. I really like 'em both…they are quite bleak films, though.

When I saw the title of this post, I thought the next line should be - Spoiler Alert: There aren't any. I find his stuff to be short on dramatic tension, not much in the way of narrative. I don't remember any blood, or certainly not much, in There Will be Blood, you could watch that. Day-Lewis is great, as he is in everything. I suppose that movie is the one of Anderson's I find the least lacking in the things that make a movie entertaining.

Probably one of the most misunderstood artistic labels/concepts is that of "cinema d'auteur".

It was originally established by the french nouvelle vague cinema critics of the 50´s & 60's to vindicate the work of Hollywood mainstream directors, the theory being that although they were "professionals for hire", working most of the time on materials they did not develop under circumstances they did not control, they managed to transfer their personal vision, their artistic personality and their ideas to them, making very personal worlds "under disguise".

Ford, Hitchcok, Hawks, did not write their films and at the time were not considered artists. Artisans, at most. Then the art film label and prestige was reserved for films usually pedantic, formally pretentious, adressed to a "cultivated audience" and with no commercial ambition.

How that concept gave birth to a whole new "genre" of cinema of "personal expression" and came to dignify precisely the opposite type of works, contradicting it's original intent and meaning is a mistery to me.

One of the things I like about Hollywood is how open it is: The Master for instance, was shot by a Rumanian director of photography, Mihai Malaimare. It was his first full scale, big budget US film, and he dared to shoot a good portion of it with old Carl Zeiss Jena, Schneider and Hassy Zeiss lenses and famously used an Olympus 24mm for some shots, using also a 65mm camera for most of it, for great bokeh. I doubt any industry executive in the rest of the world would have trusted a foreign newcomer and let him shoot with old, cheap, crappy lenses.

I must be a cranky old man. I don't follow modern movies and sure ain't gonna pay the price to see one in a theater. For the past 15~20 years I've stopped recommending any movie to anyone. So very often they simply didn't enjoy it. The last good one I personally viewed and liked was 'Sully, Miracle on the Hudson'. Another one I liked was 'Good Night and Good Luck', it seems like I prefer well done historical movies.
PS, Going way back, 'Apollo 13'
PPS, Going way way back, 'Tora Tora Tora'

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