Socialisme of the Planet of the Apes (Weekly Links)

"Apes" turning point or "Film Socialisme" montage element?

Links to review I wrote this week for the Herald, and etc.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “There really is something kind of epic about seeing the simian heroes swarming across an American landmark.”

Film Socialisme. “It’s Godard’s ‘Odyssey’: a journey around Europe, weighing in at different ports and finding strange alien visions at each.” 

Another Earth. “Fantastical Earth II concept.”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about drive-in movies, with notes on how to place the Drizzle Guard on your hood, as well as a couple of “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” bumpers. Talk is archived here; the movie bit kicks in around the 16-minute mark.

At What a Feeling!, a twofer review from 1987: the surfing picture North Shore and the slob comedy Disorderlies, starring the Fat Boys and Ralph Bellamy.

Super Beginners (Weekly Links)

Links to reviews I wrote for the Herald this week, and etc.

Super 8. “Mostly a cardboard experience.”

Beginners. “One whimsical affectation on top of another.”

Submarine. “As self-conscious as its protagonist.”

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. (dead link; review below)

By Robert Horton

When a third grader faces an endless summer, it means something different from the hang-loose break imagined by grown-ups. For Judy Moody, the summer means only boredom. Which is why she makes up a very complicated summer “to do” graph, a series of totally fun activities for her friends. Ingrates that they are, most of her best buds take off with their families for vacation, leaving Judy even more bored than she already was.

Something will turn up, of course, or there wouldn’t be a movie called “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.” Adapted from a children’s book series by Megan McDonald, this film is aimed at a very young audience, and is extremely loud and frantic.

Judy, played by Jordana Beatty, lives in a large modern featureless house of the kind you see in movies like this, apparently located in some bland zone that doesn’t resemble city or suburb, although it passes as either. No wonder she’s bored. As it turns out, even Judy’s parents are leaving for a while, so she and her younger brother Stink will be tended by their Aunt Opal. No bluehair lady, Aunt Opal is played by Roller Girl herself, Heather Graham, wearing hippie beads and glitter and operating in a permanent cloud of ditziness. A self-described artist, she is generally getting into something messy.

Throw in the rumored presence of Bigfoot, and you’ve got something like a summer for Judy. Stink, whose nickname suggests his parents should consult a psychology manual, is obsessed with all things Sasquatch, so talk of Bigfoot is in the air even before the climactic sequences.

The movie has music, jokes, and goes on for about 91 minutes. How most grown-ups will get through this I don’t know, but I suppose eight-year-old girls will at least be able to admire Judy Moody’s spunk, if not her rat’s-nest hairdo. Although maybe that as well. In general, this film feels like a big-screen example of what Nickelodeon and its cable-TV ilk have wrought. It might work as a Saturday morning TV show, but as a movie experience it’s pretty nerve-fraying, if you’re over the age of ten.

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about Super 8 and the odd fact that people are now making movies as homages to “old Steven Spielberg movies.” It’s archived here; the movie bit kicks in at the 17:10 mark.

At What a Feeling!, more 1980s reviews, this one for Hail Mary, back in the days when reviewers complained that Jean-Luc Godard made movies that couldn’t be answered by the question, “But what does it mean?” Oh wait, that’s today.

1965 Ten Best Movies

The #1 box-office movie of 1965 is The Sound of Music, that giant canvas of nunneries, the Alps, and humorless Nazis. The movie does too much reverent genuflecting and most of the children are nauseatingly indulged, but I am able to watch and enjoy it (I could hardly say otherwise, having once taken the Sound of Music van tour in Salzburg, which is much less grand than it sounds, even if it doesn’t sound that grand). But what’s striking about the movie is its slowness and its unembarrassed size – despite that ol’ sobersides Robert Wise trying to jazz things up with the now-here-now-there location cutting on “Do-Re-Mi.”

"These are a few of my favorite things..." Belmondo and Karina in Pierrot le fou

Slowness and size mark a number of 1965’s films, as though film history had pointed the way there. Not just the big hits of David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago or Blake Edwards’ Great Race, two epics by good directors that seem affected by the expansiveness of the era (although Zhivago is still a lush experience in many ways – see here for more – and The Great Race would have been high on my list if I’d made out a “best movies” tally in 1965), but the make-it-large impulse also expressed itself as far afield as Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits and Kurosawa’s Red Beard, so something must have been in the air. Maybe the future of film would turn out to be this: inspired by spectacle and widescreen and family-protected safeness, pictures would just keep getting slower and larger and more official.

It didn’t happen, because already by 1965 the termites were chewing away at the foundations of this tendency, and a couple of years later the whole thing would collapse under the assault of Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider and all that. But maybe ’65 feels like a shallow year for great ones because of the top-heavy nature of the mainstream.

One of the most influential termites was Jean-Luc Godard, who was then busily re-making the rules of the cinema (and who, as I write this, is still irritating people, as his latest film at Cannes 2010 is causing short-fused critics to scratch their middlebrows). In my listings thus far Godard has been getting repeatedly denied – he’s got the #2 slot in ’62 and ’63, and #3 in ’60 and ’64. But it’s hard to deny Pierrot le fou, which is both a quintessential movie and also against movies in its restless, divided way. Every arts-besotted person should fall in love with this movie at the age of 21; you’re missing something urgent if you don’t.

The films of another 1960s termite, Richard Lester, were also chipping away. Help! was the Beatles movie that came after the acknowledged joy of A Hard Day’s Night, and it suffers accordingly in the conventional wisdom. To which one can only say, if you needed further proof that conventional wisdom is always wrong, this is it. Help! is glorious. (And Lester also knocked out The Knack that year, blithely announcing that certain people were at the height of their powers.)

The center couldn’t hold for much longer after this. The best movies of 1965:

1. Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard)

2. Help! (Richard Lester)

3. Repulsion (Roman Polanski)

4. For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone)

5. Major Dundee (Sam Peckinpah)

6. Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard)

7. The Knack…and How to Get It (Richard Lester)

8. In Harm’s Way and Bunny Lake is Missing (Otto Preminger)

10. Ride in the Whirlwind (Monte Hellman)

Leone’s spaghetti helping is even better than his first Eastwood picture; and if Peckinpah was working in a more traditional Western format, he nevertheless made Major Dundee feel like something new and exciting. Hellman’s B-movie quickie, written by Jack Nicholson, is in the same genre, but with its own distinctive breath and mood. As for Repulsion, more at length here.

Also-ran-wise: I do like Doctor Zhivago, mostly, and The Collector (William Wyler) is special, too. Mickey One (Arthur Penn) is a daring little U.S. effort at something different, The War Game (Peter Watkins) is a once-seen-never-forgotten experience, and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Martin Ritt) a genuinely brisk, bleak adaptation of John Le Carre.

Oddities: the only film (I think) shot in Esperanto, Incubus, stars William Shatner in an oddly Bergmanesque scenario. Tony Richardson’s film of The Loved One is never as funny or outrageous as you want it to be, despite some moments. The Rabbit is Me (Kurt Maetzig) and Born in ’45 (Jurgen Bottcher) are intriguing artifacts from the East German cinema. And it must be said, sympathetically but firmly, that Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer) does not actually live up to its title, as much as one would wish it to – though the title does point us away from the stately style of the year’s box-office champ.