“Who is Bruce Willis?” The greatest of all possible Pint of Milks, starring Werner Herzog.
Remember that time Werner Herzog rescued Joaquin Phoenix from a car accident?
My “Watched” column disappeared after December 5th; I was trying to cram together all my year-end viewing and coverage, plus I started writing reviews of new films for the Substream, and my available time for “catalog viewing” all but disappeared. Here’s a couple of things I watched, plus some notes on a new scheme:
When Black Dog Video announced their closing last month, and that they were selling off all their stock, I rushed down on a Saturday night to see if I could snag a DVD copy of Werner Herzog’s Bells from the Deep, which is impossibly hard to find on disc (it only appeared in an out-of-print boxed set, and on specialty discs available from his web site) and is also, perhaps unfortunately for me, my favourite (thus far) of his films. No such luck for me at Black Dog, but they were selling copies of The White Diamond and The Wild Blue Yonder, neither of which I’ve seen, but was happy to pick up on spec.
We watched The White Diamond a few weeks ago under the light of our now-defunct Christmas tree, and it was transcendent. The film itself, I learn, came out roughly concurrent with Grizzly Man and was thereby swallowed up – but it is just as strong a film, nearly stronger, than the other. I simply don’t know how he does it. That a director, and particularly a director of documentaries, can find unique and interesting subject matter in the world is no small feat, but is an understandable feat – here is a story of a man who is building an airship to float over the canopy of the South American rain forest, and yeah, if I heard that, I’d probably think “boy that could be a movie.”Read more
Somewhere in the foreground is Daniel.
When I applied to go to Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School, the rejection letter I received said that “Werner Herzog has personally watched every submission with great sympathy.” That phrase has stuck in my head for a long time, and came up again today, watching Tyrannosaur. This is a film of monumental sympathy, which surprised me. I knew some of the salacious details about the film that were reported after its Cannes showings; I expected a hard look at hard behaviour. I did not expect sympathy. Tyrannosaur is a film of moving insight into the characters it portrays, and it judges none of them. They simply are what they are. They are not, per se, sympathetic, but the film has sympathy for them nonetheless – they are a greater pain to themselves than even what they can muster to dole out to other people. The lead character, Joseph – in a mesmerizing performance from Peter Mullan - commits an act of utter barbarity right at the outset of the film, and then is immediately overwhelmed with such precise awareness of the scope and magnitude of his action that it is impossible not to also look at him in a sympathetic light.
Paddy Considine, a great actor, has made a great film. He received a well-deserved standing ovation at the Elgin today. I shouted “bravo!”Read more
Outside the Winter Garden on September 10, 2011. Do all the cops assembled to protect Chloe Moretz know she’s HIT GIRL for crying out loud?
Of the prospective 8 digits on my tombstone, six are already filled in. This near-certainty is the thought with which I left Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss, perhaps owing to the invocation by Captain Fred Allen - a capitol punishment guard - of the homily “live your dash.” He was referring to the dash on your tombstone, which is the life you have. My 35th birthday is a week away. I watched Into the Abyss after Volcano, which also compelled me to contemplate the cold clutches of encroaching mortality, and all this after little sleep and quite early in the morning. It can become too much.
Volcano is not entirely successful for me, though I admit it is quite good. It is one of those films that seems to pledge one thing, and then comes the turn, and the remainder of the film is spent elsewhere. The elsewhere, in this case, does not lack for depth of feeling: an old man, quite grouchy late in life, only begins to rekindle his love with his wife when she is suddenly taken by a near-fatal stroke. He cares for her in their home for the remainder of the film, gruff and obstinate, though never without love. It is a kind story, if chilly, and it was well-told. But it was not the rejuvenation of life that I felt I was promised by the first act of the film. That rejuvenation involved a boat.Read more
The Phantom Menace 3-D. If they did it anaglyph, it might be nearly a retro art piece.
At this point I would rather pay to see a film in 2-D than receive a 3-D ticket for free. I come by a freebie ticket now and again, and have been turning down the 3-D ones. It just isn’t worth it. I think Thor was the last time I was lured into a theatre with the glam of an advance peek at a movie I was looking forward to, only to find out I was going to be subjected to the damned 3-D. After 3-D Thor, which was dim as all getout and as three-dimensional as a serving dish, I decided that seeing movies early, and even seeing movies free, just wasn’t worth it any more if it came with “them fuckin’ glasses.”
Let’s start with a reminder: the old way isn’t “2-D,” for one thing. That’s an important distinction. I’ve spoken on this before, but once again: to call a traditional-format film “2-D” is to suggest that it is somehow flat, lacking, or sub-standard. It is not. Non-stereoscopic film presents a working simulation of the three-dimensionality that our own eyes report to us moment by moment. Photography mimics such optic staples as planes of focus, and depth of field, and perception of varying light levels.
So what’s with this “2-D” jive? Well for one thing, the term is representative of the moment that this stereoscopy/non-stereoscopy hoo-haw got scary. That is some fine pop-cultural rebranding, there. When even Roger Ebert His Goddamned Self is using a term that is flatly incorrect, and promotes an audience-wide ignorance of basic physics, and undercuts the traditional format’s ability to find a market base by suggesting that it is inherently inferior… well. The 3-D goons have done a fine job of selling us their bullshit.Read more
I recently noticed that Roger Ebert had monetized his Twitter stream, and I hadn’t even seen it. Before the holidays, he started tweeting links to Amazon pages as gift suggestions, and when the 25th rolled around he didn’t stop. Someone finally asked why, and he answered. He would now be the first Twitterer whose stream is more ads than content that I not only follow, but have little intention of ever not following.
What’s the success here? That he’s making a fraction of a fraction of a cent off each click-through, and using it to drive the ultra-low-overhead Ebert empire? Nah. Nor is it really that I’m willing to wade through a shitstorm of amzn.to links to get to whatever else the man has to say; I like him, I’ve always liked him, and I’ve revealed that fact to every reader of this blog and every listener of our podcast. I suppose it’s only that in a world full of people screaming, jumping up and down on their interests (Mr. Smith, I’ll get to you), he radicalized the natural lure of social media moneymaking in a manner that I’d even call classy. Ebert’s always had the veneer of an old-time vaudevillian or cheap-goods barker, an Honest Ed if Ed were actually Honest. Selling rice cookers fits within his brand. We just didn’t know it yet.
More notably, Ebert Presents At The Movies kicked off this weekend. Ebert raised his old show from the grave, impressario that he is, correctly intuiting that he’s moving into the legacy stage of the game. When it airs on actual air, I believe it is on Saturday nights, which suits me just fine, as that’s when Siskel & Ebert used to run, for the entirety of my life (so it seems) in which it did run. I am delighted to learn that Ignatiy Vishnevetsky is not the member of the Mubi team with whom I shared a burrito with at TIFF a couple of years ago; if he were, I’d be recriminating myself a bit this week for losing that email address. I’m also glad that he and Christy Lemire “feel like ‘At the Movies’ critics.” They aren’t Siskel & Ebert, or Ebert and Roeper, or Roeper and whoeverthefuck, but they feel like ships in the line. I could believe that either of them will still be doing this, fifty years from now, when Ebert himself is long since gone (and, hopefully, not the movies along with him).
And of course - of course - after all the kibitzing about the electronic voice box, Mr. Ebert’s first feature on the program featured his voice as performed by Werner Herzog. If you had opportunity for that collaboration, you’d do it too. Herzog is notable for having branded Ebert a “soldier of cinema” - Mr. Ebert’s soldiering this week, for example, has lead to a final excoriation of 3-D, by way of Walter Murch - and the soldier appellation has become cri de coeur for film geeks, who have appropriated the phrase for themselves, printed it on t-shirts or run it up their flagpoles, just so everybody knows that they’re members of Dumbledore’s - sorry, Herzog’s - army.
By my reckoning, though, there’s only one woman who can turn an Ian McKellen into a Sir Ian McKellen, and there’s only one man who can dub thee a soldier of cinema. Though if Ebert took to doing it, by Twitter or elsewhere, I’d happily increase that number to two.