Joker, Knives, Chappelle: All is Connected

I may start a new tradition of just recording a youtube rant and pasting it into these blogs because I’m not sure people want to read.  But since I have a moment and a few marbles rolling around in my head, I’ll dash off some current and easily dated remarks about the State of Cinema and its relation to the State of Society.  Even though nobody asked for that.

Joker looks interesting.  Maybe a spiritual cousin of Taxi Driver or King of Comedy, given De Nero’s involvement.  That alone might allow it to overcome the brand “Joker” and the fact that it is not related to Batman’s nemesis, or Michael Ironside in Top Gun, or Mathew Modine’s Private Joker from Full Metal Jacket.  Some critics and general idiots are sounding the alarm that the story of an alienated, sad character losing his mind might radicalize what they call incels.  There is also a movie called Cuck opening the same day that is more explicitly about someone drawn into the alt-right. But it is unfortunate that “the discourse” is a bi-product of movie promotion, in the same way that rancid poop is a bi-product of eating tasty food.  Incel is applied to a) gun toting loners who commit massacres, b) people critical of Disney Star Wars, and c) anyone less than enthused about virtue signalling (as opposed to virtue having).  It means “involuntarily celibate,” a condition with which many married people might be familiar. It is not okay to dismiss an annoying opinion by calling the speaker a British cigarette or a pansy, unless that person is closeted or passing for straight which apparently nullifies all protection or empathy.  If someone is truly the personification of an incel, vulnerable and on their way to some sort of suicidal or self-negating gesture, how “woke” it must feel to bash them.

The Toronto International Film Festival had Joker, as well as Knives Out Rian Johnson’s new take on Agatha Christie parlor mysteries. The latter is getting more of a break from critics, owing to its reportedly ham-fisted politics. By all means, bash Trump sensibility. Please don’t let him have a second term. But those of us in the cheap seats, the huddled masses, hope rich folks in a mansion don’t get to represent all white folks and our assumed privileged. Though it is okay if they represent millionaire Rian Johnson who has had no problem “punching down” from his twitter pulpit at customers of The Last Jedi who didn’t quite accept rude Luke Skywalker, space breathing Leia, or a scene for scene strategy of dumbing down of male characters to falsely prop up under developed female characters.  All of which causes us to believe we are not seeing an account of what happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away but instead seeing what Rian typed and what met with approval of the “Lucasfilm story group” chalk full of SJWs hired by Kathleen Kennedy instead of dramaturgical experts who can point out how easy it would be – at script stage – to get rid of Canto Bight the casino planet and just have Rose and Finn meet DJ in the rebel brig… so Rian won’t have to cut the third Jedi lesson of Luke from the real estate of a two and a half hour movie.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dramaturgy

RottenTomatoes listed under “popular” titles “David Chappelle” as opposed to the actual title that was generating popularity at the moment, David Chappelle: Sticks and Stones.  When someone clicked on his name they would be taken to a page made to represent two of his older Netflix specials, Collection 1 and Equanimity and the Bird Revelation.  This misrepresents “Dave Chappelle” as a series with two episodes boasting 67% and 92% fresh ratings.  That way they were not bolstering Sticks and Stones for which their site showed a low critic score.  Even then, when that most recent show had a zero splat it was from only 5 critics. At the moment it has an average of 31% from 16 critics.  Still a splat. But it maintains its original 99% positive responses from 36, 418 audience members verified as having seen the show. So it is denied the simplicity of a fresh tomato symbol due to a portion of the 16 critics, but the much greater number of opinions – perhaps not fearing a job loss with a publication – were willing to recommend it.

Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones was a refreshing Netflix special that agitated those who wish to control all discourse. There are those who count themselves as allies of the downtrodden or the victims themselves who can be expected to act out controlling impulses as a result of having had control withheld or taken away at some earlier point. There is a long documented dynamic of the oppressed becoming oppressor, but this seems to have been quietly swept under the carpet lest it slow down the rush of progress.  Even the PoundMeToo movement is touched on, a very daring target.  But when you think of it how much good really came from that hashtag?  Cosby was snagged not by that movement but by an unlawfully recorded and uploaded cell video of Hannibal Burress telling it like it is about someone who doesn’t curse in his act or wear droopy drawers but has a number of rape allegations kept under wraps. Burress, Gawker, and Gloria Allred pretty much took down Cosby.  Harvey Weinstein was  reigned in by Ronan Farrow, a worthwhile journalist with only one terrible blind spot – mommy.  Maybe Kevin Spacey got snagged because MeToo encouraged the Star Trek Discovery actor to tell his story, and that ball got rolling.   But for every justified take-down there were a number of people who caught flack for lesser infractions that were the true result of the wide net cast by PoundMeToo.

Both Dustin Hoffman and Richard Dreyfuss drew long dormant stories – each from a different Production Assistant who now identifies as a “writer.” Their infractions: rudeness and vulgarity or flirtations on set.  Having not witnessed any of that in context, one can only imagine a movie star in the eighties goofing around and not realizing their attentions are especially unwelcome. Matt Damon made a reasonable remark when asked about the movement and made distinctions between rape and lesser tiers of trespass; the result was the removal of his scenes from Ocean’s Eight. The worst casualty (excluding some that resulted in suicide) was Senator Al Franken whose scandals were swept up in the #BelieveHer blanket policy of many Democrats despite his initial complainant being a woman he knew from USO shows who was a frequent Fox News guest and a known Republican.  In one of Al’s books, maybe Lies and the Lying Liars to Tell Them or The Truth with Jokes, he refers to George W. Bush constantly trotting out reference to 9/11 terror attacks as his “little black dress” to deflect criticism by painting himself and America as a victim and creating a solemn new context.  It seems cold-hearted to call any and all victim story a “little black dress” but that is often – in practice – the purpose it serves.  To speak to a therapist about a trauma is one thing, but to micro manage the language and music (ie: Baby it’s Cold Outside) of others crosses a line.

I am reminded of the time as a kid I visited relatives who rented a movie I wanted to see, The Verdict, and a friend of my uncle piped up that a Jack Warden character swears a lot, which resulted in the volume being muted whenever Warden appeared on screen.  My solution was to excuse myself and go for a nap.  A year alter I would rent the movie myself and see it as the profane screenwriter David Mamet intended. I don’t remember if there was a grandstand on my part or a huge argument.  But the absurdity of that – one person in the room who is offended by something determining for all that nobody can hear the dialogue – flies in the face of “one man’s food is another man’s poison” which I have always taken to mean everybody doesn’t have to like something for me to appreciate it.  Outrage culture and cancel culture follow the same principle as that friend of the family who could not bear to hear Mamet’s profanity.  (But apparently was not offended as a Catholic that the movie is critical of the church covering up malpractice case in a hospital it runs.) I can’t imagine following The Verdict without knowing what Paul Newman’s sidekick has to say.

If we consider the source of keyboard warrior campaigns, it can’t be ignored that many people who are gung ho about “burning down” what exists or “smashing” the so-called Patriarchy are facing middle age as I am and taking stock of how many goals have been achieved and how many have not.  Not to mention some unrequited romances that have begun to pile up.  So part of out “first world problems” mentality includes fat shaming, body shaming, slut shaming called out by people who don’t have anything against age shaming people who date younger or more fit people than themselves. It all has to do with artificially inflating the perceived stock value of whatever attributes you have.

If I am directing a movie, what I bring is a strong sense of how to use the frame for each beat of a scene and an instinct for transitions.  I like the storyboard approach.  Currently there is a trend toward people pushing an idea that “there is no such thing as film grammar or film language.” The idea being that “new voices” can step into the role of director more easily if direction is merely the generic recording of what Hitchcock referred to as pictures of people talking: five angles of the whole scene top to bottom that the editor and producer can shape later, establishing wide shot, over shoulder of each character, and close up of each.  In that case, arguably, it won’t matter if the director has any talent. If the material is visual, then there might be a more obvious difference between someone who applies the psychology of the frame and the cut versus someone who is just in attendance while someone presses record.

Writers have a voice, directors don’t.  A director in the power position might impose changes on a writer based on personal taste or may choose not to shoot everything as written, but especially in TV where the discourse dominates – where producers and writers are in charge and the director is generally a guest working with the in-house cinematographer(s).  That said, when I look at an episode of The Deuce and see Michelle McLaren or Ernest Dickerson’s name as directors it puts me at ease that we are in good hands and worthy people are directing our attention. If I hear that a director got a job merely as a diversity hire or I think that person is careless about the axis and maybe connections and personal charisma got that person a directing job I might feel depressed as I am not a schmoosing type or bouncing off the walls with personality.  I have to quietly go about making my little movies and all but ignoring the industry the way it seems to be slanted at the moment. You do have to be able to engage and interest at least one other person, maybe a few, and risk the investment of time and maybe money on what you want to see and how you see it.

Society will connect the dots between what you create and what can be inferred from it about the issues of the day, but that can paralyze the process of writing and also directing or any output.  We can only be so careful.  The unconscious and instinct are not interested in taking a poll on Twitter. And consensus is no substitute for authorship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who or What is It For ?

The question could be asked about this blog. or any blog.  Is it so that I can have more information coming out of my head than is going into it?  When the year began with my first few posts here on WordPress, I had a lot to unload for posterity.  You never know when you will keel over – and what a shame it would be to have not imparted anecdotes about having wallowed in your own short films and volunteering and bad judgement.

Instead, the question is about cinema in general.  What if it were possible to demonstrate in court that exposure to an interrupted narrative (a prematurely cancelled TV series) caused real psychological damage to the viewer and this opened up the possibility of class action suits against networks who failed to commit to a complete run or studios who fail to make the appropriate number of sequels to complete a story? What if creatives were legally bound to honor their core audience, and prevented from simply exploiting a known brand for the appeasement of investors only to alienate the built-in audience it was expected to attract?  What if studios had the sense of self-preservation to have each of its employees – especially writers or directors and actors – accept not only a non-disclosure agreement but also an injunction against abusive engagement with the public. especially those who claim to be fans and who are potentially the paying public?

Is this movie or content intended to appease the movie buffs or the statistic buffs?  Is it for people who enjoy movies or comics or any given art-form or is it for busybodies who just want to torpedo intellectual property that is associated with a “bro” audience or a politically uncommitted audience as a volley of preemptive attack in the culture war?

People are calling the latest female Terminator the LBGT-1000.  No matter what Tiki or Kevin Feige calls Natalie Portman’s character (they prefer simply Mighty Thor) the audience will call her Female Thor.  Will people complain that her costume (which according to the mythology of the comic book materializes without choice or design from the wearer) has a suggestion of breasts built into it?  Will they whine that there is anything gender specific about it?  Of course some will.  Not fans, but those who rarely pay to see a movie, let alone a pre-determined blockbuster muscling onto 4,000 screens. Filmmakers can alienate the most loyal fanbase once their own loyalty has been betrayed.  If there is pre-emptive shade thrown on anyone indifferent or outright rejecting a pending project, only a brave segment of the ex-patriot fandom will risk being falsely branded misogynist, racist, or homophobic by simply agreeing with Brie Larsen’s comment about A Wrinkle in Time, “It wasn’t made for you.”

In fairness, the argument has been made over and over – especially in the past ten years – that most movie fare has been male power fantasies aimed at the young, usually white, male heterosexual.  My response to this is to carefully keep my collection of physical media – mostly DVDs – in good condition, because re-watching them just might be the sole entertainment resource for me going forward. I can keep up with Stranger Things on Netflix as long as that platform exists, but even that has a fair helping of memberry content. I just have to tune out the busybodies on the internet, like Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) complaining that David Harbour’s character Jim Hopper was a “toxic male” and women should not date a guy like that.  There is a great deal of humor and pathos in his character, as well as surprise.  Wood’s remark is typical of the out-of-touch and gun-jumping know-it-all volunteer den mother activist who feels compelled to put fictional characters and storytelling into a box that is either pretending to be a role model or twisting its collective mustache in service of the patriarchy. This disregards that the actor himself Harbour has been firmly anti-Trump and progressive in his appearances at award shows.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a3e7/87c5162a1afca08227bdf27662b29fead8a8.pdf

The Philosophy of Composition by Poe is mentioned by Signourney Weaver’s character in the Walter Hill movie The Assignment.  She explains that it makes a case that art should exist independent of politics and for the sake of aesthetic or style itself.  Such an essay might be very relevant in today’s climate.  People will behave like lemmings and make their judgments.  Am I to be excited about a new agent 007 being a black woman, or do I accept that as a detail and reserve judgement until I have borrowed the DVD from the public library?  There is so much content bombarding us now, partly as a function of the digital revolution, that it is hard to keep up.  We can’t all be excited about the same things. If I like a director for his or her direction (as opposed to de facto co-direction of a cinematographer or a studio boss who throws out storyboards and says “just shoot this”), I will most likely rush out and see the lastest work of this person right away in the cinema and happily pay to do so.  Spielberg, Tarantino, and Zemeckis are among the few in that category now. Often Scorsese.

I did not pay to see Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call or Captain Marvel, but I did enjoy Wonder Woman and Alita: Battle Angel.  Frankly, The Assignment was quite good and unusual with Michelle Rodriguez as a hit man. Judge away as you may.  More than ever, I think we have shrug off ignorant leaps people make.  Some will be upset that The Assignment has a actress pay a male who then is involuntarily put through sex reassignment for killing the doctor’s brother.  By representation standards, the male scenes would have to be played by a male and the post transition played by a performer who is trans first and foremost and likely not a marquee value name.  Whereas, I have no problem picking up a DVD with Michelle Rodriguez holding a gun on the cover.  Ghostbusters was played up as a mission to portray women as scientists.  For that I say look no further than 1982’s Poltergeist where Beatrice Straight was a credible scientist with a couple of laughs and Zelda Rubenstien supplied the more otherworldly approach. Some activists grumbled that Gal Godot was too fit and pretty to play Wonder Woman, which begs the question of whether they have ever seen the comic book or the Lynda Carter series.  Wonder Woman should look like Wonder Woman.

Keyboard warriors are not the audience to appease.  Filmmakers definitely should be working on material they actually like and understand, and by extension they will be simpatico with its fanbase.  Otherwise an IP is just looked at as a delivery device for false messaging and something to subvert and kill off – taking what your presumed adversary seems to enjoy and adding an ingredient which will irritate and cause an allergic reaction.  Maybe they are okay with fans being more choosy and waiting for home video or a few weeks after an opening so any box office goes to the exhibitor and not to the studio. That might be a good way to support theater owners and not reward studios for their tone deafness.

 

On a lighter note, I am enthused about Jason Reitman redeeming Ghostbusters and the original iteration continuity with his 2020 installment.  That I will see right away.  I am posting this days before Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I will also see opening weekend.  I admit that even as a life-long (with a gap between 1999 and 2005) Star Wars fan, I am undecided about when I will see The Rise of Skywalker.  I still enjoy movies, but I think more than ever we have to seek out the shows that maybe don’t get so many screens and might actually introduce fresh voices and aesthetics from the independent end of the spectrum.  Not enough people under 25 have seen the kinds of character driven indie movies from which pretty much all of the Avengers cast came from.  It is time to till the soil and plant new seeds and not live entirely off of what South Park calls memberries.

 

scene-with-beatrice-straight-poltergeist-1982-BP6YPX.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

A Handy Guide to Hating Me

A Handy Guide for Hating Me

 

Why wait to dismiss all the things we agree on because you haven’t found the one issue or sub-issue that marks me as “the enemy” ? Here are some positions or observations I have that have been triggering or provocative in case you want to get the jump on dismissing my input out of hand due to my obvious “evil.”

 

Religion: Raised Roman Catholic and Star Wars fan. Worked in a Catholic parish a block from home approximately from age 13 to 18 as a sacristan opening and locking the church, folding bulletins and putting out the wine and wafers for mass. Rarely go to church but still retain Catholic hang-ups.

 

Trump: Used to be boring enough that I would zip past his interviews on Letterman, but now he has graduated to dangerous. He and his team are 100% garbage.

 

Doug Ford: Ontario’s Trump. Hate him.

 

Trudeau: I wish he followed through on his election reform to get rid of First Past the Post, and cracked down on environmental policy and renewable energy while getting away from pipeline projects. But while I voted NDP I otherwise like Justin and would like to see him continue even with room for improvement. After 11 years of Harper there needs to be a moratorium on conservative Prime Ministers and Trudeau may have more of a chance than the NDP option Nationally.

 

Mel Gibson: I like to see him acting in movies and most of all directing them. Total respect for his craft. On his personal issues, people need to get their facts straight first. Robyn Moore Gibson is the ex-wife of Mel who by all accounts is a wonderful person and who even testified in court on Mel’s behalf as a character witness to state that he had never been violent in all their years of marriage. This was the court case where his ex-girlfriend and baby mama (to Lucia) and composer of generic house music Oksana Grigorieva who recorded (and is responsible for allowing to be released to RadarOnline) Mel’s phone rants. When Joe Eszterhas (the Basic Instinct writer who looks like a biker) decided to take his little kid to Mel Gibson’s island and report that he had not done work on the screenplay he was hired for, did he expect that they were not going to hear some yelling and ranting from him? And is that why his innocent son brought a recording device? While, I enjoy some of he writing, Joe is a dick. As for what Mel said in his rants, I have no theory other than the one-person audience to whom he is talking and the likelihood that she uses derogatory terms herself. Whoopie Goldberg, Robert Downey Jr., Darlene Love, Danny Glover, George Miller, Robert De Nero, Jodie Foster and Richard Donner are those who defended Mel as a person and friend even if they can’t break down the actual words used and chalk it up to a function of his medication for bipolar disorder or lack thereof. It is also worth noting that when he announced The Passion of the Christ and nobody had even read the script he already had haters piling on. The film’s release resulted in zero anti-Semitic incidents and zero apology from the doomsayers. It also made a lot of money, which further annoyed those who had turned it down. While Mel’s next movie Apocalypto was in post production, a Rabi and others lobbied for Disney to shelve it because they were frustrated that The Passion had been a success. The pressure was the context under which Mel accepted a drink of tequila and fell off the wagon and got behind the wheel of a car. The drunk driving was the worst of it and thankfully nobody was hurt, but this record was expunged because arresting officers allowed the police report full of his rants about his current persecution get released to TMZ. This rightfully caused some blowback for the police involved, but nothing compared to the ammunition it gave to Mel’s haters. If he was noted as rambling, “Jews cause the wars of the world,” he might have meant, “Jews remade War of the Worlds.” I don’t know, but I remember playwright Brad Fraser unfriending me on Facebook for defending Mel. When I got through explaining how telling the story of The Passion is not inherently anti-Semitic any more than being Catholic is, he then revealed that his real opposition to Mel and enjoyment of his downfall was Mel’s irritation at a press conference where someone absurdly asked if he was gay. Some took issue with King Longshanks throwing his son’s gay lover out a window in Braveheart, and may fan the flames of the anti-Semitic angle because it is easier to enrage people. The fenestration scene from Braveheart got laughs. I liked the commemorative rant plates skit Billy Dee Williams did on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and some youtube videos using the rants in Ransom re-edits, but I was happy to see Mel nominated for Hacksaw Ridge and back in movies. As much as I liked Mad Max: Fury Road I admit I would have preferred elderly Mel to follow through. All he had to do was drive and be strapped to a mast for most of that movie.

 

Woody Allen: 27 features, a few shorts and a TV series have been directed by Woody since the break up with Mia Farrow in 1992 during Husbands and Wives over the affair with Soon Yi and Mia’s vengeful and vindictive manufacture of child abuse charges in which she used her daughter Dylan to lie for her – a strain that has caused real harm to Dylan well into her thirties. I believe Moses Farrow, and I come to this by fearlessly reading the accounts and the fact-checking articles by Robert B. Weide. Any serious broadcaster with reach, including Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gale King, should have read in full and contemplated the writings of Robert Weide on the matter before jumping onto the bandwaggon following the onset of the #MeToo movement. The Woody-Mia-Dylan conflict is not a case that should be held up as an example if your goal is to ensure that society listens to accusers. That case is bound to fall apart on scrutiny and hurt the benefit of the doubt that one wishes a serious abuse accusation to be greeted. Even those who engage on-line in casual debates need to read through the Weide articles, which are called open letters to Ronan Farrow (who himself as a serious journalist has also apparently ignored).

There is no doubt that Ronan has had a positive impact overall in many investigations but he has this one huge blind spot: his mother.

 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast

 

https://ronanfarrowletter.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/qa-with-dylan-farrow/

 

https://ronanfarrowletter.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/moses-farrow-speaks-out/

 

This link actually contains hotlinks to several other articles on the topic:

 

http://woodyallenmoblynching.com/2018/02/25/robert-weide-woody-allen-innocence/

 

In summary, the narrative I believe is that Mia Farrow messed up Dylan by drawing her into her separation with Woody and using her as a weapon by inventing an abuse the circumstances of which have been refuted point for point in terms of logistics and contradiction. To assert this is not “blaming the victim” or making any sweeping statements about abuse or victims. It is an assessment of one case, and a bizarre one at that. I don’t especially respect the lemmings who have come out and expressed regret for acting in Woody Allen movies. Ellen Page can regret To Rome with Love because it is one of Woody’s weaker movies. But she would be wrong to assume that Dylan and Mia are right and that Moses, Woody and Soon-Yi are wrong.

I respect Dianne Keaton and Alec Baldwin for defending Woody when so many actors have jumped onto the bandwagon of #believeher blanket judgement.

 

Alec Baldwin: The one good thing that came from the Trump era is that it gave Alec something to make a high profile splash after a brief period where he lost a talk show deal as a result of being videotaped calling a paparazzi who had stalked his family and picked through his trash a (paraphrased) “Fu*king British Cigarette!!” If anything, I have respected his outrage against paparazzi and ambush journalism and I reject the idea that there is a contract that says being a public figure or entertaining means unwanted attention must be accepted. There are plenty of common targets for gossip magazines who have not benefitted in their careers from such focus. I don’t have to agree with every opinion of Mr. Baldwin to enjoy many of the films and TV shows he has done (30 Rock, Mission: Impossible Fallout). Image rights and audio rights should have to be secured in a release waiver which would make paparazzi pests less common.

 

Star Wars: I prefer the Original Trilogy (1977-1983) before the 1997 special editions changes (for which 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back is the least compromised) and before the 2004 DVD version or the further changes on Blu Ray a few years later. I did not care for the Prequel Trilogy, which was not the same tone or balance of jeopardy and humor and which did not have a strong enough narrative overall. That trilogy starts off just for children with Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace and ends with a fire, lava and mutilation of its PG-13 Revenge of the Sith. I like the Disney era which some outspoken fans and former-fans are up in arms over because they see it as being too progressive and because producer Kathleen Kennedy had said some things in public like, “The force is female” and “I don’t owe anything to the original white male fans of Star Wars” which of course they found inflammatory. It is odd that some who are most critical of the current Disney era of Lucasfilm defend the objectively inferior cinema of the Prequel Trilogy. Padme should not have died in III, which contradicts adult Leia’s memory of her mother in Return of the Jedi. I agree with many complaints about the Disney era even if my conclusion (acceptance) is different. Why can’t Luke Force-push Rey when she aims the lightsaber at him?  And I have to thank the “Fandom Menace” activists who looked into exactly who comprised the “Lucasfilm story group” that Rian Johnson bounced ideas off of.  I had imagined maybe Timothy Zahn and other writers who know their Star Wars would have that distinction, or maybe the finest dramaturges. But it was quite loaded with SJW motivated people with thin resumes. Guidance in storytelling that comes from those sensibilities is bound to throw things out of whack and land with a thud as it did for so many.  I am curious to see how Lando Calrissian is used in IX and happy for Billy Dee Williams. Wonder how Luke is worked back into the story and I’m guarded about how footage of Princess Leia will be repurposed after the death of Carrie Fisher.  They will get my money but I understand the boycotters like Doomcock who say #WithoutRespectWeReject when it comes to Disney product.

Movie Directors: I have no concern whatsoever about the gender or ethnicity of a movie director, only that the person is actually conceiving the shots – the psychology of the frame itself and the displacement impact of a cut and how those are chosen. The director ideally directs the attention of the audience. If it is true that, “once the screenplay is ready and the casting is appropriate Ninety percent of the director’s job is done” then all discussion of direction should take those elements as read and only concentrate on that remaining ten percent which makes at least as much difference as an extra chromosome. If the director leaves the use of the frame to the cinematographer, the cinematographer is a de facto co-director and I don’t celebrate that kind of dynamic. I have infuriated people because I have utmost respect for Robert Zemeckis and I am critical or dismissive of Robert Altman. I don’t like an improvisational hodge-podge. I like a deliberate use of the camera.   I respect what might be called the storyboard sketch approach, so that thought is put into how shots follow each other or echo each other throughout a movie.

 

Abortion: There are people I care about who have had abortions and I have not rubbed their noses in my opinions but they know I am not the person to ask for a ride home from the clinic. I am against the criminalization of abortion because in pragmatic terms it can not be enforced evenly – rich people would still find access and poor would not. The promise of “stopping” abortions is a carrot used by conservative politicians to play on emotion of their base voters but there is little they can do to prevent it. They can only pull punk moves like closing a clinic because it does not meet physical specs of a hospital in terms of hallway width. But people are catching onto those sneaky moves as well. Having said that, as much as I do not want to be the person trying to police people and make sure they go full term with each pregnancy I don’t spin-doctor abortion itself to make it more palatable. To me it is “magical thinking” to say that a life only becomes human or “quick” when the umbilical cord is cut or when the baby breathes oxygen instead of amniotic fluid. It is not – in my view – magical at all to say that when that spark of zinc happens as the 23 chromosomes from the sperm is deposited into the 23 chromosomes of the ovum and the start of a 26 chromosomes life begins that this is the process of becoming and that the same process continues if it attaches to the uterus and grows into adulthood.   Giving birth is a brave action for a mother and some do not survive childbirth, so I can’t condone forcing anyone to go through this process but I admit that I admire it and I would be lying if I said that I admired abortion.

 

Alfred Hitchcock: I admire his process of visualizing a scene in advance, and this is the approach I most respect as “real” cinema direction. People may diminish his name because in the modern era his behavior with Tipi Hedron on The Birds and Marnie has more attention. A TV movie The Girl with Tobey Jones and Sienna Miller explored this dark side of his character during that period of his life. Hedron attended his funeral and continues to give him proper respect as a director despite his inexcusable and dangerous decisions. What he contributed to film language is essential and may be overlooked in the rush to dismiss those with character flaws.

 

 

Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title and The Catastrophe of Success are two books worth reading, in that order, about Capra. The latter is partly an evaluation of the former and speculates as to how much of Capra’s recollections were exaggerated. Regardless of his politics as a somewhat conservative populist with corny endings, his movies were well done. I do not know fully what his working relationship was with cinematographer Joe Walker but Capra’s earliest storyboarded short film The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House has a discriminating choice of shot. Although he came from writing, his visual sense was authentic. As for content, people might be critical of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and it was poorly received by certain insider press at the time but the idea of the “Taylor Machine” enforcing a rigged situation in Washington DC rings true today. But the key is how he used the frame and the cut with personality that punctuated scenes and kept his choices on point.

 

Roman Polanski: I can take or leave some of his movies, which tend to be slower paced. Ever since I was a child in elementary grades we knew the joke, “Roman Polanski cruises in a school bus.” I did not know he survived the holocaust when his parents did not. And it was a while before I learned that his pregnant spouse Sharon Tate was killed by the Manson family. But even learning the details of the rape he committed upon a 13 year old girl I see it in context as atrocity breeds atrocity in shaping and staining a human mind. His insight into evil and moral failing might inform some of his better works as a director. Carnage, Death and the Maiden, Chinatown, The Tennant, The Ninth Gate, The Ghost Writer, and to an extent Repulsion – various movies of his that I actually liked I will continue to enjoy regardless of his indefensible use of that girl who has since forgiven him even if legal activists have not. I thought Frantic was boring and slow back in the eighties and somehow have it on DVD but have not re-watched it as yet. Harrison Ford starred in it and had the dubious honor of accepting Polanski’s Oscar for the Piano years later, so an admirable person can appreciate the man as a director and not define him entirely by is personal failings.

 

Rape and Terrorism: These are two subjects often argued about on social media despite the fact that neither side in a debate will be in favor of either crime. One cannot condone rape or terrorism, and we hope to never have these horrors visited upon those we love or ourselves. And yet there are sub-issues in which people can argue to a point where they forget that the other person is also not in favor of these acts. People have an all-or-nothing sensibility sometimes which is not constructive to adult, sane discussion. I remember the term, “without passion or prejudice” as an advisory for jurists. People tend to throw that out. If I defend a parent saying that a daughter should dress warmly or conservatively, I will be accused of “slut shaming.” If I say here is a photo of Brock Turner, don’t go to the late night party with him or accept any drinks beside a dumpster because he is the Stanford rapist, again I might be accused of putting the responsibility on the prospective victim.   But I would then also argue that to say to the rapist, “don’t rape anyone” would be a joke. Nobody has to be told not to rape. And fear of being caught does not stop people with a behavior control disorder. People do have to practice defensive driving and defensive living. It is wrong for a terrorist to release a gas valve into a public area. It is also wrong for someone who has been advised of this to insist on lighting a match for a cigarette because it is his/her right. People do have to look out for each other. It is fine to say that yes the rapist or terrorist is the problem but are there ways to moderate behavior to reduce their success rate? Do you continue shopping, flying, dating in the same patterns because “otherwise the terrorist/rapist wins” or do you attempt to participate in keeping the odds of safety in your favor to an extent? These are reasonable questions I might ask if I want to get my head bitten off on social media.

 

Guns. I like the Australian ban solution and would like to see this in North America. At the same time I do not want guns banned from movies because the best movies usually have guns in one form or another. I also object to ambushing of Tom Selleck by Rosie O’Donnell or Charlton Heston by Michael Moore, even if their intentions for the right reasons or the big picture. It tends to diminish the seriousness of the matter and make it hypocritical. I could not scold Selleck for liking guns when I spent so much of my youth watching Magnum P.I. and celebrating when he shot that bad guy after asking, “Did you see the sunrise this morning?” (Because his friend Mack had said he was going to see the sunrise before the bad guy killed him.) Such is the complexity of the gun debate. No doubt that too many crazy and sad people have access to them and people are not held responsible enough who decide to keep or sell them when they end up being used for violence.

 

Why.  What if the reason so many white males have gone on shooting sprees is that simply any action creates an equal opposite reaction? What if progress itself agitates the unbalanced and alienated mind? December 6, 1989 14 young women, engineering students around my age, at Polytechnique wawere shot dead by a gunman whose manifesto or suicide note blamed women for his failure.   At Colmbine ten years later, two young men who felt alienated and insulted and called gay by classmates ordered some firearms and shot up the school. The internet and social media definitely accelerates this. As does the wave of outrage culture and ine infiltration of SJW language into the vernacular since 2014. Every action, however well intended, creates an equal opposite reaction. I remember a friend of a friend first using the “word” mansplain on me on Facebook around 2014 – among other shade throwing and insult – and I can fully understand the desire to kill because of it.

There are some reprehensible and abusive people who wrap themselves in white knight armor and virtue signal constantly without actually having ethics.

 

LBGTQ2S issues: In favor of allowing same sex marriage rights and the wedding cakes that they entail. Absolutely need to put a stop to policies in the world that allow formally or tacitly the execution or murder of LBGT people, including the concentration camp that was reported to exist in Chechnya. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41645281 And at the same time, despite a strong stance against bullies in any form, I will laugh at humor that points out the adjustment and awkwardness of interaction between people who have an aversion to something in the other’s life. I don’t see a problem with language that is called “othering” because people do place themselves in their own categories. While I recognize that it would be upsetting for some people to hear an early Eighties routine from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, I can still watch it for nostalgia and find it free of the caution and falseness of most modern entertainment. In my own writing, I do not see any group as being in a permanently critic-proofed victim category. A character who identifies as gay or LBGTQ should be allowed to be unsympathetic or a villain or errant in some other way and not bound to be the wise guru that straight people ask for advice. As reasonable as that sounds, there are some who consider any verbal argument lost by a gay character to be “punching down” and I am against this. I can understand writers avoiding diversity if they are going to have to inherit unwanted co-writers enforcing codes reminiscent of the Hays Code that was enforced from 1930 to 1968 – a shockingly long stretch. http://www.artsreformation.com/a001/hays-code.html

When you watch DVD extras for The Silence of the Lambs or Basic Instinct you learn of how GLAAD really went after those productions and tried to shut them down and protested the movies. Years later, no doubt the activists of today are embarrassed by those actions. People wanted the antihero Michael Douglas played in the noir thriller Basic Instinct to say the equivalent of, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” upon discussing his girlfriend’s bisexual past. When Jerry Seinfeld had an episode using that line and running it into the ground, we should be able to assume that the enforced quote is now exposed as perfunctory virtue signaling.

 

Do the Right Thing: Although Mookie is later seen still delivering pizza for Sal in Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, I don’t think he is necessarily wrong. I blame Buggin’ Out for all of the disaster that happens, for Radio Raheem and the pizzaria. The right thing of the title, for me, is not putting black celebrities onto the wall to appease Buggin’ Out — who does a double take at the wall as if he has just noticed it after eating in the shop since he was a kid. I expect to see Chinese decor in a Chinese restaurant and Italian trappings in a Pizza shop. Sal should be allowed to put up whatever photos he wants. A store is like an embassy in whatever area it is set up.

Sal made a mistake in letting Buggin’ Out and Raheem into the shop after hours. He should not have bashed the radio but they also should not have been provoking the situation. As for the police brutality, nothing has changed since 1989. When the title is spoken in the movie, the “Mayor” tells Mookie, “Always do the right thing.” Mookie says, “That’s it? Got it.” and he moves on.

 

Dexter: I have read the comic books and all eight Jeff Lindsay novels. I like the Early Cuts animations and I have the complete series on DVD. It should be viewed in chronological order but I rate the seasons in quality as follows: Fourth Season, Second, First, Fifth, Sixth, Third, Seventh, Eighth. I’m critical of the Assistant D.A. being allowed to know so much when Dexter’s sister had been close to the Ice Truck Killer and a the Bay Harbor Butcher suspect had been working at the same precinct. I’m critical of Deb’s later belief that she had a romantic attachment to Dexter, something that rings false like a quip someone made in the writer’s room that someone else thought should pay off. It only undermined her character. If they do a follow up, I hope Dexter who is logging in Oregon will track a killer along the Oregon trail and that Deb will be his new conscience. I have no idea how Hannah and Harrison can be reunited with him without it seeming contrived. Unless Hannah has been following news about murders in Oregon and looking for a pattern and deciding to risk return to the States from Argentina where Harrison might have already begun building a life. Maybe Dexter hears about a former Nazi or rogue priest and other criminals being poisoned in Argentina and knows Hannah is still around and maybe he has a second goal on the Oregon trail of crossing the bridge at the end into Canada and taking a flight from there. I’d like Michael C. Hall to have a shot at playing Batman, but then I’d like him to give Dexter a satisfying wrap-up.

 

Controversial Movie Preferences:

 

2010: The Year We Make Contact is a better film than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

Genndy Tartakovsky is talented but Andrei Tarkovsky sucks.

 

Ghostbusters should have remained in continuity and not remade. The 2016 Paul Feig remake pats itself on the head for showing “women scientists” despite Beatrice Straight having played a credible academic and scientist in Poltergeist two years before the popular Ghostbusters came out. I’m happy and hopeful to learn that Jason Reitman is returning Ghostbusters to the original iteration and continuity with a 2020 movie. I actually like the fact that he is not especially committed politically, because knee-jerk ideology plays poorly in movies.

 

These are the issues that leap to mind at the moment.

 

Also:

 

I’m introverted

 

I like to avoid wading through crowds if I can.

 

I have Jawsphobia but continue buying the movie.

 

I think of myself as a writer-director but not a producer, which may turn off a

producer who prefers directors to take some of the producing burden.

Ironically, I end up often having to do things a producer should do, i the absence of one, and my movies are limited in resources because of that.

 

I don’t play games. Video or mind games. “I’m not your puzzle to solve,” says Sally Allbright in When Harry Met Sally. And that is a good stance. I don’t like solving puzzles when direct, clear, effective communication tells me how important a message is. I would not want to be so needy as to run around asking people if I have stepped on their toes. I’d rather say in advance what I hope to do and see it through.

 

I write this kind of blog to clear the clutter from my head and put it into someone else’s head.