Archive for the Sport Category

Dutch Treat

Posted in FILM, Sport with tags , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by dcairns

gabe

From right — James Benning, Richard Linklater, Gabe Klinger.

From Rotterdam –

Gabe Klinger had the right idea: when he couldn’t afford to see as many movies as he needed to see, he became a critic so he could see them for free. And now he’s made film for the best possible reason: to be able to see a film that wouldn’t exist if he didn’t make it.

About time. DOUBLE PLAY is all about time. Juxtaposing the work of friends James Benning (durational experimental films framing empty places as the seconds silently tick by, or revisiting environments and inhabitants after decades) and Richard Linklater (three films that follow a couple across ten years, and one that was shot over twelve years to show its child characters grow up for real), Klinger explores a friendship and two contrasting oeuvres, unified beautifully under a temporal umbrella. It’s particularly impressive to see him intercut different Linklater films — samples from a prolific and eclectic career — so that they all seem to merge into one big continuum, an uber-film containing both WAKING LIFE and THE BAD NEWS BEARS, SLACKER and BEFORE SUNRISE, making it seem possible that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy might at some moment round a corner and pass a pixillated/pixelated stoner from A SCANNER DARKLY.

And then there’s the central relationship, which is fun to be around and contains just enough contrast and disagreement to stop it becoming a love-in (and therefore tedious). I mean, I like King Vidor’s film about Andrew Wyeth, THE METAPHOR, it’s impossible to dislike, but its mutual admiration society set-up, Vidor loves Wyeth who loves Vidor, means it’s hardly a-crackle with tension. Benning seems to have enough inner steel and fire that a certain mild, agreeable tension is felt whenever he’s around.

Discussing tennis with Danny Kasman before the show — I remark that the sport seemed to have kept Richard Lester fit into his eighties and Norman Lloyd going strong at 99. A very early image of DOUBLE PLAY is Linklater peppering a court with stray balls as he faces off against an implacable tennis ball machine. We exchange glances. This sequence is good news for Linklater fans.

TEN SKIES by James Benning.

BTW, Gabe is a friend, but seeing as we live on different continents, I’m fairly sure I could have gotten away with NOT writing about his film if I didn’t like it.

The Monday Intertitle: Victor McLaglan is stalking me

Posted in FILM, literature, Sport with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by dcairns

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So I’m reading Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, the last of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books that I’d yet to read — I read them all out of order and with decades between the first batch and the second, I’m afraid — and there’s a reference to heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, a man much disliked by his opponents, partly out of racism. But Fraser, for balance, quotes actor Victor McLaglan’s memoir, Express to Hollywood (which sounds like it’d be a worthwhile read). Before his acting career, VM was a boxer, as his face amply testifies, and he fought Johnson, of whom he writes, he “fought like a gentleman,” and “was undoubtedly the hardest man to hit whom I’ve ever met.”

I like the genteel “whom” — and the inference that McLaglan presumably tried to hit every man he met. I can believe it.

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But the very same day, I received in the post my copy of the marvelous Lost & Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, published by the good people at the National Film Preservation Foundation. And featured amongst the treasures (all deserving of the name) is a trailer for STRONG BOY, a presumed-lost John Ford film starring McLaglan himself. Indifferently reviewed at the time, the film looks mouthwateringly desirable to us today, and the trailer itself offers up exciting clips and some charming animated title cards.

They Go Boom

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics, Sport with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by dcairns

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More Frankenheimer thick-ear for your questionable delectation. BLACK SUNDAY is a latter-day Robert Evans production, and it’s shocking to see how pointless Evans’ cinema got, how fast, after he stopped being the big man at Paramount. The movie, based on a pre-Hannibal Lector Thomas Harris thriller, deals with a plot by Palestinian terrorist Marthe Keller, in cahoots with deranged Vietnam vet Bruce Dern (typecasting is a wonderful thing, sometimes) to blow up the superbowl using the Goodyear blimp, some plastic explosives smuggled Stateside as plaster madonnas, and a lot of rifle darts, making the world’s biggest nail bomb.

It’s slick, kind of meaningless, very violent (the Japanese sea captain getting his head blown off by a telephone is an early highlight) and made with Frankenheimer’s trademark professionalism and dynamism, but all that rather counts for nothing. John Alonso’s photography is very fine but this isn’t CHINATOWN.

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dead bang

Leading man/growling muscle Robert Shaw plays a Mossad agent nicknamed “the Final Solution,” which gives you some idea of the taste level. Much of the story is a paean to the efficacy of torture and intimidation in getting people to do what you want, and it isn’t very convincing. But Shaw does get the film’s only laugh when he sticks a gun in a man’s mouth and demands his assistance: “Nod for ‘yes’, die for ‘no’.”

Pretty corrupt stuff, even by the standards of modern action movies and things like the unlamented 24. Frankenheimer was often characterised as a liberal, but that gives you plenty of rope in America. I do remember one interview in a short study of his career where he kept referring to “the negro problem.” What he said about this issue wasn’t overtly offensive, or even very meaningful, but the phrase struck me as deeply problematic, not because of the lesser N word (it was the sixties, that was the preferred term) but because the construction implies “there’s a problem because there are these people called negroes”… it’s a bit like saying “the Jewish question”, isn’t it?

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Aside from Shaw’s scowling menace, Bruce Dern is fun (when is he ever not?) and Marthe Keller confirms the impression I received from CARLOS — forget Hollywood, all the really hot chicks are in international terrorism. She also plays it like she’s the heroine rather than the villain, which is a shrewd choice.

Suddenly remembered that in his self-serving autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture, Evans puts the blame for all the less inspired decisions made at Paramount on Charlie Bluhdorn, head of Engulf & Devour Gulf & Western, Paramount’s parent company. In particular, the studio’s failed attempts to make a star out of Serbo-Croatian hunk Bekim Fehmiu are attributed to Bluhdorn alone. And yet here’s Fehmiu, quite effective as a Palestinian bad guy.

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Frankenheimer, who cameos as a sweary TV director, (almost as bad type-casting as Dern’s deranged Nam vet) brings to the pointless carnage his usual dogged professionalism, dynamism, and eye for nasty detail. Unfortuntely the special effects team aren’t quite up to rendering the blimp climax in a photorealistic manner — some striking shots are let down by lame process work elsewhere, and the frenzied montage is a dead giveaway that cinematic jiggery-pokery is being deployed. Poor Frankenheimer would once again have to base a film around an impossibility when he made mutant bear movie PROPHECY. How much drink did he have to put away to survive that one?

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