Archive for February, 2019

This is the Universe

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2019 by dcairns

This National Film Board of Canada documentary was sort of Kubrick’s Bible when making 2001. It’s a short doc in which everything is fake but everything is true, and it’s part of the NFBC’s ongoing project to make me feel small. The special effects are really terrific — I’d argue that their Moon is even superior to Kubrick’s. If you’ve ever studied the reddish moon seen during an eclipse, when it’s not flatly reflecting the light back like Oliver Hardy, you’ll appreciate how in circumstances other than the norm, it has real heft and dimensionality so that you wonder how it can stay up there. The makers of UNIVERSE achieve that by building a biggish miniature Moon, whereas I think Kubes relied on (beautiful) paintings.

The VO should also sound familiar. After Kubrick had trouble finding an actor who could sound bland enough to be a computer (and blander even than his lead actors), he reached out to Douglas Rain, who recorded the entire role in under an hour I believe, wearing his slippers so he would sound really relaxed. That other space killer, Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, also did most of his work in carpet slippers, because the jackboots George Lucas had obtained were a really uncomfortable fit. If I ever get appointed Grand Moff, or even Ordinary Moff, I’m going to wear slippers all the time too, because who’s going to stop me?



Master and Computer

Posted in FILM, Politics, Science with tags , , , on February 15, 2019 by dcairns

The idea of a science fiction movie called MASTER OF THE WORLD emerging from Nazi Germany is an intriguing one… Harry Piel’s 1934 movie promises much, then delivers so slowly that most of your anticipation has curdled before its fulfilled. Every scene seems to last twice as long as it ought to: a gas explosion in a coal mine, staged with a real flame-thrower blasting fire in from out of shot, is impressive in conception, but editing so slackly that it feels like all they’ve done is take the clapperboards off, rather than generating pace so it feels like a continuous fireball spreading through the pit.


We’re promised robots, but for a very long time the only ones we see are inert. Finally, at the climax, the super-robot attacks — and then, afterwards, we get to see a whole army of robots working a coal mine, an impressive sight, but a weird thing to throw at us when the conflict has been resolved and the movie should be over.

The movie also has a super-naive conception of automation, with the corporations paying their obsolete workers to take it easy in bucolic comfort (it makes A NOUS LA LIBERTE look like SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING). The economics just don’t add up, here: the robots must cost SOMETHING, so the workers can’t be getting the same wages they scraped by on before… That stuff in METROPOLIS about the heart uniting the hand and head isn’t so very foolish, when you look at something like this.

Harry Piel did some decent stunt films, but his signature move as a director was real, life-size demolition of buildings. Lubitsch had his touch, Capra had his corn, Piel has his detonator.

The mad scientist (Walter Franck) is well cast, and well-lit.


The Chicago Way

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , on February 14, 2019 by dcairns

SCARFACE stars Louis Pasteur; Molly Louvain; Pendola Molloy; the Duc de Richlieu; Surat Khan; Spats Colombo; Fishbone; Hjalmar Poelzig; Count Mancini; Freedonia’s Secretary of War #1; with Kitty Packard, Montague L. ‘Monty’ Brewster, and Sandoni.

THE ST. VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE stars Cable Hogue; Quiller; Mike Hammer; Freeman Lowell; Dr. Eldon Tyrrel; 2nd Lt. Michael Shannon O’Rourke; Armand Duvalle; Seymour Krelborn; Walter Paisley; Jake Gittes; Sweet Sue; and the voice of Colossus.

THE UNTOUCHABLES stars Wyatt Earp; Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein; Robert ‘Duke’ Anderson; Farley Mowat; Terry Benedict; Ava Paige; and Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

The St. Valentine’s Day Podcast: