I tend to hover on Meaning of Life movies. There are two half comedies here. Also wanted to represent a solid base and range of directors.
Raging Bull - Martin Scorsese (the priest of movies, the prayer for the wretched of the earth at the end of this reminds us)
Darjeeling Ltd. - Wes Anderson (sympathy for the one percent, a hard task to communicate that to me. Lovely scenery. The communication between wounded star in real life, Wilson, and director friend, Anderson, is palpable ethos of personal filmmaking. Can leave this movie on a flat screen to decorate a room.
Spring Breakers - Harmony Korine. Korine represents the free spirit, the artist. Playful but deeply subversive, sad, and lyrical. Think about how he films guns compared to other moviemakers.
Empire of the Sun - Steven Spielberg. Almost hard to believe he made this but glad he did.
Paris, TX - Wim Wenders. epic and simple themes. Ry Cooder soundtrack. German love and critique of American life.
Network - Sidney Lumet. A pillar of 70s renegade cinema. Larger than life and high stakes acting matches directing skill. Black comedy of the sublime in Peter Finch’s work, for which he was awarded an Oscar posthumously.
Tree of Life - Was discussing this with my director friend. There wasn’t a movie that looked like this until it was made. Also funny, Sean Penn saw it and told a reporter that he still didn’t know what the hell he was doing in that movie.
A Brief Encounter - David Lean. A sweet quick romance that predates Lost in Translation by a few hundred years. Also coal-y and British. Heartbreaking. Simple. David Lean will make some of the most epic pictures known to man, pre cinema.
Mo Betta Blues - Spike lee is one of the greats. This is a personal tribute to family life and jazz. Every frame is great and Denzel occupies a moral force at center. Love all the music set pieces and the drunken argument between Washington and Wesley Snipes about musical integrity vs. profit.
Magnolia - Paul Thomas Anderson. In time The Master and its singular showcase of Joaquin Phoenix’s pain will reveal that it was made by joint prophets, documenting rampant meanness in the strange American land. But Magnolia has aged better and is where PT took off with an ending of joint sing-alongs and a rain of frogs. Funny and sad, audacious as Orson Welles. And it documented crazy Tom Cruise before he was being crazy Tom Cruise in real life. PT still defends his friend, “Tom’s the man.”
Read a NYT article on the 29 year old actor Adam Driver (break out hit: Girls supporting role that won him an Emmy nod). The director Lena Dunham mentioned that the quality he had was “freakishly” good. He brings an intensity to his role as Adam. I don’t know if the character was as interesting before he came along or not. The audition app said Handsome Carpenter. He did not consider himself handsome, but he had something that changed the nature of the character after the rehearsal. The character took on more of a physical presence. I know that character just stays in his apartment, and it is later revealed that he was formerly in AA. Ah, so that explains the apartment dwelling. All that latent passion. He’s kind of an artist, but his aggressive outbursts and lack of patience keeps him from the call to be an artist. He seems to be an able carpenter.
I think it’s this character that opened the gate for the actor. He will start being everywhere not because he’s the most handsome, but because he has the most presence. I had seen three episodes of Girls when I saw the movie Lincoln. I instantly recognized him in a scene where he has no words, he only listens to Lincoln give an insomniac’s impromptu lecture to war telegraphers. He didn’t need to do anything, his intelligence was strong enough to see without it. That’s acting.
In this article t also says he was in the marines. Didn’t go to war, but got whipped into shape and met people who could hack it and who couldn’t. He doesn’t take his acting good fortune too seriously, and wants merely to do work that’s “meaningful,” b/c time is of the essence w/ life; you learn that in the marines.
At any rate, interesting guy! Probably soon to be in a batman movie.
Today I came off a four month hiatus and did three scenes for my friend’s movie, playing death.
Crazy Hershal there CHEATS death in a card game. I had practiced my lines for an hour and had the sober seriousness down. Sure enough that didn’t fit, because it didn’t fit something about me. Sitting in the car waiting for Jacob the director told me to try out other voices. In no unblunt terms, and we went through the starting-all-over motions. I hated the feeling but it was ultimately better. I found a ridiculous voice of a tired old woman. Then it became so that it would be funny if that voice were coming out of a veil/black mask. It seemed funny doing it. the nature of the scene changed. It may be the kind of thing that gives the film needed levity (what after a massacre over a treasure of gold….). What I can say is the character changed as things changed, and it ended up settling closer to my strengths, which is comedic acting.
I hopped on Net Flix instant and watched the new documentary about J.D. Salinger. His book The Catcher in the Rye is considered a rite of passage into rebellious adulthood, toward consciousness expansion.
As a 12th grader I was touched as all hell by the book. Together with a few other carefully chosen books by our English teacher I was convinced that there was a mysterious way of living out there called literature.
I would never pretend that Salinger wasn’t part of that. But one thing that struck me as I watched the third act of this pretty interesting study was, his book was misinterpreted by 3 high profile murderers and attempted murderers. One of the talking heads, David Shields, asserts that he’s speaking so close to you that it’s easy to really misread the misanthropy. When Holden has the urge to renounce the phoniness of society, it’s a kind of tacit approval for anti social behavior to the misreader.
I thought, this is why I like James Joyce. Only the hardcore, stubborn weirdo of literature is going to get through Ulysses. And when he does the last thing he will feel like doing is murdering someone. If he does he will only want to murder Joyce, whom he will find to be already one of the departed. I think there’s a fine case to be made for obscurity, or obscure works.
I’ve been really taken with this notion of the little book, an artist writing about another artist, since Tarantino brought his concept up at an interview, where the above pictured director, Gus Van Sant, was also present.
I re-watched Goodwill Hunting with my mom tonight. So well put together that movie is. Then I remembered these stories about how on the set Ben Affleck had said van sant was the most zen director he’d work with. When he asked the director if his take was good, Van Sant put his hand to his face and said, “What do you think?”
In Van Sant is a secret to art, namely that often times the most daring of them go about their journey in a quiet way. Van Sant didn’t say much during the director’s round table. His work says quite a lot though. Of any of the working directors I think his incorporation of the personal into the artistic would make for a significant essay.
He’ll do a gay movie now and then, but then he’ll knock an Old Hollywood script like Goodwill Hunting out of the park, subtly bringing his innate kinship with outsiders into the scenes of that already written movie. Will the boy genius is still very much one of the wild men, adrift in an unforgiving land, seemingly capable of anything, but encumbered by psychic walls. Watching how well these scenes play out astonished me, like watching this movie new. He supervised the careful dance of argument, sensitive to things like jealousy, class, family, insecurities, fear. All these human feelings flying around all over the place. How did Van Sant tie such a pretty bow around them? Ragged are his lyrical early films. And they are just as interesting to watch, but they are a completely different exercise. While being no less personal and probing.
Van Sant is also a leading example of the independent spirit. No less practical. To film his early experiments, he went and did his time at an ad agency. He was patient. He’s not the youngest of filmmakers.
He’s very “artsy” (see Last Days); he intuitively knows when to champion a harmony korine or a david Gordon green, as he did. But there’s a resiliency of an old school kind that makes up his successes. When he began making films, he was making them for himself, a man who happened to be gay. He wasn’t making movies for the gay community. As a result his oddities weren’t at first accepted into even the gay and lesbian film festivals. But he uses that part of himself to later communicate a direct message that could appeal to anyone, Sean Penn’s superb sweetness in Milk. Here is the man who has been bullied and called a faggot so much that a lonesome spirit needs to be winged just so a guy can have a look at the world (and sure enough van Sant is a compulsive road tripper). He inserts this resiliency into Penn, or they both do it, and we have one of the more courageous personalities in recent biopic memory in Harvey Milk. A man who is an ironist, who knows life is rigged against him. But with his smile he shares with his antagonists that despair would be distasteful, that though he may look little, he is big. He fixes his eye on an image, or an idea that pleases him, and he remembers that he can feel warmth for humanity. This is the tradition of the humanities that solitary zen wanderers like Van sant keep aflame. Taking the difficult and making it simple. Indeed how is it that the outsider communicates this incredible warmth, against such odds?