roundup

The Roundup: March 23

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Detour‘s Detour by David Kalat at Movie Morlocks

For my money, you won’t find a more quintessentially noir film than 1945′s Detour – it’s got it all, from low contrast lighting to defeatist narrator to femme fatale, and in many ways, Detour displays the most primal forms of all these noir tropes. A while back I argued that Tom Neal’s desperate narrator is a basically good man pulled inevitably towards tragedy, but David Kalat has a slightly different and pretty convincing take on it as well – that Al is a misanthrope who could quite possibly be guilty of everything that seems fated to happen to him. He also brings in much more about the source novel, its author Martin M. Goldsmith, and director Edgar G. Ulmer than I ever knew, making this a fascinating read – and making me want to rewatch the film again immediately.

Narration, Voiceover, and the Shape of the World by Bilge Ebiri at They Live By Night

Voiceovers are often condemned ipso facto because they’re seen as being clumsy expository devices or ways to tell the audience about an event or character without just showing us. And certainly, they can be used that way, as lazy storytelling devices. But there are lots of other ways to use voiceover as well, and many voiceovers are inextricably part of a given film’s appeal. Try to imagine Badlands without Sissy Spacek’s dreamy, poetic voiceover (or True Romance, for that matter). Bilge Ebiri uses Malick’s early films as examples, as well as several others that use voiceovers either poetically or to actually comment on or counteract the narrative-as-shown. There’s a lot more than could be written about this topic, for sure, but this is good entry on the subject.

Fortress of Solitutude: Jeanne Dielman… by Dennis Cozallio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule

Chantal Akerman’s three and a half hour long opus Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is something of a test of endurance – it shows three days in the life of the title character, three days of carrying out menial housework, cooking, cleaning, caring for a neighbor’s baby, writing letters, and entertaining a gentleman caller (yes, that’s a euphemism). Dennis Cozallio’s excellent essay points out how effectively the film conveys “the crushing weight of Jeanne’s mundane day-to-day existence,” and he’s totally right. It’s a perfect example of how to make a “boring” film really well – when shifts in her routine do happen, the effect is immense.

In Character: William H. Macy by Alex at And So It Begins…

I’ve shared entries from Alex Withrow’s always-worthwhile series on character actors before, but when he got to William H. Macy, I couldn’t resist. Macy is one of those actors who always perks up a film with his presence, and in fact, I’ll often go see films just because he’s in them. Even so, there are a lot on Alex’s list I haven’t seen, so I’ll have to get on that. I do particularly recommend The Cooler, which actually stars Macy, even though he’s still in a very “character actor” kind of part. And though Alex didn’t mention it, he’s a ton of fun in Mystery Men.

10 Little Known Movies You Need to See Now by Kevyn Knox at Anomalous Material

Kevyn Knox comes up with some pretty awesome lists for his Anomalous Material column, and though this one is largely unthemed, it’s still a really great read. I’ve only seen a couple on here (one of them is Detour; see above for how much I love that film), but I’m definitely planning to move the others higher on my list. I hope Kevyn does more lists like this in the future. As if my to-watch list NEEDED to be any longer :)

Film Art: An Introduction Reaches a Milestone With Help from the Criterion Collection by David Bordwell

After pioneering the use of actual film captures instead of production stills for their textbook Film Art: An Introduction, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson are going on step further, partnering with the Criterion Collection to include video clips with commentary for teachers to use along with the textbook. You’d think this kind of thing would be a given by now, but copyright laws are difficult even in an academic context, where you’d assume fair use would reign supreme. So getting Criterion’s cooperation on this is a large step forward, and hopefully will open the door for more distributors and film textbook authors to take advantage of digital media in the classroom. Here’s an example of what they’re doing, with Thompson discussing Eliptical Editing in Varda’s Vagabond. (click link to open in a lightbox)

Help Rescue the Hitchcock 9 at BFI

Hitchcock’s films remain some of the most well-known and best-loved films of the entirety of classic cinema (and I’m not only speaking for myself there, I think), but there are still some of his films in need of preservation and restoration – especially his nine surviving silent films. The fact that only one of his silent films has been lost is amazing in and of itself, but these nine still need our attention. A few of them have been released on DVD, but the video quality is not the best. To rectify this situation, the BFI is undertaking the huge project of restoring all nine of these features to present as a retrospective in London in 2012, and they’re still raising funds to complete the project.

10 Reasons Why 21 Jump Street Exceeded Expectations by Oliver Lyttleton at The Playlist

Oliver Lyttleton was killing it this week over at The Playlist, with at least three or four editorials that I considered featuring. I decided to go with this one because these ten reasons are so solid regardless of the film at hand – if more studio filmmakers would remember these ten things, we’d have such better Hollywood films all around. I haven’t actually seen 21 Jump Street myself, but I’m far likelier to check it out at some point with articles like this floating around.

More Links!

Cool Videos, Trailers, and More

Full Prometheus Trailer – wowsers
Sound of My Voice TrailerAnother Earth‘s Brit Marling as a cult leader/possible time-traveler? I’m in.
David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis Teaser (NSFW)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Trailer #2
Snow White and the Huntsman Trailer #2
Mondo artist Kevin Tong’s Edgar Wright Triple Bill poster – WANT

Noteworthy News

  • Ryan McNeil

    A day late and a dollar short with this comment, but thanks for the linkage!