Friday, June 24, 2011


--Couldn't help but feel a "good news/bad news" sensation when I read that the San Francisco Film Society had finally found a year-round theatrical home. As delighted as I am that they've partnered with New People to run their programming in the basement cinema, I guess the space is now formerly Viz Cinema. The space has had a rough go of its own programming of classic and contemporary Japanese cinema, but were starting to revamp their program with a series of weekend matinee screenings. Perhaps I'm being blindly optimistic when I hope that Viz's programming team will continue to have at least a say in what goes up in the space; I've grown more than accustomed to the fresh anime screened there.

--Perhaps I'm being similarly naive with regard to the Red Vic Movie House, but the programs I've experienced there recently (and the sizes of the midweek audiences they've attracted) are not in keeping with the space's numbered days. The thirty-year-old venue is set to shut down next month, and I'm wondering if maybe people are experiencing the place while they can. Monday's screening of Wings of Desire was very well-attended, as was Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' eye-opening Woody Allen program (including two features and a stunning collection of trailers). The dreamer in me believes that this kind of late-inning attendance could save the theatre; the realist in me knows that even if the Red Vic survived, they wouldn't be back.

--Revisiting Wings of Desire was a curious experience. I found in retrospect that I'd both enshrined the film and taken it for granted, happily declaring it a masterpiece while completely forgetting why I'd done so in the first place. And so I became completely swept away in it, moreso than ever perhaps. The story of the angels that walk among us, and one angel's forsaking of his divinity for earthly love, remains absolutely timeless, and every single character in the film remains a cherished friend.

--Sad, indeed, then was it to say goodbye to one of those friends yesterday. May Peter Falk rest in peace. Adios, compañero.

--Sad, too, am I to mourn the passing of comics artist Gene Colan. Among a number of other accomplishments, his Dracula I consider definitive.

--And yet during the writing of this the New York state senate passed the Marriage Equality Act and its corresponding amendment. Some transitions your proprietor can totally get behind.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Missing Persons, round 2

Pleased as I was to see Dale Bozzio and Missing Persons (despite the conflicted and unforgettable night it proved to be), I strongly doubted I'd ever get a chance to see them again. I could not have been more surprised to see that they were back on tour just months later, this time in celebration of their 30th anniversary, with original guitarist Warren Cuccurullo in tow.

Though I'd only recently come to appreciate Cuccurullo's considerable talent (and his rightful place as THE Duran Duran guitarist), I had been wanting to see him play live in any setting. Knowing that he would be back playing with Missing Persons made the show a must see (D, no surprise, was absolutely in agreement). And yet the strong memories of the last show lingered, and I wondered if the band would pull it together.

No worries, no worries at all. Within two songs of the band's set I'd completely forgotten about either of the crappy opening bands. From our vantage point (the host venue, the Red Devil Lounge, has powerfully shitty sightlines) we had a clear view of Cuccurullo, and it was a delight to see how his trademark, glassy synth guitar sound was made. His interplay with Bozzio built on their decades of history, and the band felt complete (though happily they retained drummer Jake Hayden and bassist Doug Lunn, the sterling rhythm section from the previous gig). D had stated that Missing Persons were first and foremost, new wave electronica notwithstanding, a guitar band, and Cuccurullo's presence pulled everything together beautifully.

Mental Hopscotch tore through powerfully, Destination Unknown was delivered with confidence (with Jake, the drummer, executing those fills during the chorus one-handed - awesome), and a powerful "Color In Your Life" featured from their late era. Gone were Dale's long between-song rants - tonight you could recognize her as the vixen of the early eighties.

And good god, the encores - a robust cover of Gary Numan's "Me! I Disconnect From You", transposed remade into a version only MP could have conceived. And the show wrapped with a short instrumental vamp on "Come Undone," Cuccurullo's great contribution to the Duran Duran corpus.

There's less to say about this show than the previous, as my emotions are less conflicted. We left the show swept away by what we saw (rather than doubting what we'd seen) and certain of a number of things: that Warren Cuccurullo remained one of the finest, most unsung guitarists of the last few decades; that there remains life in the Missing Persons corpus; and that the band presently on the road can really, really fucking cook.

Thanks, D.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


New York, July 1967. A somewhat anomic young man with too much time on his hands and too much film equipment in his home begins a film diary. Even as his project captures some of the more mundane aspects of his life, his involvement in his project threatens his relationships, and, indeed, his very soul.

Jim McBride's notorious but little-seen indie is both of its time, and timeless. It captures both its moment and our own tech-fuelled alienation of 2011. (I'd also place it as a film of the early 80s, as McBride and crew's subversion of filmmaking technology and practices qualify as a form of hacking, as indeed does David's.) As fun as the movie often is, it touches on fears both modern (alienation via our increasing dependence on technology) and ancient (the camera does appear to have captured David's soul). The film is weirdly prescient about the present tendency to relate to the outside world through technology - David's obsession with filming his girlfriend eventually creeps her right out, and he soon stalks women with the same camera. David's eventual meltdown is a powerful moment, but seems preordained. Fittingly, David's meltdown can now be found online along the Youtube rants, diaries, and explosions of his virtual children. Even the film's credits, supposedly a relief, only shatter the illusion, and rather than let us go they only seem to mire us in the labyrinth even further as we contemplate the labyrinth of reality and untruth we've just navigated, and the one that awaits us outside.

Monday, June 13, 2011


It's my favorite Woody Allen film since MATCH POINT. A weary Hollywood screenwriter hangs out in Paris with his fiancee and finds himself taken to the 1920s, where he encounters many members of that city's literary set. It's breezy and gentle, and though you see its moral coming a mile away it still registers powerfully upon arrival. There are some fine performances in it (when Adrien Brody slid onscreen as Salvador Dali I could only smile in anticipation), but Owen Wilson is particularly fine as Allen's on-screen surrogate. He's particularly relaxed but totally engaged, and as easily as he gives voice to Allen's philosophy (and he does it better than any of the other substitute Allens) it's his quiet moments that truly register - the moment that Wilson finally accepts, with a gentle smile, that yes, his dream is coming true is the best thing I've seen him do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

this is only a test

From our friends at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, a blog that's as much fun as its title, comes this huge summer film test. Since the House has been a little barren of late, and since answering tests like this feels, at some shameful level deep within your proprietor's venal heart, like an interview, my answers follow.

1) Depending on your mood, your favorite or least-loved movie cliché
Favorite: the love-conquers-all ending. If it emerges naturally from the story (Shyamalan's The Happening is the one that comes to mind), I find it fresh and moving. Most people I know find it as much a cop-out as I find the nihilism in the movies that they like. But anyway.

2) Regardless of whether or not you eventually caught up with it, which film classic have you lied about seeing in the past?
If I've ever done this, I'm too ashamed to recall it. I'm pleased to admit that there are plenty of worthy films I haven't seen - something to look forward to.

3) Roland Young or Edward Everett Horton?
Horton for longevity - respect a man who went from the silent era thru Top Hat to Playhouse 80. Young, however, was in And Then There Were None, so there's love there too.

4) Second favorite Frank Tashlin movie
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

5) Clockwork Orange-- yes or no?
Yes, certainly.

6) Best/favorite use of gender dysphoria in a horror film
Back in 1996 when I was living in Washington DC, there were some huge blizzards that blew through and paralyzed the city. I used the opportunity to catch up on movies that I'd taped off cable. "Nice, I can finally watch Polanski's Repulsion!" Perhaps because I was snowbound and stir-crazy, the movie fucking scarred me.

7) Melanie Laurent or Blake Lively?

8) Best movie of 2011 (so far…)
So far, BOONMEE. But the year ain't half over yet.

9) Favorite screen performer with a noticeable facial deformity
Tina Fey. She never volunteered info about the scar, and I don't think any of us who knew her ever asked (though the answer's now easily found; she wasn't a celebrity yet when we knew her, and celebrities have no secrets.)

10) Lars von Trier: shithead or misunderstood comic savant?
Yes. But that's not all.

11) Timothy Carey or Henry Silva?
Silva's a "better" actor (nothing but love for Johnny Cool) but Carey's extremism takes him to deeper, more moving places.

12) Low-profile writer who deserves more attention from critics and/or audiences
I keep hoping that Kenneth Branagh will one day film any of the Yellowthread Street mysteries by William Marshall.

13) Movie most recently viewed theatrically, and on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming
Theatrically: Midnight in Paris
DVD: don't recall - lately have been watching mostly TV on disc (DARK SHADOWS and TWIN PEAKS, most recently)
Blu-Ray: oh, fuck blu-ray
Streaming: work movies don't count, so let's go with Killdozer

14) Favorite film noir villain
Let's go with Helen Thimig from Strangers in the Night.

15) Best thing about streaming movies?
They're the bread and butter of the company that's employed me for going on four years now.

16) Fay Spain or France Nuyen?
Only one of these women played Elaan of Troyius:

Nuyen, definitely.

17) Favorite Kirk Douglas movie that isn’t called Spartacus

18) Favorite movie about cars

19) Audrey Totter or Marie Windsor?

20) Existing Stephen King movie adaptation that could use a remake/reboot/overhaul
King's works are often problematic in that what works on the page seldom translates effectively to the screen. Rather than reboot one of the films, I'd rather see someone take a stab at filming "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" from SKELETON CREW.

21) Low-profile director who deserves more attention from critics and/or audiences
Richard Kwietnowski has a too small body of work, but each of his films has an abundantly delicate touch, and should be shared theatrically.

22) What actor that you previously enjoyed has become distracting or a self-parody?
I tend to stick by my actors. The only artist whose ego has ballooned to the point that I can't enjoy his earlier work isn't an actor, most of the time.

23) Best place in the world to see a movie
Weirdly, I don't have a favorite venue. Anywhere with decent projection, good refreshments, and seats for people I care about will do.

24) Charles McGraw or Sterling Hayden?
Hayden, but I understand the McGraw camp.

25) Second favorite Yasujiro Ozu film
Decline to answer.

26) Most memorable horror movie father figure
Genre being relative, I'll go with Kirk Scott's memorable, funnycreepy turn as J.D.'s dad in Heathers. Scott and Slater suggest not a familial relationship so much as a symbiosis, and it speaks volumes to J.D.'s pathology. The backstory of J.D.'s home life is one of that film's more evocative mysteries, thanks largely to Scott's performance.

27) Name a non-action-oriented movie that would be fun to see in Sensurround
Irma Vep, from the chaos of the production office to the otherworldly transcendence of the final montage

28) Chris Evans or Ryan Reynolds?
I've found both enjoyable in a number of films - Reynolds seems to have a bit better range, from the gently obscene comedy of Waiting to the moralistic Fed-in-crisis in Smokin' Aces, so he gets he nod.

29) Favorite relatively unknown supporting player, from either or both the classic and the modern era
I'd love to see Arthur Stone get a little more appreciation outside classic movie circles - his turn as the comic relief but capable con man in 1927's Valley of the Giants seemed to anticipate the works of Pee Wee Herman, Martin Short, and many others.

30) Real-life movie location you most recently visited or saw

31) Second favorite Budd Boetticher movie
Can't answer. My favorite BB movie, however, is Ride Lonesome.

32) Mara Corday or Julie Adams?

33) Favorite Universal-International western
No preference.

34) What's the biggest "gimmick" that's drawn you out to see a movie?
The fourteen-hour running time, multi-day staging, etc. of Rivette's OUT 1.

35) Favorite actress of the silent era

36) Best Eugene Pallette performance

37) Best/worst remake of the 21st century so far?
Best: Takashi Shimizu's own remake of his JU-ON: THE GRUDGE as, simply, THE GRUDGE enabled him to continue his already fascinating and under-way process of remixing his own work. The resulting sequel, THE GRUDGE 2, came too late in the American wave of J-horror remake but provided a perfect capper to that onslaught with he ghosts arriving in Chicago.

Worst: I hate, on principle, to pile onto the work of a female director, but Julie Taymor's THE TEMPEST was a misfire in nearly every conceivable way.

38) What could multiplex owners do right now to improve the theatrical viewing experience for moviegoers? What could moviegoers do?
Just stop treating film like easily-ladled product - take pride in presenting an experience, from the correct aspect ratio and sound volume to decent refreshments. Moviegoers: stop putting yourself over the movie, stop texting/talking in the damn thing, and be present in the experience with your neighbors.