Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Medium Blizzard In A Moral Universe

Well I haven't seen any new movies in the last few days. I've rewatched a few flicks between writing and other life crap : ABOUT SCHMIDT - 'cause a friend had never seen it and ROMEO IS BLEEDING 'cause it seemed to fit my mood late in the weekend.

I was reminded that Scott Tobias really nailed SCHMIDT in his Onion A.V. Club review:

"In one of the many simultaneously funny and heartbreaking scenes in Alexander Payne's wonderful About Schmidt, recently retired Omaha insurance salesman Jack Nicholson steals away to a local Dairy Queen and orders a medium Blizzard. That he has to sneak off from his wife (June Squibb) to do it is telling enough; that he treats himself to a medium instead of a large speaks volumes about his character's diminished sense of self-worth."

Medium Blizzard seems to really sum it up. So much so that Tobias brought it up again in his reviews of Payne's Schmidt follow-up SIDEWAYS:

"Payne (Election) defines his universe through these sorts of wry behavioral observations; in his last film, About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson's order at an Omaha Dairy Queen says more about him than reams of dialogue would have accomplished."

Yep, that medium Blizzard really made an impact on Tobias. As well it should - the most effective devices in character presentation are the tiny seemingly meaningless day-to-day decisons and off the cuff behaviour that speaks volumes as Tobias says. 'Life is in the details' one expression goes. I however prefer the quote - 'the Devil is in the details'.

I'm still making my way through the 4th season of SIX FEET UNDER which is a good example of the little-things-say-so-much deal I was just babblin' 'bout. One particular intense episode involving Fisher Funeral-home family member David being abducted by a crackhead con man - "That's My Dog" which originally aired last summer struck me as both outrageously manipulative and wickedly brilliant. I know it can be seen as an extremely geeky process but I watched it a second time with the commentary track by director Alan Poul and I'm glad I did. He addressed viewer's negative reactions, told me things that were intended as fantasy but I wrongly interpreted as reality, and pointed out an excellent article written by Emily Nussbaum in New York Magazine that anyone with even a passing interest in the show should check out :

At one point during his insightful and economically worded commentary Poul also touchingly said :

"You put stuff out there in order to get a reaction from the world with the best of intentions and what you get back is often not what you expect or deserve or even consider to be an answer. There is such a thing as a cry that goes unheard but all that added up does not mean we're not living in a moral universe."

That immediately brought to mind this Woody Allen quote -

"An artist creates his own moral universe" -
Sheldon Fender (Rob Reiner) BULLETS OVER BROADWAY 1994

Definitely heady stuff, though on the other hand - in it's glib quick wham-bam style an episode of FAMILY GUY that aired earlier tonight had a jab at SIX FEET UNDER :

"You know, I'm 3 weeks old, my world view spans no further than the walls of this dog's intestines and I still find Six Feet Under pretentious." - an intestinal worm

Take that Alan Ball! From an astute New York Magazine appraisal to some TV criticism voiced by a cartoon worm everyone seems to have their say.

Anyway I need to go and get a medium Blizzard. Actually maybe just a small one. Depends on if I can steal away I guess.

More later...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

BROKEN FLOWERS And More Random Babble

Because of how hard and annoying it was to get others to contribute - I've decided to reconfigure this here film babble blog into a more personal and simpler blog. From now on it'll just be me posting about movies I've seen. Because I watch so many movies it'll be a good exercise to keep up with them on this blog. So here goes :

The last movie I saw in the theaters was BROKEN FLOWERS - the new Bill Murray flick directed by Jim Jarmusch. It seems to be another entry in the minimalist phase of Murray's career. In earlier work like MEATBALLS, STRIPES, or GHOSTBUSTERS Murray's wise cracking persona worked every angle - now he appears to be so jaded and too tired to even approach any angle. He has to be cajoled into this slight premise (revisiting past loves because of an unsigned letter about a 20 year old son who may be seeking daddy out) by a over-eager neighbor (Jeffery Wright). As much as I was amused by certain moments (Jessica Lange's animal communicator bit particularly) I thought the movie was just okay. Not especially involving. Murray's character and a lot of the movie seemed underwritten.

Anyway apart from plowing through the 4th season of Six Feet Under this last week I also watched SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. Because of a recent episode of Ebert and Roeper that told me about Igmar Bergman's newest movie SARABAND that updates the central characters from SCENES played by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson I decided that I had to put it in my Netflix queue. It was originally a 6 part TV series in the early 70's - Bergman edited a theatrical version. The theatrical version is what I chose to watch. It was 2 hours and 40 something minutes long. I was struck about how close Woody Allen's HUSBANDS AND WIVES was to it. I mean I knew Allen was a Bergman disciple but damn! The documentary like set-up, the long involved and tortured conversational break-downs, and the probing close-ups all used to great effect in Allen's flick.

I started watching it on Wednesday. Film historian and supposed Bergman scholar Peter Cowie told me in the sole special featurette that it was best to watch in segments. I wanted to take it all in and return it so I could get more Six Feet Under discs but found that there was no way to rush a viewing of this pristine movie. I got really wrapped up in the emotional turmoil surrounding the relationship of Johann and Marriane and even scanned back several times to watch bits again to fully absorb all that transpired. So after many stops and starts I finished it Friday evening. Now I must order up the longer TV version. Damn my completist minded film addiction! Or actually thank God for it. Not sure what I'd do with these random hours otherwise. Now with hope SARABAND will come to my area.

Will post again after I see another movie. That's the idea anyway...