Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I saw this Sofia Coppola film a few days ago and am still digesting it, in a way. It's a minimalist study of a film actor (played with subtleness by Stephen Dorff) and the daughter (Elle Fanning) that comes to live with him for a few weeks at the Chateau Marmont. It's sort of a slice of a slice of life film in which nothing much happens, except that emotionally the actor, named Johnny Marko, seems to come alive in the presence of his daughter. It's the type of movie that lulls you along, and I wished it had more of an impact at the end of the film (there seemed to be quite a lot of symbolism/significance attached to Johnny's Italian sports car and it didn't really work for me) but ultimately I found it touching and, most importantly, artful. The dialogue does not particularly matter in this movie but the images, most of which are beautiful, do. Here are some of them:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poetry Monday

The Errand

by Troy Jollimore

At my father’s request I went into the city
to ask for the Senator’s daughter’s hand.
But she said she would not have me, or any man.
It was, I thought, a great pity:

she was not only wealthy, but very pretty.

So I told her that I would stand
on the spot of earth where I’d been rejected
and each night she would hear my demand
until she recanted, and accepted.

For three nights I shivered as the constellations
wheeled about my head, and I repeated my offer.
Finally, on the third night, her father
put his arm around me and brought me to the kitchen.
We drank scotch. He told me she would not change her decision.
He gave me his second daughter as consolation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

The only Moto film in the public domain so I watched it on Netflix. I've only seen a couple of these films but I definitely like them. Despite the silliness/offensiveness of having Peter Lorre play the Japanese detective (international detective, he actually has a card), I really love watching Lorre play a hero. He manages to exude both intelligence and kindness. The story itself in this one was pure pulp. Moto takes on an international spy ring, filled with B actors doing crazy accents, like George Sanders who was, I think, supposed to be French, and Ricardo Cortez, the head baddie, and a ventriloquist!

I love this production still from the film below.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Death Trap (1957)

Decent, if not spectacular, JDM standalone. The protagonist, Hugh MacReedy, returns to a small town to help his ex-girlfriend's younger brother, accused of a terrible crime. There are some great fight sequences in this novel, as Hugh squares off against corrupt police officers, and the local teenage toughs. The weakest element of this book is the love story--she never really comes to life.

A slightly condensed version of this novel appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Those were the good old days. Can you imagine Cosmopolitan containing an entire novel now?

Film Frames Friday

Hint: Elementary, my dear Watson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The TV Report

Another quality season from Fringe. I love the alternate universe, Anna Torv (hanging out with Bubbles here) gets better and better, and Walter Noble is one of the best characters on television.

This is the sitcom I most look forward to, week in and week out. I think the writers and actors are turning in one of the most creative and experimental seasons of any sitcom ever. Because of this, because of the risks they are willing to take on a weekly basis, some of the episodes are much stronger than others. So far this year, my favorite episode was the bittersweet birthday party for Troy's 21st.

Modern Family
 Starting to stretch itself a little thin but it's still funny.

Mildred Pierce
I'm about halfway through and I think it's pretty remarkable, especially Todd Hayne's unrelenting faithfulness to his source material and the incredible details of its time period. In some ways I think the miniseries actually challenges the way a viewer is supposed to watch TV or a movie. This is like reading a visual novel, and at times I feel myself distanced from the material but I haven't watched all of it yet.

Best show on television, and Margo Martindale should win an Emmy for her sociopathic, self-righteous Mags. I mean she better win an Emmy or else she'll get that hammer out, or give you a taste of her special Apple Pie Moonshine. That's Mags below, feeling contemplative.


A film I expected to hate, or at least be impartial towards, but it was a very pleasant surprise. Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, an angry forty-something with mental health problems who returns to Los Angeles after a fifteen year absence to house-sit at his successful brother's house. He begins a relationship with Florence, his brother's personal assistant. Greta Gerwig plays Florence and she was  excellent as another lost soul without any semblance of a spine. It's a Noah Baumbach film so it's about neurotic navel-gazers but it was also compelling and, I think, ultimately humanistic.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Source Code

In director Duncan Jones' second film (the first was Moon), Jake Gyllenhall plays a man who suddenly finds himself in another man's body with eight minutes to discover the identity of a bomber on a train. Each time he fails he is given another eight minutes. Basically, Groundhog Day meets Unstoppable, and it's pretty great. I liked it more than the more cerebral Moon; in some ways, despite its high concept and questionable quantum physics, it's a very basic film, low on twists, and more intent on ratcheting up the tension and finding the emotional heart of the story. It does go off the rails (in many ways) in the final third becoming, for me anyway, too much of a heart-string-puller, but it's a minor complaint. Eighty minutes well spent out of a possible ninety. Think of it that way.

Poetry Monday

Woman Police Officer in Elevator

by James Lasdun

Not that I’d ever noticed
Either a taste or a distaste
For that supposedly arousing
Rebus of pain and desire, the uniformed woman,
Whether as Dietrich in epaulettes,
Or armored like Penthesileia, or in thigh boots
And cocked hat, straddling the Atlantic,
Fishing for campesinos
With live torpedoes,

But when the rattling, john-sized
Tenement elevator paused
Mid-fall to blink a female housing cop
Into its humid cranium, I felt her presence
Spooling through me like a Mobius strip,
Splicing her spilling curls, nightstick, the gun at her hip,
Chrome shield, the breast it emblazoned,
Seamlessly into the same
Restless continuum …

I caught – was it possible? –
The scent of some sweet-tinctured oil;
Troubling, alluring; and looked away
The glanced back obliquely: had I imagined it,
The sudden scimitar-glint of danger,
Or had some forbidden impulse – longing, lust, anger –
Tumid inside me like a hidden
In a schoolkid’s lunch  pack,

Triggered the blue-lashed, tiny
Metal detector of her eye?
I backed against my corner, watching
The numerals slowly swallow their green gulp of light;
Interminable! And as we fell,
Our little locked cube of stale air seemed to bristle
With a strange menace … I thought of harms;
My own and not my own,
Contemplated or done;

Betrayals, infidelities,
Coercions, seductions, lies,
Ready to confess them all, and more,
As if in her firm indifference she’d regressed me
Inward down some atavistic line
To the original essence, the masculine
Criminal salt; a frieze of victims
Paneled in my own skull
Like a lit cathedral hell …

A shudder, and then stillness;
Avoidance of each other’s eyes
As in some bedroom fiasco’s wake,
The air too brimful with disclosure, till the door
Opened and we parted, the clamped rift
Between us widening like a continental drift
Of the sexes; she to the butcher, the breaker,
The ripper, the rapist,
I to my therapist.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Set at an all-girls boarding school in some isolated part of England during the 1930s, Cracks is a composite of all sorts of movies I love: 1930s English boarding school dramas, psychological thrillers, a metaphysical mystery (maybe, I don't know). It's got elements from Lord of the Flies, Black Narcissus, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Basic Instinct. Unfortunately, it's the type of  movie that falls a little too squarely between a sensible, explain-the-psychosis, thriller and something a little more out there. It left me with too many unanswered questions, and not in the good way, a la David Lynch. And Eva Green brought a little too much crazy to her role as a free-wheeling teacher, plus diving coach, who first mesmerizes her students, then ... well, you'll just have to watch it. It really wasn't terrible, just that it was both too silly and not silly enough.