Friday, February 23, 2007

Weekly Round-up

  • I made my first contribution to a Blog-a-Thon. Sam Peckinpah was one of my first "favorite" directors and I was glad to share my appreciation/admiration for one of his lesser known movies. Other things I learned: I like Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia a lot less than most other Peckinpah buffs. I like Convoy a lot more than most other Peckinpah buffs. But to each his own... (I'll have to write about both movies one day.)

    More seriously, this Blog-a-Thon got me thinking about Peckinpah's self-destructive nature and how it fueled his art, while, at the same time, it got in the way of his moviemaking. Maybe it's because I'm also in the middle of reading a Bob Fosse biography, but I have a much greater respect than I used to for guys like Robert Altman, Luis Bunuel, and Jean-Luc Godard, who were able to maintain artistic integrity while making movies without destroying themselves. (And I'm also saddened that I've known so many would-be artists who got the self-destructiveness down, but didn't have any "results" to show for it.)

  • Blake Bell posted this quote from Seth talking about the difference between European and American cartoonists:
    I’m not as attracted to European cartooning as I am to North American cartooning. Where a lot of it is really beautiful and interesting, I find that a lot of the European cartoonists, and this could just be in the translations, but they seem to be missing some kind of passionate spark that I find in the best North American cartoonists. There’s some eccentric quality, generally, amongst North American cartoonists that when they tackle some piece of material, it seems to be invested so deeply in their psyche that, if they’re a good artist, it’s very riveting. I don’t find that as much in the European work. I find it a little more dispassionate. It’s well-crafted and interesting but…

    Recognizing that he's making sweeping generalizations, here, I kind of agree with his observation, but, for me, that's one of the best things about Eurocartoonists. They aren't all as "in your face" and they often seem a bit more (dare I say it?) sophisticated in their distance from the material. In my mind I'm comparing two favorites: American Peter Bagge's Buddy Bradley stories and Dupuy & Berberbian's Mr. Jean stories. Both are sharply observed takes on young, creative, slackerish types, but Bagge's work is just a wee bit aggressive (as befits stories appearing in a comic titled Hate), while D&B's is somewhat distanced. They seem to give the reader more room: it's a more relaxing, contemplative reading experience. What's weird is that I get the same relaxed feeling from Seth's own work.

  • This is complete speculation: My guess is that Paul Muni and Frederic March, who were big, Oscar-winning stars in their day, suffered from backlash from film buffs of the 50s onward, who might have thought these actors - who showed up in lots of prestige pictures - were overrated when compared to performers who worked in less reputable pictures. I wonder if, now, though, they aren't (relatively) underrated.

  • Through the Sam Peckinpah Blog-a-Thon I rediscovered the writing of Scott Von Doviak (and some other guys who used to post on a movie message board that I once participated on).

    I liked Scott's recent column, where he talks about art house sci-fi movies. At the end, he writes about one of my newest favorites, the time travel brain twister, Primer: "Check out the movie’s Wikipedia page for an obsessive breakdown of the jumbled timeframe and see how far you get before your brain seizes up. So yes, it’s complex and thought provoking, but does this make it a good movie?"

    A rhetorical question, maybe, but, as much fun as I have trying to untangle the paradox puzzles, what I really like about the movie is the subtle way it gets at how creative endeavors can end up poisoning friendships when the struggle to have to have the last say in what's best for the company, project, etc. ends up overshadowing any other concerns. In other words, its the human drama that matters to me, (which is really what I'm always looking for in sci-fi stories).

    Interesting to think about: I probably would not like Primer as much as I do if I had first seen it in a theater. But, DVR'd off of the Sundance Channel, I was able to pause and rewind so that I could clarify and consolidate my understanding as I went along. And the movie is short enough - just 77 minutes - that it makes it easy enough to watch enough times to get a grasp on what's really going on.

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