June 26, 2015

Summer in the city

King Kong (John Guillermin, 1976). How strange that Peter Jackson’s version should be the most childish and innocent of the three Kongs. His is a world of oversized cartoon monsters. The 1930s original still has its crude nightmare-ish quality. The unfairly slammed second version is all bright 70s American excess: oil money and greed, the newly built World Trade Center as the obvious summit and an almost constantly ecstatic Jessica Lange as the prey. It’s superbly lurid, unpretentiously directed and never not entertaining. 

June 23, 2015

Moustache as weapon, symbol

Marshland (Alberto Rodriguez, 2014). Not a True Detective imitator, but made in parallel, stripped of occult complexity and carrying instead some dour weight about the years after Franco, but never quite as interested as you hope it might be in the actual details of its sordid crimes.  

June 13, 2015

New meat

An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981). The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981). Cat People (Paul Schrader, 1982). Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980). A short-lived but intense cultural moment if you were 13 or 14 until – this is a guess but also entirely plausible – the John Landis-directed clip for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” ruined it. Slasher movies, with little of the comedy and sexual vulnerability of metamorphosis horrors, were no real substitute. 

June 8, 2015

Shake appeal

Watching San Andreas as a quake survivor, online here

June 4, 2015

For a few years he thought he was God and a number of people agreed him

The Source Family (Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos, 2012). The fascinating story of Father Yod and the 1970s hippie health food cult that took care to document every move. A dream subject for any archivist, but what about the apostates? 

June 1, 2015

How to be a reporter

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940). There was a social media uproar when I recently posted a list of the 10 “best” journalism films that did not include His Girl Friday. In my defence: the list was drawn up with journalism students in mind, so I thought it should lean towards the dramatisation of important historical moments and big stories as potential learning experiences (the major exception was the berserk but prescient satire of Network) rather than fun comedies and dramas that happen to be about the world of newspaper reporting. But while I still would not have it in my top 10, I can see why His Girl Friday has so many fans. This smart rewrite of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page as a romantic comedy has the fastest dialogue in the west, its implausible-but-who-cares? comic action is spread across several hours as two real-world deadlines approach – a remarriage and an execution – and in Cary Grant’s editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell’s reporter Hildy Johnson, there is a timeless vision of how journalists still like to see themselves and their profession: flawed, disreputable, fascinating, never bored or boring, untrustworthy but ultimately on the side of good. Probably useful for students, all that.