The laws of profit, galloping greed, and the worship of Mammon are well-represented lately at the movies with the appearance of a crop of lavish movies about acquisitive lust, movies where the celebration of excess acts simultaneously as a critique of same. The old DeMille ethos rides high: Six reels of sin, one of salvation! Among the newly-erected cinematic Babylons are Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, and now Sofia Coppola’s The … Read More
Tag Archives: Bombast
Frame by painstaking frame, Ray Harryhausen elevated the art of incorporating stop-motion model animation effects into live-action films to a level previously, and subsequently, unseen. In his passing, Harryhausen becomes a symbol for A Time When They Did Things Differently, when what we broadly call “movie magic” still bore human fingerprints, before the business of ensorceling the rubes was delegated to vast armies of pixel-pushers.
Jerry Lewis trotted out on the stage trim and tuxedoed, only slightly faltering in his step. As our palpable awe settled, Jerry settled into a chair, beginning a program that mixed Methuselah-vintage shtick with a program of video clips. A teleprompter sat near the footlights, but was mostly disregarded, and apparently useless.
Today, as from its inception, Reverse Shot remains essentially a labor of love for all involved. The phrase “I don’t know how you do it” is flung around a lot, but I mean it quite literally when talking about Msrs. Reichert and Michael Koresky, who for a decade have done this thing on evenings and weekends, with minimal consideration for the profit motive. And it is a thing very worth doing precisely because it is free of that motive.
It is safe to say that the author of films with titles like How Awful About Allan, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, and What’s the Matter with Helen did not take himself too seriously. Yet Curtis Harrington’s communion with film history was indeed serious, and profound, for he was every bit the scholar of cinema that Liebling was of fisticuffs.
As long as I can recall, I have been drawn toward movies that flatter and reconfirm an ingrained bias towards romantic failure, rather than Happily Ever After. Affecting romantic fatalism is, of course, a neat escape-hatch excuse for fecklessness, as many a lad learns in his oat-sewing days.
The Magnificent Ambersons owes its preeminence as a Midwestern masterpiece to its ability to encompass both the nostalgia of Meet Me in St. Louis and a knowledge of the repressive respectability that appears in a Some Came Running or All I Desire. If I may be permitted to unleash my personal Garrison Keillor, it seems that nostalgia, an ever-present awareness of a vanished greatness, is somehow key to the Midwestern character.
Despite Marlon Brando’s best efforts, The Night of the Following Day is a Hubert Cornfield film. Cornfield’s commentary track for the 2004 Universal DVD release of Night is largely given over to his recounting Brando’s on-set insubordination, attempts to “embarrass” and “belittle” him as director. “He tried to seduce my wife,” Cornfield says, “So I told him, ‘Well, Marlon, I’m so flattered, I will never forget that honor.’”
Coming before a movie, the name “Allan Dwan” under the director’s credit connotes a no-frills simplicity—his nickname was “Practicality Dwan”—a simplicity touching on purity. When I am exhausted with movies, movies, ever more movies, all clangorously insisting on making their impression felt, I need only return to the healing springs of Allan Dwan, and a measure of innocence is regained.