C. D. Rose, The Biographical Dictionary Of Literary Failure: This 170-page book from 2014 is probably a hoax. If you haven't heard of it, it's a series of about fifty three-to-four-page-long entries concerning the hilariously tragic stories of authors whose brilliant masterworks were never finished, never published, disappeared, destroyed, etc. etc. for all sorts of humorous reasons: some guy set out to write the longest novel ever written but couldn't think of anything to write, a woman never got anything onto paper because she could never find the proper environment to write in, etc. etc....It's all probably a hoax (the book encourages you to Google these people, and nothing comes up except the book itself) but to what purpose besides humor? The author seems to be trying to make some point about how our best works are all inside our heads, or something--it's explained somewhere in the book, but the book itself is just a lark. Read it for a laugh, I guess.
Night Train To Munich: 1940 thriller directed by Carol Reed, very similar to The Lady Vanishes in tone (the protagonists, led by Margaret Lockwood from TLV and Rex Harrison, are trying to escape Nazi Germany.) I watched this because it's a Criterion and it looked interesting. It's watchable enough, but indeed The Lady Vanishes kind of hangs over it simply by virtue of being the better (and certainly less lightweight) movie. I've only seen this and The Third Man by Reed, whom I admittedly know little about.
Inchon!: If you know anything about this 1981 Korean War drama mega-flop--which was apparently the biggest money-loser in movie history before the era of things like The Adventures Of Pluto Nash (mostly due to being immediately pulled from theaters, IIRC)--you probably know that its then-monstrous $50 million-or-so budget was mostly funded by the Reverend Moon. Take that, Moonies! You also might know that it featured a corpse-like performance from Laurence Olivier as Douglas MacArthur. What you don't know: the movie is completely boring as hell, a seemingly endless series of massive explosions blowing away soldiers and Korean civilians, periodically interrupted by scenes with either Olivier and Jacqueline Bisset, or Jackie Treehorn from Lebowski trying to romance some Korean woman for some reason. Add to this the fact that I watched all of it on my phone and boy does one have an unwatchable pile o'crapola, not even interesting from a historical point of view. Even sites like The Agony Booth (yack) didn't bother with this one! Skip, skip.
loudQUIETloud: A Film About The Pixies: Not as depressing as the Prindle review led me to believe, partially because I didn't think David Lovering is quite as nuts as that and other reviews singled him out to be. It is true that the film makes the four band members out to be uncommunicative with each other--there's loads of scenes where they just sit around nodding and not talking to each other. And it's true that when they go onstage they happily rip through those old Pixietunes. But did any of them seem to be trainwrecks? Nah. Worth one viewing, I s'pose.
Ender's Game: This bombed horribly (budget--$100 million plus, gross--barely half that) and God knows how much of it was due to Orson Scott Weirdo bashing gay marriage or just the fact that for all the book's popularity people are probably bored stiff with stories about Chosen Ones fighting off space menaces, but I'm actually inclined to believe the latter. The actors are serviceable and they came up with a decent way to depict the 3D gravity-battles amongst the kids. And frankly I'm not bothered with what all they removed from the book--the bizarre subtext about Ender's brother and sister, or the fact that Ender sort of inadvertantly kills two other kids in fights--because Card's subtexts sort of bored me. What I find really pathetic is the handling of the climax and twist, where Ender annihilates the entire "bugger" species (renamed "formics," hah) before it's revealed that he only thought he was playing a simulation, and then he's all depressed over what he did and vows to learn about the alien species and become a "speaker of the dead." Card blew through this in his book, to the book's detriment, and the movie blows through it even faster and more awkwardly than that. Good lord!! It isn't one of the worst movies I've ever seen, but it's merciful that it won't become a series...
Leave No Trace: Eghn, passable, but Winter's Bone from the same director was better. It purports to give you a look into the life of a father and daughter trying to live off the grid--and the daughter's gradual discovery that she doesn't like doing that anymore--but I mostly only took interest in the fact that their situation arises from the father being troubled and antisocial, not due to any kind of economic failure. (It's hinted that he has PTSD.) There's a reasonably powerful, sad ending and at least we now know that Ben Foster can underplay.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946): I didn't really like this much. It actually has more minutes in its running time (110 or so) than the book had pages (about 105), and believe you me do you ever feel it. There's also the matter of Lana Turner's acting. I frankly think she sort of sucked. It's hilarious that a platinum blonde bombshell would ever be married to some fat boring Greek burger-joint owner (hilariously renamed "Smith" from the book's "Papadakis") but she also has that annoying wispy way of talking that actresses indulged in back then, talking like every word has her tongue touching the back of her teeth (Kim Novak in Vertigo is another example, but she was better than Turner.) She also blows it big time when it's time for her to freak out or yell. I think I did however like Hume Cronyn as a smug lawyer who jerks the protagonists around. Fred Flintstone is in there too. I'm going to try to watch the 1981 Jack Nicholson version too, which is supposed to be a bad porno.
Hereditary: I eagerly await future films by first time writer-director Ari Aster, just like I'm awaiting future films from David Robert Mitchell and Robert Eggers. He comes up with a number of eerie ways of scaring you--creepy words scrawled on walls, weird droning cello/sax music that sounds like Tangerine Dream's Zeit (really!), strange shadowy figures that you can't quite see, odd It Follows-type composed shots where something is going on in the distance, etc. (And one scare stolen point blank from The Exorcist III--no, not the one you're thinking of either.) So this guy can definitely direct. Can he conclude a story? No, and that's why I can't get behind this movie nearly as well as most critics did--yep, another Hugely Critically Acclaimed Horror Flick has Disappointed Me A Bit. This film is ostensibly about a cursed family going insane, but when it comes time for Aster to explain why it's happening, the bullshit he comes up with makes Donnie Darko's explanation look like The Usual Suspects. Arrrghghh! Watch the movie anyway, for the scares.
Double Indemnity: Classic? Mostly. You know, I've never seen anything else with Fred MacMurray or Barbara Stanwyck in it at all, so I don't have any baggage about their performances, though I wasn't surprised to find out that Billy Wilder thought Stanwyck's ugly blonde wig was a mistake. I like most of this film. Most of the plot works and most of the cinematography works and most of the dialogue crackles. I dunno, I just always have to get around the noir tropes a bit. Most people agree that the two leads don't really love each other at all and that it's more about them playing a game because their lives are boring, which is a trope I can usually get behind. I also like that Raymond Chandler, who fought with Wilder a lot, was hired to write it even though he thought James M. Cain was a "gutter trash" writer (Cain apparently loved the movie, hilariously enough.) My favorite Wilder movie of the four or five I've seen is Ace In The Hole. Is that wrong?
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (SECOND REWATCH): I rewatched this again because my brother bought me the DVD out of the blue for Christmas. I've gone back to it before, and I also read Kesey's book, and here's my breakdown as to why I've never thought it was better than okay:
1)It doesn't tell a particularly great story, by which I also mean it doesn't have that many great scenes in it. McMurphy arrives, tensions, boat ride, orgy, fight, dead, break out, the end.
2)Jack Nicholson won an Oscar for this movie but I think all of his other performances that I've seen between 1969 and 1980 are more interesting. I don't think he had to work very hard to play R. P. McMurphy, a generic brawler and smartass.
3)The movie stacks the deck to make Nurse Ratched worse than she really is, I think. How was she, or we, supposed to expect that Billy Bibbitt would kill himself, thus necessitating the turning gears in the screenplay that will lead to the big cathartic the-rebel-gets-killed-for-strangling-the-nurse ending?
4)I just plain and simply have never "gotten" Nurse Ratched. Not once. I think this is the biggest hurdle for me. I sort of get that the role is being played by Louise Fletcher as one-note and faceless as possible, but most of the time she just seems like she's doing her job.
Jethro Tull, A: This sucks and is boring. I'm really regretting going through the Tull discography. "Black Sunday" and "Fylingdale Flyer" are passable and that's it. "Working Joe, Working John," "Batteries Not Included" and "The Pine Marten's Jig" suck. They had a chance to revamp their sound for a new decade, which was what I was expecting, and you'll hear lots of complaints from web reviewers about Ian Anderson's use of new synthesizers on the record, but I actually found the synths on Genesis' Duke from the same year far more noticably annoying. All Ian gets out of them is crap like the dumbass intro to "Batteries Not Included" which I think rivals "Baker St. Muse" as the worst Tull song that I know of. The only thing I'm going to remember about this completely forgettable album is the hilarious story about Ian accidentally replacing most of the band behind their backs, and without their foreknowledge. SAD!
The Church, Sometime Anywhere: This 1994 album saw the band down to two key members (Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper) and somehow continuing to insist on the obnoxious hour-long running time they'd used for three straight albums now. Arrrghh! This one's a decent album though, because they mostly go for dark broodiness this time around--ever hear of "Day Of The Dead"? "Lost My Touch"? "Fly Home"? "The Dead Man's Dream"? Those are all decent. I mean, I may be talking to a wall here, nobody at this board ever talks about The Church, not even "Under The Milky Way," but if you feel like digging through a forgotten 60 minute plus album from 1994 (it came with a bonus disc, which I won't be listening to!) there's the highlights!
The Byrds, Turn! Turn! Turn!: A discography gap that I felt like filling, so's I filled it. I love Mr. Tambourine Man, Fifth Dimension and Younger Than Yesterday through and through, but this one's definitely the black sheep of the bunch....it was nice to hear the title track and the Dylan covers are all pleasant, and their "Oh Susannah!" is funny enough. And "If You're Gone." Nice of Gene Clark to write that one, with the eerie "Sunday Morning" like harmonies behind it. But otherwise I'm going to forget this one.
Nine Inch Nails, The Fragile: The big disappointment here is less the overblown 103-minute running time than the knowledge that Stephen Thomas Erlewine was right about this album (never a good sign): Reznor didn't expand on The Downward Spiral's sound very much in five years. Like I said to Pugeye, the new "funk metal" rockers he tries, like "No You Don't" and "Into The Void," sound pretty silly, particularly the last one. I do find songs to salvage though, like "The Great Below" (Reznor's best wailing on the album), and the atmospheric instrumentals, like "La Mer," "The Mark Has Been Made" and "Ripe (With Decay)." And I like "Star*uckers Inc." Otherwise, much of my interest in the alubm comes from its historic place--not just in the NIN discography (the fan response is much of what you'd expect from any major band's double album opus--split between adoring fans and total haters) but its "last stand of the 90s" status. Oh, I looked up Steven Hyden's article about why he thought the album "ended classic rock": he brings up that file sharing came about between TDS and this album, which I'd forgotten as a factor.
Liz Phair, Funstyle: Whelp, Lizzie got lambasted for trying to sell out and be Avril Lavigne, and ignored (justifiably) for trying to be Sheryl Crow in 2005, so she decided to get ignored even more in 2010 (a mere 10 reviews on Metacritic--TEN!) by making a hipster indie-rock toss-off joke album, full of lyrics and sampled vocals that seem to be really obvious pot shots at the industry that as far as I can tell she was already taking pot shots at when she started, albeit maybe from a different perspective. I liked it, but keep in mind I also took it easy on jokey toss off albums like Van Halen's Diver Down and The Replacements' Hootenanny. The best song here, anyway, is "Satisfied"--which is a totally typical alternative rock happy tune. This concludes my journey through Liz Phair's utterly inconsistent discography which is also a mirror of her inconsistent life story and identity crisis. We'll always have Guyville, Lizzie. And "Whip-Smart."
Cream, Goodbye: "Badge" is really great, George Harrison and Eric Clapton working together to come up with that smoky bar feel that I like from the Pixies' "Brick Is Red"--er, a weird comparison, but it's the one I'm making nonetheless! I think I have a new favorite Cream tune! "Doing That Scrapyard Thing" and "Anyone For Tennis" kind of made me laugh too. Uh, I guess the live versions are fine. That totals an album I probably won't revisit, but that I'm not sorry I heard. My position on Cream will probably solidify: they're historic, but only decent as a listening experience.