Given its popularity last week, I'll be sticking to the multimedia format from now on. I've also made some changes to the blog layout, as you can probably see, so feel free to explore. I've added an eye-catching sidebar feature which takes you straight to my picture gallery; beneath it is a lineup of features to help you explore the blog (topped by a "Top Posts" link which has just been extensively updated to include my strongest work from the past few months). My blogroll now features post titles, in the hope that it will draw more people to the sites in question - I find it's already working wonders for me personally, getting me caught up with my fellow travelers on a more regular basis. Finally, at the bottom of the sidebar is a somewhat pointless but nonetheless nifty tool which keeps track of the most popular posts of the past 7 days. Several "Remembering the Movies" entries are usually on there at any given time, so thanks to all of you for frequenting the feature.
10 years ago (December 2, 2000)
"Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000) alternates between ultraviolent scenes of yakuza war and a tender story set around a country orphanage. While there are countless action movies with a sentimental streak (most notably those by John Woo), this one feels without precedent in suggesting two separate movies run simultaneously. The mosaic approach is still disorienting, since Dead or Alive 2 remains uniformly sincere regardless of whether it's being familiar or absurd. You never sense quotation marks around the genre elements —or carelessness behind the non-sequiturs, for that matter. Miike simply invests himself in every moment as though it were a wholly new experience, much like a child watching his first film. ...
Are there political ramifications to the filmmaking? Miike would seem to think so. In the most audacious sequence of Dead or Alive 2, Shuuichi and Mizuki pull off a series of violent hits and spend their salaries on vaccinating children in the third world. "Vaccinations cost as little as 40 cents in some countries," says Mizuki in one of the film's long static takes (which recall two other great films about epiphany amidst violence, Takeshi Kitano's Fireworks and Shohei Imamura's The Eel). 'Get rid of one jerk, and you vaccinate 100,000 kids.' Violence is juxtaposed again, this time with documentary footage of refugee children in Africa and east Asia. Images originally created in despair are repositioned to become images of hope." - Ben Sachs, The Auteurs
"The striking sense of spontaneity, realism and truth which Truffaut achieves in his film is all but lacking in Duvivier’s. Boulevard is made according to the old rules – polished performances, a conventional narrative and a cinematographic approach which had hardly changed since the 1930s. The film is technically well made, but in comparison with Truffaut’s, it is soulless, with hardly any of the charm and emotional impact of Les 400 coups. It doesn’t help that most of the characters in the film are the most grotesque stereotypes, including a shrewish step-mother that looks like something Hans Christian Andersen created and a pair of Parisian artists who clearly never missed a day at the Quentin Crisp school of in-your-face campness." - James Travers, Films de France
"No one should be surprised to find Actress Hutton a match for Astaire in vitality, but she also proves adept at dogging his dancing steps in their single full-blown number together. On her own, she gets a chance to hurtle through some galvanic shenanigans, practically no chance to show her more impressive ability as an actress. Astaire's feet seem more facile than ever. In one solo he does a delightful ballet version of Jack and the Beanstalk while singing a bright lyric by Frank Loesser. In both he is nimble and ingenious enough to stop the show. Unfortunately, the show goes right on." - Time Magazine, 1950
"The replacement they came up with was the painfully self-conscious, painfully dykey Betty Hutton, one of the least feminine leading ladies in the history of Hollywood, one step, maybe, behind Martha Raye. Like Martha, Betty covered up her insecurities by constant and painful mugging, which often made her difficult to watch. She's probably most appealing in the famous Preston Surges comedy The Miracle of Morgan Creek, one of his rowdy, two-fisted, regular guy comedies. ... In retrospect, it's hard to see why anyone would think that putting Mr. Elegance and Miss Ballbuster in the same film together would be a good idea. And Loesser, whose Guys and Dolls would open on Broadway at the same time that Let's Dance was released, probably saved his best tunes for the Big Apple. Let's Dance isn't quite Fred's worst musical — I'd give that distinction to Yolanda and the Thief — but it's second in line — not quite a complete disaster, but almost always in critical condition." - Alan Vanneman, Bright Lights Film Journal
The Queen of Spades (1910)