Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I really should be asleep right now, since I have to be up at 06:00 to get to work on time, but I just can't help myself. I just finished watching Red Dawn. Yes, that Red Dawn; the one from the 80s.

It was totally awesome! I'd almost forgotten how much fun these sorts of Cold War paranoia movies could be. If I were taking American Masterworks, I would write my final on this film. It has everything: invasion of a small town in the American Rocky Mountains, heartless Soviet paratroopers, former Cuban rebels turned regulars who become disillusioned because of the, executions of civilians (a surprising number for it being a small town), high school kids as guerilla fighters, who completely upstage trained professionals, Powers Boothe, Cuban communists realising the Russians aren't really the same sort of communists, Patrick Swayze trying to act with feeling, Red China's on the side of the good ole' USA, sacrificial diversions, it just goes on and on.

Did I mention the sheer number of people killed by the Wolverines? Probably not. They're foreigners occupying our land by force of arms, not real people, so it doesn't matter. They have superior weapons and numbers? They'll underestimate the abilities of a small group of teens with hunting rifles and a former high school quarterback to lead them. Once you kill a few, take their weapons and kill more until they go back where they came from. Infiltrate their safe zones and blow things up. It doesn't matter if you're not part of the military; this is our country! Those Commies can get out or die.

I'm sure we all remember the exchange between Matt and Jed as Jed is about to execute a Russian prisoner and their fellow Wolverine, Daryl, for treason:
Matt (referring to the invaders): What makes us different from them?
Jed: We live here.
And just because it is one of the greatest lines in the history of cinema:
Lt. Col. Tanner: All that hate's gonna burn you up, kid.
Robert: Keeps me warm.
I'd totally want to be a Wolverine.

All the fun and throw back to the Cold War 80s paranoia aside, as we think about our heroes in this movie, does anyone notice what Peet McKimmie at IMDB does?

Also seriously, John Milius, Kevin Reynolds, you guys are great. All the Americana + Soviet paratroops out of nowhere = brilliance.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I Just Might end up Failing

Yesterday, I presented on Jean Renoir's The River for my International Masterworks class. The T.A. for the course had initially given me a DVD copy of Tsai Ming-Liang's The River, and I had toyed with the idea of being cheeky and presenting on it instead, but after I saw Renoir's film, I simply had to present on that one.

The film was horrible overall. I felt as if there were little demons inside my skull stabbing the backs of my eyes with hot needles through at least seventy percent of the film. I should probably write up some sort of coherent and intelligent rebuke of the film, but I am actively trying to forget all but the non-needle-painful bits.

Sadly, I don't remember exactly what I said during my presentation. I mentioned, extremely briefly, a little of Renoir's biography. It was brief because we had covered him in decent detail earlier in the course. I spent a little time on new research by a Canadian scholar that used F.B.I. records to find that Renoir actually had been politically active while in the U.S.A., all accounts, including his own autobiography, to the contrary. (It was actually fairly interesting for me, once I got past all the psychoanalysis [which, if you know me, you know is one of my many annoyances] and can be found here at the time of writing.)

I, then, briefly summarized a good review of the film. Well, I quite poorly summarized the review and went on to show one of the most pain-inducing clips I could think of as exemplary of the film as a whole. I followed the clips with, "Yeah..that is why this presentation will be less than scholarly. I was in physical pain while viewing this film, and I could not force myself to watch it the multiple times required to achieve critical distance." I'm a little fuzzy on the exactness of the end of that quote, but if that's not completely accurate, it's close enough. To imagine what the rest of the presentation was like, here are the notes I was using for reference while I was up there (all chapter numbers are from the Criterion DVD):
Intro: Hi, it's me and this is what I'm talking about. Why not cheeky?

Renoir: Biography in brief to River
Talk about F.B.I. stuff in Faulkner article: said wasn't politically active, but 200(+) pages of cross-listed references in F.B.I. files say differently.
Affiliated with such politically active groups as: People's Education Association (Ben Barzman lost U.S. passport for affiliation with PEA), League of American Writers, Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, Council of American-Soviet Friendship.

The River
Renoir got the idea to do River after reading a New Yorker review saying it was probably the best English language novel to come out in years and no one would probably read it.

Read good review of River, show awful clip (ch. 13)

Speak on capricious nature of "masterworks" canons. Poll audience opinion?

Explanation of why presentation is less than scholarly
Physical pain while watching scenes like example scene prevented further viewing. Lack of substantive writing where I looked.

Not all bad
Something there in a crippled American not knowing what he wants while being desired by all and breaking their hearts. India not sure where it belongs: traditional or toward the British. Know enough not to mess with dangerous things you've no experience with in a place that isn't your home.

Oases of analgesia amidst the pain a.k.a. good sequences (chs. 4[?], 9 [if you can get past the voiceover], 15)

Indian filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, among others, got their start in film working on this movie.

Showed you could make a movie in India, vaguely about India, and it didn't have to include tigers, elephants, or Bengal lancers.

Talk Derrida archive stuff from Faulkner: Despite the good bits I fully intend to actively purge majority of film from my mental archive.

Questions/Comments/Criticisms/Declarations of Vendetta?

In long-form short, if you're feeling masochistic, don't watch this film. I'll be happy to drop by and slap you around a bit or hit you with a paddle. If you're feeling more masochistic than that, I suppose you could take a look at The River.

Also, to any of you impressionable first year B.U. film studies grads, it's not a very good idea to spring this sort of thing on your professor. I'd opt for the route Devon took. It seemed much more productive.

But it was kind of fun...