Friday, January 19, 2007 

Slant Magazine's Films of the Year.

Just what I put above. A nice selection, try sifting through the occasional pretense.

Saturday, January 06, 2007 

Review: Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut

In the absence of vermislitude, camp frippery prevails. So learnt Dick Donner, as Hollywood lore has it, when he was notoriously fired from completing a quarter of the sequel to Superman: The Movie for no other reason (ostensibly) than personal distaste and Svengali tendencies. There has been far too much ballyhoo, contempt and indifference met with the release of this fractured mini-masterpiece, and I won't bore you with the intricacies of that Salkind mentality. For once, Superman II doesn't anticipate a Richard Pryor comedy. And it means a lot more than sniggering at awkward CG updates, useless NY inserts, and a plot device so painfully re-transfigured that even the most ardent fans don't seem willing to turn a blind eye at the sake of artistic retribution.

Donner's vision, here shown for the first time 'as originally conceived and intended', is a hotpotch of wanton fanboy acquiescence and extemporising humanity. It's more meaningful than the version you saw in 1980; and you'll have to forgive Margot Kidder in a towel for forgetting to dye her hair. Much has been made of Richard Lester's unwelcome slapstick in his version of Superman II, and one can't help but exhale comfortably in the knowledge that the Man of Steel no longer tosses cellophane badges at his foes, Metropolis civilians don't keep using the phone whilst being blown down the street, and someone's not afraid of telling Terence Stamp that bellowing "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" as surrealistic Vaudeville as often as possible isn't wisest of the choices.

Unfortunately, taken alone, this remains an impoverished curio, a malnourished footnote on the cutting room floor. Something Superman Returns fails to recognise aside from the fact it's too expensive, is that character isn't a boorish collection of snippets of momentary reconciliation. The 2006 version is a screenwriter's dream - there are three painfully defined acts, and Superman's 'dramatic journey' is perfunctory as pie. Whereas Donner's films understand mythos, but mythos in the context of reality. Superman spends the night with Lois because Superman wants to spend the night with Lois, not because the world was less complicated in 1978 or our hero had no tangible qest to embark upon. Compare a similar altercation in Singer's blockbuster in which Superman meets Lois on the roof of the Daily Planet: the interminable Kate Bosworth excepted, it is so entrenched in creating a chemistry between the two leads whilst affixing some timely relevance (Lois doesn't smoke, the world doesn't need Superman) it misses the point entirely. There is always a point, always avail, never character and, crucially, no jubilance.

Dick Donner understood how to have fun without juggling panda bears - that's why he opened Superman with a kid opening a comic book instead of staving in Christian allegories we're already aware of. That's why he has Lois Lane 'out' Clark Kent by shooting him instead of having his child. And that is why Donner's version of Superman II eclipses both Singer's and Lester's, even over the stilted pacing, glib conclusion, and weak villainy. Or it may just be that Lois Lane in a towel makes me all gooey.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006 


Shamelessly overdramatic and a little hokey (I'm referring to the doc, and certainly not Chinatown) this is still interesting viewing. Not too keen on Bob Towne, I'm guessing. And where's my sexually irrational horse when I need her?

Saturday, December 09, 2006 

Ballet and Bolsheviks.

It's been a funny old day. Riddled with self-anxiety I thought the best place to turn was the intrinsically charming duo of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger; those formerly 'out-of-step' Brits who've since enjoyed lollops of praise from Coppola, Lucas and Scorsese amongst others. This fact is cited quite a bit seemingly to expunge both the 'quaintness' and, in the case of The Red Shoes (arguably their most celebrated picture), the overwhelming ballet factor. If that's drawing in the arthouse crowd, brilliant. But there's more to be had from this work of art than glib reference. Scorsese calls it one of the most beautiful films in colour, because it is. It's achingly beautiful. And in a state of emotional fragility, it's impossible not to be affected, not to be moved in some way, by the fairy tale of Victoria Page. The fact that The Red Shoes includes a seventeen-minute ballet number is largely immaterial. That's not to say it's a gratuity (it isn't) but it's impossible not to be completely swept away by the sheer hyperbolic poignancy. Ballet is totally beyond me, but The Red Shoes isn't.

I was really quite shattered after my P&P fix for the day -I'm currently working my way through their boxset- though it affirmed my love for Anton Wallbrook. And so, perhaps rather erroneously, in my continued rehabilitation, I turned to another British institute: David Lean. Three hours of the chap. My History teacher decried Doctor Zhivago as "so overrated". The tagline sells the film as 'A Love Caught in the Fire of Revolution!'. Well, that isn't faintly true. Omar Sharif and Julie Christie barely spend the first hour of the film together, but that's entirely the point. I think it works in Zhivago's favour. It simply isn't Brief Encounter, nor is it trying to be. So, sure, the film is vast and loaded with scatty emotion -and it really can't be considered a favourable History lesson- but it's very readily accessible. A story this grand, filled with as many grand performances (Rod Steiger is the obvious highlight) is accelerated by Lean's bullied artistic drive. Stodgy and epic? Of course. Feel good and gorgeous? Why the hell not? It does gloriously skim over the horrors of Russia's governmental troubles between 1917-1923, however, but it will make you feel that love can be pure and tragic once in a while. And not just the other type.

Monday, December 04, 2006 


Lynch. Dern. Zabriskie. Breathless. Release this surrealistic pillow, and release it now!

Saturday, November 25, 2006 


Wow, they pull Marie Antoinette and The Prestige after a week and Pan's Labryinth won't even be showing. I'm not holding out much hope for Requiem. God bless Showcase Cinemas. My irony device just exploded.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 

RIP Robert Altman.

You may have noticed that I've been neglecting my duties recently but I felt it necessary to pay tribute to the passing of a true Hollywood great: Robert Altman. Without question, cinema has lost one of its last auteurs and mavericks (he's one of the few actually worthy of that usually peurile title). I'm in no position to comment at length on his tremendous and varied and filmography; but he is survived by his third wife, five children and a daring legacy.

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