Jaynes Your Way

Here are my thoughts about films, life, and what not. If you don't like them I'll give your money back.

#5 I'll bet you write beautiful letters.

18 July, 2008

Desk Set (1957)

I know. I just railed against typical romantic comedies in an earlier post, but for some reason I love the simplicity and typical romanticism of “Desk Set.“ (I think the real question should be “Chris why are you watching so many girly movies?”) I started watching “Desk Set” because I love Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as a couple. They are the original Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks--sweet without being saccharine.

Richard Sumner (Tracy) is a efficiency expert brought in by Federal Broadcast Company to make their research department more modern. Sumner is the inventor of EMERAC, which is a nod to the original thinking machine the ENIAC. Bunny Wilson (Hepburn) is in charge of the research department—see any conflict a brewing? (Similar to the conflicts-of-interest-but-I’ll-love-you-anyway that made “You’ve got Mail” interesting.)

Hepburn really brings a sense of back off to the character. Her quick wit and incredible intelligence easily makes her a force to reckoned with, and to be admired, but be careful because she'll bite. Tracy plays the, of course, clueless man that realizes that he can love a woman more than a computer, but Bunny has been seeing a guy for seven-ish years, but he isn’t Mr. Right. Yet she still waits on him, but notices Sumner...and so forth.

The plot is just a vehicle so we can see the chemistry between Tracy and Hepburn, which was shared off screen as well--apparently. The comedy and issue of a machine replacing human workers are just bonuses. The latter is even more poignant in the midst of our current financial nightmare. Even if jobs come back to American soil, whose to say they wouldn't be replaced by machines or that companies could find a bank willing to back a loan?

I’ll go ahead and spoil this: the machine is no match for Hepburn, but I would still place a bet on her today.

#4 Want to know how I got these scars?

16 July, 2008

(No Spoilers)

I am choosing to be brief not because I am sleepy, but my viewing was a fortunate one with a great crowd and the movie was what it should have been for me, it might not be for you and I don't want my words to ruin what it could be...

Be prepared to be uncomfortable: you aren't safe. It's not simply about people being two faced or masked, but where the coin lands. If it does. There are loud performances, but watch for those loud gestures from the people you wouldn't think--who do what should have been done ten minutes ago. People will become what is needed, despite what that means.

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No reward is worth this...

15 July, 2008

No time for a proper blog today. After work I made time to I watch "Hidden Fortress", which, if you know anything about Akira Kurosawa, was a long, but great movie. And I’m about to head to the Buford Imax because my friend Adam scored tickets to a sneak preview of “The Dark Knight.” Updates on both movies tomorrow. I have a feeling I will be pondering about homages, Star Wars, heroes and performances.

I’ll leave you with this clip:

#3 10 Questions for the Dali Lama

14 July, 2008

10 questions for the Dalai Lama (2006)

Rick Ray narrates, directs, edits and takes up most of the screen time in the 2006 documentary “10 questions for the Dali Lama.” Normally the producer of the shows, Mr Ray is given the opportunity to interview the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, but the catch is he is only granted 10 questions. I can’t imagine sitting down in front of such an intellectual and spiritual man and only being allowed to ask 10 questions. Rick Hill is no fool and weaves the 10 questions in and out of a pseudo-presentation of the history of the Buddhist Culture.

I have nothing but respect for the Dalai Lama. I’ve read some of his books, but I had never understood the amount of destruction China has brought on the Buddhist culture. It really is cultural genocide. A simple digital camera captures the aftermath of the ongoing “invasion.”

China will be putting on its best efforts to control the impending demonstrations that will plague the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. China’s ability to change history to their versions seems like the plot Orwell’s 1984. China even censored Google! Google!

I believe we can learn a lot from the Dalai Lama’s patience and forgiveness with a country that has killed over a million of his countrymen and destroyed their history. Hill makes it very clear that no one has come to the rescue of Tibet because there are no economic interests to, but everyone wants to be in business with China.

The images of the exiled and impoverished people are shot beautifully, and speak louder than Mr. Ray’s monotonous reading of his own, at times, poignant thoughts of the journey. Mr. Ray’s motivation is in the right place, but he is simply a boring narrator. I can’t think of a better job for Morgan Freeman. Even Richard Gere!

The real star of the movie is Tinzin Gyatzo’s personality. He always has a huge smile on his face, and is easy to crack his charming laugh. The documentary show several of the Dalai Lama’s appearances around the world, and everywhere he goes he is genuinely interested in the people he meets. I really appreciate documentaries that get those behind-the-scenes looks at a person’s life AND don’t reveal huge dark secrets. The peering into His Holiness’s private life only makes him more human. He was 15 when China invaded Tibet and he and his family were forced to flee into exile. I was worried about a car at 15, while he was worried about the future of his family and nation. I can’t even imagine the burden he had to deal with.

I would like to say, “run out and watch this film,” but it’s not the film I want you to see. It’s the focus of the film, the Dalai Lama. If anything just read up on the situation. This film is the “end” of Ray’s journey, but it should really be the beginning of all of ours.


#2 Muppets from Space

13 July, 2008

News flash: Gonzo is, weird is too strong of a word for such a lovable guy, unique. The long beaked character from the mind of Jim Henson is the focus of “Muppets from Space,” though everyone is present: Kermit, Piggy, the Swedish Chef, Rizzo, and Pepe the Prawn. That is the problem. A slow panning shot of the living room photo-shelf shows that everyone, even Miss Piggy, has a family. Everyone except Gonzo, who has nightmares that Noah won’t let him on the Ark because there is only one of him in the world. Isn’t this the perfect metaphor for conformity? If you don’t fit in you better have brought an umbrella. Gonzo spends the movie trying to find his family, and I'll give you one guess where they are from.

The Muppets might be childish, but it is still side-splittingly clever. “Muppets from Space” makes comedy seem easy, but don’t be mistaken. Only a rat with a Brooklyn accent can get laughs from smart-ass comments like, “Terrible” to the question “No nostrils. How do you [Gonzo] smell?” from a chubby Jeffrey Tambor playing the head of a secret government agency.

This spoof style movie shies from being overtly in your face like the Naked Gun series and Date Movie. (Keep an eye out for the “Independence Day” reference, and countless other films.) The balance of insanity and reality is blurred enough to make a bear working for the government plausible.

Surprisingly, realism is derived from the lack of computer graphics. The Henson studio was still showing its mastery of miniatures, which feel more real because they are actually tangible. Think of “Empire Strikes Back” compared to “The Phantom Menace.” I’m still amazed at how real the former looks. We need to bring back miniatures to the cinemas.

Basically, you can never go wrong with a Muppet movie. It’s not a French new wave film, but it is actually quite deep on several levels. Or you could simply stay on the ground level and enjoy the laughs. I still have fond memories of going to see “A Muppets Christmas Carol” at a theater when I was 8. The Muppet movies are honest enough, and provide enough characters, literally, to identify with through humor or even sympathy. I became so involved in "Muppets from Space" that when the credits rolled I was mad because I realized there are several things missing in my life:

• Not only do I not have a sound track in my live, but even if I did it would never have the great 70’s music this movie did.

• I’ve never had a suit-wearing bear as a co-worker

• I need to hire a live-in, Swedish Chef.

# 1 A Little Romance

12 July, 2008

A Little Romance (1979)

"A Little Romance" was not my first choice of films for a Thursday night, but after watching it, realizing I enjoyed it immensely, I questioned why I was so reticent. Maybe because it was under the genre of "Romantic Comedy?" Yes, but why did this preclude me from, at the very lest, acting interested in it? Lately, movies such as: “50 First Dates”, “27 Dresses”, “What Happens in Vegas” have left guy viewers, and ladies, with a bad taste in their mouths. The cliché of the girl dragging her guy to romantic movies has somehow became a horrible nightmare instead of a charming joke. Why can’t guys be dragged to movies like “The Apartment” or “His Girl Friday?” After a while we would probably be running to these movies.

The new installments of romance are just too predictably safe, as much as it is saying that about them. The guy and the girl always get together. No matter what! Pixar couldn’t even escape this in “Wall-E.” Even if there is any doubt, the final few minutes of a movie will magically produce a happy ending to the audience that, apparently, requires it. Classic movies keep you guessing if two would be lovers will wind up together-- “Casablanca.” The other thing that seems so illogical about these new romantic movies is that the characters have been in bad relationships before, usually more than a few, but they still have that child like hope that there is a prince charming or Cinderella out there for them. Really? In reality that person would have settled for a wicked stepsister or, if really desperate, one of those house mice. Thanks eHarmony. This maybe-this-time syndrome is the opiate to the dating unfortunate, but does it make sense for the whole of movie going audiences? Why can’t we be offered endings like “Once?”

George Roy Hill, director of “A Little Romance,” avoids a lot of these problems by casting two children as the leads. Brilliant! When Daniel and Lauren meet for the first time it is believable that she starts to fall for him--but not really fall, it seems more like playtime. A 20 something woman, today, who has had years of pick up lines thrown at her would more than likely hurl when presented with “Call me Bogey. Why? Because they belong together,” which is what Daniel says to Lauren's on their first meeting. Lauren, Diane Lane in her first role, finds this charming because she has never been given so much attention, and there are really no strings attached--they are minors. The following rendezvous works because they are, essentially, on a play date, which are what real dates should be like. To take off some of the romantic comedy edge, Hill weaves in elements of slapstick through the veteran actor Laurence Olivier whose greatly need humor provides humor not derived from the relationship between Lauren and Daniel.

At first this film seems to have an unresolved issue with classic movies. A hack director in the movie is the constant butt of jokes because he tries too hard--maybe a little autobiography from Hill? No, Daniel is a nascent cinephile that could be a younger Hill. Daniel may seem every movie that he can, but he still has discerning taste, especially when it comes to idolizing actors like Humphrey Bogart and Paul Newman. I thought this was just French snobbery showing its preference for the classics, but Hill directed most of the movies that are clipped in “A Little Romance”. Is this hubris, bragging, or maybe just a nudge to revisit some classics like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?” I think the later, but what do I know? “I can’t swim,” but I took the plunge on this movie and survived...

Well, the summer of '08 was suppose to be my great catching up time with movies before I started a masters in Cinema Studies this fall, but getting married, working, and moving sort of got in the way. I could watch a movie here and there, but it was sporadic, at best. When I did watch a movie, just to watch it, I sort of felt like cheating. Does a "film snob" really just watch movies? I knew that I needed to keep a film journal since I was no longer writing my column, which I tried to keep one, but if you don't show it to anyone there is no accountability. Just guilt.

So internet, get ready for my humble thoughts on the films I will be watching over the next few years (hopefully a longer time).

Some rules, more for my part.
Post have to be at least 100 words.
I can't go 4 days past a movie viewing with out posting.
Humph, cough. Yea I have a problem that needs to be worked on. Nothing like embarrassing yourself in front of other because you don't know the difference between to and too.