Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wild Tales, Cinderella, and Magician: The Astounding Life and Work of Orson Welles

          Wild Pitches That Strike Home (for most audiences, it seems)
                                  Reviews by Ken Burke
 While there’s no great thematic interconnection among the 3 current films I’ve chosen to focus on this week they have an interesting commonality to me about trying something off-kilter from either our time or an earlier one:  The first to be explored, an Oscar nominee in the Foreign Language Film category, deals with stories of revenge and/or consequences that are presented in an hilarious manner but are uniformly disturbing in their contents; the second would seem to be embracing retrograde patriarchy but is packing the theaters with eager consumers, many of them the very children that are supposed to be indoctrinated along different lines of non-sexist-ideology; and the third is a documentary about one of the world’s great filmmakers although his working methods prevented him from finishing most of his projects as he envisioned them.  With that “continuity” defense in mind, let’s see what we can find in this mini-cluster of celebrations of the unexpected.
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                    Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón)
Here are 6 unrelated short stories—except for their common theme of despair, with strong doses of revenge in most of these plots—that make up this Argentinian feature film where individuals and bureaucracies cause irreparable harm (for the most part) even as it’s difficult not to laugh heartily at the chance and constructed human tragedies occurring on screen.

What Happens: In a frustrated—if not cynical—manner, one could ask “What doesn’t happen?” in Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes in Spanish), where 6 unrelated cinematic short stories displaying some of the worst aspects of human behavior are presented for our guilty-pleasure-comic-enjoyment:  (1) “Pasternak”—Isabel (María Marull) boards an airplane, begins chatting with a fellow passenger, then discovers that everyone on the plane has some connection to her ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Pasternak, all in some negative capacity; to their horror, they find that he’s the Chief Steward of this flight (he also bought all of their tickets, although why they accepted the trip eluded me) who’s locked himself in the cockpit, disabling the flight crew.  His therapist makes a desperate attempt to get Pasternak to change his apparent suicide plan, telling him that all of his problems were caused by his parents—but Gabriel apparently believes this already because our final shot is of these 2 old folks stunned in their back yard as a jetliner comes hurtling toward them.
(2) “The Rats” (“Las Ratas”)—On a rainy night at an empty diner, a customer (César Bordón) enters, making sarcastic or nasty comments to the waitress (Julieta Zylberberg) who recognizes him as a gangster from her hometown whose cruel actions caused her father to commit suicide and who tried to rape her mother; the cook (Rita Cortese) wants to feed him rat poison, the waitress objects but the cook secretly does it anyway.  To confound the waitress’ confusion, the guy’s teenage son enters, starts to share the food, but she takes it away.  Dad attacks her, then is stabbed repeatedly by the cook who has no hesitation about how to dispense justice and was once in prison with no regrets about going back.  (3) “The Strongest” (“El más feurte”)—On a winding mountain road, Diego (Leonardo Sbaraglia) speeds along in his luxury car until he has trouble passing Mario (Walter Donato) in his old, beat-up rig; when Diego finally does get around he tosses insults while driving away.  Later, though, Diego has a flat but before he can get the tires changed Mario catches up and begins smashing parts of Diego’s car before relieving himself on its windshield; Diego retaliates by pushing Mario’s car down a slope to the nearby river, then nearly drives off before coming back for a further attack.  Ultimately, Mario’s car ends up down the
embankment also, with both men struggling in it before it catches fire, totally burning them both to bones and ashes; when investigators arrive they declare it “a crime of passion.” (4) “Little Bomb” (“Bombita”)—Simón Fisher (Ricardo Darín), a city demolition expert, stops on the way home to get a cake for his daughter’s birthday but finds his car’s been towed while he’s in the shop, so when he goes to retrieve it with the argument that there was no indication of a no-parking-zone he gets nowhere with the attendant.  Later he complains to the city, demanding the fees be returned along with an apology, but the reply is that the ticket is all the evidence they need, no matter what he says.  He smashes the clerk’s window in anger, is arrested, which leads to being fired even as his wife files for divorce and full custody of their child.  His temper gets the better of him again while applying for another job, but even as he stalks out he finds his car towed once more (seemingly for no reason this time either), so after bailing it out he plants a bomb in the trunk which causes great damage to the tow lot when next it’s impounded.  This leads to a prison sentence; however, Simón’s now a local hero, nicknamed “Dynamite,” with the story ending on a jail visit from the now-proud-wife-and-child.  (5) “The Proposal” (“La Propuesta”)—Events unfold revealing that the son of a rich
family hit a pregnant woman with his car, then fled (her blood's still on the front license plate; both she and the baby died); the boy’s distraught but Dad Mauricio Pereyra Hamilton (Oscar Martínez)—shown in the photo with the next paragraph below—and his lawyer (Osmar Núñez) concoct a plan for the long-time-family gardener to take the rap for a payout; he agrees but then Mauricio finds that the lawyer wants a hefty fee to peddle this story, as does the prosecutor (Diego Velázquez) for going along with what he knows is a lie.  The son wants to confess, Dad’s fed up with the greed of the others, but it all gets resolved when the “justice”-keepers agree to take smaller amounts, the story ending abruptly with the worker being hustled by police past scandal-hungry-reporters as the dead woman’s husband suddenly attacks him with a hammer.  (6) “Until Death Do Us Part” (“Hasta que muerte nos separe”)—At a lavish wedding reception the new bride, Romina (Érica Rivas)—photo with the second paragraph below—discovers that her husband, Ariel (Diego Gentile), had an affair with an attractive co-worker whom he invited to the party; Romina’s devastated, leaves the event to go to the roof of the building, contemplating suicide, but she’s talked down by a cook from this hotel; when Ariel finds her she’s having sex with the cook, angrily tells her husband that his life is going to be a constant misery, then returns to the reception where she dances with the co-worker/former-mistress until they crash into a wall mirror, shattering it before Romina starts berating Ariel in front of everyone.  However, he finally comes over to her, they reconcile while dancing, then fall onto the cake table to make love right there as the guests hurriedly leave them to their business.

So What? Wild Tales was Argentina’s entry for the 2014 Foreign Language Film Oscar competition, making the final 5 before losing to Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski; review in our June 3, 2014 posting), a very strong category in which I’ve now only missed seeing Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze) from Estonia (If you’d like to look over my reviews of the other pair of excellent nominees, Leviathan [Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia] and Timbuktu [Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania], both posted on February 26, 2015, please help yourself), so while I can’t argue with the final award winner, Wild Tales is a great competitor, offering a disturbingly-delightful-collection of humans-at-our-worst-tales, none of which provide examples of decent living but all of which help us find outrageous humor in even the most grim situations.  Some other reviews of this film indicate that certain of its components are better than others, but I found them all to be constantly surprising, intense in their brief-but-impactful-presentations, and delightfully singular so that we’re not supposed to be astonished (leave that to the doc below about Orson Welles) as to how their events/characters/resolutions somehow interact in a grand, cosmic manner.  Possibly “Pasternak” would be the one most likely to catch you off-guard with its surprising concept, “The Proposal” is the most unnerving of the bunch in its depiction of easy corruption in contemporary Argentina (not at all unlike what you’d witness in Russia’s Leviathan), and “Until Death Do Us Part” (a result which seemed it might come before the newlyweds even made it to their honeymoon) is the most intense, due to Romina’s marvelously-staged-breakdown-and-eventual-recovery, but each episode has its own “charm,” even as things end very badly for some or all of the involved major characters.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Once they get their brief moment in the spotlight at the various U.S. awards ceremonies, foreign-language-films often disappear from viewing opportunities in our smaller cities and more-rural-areas (as for those of you reading this outside of the U.S. and Canada I don’t know if your situations are similar, but I feel they might be especially for readers of this blog, where I’ve hardly made any impact in predominantly-Spanish-speaking-countries, so readers of Two Guys’ patter outside of northern North America may have an even harder time getting to see films from Latin America); therefore, Wild Tales might only pop up in your region because of its connections to famous Spaniard director Pedro Almodóvar, one of its many producers, but if you do get a chance to see it on a large screen or through some sort of video or download option I highly encourage you to do so, as long as what I’ve revealed about it doesn’t leave you with such a repulsive taste that you have no interest in these various tales of human depravity.  If you’re intrigued by what it offers, though, you might agree with me that a proper Musical Metaphor to put you in mind for its special “delights” is The Doors’ “People Are Strange” (from the 1967 album Strange Days) at 171w, where my wonderful wife, Nina, will likely be pleased because this very-old-school-music-video is mostly just midshots and closeups of Jim Morrison singing (warning: you may have to pump up the audio a bit), a distant removal from how this musical/visual art form has evolved into the realm of the more unique, unexpected approaches that also characterize the off-kilter-actions that we witness in the strange, wild world explored by writer-director Szifrón in Wild Tales.
(Aspiring Toward) Short(er) Takes:

                                  Cinderella (Kenneth Branagh)

“Tale as old as time …,” oops!  That’s another animated fairy tale about to be redone by Disney as live-action; this current in-house Disney remake is the classic tale of a decent young woman treated horribly by her step-family until she catches the eye of ready-for-a-bride Prince Kit, slides her foot easily back into that glass shoe, then lives happily ever after.
What Happens: Well, just what you’d expect if you know the original Disney animated version of this story (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson; 1950) or the fairy tale that it’s based on (retold in various forms by Charles Perrault [1697], the Brother Grimm [1812]—their version is more like the one used in Into the Woods, also recently brought to screen by Disney [Rob Marshall; review in our January 9, 2015 posting]and others):  a sweet and wonderful young woman, Ella (Lily James, looking like a young Jessica Lange to me but more-in-the-know-viewers will recognize her from PBS’ Downton Abbey [thanks to Nina for clueing me in), is treated terribly by her connivingly-wicked-stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and addled-brained-stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera); her only friends are her animal companions as she’s reduced to servant status by her family, sleeping by the cinder-filled-fireplace which generates a new nickname for her; a majestic ball is thrown by the kingdom’s Prince Kit (Richard Madden)—I don’t think he’s ever referred to as Prince Charming here—in order for him to find a wife; Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) suddenly appears, brandishes her magic wand to turn the ragamuffin girl into a shimmering beauty in glass shoes (I never did understand why such high-heeled-foot-ware is referred to as “slippers,” except in the sense that they slip so easily [magically] only onto one pair of feet) but with the requirement that she return home by midnight; Cindy (I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her that, now that she’s a queen and all) and the Prince quickly fall in love but she has to leave before he can do any proposing; after a lengthy search throughout the kingdom the proper fit of shoe and foot leads to a royal marriage, with shame (and departure from the land) to the step-family for their former treatment of their now-regal-relative.

 We do get some enhancement in this new live-action-version, in that a short-but-effective bit of time is spent showing how young child Ella’s life is so idyllic with her parents but then increases exponentially in sorrow as first Mother (Hayley Atwell), then Father (Ben Chaplin), die off, leaving the now-adolescent-Ella with her materialistically-minded stepmother and what offers to be a life of misery, given that Ella’s determined to stay in the traditional family homestead in memory of her beloved parents even though she’s now being treated so terribly.  We also get a little hint toward the end of this movie as to why the stepmother’s so greedy and cruel (including her plot with the Grand Duke [Stellan Skarsgård] to keep Ella away from the Prince so that a commoner won’t taint their kingdom, allowing the young royal to marry an appropriate princess from another country), but unlike in Disney’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1959) into Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014; review in our June 6, 2014 posting)—where the once-misunderstood-evil-fairy (Angelina Jolie) is given a well-elaborated backstory to explain her temporary turn to wickedness before finding a new future with Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning)—we really don’t get much understanding of what soured Lady Tremaine on life so much, nor do we discover any particular reason for sympathy toward her or her obnoxious daughters (although having 2 husbands die on this grim matriarch might well have something to do with her haughty pickle-puss-mood as she clandestinely seeks a comfortable life for herself and her offspring).  So, all in all, this is pretty much Cinderella as we’ve always known the story, although now with marvelously-designed costumes and CGI effects that are more visually-dazzling than the hand-drawn-version of this fairytale from so very long ago (especially in the minds of the younger viewers of this new presentation, where 1950 probably sounds like the Middle Ages).

So What? Star Trek encourages us to “Live long and prosper” (locally, in my San Francisco area, Kaiser Permanente HMO is essentially using the same tag line in their ads); this new Cinderella provides a message of “Have courage and be kind,” the parting request from Cinderella’s dying mother.  This mantra fortifies her daughter for the misery that lies ahead, with the sense that such noble suffering is rewarded with love, wealth, and power (when used judiciously of course, as the final voiceover from the Fairy Godmother tells us how wisely-wonderful Ella and Kit were as monarchs for their tiny kingdom), although coincidence and magic became necessary elements in her salvation as well.  You’ll just have to decide for yourself (and with your children, if applicable—I just have cats, who focus on sleeping) whether this all amounts to a positive encouragement for people to bear well their burdens in order to maintain their own integrity even in the face of oppression or whether the underlying message is that “heavenly” rewards (even on Earth) await those who properly endure their suffering (an interpretation that could easily be considered advocacy for Christian theology, which has been embraced by some and rejected/parodied by others, including in this video where Cinderella [Sarah Michelle Gellar] rap-battles Belle [Whitney Avalon] from Beauty and the Beast [Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise; 1991] about their clash of pro-and-con-feminist messages).

Bottom Line Final Comments: While I had a basically “Ho-hum, here we go again with the rescued-by-a-prince-story” response to this movie (although the visuals are very striking, the acting is effectively appropriate to the characters, and the computer-generated-companion-mice are quite cute) it continues Disney’s financially-successful-trend of retelling its animated classics with live actors (Alice in Wonderland [Tim Burton, 2010], Maleficent, with versions of Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo [Ben Sharpsteen, 1941], and The Jungle Book [Reitherman, 1967] in the works), as Cinderella took in $132 million worldwide ($25 million in China) in its debut weekend, $70.1 million of that from our domestic (U.S., Canada) market*, with 68% of that latter crowd being female, or, cut in different ways, 66% families, 31% of the attendees as 11 or younger (although the seemingly-retro-content has sparked complaints that the new Cindy is just like the old one: decent and humble but dependent on a fairy godmother and a husband to make her life complete rather than the more forward-leaning-females we’ve seen recently from Disney in Maleficent and Frozen [Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013; review in our January 24, 2014 posting.  If you’d rather have another dose of Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, though, that’s also available if you get to your Cinderella screening on time because they’re back in a pre-feature animated short (Can I still call that a cartoon?), Frozen Fever (Buck, Lee), about mishaps around a surprise birthday party for Anna]).  As a Musical Metaphor for this new Cinderella I initially thought of using the “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” enchantment song from the original Disney version, given how closely in most areas the new one reflects upon the older (so much so that this song is part of the new movie’s closing-credits-soundtrack); however, given that the narrative of this contemporary Cinderella is so old-school (many would say “conventional”—or worse), I thought I’d be a bit more unexpected (but still old-school) with my chosen tune, so I’ll offer you “Little Deuce Coupe” by The Beach Boys at com/watch?v=AsaTtfRKJdg, because while Brian, Mike, and company’s ride has a flat head mill, a competition clutch, with 4 on the floor vs. Cinderella’s tricked-out-pumpkin, transformed mice, lizards, and goose they both have the “fastest set of wheels in town,” they both know that what they love “purrs like a kitten,” and, regarding Cinderella’s eventual union with new King Kit, they’ve all “got the pink slip, daddy,” so sing along if you like, even if it’s way past midnight.

*On a related box-office note, American Sniper (Clint Eastwood; review in our January 29, 2015 posting) has now become the top domestic money-earner of 2014 releases, finally beating out The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 (Francis Lawrence; review in our November 26, 2014 posting), even though we're now well in 2015, but the box-office-tabulators are now doing their tallies this way rather than limiting the calculations to the strict calendar year to track income.
              Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work
              of Orson Welles (Chuck Workman)
Obviously, this is a biography of great cinematic auteur Welles, tracing his accomplishments from childhood prodigy to NYC sensation on stage and radio (performing and directing) to the enormous impact and fallout from Citizen Kane, which guaranteed him legendary status even as its cultural-magnitude-residue haunted Welles’ cinematic career, with its many difficulties, to its inevitable end.
What Happens: My usual analytical structure for these reviews doesn’t really seem very necessary for a bio-documentary that spans a man’s life (in an effectively-concise 91 min.) with a direct-chronological-outline, but if you need a compressed version of it:  Orson Welles was born in Wisconsin in 1915; left motherless, with an alcoholic father by age 9; gifted with an amazing mind (but no empathetic skills toward others) and influences from Expressionism that found early success with conception, execution, and acting for the stage in Ireland and Illinois; made quick impact in young adulthood with the Federal Theatre Project, as well as its Negro Theatre Unit, then the Mercury Theatre Players which he brought to weekly national radio, including the famous “War of the Worlds” CBS radio broadcast, leading to an audacious-artistic-freedom-movie-studio-contract that culminated with Citizen Kane at age 26; celebrated for a lifetime of work in the theatre (which helped pay some of the bills for many well-conceived-but-unfinished film projects), a few additional Hollywood films (not edited as he intended), several independent films that show great creativity with limited budgets but little financial gain, and a later-life-mass-media-presence that alternated between high-honor and self-parody.  As with the basic narrative facts of Citizen Kane (which are largely summarized in the almost-opening-newsreel-obituary—itself a parody of classic-Hollywood-era-informational-summaries), these recapped highlights of Welles’ life are the foundational bones onto which this documentary experience is built but what really matters are the nuances that enrich the substructure, revealed in … Kane through the variously-conflicting-testimonies to the unifying reporter character, revealed in Magician … through an enormous amount of old clips pulled together in fabulous fashion by master-editor Workman to help a contemporary audience who may not really know much about Welles’s extensive, varied, multifaceted career understand what enormous creative potential “welled” up within him, yet how tragically those visions were compromised or never even realized until his death in 1985 because of his difficulties with getting financing for ideas that didn’t scream “box-office payday” as well as his famous artistic temperament which constantly kept him on the outer fringes of the studio system, with the money-men at the top always leery that he’d burden them with another bad-publicity-scandal like the infamous one with William Randolph Hearst that so severely limited … Kane’s presence back in 1941, nearly resulting in the destruction of that negative before there’d even be a chance for it to make the long-lasting-impact that it has, even to the present day.  Welles' life truly was astonishing.

So What? As with the biography of Liv Ullman’s acting career and her personal intersections with famed director Ingmar Bergman, Liv & Ingmar (Dheeraj Akolkar, 2012; review in our January 9, 2014 posting), I can’t be entirely objective where Welles is concerned because I hold him in such high regard as an artist (as I do Bergman and Ullman), so it would take a lousy retelling of his life for me not to be enthralled by seeing again what I so respect him for.  In my opinion, Citizen Kane is still the best film ever made, despite the international critics and directors polled every 10 years by the British film journal, Sight and Sound, who finally ended … Kane’s superiority from 1962-2011 by dropping Welles’ masterpiece to #2 of these highly-respected-rankings in 2012 in favor of Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock,1958),* while the 1998 re-edited version of Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958) by Walter Murch, following the extensive notes sent to Universal Studios by Welles, also stands as one of the great on-screen-accomplishments, while the rest of Welles’ career is sadly made up mostly of visions toward rather than visions of what he intended (The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942; The Trial, 1962) or brilliant obscurities (Macbeth, 1948; Othello, 1952; Chimes at Midnight, 1965).  True, just as Welles would still be honored if he did nothing else but Citizen Kane, Michelangelo would likewise be renowned if he’d only done the Sistine Chapel frescoes (my candidate for Best. Painting. Ever. based on scope, quality, visual power, and [restored] color vibrancy), but, as with Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Pollack, and others like them, Michelangelo was able to offer an enthralling body of work for future generations to admire and learn from, whereas, to me, Welles is more like Leonardo da Vinci, who also had an abundance of talents but few surviving paintings, published works, functioning inventions or discoveries in his lifetime in many areas of engineering and science that had direct influence on immediately-succeeding-generations to show for all of that brilliance (although I know I’ll get arguments on these claims from da Vinci enthusiasts); I’ll just have to hope that Welles is judged in future centuries as da Vinci is now, a Renaissance-man-conceptual-genius with some archived masterworks (and a lot of praise for Welles’ stage acting but little evidence of such beyond his film appearances) to prove that his talents were both practical and theoretical even though much of his reputation rests on concepts more so than a wealth of tangible results.

*You can check this site to see that Citizen Kane has appeared as part of the Top Ten in 6 of the 7 Sight and Sound polls since 1952 (but with the best overall rankings of any film, #1 in 5 of those S&S tallies, #2 in the most recent one), tied with another masterpiece, The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) at 6 poll rankings, with only Rules of the Game (La Regle du Jeu) (Jean Renoir, 1939) appearing within the Top Ten of all 7 of their polls.  Given this sort of impact that Welles had as a film director (despite his relatively-small-output of relatively-finished-works), it’s nice to see other directors—Peter Bogdanovich, Julie Taymor, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin, Richard Linklater—offer insights on him during the course of this smoothly-paced, highly-informative documentary, well-illustrated with voiceover-narration, archival photos, and clips of films made by Welles, those featuring him as an actor, or others as fictionalized versions of his life and times.  For me, the best example is from Touch of Evil, where Marlene Dietrich’s prostitute character, Tanya, offers a 2-line "eulogy" for Welles’ character, the corrupt cop Hank Quenlan.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Accordingly, I’ll leave my comments on Magician … with an offbeat “Musical Metaphor” in that it’s aural but focused on speech, sound effects, and vocal performance distortions to achieve its still-effective-impact, a recording of The Mercury Theatre on the Air’s radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds at com/watch?v=OzC3 Fg_rRJM, presented as a newscast interrupting a musical program on October 30, 1938 as a pre-Halloween scarefest about deadly Martians invading Earth, landing at Grover’s Mill, NJ.  You have to devote a hefty 55:51 to hear the whole experience, but it’s worth it to appreciate the flawless concept and execution so characteristic of the multimedia artist celebrated so successfully in Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.
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Here’s some more information about Wild Tales: (44:09 press conference for Wild Tales from the 2014 Cannes Film Festival with producers Hugo Sigman and Agustín Almodóvar; director Damián Szifrón; actors María Marull, Oscar Martínez, Ricardo Darín, Érica Rivas, and Leonardo Sbaraglia)

Here’s some more information about Cinderella: (9:51 compressed version of the Disney animated Cinderella, a good argument that the full version of the older movie is truly a musical in that all of these scenes are dominated by songs which carry the narrative in place of more conventional dialogue, as a true musical should do at least in several of its scenes—or just about all of them, as is the case in this compression)

Here’s some more information about Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles: (3:38:50 interview with Orson Welles [more than twice the length of the Magician … documentary] by Peter Bogdanovich, recorded at various times from 1969 to 1972, audio only though; you’d have to have a lot of free time to be able to listen to all of this but you might want to skip around in it to hear two great contributors to the cinema sharing priceless commentary [unfortunately, a little bit of the recording quality isn’t too great])

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Nice review on the new Orson Wells biography. I hope it makes it to the "smaller cities" as I too prefer the shared audience experience. While I am too young to have heard his War of the Worlds live on the radio, it would have been interesting to have witnessed such a culturally significant event, one of the first examples of media's enormous potential to influence our lives.

    It's interesting that many of us just shared another moment watching film makers intersect the real world through HBO's Robert Durst mini-series The Jinx (from Andrew Jarecki who also filmed 2010's "All Good Things" on the subject). "Jinx" was powerful investigative journalism even before it exploded on the front page this week.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for your comment, although San Antonio wasn't what I had in mind when thinking of "smaller cities"; however, theater-programmer mentality/marketing decisions may be the more critical factor here than population.

    I too would liked to have directly experienced the War of the Worlds broadcast, although I'm still amazed that those who were caught up in Welles' Halloween prank didn't realize there was something wrong with the situation when only one major radio network was carrying that "news" while the others continued with normal entertainment programming (I guess the CBS News Dept. had greater credibility in those days than we have now with the various Dan Rather/Brian Williams problems of recent years). Ken

  3. Caught a double feature yesterday, Wild Tales and the new teenage girl in trouble horror film It Follows. Clearly Wild Tales is the superior film and script, but because of sub-titles it will reach a small audience. Meanwhile the low budget and largely ridiculous It Follows has opened in multiplexes everywhere. Teenage sex (very casually portrayed in attitude) passes on the curse. The shape shifting bad guy can only slowly walk to the victim, so the teenagers escape by running across the street, biking to the park or finally driving to the lake to have a breather. How about jumping a plane or going on a cruise? Oh well, sequels are sure to exploit the somewhat twisted Blair Witch formula. At least it's not "found footage" style and has a touch of ethics thrown in when it comes time to pick the next sex partner to pass on the curse.

  4. Hi rj, Thanks for the comments, with another justification for me not getting around to It Follows. I can only hope that Wild Tales finds a bit of an audience; I have a good friend from Argentina who goes back to visit regularly so I encouraged him to see it. He tells me that it's a marvelous collection of insights into ongoing social problems in the country at present, all handled in a nicely symbolic way except for the car-towing story which he says is almost factual in the sense that there are roving tow-trucks all over Buenos Aires ready to pounce on any supposed infraction so that they can collect the recovery fees, with little if any help from the authorities. Ken

  5. Great to have your views as ever Ken - I really wanted to like this film, but there is something to leaden and clunky about non-Shakespeare Branagh films they really p*ss me off. And those opening scenes were completely maudlin...yes, I completely agree with you that Cinderella needs that backstory to be told, but put some pizzaz in the sugar! At least it makes the villainous stepfamily stand out as polar opposites more clearly.

    As ever, love your views and great to have the comparisons with the older version and Maleficent (which I haven't seen).

  6. Hi Jason (in case anyone thinks I'm clairvoyant, Jason Day--from England--and I are connected via previous LinkedIn messages), Thanks for the comment; while I was a bit more generous than you regarding the new Cinderella, I understand the reasons for your reactions. Feel free to include a link to your reviews here in the future, but for now I'll put it in: Jason Day Cinderella review. Hope to hear from you again in these comments; I'll do the same at your site. Ken


  7. This is really a wonderful post.

  8. Hi Anonymous, Thanks for the positive reinforcement. Ken