joelmarquez

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Everything posted by joelmarquez

  1. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

    One of the many things I love about this movie is that the central dramatic conflict is two opposing world views, embodied and expressed by the lovers in the story. Most of these movies -end- with a wedding. This one practically begins with a wedding. But that's only the beginning of the story, because it's only after they get married that the conflicts occur. The theme is "How should men and women connect with each other?" Adam, the hero, thinks he believes they should be forceful and just take what they want. Milly, the heroine, thinks she believes they should be genteel and civilized, following rules, and turning the other cheek. The resolution comes when they come to an understanding about their mistaken premises, as well as the realization that the best aspects of their premises are to be embraced. Betsy, I'm wondering what you thought of the Quiet Man, the John Wayne movie. The sense of life, vis a vis the masculine/feminine relationship, feels similar to 7brides/7brothers.
  2. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Well, I finally saw it. I'll restrict my comments here to how it succeeds as cinematic dance, but just as an aside, it is indeed a very good movie and well worth watching. 7Bf7B is not primarily a dance film. It's a movie musical typical of the 1950's MGM style. Technicolor, widescreen, and a genial, light touch. With a few notable exceptions, dance does not move the story forward, dialogue and songs do. The notable exception is the famous barn raising dance, which to me is one of the purest examples of dance/cinema I can think of. The director, Stanely Donen, has a story to tell. The brothers attempt to win the hearts of the townwomen, but have rivals for their affection. The dance itself is an escalating series of "I can do that," and "Well, I can do that better" competitions between the men, who try to prove themselves in front of the women who judge them, by means of their dance excellence. And because there is a story to tell, the audience has to know where everything is. We have to see the flow of action. Therefore, every shot is a full sized shot, there are no closeups or mediums that separate us from the environment. There is only minimal editing, but only between blocks of action. The cuts don't occur within a single action. We get to see the whole thing. This is a truly well-crafted scene, where everything works. The dance tells the story, the performers reveal distinctly individual character through dance movement, and the camera choices, while not as groundbreaking as something like An American in Paris, or West Side Story, have the virtue of being unobstrusive, allowing us to experience the dance. It's justifiably one of the most well-regarded and famous dance sequences in movie history.
  3. I just saw it and am about to rave over it. I'm a little surprised it's not up here already, though.
  4. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Thanks for your suggestions everyone. I have a lot of movies to look through. I'll probably put some of those MGM musicals on first, like An American in Paris, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Don't remember if Brigadoon was MGM, but that'll be a high priority also. I have seen White Nights and and the original Shall We Dance (well, the Japanese original, though I've also seen the Fred and Ginger movie with the same name too). White Nights is a very very good movie, and I seem to recall the moving camera following the Hines/Baryshnikov tap vs. ballet duel that was noteworthy. Btw Ed, I'm not just looking for a movie that has dance elements in it, but movies that capture dance in a way that can only be done with cinematic devices. Not just flashy camera moves or editing or pretty photography, but devices that enhance the dance presentation.
  5. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Okay, I put on the Moulin Rouge DVD and took a look at the Roxanne Tango again. I was absolutely right in my initial judgement. It is, in fact, beautifully photographed. It's thematically ambitious, attempting to present the dramatic conflict, (Ewan McGregor's love and trust vs. his jealousy at Nicole Kidman's Faustian bargain), by the means of a Tango between two company members. It's a nice idea, showing a character's inner torment by means of a dance by two external characters. But I have to say that while the presentation is successful, that is, you get the point... the -dance- is a failure. Not because of the performances, but because you don't see the dance. You get flashing images, lasting less than 1-2 seconds each, not more than a third of the flashes focusing on the dance, the other two thirds showing various reaction shots of the company and Ewan McGregor. I actually felt bad for the dancers, because it's clear that they put a lot into the choreography, but you can't see any of it. The choppy editing destroys any kind of dance continuity. Also, take a look at the sequence after the two tango-ists separate, and tell me if you have any idea where they are. They're shot in singles, which causes you to lose any sense of their relationship to each other. They could be right next to each other, or they could be on opposite sides of the room. And they're also shot in medium close-up, which is about the middle of the torso and up. You see them emoting, but you don't see them dancing. Now, as a contrast to this, I took a look at disc 2 again, which has a stand-alone edit of the tango sequence, edited specifically to be a stand-alone piece. It's somewhat better, because the point of the edit is to highlight the dance. The shots are longer (well, 3-4 seconds instead of 1-2 anyway), and the frame is more loose, so you can see the entire body for longer periods of time. Seeing the two sequences side-by-side, Baz Luhrmann's thinking is understandable. He has a story he has to tell, and he has to sacrifice the integrity of the dance in order to service the story, and therefore, he chops up the dance in order to insert the story moments. I didn't listen to the commentary tracks this time out, but I think I remember him saying this very thing when I heard it the first time. Still, you might say that it's as if the very nature of this sequence, the need to cram three elements into the one space (Nicole Kidman and her evil benefactor, Ewan McGregor's brooding walk, and the tango itself), lessens the power of the centerpiece, which is the dance. I don't believe that. I think the main problem of the sequence is not its dramatic ambition, but its cinematic style. I think his intention was to bombard the viewer with a rush of images, not allowing anyone to focus on any one thing, until they all collide together into some kind of synthesis. Well, okay... I guess it worked, and everyone got the point, but to my mind, it was really frustrating because I kept wanting to stay with the dancers... I think that choppy style is disintegrating by nature, while the dance it was trying to capture had the power to integrate (movement with emotion). Together, they clash. But that's the director's choice, and he was certainly consistent throughout the movie with that style.
  6. anyone know any good dance movies?

    So am I. I've never seen it. Maybe I'll just watch that and Brigadoon in the same sitting.
  7. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Actually, I wouldn't reject Flashdance and Fame for being non-cinematic. They clearly are. I wouldn't even reject them for being bad movies. They're not. They're actually good movies, even though I have some reservations about them, which is a separate discussion. I'm just looking for some examples of movies that are expert at presenting dance in a way that lets you truly experience the fullness of the dance in a particularly cinematic way. I'm not against quick editing per se, but if it's disorienting and makes you lose the spatial geometry and full body movement that's so integral to experiencing a dance, then it's out. (I mean "out" in the context of the discussion, but it could still be an enjoyable movie. And even though I bitch about certain things, I still liked Chicago, and I -loved- Moulin Rouge.) I'm also not against a restrained camera style, (think Donald O'Connor's Make 'em Laugh number in Singin' in the Rain), where the camera just sits there. It has the benefit of putting -everything- on the dance performance, but it's also not cinematic and you'd get exactly the same experience if you were on the set that day, watching the number from a chair. It doesn't make it bad, just limited. That's why I pointed to West Side Story. The first six minutes of that movie are some of the most beautiful cinema (qua cinema) I've ever seen. And I wonder if there's a Citizen Kane of dance movies, the kind of movie that changes the vocabulary of your medium forever. But I haven't seen enough movies to say if WSS is it. Interestingly, Robert Wise, the director of WSS, was the editor of Citizen Kane as well. (He also directed the first Star Trek movie, but that's a complete non sequitur.)
  8. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Actually, when I use the term "cinematic," I just mean the expert use of the language of cinema to tell a story in a way that can -only- be told in that medium. In that regard, I seem to recall some of the numbers in AAinP being quite cinematic. And this does bring up an essential characteristic of what I'm looking for. I remember AAinP using a moving camera so that the presentation of the dance numbers wasn't simply setting up a camera on a tripod and following the dancers around, making it indistinguishable from a stage version. Actually, it would be worse than a stage version because the nature of filming requires a director to focus on a limited area, but on a stage you can create action that occurs simultaneously on different parts of the stage. In film, you can only see the one thing the camera's looking at, (which is both its blessing -and- curse). Anyway, one of the choices that Minelli and Kelly made in AAinP was to actually show the dancers in full, but not in a static way. It's been a while since I've seen it, but I remember how gracefully the camera moved along with the dancers, but in a subtle way that didn't call attention to itself, focusing instead on the dancers instead of the camerawork. I'll have to put this one on my Netflix list so I can see it again. (Btw, one of my pet peeves about the way modern filmmakers shoot dance is that they're all over the place, they shoot feet, hands, faces, legs, torso, and edit it all together, but you don't see the dancers entire bodies. These techniques -are- cinematic, in that they use the vocabulary of cinema, but it's used in a way that defeats the purpose of the thing it's trying to capture, the stylized human body in full. And maybe some of it is because you're casting Richard Gere, who's not a dancer, and you're trying to hide the fact that he can't dance. But it can't always be that. I suppose you could say that it's the modern fashion, but that begs the question as to why the fashion came into being. I've always suspected that it has to do with modern education destroying the conceptual faculties of today's audiences. That's another discussion entirely, though.)
  9. anyone know any good dance movies?

    Actually, I don't know that I'm completely disqualifying Moulin Rouge, because it is superlative in so many ways. But I'm very mixed about it. It's really frustrating to watch sometimes, and I'm including the Roxanne number. It -is- beautiful, if you look at any given frame. But there are some edits in that Roxanne piece that drive me crazy. I remember watching it, and starting to get caught up in the breathtaking beauty of it all, getting swept up in the story that number was telling, the theme of jealousy, and the counterpoint with the movie's main story (Nicole Kidman has to debase herself in order to ensure a future for herself and the man she loves). It's brilliant, really. But some of those cuts were so quick to jump to arbitrary reaction shots, some of the camera moves were so swoopingly fast that it was disorienting... I got the feeling that Baz Luhrmann had so many ideas and such a wonderful childlike hyperactive need to express ALL OF THEM AT ONCE, that it made the piece lose the focus it needed to drive the point home. But I'm relating this from memory, so i'm going to go home and watch that sequence again just to make sure I'm not crazy.
  10. anyone know any good dance movies?

    I think Fame and Flashdance probably belong to the class of movies like Center Stage, which are traditional movies about dance performers, so they would naturally have dance sequences in them. As opposed to dance musicals, where the singing and dancing appear out of thin air. But that's okay. I think they fall into the realm of this discussion. I think I'm just trying to find movies that excel at capturing dance movement in a cinematic way. As far as their cinematic worth goes, I think they're shot well and so they're better than average, but they both suffer from that quick-cut MTV style that keeps you from seeing the dance as a whole. Flashdance, I recall, was one of the signature movies of the eighties that one could point to as direct descendant of the MTV-style. Chicago was also shot rather well, (that is, in a way in which each frame looks beautiful and well-composed), but I remember it being chopped up as well. Brigadoon is on my list of movies to see. So, I guess the other thing I'm looking for is a movie that uses modern production values, but with a clarity in the editing style that you only see in the older movies. Has anyone seen any of these movies? - The Red Shoes (dir. Michael Powell, starring Moira Shearer) - The Company (dir. Robert Altman, starring Neve Campbell)
  11. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

    This really is the quintessential American musical. I remember seeing it in a theater a few years ago, after a recent restoration, and thinking how perfectly American it was. Vibrant, optimistic, spirited, confident. Happy. Think about the title. Singin' in the Rain. That's what Americans -do-. They sing in the rain. (Well, that's what they did before they turned into guilt-obsessed postmodernists anyway.) It's interesting to see this along with An American in Paris, two musicals that will always be connected, not simply because they were two movies starring Gene Kelly, but because they came out within a year of each other, and Singin' in the Rain having been shut out of the Oscars because An American in Paris had swept the year prior. Looking back on the two of them, American in Paris, I think, suffers by comparison. It seems big and bloated and dark next to Singin' in the Rain's light touch. But maybe that's unfair, because any movie that stands next to Singin' in the Rain suffers in that way. Or maybe that's because any movie with Oscar Levant is going to feel dark. I gave this movie a 9. It skirts the edges of my all-time top 10 list, but doesn't quite fly into the top 5. I probably would have given it a 10 if I could edit out that completely out-of-place, anachronistic, fantasy sequence with Cyd Cherisse. Luckily, with DVD's, you can skip it entirely, just like you can skip the chapters on the Paris sewer system in Les Miserables without losing the story.
  12. George P. Cosmatos: RIP

    According to the following article, the 64 year old director, known for such films as Rambo, Cobra, and the Cassandra Crossing has passed away. Members of this audience, however, might be more familiar with another one of his movies. A little western called Tombstone. The following article is a very loving tribute to what was undoubtedly a decent and passionate man. He'll be missed. http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=20029
  13. Mission: Impossible (1988)

    TV Show: Quite good. Brian DePalma/Tom Cruise movie: Complete travesty.
  14. Firefly (2002)

    According to the filmmakers, Universal determined that the spring release scheduled was too crowded with movies that catered to the same audience. They moved it to September in order to have that audience to themselves. Also, they wanted to have the whole summer to market the movie, attaching their trailer to other blockbusters, build up the name recognition, and that sort of thing. Supposedly, the studio believes in the movie and this shouldn't be taken as a sign of anything negative. It makes sense, because Universal doesn't seem to have much coming out this year.
  15. To Have and Have Not (1944)

    Surprisingly, I'm not a huge fan of Bringing Up Baby. It's amusing, but the two characters are clearly not equals. My favorite screwball comedies are a battle of wits between two characters, and in screwball romances, they're between the two lovers. In Bringing Up Baby, Cary Grant only exists to be humiliated by Katherine Hepburn. It's fun, but there are ten at least screwball comedies that I'd put ahead of it. Having said that, I then had to think of what ten screwball comedies I liked better. Here's my list, just off the top of my head, and you might quibble with my calling them screwball comedies, but they're at least fast-talking cleverly verbal comedies featuring antagonists that dazzle you with wordplay. The Thin Man The Lady Eve His Girl Friday My Man Godfrey Libeled Lady Twentieth Century Ball of Fire Stage Door Top Hat Sullivan's Travels About the Howard Hawks tall-tale-telling... I've read at least one biography of Hawks, (Todd McCarthy's The Grey Fox of Hollywood), a book of interviews, (Hawks on Hawks), various reviews, and references to Hawks in other biographies. They all say the same thing. He's not dishonest. He's just a charming man who tends to exaggerate in his storytelling.
  16. Dogville (2003)

    I put off seeing this movie for a long time because of the explicit anti-american sentiment expressed by the filmmakers and their quotes in various media stating their intentions behind this work. I remember reading Roger Ebert's review, excoriating the filmmaker for criticizing a country that he'd never experienced in person. But then I saw the movie. The movie itself, irrespective of the filmmaker's intent, does express a dark vision of small town small-mindedness. It takes place, ostensibly, in a depression-era mountain town, with very little in the way of commerce, agriculture, or resources of any kind. However, to my mind, what the filmmaker portrays is not americanism as such, but what he might call a "bourgeois pettiness," or something that I'd call "the tendency of small minded people to eat each other alive in times of scarcity." I don't think that makes for a great movie that I'd like to see over and over again. It's really an ugly movie, about ugly people, destroying the one thing in their meager lives that was worthwhile. But I thought it was interesting to watch because it was well-plotted, with good performances that were beautifully photographed, ably expressing a very specific view of the universe. I don't consider the end credits to be a part of the story, that is, the actual dramatic conflict that finally resolves to a conclusion. So within that, I don't see this as specifically anti-american as the director keeps saying it is.
  17. Firefly (2002)

    I'm glad this show was included in this list. I've been watching the DVD box set over and over, studying it like a monk poring over the Dead Sea Scrolls. Brilliant writing, pitch perfect ensemble cast, a fascinating universe in total. There were no bad episodes, ever. Of course, only 12 episodes were ever produced. The movie's coming out on Sept. 30th, anyone in the Southern California area want to have a Firefly viewing party?
  18. To Have and Have Not (1944)

    My second favorite Howard Hawks movie, after His Girl Friday. I actually like this movie better than Casablanca, a movie that it's often compared to. There are a lot of apocryphal stories that Hawks likes to tell about his movies. About this one, he's often said that he told Ernest Hemingway that he could make a good movie about his worst novel, and this was the result. He has also said that he consciously chose to emphasize dramatic situations in the story that were similar to situations in Casablanca, in order to show how HIS hero would handle it differently. It's interesting to see then that his Ilsa Lund character is such a simpering female, particularly in contrast with his ideal female type, Slim, played by Lauren Bacall. Hawks has told so many tall tales over his lifetime, that it's difficult to say if this is hindsight or conscious intent, but it's fun to do a compare/contrast with these two movies anyway. Incidentally, Hawks also said that he made Rio Bravo as a response to High Noon for the very same reason.
  19. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

    While I agree that Depardieu's physical type matches the part, this version of Cyrano has always repulsed me. This is a dark, modern, post-existentialist, and therefore very French, take on the character. Apart from the cinematic choices (dark, murky shadows in the Depardieu version, and a crisp, shiny black and white in the Ferrer version), the crucial issue is the actors' choices. Part of the fun of watching Cyrano is seeing a man whose heroic and beautiful soul shining through his ugly exterior. Gerard Depardieu's Cyrano is a man whose ugly exterior conquers his heroic soul. His motivation for fighting feels driven by desperation and anger against the universe for having given him an ugly body. I have always preferred Jose Ferrer's version because his Cyrano is driven by joy and glee, in a Francisco kind of way. Therefore, from Depardieu I perceive more of a sense of resentment and envy toward Christian, and from Ferrer, I'm getting more "This is the reality of the situation, what do I need to do?" Both actors are playing the same text, but the choice they make in performance emphasizes one sense-of-life over another. You might call that Ferrer's choice a "lightness" vs. Depardieu's substantial "gravity," but I prefer Ferrer's choice.