Thursday, December 27, 2007

Essential Cinema - 15

The Night Of The Iguana

Richard Burton
Ava Gardner
Deborah Kerr
Sue Lyon
Skip Ward
Grayson Hall

John Huston

Anthony Veiller
John Huston
(from the Tennessee Williams play)

Gabriel Figueroa

A shamed priest finds anonymity in Mexico where he wrestles with his past while serving as tour guide to a bus full of vacationing church women.

What happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico. Mexico has become a fantasy land that folks escape to these days. A place where cares, worries and responsibilities cannot follow you. This is a film that fosters that ideal. Cut off from the trappings of button-down 1950s American society, the characters find themselves in a world seduced by cabana boys, wanton desires and tropical sunsets.

The dialog of this film still has the affect of the stage play from which it was based. Like "A Street Car Named Desire" and "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", the characters in this film are struggling with inner turmoil sprinkled with sexual frustration. The fact that the lines are delivered by the likes of Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr make it an enjoyable film to watch.

One of the better performances is turned in by Grayson Hall (whom I had never heard of prior to this film). Her performance as the repressed and bitchy Miss Fellows is fascinating to watch and she more than holds her own with Burton and Gardner.

Most of the film is a long setup to the evening scene between Burton, Kerr and Gardner, in which their demons are discussed, exposed and cast away. It is very good acting although it takes a long time to get there. Comic relief in the film is provided by Skip Ward (the essential early 60s screen idol persona) as the bus driver and the two beach boys that continually dance around Gardner's character while shaking maracas. When the likes of Burton, Tennessee Williams and John Huston get together to make a film, it is bound to be worth watching. Especially, now that I am older and my life experience make me appreciate what the film is all about.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hell Froze Over

Phoenix City Hall

The name of this blog is Hypocrisy. It goes way back to the day I created it in 2003. Originally it was meant as a place to blow off steam due to my frustration with various things. I still use it for that purpose, but I have tried to tone it down a bit over the years.

Readers of this blog might recall my lament at the lack of long term city planning and the decay of some of the art objects around Phoenix. It was a blog entitled Three Coins.

As I was walking to work the other day, I took a different route through the downtown area. While walking past the Phoenix City hall I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the refurbished City Hall fountain. I literally stopped and gasped at it and then noticed the sign posted next to it. The sign read:

Phoenix City Hall Fountain

Water conservation features continuously monitor water use and automatically adjust for weather conditions to conserve water.

This Plaza Fountain has recently been refurbished and now incorporates new conservation technology. See the weather monitor located on top of the sand stone column that turns off the fountain during high winds. A new water meter helps monitor for leaks and an automatic timer also allows the fountain to be turned off when few people are around.

We hope you will enjoy the beauty and cooling effect of this fountain.

I would like to think that someone at City Hall actually read my blog, but that is so much wishful thinking. But it is nice to see that in a Hypocritical world, there is still some sanity left. There is a good chance you might find me near this fountain during lunch time reading a book. It just became my favorite location in downtown Phoenix.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Essential Cinema - 14

Japanese Language with English Subtitles

Tokyo Story

Chishu Ryu
Chieko Higashiyama
Setsuko Hara
Haruko Su gimura
Sô Yamamura
Kuniko Miyake
Kyôko Kagawa

Yasujiro Ozu

Kôgo Noda
Yasujiro Ozu

Yuuharu Atsuta

An aging husband and wife visit their children in 1950s Tokyo. While all are well meaning and polite, the years and the miles between them have taken them all on different paths and they struggle to come to terms with their memories and their expectations.

Intimacy and how things change. A character study of the differences between generations, their expectations (both young and old) and how the modern world has fractured the extended family.

This is a slice of life / contemplation film as opposed to the fantasy / escapism film genre that is marketed to the youth of today. While many newer films have choreographed violence and action as the mainstay of their cinema experience, this film is the opposite. While film is a 'visual' medium, it can be a subtle medium as well, without all the 'eye-candy' and special effects that are so prominent today.

This film is long, over 2 hours, and it took me a while to get all the way through it. By the end of the film, I felt as though I was a part of this family and could sense their pain and grief . This film may not appeal to younger generations, but as we age, this type of cinema becomes more and more endearing to those of us that have experienced more than we allow ourselves to remember.

There are some interesting oddities in the film that stem from the culture in which it was made. All the camera angles are very low, usually less than 3 feet from the floor. Since there were few chairs in 1950s Japan, most of the characters sit on the floor. This is their living space, hence the lower camera angle. Almost everyone in the film has a hand fan, which they are constantly fanning themselves with. In a time before air-conditioning, this was the only way to keep cool in the summer. There is almost no panning on scanning with the camera. Most of the scenes are done with a static camera location with minimal scene editing. Finally, there are a lot of 'lingering' scenes, in which actors leave the frame or exit a room, but the camera keeps rolling for up to 10 seconds before fading to the next scene or editing to a different location. This appears intentional, as though the director wants to let us linger on what has just transpired.

In the end this is a film that makes you think. I love films that do that.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Essential Cinema - 13

Murder In the Air

Ronald Reagan
John Litel
Lya Lys
James Stephenson
Eddie Foy Jr.
Robert Warwick
Victor Zimmerman

Lewis Seiler

Raymond L. Schrock

Ted D. McCord

Ronald Reagan, G-Men, Espionage, Airplanes....that about sums it up.

American Government = Good / Foreigners = Bad. An entertaining propaganda film for its day. Supposedly, the 3rd in a series of G-Men pictures that Ronald Regan stared in. His character is named Brass Bancroft (Hollywood just doesn't use names like this anymore). Written and filmed during a time when the U.S. Government was never questioned and Communism was considered a mental plague and not a political view. It is easy to tell who the good guys are and you know the bad guys will be defeated in the end.

I have a soft spot for the old days. Back in the time when even second rate B-Movies had some art and talent to them. These films reflected the audience that they were marketed toward which was middle class white Americans before World War II. The concept of ethnicity hadn't yet come to light, segregation was the norm. The government was a benevolent autocratic entity that could do no wrong. This film centers around science, aviation and espionage, which was about as gee-wiz as you could get back then. There are shades of the Movie-Serials of the 40s as well as the coming paranoia of the communist conspiracy. If you want to see the roots of Star Wars and the Indiana Jones films, see pictures such as this.

One of the first things that was evident is that this film was produced on the studio lot. There is no location shooting and everything is shot on sound stage sets. What gives this away is the the lack of any ceiling on the interior shots and the shadows cast by the lighting. This gives the illusion that each room has 20 foot high ceilings that go up forever. This is pretty basic entertainment, meant to satisfy a pretty simple audience that didn't question much. Now, it is almost more entertaining for its simplicity and gullibility than anything else....and of course that the lead actor becomes president of the United States.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Prelude Of Karma

I Don't Think So

High School. While the trappings may change, the experience tends to stay the same. It has to because its roots lay in hormones and adolescence. No matter how much the clothes, or the hairstyles or the slang differs over the ages, the underpinnings are the same. The changes, the awkwardness, the discovery of new feelings and new desires. It was a time when friendships took on extra meaning, where trust was earned and broken, when a glance and a smile could increase your heart rate for no apparent reason. We learned more during that time of our lives than any other. It wasn't the learning from text books. It was the growing awareness of who we were and what we were becoming. It was when we really started to figure things out, and a time when we first realized how hard life was going to be.

I attended several high schools when I was growing up. We moved around a lot as did most of my school mates. We were grounded in who we were and not so much where we lived. We made strong friendships fast, and just as quickly we were gone. Looking back it almost seems like a blur.

During my final year of High School, we finally got some of the 'good' professors. The ones reserved for the more mature students. The teachers that were hip, and cool and hadn't been ground up by the system. Those were heady times, we were scared, but we were excited. We knew we were approaching the end of youth and our futures were uncertain. Things were moving.

One of the senior classes I had was a literature class. Can't remember the specifics of it, but I recall that we had to do a recitation in front of a school assembly, on stage, during some sort of talent show. It was a rendition of "Spoon River Anthology" by Edgar Lee Masters. It was a play in which tombstones speak in verse and in doing so reveal the entire soul of the town and its people. Our hip professor chose several in the class to read portions of the play. I was picked, as was my girlfriend, and one of my best buddies along with a few other students in the class. For some reason, the teacher also chose one of the class slackers to perform one of the roles.

Every high school has their 'click' of bad boys. They never studied, smoked cigarettes, had bad reputations and generally were just assholes. This guy was no different. So the teacher's choice in picking him seemed somewhat odd. No one expected him to show up for class or take the assignment seriously. He indicated that "He wasn't going to do it", and voiced his concern that the whole project was "stupid".

Never the less, the next week we started rehearsing in class and memorizing our lines. Much to our surprise the slacker showed up and actually participated. He was awful. He could barely read, and became frustrated with the assignment. He was obviously uncomfortable in trying to express emotion through his character and felt that this wasn't something macho tough guys did. Still, the teacher must have seen promise in him and we continued the recitations over the next several weeks until we had our lines memorized. By the time the assembly came around, we were all pretty good. We had the inflections down, we had the timing and we had stage freight. Even the slacker was pulling his weight and wasn't half bad.

On the evening of the assembly we gathered at the school. We were full of opening night jitters, even though the whole thing was only going to take 15 minutes to perform. Other school talent went ahead of us, music recitals, short plays, and other entertainment. By the time we were set to go on everything was ready...except for the slacker. He was a no-show. We waited until the last minute and he never came, so our professor filled in for him and read his parts. By the time it was all over, we were proud and relieved and somewhat giddy. Another one of youth's hurdles had been overcome. We all felt just a bit older.

The next day, I was sitting in the classroom waiting for class to begin. I was leaning my chair up against the window. Outside, winter was moving in. There was an overcast sky and the temperature was dropping as the wind started to pick up over the Dakota plains. As I sat chatting with my friends about our opening night triumph, I heard someone rapping on the window behind me. I turned around and there stood the slacker with some of his buddies smoking cigarettes. As I looked at him, he flipped me his middle finger and I could see him mouth the words "Fuck You" and then he laughed at me.

I don't think he was able to appreciate that Kodak moment. His posturing and bravado through the window was obviously to impress his friends. But to those of us that had faced our fears the previous evening he seemed pathetic and sad. All his hard work and effort had been wasted. He had let his fear win.

We all knew we could go on to bigger and better things. We could make something of our lives. The slacker was a coward. When ever the going got tough or things got hard, he would cut and run. He had no future. I turned away from the window and looked at my classmates. I am sure there was a hint of a smile on my face. Many folks learn much to late, that Karma is a bitch.