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Wagner and Me and You and Everyone We Know

January 25th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Look, what do you really need to know about this film that can’t be said in just a handful of words?

Yes I’ve seen it, this isn’t a dodge of convenience, a dog ate my homework, this is me being frank with the lot of you. Stephen Fry takes some time out of his busy and prolific career to take some “me” time, and we’re invited along for the ride. This is Stephen Fry we’re talking about, one of the most charismatic and personable British personalities to be imported across the Atlantic, and he gets to gush about the composer that makes him giddy as a schoolgirl.


They even look alike! (if you squint)

This film is fascinating as both an intimate portrait of a celebrity absolutely letting their hair down and as behind the scenes look at one of the world’s most exclusive festivals, the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth. Yes, the man and his history are tackled here, but the film only sloshes around in the sordid Nazi aspects of Wagner’s legacy long enough to counterpoint with the undeniable genius and exquisite beauty of the man’s achievements, not the least of which is the actual theatre that Wagner designed for his Ring Cycle to premiere upon. Fry’s at times borderline manic obsession with Wagner is always communicated with an infectious enthusiasm that an audience would have to be blind and deaf to not rush out and see if there are any tickets left for the Seattle Opera’s Ring Cycle.

Well, you got more out of me than I thought I was going to share. Looks like Fry has rubbed off on me.

—it’s Stephen-bloody Fry, what more do you want, dan

Experimentally Simplistic

January 19th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Look, I thought I was going to come at you with some great little brief blog complete with pragmatic quips about this film. “It’s the most unpretentious film about experimental films you’ll ever watch,” something along those lines. Sure, I could still say that about this documentary and be completely correct and sure in my own thoughts, words, and feelings.

But, I find myself in a quandary: do so and go on acting like I didn’t read Charles Mudede’s remarks in this week’s “Stranger,” or accept that I had EXACTLY the same reaction to a film as a “Stranger” film reviewer and come to terms with it. I’ve got to give props to Mudede and Schmader for getting it right so often, so I can just accept that this week, this time (and maybe even be happy about it), I’m dead on the mark as are they.

Enjoy “Free Radicals,” cause you damn well better. Best experimental film history lesson you’ll ever get.

Yes, I seen Stan Brakhage's Criterion stuff. And yes, I did have near epilectic fits. Buyer beware.

Yes, I have seen Stan Brakhage’s Criterion stuff. And yes, I did have near epilectic fits. Buyer beware.

Oh, and the intimately integrated Sprocket Society is kicking ass on Thursday by completing the week with (here goes some “Stranger” style ALL CAPS) 16MM RARE PRINTS OF SOME OF THESE VERY SAME FILMMAKERS!

Have I arrived yet, Seattle?

—kicking out hard against the walls of perception, dan

Part Trois-de-Trois

January 12th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I have absolutely no idea if that is correct French right there in the title, much less so as our two films this week tread nowhere near the language. Okay, I guess that’s not completely true. In our comedy of comedies, “Love and Death,” Napoleon is the force with which our Russkie heroes must do battle, both literally and preternaturally. Okay, now I’m just getting a wee bit silly.

What am I really trying to say? Not much more than one of my favorite directors of all time has his best (to my mind) film of all time playing in 35mm at my favorite theatre in my favorite city. So can you say I’m stoked? Yeah, you can. Do it.

“Manhattan” is a film that makes other films lose their luster and their meaning. Sure, techno-marvels like “Hugo” claim to profess the magic of movie making and touch the core, but filmdom already peaked in 1979 with the opening to “Manhattan” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” Perhaps the best use in a film of popular music plucked from the public lexicon outside of a Kubrick flick, I dare anyone and everyone to not love New York after watching this movie. I’m still waiting for Allen or any other filmmaker to make a love letter to a city and filmmaking like this goddamn gem.

Yeah, this is the shot. This is the one.

Yeah, this is the shot. This is the one.

To finish off our Allen run, let’s harken way back to the beginning of this blog post with “Love and Death,” the middle of the 70s and a pivot point for Allen. After genre experiments and sight gags gone wild, Allen reigns it in a little bit, but not too much. Those of us who love “Bananas” and “EYEWTKASBWTATA” can still enjoy “Love and Death” as a fun parody filled with sex jokes, but those astute followers will notice Allen downshifting and about to pull the handbrake to spin us into the whirl that will take us to “Annie Hall” and ultimately “Manhattan.”

For those of you just now discovering these films, shame. But know that at the GI we take the devout and the fallen. All rise.

—let down by “To Rome With Love,” but ever faithful, dan

Back to the Start

January 5th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

After what some would consider an all-too premature masterpiece in a long and verdant career, “Annie Hall,” we flip it back a few years to his early stuff. Considered by many to be his most exuberant and best years of filmmaking (we’re calling this series “Woody Allen in the 70s,” so I think you can tell what our bias is), “Bananas” and “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Sex” are in my mind his first two truly big movies from the standpoint of JPM.

I do like the earlier 60s stuff (let’s not mention “Casino Royale”), but Allen pulls of a 1-2-3 in ’71-’73 with these two and “Sleeper” that has been met by few other films and fewer filmmakers in terms of the aforementioned JPM. What is JPM? It’s something I just made up while rewatching “Bananas!” It stands for “jokes per minute,” and some jokes in “Bananas” are only given a few seconds of screen time before its on to the next gag. The full tilt, pellmell humor barrage stands in no-small debt to Allen’s love of silent era movie gags, ranging from the surreal to the visceral.

Show your love for Allen’s early career brilliance this week, with a one-two punch of the best humor of the early 70s. “Everything” even features one of Wilder’s best performances (outside of a Brooks film)! Some of my favorite comedians in some of my favorite comedies, say no more!

My one complaint about this film: this is bestiality, not sodomy. Could've squeezed in another sketch with a homosexual where everyone knows it but him, or something...

My one complaint about this film: this is bestiality, not sodomy. Could’ve squeezed in another sketch with a homosexual where everyone knows it but him, or something…

Join us next week for my favorite Allen film “Manhattan” (his best, sorry “Annie Hall”) and be challenged by Allen’s strangest 70s film, “Love and Death.”

—holidayed out and happy to be back, dan

Where Am I?

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