LiC Photo of the Week: Self Portrait #1

I read James Sallis’ slim novel Drive this afternoon. It’s the basis of the upcoming Ryan Gosling film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the reigning Danish king of style over substance, and I have to say I think now I like the movie even less than I did before (review) despite all the kind words critics and fanboys have for it. The movie felt like it had dangling narrative ends left over from things having been removed from the book. It turns out the dangling ends were actually added and their lack of purpose is all the more irritating.

Anyway, this is another potential subject for Page to Screen so I’ll have more to say about both the film and the novel later.

I also burned through Laura Hillenbrand’s unpromisingly titled Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. It’s the amazing true story of Louis Zamperini who competed in track and field in the 1936 Olympics as a 19 year old, became a bomber pilot during World War II, was shot down and wound up in a series of Japanese POW camps. It was one thing after another for this guy, from one shit storm to the next. His perseverance was incredible and the way everything turns out is incredibly moving. Like Hillenbrand’s previous book Seabiscuit, this one has apparently already been optioned for adaptation by Universal. I think the story takes a narrative turn or two at the end that mainstream Hollywood might want to steer clear of, but there’s a huge audience for this story if it ever gets made.

Moviewise, I finally caught up with Bellflower this weekend. I’m going to give it an A for effort and a B- for entertainment value. It knowingly traffics in the delicate balance between male friends and thrives on the tension created when something, usually a woman, is added to the mix. It starts out kind of light hearted with a pair of growth-stunted 20-somethings who’ve worshipped Mad Max since they were boys. They apparently have plenty of free time to lay about the burned out LA neighborhood that gives the film its title drinking constantly and tricking out a muscle car so they can rule the wastelands after the coming apocalypse. Woodrow is the awkward one who is no good with girls and Aiden is the cocky one burning with unearned self-confidence. Woodrow meets a girl and things start falling apart, but not in any of the ways I expected. Bonus points for not being predictable. In the end though, Bellflower is fueled by this male rage that doesn’t seem grounded in actual human experience. Sure, there are lots of reasons to be pissed off, but the film never makes clear what  these two layabouts have to be so angry about.

Still, Bellflower is a first film that points to a lot of future potential.

This week’s Photo of the Week was taken on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood, not far from the LiC home offices. Well, technically it’s called Valley Village. It used to be a part of North Hollywood, but when North Hollywood went into decline, the sliver closer to more upscale Studio City carved itself off and changed the name to boost property values.

That’s all from my end. Now it’s your turn. Anyone see anything worth talking about this week?

26 Responses to “Bellflower, Books and Candids”

  1. Nice photo!

    This weekend I actually caught Bell, Book and Candle on TCM. :-)

    I also re-watched The Apartment, another one of those movies I never get tired of.

    Every August TCM has their “Summer Under the Stars” series, and they feature a different actor every day of the month. Today is Ralph Bellamy. We watched His Girl Friday and we’re watching The Awful Truth right now. Hilarious stuff.

  2. His Girl Friday is one of my Top 10 Desert Island movies. LOVE Cary Grant in that and also Rosalind Russell. Freakin’ great.

  3. cool photo

    “His Girl Friday” and “The Apartment” are favorites of mine as well.

    the only movie I saw in theaters this weekend was my own. a short film I made earlier this year screened at a film festival at the Laemmle Sunset 5 today. :) interesting to see your own work with an audience, but I think it went well for the most part. though my film is a comical film noir, and they programmed it with a bunch of horror films, serious dramas and experimental stuff. still, it was fun.

  4. Ari, I wish you’d told me it was playing at Sunset! I would’ve checked it out.

    Glad it went over well though. Kudos to you for getting it played.

  5. Congrats, Ari!

  6. What Alison said. I wouldn’t have told anyone either because that’s how I do. And probably you had it out there if I’d been looking, but still. I would’ve loved to come out and seen it.

  7. TCM is the only thing I miss about cable, Alison. If it didn’t cost some $89 per month, I would’ve totally parked my butt on the couch for His Girl Friday and The Awful Truth, two films that would be in my (likely very long — I’ve never actually written them down) list of Desert Island movies.

    As it is, I watched three movies on Netflix Instant/Hulu this afternoon, starting with Oliver Stone’s W. That one feels like Stone was trying to live down his reputation as a provocateur, but he couldn’t quite reign himself in totally. That aspect makes W. an interesting, if mediocre, film. There are some wonderful surreal bits that I loved (for instance, Bush getting lost on his own ranch with most of his cabinet in tow) and some nice understated character details (Bush lamenting his dog’s declining health). Overall, though, it’s too uneven, incoherent and undercooked to be anything more than a curiousity piece.

    I liked Jennifer, a 1953 noir-drama with Ida Lupino, despite the bargain-basement production values and some really clunky dialogue. Mostly, I just really love Lupino. She has a brittle edge to most of her performances, including this one, that fits these kinds of B picture noirs. The plot is pretty blah and the conclusion is dumber than a bag of hammers, but Lupino held my interest throughout.

    Finally, I saw Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa for the first time. I was especially impressed by the lead performances from Hoskins and Cathy Tyson (it’s unfortunate her career seems to have languished, mostly in British TV, after this role).

  8. thanks! yeah, damn, I should have told you about it. that would have been cool to have you at the screening.

    check out the trailer!

    one of these days we should meet up. I was back and forth between NY and LA, but now I’m settling back in LA for a while. this is my hometown after all.

  9. Congratulations Ari, that’s a wonderful achievement. Cool trailer!

    Love the photo Craig. How you’ve placed yourself within the image, the choice of B&W, and your ongoing photographic celebration of LA’s more fading but characterful aspects. Man, you could play a tough-guy in a movie. When Ari’s casting for Josh Brolin’s menacing side-kick you should get the casting call.

    I love The Apartment and His Girl Friday and naturally own them both so don’t have to subscribe to the movie package that includes TCM.

    We’ve caught up on episodes of this season’s True Blood. It’s a very playful show that doesn’t take itself too seriously but the regular cast inhabit their characters with confidence and often are given very funny dialog. A little like The Simpsons it can be surprisingly poignant in moments despite the general silliness and, in True Blood’s case, campiness.

  10. Ari, I’m a total misanthropic hermit, but I’ve long ago made the determination (for what it’s worth) that you’re a good guy and I’d love to grab coffee or lunch with you sometime (I’m a fan of Greenblatt’s across the street from the theater that screened your short)

    WJ, TCM is all I miss about cable too, though honestly the last time I was a cable regular, AMC was the one with the best movies and NO COMMERCIALS. now they’re all about Mad Men etc. Which is fine, and Breaking Bad is the best show on TV, but I love TCM for their condensed commercial free movie action and I miss it.

  11. Lol, Sartre. I’m so far from being a tough guy, it’s not even funny, but I appreciate the sentiment.

    How would you compare the most recent seasons of True Blood to the first? Thanks to you I enjoyed the first, but wasn’t all that crazy about it. I’m a Breaking Bad guy and TB doesn’t quite measure up.

  12. I’d love to see you play a hard-boiled character. I enjoy your heart but I get a kick out of your edge too.

    Breaking Bad is brilliant in my books. Yet to check out the latest season but will start doing so shortly. I’m delaying gratification because I know we’ll want to rush through the episodes in the shortest possible time we can.

    I don’t even try to compare something of the quality of BB with a show like TB. One is serious and ambitious drama that at its heart is a morality play and the other has dramatic elements but is far more arch and modest in its aims. BB stimulates me intellectually, I admire its craft (writing, acting, directing), I’m never absolutely sure where they’re taking us, and I either care for or I’m fascinated by several of the main characters. TB entertains me in large measure because it makes its ridiculousness clever and/or ballsy, with just enough cultural commentary to give it a thin layer of substance. But I don’t really care about the characters – well I do somewhat for the sweeter ones (Layafette, Hoyt, Jason) but I never feel the jeopardy they face. I think TB season 2 was my favorite and the last was the most uneven in quality but had some of the best moments. So far season 4 has been a return to its best form, after an awkward start for the first 5-10 minutes of episode 1 that was so ineptly executed that it had to be intentionally bad.

  13. Sartre, I think my point was lost through poor wording. I shouldn’t have thrown BB in there. What I’m asking is how later incarnations of True Blood compare to the first season. I wasn’t crazy about the first season (which I was able to enjoy thanks to a friend whose name rhymes with Shmanko) so I’m curious to know if it has changed.

  14. @Craig – Let’s just say that Season 1 of TB was it’s most grounded. And if you liked BB you would mostly like that season. However, in aspects of story, characterization, and entertainment, its 2nd season was its best. 3rd season fell flat in many ways when the show become more about sex than the actual story. 4th season is retracing the glory days back and so far it has seemed to find its footing though I do agree with Sartre about the beginning of the 1st episode. I wonder if that is the reason why they haven’t yet revisited that story arch yet again in the season.

    Anyways as a new film lover I have yet to see “The Apartment” and “His Girl Friday”, but by the looks of it, it should be great =).

  15. I saw “The Help.” Much like with the book, I initially resisted it only to be slowly won over, but only because of the strong ensemble. In my estimation, the adaptation took way too many liberties, particularly with the Constantine character (played by Cicely Tyson). And the tone of the film is decidedly uneven, with unwelcome transitions and under-developed characters.

    But fortunately we have Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard to lift up the caliber of the film. Davis and Spencer in particular do some heavy-lifting. I hope their work is recognized. Chastain, who I admired in “Tree of Life,” gives a funny, brazen, loving performance (I don’t think I’ve ever described a performance as “loving,” but there it is). She is an amazing talent. I’ve always been a fan of Howard, so I wasn’t surprised at the quality of her work.

    Emma Stone, who is generally the best thing in all of her prior films, is mainly relegated to the background, but she does what she can.

    I won’t get into the trecherous waters this film and its source have incited but I’ll say that it was a moving, albeit unrealistic, experience and the significantly diverse (in both age and race) crowd I saw it with was definitely pleased.

    ETA: Congrats, Ari!

  16. That’s a fantastic photo of you Craig! Love the mood and the setting! It would look great with a frame too. Like Sartre, I also applaud the new direction.

    This past week on the movie front yielded the final features in both the “Buster Keaton Festival” and the “Pre-Code Festival” at the Film Forum. Miraculously I managed to see every single one of the 50 films screened in the four-week long “Pre-Code Festival” and every one of the 12 features and 12 shorts offered in the Monday Keaton venue that actually started back in May. In any case, the bottom line is that I walked through the Film Forum doors on 33 successive days in a row, no frugal venture, especially when one considers the toll alone crossing over from northern New Jersey is $8.00. (word is that a 50% toll hike is about a month away!) It was great to have Lucille for about three-quarters of the pre-coders, and to have Lucille and the three boys for every one of the Keatons and even to delight in watching Jeremy serve as stage picker for program director Bruce Goldstein. The Keaton Festival was truly one of the highlights of my movie-going life, and having that interactive audience really enhanced the experience.

    This week I saw (most with Lucille and some with family):

    Seven Chances ***** (Monday evening) Buster Keaton at Film Forum

    The Balloonatic **** (Monday evening) Buster Keaton at Film Forum

    Girls About Town *** (Tuesday evening) Pre-Code Festival at Film Forum

    Heat Lightening *** (Tuesday evening) Pre-Code Festival at Film Forum

    Union Depot *** 1/2 (Tuesday evening) Pre-Code Festival at Film Forum

    She Done Him Wrong ***** (Wednesday evening) Pre-Code at Film Forum

    The Bowery **** 1/2 (Wednesday evening) Pre-Code Festival at Film Forum

    Skyscraper Souls *** 1/2 (Thursday evening) Pre-Code Festival at Film Forum

    Upperworld **** (Thursday evening) Pre-Code Festival at Film Forum

    The Help **** (Friday night) Ridgefield Park multiplex

    Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness **** (Friday) Montclair Claridge

    The documentary (SHOLEM ALEICHEM: LAUGHING IN THE DARKNESS) on the Russian-Yiddish writer who created the “Tevye the Milkman” stories that later inspired “Fiddler on the Roof” is wholly fascinating and a close look at the reliance on the writer who was seen by the Jewish literary community as the vital author who represnted a heritage. THE HELP was a little bit of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and a little bit of DRIVING MISS DAISY, but surprisingly offered up humor and heartbreak in a wholly digestible fashion. Rare for a multiplexer though this straddles the line.

  17. Sam, I kept thinking of Fried Green Tomatoes while watching The Help, but you’re totally on point as to the Driving Miss Daisy comparison, too. Not surprising that I enjoyed all three :)

  18. Congrats Ari. Nice trailer!

    I saw The Guard this weekend, which was entertaining enough but not really all that memorable. If you’re looking for some solid laughs from a great cast, then enjoy. If you’re looking for a great film, you might be somewhat underwhelmed.

  19. Aye Dorothy, I have always professed exceeding fondness for both! I’m in good company! Ha!

  20. GL, my favorite episode of TB1 was the one where a semi-major character was killed off. At the same time, I was disappointed because that character was one of my favorite parts of the show to that point.

    I wish the rest of the season had been that sober and grounded and moving.

    Very interesting comments on The Help, Dorothy. I think I like Viola Davis enough (and am curious about Jessica Chastain in this) that I should probably drop my cynicism and check it out. People who see it really seem to love it so I have a feeling it’s going to be sticking around for a while as a part of the conversation.

    Sam, of the 50 movies you saw at the festival, how many had you not seen before? Which ones were you absolute favorites?

    Jjoel, I enjoyed The Guard quite a bit, mainly because of Gleeson who is a treat to watch, but I found that I haven’t given it much though since hte night I saw it. It’s not one for the ages, but it’s worth seeing especially for fans of the cast.

  21. Craig—

    As I conveyed in a full roundup summary post today at my own place, the festival did indeed offer films that were seen repeatedly over the years–films like:

    Trouble in Paradise
    King Kong
    The Public Enemy
    Sign of the Cross
    Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
    Tarzan and His Mate
    Love Me Tonight
    Gold Diggers of 1933

    Those are all five-star movies, and would rightfully be included among anyone’s favorite film list of this festival or of all film lists in general.

    However, I will bypass naming them on my favorites list, since the name of the game here is discovery. (I saw previous to the festival about 21 of the 50 films, with about half of those on the big screen). My favorites list will be the ones I discovered at the festival, and just about every one was wonderful, all either 5.0 or 4.5.

    Red Dust
    The Bowery
    The Story of Temple Drake
    Roman Scadals
    Call Her Savage
    She Done Him Wrong
    Baby Face
    The Mind Reader
    Emplyee’s Entrance
    Red-Headed Woman
    Waterloo Bridge
    Ladies They Talk About
    Jewel Robbery
    Skyscaraper Souls
    Blessed Event

    also, it was a great joy seeing the aforementioned SIGN OF THE CROSS (De Mille) on the big screen for the first time.

  22. It sounds like GL and I have a very similar take on the three and half seasons of TB.

    Craig, I’m not sure that TB sufficiently floats your boat to make watching the second season worthwhile, despite its relative strength.

    Sam, I envy all your pre-code film festival watching.

  23. I caught an anime mini-con in soho, where they screened “Chocolate Underground” and “ICE”. Both were silly, but on different ends of the anime spectrum of childish cuteness and uber-mature. Still, both fun little dystopias.

  24. Ari, congrats on the screening. The trailer looks really well.

    Craig, nice photo. Sartre was right to point out that you looked like a tough guy… Although for me, the picture points more to The Big Lebowski… Something about it, I don’t know what exactly, it’s just a feeling.

    It was a slow weekend for me:

    The Bang Bang Club – It is the kind of film that slips under the radar. Seems that it didn’t get any major awards but I liked it. Strongly recommend it to anyone with a passion for photography. It sets up a very specific mood. The pace is a bit uneven but it works.

    Kick-Ass – It’s been a long time coming… I liked it. Not the best film ever but much better than a big percent of the other superhero films and much different than them. Good to see a Nicolas Cage film I enjoyed.

  25. “for me, the picture points more to The Big Lebowski… Something about it, I don’t know what exactly, it’s just a feeling.” Hee hee, maybe it’s the “don’t give a crap” hairstyle and physically-out-of-shapedness? I don’t know, just a suggestion :)

    I’m definitely more a Lebowski than a tough guy. Except I don’t bowl or smoke pot.

    Sartre, I’ll probably just resign myself to TB not being my cup of tea. I was just wondering because I gave up on Sopranos after 1.5 seasons yet everyone kept telling me how great it continued to be. Other shows like Deadwood, The Wire and Breaking Bad I liked right away and grew more fond of as time went on.

    Kick-Ass… wasn’t crazy about it, but I DID love Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz. I’ve said it a dozen times already, but had they just cut out everything that didn’t have them in it and called hte movie Big Daddy and Hit Girl, they’d have had a (short) movie I could be really enthusiastic about. The other guys did a nice job, I just didn’t find their characters terribly interesting.

    Bob, I think that combo of adult and childish is what tends to throw me off about some anime.

  26. Sam, I’m surprised and impressed you were able to knock all those films out over the last month and it sounds like you were rewarded for your efforts with a lot of great stuff. I’ve heard of a few of those, but most of them are new to me.

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