Monday, July 31, 2006

Hildreth's Hot Tix

OK, so I'm resurrecting a really ancient column that I used to write for a weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz that will remain nameless. Hence the dorky heading. I always liked that column title, dumb as it is. These are my recommendations of events, people and things I think you need to pay attention to.


Janet Gaynor is finally getting the revival that she richly deserves. Thanks to the UCLA Film and Television Archive, many of her best films have been preserved on new prints, and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley is running many of them right now. Coming up on Wednesday, Aug. 2 is The Farmer Takes a Wife (Fox, 1935), which is also Henry Fonda's debut film. Also coming up is her best-know film: the original (and best) A Star is Born (Selznick/United Artists, 1937), on Saturday, Aug. 5. Check out http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/pfa_programs/janetgaynor/index.html for more.

Louise Brooks' second film with German director G.W. Pabst, Diary of a Lost Girl (Pabst-Film, 1929), can be seen at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto on Friday, Aug. 4. Dennis James, easily one of the best theater organists in the world, will accompany this amazing film. Check out http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/stf/calendar.html for more details.


One of my all-time favorite films, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (MGM, 1968) will screen in 70mm at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, Friday Aug. 11. If you've never seen this one in a theater, you've never seen it. http://www.thecastrotheatre.com/

So you won't get the wrong impression about me: I love cheese, too. Warriors (Paramount, 1979), Walter Hill's gloriously awful punk-era-won't-the-fin-de-si├Ęcle-ever-bloody-well-get-here-already-for-crying-out-loud journey into wierdness, plays at the Red Vic Movie House in San Francisco Friday and Saturday, Aug. 4 & 5. http://www.redvicmoviehouse.com/ to come out and pla-a-a-ay.


And the absolutely most fun show in town, Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass, brings you Death Race 2000, Paul (Eating Raoul) Bartel's post-apocolyptic automotive masterpiece, featuring Sly Stallone and David Carradine, at the Bridge Theater in San Francisco, Saturday, Aug. 5 at midnight. Ms. Christ's shows are quite possibly the coolest thing happening in the Bay Area. Mary Woronov will be at this show in person. You've been warned. http://www.peacheschrist.com/mmass/2006/week6.html

Person of talent to watch out for:
Nichole Carlson is a truly gifted filmmaker who is going to knock your socks off. She is working on her first feature, a neo-noir film called Vicious. Her sense of timing, her flair for frame composition and her talent for visual storytelling is astonishing for someone who's still fairly new to filmmaking. She's so good that pretty soon she'll stop returning my calls. You can learn more about Vicious at http://www.viciousthemovie.com/
and you can see some of her short films on YouTube at http://youtube.com/profile_videos?user=nmcgillicuddy . I strongly recommend Give Up the Ghost for sheer brilliance, Remote Control for sheer fun.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:40 PM, August 01, 2006  
Anonymous Hikeeba ! said...

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12:40 PM, August 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anna@SFSFF said...

Can't belive you like Odyssey 2001! I will never look at you the same way again.

6:49 PM, August 01, 2006  
Blogger HildrethR said...

What? Do you mean you don't like 2001? I can appreciate that, it's not for everyone. It just happens to be the first truly serious film that I enjoyed. I saw it at the Loews Art Theater in New Haven, CT, when I was 14 or so, having just abandoned the Roman Catholic church and in a fit of exploration of various approaches to understanding how the world worked. 2001 hit me hard, and it still gets me every time. In fact, I find something new in it each time I see it, and I must have seen it at least 100 times by now.

So, what exactly don't you like about it? (I really do respect your opinion, so don't worry about offending me.) -- RH

10:52 PM, August 07, 2006  
Blogger Lucky Monkey said...

Ok, here it goes. :)

Granted, this film has become a cult movie and quotes from it can be found anywhere from T-shirt to serious books, the film itself, divorced from its many accumulated meanings, just does not do it for me.

[rant starts]
Doubtlessly, the fact that only accomplished auteurs attempt to bring epic to screen is an immense blessing bestowed upon unsuspecting film audiences by the higher force. Even so, very few of the attempts ever create a worthy film: more often than not the resulting work has an unmistakably disappointing air of a vacuous period piece, buttressed by director's hardened grand vision that is never realized onscreen. Space Odyssey's overwrought music coupled with sweeping panoramic shots, drawn out black screen expositions, and naive decor cultivates not the feelings of awe, but of perplexed boredom. The ostentatious camera work is too grand for obvious turns of the film's plot and for utter simplicity of its too literal metaphors, further attenuating whatever emotional hold over the audience was projected.

The rule of thumb that should be known to all directors (auteurs or not) is that literal metaphors pose a great danger of turning into banality with a slight feeling of preachy condescension when transferred onto cinematic screen. And over and over, against all odds and inherent perils of such productions, directors flock like moths to the flame in the attempt to partake in ever-alluring possibility of creating a true screen epic that will captivate all hearts and minds (and possibly change the world too).
[rant ends]

5:12 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger HildrethR said...

An inspired and well-considered rant, indeed. I fully comprehend how the lengthy spaceship ballets, LSD-esque sequences and the preciously ginchy decor of "THE FUTURE" can be colossally grating and/or a sleep-inducing. 2001 is not without flaws, I just happen to glean a lot of meaning in between those flaws, and sometimes within those flaws.

The Googie-inspired design in particular indicates the banality of modern life (be it 1968, 2001 or 2006) -- is this really what the man-apes evolved for? So they could continue to challenge each other over a watering hole in a bleak landscape (or space station-scape)?

As for the music choices: They've become cliche, but they weren't at the time the film was made. Many considered Kubrick's use of existing classical pieces to be controversial, including Alex North, the composer who was working on a modern score for the movie. North worked up a score based on the rough cut (which Kubrick had applied a scratch track of the music that was used in the final film). Kubrick listened to what North had come up with, and went with his scratch trakcs instead.

I have the North score on a CD that Jerry Goldsmith recorded a few years back. About a month ago I applied North's opening theme to a video of the film, the Richard Strauss Also Sprach Zarathusta moment. Among the reactions this new mix inspired: laughter, amusement, and a question: "When does Captain Kirk come by for his fly-by inspection of the Enterprise?" The classical music works to keep the film from feeling like another 1960s sci-fi picture.

And oh, yes, the film is damned preachy, but not as preachy as the novel that Kubrick and Arthur Clarke worked up while they made the film. At the end of the book, the Star Child detonates all of the nuclear weapons in earth's orbit, starting his new world over again.

My greatest problems with the film are a direct result of the era in which it was made: All of the women are servants (mostly stewardesses) and there's not an African-American within a million light years of the movie. Of course, as it is a commentary on the times in which it was made (as much as anything else), these absences are probably appropriate.

10:22 PM, August 08, 2006  
Anonymous Erica Sweetman said...

I'd like to add an addition to the discussion regarding '2001'.
I first saw this film as a teenager, in the 1980s, in Sacramento. There were few opportunities in that time and place for seeing older films in theaters- so I watched this on videotape. I had enjoyed other Kubrick films, but this one left me distinctly underwhelmed. Remember, this was after the 'Star Wars' trilogy had transformed not only science fiction film, but what the average viewer expected from film in general. '2001' also seemed dated to me- the space station decor, the 60s 'futuristic' dress, the computer graphics.
I have since re-viewed this film probably six or seven times.
This is a film that must be viewed in a large screen, preferrably in 70 mm, whith a good sound system. As is the case with many silent films, to see '2001' on a TV screen is to see it entirely out of context: what you are viewing is a sort of shadow of a film, useful perhaps for research purposes, or if you otherwise have no opportunity to view the film.
The last few times I have seen '2001' projected in 70 mm, it has held me in thrall. The elements that I found off-putting in the past I now understand to have been intentional choices on the director's part- to deliberately distance the viewer from the people in the film. I don't necessarily accept the alienation from humanity that is apparent in this film- but Kubrick now has my attention for the duration on his story.
To this I have to add- the special effects in this film are astonishing, particularly the ones that play with the concept of weightlessness or artificial gravity. They display a level of artistry that cannot be matched by simply plugging in CGI where needed. They are, to me, what special effects should be- elements to engage, and not to replace, the viewer's imagination.

11:24 AM, August 14, 2006  

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