Sunday, April 27, 2014
Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/20/14-4/26/14)
Oh, the perils of a social life. Didn’t get a lot of Dork business done this week. I was out on the town, having a blast.
The Asphalt Jungle: The dingy underbelly of urban life is exposed in this nasty bit of work. Sterling Hayden is but one of the film’s monsters, bent on filling his belly with hate and greed. It features a lot of the usual Noir dialog, plot twists, and ugly characters. And it features a pretty good heist. The characters are a lot of fun, and there are a surprising number of them. Even a young Marilyn Monroe shows up as a sympathetic floozy. John Huston knew how to make a mean movie, tinged with grit and sadness.
Smiles of a Summer Night: I guess I had this realization last year some time. But yup. I’m an Ingmar Bergman fan. I love how fun this film is, how bawdy and funny it is. And I love how sexy it is. Gunnar Bjornstrand is so charming, the ladies are so lovely, and the shenanigans so much fun. Bergman is not the cold, symbolic, unapproachable filmmaker he is often made out to be. While some of his films are dense with symbol and some are certainly challenging, I think he is very much the populist; crafting excellent films for everyone to enjoy. Smiles of a Summer Night is not difficult to understand. It’s about our passions, our lusts, and our loves. It’s about being alive.
Sorcerer: Bring a change of clothes, a cool drink, and some freshly soothed nerves. This movie will put you through the wringer. A brutally slow burn, this film builds and builds and builds, until what is, in a sense, the main action of the film begins, probably an hour in. It’s wonderfully shot, and absolutely revels in the awful, hot, poverty stricken, disgustingly wet world of South America. And when the action does happen, it’s gripping and nasty. Sorcerer is an excellent, thrilling, adventurous piece of mean spirited 70s cinema. Desperate and awful people, hiding out on the fringe of civilization, taking on a job only a sucker would do. Man, it’s good.
Burnt Offerings: The 70s produced a lot of cool films, but it also produced a very particular type of horror film that seems unique to its time. Burt Offerings is a perfect example of what I’m talking about (see also: The Sentinel, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, and Don’t Look Now) . The characters are all totally insane, and not at all relatable. The plot doesn’t make much sense. The atmosphere is monstrously thick. But sadly, so is the writing. Frequently, very little happens, but there’s almost always a flippin’ crazy ending that doesn’t make much sense. I enjoyed watching this film. The actors are all good (even Karen Black isn’t bad), and it’s creepy and weird. But it’s also, like so many others of its time, ultimately disappointing. The big reveal at the end was a huge let down. If Oliver Reed had opened that door and found some kind of great spider demon or something, I’d have lost my s%#& and this might be one of the coolest films ever. Alas, what was behind the door was kind of boring. If you’re looking to watch more movies of that particular 70s vibe, this was better than some, like The Other or the afore mentioned Don’t Look Now (I’ll never get why people like that one).
On Thursday night, I read Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths. It was OK. Felt like a comic version of a lesser film in the classic (Showa) era. Readable, with a few good bits, but nothing special.
The Apartment: You can feel the yoke of the Hayes Codes slipping in this 1960 comedy about a wide-eyed pencil pusher striving for the American Dream. As bosses keep using his apartment for their extramarital affairs, he starts to fall for the dame in the elevator. Things get really out of hand when the big boss calls him in and demands the use of his place (but offers a sweet promotion). Jack Lemmon balances sweet charm with wannabe corporate shark quite well. Shirley MacLaine is kind of adorable as the broken girl with dashed hopes. And Fred MacMurray is an absolute monster as the boorish, heartless, blowhard boss. Lots of great character performances, a great style, and a clever script all make for a fine film. I love Lemmon’s apartment, too, which seems like a realistic, lived in place, without seeming either too fancy/swinging or too rundown/slumy.
After The Apartment, in keeping with the 60s theme, Mad Men hit the screen. It’s been a long time since I watched season 1, but it didn’t take long for me to slide back in to the smooth, casually evil world of smoking, drinking, and rampant misogyny. Awesome.
Saturday, I headed in to DC to meet with a friend who was visiting from Europe. It was an amazing day, gorgeously sunny without being too hot, and darn it, but I do love DC. It’s so pretty, and so walker friendly. Love it. The only problem we had was with the crowded streets of Georgetown, but it wasn’t unexpected, and once you leave the main drag, it’s not bad at all. Very pretty community. I really love living in this area. I don’t take advantage of living next to DC nearly as much as I should, but then, that makes these trips all the more special.
While in the city, we hit up the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. I still don’t think it’s as good as the Udvar Hazy location, and sometimes the displays can seem a bit dull (maybe rudimentary is a better word?). But this time around there were a few especially good exhibits. The Spirit & Opportunity exhibit was breathtaking. Gorgeous images of Mars taken by our robot explorer brothers. Any one of those would make amazing art to hang on a wall. Really wonderful. And yeah, if I hadn’t been on top of it, I’d probably have shed a tear. Quite impressive.
Turns out, a lot of stuff is closed in DC on Saturday, which I was a bit surprised by. So, it took a bit to find a place to eat. But finally, we found Wicked Waffles, one of those obscure theme restaurants you find in bigger cities. They make waffles, and they put things on ’em, like open faced sandwiches. OK. Why not. It was pretty good (not amazing), and unusually inexpensive for food in the city.
So, on the Dorkside, there wasn’t all that much to this week. But on the personal side, it’s one of the best I’ve had in a long time. Spring is finally in the air and I feel great.