Sunday, January 8, 2012

Beneath the Valley of the Astro-Memes for a White Parasol Girl Who Fell From Grace With the Sea and Became Mixed-Up Zombies

While the Venn diagrams of our particular interests only intersect slightly,
The National Film Board of Ivanlandia deeply appreciates The Girl With the White Parasol, a delightful blog that gets its name from one of the most beautiful speeches spoken in one of the greatest movies ever made. (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, what sort of film fan are you anyway?)

Proprietorized by Rachel, the blog covers “Classic Cinema, 1930-1965,” with genuine affection and detail, and last year, TGWtWP won the second prize in the Roger Corman blogathon for her sharp, but respectful and very detailed review/critique of The Haunted Palace—it’s a good read, check it out!

To celebrate reaching 50 followers—of which I am one—The Girl With the White Parasol is throwing a meme party, and has posted 12 questions for readers and followers to answer.
So let’s go quizzing/memeing
The Girl With the White Parasol’s “The New Year's Movie Meme!”

1. What is your all-time favorite Grace Kelly costume?
GK is a stunning goddess, the type of chick that could inspire a barbarian like me to invade a country. She always looked good.
That said,
Her outfit in High Noon, because it looks tight
Or else that sleeveless number she’s got on in Rear Window
Or the nightgown she’s wearing when the dude’s trying to strangle her in Dial “M” for Murder

2. What classic film would you nominate for a remake?
Von Stroheim’s Greed—but the nine-hour version, as an HBO miniseries.
Michael Shannon would be perfect as McTeague! Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter would make a good Trina, I think, and for Cousin Marcus, I say go with a wild card: either Patton Oswalt or Edward Norton.

3. Name your favorite femme fatale.
Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction.
Jeez, I mean, wow… Yeah, I’d kill for her.
In a fucking heartbeat.
I know I’d be signing my own death warrant, but a woman like that… What do you call her? Only the krauts could come up with the right sort of word to describe her—a word that combined “feral” with “genius” with “soulless” with “oozing sex appeal of the most dangerous sort.”
Yeah, that word would be her.
When you figure that word out, make sure to include it on my morgue form under “cause of death”….

4. Name the best movie with the word "heaven" in its title.
Until they finally make “Martians From Heaven Destroy the Earth,”
my favorite movie with “heaven” in the title is John Huston’s Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.
During The Great Pacific War, a shipwrecked marine and a novice nun hide and survive—and struggle with erotic and sexual tension
(Waitaminit! Burt can score Debs, but Bob can’t? No wonder Mitchum blows reefer!)—
on an island overrun by the Japanese.

The best song in a movie about “heaven” is the one in Eraserhead that the tumor-faced “Lady in the Radiator” sings.

5. Describe the worst performance by a child actor that you’ve ever seen.
Dakota Fanning looking miserable or screeching horrifically in every damn scene of Spielberg’s excellent, but awful War of the Worlds.

It’s obviously heartfelt—War of the Worlds is Uncle Steve’s reaction to 9/11, and it comes from his gut—unfortunately leapfrogging over his brain, because despite the multitude of incredible action sequence and a nightmarish vision of “war coming home,” the movie is a fucking stupid mess, obviously made from a first draft script, or a bunch of cocktail napkins taped together.

Sneer-inspiring “family” scenes are shoehorned in, imposed by the respective father-trauma-psychoses that Spielberg and star Tom Cruise share;
I never got a feeling that the invasion went beyond the woods and suburbs;
Tim Robbins character mentally breaks down much too quickly;
Not killing any of the children is a bad habit Spielberg’s picked up, and needs to get rid of;
and keeping H.G. Wells’ original ending (germs did it) was not a good idea—or it was not executed well, I’m still not sure.

The death of the Martians in the 2005 version is handled rather ham-fistedly—there’s no build-up, or suspense. It just happens, and the whole “God in his infinite wisdom” bit doesn’t play as well these days, y’know? You need to earn bringing in Gee-Oh-Dee, and this one doesn’t do it.
With Spielberg & Co., the aliens’ lack of immunity to bacteria feels as dopey as the aliens in M. Night Shamalamadingdong’s Signs being allergic to water.

(At least in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume II, Alan Moore has Dr. Moreau splice together anthrax and streptacchocus bacterias to be used against the Martians.)

Personally, I’m against the deus ex machina of bacteria showing up at the conclusion and wiping out the aliens. It work for Wells because people in 1898, when WotW was first published, were unfamiliar with germs and the microscopic world.

Germs saving humanity works in George Pal/Byron Haskin’s WotW (1953) because
A) the flick has been building to a fever pitch, and something has to break (Haskin’s version is actually much better paced than Spielberg’s); and
B) the movie is a Christian film, and calls to the Lord have been made throughout the movie—at the end of the film, God responds.
You don’t think Jehovah is going to just sit there and watch soulless critters vaporize one of his preachers, do you?

Still, I do own a copy of Spielberg’s movie (and a copy of Pal’s version as well), and whenever I need a pick-me-up, I pop it in: the scenes of destruction are magnificent—and infrequent compared to all the “acting” we’re forced to suffer through—with flawless special effects.
There’s about 25 minutes of HOLY SHIT AWESOME in this flick, surrounded by lame blorp-blorp-blorp.
Like I said, excellent, but awful.
And young Ms. Fanning’s attempt to mimic a nail on a blackboard helps the awful.
(BTW, who out there thinks Elle Fanning is a baby Princess Grace? I do.
And I think Dakota is planning to kill her more beautiful younger sister….)

6. Who gets your vote for most tragic movie monster?
Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman is my go-to tragic monster.
Poor Larry Talbot…

7. What is the one Western that you would recommend to anybody?
Shane (1952), because it takes a hot dump on the whole “open range” “macho cowboy” mythos, while using the same to excite and entertain us—but still stressing that the approach of civilization is not only inevitable, but good.

8. Who is your ideal movie-viewing partner?
Honestly, no one. I love it when a theater is almost empty and it becomes my personal screening room.

9. Has a film ever made you want to change your life? If so, what was the film?
2001: A Space Odyssey made me want to know all about this kooky thing called “making movies.”

10. Think of one performer that you truly love. Now think of one scene/movie/performance of theirs that is too uncomfortable for you to watch.
Jack Nicholson in Batman. Not only do I think the flick is paced like sludge, but slapping a fake smile on Nicholson has to be the greatest case of gilding the lily in cinema.
The man has the BEST smile in the world—why hide it under a latex mask? And one that looked so FAKE!

11. On the flip side, think of one really good scene/performance/movie from a performer that you truly loathe.
Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (runners-up: the whiny dope peddler in The Falcon and the Snowman, and his crooked lawyer in Carlito’s Way—both roles which, I feel, are probably the closest to the truth of his actual personality)

12. And finally, do you have any movie or blogging-related resolutions for 2012?
To publish more at Ivanlandia; to work through my insanely long Netflix Streaming list; try and see more movies in the theater; see more revival shows, too! And write about them! Exclamation point!

Thanks for letting me participate!


  1. Ivan, thanks so much for the kind words (and the plug). I love your idea for a Greed miniseries; I think I'm going to start quoting that one.

    "There’s about 25 minutes of HOLY SHIT AWESOME in this flick, surrounded by lame blorp-blorp-blorp." I hate when that happens with a film. So much adrenaline letdown.

    Thanks for doing the meme. I had fun reading this.

  2. Rachel: Thank you! And I had fun writing it, too.