Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Ivanlandia!

It was three years ago today
When Emperor Ivan of Ivanlandia decided to stay…

Mighty & Glorious™

Random—but very relevant—Birthday-day quote of the week:
“All news is in one way or another a lie, a hype, a scam, and a distraction from the warm human faces and the gnarly nature of the now moment.”
From Rudy Rucker

Thanks to all our readers, commenters and most especially all those willing to risk public censure by “following” The United Provinces of Ivanlandia:
(but especially you)
(yeah, you)

Let us wrap up the flicks viewed in the first one-twelfth of 2012 (wow, what a macho bunch of movies!):

Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957; John Huston) In a recent post, I called this film “the best movie I know with the word ‘heaven’ in the title.”
Well, I was certainly wrong—this is NOT better than Leave Her to Heaven!
Actually, excepting about 15 minutes of Robert Mitchum’s marine scurrying about the jungles and beaches of a Jap-infested island, this movie is pretty bad; completely clunky propaganda—a recruiting film for the USMC and the Holy Roman Church.
But I can see why people of my mom’s generation think Heaven Knows Mr. Allison is great.

Terry Jones: The Hidden History of Rome (2002; TV) Jeez, what happened to the “little guy” in Ancient Rome is exactly what’s happening to the US of today!
Yipes, we’re goners.

Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom (2010; TV) Wow! These creatures are practically primeval!
And the dude who is living with them—keeping a bunch of “tame” wolverines in his home—
is gonna end up like “Grizzly Man,” all gobbled up by his “tamed” critters! You’ll see…

Bronson (2008; Nicholas Winding Refn) Holy shit, this is a new Ivanlandia fave!
Like an Alejandro Jodoworsky movie on PCP, it’s intense, brutal art about a man whose life is an ultraviolent performance art piece—and he’s “on” 24-7.
At the end, he’s his own Oscar. Really.

Christ on a crutch, Tom Hardy is a scary and fearless performer.
BEST “drop-in” music I’ve heard in a flick in ages, too, used to perfection, from Wagner’s “Gotterdamerung,” to early 1980s synth-pop.

Fookin’ brillo—jess waytch it, ya cunt!
Refn! Refn! Refn!
Gonna watch Refn’s Valhalla Rising again soon—like Bronson, it’s available via Nflix Streaming.

BTW, Bronson would be a good triple-feature with Andrew Dominik's Chopper and John Hillcoat's Ghosts of the Civil Dead.

A Colt Is My Passport (1967; Takashi Nomura) Despite the exquisite B&W cinematography, A Colt Is My Passport is only recommended for fans of 1960s Japanese gangster/assassin/yakuza flicks.
Chipmunk-cheeked Joe Shisido plays his usual cool and awesome self as a hitman on the run; and
the movie is fast-paced and quite excellent for the first 20 minutes; then it gets bogged down in a meandering, existential “doomed romance.”
The flick does pick up towards the end, though.

Drive, He Said (1970; Jack Nicholson) Finally available on DVD after being “missing” for decades! Jack Nicholson’s first directorial effort could almost be part of a weird experimental youth culture madness trilogy with The Trip (written by Nicholson) and Head (produced and co-written by Nicholson).
Drive, He Said will be the subject of its own Ivanlandia post soon….

A Safe Place (1971; Henry Jaglom) Kooky! Quirky! Whimsical! Boring.
And eventually, selfishly self-pitying and self-indulgent: A snooze.
As usual Tuesday Weld gives 110%, but to what end when so much of the story is given over to her incomprehensible romance with a square, wet blanket of a fellow.
He must have a ginormous shlong because there’s no other reason she could be going out with him.
It’s really too bad Jack Nicholson and Weld didn’t have more scenes together, because there are genuine sparks flying—or else in them Weld has a good actor to play against.

A Huey P. Newton Story (2001; Spike Lee) The first 45 minutes are perfect: exciting, intriguing, challenging—yes, a filmed theater piece, but one gussied-up with lots of projections and superimposed visuals creating an almost experimental energy—cemented by the intense performance given by Lee regular Roger Guenveur Smith (who also wrote the show). But after a certain point, there’s just too much damn padding!
Needs a trim…and I really liked the beginning, too…

Star Wars Uncut: Director’s Cut (2011~1977/1997; George Lucas & a million other people)
Whew! An amazing meta-textual post-modern recreation/refraction that if anything, increases the joy.
A wonderful experience, and subject of a future Ivanlandia post…But view it HERE first.

11 Harrowhouse (1974; Aram Avakian) This offbeat and languidly-paced caper/thriller is best for fans of Charles Grodin’s supercool detachment (the actor also wrote the script). His narration is beyond snide, but the movie is well-supported by James Mason as a sympathetic jewel man.

Director Avakian really only made three films: this one, 1973’s Cops and Robbers (written by Donald Westlake) and End of the Road (1970), adapted from John Barth’s novel by Terry Southern.
Avakian’s films were always well-written (look who worked on them!) and ambitious, but never pretentious—with game casts doing top work.
His flicks have a kind of “shaggy dog” feel to them, with thoughtful paces—like other 1970s-ish directors Frank Perry, Hal Ashby or John Cassavettes.

Never successful enough to flame out spectacularly,
Avakian left directing for teaching, and returned to editing films (where he had been before directing). I wish he’d made more films.

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973; Sam Peckinpah) Netflix is showing the pan-&-scan truncated “studio cut”—yes, the “director’s cut” is better, but even in a bastardized state, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is still an incredible film, a goddamn poem, man.

Hellboy-Animated: Blood & Iron (2007; Victor Cook, Tad Stones) I’m a big fan of the comic book, but neither Guillermo del Toro’s films or these animated versions have really captured my imagination the way Mike Mignola’s printed work does. I love his style!
However, I strongly recommend the Mignola-art directed animated short The Amazing Screw-On Head: magnificent stuff!

Went the Day Well? (1942; Alberto Cavalcanti) Referenced often in the last few weeks over at the excellent and highly recommended Rupert Pupkin Speaks! site, Went the Day Well? is a proto-The Eagle Has Landed/Red Dawn
but made during the war, with no way of knowing how things will turn.

As such, this is incredible and often moving agitprop, equal in excitement and political mindfuck to The Battle of Algiers.
Went the Day Well? can be weirdly brutal quite often, with sudden—almost surreal—violence leaping out. And the film is to be commended for its willingness to kill everybody. Watching this, you get the feeling that no one is safe.
Some of the characters are such “continental boobs” that you start feeling the flick is a mad prayer for the end of Edwardian England, but then you see they are portrayed as idiots to make their sacrifices so much more harrowing.
It seems a new print of Went the Day Well? is making the rounds in Los Angeles, but for the rest of us, the film is available on-line HERE.

The Set-Up (1949; Robert Wise) Robert Ryan is perfect (as usual) as a beautiful loser with big dreams doomed to fail. Director Wise guides this movie in real time covering a gamut of sleaze as Ryan’s boxer is betrayed by his manager—the flick is almost impeccable, with incredible B&W cinematography, and extras cast right out of a Bruegel painting.

Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964; Stanley Kubrick) Every single frame is classic.

Red Tails (2012; Anthony Hemingway—and George Lucas) Subject of a future Ivanlandia post, this gung-ho flick is the most spectacular USAF advertisement specifically aimed at the black community. I had fun watching it, and am glad I caught it on a big screen in a theater.

The Dead Zone (1983; David Cronenberg) Haven’t seen this since it was first released, and… Gosh, the movie just seems so…tepid.

And just to keep everything organized,
here’s the list of the other films screened by The National Film Board of Ivanlandia during the month of January 2012:
(BTW, rather than go through the hassle of hyperlinking every gee-dee movie, if one movie is hyperlinked, but the movies under it aren’t—they are all reviewed during the same post.)

The Wild Bunch (1969; Sam Peckinpah)
Dr. No (1962; Terence Young—and Albert R. Broccoli & Harry Saltzman)
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011; Declan O’Brien)
The Swarm (1978; Irwin Allen)
Drive (2011; Nicholas Winding Refn)
Trespass (1992; Walter Hill)
White Hunter Black Heart (1990; Clint Eastwood)
MST3K: The Beatniks (1992)
The Big Boss (1971; Wei Lo)
Perversion Story (a.k.a. One on Top of the Other) (1969; Lucio Fulci)
Bored to Death Season One (2009; created by Jonathan Ames)
Detective Story (2007; Takeshi Miike)
Punishment Park (1971; Peter Watkins)
Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003; Bob Odenkirk)
Breaking Bad Season Four (2011; created by Vince Gilligan)
Mars (2010; Geoff Marslett)
Machine Gun McCain (1969; Giuliano Montaldo)

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