Instead of counting sheep, I like to play a variation of Degrees of Separation in my head--I pick two seemingly wildly disparate names from the movies and connect them. I went through several this morning, but I was proudest somehow of connecting William H. Macy with John Gilbert.
William H. Macy was in Fargo with Steve Buscemi, who was in Big Fish directed by Tim Burton, who directed Jack Nicholson in Batman. Jack Nicholson was in Terms of Endearment with Shirley MacLaine, who was also in The Children's Hour with Miriam Hopkins. Hopkins was in Trouble in Paradise, directed by Ernst Lubitsh, who also directed Ninotchka starring Greta Garbo. Greta Garbo starred in Queen Christina with John Gilbert.
There're probably closer connexions than that, but I like to think of interesting ones. I did think of some nicer ones, like connecting Selma Blair with D.W. Griffith (Selma Blair-John Hurt-Anthony Hopkins-Katharine Hepburn-John Huston-Marilyn Monroe-Billy Wilder-Charles Laughton-Lillian Gish-D.W. Griffith).
I've been listening to a lot of audio commentaries while drawing lately. A couple days ago, I listened to Brian Singer and Newton Thomas Sigel's (cinemtographer) commentary for X-Men 2. It's a sad thing to listen to as they discuss quite enthusiastically some of the things they hope to do with X-Men 3. Oh, why did Superman have to come along? And why did the people at Fox have to be such dicks?
So when I finished drawing last night, I watched X-Men on the big 42-inch television. I'm pleased by how rewatchable those movies are--the actors and sets all work together so well, it feels like returning to a favourite television series.
I've mainly just been rewatching movies lately, mostly because VHS tapes don't seem to work on the flat screen television. I finally got around to buying the Indiana Jones collection on DVD. It'd been a long time since I'd watched any of them in any format, especially Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I don't believe I'd watched since I was age 15 or 16. There's such a natural flow of action and fun and danger in that movie that it is, when you step back from it, awe-inspiring. When you're in the middle of enjoying it, of course, you just feel happy and absorbed.
I think I enjoyed the second movie almost as much, although in different ways. But I was surprised and dismayed by how disappointed I was by the third movie. It's as though invention ended with the poor reception of Temple of Doom, replaced by a desire to produce a Well Made Indiana Jones movie. And to be sure, The Last Crusade is well made in a lot of ways. There's definite evidence of a more technically adept Steven Spielberg than the one who directed Raiders of the Lost Ark. I sense the earlier Spielberg probably couldn't have handled the Venice boat chase. And yet I never felt as engaged by any of the action sequences as I did by the ones of the previous films--though, make no mistake, I did enjoy them. In fact, the boat chase and the motorcycle chase were two of the highlights of the movie for me, in no small part due to John Williams' score. I love the theme he composed for "Chasing after the Joneses." And I admit I didn't like the overuse of the Raiders’ march at the beginning of Temple of Doom.
And yet, it really didn't bother me because the beginning of Temple of Doom is so damn wonderful. One spectacular surprise after another is pulled out of a hat. And then, it gets better because the movie gets grim. I mean, it's Temple of Doom that most gives the feeling of Indy-as-unlikely-hero. You're talking about one little archaeologist up against a big, really menacing Kali cult, and he's not just trying to get away from them. No, he's going to steal diamonds and try to save a bunch of brutalised kids. It could easily have felt sappy and fake, yet you really get the feeling of a big damned Temple of Doom casting a shadow.
Now, again, there are elements of Last Crusade I like. In spite of the fact that I think bringing in Indy's father was a bad idea, and that Indy essentially becomes a different, less interesting character around his father, I do like the dialogue they have on the airship; "We never talked." "Well, I'm here now . . . what do you want to talk about?" "heh . . . I can't think of anything . . ." "Than what are you complaining about?" Much better than just a few minutes later when Indy, after revealing his limited knowledge of flying, is startled to find that his father thinks he's talking about time when he yells, "Eleven O'clock!" Oh, that old chestnut. Did we have multiple, un-credited writers for this movie? Yes, we did.
But what really bothers me about the third movie is the last act. Suddenly it's about whether Indy believes in Santa Claus and Angels and love and it just soggily sucks. I mean, the Ark in the first film worked on God juice and I didn't care. It was great--melting faces, physical peril, and MacGuffin. It's a good show, because what's interesting is whether Indy and Marian escape and get the MacGuffin and what and how. Not whether or not Indy can bring himself to believe in God.
Even invoking Siiva in the second movie, it was fine because it was bloody cool.
Anyway, all this has made me lot less eager to see the fourth movie, if they ever do get their act together on it. And my belief that Schindler's List and Jurrassic Park ought to've actually been back-to-back Indiana Jones movies has sort of been reaffirmed.