July 5th, 2004

Salt Precaution

Movies are edible.

Good mornin' . . .

I woke up at 4am with the sickening realisation that I'd slept nine hours. The realisation that I was not going to be getting any more sleep and that the day, for better or worse, had begun. So here I am, drinking the Komodo Dragon blend Starbucks coffee I found in the refrigerator.

So what've I been up to for these quiet days? Lots of movies of course . . . Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Coffee and Cigarettes, Fahrenheit 9/11, Boom Town, Strange Cargo, The Terminal, and Manpower. All of them were mostly good, except Strange Cargo was rather disappointing. But even it had its moments.

For fun, I'm gonna try to link all of these movies . . . Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was an interesting little Tennessee Williams drama that wasn't as good as A Streetcar Named Desire. It starred the pretty Elizabeth Taylor and the scorchingly gorgeous Paul Newman, who not only looked better than Taylor, but was a better actor. You've probably heard it here first. In later life, as a cool looking old man, Paul Newman appeared in Road to Perdition, a film directed by the same fellow who directed American Beauty, which featured Thora Birch, who was also in the wonderful Ghost World with Scarlett Johannson, who was brilliantly partnered with Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.

Bill Murray was one of the highlights of Coffee and Cigarette's, a film that was the culmination of twenty years of short films directed by Jim Jarmusch about people doing things whilst enjoying coffee and cigarettes. Over the period of twenty years, see, Jarmusch would occasionally bring aside a couple actors and make a little short film with them on the subject. The first film, starring Roberto Begnini and Steven Wright, won a prize at Cannes, but I only found it mildly interesting. It felt contrived to me, and not nearly as good as some of the later pieces. I enjoyed the dialogue between Tom Waits and Iggy Pop, which was a scene something like watching exotic animals circling each other in fascinating lighting. But my favourite segment was Cate Blanchett in duel roles; as herself, and as her somewhat bitter cousin. Blanchett carried off the performance of two different people talking to each other so well that it was breathtaking. And the subtility of the characters was better than the broader humour seen in some of the film's other segments, like the Tesla coil scene with The White Stripes. Cate portrays with surprising delicacy the star's awkward feelings about being caught in the strange eyes of the common woman.

The scene where Bill Murray converses with GZA and RZA of Wu-Tang clan was strangely darling, right from the moment where Murray drinks straight from the coffee pot. Generally, the movie was good, although I didn't enjoy it as much as Jarmusch's Mystery Train.

Cate Blanchett has been a favourite actress of mine for a while. She appeared in the reasonably good The Talented Mister Ripley with Matt Damon who, most sentients know, is best friends with Ben Affleck. Affleck had something of a cameo appearance at the beginning of Fahrenheit 9/11.

I like Micheal Moore. He twitches oddly when he's trying to sit still. I admire that in a man.

And I admire this film. It didn't tell me much I didn't already know, in terms of raw information. But he brought into it the emotional element that is lacking in simple reports of what a fuckhead George W. Bush is. Yes, I really think a lot of people need to see the Iraqi man holding the mutilated corpse of a baby, asking the camera what the child had done to deserve this. We do need to see the man being taken from his home by U.S. soldiers without being told why. We need to see all of the soldiers coming home to the U.S. with missing limbs. We need to have our eyes and or ears open to what's happening. This film does that.

Unlike some people, I even like Moore's humour. It provides a useful function. Without it, there're a lot of people who would never sit through a movie with images like what this movie has. And that would have meant a lot less people who're informed.

One of the most important issues with the Bush administration is its connexions with oil dealing and trade. It seems to have pushed these fat-cats into an unimaginably loathsome, cut throat mentality. And it was odd that the next movie I enjoyed was a film called Boom Town.

Made in the early 40s, it took place in the early 1900s and cast Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy as pennyless oil prospectors. They swiped equipment from Frank Morgan (who played the Wizard of Oz and who I'd seen a week earlier in The Mortal Storm, starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as Jews escaping from Nazi Germany on skis--but that's another kettle of fish) to drill on a spot where Tracy thinks there might be oil.

The film also features Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lemmar, both of whom looked delicious. It also had a court room scene at the end where Spencer Tracy talked about the importance of preserving our land's oil as much as possible, so it wouldn't be so scarce for future generations. Aw, such innocent times.

Clark Gable also starred in the next movie I watched, Strange Cargo which, like I said, was disappointing. It featured two favourite actors of mine; Peter Lorre and Joan Crawford. In fact, it was the first time in years that Gable had worked with Crawford, after the two of them had frequently been paired in dramas of the 30s. The set-up was promising--in some exotic country (which is never clearly identified and could've been either France or India), Gable's a convict and Crawford's possibly a call girl (the Production Code prohibited the film from being too clear about that). Peter Lorre's possibly a pimp.

Unfortunately, somehow it was decided this movie would feature a conterfeit convict who turns out to be an incarnation of Jehovah, in order to push a religious message on the film, and ensure that, as per the rules of the Production Code, Gable turns himself back in at the end after going through a lot of trouble to escape.

Peter Lorre also appeared in John Huston's The Maltese Falcon. John Huston later directed The beautiful 1952 version of Moulin Rouge (as far as I'm concerned, the best movie to bear that title), which featured Peter Cushing in a small role. Cushing appeared in Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, directed by George Lucas, who at about the same time, co-wrote the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, directed by Steven Spielburg. Spielburg also directed the movie I saw yesterday, which was The Terminal.

The Terminal took place almost entirely on a very impressive set, which looked exactly like an airport terminal. It must've cost a fortune to build.

It was a cute movie. Sometimes too cute. But basically good and effective. I really liked the ending, which didn't make too much with the good-wins-hurrah business.

Okay, here's the long shot; The Terminal had the lovely Catharine Zeta-Jones in it. Zeta-Jones costarred with Rene Zellweger in Chicago. Zellweger'd been in Jerry MacGuire, which had Tom Cruise in the title role. Tom Cruise starred in Ridley Scott's Legend. Scott had made Blade Runner a year earlier; it had starred Harrison Ford. Ford'd had a cameo in Apocalypse Now, as did the great, recently passed Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando had been in Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra had been in Some Came Running with Shirley MacLaine. Two years later, MacLaine was in The Apartment, directed by Billy Wilder, who'd directed Witness for the Prosecusion about five years earlier. It'd starred Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. Around fifteen years earlier, Dietrich was in Manpower, the movie I watched last night (whew!).

Manpower was directed by Raoul Walsh whose best films, I suspect, I have yet to see. Manpower also starred Edward G. Robinson and George Raft. It was about guys who fixed powerlines when they broke, usually in dramatic thunderstorms. It was a great movie, though. Part action, part blue-collar comedy, part film noir. It certainly had the film noir quality in that I suspect it was partially inspired by the puritanical nature of the Production Code. It was inspired to show how sometimes life is really not so tidy and sometimes, in the end, there's very little us mortals can do about it.
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