Amoeblog

Noir Do Wells 1: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

Posted by Charles Reece, April 18, 2009 09:56pm | Post a Comment

The most wonderful thing about life seems to be that we hardly tap our potential for self-destruction.
-- John Cheever

Over the past few weeks, I've been attending some of the features being shown at the American Cinematheque's 11th Annual Film Noir Festival. My next few blog entries will be about what I saw. First up, two films by two of my favorite directors that center on the basic stupidity of their protagonists to get all the pieces to fit into their respective jury-rigged plots.

Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt


Independent journalist Tom Garrett (a well-lubricated Dana Andrews) goes along with a harebrained scheme to prove the injustice of the death penalty as devised by his future father-in-law, the liberal newspaper editor Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer). More gonzo than Hunter S. Thompson, Tom will plant enough evidence to get himself convicted for an unsolved, brutal murder. Since women are prone to hysteria, the two men decide it best not to tell Tom's fiance, Susan Spencer (Joan Fontaine, the missing link between Grace Kelly and Madame). It's not difficult to see where this one's going: on the way to the courthouse when the jury is to hand in its verdict, Austin gets into a fatal car crash, with all the exculpatory photographic evidence burning up (cars were real fire hazards in those days).

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ANTICHRIST

Posted by Charles Reece, April 17, 2009 04:14am | Post a Comment
I prefer Von Trier's earlier style, and this is why:


Lars von Trier's Antichrist - Official Trailer

The Master Waits while the Servant Baits: The Servant (1963)

Posted by Charles Reece, March 29, 2009 10:04am | Post a Comment
losey servant title
servant losey bogarde fox

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
-- W. H. Auden, "September 1, 1939"

It was Harold Pinter weekend at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, so I had a chance to see one of the best Joseph Losey films, The Servant, on the big screen. Pinter contributed the screenplay, based on the novel by Robin Maugham. (Because I loathe writing plot summaries, here's one.) The presentation was co-sponsored by Outfest for good reason -- it's a classic of queer cinema. Not counting the fairly recent 300, the 60s produced my favorite gay films, The Victim and The Killing of Sister George, along with Losey's. The three form a trilogy to my mind: all are British; both The Victim and The Servant feature Dirk Bogarde, the finest of cerebral actors, making you feel every thought his characters have; Losey trained  and will always be closely aligned with Robert Aldrich, the director of Sister George. Although Aldrich was more of a bare-knuckles kind of director, his film shares with the more intellectual Losey's an approach to sexual identity and politics that I prefer: as a given, full of suggestion and with a good deal of nuance.

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'BS' Doesn't Stand for 'Battlestar': Battlestar Galactica Finale

Posted by Charles Reece, March 22, 2009 12:44am | Post a Comment
spoiler alert.

You know how after a catastrophic accident or tragedy some religiously inclined individual looks at it as a miracle that something even worse didn't happen? Say, some burglar botches a job, not realizing the family is still home, and winds up murdering all of them except the young daughter he didn't see hiding in the closet. Afterwards, some bozo will inevitably suggest God's light must be shining down on the little girl, since she was so lucky to have survived. Maybe I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy, but I'd say what's being conveniently ignored there is that her entire family was slaughtered, indicating there ain't anything moral giving much of a shit about her wellbeing. Or, if you don't like hypotheticals, take the Hulkster's use of Divine Intervention to comfort his son, Nick, during the latter's stay in jail for a drunken crash that rendered his "best friend" and passenger, John Graziano, a tomato:

Well, I don't know what type of person John was or what he did to get himself in this situation. I know he was pretty aggressive and used yell at people and used to do stuff. And for some reason God laid some heavy shit on that kid.  I don't know what he was into .... John was a negative person.

Forsooth, God's Will is deep and mysterious! So say we all! Thus, how might the 30 or so thousand survivors of Caprica find a little bit of meaning in their civiliation's destruction at the hands of the Cylons? Well, by realizing it's all part of God's plan (that is, the one, true God, not "the gods" the humans always swear by). See, with old Yahweh not being much of a utilitarian, it was necessary to kill so many to get a few to Earth, as a way to help our ancestors along in their development.  This is the Divine Scenarist's way of getting humanity to realize its full potential as what Caprica 6 refers to as another iteration of the civilization that gets too big for its britches and will destroy itself with nukes.

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Watchmen (2009): Some Arguments about Design

Posted by Charles Reece, March 14, 2009 11:32pm | Post a Comment

The Impotent God Snake

I love discussing issues of time in comics and film, so Zack Snyder's Watchmen makes for a good opportunity to reflect on its relation to both media. I'll be returning to this sometime in the future. For now, I'm going to stick to a few problems with Alan Moore's conception of Doc Manhattan that the movie doesn't do much to improve on. There is one improvement, though, namely the Mjölner-sized hammer he has hanging between his legs, befitting a puny scientist resurrected as a god. Dave Gibbons merely gave him the statistical average. The Doc can create anything from anything else -- perhaps ex nihilo, if you believe in miracles -- and exists in all points in time simultaneously. One can't get more virile than absolute mastery of matter. However, even though he can still sexually please his woman, he's ontologically impotent-- everything already existing as it was/is/will be, independent of his will. His control of matter is constrained by the deterministic course of the world. Thus, the fact that we never get to see the hammer of the gods raised on camera is a telling sign of his lot in existence (as well as the failure of our last, best chance to see expensive CGI-porn). While Doc's attending the Comedian's funeral, he's shown to exist in Vietnam, where the latter murders a girl who's pregnant with this child. The girl, like the Comedian, is already dead to Doc, so he stands by flaccidly and "lets" the murder occur. When Doc voices concern, he gets a moral lecture from the most nihilistic of the bunch:

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