Wednesday, April 9, 2008

well, alright...

I've been trying to think of some clever way to start off this entry, but I'm not feeling very clever tonight. The gist of the thing is that the other night I watched the movie "The Mist," which I wasn't expecting to like, and I liked it. Things I liked about movie are: 1. acting by Thomas Jane, 2. decently creepy atmosphere, 3. one really big monster they drive a car under, 4. downbeat ending. In all, adequacy achieved and surpassed by all involved. I'm having a hard time getting enthused about writing this. Fuck, I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open.

On the other hand, I'm slightly more psyched to write something about the Albert Brooks film "Modern Romance," which I caught a screening of at Anthology Film Archives last week. I'd seen this flick before more than a handful of times, and always dug it, always dug Albert Brooks in general, but seeing this one again on the big screen was something else. Maybe it's just my general state of mind and being, maybe it's that I haven't seen a movie in the theatre in a few months, or maybe this is just a mad ass fucking brilliant piece of genius filmmaking (Brooks' real name is Albert Einstein, so who knows?) The overall sense of discomfort that "Modern Romance" generates is nothing short of astounding. By the end of the screening, I had a headache from gritting my teeth so hard and some of the more difficult moments.

The thing about "Modern Romance" is that, while obviously exaggerated for comedic effect, the happenings on the screen really ring true. Imagine every stupid, self-centered, obsessive, insecure, paranoid relationship moment condensed into a 90-minute rollercoaster ride, blown up to 35mm and enacted by a guy who's only a little older than you are, not really any better looking and probably of about the same intelligence...And it's like, wow, you're just watching this guy do everything wrong, again and again, you see every chance he has to do it right, to avoid the fight, to smooth things over, or maybe just to get out of this dysfunctional relationship, and he just does everything, every single thing, the worst possible way it could be done.

To Brooks' credit, he makes this not just gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable, but intermittently pretty fucking hilarious. I'd always like this one but thought of it as somehow inferior to my favorite of Brooks' films- "Real Life," "Defending Your Life" and "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," (yeah, "Lost in America" is pretty great too, but I never really thought it was as funny as the others), but really it's of the same calibre, just with the angst targeted in a different direction, or something. Seeing it on the big screen also gave me a new perspective on the film's excellent cinematography, which had never really caught my eye before, but here I found it both stylish and natural, with some really simple yet beautiful lighting designs. The director of photography was Eric Saarinen, who also shot Brooks' "Real Life" and "Lost in America," as well as the Jane Fonda-Donald Sutherland antiwar documentary "Fuck the Army," Wes Craven's "Hills Have Eyes," and a handful of films for Corman's New World in the 1970s (he also worked on one of my favorite films, Paul Bartel's "Death Race 2000," and Joe Dante and Allan Arkush's "Hollywood Boulevard," both for New World). Looking at imdb, it seems he hasn't done anything since "Lost in America," which leads me to suspect that he died somewhere around the mid-80s- does anyone know? Fill me in.

Also of note in "Modern Romance" is the supporting cast. Kathryn Harrold (also in John Landis' "Into the Night" and a bunch of TV stuff) plays the girlfriend who's a little bit out of Brooks' league, but keeps coming back to him, despite giving off the sense that she just doesn't care as much as he does. She's pretty perfect in the role. The late Bruno Kirby appears as Brooks' mellow co-worker. Also in the cast are Bob "Super Dave Osbourne" Einstein (Brooks' real life brother), James L. Brooks (not related to Albert, but a frequent collaborator- the two have worked on something like six movies together, as well as episodes of "The Simpsons"), plus disaster movie stalwart (and Oscar winner for "Cool Hand Luke") George Kennedy (who for some reason I thought was dead, but isn't) and Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon (also not dead) as themselves.

Brooks is something of a master at making comedies that aren't laugh-out-loud hysterically funny, except they are, and I've found over his years that his work really lends itself to repeat viewing. I will definitely be making more of an effort to catch his movies on the big screen in the future, as he clearly has more of an eye on the visual component of filmmaking that I'd really given him credit for, as well as the heightened emotional impact of being immersed in the experience of his films, since the comedy plays on identification, that comes from theatrical viewing. Anyway, in a nut shell, "The Mist": better than not that bad; "Modern Romance," better than awesome, which I had already thought it was. Awesome, that is.

Speaking of awesome, I also caught the Australian band called Naked on the Vague the other night. This is one of my favorite new groups. They're sort of no-wavey, I guess you could say, sort of post-punk and goth-y, but also noisy, discordant, but it's a melodic kind of noise, not just atonal noodling. Their newest album is "The Blood Pressure Sessions," CD is out on Dual Plover (who also put out one or two of the band's earlier recordings), the vinyl comes from Siltbreeze. Presumably, if they played here in NYC, they're on some kind of US tour, so check your local listings and go to the fucking show if they come to your town. Or don't. It's not like I'm getting paid to say they're good. I just like them. Of course if you want to buy the album, why not come get it at my place of employment, Kim's on St. Marks.

Anyway, I'm falling asleep. Actually, around three this afternoon I was falling asleep, now I'm pretty much delirious, so until next time...


Anonymous said...

I can't believe Super Dave Osbourne is his brother.


harris smith said...

don't you kind of wish super dave osbourne was your brother?