The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Category: Movies (page 4 of 4)

The Unwritten Rules of Oscar

Written by Jim Emerson on Roger Ebert’s website (?), these rules for predicting Oscar winners do ring true. 🙂

Link courtesy of Metafilter

The Passion, or Hotel Rwanda?

A pastor asks why so many churches urged their members to go see The Passion of the Christ but aren’t urging them to see Hotel Rwanda.

Having seen neither movie yet, I couldn’t tell you what their relative merits are. However, I can make a guess as to two reasons why:

First, The Passion had a truly amazing marketing push behind it. To talk about it as a purely grassroots hit movie is to ignore the accomplishments of Mel Gibson and the distributor in promoting this film as a must-see for Christians. There is a common mistake made when talking about evangelical Christians. Despite the talk about cutting ourselves off from the world, we are very much aware of it and are exposed to the tools used in the rest of culture. In other words, it’s hard to separate “religious” church and/or school life from the “secular” world of working and shopping. The evangelical community has always had a large community concerned with marketing to it, just like any other niche market with special interests.

Second, it’s far easier to feel sorrow and horror over the depth of sacrifices made for you than it is to watch and accept that you yourself might be called upon to make a difference. There’s a remove in the first place, even for those who feel it deeply. This is not a knock on The Passion. I’ve met several folks who found it inspiring in their own lives and wanted to make that difference. But I suspect a marketing message saying “Look what was done for you!’ goes over easier than one that says “Look what you can do for others!” when you’re trying to reach millions of moviegoers.

But, that’s always been the dichotomy in Christianity. Is it about your life, or is it about how you live? According to the Gospels, it’s both, but we’ve always had trouble with that idea. 😐

Link courtesy of The Revealer

Not very tall at all

I appear to be shorter (5’6″) than almost every famous modern male. Makes me feel like a hobbit.

Of course, I have to wonder about some of the reported heights. Bea Arthur is only 5’9″? For that matter, Cher is 5’4″? That’s the same height as Alan Ladd. (Seriously. They used to have him stand on things to look taller than his female costars. Except for Veronica Lake. 4’11”. The Glass Key. Good movie.)

I personally think the best height is for Charles Schulz. They report him as 5’12”. 🙂

Link courtesy of Pop Culture Junk Mail

Watching people do stuff

Possibly as an antidote to the mind-altering tedium that is the working world, Lorrie and I decided to watch three documentaries on DVD over the weekend:

The Kid Stays in the Picture
Very good. Based on the book by the same name, the documentary tells the rise, fall, and rise again — sort of — of Robert Evans, possibly the movie industry’s most influential producer during the Seventies (The Godfather, Love Story, Rosemary’s Baby, etc., etc., etc.). Since the movie is narrated by him, and the story is told completely from his perspective, part of the fascination is how much could possibly be real. However, no matter what, it’s a great Hollywood story.

Extras: Okay, since it includes some film footage referred to during the movie, as well as a couple of good acceptance speeches by Evans. However, watching Dustin Hoffman doing his Robert Evans impression over and over again, and seeing the vaguely stoned reactions from some of the random celebrities at an awards ceremony, may not be worth sitting through.

Devil’s Playground
Also quite good, although it turns out it could have been better. A documentary primarily shot around the turn of this century, it follows Amish youth as they participate in the rite of rumspringa, which starts when they are 16. In this rite, young Amish are given the chance to join the church, but are first set free to explore what the world has to offer, the better to work out any doubts. (Joining the church is permanent. If you renounce it later, you will be shunned by the community. However, choosing not to join the church after rumspringa is a respected, but discouraged, choice.)

It uses a typical documentary structure of following and interviewing some particular subjects about their choices and their final decisions. The choices faced are interesting, and the consequences of those choices can be devastating. (Without going too deeply into it, you don’t start watching this movie with the idea anyone will receive death threats from crystal meth dealers. Of course, the kid that does could probably get into trouble if he was sealed into a padded room.)

Extras: While the VHS version of this movie would be worth watching, the DVD version affirms it as a great documentary, just for the inclusion of some deleted scenes that were cut out late in the editing process. Those scenes should have been left in.

Home Movie
The director of American Movie — highly recommended — interviews five people about their unusual homes. The people living in the homes are definitely the subject of the movie, since the homes themselves don’t get a lot of play except as backdrop or prop. However, this is an eccentric bunch, with the possible exception of the woman who lives in a tree, who just seems to have lived an unusual life. Probably the weakest of the three documentaries, but it had some strong competition.

Extras: Okay, but not essential. Check out the Monsanto House of the Future bit, however. 🙂

Stalin watching movies

One brief moment of paralysis, right after you open a blog, seems to be “What’s important enough to be the first post? What momentous thing is going on in the world?”

Well, there are a lot of momentous things happening, but I have to say the one article I’ve read lately that absolutely fascinated me is this one, about Josef Stalin’s movie habits. Any article that mentions Stalin, Scorsese, and Eszterhas in the same sentence has to be worth reading. That, and Khrushchev talking to John Wayne about an assassination attempt.

The author of the article has written a book called Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, which I haven’t read but sounds from the reviews like a slightly different take on a gossipy biography, not concentrating so much on the big horrors of the regime — genocide, starvation — as the smaller ones — purges of the high-level staff, ruthless ambition. Let’s face it, people enjoy gossip, sometimes more so when it’s about the monsters of our world. Perhaps it’s an effort to humanize those who have committed acts we don’t understand — or don’t want to ever understand.

Link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily.

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