Monday, March 06, 2006

"You've Built This Fortress Backwards."

Watched the Oscars last night (what was I thinking...?) and was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing quite a bit with Jon Stewart's political jokes (for his opening speech it seemed like an awful lot of the audience members were just NOT laughing at all) and some inspired faux political ads. Also, gotta love that "manly" cowboy montage that some genius put together.

This was a particularly good year for me, as only two films I had seen had been nominated for any awards whatsoever (HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and the most recent STAR WARS) -- and if I'd known that either would get any nominations whatsoever I probably would have passed them by (okay, I'm lying; David Cronenberg and STAR WARS rule my world, I'm afraid to admit). Nothing for Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD, of course, but I guess I should have known that.

Of course, silly me, I had hoped to see the great film director Walerian Borowczyk listed amongst the people who passed away during 2005, but only as I'm typing this does it occur to me that he actually died at the beginning of 2006. Here's hoping that the academy will remember him during next year's montage.

Had I simply never noticed the orchestra playing before while people give their acceptance speeches? I thought the music was supposed to start when it was time for the winner to STOP talking? Whatever was going on, Bill Conti and his orchestra provided some of the most embarrassing and annoying musical accompaniment ever provided to an awards event. Maybe Bill and his posse would be better off scoring a low-end Bar Mitzvah ceremony instead? Yeeesh! Just awful.

My favorite "WTF" moment was the burning car during the performance of the song from CRASH (no, not the good film with that title, but this one). Almost as jaw-droppingly hilarious as Antonia Banderas and Carlos Santana at last year's ceremony. Almost.

And I don't care what the damn song says; pimps are fucking parasitical scumbags and they can all go to Hell.

But that was all yesterday. This evening, I washed all that Hollywood starshine out of my eyes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with a screening of Dario Argento's FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET.

I don't know how I got so lucky, but BAM played the movie on their biggest screen in the theatre with stadium seating; unbelievably, I think this is the largest I've ever seen a classic Argento film projected (aside from seeing THE CARD PLAYER in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival a few years back). The print was pretty grotty around the reel changes, but it was in pretty good shape considering it's age and relative obscurity -- fellow film geek Marc Walkow pointed out the lack of a Paramount logo at the front of the print, indicating that it could be a British source, an assessment I completely agree with as I noticed a moment of trimmed violence via a bad splice during one of the murders -- but more importantly, the colors were unfaded and vibrant, indicating that me might have been watching an IB Technicolor print (more common from Europe during that era).

Not anyone's favorite Argento film, but I've got a special place for it in my heart -- although it's got one of my favotrite endings, it takes far too long to get to it, and by the time it does happen there's something a bit perfunctory about it after such a long build-up. Also, I saw it early on and it made such an impression upon me that it's impossible for me to not ignore the flaws that must infuriate others.

Lotsa gender issues in this one, and one piece of science so daft that only the hydrogen mind of Luigi Cozzi could have come up with it (sorry folks, but if you haven't seen this film I ain't giving away anything!). Lead actor Michael Brandon could well be the least charismatic performer to ever be committed to film, while Mimsy Farmer is a fantastic ice princess to his dunce prince. The film could very easily be retitled TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPENING TO PEOPLE YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT as it's not only more honest but also more to the point.

Oh well. It's all downhill after the first 20 minutes anyway, but the Ennio Morricone score (conducted by Bruno Nocolai) is superlative and keeps even the most bizarrely realized scenes grounded.

I've met Dario a few times over the years, and the first time I met him I had him sign a beautiful FOUR FLIES poster (the same one the theatre had hanging in their lobby). I'd almost forgotten I have this wonderful artifact until I saw their poster hanging, but now I realize I must have it framed sometime soon.

Tomorrow night at BAM is Michael Mann's THE KEEP. I'm looking forward to doing a lot of drinking from my handy-dandy flask while watching that one -- especially during the nonsensical second half. Sigh. Poor Les Bowie.

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