Archive for November, 2009

Good Stuff

November 27, 2009

Pierre Schoendoerffer’s The Anderson Platoon might be the best war documentary I’ve ever seen. In ’66 he spent six weeks with an American platoon in Vietnam, filming it during a couple of firefights, while it was pinned down during an attack on a village, and mourning its losses–a grunt’s eye view of the war. Schoendoerffer gets up close to the soldiers, especially the South Carolina farmboy who goes on leave in Saigon; his plans include getting a hotel room with a private bathroom (he’s never had one) and seeing the elephants in the zoo. He gets the hotel room but never sees the elephants–instead, he hangs out with a beautiful streetwalker on whom he lavishes presents, including a guitar she can’t play, running through his money so quickly he goes back to the platoon four days before his leave is up. There’s also a pre-battle sequence showing half the platoon receiving Communion while the other half shoots craps on a cardboard box spread out on the ground, as artillery fire roars around them all. The film feels like the Patient Zero of some Nam-movie cliches, e.g., the platoon’s trudge through a jungle to “These Boots Are Made for Walking”. It was well-known enough at the time–it won the best documentary feature Oscar that year–but it’s never made it onto DVD. (A version of it with narration by Stuart Whitman appeared a year or two later, perhaps for American TV–that version is on disc. I’m not sure how it differs from the original.)

I give you…

November 23, 2009

…the cast of Rod Lurie’s remake of Straw Dogs:

You Said It

November 8, 2009

Man, today’s NYT story about Roland Emmerich is full of quotable quotes:

“This is my last, quote-unquote, action-disaster movie,” Mr. Emmerich…said in a telephone interview from his home in London. “I know I can’t destroy the world again. That would be kind of a joke.”

“You know what you’re getting when Roland Emmerich calls,” said Amanda Peet….“You’re not going to be like, ‘Can we go into my childhood in this?’”

Not lost on Mr. Emmerich was the potential outrage from showing realistic disasters…Still, he pressed ahead with annihilation as usual: “If I cannot destroy a big high-rise anymore, because terrorists blew up two of the most famous ones, the twin towers, what does this say about our world?”

He razed Rio de Janeiro; Rome; California; Washington, D.C.; Tibet; Las Vegas; Yellowstone National Park; and more but decided against destroying Islamic symbols. “My co-writer, Harald” Kloser, “said, ‘I’m not writing this to get a fatwa on my head,’” Mr. Emmerich said. “We have Jesus falling apart in all kinds of forms…”

“I think we have become more and more pessimistic about the future,” he said. “I see it in myself. In ‘Independence Day’ the world was something worth defending. In ‘Day After Tomorrow,’ the message was, ‘We’ll go down if we don’t stop what we’re doing,’ and in ‘2012,’ ‘We’re going down no matter what.’”

Enter the ancient Maya, the bogeymen of “2012,” who some believe predicted the world’s demise as falling on December 21, 2012. They’re only a minor reference point in the film, but they’re all over posters and trailers…“It is not the end of the calendar, by any stretch of the imagination, and the Maya never said anything of the sort,” Dr. David Stuart, a professor in the art and art history department at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the Maya since he was a teenager, said in a phone interview….Dr. Stuart said he expected to be dealing with Mr. Emmerich’s misuse of Maya history for his whole career.

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