motion picture, it's called

Saturday, May 28, 2005

More Movies Notes

I've seen the following within the past few days: (this time, with ratings!)

Passions. Kira Muratova, 1994. 9/10
My Summer of Love. Pavel Pavlikovsky, 2004. 7/10
Masques. Claude Chabrol, 1987. 6/10
The Damned. Visconti, 1969. 3/10
Fury. Fritz Lang, 1936. 8/10
Three Stories. Kira Muratova, 1997. 9/10
Nightjohn. Charles Burnett, 1996. 8/10
Look at Me. Agnes Jaoui, 2004. 6/10
The Eye of Vichy. Claude Chabrol, 1993. 9/10
The Hand. Jiri Trnka, 1965. 9/10
The Happiness of the Katakuris. Takashi Miike, 2001. 7/10

I was pretty pleased with most of these movies, except for The Damned, which I found a pile of overblown rubbish, as well as a really inane depiction of Naziism (hint: the Nazis weren't all raving child-murdering pedophilic lunatics). Also, Chabrol's Masques was disappointingly derivative of Chabrol's hey-days of the late 1960s.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What's coming out on DVD

Here's mondo-cool new stuff coming out on DVD in the near future or recent past:

The Phantom of Liberty. Bunuel, 1974.
Donkey Skin. Demy, 1970.
Forty Guns. Samuel Fuller, 1957
L'Argent. Bresson, 1983
Au Hasard, Balthazar. Bresson, 1966.
Heaven Can Wait. Ernst Lubitsch, 1943.
Bright Leaves. Ross McElwee, 2003.
F for Fake. Orson Welles, 1973.

Dardenne Brothers win Palme d'Or - and what that means

Of course, by now you know that Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won the Palme d'Or for their The Child. But what that means has been less commented on. The Dardennes are the first directors to win two Palme d'Or since Bille August won for Pelle the Conqueror in 1988 and Den Goda viljan in 1993 and Emir Kusturica for Underground and When Father was Away on Business. But I think winning two Palme d'Or in 6 years is more important than simply handing the freres Dardenne more awards.

The Dardennes, I believe, represent a new worldwide breakthrough in taking us to the next level of film. Of course, everybody manages to gush that about every Palme (or Golden Bear or Oscar or Sundance) winner, but I think I have a good gut instinct about this. If you know me, I lump Bruno Dumont in with the freres Dardenne, as well as the freres Belvaux. I think David Gordon Greene is trying to do something similar here in the US (with a different emotional register, I admit). The above are working along the same sorts of lines as many film-makers in Iran are. And folks like Hou Hsaio-Hsien. I'm still struggling with how to identify all this gang of people or what ties them all together, but I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More Movies Noted

These are some of the movies I've seen in the recent past:

The Public Enemy. William Wellman, 1931.
Perceval le gallois. Eric Rohmer, 1979.
Mondovino. Jonathan Nossiter, 2004.
Ministry of Fear. Fritz Lang, 1944.
Les carabiniers. Jean-Luc Godard, 1963.
Desk Set. Walter Lang, 1957.
Major Dundee. Sam Peckinpah, 1965.
All About Eve. Joe Mankiewicz, 1950.
The Asthenic Syndrome. Kira Muratova, 1989.
Beyond Kabuki. Janice Findley, 1986.
This Gun for Hire. Frank Tuttle, 1942.
Crimson Kimono. Samuel Fuller, 1959.
Foxy Brown. Jack Hill, 1974.
The Merchant of Four Seasons. Fassbinder, 1972.
A Long Goodbye. Kira Muratova, 1971.
Street of Crocodiles. Quay Brothers, 1986.
The Secret Story. Janie Geiser, 1996.
A Nermish Gothic. Janice Findley, 1980.
Strings. Anders Ronnow-Klarlund, 2004.
Kung Fu Hustle. Stephen Chow, 2004.
This Unnameable Little Broom. Quay Brothers, 1985.
Boogie-Doodle. Norman McLaren, 1948.
Bullitt. Peter Yates, 1968.
Touchez pas au grisbi. Jacques Becker, 1954.
Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies. Quay Brothers, 1988.
Neighbours. Norman McLaren, 1952.
Mosaic. Norman McLaren, 1965.
Do the Right Thing. Spike Lee, 1989.
Heaven's Gate. Michael Cimino, 1980.
The Big Lebowski. Coen Brothers, 1998.
Gerald McBoing-Boing. Robert Cannon / John Hubley, 1950.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Corporation

Ultimately, I was disappointed with the movie. Of course, since I'm a researcher of corporations, this is my area of interest, so maybe I'm too demanding. The individual parts of the movie were OK, but the whole didn't get as deep as it needed to be.

First, the movie is far too reliant upon the "corporation as person" analogy. It's true that the Santa Clara case is one keystone (but not the only one) of the modern corporate structure, but the movie relies upon that too much. The movie-makers just don't seem to have very much knowledge about the subject, and this is one topic upon which just aiming a camera at things doesn't eventually work out. They seem to be very much reliant upon the book for all of their knowledge, and the book, while not the worst popularization, isn't that great either.

For example, the only interview with an economist in the movie is with Milton Friedman. To outsiders, that may seem like a reasonable decision, since Friedman is a major economist.....right? Wrong. Friedman has done no substantive work on industrial organizations (which is what the economics sub-field is called). He's mainly a macro-theorist, which is a sub-field very far away from this subject. What he says in the movie is no different than any other Chicago school theorist would say - i.e. Friedman adds no more value than "random economist". The major Chicago school economist on the firm is Ronald Coase, not Milton Friedman. Admittedly, perhaps the film-makers choose Friedman knowingly (Friedman is more famous to the public than Coase) but I doubt that is the only factor, due to their inability to really criticize the neoneoclassical economic viewpoints within the structure of the film.

And that's what I find the big drawback of the film - their inability to confront the corporation even upon it's own terms. They end up criticizing the corporation on other terms (externalities, "bad psychology", etc.) And there are plenty of academics who have been doing mighty work upon the subject - William G. Roy, Bruce Carruthers, Claude Perrow, Joel Podolny, Jeff Pfeffer, Sanford Jacoby and many many others coming out of sociology, history and organizational psychology.

Also, the movie is extremely misleading in parts. Their depiction of the history of the corporation is simply incorrect in many ways. For example, the Santa Clara decision was merely one keystone of the development of the American corporation, but far more important was Julius P Morgan's role as the central figure of the American economy in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth. Essentially, as William G Roy describes the history, JP Morgan reinvented the corporate form as a necessary bridge to transforming the American economy into the structure he envisioned. Crucial to JP Morgan is that he was an investment banker running a small investment bank (the bank controlled a very large amounts of assets for a bank of its size, but it's size was very small - there were only 14 senior partners of JP Morgan & Co.)- as opposed to the government/commercial bank nexus that organized German and Japanese industry at the same period or the government alone that organized French industry at the same period. Thus, JP Morgan needed a tool that could be easily used by a relatively small investment bank (as opposed to the tools that a government ministry or a very large commercial bank could use). That tool was public equity securities initially employed as a vehicle to build up trusts (controlled by Morgan) and which then Morgan could profit from by selling the resulting public equity into a mass market. That means the US corporation looks very different from the German, Japanese or French versions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Summer's movies

I suppose it's that time of year. Everybody's putting out their list of summer movies. Did you know that summer movies were an invention of the Balaban & Katz chain of movie theaters in the 1910s? If you don't know Balaban & Katz, the movie chain that invented and codified how to run a chain of movie theaters profitably, you should. The Balaban & Katz chain (later the foundation of Paramount's movie-house chain) showed everybody how to run the backbone function of the classic Hollywood studio system (running and operating the movie theaters was the main business; actually making movies was merely the prop to support the theaters).

Anyway, Balaban & Katz had a problem: no one was coming to their theaters in the summers, because it was too hot (the chain was centered in Chicago, so picture a movie theater in Chicago's summer without air-conditioning - you wouldn't go either). In 1917, the Balabans, being brilliant entrepreneurs, discovered this new invention called air-conditioning - it had previously been used in the meat-packing plants of Chicago to keep meat cool. Switch the air-conditioning from cooling dead cows to cooling the still-living carcasses of their Chicago audiences, and voila! Balaban and Katz was raking the money in hand over fist. And that's how the summer movie season began.

Here's some movies I'm waiting for this summer:

1. Jia Zhangke's The World. Jonathan Rosenbaum loves this movie and Zhangke's previous Platform AND it's about tacky theme parks, globalization, alienation, and a scaled-down version of the Taj Mahal. What's not to like?
2. Richard Linklater remakes The Bad News Bears. Linklater supposedly has three movies coming out this year. I'm not frankly sure what he's doing with a remake of the properly forgotten TBNB, but we'll see. Linklater has shown he's mastered the art of making seemingly inoffensive mainstream Hollywood fare in School of Rock (my advice? don't let Linklater fool you that easily. he's playing with your head).
3. Wong Kar-Wai's 2046. Don't ask me why it's taking so long to get over to these American shores, but anything with Tony Leung (aka the God of actors, see below) and WKW? You're going to have to saw my legs off to keep me away.
4. Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know. This movie won the prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival, a prize at Sundance, and at the Philadelphia Film Festival. What more recommendation do you need?
5. Hey, maybe someday, sometime somebody will actually show Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha in Chicago? Is anybody out there listening?

Anyways, that's my take on the summer season. For much of the remaining, more typical movies of the summer - including the 15 or so zombie movies coming out (no, really, there are a truly inordinate number of zombie movies this summer) over the next few months - remember, we have the Balaban brothers to thank for those.

AR Ammons' Corsons Inlet

I'm usually not a big fan of poetry. They couldn't even get me to read it in college (and trust me, if they couldn't get you to do it at Pomona College, you're fairly resistant). For some reason, I've started reading the poetry of AR Ammons. Here's a little piece from his "Corsons Inlet":

"the moon was full last night: today, low tide was low:
black shoals of mussels exposed to the risk
of air
and, earlier, of sun,
waved in and out with the waterline, waterline inexact,
caught always in the event of change:
a young mottled gull stood free on the shoals
and ate
to vomiting: another gull, squaking possession, cracked a crab,
picked out the entrails, swallowed the soft-shelled legs, a ruddy
turnstone running in to snatch leftover bits:"

Saturday, May 07, 2005

What Movies Would You Kill to See?

What Movies You (metaphorically) Kill to See? No, not the movies that you just haven't see yet, not the ones on the bottom of your Netflix queue. The movies you just can't get ahold of, and no one's going to be playing them on a big screen anytime soon. (and, no, not the ones Criterion is going to release next month either).

Here's a shot at mine (I haven't seen them, so I can't comment on them!):

1. Humanity and Paper Balloons (Sadao Yamanaka, 1937)
2. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977)
3. Une chambre en ville (Jacques Demy, 1982)
4. The Asthenic Syndrome (Kira Muratova, 1989)
5. Metaphor (King Vidor, 1980)
6. Milestones (Robert Kramer, 1975)
7. Tokyo Twilight (Yasujiro Ozu, 1957)
8. Early Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1956)
9. History Lessons (Straub / Huillet, 1973)
10. Jeanne Dielman (Chantal Akerman, 1976)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Going to the picture show in The Newton Boys

As we know from the Nouvelle Vague, we should pay close attention when movie characters see movies or walk by movie theaters (remember to notice what the movie theater is playing!). This is particularly important within the movies of Jean-Luc Godard, a very major influence on Linklater.

Linklater’s Newton Boys gives us not one, but two movie-going scenes within the film, both of which are fundamental commentary upon Newton Boys itself. The first scene takes place during the courtship of Louise Brown (Julianna Margulies) by the film’s hero, Willis Newton (Matthew McConaughey). Willis takes Louise and her young son to a selection of silent Western shorts (we do not see the actual films, but only the trio exiting the auditorium). Willis and the boy begin to debate the virtues of the leading Western stars of the day, Tom Mix and William S. Hart. The boy prefers Tom Mix, but Willis strongly argues for Bill Hart, saying that Tom Mix is a "bit fruity, with all those hats and costumes."

This conversation is more than a charming interlude - since The Newton Boys itself is a Western that reconsiders the Western genre, this conversation is a key both to The Newton Boys and to Richard Linklater’s understanding of the Western genre. Tom Mix and Bill Hart are the two polar opposites of the beginning of the Western. Mix wore highly elaborate Western-seeming costumes (which would have essentially been unknown in the actual historical West). Mix’s movies tended to be much more hackneyed and cliched than Hart’s, with melodramatic white hat / black hat plots, extravagant roping and horse-tricks and so on.

Conversely, Bill Hart was a much more serious actor. Eschewing Mix’s costumes and very conventional plots, Hart tried to create a more realistic, serious and harder-edged Western genre. Many of his characters prefigure those heralded many decades later in the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart cycle of Westerns - the "good bad man" archetype. Unfortunately, it was Tom Mix who proved significantly more popular and the Western genre followed Mix’s example for many decades, rather than Hart’s. The Newton Boys’ preference for Hart over Mix reflects the movie’s project to reconsider the origin of the Western and to try to recapture other potential courses for the Western that were not pursued, but could have been.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More Movies Noted

I've been on a trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco, so I haven't (obviously) been able to post very much.

Here's what I've seen in the past week or so:

Sumiko Haneda's Into the Picture Scroll: The Tale of Yamanaka Tokiwa (2004)
Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway (1949)
Pialat's Loulou (1980)
Godard's Masculin, Feminin (1966)
Almodovar's Mala Educacion (2004)
Carl Dreyer's Day of Wrath (1943)
Guy Maddin's The Dead Father (1986)
Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee (2003)
Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002)
Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954)
Hubley's Cockaboody (1974)
Hubley's Moonbird (1959)
Alexander Alexeieff's Le Nez (1963)
Sylvain Chomet's Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003)