Watching movies #2

Continuing with the “lets post old stuff instead of new stuff” here’s a post I started in 2018 when I had ambitions on doing short movies.

I first read Catch 22 when I was studying in Karlstad, and remember laughing a lot. Watching the movie movie (adapted by Buck Henry) was less amusing – the absurdist and dark moments were few and too much humour was attempted through gags and goofiness. Watching pre-CGI movies is inspiring though, all the effects are done on camera or through mattes, and it gives a different sense of solidity to it. An explosion isn’t as in-your-face and overdone (or the actors might get blown up for real) and the planes dissolving into the horizon through a heat haze is an artifact of a really long lens. Is this what sentimentality feels like?

Three Days of the Condor (Lorenzo Semple Jr.) is a CIA within the CIA story – compared to modern spook stories (Tinker, tailor, soldier spy) the pacing is much different, and except a jarring Stockholm syndrome love scene the movie is placid, in contrast to the murders and drama depicted.

The decline of Western Civilization part I (Penelope Spheeris) is a raw look at the 1980 LA punk scene. Interviews with punks, bands and hangers-on are mixed with both good and awful performances – more than half the movie are performances, which serves as a time capsule for the music but drags the documentary down.

I’m also trying to immerse myself more in the movie-making lingo, gobbling up books and blogs and podcasts. It seems that North Americans get self-promotion at the teet, so it’s no wonder that the most vocal and easy-to-find publications are from the States. The often fake joviality and peppy demeanour rubs me the wrong way though and distracts from the content – whoever taught people to smile when talking into a microphone has much to answer for.

Noam Kroll has some good essays and listicles on his site which ring true. 126 lessons on independent film directing is one such list, and it’s worthwhile to revisit and think on some of the points when you’re stuck somewhere. The takeaway is “always keep working” which is pretty much in line with what I’ve seen of my peers who’ve gone on to become successful. I like his “work with what you have” approach, and I need to be reminded of it now that I’ve spent too much time and money on lenses for my Nikon: Until I’ve shot two more shorts I’m prohibiting myself from buying any more camera gear – just yesterday I caught myself just before clicking “order” on a discounted MF macro, so “shopping as procrastination” is a trap for me.