Dull June 2023: Reading, Watching, No Writing

During June I did nothing, which as you may recall from Rohmer’s La Collectioneuse (1967) is not as easy as it seems to be. I loved that film, probably for that scene in which the protagonist describes his struggles doing nothing.

Well, maybe not nothing. But it did seemed marked by a boredom bordering on existential. Which is not to say that I was not captivated by Men, nor by The Anniversary Party.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
A Howard Hawks [Come and Get It (1936), His Girl Friday (1940), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946)] film starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.
I had not before seen this film, otherwise I would have undoubtedly remembered the leopard. I recently saw parts of His Girl Friday, which is the role that Grant would play mostly for the rest of his life, albeit memorably, mostly. Whereas in Bringing Up Baby he plays the opposite: an effete fool.

Tatsuya Nakadai as Ryunosuke in the 1963 Okomoto film "Sword of Doom"
Tatsuya Nakadai as Ryunosuke in the 1963 Okomoto film Sword of Doom

Sword of Doom (1966), first 20 minutes
Our Hospitality (1923)
Convict 13 (1920)
Hard Luck (1921)

Men (2022)
The most recent film by director Alex Garland, famous for Ex Machina (2014). Unfortunately, neither this film nor the previous Annihilation (2018) had the same effect as the first. Annihilation didn’t really deserve it, although it was interesting; Men did.
It’s a simple film, really, and a film that makes Annihilation more interesting than it was by itself, in that it makes nature into an active character. Although nature’s role in Annihilation is undoubtedly central, it seems to come off as mostly external to human being (as a Spinozist, I have no patience for such ignorant claims). Perhaps that might also be argued is the case in Men, but if so, then women are aliens.
Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet, 56 pp.

Still from the 2022 Alex Garland film "Men" starring Jessie Buckley
Jessie Buckley plays a woman haunted by Men, all of whom were played by Rory Kinnear, in Alex Garland’s most recent film.

Victorian Internet, 20 pp.
Sword of Doom (1966), remainder
Les Carabiniers (1963)
I only watched two different films in the same night because I realized I must return Les Carabiniers to the library (Free Library ILL, thank you very much!). And now I can say that I watched this early Godard film. The scene with the postcards is pretty brilliant, but unlike Pauline Kael and Susan Sontag I am not convinced it is a justification of the rest of the film.
If anything, it make Contempt (1963), released the same year, stand out all the stronger.
Maybe it just needed Jack Palance?

Victorian Internet, 50 pp.
Endeavour, 6.1

Nova, 50.7, “Saving the Right Whale
Victorian Internet, 25 pp.

Strategic Air Command (1955)
The last collaboration between directory Anthony Mann and actor Jimmy Stewart, here producing a piece of Cold War propaganda aimed at convincing Americans to play their part and neglect the incredible costs of maintaining a nuclear arsenal.
Lucian’s airplane-philia predisposed him to enjoy this more than he expected … until the end when I think he saw that this was mostly a domestic drama clothed in geopolitical tension.

A scene from Strategic Air Command (1955), the length and musical accompaniment of which indicating the function of the film: awe at the grandeur of American military air power during the Cold War. Harry Morgan’s (later of M*A*S*H, the television show, fame) and James Stewart’s characters, having served in WWII, reunited in the B-29’s successor.

Endeavour, 6.2
— Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor (hereafter MWW), Act 1, Sc. 1-2

— NYRB on Nathalie Saurraute, cats, indices, Tunguska
Endeavour, 6.3-4
— Finished The Victorian Internet

Endeavour, 7.1-3
MWW, 1.3-4

Greatest Events of WWII in Color, “The Liberation of Buchenwald”
After talking about the 2022 PBS documentary series by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, “The US and the Holocaust,” and then seeing that single episodes exceeded 2 hours, we settled for this instead, which Lu said he had not seen and thought he needed to see.
It’s no Shoah (1985), which I haven’t seen, but it does pay some attention to the problem of bodies and getting rid of bodies and killing people “on an industrial scale.”
Walter de La Mare, “The Ideal Craftsman”
This is an incredible little story, so much so that I had to write about it. Starts out innocuous; gets very, very dark; and ends with a boy left in the house with a dead body. Tried to get Lucian to read it, without success.

Rocky IV (1985)
May have even seen this during its original theatrical release. Watched this time because Lucian and I could agree on it. The last time I watched this was with my friend and his Russian wife (the early 00s), so as to show her the most important cultural representation of Russians and the cold war during the 1980s.
That sounds like bombast, hyperbole, but is it?

Salient features of Rocky IV

  • The montage of scenes of Rocky and Creed together, especially them at the beach embracing after a run;
  • Drago as being technologically shaped, a machine in some respects, particularly with the references to all of the computers and devices that track his training, quantify the power of his punches;
  • the now quite primitive computer-generated images;
  • Paulie’s birthday gift of a very impossible robot;
  • “If I can change, you can change …” speech, ouch.

Thunder Bay (1953)
Part of a series of films available now at the Criterion Collection of the 8-film Anthony Mann Directs James Stewart collaboration.
Here Stewart and Dan Duryea are hopeful wildcatters hitting the Bayou. After securing funding from an oil magnate (Jay Flippen), they alienate the local shrimpers, build an oil derrick, and fall into love with a shrimper’s daughters.

Black and white promotional image from the 1953 Anthony Mann film "Thunder Bay", starring James Stewart

Heat (1995) at the BMFI Cinema Classics Seminar
The second time I’ve seen it at the BMFI in as many weeks. Had forgotten that I’d signed up, back in March, for this seminar.
A very user friendly lecture by Dr. Paul Wright on the history of the film’s production and how it is part of Michael Mann’s work. Relation to film noir and genre. The poignancy of loneliness. But nothing about the role of the urban landscape in the film.

Judith Joy Ross exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
For Father’s Day Lu and I walked to the terrace of the PMA and played a very challenging mini golf and then we went inside. Went to this exhibit, on a lark.
I found the photographs interesting as historical documents, primarily. But they are all portraits and evocative of poverty and feckless efforts of self-possession before a lens.
Party Girl (1995)
An entertaining, consummately 1990s film starring Parker Posey as Parker Posey. All of that indy film was ruined by bad lighting.

MWW, Act V (Finishing it)
Black Mirror, “Men Against Fire“, “Nosedive

Bryce Dallas Howard in the episode "Nosedive" of the Netflix Series "Black Mirror"
Another hilarious, terrifying episode of Black Mirror, this one called “Nosedive,” starring Bryce Dallas Howard

MWW, Act V
Endeavour, 8.1

The Breakfast Club (1985)
Rocky (1976)
Lucian strongly approved of this film, even after seeing it directly after seeing The Breakfast Club. Whereas I also liked it, enjoyed it. I was somewhat surprised by all of the night scenes. Seemed like a lot. The squalor of south Philadelphia, representin’!
MWW, Introduction

Scene featuring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper in the 2013 film "American Hustle"
Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale in a scene from the 2013 film American Hustle

American Hustle (2013)
I love the scene where Bale’s and Adams’ characters fall in love at a pool party talking about their shared love of Duke Ellington.
— de La Mare, “Seaton’s Aunt”, “An Ideal Craftsman”
The Bravados (1958), last 1.5 hours
An excellent ending, if it had ended after he met Lujan and family.

Endeavour, 8.2
— Milton, “On Shakespeare”
Spoon River Anthology, 10 pp.

Scene with Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jennifer Beals in the 2001 film "The Anniversary Party"
Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jennifer Beals in a scene from the 2001 film The Anniversary Party

Anniversary Party (2001)
A unique film written, directed, and starred in by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, about a Hollywood couple recently reunited after a separation who have an anniversary party. Friends and a set of neighbors join to spend the afternoon and night with the couple.