Read, Viewed: October 2021

May I sing out loud my praises for the Canadian director Denis Villeneuve?! Even in a month when I’ve also seen John Huston’s Moby Dick and Budd Botticher’s Seven Men From Now, still I’m dazzled by Villeneuve’s art.

This month I read less, but I’ve started Cynthia Ozick’s early novel Trust, a feast of remarkable prose.

Incendies (2010): Every film I’ve seen by Denis Villeneuve has impressed me, although few as much as Enemy (2013) and Prisoners (2013). But Incendies may be better than both of those (and yes, I’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 [2017] and Arrival [2016] and Sicario [2015]).
It’s only flaw may be how perfect it is in narrative resolution.
But it does raise a number of interesting questions.
I even wrote an essay about Incendies.
— Wolfe, Claw, 5 pp.

— Galileo, Dialogue, 5 pp.

— Wolfe, Claw, 5 pp.: Jolenta. Another occupational hazard for this genre? By which I mean, for all of those people who have not bothered to read this book, namely, chapters about sexual congress.
The Crown, 3.4

The Mummy (1932): Yes, the original pre-Code film starring Boris Karloff.
— Wolfe, Claw, 10 pp.

Ford vs. Ferrari (2017): I actually have a lot of opinions about America’s car culture. Shocked, no doubt.
For example, I think the Interstate Highway System is an abomination.
When this film was released, I laughed out loud because I thought this is a film that’s been made for my dad, who, in addition to being a retired minister, is also a gearhead who’s has left a heavy impression on many of my thoughts about cars in general. He’s a Boomer.
This is a great movie, and Ken Miles seems like he must have been a fascinating person based on his characterization in this film.
What the hell was Lee Iacocca doing in this film? Seriously? I like Jon Bernthal for what it’s worth and was excited to see him as a character that is not the Punisher. He was really brutal in that. Seriously. Not a pun. He finally provided Castle with the emotional motivation that would make the character compelling. Albeit, unwatchable.
— Wolfe, Claw, 25 pp.: Thank God I finished this chapter, which is the stage directions (?) for the play that Baldanders, Dr. Talos, Dorcas, Jolenta, and our narrator perform. Some funny moments, like when the Autarch says he can draws the line at six requests. But otherwise perplexing in the tedious way.

— Wolfe, Claw, 25 pp.: I’m happy that I’m almost finished with this book and uncertain if I want to read two more installments. Will our narrator ever reach Thrax? How long must we wait before he becomes the Autarch? What exactly happened to Jonas?

Narcos: Mexico, 1.10

Takeover! (2021). This short documentary details the 1970 takeover of Bronx-located Lincoln Hospital by a revolutionary group called the Young Lords. Read the history of the Young Lords so that you have a real sense of the gravity of such actions. In this light, as well as in light of their success, what they did was an incredible act of courage and love. It’s genuinely inspiring. Plus, they all wore berets.

— Wolfe, Claw, 20 pp.
— Linda Williams, “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess”: Found references to this article in Anna F. Peppard’s work, in turn referred to by Junot Diaz’s review of a book by Douglas Wolk called “All of the Marvels,” which details a reading of Marvel Comics’ incredible body of work.
What Wolk is doing sounds fascinating and I think I’d like to read through it. I would like someone to explain Marvel’s attachment to characters like Thor, for example, whose back story makes little to no sense to me.
Narcos: Mexico, 2.1: Starting a new season with the narrator of the previous season finally a participant in the narrative, namely, Scoot McNairy. McNairy I’ve seen in a number of things, among which is Monsters (2010), which I’ve written about and may eventually be migrated to these pages.
I was so certain that the narrator was Boyd Holbrook, who was one of the primary characters of the original Narcos (and whom I was believing until this very minute was the son of Hal Holbrook … but I guess he is too young for that).
At any rate, I cannot say that the second season seems compelling if this was the crucial drawing-you-in episode. I’m tired of watch Diego Luna smoke cigarettes and worrying about what that’s doing to his face (you know, cigarette smoke can make lines develop on one’s face faster, as we know from the brilliant Marlboro Man episode (“The Abstinence” ), a freaking hilarious episode apart from this specific reference) of Seinfeld.
Seinfeld, 6.8 “The Mom & Pop Store”. This is the episode that has the repeated references to Midnight Cowboy (1969), and this because George has bought John Voight’s car but deceived into thinking that it was Jon Voight‘s car.
I don’t normally include when I watch dross like this in the journal, but I do happen to think that certain episodes of Seinfeld are brilliant and I might be inclined to include this episode in that list … the more I think about it the more I think so many others are better.

— LInda Williams, “Film Bodies”. This essay apparently inspired many people theorizing gender representations in pop culture.
One of the features that interests me is that these genres—porn, horror, melodrama—are excessive, which I think depends heavily on Williams’ reporting her son’s reaction to these types of films. But aren’t action films also “body genres”? I suspect that Williams would say yes, they are simply not “excessive.”
Examples: Wolf Creek (2005) produced a profound visceral reaction for me because of the torture scenes. Similarly, Audition (1999), which I have yet to finish watching (I turned it off at the part where she’s sitting in her room and the phone rings and then the bag unexpectedly start moving). I want to watch Cannibal Holocaust (1980), but I’m also horrified to watch it. Perhaps these are exactly what Williams is talking about (like her son, I’m more interested in than want to actually consume).
Hmm. I guess I’m making Williams’ point.
Ordinary People (1980?) is a male “weepie.”

Chart from Linda William's essay "Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess"
Chart from Linda William’s essay “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess”

Finished Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator. Honestly, I’m happy to be done with that.
Narcos: Mexico, 2.3. Two episode plots: Félix tries to get an opium smuggler to join the cocaine business, and Walt and his crew try to interrogate the Mexican interrogator, Comandante Verdin, who interrogated Kiki Camarena before his death.
But the wise and eminently lovable opium dealer, a kind of Mexican Santa Claus, is reticent, as are his family members, to get involved with Félix and with cocaine because of the costs personal, ethical, local, etc. Félix spends the entire day with him and seeing all of this mans family and community coalesce around him. And there is a palpable absence suggested in Félix’s facial responses. He knows that he’s abandoned his family and all of what the opium dealer enjoys.
The opium dealer eventually tells Félix explicitly that he cannot do business with him. Finally, Félix speaks up and tells him that with his help he hopes to rid Mexico of the Columbians. Then the opium dealer compliments Félix’s ambition, even though the latter has answered none of this concerns, and agrees to do business with him.
Similarly, Walter and co. know that if they let the Comandante go alive, he will search out these company members and their families and torture them. Because the Comandante says as much. The Comandante finally gives names, after they shoot him in the gut, and Walter and co. take him to a hospital and deposit him on the sidewalk outside.
The freaking shark has been jumped. Why did I doubt my intuitions?

The cover of Cynthia Ozick's early novel "Trust"

Cynthia Ozick, Trust, 25 pp. Nothing else have I ever read by Ozick although I may have recognized her name. The prose is delightful. Reading for the aforementioned reading group. If I finish by the beginning of November, it will be a miracle.

Still from Budd Botticher's 1956 western Seven Men From Now
Still from Budd Botticher’s 1956 western Seven Men From Now

Seven Men From Now (1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher—whose name has been more and more conspicuous in my ongoing film education—and starring Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, Gail Russell, and others.
Again, I’m not sure I’ve seen a Randolph Scott film before. I’m sure that’s not true, but I hadn’t noticed. Talk about a face born to be in the movies. George Clooney, roll over. Scott is the archetype of what a movie star is supposed to look like. As far as his skills in acting go, his character in this film is more complicated than it seems. But this is learned from Lee Marvin’s villain, actually.
Scott’s character, former Sheriff Ben Stride, is chasing down seven men who robbed a Wells Fargo office and inadvertently killed Stride’s wife in the process. Stride blames himself for not having protected his wife and now seeks vengeance even though he’s no longer a sheriff (lost the recent election). He’s been emasculated, he seems to indicate, because he could not protect her. O, virulent and blind masculinity. Lee Marvin’s character seems like the cad, but in fact almost all of what he says about Stride ends up being true.
The final shootout takes place in a strange rock formation and is unsurprising.
Interesting aside: starving Apaches take horses, primarily, and scalps from travelers. Horses for food. Stride’s character is sympathetic to them in a way which is probably historically unlikely.
Trust, 20 pp.

Scene from the 1956 film Moby Dick, directed by John Huston

Trust, 20 pp.
Moby Dick (1956) Directed by John Huston, starring Gregory Peck and others. Being a nearly two hour adaptation of one of the most important novels in American literature. That I have not read.
Peck was very good, I think. But the film was not memorable and certainly not among Huston’s best. At least in my opinion. I’d much rather watch The Maltese Falcon (1941) or even The Asphalt Jungle (1950).
Despite Ahab being the villain—of sorts—he convinced Lucian that it would be an injustice for Starbuck to kill him. That surprised me. I had tried to explain to Lu that Ahab was starving the crew members of their livelihood by not letting them go after other whales.
And now I know why Everett, Pete, and Delmar clinging to the top of a rolltop desk at the end of O Brother Where Are Thou? (2000) was actually a reference to the end of Huston’s Moby Dick, and our faithful narrator Ishmael clinging to Queequeg’s empty coffin when the Pequod has been destroyed.

Official trailer for the Coen Brothers’ 2000 comedy O Brother Where Art Thou?

Trust, 20.

Still with Pernell Roberts and Randolph Scott from the 1959 Budd Boetticher film Ride Lonesome
Still with Pernell Roberts and Randolph Scott from the 1959 Budd Boetticher film Ride Lonesome

Ride Lonesome (1959): The second Budd Boetticher film I’ve seen recently, provoked by the Criterion Channel’s “Leaving on Oct. 13” list. In so many ways this film remakes Seven Men From Now, expecting a gunfight between Randolph Scott’s and Pernell Roberts’ characters just as their was one with Lee Marvin’s in the former.
Trust, 20 pp.

Trust, 40 pp.

Still of a scanner's artwork from the 1981 David Cronenberg film Scanners
Still of a scanner’s artwork from the 1981 David Cronenberg film Scanners

Scanners (1981): I’ve seen this film before, but it had been some time and so I had forgotten various details. Certain parts of the film are camp, silly. Others are profoundly insightful, such as the artwork created by a scanner in order to process the “voices” that he hears.
For whatever reason it had never before occurred to me that people suffering from certain mental disorders may actually possess powers extending beyond “normal” cognition.
What is so significant about David Cronenberg‘s oeuvre is his cinematic comprehension of the body, but it has not yet developed in this film. The closest he comes to later insights is what is visible in the image above. I suspect some might say the exploding heads and transforming bodies in the midst of scanning are intuitions of this, but I think that’s a misprision.

The Crown, 3.5. Some considerable change has taken place in the writing and composition of The Crown since the early seasons. This season is quite good and worth all of those awards. These are episodes that will stay with you. Earlier seasons were good, but not this good. I would like to like the actors’ performances of the younger Elizabeth and husband, but they do not compare to those of Olivia Colson and her castmates.

The Outsider (2018), 60 minutes. A dreadful film starring Jared Leto, who plays an American imprisoned in Japan after the end of the war (for what I didn’t learn and frankly couldn’t care less) who joins the yakuza.
In its defense, it’s no Peppermint (2018). And I watched the entirety of that …
One of the moments when I have sinned and may not be forgiven by the gods of good cinema. What the fuck was I thinking watching this trash?

Curious how I’ve tried to wash the taste of “The Outsider” from my mind’s palate?