Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Film in Deep Focus by Morgan Honaker

Morgan Honaker examines the implications of the recycled narrative in recent movies as part of her Film in Deep Focus video essay series. I've been brooding on the extreme repetitiveness of tentpole releases ever since I watched Alien: Covenant last week (a film which has an uncomfortable number of similarities with Alien (1979)). It's a pleasure to see Morgan analyze these trends.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Film Doctor's 9 Year Anniversary

On May 18, 2008, I began copying my former newspaper movie reviews onto The Film Doctor blog. Now, almost 9 years later, I know better, but I still post things on occasion. Here's a link to my notes on Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

complicit links

---Amy Heckerling visits Criterion

---Decisions, Decisions by Cristina Alvarez Lopez and Adrian Martin

---Matt Zoller Seitz considers Rushmore

---"The female glance is deeply attuned to textures, to shades of light. You can feel the temperature of the bodies around you, the anxiety and claustrophobia or, alternately, the expansiveness and delight. It’s an almost synesthetic mode of filmmaking, focused not on plot, or narrative, but the capacity of an image to convey a feel. It forces identification with, and empathy for, the way women experience the world — an experience that’s often marked by passive observation and the rhythms of the domestic world. Scenes shot in this way can feel paranoiac, distracted, and disjointed, but that’s just the reality of living in a world where your body, your value, your power is constantly surveilled. If the male gaze disassembles and disempowers, then the female glance puts that world back together on its own terms." --from Anne Helen Petersen's "The Radical Feminist Aesthetic of The Handmaid's Tale"

---Richard Kelly's filmmaking tips

---“The problem is audience behavior. People are going to movies less and less, and when they're going, everyone's going to see the same movie.”

---"[T]here is mounting anxiety among theater owners, studio executives, filmmakers, and cinephiles that the lights may be starting to flicker."

---"Why does everyone hate Anne Hathaway?"

---"Get Out and the Death of White Racial Innocence" by Rich Benjamin

---"Well, in this case, there was a script, which was the evolutionally history of the universe [audience laughs]. And lately – I keep insisting, only very lately – have I been working without a script [To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, Song to Song], and I’ve lately repented the idea. The last picture we shot, and we’re now cutting, went back to a script that was very well ordered. There’s a lot of strain when working without a script because you can lose track of where you are. It’s very hard to coordinate with others who are working on the film. Production designers and location managers arrive in the morning and don’t know what we’re going to shoot or where we’re going to shoot. The reason we did it was to try and get moments that are spontaneous and free. As a movie director, you always feel with a script that you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And with no script, there’s no round hole, there’s just air. But I’m backing away from that style now." --Terrence Malick

---David Bordwell's analysis of a scene in A Quiet Passion

---"Looking at To-Be-Looked-At-ness--Feminist Videographic Criticism" by Catherine Grant

---Mark Freeman considers The Graduate

---Complicit

---“I like people pushing, people not conforming,” Kidman said. “I love the widening of the boundaries, pushing through the extremism. I love filmmakers and storytelling. I am not interested in popcorn movies. I go to see them and like to be moved by them, but as an actor I examine humanity and why we’re here.”

---trailers for HHhH, Flames, Thor: Ragnarok, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriGhost in the ShellRedoubtable, A Ghost StoryIt, and I Am Heath Ledger

---"Judge has said that one reliable source of comedy for him is the way humanity simply isn’t prepared for modernity, which ensnares us in vast systems of control in order to sustain itself. What he couldn’t have imagined while making Idiocracy in the early 2000s was that technology was about to thrust humanity into an era for which we are even more ill equipped. It was around that moment that Silicon Valley inventions — blogging platforms, social media, YouTube — began sweeping away old orders and gatekeepers in a way that was both exhilarating (because we were more in charge of our destiny than ever before) and mortifying (because we were, well, more in charge of our destiny than ever before). Idiocracy was released the same year that Time magazine heralded this new age by naming us all the Person of the Year. A decade later, Donald Trump earned that honor, along with the presidency. If anything can explain the short time horizon on which Idiocracy and reality merged — if you believe they have — perhaps it is that technology left us completely, terrifyingly, to our own devices." --from Willy Staley's "Mike Judge, the Bard of Suck"

---"Being There: American Cypher" by Mark Harris

---"The GIF as a Tool of Rereading, Resistance, and Re-narrativizing in Social Media Spaces" by Jasmine Lee Ehrhardt

---The Chameleonic Charlize Theron

Friday, April 14, 2017

The endlessly exasperating 20th Century Women by Mike Mills

Last weekend, I watched, or tried to sit through Mike Mills' rather lengthy 20th Century Women on Blu-ray, in part because I have great respect for many of the actors involved, and also because I liked Mike Mill's 1979 internet radio station. Sitting through the movie, however, proved to be a traumatic experience in which I relived all of the rage and sheer angst provoked by Mike Mills' previous movie entitled Beginners (2010) (Mills' earnest movie-making style gives me the unholy fantods). I did, however, manage to write down some notes on 20th Century Women, which follow: 

1) Such acting talents! Such skills in casting! Such a terrible movie.

Many years ago, Annette Bening had a role as a seductive soulless con woman in The Grifters (1991). Oh, how I miss those days.  Now, Bening plays Dorothea, a Birkenstock-wearing earth mother of 1979, the maternal glue who brings together various quirky characters. She endlessly worries over her frail sensitive 15 year old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) who is just trying to learn how to be a man just before Reagan's '80s and Mtv hits the scene in Santa Barbara, California.

2) A typical scene in 20th Century Women:

After getting off of his skateboard, Jamie encounters his mother in the kitchen of their funky 1979 house. He gazes soulfully off into the distance, his lip quivering slightly. 

"What about my feelings?" cries Dorothea. She lights a menthol cigarette.

 "I can never have children," cries out Abbie (Greta Gerwig), who plays a red-dyed head artist from New York City estranged for her mother, but who still enjoys dancing, flailing around to 1979 new wave bands like Talking Heads. Later, someone will write "Art Fag" on Dorothea's Volkswagen Bug. This term designates that some prefer Black Flag over Talking Heads, but the problem is that Mike Mills wouldn't know how to depict a genuinely punk character even if she kicked him with her Doc Martens in the head.  

3) I can see exactly why Bening, Elle Fanning, Gerwig, and Billy Crudup would go for Mike Mill's screenplay, because they get to emote and re-examine their deeper feelings in every scene. If their characters' home was on fire, they would probably die because they'd be too busy therapeutically pausing to consider how they might emotionally react to the fire just before it mercifully burnt them alive. Billy Crudup gets to play William, who looks and acts exactly like Russell of the infinitely superior Almost Famous (2000). Why wouldn't Crudup want to return to one of his best roles? William is not sure what to do. Should he sleep with Abbie, or kiss Dorothea, or fix car engines, or make bowls and open a ceramics shop? Or, how about Elle Fanning, who plays Jamie's platonic friend Julie? She likes to lie next to Jamie at night in bed, but she can never get romantically involved with him because he's too smart and sensitive and inclined to explore his feelings, etc. Abbie, meanwhile, can never have children, but that proves (spoiler alert) untrue, but not until after Mills can milk that bit of drama over and over in a very sensitive fashion. Did I mention that all of the characters watch Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" speech? Be advised: everyone dances together towards the end of the movie in a hotel room. Dorothea lights another menthol cigarette. Jamie meanders down a hill on his skateboard.

4) Mills has so much trouble bringing this endlessly meandering ensemble drama into some sort of landing after flattering each movie star with his or her star-making scene. . . . .

At this point, my notes gave out. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Emma Watson and the Evil Disney Hegemony: 5 notes on Beauty and the Beast

1) In a sense, Bill Condon's live-action Beauty and the Beast is Emma Watson's debutante ball, her first major starring role (aside from the beast, and he's diminished by the computer-generated imagery). The French Revolution-era fairy tale also makes Beauty and the Beast Watson's first historical drama. After her work as Hermione Granger, she tended to choose ensemble roles in movies like Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring (2013), where her character Nicki stood out for her crass American consumerism and vanity, i.e. the opposite of Hermione. Watson didn't seem to fully know it at first, but one could claim that she became the break-out star of the extremely profitable Harry Potter movies in part because J. K. Rowling marginalized Hermione as Potter's sidekick, and therefore she became the most compelling character compared to Ron Weasley (the nondescript redhead played by Rupert Grint) and the rather dutiful Harry. Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe has since distinguished himself in the London play production of Equus by gouging out the eyes of horses in the nude, or, more recently, by playing a flatulent corpse in Swiss Army Man (2016), a movie which I have deliberately refused to see (in part because I cannot abide Paul Dano). In other words, of the three original leads of the Harry Potter juggernaut, Emma Watson has come out of it as arguably the most credible star.

2) As we get introduced to Belle in her decidedly provincial French town (Gascony), I remembered that the Disney cartoon version of Belle stood out more for her large eyes. I had heard that Watson was the original star in mind for the makers of La La Land, and if one thinks about it, Emma Stone has the freakish anime look that would suit Belle. As Belle walks along singing "There must be more than this provincial life!", the villagers call her odd in part because "her looks have got no parallel" even though she's always got "her nose stuck in a book." Now, when the villagers sang this in the 1991 cartoon version, it was obviously true. In the live-action version, Emma Watson does not exactly stand out in the same way. Director Bill Condon keeps finding ways to emphasize her, at one point making Belle the dominant contrast as the rest of the village freezes as only she walks by, but Watson still strikes me as the kind of character actress who can blend into a movie (such as, say, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)) rather than command the focus of a scene as Belle. In short, one thinks of Emma Watson's recent work for the United Nations, and how she's perhaps too smart by half to be in a Cinderella-esque Disney extravaganza at all.

3) But perhaps, that's the main clever thing of Bill Condon's version. We've been waiting for a Watson vehicle that places her front and center of a very expensive production, and now that she's in one, she doesn't quite fit, and that tension makes the usual bland Disney pap somehow more effective, and more striking, even with its magic resurrections, its funny CGI sidekicks, its syrupy songs, and its ballroom dancing in the iconic yellow dress with a quickly tamed CGI teddy beast. Belle and Watson do share an extreme high regard for reading and books, but in the limited world of Beauty and the Beast, Belle can only go back and forth between provincial Gascony and an enchanted castle of pre-revolutionary 18th century France (with only a brief sojourn in an attic in Paris). Emma Watson, in dramatic postmodern contrast, has a heck of a lot of more feminist options, including the one of starring in the live-action version of her favorite Disney movie.

4) One critic wrote that she has doubts about Watson choosing this Disney vehicle. Doesn't it undermine her intelligence, her edgy roles chosen since the grim dark Potter world mercifully ended in 2011? Isn't Watson selling out to endless Disney hegemonic brainwashing merchandising, its savvy corrupt multi-media synergized machinations that gets otherwise intelligent adults to visit Disney World once or twice a year at obscene expense just so they can feel that Proustian youthful bit of manufactured Disney magic? In the same vein, I still sort of like a McDonald's Big Mac, but I know that's due to skillful TV marketing, advertising of the McBurglar and the smiling red-footed Ronald affecting my innocent brain many years ago before I had any way to resist it. So do so many brainwashed Americans pour into Disney World every year as they pay somewhere around $14,000 to fly in, stay in a hotel on the property for a few days, and see the cartoon characters cavort under the prefab magic castle under fireworks every night with their screaming toddlers, everyone always standing in long lines as they seek to that reclaim elusive Disney joy, that "It's a Small World After All" cheerful, smiling, always smiling, they-had-better-smile-or-else, heavily copyrighted-cartoon-ride of a lifetime.

5) When I think of all that highly evil, highly profitable thought control (not to mention the absolute horrors of the Pirates of the Caribbean series that still endures--a purely redundant nightmare), I wonder how I could like the new Beauty and the Beast at all?  Yet, I did, perhaps in part due to glibly cheesy half-baked memories of a cartoon that I saw long ago, and that's what so annoying about it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"That exposed edge of the world": an interview with Adam Houle, author of Stray

A friend of mine, Adam Houle, just published his first book of poetry entitled Stray with Lithic Press. Adam was kind enough to let me interview him for the Film Doctor blog. First, here's an example of Mr. Houle's work:

The One Where the Girl Died in Woods Close to Home

It started when a filament popped
in the lone headlight
of the snow sled,

quietly, beneath the engine’s roar
and the grind of the single-track
trundle churning snow

as the girl left late
to make it home.
The blizzard, my mother

says, buried her
back-trail and without
a light she could not find

her trace. That filament,
the fine hair finely split,
brought on a deeper night,

and with it the wind conspired.
The wind banked great drifts.
It rearranged the known world’s face.

Here's the interview:

FD: What do you think of the contemporary resistance to poetry? What advantages do poetry have over prose?

AH: What resistance there is is a particular type that seems steeped in distrust. Distrust that there’s a “hidden meaning” that the poem or poet or teacher will use as a weapon; distrust that poems don’t “do anything”; perhaps distrust because advocates for poems over-sell a piece or group of pieces and, when that piece doesn’t have the earth-shattering results promised, the hearer suspects either the poem or the self are defective in some way. Too often I think poems are presented as puzzle boxes painted black with a busted latch that’s latched from the inside anyway, and so what’s the point? But poems need time and space, and they are best met on their own terms. They’re not instrumental; rather they are worthwhile unto themselves as themselves. The act of reading carefully and with empathetic attention slows us down, it asks more of us, and I find a lot of pleasure in that process. Sitting down to read a poem need not be a hallowed event separate from the world. A poem can be a prismed look into that world, and I find my eyes are fresher when I’m also spending time reading and writing poems.

I think too that there’s a perception that poems are narcissistic little things written by narcissistic little souls, but that’s just absurd. I mean, if you go see a movie, and it’s a bad one, you don’t swear off all movies, right? You read a bad novel, and you think: that’s it. Prose is awful. That sounds really shortsighted. But it seems like we don’t have a problem doing that to poems. There is a lot of great work out there, and new pieces published all the time. There are magazines publishing excellent poems issue after issue, poems that could speak to all sorts of folks from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. So, should you come across one that you don’t like, big deal. Move on. It’s such a rich field.

But I think that’s true of prose, too. The advantage that, say, a lyric poem has over a twenty-page short story is a temporal one. The physical act of reading down the page takes less time with a poem, which I think also works against the poem in that someone might, wrongly, assume it has less heft or significance or something like that. It’s just a little song, after all. But I think experiencing poems on their own ground should be a part of all our lives. Sometimes, I, with great sneakiness, start my classes a few minutes early and just read a poem I recently enjoyed. I say: Hey, listen to this cool thing I read. And then I read that cool thing. No commentary, no quiz, no paper assigned. Just a minute and a half or whatever to listen to a poem.

So that’s an advantage. I mean, I can’t take a few minutes before class to read Moby-Dick, right? Poems are companions to a thoughtful life, and I guess I get bummed when I hear someone say how awful poetry is. That said, I don’t need to get too bent out of shape. Poetry doesn’t need me to defend it. It’s crafty and wily, and it will be okay with or without me.

FD: How would you describe your aesthetics?

AH: I don’t know. That’s the short answer. The longer is this: I’m trying to get the words right in their right orders. I like speakers jolted to speak, to make structure of experience or psychological states, of both, to enlist artifice and authenticity. Poems are stylized, they’re crafted things that should seem essential, that they could not be otherwise. There’s pruning and distillation, a tautness in the language that, for me, is primarily important. And that starts with the line—and as the lines tumble down the page, I like when I’m engaged by vibrancy in voice, in image, in sound, in the singleness of the poetic moment being offered up, that builds on itself and organizes its own internal logic. Show me a possible world. Show me a possible self. I think poems memorialize through attention to how they operate. I like knottiness and texture, part luxury purse and part mucky rucksack that carry and convey something essential about the world in which they exist.

FD: Why do so many of your poems have such cold imagery?

AHStray isn’t really a warm book, is it? When I was organizing the poems, culling, structuring the book’s arc, looking for unnoticed recurrences, thematic echoes and the like, it became quite clear to me how much I identify with the sharpness of the winter world. It wasn’t intentional in the composition, revising, editing process. But I saw I had written a lot of poems, and it was time to get them into a larger shape, to curate and structure a manuscript. And there’s something evocative about a winter landscape. It’s brutal and unforgiving and elegant and austere. The sight lines are crisp, and in winter I truly feel like I’m on a planet, a living rock hurtling through space. So you have that exposed edge of the world sort of feeling, and then, if we increase the magnification, there are quiet dramas and sorrows and joys unfolding right there. I think much of Stray tries to come to find a shape for that.

In college, I lived in this little back apartment in Green Bay for a couple years. Half the place was heated on my dime; the other half by the landlord (illegal addition, electric heat, you get the drift). So, I blocked the warm half, killed the heat I had to pay for, and swept snow out of my kitchen most mornings from November through March. The cold must have seeped into my psyche.

FD: Why do you tend to favor formal poetry, such as the sonnet?

AH: Formal considerations help me speak to tradition; poems are shaped things—they have contours that I like to think make expressive and evocative sense. For me, the sonnet and its relatives in Stray offer a counterpoint to the thematic straying throughout the collection. It’s a formal return, then, and I hope offers echo, or a refrain of sorts, to the collection as a whole; there’s a rhetoric to the sonnet that makes sense to me. It’s nimble, it’s flexible, and it offers compression that, when it’s well wrought, lets the poem sing spontaneously within a frame. That’s the authenticity and artifice I mentioned earlier—it’s a worthwhile tension, a richness that I admire in so many poems I read.

FD: What do you make of the poetic tendency to write about animals?

AH: Wonder. That’s the first word that comes to mind. I’m in awe of life, and I think about the ways the world we make brushes against the world we find. For me, it’s attentiveness and openness to what’s missed in the day-to-day—the snippets of song and the suggested narratives of the animal world. I don’t think I’m doing the animals in my poems any great favors by writing about them. I’m just trying to pay homage to the world, to memorialize it in some small way. At the same time, I’m also aware that I’m responding to some necessary part of myself.

FD: Could you guide us through the writing process for, say, "The Least of Wonders," or is that a dumb intrusive question?

AH: That’s neither dumb nor intrusive. For each draft, for me at least, the process is dictated by the poem. I try to see clearly what a draft’s doing. Most drafts start with an image, a small bit of a line, a phrase that sort of sticks sideways in my mind. That ends up in the notebook, and as I follow the sound or the sense, I realize that it’s something that should get over to the computer. Perhaps it’s only a few stanzas, but I’ll type it, print it, and work on it more in pen. Changing the medium helps. Carrying the draft with both print and handwritten stanzas gives me some distance and clarity. “The Least of Wonders” first appeared in Jelly Bucket out of Eastern Kentucky University as a very different poem. The revisions that I hope made it a stronger poem happened in fits, with lots of other poems drafted in between. Those in between poems taught me things “The Least of Wonders” needed.

After grad school, the early morning hours of concentrated work became harder to find, so I’ve had to be more diligent in my conscientious working habits. Part of that is being okay with working in small spaces—a half hour here, jotting down nonsense rhymes for fun when I’m waiting for a meeting to start, that sort of thing. One thing it’s shown me, though, is how important poems are to me.

FD: Advice for young poets?

AH: Read widely and without prejudice. Write diligently. Don’t apologize for doing either. That’s advice to me, too. I feel very young.

FD: What motivates you to sit down and revise and develop your next collection on a pleasant spring day when you could be relaxing and enjoying yourself outside instead?

AH: I can do both, though. I find the hard work of trying to write poems well a true pleasure. My home office has a window, and I can look out there, see what the neighbor cats are getting into. I can take the notebook to the porch. I can take the dogs walking while hashing through some ideas, thinking about lines, or trying to think nothing at all and otherwise taking in the day on its own. For me, it’s not a beautiful spring day that gets in the way; it’s the other obligations. I take those obligations seriously, and it’s an honor to do so. But I also need emotional and psychological space to work, to say nothing of time. But the work gets done because it must. I’m happier and more effective when I have poems waiting.

FD: What do you think of promoting your work through readings, interviews, etc.? (I'm thinking of Don DeLillo, who I hear refuses to promote his work.)

AH: I think a lot about my intention when it comes to promotion. More important than promoting my work, I hope I’m promoting poems and community and attentiveness, maybe a line or stanza or whole poems sort of rattle around and glom on to the mind and heart of a hearer. That’s what happened to me, at least, in high school to a certain degree and certainly in college and grad school, when our reading series brought in writers who memorialized things that mattered to them, and their verve, energy, and generosity at the podium and in the classrooms changed me in small, important ways. I felt less alone, less lost in my head—here were folks who worked hard to share a flash of vision, a structuring moment that resonated, invisible strings vibrating across the auditorium or wherever. So there we all are, engaged, entertained, listening to language structured, I hope, to do something of consequence, to broaden us, deepen us, humor us, mark us in some small way. It seems really human to do that, to want that, and I support being human.

The same human urge is true for interviews. We’re curious. We like insight. We like knowing things about books that evoked something in us. That seems reasonable. But it’s also reasonable for an author to dislike the whole process. I read once that James Joyce was asked why Ulysses was so long. Joyce responds with something like if he could have paraphrased it he wouldn’t have had to write it. So, what’s DeLillo have to say about Underworld that he didn’t say in Underworld? Also, who wouldn’t prefer getting the work done to talking about how some work gets done? I feel that way, but I also think generosity matters. And we must eat. For many, I think it’s both pragmatic and idealistic to both give readings and provide interviews to promote the work at hand but also literature or art in general. Good readings and good interviews can do both: sincerely promote a single work as part of a larger thing happening in the world, a diverse and faceted and rebellious thing where people get words on pages.

FD: Why do you repeat words on a given line? Can you give an example?

AH: The best example of that repetition in Stray is probably “Earthworm Flooded Out in Rain.” So, there, the speaker’s sort of lamenting the crappiness of how an earthworm dies after a big rain washed it out. I always thought that sucked. You make it through the flood, but then you’re up on the sidewalk or whatever, and the sun bakes you because you can’t get back to the dirt. So, in that one, it’s a pooling of sonic energy. For me, the repetition of “dappled” in such a short space creates an insistence, a cycling or charging of sorts. It allows the speaker and the reader to spiral for a moment before moving on. It has the same effect in “Night Studies,” but with different expressive potential. It’s echoing the memorizing work the beloved does with her Latin studies. I see that sort of repetition, in a general sense, as internal rhyme. That the preceding consonant sounds would make the two appearances of “dappled” not actually be rhyme seems inaccurate. I mean, maybe it’s uninteresting as a rhyme, but I don’t think that’s true either. In any event, that sort of repetition adds a sonic insistence that I like—it’s a bit hypnotic, a bit hymn-like, or chant-like.

FD: What do you think of rhyme in contemporary poetry?

AH: Poems make patterns; they have a shape, a form, a feel. Rhyme can be lovely and memorable and fresh. I remember reading a review of a book that used rhyme as a dominant patterning throughout the collection. The reviewer said it’s like listening to a friend with a lot of neat things to say who just happened to speak in rhyme. I loved that description because it touches on both the artifice and authenticity of the poems. Rhyme creates expectations for the reader, and when those expectations are both met and messed with, the results can be so satisfying as a reader and as a writer. There’s a tension between the orderly movement and the vagaries of the piece itself, and that’s exciting. It offers a framework for the play of the lines, and the play of the piece as a whole. And when that’s handled well, I’m invested as a reader. I respond to both the unexpectedness, the jolt of the poem, and the fulfillment of the sonic contract the poem made.

That said, a poem using pure end-rhyme that does so with less-than-successful results calls far more attention to itself than, say, an unmemorable open form poem. That poorly-rhymed poem sort of blinks like a church out in the county that uses neon signs. Well, not like that. I’d like to see that. I think, though, that the sound for poems like that are probably the least of the concerns. Usually, the rhetoric of the poem, the emotional / intellectual movements are sort of weak. The expected rhymes can be symptomatic of expected responses or nebulous, generic responses to the situation at hand. We’re probably lacking concrete significant details, a directed speaker, etc…we’re lacking a lot of things likely because the poem grew too enamored with its own end rhyme. The Love/Dove, June/Moon sort of stuff. But the whole line matters—I mean, what if we go:

“Honey Boo-Boo weighs down the mind of Mama June/ who smokes out back and aims her cherry at the moon”—so now we have rhyming hexameter couplets about the tv stars using the dread June/Moon rhyme. We also have a little drama unfolding, and the strange gesture in the image of the Mama June lady pointing her cigarette at the moon while mulling over her daughter. Maybe it could work. What we’re really worried about with rhyme, though, is “I loved you with all my heart all June / and we kissed under the summer moon,” right? A little vague, a little expected. But I’d say that the unsuccessful end-rhyme is one of a few things that could be addressed.

FD: How often do you abandon poems?

AH: Every chance I get. I take ‘em to the swamps, tell them they’re better off without me, and fold them into paper boats and send them on their way. I sprinkle them with turtle food too, so they get eaten.

I’ve become pretty diligent about seeing poems through a few different drafts before I either full-on commit or put them into the abandonment file on my computer. I’ll filter through there from time to time to see what might strike me. But, for the most part, I abandon a poem when I lose interest. I don’t really see misshapen stanzas or a few lines going nowhere as a poem I abandon, though. That’s exercise or a start to something that will come around again. So, I think that when a poem or starts are going nowhere, I’m just recycling them, composting them. If the image, line, metaphor, or genesis are urgent enough or deeply rooted enough, they’ll come around again. Right now, there are some poems I refound from last year. They’re works in progress. So, they were abandoned, but when I went through some old draft work, I found them, read them, and didn’t cringe at some of the work there. I’ll revisit.

FD: Do you find some subjects (such as, say, multinational corporations) not conducive for poetry? Are you careful about the ideological implications of your work?

AH: I try to get the poem right. I try to be emotionally and intellectually honest. I try to be accurate and find fruitful juxtapositions of sounds and sense. It’s an ideology of attentiveness, and I think that matters. I respond to the world in specifics, though. I don’t think in terms of movements or ideologies. That’s not say there aren’t implications, because of course there are. I write from my own limited, tentative, and tenuous grasp on the world, and that’s bound to change over the course of my life. So I hope that my work rings honest, sincere, and well crafted with people. I hope the voice is compelling. I hope readers enjoy the poems, that something sticks with them, slows them down a bit. But I don’t sit down to write and say, okay! Let’s write one that a Marxist would really appreciate. Or I really want to burn the Tea Party folks with this.

Speaking of Marxists, I don’t think multinational corporations are inherently off limits to poems. They’re part of the world, after all, for better or worse. Do I feel moved to write about them? Not overtly, not consciously. Images have found their way into poems that conjure corporate-y things. But that’s in service to that particular poem and not part of a larger project. I think it’s less about subject and more about execution. Compel me. Move me. Show me the private history of one against the backdrop of a world in crisis. Teach me something about being on earth.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Beguiled official teaser trailer, related links, notes on Somewhere (2010)









Looking forward to this by one of my favorite directors:



Related links:

"8 Questions about A Very Murray Christmas"

"The lifestyle everybody kinda wants": The Bling Ring"

more Sofia Coppola links

Also, some notes on Somewhere (2010):

1) After watching Somewhere, I mostly remember Johnny Marco's (Stephen Dorff's) J. Crew boots. His sense of style has a deadbeat working class stoner aesthetic that reminds me of the guys who wore lots of flannel and jeans back in high school. He wears one expensive Red Wing boot untied and dangling, the other underneath the jean leg as he stumbles about from his black Alfa Romeo to his Chateau Marmont suite in his stubbled sun-struck LA Bret Easton Ellis celebrity-decadent world. In some ways, Somewhere is a more faithful low-key version of Ellis's Less Than Zero than the incoherent 1987 movie version starring Robert Downey Jr. Marco is so jaded with movie star fame, he passes out as Playboy dancers gyrate on stripper poles in from of him, or he zonks out snoring in the midst of undressing another woman during a party. Often as not, he's asleep when he's not sitting on a sofa and staring blankly into space with an opened Corona in one hand.

2) If Johnny didn't have Stephen Dorff's charm and Elle Fanning as Cleo, his daughter, needing his parental attention, he would be an insufferably blank self-involved poltroon.

3) As he sinks deeper into his characteristic stupor, one thing becomes clear: in Sofia's films, sex is always the enemy because it falsifies what little authenticity that can exist between wealthy, famous folk. As an alternative, she prefers to depict two people seeking an innocent prelapsarian playfulness amidst all of the adult fakery. In Lost in Translation, Bob asks Charlotte if she wants to escape from the insufferable Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel, and to some extent, by dashing aimlessly around the city and laughing cruelly at the phonies like Kelly (Anna Faris), they succeed. But Coppola's vision requires that she persuade her relatively poor audience to become just as alienated from this super-rich world as she is (not an easy thing to cajole us into). In Somewhere, I think we are meant to admire Johnny's decadent lifestyle even as it proves hollow, with awkward overly long shots emphasizing his boredom and his race car running in circles. Only his fatherly obligation makes him rise above his besotted hedonism on rare occasions. Still, to share in his alienation still seems like asking a lot.


4) Somewhere left me wondering about Sofia Coppola's growing self-consciousness as an artist, her willingness to repeat herself by showing what she, as Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, could know about: the Eloise-like milieu of award ceremonies, photo-ops, and top-notch Italian hotel suites with swimming pools. When we see the hungover Johnny watch Chloe ice-dance to Gwen Stefani's "Cool," the moment comes off as too self-consciously pure after all of Johnny's recent decadence. Johnny is such a bonehead, we can't even tell if he can properly appreciate his daughter's ministrations on his behalf (Chloe comes across as unfairly smarter and more mature than her dad). At one point, she attempts to domesticate his hotel room by ordering a cheese grater to help fix some macaroni and cheese. Later, Chloe shows off her artistic bent by fixing him some gourmet-quality Eggs Benedict, complete with chives garnish cut with kitchen shears. But, even given these moments of grace, where does Johnny have to go with his life? We never once see him read a book, or show much cultural interest in anything. He's a docile puppet of the publicity machine.

5) My issues with Johnny reminded me of Pauline Kael's problems with Benjamin Braddock in her review of The Graduate (and both films share a tendency to have lingering shots of their hero drifting around a pool). If Ben had any ideas, we would hate him, but as long he remains blank, the audience can project what they like on him, but Ben is eventually defined by his rejection of the rich California lifestyle of his parents while Johnny embraces it. And in contrast to Bill Murray's expert depiction of a midlife crisis in Lost in Translation, there's no tension in Johnny's befuddled acceptance of the perks of his job. Meanwhile, Johnny's Los Angeles mise-en-scene is too close to that of Bret Easton Ellis's recent The Informers for comfort. When Johnny finally removes his sated mask of cool and cries while on the phone with his publicist (I think), late in Somewhere, he says "I'm f---ing nothing." A sad scene, but after spending so much of the movie looking disaffected, Johnny's moment of vulnerability has little effect.


6) What I wrote about The Informers also applies to Somewhere: "the problem with all of Ellis' depictions of youthful narcissism and Play It As It Lays-Joan Didion-esque `deep' posturing (with everyone endlessly lighting cigarettes and gazing with apathy off into the distance) lies in his difficulty in making anyone care about these characters who certainly do not care about each other. Moreover, this aesthetic based on youth does not age well." To be fair, Johnny's relationship with Chloe redeems him a little, and Somewhere is light years better than The Informers in terms of craft. It just strikes me that Sofia Coppola is capable of creating so much more.