January Viewing Cropped

I know, it’s March. I haven’t slacked off on my screen time. It’s been winter, after all. I just need to catch up with accounting for my hours.

Louis C.K. All Chewed Up: This is one of Mr. Lousy’s picks. I mostly enjoyed the stand-up, and it does make me appreciate his television show more. As much as he manages to offend, he usually turns his aim back on himself. (2008)

The Scalphunters: Where to begin? I can’t fathom a summary, so I’ll just run down the cast of this 1968 Sydney Pollack western. Burt Lancaster is an illiterate, hard-drinking fur trapper. Ossie Davis is a highly educated runaway slave finagling his way to Mexico. Telly Savalas is the hard-drinking leader of a band of outlaw scalphunters, and though they massacre Indians, I don’t believe there was scalping. Savalas wears a giant onesie pair of light pink underwear in most of the film. Shelley Winters plays his blowsy, hardscrabble hard-drinking whore companion in an outrageous blonde wig. Can I really ask for more in a cast? The film was slow, but the acting energetic throughout. One scene, involving Lancaster dumping something like peyote into a horses’ watering hole, did bring the film truly alive for about ten minutes. Otherwise, I was focused delightedly on the four leads getting drunk and screaming at one another.

Jane Eyre: British series from 1983. I confess that I’m mostly watching for Timothy Dalton, but I’m enjoying it. And I’m not close to finished, even in March. Mr. Rochester is being a complete dick. I must make a note to watch the ’96 Zefferelli version with Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt; and then the ’11 Cary Fukunaga one with Michael Fassbender trying to overcome unattractive facial hair.

Marwencol: Documentary (2010) by Jeff Malmberg about a man, Mark Hogancamp, nearly beaten to death in a bar and left severely brain damaged. He pieces his life back together as he creates a make-believe Belgian town in World War II, while the audience puts their own pieces together as they are doled out to us. By the ending, I’m surprised and overjoyed.

¡I loved Marwencol!

Witch of Marwencol

WWII soldiers agog at the Witch of Marwencol.

Nikita: Still season two, still not as good as season one, though they managed to add a younger male lead who was neither bland nor repugnant. I’m enjoying some of the back story we’re getting, especially as it enhances rather than contradicts what came before.  Alias, I’m looking at you.

Shut Up Little Man!: Maybe I’m the target audience for this 2011 documentary by Matthew Bate about the sordid lives of two San Francisco alcoholics whose existence seemed predicated on shouting hateful epithets at each other during almost every waking minute. Their terrified but clever slacker neighbors began taping them using a cassette deck, ushering in an era of underground fascination with the real life skid row characters of Peter and Raymond. I’m the target because I was part of the 1990s cassette phenomenon; my boyfriend from S.F. introduced me to the audio, and by the time I heard, “You giggle falsely!” as an invective, I was sold for life. Or so I thought.

It’s curious to see this now. I’m not so interested in what happened to Raymond and Peter. I assumed that they came to a sad end and they did. More fascinating was the story behind how the underground phenomenon was built, and how original fans now in their middle age look back and re-experience their window, or microphone, into the pathetic, grindingly joyless world of two degenerate, hardcore alcoholics. Not for all tastes or all moods.

How It’s Made: Science series about how shit gets made. I quit after one piece about aluminum foil, mainly because I had about seven questions they had to answer for me and failed in the short spot that they got. They need to give a science editor more say. Maybe I just started with the wrong episode. I do know that aluminum foil requires a lot of heat and gigantic rolls. There’s something I retained after two months.

The Brother from Another Planet: John Sayles’ 1984 castaway alien comedy/drama set in NYC with loads of racial overtones. The Brother, a mute Joe Morton, carries a lot of the film, observing and experiencing racial dynamics as an alien with the appearance of an African American man.  The final minute or so pulls the story together with a single hand gesture – melding pun to analogy and history to future. This one was also rather slow, but a smart mix of heavy and light. It’s one that I’d watch again.

Archer: Still season two. I’m pacing myself as I could easily blow through an entire season on a self-imposed snowbound day. Like today.

The Sarah Silverman Program: Still the first season. It’s fun but a little cynical for me.

Mad Men: Season Three. Spellbinding as always. I fear I could watch an entire series just based on the relationship between Sally Draper and her doddering, angry, loving grandfather.

Reel Injun: This prompted me to select The Scalphunters (see above), which actually only used American Indians as bookends to the story. The 2009 documentary traces the depiction of Native Americans from silent films through the present day, capping it with a stunning segment from film made by a one of a new line of indigenous directors. The most bizarre part was about the actor who played the Indian who cried while beholding pollution in a series of environmental advertisements in the seventies. I recognized him as a professional Indian, which he passed himself off as throughout his career, even though he was born Sicilian! He gets a surprisingly sympathetic treatment in the film. We also get to hear from Sacheen Littlefeather. I’d really only heard about her accepting/refusing Brando’s Oscar. Now I got to hear her account of the event.


Elektra Luxx: Moments of inspired lunacy. Sebastian Gutierrez directs his girlfriend, Carla Gugino, as a former porn star, now pregnant and panicking. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the porn aficionado who provides some narrative cohesion through his highly entertaining porn vlog, which he apparently shoots in his mother’s attic. Gutierrez thanks Almodovar in the credits, so maybe envision Almodovar taking an interest in a multi-threaded story centered on a pregnant porn star and there you have it. This 2010 movie was preceded by the 2009 film Women in Trouble, also written by Gutierrez. I have that in the queue.

The Air I Breathe: Intolerable shit from 2007. According to imdb, director Jieho Lee went to Harvard Business School to appease his parents while he set his sights on becoming a film director. Mr. Lee should apply to a Fortune 500 company and never make another film ever again. I was drawn in by the cast, and while I did enjoy Forest Whitaker playing against type in the first of several segments, the story was simply so pretentious and the direction so heavy-handed that I had to cry mercy and switch it off. This means that I completely dodged the segment about a fading pop star – named Sorrow. Maybe to Sarah Michelle Gellar, this looked good on paper. But seriously, Sorrow? This should go on my Raúl Cries Uncle list because I just couldn’t go through with it. I’m not that strong.

February’s record will follow before long.