Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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My alarm clock decided not to ring this morning.

I woke up and, feeling exceptionally rested, looked lazily at the time.

"Hrmph," I thought. "I still have fifteen minutes to get to work."

As I nuzzled back into my pillow, another part of my mind (which up until that point was distracted by whatever silly sexual fantasy I had been dreaming) took notice of the fact that that first part of my brain was not being very reasonable about the chances of getting to work on time. That sharper area of my mind then set about trying to wake up the more lethargic part.

Eventually, it was successful, and I managed to call my place of employment before trudging into the hot shower. Rejuvenated by the steamy cascade of water, I shaved, brushed my teeth and dressed. This process took longer than I had hoped (especially the shaving, owing as to the fact that my shaving cream can was almost empty), and so when I finally got out my door, it was already extremely late.

In fact, I was so late that the big boss decided to send me home. I also got written up and informed that if I get another write-up for being late, I will be terminated.

This is a bit of a problem, as the public transportation path to get from where I live (Fresh Meadows) to where I work (downtown Manhattan, a block from Ground Zero) requires a bus ride and three connecting trains. Many times I have been late despite having set out early simply because one of those legs of my journey has been delayed... usually the bus or on the 7 train.

Now, given the fact that my site supervisor is aware of my transportation issues, this doesn't mean that the next time there is an MTA problem I will be canned. It does mean, however, that when there are MTA problems, I'll have to be quite clear as to that being the problem.

On the other hand, I got a rather beautiful day off.

28 Days Later

I caught up with this on DVD, but I was unable to check out the alternate endings. I think that means I saw the first end that was released theatrically, which may account for the fact that I thought that the end was problematic.

On the other hand, the film marvelously set an extremely tense background. The way the film adapts the tropes of the zombie picture into a modern age, in which people are infected by a virus that is passed on through the blood (yes, yes, all the standard issue AIDS allusions) works exceptionally well. Instead of your standard "vacant look" slow, unstoppable-ness, the infected are fast and snarling, and very quick.

There is also an interesting moment when a certain amount of sympathy is generated for the infected; they are clearly established as being sick, and not responsible for what they are doing.

The DV photography looked fine on the DVD, and John Murphy's score is great... and yes, it has that track from the trailer.

Gosford Park

I had seen this film in the theater when it came out, but, despite my great respect and love for the work of Robert Altman I hadn't caught up with it since then.

What is interesting about this film, more than any other element, is that Altman's millieu is one that I have always thought was unique, but a very American kind of unique. Gosford Park is a very British work, but one that could only have been created by someone who isn't.

In terms of style, Gosford Park fits quite easily into Altman's oevre. A wandering, widescreen frame (albeit Super 35), roves around collecting stories from a collection of people, each with their own motives, with their voices melding together into an amorphous whole.

Gosford Park is Altman at his best. His command of the cinematic medium is so fluid as so to appear effortless, and his ability with working with actors constantly keep the film engaging. His relationship with the performers is one of the most interesting. He constantly describes what he does as turning them on and letting them run, but since there are many actors who have turned in their best work in Altman films, including Andie MacDowell, I think that his particular form of genius is the environment he creates for them. Most actors describe being on an Altman film as a big party, and it is interesting to see how the British performers have adapted to that.

Helen Mirren's performance is one of the best, if subtlest in the film. She is able to create a living, breathing character in one scene despite spending most of the film acting like an automaton.

Maggie Smith is also a major reason for this film's success. Her spectacularly catty Mrs. Trentham is a joy to watch as she tears apart everybody around her.

Another unsung hero of the film is Richard E. Grant as an everpresent servant. His reaction to Emily Watson's unexpected outburst is brilliant, as is his treatment of Ryan Phillipe's character after his secret is discovered.

This was also the first Patrick Doyle score I had heard in a really long time. Altman didn't usually have traditional scores in his films, but when he works with an established composer, such as John Williams (Images, The Long Goodbye, Thomas Newman (The Player) and Doyle, he invariably got some of their best work. Gosford Park is no exception. It doesn't have the epic sweep of Henry V, Indochine or Frankenstein, nor does it have the ethereal quality of Great Expectations, but it goes for a specificity for the film that he has previously applied to Donnie Brasco, Hamlet and A Little Princess. Gosford Park quietly establishes the situation its presence, while remaining light, is suitably evocative (making a very emotional turn at the very end).

I have a hankering to sit down one day and watch some Abbott and Costello. Unfortunately, I can't afford to buy any of their movies or television work, and no video store or library within the immediate vicinity that I am aware of have any.

An old friend from high school has contacted me and invited me to a site named after the literary/arts magazine we worked on together back then. I am excited about re-establishing contact not just with her, but some of the others she seems to have found and invited.

An Alien comment from Craig (cawriter) on Film Score
I saw Alien on opening day and the lines were around the block. We couldn't get tickets for the first showing so as we waited in line we had the thrill of watching the audience of the previous showing stagger from the exits, pale, trembling, sweating and in shock. Literally.

As the film proceeded during our showing the audience was captured by the Star Wars ambience of the first third of the film but their mood began to change when Kane's helmet is cut open and the face hugger is revealed in all its gooey glory. The woman next to me said, "Oooooo...that's disgusting!" and I thought, "Well, in about five minutes you're going to see something REALLY disgusting," and sure enough when the chest burster made its amazing appearance, the lady and her husband freaked out...and walked out, along with about 40 other audience members.

Hysteria was rampant, the audience screaming, groaning, moving restlessly in their seats, staring in disbelief at the screen as that bloody little rascal tore out of Kane, uttered its keeing wail and zoomed off into the bowels of the Nostromo.

It was a powerful and completely wonderful moment and from then on Scott had that audience in the palm of his hand and on the edge of their seats [mixing metaphores a bit].

This audience also staggered from the theater totally drained and limp.

What struck me about the initial showings of Alien is that nothing like it had ever been seen was a completely new approach to science fiction/horror and the audience had no idea of what to expect and so were shocked out of their socks.

Seeing Alien first run was an Event, a Big Deal, akin perhaps to the first viewing of Planet of the Apes, 2001 and Star Wars, films for which there were no precedents and thus audiences were seeing something completely new and unique for the first time.

I saw it again a few weeks later at the Northpoint theater in San Francisco [since torn down an replaced with an office building] and the image and sound were jaw-dropping. My sister accompanied me and as she staggered out - by then I'd seen Alien three or four times - I asked her what she thought and she looked at me and said, "My GOD!"

Hopefully those of you who've only seen Alien via DVD will experience some of the emotional impact as we did way back in the day. Alien gave me a sleepless night or two...and I hope it has the same effect all over again.

Back in 1979 Alien scared the heck outta people. Hopefully it still has the muscle to do it again.
...and Cooper...
The original Alien was an almost mythic, elegant creature that I think we were meant to understand was pretty much impervious to anything. As Ash put it, it was "...the perfect organism". And it was this resilience and power of the ALIEN that created a feeling of futility and dread in the film.

Cameron rolled everything back, making his "bugs" almost swattable. Apparently, he even diluted their acid-blood, which seemed hard pressed to corrode even thin-plate body armor! It's a laughable notion that these lil' peskies would be wanted by the bio-weapons division, as was the ALIEN in the orignal film.

And the characters in ALIEN were believable as people. There's a sort of dramatic realism to the way they were written, in that--as you say--we just kind of drop in on the action and there's no traditional blocking out of their back stories and conflicts or arcs or anything; the audience is a fly on the wall. What little we learn about them is revealed through how they respond to the crisis. They have distinct personalities, for sure, and the rest is handled allusively. Coupled with some terrific, subtle, understated performances--a kind of acting that's gone out of style, sadly--ALIEN emerges as having an uncommon level of emotional impact for a "genre" film. A sense of real people in real crisis is higher impact than Cameron Cartoons under fire. I would draw a parallel between ALIEN and John Carpenter's The Thing in the characterization department, because very similar techniques were used, both equally effective. Also worth mentioning here: The Exorcist and Poltergeist.

Well, some of the effects of Alien have worn off a little. 28 Days Later was decently shocking, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to watch another horror film anytime soon... not so much because I am afraid of them, but rather because they would mostly seem pretty lame after seeing Alien so large.

Coming soon...
Tags: alien, cinema, patrick doyle, reviews, robert altman
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