actors, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Pugilism

A seemingly silly, violent sport is still a popular genre. Why? It ties into why people are attracted to the stories of war. Ordinary people find within themselves the motivation to rise to the surface to victory. That grit and tenacity are virtues, in my book. To live actively with a purpose is a life worth living. That’s why I’m a sucker for a hero story. It’s the most basic narrative since the classical era. I believe hero-worshipping is an intrinsic part of human DNA. 

Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club where everyone is encouraged to comment and share their thoughts regarding the monthly topic about the film industry. Today, it’s about the genre of boxing. Why do you love them? After all, can’t we predict the plot elements of the boxer story? 

  1. The protagonist is poor, forgotten, abused, or alone in life. 
  2. The protagonist discovers a mentor who gives him/her hope. 
  3. The decision is made to be a boxer. The training begins. 
  4. The boxer experiences some initial success until a problem occurs. Usually, something from the past revisits. 
  5. The boxer suffers a loss. He considers throwing his career/life away. 
  6. The boxer finds the strength within and fights the big fight. He/She takes a beating, but hangs in there to the finish and wins. 
  7. It was the love and devotion of the partner/mentor that explains why the boxer had the fortitude to carry on.
  8. They live happily ever after. Most of the time. 

That was easy. What makes, then, a better boxing movie than another? The human backstory? The quirky characters and heartfelt comedy? The wisdom of the mentor? The star power of the boxer? The musical score? The director’s choice of filming the fight itself? Do you like your boxing matches where you feel every punch and smell the sweat? 

Looking at the following movie posters to help jiggle your memory, you will probably be drawn to a few and say, “Oh, yeah, that was a good boxing movie. I loved that one.”  My question to you is, why? Why not the others? When comparing the classic boxing films to recent ones of the last twenty years, does technology help? 

culture, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Home Theater or Public Cinema?

Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club. This month my good friend, Bill, has some questions for you.

The world of home theatre has one considerable advantage over the antiquated days of movie-going.  Choice.  Today’s streaming and downloads offer tens of thousands of options from the entire history of the cinema.  For less than the price of a single admission to a movie theatre, the whole family can enjoy a digitally preserved movie on a sizeable screen with optimal sound. What’s to complain about then?

Four Differences Between Your Home Theatre and Cinema Going Experience

1.     When I refer to the cinema, I write exclusively of films being projected onto a movie screen, not the viewing of digital files. so the first thing you are losing is the flicker. With film, you are in darkness for a measurable percentage of the films running time, giving the viewing of a film a dreamlike flavor.  Watching digital entertainment is closer to being hypnotized than dreaming. You are watching a glorified form of television, whether it is in a former movie theatre or on your home theatre set-up.

Taxi Driver

2.      No matter how large or small your home screen is, you cannot approximate the ratio of a 6-foot human being to the 30-foot high movie screen.  You can sit up close to a 40-inch monitor so the picture occupies nearly your entire field of vision,  but your size will always dominate the television.  At the movies even when those with smaller screens, you are physically dominated by the images you are viewing.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

3.     The movies themselves, whether claiming to be restored or simply preserved, rarely have identical visual information as to their original release prints. BluRays are much brighter than the 35 mm originals, and the clarity reveals things that were better left obscured…hair dyes, bad make-up. painted skies, etc. Cheap, grainy exploitation films can now look like high budget mainstream latex makeovers.  These digital jobs might last longer than the old film stock, but you are not seeing a film, but an inexact copy of the film.

4.     One of the biggest drawbacks to the home theatre experience, which had its inception in the 1970s with the home box office and video rentals, is the dissolution of the timeline of film culture. In the days when television was television and cinema was cinema, we knew when we were watching an old movie on tv or a classic film at the art house.  We were aware that we were trespassing against the timeline. For a number of reasons, it is always best to see films at the time they are released.

There is much to enjoy in films that were made before our time, but those who saw Taxi Driver in 1976 at a luxury movie theatre saw a different movie than the person who selects it from the Netflix action menu in 2020.  In fact, a personal assessment of films often has a lot to do with when in their film going life they saw it.  For example, my favorite Howard Hawks western is Rio Bravo while people five years older than me usually prefer Red River.  People thirty years younger than me might be ardent fans of Euro-Westerns and have no interest in seeing any American western.  I came to the European auteurs in the late sixties, so I prefer Fellini’s Satyricon to his 8 ½,  and Bergman’s Persona to The Seventh Seal.   But I saw all Sam Peckinpah’s and John Cassevetes’ films in real-time, so they are among my favorite directors because I have lived with them and in them.

What do you think? How has your film-watching experience changed with the transition from film to digital, from public cinemas to home cinema?  Is the situation today better or worse than it was yesterday?

Thank you, Bill! Check out his blog at cinemaafterlife.movie.blog

actors, Are You Not Entertained?, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Regionalism in Coen Brothers Movies

Welcome back to another rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club featuring the Coen Brothers. Your friendly opinion is welcome here–don’t be shy–let’s talk to one another. I pulled from Wikipedia their eighteen films and each has a link that provides a synopsis in case you need a refresher.

After thirty years of filmmaking, we all have a favorite Coen film. When I was younger, my eyes and ears appreciated their strange storylines, quirky supporting characters, and their dark humor. As I aged, my interest in their work varied upon the project. Sometimes I felt their balance was off, that is, the story was too ludicrous for me to back emotionally–but always, throughout the decades, an element in the whole, a nugget in the creek, makes watching the film worth it. A performance. A character. A scene. A song. An idea that harkens back to the Greeks, and I like that about them; there is an endearing, universal quality about their stories. As screenwriters, they are the gods taking mythical pokes at the foolishness of man. They employ dramatic irony and we laugh. Well, I do.

I like Mojo.com. Have fifteen minutes? Watch this to help you remember the laughs and the technique of the Coen Brothers.

When I think of the Coen Brothers, here’s what comes to mind: 

  1. They remind me of Mark Twain. Folk tales–their films express America by the region including the vernacular and its superstitions and beliefs.
  2. They appreciate the genre of film noir. Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites. Gabriel Bryne locks it for me.
  3. They love Hollywood and hate it, too.
  4. The songs and scores are a key part of the tale. Kudos to Carter Burwell.
  5. The themes are universal: heroism, friendship, greed, loss, betrayal, strange love, sacrifice
  6. The setting plays a huge role in their films. The violence of nature infiltrates and determines the violence in man.
  7. Romanticism. Naturalism. Modernism. Post-Modernism. It’s all there in the visual form. Like watching instead of reading the assigned anthology of the second half of a U.S. Lit course. While I still prefer to read the anthology, I enjoy seeing the stories on the screen.

Which region do they personify best? Also, what performance or character resonates? Which repeat actor starring in a Coen film grate on your nerves? For me, that’d be Frances McDormand. I like Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi.