October 2015 Viewing Diary

Moontide (1942; d. Archie Mayo – and an uncredited Fritz Lang)
And John O’Hara wrote the screenplay. How I love this film. Ida Lupino plays a suicidal girl, rescued from the waves by Bobo (a to-die-for Jean Gabin). Bobo is a womanizer, clearly has a serious drinking problem, with black-outs, and perhaps he … murdered someone the night before? And doesn’t remember it? In the meantime, Ida Lupino rests up in his “live bait” shack, floating on the waves by the docks, and over the course of a couple of days … the two connect. Despite his flaws, Bobo is a loving and warm and friendly person. Thomas Mitchell (a favorite of mine) plays Bobo’s best friend, a terrible man completely threatened by the fact that Bobo has met a woman, that Bobo may be changing his ways. Mitchell’s character is clearly gay, and has those feelings towards Bobo, but, of course, can’t express it. Therefore he takes it out on Ida Lupino. Terrible. Claude Rains is awesome, as the witty knowing friend of both. But he is first seen in the film in a flop-house, post-shower, being whipped by Thomas Mitchell with a towel. Radical. The film features explosions of feeling and emotion. Lupino and Gabin are so wonderful together. There are great little charcter portraits: the rich guy with the boat who keeps breaking down. You think he’ll turn out to be a snooty heartless guy, but he’s not. He’s drawn to Bobo too. Clearly I love Moontide.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 20, “Angel Heart” (2015; d. Steve Boyum)
Part of my Season 10 re-watch, getting ready for Season 11. This is why I like to return to things before commenting on them. My first response was a sort of “Meh” although that closing scene brought me to tears (and still does). There is still a “Meh” quality to some of this (Castiel meets another terrible angel and what do they do when they confront one another? A fist-fight. Come ON guys.) But the episode packs a huge punch, with its picture of family, forgiveness. I love the scenes with Sam and Dean and Claire. Sam taking her under his wing as a hunter. Dean rolling his eyes and playing miniature golf. “Well-played,” his response to her Happy Gimore zinger.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 21, “Dark Dynasty” (2015; d. Robert Singer)
Devastating. Honestly, though, I didn’t buy the fact that Rowena bothered Charlie so much that she would go off to a motel, and then sit by an open window working in plain view. What, you can’t put headphones on, Charlie, to drown out Rowena? Plus Castiel’s helplessness at dealing with the Estrogen-Battle going on. These plot-points felt manipulative. Okay, so Charlie must die, how do we make that happen? and etc.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 22, “The Prisoner” (2015; d. Thomas J. Wright)
Charlie Aftermath. Dean as badass. Dean also strapped to a table. Not a big fan of the Stynes (and their Abercrombie & Fitch model similarity in looks). But of all the “let’s stand over our burning fallen comrade” scenes in the history of the series, this one was the most brutal. Like it a lot.

Gilda (1946; d. Charles Vidor)
It was a Rita Hayworth-Gilda heavy couple of months, because of my assignment from Criterion for their upcoming release of the film. It’s been so much fun, and I floundered around helplessly for 24 hours after I handed in my first draft, thinking, “What will I do will all my time now??” And then, BOOM, the next day, the Oscars gig. Ain’t life like that.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 23, “Brother’s Keeper” (2015; d. Phil Sgriccia)
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.

Welcome to Me (2014; d. Shira Piven)
Brilliant. And, best of all, it stuck to its guns. It did not “redeem” the character, except in her own mind, which is pretty fragile and out of touch to begin with. Kristen Wiig’s Alice Kleig deserves to stand alongside other great portraits of anti-social delusional outcasts (Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy the clearest example, but there are many others. I had seen and loved the trailer. It was the kind of trailer that raised hopes. And I remember thinking, “Oh, please, don’t let this movie cop out.” And it didn’t. The movie is really really funny, but also pitch-black depressing. Almost surreal. But also a very pointed social commentary. It’s on my Top 10 of 2015, thus far.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 19, “Folsom Prison Blues” (2007; d. Mike Rohl)
In preparation for my next re-cap. “Poor … giant … Tiny.”

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 21, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1” (2007; d. Robert Singer)
Figured I’d move on to the end of Season 2, to get the trajectory of the whole seasonal Arc. Love these final episodes.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 22, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
Kim Manners at his highest of high-baroque Beauty-ness. Some of the episode actually hurts to look at it’s so beautiful.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 1, “Magnificent Seven” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
On a roll!

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 2, “The Kids are All Right” (2007; d. Phil Sgriccia)
Welcome, Lisa, before she became, sadly, an Oompa Loompa. Dean’s behavior at the party, awkward and noticeable, knocking into trash cans, is some screwball shit. ALSO I love that for the entirety, except the last scene, Lisa’s entire vibe is, “What the hell are you doing here?” And it’s genuine. She’s busy now. She’s got her own life. Who is this guy with the Bedroom Eyes showing up all entitled 8 years later? I liked her immediately because of this. She felt real. And it’s important she feel real, due to everything that follows over the next seasons. You get the appeal. And it doesn’t have to do with hot sex. And that is very very interesting and illuminating.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 3, “Bad Day at Black Rock” (2007; d. Robert Singer)
I actually re-watched the original movie this month too! I love it so much, all that swaggering masculinity on display. It’s damn near pornographic. Or at least erotic. Men towering above the horizon. Men staring at each other across train tracks. Men glowering and gleaming like threatened peacocks. Good stuff. But the SPN episode is fun too and I adore Bela and will have much to say about her when the time comes. So far, the series had not featured a “femme fatale,” on the classic model of Barbara Stanwyck or Lana Turner or Gloria Grahame. Well, welcome Bela.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 5, “Bedtime Stories” (2007; d. Mike Rohl)
“I’m feeling dirty just thinking about it.” The entire Bela-Winchester relationship is extremely pleasing to me, since I grew up watching film noirs.

Saute ma ville (1968; d. Chantal Akerman)
Chantal Akerman died this month, and it’s a hard loss to wrap your head around. As I said elsewhere, if you read any Greatest Films of the 20th Century List and Jeanne Dielman isn’t on it: ignore the list, it’s no good. This is not just a matter of taste. This is about acknowledging the accomplishment of a 24-year-old director – younger than Welles when he did Citizen Kane, directing a film that completely changed film language. Perhaps only a young person could do that, could be so bold and confident. So it’s very upsetting that she is dead at 65. I went back and watched her first film, a 12-minute short called Saute Ma Ville (where she plays the lead character). It’s unforgettable. And it’s all there. She didn’t have to develop into a great artist. She just was one naturally. You can see Saute Ma Ville at the bottom of this post.

The Final Girls (2015; d. Todd Strauss-Schulson)
Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Outrage (1950; d. Ida Lupino)
An Ida Lupino-directed honest and raw film about rape and its PTSD aftermath. Ahead of its time. Insightful about what we now call “rape culture.” The entire film is on Youtube. It should be watched. Ida Lupino was a pioneer. Wrote about the film here.

The Killers (1946; d. Robert Siodmak)
A favorite noir, with a hotter-than-hot Burt Lancaster, and an even-hotter Ava Gardner. The film is a Russian nesting-doll. Flashbacks into flashbacks into flashbacks, told through varying perspectives, so that the point is, ultimately, lost. Does it matter “whodunit”? Who can figure anything out in such a dark and pessimistic world? Great film.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 6, “Red Sky at Morning” (2007; d. Cliff Bole)
I’ve said it before but I will reiterate, and I realize I am preaching to the choir!!: Yes, I know that the writing of this episode was dissed by the show itself in “Monster.” But I don’t care. I feel under no obligation to AGREE with anything anyone says, even if they work on the damn show. It is up to ME to decide whether or not I like something, or whether or not I think it works. I say this because people (no one here, but elsewhere) have a tendency to say stuff like this: “Remember, they themselves dissed the writing of this episode.” I see it on lots of fans’ Worst Of lists. Who knows, maybe these fans genuinely hate the episode, but it’s my contention that they feel the need to include it because the creators themselves made fun of it. “Remember … the writing staff made fun of it … so … ” Emanations from the writing staff or from Eric Kripke are not Holy Writ. Once something is out there in the world, it no longer BELONGS to Eric Kripke or the writing staff. It belongs to US. The same thing happens with Elvis’ movies. I love Elvis’ acting and I love his movies. Elvis hated the majority of the movies he was in and spoke about it at length. Nobody defends those movies. And it is my contention that the music writers who write about Elvis RESENT the movies for taking Elvis away from them, have ZERO idea how to analyze a good performance, AND have Elvis’ words in their head. “Well, he was really unhappy with doing them, therefore THAT must be the filter through which I see the Elvis films.” Really? I feel no loyalty to Elvis in that way. So I’ll write about an Elvis movie, and inevitably someone will show up and say “You know that Elvis hated all of his movies.” Again, my questions are: So? And Who Cares? I’m supposed to only agree with Elvis? I hate bananas, but I’m not gonna force them down my throat just because Elvis loved them. We have been given MINDS, so let’s use them. I don’t CARE what Eric Kripke said. I don’t CARE what the other writers said. I mean, it’s interesting (I guess), but I don’t feel pressured to AGREE with one single word of it. All of this is to say, I really enjoy “Red Sky at Morning,” its screwball-vibe, its dress-up sequence. The cemetery scene at the end is stupid, but please, there have been far FAR FAR worse episodes than “Red Sky at Morning”. And I could watch Bela go toe-to-toe with the Winchesters for hours on end. So THERE.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 7, “Fresh Blood” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
I miss Gordon.

No Man of Her Own (1950; d. Mitchell Leisen)
A beautiful and disturbing film (the film was remade, in more of a comedic vein, years later into While You Were Sleeping). Barbara Stanwyck plays an unwed mother who ends up being taken in by the family of their son (who had abandoned her). But she’s not who they think she is. And she can’t bring herself to come clean, because this is the first family she’s ever had. And she doesn’t want to leave. But the past, as always, comes roaring back to haunt her. I love this film, and I love the exteriors too. Snowy nights, ice-crusted roads, abandoned train stations, dark dark and gloomy. Great acting.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 1, “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” (2015; d. Robert Singer)
The amorality of Darkness was pleasing to me. A force of nature. And nature is feminine. Camille Paglia would be pleased.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 10, “Dream a Little Dream Of Me” (2008; d. Steve Boyum)
In my Top 10 episodes in the entire series.

The Quiet Man (1952; d. John Ford)
Coincidentally, along with the Criterion Gilda assignment and the Lifetime Achievement Oscar assignment, I had another assignment this past month: a huge essay about John Wayne in The Quiet Man. I say coincidentally only because Maureen O’Hara just died, and this was her most famous role. So I watched the movie about three times this month, so I could study Wayne’s performance more closely. That essay won’t be available for a bit, but I did talk about the chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara – and, in particular, Wayne’s open sexuality in the film – here.

Pacific Rim (2013; d. Guillermo del Toro)
A re-watch in preparation for Crimson Peak, which I was assigned to review. I love Pacific Rim.

Youtube: Hours and hours of the Jodi Arias trial. I completely missed that entire thing the first time around because I was too busy having a crack-up and going into medically-induced recovery. My, what I missed. I’m obsessed. My obsession is almost purely behavioral in nature. This woman fascinates me. And her first police interrogation (you know, the one where she does a handstand, puts pieces of paper down her pants, and sings a couple of songs when left alone in the room) is now taught in police academies and behavioral-science units across the land, because of just how revealing it is. Listen, I had one of the busiest two months in recent memory. Well, maybe preparing for my short film earlier this year rivaled it, but in that one, at least I wasn’t in CHARGE. So I needed to let off steam somehow. And to me … watching Jodi Arias lie with every breath … accomplished that.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 14, “Long Distance Call” (2008; d. Robert Singer)
Once I started going into Season 3, I had fun jumping around. I like the psychological tailspin Dean goes into. It’s so transparent (what a shock). I also like Sam trying to keep the boat steady. Plus Dean’s thumbs-up bonding with the telephone guy on porn.

The Quiet Man (1952; d. John Ford)
See above.

Crimson Peak (2015; d. Guillermo Del Toro)
I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955; d. John Sturges)
I wrote about this above. The masculinity on display … Robert Ryan. Lee Marvin. Ernest Borgnine. Spencer Tracy. The strange “Village of the Damned” way the men of the town look at Spencer Tracy when he gets off that train. The purpose of the film is to grapple with what was done to Japanese-Americans during the course of the second World War. It’s a socially conscious film, perhaps a bit heavy-handed – but sometimes cultural sins need to be treated with a heavy hand. Spencer Tracy is the moral center of the film, carrying with him natural authority, so the impact of his humanism is enormous. It says: “What was done to our fellow citizens was wrong.”

Blue Gardenia (1953; d. Fritz Lang)
It was a film noir heavy month. I love the films of Fritz Lang and Blue Gardenia is so excellent! Anne Baxter is so good as the telephone operator, in love with a guy stationed in Korea, who rejects her by mail, and in her devastation ends up going out with Raymond Burr for a night. He gets her way WAY too drunk, and there’s an altercation at his apartment. She has no memory of what happened. But Raymond Burr ended up dead. A gigantic “man”-hunt starts for the murderer. Richard Conte plays a hot-shot journalist who begins his own investigation, trying to track down the “blue gardenia,” as the unknown murderess is called. (Black Dahlia? Hm.) She’s called that because she was last seen at a club called The Blue Gardenia, AND Nat King Cole performs that song IN the film, just to drive the point home. Richard Conte feels he must reach the “blue gardenia” before the cops do, that if he tells her side of the story before she’s arrested, she’ll have a better shot. (Richard Conte, by the way, has a pretty thankless part here, although he’s wonderful. Probably most well-known for The Godfather, Conte was great in noirs too, particularly The Big Combo in which – radical for its day – it suggested that his character was going down on his girlfriend. Good for him. And her.)

They Live By Night (1948; d. Nicholas Ray)
What a great film. And so influential. Young film-makers nowadays may think that they’re imitating Bonnie and Clyde, but Bonnie and Clyde itself was an imitation of They Live By Night. It is a film that has 100 children and 1000 grandchildren.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 2, “Form and Void” (2015; d. Philip Sgriccia)
Night of the Hunter. That’s all I care about. As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt personally validated by that. I’m insane.

Room (2015; d. Lenny Abrahamson)
I keep meaning to write about this extraordinary film. I started a review, but had to put it aside because of other deadlines. Harrowing. Great acting. Best not to say too much more, and I would avoid reviews before seeing it. This is a must-see, people. It’s one of the best films of the year.

Suffragette (2015; d. Sarah Gavron)
No good. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013; Jean-Marc Vallée)
There’s a piece I want to write eventually about straight people playing transgender characters. I know it’s been done everywhere else but I still want to write about it. I just don’t have time right now, but figured I’d start my research. Check it off the list.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 15, “Time is On My Side” (2008; d. Charles Beeson).
What a messed UP episode. And here’s Rufus. That scene between him and Dean is a masterpiece, a chess-playing make-your-move-keep-your-poker-face masterpiece. I love that although Dean is the one facing death, the episode is really about Sam’s desperation. He’d have to be desperate to think that Frankenstein over there would be a valid option for his brother. But to me it’s painfully beautiful, that he cares that much about saving his brother that he’d go to this length. Also, I like it when Sam carries damsels-in-distress in his arms. It’s hot and appealing. I’m retro. Guilty as charged. PLUS the Bela sub-plot coming to a close (and I, for one, am bummed.) It’s nasty. Because you can see what happened to her in her childhood to make her who she was. And Dean had actually guessed it, if you recall. He clocked it. (Which also connects her to the classic femme fatale. Dissertations have been written about what is REALLY going on with the femme fatale’s sexuality. Because she is only seen through the eyes of men, she appears to be a voracious spider-woman, manipulative and brutal. Which she IS. But there have been other theories, having to do with sexuality and what happens to it when it has been brutalized. These are broad points, and of course there are exceptions, but that’s what I think of when I think of Bela. And Dean Winchester may not have read any dissertations on the sexuality of the femme fatale – but he looks at her, and hates her, but he also recognizes that aspect of her. Takes one to know one.) I, for one, miss Bela. But LOVED how her arc closed itself out. Because of course. Of course that’s how a “Bela” happens in the world of Supernatural. And of course both Dean and Sam would have seething contradictory love/hate fight/fuck responses to her. That’s what a femme fatale does. For her own reasons, reasons which she will never ever share. Her secrets go with her to her grave.

Supernatural, Season 3, episode 16, “No Rest for the Wicket” (2008; d. Kim Manners)
Creepy Child Alert! I honestly didn’t need TWO close-ups of the nanny’s face covered in flies. And THE most upsetting final scene in the entire series. Watching it you realize, yet again, how much the show lost when Hell became comprehensible, a place, populated by Power-Point-wielding minions.

Sensation Hunters (1933; d. Charles Vidor)
This was also part of my Gilda project. Familiarizing myself with the sheer scope of director Charles Vidor’s career. Not known for one particular style or genre, he’s mostly associated with musicals (having directed popular Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly films. Plus the 1955 Love Me or Leave Me, featuring tour de force performances from both Doris Day and James Cagney. Cagney was nominated for an Oscar). Sensation Hunters is a Pre-Code. So what does that mean? It features many scenes of women in their underwear. Bare legs. It’s frank about sex, about alcoholism, about how showgirls (or strippers/burlesque artists) can descend into a life of prostitution. Walter Brennan shows up as a stuttering waiter, surrounded by the floozy “headmistress” of showgirls/prostitution, all as the gals get undressed in the room together, sipping from flasks, sometimes getting into fist fights. You know, this kind of raw unvarnished reality (reality in some circles, anyway) would vanish completely once the Code came down.

Gallipoli (1981; d. Peter Weir)
That final shot. I saw this in a movie theatre and there was a collective gasp of total sorrow, a group “Oh NO.” Grueling. Beautifully shot. (Great special features too, interviews with everyone).

A Question of Love (1978; d. Jerry Thorpe)
Part of my Gena Rowlands-Lifetime-Achievement-Oscar gig. Rowlands is so associated with her husband’s films that it’s important to move them out of the way to see the rest of the career (which is still going on). She did some very important and radical TV movies in the 70s and 80s, the most famous one being An Early Frost, about AIDS (10 years before Philadelphia), a gorgeous film where she co-stars as Bette Davis’ daughter called Strangers, and then this, a film about a lesbian mother fighting for custody of her son. I wrote about it here.

Supernatural Season 11, Episode 3, “The Bad Seed” (2015; d. Jensen Ackles)
Pretty funny to see this right on the heels of the murderous Lilith-child at the end of Season 3. Nothing creepier than a cute small child in a dress apparently. While the entire episode was exposition, Ackles has grown so much as a director (although he started really strong). There are really cool angles, great murky colors, and a sensitivity to working with females (child and grown) that shows in the performances. He cared about how those two were framed, about how to present them: both mysterious and explicit. Season 11 so far is all about women. To mis-quote Coleridge, Women women everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (2014; d. Joe Berlinger)
Love Joe Berlinger’s films and my family is from Boston, I’ve got cousins who live in “Southie” (Whitey’s stomping grounds), so he was a boogey-man from our childhood. IRONICALLY, I happened to be in Santa Monica on the day he was busted there. I still can’t believe it. I’m in the apartment in Santa Monica, and I see the news … that Whitey Bulger had been found – and it was literally 2 blocks from where I was staying. So Maria and I set out to see what we could see. She said into her phone, asking Siri: “Whitey Bulger’s apartment” which made her look like an FBI officer undercover. We got to the apartment and it was a madhouse. The poor residents in the building had put up a hand-written sign on the front door: “PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIVE HERE.” It was just a weird thing, to have this Boston Myth for decades suddenly be busted within walking distance of where I was staying all the way across the country. Anyway, it’s a really good documentary.

Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979; d. Millton Katselas)
Gena Rowlands Oscar-piece Part II. This was a movie that Rowlands did with Bette Davis, in Bette Davis’ awesome Late-Renaissance period in TV movies. It’s almost too pleasurable to tolerate: watching these two actresses play scenes together. And the whole thing is just them. They play an estranged mother and daughter. It’s amazing. Whole thing is on Youtube, in 10 parts.

The Martian (2015; d. Ridley Scott)
Loved it! I reviewed it here.

Islands in the Sky (1953; d. William A. Wellman).
What a fantastic John Wayne movie. Filmed out in the Sierra Nevadas (a stand-in for the Arctic Circle), it’s about an Army Transport Plane that runs out of fuel and has to make an emergency landing in the middle of an ice field. They are beyond radio contact. Nobody died in the landing, but the temperature is 40 below, they have limited rations, and nothing lives up there in the cold white. The situation is immediately dire. Back on the Base, through snatches of radio messages and radar, the other guys try to put together the general area where the plane went down, and go out on a series of dangerous search-and-rescue missions. It’s a Robinson Crusoe story. A battle to survive. Survival has as much to do with psychological strength as physical. The flying sequences, done with actual Douglas C-47s, swooping over ice fields, have to be seen to be believed. GREAT aviation movie.

Black Widow (1954; d. Nunnally Johnson).
I love the sick sexuality in the film: we’re in the 1950s now, a far more repressed age than the 30s or 40s. WWII gave women more power, made them more visible as individuals. The GIs returned home and the culture snapped shut, with a “Well, THAT’S all over now, thank goodness” feeling. Elvis has yet to blow the roof off. But that sexual stuff is still in operation. Van Heflin plays a guy happily married to Gene Tierney. They’ve had some problems, but they overcame them. They both work in the theatre. Van Heflin is producing a hit show starring Ginger Rogers (she gives first a hilarious performance and then a truly touching performance). He feels sorry for a young writer who is looking for a “way in” to the business and befriends her and tries to help her out. Big mistake. BIG mistake.

The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 1 “Ice Cold: Levi King” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
Okay, so sue me, I got sucked into this A&E series on Netflix and watched them all. Or as many as I could. This is a version of what my friend Allison and I call “Blood Everywhere” shows, because in each episode, someone inevitably says, “There was blood … EVERYWHERE.” Not that there are good murders, but this one was completely senseless.

The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 2 “Mad Maks: Maksim Gelman” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
I was in New York when “Mad Maks” went on his rampage. I’m pretty hardened by now, and I watched planes fly into the World Trade Center, so I’m not easily spooked. But Mad Maks got to me. I remember subways being shut down because he was hiding out on them. He was completely out of control. And he shows zero remorse. In the interview in this episode, he still seems completely frightening and I hope he never sees the light of day again.

The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 4, “Twisted Love: Dena Riley” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
Losers. Throw away the key.

The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 5, “Payback: Earl Forrest” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
Earl Forrest, who seems like a nice guy actually, does not feel guilt about killing his best friend of 30 years. He maintains from prison: “None of this would have happened if she had just done what she said she would do.” Again: throw away the key. This guy still doesn’t get it.

James White (2015; d. Josh Mond)
An incredible film. I wrote about it here. If you are sick of tentpole-blockbusters, if you want to support smaller more intimate stories, independent film in general, then it’s almost a civic duty to support a film like James White. (Same with Room.)

Another Woman (1988; d. Woody Allen)
One of Gena Rowlands’ best performances. She hadn’t wanted to accept the part because it was being filmed in New York and her husband was dying. But John Cassavetes urged her to do it. She went. She has said that the separation was incredibly painful. In this film, she plays a character unlike anything she has ever played before or since. If you only saw Another Woman, you would assume that Gena Rowlands had made her name playing chilly reserved intellectuals. Like, that’s how good she is. Surrounded by powerhouse actors, who have memorable scenes (Sandy Dennis has one, and Betty Buckley has one: a 5 minute scene of acting so intense you want to look away from it), Rowlands’ character is a woman out of touch with her feelings, so much that when the depths are plumbed … her entire edifice starts to crumble. She has no stability anymore. And Gene Hackman is so so sexy.

The Fifth Estate: Russell Williams Confession (2010)
Along with Jodi Arias, I became mildly obsessed with Russell Williams this month as well. I remember that whole thing going down of course, but had actually never watched the famous confession in full. This is a TV episode, talking to police investigators about what was going on in that room, what police officers can learn, Russell Williams’ behavioral “tells.” The entire confession is on Youtube. I realize that I am 5 years late to this party, so I assume that most everyone in North America has already seen the damn thing and I am just discovering its dark fascination.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 4, “Baby” (2015; d. Thomas J. Wright)
I actually found this so pleasurable that 1. I almost couldn’t get through it in one sitting and 2. I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet. A magical and powerful episode. The Impala as God. Watching over them always. Taken for granted, and loved. But not perceived as powerful as it might be. Filmed from the perspective of the Impala. Plus, loved the detail that it was through two random women – Piper, and the joy-riding valet-parker and her friend – that Dean was saved. Twice. Hairpin. Penny. Objects as Talismans. Expectation: that either women would turn out to be a demon, a monster. That car-valet careening away from the parking lot would be driving the Impala right to Crowley (for example). Or something. That Piper would be seducing Sam as some manipulative demon move. But no. Women in this episode were living their own lives, having a blast, doing their thing, not obsessed by The Darkness, but out to have a good time. And they leave things behind. Objects as talismanic as the Legos stuck in the grate. Objects that can save. Like I said: Women women everywhere and not enough to drink. Here I am talking about the episode. I don’t know what it is. It made me feel tender, and it’s not a particularly familiar feeling, so I’ve had to hole up with myself over it. I love that tenderness! Supernatural withholds its tenderness and softness, one of the main strengths of the series. This was masterfully done, from conception to completion. Life and the Universe through the Impala’s watchful eyes.

Our Times (2002; d. Rakhshān Bani E’temād).
Very strange coincidence, but Jessie just showed up this morning in the thread on dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s Taxi), discussing another Iranian film called Tales, directed by the great Rakhshān Bani E’temād. I haven’t seen that one, but I did JUST see this past week her documentary about the raucous 2001 elections in Iran, Our Times. Bani E’temād is one of the preeminent film-makers in Iran, and definitely its most famous female filmmaker. Our Times is an on-the-ground portrayal of the youth organizers, politically rallying around the reform ticket, as exemplified by Khatami. It was the eighth Presidential election in Iran’s history, and really the first time that the youth got involved like they did. It also was the first election where almost half of the candidates for President were women. Some of them were just college students, but they put their names on a ticket, to make a statement. They want reform for women. They want economic reform, so that women can be financially independent. These brave women (and girls, some of them) agreed to be interviewed. One young college student talks about her decision to “run”, even though she knew she would never be elected. When her parents are asked what THEY think about the whole thing, her father jokes that they now refer to her as “Madame President.” “Madame President, could you wash the dishes?” There’s a tragic feeling in the film because we all know what happened in the following decade, the brutal bloody crackdown of 2009, etc. But it’s a powerful film about the political process.

Poison (1991; d. Todd Haynes)
I’m assigned to review Carol and could not be happier about it. I love the Patricia Highsmith novel on which it is based. So, to review, I’m going back to watch his filmography. It’s hard to believe Poison is a debut. It’s so bold, so great-looking, so audacious. It was controversial then (shots of penises, rough gay sex, etc. The whole thing is based on the works of Jean Genet), and it could still be controversial now, I suppose. A brilliant film, and very tough to take.

The Visitor (2007; d. Tom McCarthy)
I am also assigned to review Spotlight, opening this coming Friday, so I thought I should go back and re-watch The Visitor, also directed by Tom McCarthy. Sorry, though, I cannot watch The Cobbler. Richard Jenkins is so great. The film is very upsetting. The one shot of the blurry American flag at the airport was a bit obvious. We get it, we get it. Enough already. But excellent acting.

Call Me Marianna (2015; d. Karolina Bielawska)
A gorgeous film about “Marianna”, who was born Wotjek (a man) and is now going through the sex change process. She has to choose between her family and her true identity. She wants to have both. She begs to have both. Part documentary, part drama. It’s beautiful. It’s playing this week at MoMA and I’m running the QA afterwards, and interviewing the director, so I need to bone up on it. Very good film.

Magic Mike (2012; d. Steven Soderbergh)
What can I say, I can’t get enough. Went back and re-watched the first one, after the frenzy of the sequel earlier this spring. It’s a very good film, although it’s played in a minor-key as opposed to the C-major version of the sequel. Beautiful. And GORGEOUS and moving final shot as the camera pulls away from the two figures at the table. And wait for it … wait for it … it’s not over yet … don’t turn away because right before it goes to black …

Farewell, October. You were NUTS.

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70 Responses to October 2015 Viewing Diary

  1. alli says:

    I love season 3 so so much. Bela is one of my favorite characters in all of television. She’s ballsy and sexy and independent. Just so real.

  2. Paula says:

    Sheila – Congrats on the Oscar gig. What a fantastic opportunity for you. I can’t wait to see this when it airs.

    //Once something is out there in the world, it no longer BELONGS to Eric Kripke or the writing staff. // Amen to this and amen to Red Sky At Morning. Not my favorite ep but there were very good moments like the dissolution of ghosts like water in the cemetery. Beautiful f/x that took my breath away the first time I saw it.

    Pacific Rim was so good. PR and Mad Max: Fury Road were two films that could have been dismissed as genre films but were so much more. Fantastic actors and f/x that didn’t overwhelm the stories they surrounded.

    • sheila says:

      Paula –

      Thanks, in re: Oscars gig!! Squee – it’s only 11 days away now. (The Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony takes place on the 14th.) Can’t wait to see the final cut – have only seen the rough cut and it is overwhelming. Not my writing, necessarily, but the images they have found, and clips, and how they put it all together.

      Glad to hear some more Red Sky at Morning love.

      “You stink like sex.”

      And Dean and Bela pretending to be married, and then her pretending to swoon, and all those shenanigans. This is the kind of stuff in movies I thrilled to when I was a kid – being in disguise, getting away with shit, making stuff up … I loved that aspect of it.

      And yes, Pacific Rim!! The effects were wonderful but I loved how well it tapped into the mythic elements of heroism, and battle, and sacrifice. It was epic – in a really emotional way. Earnest-ness like that is out of style.

  3. Helena says:

    October sounds crazy but full of awesome, awesome stuff. Gena, John Wayne – the universe is catching up with you.

    Moonlight. Sounds. Nuts. But so much of what I’ve seen of Lang (not Metropolis, not yet) is crazy and uncanny and transgressive. He’s the kind of film-maker who makes you feel that the ground is shifting under your feet.

    Also, I have a glass of red wine in my hand and I am quietly nodding and smiling at you ‘not writing’ about Baby, which is the loveliest loveletter to a show anyone has ever written. Watching that sent me back to Season 1, which I actively avoid because the Beauty is Just Too Much. But after Baby I just had to go back and see where it all starts. Man, it looks gorgeous. (Oh yes, I love what you say about ‘Red Sky – I adore the ‘Murder She Wrote’ vibe of that episode. It’s like a Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn comedy where the characters genuinely hate and want to kill each other.)

    • Jessie says:

      I so wanted to put M on our Halloween viewing list but I wasn’t allowed! M, The Shining, NOTH, all vetoed. arrgahhgggaggaghhhhhhhhh!

      I hope you get to watch Metropolis someday soon it’s the best! You know how every poster for it looks amazing? The whole thing’s like that. It’s so effin good. Whichever version. You will love Helm, I swear. A few years ago I missed a chance to see it on the big screen with the soundtrack performed live by musicians and I was really bummed. (Having said that I just recently went to see Stalker with a live improvised ambient soundtrack and it wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped so I console myself with this fact).

      • sheila says:

        Jessie –

        Ah, Stalker!!! One of my all-time favorite movies. That must have been incredible!!

        Metropolis is great to see on a big screen because the effects are overwhelming. It’s also amazing to see just how influential that film is. From Blade Runner to C3P0 to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and on and on.

        And yes, Helena – you will love these movies! Dark and twisty and epic

        • Jessie says:

          I am dying to one day see Metropolis on the big screen.

          Stalker — look it’s incredible always, I still found it mesmeric, but it looked like they just played my home DVD copy, the transfer was quite bad, which was a disappointment (I don’t know, maybe there is no restored version?) and a good chunk of the music was misjudged — too much cliched “eerie” ambient sounds and a bass line during the chase sequence at the start that was almost a noir parody. They did a better job in the second half. It wasn’t what I had expected. But the movie itself can clear away all that.

          Meanwhile I got home and my partner who is so sick of me seeing movies with ridiculous titles was like, — how was your weirdo Russian movie, what was it called, Purple Rectangles Adjacent to the Frosty Breath Of The Winter Of My Soul? — No, it’s called STALKER, and it was about a STALKER, so there! — Oh. (chastened) So was it a thriller, did he like stalk women or something? — Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

        • sheila says:

          // Purple Rectangles Adjacent to the Frosty Breath Of The Winter Of My Soul? //


          I think I kind of need to see that film. Please keep me posted on any upcoming screenings.

    • sheila says:

      Lang is so great! M and Metropolis are cuh-ray-zee. But I love that he had two sections to his career – there was the German section and then he moved to America – and turned out to be this great critic/observer of American culture. It’s often the immigrant who sees that stuff clearer – and who also loves his adopted country more than the born-there citizens.

      So his American stuff can be so hard-hitting, socially relevant, ripped from the headlines.

      But then there’s a noir like Moontide, which is practically gentle in its evocation of a specific environment with specific characters. It’s wonderful! You can practically smell the salt in the breeze!

      And yes “Baby” was the best-looking episode in a long time. Sometimes when I feel stuff strongly, I just have no desire to share – which makes being a film critic challenging sometimes. Because you have to share feelings publicly. Not my forte.

      I also like to let things float around in my consciousness for a while before I hear what others have to say. I felt the same way about Fan Fiction, and a couple other episodes – What Is and What Should blah blah – which I am coming up on in my re-caps and almost dread because of that.

      “Red Sky at Morning” – Murder She Wrote! Ha!! Yes.

      // It’s like a Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn comedy where the characters genuinely hate and want to kill each other. //

      Yeah, that’s my favorite part of it – and the only reason that the episode really exists. The plot is just an excuse to tell that other story.

  4. Jessie says:

    More coincidence, my partner just spent last month bingeing the Arias material as well. So many hours of it. It’s not really my bag but every couple of days she would report back: “you won’t believe her attitude…you won’t believe how blatant this is…I love how forceful this prosecutor is….I can’t believe how obsessed everyone is with their sex life…” The whole thing sounded bonkers.

    • sheila says:

      Hahahaha that is such a weird coincidence! Now I want to have a conference call with your partner.

      I am so drawn into her sociopathic lying. 95% of the population finds lying stressful. She finds it calming. It’s so bizarre to watch her in action.

  5. Dg says:

    Impressive list… Here’s mine by comparison: Mets-Dodgers x5, Mets-Cubs x4, Mets -Royals x5 including tonight. In the downtime reading City on Fire.

  6. Jeff Gee says:

    Have to admit that when I read “I keep meaning to write about this extraordinary film. I started a review, but had to put it aside because of other deadlines. Harrowing. Great acting. Best not to say too much more, and I would avoid reviews before seeing it. This is a must-see, people. It’s one of the best films of the year,” I almost choked on my cheeseburger. And then I saw you were talking about “Room,” not “THE Room.”

  7. Barb says:

    A crazy month, indeed–but I’m so happy for you being able to do the work you’ve accomplished, too!

    We went to see The Martian this weekend, spurred on by your recommendation. I really loved it! It’s great to see a movie that is largely about smart people being smart, not to mention pulling together so many different kinds of people, even nations, to make something happen, like the rescue in this movie. What I find most compelling is that, while the huge, heroic gestures make your heart sing, the focus of much of the movie is on the small, almost mundane moments of success or failure. The potatoes. Figuring out how to send and receive a message. Powering the rover. The beard. Improvising. (side note, because almost everything relates to SPN in my world: When he left the rover behind with that message to take good care of her because “she saved my life,” I whispered to my husband–“And her name is Baby.”)

    Also saw Crimson Peak this month–two theater movies in one month is sort of a record for me these days! I can’t add anything to the great discussion in the Comments thread of your review, but I am so glad that I saw it, and especially glad to go in knowing that you had given it a four star review! It is breathtaking from start to finish.

    • sheila says:

      Barb –

      // What I find most compelling is that, while the huge, heroic gestures make your heart sing, the focus of much of the movie is on the small, almost mundane moments of success or failure. //

      Yes!! It reminded me a lot of Apollo 13 in that way. Find the duct tape. Get out your slide rule. How do we work this problem? It’s an accumulation of details … that end up becoming heroic. Very moving!!

      And so thrilled you saw Crimson Peak. It really is breath-taking!

  8. Wren Collins says:

    I actually love Red Sky At Morning. Dean hyperventilating over the Impala’s disappearance never gets less funny. And BELA. I miss her so much. One of my favourite one-season characters. Neither of the boys know whether they want to fight her or fuck her. I mean, ‘We should have angry sex’. Or that completely random bit in Dream A Little Dream Of Me when Sam falls asleep and dreams about her.

    //of all the “let’s stand over our burning fallen comrade” scenes in the history of the series//
    This made me laugh like a drain.

    Also: Baby. Sublime. I don’t even really know what to say, but I’m so excited about this season. Really liked Form & Void too.

    • sheila says:

      Sam suddenly falling in lust with Bela never ever fails to please. It’s so hilarious to me. The femme fatale exerts her presence on all – even men who despise her!

      And the weird Flagstaff moment – she’s lying – it didn’t go that way – her pickpocket strengths, her brutal focus on her own goals … and yet … there’s something about her, too … a sort of “let’s make a deal” thing that actually makes her a kindred spirit to Dean and Sam who race around making deals with the devil, etc. They do all kinds of bad shit in order to get what they want.

      I also love her performance. It’s quite well-done – because she does not play it like “I am a villain.” It’s Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. I bet she watched it.

      • Wren Collins says:

        //It’s so hilarious to me.//
        Oh, absolutely. They have such CONTEMPT for her- but there’s also that secret admiration. And they’re kind of proud of the fact that they genuinely try to help people, and she just sees right through all their bullshit.
        She makes me wonder if Sam and Dean would have ended up like her- or worse- if they hadn’t had each other.

  9. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Okay, when do you sleep?

    It also tickles me to no end that I’ve seen and enjoyed most of the movies that you mentioned and totally agree with you about all of the SPN episodes. I am looking forward to your review of Baby. It was perfect. I’ve already rewatched 8 times!

    Rock on!

    • Wren Collins says:

      //I’ve already rewatched 8 times//
      Carolyn, when do YOU sleep?

      • Carolyn Clarke says:

        LOL. I will unashamedly admit that I downloaded the episode from Amazon and DVRd it. (Is that a word?). I think I’m addicted.

    • sheila says:

      I do sleep, I swear!!

      Watched Baby again last night. Still feeling all tender and mushy about it and I am pathologically opposed to expressing that stuff. Note: pathological. I feel like I need to get myself together!!

      Besides, I have started work on Folsom Prison Blues. It’s easier for me to write about the old essays because they have had time to percolate.

      But yes: Baby! Watched it a bunch already. :)

      • Wren Collins says:

        Well, there’s something about Baby that’s hard to pinpoint. The whole episode is elevated to something practically magical by it’s placement in the series, I think. SPN has been such a high-pressure enviroment since, what, season nine? With hardly any respite. This was just everyone breathing out for the first time in three years. The whole thing was so damn well-done.

      • Helena says:

        ‘Poor Giant Tiny.’

        Seriously, sometimes those words just drift into my head, and it makes me giggle so much.

        I get the ‘can’t really talk about this’ feeling too about episodes I love. I just don’t want to pick them apart, not in words. I can sort of point at bits and go ‘squeee’ but that’s about it.

        What makes a really great episode of a show you love? They’re the ones that have somehow read your secret diary already. It’s like you’ve seen or felt it already in a dream. Fan Fiction was superb in that respect – it just seemed to effortlessly offer, not exactly what we thought we wanted, but what we really needed. If SPN had stopped there I couldn’t have wished a better ending. It was also extremely funny, and that kinda makes it easier to talk about. But ‘Baby’ went to some very private and deep places for me, places – dream spaces really – I’d honestly thought the show had given up caring about. It brought us all home, and I couldn’t pay it a higher compliment than that.

        • Lyrie says:

          I’m right there with you all. All I’ve been able to say, so far — to a few people who used to watch the show, but also to people who don’t watch it, because why not — is “Ohmygod, that last Supernatural episode! Baby! The car! It’s the car!!! Oh you don’t understand! Baby!”

          It starts with images of Swan Song, which is an episode I’ve only watched two times, because it breaks my soul. To me, that gave the tone. So, yeah. Can’t really talk about the deepest stuff.

  10. Sarah says:

    I remember when I fell into Supernatural and binged 7 seasons in 3 weeks, how very much I loved “Red Sky At Night”, and how hurt I was to hear the writing staff essentially apologize for it in season 4…like, huh? LOVE IT. I’ll accept the apology for “Bugs” and substitute the racist truck for the ghost ship, thanks very much, but Dean in a tuxedo, Bela in a velvet gown, and Ellen Geer as Gertie? What’s not to love? Especially love the final scene of Bela driving triumphantly away from the cemetery, honking her horn at the guys, and Dean simultaneously realizing she stole the lottery tickets…his “Sonofabitch!” was unscripted, and it cracked Jared up, who quickly tried to hide his face from the camera…but you can totally see his huge Jared grin for a hot second.

    • Sarah says:

      That would be “Red Sky At MORNING,” duh. Not the sailor’s delight. Although either or both Winchester probably is.

    • Sarah says:

      That would be “Red Sky At MORNING,” duh. Not the sailor’s delight. Although either or both Winchester probably is.

      Also, since WordPress just scolded me for commenting too much,
      Happy November 2nd…as in, “On November 2nd, 1983, do not get out of bed. No matter what you see, or what you hear, promise me…you will not get out of bed.” :(

    • sheila says:

      // I’ll accept the apology for “Bugs” and substitute the racist truck for the ghost ship, thanks very much, but Dean in a tuxedo, Bela in a velvet gown, and Ellen Geer as Gertie? What’s not to love? //


      I totally agree with you.

      JP cracking up is so hilarious – I mean, could YOU look at that outburst and keep a straight face?? Honestly, I don’t know how anyone in that cast gets through most of the scenes without laughing.

  11. Robert says:

    I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen’s movies, but it’s been long while since I’ve seen Another Woman. So long that even when I went on a Cassavetes tear a couple years ago, watching Rowlands’ incredible stuff in Woman Under the Influence and Minnie and Moskowitz, etc., it NEVER dawned on me she was the same actor from AW. No point here beyond the exposure of my dubious capacity for attention to detail.

    • sheila says:

      Robert –

      // it NEVER dawned on me she was the same actor from AW. //

      Amazing, right??

      I think that’s a common thing – especially if one is focused on directors. GR’s trajectory is interesting – and she is so associated with her husband’s work – (rightly or wrongly) that everything else that happened is sometimes … forgotten? I don’t know – she’s a really interesting and unique case. One of the things that was so fun about the narration I just wrote for her Lifetime Achievement Oscar was that I got to focus on HER career, not HIS – although of course referencing the films they made together. But once you get him out of the way, there’s so much else to discover!

      Also – like you say – the character she plays in AW has NOTHING in common with those white-hot crazy Cassavetes roles. It’s almost the most thrilling work Gena has EVER done – in Another Woman, I mean – because it is so completely unlike her roles with Cassavetes – and you would have thought she was born to play such a role.

      I wish it got more attention – just how much a break in style that role was for her. Roger Ebert mentioned it in his initial review of Another Woman and he put it beautifully! Kind of contextualizing her – and making sure people realized just how good this woman was. John Cassavetes didn’t MAKE her good. (And Cassavetes never took credit for her stuff anyway.) But still: her association with him is so strong that those lines get blurred.

      Let me know what you think if you go back and re-visit Another Woman!

      The scene with Sandy Dennis!! Shivers.

      All of those incredible closeups of Gena’s face.

      Betty Buckley, nearly walking away with the whole thing, in a 3 minute monologue.

      I love the film so much!

      • Robert says:

        Well now I have to watch it again! Oddly, it’s one of the 10 or so of WA’s that I don’t own. But my memory of it is positive, not just for her great, strong presence (her subdued energy is a powerful engine), but for Allen’s nubile “homage” of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries walk-through-the-past moments. It’s one thing that’s often neglected in talk on WA: just how creative he often was in pure cinematic storytelling. It was a strength among many other strengths in his glory years, and just about the only thing that makes some of his later stuff watchable. But back to Another Woman, I will definitely watch it again soon.

        • sheila says:

          Robert – yes, the Wild Strawberries homage! And the past blending into the present – dreams seeming more real than reality …

          One of the things that I think is so powerful about that film is Rowlands and how WA saw her. It speaks to his brilliant perspective – or insight, maybe is the better word. So many other directors would watch Rowlands in all those Cassavetes films – Gloria and Faces and Woman/Influence – and yearn to cast her as yet another “mad woman,” the unconventional wild lady. But WA saw something else: he saw her elegance, her restraint – something glamorous and COOL about her. Now – almost nobody saw that in her. But in a way, Another Woman opened up a whole other realm for Rowlands. It almost single-handedly expanded her range – at least in the eyes of the public who only knew her from the films she did with her husband. Her early television work (on Peyton Place and others) had used that cool beauty, her sharp intelligence, too. But the 70s and early 80s demolished that with the Cassavetes stuff.

          But WA looked at the role he had written – the intellectual, the woman who lives only in her mind, the woman with NO introspection – and that character’s lack of introspection is what makes her so susceptible to being de-stabilized – and thought: “Gena. I am writing this for Gena.”


          There are so many gigantic closeups of her – an homage to Cassavetes’ Faces. When she hears Mia Farrow weeping through the grate in her room – when someone says something to her, something insightful, and she can’t process it – it’s like the depths are stirred. Depths that this character didn’t even know existed. Those closeups are almost frightening. She goes to a place other actresses wouldn’t dream of going – and WA obviously knew that.

          Would love to hear your thoughts once you re-visit it!!

          Oh, and it’s so wonderful to see Gene Hackman cast in something where his only job is to be sexy and tender. He’s fantastic.

          • Robert says:

            Watched it again last night – the used DVD came in the mail finally. (Sucker’s hard to get new for some reason.) You’re dead on about the closeups – one in particular really struck me: leaning on her typewriter, listening to next-room Mia, and she NEVER MOVES the entire lengthy shot, and you’re riveted to her deep non-expression. You’d like to say it’s what Mia’s saying that keeps you bolted to the moment – but I can’t remember a day later what that was. No, it’s Rowlands’ face. And throughout, there’s a quiet dismantling going on, with every new understanding of the life she’s skipped, compounded by the quick surges of justification for her outward smugness (the praise from the former student at the restaurant). It all works across her eyes and in the ever-tortured shape of her speaking mouth. The line of the movie, and maybe her career, is in Hackman’s voiceover at the end: “I think she knew everything, and that frightened her.” Definitely an underrated movie for all involved.

          • sheila says:

            // and she NEVER MOVES the entire lengthy shot, and you’re riveted to her deep non-expression. //

            I know just the moment you mean, Robert, and I love your phase: “deep non-expression.” I may have to steal that, although I will give you credit for it! So many other actresses would feel compelled to “show” what was going on inside – to somehow make it explicable to an audience. Rowlands never feels compelled to do that. In my Love Streams video-essay I talked about Gena Rowlands’ secrets – and how secrets play such a huge part in her work. You can’t get to the bottom of it. Her work is not purposefully mysterious – or oblique – but … it’s so deep that often you stare at her, wondering .. My God, what the HELL is happening with this woman??

            I’m curious about your feelings on the ending.

            I think the first time I saw it – when I was a young woman – I felt such a sense of relief that this repressed woman was starting to live, to come alive – making up with her brother, etc.

            But now – now that I’m not young anymore – the ending strikes me a little differently. What was revealed – in those closeups – just how disturbed and uneasy she was at confronting truths about herself … Like, can she ever really LIVE in that space of self-acknowledgement? She really is clueless about reality – when she says to Frances Conroy (I love her!!) – “we’ve always been close” about her brother – and Conroy is like, “He hates you”. The fact that she has no idea that that could even be a possibility …

            The character is at great risk for cracking up. Self-knowledge is really the only tool we have for trying to endure life.

            So … while there is hope at the end, and a sort of reconciliation with her past mistakes … now I’m not so sure that all will be well. Now it almost feels like she was given a glimpse of reality – and she made a hurried retreat.

            But I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

          • sheila says:

            Side note: On Friday night I saw Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea – I’ll be writing about it – I loved it. I’m thinking Jolie definitely watched Another Woman in preparation. I haven’t read many reviews – outside of Manhole Dargis’ (which is quite insightful) – so maybe others have clocked that similarity.

  12. Melanie says:

    “Collaborating with Angie” – priceless
    “Script signed off by the academy” – deserves a ticket to the ceremony. I mean, what if Angie chokes? You would HAVE to step in… Seriously, I see this as one of many more wonderful things headed your way, Sheila.

  13. Melanie says:

    SPN 10:20 – MINIGOLF! Dean with teenaged girls is the highest, best Dean. He relates, he protects but not overly, he respects who they are becoming, and more. I very much enjoy the dynamic of men like Dean who fill the ‘little sister’ hole in their lives.

    SPN 10-21 – manipulative plot-points, totally!
    SPN 10-20 -” I’d buy a ticket to that show!” (I need that gif, just sayin’.)

    Gilda/Rita/StayinAlive – can’t get that mash-up out of my head, so great!

    Folsom Prison Blues – can’t wait!
    AHBL 1&2 – rewatch looking for high-baroque.
    SPN 3:2 – illuminating Lisa – yes, just beginning to get a picture of what kind of woman Dean chooses to be in relationship with. Hmmm…

    SPN 3:4,5&6 – I also adore Bela. Love that she gets one over on these 2 savy guys time and time again. It’s like the more guarded and suspicious they become the easier it is for her. It’s like Bela v. The Losechesters. I don’t particularly like the ghost ship that reads people’s hearts and only sics its one-handed vengeful ghost on deserving victims. I get it’s a setup for Bela’s endgame – hello again, manipulative plot-points. As for the rest especially the whole gala – magic. I rewatched and couldn’t keep track of so many great one-liners. And I’d have paid extra to watch Dean carry Bela all the way upstairs. Knowing Ackles, as you have so beautifully described his schtick for us, Sheila, we would have gotten at least one delicious pratfall. “Oh she’s being taken care of,” from the security guard – I’m still laughing.

    SPN 3:10 – those dreams, so revealing, it hurts.
    SPN 3:14 – psychological tailspin, that’s it exactly!
    Pacific Time – Almost an anime heroic quality to it.

  14. Melanie says:

    *Rim – stupid auto correct.

  15. Melanie says:

    ‘Time Is on My Side’ – Rufus/Dean/Chess/poker/masterpiece – must rewatch this. Sam damsel-in-distressing, yes please. We could write an essay on Sam’s willingness to go to any length to save his brother from ‘Faith’ to ‘Brother’s Keeper’. Why did I love it so much in season 3 and HATE it passionately in season 10? As for the closeout of Bela’s chapter I have mixed feelings. I found the sexually abused child trope boring, which is sad, but that’s what overuse does to a plot device. Mostly I hate that it puts Lillith, crossroads demon, in a position of having saved Bela and given her justice. I would have preferred if Lillith had acted in a completely despicable way by taking advantage of and manipulating a young teenage girl who was just expressing a very normal, “I hate my parents” outburst. How tragic for Bela to have had to live with the consequences of having her parents die and even more so to have to die and be dragged to hell for nothing more than being a normal kid. I would have found that so much more interesting and my hate for Lillith so much more satisfying. I do love that Bela refused to whine about her past or impending doom (see villain monologing over on ‘Thin Lizzie’). She brought a wonderful depth to the overall story line. One wonders if Amara will bring back a little of this femme fatale vibe.

    ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ – yes, please bring back the psycho, spider-web of hell!
    SPN Season 11 – It really has me curious/confused/anticipating… Where the heck are they going with all this? Amara – ambiguous, loveable, but eating souls like sushi rolls. Like Dean I am drawn to her and yet dread her darkness. What’s with that?!?

    Martian, Magic Mike, all the rest – how do you take it all in and with such insight? Thanks for sharing with us, Sheila.

  16. Robert says:

    Sheila, there was weirdly no “reply” button under your latest comment on Another Woman – Maybe WordPress had had enough. I guess too bad, cause…

    I have to agree with all you said about her taking that step of understanding then retreating. I think, in a way, it’s presaged in that subtle moment at the end of her last scene with (the great) Ian Holm, about ten minutes from the end. He’s still in raging justification/rationalization mode, explaining – in an oafishly cruel way – how his affair didn’t mean much to him. Then he asks if he and Gena were really lonely. And her sharp reply is “At least I’ve come to recognize it.” The words are “in your face, Ian!”, but her expression is superbly non-condescending and sad. The camera holds on her for a few seconds (how could it not?) – long enough for the meaning to register: “I’ve moved past you… I’ve moved past me… I don’t know where I am.” Cut to scenes of her making a go of the “new life” – but it’s still fumbling, and she FEELS the awkwardness. See the unsteady way she leaves her hand on her brother’s at the end of the next scene, the way – again – the camera holds on them long enough for us to see that this is a huge attempt to connect, but majorly uncomfortable for her – the last nano-second of that scene, you can almost hear her thinking “Why am I here again?” Then, with her daughter, ending their moment with the earnest but heavily surfacey “I value your friendship” – even within the most heartfelt endeavor of her adult life, to reconnect with family and self, she can ONLY be coldly cerebral. Then we watch as she seemingly takes comfort from the passage from Larry’s book – but can we really ever know if this is just Larry’s idealized version that we see in the flashback (the fact that it’s Hackman and Gena in the BOOK’S flashback is, of course, clever, fascinating, and telling). We come out of that flashback and into Gena’s closing thoughts on memory (essentially, is it live or is it Memorex?), and she gets all “I’m at peace”, but it’s a direct reaction to someone else’s idealized memory of (possibly) her. You said “The character is at great risk of cracking up” and I have to agree. In those last few moments I’m left wondering if she might just be slipping into another version of self-delusion. (This movie made me want to watch Blue Jasmine again, a sort of funhouse mirror variation on this, but with another great central performance.)

    • sheila says:

      Robert – this is so so detailed and awesome!! I so appreciate this conversation.

      I need to re-watch that final sequence and look for these moments that you describe.

      The whole Gene Hackman flashback is another thing that looks extremely different to me now – than it did when I was in college. Now I’ve got some miles on me, shall we say. It seems romantic – right? Like, the kind of thing you dream of – a man saying things like that to you and then memorializing how much he loved you in a book. At least that appealed (appeals) to me. And he’s so single-minded about it in real life (although I’m not sure I trust her as a narrator) – pressuring her at her own engagement party, asking her why she did it, reminding her how much he loves her – he has no fear, he loves her so much.

      And then the “fictionalized” version – starring the two of them … which is presented in an extremely sentimental and emotional way.

      But now it strikes me as … sadder maybe? Or that’s not the word. Emptier.

      And yes, it’s from Larry’s point of view. So interesting!! She cannot – WILL not – own her own memories.

      And everyone in the film – except for her – has a strong strong point of view about their own experiences. Sandy Dennis. Betty Buckley, her brother, her poor elder professor lover, her stepdaughter who pretty much senses the truth about her stepmother, even thought she idolizes her as well … All of these people KNOW how they feel and express it STRONGLY. Her response to these explosions is, more often than not, baffled … baffled at why these people are being difficult, making a scene – or (maybe) even feeling things this strongly at all. It’s a foreign language to her.

      So Larry’s fictional version allows her to imagine that experience – and take on a point of view – one that is (let’s not forget) extremely flattering to her.

      Honestly, I don’t think I noticed much of this on my first viewing (although I loved it immediately and was disturbed by it.)

      In this last viewing, what came across most strongly to me – and this is in the writing, but (of course) it’s made totally visceral by Gena’s playing of it – was just how much this woman doesn’t know herself. Plenty of people live cerebral lives and still are able to understand what is going on with them. I keep coming back to two scenes:

      — the one with Frances Conroy on the sidewalk (“Paul and I have been very close.” “He hates you.”)
      — the awkward as hell scene with Sandy Dennis and her husband (it may be my favorite scene in the film).

      She totally does not understand how other people perceive her – she never questioned why she fell out of touch with Paul, her sister … she flat out does not get it, and has convinced herself that everything is okay.

      This makes her extremely vulnerable. Knowing who you are, your mistakes, your relationships … means you can actually take CARE of yourself. And not marry a man so totally wrong for you. Or not steal another woman’s husband.

      It’s so RICH. I wonder why this film doesn’t get more “chatter” in Woody circles. Maybe there is – and I just haven’t seen it.

      I have another thought – about how she keeps stealing other people’s men – but I need to think it out first.

      Thank you again for this conversation – loving it!

      • sheila says:

        Basically my thought is:

        Sandy Dennis’ observations at that table are right on. The seduction technique is so subtle that you could never clock her on it. But it’s there –

        IS she aware of it? The way Gena plays it (so brilliant) it’s completely unconscious. Not compulsive – like a man-eater or anything – but totally unconscious of the fact that she is hogging the attention – and obviously did it before back in the day.

        I don’t mean to suggest she’s an amoral monster, of course.

        I just think she is in a state of complete unconsciousness – she honestly does not know what she is doing.

        and that is a very frightening way to go through life.

        This isn’t quite clear yet – I’m still working it out.

      • sheila says:

        Or … on some unconscious level, IS she trying to hog the attention, to put Sandy Dennis in her place, to “win”?

        The way Gena plays it you can’t tell (and that’s what’s so perfect about it.)

  17. Robert says:

    To me, definitely not a slight here, but there’s a bit of a confused quality to Gena’s performance – it’s underneath the calm intellect – and I wonder if it’s mixed result of what SHE WANTS TO DO as an actor in the movie and what Woody WON’T TELL HER TO DO (he’s notorious for letting the actor run with it however they wish, and that freedom is, I think, at least among his many male actors, why we get so many unintentional Woody surrogates… but that’s another conversation completely). In any case, the result is part of what she does best: hide the motivational ball. The character, I believe, is fully UNaware of the power she has over men, and only reacts to it when someone like Sandy says she’s doing it – THEN, the impulse is “oh, well if that’s how I am and this is how it makes you behave, then I’m right in my assumption that I’m better than you… but I’ll never admit it to YOU.” That scene is a great one and a nice companion bit to the scene that was (I think?) soon before it when she gets praised by the old student at the restaurant. “If I’m as inspirational as that old student says I am, then I cannot be at fault here just by talking to your husband, and if I’m flattering him by engaging with his intellect, and SHE’S bothered by it, then she needs to stop being so ACTRESSY and let it go, cause there’s no fault here but her overreaction.”

    And yes, that conversation on the street with Sis-in-Law is so revealing of the denial she’s absolutely shrouded in, it’s almost funny. The way Gena looks off when she hears the phrase “He hates you” is the reaction of someone who knew it long ago, but doesn’t truck in others’ criticism or rejection any more. “Flat out movin’ on, gotta go!” De-nial.

    As for chatter on this movie in WA circles – this is the first extended conversation I’ve EVER had about it. I think this one and September are sort of abandoned as “too serious”, with nary a joke to be found. I don’t think there’s a single other “serious” one outside of Interiors that doesn’t have at least one little joke in it. Even (oh man!) Husbands & Wives has that funny bit with Judy Davis’s date waiting for her to finish her stratospherically angry phone call. Anyway, I think AW suffers from being a combo of quiet, serious and not being a terrible movie. (People love to talk about his terrible movies, almost like they prove he’s a hack. Fools.)

    • sheila says:

      This is all very interesting. Yes, I am familiar with WA’s process. He casts well, writes well, then stays out of the way. Every single actor who worked with him tells the exact same story, which is so funny to me. Gene Wilder came and spoke at my school and said WA said, “If you feel like changing any of the lines, go ahead.” Wilder was like, “Uhm, yeah, no, I won’t be doing THAT.”

      Considering this process – and considering Gena’s process – is really interesting – especially for someone like me who has an acting background. (Maybe you do too). So Gena gets the script. The other actors don’t get the whole script – just the script for their scenes – which creates this really interesting confusion because nobody knows what part they play in the whole. Very cool. But Gena sits in her house in Los Angeles and reads the script. Now what does it look like on the page? There are so many words, right? It’s all exposition – with a heavy use of VO narration. It could feel rather flat (on the page, I mean) – or like a glorified short story. There are some scripts where what is on the page probably cannot even begin to describe the end result. The first thing that comes to mind is Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman.” I mean, that character is not “on the page.” It is only in the filming of it – and the way CA filmed it – that we get the story. And there it is. Some scripts are so brilliant like that. And a brilliant actress will be able to sense the potential – even if her character barely has any lines.

      So much of Another Woman has to do with Gena listening – but “on the page” that is just a vague possibility. Nobody can tell Gena what to DO with those listening scenes. Woody just knew she could do it. He wanted to put his camera right in her face and catch her listening. I’m guessing that’s one of the main reasons he wanted to do it. Because think of Gena’s roles with her husband – the roles that made her famous. There is nothing in common with the role she plays in Another Woman. (Roger Ebert’s review of Another Woman – and forgive me if I’ve mentioned this before – talks about this quite a bit.) WA’s genius was in recognizing that there was “more to” Gena than the wild-woman. And “Another Woman” (in my opinion) helped launch the third wave of her career – the post John phase – where she played elegant women, career women, “together” women – who sometimes fall apart, but they fall apart from a place of way more stability than say, Mabel in “Woman Under the Influence.” Even the title of Woody Allen’s film is sort of a reference to that Cassavetes title. Almost like: “Okay, that was ONE kind of woman Gena could play. But here is ANOTHER woman she can play.”

      And so he just let her be. Knowing that when he put the camera right in her face – whatever he would get, whatever she would give him, would be phenomenal.

      // In any case, the result is part of what she does best: hide the motivational ball. //

      One of the best parts about the performance, yes! And so brave – because it really requires you to go with the flow. You can’t control anything. which then becomes even more interesting because her character is so controlled. But maybe it is the most-controlled of us who have the least idea of what is going on inside us, why we do what we do.

      And so then – what happens in those close-ups – is mysterious – and perhaps even mysterious to Gena. She does not study her own work. She never even watches her own movies. She likes to remember the experience as SHE remembers it – and those characters live for her. She doesn’t want to “ruin” it by seeing the end result. Kind of amazing.

      // That scene is a great one and a nice companion bit to the scene that was (I think?) soon before it when she gets praised by the old student at the restaurant. “If I’m as inspirational as that old student says I am, then I cannot be at fault here just by talking to your husband, and if I’m flattering him by engaging with his intellect, and SHE’S bothered by it, then she needs to stop being so ACTRESSY and let it go, cause there’s no fault here but her overreaction.” //

      Ha!! I had forgotten the scene with the old student. Yes – so good! I think your thoughts there are so right. That scene with the old student is so … strange. There’s something almost little-girlish in Gena’s response – a shyness – she is so so pleased – but it’s almost … maybe a little humble-braggy? I’ll have to watch it again.

      In re: other Woody Allens: My friend Mitchell and I actually watch Husbands and Wives as a comedy. We love that movie – and we say “Fucking Don Juan” all the time in various situations, quoting Judy Davis. Plus, the ridiculous hedgehog monologue as poor Liam Neeson is going down on her. Absurd!! So many funny lines in that, though. The astrologically-challenged girlfriend of Sidney Pollack. Sidney Pollack hissing at Woody Allen: “So she’s not Simone deBeauvoir!” hahahahaha

      My friend Mitchell and I, speaking of which, had a big conversation about Woody Allen that I posted on my site – you might find it interesting. (That series is about me interviewing Mitchell, but still, it’s fun. Mitchell is a WA fanatic, no apologies.)


      and yeah, you don’t hear much about September either, true!

      It’s hard to pick a favorite – with Annie Hall, Manhattan – but my most beloved WA is Manhattan Murder Mystery. I probably watch that one more than I watch the others. I love that movie so much.

      and WA a “hack”? These people don’t know what art is, or what artists do. When people call someone else a “hack,” I always want to ask them to define that term, because I actually don’t think they know what they are talking about. It’s the same thing when some dumb critic refers to an actor’s performance as being “over the top.” I want to ask: “What exactly do you mean by that? Don’t rely on the cliche. Explain what you mean exactly.” (so I can tell you you’re wrong …. haha)

      • sheila says:

        Here’s the quote on Rowlands from Ebert’s Another Woman review (which he gave four stars!)

        There is a temptation to say that Rowlands has never been better than in this movie, but that would not be true. She is an extraordinary actor who is usually this good, and has been this good before, especially in some of the films of her husband, John Cassavetes. What is new here is the whole emotional tone of her character. Great actors and great directors sometimes find a common emotional ground, so that the actor becomes an instrument playing the director’s song.
        Cassavetes is a wild, passionate spirit, emotionally disorganized, insecure and tumultuous, and Rowlands has reflected that personality in her characters for him – white-eyed women on the edge of stampede or breakdown.
        Allen is introspective, considerate, apologetic, formidably intelligent, and controls people through thought and words rather than through physicality and temper. Rowlands now mirrors that personality, revealing in the process how the Cassavetes performances were indeed “acting” and not some kind of ersatz documentary reality. To see “Another Woman” is to get an insight into how good an actress Rowlands has been all along.

    • sheila says:

      and I know I mentioned it upthread but: By the Sea (which I loved) is clearly influenced by Another Woman (with nods to Antonioni, Bergman, etc.)

      But the plot – or at least the main plot device that sets the whole thing moving – is pure Another Woman.

      Interestingly enough – only Jason Bailey’s review at Flavorwire – and my own review here on my site – have even clocked that influence. The other critics are too busy sneering at Jolie’s vanity and the fact that she shows her breasts to actually try to examine what Jolie is doing.

      There is zero reason for a critic to see By the Sea and not immediately think, “Wow. This is very Another Woman-ish.” There’s a limited frame of reference going on – or maybe it’s just Jolie’s stardom that gets in the way, making people unwilling to examine what that film is actually doing.

      But I think, too, for whatever bizarre reason, as we’ve discussed – Another Woman just is not on people’s radar like it should be. For film critics especially. There’s no excuse! It’s not like it’s some obscure film in the 1930s – it was in the last 30 years – and it’s WOODY ALLEN. Jolie is TELLING us what she is trying to do, by referencing Another Woman all over the place, and nobody picked up on it – and now they’re blaming her for making a vain movie – when it is not that at all!

      • Robert says:

        Well, obviously I have to see By the Sea. (Read that sentence out loud for extra fun.) Also, I’ve not seen Jeanne Dielman, but I shall rectify.

        You’ve said a BUNCH that demands response – and I hope I’m not belaboring any of this, or dragging it out for its own sake – but it’s all very fascinating to me.

        I’ve heard that Wilder quote before… and to his credit, whether he would’ve changed the lines or not, it’s WILDER, not Woody, that makes his reactions in EYAWTKAS* possibly the funniest non-Woody stuff in his early movies (outside of Diane Keaton of course). Esp his first reaction to the sheep’s owner the first time he hears he’s in love with her. He’s so good, he could’ve milked that moment for another 5 minutes without straining it. Perfect.


        I love that Ebert excerpt re: Gena. Nobody wrote so simply/straightforwardly about film while also revealing his massive passion for it. Most have to strain to find new hyperboles (good and bad). He was elegantly matter-of-fact. And he nailed the basic building block of her talent: reflection. Which mirrors, so to speak, your comments regarding the power of watching her simply listen. The shot of the movie for me (mentioned somewhere above) is her leaning on her typewriter listening for a full minute without moving – a riveting still life.

        Small bit here, since you parenthetically raised the question. I’m not an actor, though I’ve tried and found myself unable to get out of my own face. But I marvel at and envy what actors can do when they open up and give everything. Or, in the case of our subject here, CLOSE DOWN and give everything. When it’s done right, you don’t see it being done at all, but you feel it with them. It’s like a miracle. A conduit to yourself through them. I’m reminded as I type that of your mountain of savory commentary on Elvis, and his preternatural gift of giving everything from the stage.

        The link to the Mitchell interview: I DID see that interview and the WA section is all I’ve read of it so far. I’m a life long WA fan. I’ve seen all his movies, all of them more than once, many of them at least 10 times. I just saw Manhattan Murder Mystery again maybe a month ago. So good and light. I believe Mia was supposed to be his wife in that till all the crap went down. Imagine what a heavier movie that would’ve been. Keaton has the buoyant goofiness needed for that plot. My favorite? Impossible. Like your friend said, it’s almost like you have to pick a favorite from each era. I’m with him on Love and Death. His ultimate gift is filtering his massive smarts through ephemera, the marriage of the universal and the minute. A fave line in his entire body of work, from Hannah, WA’s dad says “How do I know why there were Nazis, I don’t know how the can opener works!” That, and from the same movie, the silent shot of him laying out his new religious artifacts…and then the Wonder Bread and mayonnaise. I was hooked on this stuff from a very young age and never let go. And frankly, I could talk about his movies/essays/standup all day. A bottomless topic.

        • Sheila says:

          Robert: you aren’t belaboring it at all. It’s rare to find someone who can talk about this film!!

          More later!

        • sheila says:

          // Esp his first reaction to the sheep’s owner the first time he hears he’s in love with her. //

          hahahaha and yes: that’s one of the great things about WA movies – is that he casts so well that he honestly doesn’t need to do too much after that. There’s a selflessness in that kind of approach – as compared to someone like Kubrick (whom I love too – don’t get me wrong) – but Kubrick liked to push his actors through 100, 150 takes – whatever – until the actor had totally broken down his defenses. Warren Beatty did the same thing as a director (Diane Keaton is very funny about it). Not that there’s anything necessarily bad about doing this – a director wants what he wants – but WA’s hands-off approach to performance is incredible when you see the brilliance of these performances. And it should shut people up forever who thinks the director is “in charge” of a performance. (Critics who say that don’t understand/respect acting – one of my ongoing pet peeves.) There are still those who somehow credit John Cassavetes with Gena’s work – like he somehow brought that out of her. NONSENSE. He gave her better roles than she had ever had before, true – but the performance is all her own, something Cassavetes said himself again and again.

          anyway, that’s a side issue – and to loop it back to WA: he seems to just know who he wants in any given role, makes the offer to that person, tells them NOTHING (he expects that they will read the script and know what to do because he has 100% confidence in his casting) – and then lets the scenario play out.

          Another interesting side-note: The first play I was ever cast in was a production of William Inge’s PICNIC. (The first play outside of school productions, that is). I was 16 years old, and had no training, but tons of desire and (not shy to say it) a natural talent. I could act, I knew that already, but I had NO idea what I was doing – and had no technique or craft. I couldn’t believe I was cast – I mean, Millie in PICNIC is Inge’s stand-in – she’s the moral center of the whole thing! Everyone else was older than I was with more experience. I showed up on the first day of rehearsal literally trembling with nervousness. I think I felt like any moment I would be revealed as a fraud, or that everyone would realize they had made a tremendous mistake. The very first thing the director said to the group of us as we sat there on the first day was: “First of all, you’ve all been cast. Don’t try to prove to me that I was right in casting you when we start working. You have nothing to prove. This first rehearsal is not another audition. You’re IN.”

          I could not have scripted a better introduction – it said exactly what I needed to hear – and I was so young and inexperienced I didn’t even realize how profound it was. And any time I was cast in anything after that, I would remind myself of what that director said when I was a teenager. Once you’re cast, RELAX. You’re in. The director saw something in you, now just show up and do it.

          anyway: that seems to be WA’s approach – and I really admire that.

          Back to Another Woman:

          // The shot of the movie for me (mentioned somewhere above) is her leaning on her typewriter listening for a full minute without moving – a riveting still life. //

          It makes me wonder, just in terms of nuts-and-bolts with that shot: She is so riveting and so still. Her entire body shows “listening.” My guess is is that someone – maybe first AD? someone … was reading Mia Farrow’s narration off-camera so that Gena could actually be listening, as opposed to sitting there in silence on set pretending to listen. Gena could probably pretend it as well – she can do anything – but that scene does make me wonder HOW they did it. I wish Another Woman would be released with a commentary track, or some extras – many of those participants are still alive, dammit – I would love to hear about the making of this film.

          I love your thought: “close down and give everything.” Wow. I’m trying to think of another actor who is able to do that. The only thing that comes to mind is the hard-boiled 1930s crime dramas – the Cagneys and Bogarts – tough-guys who wear nothing on their sleeve, and yet somehow you can see into their souls. And they don’t want to be congratulated for showing us their souls (the worst kind of indulgent acting) … but the soul is THERE, the camera SEES it, it cannot be hidden. (Gena Rowlands actually said such a thing in an interview – the clip of it is in the Rowlands reel I wrote for the Oscars – the clip isn’t up yet – but the quote is something like: “You can see an actor’s soul on film. And actors know that. It’s unnerving.”)

          // “How do I know why there were Nazis, I don’t know how the can opener works!” //

          Manhattan Murder Mystery: “I’m your husband! I COMMAND you to go back to bed!” – as he leans against the wall in his sad pajamas.

          Or Anjelica Huston’s entire performance. So RIDICULOUS.

        • sheila says:

          Oh, and thanks for bringing Elvis in.

          This ability to put forth YOURSELF on camera is a treacherous thing – because if you are rejected, it is YOU who are being rejected. It takes great freedom and confidence to somehow know that you are interesting enough in and of itself that people will want to watch you. All great actors have this – even the ones who are brilliant transformation-alists (?) My taste is towards those who don’t transform – the John Waynes and Bogarts and Claude Rains and Joan Crawford – who have these very strong personae – and yet who bring all kinds of variety to every role. But at the bottom of it is a belief that they are interesting enough as they are. That’s a star.

          (and coincidentally: why I find By the Sea so riveting.)

          • Robert says:

            (Apologies, writing and a one-track mind kept me from responding sooner…)

            I love reading about your personal acting experiences – those, and the descriptions you give of other actors, their methods, their lives, it’s all supremely fascinating to someone like me. All I can do is marvel that anyone has that gift at all. Just a small example: was watching Desk Set the other night (in the blasphemous 4:3 version that Netflix streaming offers, if I can admit that publicly), Spencer Tracy was on the phone in a completely throwaway moment, taking a message for one of the researchers, and listening to the other end of the conversation. He says “Of course I know how to spell puce.” He waits for the other person to spell it anyway and the quick little twinkle he registers is all “hey, I got it right!” – he didn’t have to do that, but he did, and it made that throwaway moment a keeper.

            You said: “I wish Another Woman would be released with a commentary track, or some extras – many of those participants are still alive, dammit – I would love to hear about the making of this film.” I would LOVE it if AW was the first and last Woody Allen disc with extras. What’s with whoever’s putting those out?

            I love your paragraph on “closing down” and the non-transforming actors you gravitate to. Definitely the Cagneys and Bogarts. Also, when I think of “closing down and giving everything” I think of Duvall in Tender Mercies – the difficulty of making us see exactly what he’s feeling while saying very little. Shotgunning a little here, but the way he can just stand there and exude “I want to be left alone” without saying it, but mixing it with a strain of broken sadness (as opposed to just angry) – so right. Maybe a downside to that performance is that he’s shown that side of himself (his soul, as you said) in so many movies, it’s got the patina of overexposure and played – sometimes easy to take for granted. This is the curse of the non-transformers, if there is a curse at all, that they get relegated to the “they make it look easy so it must be” column.

            Anyway, just blathering here on a quiet Thanksgiving morning, pre-gluttony. Hope you have/had a great holiday!

          • sheila says:

            // Also, when I think of “closing down and giving everything” I think of Duvall in Tender Mercies – the difficulty of making us see exactly what he’s feeling while saying very little. //

            Beautiful example!! That’s practically a silent-movie performance. And it says everything.

            and yeah, the idea that transforming yourself radically is the only valid way to be an actor is why John Wayne is somehow not thought of (in certain circles) as a great actor. It’s absolutely ridiculous. He just walks into a room and you are bowled over by the authenticity of his mere presence. Robert De Niro can’t do that. (Not that he should. I love De Niro very much. But so many people consider his crazy transformations as “raising the bar” in acting – you know, gaining weight, Rupert Pupkin, Travis Bickle – he’s very very gifted at it. But no: he didn’t “raise the bar.” Because that implies that folks like Bogart or Cary Grant or John Wayne who weren’t gaining weight or wearing wigs were just “coasting.” It’s such a misunderstanding of what acting is – that attitude. I fight against it all the time in my writing!)

            Now you make me want to see Desk Set again!

  18. Paula says:

    Sheila – Was curious if you had watched The Man In The High Castle yet. Watched the first two episodes last night. Executive Producer is Frank Spotnitz from TXF. So far, it’s been fascinating. Complicated characters, plot twists, interesting imagery and lighting.

    • sheila says:

      Paula – I haven’t. I’ve heard good things and I love Philip K. Dick!

      I wasn’t even aware of this show until I walked into a subway here in NYC only to be confronted with f***ing Nazi insignia all over the car and seats. Turns out it was Amazon’s bright idea as a publicity campaign. I had no idea what the show was or even that it exists – they were assuming everyone was “in” on it. Can you imagine a Jewish person’s reaction to that, if THEY hadn’t even heard of the show? For God’s SAKE Amazon.

      I’m still pretty pissed off about it and am glad they are taking a lot of heat for such a stupid decision.

      It sounds like a very good show – and one I think I would like – especially with your comments here. But I have to cool down before I give them one cent of my $$ for it!!

      • Paula says:

        Wow. Glad I missed that storm of idiocy. I get it and would probably have had the same issue too. We’ve talked before about this but what another great example of how those who are charged with marketing movies or tv shows seem to fall into three buckets: 1) miss the point entirely giving us such generic drivel that you have no idea what it’s about, let alone if you want to see it, 2) give us way too much info (why do I need to see this when the trailer/teaser told me the entire story?), and 3) some creative *sswipe that probably never read or saw the source materials but wants to be bold.

        These things should be like good foreplay but instead you walk away saying thanks but no thanks. *thus ends my rant*

        • Paula you should rant away. I live as far from the modern madness as you can get and even here, the universal response to trailers is “Well I won’t need to see that.” I have to seriously wonder what planet the marketing folks inhabit! Glad to hear good things about the series here though. Nobody’s every truly gotten Dick right on film (though Ridley Scott came close with Blade Runner) and it’ll be great if they nail TMITHC, my favorite sci-fi novel. I hope you’ll keep everybody posted. (I don’t do streaming so I’ll have to wait for that first season DVD set, alas).

        • sheila says:

          Paula – love the foreplay analogy!

          I didn’t even know what the Iron Cross all over my subway meant until I read the piece in The Gothamist about it.

          That being said: I have only heard excellent things about the series and it sounds right up my alley so I will check it out eventually!

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