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Archive for December 8th, 2010

Blazing Duo: Travolta and Jackson in Tarantino's seminal "Pulp Fiction"

Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

      On tracing the virtual tribute to the Federico Fellini of 8 ½ that Tim Burton’s Ed Wood represents, and the excitement of its dilemma of apt productivity, you would think the thing to do next were to get going on more Fellini and more Burton. Such a dialogue is indeed irresistible, and has to be put into gear soon. But there is a thread of quite disparate gusto that seems to take precedence, if only because its physical directness keeps us mindful that delicate examinations of venerable conundrums of intent come to us as generous gifts within a monstrously complex outlay of dynamics, but that nevertheless a film has to incite a level of delirium to illuminate its problematic opportunity.

    There are startling instances of fairly recent productions evincing a genius for deploying American popular music as a drug directly penetrating the viewer’s sensibility for the sake of gaining remarkable transparency about the dramas at hand. In Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975), we watch the goings-on of a city state resembling a hive of round-the-clock endeavor on behalf of a peculiar and heavily-adulterated honey, namely, packaged country-western mantras to love and living right. That the practitioners of these rites lead lives of close to zero depth and astronomical distraction, and are visited by a political candidate presuming to, with their help, usher in a golden age for America, lay down a stream of farce to be astonishingly elevated by moments—however fleeting—of rhapsodic uncanniness. From the get-go we are put on notice, by a recording session featuring the pat and vapidly delivered pensés of a middle-aged rhinestone cowboy holding forth upon a money-in-the-bank patriotic vehicle to the effect that the USA has gone through a lot of knocks (the Vietnam War having just drawn to a humiliating conclusion) but, “We must be doin’ somethin’ right/To last two hundred years.” This is not the place (if ever there is a place) to challenge that studiously humble sense of perdurance; but there is something going on in that scene requiring immediate attention. Ensconced in their little, but heavily wired, cubicle, four worker bees of the hit parader’s vocal backup unit buzz forth their close harmonic and yet individuatedly raw amplification of that defiant chorus, and we know in a flash what makes America tick. (more…)

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(USA 1986 86 min)

Director Will Vinton; Writers Susan Shadburne, Mark Twain (original stories / quotes); Voice Acting James Whitmore (Mark Twain), Michele Mariana (Becky Thatcher), Gary Krug (Huckleberry Finn), Chris Ritchie (Tom Sawyer), John Morrison (Adam), Carol Edelman (Eve)

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

“What’s your name?”

“Satan”

“Uh-oh”

It is the fate of many films to be known for all eternity for just one scene: The Usual Suspects for its twist, From Here to Eternity for its kiss, Singing in the Rain for the…

For those who don’t know ‘claymation’ film The Adventures of Mark Twain well, only one scene – a meeting with the Devil himself – seems to have reached the public consciousness. On the strength of that scene, inspired by a sequence in Twain’s book The Mysterious Stranger, the film is pre-judged and misunderstood. The encounter is flesh-crawling. Satan, his face a mask he holds in his hand, creates little humanoid creatures and then leads them to destruction before the eyes of our three child protagonists.

Though the disquieting darkness of fear and oblivion is not too far beneath the surface (in fact the flesh of these stop-motion claymation characters is always crawling with fingermarks) the film is as pleasant and charismatic as its host. And what a concept! Mark Twain creates a phantasmagorical contraption – unholy hybrid of rocket-ship and hot air balloon – by which he will fly into space to join his dead wife on a comet. This marvellous idea is taken from something Twain once said:

(more…)

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