Friday, November 10, 2006

TV sucks; films rule

All I'm doing at the moment is working and watching films. I love watching films. It's way better than watching TV, for example. With a few exceptions, such as great wildlife series that have taken years to make, or the occasional documentary, television is mostly shit. Sure, we all watch the odd reality show or soap or whatever, but deep down we know it's shit. We watch it just for the escapism, or to look at someone less fortunate than ourselves, glad that we're not in their shoes.

But films are art. It may sound shallow, but I can never truly trust someone who says they don't like films. Y'know, people have actually said to me that they can't watch films. They don't have the attention span. Or they're just "not interested". Huh? I don't get that. It doesn't matter what you are into in life, there is a film for you, just as there is a book for you, or a painting, or even a TV show. To simply be "not interested" in films is ridiculous.

So -- didn't you just know it? -- all of this preamble is leading up to yet another film review (such as they are). The film I watched most recently (two nights ago) is a rare second viewing. Rare these days, that is. I used to rewatch films often, but not so much now.

Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street is a real class act that works on several levels. Despite being a film noir, this was actually made more than a decade after The Maltese Falcon, and this distance has helped Fuller to get a bit post-modern on the genre. There is a humour throughout the picture that you just don't see much of in those earlier noirs. The speed with which Candy falls in love with Skip, for example, is laughable, but you go with it because you know you're going to get paid off in spades later. But not in Sam Spades, because this is Fuller's world, and the detective can never be the guy you root for.

The plot revolves around some pickpocketed microfilm of US governmental secrets that is on its way to being sold to the Commies. Well, it's 1953, folks, and the red threat was all around. But this isn't really the point. The microfilm is the MacGuffin that drives the story. Don't get me wrong -- the story is slight, but what do you expect in 80 mins?

What you should expect is fun and action and the subversive take that Fuller brings to all his pictures. Never one to shy away from the ugly truth, Fuller takes the Bogart-style slaps across women's faces that are so commonplace in noir and shows us the deep bruising and swollen jaws that follow. The wide-angle tracking shot that Fuller uses to shoot the brawl between Candy and her traitor boyfriend Joey is a real eye-opener. It's brief, but in these days of fast cutting and close-ups and half the time not having a clue where you're supposed to be looking, this approach looks as fresh now as it did then. Gritty and real. A true tussle unfolding before you in real time.

Aaahh, you know, I liked this film. It's not a great film, as I said, in terms of story, but it's a simple tale brilliantly told and expertly made. If you're not familiar with Fuller's work, pour yourself a Scotch on the rocks, get your best dame beside you, and check this out. Shit, even if you like Fuller and you know this film well, why not pour yourself a Scotch on the rocks, get your best dame beside you, and check this out again?

What's the scores on the doors, then? I'll give it 72.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its on my list mr.

10 November, 2006 10:25  
Blogger Milla said...

Ohhh I put away my TV 13 years ago coz TV sucked 13 years ago too, and never looked back.
I will check out the film (I mean, 72 out of 100 is pretty good eh).

10 November, 2006 11:06  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

I've heard it said that film is the '20th Century Art'. I think of film as art too, although there is a huge difference between film and say, painting. Film requires collaboration for starters (a lot of painters couldn't handle that), and for the audience, it requires time. I can look at a painting, and in a pica-second decide if I want to spend any more time looking at it. Watching film requires time, and faith (sometimes a lot of it) that the experience will be worth while.

10 November, 2006 11:06  
Blogger Shep said...

Ooooh you finally got me.

Sam Fuller. One of the finest directors ever, in my opinion. I totally geek out ot his films, love em. I even sat through the shit Wim Wenders film End Of Violence because it has Mr. Fuller in a rare cameo - it was the last thing he did before he died.

Richard Widmark in Pickup is awesome, the whole a fantastic feat of filmmaking.

And as for Shock Corridor (his finest hour)...I could rattle on about that for hours.

Someone needs to buy me all the Sam Fuller movies.

Damn that's cheered me up!

10 November, 2006 12:40  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

RD: As a result of reading this, or was it already on your list?

Milla: I actually think with hindsight that some of my scores need a little revising, and this one could easily go up a point or two. Don't get me wrong: I love TV on a certain level, but so so so much of it is absolute dross that it's easy to see why someone would get rid.

Mr A: You're absolutely right about those elements of the film-making process, of course. Which is why I love low-budget films made by writer/directors with a small crew. With such movies you can get a much purer idea of the artist's vision, even though he has had to use other people as conduits of that vision. But yes, that faith thing you mention. Sometimes that can really be tested by a movie...

Shep: Huzzah! Some common ground again. Remember back in the day when we were like doppelgangers? I love Sam Fuller, too, despite having seen only five or six of his films and that cool documentary about him from around 10 years ago. Shock Corridor is, of course, my fave, too: how could it not be. It has 79 points in my movie ratings list. Widmark is da bomb in Pickup, no doub, and he looks so damn cool. Whatever happened to that noir trenchcoat-and-hat look?

10 November, 2006 13:01  
Blogger Shep said...

I did trenchcoat/hat look in my teens. In retrospect I must have looked a bit of a twat...but I felt cooler than cool. And occasionally got the girl.

10 November, 2006 14:05  
Blogger ldbug said...

Yeah, TV sucks. Unfortunately, during the week I don't have the time for movies. I do watch them on the weekends, though. It also kinda sucks that we don't have any way to play movies except by computer, so the sound sucks *sigh* what can you do? No money, no time, ugh.

10 November, 2006 16:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TV has it's advantages. Where else could you see a reality show in which a midget is trying to get hitched? ;)


10 November, 2006 16:22  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Shep: It's a great look, but I guess it just doesn't work anymore. Pity.

LDBug: No money, no time sucks, too, that's for sure.

Steve: When you put it that way, I just can't argue!

11 November, 2006 08:57  
Blogger Gentleman-hobbs said...

yeagh TV has lost the plot, a reflection of our average mentality.

11 November, 2006 10:59  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

ooh...sounds good and I can't believe it, I don't think I've seen this one!!! I will look for it, loved your review, a lot of fun!

Film noir is like the best isn't it?

I think I've got some movie reviews up my sleeve, let me see what I can come up with...

Um, as for tv it is true, I really prefer watching movies. I don't undestand why some people don't like movies, but there is very few of them. I could never fall in love or be friends with someone who didn't love movies, I mean, my god what would we talk about?

Something happened to those folks when young...I think they need to be the centre of attention and can not surrender to share a storytelling experience with others if it's not about themselves I suspect.

As for tv..well I am in the process of weeding out my tv viewing. I watch a ridiculous amount of tv...and then I suddenly get tired of a show that I may have watched for years. Right now, I am giving Grey's Anatomy one last chance. I have recorded it, and if it isn't wonderful and profound today, forget it. I quit. Ha ha.

I actually think there are a lot of really good tv shows out there right now, for the past five years...but fuck, it takes too much energy to keep up with them all. Plus, really, part of the pleasure of tv viewing is the communal feeling of sharing it with others. Since there are so many channels and massive amounts of choices...people simply aren't watching the same shows. It used to be everyone watched Seinfeld and you talked about it the next day. That sort of community commraderies is missing now, because one friend watches Survivor, another watches Gilmore Girls another CSI etc etc. It is easy to have specialized tastes and topics in tv viewing since there are dozens, hundreds of shows.

This goe back to the whole movie theatre general, it used to be a movie came out, and within a week or so tons of people had seen it, and you could get a good discussion going about the film.

My book club has a movie topic and a few of us rent the nominated choices and follow used to be a vibrant discussion...but even that orchestrated participation has waned.

Well, I shall look for this movie...

11 November, 2006 15:09  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

G-Hobbs: I rather think so, sir.

Candy: Hey, you've gotta watch a film that has a character who shares your name, surely! I do like noirs, although it's rare that I watch them. Probably because I don't really sit down intentionally to watch anything genre. It's usually just whatever comes along, or whatever I fancy plucking from my collection. The latter was the case in this instance. Like you, I love TV really, but (a) it's not usually as well crafted as film, and (b) of the thousands of hours available to us all each week, so much of it is poor.

And drama series that get dragged out beyond their natural shelf life... don't get me started. Desperate Housewives, CSI, Law & Order, Huff. These are all shows that I have really enjoyed and then just got bored of. Two recent shows that I just hated from the off were Lost and Grey's Anatomy. I will start watching season 2 of Prison Break, but it better be faster moving than season 1 or there'll be trouble. I already feel conned that it's gone to a second season.

Reality stuff is different because it does get changed up to keep things interesting, and none more so than our beloved Survivor. Drama producers hit that winning formula then sit back and keep churning out the same old crap each year.

You're right, though: a few years ago, when ER was big and CSI was starting -- around that sort of time -- everyone was (rightly) saying that TV was the new cinema. Big film actors and directors were taking TV jobs, and it was a really good time for TV. But like every bubble, it had to burst. It'll come round again, but first we need another cycle of good film-making, and that looks like being a way off, if Hollywood is anything to go by.

With TV, as with film, the lowest common denominator is being catered for, and it is this that has led to the glut of decent shows.

You know what? The best show on British TV, bar none, is Seinfeld. It plays every night on the Paramount Comedy Channel, and it's still fresh as hell. So much better than any other sitcom made in the past 15 years, at least.

11 November, 2006 16:16  
Blogger Gardenia said...

Sounds like a good evening! I'll add it to my list, should I find time in the next few months to watch anything! Maybe in Fl vacation.

Speaking of dames, I have changed my name & identity from Diana to Dollface because of a stalking incident where an internet stalker found my name, exact phone extension and called me right into my office at work! scary. I haven't the heart to leave Lofty Perch yet, but maybe I should think about it.

12 November, 2006 16:37  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Dollface: I had noticed your new profile pic a few days ago, and then I saw your comment over at Red's blog about changing your moniker. (Good new name by the way!) This is a crazy situation you're in, as I mentioned over at yours last week.

I hope you don't feel you have to abandon the lofty perch, but should it come to that, make sure you let us all know. I can't recall reading anything so damning, in either posts or comments, that would make someone phone you up and chew you out like that. There are certainly some nuts out there...

13 November, 2006 10:01  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

i LOVE the maltese falcon... but probably just because it's bogart :)

i'll have to look into this one... sounds like a good'n

14 November, 2006 05:33  
Blogger Adam said...

While you're right, films are art and are basically my life - there's some substantial stuff going on w/ TV right now. LOST and Heroes are really trying to build a solid name for TV, at least here in the states.

14 November, 2006 06:32  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Martha: The Maltese Falcon is great, isn't it? I've not seen it for a while, but I have watched it several times in the past. Should add it to my DVD collection sometime.

Adam: I don't know this Heroes of which you speak, but Lost is a snooooze-fest, man. I watched the first six episodes of season one and was already bored. I can't believe they have strung it out to three seasons and counting. TV peaked a few years ago, I think, and now we're on the downward slide until a few good people cross over again.

14 November, 2006 10:14  

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