Friday, February 26, 2010

Resistance (2003) **


Resistance is a standard-issue WWII soap, complete with a marooned American pilot (Bill Paxton), a dishy French-accented farm wife (Julia Ormond) and despicable, but immaculately dressed, Nazis.


The film shows a bit of promise in the early going, as a plucky, courageous kid named Jean (Antoine Van Lierde) helps the injured Paxton elude capture and delivers him via wheelbarrow to Ormond’s cottage, which has one of those secret rooms behind the closet that come in so handy at times like these.


There, Ormond sensuously cleans Paxton’s wounds and rapidly nurtures him back to All-American Boy gee whiz health. Apparently, Paxton’s injuries weren’t really that serious. Despite being the only survivor of a horrific plane crash, all he really needed was a few days rest and a damp cloth. This is the first warning sign of dangerous plot-holes ahead and those fissures only get wider and goofier as the film progresses. One scene in particular is a howler: Paxton staggers down from his attic redoubt, barely able to walk, but within a few minutes he is dancing the jitterbug with Ormond who, despite crushing agrarian poverty, has an impressive collection of hot jazz records.


Meanwhile, Ormond’s husband is away with the guys on a Resistance outing; blowing up bridges and railroads and maybe a little fishing. In his absence, she and Paxton decide that it would be a fine idea to start taking baths together. Yes, “Resistance” gets pretty mushy before we’re through, and yes you can see it all coming a mile away. But it’s not long before the realties of war, and disgruntled husbands, cause this burgeoning romance to come tumbling down.


A few shocking moments are attempted as we reach the conclusion, but they all fail, and the Germans, despite their nifty uniforms, seem as pathetically clueless as the ones on “Hogan’s Heroes”. Worst of all, the great Sandrine Bonnaire is nonsensically wasted in a dinky little role. But that’s fitting. With Resistance, nonsense is par for the course.

The Details

Resistance (2003) **


Resistance is a standard-issue WWII soap, complete with a marooned American pilot (Bill Paxton), a dishy French-accented farm wife (Julia Ormond) and despicable, but immaculately dressed, Nazis.


The film shows a bit of promise in the early going, as a plucky, courageous kid named Jean (Antoine Van Lierde) helps the injured Paxton elude capture and delivers him via wheelbarrow to Ormond’s cottage, which has one of those secret rooms behind the closet that come in so handy at times like these.


There, Ormond sensuously cleans Paxton’s wounds and rapidly nurtures him back to All-American Boy gee whiz health. Apparently, Paxton’s injuries weren’t really that serious. Despite being the only survivor of a horrific plane crash, all he really needed was a few days rest and a damp cloth. This is the first warning sign of dangerous plot-holes ahead and those fissures only get wider and goofier as the film progresses. One scene in particular is a howler: Paxton staggers down from his attic redoubt, barely able to walk, but within a few minutes he is dancing the jitterbug with Ormond who, despite crushing agrarian poverty, has an impressive collection of hot jazz records.


Meanwhile, Ormond’s husband is away with the guys on a Resistance outing; blowing up bridges and railroads and maybe a little fishing. In his absence, she and Paxton decide that it would be a fine idea to start taking baths together. Yes, “Resistance” gets pretty mushy before we’re through, and yes you can see it all coming a mile away. But it’s not long before the realties of war, and disgruntled husbands, cause this burgeoning romance to come tumbling down.


A few shocking moments are attempted as we reach the conclusion, but they all fail, and the Germans, despite their nifty uniforms, seem as pathetically clueless as the ones on “Hogan’s Heroes”. Worst of all, the great Sandrine Bonnaire is nonsensically wasted in a dinky little role. But that’s fitting. With Resistance, nonsense is par for the course.

The Details

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Involuntary (2008)


In the struggle for the hearts and minds of young Scandinavian filmmakers, Aki Kaurismaki appears to have won out over Ingmar Bergman, at least for now, as the tone of recent Nordic films has shifted from grimly depressing to comically depressing. “Involuntary” fits right in with the new fashion, somehow wringing chuckles and guffaws from an unrelenting atmosphere of austere bleakness.


Despite working in a verite style, director Rubin Ostlund is clearly influenced by Roy Andersson’s micro-managed minimalism, in terms of both composition and storytelling. The script features multiple and concurrent storylines, with bits of each narrative doled out in a seemingly random manner. Through the course of the film we learn about a bus driver with emotional issues, meet two teenage girls prone to mischief, go on a camping trip where male bonding is carried to extremes, and visit a family reunion for a comic reminder of the immiscibility of alcohol and fireworks, along with other, less developed, scenarios.


Ostlund builds a compelling and amusing case that Swedes in the full grip of spring fever lose all notion of personal responsibility, and should not be considered fully responsible for their actions. Thankfully, the viewer is coolly kept at arm’s length from the proceedings, as the various pickles Ostlund’s characters get themselves into are much more fun to observe than to experience, and this sense of detachment allows us to fully appreciate the wide range of human folly on display.


But cleverness can have a limited shelf life, and the film begins to run out of it in the final reel and we were relieved when this assortment of quirky yarns headed to conclusion. In all though, “Involuntary” is an entertaining glimpse into a day in Swedish life, and a worthy addition to the region’s emergence as a banana belt for darkly comic cinema. It makes you wonder what those ironic cut-ups from the north will come up with next.

Who Did What

Involuntary (2008)


In the struggle for the hearts and minds of young Scandinavian filmmakers, Aki Kaurismaki appears to have won out over Ingmar Bergman, at least for now, as the tone of recent Nordic films has shifted from grimly depressing to comically depressing. “Involuntary” fits right in with the new fashion, somehow wringing chuckles and guffaws from an unrelenting atmosphere of austere bleakness.


Despite working in a verite style, director Rubin Ostlund is clearly influenced by Roy Andersson’s micro-managed minimalism, in terms of both composition and storytelling. The script features multiple and concurrent storylines, with bits of each narrative doled out in a seemingly random manner. Through the course of the film we learn about a bus driver with emotional issues, meet two teenage girls prone to mischief, go on a camping trip where male bonding is carried to extremes, and visit a family reunion for a comic reminder of the immiscibility of alcohol and fireworks, along with other, less developed, scenarios.


Ostlund builds a compelling and amusing case that Swedes in the full grip of spring fever lose all notion of personal responsibility, and should not be considered fully responsible for their actions. Thankfully, the viewer is coolly kept at arm’s length from the proceedings, as the various pickles Ostlund’s characters get themselves into are much more fun to observe than to experience, and this sense of detachment allows us to fully appreciate the wide range of human folly on display.


But cleverness can have a limited shelf life, and the film begins to run out of it in the final reel and we were relieved when this assortment of quirky yarns headed to conclusion. In all though, “Involuntary” is an entertaining glimpse into a day in Swedish life, and a worthy addition to the region’s emergence as a banana belt for darkly comic cinema. It makes you wonder what those ironic cut-ups from the north will come up with next.

Who Did What

Monday, February 22, 2010

The World (2004)


The World is an extraordinary film of amazement and wonder. Unfortunately, those wonders are undermined by the film’s sheer, droning bulk. A Beijing park featuring scaled down versions of world landmarks serves as both metaphor and backdrop for a loosely related string of vignettes, all of which concern young people who have traveled far to ultimately meet a quiet kind of bitter disillusion. The emotional world inhabited by the subjects of this film is almost microscopic in nature; their concerns revolve around the stark practicalities of acquiring food and sex, while all around them are ersatz reminders of the greatest achievements of humanity.


This gives director Zhang Ke Jiu a fertile playground for visual puns, and he often takes advantage by crafting arresting contrasts of his characters' pettiness with their surroundings of physical grandeur. A off balance surrealism pervades the film at times, as the actors appear as indomitable giants next to dioramas of the Pyramids or London Bridge, yet within their own shabby apartments they seem sullen and vulnerable. Having presented this world to us with such painstaking effort, Zhang is occasionally at a loss as to how to proceed with his meticulous observations, and stubbornly opposed to concluding them.


Within this Zen-like tableau are a number of effective, at times even breathtaking scenes, but these are sandwiched with clunky, repetitive moments that do little to enhance our understanding of the film’s complex thesis. Particularly pointless are the tiresome rotoscope animation sequences that occur, for some unknown reason, every time a character receives a text message.


And the film continues to meander well past the point of justified duration, until Zhang's trenchant reflections on modern Chinese life have thoroughly worn-out their welcome and become numbing. About two hours in, a character in abject despair sets fire to the jacket he is wearing. We knew exactly how he felt.

Production Details

The World (2004)


The World is an extraordinary film of amazement and wonder. Unfortunately, those wonders are undermined by the film’s sheer, droning bulk. A Beijing park featuring scaled down versions of world landmarks serves as both metaphor and backdrop for a loosely related string of vignettes, all of which concern young people who have traveled far to ultimately meet a quiet kind of bitter disillusion. The emotional world inhabited by the subjects of this film is almost microscopic in nature; their concerns revolve around the stark practicalities of acquiring food and sex, while all around them are ersatz reminders of the greatest achievements of humanity.


This gives director Zhang Ke Jiu a fertile playground for visual puns, and he often takes advantage by crafting arresting contrasts of his characters' pettiness with their surroundings of physical grandeur. A off balance surrealism pervades the film at times, as the actors appear as indomitable giants next to dioramas of the Pyramids or London Bridge, yet within their own shabby apartments they seem sullen and vulnerable. Having presented this world to us with such painstaking effort, Zhang is occasionally at a loss as to how to proceed with his meticulous observations, and stubbornly opposed to concluding them.


Within this Zen-like tableau are a number of effective, at times even breathtaking scenes, but these are sandwiched with clunky, repetitive moments that do little to enhance our understanding of the film’s complex thesis. Particularly pointless are the tiresome rotoscope animation sequences that occur, for some unknown reason, every time a character receives a text message.


And the film continues to meander well past the point of justified duration, until Zhang's trenchant reflections on modern Chinese life have thoroughly worn-out their welcome and become numbing. About two hours in, a character in abject despair sets fire to the jacket he is wearing. We knew exactly how he felt.

Production Details

Friday, February 19, 2010

Moscow, Belgium (2008)


Alright…this red-blooded American has had it. First, we lose our textile industry to China. Then, we lose our automobile industry to Japan. And now, the nation of Belgium is trying to steal our monopoly on insipid, improbable romantic comedies.


“Moscow, Belgium” so thoroughly wallows in pleasant predictability it seems unfair that one should have to read subtitles to experience such mediocrity. Who knew brooding, caustic Europeans were even capable of such unrelenting blandness? They have learned their lessons well, these industrious Belgians, and if we don’t stay on our toes, they will soon corner the market on America’s last remaining export: Date Movies.


Sure, you scoff now…but that day is coming my friends. And think of the devastation.
Nothing but Flemish (and French, and a little German) spoken on the Lifetime Channel.
Sandra Bullock, reduced to a Walmart greeter.
Zooey Deschanel selling insurance.
Next thing you know, the Dardenne brothers will be making science fiction films with obscenely high budgets.
“Oh it can’t happen here” you say. I‘m here to tell you it can my friends! And it will, if we don’t act. But it’s not too late. Join me in my campaign to resist Flemish perfidy. Tell the Belgians to keep their waffles, their sheep dogs, their delicious full-bodied ales, their massive draft horses and their Congo. In turn, they must keep their endive-pickin’ hands off of our rom-coms.

WAKE UP AMERICA!



The Frightening Details

Moscow, Belgium (2008)


Alright…this red-blooded American has had it. First, we lose our textile industry to China. Then, we lose our automobile industry to Japan. And now, the nation of Belgium is trying to steal our monopoly on insipid, improbable romantic comedies.


“Moscow, Belgium” so thoroughly wallows in pleasant predictability it seems unfair that one should have to read subtitles to experience such mediocrity. Who knew brooding, caustic Europeans were even capable of such unrelenting blandness? They have learned their lessons well, these industrious Belgians, and if we don’t stay on our toes, they will soon corner the market on America’s last remaining export: Date Movies.


Sure, you scoff now…but that day is coming my friends. And think of the devastation.
Nothing but Flemish (and French, and a little German) spoken on the Lifetime Channel.
Sandra Bullock, reduced to a Walmart greeter.
Zooey Deschanel selling insurance.
Next thing you know, the Dardenne brothers will be making science fiction films with obscenely high budgets.
“Oh it can’t happen here” you say. I‘m here to tell you it can my friends! And it will, if we don’t act. But it’s not too late. Join me in my campaign to resist Flemish perfidy. Tell the Belgians to keep their waffles, their sheep dogs, their delicious full-bodied ales, their massive draft horses and their Congo. In turn, they must keep their endive-pickin’ hands off of our rom-coms.

WAKE UP AMERICA!



The Frightening Details

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Nos Amours (1983)


Just when you expect another titillating French romantic drama about young girls and lost innocence, Maurice Pialat takes us on a surprising and highly subjective guided tour of a damaged family’s personal pain. The film is comprised of shifting alliances and points of view, and presents the fragility of family dynamics in ways that range from subtle to harrowing. First, we are introduced to young Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a budding young heartbreaker, at summer camp.
There, along with swimming and arts and crafts, she has taken up a new activity: the wanton pursuit of boys – and in some cases, men - for a bit of snogging in the moonlit weeds.


But as we think Suzanne’s sexual quest will be the real meat of story, the film takes one of its several leaps forward in time, and we are home in Paris where we meet Suzanne’s brooding boyfriend (Cyr Boitard) and her squabbling, malcontent family led by her father (Pialat) who is deeply suspicious of his daughter’s innocent-sounding “movie dates”.


The pressures in the family’s rambling apartment are palpable, and its walls seem to inch closer in every scene. Suzanne’s only escape from this toxic atmosphere of recrimination is through a series of sexual liaisons that ultimately leave her feeling empty, yet oddly grateful for even a few minutes of affectionate attention.


And it is this gratitude that prompts Suzanne to make a decision about her future that makes us eerily wonder if she is inviting a repeat of family history. Here, Pialat offers an interesting twist on conventional morality, as Suzanne’s late night escapades have an air of warmth and wholesomeness about them, in stark relief to the violent, and at times shocking, confrontations that await her at home.


“A Nos Amours” is a film that presses boundaries and pushes buttons. It forces us out of our comfort zone by involving us in a tableau of equally condemnable characters, yet we can’t judge any of them without revealing our own hypocrisy.

Production Details

A Nos Amours (1983)


Just when you expect another titillating French romantic drama about young girls and lost innocence, Maurice Pialat takes us on a surprising and highly subjective guided tour of a damaged family’s personal pain. The film is comprised of shifting alliances and points of view, and presents the fragility of family dynamics in ways that range from subtle to harrowing. First, we are introduced to young Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a budding young heartbreaker, at summer camp.
There, along with swimming and arts and crafts, she has taken up a new activity: the wanton pursuit of boys – and in some cases, men - for a bit of snogging in the moonlit weeds.


But as we think Suzanne’s sexual quest will be the real meat of story, the film takes one of its several leaps forward in time, and we are home in Paris where we meet Suzanne’s brooding boyfriend (Cyr Boitard) and her squabbling, malcontent family led by her father (Pialat) who is deeply suspicious of his daughter’s innocent-sounding “movie dates”.


The pressures in the family’s rambling apartment are palpable, and its walls seem to inch closer in every scene. Suzanne’s only escape from this toxic atmosphere of recrimination is through a series of sexual liaisons that ultimately leave her feeling empty, yet oddly grateful for even a few minutes of affectionate attention.


And it is this gratitude that prompts Suzanne to make a decision about her future that makes us eerily wonder if she is inviting a repeat of family history. Here, Pialat offers an interesting twist on conventional morality, as Suzanne’s late night escapades have an air of warmth and wholesomeness about them, in stark relief to the violent, and at times shocking, confrontations that await her at home.


“A Nos Amours” is a film that presses boundaries and pushes buttons. It forces us out of our comfort zone by involving us in a tableau of equally condemnable characters, yet we can’t judge any of them without revealing our own hypocrisy.

Production Details

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bunchy's Scrapbook: Wrasslers Edition


Back in the 60s and 70s my Dad and I used to watch professional wrestling on TV. This was back before cable or satellite, and wrestling was basically a regional sport, with a handful of promoters dividing up the country based on TV market. Our area’s grapplers were based in Charlotte, which was sort of the Hollywood of wrestling at that time. Here’s some of the guys I remember, and I’ve included their real names whenever I could find them.

Haystacks Calhoun (William Dee)


Probably the first wrestler I remember, and after looking at him, you can see why. I don’t remember if he was a good guy (A babyface, in wrestling parlance) or a bad guy (a heel). I just remember he was a great big tub, and strong as an ox. I think he is actually lifting up two cows in this photo.



The Bolos


Tag teams were popular in the southeast, and these two guys were the first masked wrestlers I remember. God, they were nasty. They used to carry small pieces of metal in their boots, and use them to smash open the heads of the opposition. Supposedly one of them was named Tony Renesto, and he served as the spokesman in interviews. He was quite articulate. They both sweated a lot.




The Scott Brothers


George and Sandy were from Canada, and had a large following in our area. They were true wrestlers, trained in all the classic holds and maneuvers. Babyfaces to the core, the Scotts always abided by the rules (there actually were a few) and their clean, athletic style was fun to watch. George always ended his interviews by saying “Hello to all the sick and shut-ins”. Classy.



Rip Hawke and Swede Hansen


As much a comedy act as anything, Rip and Swede were wildly successful heels that you just loved to hate. Rip was possibly the world’s most conceited man, and during interviews, often insisted that the camera zoom in tight on his profile, which he felt was movie star quality. These two enjoyed a long run in the wrestling profession, and became stars all over the world. After retirement from wrestling, Rip invented “Popcorn on the Cob”, which is sold at Disneyworld.



Super Destroyer


There were several guys running around the world calling themselves Super Destroyer. Supposedly ours was named Don Jardine and when not wrestling, was the sweetest guy in the world. In the ring however, he was mean as a snake and, even in the fake world of wrestling, nearly unbeatable. His dominance in our area was so strong he was actually hurting business, so the promoters brought in a very special guy to challenge him…



Andre the Giant


This simple country boy from France wanted nothing more than to be a farmer, but he had to settle for international fame and fortune instead. André René Roussimoff ‘s enormous proportions were caused by acromegaly, a rare disorder of the pituitary gland. At over 7 feet tall and 540 pounds, Andre made quick work of the Super Destroyer, and anyone else foolish enough to get in the ring with him. Andre also enjoyed a prolific film career, appearing in The Princess Bride and several other movies and TV shows. While in Paris for his father’s funeral, Andre died in his sleep at the age of 46. His ashes were scattered near Ellerbee, NC.



Mil Mascaras (Aaron Rodríguez)


The greatest wrestler I ever saw. Mil Mascaras had it all: speed, athleticism, agility and extraordinary showmanship. He didn’t just defeat opponents; he dazzled them to the point that they simply lost hope and gave up. Unpopular with promoters because he refused to throw matches or engage in hyped up feuds, Mil Mascaras was the closest thing to a true sportsman pro wrestling ever produced. Today at the age of 67, he’s still wrestling and still wildly popular.



Ric Flair


One of the most successful wrestlers in history, Ric Flair basically took Gorgeous George’s prissy gimmicks and butched them up for southern audiences. As this picture attests, Flair had a real talent for creating mayhem, and metal folding chairs were one of his favorite weapons. He was also a shameless self promoter and it was just as dangerous to be between him and a microphone as it was to be in the ring with him. Although I found his Deliverance redneck shtick so tedious I lost interest in wrestling altogether, Ric is still regarded as near royalty in the Carolinas.



I got a lot of help from the following websites:

Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Obsessed With Wrestling

Wrestling Memories

Check them out for more information and great pictures.

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