Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Old Movies

I shouldn't blog from class. I shouldn't, but I am. I suppose I can be
forgiven this time, because we're watching a movie. I watch movies, have
I told you?

We're watching Henry V, the 1990 Kenneth Branagh version. It is great,
but I watched it just a year ago. I fell asleep in the middle of it
then, and would do the same now if I weren't writing. It persuades me
to hate war in any age. War is hell, and it saddens me to think that it
will only be more and more senseless through the remainder of my
lifetime. I badly hate the sight of blood. To see it means something,
someone, is dead or dying.

Though there is hardly less sadness, I'd rather watch Hamlet right now.
But even Hamlet...I don't think myself stupid, but I really have to
listen to follow this Shakespeare guy. And as you've no doubt gathered,
I am not now paying great attention, though I wish I were as suave as
ol' King Harry. There are some very recognizable faces in Henry V. A
young Christian Bale, Robbie Coltrane (i.e. Rubeus Hagrid of Harry
fame), Judi Dench (M from the most recent James Bond films), Ian
, Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed (look them up, you'll recognize them),
and obviously Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. Fine performances,

I watched a couple movies last night in a film class I'm not really in.
It is a Horror film class, that I assure you, I would have taken this
very semester if I had only known of it's existence. I found out about
it only a couple weeks ago, too late to sign up. Instead, I am here in
one of the only other film elective classes open to non-majors that I
could find, Film as a Medium of History. It's actually a History course,
and too bad it unfailingly puts me to sleep. The Horror film class was
great. Dean Duncan was teaching, and discussed the nature of various roles
within the genre. He lectured on the origins of the "Wolfish" monster
through history and film. Prof. Duncan's personal theory is that our
modern wolf myths are an outgrowth of the nightmares in Sheepherding
culture. The wolf actually was the monster in the woods, it's easy to
imagine stories of them being exaggerated and expanded. He also
discussed the differences between the Werewolf, Wolfman, and
Lycanthrope. If you'd like to know:

  • Werewolf = a fully transforming Man/Wolf, man by day, full wolf by moonlit night.
  • Wolfman = A bastardized hybrid, half man, half wolf, all the time.
  • Lycanthrope = A lunatic, fully convinced he is a dog. A feral man.

But that wasn't all we talked about. We went over the origins and
history of the studio's "B-Movie" system, horror's rise, fall, rise
again, and our subsequent post-modern age when the cycle and swirl of
genre rise, reform, and parody have all wrapped upon each other
simultaneously. Hence you have something like "Scary Movie 4" when the
movies it parodies are barely out of the theater.

Then we watched a couple old flicks. I Walked With A Zombie (possibly
the worst movie title ever) followed by The Body Snatchers with Bela
and Boris Carloff, two of horror's finest. Though these weren't
their finest roles. Honestly, I think these movies would hardly be
considered horror today, maybe a bit dark, but they simply weren't very
Horrible. Given the names of each, I would expect more fantastic
elements, but there wasn't anything more than mild tribal voodoo. But
good movies, both, and entertaining, even today.

I plan on attending that class even though I'm not enrolled. Prof. Duncan
said that would be fine, so long as I didn't prove to be a disturber. I
have friends there. Steve Shimek and his wife, a few classmates from
current and past film classes, old ward friends, a mission friend whom I
hadn't seen in three years, and a neighbor. And it was just so COOL.
That frivolous pulp stuff grabs me. It was produced as pure
entertainment, and effectively does that, but there is substance there
that even the film makers themselves may not have intended. It's modern
folklore, not meant to be high art, but popularly appreciated and
valuable in it's own right. For all my talk of hating the sight of blood
(true though it is), I'm anxious to explore the Garden of Eden allegory
of Vampire stories, the social commentary of Zombie movies, the
technophobia of Frankenstein tales, and all the other answers to our
childish nightmares. Heaven knows I've had my share.

Tonight I'm watching another old classic, Fritz Lang's M. It is, from
what I've read and heard, a timeless classic, a masterpiece even. Peter
gives one of his earliest screen performances, well before he
became known for the previously mentioned Horrors. I'll give you a full
review after viewing.

The last couple nights I've watched most of Paul Thomas Anderson's
Magnolia. Despite it's verbal assault (I've rarely if ever heard more
cursing) it is a beautiful and equally beautifully told story. Anderson
is a gifted film craftsman, though perhaps preoccupied with the vulgar.
It is my understanding that he wrote the intricate, involved, stunning
screenplay for Magnolia in two days. How does that happen? People can
spend their whole lives laboring over a work meant to be their
masterpiece, and others will sit and design Falling Water in a single
sitting (thank you very much, Frank Lloyd Wright). I don't know if I
could be one of those people, but I'd like to try. I'd like to create a
masterpiece. My hope is that through practice, I will become a better
writer and reader and teller of...well...everything. Thus the length of
this entry, the constant additions to this blog, and the perpetual movie

I watch movies, have I told you?

P.S. You can congratulate me. I managed to stay awake through all of
Henry V with the help of this blog entry.


D Smith said...

All this from a Phone? impressive

Jasie said...

I was thoroughly horrified by The Body Snatchers, or didn't you see me cowering down in my seat, cringing at the last scene? I like the fact that I'm not desensitized by movies like Saw so that I can still get freaked out by these older horror movies...