Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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06 December 2007

Pulp Fiction - ???????

Well I finally watched Pulp Fiction last night, and I must say that is one pointless movie. Here's an excerpt from the All Movie Guide attempting to describe the film's charms:
Updating the hard-boiled crime film with postmodern aplomb, and twisting movie time as adroitly as Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick, Tarantino weaves a morality play through a pop culture fun house drawn from sources as disparate as 1950s and 1970s kitsch, Jean-Luc Godard, Howard Hawks, boxing flicks, Hong Kong action movies, and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). The surreal yet realistic atmosphere, long takes, and wittily pop-literate non-stop dialogue emotionally engage the viewer in the minutiae of the characters' experience even as the film also comments on their status as pulp creations, rendering the moments of shockingly baroque violence simultaneously humorous and ghastly.
Well I don't get it. In Citizen Kane Welles twisted time because the story was about a reporter asking different people about Kane and so the scenes had to follow these peoples' stories - in other words, it made sense, while the "time-twisting" seems to have no justification other that to have critics (rapturously) comment on it. Welles's other good films - The Stranger, The Lady from Shanghai, and Touch of Evil - had beginnings, middles and ends, like normal movies. Kubrick? He made some whacked movies but I don't get the "time-twisting" reference with him, unless it refers to 2001 which was clearly intended to be accompanied by the copious consumption of cannabis. As far as drawing from disparate sources, isn't that another way of saying it's derivative? "Surreal yet realistic" - in other words, street characters behaving unrealistically and real-life situations unfolding preposterously. And what's the deal with 'long takes' - yeah, the opening sequence of Touch of Evil is pretty cool, given the technology of the late 50's, but who gives a fuck how often the director yells "cut" during filming? "Wittily pop-literate" - gangsters talking like English majors - the joke soon wears thin - "non-stop dialogue" - very thin. And I can't make heads or tails of the rest of the review. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the film wasn't entertaining - it was - I'd put it on a par with, say, "Die Hard" in that regard.

Related: John Simon's review.

05 December 2007

Just Like the One in Our Backyard

Ever wanted to know the story behind the 1976 Henry Gross hit Shannon? Sure, we always knew it was about a dog, but Henry provides the full backstory here (page down about halfway), in detail! Quite compelling. Seriously, I'd say Shannon is the 2nd best song about a dog. I can only think of three, though there's no doubt others - I don't mean songs like Hound Dog or Move It on Over which reference dogs as metaphors, but songs about a dog. The best would be Martha, My Dear, which Lewisohn in his Complete Beatles Recording Sessions absurdly denies being about Paul's sheepdog, which it most assuredly is. (As an aside, Lewisohn also claims that no organ can be heard on Rubber Soul'sI'm Looking Through You despite the album credit to the contrary, though you can clearly hear one during the little Munsters-inspired instrumental break between verses.) The third (and worst) dog song is the hideous Get Down by the execrable Gilbert O'Sullivan, though it is the only one of the three to overtly address a dog. There's an old video of the great man himself performing his gem with none other than LuLu. Brace yourself.

Related: Casey Kasem melts down prior to playing Shannon for a "long distance dedication."

Chinatown and Car Horns

I finally got digital cable recently, and so I've been a tad obsessed catching up with movies (which helps explain my indolent blogging-ethic of late) which I've either never seen or haven't seen in ages. In the latter category is Chinatown, the 1974 Polanski film noir set in 1930's L.A. As you'll recall, Faye Dunaway is killed at the end by the police shooting after her as she races away in her car (which we are led to believe from not just this film but from contemporaneous films as well was standard police procedure back in those days). We know she is dead because the car crashes and we hear the horn blaring away. Polanski set this up neatly in an earlier scene.

Dunaway and Nicholson are seated in a parked car. As Nicholson badgers her, Dunaway (sitting in the driver's seat) slumps forward out of weariness and distress, then jumps back as her head hits the horn. So we're set up for the ending as we are now conscious that if Dunaway slumps forward the horn will sound. 48 Lincoln Dash with touch-sensitive chrome horn ringNow back in the 30's car horns were easily sounded by a concentric chrome ring set inside the steering wheel - one little tap and the horn went off, which made sense back then as warning people that a car was coming was still often necessary. By the 60's horns were basically oversized buttons in the middle of the wheel, but by the 80's we have the more familiar set up where to blow the horn you have to hit a sweet-spot on the wheel's hub to sound it. Tootin' you horn is no longer convenient as horn blowing has become more of a nuisance than a necessity.

But ever since Chinatown, it has become de rigeur in the movies that a dead man in the driver seat is inevitably signalled by a blaring car horn.BMW Dash - what do you push for the horn? Which is really annoying because it's tough enough to honk your horn when some cell-phone chatterer comes gliding into your lane on the turnpike, I can't imagine it's very easy to set it off when you're dead. Try it sometime - when parked preferably - try to slump forward in a way that would set off your horn and keep it blaring - not gonna happen. It's also annoying because Polanski jumped thru hoops to prepare his audience for the horn-blaring denouement in a context where it made sense, but now it is a commonplace for even modern settings when it makes no sense at all. Of course, if the driver is killed and then the car crashes, the car must then explode like it's packed with ten sticks of dynamite.