Notable film and media links--May 25, 2009--Memorial Day edition

---I really enjoyed this David Denby article about Victor Fleming, the man who may be largely responsible for The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind:

"Fleming’s talent was not `the same' as Cukor’s, yet he was definitely the right man for `Gone with the Wind,' and he did inventive and powerful work on `Oz.' But in the seventy years since the release of those films, Fleming, whose talent flowed not smoothly or subtly, but roughly, in surges of energy and feeling, has been largely forgotten. The auteur-theory critics who, in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, went wild over Cukor, Hitchcock, Preminger, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Sternberg, Frank Capra, and many other directors of the late silent and early sound periods, ignored Fleming, though he had made a number of entertaining movies in the nineteen-twenties and thirties and his two super-productions of 1939 are very likely the most widely seen movies in American film history—not just good pictures but films that have entered the unconscious of generations of moviegoers."

---Joseph Belanger of Black Sheep Reviews interviews Steven Soderbergh about The Girlfriend Experience:

"On screen, Grey is always in control of what she allows herself to say and how she allows herself to be seen and treated. Detractors of the film have claimed that Grey’s distant, aloof demeanor leave the film feeling shallow but Soderbergh begs to differ. For him, the film would lose everything it has going if Grey had played it any other way. She is meant to be mystery."

---Taking a differing view, Fox of Tractor Facts pans The Girlfriend Experience as little more than a "yawn" and an "exploitative stunt."

---Meanwhile, Todd Brown of Twitch treats us to three video clips from The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus with Heath Ledger and Lily Cole.  Looks pretty dreamy.  

---In trendy director news, Anne Thompson interviews Quentin Tarantino for The Daily Beast, and  Geoff Boucher interviews Michael Bay for Los Angeles Times:

"We're still not quite sure how he does it when he's directing," says screenwriter Alex Kurtzman, who worked on both "Transformers" films. "People who work closest with him call his method 'Bay-os' because it feels like wartime chaos. There are explosions going off in every direction and half as many cameras flying all over the place, and you stand there thinking none of it's going to make any sense, then you watch the scenes cut together and realize something shocking: He's choreographed a ballet. He knows exactly which pieces he's going to use from each camera and he'd already cut the scene together in his head."

---Girish meditates on the "metaphor of cinema as writing":

"Robert Stam points out that the graphological trope of film-as-writing has been especially dominant in France since the fifties. The New Wave films contain a surfeit of writing imagery: `From Truffaut's Les Mistons (1958) through Godard's 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle(1967) we encounter people writing: on walls (Jules et Jim), on cars (Masculin, Feminin), in dairies (Pierrot le Fou), on advertisements (Le Gai Savoir), and in notebooks (2 ou 3 choses).'

Stam shows how Truffaut's 400 Blows prefigures this obsession. In the credit sequence, the director's name is superimposed on an image of the cinémathèque. The first shot following the credits shows a student writing at a desk. Antoine writes a poem on a wall, and is punished by having to conjugate a sentence. He forges a note from his mother, and later steals a typewriter to avoid having his handwriting recognized. And so on."

---In media news, Cringely considers a possible future of Internet TV:

"I’m guessing we’ll shortly see $3 billion or so per year go into buying Internet rights for TV shows — not old TV shows but NEW TV shows, shows of all types.

TV production in the U.S. is approximately a $15 billion industry.  An extra $3 billion thrown into that business would change its dynamics completely.  Most production isn’t done by networks but by independent producers who are hungry for revenue and risk reduction.  Three billion Apple dollars spread around that crowd every year would buy Internet rights for EVERY show — more than every show in fact.  Whole new classes of shows would be invented, sapping talent from other parts of the industry.  It would be invigorating and destabilizing at the same time.  And because it is Apple — a company with real style — the new shows wouldn’t at all be crap programming.  They’d be new and innovative.

And just as the artistic heart of TV shifted to cable with HBO in the 1980s, so it will shift to the Internet and Apple.

And where will be Hulu?

Nobody will care."

---Lastly, in reply to Terminator Salvation, AV Club lines up "16 plus ridiculous killer robots."  I especially liked this hilarious clip of Robot Monster (1953).


Sam Juliano said…
I must agree that for the most part that THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE is indeed "little more than a "yawn" and "an exploitative stunt" as much as I respect the director. I saw the film over the weekend as the second part of a magnificent documentray on the Sherman Brothers, and you can guess which film stayed with me.

Thanks for the Denby Fleming piece. I have defended this man for decades, and have concluded that anyone who could helm two of the greatedst films in American cinema (and in one calandar year no less) can't be praised and revered enough.
Thanks, Sam, but I will withhold opinion on The Girlfriend Experience until I see the film, since Soderbergh is one of my favorite contemporary directors. I did pan Ocean's 13, however. I may post that review soon.

And yes, Victor Fleming makes for fascinating reading. I had never thought about how his depiction of the sexual politics between Scarlett and Rhett modernizes Gone With the Wind.
Anonymous said…
It says a lot about changing critical standards that the same middlebrow critics, like Denby and Sragow, who heaped scorn on auteurists for valuing the work of Hitchcock and Ford, now whine that the autuerists unfairly neglected a marginal figure like Fleming. Yes, he had his name on a couple of films that remain exemplars of the Hollywood factory system, but what real talent he had -- as shown in his silent films -- is gone by the mid-30s. At MGM, he was just a cog in a very big machine.
You may be right, Anonymous, but one likes to look for some reason why a film like The Wizard of Oz seems better than a happy accident. Also, I like the way Denby discusses the contemporary relevance of the sexual politics of Gone With the Wind.