Altman feels a tad slight; 90 minutes surely isn’t long enough to survey the great director’s life and career. But to be fair, it’s a documentary that picks the man Robert Altman over the work that made his name, and tells his story via the people who were closest (or should’ve been closest) to him, his wife and children. There is a 2009 biography that likely goes into far more detail, and other sources that examine his films (Rich Hall’s fantastic doc How The West Was Lost is particularly good on McCabe & Mrs Miller); this slots in as a worthy complement.
The Wild Bunch is one of those mythological Great American Movies that can’t possibly live up to expectations. And the start doesn’t promise much, its static, fussy staging straight out of the television of the era. Sam Peckinpah was a TV veteran, so that makes sense, but he’s aware of the freedom of the big screen, and his eye for subtext is there. The opening shot of children pitting to scorpions against one another is a broad-stroke but appropriate metaphor for the film we’re about to see, where William Holden’s band of outlaws (including a magnetic Ernest Borgnine and the great Warren Oates) slips the clutches of Robert Ryan’s posse of hired goons to do One Last Job, but end up embroiled in some serious political corruption down Mexico way.
As the story moves on and our main protagonists really start feeling the heat, Peckinpah’s direction gets more adventurous, helped by new-wave editing techniques to bring the action alive in the viewer’s mind, and properly evoke the delirium seen on screen. That’s far more remarkable than its supposed reputation for extreme violence; I’ve seen at least one Planet of the Apes movie that’s way more gory, not to mention the graphic death scenes in Bonnie and Clyde released two years previous. The Wild Bunch deserves better in the cinematic canon.
Such a small film in many ways; most of it takes place in a single house, with a handful of principal players. But I think that’s what makes it so powerful, because it brings near inescapable esoteric horrors so terrifyingly close to home. That the likes of Pinhead can be reasoned with despite their unknowable nature (at least at this stage of the saga) makes it even stronger; he’s not just your run of the mill evil villain, it’s up for question whether he’s even a villain, let alone evil. Sure, it’s not quite the film Clive Barker set out to make (meddling by financiers put paid to that, like it did to an even greater degree with his next film Nightbreed) but he gets enough of his original story on screen to make a real genre-busting difference.
The problem with false feminism
Or why Frozen (which came out a year ago now, jeez) left Dani Colman cold. And yeah, I can hear people moaning ‘but it’s only a Disney movie, for kids’ but there are a lot of smart people who champion this film as some kind of revolutionary thing when it’s nothing of the sort, and that needs to be said. #·
BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti Goes Long
This has been on my ‘to read’ list for too long, so I’m posting it here as a prompt, and for future reference as it’s basically a how-to guide for media and the internet. With all his hires recently — including my old internet friend Mat Honan — it’s pretty obvious Peretti wants to be more than just a meme generator. (Also, I love Q&As, I much prefer them over conventional prose-y interviews because they strip out all that density and make both sides more explicit: the interviewer’s angle, and the subject’s honesty.) #·