Friday, December 31, 2010

Attack

Europe, World War 2. Jack Palance is a brave lieutenant in conflict with the cowardly captain Eddie Albert. Also starring Lee Marvin, Buddy Ebsen and Richard Jaeckel, directed by Robert Aldrich.

So, who would win in a fight between Palance and Marvin? I think I'd put my money on Palance. You never know with a guy who starts doing pushups when he receives his Oscar. Unfortunately, we don't find out in this film. Made in 56, enough time had apparently passed that not all American soldiers must be shown to be heroes. The film is based on a play and has a definite theatrical quality - sometimes its psychodrama is verging into parody. It's just a bit hard to believe in Albert as the captain, that he would make it that far without being discharged for incompetance, which also makes it a bit hard to believe in the film.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

And another page



This is a page from the fourth story in my next book, Athos in America.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lee Marvin


Moving on: Lee Marvin, starting with The Killers. Except the title and the opening of the resignated man not running from the men who have come to kill him, the film has absolutely nothing to do with Ernest Hemingway's short story. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are the killers, John Cassavetes the victim, Angie Dickinson (before she became a blonde) the femme fatale and as the bad guy... Ronald Reagan!

As with the original film - by Robert Siodmak, made in 46, starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner - the story of why Cassavetes doesn't run is told in flashbacks. This version of the film feels more dated than the original, though. The back projections during the racing scenes don't help. The dialogues between Cassavetes and Dickinson are not even near anything real people would say. That's okay, but they don't reach that level of twisted poetry either that you find in the best of these films. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the disc and I was unable to watch the last five minutes of the film. Anyway, most of all it made me want to rewatch the original. And Angie, you should have stayed a brunette!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Sting

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are grifters playing the big con on ruthless gangster Robert Shaw. Directed by George Roy Hill.

How many times have I seen this film? I don't know. Many times. Even though you know how it's going to end, it's one of the most entertaining films ever made. You can still enjoy the perfect script, the music and the seamless recreation of Chicago in the 30s. And were Newman and Redford moviestars or what? Maybe the most magical thing about the film is that after the big success of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid they tried to recapture lightning in a bottle, with the same two main actors and director, and... they succeeded! How often does that happen? Not often. You follow?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Verdict

Paul Newman is an alcoholic ambulance chaser who gets one last chance to redeem himself. Also starring James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Jack Warden, written by David Mamet, directed by Sidney Lumet.

Newman aged pretty gracefully on screen. This is probably one of his best performances, the one he should have gotten an Oscar for. Rampling is at her most mysterious. The film was shot during the winter; it always adds something when you can see the breath of the actors. About one third into the film you start thinking that of course Newman is going to win the case, and probably the girl as well - you already know how it's going to end, but actually, the film avoids the easy Hollywood happy ending and rather goes in a more interesting direction, ending with a question.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cool Hand Luke

Paul Newman is a sent to jail where he's working on a chain gang. Also starring George Kennedy and lots of familiar faces from American film and tv, including Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton, directed by Stuart Rosenberg.

-What we got here is a failure to communicate.
-Oh yeah? What's the problem?
-You, jerk face. You think this movie is any good?
-Yes, it's one of the classic anti Establishment films from the late 60s / early 70s. It reminded me of both Papillon and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
-Is it as good as those films?
-Yes, I think so. It's got the two famous scenes, the woman doing the carwash infront of the chain gang and the one with Newman eating 50 eggs. Those are real movie moments. And there can be something strangely uplifting about prison movies, about how the spirit can't be broken.
-You're full of shit!
-Says who?
-Says me, that's who!
-Oh, yeah?!
-Yeah!!

etc.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Hustler

Paul Newman is a pool hustler shacking up with alcoholic student Piper Laurie. Also starring George C Scott and Jackie Gleason, directed by Robert Rossen.

It's another great film, made the year before Hud, shot in black and white that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the poolhalls, rooming houses and bars the characters live in. Again, it's a pretty dark film. You constantly have the feeling it's not going to end well, and it doesn't. You never notice the camera moves or the editing, it's all about the story and the characters. It's the sort of invicible direction that you almost never find in movies these days, but rather have to go find in tv shows like The Wire or The Sopranos. Another great performance by Newman - cocky, but never obnoxious (Tom Cruise, I'm looking at you!). During the endcredits I noticed Jake LaMotta - The Raging Bull - had a small part in the film as a bartender.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hud

Paul Newman is Hud, a cowboy working on his father's farm somewhere in Texas. A case of foot and mouth-disease endangers their livelihood and widens a rift between father and son. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, also starring Patricia Neal and directed by Martin Ritt.

The film takes place in the same world as The Last Picture Show, another novel by McMurtry. It might even be the same little town for all I know; there's a scene where Hud's father and nephew go to the movies. It's the kind of Godforsaken small town hole that can't be too fun to live in but that looks very cinematic on the screen. The film, shot in black and white, is quite dark. Newman plays a rather unappealing, selfish character - there's even a scene where he tries to force himself on Patricia Neal, the farm's housekeeper. It's a good performance by Newman. Films from this period - the film was made in 62 - are often quite interesting. They are sometimes more ambiguous than the classic Hollywood films from the 40s and the 50s but not yet as selfconscious and arty as the films that came later in the 60s by the new filmschool generation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paul Newman


Got some new Paul Newman films, and I will also rewatch some other ones. Starting with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, based on the Tennessee Williams play, also starring Elisabeth Taylor and Burl Ives, directed by Richard Brooks.

Paul Newman doesn't want to fuck Elisabeth Taylor. Already there the film is a bit hard to believe. This is even before the rest of the cast turns up and start calling each other things like Big Daddy and Sister Woman. Okay, he's Paul Newman and can get whoever he wants, but still... Taylor walks around in her underwear and Newman rather wants to get drunk? Oh yeah, that's right, he's got some daddy issues and also believes Taylor fooled around with Skipper, a football buddy. At the same time his brother, Gooper, tries to steal his inheritance. (Am I remembering these names correctly?) There's a lot of yelling and shouting, of course, and there's a nice bit with Newman's crutch as a symbol, but this seems to be a minor Tennessee Williams play.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lost World


This film doesn't really have anything to do with anything. I just felt like watching some junk. Good junk, I should say. I've seen this film on lists of bad sequels, but in my mind this is one of those rare cases where the sequel is actually better than the original. Jurassic Park I thought was a pretty awful film, with unappealing characters. Especially those two kids. You really sat there hoping the dinosaurs would get them. There's a kid in this film also, but on an annoyance scale from 1 to 10 she's only maybe around 3. The other actors do their job well enough, especially Jeff Goldblum. There are some great set pieces in the film. You can sort of feel the presence of the writer, though, moving the characters around. The CGI looks pretty convincing. Spielberg cheats a bit, having most of the film take place at night. Logically the scenes in San Diego should have been in the day time. If I have a problem with the film it's that you never really get "lost" in it. There are constantly shots that are so spielbergian that you can't help but notice them, you keep being pulled out of the film. And Spielberg being Spielberg, he of course insists on telling you exactly what you should feel at all times, never really leaving that part to the viewer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Watchmen


I found a used dvd of this film so I finally got to see it. It's interesting how Snyder gets the details right, but completely misses the spirit of the comic. The film is far too stylish, looking like one long rock video, and there is never a minute where you actually believe in the characters or see them as real people. It takes place in an alternative 80s, but should have had more of a 70s feel, like a Taxi Driver with super heroes, and with as little CGI as possible. I'm not a big fan of Greengrass's shakycam, but I think he would have been a much better director for this. Snyder treats the comic as if it was The Bible, being too faithful in the adaptation. The flamethrower at the end of the sexscene was already silly in the comic. The title sequence is the one place he shows some imagination, it's probably the best part of the film. Too bad it's the opening and that it only goes downhill from there. I don't mean to say that the comic was a masterpiece. At the time it was released I think I was mostly impressed with it's structure, the way it went back and forth in time. If anything, the film only accentuates how kind of ridiculous it was.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Selfpromotion


Cover for a small catalog of my illustration work, mid nineties.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Local Hero


Head of an American oil company Burt Lancaster sends Peter Riegert to Scotland to buy a small village that will be turned into an oil refinery. Written and directed by Bill Forsyth.

Made 27 years ago, the film today is slightly dated. Riegert describes himself as a telex man, and he doesn't walk around talking on cell phones during the first half of the film. Forsyth took the conflicts of USA/Europe, Big city/Small community, Technology/Nature and turned it into a gentle comedy. Lancaster is terrific in his role - older, but probably still able to beat you in armwrestling or drink you under the table. Mark Knopfler's music is perfect, as well. If there is a wrong step, it's the crazy psychiatrist in the Houston part who seems to belong in an other film.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Life As A Dog


Sweden, the 1950s. A boy is sent to live with his uncle in the countryside while his mother is ill from tuberculosis. Directed by Lasse Hallström.

It's a good film, carried in a large part by the seamless performance of Anton Glanzelius as the boy. You never get the impression that he is acting. The film is based on a book that I can only imagine is more or less autobiographical. There are details, like the scenes of the boy reading from a lingerie catalog for an old, bedridden man, that can't really be made up. It has to be true. In fact, the film perfectly captures the mystery and the sadness of being a kid. You can think on some of the things you did back then, and it's like it's some totally different person. Which it is, of course.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top Secret!


What phoney dog poo? Before Val Kilmer was Elvis in True Romance and Jim Morrison in The Doors he played rocker Nick Rivers in the much better film Top Secret! Also starring Lucy Gutteridge and Omar Sharif. Written and directed by Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker.

I saw Airplane! and Naked Gun some time ago, but I felt an emptiness in my life, something was missing, and I finally figured out what it was... Top Secret! I've tried everything: the embassy, the German government, the consulate. I even talked to the U.N. ambassador. It's no use, I just can't bring my wife to orgasm. The film is clearly influenced by the old parodies in Mad Magazine, with some jokes in the foreground, others in the background. Not every gag works, but at least two out of three. Favourites are hard to pick. The Swedish bookstore? The cow? The underwater barfight? It all sounds like some bad movie. It's not. It's one of the funniest films ever. It's got some great songs as well! And not by Mel Tormé. I know a little German. He's sitting over there.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A nice review...


of Low Moon on the Comics Journal site, to be found here: http://www.tcj.com/review/low-moon-2/

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another page...



... from the book I'm currently working one. It's page one from the third story. And yes, it's the return of the two main characters from "&", one of the stories in Low Moon, this time involved in some kidnapping scheme that naturally goes wrong. The book, to be called Athos in America, should be out by the end of next year, both in French and in English.

Married To The Mob


Michelle Pfeiffer is married to gangster Alec Baldwin who is killed by his boss Dean Stockwell. Moving to Manhattan to get away from her old life, she is followed by Stockwell and put under surveillance by FBI agent Matthew Modine. Also starring Chis Isaak in a small part and directed by Jonathan Demme.

This is the kind of small, quirky film that Demme was very good at. Something Wild is another one. Married To The Mob's story isn't that much to brag about - I can only imagine what some hack director would have done with it, but Demme rather goes for the small details, creating something with real charm, and never taking the film too seriously. The shootout at the end is right on the edge of parody. Pfeiffer and Modine are great together and Dean Stockwell, an underestimated actor, has a lot of fun in his part. It's too bad Demme seems to have lost his light touch after he made Silence of the Lambs, doing Important Message Films and when trying to return to his old roots making one of the worst movies ever, The Truth About Charlie, a remake of Charade.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beetlejuice


Boring couple Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis die in an accident. They find themselves back in their old house that is now taken over by yuppiecouple Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O'Hara and their daughter Winona Ryder. Baldwin and Davis hire "bio-exorcist" Betelgeuse, Michael Keaton, to chase them out. Directed by Tim Burton.

This is another case of a film that I used to like, but now discover to be slightly boring to rewatch. Again, I'm not sure if this is because I've seen it too many times or because I'm just getting too old to enjoy it. What really saves the film is Keaton, whose performance is a real tour de force. I wouldn't have minded a sequel to this film just to see more of him.

Burton is a pretty uneven director. I still think Ed Wood is his best film. Which he then followed up with Mars Attacks, probably his worst film. I'm not sure I agree with the opinion that he has sold out. I haven't seen Alice in Wonderland, but I thought Sweeney Todd was pretty good. As a whole, though, his recent films seem to have less heart than the early ones.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The eighties, part 2


Time to look at some more 80s classics, okay? Or "classics", possibly. I suddenly felt a bit nostalgic. Hey, we're all human. Starting with Streets Of Fire. I really enjoyed this film when it came out in 84. Singer Diane Lane is kidnapped by bad guy Willem Dafoe. Her ex Michael Paré comes back to town to kick some ass. Also starring Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan and in a small part, Bill Paxton. Directed by Walter Hill.

The film was called a rock and roll fable and takes place in some alternative 50s universe, but is basically a western. (Westerns in disguise is actually a good theme for some later series of films. I could rewatch Outland, Mad Max 2, Matewan and Assault on Precinct 13. Hmm... okay, making a note of that.) The hero arrives on a subway instead of a horse, there's a bar fight instead of a saloon fight, and the duel at the end is with sledgehammers instead of guns. The dialogues are just a collection of clichés. Paré has the right look for the hero, but turns out to be nothing more than a second rate Stallone. Moranis and Dafoe are fun in their parts. Diane Lane is cute, but doesn't get to do much. The music is a mix of Meatloafish rockopera and rockabilly. Basically, it's a stylish but pretty empty film. I maybe wish they had played it more straight and dialled down the clichés a bit. Still fun to watch, though.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Lost Weekend


Ray Milland is a selfdestructive alcoholic. Also starring Jane Wyman, directed by Billy Wilder.

The first Hollywood film about alcoholism, it must have been a shock to the audience in 1945. It's still a powerful film and less dated than I had feared. Only towards the end does it get a bit melodramatic. And the ending is maybe a bit too simple, where he just decides to stop drinking. But a less happy ending would probably have been impossible at the time it was made. I've always considered Ray Milland to be a bland actor, but he's pretty good here, showing how charming an alcoholic can be, lying to everybody and hiding bottles everywhere. Milland got an Oscar for his performance, but still ended up doing b-movies like The Thing With Two Heads in the seventies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird


Gregory Peck is a Southern lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. Based on the novel by Harper Lee, also starring Robert Duvall, directed by Robert Mulligan.

I've never read the novel, so my opinion is only based on the film. The story is told through the eyes of the lawyer's two kids. A lot depends on the kid actors. If they screw up, the whole film will fall apart. But they are wonderful, both of them giving very natural performances. Peck is also good, playing a sort of perfect dad. However, seen today you can't help but notice how very black and white the film is, not allowing any shades of gray. The man accusing the black man of raping his daughter is almost a caricature of an ignorant, racist hillbilly. Even his name, Ewell, is a bit too obvious. Is it really that easy to spot the face of evil?

New album

The first ten pages from my new album, written by Fabien Vehlmann and published by Glenat, can be found here: http://www.glenatbd.com/bd/l-ile-aux-100000-morts-9782723476799.htm

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ball of Fire

Gary Cooper is a professor working on an encyclopedia. He runs into nightclub singer Barbara Stanwyck while doing research on slang. There's also some gangsters involved, including Dana Andrews and Dan Duryea. There's also that guy from Casablanca and that guy from It's A Wonderful Life. Directed by Howard Hawks.

It's a funny film despite the silliness of the story, a sort of update of Snow White and the seven dwarves. Cooper is very good as a shy and stuffy professor and Stanwyck is, of course, perfect in her role. At almost two hours it's maybe a bit too long. The script is co-written by Billy Wilder, and it's interesting that it's a European, who hardly spoke any English when he arrived in the US, that is the one using American vernacular as basis for a comedy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nice Beaver


I have caught a cold, so instead of getting snot all over my artwork I'm drinking hot chocolate and watching a Leslie Nielsen double feature. Naked Gun also stars George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and in smaller roles Tony Soprano's mom and Elaine Benes' dad. It's hard to choose favourite scenes. Maybe the one with the pen and the fish.... Or the one with Queen Elisabeth... For a European viewer the energy drops maybe a bit during the baseball game. It's difficult to get all the references. Airplane! also stars Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays and Lloyd Bridges. It's still funny. Maybe the scenes with Johnny a bit less.

Top Secret is probably my favourite, though. Maybe because it is the less known one. Kentucky Fried Movie is uneven, but the Martial Arts sequence is very good. The Zucker Abrahams Zucker films peaked at Naked Gun, I think. They were now established and less hungry. The ones they made after that it became just another film. For Nielsen also it only went downhill from there. In the parody films he made later the comedy was too broad and it was often just a collection of gags and no story.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blood and Black Lace


A beautiful model is killed. The killer will strike again. And again... Directed by Mario Bava.

This is the film that started the whole giallo genre. It had deserved a better print than this. The colours are not as rich as they should have been and the light is flickering when the camera moves. The plots in giallo films can often be very mechanical. The characters are seldom very credible or have much personality. I saw the first half of the film one day and the second half the next, something that made me a bit confused about what was going on. It was a bit difficult to remember who the characters were and what they were talking about. I actually got a bit bored between the murder scenes. And why weren't the models taking showers? Very disappointing, I must say.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Born Yesterday


Got some dvds that don't really have that much in common except that I haven't watched them yet. First up is Born Yesterday. William Holden is a journalist hired by loud and vulgar tycoon Broderick Crawford to tutor his dumb girlfriend Judy Holliday so she can be presentable in Washington DC society. Directed by George Cukor.

I don't really understand why this film is considered a classic. It's not funny. Holden is looking a bit Rip Kirbyish here with glasses. Holliday does the squeaky voice that seemed to be expected at the time to portray dumb. It gets annoying pretty soon. Maybe it worked on stage where Holliday also played the part, but less so in a film if the goal is to create something more than a cliché. Of course it turns out that she is not that dumb, but it's still a mystery why Holden would fall for her.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trolls and dragons

This is from a story done for a Norwegian newspaper sometime in the mid nineties. I did the drawings, script by Kaj Clausen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life

James Stewart wonders if he has wasted his life. An angel shows him otherwise. Also starring Donna Reed and Thomas Mitchell, directed by Frank Capra.

A lot of the Capra films have dated. This film also, but at the same time it has a timeless quality. It's like a fairytale or a fable. The bad guy, Potter, is taken right out of Dickens. The film famously flopped when it came out, only later to be rediscovered on tv. What can I say about it? It's an incredibly emotional experience. For some films it must be allowed for even a grown man to cry. This film tops that list. Other films on that list in my case is ET and The Searchers (the moment when John Wayne picks up Natalie Wood in his arms and says, Let's go home Debbie.) Hell, I've even cried during episodes of The Simpsons (the one where Bart is caught shoplifting and the one where he sells his soul.) It must be part of growing older, I guess. The twelve year old me would be so disgusted.

Anyway, even if there is a cynical part of you that says it's not that simple, there are no angels, and life in a small town can't possibly be that idyllic (just watch Twin Peaks for chrissake!), it's difficult not to be affected by the film. Try.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Philadelphia Story

Katharine Hepburn is about to be remarried. Her first husband, Cary Grant, turns up the day before the wedding, bringing along reporters James Stewart and Ruth Hussey. Directed by George Cukor.

Can there be a more perfect film? Let's see - Casablanca, The Godfather, Days of Heaven, Paris Texas... well, I guess there can! But still... It's a pretty much flawless film. There was a moment in time when these people got in front of the camera, 70 years ago actually, it's on film, and we get to watch it in our livingrooms, today or five years from now. The actors, the script and the direction, everything came together for this little masterpiece. Even the girl playing the little sister is good, she's not as annoying as kid actors often can be. Stewart is especially funny in the scenes where he's drunk. It's he who has the most showy part of the male actors; Grant, bless him, doesn't try to steal the spot light, but rather delivers a low key but very appealing performance.

In the beginning of the film Hepburn has no tolerance for human weakness; she is referred to as a goddess to be admired, not a real human being. During the film she learns a lesson, not to put herself or others on a pedestal. It's a bit ironic that that's exactly what has happened with these actors - they have become immortal gods and goddesses. I think it's a bit too easy to have this nostalgic awe for the past and say, Ah, they don't make movies like this anymore. Well, mostly they don't, but I think, say, Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and George Clooney could have done the job just as well. I'm not talking about a remake, but if it had been an original film made today. And I don't really see any reason why the script couldn't have been written now. Teenagers would be bored out of their skulls watching this film, of course, sending text messages during most of it, but fuck them anyway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harvey

James Stewart has an invisible friend, a two meter long rabbit called Harvey. Directed by Henry Koster.

This must surely be one of the best performances by James Stewart. I can't really think of an other actor from that period that could have done the job as well. As with a lot of old comedies I find this film to be more appealing than actually funny. The times it IS funny it's always character based. You don't get the feeling the film makers tried to cram in as many jokes as possible, just to get the laughs. If there is something that separates this film from modern comedies I can't really think of an other word than CLASS. That works both ways, of course, since the opposite of class, rudeness and tastelessness, often is very funny.

It's made me think of what recent comedies I've liked, and I can only think of Liar Liar and Knocked Up. They're both sort of exceptions. I don't like most of the films of Jim Carrey or Judd Apatow. Two of their films, Fun With Dick And Jane and Funny People actually made me angry of having wasted my time after having watched them. That can't really be a good thing for comedies, I would think. A lot of these films seem to be based on improvisation. You take actors that are known to be funny, put them together and hope that at least one of them will say or do something funny. Sometimes it works. Most of the times you get unfunny drek like The Wedding Crashers or The Hangover. But to be fair, it might be a generation thing. Animal House and Stripes I still find funny and can watch over and over.

Oh, another thing, while I'm up on my soapbox - why are trailers for comedies so awful? It might be a good film, but based on the trailer, the last thing you want to do is go see it. Oh, well... Next up: Philadelphia Story!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Man From Laramie

James Stewart is looking for the man who killed his brother. Also starring Arthur Kennedy.

It's maybe the best of the Mann / Stewart films I've seen so far. I'm not sure if it deserves to be called a true classic. I think I still prefer Mann's film noirs (like Raw Deal and Desperate) to his westerns. They're fine, but he doesn't seem to have it in his blood the same way John Ford did. However, crime films fell out of flavour in the 50s, and westerns was the big thing. Directors who wanted to work didn't have that much of a choice. This film was apparently one of the first westerns to be shot in cinemascope, a choice that makes sense for a genre where the landscape is such a big part of the story.

Bend of The River

James Stewart is a man with a past, guiding a band of settlers to a new life in the west. Also starring Arthur Kennedy, Rock Hudson and Julia "Creature of the Black Lagoon" Adams.

It's a pretty traditional western, not one of the best, but not bad either. The film asks the question, can a man change? And the answer is yes. And no.

Monday, November 22, 2010

James Stewart


I've been watching season 8 of 24 on dvd lately, so there has been less time for movies. It was another disappointing season after the equally disappointing seasons 6 and 7. And it seriously started to repeat itself. A mole at CTU, really?! The show has always been a mix of the exciting and the silly, there's been both the death of Chappelle and Bauer's wife getting amnesia, but at it's best you were up at three in the morning, watching just one more episode.

Writing about the Cary Grant films made me want to rewatch Philadelphia Story and also some other James Stewart films like Harvey. But first some westerns he made with Anthony Mann. It's still a bit difficult for me to believe in Stewart as a cowboy. The skinny guy from the Capra films in a cowboy hat?! But I guess he came back from being in World War 2 a changed man. First up is The Far Country, where Stewart and Walter Brennan go mining for gold in Klondike. Jack Elam is third bad guy to the left. Where's Lee Van Cleef? I guess he was busy shooting another western that week.

It's not a bad film. I could write a paragraph about it's theme of the individual versus the community, but I mostly watch these films to see cowboys fighting indians or cowboys strumming a guitar and serenading their horse.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An old cartoon

-Isn't it difficult to play by notes when you're blind?
-Yes, I can't C.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Only Angels Have Wings

Cary Grant runs an airfield in South America. Fresh off the bananaboat comes dancer Jean Arthur. Also starring Rita Hayworth and Thomas Mitchell, directed by Howard Hawks.

I get a feeling of Milton Caniff from this film. Okay, there is no Terry or any pirates, but Grant plays a Pat Ryan or Steve Canyon kind of guy. It has some of the same spirit. All that is missing is a villain who talks of himself in the third person. It's a story about bravery and sacrifice, I guess. Jean Arthur is the Hawksian woman that prefers to hang out with the guys, and Grant gets to show that he can also look good in a leather jacket. It's old Hollywood at it's best.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indiscreet

Theater actress Ingrid Bergman falls for diplomat Cary Grant, who claims he's separated from his wife who won't give him a divorce. Directed by Stanley Donen.

Grant and Bergman are being very sophisticated, going to the opera, having an affair and living in big, luxurious apartments. It's all very grown up. But it's a bit hard to care about their characters. Their lives are just a bit too idyllic. You almost feel you should wear a tuxedo and drink dry martinis while watching.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My favorite Wife

Cary Grant has his wife Irene Dunne declared dead so he can marry another woman. Then Dunne turns up alive, having been shipwrecked with Randolph Scott for seven years. Produced by Leo McCarey.

It's a RKO film; I've always liked the logo with the tower in the opening. Anyway, it's not a bad idea for a film, but it doesn't really have that perfect structure the best screwball comedies have, where all the pieces fit in the end. Scott has more of a guest appearance than a real role. Too bad, since he could have been a real competition for Grant - the opposite of Ralph Bellamy in The Awful Truth. It's also the funniest part of the film, Dunne showing Grant a short, bald guy as the man she was shipwrecked with, and Grant already having found out the truth . As is often the case in these films, the plot is based upon people behaving irrationally. Why couldn't Grant just tell his new bride that his wife had reappeared, in the beginning? But then, of course, the film would only be ten minutes long.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Awful Truth

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is a couple facing divorce. They have regrets and try to make the other person jealous. Also starring Ralph Bellamy, directed by Leo McCarey.

It's a sophisticated screwball comedy. Dunne isn't quite Katharine Hepburn, but still does okay as a partner for Grant. It's Bellamy, though, that almost steals the film. The energy drops after he exits two thirds into the film and the last half hour isn't quite that funny. Grant again gets to show how well he does physical comedy. The bit with the hat is probably the funniest part in the film.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cary Grant


Three reasons why it's difficult to take the Oscars seriously:

1. Cary Grant never won for best actor.
2. Hitchcock never won for best director.
3. Crash won for best film. One of the worst films ever made; it's more of a lecture, actually, than a film, without a single credible character or line of dialogue. It's like a guy yelling "Racism is bad!" in your face for two hours. Or one hour in my case since I left the cinema - the only time I've walked out on a film before it was finished.

Anyway, back to Grant. It's difficult to choose, but I'd say His Girl Friday might be his best performance. I haven't seen all his films, though. I've been buying some more of them lately. I had planned on watching Operation Petticoat first, but gave up after half an hour. Apparently not all his films are masterpieces, especially from his later period. So I rather popped in Holiday, his second film with Katharine Hepburn, directed by George Cukor. If you base a comedy on how many times you laugh, this is a poor film. It's more appealing than actually funny. Grant gets to show off some of his acrobatic skills, and of course he's got great chemistry with Hepburn. The film's got class, okay?

Oh, and reason number four: Al Pacino won for best actor - not for The Godfather or Scarface or Dog Day Afternoon, but for Scent of a Woman.

Monday, November 8, 2010

15 favourite cartoonists

Hergé
Charles Schulz
Hugo Pratt
Dan Clowes
Jaime Hernandez
Chester Brown
Lewis Trondheim
Jim Woodring
Julie Doucet
Christopher Nielsen
Joe Matt
Fabio
Serge Clerc
Christophe Blain
Moebius

This list is from a facebook challenge of naming 15 favourite cartoonists that have been an influence, in less than 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Return of The Fly

The son of the original scientist apparently didn't learn anything from that film and keeps messing with nature. Starring Vincent Price.

The original The Fly has it's moments. The sequel is a lot sillier. You can imagine the scriptwriter having sleepless nights trying to come up with a reason for the son of the scientist also turning into a manfly. And producers breathing down his neck: "We not only want a manfly, we also want a manrat. Have the script finished on Friday." The sollution doesn't make much sense. On the other side - we learn that the story takes place in Montreal, so that explains the French accent in the original film. And it's only 75 minutes.

It makes you wonder, though, were people actually frightened by these films? Or were they giggling in the aisles back in 59? It's sort of a horror movie for kids. I would have liked to see this film when I was nine or ten.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another page...

... from L'Île aux 100 000 Morts. Script by Fabien Vehlmann, colours by Hubert. To be published by Glenat in January.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Trying out a pen nib


From 1980, I'd guess.

Easter Parade

Fred Astaire's dancing partner, Ann Miller, goes solo. Astaire chooses chorus girl Judy Garland as his new partner. Also starring Peter Lawford.

This is a perfectly fine musical, with big numbers and bright colours, but I grew a bit bored during the film. It doesn't really have the charm that the best of the Astaire / Rogers films had. Those films seemed smaller, more intimate, and were funnier. It wasn't all about the razzle dazzle. There are two numbers that stand out, though. One is a trick sequence where the background dancers move at regular speed, while Astaire, in the foreground, dances in slow motion, the other is A couple of swells, where Astaire and Garland are dressed as hobos.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Broadway Melody of 1940

Small time dancer Fred Astaire has the opportunity to work with Broadway star Eleanor Powell, but through a misunderstanding the job goes to his partner, George Murphy. Astaire has to choose between career and friendship.

Powell is a good dancer, but there is not much chemistry between her and Astaire. She's no Ginger Rogers. Or Hayworth for that matter. Maybe the problem is there are no scenes to establish why Astaire has fallen for her. Time is wasted on some vaudeville acts that don't really have anything to do with the story. And to be fair, there are only so many variations you can do on this kind of stories, and the best ones were maybe done in the Astaire / Rogers films. All that is left is the tapdancing numbers that are fun to watch, and shown in long takes with minimal cutting - about as far away from MTV as you can get.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some books I've read

Barney Google, by Billy DeBeck, from IDW.

I question the choice of only putting one strip per page. Four strips would have been perfectly readable, and you would have gotten four times as much story. Anyway, this is a hilarious book. Some old comics you read almost out of obligation, just to get to know the history of the medium, but these strips are genuinly funny. They feel very fresh - I laughed out loud several times. And you can see where Crumb got some of his style from. Forget Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Barney and Sparkplug is the love story of the previous century.

Hallowilloween, by Calef Brown, from Houghton Mifflin.

This is the sixth book I own by Calef Brown, they're all great. Mostly I buy them for the illustrations, just to have to look at, but the rhymes are also funny. You don't need to be a kid to enjoy them.

Love and Rockets, new stories no. 3, from Fantagraphics

There's already a lot of reviews out about how amazing Jaime's stories are in this issue. I don't really have anything to add. It's all true. It's very touching, truly a masterpiece. But let me also say how much I love the cover illustration. I keep looking at it - the perfect composition, the colours, the weird, blue sun, the small details (like the baby held by the woman in the background), the boy being separated from the others, not looking at the viewer the way the girls do, the adults looking another way. It means even more when you've read the story. Jaime has already created a lot of iconic covers, but this might be the best one.

The Sky's The Limit

Fred Astaire is an Air Force pilot on leave who meets photographer Joan Leslie. He won't tell her he's a war hero, so she believes he's a layabout. Also starring Robert Ryan and Robert Benchley.

This is an unusual Astaire film. For one thing, it is less brightly lit. Some scenes have almost a film noirish look. Astaire, though, is very funny and appealing here. He's got more of a wisecracking personality; he even wears a cowboy hat! There's also the return of Eric Blore as an English butler, but unfortunately he exits after one short scene. Why on Earth include Blore and not give him anything funny to say or something for him to raise an eyebrow over? The comic relief is rather given to Robert Benchley, who in one scene does a confused presentation of aircraft production that I suppose is meant to be funny, and lasts forever, but that completely sinks like a stone. There's also some problems with the story. Why exactly can't Astaire tell Leslie he's a pilot? And why does he fall for her but then try to set her up with Benchley? An extra polish of the script would have helped. However, there is a fantastic scene of Astaire in a hotel bar, drunk as a skunk, singing One For My Baby, written for this film, and then doing a dance and trashing the whole place. It's as if it was Fred Astaire's evil twin brother! The film is worth watching for this scene alone. The ending, at an airport, where Leslie finally finds out the truth, would not look out of place in a Milton Caniff strip.

The film was a flop when it was first released, thought to be too dark; it's one of Astaire's least known films. Which is a shame. It's not perfect, but is definitely worth a rediscovery, and has become my favourite next to Top Hat.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You Were Never Lovelier

Fred Astaire's second film with Rita Hayworth. Taking place in Buenos Aires, Astaire has to choose between Hayworth and his career as a singer. Also starring Adolphe Menjou.

It's a better film than You'll Never Get Rich, with a better constructed script, but the story is still Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl in the end (Not that there is anything wrong with that!). It has several good musical numbers, including I'm Old Fashioned and Shorty George. The ending was later ripped off in Pretty Woman.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Fly

This is not a Fred Astaire film! That would have been great, though - Astaire tapdancing with six feet... I took a break in the Fredfest to watch The Fly, the original from 58. Scientist messes with nature and pays the price. Starring Vincent Price.

It's interesting when you watch a remake before the original film. Often you will prefer the remake, since you saw that first. The original The Thing seems weak when you've already seen the remake by John Carpenter. And the remake of The Fly, by Cronenberg, is such a strong film that the original seen today is slightly silly. It still has it's qualities. For one thing, it's not a cheap B-movie. It has an expensive look. One thing that is lost, though, is the mystery. You know what has happened, you know why the woman in the opening of the film has killed her husband and why she is obsessed with flies. Something I wondered about is, why is the film set in France? Is it based on a French book? It creates the strange situation where the supporting characters speak with a heavy French accent, but the main characters don't.

A central line in the film is "It's like playing God." As usual in these films, there is a warning against experimenting with nature, creating the iconic ending - the fly with a human head, about to be eaten by a spider. Heelp Meeee!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Unused page...

... from Hey, Wait...

You'll Never Get Rich

Basically, it's Fred Astaire joins the army. Co-starring Rita Hayworth.

The story in this type of film is never the most important thing, but here it's even flimsier than usual. Some silliness about Astaire's married boss having an eye on Hayworth, and to avoid suspicions from his wife he brings Astaire into the picture, who to get away from it all enlists in the army. Or something. Most of the humour in the film doesn't work. The film has two characters that are supposed to bring comic relief, but they don't. The flashlight scene is supposed to be funny, but it isn't. The musical numbers aren't too bad, though. Rita Hayworth is a good dancer, but she doesn't really achieve the sort of alchemy with Astaire that he and Rogers did. I'm not sure why. She might be too goodlooking and unreachable next to Fred. Ginger Rogers seemed more real, somehow.

Some of the magic of those films is that the goofylooking Astaire gets the girl in the end. If he looked like Clark Gable it would be pointless, of course. He gets the girl because he can dance! And Hayworth seems more like the equivalent of that Italian guy in Top Hat, Astaire's competition for Rogers in that film, an obstacle to overwin.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fred Astaire

Got a bunch of Fred Astaire dvds. I've seen most of the films he did with Ginger Rogers, so I've been buying some of the other ones. First: Royal Wedding, from 1951, directed by Stanley Donen. Astaire and Jane Powell are brother and sister dance partners on tour in London. Also starring Peter Lawford.

The most famous sequence in this film is the one where Astaire dances on the ceiling and that was recently ripped off in Inception (always thought that film needed a song and dance act). There's also the scene of him dancing with a hatstand. Both of those are on youtube. If you've seen them there is really no need to see the film, which is not that good, really. Astaire is getting a bit too old here to have a romantic lead, and the scenes of Powell and Lawford are boring. A lot of the musical numbers, like the Haïti one, are for the show within the film and doesn't really have anything to do with the story. And I miss the comic relief of the early Astaire and Rogers films. Having seen those films in black and white, the use of colour in this film seems almost distracting. And also, the quality of the transfer is not good, it's like watching a videotape. The film is no masterpiece, but still, it's a shame.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kill, Baby... Kill!

The fourth film in the Bava box, Knives of the Avenger, is a viking film. I'm skipping that one for the moment and rather watched Kill, Baby... Kill! A remote village is cursed by the ghost of a dead girl. The people who see her will then die. A doctor who has been called to the village tries to find out what is behind the curse.

Nice title! It's not quite fitting, but who cares. It's a return to the gothic world of castles, fog and spiderwebs. The film looks great, as usual, with a very good transfer. The colours really pop. It's maybe a bit slow, but has some remarkable, haunting single images or scenes, that in the end maybe work better than the film as a whole. But Mario Bava shows that demonic children can be a lot scarier than werewolves or vampires. Werewolves don't exist, after all, whereas children do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Leticia Roman is an American tourist in Rome who witnesses a murder. The dead body disappears so nobody believes her. She meets an Italian doctor, John Saxon, and together they try to find the killer.

This film is a mix of Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, but has also a touch of Roman Holiday. Leticia Roman is the first in a long line of stupid and hysterical girls in Italian giallo films, screaming their head off at the drop of a hat (She doesn't take her clothes off and take a shower, though). It reminds me of Gaslight, 1944, where Ingrid Bergman is so helpless, you can't help but end up rooting for Charles Boyer to drive her crazy. In the tradition of giallo it is the least likely person who is the killer, and in the same tradition the motive for the killing makes no sense at all. But the film looks great - it was Bava's last film to be shot in black and white.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Black Sabbath

This is an anthology film, hosted by Boris Karloff, who also acts in an episode called The Wurdulak. The other episodes are The Telephone and The Drop of Water.

The Wurdulak episode re-uses some of the sets from Black Sunday - the crypt and the church ruins. It's a similar type of story, but with vampires instead of witches. The horror part is mild by today's standards, but it also manages to be genuinly creepy. The film looks gorgeous, with rich colours, and is not overlit the way old films often are. It is a lot moodier than what I remember from the Hammer films. There's a scene you can't help giggle at - closeups of two persons riding what is obviously a fake horse, but then Bava himself mocks it in the final image of the film, showing how the effect is achieved.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mario Bava


Got the first box of Mario Bava films and will be watching those, starting with The Mask of Satan or Black Sunday. Barbara Steele is sentenced to death for being a witch. 200 years later she comes back from the grave to seek revenge.

The only Bava film I had seen before this was Bay of Blood, that I didn't care for too much. This film however, his debut as a director, is something completely different. Shot in stunning black and white, it's a more classic horror film, closer to Poe or Stoker, and simply dripping of atmosphere, with deep shadows, naked trees, fog and spiderwebs as far as the eye can see. A masterpiece, that you can find the influence of in Tim Burton, Sam Raimi or Mike Mignola. As for Steele, a Gothic dream goddess, I prefer to believe she is a witch for real, and that acting is just something she did to pay rent.

In Italian films the sound is always put in later, and the dubbing is something one just has to get past. It's not too bad in this film and actually helps in giving it more of a dreamlike quality.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Fabulous Baker Boys

Business is slow for nightclub pianists Jeff and Beau Bridges, so they hire a girl singer, Michelle Pfeiffer. Written and directed by Steve Kloves.

This is like a romantic comedy for people who don't like romantic comedies. Or a feel good film that doesn't make you want to puke. It's Kloves' debut as a director, but it's very assured, as if he has done it all his life. Why is he now only working as a writer on the Harry Potter films? He managed to recreate some of the mood from the classic comedies of the forties. I think Cary Grant and Jean Arthur could have done a film like this.

Damn, I miss Michelle Pfeiffer! I don't think I've seen too many of her films after Batman Returns. She used to be so good in films like this one, Married To The Mob and Frankie and Johnny. And she can sing, too! Bridges has a difficult job here. He's playing a guy who is pretty much dead inside, and how do you do that without it getting monotonous? But no one can do understated like Jeff Bridges. There's one scene in the film where he becomes alive, playing the piano in a jazz bar. And of course, Pfeiffer is witness to that moment, instigating the fallout between the two brothers. I like that they avoid the obvious happy ending and go for something more bittersweet. A perfect film.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rancho Deluxe

Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston are a couple of modern-day cattle thieves. Written by Tom McGuane, directed by Frank Perry and also starring Harry Dean Stanton and Slim Pickens.

Quirky, I guess, is the best word to describe this film, which really belongs to McGuane. It's not often a writer gets to transfer his personal vision onto film as completely as this. It could probably only have been made in the 70s, before the filmmaking by committee era we now live in. Also: where's the Slim Pickens of our generation?!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stay Hungry

Jeff Bridges wants to buy an old gym as part of a real estate deal to tear down a city block and rebuild it. Checking the place out he gets to know the people who work there. Directed by Bob Rafaelson and also starring Sally Fields and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This film has some similarities to Five Easy Pieces, Rafaelson's earlier film with Jack Nicholson. They are both about a rich guy slumming, trying to find himself. Which is sort of a 70s theme, I guess. Comparing the two films, Stay Hungry comes up a bit short. Rafaelson seems to lose interest in the story, and Sally Field is bland next to Karen Black. Bridges does a solid job, as natural and understated as always. One of the best scenes in the film is one where he does a folk dance with a big, goofy grin on his face. Another good, almost surreal scene is one of Mr Universe contestansts running in the streets. Schwarzenegger is pretty good, actually, in his role, giving a relaxed, charismatic performance. There's also lots of ugly 70s clothes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Winter Kills

19 years after the assassination of the president of the USA, his brother, Jeff Bridges, hears the confession of a man who claims he was the killer. Now Bridges has the rifle with fingerprints as proof, but the rifle disappears and soon everybody involved in the confession starts to die. The film is based on a book by Richard Condon, who also wrote The Manchurian Candidate. It is directed by William Richert and is also starring John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach and Sterling Hayden. And Toshiro Mifune! And Elisabeth Taylor?!

This is a STRANGE film, but it is beautifully shot. Cinematography is by Vilmos Zsigmond. I would love to see this film in a cinema. I hadn't even heard about this film until quite recently. Apparently it was finished in 75, but not released until 79. Basically it's a filmversion of all the JFK conspiracies. The president's name in the film is Keegan, though, not Kennedy, and thank god they don't try to do the accent. But it's an amazing film. Sometimes the editing is a bit jerky as if there are scenes that were never shot. John Huston is having a lot of fun in the Joe Kennedy role.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jagged Edge

Glenn Close is the attorney for Jeff Bridges who is accused of murdering his wife. Also starring Peter Coyote as a prosecutor and Lance Henriksen in a small role, directed by Richard Marquand.

This is one of the "sexy thrillers" that was popular for a while in the eighties. It's the sort of empty, stylish films they made a lot of. Actually, it's not that stylish, it has a pretty much flat tv direction by Marquand. De Palma he ain't. The script is by Joe Eszterhas, who also wrote Basic Instinct, to which this film has some similarities. Don't be surprised if there should be a twist ending. Close and Bridges are good, but they are both slumming here. Also: Shitty synth score alert!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jeff Bridges, part 2

Jeff Bridges has been in some classic films, but he also has his list of turkeys. Heaven's Gate is the most famous one, I suppose, but I'd say that film is Citizen Kane compared to Against All Odds, from 84 , directed by Taylor Hackford . Watching the film you can't help but constantly wonder, they took one of the best film noirs ever, Out Of The Past, and remade it into this?!

Bridges plays the Robert Mitchum part, James Woods the Kirk Douglas part and Rachel Ward the Jane Greer part. Jane Greer herself, poor woman, plays Ward's mother. The film also stars another film noir icon, Richard Widmark, in a supporting role. I wonder if they asked Mitchum and he turned them down. If so, good for you, Bob! The story is Woods asks his friend Bridges to go find Ward who is hiding somewhere in Mexico.

God, is this a boring film. Even the final showdown where everybody is pointing guns at each other manages to be boring. The film has some of the most insanely stupid dialog this side of Plan 9 From Outer Space. It has two of the least convincing fightscenes ever. One thing it does have is a musical number with Kid Creole and The Coconuts, okay, I'll grant it that. It also has one thing the original didn't have, a sex scene. I always thought the one thing missing in Out Of The Past, the one thing that really held it back from achieving greatness, was a scene of Mitchum shtupping Greer. You call Casablanca a masterpiece? Where's the scene of Humphrey Bogart going through the Kama Sutra on Ingrid Bergman, that's what I'd like to know.

But I guess the joke is on me since I actually sat through the whole of this film.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

12 Angry Men

A boy is accused of killing his father. If he is found guilty he will get the death sentence. 11 jurors believe he did it. The twelvth, Henry Fond, is not so sure. Directed by Sidney Lumet.

This is a film that made a big impression on me when I saw it on tv as a kid. It's a very clausdrophobic film, mostly taking place in a single room. I still remember the very powerful moment of Fonda walking out of the court building at the end. That one man can make a difference like that was a very strong idea for the young Jason. It's still a very good film, with solid acting by all the jurors, including Lee J. Cobb. Henry Fonda, of course, was born to play this part. I can't really think of any American actors today having the same qualities of decency and honesty. Morgan Freeman would be the closest, I suppose. If I was ever found with a dead prostitute in my bed I wouldn't mind having him in the jury. And, by the way, I'd use this film as exhibit A in the case against colourfilm, 3D and all that silliness. Black and white images pull you into to the story somehow, it makes you see things clearer, and isn't that what it's all about?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Lady Eve

Henry Fonda, naive and clumsy millionaire, meets Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck, father and daughter con artists, on a cruise ship. They decide to rob him of his money, but then, whaddayaknow, she falls for the big lug. Written and directed by Preston Sturges.

A screwball comedy classic, the film still holds up well. Henry Fonda was never a comedian, but is well cast for the role. His inherent decency is just moved a couple of notches to the left, into gullibility. Barbara Stanwyck is also perfect in her part, and both are surrounded by the top notch character actors that the studio system could bring. Maybe it's just fluff, but it's wellmade fluff, which is a big difference.

An early strip

I had done some single image cartoons before, but I think this was the first strip I ever did.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Darling Clementine

The gunfight at O.K. Corral is one of the western myths that keeps being retold. It seems every generation gets its version. Unfortunately, I belong to the generation that gets Tombstone, from 93, one of the silliest and least convincing westerns ever (even though Val Kilmer was good as Doc Holliday). I haven't seen Doc yet, from 71, a revisionist version with Stacy Keach in the titlerole. Gunfight At O.K. Corral, from 57, with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, is pretty good, and then there is My Darling Clementine, by John Ford, from 1946.

If I were asked to name my three favourite westerns, I'm not sure which would be nr. 1, Rio Bravo or The Searchers. I like both equally. But nr. 3 would be My Darling Clementine. Henry Fonda stars as Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature as Doc Holliday and Linda Darnell as Chihuahua, a saloon singer in love with Doc. Ah, Linda Darnell... The story takes place in Ford's beloved Monument Valley, the mountain formations often visible in the backgrounds. There's a lyricality in the best of John Ford's westerns that is often missing in other films from that period. He sure knew where to put the camera. In this film he's also got a great story, told in marvelous black and white, and is avoiding the broad humour that marred some of his later films. A masterpiece.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Ox-Bow Incident

A rancher has been killed and his cattle stolen. A posse turns into a lynchmob. Directed by William A. Wellman and also starring Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn.

This is an interesting film. Most of the outdoor scenes are obviously filmed in a studio. It gives the film a theatrical quality. Actually, the film is more like some leftwing drama, with speeches and everything, the cowboys suddenly a lot more eloquent than they should have been. Henry Fonda plays a voice of reason, a part close to the one he later played in 12 Angry Men, but this film is bleaker, and must have been very unusual in 1942, right in the middle of WW 2. It could be seen as an attack on what happened in America at the time, like the internment of the Japanese Americans, and the film certainly hasn't lost any actuality after 9/11.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Tin Star

Lone bountyhunter and ex-sheriff Henry Fonda rides into a small town. He gives lessons to new sheriff Anthony Perkins. As is often the case in these movies, there's also a widow and her son around. Hmm... I wonder how that will turn out. Lee Van Cleef has the role of a killer. The director is Anthony Mann.

It's a decent western, nothing revolutionary. Very nice black and white photography, though.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Henry Fonda


Moving along - got some Henry Fonda films, mostly westerns, but will also rewatch 12 Angry Men and The Lady Eve, but first: Jesse James. This is a technicolour film from 1939, starring Tyrone Power as Jesse, Henry Fonda as his brother Frank and also Randolph Scott as a sheriff. It's directed by Henry King but has several John Ford actors.

The James brothers are seen as the heros in this film, the railroad agents are the bad guys. It's a bit too simplified and black and white, the filmmakers skipping on some of the facts. The Youngers, part of the James band, are completely ignored, and we don't learn much about Robert Ford either.

It's a famous story and like the shoot-out at OK Corral retold several times. I liked the recent Brad Pitt version even though it was ssllloooowww and almost more artfilm than western. My favourite is still The Long Riders, though, by Walter Hill, from 1980. The trouble when you've seen a couple of these films is that you know what is coming. The failed bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota - the sequence where the horses crash through the windows is always impressive, and at some point Robert Ford will be twitching and sweating and Jesse James will step up on a chair and grab the picture on the wall. The good thing about the Pitt version was that the story didn't end there. We found out what happened to Ford later. This version of the story however, doesn't really tell anything new.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A page from new book

This is the first page from another story in the new book. I got a bit tired of drawing with a pen, so I'm trying out some other techniques, including brush, as you can see here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Like It Hot

Witnesses to a mob killing musicians Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis join a girls' band whose lead singer is Marilyn Monroe.

It's a bit funny that the famous last line in this film is "Nobody's perfect." since it's a pretty much perfect film: the script, the actors, the direction, all in timeless black and white. Just one element wrong - an other director or a wrong actor and it might have fallen apart. The studio apparently wanted Bob Hope and Danny Kaye. Billy Wilder originally thought of Frank Sinatra in the Lemmon part. One can only wonder how that would have worked out. Marilyn Monroe was at her cutest and funniest, and Tony Curtis scores comedy gold pulling a Cary Grant as the millionaire. I just realised this is the only Curtis film I have. He must have done some other good films as well?

Watched with modern eyes, one can maybe ask why Monroe isn't mad at Curtis for lying to her. If the film had been made today, I'm sure there would have been an extra 15 minutes of them quarreling before she, of course, would forgive him. But it's not really necessary, the film never taking place in a realistic universe to begin with.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Notorious Landlady

Diplomat Jack Lemmon rents an apartment from landlady Kim Novak who is suspected of having killed her husband. Directed by Richard Quine, screenplay co-written by Blake Edwards and also starring Fred Astaire as Lemmon's employer.

It's a bland title for a bland film, but not all old black and white films can be classics, I suppose. At more than two hours it's far too long, and there's not much chemistry going on between Lemmon and Novak. It's fun to see old Astaire in a non dancing part, he's still got class, but he doesn't get a lot to do. The ending is sort of Hitchcockian, or could have been with a better director. Well, at least I managed to sit through it unlike Quine's How To Murder Your Wife. Next, to end this, a real classic: Some Like It Hot.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An old cartoon

Text: Open wide.

An early attempt with animal characters, from 85, inspired by Tex Avery. Also playing with my pseudonym, I see. "Jason" might not be perfect, but it's probably better than "J'azz".

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Days Of Wine And Roses

PR agent and social drinker Jack Lemmon meets secretary and teetotaler Lee Remick. They marry and soon she's a drinker too, their alcoholism eventually spinning out of control. The film is, again, in gorgeous black and white, directed by Blake Edwards and also starring Jack Klugman as an AA councelor.

It's a very good film. Not every scene rings completely true, it's a bit too Hollywood at times, but far less moralizing than what I had expected. Lee Remick is of course cute as a button, so to see her in her alcoholic state, clutching a bottle, is even more tragic. It seems quite realistic in the way Lemmon gets sober and joins the AA, but is dragged down again by Remick's dependency, and finally has to leave her to save himself and their daughter. When it becomes clear that there will be no happy ending it's very moving, even more so since it's an old Hollywood film and happy endings pretty much are the rule. The final image sums up the film by being both slightly corny and heartbreaking.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Fortune Cookie

I had planned to watch How To Murder your Wife, a film I had been curious about a long time, since Jack Lemmon plays a cartoonist, but the director, Richard Quine, is no Billy Wilder and has almost no visual sense or feeling for timing. I stopped the film after half an hour, decided to rather watch the real thing and popped in The Fortune Cookie.

Cameraman Jack Lemmon is knocked over by a footballplayer during a game. His brother-in-law, ambulance chaser Walter Matthau decides to sue, asking Lemmon to fake an injury. Lemmon reluctantly goes along with this, thinking it might reunite him with his gold digger ex-wife.

Actually, this is the first pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau on screen, not The Odd Couple that came two years later. It's another cynical comedy from Billy Wilder, shot in glorious black and white. Lemmon is very good in another of his decent, ordinary guy roles, but the film is owned by Matthau, pretty much creating here his screen persona for the rest of his career. It's maybe not the masterpiece that The Apartment was, but still a fun film.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jack Lemmon


Got a bunch of Jack Lemmon films, starting with The Odd Couple, based on the play by Neil Simon. Lemmon is kicked out by his wife and moves in with divorced poker pal Walther Matthau.

Is this the first meeting of Lemmon and Matthau on film? They got great chemistry but the film itself feels strangely flat. There are no laugh out loud moments. The best part of the film is the scene with the two giggling, British sisters. A lot of the humour is based on Lemmon taking the wife part, cleaning and cooking, this driving Matthau crazy, Lemmon being upset because Matthau is late for dinner, Lemmon and Matthau giving each other the silent treatment and so on. It just feels a bit old.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

U2

Illustration for a Norwegian music magazine. I believe it was for a review of Rattle And Hum, which would make it 1988.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coverillustration...


...for my next album, L'Île aux 100 000 Morts. Script by Fabien Vehlmann, colours by Hubert, to be published by Glénat.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Misfits


Marilyn Monroe is getting a divorce in Reno and falls for ageing cowboy Clark Gable.

Written by Arthur Miller, directed by John Huston and also starring Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter, this film should have been a classic, and it is, sort of; it was the last film of Monroe and Gable. But is it any good? I was a bit disappointed. I found it hard to believe in the characters and the story. As a portrayal of the end of an era, I think The Last Picture Show did a much better job. Gable and especially Clift are good in their parts. Marilyn Monroe I can believe in as a cartoony, blond bimbo, like in Some Like It Hot, but in this film where she is playing more of a real person, she is less convincing. The best part of the film are the scenes of capturing and tying down the horses. There's something very iconic about these scenes in black and white, and more or less symbolic, I suppose. Then it's sort of ruined by a tacked on happy ending.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crimewave


I was going to watch The Road, but you can tell from the first five minutes of the film that it's not going to work: Viggo Mortensen's dreary voiceover on top of the gray but perfectly composed images. There's a very powerful sequence in the book, where the father tells the son how to commit suicide with a gun. There's the same sequence in the film, but with images it actually loses a lot of it's power. So I turned off the film after 15 minutes. I liked the book a lot, but why would I be interested in sitting through this when I can choose not to? Sorry, Viggo!

So I rather popped in an antidote, Crimewave, the film directed by Sam Raimi and written by Joel and Ethan Coen between the two first Evil Dead films. It's about... well, it's not that important what's it about. It's sort of Harold Lloyd meets the Three Stooges. It has lots of great visual ideas, a cartoony energy with the camera forever spinning around, and everything is completely artificial. It is a movie like no other. It has Bruce Campbell in a supporting role as "a heel". It has been disowned by Raimi because he lost control of the film in editing. It is funny and probably a bit too much, but it only lasts 75 minutes, and they save the best joke for the end: the nuns and their oath of silence.

Next: The Misfits

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Covers...


...for Norwegian fanzine Kraftig Kost and for What I did, omnibus collecting Hey, Wait..., Sshhh! and The Iron Wagon.