Friday, February 07, 2014

Of course, a lot has been happening. I finally made it to a press screening yesterday, which meant going on the subway and going into Manhattan. No major mishaps, but i was nervous. The film i saw was "Child's Pose", a Romanian film directed by Calin Peter Netzer. Romania is one of the countries that's been in the midst of a cinematic flowering, ever since Cristi Puiu's "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. In many ways, the current Romanian cinema is reminiscent of the Polish cinema of the 1950s and the Czechoslovakian cinema of the 1960s, in that the filmmaking is often plain, but the writing is layered and complex.

It's hard to explain one's aesthetic choices. The reason i say that is i have enjoyed almost all of the Romanian films i've seen, but it's not like i rush to them. I'm not resistant to these films, but there are other films that excite me more. But i don't like to simply make a blanket statement about any category of film, but one has one's preferences. It was like the 1980s, when Chinese language films were making their way to the arthouse network in the West. I found most of the films from China to be rather formal, pageant-like, and remote dramatically. The films coming out of Taiwan, on the other hand, i found to be so enthralling; i was just excited by them, because they seemed to very contemporaneous and vital. Far more vital than anything coming out of the People's Republic of China. But that was my opinion, or my taste, or my preference, whatever you want to call it.

With that caveat, i'll leave critical thoughts about Romanian films for another date.

I mentioned award season, so i would like to discuss something i found very troubling this week. Turner Classic Movies is having its annual 31 Days of Oscar, which is a round-up of the usual suspects. Every year, there's usually one anomaly. This year, on Tuesday, the scheduling during the day involved some nominees and winners for the category Best Foreign Film, and i watched "The Burmese Harp", "Z" and "Babette's Feast". I have all those films on DVD, but i felt like my friend Michael O'Sullivan, who has the blog "Mike's Movie Projector" ( even if he has the DVD, if the movie comes on TV, he feels compelled to watch. I hadn't seen "The Burmese Harp" in quite a while, and i was astounded at the luminosity of the black-and-white cinematography. It reminded me that Kon Ichikawa is one of my favorite Japanese directors.

But what i found troubling: when a movie star dies, the TCM staff usually whips up a little "TCM Remembers" spot. In December, there was a period when they really had to work overtime, because there were a number of deaths that came one right after the other, including Eleanor Parker, Joan Fontaine, and Peter O'Toole. Well, this past weekend, two major Academy Award-winning actors died: Maximillian Schell and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And so far: nothing. Nada. Rien. Not even a "news item" on the TCM website! And certainly not a "TCM Remembers" spot. And the point is: it would NOT be inappropriate to create such spots for both of these men, because both were nominated four times (the kicker for Schell is that his fourth nomination was for his documentary "Marlene", which he produced and directed) and both won in the category Best Actor. Today, for example, was supposed to be a day filled with nominees and winners in the Best Actor category (the spotlight this evening was the nominees and winner from 1953: Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster for "From Here to Eternity", William Holden - the winner - for "Stalag 17", Richard Burton for "The Robe" and Marlon Brando for "Julius Caesar"), and it would have been a perfect time for some sort of tribute to Maximillian Schell (Best Actor for "Judgement at Nuremberg") and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor for "Capote"). If two Academy Award winning actors don't rate some sort of memorial during 31 Days of Oscar, when are they supposed to be remembered?

TCM, however, is making a lot of these (dubious) value judgements. This happened in December, when Paul Walker ("The Fast and the Furious") and Tom Laughlin ("Billy Jack") died, and they were not considered worthy of any sort of notice from TCM. Why? Isn't TCM supposed to be a television station devoted to movies? (I was alerted to this oversight by Joe Baltake, on his excellent blog The Passionate Moviegoer, i.e., And weren't they movie stars of some renown? But the cavalier ignoring of Maximillian Schell and Philip Seymour Hoffman, during 31 Days of Oscar, is really shocking. It's a disgrace, and there's no excuse.


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