Chad Comello

libraries, culture, typewriters

Category: Film (page 1 of 14)

Like lightning

“Come on, Doc, it’s not science! When it happens, it just hits you. It’s like lightning.” – Marty McFly, Back to the Future Part III

A couple nights before my buddy’s wedding, I was at his house with a bunch of other guys for a time of toasting, roasting, and advice-giving. One thing I shared was how immediately evident it was to me that the couple was The Real Deal, and how a similar certainty hit me like a bolt of lightning when I first met my future wife.

Later on, the wedding reception was held at Ace Eat Serve, a ping pong hall in a converted auto garage serving pan-Asian cuisine. (Loved the amazing food and the novelty of playing ping pong at a wedding.) The ping pong tables outside were made of concrete and had metal nets with Ace’s lightning logo cut through them, which in the sunlight looked like this:

It’s almost as if I was at the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.

Media of the moment, ctd.

An ongoing series on books, movies, and music I’ve encountered recently.

Truman by David McCullough. I’m not saying some parts aren’t skimmable, but I am saying this 1,000-page book (not including endnotes and index) didn’t feel that long and indeed deserves the Pulitzer Prize for Biography it received. That’s a testament to both McCullough and Truman, a match made in history buff heaven.

The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. When I watched these initially in college, I preferred Part II. This time around I see that the original reigns supreme.

Tag. Goofy fun.

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King. A good complement to Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Bounces around more than I wish it did. Love that the only TV shows he watched were The Waltons and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Mister Rogers on CD. Not being a great singer didn’t stop Rogers from writing and performing hundreds of songs on television. Check out Coming and Going, You Are Special, Bedtime, and You’re Growing.

Searching. Cleverly crafted thriller that unfurls exclusively through a computer screen, which means it’ll be dated by this time next year.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari. This is a 12-course meal of a book that touches a mind-boggling range of disciplines. It’s almost too much. But I enjoyed the challenge, the feeling of flying through millennia from a bird’s-eye view.

King of Comedy. This might be DeNiro’s best performance.

Revisiting my top films of 2008

Ten years ago I ranked my top 10 films of 2008. (I also started filmlogging.) Since last year’s revisit of my top films of 2007 was so fun, I thought I’d make this an annual tradition.

Here’s my original 2008 list:

  1. WALL-E
  2. Happy-Go-Lucky
  3. Man on Wire
  4. In Bruges
  5. Rachel Getting Married
  6. Shotgun Stories
  7. The Dark Knight ­­
  8. Tell No One
  9. Encounters at the End of the World
  10. Milk

Lots of interesting choices here. Kinda shocked Happy-Go-Lucky was so high and that Milk made the list. Also surprised I was so into Man on Wire and Rachel Getting Married. That year in general was a time with an odd mix of hope (Obama elected) and darkness (the world economy). The tenor of these picks falls all along that spectrum, as I suppose any year with a properly diverse array of films should.

Ten years out, that hope-despair spectrum remains but my taste has changed, if only slightly. As always, without rewatching all the candidates it’s hard to make a totally fair and accurate list, but here’s where my gut goes:

  1. Summer Hours
  2. WALL-E
  3. Goodbye Solo
  4. In Bruges
  5. Shotgun Stories
  6. Tell No One
  7. Man on Wire
  8. The Dark Knight
  9. Rachel Getting Married
  10. Encounters at the End of the World

With honorable mention to Rachel Getting Married, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man, Burn After Reading, The Wrestler, W., Happy-Go-Lucky, and Milk.

The precipitous drop of Happy-Go-Lucky, which went from #2 to honorable mention, was surprising. Perhaps a rewatch would put it back on the list. But I had to crown a new champion in Summer Hours, the Olivier Assayas family drama, and bump Milk for Goodbye Solo.

I fondly recall watching all of these during college, when I was also discovering so many old and new films in the cinephile canon. My college library and the public library were go-to sources. Some things never change.

Frequency

Frequency. Saw this on Amazon Prime and had to rewatch it. I was a big fan when it came out, so glad to see it holds up. It’s an ostensibly goofy concept of magical-realist family drama that turns into a murder mystery, but they somehow pulled it off.

Grant me a Roosevelt biopic

The Oscar winner has Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant biopics lined up, and scholars are using everything from 'Hamilton' to toxic masculinity to make their pitches to the actor.

Why didn’t anyone tell me there are Ulysses Grant and Theodore Roosevelt biopics in the works from Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese? And that Leonardo DiCaprio is attached to star in both of them?

The Hollywood Reporter asked a bunch of historians whether Leo should play Grant or Roosevelt. Looking at their pictures above I’d say he could pull off either. My preference is that he plays Roosevelt and Jared Harris plays Grant as he did in Spielberg’s Lincoln.

More important to me, though, is what kind of biopic they will be. Will they be like Lincoln, beautifully made, regal, and safe but not comprehensive, focused on a specific moment instead of the full life? Will they be like J. Edgar—or a Scorsese’s The Aviator for that matter—which tried to pack in decades of history and aging makeup, to the detriment of a cohesive and compelling portrait?

Or will they be something else entirely? I hope so. Love me some Lincoln, but Grant was no Lincoln. He deserves a director willing to go dark and gritty and avoid the hagiography that has recently started to envelope Grant.

Scorsese doing Roosevelt is growing on me though. Being a New Yorker himself will help him capture the fiery aspect of TR’s spirit, which has some modern resonance.

I’m gonna watch the hell out of these projects regardless.

5 tips from 10 years of filmlogging

In July 2008, while on a 24-hour break from the summer camp I was working at, I saw The Dark Knight with some fellow camp counselors. The next day I cracked open the new 3-subject composition notebook I’d brought to camp, flipped to the back third, and wrote a few lines on what I thought of the movie:

I hope this gets some Oscar nods. It’s smashing B.O. records for good reason. Heath Ledger owns this movie. Very smart, very dark, and very good.

Thus began a routine that is now 10 years old. Except for a gap between January and July 2010, since then I’ve been writing my initial thoughts on all first viewings of movies I see, new and old.

It took a month or two before I settled on the now standard structure of 4 lines per movie. I didn’t bother with star ratings or other metadata as I wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself to keep up with the exercise. And they all have a similar tone to that first one, like succinct bulletins to myself.

That first notebook lasted until December 2014. Then I decided to give the film log its own notebook.

Though my Logbook captures all my viewing and reading, I still keep up the paper film log. Not only for tradition and continuity’s sake, but because I find it valuable to capture my first fresh thoughts on what I watch in a tangible record. To see the pages gradually fill gives me visual evidence of all the amazing (and not so amazing) movies I’ve been able to see.

With that in mind, here are some tips for starting and keeping a logbook:

Tips for logging

1. Keep it simple.

I knew if I added too much beyond the basics to the logging process—a star rating, specifically where and when I saw it, etc.—it would become too unwieldy and easy to give up. Each entry takes me less than a minute.

2. Log sooner rather than later.

Right after you watch the movie, if possible. The point of this is to capture your immediate, visceral, and concise thoughts, not write a New Yorker story. I often fail at this and have to catch up on a few movies at once, which is why I make sure to at least add them to the Logbook so I can refer to it later.

3. Structure it just enough.

My format of four lines per movie didn’t happen right away. It developed naturally based on how much I found myself writing about each one. It also meant each 24-line page would neatly hold six movies. Love me some consistency!

4. Don’t stop at the log.

Many times what I log about a film ends up being the basis of further writing about it, whether on Letterboxd or on this blog. On the flip side, I often just log it and forget it. I often surprise myself with a film I didn’t realize I’d already seen and logged but had no memory of.

5. Whatever you log, stick with it.

It’s really cool to have a handwritten record of something I love, a kind of cultural diary that I can match up to other life events and see what connects. Yours doesn’t have to be movies: log your reading, beer drinking, museum hopping, whatever. Heck, start an Austin Kleon-style logbook and log it all! Whatever it is, keep it up and enjoy seeing the pages multiply.

Top 5 films of 2018 so far

The Death of Stalin. I’m a sucker for dark and irreverent political satires.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?This documentary about Fred Rogers didn’t make me cry, but it did make me sad about the Kids These Days who don’t know of him and his anti-television TV show.

First Reformed. I’m also a sucker for “dark night of the soul” films made by atheists that take faith and doubt seriously, which this Paul Schrader film is.

Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. Quite the one-two punchsplosion from Marvel. Haven’t rewatched either yet, but I think they’ll hold up.

The story of a star

This was a star that had left behind the fiery extravagances of its youth, had raced through the violets and blues and greens of the spectrum in a few fleeting billions of years, and now had settled down to a peaceful maturity of unimaginable length. All that had gone before was not a thousandth of what was yet to come; the story of this star had barely begun.

― Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

I wish I’d read Clarke’s book before rewatching Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation (in 70mm at the Music Box in Chicago). It would have filled in a lot of context for the famously opaque film. For understanding how the film got made I highly recommend Michael Benson’s Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece.

For the records

Dan Cohen ponders why some recent sci-fi films prominently feature libraries, archives, and museums:

Ever since Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor extracted the Death Star plans from a digital repository on the planet Scarif in Rogue One, libraries, archives, and museums have played an important role in tentpole science fiction films. From Luke Skywalker’s library of Jedi wisdom books in The Last Jedi, to Blade Runner 2049’s multiple storage media for DNA sequences, to a fateful scene in an ethnographic museum in Black Panther, the imposing and evocative halls of cultural heritage organizations have been in the foreground of the imagined future. …

… At the same time that these movies portray an imagined future, they are also exploring our current anxiety about the past and how it is stored; how we simultaneously wish to leave the past behind, and how it may also be impossible to shake it. They indicate that we live in an age that has an extremely strained relationship with history itself. These films are processing that anxiety on Hollywood’s big screen at a time when our small screens, social media, and browser histories document and preserve so much of we do and say.

Ready Player One is another recent example. And let’s give some love to the historical society in Back to the Future Part III. Read the rest here.

The Post

Ready Player One took my esteem for Spielberg down a notch, but The Post—made after Ready Player One but released before it—has elements of his best work, even if it doesn’t rise above the sum of its parts. Generally it’s standard Spielberg, with old-school liberal and institutionalist views on the press, akin to Lincoln in its reverence for American mythologies. But cinematically it’s much more robust and limber than a lot of his recent stuff, with closely observed moments like the shot of Bob Odenkirk’s reporter character typing at his desk as the Washington Post‘s printing press rumbles to life in a climactic moment. I think the lack of prep time did him good.

Also, I am 99% sure Tom Hanks did this movie because of all the typewriters. Working with Spielberg and Meryl Streep was merely a bonus.

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