2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Actor (tie)
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Supporting Actor
David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

Best Supporting Actress
Miranda Richardson, Spider

Best Screenplay
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Foreign Film

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

Members' Marquees

Critical Contacts

Lobby Reading

The Video Store

Reel Resources

The Blog Bijou

-Admit One
-Artistic Delusions
-Belligerent Bunny's Bad Movie Shrine
-Beware of Blog
-The Brain Drain
Biancolo Notes
-The Big Ticket
-Bitter Cinema
-Black & White World
-Bull Durham's Hot Corner
-Brewed Fresh Daily
-Camille's Film Journal
-The Chutry Experiment
-Cineblog (II)
-Cine Club
-Cinegraphic.Net: The Avante-Garde Film and Video Blog
-Cinema 24
-Cinema News
-Il Cinema Secondo (Italian)
-Cineaste (Russian)
-Cinema Toast
-Concentrated Nonsense
-Confessions of an Indie Filmmaker
-Cult Movies I Dare You to Watch
-Cutting to the Chase
-Cynthia Rockwell's Waiting Room
-The Daily Despair
-The Daily Digest
-Day for Night
-Delta Sierra Arts
-Dinky's Docket
-Distorting the Medium
-Donald Melanson On Movies
-Electric Movies
-Fade In: Blog
-Feeling Listless
-Filmfilter (German)
-Filmtagebuch (German)
-Film Talk
-Five Easy Pieces
-Frank Booth
-A Girl and A Gun
-Glazed Donuts
-GreenCine Daily
-Harlequin Knights
-He Loved Him Some Movies
-The Hobo Reviews
-Hot Buttered Death
-Iggy's Movie Review Weblog
-Iguano Film Blog
-In Development
-Japanese Films' Journal
-Joe Sixpack's Film Blog
-Joe's Weblog & Film Project News
-Junk for Code
-Kumari's Movie Blog
-Lights Out Films
-Like Anna Karina's Sweater (Filmbrain)
-Listen Missy
-Magnolia Girl
-Marley's Ghost
-Media Yenta
-Michael I. Trent
-Moov Goog
-Motime Like the Present
-Movie Boy
-Movie Criticism For the Retarded
-A Movie Diary
-The Movie Generation
-The Movie Marketing Blog
-Movie Retard
-The Movie Review
-Moving Pictures
-Nando's Blog
-Netflix Fan
-Or Kill Me
-Out of Ambit
-Out of Focus
-Paolo - Cinema's Radio Weblog (Italian)
-Pigs and Battleships
-Plot Kicks In
-Pop Culture Junkies
-The Projector
-Qwipster's Movie Reviews
-Reel Reviews (Podcast)
-Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
-The Screening Room
-Screen Watcher
-Short and Sweet
-The Silver Screen
-Stinky Cinema
-Sunset Blvd
-Tagline: A Movie Weblog
Talking Pictures
Tea for One
-Tom Vick's Asian Cinema Blog
-Trailer Park
-Truly Bad Films
Waste of Tape
-Wayne's Movie Blog
Whippin Picadilly
Wittgenstein's Bunnies
-Yay! Movies!
McBain Recommends
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Kill Bill vol 2
Shroom Recommends
-Top 20 List
-Head On
Joker Recommends
-Top 20 List
-House of Flying Daggers
-The Aviator
-Bad Education
Yun-Fat Recommends
-Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
-Los Muertos
-Tropical Malady
Allyn Recommends
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Songs from the Second Floor
Phyrephox Recommends
-Top 20 List
-Design for Living (Lubitsch, 1933)
-War of the Worlds
-Howl's Moving Castle
Melisb Recommends
-Top 20 List
-The Return
-Spirited Away
-Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring
Wardpet Recommends
-Finding Nemo
-Man on the Train
-28 Days Later
Lorne Recommends
-21 Grams
-Cold Mountain
-Lost in Translation
Merlot Recommends
-Top 20 List
-The Man on the Train
-Safe Conduct
-The Statement
Whitney Recommends
-Femme Fatale
-Gangs of New York
-Grand Illusion
Sydhe Recommends
-In America
-Looney Tunes: Back In Action
-Whale Rider
Copywright Recommends
Top 20 List
-Flowers of Shanghai
-Road to Perdition
Stennie Recommends
Top 20 List
-A Matter of Life and Death
Rodney Recommends
Top 20 List
-The Pianist
-Talk to Her
Jeff Recommends
-Dial M for Murder
-The Game
-Star Wars Saga
Lady Wakasa Recommends
-Dracula: Page from a Virgin's Diary
-Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler
-The Last Laugh
Steve Recommends
-Top 20 List
-Princess Raccoon
-Princess Raccoon
-Princess Raccoon
Jenny Recommends
-Mean Girls
-Super Size Me
-The Warriors
Jason Recommends
Top 20 List
-Old Boy
-Million Dollar Baby
-Head On
Lons Recommends
-Before Sunset
-The Incredibles

Powered by Blogger Pro™

links open windows

(c)2002 Design by Blogscapes.com

The Blog:
Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hell's Angels

One good thing about blockbusters is that they encourage the release of otherwise unavailable related movies. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's success played a role in the release of the Shaw Brother’s entire catalog on DVD. Van Helsing tied into a Dracula, including the original Spanish version, filmed simultaenously If there were justice in the world, Chicago (2002) would have meant Chicago (1927), even if only as a DVD extra. And, following in the tradition, The Aviator has produced a bumper crop – of both older Scorsese on the big screen and several long-missing Howard Hughes productions.

Turner Classic Movies recently televised several of the Hughes films, including the Aviator plot point, Hell’s Angels. This is the first of only two Hughes-directed movies, made fairly early in his Hollywood career. Maybe that's the problem, but the movie is a mixed bag: Hell’s Angels has some stultifyingly bad stretches sprinkled with some astoundingly good action sequences. First, the bad bits: there’s no other way to say it – the story sucks and the dialog only makes it worse. Two brothers goof around life; Monte, the gullible one, falls for Jean Harlow (uh-oh) and Roy, the wiser one, doesn’t stop him. Then comes WWI. They go off to war, become pilots, volunteer for a suicide mission; Mr. Gullible finds out how "faithful" Jean is just in time to make the mission. The brothers fly off and end up captured behind enemy lines, then end up dying in a murder-suicide pact rather than give up the secrets of their mission. (Actually, the whole thing looks better in print than it plays onscreen.) The Monte character, a playboy/pacifist/coward who can’t decide what he really is, throws a fit about the futility of war than puts Jerry Lewis’ Buddy Love transformation to shame. He and his brother (and why are they serving in the same squadron, much less on the same suicide mission?) sacrifice themselves for the greater good; however, when the Germans do that, they’re barbarians. Jean Harlow – well, she’s very blond, scantily clad, and could have been worse, I suppose. The random French is Americanized, and the main characters become Brits by modulating their American accidents, throwing in a couple of "old chaps," and calling it a day. (God knows about the German.) The women in general are shrill caricatures by a borderline misogynist, and the bad guys don’t even make it to one-dimensional. It’s just baaaad (cue Leonard Pinth-Garnell).

On the other hand, Hell’s Angels also has some of the most realistic and imaginative flying sequences of their day, and there’s not much that matched them in the following 40-50 years. This isn’t about storyline but pure action: Hughes poured all of his genius into what he understood and went beyond A+. Hell’s Angels wasn’t the first movie to take the camera up in the air; the phenomenally successful Wings (which is a good picture) had just won a Best Picture Oscar for doing just that, and the rule-of-two’s The Flying Fleet had somewhat successfully hopped on the bandwagon as well. But Hughes was more than up to bypassing the earlier movies, staging an aerial ballet featuring a good twenty planes manouvering through skilled acrobatics in a very small space. (Well, maybe skill is relative – three pilots died during filming). The good guys fly white planes and the bad guys fly black, but with the close-ups and dives and crackups at eye level several thousand feet up, there’s something really exciting going on.

I suppose I could cut Hughes some slack for the bad stuff. His original film was silent, but The Jazz Singer rocked the industry and changed the rules just as he was preparing for release. Hughes saw where the future lay and, as producer (and most likely funding source), decided to add sound. This meant canning the thick-accented Norwegian female lead for the 18-yr old Harlow and reshooting most of the film. The big problem was that this was early days for sound; no one really knew how to use the new medium, and Hughes’s genius lay with airplanes, not handling the new technology (see Lubitsch for that). Even The Jazz Singer only has a few minutes of sound sequences, so doesn't provide much of an example. So the heroes patter on during the aerial fight scenes, and the dialog comes from the Sarah Bernhardt school.

One interesting glimpse of the movie's evolution: the nighttime zeppelin chase scene is probably least changed from the original silent version. The dialog is exclusively German, as the Kaiser’s soldiers pursue their mission to bomb Trafalgar Square (I don’t know why; maybe they don’t like pigeons). Hughes doesn’t translate most of it, but when he does he uses beautifully wrought intertitles which, combined with the visuals, pretty efficiently convey the gist of what’s going on. This got me to thinking that, with the sound turned down and a few more intertitles, a good number of the blemishes start fading away and the story fills out. A modern audience used to simultaneous translation might feel frustrated, but the audience Hughes was targeting probably would have been very comfortable with the economy of text. And again, when it gets away from that newfangled mike, the film clearly improves.

Whether sound or silent though, the story itself was just... painful. But maybe it’s best to see Hell’s Angels as documentation of a transition point in film history and a major milestone in the life of a notable American.