Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Update - December Movie Geeks Club Canceled

Due to a party on the last Tuesday night of December at the Capital City Bar and Grill, the December Movie Geeks Club is canceled. Once won the vote for December so it will be come the January film. Sorry about this folks. Enjoy the holidays and have a Movie Geeks Night with your family.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

December Films (now January film)

We have the December movie poll up and you might notice a bit of a theme. We selected these films for nomination because we wanted some "feel good" films. Movies with a bit of inspiration. The movie night in December falls right in the midst of the holidays so we didn't want to present anything gritty or provoking. Not that that's all we do by any means but it's a good time of the year to feel good. The ultimate inspirational film is probably It's a Wonderful Life. We don't need to show that because there's a good chance you'll be watching that anyway. We did throw in a Capra film for good measure though. Meet John Doe is a quintessential Capra film that stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The most modern of the films is Once. John highly recommends this film to everyone. I have yet to see it but I know some of the great music. Only Angels Have Wings is a Cary Grant film that most people, including Cary Grant fans, have never seen. Life is Beautiful was a huge hit in the late-1990's and included an unforgettable performance by Roberto Benigni. I have never seen Breaking Away but I found it highly rated on all of the "inspirational" lists. Here they are:


"An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs." - IMDB

Meet John Doe

"As a parting shot, fired reporter Ann Mitchell prints a fake letter from unemployed "John Doe," who threatens suicide in protest of social ills. The paper is forced to rehire Ann and hires John Willoughby to impersonate "Doe." Ann and her bosses cynically milk the story for all it's worth, until the made-up "John Doe" philosophy starts a whole political movement. At last everyone, even Ann, takes her creation seriously...but publisher D.B. Norton has a secret plan." - IMDB

Life is Beautiful

"In 1930s Italy, a carefree Jewish book keeper named Guido starts a fairy tale life by courting and marrying a lovely woman from a nearby city. Guido and his wife have a son and live happily together until the occupation of Italy by German forces. In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of a Jewish Concentration Camp, Guido imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank." - IMDB

Only Angels Have Wings

"While waiting for her boat, Bonnie Lee stops at a small airport in South America. The pilots there deliver mail over a dangerous and usually foggy mountain pass. Geoff Carter, the lead flyer, seems distant and cold as Bonnie tries to get closer to him. Things heat up as Judy MacPherson, Geoff's old flame, shows up with her husband who is an infamous pilot." - IMDB

Breaking Away

"Dave, nineteen, has just graduated high school, with his 3 friends, The comical Cyril, the warm hearted but short-tempered Moocher, and the athletic, spiteful but good-hearted Mike. Now, Dave enjoys racing bikes and hopes to race the Italians one day, and even takes up the Italian culture, much to his friends and parents annoyance. While meanwhile, the 4 friends try to break away from their townie, Indiana reputation while fighting with nearby college snobs." - IMDB

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

It was a close race until the final hours between The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch Cassidy surged ahead and that will be our November film. It is a well known film that includes one the onscreen best duo's that Hollywood has ever put together. Paul Newman and Robert Redford make Brad Pitt and George Clooney look like children putting on a play for their accomodating neighbors. It looks like it is more fun for them than it is us. Don't get me wrong, I like Clooney and Pitt but Newman and Redford were different. They were fun, cool and "punch you in the face" manly. The film is loosely based on historical fact about two bank robbers who are escaping from the law and trying to go straight.

In a bit of irony, this month marks the 100th anniversary of the (disputed) deaths of the real Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid.

You will also enjoy the music of Burt Bacharach.

The film will play on Tuesday, November 25th at 7:30 pm.
Capital City Bar and Grill

We will nominate the December film and let you know very soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

November is Paul Newman month

In honor of the late Paul Newman, we will be showing one of his films in November. It was too difficult to pick the usual 5 or 6 films for nomination so we decided to go with a dozen to choose from. The film that will be voted on from today until October 28th will be shown on November 25th. Looking at the list made me want to dedicate every month in 2009 to Newman but you'll have to make a tough decision and watch the other 11 on your own. I won't give a description of each film (too much time) but I will provide a link for each.

Here they are:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Hustler

Cool Hand Luke

Butch Cass
idy and the Sundance Kid

The Sting

The Towering Inferno

Slap Shot

The Verdict

The Color of Money

Nobody's Fool

Road to Perdition

The Long, Hot Summer

Thursday, September 25, 2008

October Film Nominees: Horror Movie Month

Micah and I went back and forth on what to do for our horror movie nominations for October. Last year we showed Rosemary's Baby, which I always think of as a classic horror movie. This year we flirted with nominating a group of horror films from the classic B-horror movie era. Films like Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told, Orgy of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, or something similar.

We finally decided to select six films for nomination that span the "horror" genre. Here are the nominees. Learn about them. Then vote in the poll on the right hand of your screen.

Peeping Tom: a 1960 psychological thriller film by the British film director Michael Powell. The title derives from 'peeping Tom', a slang expression for a voyeur. The film is a horrific tale of voyeurism, serial murder and child abuse which revolves around a young man who murders women while using a portable movie camera to record their dying expressions of terror. The film was written by the World War II cryptographer and polymath Leo Marks.

The Innocents: a 1961 horror film based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Directed and produced by Jack Clayton, it starred Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave. Falling into the subgenre of psychological horror, the film makes use of its lighting, music, and direction for its effect rather than gore and shock factor. Its atmospheric feel was achieved by Academy Award winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, who employed deep focus in many scenes, as well as bold, minimal lighting.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: the classic 1974 American independent horror film written, directed, and produced by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel. The film is the first in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, featuring Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Teri McMinn, William Vail, Edwin Neal, and Paul A. Partain. The plot revolves primarily around a group of friends who embark on a road trip to rural Texas to visit the Hardesty family gravesite, which according to radio reports, had been gruesomely vandalized. On a detour to visit the Hardesty mansion, the friends fall victim to a family of cannibals, including the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface.

Magic: a 1978 film starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret. It was written by William Goldman, who also wrote the novel on which it was based. Magic tells the story of Charles "Corky" Withers (Hopkins), a man that has just failed his first attempt at professional magic. His mentor says that he needs to have a better show business personality. A year later Corky comes back as a ventriloquist with a foul-mouthed dummy named Fats. Do you really need any more than that?

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: a 1986 film directed by John McNaughton, based on the life of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. The film stars Michael Rooker as Henry, a nomadic serial killer. Henry meets up with an old friend from prison named Otis in Chicago, who he introduces to the delights of random murder. The film was shot in less than a month on a budget of about $110,000, it was not released until 1989 due to repeated disagreements with the MPAA over the movie's violent content. The film was ultimately released without a rating.

Don't Look Now: an Anglo-Italian thriller, directed by Nicolas Roeg and released in 1973. It is based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September Film: Oldboy

For September we will be screening the Korean film Oldboy, a film critics called, "a bloody and brutal revenge film immersed in madness and directed with operatic intensity." Roger Ebert gave the film four stars (out of four) and claimed that it was "a shock to find a movie in which the action, however violent, makes a statement and has a purpose."

Screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, the film took home the Grand Prix, although the President of the Jury, Quentin Tarantino, attempted to secure the Palm d'Or for the film.

Oldboy is a truly unique film, a blending of revenge drama, martial arts action flick, and intense character study. It is also terrifically violent, but the violence serves the ultimate purpose of revealing just how twisted one can become when set on revenge against those even more twisted.

Oldboy is really a unique film and worth seeing for anyone interested in film.

Here's a trailer for the film.

Monday, August 25, 2008

September Film Nominees

We're still trying to get back on track for September. We'll do a hand count of these movies tomorrow night at Movie Geeks, and the poll will remain up until 9/1. At that point, the film with the most votes will be the September selection.

We decided to go with Foreign Language films for September. Here are the nominees.


Les Diaboliques

8 1/2


Week End

Take a few minutes. Check these films out. Vote for the one you want to see in September.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Tuesday, August 26
Doors open at 7 pm
7:30 pm
Capital City Bar & Grill
Admission is free.

The voting is finished and after a late surge, Trekkies will be the August movie. I saw part of the film several years ago and I really liked what I saw. The film is about Star Trek fans. Not the average Star Trek fans but super Star Trek fans. These people live Star Trek. Star Trek fans are often the target of jokes and mockery but I believe this film was made so that average fans can say "See, at least I'm not that bad."

I have only seen one Star Trek movie in my life and I believe it was the 9th film. I have also never seen any of the television shows. I have always been interested in why there are so many die-hard fans out there so this does at least give some insight in to that culture. It is also timely to note that the Star Trek movie series is getting a re-boot next year. From what I read, it will be an origin story so I do plan on seeing the film and figuring out what it's all about.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August 26 Movie Nominations

We are fulfilling our promise of getting this club back on track with some actual democratic voting. The theme this month is documentaries. Many people have asked if we would do this so we decided this would be the right time. The reason the voting is getting cut off so far away from the actual movie club date is because these films may be hard to track down. We will need a little time to find them. Here are the nominees. Just click on the link to read more about them.

The Thin Blue Line

My Best Fiend

Gates of Heaven



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Movie Geeks Club for July 29

On the night of July 29th, we'll be screening the Hitchcock classic The Trouble with Harry. This is one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock films. To me, it stands out because it's different. It's an example of Hitchcock playing with some different ideas and some different story elements than what you typically think of when you think of a "Hitchcock" movie. This film features early performances by Shirley MacLaine, Jerry Mathers, and John Forsythe.

Unfortunately, I won't be in attendance on the 29th. I have to be in Chicago that day for an important event at the friendly confines. Micah will be in charge of the night's festivities.

As always, doors will open at 7, and the movie will start at 7:30. There is no cover charge.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Movie Geeks Club Tonight: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Join us tonight for a screening of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the 2005 neo-noir/black comedy film starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.

As always, we'll meet at Capital City Bar and Grill. Doors will open at 7:00, and the movie will start at 7:30.

Don't worry. There's no need to vote tonight. Due to the tie-vote last month, we'll be screening Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry next month.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Animated Short

I found this animated short today, and I found it pretty entertaining. Thought I'd share. This is nice work for a student filmmaker. Cool stuff.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Vote is In

It's a tie. 16 votes for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 16 votes for The Trouble With Harry. For the first time ever, we've had a dead tie for movie of the month. Although Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the leader going into last night, the number of in-house votes for The Trouble With Harry brought the two to a neck-and-neck tie for June movie.

At first Micah and I discussed just selecting one of the two movies and making a decision. After considering everyone's comments, however, we decided that it was important to show both films. On both sides, people really wanted to see these two movies.

So, we decided to show both movies. We flipped a coin to decide which movie would screen first, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the winner. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will be our official June movie, with a screening on June 24, and The Trouble With Harry will be our official July movie, with a screening on July 29.

The trailer for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Harry's trailer is a few posts down.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie Geeks Club Tonight: Subtitle Alert

Don't forget to come out tonight and catch The Seventh Seal on the big screen at Capital City Bar and Grill. As always, the doors will open at 7:00, and the movie will start at 7:30. Drinking can commence whenever you feel like it.

I'm looking forward to tonight's movie. I've never seen The Seventh Seal, so I'm excited to add a new classic to my "watched-movies" list. The copy we secured is from Lincoln Library. I've cleaned the disc, and it looks to be in pretty good shape. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I did pop it into my player here at home and scanned through to see if the disc would give me any problems. It didn't. Fingers are crossed that we'll have another incident-free night tonight.

It's a pretty crappy night tonight, which always makes for a nice night to sit inside with some drinks and a great movie.

Hope to see you there.

WARNING to all of you subtitle haters: this one has subtitles. Better bring your reading glasses.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I'm Pulling for Harry

I'm not going to lie, Movie Geeks. I'm not going to pretend. I am pulling for The Trouble with Harry for next month's screening. The other four films are all great choices, as well, and I hope that everyone casts their vote with the same conviction that I do.

The Trouble with Harry is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love Hitchcock's films, and I think Harry is one of his most unique. For a change, Hitchcock finds a way to make audiences tense in a lighthearted and humorous way. So often known for the darkness of Psycho or the bun-clenching tension of Rear Window or the philosophical musings of Rope, Hitchcock presents a totally different vision of the world in Harry. He presents a utopia where villagers are at peace with the nature of things, the cycle of life. He presents a picture of people who are willing to help out those who are in need. He presents a simple place and simple people. He still manages to dig at the darker elements that make human beings human beings, but he does so subtly.

Not only is Harry a funny picture, it's also a beautifully shot picture. In Technicolor, the sweeping landscape around a small Vermont village in autumn is almost dreamlike. It's the kind of place that you know could never really exist, but secretly you wish it did and you could go there and be a part of life there. A simpler life.

Another reason I like Harry is that a lot of people haven't seen it. Even pretty well-rounded Hitchcock fans I know tend to miss this one somehow. And then when they see it, they're always surprised that it's taken them so long. So, I've cast my vote for Harry. Now, I must wait to see how the rest of you will decide to vote.

The Original Film Trailer: I'm always amazed at how different trailers used to be.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

June Movie Geeks Club Nominees

John and I have finally compiled our list for next month's MGC nominees. We wanted to go in a different direction this month. The past couple movies have been great but the subject matter was kind of depressing. As you can see, there is no real theme here. These are all very different films so choose your mood. They are all certain to be great.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer

The Trouble with Harry directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Mulholland Dr. written and directed by David Lynch

Pan's Labyrinth written and directed by Guillermo del Toro

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels written and directed by Guy Ritchie

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Night's Movie Geeks

We had a great turnout last night for Movie Geeks Club. Most of our regulars were in the house, and we had several new faces. Thanks for coming out, folks.

We screened Roman Polanski's The Pianist last night, and by the time it was over, everyone in the house was thoroughly depressed and feeling guilty about the burgers they'd consumed while watching the Szpilman family split an overpriced caramel 6 ways. This is really an incredible film. It really does a good job of placing the viewer into the life of Szpilman during his struggle for survival during World War II. A very moving film.

The voting was finished last night for the May Movie Geeks selection, and the winner is: The Seventh Seal. Regarded as a masterpiece of cinema, Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal follows the journey of a Medieval knight (Max von Sydow) across a bleak and plague-ridden landscape. Along the way, he encounters many facets of Medieval life during the plague, particularly how people of the time faced impending death and the lengths they would go to in order to keep death from coming for them. The film is probably best known for its scene in which Block, the knight, has to play a game of chess against Death, with his fate to be decided by the outcome of the game. This scene has been parodied on numerous occasions, most notably in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, in which Bill and Ted defeat Death at Battleship, Clue, electric football and Twister.

Micah and I are still kicking around some ideas for the nominations for the June movie. We were thinking about feature-length documentaries. We'd come up with a list of five and you could vote on the one you'd like to see. We've not yet screened a documentary, and I thought it might be a nice change of pace. Another thought is that we've seen a couple of long, slowly paced films, and maybe we'd like to do something a little more fast-paced and intense for the warm weather month of June. Thoughts, Movie Geeks?

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Polanski Problem

As you know, this month we are playing our second Roman Polanski film. The Pianist is a great film and everyone was really excited about seeing Rosemary's Baby. I also think Chinatown would be a great film noir to show in the future as well. So there is no doubt that Polanski is a great director. Unfortunately, there is often an inner struggle on how much to like him.

Polanski's life is in itself a great story that should be made into a film. His father was Jewish and his mother was Catholic (both Polish). His young life could have been played out in The Pianist. He and his family were forced into the Krakow Ghetto by the Nazis. His mother was eventually sent to Auschwitz where she died and his father barely survied a concentration camp in Austria. Roman escaped the ghetto and ended up living in his grandfather's barn until the end of the war.

Fast forward to his early film career. His first big picture was Rosemary's Baby which was filmed in New York. Shortly after that was released he met Sharon Tate. They fell in love and got married. She got pregnant and they moved to a Hollywood Hills home that was formerly owned by Candice Bergen and Terry Melcher. Shortly after they moved in, Charles Manson ordered the break in at the home and the murders of everyone inside. That included the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and their unborn baby. It was more a case of mistaken identity because the target was Melcher.

To that point, his life seemed full of tragedies that always followed him. But in 1977, Polanski was photographing a 13 year old girl at Jack Nicholson's house and he she accused him of raping her. This is where the Polanski story gets complicated. He plead guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor but the judge threw out the plea bargain and convicted him of rape and several other charges including rape by use of drugs. Polanski fled the country so he would not have to serve time. Polanski claimed that the mother of the girl set the situation up for blackmail but his accuser stands by her story to this day. She does appear to want to put it behind her. He has not set foot on U.S. soil for 30 years.

Here is THE problem. Do you believe him? Was he innocent? Why not believe the accuser Samantha Geimer? If you do believe he is guilty, can you still enjoy his films? He is a convincted child rapist. Shouldn't we protest? Do we believe he is innocent because he couldn't have possibly committed this act becuase he is a great director? So if he where a mediocre or bad director or actor, he would be more likely to be guilty? Robert Blake? Nobody wants to see him again, let alone praise him for his work. I tried to think of other examples but he came to mind first. Hollywood is a bit hush-hush to the situation but the Oscar nominations for The Pianist did create some controversy.

So my conclusion is this. Roman Polanski has directed a few great films but I think he should either be fighting for himself or doing time.

I still watch his films but I believe that he could be doing more to clear his name. He certainly has the money to pay attorney's to work out another deal. He seems not to be too damaged by the fact that he can't return back to the U.S. It's like he's saying "Oh well." I don't like that about him. I consider the charge to be very serious. I guess the question comes up all the time with celebrities. Charlton Heston just died but the tributes were very light from Hollywood because of his NRA stance. So can you seperate the work from the personal side? The same goes for Mel Gibson and Michael Richards. Can you still enjoy their work? I ask more questions than I can answer. I am probably making it more complicated than it needs to be but it always burdens me when I hear the name Roman Polanski.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On David Lynch

David Lynch - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Unfinished and unrealized projects"

I came across this section of David Lynch's Wiki about his unfinished or unrealized projects, and I just had to share some of them. I would love to see some of these projects come to life. They're just crazy enough to be totally beautiful pieces of art. As for Lynch doing an adaptation of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, I'm not sure there is a better director out there for the project. This is right down Lynch's alley. Anyway, here they are:

One Saliva Bubble: This was a comedy that Lynch co-wrote with Mark Frost and intended to direct with Steve Martin and Martin Short starring. It was set in Kansas. Robert Engels describes the premise of the film in Lynch on Lynch: "It's about an electric bubble from a computer that bursts over this town and changes people's personalities – like these five cattlemen, who suddenly think they're Chinese gymnasts. It's insane!"

The Dream of the Bovine: Lynch and Robert Engels wrote the screenplay for this film after Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. According to Engels in Lynch on Lynch, the film was about "three guys, who used to be cows, living in Van Nuys and trying to assimilate their lives."

The Lemurians: This was a TV show that Lynch was going to do with Mark Frost based on the continent of Lemuria. Their premise for the show was that Lemurian essence was leaking from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and becomes a threat to the world. It was intended to be a comedy but when Lynch and Frost tried to pitch this show to NBC, the network rejected it.

Metamorphosis: This was intended to be an adaptation of the story written by Franz Kafka. Lynch has expressed on several accounts his desire to film the story of Metamorphosis. He has even written a script. The main reason that Lynch has not filmed it is a matter of money and technology involving the transformation of a man into a beetle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

May Movie Geeks Nominations

Your movie nominees for the May screening will be:

Eraserhead (dir: David Lynch)
Night on Earth (dir: Jim Jarmusch)
The Seventh Seal (dir: Ingmar Bergman)
The Conversation (dir: Francis Ford Copolla)
The Killing (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

To place your vote, leave a comment on this post, vote in the poll on the right hand side of the page, send us an e-mail, or show up to the Movie Geeks Club screening of The Pianist on April 29.

April Movie: The Pianist

On April 29 the Movie Geeks Club will screen the Roman Polanski World War II memoir adaptation The Pianist. As always, the doors will open at 7:00, and the movie will start at 7:30.

The Pianist won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

This is actually a film I've never seen, so I'm excited to check it off my list.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dan Schneider on Aguirre: The Wrath Of God

Dan Schneider on Aguirre: The Wrath Of God: "DVD Review Of Aguirre: The Wrath Of God"

Werner Herzog may just be the best film director of the last forty years. Period. And I mean worldwide. While some directors of film rely primarily on precision-think Alfred Hitchcock, intellect- think Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, visual poesy-think Terrence Malick, or visceral reaction- think Akira Kurosawa, there is no other major filmmaker that I can think of who combines all of these things so skillfully, as well as having a mastery of music, outside of Herzog. From musical scoring to narrative pacing to visual imagery, he reigns supreme. Before watching his 1972 masterpiece, Aguirre: The Wrath Of God (Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes), for the first time, all I had seen of Herzog were some of his documentary style films and Fitzcarraldo. This was enough to intrigue me to explore his corpus more fully, and I’m glad I did, for there’s a reason this film made him a ‘name’ on par with his contemporary German directors, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders.

Aguirre: The Wrath Of God is a film that combines the best elements of such diverse great films as Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Apocalypse Now, although it is a much more visceral work than any of those films, and is topped off by one of the truly great screen performances of all time, with Klaus Kinski as the titular lead, Don Lope de Aguirre, a cripple who may also be a hunchback- whose outer deformities seem to have scarred him internally, as well. While there are numerous other supporting characters that turn in fine performances, Kinski utterly dominates the screen every second he’s on it, moving like some perverse and slavering arachnid, moving in for the kill of an insect he will never bleed fully for he will never truly get it.

The making of this film has become as legendary as Coppola’s own odyssey in bringing the similarly themed Apocalypse Now to the screen. Aguirre was shot on a low budget of less than $400,000, in about a month in 1971, with a 35mm camera Herzog admits he stole, but it was his fighting with Kinski on the set, and the legend of Herzog’s pulling a gun on the actor, to keep him in line, that helped contribute to its worldwide success. Herzog reputedly wrote the screenplay in two and a half days, if his informative and thankfully fellatio-free DVD commentary with Norman Hill is to be believed, but Herzog is a known embellisher. Likewise, although he has long claimed that the film was based upon the real story of the real Aguirre, a Conquistadore, Herzog admits on the commentary track that the bulk of the film is fictive, with only a few historical details peppered within.

[spoilers excerpted]

While the film may seem slow going at first, especially in the twenty or so minutes after the haunting visual descent from the Andes that opens the film, there is simply no way to not be swept up in the grandeur of this film, for it was shot with just one camera, and in such close quarters, that when I have read this film described as ‘epic’ I know that the critic is merely tossing about a word that will catch someone’s attention. Lawrence Of Arabia is epic, but this film is a highly personalized portrait of one man, in both its acting style and shooting style, that relentlessly circles its lead until we stare full bore into the maw of megalomania. Aguirre himself, seems to look directly into the camera as he declares, late in the film, ‘If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees, then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of God!’ Such a head on glare into insanity gets a viewer almost emotionally claustrophobic by film’s end, which is the exact antithesis of the definition of ‘epic’. And, unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, which ends in transcendence, Aguirre merely ends, before the cusp. And, at only 94 minutes in length, it seems much longer- but in the best and grandest sense, whereas 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now are much longer films, if no more effective thematically and poetically.

Other than the DVD commentary, which with Herzog is always a treat, philosophically and in terms of the film’s making, the DVD transfer by Anchor Bay is sterling, and because it is a period piece, it has not aged one bit in terms of look. It is as vibrant as a recent film, with great tone and an excellent soundtrack by Florian Fricke’s German band Popol Vuh (after the Mayan creation myth), which always is a Herzog strength. They used electronic equipment to generate the almost human sounding choral hymns, which are hauntingly sad without being mawkish, nor bathetic. Yes, the film is slightly cropped for a television screen, at a 1.33:1 ratio, but that’s a minor quibble given the fact the film was originally shot in a almost identical 1.37:1 ratio, meaning Herzog never intended the film to be in widescreen format, some seemingly divine ratio only American films seem to obsess over. What is really terrific is that the film is expertly dubbed into English- in fact, it was actually filmed in English first, so that there is no noxious reading of subtitles necessary for the wise viewer who wants to avoid eyestrain. This means one can enjoy the film in one viewing, and even those people who hate dubbing cannot complain because the dub is as flawless as I’ve ever seen in regards to lip synchronization. There are also three trailers for the film included.

Many critics often opt out of a real discussion of Herzog’s excellence in craft by falling back on the old and misguided notion that he simplistically follows his whims and is guided by the same sort of madness he accuses Kinski of always fostering. Yet, any look at a film like this shows that Herzog transcends such myopic claims, even if unwittingly; although I seriously doubt the man who is such a scrupulous artist has ever let a foot of film be released under his name without a bit of wit applied to it. As for the screenplay? It is brilliant, knowing when to let the characters speak, and what they should say, and also relying on chance events, such as a flood which washed away Herzog’s rafts. He incorporated that misfortune into the tale. Yet, what the film ultimately says means less than the whole experience, or how it is said through the art. Herzog’s small budget becomes a strength when he cannot do overhead shots from a plane, or elaborate crane shots, nor delving close ups that gradually close in on someone, nor elaborate retakes, as Herzog, in the commentary, admits that one take was the rule- although out of practical necessity, rather than the odd obsessiveness of a Fassbinder. The camera, helmed by cinematographer Thomas Mauch, is always with the Spaniards, not beyond them, and by the film’s end the apparent motion of the raft is circular, with shots showing it move from left to right, then right to left, onscreen, whereas earlier the movement of the film and the characters was always straight ahead, almost at the viewer. The final shots, with the deluded madman Aguirre in full rant, has Herzog in a speedboat, circling around, adding final anomy to the motion of the story, and possibly history. Yet, there are other bravura celluloid moments, such as the aforementioned leaving of the horse, an early shot of the ferocious and turbid brown rapids that Herzog holds on long enough to unsettle a viewer, raindrops being left on the camera lens during a drizzle on the river, and an eerie close up of an Indian flutist, whom Herzog says, on the commentary, was retarded.

Yet, Herzog admits with justified pride that this film succeeds precisely because it does not follow the Hollywood formula: there is no real hero to root for, no predictable victory to cheer for, no visible bad guys, and no romantic interest for the leading character.

[spoilers excerpted]

Aguirre: The Wrath Of God is an indisputable masterpiece, and one of the greatest films not only of German cinema, but human cinema. That Herzog directed it when he was only twenty-eight years old is astonishing. Its combination of improvisation- for Herzog loathes storyboards, calling them the ‘disease of Hollywood’, with an almost Bergmanian chamber drama focus on an individual, also makes it one of the most unique films ever crafted. It is a film to be seen by anyone with a love of art, intellect, and human nature, at any age, and in any age.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

All Systems Go!

We are full steam ahead for Aguirre, the Wrath of God on Tuesday night. Thanks to Russ, one of our oldest and most loyal movie geeks, we will have a copy for the screening.

Capital City Bar and Grill
Doors open at 7:00 PM. Film starts at 7:30 PM.

As always, there is no cover charge or admission fee.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Interesting Facts about Aguirre, the Wrath of God

  1. In order to get the performance he desired, before each shot Herzog would deliberately infuriate Kinski. After waiting for the hot-tempered actor's inevitable tantrum to "burn itself out", Herzog would then roll the camera.
  2. The camera used to shoot the film was stolen by Herzog from the Munich Film School.
  3. The low budget precluded the use of stunt men or elaborate special effects. The cast and crew climbed up mountains, hacked through thick jungle, and rode ferocious Amazonian river rapids on rafts built by natives. At one point, a storm caused a river to flood, burying the film sets underneath several feet of water and destroying all of the rafts built for the film. This flooding was immediately incorporated into the story, as a sequence including a flood and subsequent rebuilding of rafts was shot.
  4. The soundtrack was composed and performed by German progressive/Krautrock band Popol Vuh.
  5. Near the end of the shooting, Werner Herzog thought he had lost all the negatives that the film was shot on. He later discovered that the shipping agency at the Lima airport had completed all paperwork that accompanied the transportation of the film cans, but had not actually shipped them. The cans were thought lost for several weeks before the oversight was revealed.
  6. To obtain the monkeys utilized in the climactic sequence, Herzog paid several locals to trap 400 monkeys; he paid them half in advance and was to pay the other half upon receipt. The trappers sold the monkeys to someone in Los Angeles or Miami, and Herzog came to the airport just as the monkeys were being loaded to be shipped out of the country. He pretended to be a veterinarian and claimed that the monkeys needed vaccinations before leaving the country. Abashedly, the handlers unloaded the monkeys, and Herzog loaded them into his jeep and drove away, used them in the shot they were required for, and released them afterwards into the jungle.
  7. Many of the scenes depicted in the film were unrehearsed and unstaged, and the dividing line between the cast acting in character and simply reacting to their situations as people became very blurry. For example, in one of the opening scenes, when the carriage holding Aguirre's daughter tips over and threatens to collapse, a hand comes in from the right side of the frame to assist the actors in steadying their hold. That hand belongs to director Werner Herzog.
  8. Aguirre was shot in five weeks, following nine months' worth of pre-production planning. The film was shot in chronological order, as Herzog believed the film crew's progress on the river directly mirrored that of the explorers' journey in the story.
  9. Herzog wrote the screenplay “in a frenzy”, which he completed in only two and a half days. Much of the script was written during a 200-mile (320 km) bus trip with Herzog’s football team. During the bus trip, his teammates got drunk after winning a game and one of them subsequently vomited on several pages of Herzog's manuscript, which he immediately tossed out the window. Herzog claims he can't remember what he wrote on these pages.
  10. On one occasion, irritated by the noise from a hut where cast and crew were playing cards, the explosive Kinski fired three shots at it, blowing the top joint off one extra's finger. Subsequently, Kinski started leaving the jungle location (over Herzog's refusal to fire a sound assistant), only changing his mind after Herzog threatened to shoot first Kinski and then himself. The latter incident has given rise to the legend that Herzog made Kinski act for him at gunpoint. However, Herzog has repeatedly debunked the claim during interviews, explaining he only verbally threatened Kinski in the heat of the moment, in a desperate attempt to keep him from leaving the set.
  11. Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now, a movie based on Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella Heart of Darkness, was influenced also by Aguirre, as it contains seemingly deliberate visual "quotations" of Herzog's film. Coppola himself has noted, "Aguirre, with its incredible imagery, was a very strong influence. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Problem with Aguirre, The Wrath of God

Here's the problem with Aguirre, the Wrath of God (or any other Werner Herzog movie outside of Grizzly Man or Rescue Dawn): it's nearly impossible to get your hands on a copy here in Springpatch.

Knowing that a problem might ensue with securing this film for our screening, I ordered a copy from Amazon. Then I was notified that there might be a delay in shipping which would mean the film would not arrive in time for our March 25 screening. I had a backup plan, however. Lincoln Library has the only lending copy of the movie in town. I've checked it out before, and I was more than prepared to check it out again. When I went to check it out, however, I found that it had already been checked out. Until the 24th. I've placed a hold on this copy, and if it is returned on time, we will not have an issue. I'll pick it up on the 25th and all will be well for Movie Geeks Club.

If, however, I cannot secure a copy of the film, I have a couple of scenarios for you. Here they are:

1) We watch the Errol Morris documentary Gates of Heaven. I thought this was a reasonable replacement for three reasons. First, I already have a copy of this film in my possession. Second, this movie is the reason that Werner Herzog had to eat his shoe, which was captured in the short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Third, many critics, including Roger Ebert, consider Gates of Heaven one of the top ten movies of all time. If we go this route, we will screen Aguirre, the Wrath of God in April and move everything else back one month.
2) We flash forward a month and screen Roman Polanski's The Pianist. This movie is running away with the online vote, and I'm certain it will be our nominee for the April movie. If we screen this movie in March, then we will screen Aguirre, the Wrath of God in April. The old switcheroo, see?
3) We screen the much more mainstream (and not as interesting) Werner Herzog feature film Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale. This film, based on Herzog's 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, is about German-born Vietnam Veteran Dieter Dengler. This is a totally sweet movie, by most standards, but I feel like it lacks some of the oomph that most of Herzog's features exude. Regardless, it would be a Herzog substitute, and one that we could get our hands on readily. If we go this route, we may want to forgo Aguirre, the Wrath of God until a later date, as I think it is in bad principle to show films by the same director in back-to-back months.

What do you think, Movie Geeks? Let us know via e-mail or in a comment on this blog.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Revered Movie Remakes

MSN Movies - Hollywood Hitlist: "In scarier news, Variety reported this week that Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production arm are working on a modern version of the classic 'Rosemary's Baby' for Paramount Pictures. It's become acceptable in Hollywood that no matter how revered a movie is, it's a candidate to be remade. This is one that clearly shouldn't be. Screened today, director Roman Polanski's 'Baby' is just as scary as any modern flick. Plus, how any filmmaker could match the original's intensity is hard to imagine, and a quality director wouldn't go near a project like this with a 10-foot pole after the public whipping Gus Van Sant got for remaking 'Psycho' a decade ago."

Review of Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Here's a film review of Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God.
After seeing Werner Herzog's recent documentary My Best Fiend about his five-time lead actor Klaus Kinski, and also the animated The Road to El Dorado, it seemed like a perfect time to go back and watch Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), which I had been wanting to see for years. The few images I saw from it in My Best Fiend really haunted me, much more so than anything else in that movie.

Though it's slightly less impressive on video, I was still riveted and awestruck. It's a truly amazing movie, an epic made from genius, stubbornness, and madness. It's the story of Lorenzo's search for El Dorado, the lost city of gold. Aguirre (Kinski) is one of the members of the party who ends up taking over a splinter faction and leading the men to their deaths. The whole movie is shot in the jungle and on the Amazon river, and it feels as alive as if it were shot there yesterday. The film is nearly 30 years old and the story five hundred years old and somehow it still seems vivid.

The film benefits from seeing My Best Fiend and knowing a few behind-the-scenes factoids. When it opens on the tremendous shot of an endless line of travelers winding down and around a mountain, and popping up just at the bottom of the frame, we know that there are normally clouds covering that mountain, and that they cleared just for that shot. Herzog says that he believes he had God on his side. What we don't tend to think about is that Herzog put himself through this ordeal as well, placing the camera in very narrow, slippery spots on this hillside.

We also learn from My Best Fiend that Kinski perfected a kind of twist-pivot that brought him snakelike into the camera's view, rather than simply marching into the shot and turning sideways. This shot is used toward the end, when the men are feverish and dying on the raft. Before long, Kinski is cradling his 15-year-old daughter's head and lurching around on the raft, frightening the hundreds of monkeys who have now taken over as its primary passengers on its out-of-control voyage to nowhere.

I think that one reason the film feels so alive is that Herzog never cheats. He never shoots an overhead perspective shot from the comfort of a helicopter. When Aguirre and his band are on their raft, Herzog is on the raft, too. We don't see it from a distance (until the very last shot). As the raft tumbles down the rapids, the camera has water spots on it. We know that they couldn't go back and get the shot again, or cut to a safe master shot. So the water spots made it to the final cut.

Roger Ebert, who considers this film one of the best ever made, calls it "foolhardy", and compares it to other mad masterworks like Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924) and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979). Pauline Kael wrote about the "film folly" and lists Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 (1976) and D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). These are madmen whose visions are so monumental that whole crews must suffer intolerable conditions for unendurable lengths of time so that great foolhardy films may be made. I was thinking, now that Herzog and Coppola have both been tamed, who is left to make these mad films? Titanic wanted to be such a film, but it was too controlled and its script was too childish. No, it could be that Aguirre is one of the last of these kinds of films. Herzog tried to duplicate it with Fitzcarraldo (1982), which is only a fraction as interesting or poetic as Aguirre.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God remains a treasure. It's a glimpse into a visionary's mind. It's a passionate love/hate poem to the jungle and to Klaus Kinski. It's an incredible statement about the nature of man. And it's as potent today as the day it opened. Hopefully one day it will be available on DVD with Herzog commentary, but for now, the VHS tape, by New Yorker was enough to make me a believer.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Herzog Conversation

A conversation with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris in The Believer Magazine. It is very interesting at it gives a little more insight into Werner Herzog. Here is an excerpt.


EM: When Werner and I first met each other, we took a trip to visit this serial killer [Edmund Emil Kemper III] in prison in Northern California.

WH: Vacaville, yeah.

EM: There were three of us. And Kemper’s lawyer. To circumvent a lot of red tape, the lawyer identified us as psychiatrists. Werner’s producer, Walter Saxer, came along with us. So there was Dr. Saxer, Dr. Morris, and Dr. Herzog allowed in because—
WH: We were scared shitless because Kemper was a very huge man, fairly young, I think still twenty-six by then. But something like six foot five or six foot four.

EM: I think bigger.

WH: Maybe bigger, yes.

EM: Very large.

WH: Capital punishment was suspended at the time he was condemned. And he chose seven or eight consecutive life terms, but he wanted to die in the gas chamber. And the only way to get to the gas chamber when it was reinstated at that time was to kill someone inside the prison. So the attorney was really scared. And he was in a way relieved that he had some solid men as his guards or his company. And reading all the transcripts of Kemper, I had the feeling that what was interesting was that the man, in my opinion—and I’m speaking of Edmund Emil Kemper—he made a lot of sense. In a way he makes a lot of sense, why he killed and how it all originated.

And at the end, after having killed seven or eight or so coeds, hitchhikers, he killed his mother and put the severed head on the mantel and threw darts at it. And then there happened to be some leftover turkey in the fridge from Thanksgiving. And he called the lady next door, the neighbor, and asked—am I correct? Yeah, asked her if she would like to pick up the turkey leftovers, and she walks in and then he killed her as well, and put her in a closet. And then he fled in his mother’s car and crisscrossed the West until he ran out of money and ran out of gas. And in Pueblo, Colorado, he kept calling the police. [To Morris] You know better what happened there. I think they thought he was kind of gaga and didn’t believe him.

EM: He desperately tried to turn himself in to the police by making repeated phone calls from this phone booth. Now he would have had a cell phone. So I guess it’s easier now for serial killers to turn themselves in. And the police kept hanging up on him. They just—

WH: And he was down to his last quarter to make his last call, and then two detectives actually picked him up at this phone booth. I remember their names because they sound very German: Schmidt and Grubb. And Schmidt and Grubb took him to the police station, and what was smart of them was, they just randomly turned on a tape recorder and Kemper spoke for six hours, pretty much nonstop.

And this transcript is really wonderful—

EM: Quite amazing, yes.

WH: Very, very amazing. And Kemper was, in a way, a very sensitive person. When you looked at his hands, like the hands of a violin player, in a way. I remember he looked like an elephant with a Mozart soul.

EM: Yeah. That’s the way Werner described him at the time. An elephant with the soul of Mozart. I’m not sure that most of the prison authorities would have described him in the same way, but at the time I found Werner’s description very interesting. I thought for a long time about it. It made it situational, as if God in his infinite perversity had somehow mismatched Kemper’s various attributes in order to produce some kind of nightmare, some kind of tragedy. I remember thinking, Yeah, if Othello had been in Hamlet’s place, and vice versa, there would be no tragedy.

It’s so mixed up in my mind—Werner in these early years, graduate school, and what I myself was thinking. I was a very disaffected graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. That’s where I first met Werner. It was just shortly after he finished Aguirre and his films were being shown in the United States for the first time. It was an amazing experience to see Werner’s work. There was really nothing quite like it in America at that time, and probably not since that time.

And I became really fascinated by Werner’s films. I’m thinking about it even now, now that we’re talking about it, our attempts to understand what people are thinking. What is going on in another person’s mind? How do they see the world? Kemper was a perfect example. I would drive every day from Berkeley to Santa Cruz and I would attend the Kemper trial. I became a regular fixture. And I would say the trial transformed my thinking about many, many, many things.

In those days, murder trials were chopped into two pieces. There would be a guilt and innocence phase and a penalty phase.

And there was this wacko psychiatrist, Dr. Joel Fort, who took the stand and said that Kemper was not even neurotic. Kemper had killed a dozen people. He had killed his grandparents. He had been put away in a juvenile facility, released under California law when he reached eighteen, and then went on to kill eight more people. And Kemper had described how these murders occurred. He would pick up women hitchhiking. He would be killing a woman with a knife and talking to her, saying, “I hope this isn’t really unpleasant. I hope you’re not uncomfortable. I hope this is not too frightening.”

So, the psychiatrist—I’ll make this as short as possible—the psychiatrist took the stand and said, “You know, this man is not even neurotic. Not only is he not psychotic, he’s not even neurotic, because he can’t empathize with the victim. He has a sociopathy or a psychopathy. He can be completely dispassionate while he is killing another person.” And I started to wonder—I still wonder about this stuff—I started to wonder how in god’s name does the psychiatrist know what Ed is thinking? Maybe Ed has this fantasy of being in control. Maybe in this writing after the fact he imagined himself as being dispassionate. Perhaps he was completely out of control, deeply psychotic. This kind of discrepancy between the accounts that we provide about ourselves and the world.

And I think it’s very much—in a different way—but it’s very much in your films as well, and something that deeply inspired me.

WH: There is something about Kemper and, of course, Ed Gein as well—we had a falling out over Ed Gein at the time, sometime later.

EM: Cannibals can turn friends into enemies. Go figure.

WH: But actually, yes, it was a deep concern and in a way it had to do with cinema, for you at that time were more into the direction of writing. But we had a very, very intense rapport over it. Errol had a problem with me when we tried to find out in Plainfield, Wisconsin, where Ed Gein—the very probably most notorious—

EM: The movie Psycho was based on Ed Gein. Robert Bloch, the writer of the novel Psycho, lived in a small Wisconsin town, Weyauwega, about twenty miles from Plainfield. Ed Gein was notorious. And the farmhouse where he lived alone became the ultimate house of horrors. He had upholstered furniture in his house with human flesh. He was a human taxidermist, cannibal, serial killer, grave robber, necrophile. An all-around good guy.

WH: Errol wanted to know more about the grave robberies, because Ed Gein had not only murdered people. He also excavated freshly buried corpses at the cemetery. And I do remember: he dug up graves in a pretty perfect circle. And in the very center of this circle was the grave of his mother. And Errol kept wondering, did he excavate his mother and use her flesh and skin for some sculptures in things at his home?

EM: A relatively innocuous question. [Laughter]

WH: So the only way to find out is, I proposed, let’s go to Plainfield, grab a shovel, and dig at night. And I showed up in Plainfield, Wisconsin, because I was doing some filming up in Alaska and I came in a car all the way from Alaska down to Plainfield to visit Errol—

EM: I was living with Ed Gein’s next-door neighbors at the time, who I had befriended. Beth and Carroll Gear.

WH: You didn’t show up.

EM: Oh, much later, yes. The chronology of all this is coming back to me.

WH: I was there, but you didn’t show up. And we had a date. It was something like September 10, and I said, I’m going to be there, and you will be there, and you didn’t show up.

EM: He’s unfortunately correct.

WH: And I would have dug, even though Errol wasn’t there. I was kind of scared because people open fire easily in this town.

EM: Well, wait a second. I had been living there. I had become friends with this very strange doctor, Dr. George Arndt. He had written one academic paper in his entire medical career, called “A Community’s Reaction to a Horrifying Event.” Essentially it was a compendium of Ed Gein jokes. I had befriended Dr. Arndt and together we drove to Plainfield Cemetery. He had a very, very big Cadillac.

It reminds me actually of that scene in your Antarctic movie. Dr. Arndt and I had put our ears to the ground in the vicinity of the Gein graves, looking for hollow areas in the earth.

WH: I had forgotten about it completely. So things come back thirty-five years later.

EM: And Dr. Arndt, who was really quite mad—I should tell you at least one of the Ed Gein jokes. Do you remember any of them?

WH: I don’t think so.

EM: Why did Ed Gein keep his chairs covered overnight?

WH: I don’t know.

EM: To keep them from getting goose pimples. So I was there with George Arndt in the cemetery and Arndt had this theory that Ed was so devious that he wouldn’t have gone down directly into his mother’s grave. I had discovered that many of the graves that he had robbed made a circle around his mother’s grave. And Dr. Arndt took this new information and came up with the hypothesis that Gein went down into one of the side graves—he only robbed the graves of women who were middle-aged and overweight, like his mom. He went into one of those graves and then tunneled, that there would be this radial tunnel toward the center, toward his mother’s grave.

Arndt’s theory was that Gein would never have gone directly down into his mother’s grave. Psychiatrists have amazing theories. But he would never go down into the grave. As Arndt put it: Gein was too indirect, too devious. Hence, his radial digging, this tunneling. And I wondered, Wait a second—is she really down there?

I could never get an answer. I could never get a straight answer from anyone. Is Mrs. Gein still buried in Plainfield Cemetery? And I told the story—this was the big mistake here—I told the story to Werner.

WH: And I showed up in Plainfield.

EM: And so there was this horrible realization: he’s actually going to do it. And I have to say, I did get scared. I had this picture—you know, I was always really—I probably still am—trying to please my mother. I had already been thrown out of these various graduate schools. I was a ne’er-do-well, and down for the count, and I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I saw myself arrested with the Germans. I saw this full moon. I saw the Plainfield police. I saw the police photographers. I saw myself being led away with the Germans in handcuffs, the complete disgrace.

So this is an opportunity to apologize. I apologize for not showing up.

WH: I have to apologize for something else, because my car had broken down and there was no mechanic in the mile out there. There was a wreckage yard, and I fell in love with the guy who fixed my car.

EM: Clayton Schlapinski.

WH: Yes, Clayton Schlapinski. And I said that we were going to do a film there in Plainfield, and that really upset Errol a lot. He thought I was a thief without loot. This was his country, his territory, his Plainfield, and I shot in Plainfield. I shot a film, Stroszek, which I think is forgotten and forgiven by now, and we can maintain friendship over this now.

EM: I told Werner: For you to steal a character or a story isn’t real theft. But to steal a landscape, that is a very, very serious crime.

WH: I understand that. I take it to heart, but there actually is a film out there, and we can’t take it off the map.

EM: It’s a very good film.

WH: It has a beautiful end with a dancing chicken, and I really like it.

EM: Yes.

WH: But what might be interesting is what somehow creates movies. What sort of odd fascinations, and they return in a very different form somewhere. And even I forgot about putting the head to the ground and banging the ground and listening whether there was anything hollow. And all of a sudden in the film that I just finished and showed yesterday, something similar like that in staged form appears.

EM: And it’s a wonderful scene.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

April Movie Geeks Nominations

For April, we'll be voting among five incredible war films.

They are:

Apocalypse Now
The Deer Hunter
Full Metal Jacket
Das Boot
The Pianist

To place your vote, leave a comment on this post, vote in the poll on the right hand side of the page, send us an e-mail, or show up to the Movie Geeks Club screening of Aguirre, the Wrath of God on March 25.

March Movie: Aguirre, the Wrath of God

On March 25 the Movie Geeks Club will screen the Werner Herzog classic, Aguirre, the Wrath of God. As always, the doors will open at 7:00, and the movie will start at 7:30.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God follows the travels of Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre, who leads a group of conquistadores down the Orinoco River in South America in search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. Using a minimalist story and dialogue, the film creates a vision of madness and folly, counterpointed by the lush but unforgiving Amazonian jungle. Although based loosely on what is known of the historical figure of Aguirre, the film's story line is, as Herzog acknowledged years after the film's release, a work of imagination. Some of the people and situations may have been inspired by Gaspar de Carvajal's account of an earlier Amazonian expedition, although Carvajal was not present on the historical voyage represented in the film.

The film is the first collaboration between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. Their work together was immediately volatile, with the director and actor disagreeing on numerous aspects of the film and of Kinski's role. Herzog learned to play on Kinski's hostility and anger and used it throughout the film to charge scenes. Rumor holds that, at one point, Kinski threatened to leave the production but was held at gunpoint by the desperate director. Herzog reportedly threatened to shoot Kinski and then turn the gun on himself if Kinski quit the shoot. Both Herzog and Kinski have different versions of this story.

It is considered by many to be a masterpiece, and it has been included in Time Magazine's list of "All Time 100 Best Films." It is ranked #245 on IMDB's top 250 Movies list. It is also ranked as #46 on Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time." It carries many of the literary and dramatic themes as the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness, and it is seen by many critics as an obvious influence on Coppola's take on the Heart of Darkness narrative, Apocalypse Now.

from Wikipedia and IMDB entries on Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Monday, February 25, 2008

If You Love the Sound of an Angry German . . .

then you'll love these clips of legendary actor Klaus Kinski throwing tantrums both on and off the sets of movies. Most of these clips were recorded by film director Werner Herzog, who collaborated with Kinski on five films. In 1999, Herzog released the documentary My Best Fiend, which detailed the difficult relationship between him and Kinski.

There were numerous occasions during their relationship where they became violent toward one another. One famous story holds that Herzog held Kinski at gunpoint and required him to stay on set. Another famous story tells of the South American natives working on the set of Fitzcarraldo offering to murder Kinski for Herzog because he was a troubled and problematic person for them to deal with.

Enjoy these clips. Then vote for the March movie at the right.

From Fitzcarraldo. A "mild" argument about the catering.

Kinski on his Jesus tour. Herzog claims Kinski finished this right before he came to the set of Aguirre and expected everyone to treat him like Jesus.

In this scene, Herzog explains the murder offer made by the natives, and how he regretted his decision to prevent them.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Voting for March Movie Club

Next Tuesday is our February Movie Geeks Club. We'll be screening the film-noir classic Angels with Dirty Faces, starring James Cagney. As always, doors open at 7:00. Movie starts at 7:30. There is no admission fee. You can buy food and drinks before, during, and after the movie.

After the movie, we will vote for the March 25th Selection. You can also vote any time by sending us an e-mail or leaving a comment at the end of this post. We've decided to make March our "Kings of Independent Film" month. We have have selected five movies from three incredible independent directors. Here are the nominations for March 25:

Director 1: Werner Herzog
I decided to select three of Herzog's movies for nomination, mainly because I couldn't decide which of them I would rather see. I'm a fan of Herzog's work, especially of his legendary relationship with Klaus Kinski, and I think these are three great movies.

Aguirre, Wrath of God


Cobra Verde

Director 2: Harmony Korine
I like Korine's movies, as difficult as they can be to watch. I wasn't a big fan of Kids, but I loved Korine's hyperrealist/surrealist take on small-town Midwestern life in Gummo. I think julien donkey-boy is much more suited for Movie Geeks.

julien donkey-boy

Director 3: Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch is an independent heavyweight, and it's hard to pick one of his movies. I've always been a little partial to Dead Man. It's one of those movies that just sticks with you. It's maybe not one of his more well-known flicks, but it's among his more interesting, for my two cents.

Dead Man