Derik Badman's Journal

2021-10-30 11:07

So many movies over the past week, lots of rewatching.

I rewatched Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth and Ghost Dog. The former is still hit and miss for me. Some of the sections I like (Winona Ryder's, Giancarlo Esposito's (who I did not recognize at all), the Paris segement with Issach De Bankolé and Beatrice Dalle), but then the last two (the Rome one with Roberto Benigni, who I can't stand, and the long Finnish one) I just don't. Ghost Dog is another of Jarmusch's kind of funny odd genre pictures, enjoyable to watch, but kind of empty in the end.

Also rewatched Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper with Kristen Stewart, which is even better the second time around, as it's easier to follow it closer when one already gets the set-up. I really like the way it blends genre elements (horror, thriller, ghost story, but also drama about mourning) and offers a variety of explanations and theories for the ghost/spirit aspect, without, in the end, setting a solid explanation for everything. Stewart is also just great to watch, as she is pretty much in the movie non-stop from start to finish (there is maybe 1 scene without her, that I can recall).

Had another Ozu commentary track theatre day with Roger Ebert talking about Floating Weeds one of Ozu's late color films (just got a copy of the out of print Criterion DVD, the commentary is not on the channel). Ebert from the start says he's going to focus on what is on the screen rather than lots of background info, since he is not an Ozu expert, and for the most part he does stick to that, offering a lot of commentary on composition and color and such, interesting enough to follow along with the movie. Felt a little smug when at one point I identified something he was wrong about (how many/which color films Ozu made). He did not much address (other than mentioning it in relation to the actors) how/why the movie was made for a different studio than Ozu otherwise worked for, something I'm a little curious about (will have to check Bordwell's book to see if he addresses this). Ebert gets a little repetitive at times, pointing out the same elements and often re-explaining them rather than just saying "there's x again". The movie itself is a bit of an oddity for Ozu's later work since the family it is focused on is not a traditional one, nor are they in Tokyo. It also at times amps up the drama a bit more than usual (thinking of the various scenes where the actor protagonist slaps people around in his anger). It does have a number of wonderful/beautiful scenes (the argument in the rain, the opening lighthouse shots, the mysterious falling petals inside the theater).

This morning I watched Dreiser's Vampyr from 1932, which I found odd but not totally absorbing. His sense of what is important narrative information and what is not seems quite at odds with convention, and there is almost nothing of characterization. Though it is not a silent film there is very little dialogue, and a large amount of text, mostly in the form of a book explaining vampires. Apparently, this was so early, that vampires were not wholly a known entity in popular culture, so he felt the need to explain them. It's also interesting to note how the vampire's he explains vary from what has become the conventional vampire myth. In this movie vampires control the ghosts of executed criminals (which explains the weird way a man is murdered by the silhouette of a man firing a musket). There is that German Expressionistic thing going on and not a whole lot of plot and... I just couldn't get into it.

Earlier in the week, I ran a first session of a D&D game for a bunch (5) of work colleagues. We are going to try to play every 2 weeks, we'll see how far we get. We tried this before a number of years ago and kept having scheduling problems where not enough people could show up to make it worth playing. I'm using Old School Essentials as the base ruleset but simplifying it down even more. Most of the players are more familiar with regular 5e, so I didn't want to go too rules-light, but I also don't want to run 5e or even deal with all the differences in OSE. I removed a bunch of things, and am going to use d20 + ability score rolls (target of 20) as a roll high general mechanic/save. Oddly no one picked a spellcaster so I don't even need to worry about handling spellcasters. We have an odd group of characters, and I ended up starting them in The Hole in the Oak dungeon which I've run before. I'm going to slot it into the Dolmenwood settings (all from the same author as OSE), and adapt another module I have that I'm placing next to the wood. Did very little prep, as I'm not completely confident we'll make it past the first dungeon... but I'd be pleased to be proved wrong.

Been stalling on a lot of my books. Still working my way (past halfway I think) through Emma Goldman's Living My Life. I've also been reading a bunch of Clark Ashton Smith "Averoigne" stories. There's a new collection of them, but I am weirdly finding that I've already read a lot of them somehow, despite not having actually read that much of Ashton Smith's work. Looking back I see I was reading some of his stories in April and have apparently completely forgotten... that must be why some of these are familiar, as I know only 1 was in the selected stories book I partially read 2 years ago at the beach.