Well, now the summer is over. It’s still warm out, but the kids are back in school and the smog has cleared (for the time being), so we’re calling it. Here’s a podcast where we briefly talk about some of our favorite summer media and also the main thing that happened, Criterion Month. I say briefly sarcastically, because this is pretty long for a mostly directionless podcast. Maybe you wanted to hear from us, though? Methinks that might be the case. In which case, hear away!
I was so skeptical of the sixth Mission: Impossible movie that I didn’t put it on my list of most anticipated movies this year, even though I loved the last three dearly. I was influenced by the news stories about it: Christopher McQuarrie bucking the trend of having a new director for each film. Jeremy Renner choosing to be in Avengers 3 over this. Henry Cavill growing the world’s most expensive mustache. We were due for a disappointment, it seemed inevitable. I was wrong: instead we got the best Mission: Impossible yet.
As we come into the home stretch of this year’s Criterion Month, we seem to have found ourselves in a patch of movies about traveling. We had a movie about people puttering about America, then one about traversing France, and now a film about driving around Iran. Taste of Cherry‘s little twist on the minimal road trip formula? It follows a man looking for someone who will burry him after he kills himself.
When you’re doing a project like this one, especially if you’re doing it the way I am, it’s easy to takes movies for granted. This month I’ve already watched eight other movies, and in most cases, written up reviews immediately after their credits rolled. When you’re watching some of the world’s finest cinema, it’s really not that hard to do; you just summarize the plot, comment on the themes or the film’s impact, and Bob’s your uncle. It such a streamlined process I didn’t even think to talk about how comforting it was to see familiar actors last night in The Last Picture Show, a rare gift in this mostly director-driven practice. But it all comes to a smashing halt when you watch something truly experimental, like The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The Last Picture Show is yet another coming of age story that’s really distant from my life experience. It’s set during the Fifties in a small (and shrinking) town somewhere in Texas oil country, where optimism seems to have already died long ago. This is a place where no one has career prospects and the adults entertain themselves by watching to terrible high school basketball team and sleeping with each other. For the kids, the entertainment options have dwindled to the property of one man, Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), who has a cafe, a pool hall, an the movie theater, from which the title of the film comes.
I was never sure why sometimes people use the word “harakiri” and sometimes it’s “seppuku,” so I looked it up. Both words are written using the same kanji characters, “to cut” and “stomach.” The difference, I found out, is formality. “Harakiri” is an informal word, and would perhaps be used to describe a defeated warrior taking their own life on the battlefield. “Seppuku” is more formal, maybe more befitting describing the act of suicide that would also involve a second slicing the person dying’s head off. This is worth knowing, since Masaki Kobayashi’s film Harakiri is actually known as “Seppuku” in Japan.
Compared to your typical film protagonist, it’s hard to deny adolescence was easy for me. Just look at these general advantages I had: I grew up in the suburbs. I built up a loyal group of friends very on and have maintained those relationships to this day (as this blog proves). I was smart enough that it wasn’t especially hard to succeed in school. My parents were and are married and gainfully employed. Of course, that’s not really my life’s story, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Antoine Doinel’s plight in The 400 Blows.