Friday, March 07, 2008


Bob Turnbull doesn't hide his esoteric tastes, and that extends to the title of his blog, Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind. Another in the distinguished line of Canadian film bloggers, Bob regularly highlights the best of Toronto's film festivals, including a long string of reports from the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. Bob also has a habit of illustrating his posts with glorious screencaps, with the most recent shining example being his contribution to the Deeply Superficial Blog-a-thon with captures of his favorite film visuals. And if you're a Val Lewton fan like me, don't miss his rich tribute to the talented producer.

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'Likely my first movie experience was watching Bambi or Dumbo during TV's "The Wonderful World Of Disney" on a Sunday evening at home. I'm sure we also went to a couple of the re-releases of Disney films in the theatre as well - Cinderella strikes me as one I saw in the theatre for the first time. Those Love Bug movies would've been early big screen viewings as well. I have vague memories of being in a theatre for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I really can't recall how old I was. I know I had no idea what the hell was going on though. Drive-ins also would have played an early part of my viewing experience - our entire family used to go to drive-ins during the summer while on vacation with my cousins. I know we saw Return Of The Pink Panther several times and I still love that movie because of those nights and remembering my dad shaking the car with laughter at Peter Sellers. Actually, my whole family loved it while my cousins thought we were loons.'

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'The In-Laws (1979) just arrived the other day in the mail. As great and manic as Alan Arkin is in the film, Peter Falk's exquisite timing and totally calm demeanor make the film for me. In particular, his description of the perfect chicken sandwich during a car chase kills me every time. The most recent blind buy was the documentary/concert film Heima by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. The gorgeous trailer was enough to convince me to pick it up, but I've also been meaning to dive into their music a bit more having only heard snippets of their songs and realizing that was nowhere near enough. The film is a bit self-serving and occasionally self-important, but my goodness Iceland is a beautiful country. And the music is at times revelatory - the closing 12 minute "Untitled 3" is simply glorious and combined with both the terrific sensory overload stage presentation and insertions of random audience and nature scenes from previous stops on the tour, for me it distills the whole experience into about as religious an experience as a non-religious person can find. So yeah, I kinda liked it...'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMING. IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER, WHAT 3 MOVIES WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'As much as I love Film Noir and my recent fixation Horror, those are both left to other more knowledgeable folks. Instead, my first instinct is to go with a few modern Japanese films that embrace, if not fully exist within, surrealism. I know this isn't TCM's bread and butter, but if we're living in a world where TCM gave me a block of their programming time, up would be down, night would be day and Michael Bay would be subtle - so I think I can stretch the rules a bit...Three that I've watched recently that I might choose:
'The Taste Of Tea (2005 - Katsuhito Ishii ) - A simple quiet lovely story about the individuals in a family who each have their own obsessions and personal worlds and how they eventually get to a more peaceful happiness. Gentle, funny and filled with inventive ways of showing how the characters are feeling.
'Takeshis' (2005 - Takeshi Kitano) - The beginning of Kitano's personal deconstruction of his creative methods, this film kind of folds upon itself in a way similar to Spike Jonze's Adaptation. Within the film, famous actor Beat Takeshi meets a struggling actor named Kitano who could be his twin. After their meeting and an autograph, Beat goes off into makeup and as he falls asleep he wonders what life is like for his doppelganger. Within his "dream", we see this imaginary life of Kitano populated with Beat's own acquaintances in various new roles - sometimes popping up several times. To remove us even further from reality, within Beat's dream the struggling actor Kitano has his own dreams. And there's a terrific dance sequence with three tap dancers and a huge caterpillar.
'Princess Raccoon (2004 - Seijun Suzuki) - Working with several different Japanese folklore tales, the film presents the story of young Prince Amechiyo who encounters and falls in love with the lovely raccoon spirit of the film's title. More important than the plot really is the staging of the story - as its Japanese title indicates, it's an operetta and the story unfolds through numerous songs and is actually staged as a play would be with typical sets and props. However, Suzuki uses the fact that he is filming these staged events in order to superimpose backgrounds, move figures around and do many other little tricks that obviously couldn't easily be done during a play.
'I don't expect they'd invite me back...Which reminds me of the time that I co-hosted a radio program with a buddy of mine. It was a Sunday morning progressive rock show for a local university radio station and he said I could play anything. I tended to the heavier riff side of things (Djam Karet, Circle, Happy Family) which didn't really go down well with the station programmer who happened to be listening that morning. Even though we followed the overnight death-metal show, he called my friend in for a frank discussion. My friend quit the show. I still owe him...'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'Mr. Creosote in Monty Python's Meaning Of Life. The funniest part isn't the buckets of barf or Mr. Creosote's explosion and resulting exposed internal organs. It's the offer of the "waafer thin" mint.

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN, AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?: 'I'll give you two: Casablanca and It's A Wonderful Life. My excuse is that I kinda feel like I have already seen them...Through countless clips I feel I know the plots, major scenes and can quote pieces of dialog. Of course, that's not the same as experiencing the entire movie and capturing it all in context, but neither of those films are high priorities for me given my excitement for so many other titles. One day though...'

Sleeping Beauty--'Though I remember the dragon, the spinning wheel and the three good fairies reasonably well, not much else of "Sleeping Beauty" has stuck with me since having last seen it decades ago. I also vaguely recall that the Prince was a total dullard.'
The Last Starfighter
Death Wish.

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'Visually arresting films...My "reviews" of those tend to be just a series of screen captures (I did this for both Tears Of The Black Tiger and Citizen Dog). I could have put more into the narrative description of these films, but I like the end result of seeing all those screencaps in a row and enjoy fast forwarding through the films for the scenes that jump out. It also appeals to my sense of laziness...'

LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?: 'Well, those drive-ins we saw as kids morphed into those drive-ins we saw as teenagers and the last one I can clearly remember was Children Of The Corn. Pretty terrible movie...But we saw it twice that summer and the second time was even more fun (yelling "Malachai!" at the screen, sitting on the roofs of our cars with a frosty beverage of some variety or other, etc.). This would've been 84 or 85.'

A FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'I'm pretty spread out...I tend to bounce around a lot. If I've seen a few documentaries in a row, I get pulled back into Film Noir, then back to recent Hollywood releases, then a craving for Japanese yakuza films, then Horror (my biggest of late). Even within horror I'm bouncing between Italian 70s to Corman's Poe films to the Amicus crew to recent mainstream stuff. I guess I was pretty sucked into the whole J-Horror "genre" and I'm still a big fan of it (though there's quite a bit of chaff in it too). The shocks are fewer, but I love the approach of creating an atmosphere of dread that slowly curls you up into a ball on the couch. A sure sign that I may like it a bit too much - I'm actually looking forward the The Grudge 3.'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OVER THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'My favourite soapbox film - Ocean's Twelve. People tend to hate it because it didn't make sense or the heists were stupid or because they can't stand Julia Roberts. I can't help them on the Julia front, but the plot does actually hold together. And the plausibility of the heists doesn't really matter - it's an art film and a playground for Steven Soderbergh. I had pretty much this same conversation with a friend and a new acquaintance at a Christmas party this year (I'm pretty sure we drove several people from the kitchen), but all was well in the end as we agreed that Takeshi Kitano rules.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'I'm just no good at giving single answers on these types of questions...
'1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die is a favourite as it's one of the best compendiums of great films I've ever read. It covers mainstream blockbusters, classic Hollywood, foreign art films, experimental, documentary, short films, etc. I've seen a little over half of the list, so it'll continue to be a driver of new films to see for some time. Another fascinating book is Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age at the American Film Institute by George Stevens Jr. Through transcripts of question and answer sessions from the 1970s, directors like Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Rouben Mamoulian and George Stevens discuss their approach to film, the studio system and the good and bad of modern day movies. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is that most of these guys have very straightforward concepts of filmmaking. They are also huge personalities and characters so the book is never less than entertaining. It's helped give me a whole new appreciation for a slew of 30s, 40s and 50s films.
'Others I love to browse through - Eddie Muller's The Art Of Noir, all those Taschen decade books (Movies Of The 90s all the way down to Movies Of The 20s), The Midnight Eye Guide To New Japanese Film (by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp) and just recently another Taschen book called Cinema Now which covers young auteurs and the current state of world wide cinema (with beautiful stills).'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'I've cracked 400 the last three years, so it's an average of just over one per night. I'd love to bump that up to an average of two per night (my list of movies to see keeps growing!), but apparently my body needs this sleep thing that's all the rage.'

1) A much wider and deeper appreciation of art in general.
2) Watching movies just makes me want to watch more movies.
3) The life of a fruit cart in action movies seems to be shorter than that of a fruit fly.

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1 comment:

Bob Turnbull said...

Many thanks Adam...I had a lot of fun answering your questions and since I submitted them I've been reading the other Screen Tests much more closely (mainly I keep thinking "that answer was so much better than mine!").