Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pulp Film of the Week - The Artist



While The Artist is not strictly a pulp work, it is a close cousin for a number of reasons. To start off, I will say that The Artist is a great movie, with a fantastic story, beautiful cinematography, a terrific cast, and wonderful music. While The Artist is a silent film, there are far fewer dialog cards than I expected. This is not due to lack of characters talking, but simply that most of the time we know what people are saying even if there is no audible dialog.

The music carries the film well, without being obvious or overwhelming. The filmmakers let the scenes play and the actors are just plain fantastic.
The male lead, silent film star George Valentin (played by Oscar winner Jean Dujardin) finds himself the toast of Hollywood with many prize roles including Zorro and a Masked Detective. He meets aspiring actress Peppy Miller (played by Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo - who happens to be the Director's wife) and they play through romance and heartache all against the backdrop of Hollywood. The film was shot in Hollywood and co-stars a phalanx of great actors like John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, and Malcolm McDowell.

The Artist is also a beautiful companion piece to Singin' in the Rain. Both films play with the difficulties and opportunities presented during the transitional period when silent films waned and the talkies took over. Like Singin' in the Rain, The Artist is fun, accessible, and a great piece of moviemaking.




Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pulp Film of the Week - The Red Baron

The Red Baron is an interesting, and slightly odd movie for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that Manfred von Richthofen, fighter pilot for the German Empire is the hero of the movie. As I am an American, I grew up with the idea that Germany was the villain in the Great War, so that is a bit strange. However, this is a very well crafted biopic.

This is the first WWI flying ace movie from the digital age that I have seen, and I thought the aerial dogfight scenes were very well done. They are the highlight of the film, and in fact  Richthofen's prowess in the air is the reason that this film exists at all.

The story follows Richthofen from his childhood to his death with stops along the way for romance and chivalry and visions of the horrors of war. Richthofen was from the aristocracy, a Baron in title, and so were most of the other pilots. Under Richthofen they were taught to shoot down the enemy planes, but to avoid killing the pilots if possible, and in an early scene, Richthofen attends the funeral of an enemy pilot that he shot down and expresses remorse for the death.

Richthofen is the Empire's best pilot and to protect the others and draw attention to himself, he paints his plane bright red so the enemy pilots will know that it is him. Thus was born the Red Baron.

There is a love story with Lena Headly's Nurse Otersdorf that feels truncated, but the rivalry with British pilot Roy Brown as played by Joseph Fiennes plays pretty well.

This is a handsome production that was released in 2010 to a mind-numbingly small $40,000 in worldwide revenue. I watched on Netflix instant view and I gave the film 4 out of 5 stars.

Next up is "Aces High" starring Malcolm McDowell from 1976 and I'll get to see a WWI dogfight movie with zero digital fx or green screen shots. I haven't seen this one since the early eighties, but I have fond memories...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tannhäuser Tuesday

Fantasy Flight games has released the first chapter of the first Tannhäuser novel—Rising Sun, Falling Shadows. Here we find Tala Apone, Caitlin Lamsbury, and new guy, Takeshi “Taki” Takata on in infiltration mission in Japan. Things go slightly awry.

You can find the pdf of the chapter here.