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Weekend Reel Reads: Wes Anderson, Westerns and Roger Corman

Features
by Steve Greene
June 3, 2012 6:32 PM
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Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at critic@indiewire.com.

When Westerns Were Un-American

Inspired by a current Spaghetti Westerns series at New York’s Film Forum, the legendary film critic J. Hoberman gave an overview of the genre for the New York Review of Books Blog. Exploring the roots of some of the more notable examples of non-traditional Westerns, Hoberman extends his analysis to include lesser-known ones that were produced in various locales around the world. Each of these creative outputs tackled the idea of revolution in different ways, depending on their Communist influences or where the particular narratives were set.

"[Sergio] Solinas’s screenplays were not the first un-American Westerns. The Italian-made productions that made Clint Eastwood an international star were universal in their appeal to audience ressentiment, bloodlust, and inchoate desire for vengeance. (At the same time, they were an eminently disposable product. 'This is the most difficult series I’ve ever put together,' Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein told The Wall Street Journal, detailing his search for usable prints.) But in turning the most American of movie genres into a subversive commentary on American Cold War politics, Spaghetti Westerns elaborated an existing tradition."

A Psychotronic Childhood

Novelist Colson Whitehead penned this autobiogrpahical look at his relationship with B-movies during his youth. He describes the afternoon TV showings of fare from the stable of Roger Corman and how his adolescent years brought him to the theater to soak in the kind of films that would subsequently get dissected in the pages of Fangoria. Some of the pieces most interesting insights explain how the Whitehead’s parents used this kind of movie as a way to introduce the pre-teen to the ways of human nature.

"Fate was cruel and withholding, and then suddenly surprised me with a TV announcer’s tantalizing words: 'Stay tuned for "The Flesh Eaters" '; or 'Don’t go away! We’ll be right back with "Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things." ' I couldn’t look the title up on the Web, couldn’t know anything beyond what its luridness conjured, and there was the frightening possibility that I might never have the chance to see the movie again. Who knew when this low-budget comet would return to this corner of the galaxy? Its appearance was a cosmic accident, one that might never be repeated. Weeks before, some bored drone at the TV station had decided to dump it into this time slot, and today I happened to be home from school with bronchitis. Did I have time to grab some baloney or a bowl of Lucky Charms before the opening credits ended?"

‘Black Lagoon,’ The First, Great Pretty-Girl-Attacked-by-Aquatic-Beast Film?

Criticwire members and Libertas Film Magazine editors Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo are back at The Atlantic with another guest post, this time in conversation with a star from decades past. In light of the release of "Piranha 3DD," the pair spoke with Julie Adams, whose career might be most memorably highlighted by her turn as the damsel in distress in 1954’s "Creature from the Black Lagoon."  Now 85, Adams reflects on her career and how her most memorable role pervaded the public conscious in its day and has reverberated in different ways during the half century since.

"Do you think the Creature represented the submerged desires of the '50s, submerged passions bubbling up from below?

That's right! And that's the Creature—a species from millions of years ago, perhaps, but something that managed to survive. So, it's got all those elements in there that people have come to love. And still do. It's amazing, really.

You must be very proud of your contributions to the film. How do you look back on it within the context of your career?

I look back on it with great affection—including everybody from [makeup artist] Bud Westmore and Jack Arnold, to everyone else who did the picture. Richard Carlson and Richard Denning were both lovely actors and charming men, and Ben Chapman became a great pal, and Ricou [Browning], as well. I enjoyed doing the role, and I think there's a sweetness that saves the movie from being just a horror picture—and it has to do so much with the Creature, that we have an empathy for him. So I look back on it with affection, one of the things in the work that I did at Universal. Got to work with Jimmy Stewart, Rock Hudson, and the Creature!"

For Movies, Some Immigrants Still Choose to Hit Rewind

While some may decry the passing of film in favor of digital, there’s one demographic that seems fervently unwilling to part with the VHS format. Kirk Semple’s New York Times article details the various movie stores in Queens that are catering to the specific desires of their immigrant clientele. Some customers have no desire to transition to a DVD system of movie-watching, while others see cassettes as the most convenient way to find the cinema of their respective home countries.

"The owner of Hwang Jae Video, Young Woo Kim, 52, opened his shop in Elmhurst soon after he arrived from South Korea in 1989, when videocassettes were still the reigning format. They now account for about 30 percent of his business, he estimated — a far higher percentage than at many other video stores that still stock videocassettes. Many of his customers come for a steady diet of new Korean television shows and films. Everything on cassette is also available on DVD, but many people prefer the old format, Mr. Kim said. He charges $1 for each weeklong rental."

Two for Randall Poster:

In the wake of the success of Moonrise Kingdom, two different outlets featured profiles of Randall Poster, the man behind the music of Wes Anderson’s latest. As one of Hollywood’s most prominent music supervisors, Poster assists in the organizing and licensing of previously recorded music for cinematic use. Poster sat down with NPR’s Terry Gross for an interview (the full transcript is available here) and also spoke with author Kurt Reighley for MSN Movies, speaking in both instances about specific examples from Moonrise Kingdom and some of his most beloved career highlights.

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