Movie Night with Urbaniak: Thirst

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The extended Eastwood binge I’ve been on, not to mention the recent Bollywood adventures I’ve had, have, for some reason, given me a hankering for Bergman. 

Now, there are the Bergman movies everyone knows (The Seventh Seal, Persona, Wild Strawberries) and then there are the movies that are just as good that nobody ever seems to talk about.  1949’s Thirst is close to the top of my list of my Favorite Bergman Movies Nobody Talks About. (My number 1 Favorite Bergman Movie Nobody Talks About is the flabbergasting masterpiece Shame, which I had never even heard of before I popped it in my DVD player a few years back.  It seared off my eyelids.)  Honestly, Thirst is just really pretty freaking amazing, and if it weren’t for the fact that Bergman went on to make 20 or 30 movies that happen to be better than it, it would stand as a triumph in just about anyone else’s career.

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Update: evil robots, dirty cops,anxious Swedes and a neurotic Jew

My apologies for the recent lack of postings — I am finishing up an assignment and have been dealing with two kids over the moon about the arrival of Halloween.

I have little of interest to report — or perhaps, more accurately, I have little energy at the moment to report anything. However:

ITEM! [info]urbaniak and I watched Terminator 2: Judgment Day last night. I have little to say about this movie that hasn’t been said many times by many others. It has a screenplay of similar structure to the original (two mysterious strangers from the future show up, one wants to kill the protagonist, the other wants to save him, the first act is devoted to putting the pieces in place, the second act is about explaining the rules and catching the audience up to the action, the third act is about all the pieces coming together in a massive, bone-crushing action sequence) but vastly improved and with about a hundred million more dollars worth of production values. A pinnacle of American movie-making and James Cameron’s greatest achievement. I would also like to commend the two leads, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom turn in career-best performances that, for my money, stand next to another beauty-and-beast team from 1991, Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, for sheer effectiveness. Schwarzenegger is okay but a little clunky in the first movie, but he’s just spectacular in T2 — slimmed-down, poised and in total command of his movements and voice. Schwarzenegger gets a lot of stick for playing a robot but what he does in this movie is a lot more subtle, complex and nuanced than one would expect from the big guy. He was a special effect in the first movie but here he’s a real actor giving a real performance — and not hogging the camera, either. As for Linda Hamilton, she seems like a completely different actor than the woman in The Terminator. She tough, uncompromising, no-bullshit and impossible to take your eyes off of. I watch her in this movie and am baffled that she doesn’t have a career equal to her contemporaries. I guess there just aren’t enough roles written for women with rock-hard shoulders who want to play moms whose kids can help them load machine guns.

ITEM! While finishing my assignment, I’ve been taking breaks by watching Season 3 of The Shield. If you’ve never heard of The Shield, stop what you’re doing right now, run to your video store and rent the first season. The pilot of The Shield is not only the greatest pilot in television history, it’s the spearhead of some of the greatest dramatic writing I’ve ever witnessed. Show after show for six seasons, this show kept up a seething, scathing, furious boil of urban Jacobean drama. Astonishingly intelligent, jaw-droppingly intense and complex. When I see a movie these days, I don’t say “Is it as good as Citizen Kane,” I say “Is it as good as an episode of The Shield?” Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackie is one of the great television performances of all time, on a par with Carrol O’Connor on All in the Family, Peter Falk on Columbo and Hugh Laurie on House. The fact that Mackie is perhaps the most unpleasant character ever delineated on television makes it that much more compelling.

ITEM! Before he became one of the 20th century’s most important and enduring artists, Ingmar Bergman was a screenwriter, just like me! His first produced screenplay is called Torment (there’s a calling-card title if I ever heard one). The movie was directed by Alf Sjoberg, but oozes Bergman all over the place. Students of excellent screenwriting must, must, must familiarize themselves with Bergman’s screenplays — they are expertly balanced, classically structured, compact little gems that manage to plumb the depths of human desires and needs without making a big deal about it.

ITEM! Took my son trick-or-treating tonight in Santa Monica. Certain blocks north of Montana were as crowded as Times Square the night before Christmas and as garishly decorated. A splendid time was had by all and I had the pleasure of sighting Larry David making his way through the crowd. As a New Yorker, I am forbidden to approach a celebrity in the street no matter high my admiration for his work.

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Another long, awkward elevator ride


Ingmar Bergman and Michaelangelo Antonioni ride in (what else) silence.

MA. Well.  This is weird.

IB. Mm.

MA. You with the whole “is there a God” thing, me with the whole “existential angst” thing —

IB. Mm.

MA. And here we are.

IB. Here we are.


MA.  What was it finally did it to you?

IB. Mm?

MA. ‘Cos we both got up there, man, you know?  80s, 90s, I mean, that’s a load of years for a couple of guys who made such a big deal out of how miserable life is.

IB. Mm.

MA.  Me?  That Chuck and Larry movie.  I saw that, I just said “forget it, I’ve had enough, I’m out of here.”  Billy Madison was cute, but I drew the line on Sandler with The Waterboy.  What about you?

IB. Me, oh, you know me.  The weight of a Godless world, the the suffocating oppression of memory, the haunting terrors of family.

MA. I gotcha, sure.

IB. And Transformers.

MA.  Ooh, yeah, that one hurt.

IB. I’m like, “what, I expanded the vocabulary of cinema to explore the most important, penetrating questions of the human condition so that monster robots could fight each other?”  Give me a break.

MA. I totally get you.


IB. By the way, I’ve always wanted to tell you —

MA. Yes?

IB.  I hated Zabriskie Point.

MA. Oh yeah?  Well I hated The Serpent’s Egg.

IB. You —


IB. Ah, the hell with it.


MA. Jesus, this is one long elevator ride, isn’t it?

IB. You ain’t kidding.

MA. Did you, when you got on, did you happen to notice which way it was heading?

IB. Well, I assumed —

Pause.  They look at each other.

The elevator dings.  The doors slide open.  Bergman and Antonioni go to step out, but TOM SNYDER steps in.

TS. Hey, Ingmar Bergman!  Michaelangelo Antonioni!  Good to see you!

He slaps them on the back.  They look distinctly uncomfortable.

TS. Boy, this death thing, this is wild, isn’t it?  I tell you, I wasn’t ready for this one.  Reminds me of the time I was taking a train to Bridgeport once, I was in the station, and you know how they’ve got those newsstands, right?  Where they sell all the newspapers and candy and whatnot.  And there’s a shoe-shine guy next to the newsstand, right?  And I’ve always wondered about the shoe-shine guy.  You know?  Who is this guy?  Is this what he wanted to do with his life?  “Shoe-shine guy?”  Has he reached the pinnacle of his career?  “I am a shoe-shine guy?”  And he’s got this hat, it’s kind of like a conductor’s cap, almost like maybe a conductor gave it to him, like you know, maybe this guy’s a little “simple,” you know, and one of the train conductors took pity on him and gave him a hat, you know, to cheer him up, make him feel like he’s part of the team.  Anyway, so I’m there in the train station and this skycap goes by, huge stack of luggage on one of those rolling things, what are those things called, dollies?  Not dollies, but like a dolly, with the handle, you know?  And I’ve always wondered, who decides whether the cart gets a handle or not?  And —

Bergman and Antonioni wither as Snyder chats on and on.  Fade out. hit counter html code