Saturday, April 24, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/2021: Vizio Returns Home, *The Player* and Short Docs, Private Investigations

1. Things seemed pretty much the same at Ace Hardware today when I moseyed down to buy an electrical outlet adapter as part of my project to plug the new internet hardware directly into the wall and to set up the Vizio in the Vizio room again. I had had the Vizio in the living room, but now that our days are growing longer, I moved in back to its original home where the curtains are thicker and the room darker. 

2. After Adam commented today on a couple of Japanese movies he enjoyed on the Criterion Channel, I wondered to myself why I had never subscribed and today I changed that and signed up. I spent a bit of time perusing the remarkable list of documentary films and was especially stoked to see that Criterion has collected a generous number of short documentaries, one of my favorite genres. 

I watched a short clip of Robert Altman talking a bit about McCabe and Mrs. Miller on the Dick Cavett Show. It moved me to click on his movie, The Player, one of my very favorite movies back in 1992. I had planned on just watching the opening scene which runs about eight minutes as a single, uncut shot. I enjoy the comments characters in the scene make about long uncut shots in other movies and the commentary provided by Walter (Fred Ward) about the influence of MTV on movies and "cut, cut, cut, cut". 

At once, it's clear that The Player will be a satire on the film making industry and a pretty wild tale unfolds with murder, lust, mixed loyalties, back stabbing, celebrity obsession, and, above all, to me, a penetrating study of amorality. I watched about 90 minutes of The Player and decided to finish it on Saturday. I wanted to get to a few other shorter films before going to sleep.

I began by watching a very short, seven minute documentary entitled, 575 Castro Street. As its setting, filmmaker Jenni Olson uses the replica of Castro Camera, the camera store Harvey Milk co-owned. It was created for the movie, Milk. Nothing happens in this replica of the store. The only movement is of light and shadow. While we, as audience, are in the store, we hear the tape recording Harvey Milk made in November of 1977 in case he were assassinated. And he was assassinated. It happened one year after he recorded the tape we listen to. It is as if the ghost of Harvey Milk occupies Castro Camera as Milk quietly and thoughtfully encourages those active in what would later be known as the LGBT to continue their campaign for human rights. 

I've never seen any of Barbara Hammer's experimental lesbian films, but tonight I watched the first fifteen minutes of her thirty minute documentary Audience. I'll also finish it on Saturday.

Here's what I saw tonight: I didn't catch exactly when this happened, but some time in 1980 or 1981 the Roxie in San Francisco screened ten of her films and Barbara Hammer, for Audience, has herself filmed interviewing people in the line outside the theater, asking them what they expect to see in these films. Later, in the part I haven't watched yet, Hammer has discussions with viewers after they've seen her work. 

Coincidentally, it was during this time, beginning in the early 80's that, thanks to several friends and students and thanks to reading writers like Adrienne Rich, I began learning a great deal about lesbian culture. Eugene was an ideal place to live in order to learn more and I was fortunate that I knew students who were eager to enlighten me about their lives as lesbians. At Whitworth, women students, both straight and gay, confided in me about their experience and, seeing that I was eager to learn, added to my understanding of feminism and the lesbian community. 

The half of this movie I watched took me back to those conversations, gave me pause, and gave me a chance to feel gratitude for all that I learned. I am eager to watch the rest of this movie and to return to an interview The New Yorker ran in 2019, featuring Barbra Hammer shortly before she died of cancer.   

3. Somewhere in the midst of diving into the 1980s world of LGBT activism, I also watched another episode of Midnight Diner. It feature squid and taro stew and deftly built a story around this dish involving an experienced private investigator and her partner, a trainee, a naive man recently graduated from college. I would like to write more about what happens in this episode, but I don't want to spoil in for anyone who reads this and decides to watch Midnight Diner. All I'll say is that from the beginning, I have experienced these short episodes as dramatic haikus, bringing contrasting characters together and, more often than not, portraying a small transformation that grows out of their differences. I thought this happened in this third episode of Season 3. 

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