Friday, January 30, 2009

I hate the airlines and finally, the end of THE NIGHT PORTER (59)

I spent nearly four and a half hours on the phone yesterday with an assortment of dimwitted airline goons and the impressively unhelpful folk at Orbitz. I'm flying down to SF next weekend and due some fairly hilarious circumstances involving the care of a 2-year old El Salvadorean named Marco, I was trying to change my ticket so I could have an extra evening in the City By The Bay. My ticket when original purchased topped out at a surprisingly low 139 dollars. I'm fine with doling out a little bit of money to appease the capitalist fucks at Air Corporate Greed if it means I can spend another few hours hanging out with the lady friend.

That said, when Orbitz, an online travel agency that I will never use again, explained to me that I'd have to cough up 180 dollars in fines to change said 139 dollar ticket I went a little ballistic. What followed was four and half hours of lying (on my part), wheedling (again, me), pleading (shit, I was desperate) and then finally just swearing incomprehensibly at an Orbitz supervisor who sounded something like a broken Hispanic robot.

I tried everything, just straight changing my ticket (180 dollars), buying another ticket and then skipping my Friday flight (the airlines mark you as a no-show and cancel your return flight, thus forcing you to pay for ... you guessed it, another ticket), pleading with these heartless bastards to change the status of my flights to one-ways so I could cancel one with out affecting the other (this change would also cost me 180 dollars). Finally, I was actually invoking a fake sickness for my long dead Grandma, but the Hispanic Robot told me that I would need medical papers to prove said claim and that finally stopped my nearly five hour battle with the airlines.

I hate the airlines. I hate their lack of compassion or sympathy; I hate their adamant stand on rules and regulations only aimed at raping our collective wallets; I hate that even when you finally get on a plane you're treated like shit by homely stewardesses. United Airlines I hope you go under and I hope in your flailing death seizure you somehow take Orbitz with you.

Airline anger aside, I am so glad I'm finally done with The Night Porter (59). There were so many things about this film I couldn't stand I don't even know where to start. I hated the over-the-top acting and the orchestral score that made it drip with painfully manipulative melodrama. I hated the main actor Dirk Bogarde and his fawning yelps and painfully forced yells of anger. I hated the blatant symbolism between the starving characters at the end of the film and the Nazi Death Camps at the beginning of the film. I hated the stock Nazi caricatures fully equipped with hard-chomped cigs and tightly clenced monocles. I hated the storyline and how every character was despicable to the point of boredom. I hated the way that sexually was portrayed in the film and how the main female actor turned from snobbish high society member to pawing animal in the matter of forty minutes. All in all I just disliked this movie to such a hig degree that I can't put in to words how happy I am it's now never going to be viewed by me ever again.

The only thing about this film I enjoyed was when I passed out watching it in my coffee shop and when I woke up, surrounded by families and old people, there was such a tremendous amount of nudity blasting from my screen that I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

Good bye The Night Porter (59) I can only hope few others have to wade through your runny shit river.

Monday: Autumn Sonata (60)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A truly awkward moment and a wee bit more of THE NIGHT PORTER (59)

Long story short: my lady friend's father is also the man who fixes the plumbing at the coffee shop I work at. Since starting this new found relationship, his status of employment has created an occasional awkward moment.

None so much as yesterday though.

Alex's (the lady friend) father was called in to fix a clog at the coffee shop. This terrified me. Her dad seems nice enough, but regardless, he is the father to the girl I'm sleeping with, I can only imagine he dislikes me on a foundational level. I pace around the shop all day, practicing awkward conversations and sweating abnormally. Finally, at the very end of the day, Alex's Dad arrives. He makes fatherly joking comments about my relationship with his daughter, I choke on my own saliva and try to remember my own name. I pace about trying to seem like I have something to do. It is silent and this is okay, I'm still shocked he even knew who I was.

Then a regular, fully knowledgeable about this entire new situation, enters the store. Said regular customer has been giving me shit about Alex all day, and much of this "shit" is far far far above any sort of "R" rating. The sight of him physically makes me cringe.

Alex's Dad is tucked beneath the sink and I'm wide-eyed trying to figure out some possible way I can inform the regular customer of his presence. Alas, my clenched teeth and curt headshakes did not work and these words spilled from the regular customer's mouth. And remember, the whole time, the father of my lady friend, just feet away:

Regular Customer: So when you moving down to be with your giiirrrrrlllllfriend?
Noah: Hah hah, you're funny.
Regular Customer: Yeah buddy, when's D-Day huh? A day, a week, two weeks ...?
Noah: Oh man regular customer, you are one funny guy.
Regular Customer: Or should we call it V-Day huh? Not D-Day, V-Day ...
Noah: Woooo boy. Yowza, you are funny.
Regular Customer: And by V-Day, I am not referring to Valentine's Day. Let me make that clear, V-Day is not Valentine's Day for Noah and his new lady friend.
Noah: Just stop. Please, just stop.

I have no clue as to what amount of this conversation Alex's Dad heard, or if he noticed that my face was a burning scarlet for the next hour, or if he even cared that a customer had made lewd comments regarding his daughter and I. I just know this, that shit was awkward.

I went out to a show last night, with a flask of whiskey, fully intending to do whatever it took to get through the end of The Night Porter (59). This was a stupid idea. Though the show, and the whiskey, were really quite nice, I was entirely passed out after one frame of the film. To keep this blog Criterion I will describe it: a former Nazi, now a night porter, throws his former ward, and now high society madam, on to the floor - she sprawled in white, he angry in black.

I will finish this movie tonight. For all of our goods.

Friday: The Night Porter (59)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Screen staring and THE NIGHT PORTER (59)

I'm dumb. Yes, I know, I've made this claim in the past, but for the nth time in the last two months I stayed up until 5 in the morning on a day where I knew quite well I would be waking up between the hours of 7 and 9. This giving me, at most, four hours of choppy, distracted sleep.

Which is why as I write this, I'm slowly trying to dredge myself from the deep deep hollow of a slumberland. Seriously, if you wanted right now, you could break in to my house, punch me, steal my computer, my clothes, my money, my manhood, whatever, and I'd probably just dumbly stare at you, hoping that after you left I'd have some good reason to go back to sleep. This is also why, for the nth time in the last two months, I'm struggling to start my post with anything but a rambling description of my hazy visage and sleep-deprived state.

You might think of Italy and think of Mussolini, spaghetti, and The Sopranos (and I judge you
for this you stereotyping asses) but let me tell you Italians should be marked for one thing, and one thing alone: really fucked up sexual movies. I mean Salo (17), with it's poop eating and sexual torture was directed by an Italian, I've slogged through some 1970s Italian Crime Films that have left my stomach queasy and my thoughts about sex mired in darkness, and then, then we have The Night Porter (59). I've talked about this film's premise already (a Nazi guard and his concentration camp ward strike up a sadist-tinged relationship) but Jesus is this a nasty little movie. I can't say I even enjoy this film very much, it's soundtrack and the ballet sequence and the general sense of melodrama that coats the edges of everything make the film fairly unbelievable to me and to a certain sense I find the sexuality in the film to almost tasteless. And this is shocking to me. I've seen so many disgusting films in my life and for whatever reason this, in comparison, tame little film just sort of makes me grimace. Can't say if it's the presence of the Holocaust as a context for sexuality, or just the fact that so much of the sex in the film is surrounded by violence, but I'm sort of half their while this film is playing.

Don't you worry my compatriots, I'll get through this one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Big news and THE NIGHT PORTER (59)

Hah, well remember my pledges of never missing another Criterion Quest? The pleading and the begging for you, my amazing readers, to forgive me my faults and continue to check daily for a new and, sometimes, exciting blog from yours truly? The nervous excuses and explanations about technological problems and utter distraction? Yeah, I remember those too.

But, again, I fucked up.

San Francisco is a nexus, a vortex, a black hole, and when I'm there I lose track of time and responsibilities, people's names, the need to eat, and so on and so on. Everything disappears in to a haze and, as you well know, on occasion I forget about the this, my life's goal, the Criterion Quest.

That said, I'm moving to San Francisco. Yup, after 27 years in the Emerald City, I'm pulling anchor, and moseying on down to the slightly warmer climes of the city by the bay. Come the end of March, The Other Sanders Brother and I are packing a car with as much shit can fit, throwing the top down, and meandering our way through Oregon and California on the way to futures new and bright. It should be nerve-wracking, at times full of trademark Sanders' Panic, and one of the better times I've had in a while.

Don't fret readers, wherever I can get Netflix, there will always be a Criterion Quest.

I popped in The Night Porter (59) last evening, a wee bit drunk on a Big Secord-poured dollop of twenty-five year old whiskey, and for the twenty-five minutes I was able to keep my eyes squintily open, I was pretty impressed. Coming in to this at one time critically maligned film about an affair between a Nazi soldier and a woman he lords over in a concentration camp. From what I've seen so far, a brief bit I'll be admit, the jumps back and forth in time from past to present exposing the history of this odd relationship and shocking truths behind what happens when ten years after the war, the pairing is rekindled. The flashbacks to the concentration camp are almost nauseatingly theatrical, with reeling cameras, probing lights, and a sort of a human-as-animals feeling that had me cringing a bit. I haven't even tapped the highly controversial (at least in the 1970s) sex scenes but as you can tell by the above image they involve Nazi dress-up time and from what I've gleaned a healthy bit of sadism. Cannot, gulp, wait.

Wednesday: The Night Porter (59)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Not a second watched and a few suggestions for my Seattle brethren.

I'm in San Francisco. I'm drinking a lukewarm Americano in a corner cafe, staring out through warm rain at Delores Park, finishing up a little work before I head out to meet my new lady friend and I could not be happier. The future is quickly becoming the present and I'm more excited about, well, being alive than I have been in a while.

Thus, forgive me for the fact that I haven't even picked up the next Criterion film The Night Porter (59), that I haven't scanned a single frame of this critically divisive film about a romance between a Nazi death camp officer and one of his wards. It won't be until Tuesday at the earliest that I have anything to say about the film and that sucks but that's the way it's got to be.

A preface: I'm about to recommend a few movies that are playing in the Seattle area at one of the great theatres, The SIFF Theatre, in this burg. I know, some of you of you hooligans are from places near and far and these movie recs won't do anything for you. Look at it as a gift of free time, you don't have to waste your time slogging through my wordy explanations, you can go out and, uh, buy a bagguette or a pet a mangy stray or, uh, save a child from a forest fire. For you Seattle folk though, y'ain't got an excuse.

Here we go:

Lets start with this current weekend. You can either head on down to the SIFF Theatre during the day and check out the amazing Ray Harryhausen film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (claymation cyclops, half-naked men and more mystical beats than you can shake a stick at) and then hang around the area for one of my favorite thriller/crime/Criterion films Diabolique (35). Also, SIFF is putting on a French Crime Wave series right now that features some of the great movies ever out our snooty film friends across the sea. Seriously, you could pop in on any one of those amazing films and have your party pants knocked sideways in to the aisle. It runs until February 5th.

If you're feeling old school though, you can jaunt on over to The Grand Illusion at check out the truly magical Jean Cocteau version of Beauty and The Beast (6) that features creepy hand candelabra's and one of the strangest jet pack style jump endings I've ever seen. Well worth a peek on the big screen.

Feeling contemporary? You can still check out Benjamin Button (with it's wopping 13 Oscar nods), The Wrestler, Wendy & Lucy and if you're tempted to spend a weekend wallowing in depression, Revolutionary Road.

I might not be moving forward in the long crawl towards Criterion Gold, but at least you Seattle folk have some seriously impressive films to check out in the weeks to come.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Birthday awkwardness and Oscar Noms hit.

Yesterday was my birthday. Woo woo, party hats, a stripper riding a zebra, Big Secord playing "Taps" on the bugle - there was pretty much everything. Including one of the most awkward moments of, until now, my entire life.

I write for a variety of music sites across this vast internet, and on occasion I've written some fairly scathing, fairly stupid reviews of a few live shows. I won't name names, or even link to my ill-tempered rants against bands, but I'll say this: yesterday, as pretty much the first event of the first day of my 27th years, I was confronted by a musician who'd not only read one of my negative review but been, deeply, deeply affected by it.

I stood in my coffee shop yesterday, recognized the face of someone I'd seen live and someone I'd written a terrible review of, and I decided, because I am very stupid and very excited to chat with anyone even slightly recognizable, that I would introduce myself and inform them that I'd seen them live. Seriously, who on Earth would know me or know of a review I wrote six months ago for one of the many tiny sites I work for? No one, or so I thought.

I said, "Hey aren't you X from that band X. I saw you play a couple of months ago." There response, "Is your name Noah?" And if you can imagine how awkward the sort of conversation that starts with, "You wrote a terrible review of me once" and includes the phrase, "You're writing helped, to some degree, put me in the hospital" you'll be underestimating by a good good deal. And all I could think the whole time was, "Happy Birthday Noah!"

Turned out to be a fairly enlightening conversation for the both of us. And if this mysterious musician ever reads this, I would like to publicly thank them for both not taking a swing at me and being as graceful a human being placed in that situation could possibly be.

Lesson learned: no matter what you write or for who, there's always a chance that someone that it matters to will both read it and be affected by it.

I was drunk by 5 'o' clock last night, so I didn't get around to watching even a smidgen of the Nazi-romance that is The Night Porter. Luckily for me the Oscar nominations dropped today. My beloved Benjamin Button picked up 13 nominations for which I'm happy. Honestly, looking at the list I can't think of anyone that got badly left out, but I am shocked that Robert Downey Jr. got nominated for Tropic Thunder. I mean he was good, but one of his lines in that movie, describing the smell of his urine is "Mm, smells like bologna."

Check them all out right here.

Friday: Sigh, lets be honest, probably nothing about Criterion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's my birthday, and PEEPING TOM (58)

Well, hell and high water, it's my goddamn birthday. Oh yes, the clock has turned once again, and I stand before you, 27 years old. Here's a few thoughts on my last year of life:

- It's been a big one. I mean seriously, this might be - aside from coming out of the womb, leaving for college, and the ill-advised year spent fighting in the Foreign Legion - the most transitory year I've ever had. Long relationships fell apart, new wonderful relationships emerged, big moves are in the works, the Sanders' Family is starting to spread out across this newly Obama-ed country of ours - it's been a real shit-storm these last 365 days. And now sitting in front of my television, reeking like stale booze and nursing my pre-birthday bash celebration hang-over, all I can think is, "awesome." I can't wait for this next year, it's going to be wild and different and completely outside of my thick wall of comfort, but you know, I'm excited. I think that's a good way to start a new year of life.

- Birthdays are weird for me. I love 'em in the way that someone who is obsessed with gifts, Baskin and Robbins ice cream clowns, free booze, and alpaca rides at the zoo loves them. That said, birthdays are a big reminder of the fact that, shit, I'm getting old. There's gray in my hair these days. My knees lock up a little when I run. There's a lot more polyester creeping in to my closet and my gold chain feels just a bit heavier around my neck. It's not that I'm actually old (prior to contrary belief 27 is still young) it's just the idea that the whole world is moving along, regardless of me being 26, 27, 39, 92. Young, old, attractive, ugly, fat, skinny, freckled, albino, this world is powering forward and my birthday, for whatever reason is always a reminder that to a certain degree, I'm just a spectator watching everything creep past.

- I don't really know what to do for my birthdays anymore. I mean the days of shetland pony-riding strippers and illegally adopting children are sort of coming to a stand still and I'm at a loss for what a birthday boy is s'posed to do. Am I still allowed to get black out drunk and wake up in the back of a parked car wearing a New Year's dress and nothing else? Can I still get lapdances at seedy strip clubs (I can't, and I won't) from women with sagging skin and crispy hair? Can I still have my rowdy drunken friends over for hastily rolled blunts and warm, cheap beer pounding? I don't know. Readers, if you've got a good idea, please let me know.

Tip your morning glass of scotch to, well, me this morning. 'Cause Jesus guys, it's my birthday.

I am really glad Peeping Tom (58) is over. It was creepy and bizarre and I couldn't stare at Mark (Carl Boehm) and his big, strange eyes, and toggle-button jacket any longer. I couldn't stare at his weird pervo-film room where he stabbed women with the knife he'd installed on the tri-pod of his camera. No, no I couldn't. I actually enjoyed this movie, I liked the suspense and the really deep, dark sort of psychological horror it was filled to the brim with. It's not a film I'll watch again for a long long time, but it certainly had me interested at least to the end, and a lot of these films can't attest to that.

I actually enjoyed the fact that this movie, critically spat on when it first released in the late 1960s, was pretty much a super intelligent take on a slasher film. Mark (Boehm) is a severely screwed up man, who owns a house, works at a movie studio and for extra money takes semi-naked pictures of slightly attractive women. Just a normal perv you wouldn't let around your children right? Wrong, Mark also likes himself a filmed murder of a busty red-head. It really hits the fan though when Mark starts to fall in love with a woman whom, for some reason, can understand his murderous ways. As you might guess, the killings continue, the story spirals in to a fairly tragic, if not a somewhat melodramatic finish, and along the way pretty much every horror trope is touched upon, but all through the very intelligent, very bizarre lens of Michael Powell.

It's not one that I'm recommending for everyone, but if you're interested in strange takes on psych-horror, this one might just be for you.

Thursday: the somewhat terrifying Nazi-softcore film The Night Porter (59)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I'm excited today, just like 85 percent of the rational thinking world, I'm excited because Barack Obama is being elected as the 44th President of The United States of America. It's momentous, it's historic, it's hope-inducing, it is goddamn exhilarating. I've been parked in front of my television for the last three and half hours watching the non-stop streaming of various inane clips regarding today's historic ceremonies. I've tried to pull myself away, but there is something truly amazing about watching what I'm hoping will be the beginning of Roosevelt-style historic presidency.

I'm fucking excited.

Yet, I'm also a little worried. It is a beautiful thing to see so many Americans actually giving a rat's ass about events taking place in D.C. It's amazing that a group of my rowdy, drunken friends woke up at 6 in the morning to watch a presidential inauguration on a big screen surrounded by equally excited folk of all ages and races. Yet, if we're still in the honeymoon period here with Obama. He's an impressive figure, a miraculous orator, and a seemingly genuinely caring person, but as of now, as a President of the United States, he's completely unproven.

I'm not saying that I think President Obama is going to fail or be a terrible President, I'm just saying that I worry that when, invariably, the shit hits the fan, the notoriously short memory of the United States people will rear its ugly head and all of sudden it's going to be eggs and tomatoes not roses and knickers being tossed at the man. I'm also worried that this cloud of political excitement and interest will fade, and that is entirely opposed to the message Obama is spreading right now. He's not saying that as one man he can fix the United States of America, he's saying that with the help of us, the American people, we, WE, can start the process of piecing this severely broken country back together.

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer on this big day, I'm just already tired of Away Messages that read "Obama!" or "Change Has Come". It's true, change is here, but we need to start pulling back from the idealistic embrace we've all been wrapped up in, pull back and start thinking realistically how we can help in the months and years to come.

Political rant aside, I didn't watch even a bit of a movie last night. I think the sheer creepiness of Peeping Tom (58) is sort of keeping me at bay. Happy 'Bama-guration!

Tomorrow: Hah, my birthday, and Peeping Tom (58)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Revolutionary Road and PEEPING TOM (58)

I nearly drowned in depression on Saturday night thanks to Sam Mendes' (American Beauty, Jarhead, Road to Perdition) new film Revolutionary Road. It's been vaunted as the reunion of Titantic co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and to some degree, it's been snatching up awards at the lesser award shows.

It has to be one of the most depressing films I've ever laid eyes on.

The story, based on a famous 1960s novel by Richard Yates, follows two wide-eyed youth as they plunge in to marriage, children, and the onset of the worst pair of midlife crisises you've ever laid your eyes upon. There's something about the way Mendes portrays Frank and April Wheeler and their inevitable succumbing to the world of ticky-tack houses and gossipy neighbors and taking your identical trashcans the curb each and every day that just filled with a sort of fleeting inconsolable hopeleness unlike I've felt from a movie in a long time. There are glimpses of this very attractive couple before there lives sort of shuddered to a halt with the onset of children and a home in the suburbs where everything is happy, and you can even sort of trick yourself in to thinking the same thing when the ill-fated duo decide to fix their problems by moving the whole family to Paris. This is all just well crafted juxtaposition though, as the film spirals in to a long, and at times overly fight-laden, series of events that climax with, well, a horse pill of sadness truly daunting to ingest. The final scenes of the movie are as heart-wrenching as any I've seen in the last few months, and the bitter, hen-ish rant given by Kathy Bates in the final frame is well worth the price of admission. This world of suburban lies is one we can try and try and try to escape, but at least in the 1950s, it always dragged you back in.

I can't figure out yet if this is a film every body needs to watch for the rest of their lives so they can look inwards and see whether or not their lives have reached this sort of crushing stand still. Or if this is a film that should be seen once to meaning in the lesson(s) and then never viewed again as it seriously had me almost in panic mode over the upcoming changes I'm planning on making in my own life.

The movie itself is not Mendes or DiCaprio's best. At times the dialogue wallows in platitudes and sort of self-help pulled quotations and, as I said earlier, the bitter fights between Winslet and DiCaprio grow tinny and overwrought at times. That said, the film is absolutely beautifully shot by world's best cinematographer Roger Deakin, as he awashes the world of Frank and April in a soft and almost glowing light. The true star of the film is Kate Winslet and the path she takes in the final half is so beautifully, and internally wrought, that she deserves whatever accolades are being piled on her right now. One of my favorite actresses working today.

It's funny that Revolutionary Road filled me with such depression because Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (58) has filled me with your sort of confused creepiness. The film is about a very, very odd amateur filmmaker who is not only obsessed with watching others in, well, whatever acts they might partake, but also enjoys killing women ... with his camera. I'm not shitting you here, Mark (Carl Boehm) actually has installed a knife on the tripod legs of his camera and he'll trick women in to letting him film them and then, whammy, films them in to their final moment. As of now I'm enjoying the film, but I'm not entirely sure what it's supposed to be saying. Boehm's Mark is a real head case of an individual and his interaction, strangely enough with only redheads, is made even creepier by his inflicted accent and the shifty way he moves his eyes.

This is a weird movie, albeit an enjoyable one, but the sense of uncomfortableness it fills me with will not be soon missed.

Tuesday: Peeping Tom (58)

Friday, January 16, 2009

A few observations and CHARADE (57)

For reasons probably attributed to the seven and hours of sleep I've had in the last two days I can't think of anything to write about my life or my opinions. My brain is a blank slate and all I can really pull from it is a weird series of human observations I've had of late. It's pretty much the "Crazies I Know" post.

A few weird folk I've grown accustomed to over the last few weeks:

- the old Asian lady who sits in vertical seats near the front of the bus and knits. She wears only purple (purple hat, purple dress, purple belt) and a pair of huge sunglasses. This doesn't seem strange, but nearly every time I've gotten on the bus when she's there (which is often), she's knitting away while absolutely laying in to some young women or man about the state of social services or welfare. I always feel worst about the young ladies who have children, because the Political Asian Lady as we'll call her from now on, will just yell at them for not taking proper care of their children, in this deeply accented English. Every single person on the bus is trying not to look, but morbidly fascinated at the same time by this oddly lunatic display of political thought. The other day I got on the bus and she was passed out so I sat down right next to her, she woke and gave me the dirtiest look over the top of her glasses. My palms got sweaty, not knowing what to say if she assaulted me about my lack of medical insurance, but her eyes fluttered to sleep and the bus ride was uneventful.

- the bearded man who sleeps next to Fuel Coffee. Not only does he have the neatest, homeless bed I've ever seen (the man sleeps with an under-sheet tucked up by his chin) he snores as if he was sleeping in a king size bed at The Bellagio. I can hear his snores blocks down the street as I walk to work. He comes in to the coffee shop all the time and is either wearing a fairly clean blue sweatshirt or a vest with a ladies leopard print hooded sleeveless sweatshirt underneath it. This contrasts nicely with his rotund body and thick beard, let me tell you. Today he asked Umeko and I if we had anywhere he could "dry his portable CD player" as there was some sort of "residue" inside of it. We're obliging folk so for the entire shift there was a towel wrapped 1996 Discman resting atop the coffee maker. Hear this though non-tippers, this is a man who sleeps outside every day and he still has the manners to leave a fifty cent tip on every cup of coffee he drinks. Think about that next time you're giving an eleven percent tip.

I describe these people with a strange sort of affection. They're both harmless, very eccentric human beings, and seeing them on a fairly daily basis always puts a smile on my face. No matter how polished everything looks on the outside, this is a weird, weird world and I'm always happy to be reminded of that.

Oh goodness, Charade (57) was an absolute blast of film. It's classy and cool and a delightful romance wrapped in the trimmings of a extremely well put together mystery/thriller. If you've never seen an Audrey Hepburn film (which I hadn't), go out and get this as her fast-talking, smartly dressed, high society Reggie Lampert is one of the great ladies of the 1960s. She's tough but vulnerable, young but wise, calm but a real horn dog when the moment arises, and always, always dressed to the nines.

And let us not forget the gray-haired lothario himself, Cary Grant. His name-changing con man is as slick as they get, and the interactions between Hepburn and him are some of the great romantic moments in film. Amongst all the impressive twists and turns of this classy, cool movie, all you really want is to see these two banter back and forth, slowly falling in love along the way. This is a thriller and a mystery sure, but running straight through it is beautiful love story about two people stuck in a dangerous situation.

Director Stanley Donet has also done a remarkable job of allowing the audience the ability to really like all the characters, be they good or bad. James Coburn's toothy American thug is all rolled cigs and swaggers, and the hook-handed Scobie (George Kennedy) might be prone to murderous rampage, but you still sort of love him. And we cannot forget about Walter Matthau's Hamilton Bartholomew, a quirky, mustachioed spy who nearly steals the show. There's a general befuddled camraderie between the characters here that ably hides the twists and turns in such a way, when all the cards are finally dealt, you're completely satisfied.

A great, great film. I feel like I'm in a pretty impressive stretch right now and all I can do is gush about how good these films are. Not a bad place to be.

Monday: Peeping Tom (58)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cat acupuncture and CHARADE (57).

There are many many reasons to think the world we're living in right now might be devolving in to a shit show unseen in this planet's epic history. Global warming, a seemingly endless cycle of war, rampant consumerism, and the onset of a worldwide mushing of the brain thanks to the good people at Facebook. But today, I caught the end of a conversation that really has me questioning where this poor, fucked up place we call Earth is going.

It ended like this:

"...just got my kitten back from her acupuncture appointment."

Cat, fucking, acupuncture.

Acupuncture is of course the ancient therapy of poking tiny needles in to various mystic points the body over to help release pain and suffering and a variety of other junk the human body supposedly suppresses. Great, that's awesome, we as Westerners are often times overly critical of those forms of medication that don't involve massive amounts of prescription pills and I for one am glad to see that some of the Eastern forms of medication are becoming steadily more mainstream.

C'mon though, cat acupuncture? Have we really hit a spot so excessive in our American culture that we're spoiling our animals to this amount? When I was growing up we had dogs and cats and newts and anything else my brother and I could think of trying out as pet and we loved them to death. When they died or when they were injured I would cry and cry and cry (still to this day, do I cry when an animal I know and love perishes) but deep down in my wee little body, I knew that at the end of the day, my cat Pudder was still, well, just a cat.

And cats don't need acupuncture. They need to be put outside when they pee in the house. They need to be given treats and called for when it's dinner time. They need to be coddled with cat nip and have a small little bed where perhaps they might sleep. But when they have a crick in their leg do they need to be punctured with tiny needles to help relieve the pain?

No, no they don't. If released in the wild, they'd survive worse or die trying. Call me a cold, heartless bastard, but this guy sobbed on a plane once during The Incredible Journey. That's how much I love animals.

Cat acupuncture ... it's no wonder we're spiralling in to the worst recession of the last sixty years ...

After watching the sort of boring, sort of stilted The 39 Steps (56) and sort of turning my nose up at 1930s thrillers, I'm ecstatic to be digging in deep to Stanely Donen's absolute classic Charade (57). There's just a certain amount of crackle that Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant bring to this devilish thriller about a murdered husband and the deadly secrets of his life, that makes me smile each and every minute. Donen was sort of an innovator in terms of a lot his camera techniques and I'm constantly impressed that this film was made more than 40 years ago. I've barely skimmed the surface of this film, just staring in wide-awed wonder at the magnificent Technicolor Paris brought to screen and I'm already completely enamored.

I'm positive my ooey-gooey insides will be gushed all over this one as soon I finish it tonight. Doesn't that sound fun?

Friday: Charade (57)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An alma mater apology and finally, the end of THE 39 STEPS (56)

Now now, I'm not keen on tooting my own horn a terrible amount, nor am I even positive that enough people read this blog that it could have even a single effect on anyone besides the slight amount of brain damage it imparts to each and all who slog through it each day. I don't believe that the words I post on a semi-daily basis on this sometimes read blog really have the power or meaning to change people's opinions or force action of anybody.

And truthfully, for the moment that's okay with me. I'm happy with a deluded fan base that has, for reasons unknown, jumped aboard this leaky ship to learn a little about my life and the handful of strange old movies I love.

That said, this one time I think my blog may have actually forced some change. As you many of you know, I wrote what I thought was a fairly scathing rant about the way Whitman College (my alma mater) informed me that I had not been chosen as a participant in their 2009 Whitman-In-China program. It was mean, and aggressive and I feel completely okay with everything said.

But, today I received this email from the very nice Susan Brick:

"I am writing as a follow up to the Whitman in China letter we sent you last week from Professor Chas McKhann. When we emailed you on Jan 7, we sent the actual letter to your address in Seattle at the same time, which you have probably received by now. I am sorry if the email message seemed to arrive in an abrupt or impersonal manner--in retrospect I realize that I should have included a personal note from me with the email. We sent copies of the letters to candidates via email this year because we wanted everyone to receive word as soon as possible."

I believe the word is apology. And as a honorable fellow, I'll take this apology and forgive any longstanding grudges I was getting ready to hold. But I will say, Criterion Quest somehow got sent to Whitman College, and poor, friendly little Susan Brick had to be the one to read it. Still, I will never give another nickel to Whitman College. Mindless automatons forced to man the phones be smart and recollect that.

Susan Brick, you are a sweet heart and I awkwardly curtsy to your friendly statement.

The 39 Steps (56) is finally done and I could not be happier. Yes, the film was classic Hitchcock, but Lord if I wasn't near comatose by the end. You know what's going to happen from minute six and the actual realizations felt by the characters are so broad and hammy that when they occur you just sort of shake your head. Sorry Hitchcock, you're early films are sort of like Shakespeare's romances to me - I understand they're important, but I'd prefer not to sit through another one of them.

You know what though, I've heard a lot of semi-disparaging comments made about old films recently and, guess what, that's bullshit. Old films are amazing, not because of their stories or their characters (though that can be true) instead they're amazing because they are windows in to a time that no longer exists. What do you know about 1930s Britain? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The 39 Steps (56) will school you a little bit on what people wore, what the important plays were, who was fighting who, blah blah blah. You get a chance to peek back on time periods that no one remembers anymore, but they are captured on these films forever.

And I personally think that's awesome.

Thursday: Charade (57)

The stupidity parade continues, and finally, THE 39 STEPS (56)

I was almost positive this year that my New Years' resolution had something to do with discovering a new breed of dinosaur, but I'm pretty sure that the cosmic fates that govern us all have decided that this year my annual false-promise will have something to do with the slow and deliberate dissolution of my grey matter. In laymen's terms: I'm getting stupider, by the moment.

I worked twelve hours yesterday at a coffee shop not because I need the money, not because I love the job so incredibly much, especially not because of some sort of latent workaholicism brewing in my gut - nope, I worked twelve hours yesterday because I'm stupid. For whatever reason I scheduled myself for three shifts in a row, then completely forgot about all of them, and then, in a moment of debilitating stupidity-fueled anger realized my mistake.

At work, cracked out on three cups of coffee and three hours of sleep, I poorly chose to engage in conversation with a man sporting two disgusting beard dreads. In a haze of caffeine I learned of phone lanyards, and "garage industries" built around the international sales of, well, something to do with the Australian flag. I'm stupid now though, so I couldn't, to Wall Street Pete's chagrin, stop talking to this poor addled man.

Later, when my first bout with coffee had run its course, I fell asleep standing up. Being stupid, I thought I'd counter the drowsiness with two more cups of potent drip coffee. Somewhere around my sixth or seventh heart palpation of the next two hours I realized this: stupidity had put me knee deep in to one of the least enjoyable days of my life.

If this stupidity disease continues, I might have to change the nature of this blog to chronicling my quest to find a doctor able and edgy enough to perform a rare and dangerous brain transplant that will utterly change my personality but allow me to avoid situations like these.

Or maybe I should just get a fucking scheduler.

My 12 and half work day put a crimp in me finishing The 39 Steps (56), but I managed, Lord knows how, to stay up long enough last night to actually watch a good deal of it. In the past I've been pretty bored by Alfred Hitchcock's British period. The camera work always bores me, the plots are weak and the acting is stilted and theatrical like only the 1930s can produce.

So I was a little surprised at how much I've been enjoying The 39 Steps (56). It's a weird film, because it's trying to be an action film, and it's trying to be a dark thriller, but to some degree it's also trying to be a mildly (really mildly) funny romance, all while incorporating this bizarre plot about Scotland and 39 steps and a lot of handcuffing.

Pretty much the only reason why I'm still invested whatsoever in this bizarre little lesser work of old tubby Hitchcock is because the main character Hannay (Robert Donat) is such a hilariously British cad. He's being pursued for a murder he didn't commit, and the man will literally do anything to avoid being caught by the police, the criminal syndicate, or the handful of other odd characters out to get him. He's choking women, impersonating politicians, seducing married ladies in front of their husbands, train jumping, window-smashing, and on and on and on - anything he can do, regardless of others, to ensure that he comes out on top. On top of all of this Donat plays Hannay like a Robert Goulet-style snake in the grass, anything with two legs and a y-chromosome is a target for Hannay and his pursuit of safety and ladies is truly enjoyable.

There's also this dark sort of line that runs through the film involving the bizarre folk who live in the moors of Scotland. One particular scene, involving an off-camera beating of a woman, really sort of opens your mind to the sort of peculiar darkness that existed in Hitchcock's head.

This film has nothing on the American Technicolor Hitchcock films which I want to hold and squeeze and love, but with Donat's treacherous performance I'm really enjoying it.

Wednesday: Lets finish The 39 Steps (56)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons and not the THE 39 STEPS (56)

I saw David Fincher's new film tonight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and left the theatre feeling as entirely swelled with emotion as I have in a long period of time. There were times during this sweetly odd, poignant, sad, sprawling film where I was so overcome by the urge to cry, I honestly coughed a little in surprise.

I'll say this, Benjamin Button is a big sentimental film that wears its very heartfelt emotions for the world to see and if you're opposed to that sort of blatant emotion, you might not want to see this. I love watching films because based on the context of your life they mean different things. I don't know that if I'd seen Benjamin Button at a different time if I'd have been so moved. Now though, as I'm in a place where my life is changing and the future is as wide open as it's been in a long time and there's a good deal of excitement and fear, this film so steeped in love (I don't know if there's a more romantic film put out this year) and loss overwhelmed me with a truly enjoyable sadness.

I don't know what people have read about the movie and the story and what not, but I'll say this, it's as much a film about death as it is life. A movie that proposes as an inevitable end and life as something that needs to be enjoyed to the absolute fullest and the only way to truly do that is too share that life with someone. It's about memories and where they go and how we share them as we get older. It's about the people we love and what it means to lose them. And at the very heart it's about a relationship between two people who meet in the middle and the threads that lead them there.

I apologize for my overwhelming sap right now, but this film left me face-wet and completely exhausted and trying to write anything less emotionally wrought seems almost wrong.

Well, unfortunately, as I was planning on finishing up this post in the morning before I went, but have now just come to the realization that not only am I late for work, but I'm also, of my own genius, scheduled to work a triple and THEN attend a work meeting. I won't be having any thoughtful insights on the real snooze-fest that is The 39 Steps (56). Those will have to wait until tomorrow.

It's 5:53 in the morning. I've slept for exactly 3 hours. This fucking sucks.

Tomorrow: The 39 Steps (56)

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Lets get this out there right now: I am not on my way to China next year. Due to a poor interview (my fault) and lord knows what other circumstantial variables, the good folk at the Whitman-In-China Program decided that one Noah Binford Sanders was not up to par for a year spent teaching the Chinese English. Before I blunder along on a fairly ill-advised rant against my alma mater, let me say this: I'm not really that sad that I'll not be spending my next year in China. At the time of application it seemed like an out to a life that as of late feels a bit, well, content. The failure to achieve though has, happily, sort of thrown open the door on a few opportunities I had yet to consider. Thus, I appreciate the saddened "oohhhs" I'm sure some of you are muttering, but please, keep them to yourselves. Instead lets spend a little bit of time belittling my undergraduate institution.

First off, Whitman College didn't even have the gall to phone me and tell me I hadn't made it. Hell, they didn't even have the cajones to send me an actual letter. Instead, in the body of an email they sent me this photocopied form letter:

I'm pretty positive the print on that bad boy is a little too small for you not blessed with superhuman vision, but let me paraphrase for you. Ahem, "Dear Noah, this is a poorly written form letter we let a ill-tempered monkey write to inform you that your future plans are now nothing more than ethereal shit. Have fun scraping your emotionally battered self off the floor and figuring out your future. Yours, Robo-Professor #6 P.S. We spent the 120,000 dollars you gave us for tuition on artichoke dip and the processing fees for scantily clad pictures of your mother. Tee hee."

And to Whitman I say this: fuck you in your shiny metal faces. Really, and please believe, I'm not mad that I did not make it in to this program. I'm angry that the cold-hearted automatons who populate the Whitman-In-China program couldn't have the manners to actually write a real letter to the possibly two candidates who didn't make it. Instead they sent that impersonal piece of ass-fluff you see above. Thanks a lot Whitman, you continue to unimpress me with your general thick-headed manner of handling, well, everything post-graduation.

Next time you're little minions call me asking me to bleed another dime out of my already Whitman-scoured bank account, I'm going to explain to them, using many curse words and many unfriendly allusions to their mother's age-addled bodies that no, Whitman College can not now, or ever, have single cent from me ever again.

Rant over. I feel better. Who wants to start drinking?

It's funny to rant like this just prior to writing about an absolutely beautiful, loving film like The Unbearable Lightness of Being (55). I was excited from the get-go about this film. Phillip Kaufman put together some of my favorite films of the 80s (this film, The Right Stuff - hell, he wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark), it's based on a world-famous book by Milan Kundera, and it stars one of the great acting duos of all time, Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche. What isn't to be excited about?

The film revolves around The Prague Spring, a sort of brief Summer of Love that took place in the briefly Bohemian capitol of the Czech Republic. It follows the tumultous romantic lives of Tomas and Teresa as they philosophically blunder through the invasion of the Communist Russians and all of the terrible political fall-out that comes with it. This is an epic love story (the movie clocks in at well over 2 hours) that uses love in its many forms as a parallel for political strife and activism and vice-versa. Kaufman has an absolute field day in this film with a plethora of filmic devices, and in a story this long and this philosophically dense, it's entirely needed.

Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche fuck and fight like no other, and the painful mistakes they make as husband and wife nearly burst forth from the screen. You actually want to reach out and hold both of them, as if you as a viewer could somehow change their tragically beautiful story arc.

This film would be nothing without the absolutely virtuoso performance by the oft-naked Lena Olin as Sabrina, Tomas' always-present mistress, as the constant reminder of what could've been for the deeply attached Tomas and Teresa. She is beautiful, and again very naked, and her story runs a delicate parallel to the lead story. This is a long, and sometimes slow film, but it is well worth the watch.

Finally, don't be a screen-gagged dolt, watch this film and then go out and read the book. You're The Biggest Loser drowned brain will thank you for it.

Monday: The 39 Steps (56)


I'm not one to usually just talk about the movies I'm watching in this mammoth quest. Hell, I've got so much shit spewing around in this pea-sized brain of mine that I need some sort of outlet to let it loose on a semi-attentive audience. But today my usual cavalcade of useless information about myself has been halted, strangely enough, by a documentary about astronauts:

"...They brought back thousands of feet of amazing film, perhaps the most extraordinary footage ever shot by human beings."

- Al Reinert

I'm sitting in a coffee shop, after having just finished the last forty minutes of For All Mankind (54) just beaming like a school child. I found myself, in these final spectacular moments of this film, actually reaching across to my actually busy roommate and drawing his attention to some part of the screen, as I couldn't bear to experience the majesty of this film on my own. Invariably, I'd be so excited for what came next I'd zone out in the middle of sharing, turn the screen back to me, simply unable to miss another second.

For All Mankind (54) might be my favorite Criterion Film I've watched so far. For those of you who've no interest in space, or the Apollo missions, or at least documentation of an era long gone, I implore you: see this movie. Documentarian Al Reinert has culled together nearly every piece of film ever shot of these amazing events and with the help of to-this-point unknown editor Susan Korda, created an all-encompassing look at the sheer awesomness of these epic moments i our countries history. I said this yesterday, but the imagery presented here is not just your standard Neil Armstrong posing with the flag, or the Earth from outer space - sure, those are present, but these are views of the moon and the men who've walked it that I'm positive you've never seen before. Reinert's images capture a sense of enjoyment and childish awe that in hindsight completely jives with what these men were actually accomplishing. There's several moments - Buzz Aldrin smearing ham on a floating sandwich, a reel of "moon bloopers", and many of the hilarious sound clips - that make you realize that this event was as mind-blowing and awe-inspiring to these hardened pilots as it was to the world that looked on.

What really makes this film for me though is the way that Reinert splices in audio from the extensive interviews he's done with these famed astronauts. It isn't the talking head sort of hodge-podge you're used to in documentaries, instead Reinert, smartly, chooses to layer the memories, insights and observations of these men over these impressive clips. The effect is one of actually existing for a moment within these moon explorer's memories, actually being a part of the emotions and experience they must have been feeling. It absolutely sucked the breath out of me.

Do your self a favor, find this film and watch it. If you're disappointed ... well, you should ask your mom and dad if they dropped you as a child.

Tomorrow: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (55)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My stupidity continues and FOR ALL MANKIND (54)

Hah, being dumb, as I can say from experience, is a difficult thing. Not only are you burdened with the constant embarrassment of acting like a complete and total moron (you know hitting on your friend's mom, drinking motor oil, falling through someone's roof, etc.) but you are at most times completely unaware of your stupidity. You just blunder through life beer bonging gallons of milk without nary a clue that you've entered in to The Stupid Zone.

For the last week or so, I've been receiving comments from concerned friends about the "title" of my blog. Being addled in the grey matter, I just assumed my occasionally over-zealous readers were commenting on the title of an individual post. You know instead of writing "Fighting monsters and Sanjuro (53)" I'd written "Fighting monsters and Sanjesus (53)" or something of the like. The comments continued though and finally I looked in to what these loyal readers had been discussing.

Turns out for the last 53 posts the actual title of my blog had an error in it. Instead of "Criterion Quest: my lifelong quest to watch every Criterion film ever made", it read "Criterion Quest: my lifelong quest to watch every Criterion film every made." Yup, I've been living in the shadow of stupidity for the last three months and only now can I shake my head at myself. Just realizing this, plagues me with insecurities about what other tiny errors are riddling the last fifty-three posts. Well, at least it riddles me with insecurities momentarily until I forget what I was talking about or writing about and I blithely stumble in to the next great disaster of my life.

You know how you're pretty sure you've seen each and every film clip of the Apollo missions? You've seen the rocket fire, you've seen the Earth spinning lazily from space, you've seen sweet Mother Moon floatin' like a big old hunk a cheese in the sky - you really feel like you've seen them all. Turns out, you, and I, have been completely wrong as Al Reinert, a director-journalist from the 1960s, compiled seemingly the greatest collection of clips about the Apollo missions you've never seen in to a film entitled For All Mankind (54). I'm only halfway through this film right now, but as someone who dedicated four months of my life in high school to scouring books and films for clips of Apollo missions, almost all of these jump out as completely new ... and absolutely brilliant. There is an image of an astronaut playfully releasing his rope and floating out and above the spaceship whic colored the idea of the space missions with a kind of, well, fun that I've never known before. Toss in the actual quotes and spoken pieces about the Apollo missions by those who actually lived through them and this is a truly amazing piece of filmmaking. I, exhausted from lack of sleep, managed to power through forty-five minutes of it last night, regardless of my near comatose state.

It's good to be back.

Tomorrow: For All Mankind (54)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Apologies abound, no movies, and a final look at Zeroville.

Oh jesus.

I missed a day of my Criterion Quest. I promised myself this would never happen, that come hell or highwater I'd always post something, but due to a series of technical issues, and a general level of distraction, yesterday, for the time ever, I completely was unable to post.

It's alright. A one time thing. An outlier if you will. I promise you can, from this day forth, return each and every day to this site and find a brand new post from yours truly. I'm here for you my baffled readers, and never again will I let you down.


Alright, so this time I might. I've been in San Francisco and I haven't been spending any time watching the one Criterion film I brought, and I'm pretty much the biggest Criterion Quest failure of all time. I'm not going to mince words, or make excuses, but this is getting silly. In the next week, I'm going to buckle down, power through a few of the classics and have something actually movie-related for you. As of now I'm thinking about changing the name of this blog to Failure Quest or Excuses for Not Watching Movies Quest or How Noah Failed Something Else In His Life Quest. You know something positive for the kids.

On a movie related note, I finally finished Zeroville and let me tell you, quite a mind hump. Steven Erickson does an amazing job of ramping up the weirdness to the nth degree at the end of the book, and all of sudden you're dug in to the deepest parts of Vikar's brain. You're cruising along with his fevered, hallucinatory trip through film and this sort of obsessive series of events that culminates with a conversation with a ghost and a whole lot of sadness. I don't know if I fully understood it, but I certainly couldn't put it down. This is not a book for those of you who are looking for straight forward narratives or easily found answers. The title comes from a Criterion film Alphaville (25) and this book is just clusterfuck of filmic allusions. Scenes from films, themes from films, actual films - it's a film orgy and pretty amazing read.

Tomorrow: For All Mankind (54)

Friday, January 2, 2009

I think they call this a "bender" and this thing called a book.

I have been staring at my computer screen for the last twenty minutes in a sort of hazy fog. I've been attempting to think of some intelligent way to relay the fact that instead of spending my last two days of non-work filling my brain with Criterion Films, I've been filling my gut with booze and my liver with pussy yellow goo. The holidays, at least in Sanders' Town are a boozy affair and with a pretty consistent stream of friends and foes in and out of Seattle in the last month, it's been upped a notch this year.

But the holidaze has come to an end and with it my month of hazy remembrance. With the New Year upon us I've dedicated myself to upping the ante on creativity and hopefully adding a few new things to this sort of scant little blog. I'm thinking about previews of upcoming films in the series, maybe a guest writer or two, and, uh, well anything else that bubbles out of my brain pan.

Again, apologies for so many movieless postings in the last three weeks, these days of holiday cheer are a real burden on intelligent thought.

I have been filling some of the moments of coherence though digging in to a great book The Other Sanders' gave me for X-Mas.

I like this book for a variety of reasons. One, it's written in a sort of staccato prose that beautifully captures the almost-autistic thought process of it's movie-crazed protaganist. Two, it's about a movie-crazed autistic person and to a scary degree I not only envy his life, but sort of resemble it. Three, Stephen Erickson is just a revelation as a writer. One of those guys who's been cranking out gems for like ten years, and you almost feel bad stumbling upon his stuff so late. Other Sanders' Brother claims that this book prompted him to abandon his love of glamour in Portland (I kid) and move down to Zeroville itself, Los Angeles to try and make his way as an actor. If a book can inspire that sort of recklessly exciting decision making from the typical cautious Sander's family, you know it's got to be pretty amazing.

Books! Check 'em out.

Monday: A preview of what's next.