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Lord Bullingdon Bounces Back

22 Jul

“But what will I tell Stanley?”
-a question/lament said to have been uttered often by employees of Stanley Kubrick

“I loved him. I hated him. I went though every emotion with him.”
-Malcolm McDowell on Stanley Kubrick

Filmworker 1 begins by likening Leon Vitali to a moth who got his wings burned by the bright light of Stanley Kubrick. It’s a poetic conceit, but I’m not sure it holds up. Vitali worked for Kubrick over 30 years and remained in the job of his own volition. Vitali, as you may recall, played Lord Bullingdon in Kubrick’s 1975 film, Barry Lyndon. He later worked for Kubrick behind the camera as a jack-of-all-trades and continued in this capacity up to (and even after, as the film shows us) the director’s death in March, 1998.

One learns about Vitali during the course of the documentary, but let’s face it, that’s not why anyone will see this film. Most people (that would be me) will go hoping for stories about what an obsessive crazy nut Kubrick was, and in this regard, the film does not disappoint. (Kubrick ordered around 30 takes of the scene where Barry Lyndon beats Lord Bullingdon. In the film, Ryan O’Neal expresses regret about hurting his co-star. There are other, better stories, but I don’t want to ruin the film for you.)

Vitali goes without sleep, works while ill, and endures Kubrick’s never-ending demands for his time and energy. Emilio D’Alessandro, another 30-year Kubrick assistant, tells similar tales in Stanley Kubrick and Me. Neither work is a hatchet piece, but while Emilio’s book left me feeling bathed in a warm, nostalgic light, I felt angry at the end of Filmworker. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized that in a book one cannot see the narrator. The documentary shows us Vitali both as a pouty young man and as the wizened, wiry man he is today. It’s not hard to look at him and think “Kubrick did this!”.


It’s your fault, Kubrick!

Early in Filmworker, Vitali describes a sort of epiphany he had while working on Barry Lyndon. “This was filmmaking”, he says (or something to that effect – I didn’t take notes!) Though he had acted in film and television, it was not until he worked with Kubrick that he felt truly cognizant of what filmmaking could be.

Though I enjoyed the documentary, it may not be for everyone. I particularly liked a sequence where the color timing of Kubrick’s films is discussed. Timing refers to the adjustments in exposure and filtration that give a film it’s “look” when the negative it is printed. Vitali discusses his efforts to get labs to produce the desired result. Even Kubrick’s detractors will concede that his work is well -photographed (look at any given frame in Paths Of Glory if you don’t believe me), and this section provides a look into one step in that process. Though the section is brief, it may seem wonkish to some.

This is definitely a film for Kubrick fans, and for fans of cinema in general – I would recommend this film. Though it does not strike me as a “great” documentary (whatever that means) I found it to be engaging and definitely worth your time.

1. Filmworker isn’t a great title, but it’s apparently the occupation that Vitali listed on his passport.


Writing about Kubrick Part I

5 May

OK, we haven’t posted in, like, forever.  Part of the reason is that we’ve wanted to write about one of our favorite directors for a while now, but we felt cowed by the task.  We wanted to be as methodical with this post as Kubrick was with his films.  Once you find yourself thinking that way, though, it’s a recipe for inaction.  Here goes.

We¹ remember where we were when we found out that Kubrick was dead.  We were driving back from Chicago with our spouse, Maryam, when the news came over the radio.  Back at the house, we called our friend, Diane (not her real name – she might not like us using her real name.) “Kubrick’s dead,” we said. We have no idea why we called Diane. She and her husband are mutual friends of ours, but she isn’t exactly a Kubrick fan. Diane handled the news with her usual candor. “Didn’t he make A Clockwork Orange?”,  she asked. “What a sick mind.”  We were not put off, and we went on to have a pleasant conversation about the deceased and his films.

We don’t think that Kubrick was a perfect director – he made relatively few films, and his very meticulousness often worked against him. (His penchant for repeated takes, 100+ at times, often put him behind schedule.) There are few strong women in Kubrick films,  and his worldview is often bleak (the world blows up at the end of Dr. Strangelove, for Pete’s sake, and it’s a comedy.) Not only that, he cut the last chapter of Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange, one that changes the tone of the novel’s ending. Kubrick couldn’t write for sour apples and always wrote with a collaborator.

Nonetheless, more than any other director we can think of, Kubrick is in every frame of his films, though he never once stepped in front of the camera the way Martin Scorsese has occasionally done.  Don’t get us started about the way he moves the camera. Remember the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where Gary Lockwood jogs in the centrifuge of the spacecraft?  How ’bout the scene in Paths of Glory where the camera tracks though the WWI trenches? Danny riding his tricycle though empty hallways in The Shining? You’ve probably thought of a few that we haven’t.

Kubrick had budgetary control over his films that many directors would have given their eye teeth of have.  Vincent D’onofrio recalled (it’s on You Tube, we forget the name of the documentary) showing up on the set of Full Metal Jacket and seeing men sitting in a van who never seemed to leave it. “They’re from accounting,” Kubrick explained. “They’re not allowed to leave the car.”


When ya go crazy in a Kubrick film, ya gotta glower

OK, we’re all over the map here, but we suggest that you check out Fear and Desire, Kubrick’s first feature. The film’s been unavailable for years ’cause Kubrick found it pretentious and amateurish.  The picture’s not great (it sometimes feels like a Twilight Zone episode), but we like it because it foreshadows the Kubrick that was to come – a war theme,  and a scene that in its way prefigures the end of 2001. (Killer’s Kiss, another early effort, has a quick scene that predates the 2001’s light show, as well as a chase though a manikin factory.)

The real purpose of this post was to review Emilio D’Alessandro’s Stanley Kubrick and Me, but we’ll get to that next time.

¹ If you’ve followed this space, you’ll know that we refer to ourselves in the third person, an trite affectation to be sure, but we can’t seem to break ourselves of this annoying habit.

God Bless You, Fred Ianelli, Wherever You Are!

21 Dec

We’ve wanted to say “God Bless you, Fred Ianelli, wherever you are” for a while now but we didn’t for several reasons:

  1. Fred Ianelli is the name of an actual guy that we knew, though not well.  We weren’t (and still aren’t) sure about how he’d feel about our use of his real name (assuming he ever even sees this.)
  2. We thought that the gang down at Atheism, Inc. might boycott us if we invoked the Diety

We’ve long known from personal experience that sometimes a comment made during a brief encounter can make a big difference, as Fred’s did for us on a Friday many autumns ago.

We majored in Communications at a university in the Midwest. (Upon graduation, we were all set for a career in broadcasting in the 1950s – unfortunately, it was the late 1970s.)  Back in those halcyon days, we were taking this 400 level TV  directing class.  The first assignment seemed simple enough: theme music, fade in on a title card, cut to the talent (the person in front of the camera is called the talent, even if that person has none), let the talent speak about a subject, cut to an object or diagram, back to the talent,  more talking, fade out. The whole thing is over in 3 minutes.


All set for the 1950s

Each student was to direct a talent and also be the talent for another student’s segment. The chap slated to be our talent proved a bit elusive – he didn’t seem to want to meet with us, and the most we could get out of him was that he’d be talking about stereo stuff – woofers, tweeters and the like.  He said he’d refer to a diagram to augment his short spiel. The diagram worried us – graphics must be bold to be visible on camera. We offered to take his concept and produce the graphic ourselves, but he assured us that he would take care of its creation.

On the day of the class our worst fears were realized – far from creating a graphic that would show up well on camera, our talent had created an ill-defined diagram that we knew instantly would display as washed-out white with faint dark lines. It looked like a kid in grade school had made it. Oh, well, nothing to do but tape the segment. Needless to say, the result was underwhelming. In his critique, the instructor stressed that the graphic was poor and needed to be visible to the viewing audience. We got a C.

On the trek back to our dorm, we happened to encounter the eponymous Fred, with whom we exchanged a few words of greeting.  We mentioned our less than stellar experience in  the TV directing class, which he had also taken in the past. As we finished our tale of woe, we saw that Fred seemed really amused.  He clapped us on the arm and said “Don’t let them mindf**k you, my man! And that’s what they’re going to try to do.  Don’t let ’em.”  The “they” he was referring to was the entire Communications department at our august institution.  We realized that he was right, and it cheered us up immensely.  We’d taken the whole thing way too seriously. By the time we got back home, we were smiling.


Dear Philip K. Dick

13 Nov

Dear Philip K. Dick,

We know you died in 1982, but we’re contacting you in the hope that the metaphysical state you’re in now might be like ‘half-life’ in your novel  Ubik – a condition that allows the departed and the living to communicate, at least for a time. Here’s hoping.

Many of your plots deal with the question of reality. We recall your short story, Faith of Our Fathers, for example, and your novels The Man in the High Castle and “Flow My Tears”, the Policeman Said. We could name others, but you know your oeuvre a lot better than we do.  We’re living in the US in the year 2016 (or at least, we were), and we think we’ve ended up in an alternate reality, cut off from our fellow citizens back in ‘normal’ (for want of a better word) reality.


Is it just us, or are you in a parallel universe, too?

The parallel universe into which we’ve  just  been thrust features an orange-hued alien who apparently has the power to bend people’s perceptions on a mass scale. This entity has just been elected president of the U.S. We know something in our neck of the multiverse is out of whack, Philip, because things just don’t add up. For example, during the campaign:

  • Said candidate (the aforementioned orange-hued one) came into the race with a complete lack of qualifications, never having held office, even at the local level.
  • He insulted women and minorities, and even encouraged violence at his political rallies.
  • Candidate exhibited insensitivity to the grieving parents of a slain soldier.
  • He bragged about his business success, yet went bankrupt several times, with a string of business failures in his past.
  • He ran a dubious operation that he called a University. Defunct university currently under litigation.
  • In videotaped footage, he bragged about his ability to grope women’s genitalia and get away with it.
  • He paid no taxes for twenty years. Further, he failed to release his tax returns as many who sought the Presidency have done.
  • Candidate said he was blameless for not paying taxes, suggesting that his opponent was responsible for the tax code. In general,  he exhibited an inability to take responsibility for anything – it was always someone else’s fault.
  • He had a server that communicated inexplicably with a bank in Russia.

The thing is, Philip, any one of these things would likely have torpedoed the candidacy of anyone else, but what the hell, he won! He WON! That’s why we think we’re in Bizarro world with an alien who has the power of mass hypnosis, because we can’t believe the American people could elect such a total loser. We desperately want to get back to the universe we came from, where facts mattered at least a little and things made at least some sense.  At this time, we’re not sure if we’re the only ones trapped in La La Land, or whether our fellow citizens are in the same boat.  If you’re in half-life, we’d appreciate any observations you may have.


Harry Calnan

A Self-Scanner Darkly

22 Dec

Here at De Jungle, we like to denounce social evils, and we’ve just decided on the latest evil that we shall engage in quixotic combat:  self-scan check-out machines at grocery stores.  We’ve only seen them in the larger grocery stores, but we’re convinced that they will soon become ubiquitous unless we the people get mad as hell and boycott the darn things.

We’re against them because they’re clearly intended to enable stores to reduce personnel, thus improving their bottom line and creating more unemployment.  One worker is put in charge of monitoring two or more self check-out stations, thus reducing the number of employees required to deal with us marching hordes of consumers.


We’re also against them because we usually use check-out time to ponder the covers of hard-hitting investigative news tabloids such as the National Enquirer,  with headlines like “Peter O’Toole -The Twisted Secret He Took To the Grave!”  If we’re busy scanning our own purchases two and three times ’cause the scanner’s not reading the bar code, we’ll miss out on all that.

The third reason we oppose these stations is that we’re plain lazy – after earning the money to buy the groceries, we’re too tired to scan our own Kosher pickles, bananas, and Tide detergent.

We’ve therefore decided that no matter how long the regular check-out lines are, we will not use the self-scan stations. We’re aware that our action (or non-action) by itself will have very little impact.  Nonetheless, that’s our position and we’re stickin’ to it.  If enough of us hold firm and refuse to use these devices, self-scan check-out stations shall go the way of shag carpets and avocado counter tops and well they should.

Belief and the Lack Thereof

14 Dec

We’ve wondered about a/theism for a while.  As in other things, we’re wusses about the whole God / No God thing.  We can’t imagine being so certain about the non-existence of a supreme being that we’d plant our feet firmly in the atheist camp, but the unquestioning attitude of “I read X and Y in this sacred text, therefore I believe X and Y” gives us pause as well.

We find proselytizing believers a bit off-putting, but we find proselytizing non-believers no less so.  Nat Hentoff is a columnist who is an authority on the First Amendment.  He also happens to be an atheist.  The thing we’ve always found refreshing about Nat Hentoff is that he has never exhibited any tendency to convince anyone to be atheist.  He seems comfortable in his beliefs, and he seems willing to leave it at that.  The late Christopher Hitchens, however,  seemed to go out of his way to promulgate his atheism.  We often agreed with Hitchens (and just as often disagreed with him), but his need to go out of his way to advance the cause of atheism seemed to us rather tedious.

We don’t know about you, but we find both concepts (there is a creator who made the universe / the universe exists but there is no creator) equally unlikely.  As with a lot of our posts, we don’t really know where we’re going with this.  We like to talk about movies a lot, so we’ll close with a metaphysical movie joke (we didn’t write this one, we just heard it.)

When Spielberg dies (he’s very much alive as we write – this is a joke) he is dismayed to learn that he cannot get into Heaven; they don’t allow film directors there.  Peering through at the pearly gates, he sees a slightly rumpled bearded man on a bicycle ride past.

“Wait a minute”, Spielberg protests.  “That’s Stanley Kubrick!  You let him into Heaven, why won’t you let me in?”

“Oh, that’s not Kubrick”, the gatekeeper informs him.  “That’s God.  He only thinks he’s Stanley Kubrick…”


Giving blood is an ego trip

22 Sep

If you’re a real narcissist (like me), you like to do stuff that feeds your narcissism. That’s why I like giving blood.  The Red Cross calls  every so often and they say “We’d like you to come in and give blood.”  But it’s  not just any blood that they’re asking for.  It’s your blood.  Talk about your ego trips…

Ground Rules

19 Sep

OK,  now I know that no one reads this blog, but if by chance you do, and you find I’ve provided a link (or a picture, quote, or other media) to content you own  and you want me to take it down, I’ll do it.  I don’t wanna steal your stuff.

Second Post

20 Jun

OK, here’s the second post. For the life of me, I cannot see why anyone will vote for Mitt Romney this Fall, even if they don’t like Barack Obama. For one thing, Mitt will say anything at all depending on whatever group he’s addressing at that particular moment.

Republicans are all over Barack Obama. The new “message” is “after 3 1/2 years the economy is still not fixed.” Sorry gang, but it took a while to get into the mess we’re in, and it’s going to take longer to get out.

People tend to vote their pocketbooks. If the Romney people can sell this view, Mitt has a chance to get in office. I just hope people will see through this flimsy argument and see it for what it is. The trend in the U.S. is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This will not change if Romney is elected.

Welcome to the blog

9 Dec

Well, here’s the blog.  Cool huh? I figured that it was about time to have a blog. Not that anyone is probably going to read it or anything, but I just figured it’d be a good time to establish a presence on the Internet.

This’ll be a good place to talk about my political opinions and stuff, though I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

Anyway, here’s the post and all.

Enjoy …