Herzog on Netflix

Werner Herzog is a legendary, innovative, original, and many would say, “Crazy!” German filmmaker. He is without a doubt one of the most prolific artists in the medium, having made more than fifty fiction and nonfiction features (often blurring the line between these distinctions), along with a couple dozen shorts. Just for fun, or just to make extra money for his independent productions, he has also appeared in some mass market, mainstream works. You might have seen him without realizing it as the big bad guy in Jack Reacher (2012), or as a random oddball in Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) and The Simpsons (1989-).

JACK REACHER

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Last year Netflix produced a new doc by Herzon about volcanos, Into the Inferno (2016), and I recently noticed that they now have several of his films available for streaming. They don’t have anything too out there, like Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970), but they do have his most theatrically successful production, Grizzly Man (2005), and one of my all time favorite films, Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997). You really should check them out!

I first came across Herzog in graduate school, when one of my professors showed us Little Dieter. Granted, not all of his films live up to the same level of genius but in the end I admire the fact that he just keeps going, learning, and trying new things. He defines and lives by his own code.

Years ago a colleague of mine said that he went to a lecture Herzog gave at a college and someone asked if he regretted the fact that so many of his works were nearly impossible to find. Hertzon brushed off the questions by saying, in his creepy German accent,  “Film is fleeting.” At first I thought the answer was silly. Film is one of the most permanent art forms around, right? It preserves moments, or the light reflected off moments, for all time. But that isn’t true because nothing last forever. Not film. Not even the Internet (sorry to break that to you). The more I have watched of Herzog’s catalog the more I have realized that his worldview is about the impermanence of things; all things. Embrace the moment, and enjoy it, because the moment is all you have. I don’t think he sees this as a particularly bad or sad view of reality. I think he finds sadness in the way most of us tend to view the world; trying to holding onto what is already gone.

Have you heard of the MasterClass website? They have several interesting, or what look to be interesting, courses from high-profile people that I’d like to take. It looks like the standard price for each is $90, which isn’t bad but it could quickly odd up. The one that keeps coming up in my Facebook newsfeed is Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking.

Along with Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting, I think I’m going to have to check out Herzog’s class in the near future. Damn you Netflix and social media advertising for rekindling my passion for filmmaking!

Steve Jobs and The Martian

I made it to both of my birthday movies and enjoyed the day but one was clearly better than the other for my money. The Martian (2015) has been a big box office success for several weeks now and it’s a pretty good film, however (how many times have you hear this?) the book is better. To me it seemed like they said, “How can we cut this down into a movie?” rather than finding ways to make the story work better as a movie.

Steve Jobs (2015), on the other hand, is also based on a book, but Aaron Sorkin’s great structure and dialogue, along with Danny Boyle’s wonderful direction, make it feel like much more than a truncated version of a biography. Michael Fassbender doesn’t look the part as much as Noah Wyle did in Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) or Ashton Kutcher in Jobs (2013) but Fassbender’s portrait is better by far. This is a serious, smart, production; it’s what I was hoping to see and I wish I had a copy at home to watch it again.

This is a story of relationships, all centering around Steve Jobs, and playing out through three important days in his career. The web between the Jobs-Wozniak, Jobs-Sculley, and Jobs-Lisa relationships are particularly well woven together to create a fairly conventional narrative arc in a complex tapestry. I have read and seen a great deal about this brilliant, insecure, and iconic figure, but I felt something watching this that I hadn’t before; a connection on a human level to the real man, or who I imagine the real man to have been. Like most of the movies I really enjoy, Steve Jobs isn’t for everyone – it’s never going to make the kind of money that The Martian has already pulled in – but it is certainly worth checking out if you have any interest in the subject.