zustifer: (comics: zippy ha ha incongruous)
Sukiyaki Western Django, Takashi Miike. October 18, 7pm. View count: One.

Well, to be right up front, I hated this movie a little. It had a cameo by Quentin Tarantino, and the whole movie felt in a way like his presence twisted the movie into a Tarantino Thing, all pastiche (in both senses of the word) and collage-like elements from other movies, with not much there underneath.

[Later] Now that it's a couple of days later, I feel like it's grown on me a little, and I'm pretty sure that it was specifically Tarantino's presence that soured me on the film. Conceptually, Miike's weirdness is really only separated from Tarantino's by their opposite cultural vectors, and maybe it's wrong of me, but my own cultural perspective makes me strongly predisposed to hate this wanna-be thing that Tarantino does. Also, I've never seen the original 'Django' (1966), so this may have been a big portion of the problem.

The western/japanese thing has pre-existing referents in, for example, Trigun, so it's not quite the surprising iconography-soup-pot that some people seem to be calling it. I also had problems with the tonal normalizing; maybe it's just me as A Lady, but I find a large gap between what amounts to 'cartoon-like violence' and very straight-faced things like rape. Dark humor is one thing, but just plain darkness with no leavening aspect is difficult to reconcile with the otherwise lighter tone. Again, had there been no Tarantino, I would have accepted this better, but his presence made me apply the template of his work, which is often all about dark violence and stupid humor.

Twitchfilm's review makes much of the many elements, but none of these is developed well or interestingly. Seriously, for real, who cares if one of the heads-of-clans is really into Shakespeare, when it's barely relevant? It's a possibility that this fixation could be a reference to another film where it is relevant, but lacking that putative context, it washes out into nothing. The many references were cute when I recognized them, but not really interesting. Wow, you're dressed up like Clint Eastwood. Wow, you worked in elements from other westerns. Wow, Quentin Tarantino does a good Brent Spiner impression (okay, not really, but he may as well have been trying to. I will try to refer to him as Old Often-Wrong from now on).

Oh man, and I forgot about the biggest drag: the phonetic spoken english. So intensive to parse, and so goofy. This is my largest indicator that the overall tone was supposed to be light, but to me it felt clashy and drew far too much attention to itself.

I'm willing to assume that had I been better versed in the relevant westerns, that I would have enjoyed this a lot more.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Jim Jarmusch. June 19, 12pm. View count: 1.5.
Permanent Vacation (1980), Jim Jarmusch. June 20, 2pm. View count: One.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Anthony Hickox. June 20, 8pm. View count: Two.

Coffee and Cigarettes I watched so as to vet it for Rone, but too late I realized that my taste is different from his. I found it to be not Jarmusch's best work; the shorts that make up this film are cute, but seldom more than that. There is no time for more complex plots or any serious character development, which is what I like about Jarmusch. I watch his movies for their leisureliness and subtlety, neither of which really compresses down to shorts a few minutes long. Strange character traits, condensed, become merely gimmicky; rambly conversations, in the choppy context of a series of shorts, feel bloaty and pointless. Probably the most fun I had was spotting actors from other works.

Permanent Vacation I enjoyed rather more, for the above reasons. The protagonist, a friend of Jarmusch's when he was at film school, almost played himself, which made the sometimes stilted dialog delivery more acceptable (since he was pretty at-home in the role otherwise). He's a rootless kid who just kind of walks around New York most of the time; very low-key and harmless. One of the best character details was his propensity for asking people if he would like something, which was a clever little abdication of responsibility. It's definitely got the earmarks of a student film, but it's not inaccessible.

Hellraiser III is pretty horrible. I remember in high school we reviled it for being disrespectful to Pinhead, which it is, but it's worse than that: it's an almost totally soulless cash-in. It's got the set-'em-up-and-knock-'em-down attitude that the third X-Men movie adopted (introducing a bunch of new characters merely so they can be killed off), which is bad enough, but it's also totally devoid of likable characters, interesting gore, or dignity. The lady who plays Jadzia Dax in DS9 is the protagonist, and she plays the role not dissimilarly (this isn't a mark in the movie's favor because her character is so blandly goody-goody that she just kind of washes out of one's head).
This movie makes the second Hellraiser look decent, much as the second one makes the first one look better than it is. It's all very sad (although sadder is the fact that there are now EIGHT of these damn movies, and I'll probably have to watch them all now). I think the only place for the franchise to go at this point is to Bollywood.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
Kyo Kii... Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta (2001), David Dhawan. June 17, 3pm. View count: One.
Dead Man (1995), Jim Jarmusch. June 18, 11am. View count: four?
Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Jim Jarmusch. June 18, 4pm. View count: One.
Ghost Dog (1999), Jim Jarmusch. June 18, 7:30pm. View count: four?

Kyo Kii... is 'inspired by' that presumably horrible Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar. It's about a lawyer in Mumbai who lies on essentially every occasion, but eventually (like 3/4 through the movie) his child makes a wish that he should only speak truth, and for a day or so he must speak his mind. This mostly means that he insults everyone he knows, and they are sort of touchingly hurt by this, bursting into tears and running out of rooms. Then he learns the meaning of integrity or something, blah blah. Sushmita Sen is the only actor I knew; she was in Aankhen (the story of Amitabh Bachchan paying blind guys to rob a bank) and Biwi #1 (one of my favorites, and a very iconic bollywood example). This was probably better than the original movie, but it wasn't anywhere near the best bollywood remake I've seen.

I decided to hit the Jarmusch today because I am not feeling well, but I am equal to the task of lying semisensate on the couch and watching meandering character pieces with natural dialog and little bits of humor. I love Jim Jarmusch, my one avatar of his cameo in Straight to Hell notwithstanding (I will use it!). I just finished a book of interviews with him, and I learned that his process is a terrific one; invent characters first, and then build around them situations to be in and react to, and then a plot around that (if any). I relate to this pretty strongly, which is probably why I like his work so much. Sadly I had to return the book to the library, or I would quote the passage about him taking the idea of killers wearing white cotton editors' gloves from some older well-respected director, and using it in Ghost Dog.
His use of black leader between scenes is consistent through all three of these movies; it only makes sense. To have scenes butting right up against one another with no breathing room would be so inappropriate. Jarmusch's work always has such a calm pace, with lots of the process of getting from point A to point B; exciting things are all the more surprising in such a structure. His writing has always been a little more than is needed; although it seems as if he insists on realistic delivery, sometimes the lines walk the edge between believable and silly (f'rinstance, the Flava Flav afficionado was pushing it in Ghost Dog). This is usually okay. The man has a sense of humor, and while I like best the dry (Nobody flapping his mouth like a white guy while wearing Blake's hat in Dead Man) and absurd for no reason (Iggy pop wearing a bonnet), the more broad has its place as well.
Jarmusch doesn't move the camera around a lot, and prefers medium-long shots with multiple people in them. It's hard to get a feeling for characters reacting to one another and their environment in nothing but closeups. He's a fellow after my own heart. Not to mention that he's always careful to get private and overseas funding, so as not to be trapped in the american studio horror (and have editing approval and similar rights taken from him). The man does good work. I wish to be just like him when I grow up.
zustifer: (Robocop: Dick Jones)
Death and the Compass (1992), Alex Cox. June 4, 3pm. View count: One.
RoboCop (1987), Paul Verhoeven. June 6, 9:30pm, June 8, 7pm (director, writer, and producer commentary), and June 9, 1pm (3/4 - 1/2 speed, for screengrabbing). View count: Lots; five-ish views of the Criterion edition (and two more with commentary on), which is now apparently out of print? and many endless viewings of (one of) the TV edit(s).
[Aside: I didn't know that there were multiple TV edits, but it does make sense. Someone whose site I ran across referred to the 'once I even called him... asshole' line as being replaced with 'airhead', whereas I know it as 'a lot worse.' I really need to digitize the version my parents taped off of television.]


Death and the Compass was actually pretty poor, despite the prominence of Peter Boyle and Miguel Sandoval (the guy who went all the way there to get it, and they didn't have it, and now [he's] back again! in Straight to Hell) and Christopher Eccleston (?). This was one of Alex Cox's weird mexican productions, and apparently the level of low-budget seat-of-the-pantsness extended to really terrible location sound and an obnoxious faux-mystical plot. I had a hard time paying attention to it, and I generally enjoy Alex Cox's sensibility and failure to do normal things.



RoboCop is of course a small work of genius. An amusing bit of trivia is that apparently Alex Cox could have directed this (one of like ten other directors asked to do so), but he was making Straight to Hell instead. When I master parallel universe navigation, this is one of the things I will check out.

RoboCop is a consummate example of successful universe-building. The world details are deftly placed and reacted to. There is something really special about a plot that appears (on the surface) to be a relatively simple lowbrow story of good cop mowing down injustice, but which inhabits an internally consistent 3d world and which is peopled with believable characters.
Part of this is the obvious benefit of physical props and effects (although I understand there were some FX done with an amiga), but part is just clever fleshing-out of universe details (the television commercials, which Verhoeven used again as a device in Starship Troopers, are wonderful things). It is a dark world, but a hilarious and overblown one, with cartoonish qualities that nevertheless fit together with more serious themes quite nicely.

Everyone involved with this movie did a bang-up job. The actors, not a false step among them. Peter Weller had to study with a mime coach to move correctly in the suit. Miguel Ferrer is my personal mental model for arrogant young go-getter. Phil Tippett obviously had the love; insanely perfect light-matching, set-building, and personality injection for ED209. The commentary track made very clear how much of a group effort this piece was: Ronny Cox came up with the supremely weird hair-pulling action, Paul McCrane fleshed out his television-raised anti-intellectual character. The DP or producer, I forget which, insisted that the full suited-up Robo not be shown without a significant period of teasy ramp-up (long POV sequence, textured glass, long obscured shots).

I have a lot of love for this movie. It, unlike so many 80s movies, holds up beautifully today. It's an unusual foreign-director-in-US success story, both strange and familiar, if you know what I mean.
Here's my brainstorming chart for the characters, that I made last year. Might be helpful.
zustifer: (lady of your acquaintance: embarrassed)
TekWar (1994), William Shatner. May 30, 8pm. View count: Three or four?
TekWar: TekLords (1994), George Bloomfield. June 1, 3pm. View count: One.
The Killing (1956), Stanley Kubrick. June 1, 7pm. View count: One.


TekWars: Chmmr wasn't dumb enough to be suckered into watching all four horrible Tek movies, especially after seeing how the quality fell off after Shatner stopped directing. I know, it doesn't seem like those words make sense together, but here we are.
The first one is full of mostly unintentional hilarity, including a hockey rink fight, Sheena Easton, explosive androids, and stupid VR hacking sequences (featuring a girl who sounds like the squirrel from Spongebob). The second one has some of these things, but is groan-and-snooze time rather than snort-and-laugh time. This could conceivably be attributed to the latter Tek books sucking more than the first one (I actually read the first one at some point in high school, hoping for lulz, but receiving few), but thankfully I wouldn't know. You may rest easy in the knowledge that none of these movies is out on DVD; the versions we watched were capped from television broadcasts like the VHS that's still sitting in my parents' basement, with the end of the credits (end theme by Warren Zevon, not one of his best) cut off by an episode of Batman the Animated Series.

The Killing is actually good, although apparently the studio forced a voiceover on ol' Stanley. It's got Sterling Hayden again, playing (as in Asphalt Jungle) a fellow just out of prison, looking to make one last score. Some great character acting, and even some early attempts at exploding a certain span of time into its different occurrences. Kubrick's hand is recognisable, but not obvious.
zustifer: (repo man: Bud)
Linktime:

Hey, look, Alex-Cox-flavored comic-format Repo Man sequel! Not insanely exciting visually, although Otto's new incarnation does look an awful lot like David Lynch.

Hurr, Mr. Campion did a Cap'n Future illustration!

I've sat through this footage of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger three times now. I don't think I've ever known anyone who dips their hamburger into ketchup. My favorite parts are when he accidentally knocks into the takeout bag when trying to pick it up, and the sitting around at the end.
zustifer: (Krell door)
Solyaris (1972), Andrei Tarkovsky. February 22, 8pm. View count: One.

I definitely enjoyed this first version better than the Soderbergh/Carpenter one, despite its more cluttered structure and more Joe Don Bakerish leading man (though I say that as someone without interest in Clooneys). My respect for Solaris-the-remake is even somewhat diminished, because that is what it is: a remake of the original movie, not a re-imagining of the story. And in its tighter, modern redo spirit, it loses the pacing of the original, not to mention the good solid russian space station style, the weird, sweaty (I swear, it's a hallmark of russian cinema) character actors, and the beautiful analog chemical-swirl surface-of-Solaris effect. Almost everything I thought was clever in Solaris, though, was actually brought over wholesale from Solyaris.

Solyaris did have its issues, most notably the totally inexplicable (okay, it is actually quite explicable) driving-on-japanese-highways sequence (the internet tells me that this was left in to justify a trip to Japan, which had originally been to shoot footage at the World Fair, but which presumably bureaucracy had forced the team to miss. So they shot like twenty minutes of Tokyo highway, and hoped everyone would find it futuristic, which early 70s Russia probably damn well did). The semi-integrated Brueghel paintings were probably the other obvious culprit; I never felt like they really did much for the production. Apparently this was due to a sense of disadvantage on Tarkovsky's part:
The reason for this was that for Tarkovsky cinema was a very young art. He tried to create in the viewer's subconscious a historic perspective into the depth of the centuries, such that the viewers would think of cinema as an old art.

I didn't really find the relatively slow pacing to be a problem; it wasn't as deliberate as, say, 2001, but it never managed to find its groove as well as 2001, either. I am looking forward to watching some films that Tarkovsky thought were more successful.

Huh!

Jan. 31st, 2008 07:24 pm
zustifer: (Amitabh Bachchan)
Hey, you should go look at this short directed by a guy I went to school with, and produced by another guy I went to school with. It is actually funny!
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Barbara flicks out her eyeb)
The Fisher King (1991), Terry Gilliam. January 12, 8pm. View count: One.

I was so disappointed in this movie. Apparently Gilliam did it as a small thing between (get this) Baron Munchausen and Twelve Monkeys, both excellent movies, to try and make a little cash, presumably. It must have worked in the DVD phase, even if not in the box office, because look how well people like it. He had no input on the writing, which is obvious, because it's nearly all tripe. Robin Williams is appalling. He's supposed to be the most lovable guy imaginable, but he has this calculated quality to even his 'sincere' scenes that is most repellent. He is a terrible little homunculus at the best of times.

Ebert's assessment is that it's disorganized, with which I agree. Characters appear and disappear without real impact on the plot. Events happen just so they can be called back to, or just so they can give Robin Williams a chance to be wacky. This seems like a movie that could be closely parallel with a myth, which it is to a very small extent (imdb trivia page): one (possibly one and a half) unrecognisable character name reference, one tell-not-show story about a 'fool' healing a 'king' with the holy grail, one supernatural knightly nemesis. That's it. The characters do not follow the guiding story except in the most macro way. Gilliam, if he had written this, would have inserted little references throughout. (He still could have associated Jeff Bridges with kingliness (as he was supposed to fill the role of the wounded king in the myth) visually, with props, lighting, and set design, but I did not catch any.) One would hope he would have inserted into said myth some reference to the female leads, who were important as plot points but ultimately not necessarily people... the only real, active characters in the movie were Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams. Which is I suppose true to Arthurian times, in the most boring way possible.

I found it a painful, obvious movie. It's possible that even with Robin Williams the bare plot outline could have been made into something worthwhile, but this thing was an unlikeable mess. The high points for me were Tom Waits as a panhandler in Grand Central Station, and John de Lancie (Q!) as a television executive of some sort, even though he didn't get to be as smarmy as we all know he can be.
zustifer: (Krell door)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), Sidney Lumet. Jan 1, 3:45 pm. View count: One.

Solaris (2002), Steven Soderbergh. Jan 1, 6:30pm, and Jan 2, 10am with commentary. View count: Two.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (the first movie we've seen at our local theatre, the Rafael): I am sadly, sadly deficient in Sidney Lumet's work; I think apart from this one I've only ever seen Network and 12 Angry Men. This had a few structural annoyances (a perhaps overdone structural partial-inversion) and some fairly obnoxious I! Am! Cutting! Rapidly! With! Gunshotty SFX! kind of stuff, but each was ignorable.
    The awesome part of this movie was the awesome part of every Lumet movie I've seen: characters. He seems to get these excellent actors and give them these complex, deep, badass parts that they then play the heck out of. Everything a character does is development.
    Along these lines, I must record my favorite shot. The setup is that Philip Seymour Hoffman's wife is asking him for money, and she's standing in front of him waiting to be given it. Between the camera and her, however, is a room divider, a partial wall separating the entryway from the dining room or something, It's painted sky blue. Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the money out of his wallet, and hands it to her, his hand disappearing behind the wall. He draws it back empty, and gives her another bill, passing it into the nothing-space behind the wall again.
    Oh, it's just so good. His money just goes away into nothingness. This is an important character reinforcement, too.
    I don't want to spoil this, because I believe the structural semi-backwardness is because of a particular revelation, so it's fairly important. It's a heist-gone-wrong movie, that much is advertised, but it is a rather deep and meaty one, characterwise. There's also the fun element of being able to feel the director's age; the older characters are more active and morally unshakable than the young whippersnappers. It's nice to see.

Solaris: I'm glad to have seen this, although I really want to see the first version from the 70s (Solyaris) now. IMDB says the Soderbergh version is a full hour shorter than it is, which makes me think that perhaps it could fix the biggest issue I had with the remake: we didn't get enough time with Protagonist and his personal Solaris experience. I like the story as more of a dreamlike realitybender, but this version was all about a straightforward choice between fantasy and reality.
    Taking the movie on its own merits, though (Cameron (producer) said on the commentary track that Soderbergh's choice was to make this about emotional resonance rather than philosophical, which definitely comes through), there were still a few problems. [Spoilers, I guess, if you care] When the wife (the Irish second-in-command from Ronin, btw) first shows up, we don't know she's dead in real life. We don't even know she is the image of his wife. We just know she's very spacey and weirdly semi-aware of things. This makes Protagonist's sudden decision to essentially space her (I wish he had actually done so, rather than used some kind of escape pod) pretty unintelligible. We get it in retrospect, of course, but that's just not the same as feeling his revulsion with him; there's too much going on for the viewer to just feel it as-is. And then he is converted to thinking of her as a real person almost instantly, with no visible thought or mental wrestling; it feels like he just snap-decides to retreat from reality and that is that.
    I've been reading a couple of Pirx the Pilot books, and I'm pleased to see the commonality. George Clooney is a good Lem protagonist, a quiet, maladjusted, square-jawed professional.
    Visually it's quite nice; the right lessons were taken from 2001, almost to the extent of some serious homage. The camera is nice and restrained. The casting is good, a small cast that includes Pvt. Toffler from Ravenous (amusingly, the first we see of him, he's listening to an Insane Clown Posse song (you can tell because they mention juggalos!), and I seem to recall that chmmr looked them up once and found that they had religious underpinnings. In Ravenous, he's humming and 'composing a religious hymn' throughout. This is only fun for me personally, I think).
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), Sam Peckinpah. December 30, 6:30pm. View count: One.

Not a terribly exciting movie. As chmmr summed up, it has Bod Dylan reading off canned food labels, and throwing a knife through a guy's neck. Those were pretty good, and James Coburn (whom I'm amused to find I remember primarily from the Muppet Movie) was pretty cool. Kris Kristofferson as Billy the Kid was barely endurable: personality-free and weirdly Joe Don Bakerish. He and James Coburn were supposed to be pals from way back, but we weren't really shown them hanging out and getting along, only some semi-antagonistic encounters that made their adversarial relationship later not terribly noticeable as a paradigm shift. The song told the story more concisely and explicitly than the events themselves. I enjoyed watching Bob Dylan fail to engage with the movie, reacting exaggeratedly slowly, as if he was just profoundly sick of acting in a movie, and barely tolerating it as a result. His demeanor just said 'I'm doing this for the tenth take and I don't care anymore, if I ever did, but I have to carry out my obligation to be in this movie. I will do what I'm told and not look actually annoyed, but I will make it clear that everything I'm being asked to do is totally uninteresting.' He was given a lot of really, really pointless reaction shots, too, even before we knew he was supposed to be friends with Billy the Kid, and thus his importance in the narrative.
I'm not really up on my Peckinpah, so I don't know if this is par for the course, but this one was not really all that great.
zustifer: (Nick Danger: Third Eye)
Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski. October 30, 10pm. View count: Three.

Oh, man, it had been a while since I had last seen this. Something like ten or eleven years ago. This of course means that I had forgotten everything important, so it was exciting to see this again. Chinatown falls in my beloved span of the early seventies, which I maintain has some of the best movies ever inside it.

Todd Alcott did a little writeup on how well the actors acquitted themselves, which is nice. As usual, I focussed more on craft stuff (which I always do in the absence of any glaring issues). Polanski did his usual frame manipulation, which is just goddamn catnip for me. I find it wonderful how much he enjoys peering through windows and doorframes. Similarly, I noticed some lovely choices in framing especially when a character is manipulating something with their hands. The action is more important than the actual object, so we watch the person rather than the thing they're doing. This is an excellent decision, since all the important information gets across (and arguably the beloved-of-Polanski 'I want to see that' desire is kindled in the viewer) and yet we're looking at an interesting person instead of some thing they're touching. This is used to great effect while Jack Nicholson is leafing through the land-register book in the hall of records, for example.

I also want to applaud a couple of beautiful touches regarding Faye Dunaway. The first is the simple but clever choice to give her and Katherine identical hair, so as to associate the two of them. The second is the absolutely wonderful move of having her hit the car horn by accident with her head, while crying, and then having the most appropriate callback of that formed association at the end.

Such a well-done movie. I don't even care about what part of the mystery is happening when, because it's so good on other levels.
zustifer: (Amitabh Bachchan)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Wes Anderson. October 21, 5:30pm. View count: One.

I'm not really a big fan of Wes Anderson's work. Film Comment called him 'twee', and I'm not entirely sure what that means, but if it means something like the meaning I assign the word 'cute' (essentially [at least in the context of films and other works and not, like, animals]: clever in a not-terribly-deep-or-meaningful way; 'cunning'. It's positive, but with a slight air of condescension) then I am completely behind it. His endless pop-music-crutched sequences, his apparently same cast playing the same apparent characters over and over. His films are always well-shot and reasonably well-acted, they just always feel empty to me, in the end. It's like he, his characters, and we are all on a treadmill.

This one was better than most, though. Part of the reason for this was that instead of his usual ensemble cast (which I maintain his screenwriting cannot handle), he was down to three main characters. This helped immeasurably, as merely spending time with the brothers was a step in the right direction; their characters couldn't help but accrete. He hit the slow-mo Kinks shots* a little hard (and really, a sad dearth of indian music), and the sense of helpless repetition of patterns got a little painful, but it worked out reasonably well in the end. Not bad. I'm glad I saw it (not just for Adrien Brody, who looks like a greyhound, either).


*Here is my problem with these. Slow-mo is for showing that something is beautiful. It's by necessity somewhat abstract and removing, since we can't relate to a thing happening in slow motion as if it were happening in realtime. All of our reading abilities are off. As chmmr brought up, the opening bowling sequence of The Big Lebowski is successful. Why is it successful? Because it is for the specific purpose of showing us that bowling is beautiful and important. The people's motions are, when slowed down, elegant and interesting. You didn't learn anything much about these people, though. This is what makes Anderson's choices weird; watching the protagonists run around after trains in slow motion does not really tell us much about them, it's just a way of saying (as does its cousin, The Walk) 'this moment is AWESOME.' Which I don't really know if it is.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: sandworm1)
The Science of Sleep (2006), Michel Gondry. September 9, 7pm. View count: One.

Finally saw this, I don't know what was wrong with us. It's lovely, of course. Gondry is, as ever, a pretty amazing guy. Thinking about it, he seems to really be interested in doomed relationships. This accounts in part for why this movie didn't do too well in theatres, along with the terrible marketing mishaps (misleading trailers, awful 'viral' internet astroturfing); it also hasn't got a normal story arc. It certainly isn't the magical romantic comedy the trailers were trying to call it; no happy ending, no overcoming the odds to find luv.
So of course we enjoyed the heck out of it, I mean, what's not to love? Semifunctional man-child + beatnik-faced, reactive crafter? Plus Gondry? If you can accept it being just some well-written and acted events in the lives of two people, with a layer of dreamy fun stuff made of Gondry's usual highly analog imagery, then, hey. It's good.
zustifer: (JFK with psi-rays)
The Incredibles (2004), Brad Bird. August 12, 10am and 5pm (Brad Bird and producer commentary). View count: Three.

Mulholland Dr. (2001), David Lynch. August 12, 1pm. View count: One.

Ah, the Incredibles. Still mighty good stuff. Still a little bit uncomfortable in the areas butting up against the weird elitist agenda in regards to 'specialness', and the impropriety of hiding it under a bushel, but to me that added to the movie. I liked the way that people die in this universe, no matter how candy-colored it may appear, and I like the somewhat dark underpinnings that at the very least make it possible for Mr. Incredible to contemplate killing. His is not a complex mind, presumably, but, still.

It's a little weird how emotion-centric this movie is; it's weirdly affecting even when it doesn't quite seem appropriate. It must be something to do with the safe distance from the uncanny valley (the exaggerated, doll-like characters), and of course the Brad Bird, I imagine. Listening to the commentary, one of my less favorite scenes (the which-exit-to-take argument scene) was apparently instigated by Lasseter, which completely does not surprise me.

Visually it's pretty stunning, of course; the production design and lighting are freakishly awesome, the characters are imaginative, and the wet hair still looks really, really good. I think there were three or four things that bugged me, which I must in good conscience list.

One: Mr. Incredible's hands. They were these stubby (but not stubby enough to seem Homer-Simpson intentional) inexpressive things that ended up feeling more generically shaped than designed (viz. Frozone's hands for counterexample), and when in costume (especially when fat), the way his hands bent on his wrists seemed poorly centered. I don't know what was up with that.
Two: Clothing was sadly thick-feeling. Everyone was wearing rubber tarps or something. I know cloth sucks a lot for everyone; really, I do not even want to consider the time put into cloth and hair, so really this is pretty forgiveable.
Three: Clavicles. Clavicles are my favorite thing to harp on to anyone who will hold still. There were a few shots that made me cringe with either not enough or too much of 'em (or isolated left or right ones moving alone), but worse than that was that the default position of everyone's shoulders was freaking zero-degrees rotation straight. Even when you have your shoulders held back, it's more that your shoulder blades are squeezing together, not that your actual shoulder joints are lining up with your spine. You still have a slight concavity between your sternum and your shoulder muscle. Completely stiff, straight clavicles were, if not rampant, then too common (especially after the insurance company sequences, when Mr. Incredible becomes less beaten down). And there was a really painful shot at the end (Dash's track meet) where everyone in the family had busted clavicles. I will take a screenshot later. If you happen to be watching it, keep an eye on Violet's shoulders and tell me that they don't look severely mis-deformed. This pains me.
Four: Eh, I don't know. I had some problems with facial deformation, but they were minor. I'm willing to accept most of this as stylistic tradeoff.

None of these stops this movie from being really quite great. It's just so fully realized and pleasing. And I have a special place in my heart for Bomb Voyage.

Mulholland Dr. This was not David Lynch's best work. It began life as a pilot for a television series, but was recut and had some extra footage shot for it so as to bring it into featurehood. This shows, and not really in a good way. It feels retrofitted; the first half of the movie feels like a series of setups, only a couple of which pay off. The second half is the story of these two women who are in love, or who hate one another, and there's some mirroring which I think that between us chmmr and I have figured out. Mostly. But the first half, and its characters, are all but abandoned for this one plot. And this plot is made more difficult to follow through a casting choice that included two short-haired, nondescript thin blond women as separate characters who never met. Frustrating.

This movie had not a little of Lost Highway about it, which helped to make it hurt more when it didn't work nearly so well. I'm used to Lynch's carefully intertwined method of showing things, and it's just off-putting when characters are dropped off the face of the movie for no apparent reason. It's all too clear that this thing was chopped to pieces. I am lining up The Straight Story and Inland Empire to be watched instead.
zustifer: (Dr. Phibes)
Ooh, look, I got mentioned on the Total Dick-Head blog. Dude didn't pick the most pleasing photo, but, oh well. Extremely niche recognition is extremely niche recognition.

Ha ha, Evangelion characters doritos.

Some serious ups and downs, but here are some things film people emailed Ebert about Ingmar Bergman.
My dad showed me The Seventh Seal when I was a child, twelve maybe. I remember being pretty enthralled. I recently got my hands on some more of his work, and intend to watch the hell out of it.
Oh, and the conversations on ghibli blog posted the absolutely adorable little beer commercial/Bergman mashup from I forget what MST3K episode. Just to tie in with jwgh's comment.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
Since I'm sort of paying attention to the Transformers movie (which I have not yet seen and probably will not pay for in the future), further hilarity can be found at the New Yorker. It doesn't live up to the marvelous deconstruction of Dude, Where's My Car? I read in I think Sight and Sound back in 2003 (which was just beautiful), but then LITTLE DOES. (I'm still trying to find a copy of that issue.) Anyway, this thing is a lovely example of exactly what you'd think; snooty and not-quite comprehending, but gamely trying to diss a crummy director who deserves it, for the wrong reasons.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
Not very spoilery review of the new Transformers movie. Whoops, all Michael Bay!
Right, no one could possibly relate to a robot, that's insane! We'd better make this about people talking to each other, instead! God, Robby (from Forbidden Planet) didn't even have a face and he had a strong personality. I don't quite know if the Transformers redesigns have faces, due to overcomplicated busy-ness, but I feel sure that humanoid robots that sustained several seasons of animated series (I don't really think anyone, of animal or machine intelligence, watched the show or 80s movie for the humans) are in fact comprehensible and differentiatable even to our puny human brains.

The article's author makes reference, amusingly and usefully, to a John Boorman quote regarding MTV editing, which he calls 'new brutalism'. (This is very cute for one very big reason, and that reason is called Zardoz. There may actually be several sub-reasons contained in it, not the least of which: the idea of the suit-wearing Brutals in the Zardoz universe being hollywood editors and producers? A-dorable.) I will not fail to integrate this term into my lexicon. Anyway, Boorman's explanation of why he's annoyed by the new brutalism probably could have been put a little better, but it's still a great term.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
Yes! My wish-fragment came true: Alex Cox has a blog! I've rsspected it and jammed the result into LJ syndication.
It seems he is all working with Roger Corman.

This Rowland post is also pretty great.

(This avatar is Mr. Dade, played by Jim Jarmusch, in Straight to Hell. I use it for talking about directors, and so it is marginally more appropriate than the Bud-in-glowing-car (from Repo Man) avatar I also could have used. This would have addressed the David Byrney societal discontent/bemusement angle, but, oh well.)
zustifer: (Robocop: SUX dino)
Last Action Hero (1993), John Tiernan. Apr. 15, 1pm. View count: One.

This was an amusing movie. It was much better than I'd expected, really, and has had the effect of heightening my respect for the director (who directed Predator, Dies Hard I and III, and the Hunt for Red October, entertainingly enough) due to the self-awareness displayed. These movies are much better in retrospect now. Paul Verhoeven could have directed this movie (sort of... it would probably have had a much harder edge to it. Perhaps I should say I'd like to see how Verhoeven would have handled it), and this pleases me.

I sort of want to hurt Tarantino's feelings by suggesting that this movie, grounded in a history of actual action movies, is the stronger for its director's previous work (Tarantino not having a list of 'serious' genre movies under his belt before going for the mashup/parody/homages). I mean, Last Action Hero wasn't a brilliant piece of film or anything, but it was able to successfully walk the line between self-awareness and in-world immersion. I suppose it felt more like a straight-faced hilarious movie, as opposed to... a hilarious straight-faced one? If you get my meaning at all. There was a good ratio of action to reflection-on-action, and the movie-physics concepts were amusingly played. It's possible that its Early 90s face gives it more of an authentic feel now than it did at the time, but there's downsides to this as well (meaningless celebrity cameos, requisite over-clever child protagonist (Young Tarantino Chronicles, as we pegged him early on)).

This remains, however, a Better Than It Had To Be movie. Also, Ian McKellan has a small role! Very well-cast.

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Karla Z

February 2012

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