zustifer: (Beetlejuice: television static)
I was going to make a somewhat assy post about the arbitrary nature of both the new-year-resolution thing and the actual things I would want to resolve to do, but instead I spent like four hours trying to make charts out of my past year of movie watching.

First I made this, which was way too hard to make for what it is:


(That's number of movies viewed per month, with a low of 0 (February) and a high of 9 (August and September))

Then I spent forever on this bubbl.us thing which is unintelligible and humongous.

Anyway, there turned out to be 55 of them (51 unique movies), averaging out of course to be slightly better than one per week, which is pretty boring. Here's the list, at any rate. )

I expect I will keep doing this, because I like generating statistics.
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: (Jim Jarmusch)
I'm Not There (2007), Todd Haynes.December 25, 2:00pm. View count: One.

Jingle All The Way (1996), Brian Levant. December 25, 5:00pm. View count: One.

Soooo, a day of contrasts.

I'm Not There was a fun, piecemeal collagey sort of thing. What with this and No Country for Old Men, I'm beginning to feel like (if one has the thematic or cultural clout) one can be a little avant garde structurally, and still get a not-half-bad release. Hooray forever! This in and of itself is a fairly big win.
The movie itself had a few problems, I think, but none of them really bugged me all that much. The worst of these, Cate Blanchett's repetitive role, was still non-egregious due to her skill and visual impressiveness (mist can pass). Her function in the movie was largely to fail to talk to the press/public in the ways that they wanted, though, and I do feel that her screen time in that capacity could have been cut nearly in half without harm. Ideally she would have been given a more varied role, because she did rock the one she had quite effectively. I wanted to see her do more than babble vaguely, most of the time.
Everyone else acquitted themselves fairly well; it occurs to me though that due to the format (each character is a personality facet? I guess?) the characters do have a tendency to be a little simplistic. I know the point is in part to integrate them into a whole, but this is not really pushed inside the actual piece, and anyway it's not an easy task.
Heath Ledger and Christian Bale's parts weren't all that distinct, also, although neither of them is among my favorite actors, so I'm a bit biased (I hope the next Batman changes my mind, though). Best cameo ever, though, by David Cross as Allen Ginsberg. BRILLIANT. I already wanted to laugh at everything Allen Ginsberg said! Thank you for making that so easy!
The only other thing I've seen by Todd Haynes was Velvet Goldmine (which also had Christian Bale in it, staring blankly most of the time), which I thought was sort of cute but not actually... good. I remember some hints of unwillingness to conform to a normal story structure, and obviously the whole Rock And/Or Roll Lifestyle thing was very much in evidence. It's good to see his work get better in I'm Not There.

This fortified us (at someone else's house, so we could not control the viewing material) for the latter half of the accursed A Christmas Story (shudder) and, of course,
Jingle All The Way. Oh man. I still can't believe I sat through this. Every theme and idea you can pull out of this is onerous and depressing. Being a shithead (or a workaholic?) is fine if you just buy Baby Anakin the correct toy for Hmas! Black people don't deserve things! Arnold Scwarzenegger is hilarious to watch, and a credible everyman! I weep for 1996. Even Phil Hartman didn't save the parts he was in. The best possible thing that can come out of this movie is a .wav of Arnie saying 'I'm not a pervert.'
zustifer: (Arthur Frayn)
Westworld (1973), Michael Crichton. November 22, 6pm. View count: One.

Das Leben der Anderen (2006), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. November 22, 9:15pm. View count: One.

Westworld: My brother made us watch this. 343 and unpleasant had shown us a scene near the end, for its high-quality guy on fire. The rest of it was pretty unremarkable, although not unamusing. The guy who turned out to be the protagonist reminded me of Ned Flanders, and his very girly running form entertained us all. My dad noted its plot similarity to Jurassic Park, which is unsurprising due to Michael Crichton's involvement; I guess he's just fundamentally interested in futuristic amusement parks going badly wrong. Or was, in the 70s and 80s.
It is definitely not something you should rush out and see; the pacing is very bloaty and the actual occurrences onscreen are not terribly interesting most of the time. If you like Yul Brynner but don't like him to actually talk, or if you think that Jurassic Park was too well-thought-out and scary with too many dinosaurs, then, uh, go for it.

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, in the US): My dad made us watch this. I'd heard of it, and my dad thinks it's just the best thing ever, but I'm not entirely sure why. It was an interesting movie, with some good performances, but I had something of a hard time believing that some of the behavior of the protagonist were necessarily motivated. Also I am against the very ending, which I found to be too much of a Neat Little Package in a larger environment of uncertainty and even hostility. I rather prefer The Conversation for surveillance-based drama, overall, but this was not without merit. The unsettling East German atmosphere came across well, as did the Harry Caul-like surface emptiness of the protagonist, although he was a little difficult to read at certain points due to his opacity. This hurt his character some for me, but others may not feel that way. It's an interesting movie, though.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
No Country for Old Men (2007), Joel & Ethan Coen. November 11, 7:15pm. View count: One.

I quite liked this. I very much respect and am cheered by the choice to not give normal closure to any part of the story or indeed the story itself (I understand that the latter was handled the same way in the book. I don't really know exactly where it ended and the Coens began, otherwise). It's not a crazy incoherent plot, but to know that you have to do some thinking. We were able to put together the sequence of events reasonably well afterward, but there was still a good chunk left open to interpretation.

One of the more interesting overall aspects was that the movie doesn't care about much of anything that isn't connected with the killer. He is much more constant and attended-to than any of the other characters, which, given that he is a remorseless murderer, is somewhat unusual. Arguably he's even the protagonist of this story. People react to him, not the other way around. He's the most active character, easily. This isn't handled in a Hannibal Lecter way (which people have said, I suspect not least because of the ending, which shares much visually and thematically with Silence of the Lambs'); it's not a case of 'oh, isn't he an insane genius, who just happens to like to eat human flesh?' The killer is treated more like a force of nature, although he has setbacks which he overcomes (which ties into the him-as-protagonist thing). No one in the story has a normal character arc, now that I think of it.

Lessons include: life is precarious, the desert doesn't care, and death will get to you eventually. I definitely want to see this one again.
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: (comics: Karma)
Lupin III: Elusiveness of the Fog (2007), Masuda Toshihiko. October 28, 10pm. View count: One.

This was pretty crap. It was a TV special, rather than a proper movie, and clearly everyone involved kinda phoned it in. There was time travel, to a time where a Japanese-ish ancient society was fighting an animal-masked force called the Norse. Hmm. Also the Japanese clan was called 'Shine', as in Shiney McShine. I'm not even going into the sheer folly of doing a time-travel plot with no thought; suffice it to say it was pretty sad. Everything was dull, and chmmr deployed the best quips.

chmmr: So is Zenigata's sexual preference 'Arrest Lupin'?
me: I don't know, he's even more fixated than that. He's almost mindless.
chmmr: He's a pokemon. 'Lupin! You're under arrest! Lupin! Lupin!'

[PS: This is probably the best review of Lupin I've ever read, even though it's about Castle of Cagliostro, which everyone knows is great. Everything that's in bold is especially good.]
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: sandworm1)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (in 3d!) (1993), Henry Selick. October 23, 7:30pm. View count: Five?

It had been a while since I'd last seen this, and certainly a while since (I think) I watched it on the big screen, when it came out in theaters originally. It's a little funny seeing it again, what with the smothering merchandising embrace of all the toys and t-shirts that have somehow pervaded the youthy culture in the time after Japan noticed the movie. (I could maybe form a theory about Japan feeling approximately the same about christmas and halloween, both being weird semi-imported holidays, and so combining them wasn't so obtuse. I'm sure the kimokawaii charming/alarming combination of the characters did not hurt either.) Regardless, it's what most people think of when they think of Tim Burton now, I suppose.

Chmmr and I were discussing the workings of the universe of the movie last night (if you don't care, and I won't blame you if you don't, you can tune out now), and he brought to my attention that, somehow, I had never really comprehended that the citizens of Halloween Town went out into the human world on halloween, where they Did Halloweeny Things like drain blood (?) and presumably terrify children more harmlessly. Somehow this hadn't really gotten across to me, probably because for everyone but Santa and Jack, the town is such a bubble (no one else ever leaves while we're watching or indeed seems to want to). Presumably, though, they do go out there; the 'This is Halloween' song implies to me that somehow the citizens are out scaring kids whenever necessary. How can you be 'Mister Unlucky' to a guy who sees you once a year? And yet the citizens are perhaps unduly concerned with Halloween as an event, to the extent that the day immediately after it is supposed to the first day of preparations for the next. I suppose it's just their biggest event.
The mausoleum door in the human cemetery that leads back to Halloween Town maybe implies that regular traversing is done, so, really, maybe the Halloween Citizens really lucked out by being members of the only holiday whose effects aren't confined to a week or so. You can be scared by things at any given time. They also benefit from being fairly diverse in their composition and range; Halloween is a fairly rich holiday. I mean, seriously, Thanksgiving Town? One can only imagine the depressing third-grade-level Pilgrims and Indians universe in there.

Arguably, none of the Normal Townspeople in any Tim Burton universe is really quite sentient. They require intervention by the Free-Thinking Freak to show them how to really think for themselves. In Nightmare, this never really happens with the townspeople (and, weirdly, the Free-Thinking-Freak sort of realises that he shouldn't try so hard to be different?), and Sally could already think for herself before Jack got there. The other citizens are generally pretty much animals, really limited in their thinking and scope. They're like elemental spirits or something.

Below them in the intelligence hierarchy are the ambient ghosts and small animals that seem to be nearly everywhere. It's unclear whether those ghosts were ever anything alive, insofar as 'alive' has meaning. I'm definitely unclear on the level of mortality that anyone in the universe has; presumably they're perpetual entities of some sort, but death is (obviously) a concept for them, and it seems that they accept that they and others can die and not return ('The King of Halloween has been blown to smithereens'). Dr. Finkelstein can create life, the Lumpling child may or may not be able to grow into an adult, the vampires may or may not be able to make more vampires. It's really almost none of it covered in the movie, but it's not like that stops me wondering.

Presentation-wise, the 3d-translation was not terribly noticeable. The stupid previews did more with depth perception than Nightmare did, but that's to be expected, probably, given its origins as Not A 3d Film.
The environments were especially gorgeous on the big screen, though. Really amazing work on the sets. IMDB says that some unspecified thing was invented that "enabled a puppeteer to seamlessly switch to a replacement puppet if a puppet broke during a shot." So... a video feed? I don't know what they could mean, really. There were surprisingly few animators on the project, for such a large production. It's impressive.
I also noticed for the first time that the head in the bass belonging to one of the musicians is probably a caricature of Danny Elfman.
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: (Pseudorca Crassidens!)
Enter the Dragon (1973), Robert Clouse. October 7, 9pm. View count: 1.5?

This movie is obviously a classic, but it's a classic for containing Bruce Lee, not for actually being a good movie. Fortunately, it doesn't really matter. IMDB trivia page sez: "The movie was originally filmed without sound. All of the dialogue and effects were dubbed in later during post-production." Even this (it's pret-ty obvious) is okay, because, you know, it's a Bruce Lee movie. He pretty much does what he wants throughout, being the chaotic good force and walking anatomy lesson that he is, and it's fine. The plot doesn't really hang together, and the characters are collections of arbitrary characteristics, but the fighting is great.

(The hall of mirrors sequence wasn't really worth the effort that was clearly put into it, but that's about it.)

Nyerds

Oct. 1st, 2007 11:16 pm
zustifer: (comics: decapitated jughead)
Brainstorm (1983), Douglas Trumbull. September 30, 5:30pm. View count: Two.

American Splendor (2003), Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini. October 1, 8:00ish pm. View count: One.

Brainstorm is not a good movie. And yet we've voluntarily watched it twice. We watched it for the first time the day after chmmr and I met (six years ago nearly exactly), having picked it out at the video store as a likely-looking bad movie. Unfortunately it's mostly just bad, as we have again found out. This is romance, people. BRAINSTORM.
It's got Christopher Walken, in pants pulled up too high, being a jerk in a hilarious helmet (not, sadly, a good acting helmet). It's got the lady who played Nurse Ratched, completely slumming in this movie, and easily playing its best part. Sadly, the screenwriters didn't much care about whether you got what was going on, whether characters behaved consistently, or, uh, whether anything happened for a reason. The first half of the movie, almost, is spent on people being excited about marketing this goofy braincasting device, that can essentially record experiences, invented by Walken and Ratched. Christopher Walken has some nebulous relationship with some lady, and people are concerned about it. He has an asshole son, too, and a house which, along with Nurse Ratched and the excellent company logo, were the only things I'd remembered about this movie from the first time around. The second half is all metaphysical whatnot, and Christopher Walken and (ex-?)wife haxxoring the lab's megahertz and adding water to Water-Activated Foam. As chmmr observed, "It doesn't actually make sense with the sparkles." It sure had sparkles, though.


American Splendor was sort of amusing; it seemed to focus on how the act of recording, or fictionalising, makes things (life, and narratives therein) interesting. It never got really far with that, but its layers of fiction were fun, and Urbaniak did a great R. Crumb (as I recall from the documentary back in... 1994??). And the 'borderline autistic' coworker was pretty terrific. The lady playing the wife is definitely the one to play Unpleasant in the movie of her life, although hopefully with a better wig.
I'm not entirely sure if it really came through with what it wanted to do, but it had some pleasing aspects. I could really have done without the afterfxey 2d animation, though; getting some intern to do some wiggle holds (meaning, to trace some frames) would have done wonders.
I think it's possible to read the movie as showing that Pekar is barely functional in any way, and that everyone around him, including the artists who illustrate him, treat him as a naive-art source of nuttiness. This is sort of depressing, but he doesn't really seem to notice it.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes by night)
The Field (1990), Jim Sheridan. September 29, 2-ish pm. View count: One.

This was on IFC, which was either given us mistakenly by the cable company or given us intentionally by the cable company. I'm pretty happy about it, either way.

The Field, though, was kind of awful. Rotten Tomatoes seem to generally have the right idea; overwrought and propagandistic it was. This is the kind of story (old irish plot of land fought over by outsider and locals) that would do well as a small personal kind of piece, but for some reason it was played so broadly and stereotypically that I almost gave up on it a few times*.

Someone on Rotten Tomatoes mentioned that is was based on a play, and boy did it show (not nicely). Lots of Telling Not Showing, lots of Every Event Fitting Into the Tale Perfectly, lots of speechifying about people's motives. 'Hey, boy, land is the most important thing ever. We'd be crap without this land. The land is extra special and worth more than people's lives, no, really, because we stayed here during the famine. Got that?' (He did not get it. The son (Boromir) was maybe supposed to be a fetal alcohol syndrome baby or something (?), but it was unclear. He seemed like he was being set up as a not-too-bright fuckup, but it was impossible to tell what reasons there were for this.)

There was lots of appalling 'color' music that was right in your face with either HEY THIS IS AN IRISH PICTURE GUYS or just boring run-of-the-mill crap that distracted with its blandness. Hor-rid.

The whole thing was that way; overly broad and simplistic. I'm somewhat alarmed it got nominated for an oscar (and was directed by the fellow who made My Left Foot?), but I guess making a movie sympathetic to the irish plight was the important thing. Even though it seemed more important to me that it was about a small insular town than about a small irish town.


*(I'm glad I didn't, because at the very end there was a shot that we knew from an old music video that we saw on the Splu Urtaf Show back in the day. I'll try to find and youtub it.)
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Barbara)
One Armed Boxer II (1977), Yu Wang. September 22, 8pm and September 23, 10pm (half). View count: 1.5.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Robert Wise. September 22, 11pm. View count: Two.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (fifteen minutes thereof), Quentin Tarantino. September 27, 11pm. View count: Four and little bits and pieces.

Sinclair hooked us up with One Armed Boxer II, which is definitely more fun than the average weird 70s kung fu flick. It's the sequel to predictably-named One Armed Boxer (I), which we haven't seen, but which has a quite bitchin' poster. So, yes, flying guillotine. It's this tall hat-shaped thing with blades on the outside and inside, so that when the blind kung fu master throws it over your head and pulls the string, your head comes off. It's fun.
The movie also includes a kung fu tournament which features several weird asian stereotypes, including Wins-Without-a-Knife Yakuma (the token japanese guy), and a sikh fellow who has stretchy arms (as seen on the poster). I am curious as to where this concept came from; during the movie, chmmr suggested that this movie was the genesis of the idea of Dhalsim, about which I was skeptical (I figured it was more likely they were both drawing on some common concept). However, wikipedia seems to say that he was correct. Thanks, wikipedia!
Anyhow, it's a fun movie. The dub is not always hilarious or impenetrable, the plot is followable, and the action is legitimately pretty badass. Check it out, won't you?

Star Trek: the Motion Picture, on the other hand, is awful. The screenwriters had clearly recently seen 2001 and decided that it (or rather, its pacing and psychedelic trappings) marked the new path of space movies, so it was just chock full of appallingly dull shots of stupid little shuttles floating around and baffling artificial landscapes no one could care about. The character writing was completely phoned in; no one could possibly believe that these people had spent years and years serving together on a ship much like this one. The baroque moment illustrating this was toward the beginning when William Shatner and James Doohan meet up on a shuttlecraft to go out to the new Enterprise, which is for some reason way out in the middle of nowhere (away from earth not far enough to take a real ship, but too far for a space elevator, I guess). They are flying out, apparently on autopilot, both staring out the big front window at the purported majesty of their surroundings, and not a word do they say to one another. Hey, guys, you're friends. You're comrades. Where's the 'how's your family?' the 'what've you been up to?' or 'how've you been?' It's just horrible. It looks more like they had an unhappy affair and are now dismayed to see that they have to work together again. This would not have saved the movie. It was stupid and I hated it. (This is another movie which I can't remember how many times I've actually seen it vs. read the Cracked parody, but it's not troubling me all that much.)

I just put Pulp Fiction in so that I could complain about how obnoxious Tarantino's dialogue is. It is really, really obnoxious.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Otho rocks out)
A Life of Ninja (AKA 'Deadly Life of a Ninja') (1983), Tso Nam Lee. September 13, 11pm. View count: One.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003), Satoshi Kon. September 14, 7pm. View count: One.

Idiocracy (2006), Mike Judge. September 15, 10pm. View count: One.

A Life of Ninja: This is a pretty great terrible movie. 343, unpleasant, I recommend you track this fellow down.
It's narrated at the beginning (in the dub, obviously) by an american who refers to 'ninjas' (his idea of which is pretty suspect) as 'ninjers.' Which is a pretty nice windfall if you've been looking for a term that shows derision for fake ninjas, I suppose.
The whole intro sequence is taken up by myriad stupid training exercises; whipping weapons at paper cutouts of angry faces, lady ninjers mud wrestling, and needless 'teleportation' achieved by non-judicious edits. Then the whole rest of it is about some crap I can't remember. There's a lady who wants to be a ninjer, but is totally a WOMAN; some ninjer with some agenda who says things to cops like 'Ninjas can be anywhere. There could be one in front of you RIGHT NOW.' There's a bad guy with a drunken wife, and I don't know whatall. It's definitely, definitely worth locating and forcing on unsuspecting friends.

Tokyo Godfathers: I am an idiot for not having seen this, because it is great. It's lovely, and clever, and lovingly animated. It contains a lot of Kon's favorite little themes, like homeless characters and dark-haired middle-class ladies who have for one reason or another gone quietly insane. The whole plot centers around christmastime, which is interesting given Japan's attitude thereto (not really like ours). I'm curious as to how much the 'christmas miracle' concept is taken directly from western entertainment. It's still far superior to any of our christmas-themed crap. Except for maybe Will Vinton's.
But taken on its own it obviously still stands up; it's a really pleasing story, with the mawkish parts overplayed beautifully by a drag queen. Good stuff.

Idiocracy: Apparently this movie was very much held down by the man, who is FOX in this situation. It seems that, also, some of the companies whose future forms were made ludicrously different from their current corporate image were not so happy about it either. I don't quite understand this, as it doesn't differ significantly from the one referent I have ('Fox became a softcore porn channel so slowly that nobody even noticed'). Although, obviously, the Simpsons was _on_ Fox, but it seems like defamation is defamation. Can the speculative future form a business takes really be damaging to its current incarnation? I find this crazy, but, then, I am not in marketing.
This was, though, a not-unfun movie with a lot of cute observations. I still haven't untangled the level of astuteness that the content was presented with; I probably need to see it again. The 'average guy' transplanted to a time where average means something similar but more exaggerated has a lot of implications: is your allegiance to starbucks different from a future-guy's, merely because its function has changed? Is the entire story about how being a big fish in a small pond is really what an 'average' person wants? There must be something to the whole spam-beloved 'life experience is worth more than education' concept. I am not sure exactly how deep any of it goes.
It is clear that Mike Judge is not really at home thinking out working worlds; there were definitely a lot of little things that didn't quite work, although many of them can probably be chalked up to people's entrenched ways of dealing with things.
Anyhow, it's sort of an interesting movie. I will try to watch it again, and see what comes out.
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: (Baby Cakes by night)
The Pumaman (1980), Alberto De Martino (MST3K version). September 1, 9pm? View count: Four?

Oh, ThePumaman. An institution of hilarity. The imdb trivia page is pretty terrible:
"Hypnosis through shaky cam! Why spend lots of money on special effects? We'll just screw with camera lens. Nobody will know the deference."

Yes, the... deference. Anyway, it's mylar that someone poked with their finger. Anyway anyway, the movie is a cavalcade of awful. The flight sequences (because pumas can fly, don'tcha know) have the protagonist suspended by his belt, so that he bluescreens around in sort of an upside-down V shape. Protagonist's sort of Mayan-looking buddy who has a Prince Valiant haircut and throws protagonist out of a couple of windows is, as the MST3K guys note, more charismatic, likeable, and active than protagonist. Love interest (I guess) is someone whose mouth you don't want close to your face, not to mention a black-vinyl-wearing, uh, scientist? I can't remember, but she's like that one sort of recent James Bond movie where that lady with the boobs plays a nuclear physicist. I mean, these concepts, boobs and science, are compatible, but you wouldn't know it from Hollywood. Anyhow.

Oh, and Donald Pleasance, totally slumming in this movie. He was in The Great Escape, for god's sake. But it all does add up to near-constant hilarity, so honestly, I can't be too sad about it.


Otherwise, I'm sad about Madeleine L'Engle. I only ever read Wrinkle in Time and Wind in the Door, and, oh, Swiftly Tilting Planet, but those were damn well enough. They were in such a good universe, with pleasing, believable characters. I think I will reread them.
zustifer: (comics: Karma)
Doctor Strange (2007), Jay Oliva. August 27, 8pm-ish. View count: One.

This is a straight-to video 2d-animated thing. It had something of a budget, but that wasn't really used to great effect. It's apparently a very condensed version of Dr. Strange's actual origin story, which I was too young/nonexistent for back in the day, and which I never picked up due to not really paying attention. The basics (asshole gets comeuppance, goes to Tibet to be magical) are pretty dull, really. I suspect that some of the fun lay in the details, which were somewhat elided and glossed over by the inexpressive mouth-flappin' characters.

There was some fun in the creatures, and Dormammu looked pretty cute. The elementally-aligned monks and nuns were amusing and fun to watch deploying their stuff, but they felt like their fights were laid out by someone who didn't really understand why superhero fights happen like they do. They never really worked together or planned anything much, they just each threw their individual gimmick at the face of the monster of the moment. Maybe this was intended in some way, and this was why they mostly all ate shit and died, but, really. There are better ways to show incompetence.

I didn't much like the message inherent in Dr. Strange's being chosen for Sorcerous Supremity, either; it seemed that all the well-trained monks were just unable to do much against the random errands of Dormammu, but Strange's RAW ULTIMATE POWER was totally what they wanted in a Sorceror Supreme. Just jam that Dracula Trophy into his hands. Wha? Especially with him having proven that he doesn't really know what to do with power, even if he didn't really outright abuse it. The Dead Sister of Damocles that'd been harrying him for however many years, that we were supposed to believe was the one thing that made him bitter and assy, was dismissed in ten seconds of conversation with the head monk. Would it have killed him to go talk to her in the afterlife or something, and come back with an "Everything's cool, Steve! It was Just My Time to Go and they have as much lipstick as I could ever want here! Also I've been rapping on tables for ten years, pay more attention!" No idea if that ruins some kind of actual occurrence in the timeline, but this version really needed it.

Compression hurts storytelling. I wish people would understand this better. When events feel like they're rushing past at a ludicrous rate, and people have to have their emotions compressed and amplified so that they are clear and obvious to the audience, it's pretty hard to really feel like actions are motivated.

PS: Dracula Trophy.
zustifer: (Stan)
Final Fantasy, Advent Children (2005), Tetsuya Nomura, Takeshi Nozue. August 24, 1pm. View count: Two.

I have no investment whatsoever in the Final Fantasy universe, so I am so not the target audience here. I'm not even going to touch the plot, since it's not important to me, and half of it is fanservice, I'm sure. I do often like the creatures, though.
This movie was not the uncanny-valley spelunker that Spirits Within was, thank goodness. The character stylization was a really good choice. The hair-clumping and simplified faces generally worked really well. The mouth deformations were not quite up to snuff though; the bad guy brothers had permanent smirks that just looked like fakey versions of this --> :3. It could be a result of the discrepancy in how japanese and western people people emphasize mouths vs. eyes when reading expressions. There was also too much roundness in the mouth corners, and failure to move the corners down enough when the mouth opened.
Leather looks terrific in cg; it's thick enough and shiny enough in real life that it puts their two-years-ago cloth to shame in some spots.

Generally it was fairly visually fun, though, with nice animation and attractive sets. The fight scenes were uniquely well-done, with the selective gravity/time-speed elements handled prettily. And the monsters, the fast cowskulled things toward the beginning and the giant human-toothed thing at the end, were lovely.

Cloud holds his sword like it's made of foamcore, though. I suspect it's canon.
zustifer: (Robocop: Dick Jones)
Terminator 3 (2003), Jonathan Mostow. With Rifftrax commentary. August 19, 2pm?. View count: One.

Well, I would have hated to have sat through this pile with no Rifftrax. Playing fast and loose with the timeline and the concepts, lame acting, skeleton robots whose hips and shoulders don't rotate. Eugh. I wish to put it out of my mind.
The Riff-Track was better than the Star Trek 6 one, which was a little on the snoozers side, in case you are interested in such things. I don't know if it actually saved this movie, but it certainly helped.

(Campster's writeup, with pretty much everything I would have said, here. Although I would have added that if the TX was supposed to be smarter, how come we could never actually see that?)
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.

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Karla Z

February 2012

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