Friday, December 31, 2010

Movies I Wanted to See in 2010 but Didn't

Bitch Slap
Legion
Frozen
Shutter Island
Repo Men
Chloe
Kick-Ass
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Descent 2
Metropia
Holy Rollers
Splice
Toy Story 3
Cropsey
The Killer Inside Me
Restrepo
The Kids Are All Right
winnebago Man
The Last Exorcism
Never Let Me Go
The Town
Catfish
You Again
Buried
Enter the Void
Hatchet II
Let Me In
The Social Network
My Soul to Take
I Spit on Your Grave
Marwencol
Boxing Gym
Monsters
Four Lions
127 Hours
Tangled
Black Swan
I Love You Phillip Morris
The Fighter
The Tempest
Rabbit Hole
Blue Valentine

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Na na why don't you get a job?

Because of the economy, ass wipe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Walking Dead, Authorial Intent, and Why I Need to Go to Grad School

The "Why I Need to Go to Grad School" part is because this post is not very well structured, and I'm not sure if I prove all (or any) or my points.

**Disclaimer: Walking Dead spoilers (the comic) ahoy!**

I read the first several volumes of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead a few years ago. I stopped reading them because they were sexist/racist drek. Unfortunately, I can't really remember the specifics. I know there were very clear instances of sexism and racism, but I can't argue the point because I don't remember. I DO remember, that in the "letters" page, in which fans write to author Robert Kirkman and he responds, Kirkman was TOTALLY dismissive of all accusations. HE wasn't being racist. HE was just showing reality and racism exists in reality. The only black woman in the series just *happens* to get raped. HE wasn't even thinking about the fact that she's black. YOU must be racist for even thinking that!

Now, I'm not an artist. I can't say what kind of moral responsibility and artist does or doesn't have. But I think that an artist ought to engage his or her audience. And I think an artist can NOT deny someone's reading of his or her art - regardless of the intent.

Is it racist for a black character to get raped? Not necessarily. But as fenzel on my new favorite blog Overthinking It writes, "no one character, no one statement, no one discrete thing, is ever 'feminist' or 'anti-feminist' (or even 'sexist' [or racist. -R.]). What is feminist or anti-feminist is the way we include how we talk about and associate discrete things in a broader discourse, and then what that has to do with how some actual group of people thinks, acts and behaves." Now I have been told that some of the female characters in The Walking Dead get a lot more, well, character later on in the series. But up until that point, all the women were defined in relation to the men. (Again, I can't give examples because I don't remember specifics.) In comic books of the superhero genre, an overwhelming number of women are killed, raped, tortured, and/or de-powered - often in a sexualized manner. So in the context of comic books, and within the world of The Walking Dead, I think that it is absolutely racist and sexist for the only black woman to be raped and tortured.

Do bad things happen to the white characters and male characters, too? Yes. Am I a racist for thinking that Michonne's rape is not unrelated to her being black? No. Are there racist and sexist men out there? Yes. In the introduction to her book Reel to real: race, sex, and class at the movies, bell hooks writes
Movies make magic. They change things. They take the real and make it into something else right before our very eyes. Usually when I critique a movie lots of folks like, they tell me, "It was just showing the way things are. It was real." And they do not want to hear it when I make the point that giving audiences what is real is precisely what movies do not do. They give the reimagined, reinvented version of the real. It may look like something familiar, but in actuality it is a different universe from the world of the real. That's what makes movies so compelling.
I would argue that the same goes for comic books and any other form of popular art entertainment. If we accept that Robert Kirkman is giving us a world with zombies, then we accept that he is not giving us reality. It is his reimagining of a reality (with zombies). And this reimagining of his, women are not defined outside of their relationships to men. And the one black woman, the "warrior woman," gets raped.

Monday, September 6, 2010

One-Trick Movies

I am so sick of movies that are just one joke extended to a feature length. I've seen two recently: "RoboGeisha" and "Machete." I'm not going to grace their trailers by posting them here (ie, I'm too lazy) but if you've seen either trailer, that's all you need to see. "Machete," of course, was originally just a trailer - it was one of the fake trailers in "Grindhouse" - until someone thought it would be a good idea to make it into a real movie. Spoiler alert: It wasn't a good idea.

You know you're watching a one-trick movie when it starts off with a pretty great opening scene and then quickly goes downhill and never recovers. There are usually a couple of "memorable" lines that are supposed to stand out as inappropriately cheesy, but they are too forced and self-congratulatory to actually be funny. Overall, these movies suffer from too much dialogue. There will be a few good sight gags, but not enough entertainment value to sustain interest. There is a prolonged final showdown. This kind of movie isn't the class clown, but the kid who acts out to get attention only it backfires because nobody thinks s/he is funny. It tries too hard. Yes, it is supposed to be exploitative and over-the-top, but it ends up just being sloppy and feels at least half an hour too long.

"Machete" and "RoboGeisha" don't take themselves seriously at all. Their tongues are so far in their cheeks that they can't enunciate. It's muddy, a mish-mosh. It's masturbatory writing - nobody cares, only the writers who pat each other on their backs at how funny they are. (If anyone actually read this blog, I would re-read Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp" and write about the difference between true camp and self-aware camp and how that applies here.) The difference between these films and a film like "The Human Centipede" - which could easily have fallen into the trap of not transcending its own premise - is that "The Human Centipede" actually tries. Same thing with "Piranha 3D" - yes, it is silly and aware of its silliness, but it isn't content to stop there. No matter how self-aware, a movie must take itself seriously. Or else it's just boring.


It is interesting to note, however, that both "Machete" and "RoboGeisha" do follow the Bechdel-Wallace Rule... Hmm...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blood draws the pack


My laptop has a virus, so I'm posting from my Droid. But I just HAD to write about Piranha 3D. In five words: it was sooooo much fun!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Champagne Supernova

Where I was while you were getting high:
- Reading a magazine
- Playing Bejeweled Blitz
- Plucking my eyebrows
- Checking Twitter on my droid
- Not getting high

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Europeans Will Kill You

Getting killed by Europeans isn't just for American tourists anymore. Two movies I watched recently were European films of the tourist-torture genre of horror.

The first was the 2006 British film "Severance." Severance is about a group of office employees from a weapons manufacturing company that goes off to a cabin somewhere in Eastern Europe for a team-building weekend. Only the cabin they wind up at is not the luxury retreat they were expecting. And they keep getting killed one by one. Oops. The irony is, of course, that they are being killed off with weapons supplied by their own company. Severance is VERY funny. Who doesn't love a good satire-horror about the military industrial complex? (Complete with one office worker whose interest is in building more humane land mines.) The characters are all pretty likable, and I was sad to see a couple of them get it.

The second film was Iceland's 2009 "Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre." Sit right back and you'll hear a tale...of a bunch of tourists who get massacred while on a three hour tour, er, whale watch. This film is very, very bleak. It opens with grainy found/archival footage of whalers butchering whales. (Have I ever mentioned on this blog that I'm afraid of whales?) The movie plays out kind of like Texas Chainsaw Massacre but on a boat in the North Atlantic instead of in some Southern US backwoods. The idea here is that the Icelandic Mrs. Fratelli and her sons are pissed about Greenpeace's actions to take down the noble whaling industry and so they take it out on whale-watching tourists. (Although someone not on the boat is concerned that people don't look at whale watching from the whale's point-of-view. What about their privacy?) Also: the song that plays as the credits roll is Bjork's "Oh So Quiet" with the choruses covered by a metal band. Awesome.

The two films are about equally gruesome, but RWWM is a lot less fun simply because the tourist characters are just so mean and selfish. Not only do they not try to help each other make it out alive, they sometimes actively thwart the others' chances of survival. Sure, the crazy inbred hunchbacked Viking Nazi Jesus-freak killers are pretty messed up, but the characters trying to avoid getting killed by them are a brutal bunch themselves. Jeesh.

Anywho, the moral of the story is that if you're ever touring in Northern or Eastern Europe, and wackos come after you with murderous intent, try to help your comrades-without-arms to survive, k? Otherwise you're fucked.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's called Inception.

I don't really want to write about Inception until I've seen it again, but I need to get these thoughts out of my head and into writing so I can pay attention to other things. No significant spoilers ahead.

- This movie makes very clear the similarities between film and dreams. As the movie points out, one doesn't often start at the beginning of a dream. It's already in progress. The same is true of any scene in a movie. The viewer doesn't know what came before, but fills it in. I was acutely aware of that with this movie, because every shift in scene asks "Is this 'real'? How did they get here?"
Another way that film is like a dream is the dilation of time. In the film, one hour of dream-time is equal to five minutes of real-time. When I entered the movie theater, it was daylight. When I exited, it was dark. I checked the time because I didn't know how much time had elapsed. (Going to see a matinee is even more like waking from a dream because going from the dark of the theater into bright daylight is especially jarring.)

-It is my belief that Christopher Nolan only directed The Dark Knight and made it so awesome so that he could get the name recognition and funding to do this film. "Inception" is very clearly follow-up to "Memento." At a thematic level, both films deal with memory and the perception of reality. On a narrative level, they both feature a man who is tortured by the death of his wife and haunted by memories of her and what he did or did not do to contribute to her death. "Inception" throws dreams into the mix. But both are about the playground that is the subconscious.

- Speaking of "spoilers" there were a couple of plot points that I saw coming right away. They weren't really "twists," because they were fairly easy to guess. But it is a testament to Nolan's writing and direction that figuring it out didn't feel like I was getting ahead of the film, and a testament to the cast's acting that they sold it even though I knew it was coming. The same can be said of a few confusing parts - I didn't entirely understand the details what was going on, but it didn't really matter.

- True or False? Inception : Dreams :: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind : Memories

- I love Leonardo DiCaprio. Has he won an Oscar yet?

- I love Joseph Gordon Levitt.

- Cillian Murphy's cheekbones are to die for.

- At one point near the end, I think Leo shouts "ELLEN!" at Ellen Page instead of her character's name.

- Speaking of Ellen Page's character: the character is named Ariadne. If I'm remembering my Greek mythology correctly, Ariadne is the woman who led Theseus out of the Minotaur's labyrinth. Reeeeal subtle there, Nolan.

- As with Memento, the film is peppered with just enough really funny lines.

- It is unfortunate that the movie does not follow the Bechdel-Wallace rule, but fuck it. EDIT: Scratch that, I think it does.

- Towards the beginning of the film there is at least 20-30 minutes of scenes that feel overly expository - explaining dream architecture and inception and extraction, etc. I didn't much like that because it felt like the part of Ocean's 11 where we're walked through the plan for the heist. (And yes, I know Inception can be nutshelled as an existentialist heist film, but it's not that easily summated.) It just seemed like too much set-up and0 it was trying to hurry up and get to the good part, the dream. Well it was worth it. And there probably wasn't a better way to do it. But it bugged me at the time.

- The ending is excellent. The whole audience (and the theater was packed) let out a simultaneous expression of delicious frustration. It is ambiguous but not tormentingly so because it doesn't really make a difference which way the cookie crumbles.

- And there is another way the film is like a dream; it is like a dream that you wake from just before it ends and you try as you might, you can't fall back asleep and pick up where you left off.

- At one point early on, a female character (I can't remember if it's Ariadne) is standing at some sort of height or ledge and asks Leo, "What happens if I jump?" I reeeeally wanted him to say "You jump, I jump." (Titanic, people!)

I think that's all I have to say, at least until I see it again. (Tomorrow?)
Oh, and God I fucking love film.


EDIT:
One more thing I forgot about how the film is like a dream:
There are bits of dialogue that are repeated a few times throughout the movie. It is dreamlike in the way that dreams are like a sort of deja vu, variations on and repetitions of themes, objects, and events.
Oh, and also in the film they refer to the people who populate the dreams as "projections." To the audience, all the characters are literal projections on a movie screen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Tangled" up in blue (not pink)

So Disney's next outing is a take on the Rapunzel story (presumably without the part where Rapunzel ends up stranded in the desert and the Prince blinded).
Here is the latest trailer:


According to Cinematical
, Disney changed the title of the film from "Rapunzel" to "Tangled" in order to have more appeal to boys. It seems that they thought that "The Princess and the Frog" didn't do too well because it had the word "princess" in the title and that they therefore alienated their male audience somehow.

Fine. Change the title. It gives you that nice line in the trailer: "It takes two to get...Tangled." But I'm not sure how I feel about making the trailer entirely centered on the Prince. On the one hand, I don't like that they are taking away the female narrative. It's not about Rapunzel being trapped in a tower, it's about Flynn on the run from the law! (Wait...wasn't that the plot of "Aladdin"?)

But what bothers me even more on a personal level is that it doesn't give me enough footage of Rapunzel to work with to decide whether I am interested in how she is portrayed or not. We see more of her hair than we do of her face. (Her hair can somehow move independently - it's like a cross between AVATAR hair and tentacle porn.) She could be kinda spunky - she's not taken in by Flynn's "smoldering" face. Or she could be a dumb blonde - her only line in the trailer is "Best. Day. Ever!" while swinging from a tree.

So is this a movie I should be supporting or not? Give me something to work with, Disney!

Monday, June 7, 2010

PSA: OMG BREAKING BAD

OH MY GOD BREAKING BAD IS SO FUCKING GOOD. BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION. EVER. EVERY EPISODE IS THE BEST EPISODE YET OMG OMG OMG
THE ACTING IS SO GOOD AND THE WRITING IS SO GOOD AND THE CINEMATOGRAPHY IS SO GOOD AND EVERYTHING ABOUT IT KNOCKS MY SOCKS OFF EVERY TIME EVEN THOUGH I'M NOT WEARING SOCKS.
HOLY COW.
SO GOOD.

That is all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bad Horror: Right vs. Wrong

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet George A. Romero - the man who created zombies as we know them today. But I overslept. Instead, however, I attended a free screening of his latest film, Survival of the Dead, which he introduced.

First things first: George A. Romero is a tall man.

[Disclaimer: I have seen Romero's original Night of the Living Dead. But I am ashamed to admit that I have not seen his other Dead movies (The Dawn of the Dead remake is one of my favorite zombie movies, though), including the recent first-person POV Diary of the Dead, from which Survival takes a minor character as the lead protagonist.]

My review of the movie:
It was really awesome seeing the Man himself introduce the film. But that's where the evening's awesomeness ended. Survival of the Dead is boring. Flat-out boring. I would post a spoiler warning for this review, but the whole thing is so glaringly obvious that there's nothing to spoil. The plot is tepid. The only interesting things Romero does to move his mythos forward is to suggest that zombies might eat something other than human flesh - but he does this only at the end and just kind of pokes the idea with a stick and walks away from it. The dialogue is awful. I didn't care about any of the characters. It could have been interesting to have military characters as the protagonists since Romero is so very anti-military, but all the characters were totally flat. The zombies weren't the only lifeless ones. (har har har.) If you recall, my criticism of Zombieland was that it had no conflict. Zombie movies aren't about the zombies, but about the survivors. In Survival of the Dead, I *wish* it had been more about the zombies. At least Zombieland was entertaining.

My review of the screening:
When Romero introduced the film, he said he had a lot of fun making the movie and encouraged the audience to laugh at the funny moments. Somehow, the audience took this to mean "add your own sound effects, guffaw at everything, and be a total d-bag" because that's what they did.




Now to do a 180 and look at a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

On Saturday, I went to a midnight screening of The Human Centipede. The premise of the film is that this Mengele-esque retired surgeon kidnaps three tourists and sews them together anus-to-mouth to create a "human centipede" with a single digestive tract. Gross. Awesome. I love bizarre movies. I don't usually pay attention to reviews, but Cinematical touted the film as "All concept, no follow-through, " so I was apprehensive. I didn't want to sit through a total stinker. But I had to go. Wow.

My review of the movie:
The film was actually not that bad ("bad" being subjective, of course). It strikes the right balance of taking its concept seriously, but not taking itself too seriously. The actresses who play two American tourists were godawful. Luckily, neither was the head of the centipede, so they don't get to talk at all after the operation. (They do groan and squeal and whine a lot, but they're okay at doing that.) Dieter Laser's Dr. Heiter is fan-fucking-tastic - creepy, insane, deadpan, whacked out of his mind, hilarious. He almost reminds me of Beat Takeshi. His lab-coat/aviators/shotgun get-up gives him the potential to be one of those iconic movie villains. As with Survival of the Dead, it's hard to spoil this movie, but for a different reason - once you know the premise, there's not much more to it. But it's not boring. Not at all boring. Sure, there are a couple of plot-holes, but they're easy enough to disregard or to write off as character stupidity. And as with Survival, I didn't particularly care about any of the characters (Except maybe the Japanese guy who is the head of the centipede, but about whom we know nothing). But that's probably for the best, as it would be real tough to sit through if I identified too closely with any of the victims. As for the gross-out factor, it wasn't that bad, actually. The medical stuff made me a bit squeamish - an IV gets ripped out of an arm and Herr Doktor cuts open a couple of kneecaps - but it was more than bearable. There's some oozing pus which is pretty gross. But the (objectively) grossest parts are implied. You don't get X-ray vision to see the extra long digestive tract in action. Of course, I have a pretty high tolerance for this kind of stuff - on film, that is. That's not to say that I was disappointed, though. It's pretty gross/bizarre, all right.

My review of the screening:
Except for one guy who kept making fart noises (you're not funny, guy), the audience was great. The laughed at all the appropriate moments - the first one being in the opening credits when the Director of Photography's name is displayed: his name is Goof de Koning. It makes me a little bit sad that this film will probably just turn into a sort of trophy for movie-goers - an endurance test, if you will. Oh well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

AVATAR

So I saw "AVATAR" last night.

First let me say that AVATAR is actually in 4D - 3 dimensions and time. We had to wait in line at the IMAX theater for an HOUR before they let us in to be seated! Jerks.

I give it a B-. It both managed to exceed and fall short of my expectations.

**Some spoilers ahead, but none that you didn't see coming.***

- The script wasn't as awful as I thought it would be. And the acting wasn't too terrible either.

- I knew in advance that it was the same general story as "Ferngully" (and Pocahontas, and Dances with Wolves, etc.) but certain shots and lines of dialogue were lifted DIRECTLY from Ferngully! Maybe James Cameron thought that nobody would notice, but Ferngully is one of my top three favorite movies of all time. I noticed. Maybe one day I will even do a shot-for-shot comparison of the plagiarized scenes.

- I HATE what they did to CCH Pounder! I was under the impression that the Na'vi animation was neat because the Na'vi looked like the actors that played them. This was more or less true of Zoe Saldana and Sam Whatsisface and that Norm guy. But look what they did to CCH Pounder:
Just look!

- Sigourney Weaver rocks my socks off. She was awesome. Maybe the Na'vi could have saved her life if they hadn't taken the time to wrap her in leaves before trying to heal her. What were they thinking?

- Giovanni Ribisi was pretty good, too.

- I don't care if Michelle Rodriguez almost always plays the same character. I like her.

- I felt like Colonel Badguy should have been played by Robert Patrick.

- I liked the part where the giant Mecha fought the giant jungle panther.

- For me, the most compelling scene was wherein Jake Sully gets his pet pterodactyl. That was a cool scene.

- The narrative economy was very tight. Kudos! Well played.

- The idea of the trees having synapses was really cool - original, even. I wish the movie was more about that and less about Ferngully.

- Okay, AVATAR probably should have won best sound design. I guess. Of course, I haven't seen The Hurt Locker, so I don't really know.

- The 3D: Here's my beef. Yes, the film was visually stunning. But I don't think it really added anything. Ostensibly, the point of 3D is to create a more immersive viewing experience, to make the audience feel like they're really there on Pandora. Instead, the 3D effects were distracting - they onlly drew attention to themselves. "Look what we can do! I bet you wanna reach out and touch those space jellyfish, huh?" No, I'd rather pay attention to what's going on, thanks. I think that a good director can give the viewer an immersive experience with more traditional techniques. I know James Cameron can! Remember that scene in Titanic when the ship goes end-up and the one guy falls off and hits the smoke-stack on the way down? I saw Titanic five times in theaters and every single time the guy hit the smoke-stack every single person in the audience cringed and went, "Ooh!" Just the camera angle and the sound design puts the viewer there. There were no moments like that in AVATAR. (That being said, Titanic is coming back to theaters in 3D. And I'm shooting for a sixth time.)

- My other beef: Eywa ex machina. Sure, the white guy comes in to save the day. But when it looks like all hope is lost even for him, the deity *literally* comes to the rescue. F'real?

The image in this post was yoinked from somewhere on the Internets.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Keep Pushin', Watson

Sherlock Holmes was rad!

*Possible spoilerishness ahead*

- There were two women of any importance in the film, which sucks but is more than Guy Ritchie usually has. It is unfortunate that they were both such flat stereotypes - the Good Wife and the Sexy Thief Rival/Love Interest. I felt like more could have been done. Mary, especially, had potential, I thought.

- Could someone please direct me to some good Holmes/Watson slash fic? kthx

- The narrative economy wasn't too tight. I get it, Guy, you like boxing. But that scene in the boxing ring wasn't really necessary, now was it? When you have a film where every little detail is supposed to have significance (as Holmes points out to Mary), there should be no flab unless it serves some red herring purpose.

- I don't usually like it when movies set up the sequel with such a groaner of an ending, but I look forward to the continuation of this franchise, so it's fine.

- Actors I would like to see more of: Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood), Kelly Reilly (Mary), Hans Matheson (Lord Coward)

- I would like to see it again at home so I can pause on images from the Book of Spells so I can see whether the Hebrew actually says anything. It didn't look like it, but maybe? The word "tzedek," meaning "justice," appears on an object on Sir Thomas' desk, and the word "shlemut," meaning "completeness," appears under the throne Blackwood sits on when he passes around the goblet.

- I'm not sure how I feel about Blackwood. He was a pretty neat villain, but his goal was pretty dumb. World conquest? Such a tired objective. And his means - a chemical weapon? Really? Kinda weak.

Ponderings

Lately I've been thinking a lot about:
- Fashion
- Art!
- Subcultural aesthetics
- Communities

At some point I may or may not put these thoughts into blog form.