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.

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.