Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My heart will go on...

I know it's old news, but I saw Titanic again this weekend. Man, I hate this movie. I wonder how people will view it now - in light of 9/11 - with the upcoming special edition, I wonder if the love this film received will fade, or if it already has. Cameron turned a tragedy into an action spectacle, and I don't and never got the appeal. I think it has something to do with a certain sort of fantasy/narcissism, as the film is about someone who learns important life lessons through a tragedy, and it's about putting yourself in the main character's shoes, safe with the knowledge that not only will you survive, but that you've turned the tragedy into the greatest moment of your life. I guess that's not a bad place to be for a story, but I think because Cameron wishes to show the entirety of the boat sinking his heroes must ride the ship down and in doing so loses the inherent humanity of such an event. Because he decides to stage action sequences (that have characters running through the ocean water that proved fatal to many who were in it for merely minutes) in the middle of the boat going down and indeed the sinking is something of a bravura digital stunt, when characters begin to drown or fall and hit propellers it has the tinge of a set piece instead of feeling tragic (paving the way for Michael Bay's grotesque tribute to Americans dying in spectacular ways in Pearl Harbor). In that way the film has the illusion of dealing with death, but allows the viewer safe haven from it. It robs the tragedy of the real grip of fatality, as even Jack's passing becomes not about the thing itself but a lover sacrificing himself in the name of love.

Perhaps it's an idealistic viewpoint of mine, but a lot of the filmmakers who survived World War II didn't indulge in gratuity when it came to filming such events. Perhaps it was assumed a somber tone was best or the nature of the rating system, but I've always figured, rightly or wrongly, that Sam Fuller wouldn't want to show the sorts of things Spielberg did in Saving Private Ryan, and that only people who've never lived through that sort of chaos could do something like that (Platoon is not a picture I think of as being exhilarating in that way, nor any of Stone's war films). Whereas the heroic bloodshed of a film like The Killer makes perfect sense: it is removed from a reality, it makes no point of "realism." And there is something to the modern ennui I see reflected in these sorts of films as they present stuff like this in maximum detail because many Americans have never had to face such situations. I think it is fair to say that one couldn't put these sorts of characters in the middle of the world trade center (Victorian underpinings aside) because at this time and cultural climate it would be viewed as a grotesque exploitation. But I guess that's the difference eighty years make - there's no sense of the real event, nor no sense of the real.

In that way it's interesting to note that America has successfully made war for the last two decades away from the scrunitizing public eye. It is doubtful twenty years from now there could be the sort of mass cultural decompression that seemed to hit with such films as Platoon. Though with the state of Iraq at current, it's hard to guess where our culture will be with this war when all is said and done.

Digression aside, I could rail on the film's sense of class, which is simplistic at best and insulting at worst (is it unfair of me to find it distasteful that a film that cost 200 million dollars suggests the greatness of a free from moneyed life? It's the sort of attitude that one can only have if one doesn't ever have to worry about money). There's something about cultural phenomenons like this (or, to pick another easy target, Pretty Woman) that seem about a fantasy that celebrates bourgeois dreams while paying lip service to the working class, or working poor. I can't believe I still harbor this much distaste for the film.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I'm a hundred percent legit

And you know I ain't about all that bullshit:

Boudu Saved From Drowning
Ong Bak

Of all the gin joints in the world...

I go to see where Broken Social Scene are playing in Los Angeles, and it turns out that they're playing literally blocks from where I live. Which is sweet if you know LA and its traffic. I may even walk to the show (or at least part of the way). This will be my third BSS show, it's interesting to track my life by it. The first time was in October of 2003, and I had just broken up with someone I was with for three years. I remember at the concert there was a girl I was eyeing, and I got the feeling she was trying to throw her roomate at me, or the roommate liked me more. Couldn't tell. That said, there was still flirting going on and the girl I liked said to me "You've got a good geek cool going for you." which I referenced elsewhere on this here blog. I was with a friend (whom I drove) and he got rather hammered so we ended up ditching out before the show was over. At the time I wasn't 100% sold on the band, but numerous relistens to You Forgot it In People got me hooked, and I couldn't wait to see them again.

The next time was in May of 2004, and was one of the best concert going experiences of my life. Scratch that. The best. Shortly thereafter I made contact with a girl who I ended up seeing for a couple of weeks. In March of that year, things went bad for me (well, bad is sort of an exageration). Or, that is to say, in March of 2004 my life had to change and forced me on the road I'm on now. I am lucky enough in life to suggest that few things have been truly damaging to me, instead I look at it as just the way it went down, you know? Well, I got laid off, and it was hard cause I had my own home in Portland, and basically it forced me to leave town. Which was, by all means, the right thing to do. But it hurt. Well, it did and it didn't. I spent a year not working and wrote a lot, and moved and now I'm settled (as it were) in LA. But few major transitions are clean, and you're going to leave some friends behind that you won't get to see for months/years, and you hope that they last. But 28 was a hard year.

I say that because this year (my 29th) has been pretty awesome. I'm writing something that looks like it'll be made, I had a walk-on in a movie, I have a job I like, things seem to be moving well. I wonder what November 8th will bring.

I had a Dream, I had an Awesome Dream

That I was choosing between which ironic T-Shirt to wear for the day. I think I was making fun of myself in my dream. Not sure.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rembrandt's conundrum

The Warriors is made of chapters. It's an effective cinematic tool if used properly, the film is divided up into chunks of narrative, mini-situations to which the protagonists must deal with the current threat, though offer no great resolution to their travails. As such you can break many chunks of the film into their set pieces: The Baseball furies, the rollerskating dudes, The Orphans, Cyrus's gathering, etc.

Perhaps most fascinating (though the film is a wonder), is the section with The Lizzies, an all girl gang whose interests seem to be Sapphic, yet act as Sirens/seductresses to the three Warriors in their company: Rembrandt (Marcelino Sánchez), Cochise (David Harris) and Vermin (Terry Michos). The three are brought in thinking they've found safe haven, and begin to get their game on with the ladies. ExceptRembrandtt, who does not partake, and who quickly gets a weird vibe.

Marcelino Sanchez died in 1986 of cancer at the age of 29. In an era where A.I.D.S. was oftenreferredd to as "Gay cancer" or A.R.C.Rembrandtt, the character, is the artist of the group, and doesn't have the street toughs of the others (he also, in defense of himself sprays paint in an opponents face, which I will not type as a homosexual gesture, though could be read as such in a very "graduate thesis paper" sort of way). I'm not saying this to cause offense, honestly I think Sanchez's probable homosexuality adds a deeper resonance to this sequence.

Rembrandtt is, as I said, the only one who doesn't fall under the spell of The Lizzie's seduction. So his reticence can be read threefold: he's reacting because he knows something's off (in a general non-sexual sense), he's reacting this way because as a homosexual he has no interest in their sexuality and is therefore more aware of the danger or is madepanickyy by the nature of such direct sexuality on display, or he's attuned to their homosexuality because he recognizes that they too are of a different breed (and then that alerts him to their offness). I would suggest all three come to play.

Which is to say that I think The Warriors is a strong and important text well worth lauding as a classic.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

To boldly go where everyone has gone ad Nauseum...

For someone who feels a bit entrenched in geek pop culture (as cinema has moved that way), there have always been certain deficiancies in my geek knowledge. One of the most damning was thatI never really read comic books (my sensibilities were more in tune with Mad Magazine), and I was never all that into Star Trek (in fact I saw more episodes of Facts of Life). I ended up seeing Search for Spock in the theater when my Grandfather was in town, a rare chance to see the man, who lived in Texas and came to visit about three times in his life. We never went to him, that was just the way it was. My cinema culture was different at that point, video was just starting to kick in (I think we got a Betamax around 1984-5), and for me the thrill of seeing SFS was simply going to the theater, where I began to learn more about movies through video and TV screenings, while my father instilled in me a love of the Saturday Night Live players, and comedians like Cheech and Chong (somehow considered perfect for 12 years olds, why I don't know). My parents were picky about what my brother and I saw, so we definitely made out way to the Star Wars films, but not Raiders, or Temple of Doom. Gremlins and Ghostbusters, but no Superman III. My father did take me to see The Right Stuff, though. I also saw Dune in the theater.... strange filmgoing time. I did a double feature of Star Trek IV and Police Academy Four, skipped Five, and have seen every Trek in a theater since, to continually diminshing returns. I guess I was just more into the movies, and the TV show seemed like nerdbait.

Work, however, has put Season Three on me, and I've watched the majority of it and became a bit hooked. I see the shows flaws, but I think the show is successful for two reasons. The first is pussy, to put it plainly. Every episode has a hot girl in it, and usually someone on the Enterprise is getting their fuck on. I think it also helps explain the geek appeal. But the show drips horniness. The second is that Kirk is the perfect enbodiment of the Kennedy-esque leader, in charge, take charge, and always smarter than his opponents. But he's also very very horny. As such, I've decided to watch all the Star Trek, so I'm on Star Trek The Original Series Season One. The other major benefit is that there are so many references I've missed over the years that keep hitting me while watching it.

Oh, and I wrote this:
Top Hat

Saturday, August 20, 2005

We know we belong to a land

For the second time in my life, I'm paid to watch movies. Un/Fortunately I don't even have to write about them. This week was certainly crazy, I spent 64 hours on the job. What are you going to do.

On acompletely unrelated note, recently I watched Oklahoma, which ties into the week I spent with Astaire and Rogers. This movie is great, but for all the ways it is odd and antiquated.

The main thing that's endearing, and it's something I think its creators are aware of, is Judd Fry. What a fascinating character. In the film, one could argue his character is stripped of some shadings because the song "Lonely Room" was not included, but even so in this version there's something about Judd that becomes evident: if written today Judd would be the hero. The hero, Curly, comes to Judd's room to sing him a song about how much better the world would be if Judd was dead. Judd simply wishes to be above his station, and be with a girl who kind of ignores him. He pines for her. The one thing against Judd is that he's a bit homicidal. Hell, that didn't hurt Barry Egan's chances. It bespeaks how our culture has changed, we can't accept shining knights as our heroes as readily, and it reflects in our cinema that few have that Camelot quality (and that's a reflection of both Arthurian legend and the Kennedy-esque swagger that permeates from someone like Captain Kirk... but more on him later). Then again Curly has his faults, and they're rather evident. There's also something to the reading that Laurey is torn between the two, as Judd represents real sex, and her first sexual awakening, while Curly is idealized to the point of abstraction. This though is an undercurrent, perhaps more implied than realized in the text.

All this ties into the ending, where "frontier justice" prevails. It's a very odd scene, and I'm wondering how much of the film is Ziinneman smugling. There's something very queasy about it all, and I wonder if it's intentional or just a fault of a narrative structure that has Judd Fry dying and the story wrapping up with a married couple driving off for their honeymoon in less than ten minutes of screen time. There is a sense that Curly is right, that the people are right for what they do, but there is a decided shade of gray to it.

The film, and it's always been my complaint with films like this is that as a musical it errs on the side of singing vs. dancing, and I think it's why people of my generation often have a reticence to the genre. There's really only one dance number ("Kansas City," farmer and the rancher isn't all that dancy) while the songs are beautiful, but not all that sexy. I grew to love "All or Nothing" though, especially for the passage:
Annie:Would you build me a house/All painted white/Cute and clean and purty and bright
Will:Big enough fer two but not fer three!
Annie:S'posin' that we should have a third one?
Will:He better look a lot like me!
Annie:Yer spited image!
Will:He better look a lot like me!

The other big problem with the film is that, though Gordon MacRae can belt the shit out of a tune, he's not cinematically charismatic, he's something of a blank. He doesn't emote in a particularly cinematic way, which may be why Rod Stieger steals the movie from him. Again, he, like Howard Keel, is emblematic of why the Movie musical died. The leads become pretty objects.

"I was wrong, I conceed that. But..."

How come this has become the hardest thing for people to say these days? It's hard for me not to connect this to the culture we live under.

I go away and Tom Sizemore gets a sex tape?

Damn, I knew I should blog more. I have some thoughts about a musical about a state, and my thoughts on my newfound exposure to a geek staple this weekend.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cheek to Cheek

The Barkleys of Broadway
Shall we Dance

Musicals this week. Top Hat and Boudu next week (with possibly more on top of those two). Trying to finish up my review of Top Hat right now, cause my week should be busier than last week, which was hella busy. I have some Star Trek thoughts I might get to tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Record! Second Quote of the Day!

"When I first heard Liz Phair, it was a total inspiration for me. It was at a point where I was getting pretty bored with a lot of rock singing and songwriting, and her work allowed me to have faith again that songs still mattered. And they do matter."
-David Byrne

Quote of the Day

"There's only one thing on earth that has little life in it, and that's a woman's clitoris" - Michel Simon

I'm working on my Boudu Saved From Drowning review and found this quote. I respectfully disagree.

Worst jokes at the expense of "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" Bombing

"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Malaysian Mail Order Bride"
"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Chechnian Rebel and Whore"
"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Antartic Male Popsicle"
"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Going Down Under in Australia"
"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Hong Kong 5"-0' "
"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Meets his dad Fred Garvin"
"I guess this means they're not going to make Deuce Bigalow: Columbian Cock Runner "

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some reviews, some thoughts

Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte

I'm a fan of Entourage, I've watched every episode, and will continue to, as it's second season is not as slumptastic, as say The O.C.'s was. I've gotten the point that I Watch enough shows on such a regular basis (The Shield, Extras, Bullshit, The OC, Entourage, Arrested Development, The Mighty Boosh, and I keep an eye on Stella and Reno 911, even though both are decidedly hit and miss) that I can no longer lay claim that "I don't watch television." I guess I do, but just the shows I watch. And what the episode of Entourage and the success of Fantastic Four suggested it is that the internet has now cemented its ceiling.

Of course that could have been said in 2001, when the bottom fell out, but there was a time where it was so new and held so much sway that, like piracy is now, people would use it to explain away things that it may have had no bearing on. For me, my relationship to the internet is defined by movies, and one of the first sites I frequented was www.aintitcoolnews.com. And it was around that time that Harry and Co. slaughtered a little film called Batman and Robin. Warner Brothers blamed the internet (not the film) for its failing. Two years later, The Blair Witch Project, was another internet phenom (again, instead of seeing it as the success of a good idea). What the internet supposedly did was steer and create buzz. Which it does. To a certain extent.

If one believes the Goldman trope that no one knows anything, then maybe the internet has become a diving rod, except studios know how to use it now, and when not to. The Fantastic Four team made a point to not court the internet, and is looking to finish out around 160 domestic, with a solid profit coming from the DVD release. Which if the internet had anything to say about it, never would have happened. For me, with all the bad internet buzz, it actually helped the film as it seemed not that bad upon viewing. And for something like Catwoman... I mean the sudio didn't stand a chance. The public is fickle, sometimes it can smell a pile, and sometimes it can't. And that is where the Goldman thing is true, in that Heisenberg principle way. Had Land of the Dead had an early October release, would it have done $50 mil? Maybe. As my Russian teacher always said when we asked him to explain something inexplicable, "Moons, tides."

Ultimately the internet has helped studios hone their marketing, what demos to play, and we've seen in the last eight years that the marketeers have done a much better job at selling to their intended targets. Studios often give up on films (witness Land of the Dead, or The Bad News Bears), and they often fumble hard sells (The Island), which in some ways explains why the big budget titles have gotten decidedly stupider and easier to sell (brand name familiarity). Which sort of makes me want to root for a film like The Wedding Crashers, as at least it's halfway original.

And the internet journalists (which, in all cases of my observation are comprable in looks and hygene to journalist journalists) will probably always be portrayed as sexually repressed, socially awkward, and often fat. And they will always be needed. But they have been assimilated. Am I stating the obvious? Probably.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Almost cool enough

But not quite good enough. There's better posters for this bad boy. I should know, I bought one for a girlfriend, and have another framed in my kitchen.

By the way, if you miss me (and how could you not) know that I have a new gig that involves different hours, that offer me better traffic opportunities, but later nights, and undefined hours. I've already worked 28 hours this week, and I've still got two days to go. You might think that would cut down my movie time. Bitch, please. I've seen way too many movies lately. I watched The Last Waltz again, and fuck me, that's a great documentary. I may be scarce for a bit here (doubtful), but with Le Samourai coming, know that's there is good in this world, for I now have a fallback gift for weddings, birthdays, brisses and funerals.