Scott Ellington's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

My Oldest Posts

The Recent Posts column is a nifty feature, but it has an upper limit of 50 posts, so here are the 110 earlier blitherings.  This is my third attempt at someting useful and legible:

Amazing Stories Iron Man 2 Half in the Blog
Stir of Echoes Iron Man Fidgetal Culture
Panic in The Golden Age of Television Transnarrative Media Possession and Duplicity
Green Zone Define A Point Day Remedial Entertainment
Friday Night Lights — End Life Random Harvest
20-Apr-11 Irking Christy Dena Oppenheimer
Olympia Spartacus: Blood and Sand Lakeview Terrace
Treme Time, Money and Attention Hancock
And When the Sky Was Opened Lie to Me What If…
The Social Network Breaking Bad Get Milch?
Irking Siobhan O’Flynn Without Love Niggles
Captain Blood The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Friends Reunited
The Duchess of Duke Street The Man in The White Suit The Reader
Robin Hood; the director’s cut Reproduction Such A Paine
The West Wing Desk Set Communication Breakdown
Rubicon Bombs Woh Play
Fear Itself Fattality and Thinicism Does this make my universe look big?
Public Enemies Restless June Swoon Bride Pride Killer Tiller’s Killer
I, Spartacus LOST Transmediopoly The Sisterhood of Man
Spartacuss Soulless The Right To (A) Life
Rope Ironic Points of Interest
Thou Shalt Not Steal GunnFire So Close
Deadwood PD Blue, South Stuff I Survived The Acme of Creation
Max Headroom — Caveat Emptor! Dumbocracy The Power of the Center
Toy Story 3D Blue Hands Generation Boom
The Santa Monica (Lewinsky) Address I’ve Got You Under My Skin Scriptural Distillation
Brooklyn South Choices Dark Passage
The Value of Gold Slaying Alias Empathic Camera
KaSSandrA Vizerskaya I Only Have Eyes for You The Killing Power of the Small
In the past 5 weeks… Coraline NYT Review of LitL
SeeSpeak Narrative Perplexity Test
Revisiting Hancock (with spoilers) A Matter of Life and Death Happy Earth Day
Mona Lisa A Boil to Lance Ontogenic Storytelling
The Legacy of Kung Fu Jimmy Chow State of Play Every Other Day
Person of Interest Transmedia As Pretext Introduction
Everybody Loves Rebecca Spinning Wheel Dolts in Toyland; a conversation
The Paradine Case That Minbari Woman

10 Aug 14 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ender’s Game

I remember the moment I realized, midway through reading the book about five years ago, that nobody would ever be able to adapt it into a film.  I smote my forehead with the palm of my right hand in darkly self-deprecating humor for getting hooked on (and greatly enjoying) a transmedia dead-end, cul de sac.  The principal characters were all too young to buy beer, and the moral/psychological gradients ranging through the book would tax the talents of deeply-contemplative middle-aged actors to do justice to the thematic material  — not kids  — or the nauseating compromises would result in an exploitative abomination, a typical Hollywouldn’t. No fucking way.

And in the five-or-so years in which I wasn’t looking it got made.  Brilliantly!  In spite of the employment of young actors, whose work-hours are proscribed and carefully monitored, and numerous layers of dark implications involving genocide, totalitarianism, authoritative disinformation, and increasingly-accurate predictions regarding the soul-destroying cost of the conduct of warfare by increasingly-youthful soldiery, it got made more carefully, intelligently and far more precisely than I would have guessed was possible.  I credit Gigi Pritzker and Gavin Hood for realizing an absolute impossibility  — and if I heard their commentaries correctly, they credit everybody involved in making this obviously-unmakeable film.

Ironically, the reason I stumbled onto the book was its author’s, Orson Scott Card’s, profoundly-supportive appearance in Done the Impossible; the fan’s tale of Firefly & Serenity.

And just for the record, I think the red carpet/cobra(dragon) was the key metaphor for fame, blame and shame.  Even more than the book, the film facilitates passonate, civil conversation on matters that need voices.

11 Apr 14 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Man of Steal

…for Jor-El was so indifferent to Life that he surrendered his only begotten son, the first naturalborn child in millenia, to a planetful of retarded barbarians who would immediately destroy him (if they knew of his alien origin and if they could)…and died shortly before his wife, his race and his entire world.  Jor-El is a darker, more absurd figure than God, Darth and Satan.

Apart from the convoluted storyline, innumerable deaths, and the gratuitous destruction, this movie borrows stylish schtick from every competing franchise under the sun.  BUT its biggest sin resides in not borrowing the merest iota of a sense of humor (about anything) from enterprises of greater pith, moment or sexual/romantic sensibility. 

I think this reboot is even worse than the original SUPERMAN film, which turned, after the first hour, from pomposity to pathetic slapstick.

14 Jan 14 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chronicle

The “found footage” metaphor is a handy conceit for an entertainment industry that’s rarely held accountable for all manner of groundlessnesses.  In this film, the subjective camera perspective makes admirable sense right up to the last act.  An abused kid intends to document (and maybe even pre-empt) assaults on his person by his violent father and several contemptuous peers by means  of the video-camcorder he acquires (somehow).

What might have been a moderately-interesting treatise on the power of inexpensive video to provide public evidence of privately covert abusive behavior becomes a different film when the three central characters, fast friends, encounter an anomalous and enigmatic piece of flobotnam that transforms this potentially-controversial Constitutional rights video chronicle into a salable superhero origins movie.

Power conferred by the enigmatic anomaly goes directly to the head of the largely-sympathetic camera operator, one of three suddenly-telekinetic prodigies, who becomes the film’s sole antagonist. It’s the fat middle of the film that permits deliciously-interesting relationships to develop (in lieu of tedious exposition about pseudo-scientific stuff that doesn’t particularly matter).  That fat middle opens a fascinating window on the rapidly-developing drama, humor and pathos that bind and divide the central characters, with the aid of a ubiquitous video camera.

The telekinetic conceit greatly reduces the shaky handheld-camera distraction common to similar films.  It’s also the engaging fat middle of this film that distracts the viewer from the violation of the “found footage” metaphor, when nobody bothers running the video camera during the pyrotechnic climaxes in the last act of the film.  (When we viewers care about the people portrayed, we don’t care at all about the fabricated metaphors.)

Chronicle  is a chameleon in that it seemed to be one kind of film until it clearly wasn’t quite what it seemed, at any given point in its running time.  The only thing it continued to be was surprisingly fascinating, despite my expectations.

23 Oct 13 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Iron Man III

The most surprising thing about this film is something I realized in retrospect.  It’s that the number and variety of sophisticated storytelling devices only became evident to me on the third and fourth passes through the film, which opens and closes on a dovetailed narrative as the familiar voice of Tony Stark confidentially discloses to his psychotherapist the subtle indications of ruinous choices he’s made in spite of Iron Man’s mortality, a surrender to the heroic self-sacrifice he made very near the end of The Avengers movie.

Iron Man’s recovery from those traumatic events flow beautifully in feints, gambits and callbacks throughout Iron Man III in the form of Stark’s panic attacks and moments of impetuous bravado.

While it moves with all of the visual and explosive alacrity expected of a BigDumbMovie, there’s far more there there than qualifies for stupid — in rivers of throwaway lines that excede the rib-tickling hilarity of referring to Ben Kingsley’s character as Laurence Oblivier.

Paltrow, at long last, has far more to do with the surprisingly-relevant guts of this series than teeter in very-tall shoes, as does Cheedle in deftly and respectably managing the War Admiral role like a heavyweight actor in a costume designed for lightweights.  And there’s yet another child prodigy (whose best shit gets borrowed like studios pre-appropriate brainchilds).  The careful management of purposefully-disinformed public perception versus uncompromising reality/fatality.

The dovetailing narrative bookends a frisky detective tale packed with overlapping revelations injected in realtime (and retrospect) by all participants in the storyline, especially audience, and the worst psychotherapeutic confidant Tony might pick is revealed at the end of credits in stride with a pair of evolving characters.   I think the unqualified success of Marvel Studios, Pixar films, and the Freed Unit was/is predicated, just like the entire American Experiment, on the wide public perception of principles of, by, for and about People rather than money, machines, Gods, toys, fish, rats or principles.

Contrary to expectation, I think all of this stuff is in very good hands.

14 Oct 13 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spartacus: B&S, GotA, V, WotD

Supremely satisfying!

Correction.

Supremely ambitious and UNfuckingBELIEVABLY satisfying!

22 Sep 13 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Van Helsing

When I stumbled into this film this morning, I’d no expectation that it would turn out to be a masterpiece of heuristic storytelling in which the fragments of three cornerstones of gothic horror would be fused into a fascinatingly singular adventure.  Rooted in humor, homage and critique, Van Helsing swept me off my feet again this evening.  Stephen Sommers!

12JUL2013, while watching the DVD with commentary, Sommers recites the keenly human question that opened the crypt of the narrative:  “What would you do with three gorgeous women for four hundred years?”  The film coalesced the instant that question was asked in the mind of its author — obviously, one would fuck like crazy, and the issue of that answer would require the unholy talents of the one-and-only Herr Doktor Viktor von Frankenstein to awaken the undead army of Dracula’s unborn monstrosities to create the way of the future — which doesn’t account for Dracula’s history, but Sommers does so with unqualified genius.  In my estimation, ladies and gentlemen, this here Van Helsing is one hell of a brilliant, visual-adrenaline movie and (just like Casablanca) an endlessly-rewatchable film.  “Three cornerstones of gothic horror”, was a shameful underestimate.

02 Jul 13 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Escape from Silicon Valley

I set off from Foster City, California at 7:30PM on the evening of Tuesday, June 12, 2013 for New York — because the week I spent with my aging mother in her Bronx co-op apartment in May convinced me that leaving her alone was the precisely wrong thing to do.  Giving myself one month to set my affairs in order, a foolhardy road trip of 3000 miles suddenly lay before me like the rash promise I’d made to begin my relocation by June 13.

The sixteen year old car I drive, a 1997 Toyota Corolla CE, was overburdened with about a half ton of my most indispensible stuff.  The remaining 2/3 of my property I’d crammed into boxes and stored semi-securely on the shelves of my employer’s warehouse.  If there is a hero in this recitation, it’s the long-neglected car that never failed me in the course of my journey east.

This is the point at which I launch into the major rant that justifies the title of his post, while diverging from the actual, physical trip I took earlier this month.  The tirade begins by highlighting user-unfriendly aspects of road travel on an interstate thoroughfare, and proceeds to key on similar inconveniences that riddle the information superhighway.  It hinges on the premise I’ve long held, that the people who design and execute the ubiquitous, proprietary systems “we” all use don’t, themselves, actually ever use the systems they’ve created — or the systems wouldn’t stink like hell.  I’d cite examples with which I’m familiar; the FedEx Online shipping system, the Mitel Online Store, DeviantART’s comments system…and bore the pants off anybody who happens to read these paragraphs and isn’t familiar with the organizations I cite.  So fill in your own blanks.

The point being that broadcast-style (newsprint/radio/television) information systems have readied us to shut-the-fuck-up and get over our niggling dissatisfactions with official procedures and authorized systems that don’t work as well as they might if effective feedback loops (for customers) were built into them and intelligent modification (custom[er]iztion) were not reflexively-dismissed as cost-prohibitive.  But the days of the age of broadcast-style information systems are numbered, aren’t they?  Don’t the rise of the internet and interactive social media mark the tomb of the Mushroom Generation (kept in the dark to eat shit) with the deathless words; “I’m mad as hell and I’m not a consumer anymore!”  No.

So, in the course of 62 years of living in California, I’d never dined at the Cattlemen’s Restaurant in Dixon, CA, until the evening of June 12, 2013.  It was well worth the stop my parents never deemed necessary in all the years I traveled with them from San Francisco to Sacramento, and all the years in which I traveled solo, more fixedly intent on destination than journey, habitually.  Forty-five minutes to dine and I was gratified, satisfied, and back on I-80 by 9PM, figuring to sleep for a few hours in the vicinity of Stateline.  At a rest stop outside of Truckee, I pulled over to catch a few hours of sleep and realized that I had no intention of doing so — so I got back on the path to the Bronx, and never try to sleep again until Bloomberg, Pennsylvania.

Here’s where I complain about the modern inability to indent the first sentence of a paragraph.

I have very little to say (that interests me) about driving across California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska, except that the maximum speed limit was a merciful 75 miles/hour, mostly.  I got the impression that Nebraska’s in the process of turnpiking, so infrastructural improvement construction work zones crop up pretty frequently, dropping the maximum speed limit to 55, threatening doubled fines in work zones and narrowing two eastbound lanes to one.  Fuck Nebraska, but double-fuck Omaha, where I-80 is marked sketchily through a 10 mile maze of aging freeway cloverleaf nonsense that culminated in a major pothole seemingly designed to destroy my rear axle.

It happens that the date I’d arbitrarily decided upon for the start of this trip fell in the dark of the moon, when the only lights on the road that prevented me from driving off the freeway were my own headlights, the taillights and headlights of other vehicles and reflective signs that seemed mostly to terrorize me with visions of colliding with deer in the darkness.  You can also keep Des Moines, and the rest of Iowa where the moon don’t shine.

I stumbled into Chicago shortly after dawn, Thursday morning, expecting to get lost.  I reasoned that if Omaha and Des Moines had barely failed to confuse my forward progress, Chicago must succeed.  And my nerves had begun to fray into the complex delusion that long haul truck drivers have taken up the slack created by a sluggardly economy that’s cleansed the roads of state troopers and highway patrolmen; victims of thwarted collective bargaining agreements and sequestration.  Although I got swept up into the truckers’ vigilante behavior of shutting down the fast lane to flagrant speeders, I found my situational awareness suffering from fixation on the speedometer needle.  By Pennsylvania, I’d quit caring what the grassroots vigilantes were up to.   Indiana and Ohio had greatly weakened my grip on reason with construction zones, accommodation/convenience exits and various forms of restraint of trade visited on commercial organizations that don’t have nationally-recognized logos emblazoned on the turnpike signs that funnel travelling dollars into deep, familiar pockets (McDonald’s, Shell, EconoLodge…).

Ah, but, Pennsylvania! — Rolling, sweeping, lovely turns, manicured roads and beautiful green scenery — an Eden-like roller coaster addicted to cosmic steroids for a couple of serpentine centuries.  About 2/3 of the way through the state I asked a state trooper (or park ranger — one stupid had looks much like another) how in the name of all that’s holy does a desperate driver get the hell off this amusement park ride they call the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  He didn’t bat an eye, so this probably wasn’t the first time the question had been put to him.  He indicated clearly that there is no other/better way to get from Youngstown to Patterson than this very interstate.  That’s when I apologized for asking a silly question, adding that I’d been awake for about 96 hours and 2300 miles.  He suggested a nap at the next rest stop (mile marker 221).  I said something polite, yet incoherent, and drove on to Bloomberg, PA where I spent $91 on a motel shower, and 12 hours of deathlike sleep.

The toll on each of the major bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area is $5.00.  Shortly before noon, Saturday, I crossed the Hudson River at the George Washington Bridge for $13.50.  Welcome to New York, Sucker.  My destination was the southwest corner of the Bronx, and the intersection of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.  In the ensuing 2.5 hours, I would cross the Harlem River four times, intermittently poring over my Hagstrom’s 5 Borough Atlas of the City of New York and driving in perplexed, dead-ending circles.  I’m no too proud to ask, but previous experience has taught me that the vast majority of New Yorkers can’t give coherent directions.  Habit, intuition and experience don’t easily translate into words like left and right  here in Spuyten Duyvil where the grid is a nice idea that doesn’t really apply all that well on the Manhattan side of the river, either.

I think the east is different from the west in one important way.  The east has long been organized around ass-by-jawbone money grubbing, while the west is rooted in private, antisocial comfort.  Money segregates in the east.  Money congregates in the west.  In 1876, Custer died on this date.  In 1776, monarchy was in trouble.  Fill in your own blanks, but be sure to level a few rounds at George Custer, George III and whoever else annoys you.

 

24 Jun 13 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Imagine that!

30 Dec 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Prometheus

I used a little trick to get through repeated viewings of this interesting, enigmatic film that lacks a single sympathetic character.

I decided that mankind is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction (the thing that the Weyland-Yutani Corporation [the funding source in previous films] will eventually settle for).  The highminded quests of the various factions in Prometheus;

  • the resolution of permanent philosophical questions,
  • answering an ancient alien astronaut R.S.V.P.,
  • homecoming,
  • The Fountain of Youth,
  • a paycheck…

all come to nothing as various species of predatory abominations take the human cast apart.  What remains of them, at the end of the film, is the unforeseen task of preserving humanity or of dangling a few really-cool threads for at least one additional sequel (or 8).

My reading of the intent of this film is as darkly abhorrent as the hidden malevolence in Lilo & Stitch, cheapening life, concluding that mankind is genetically engineered to degrade and terror-form every mudball it infests, because that’s what we do.  Perhaps my read is perturbed by the apocalyptic Mayan prediction that coincided with the week of my NetFlix rental, or media reports of manmade climate change resulting in the current crop of “SuperStorms” or guys going postal on schoolkids with assault rifles or something else that’s equally unthinkably disspiriting.

The real trick is not minding.

How Prometheus resonates with films that were made in the era between it and Alien interests me.  The Matrix and Terminator machineries (among others) take parallel toxic threads of despair-with-mankind and weave them into a reasonably-coherent tapestry that mirrors the dark and self-alienating visions embedded in Prometheus and in the evening news.

Paraphrasing Lean’s T.E. Lawrence;

Where is it written we’re assholes!? and made in the image of assholes?

Just shut up and look around, stupid.

But then, I think every film Ridley’s ever made has something of vital interest to say about xenophobia — because we so eagerly do unto others whatever we abominate whenever it’s done unto us.

27 Dec 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Cabin in the Woods

I very much enjoyed the peculiar mix of heart-racing terror intersperced with loads of cerebral gut-wrenching humor that alternates with splatterings of sexual abandon as the slender thread of a very-big picture supports the frame of reference that gradually becomes the gallows rope that justifies and earns the clarity with which I viewed watchers watching watchers watching ever larger frames of reference implode in patented Mutant Enemy staples (blood, conscience, innocence, carelessness, sacrifice, irreverance, responsibility and worth) whose complex interactions result in unlimited cascades of mayhem.  Amy Acker, Tom Lenk, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford and Whatheff Uck?

This film is tremendous fun.  Parody, schmarody.

Second pass; 20SEP2012 — On the other hand, WarGames is still a lot more satisfyingly enjoyable, with stronger parallels to defective automated schemes.

“Strange game.

The only way to win is not to play.”

19 Sep 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Source Code

This is an excellent film that’s designed to engage the viewer in the complete disorientation of the protagonist.  It presents the audience with a completely disorienting sequence of detailed events for a nominal 8 minutes, while the hero (and the viewer) struggle to make sense of what the hell is  happening.  Then the 8 minute interval ends in a wildly-disorienting round of orders, desperate requests for grounding information, and disorienting explanations that circumvent and sidestep the protagonist’s getting a fucking grip, and the original 8 minute sequence recommences.  And it goes on like that, with the hero (and viewer) ferreting sense out of the welter of circular and linear junk that transpires in the gradual revelation of an enormously-important mission in which the life or death of the central characters is secondary.

In spite of, or because of, the massive barrage of confusion, this film is wonderfully riveting as it progresses; not unlike a movie company shooting and re-performing and reshoting an 8 minute set piece, with choices and discoveries and improvizations and errors and consultations and no fourth wall.  And it moves like an anvil dropped from a speeding helicopter; but it’s less predictable.

Frost, Denoff, and Rutledge lust after the same pathetic objective, internet celebrity; quantum geocentric catholicism: Galileo’s Epistle to the Corinthians (And one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it…) or They get paid, We get paid because We’re all in this together.  Yahoos, heelots, and most billionaires are on the same incorrect and unheroic page in the universal playbook; Number One.

Spectacular speculative fiction created expressly for film.

19 Jul 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Artist

This film and Singin’ in the Rain are the two best, most loving and reverential/subversive versions of A Star is Born that anyone’s ever made.  This one’s smarter, while the other is slightly more entertaining.

15 Jul 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

John Carter

comes very very close to being insanely great, but then, I became a Burroughs freak at something like 12 years of age, 50 years ago.  It lasts.  Dipping into this film was inevitable for me, so I paid very little attention to who stepped up to make it.

Kitsch, Collins, Dafoe, Church, Hinds, West, Cranston, Schwimmer?, Favreau, and Malik.  I knew Tim Riggins had enormous chops, and Lynn Collins’ delivered a Quality of Mercy soliloquy as Portia that absolutely blew me away, and I have tremendous, amply-justified faith in Andrew Stanton — but I wasn’t expecting tons of celebrated talent submerged in tiny, even miniscule, roles.  The credits are littered with easter eggs, marking trails that lead in two dozen directions, trails I fully intend to follow.  Jewels from many crowns converged to make this one deceptively deep.

The Wire reminded us all to “follow the money”.  I’m glad I’ve learned, since Firefly, to follow the people.

Don’t get me wrong.  The plot of this film isn’t just bizarre, it’s Burroughs-bizarre.  That’s like Africa-hot.  Stuff happens because of speeches I failed to understand, action abounds for reasons that remain unclear, and I’ll have WAY too much time (to pore over subtitles and commentary, reread the novels, and pick over the bones of this remarkable film) while waiting for the next one in the series.  (It is fervently hoped!)

Cheese?  You bet!  Must have more!

27JUL2012 — Third pass.  I bought a 720p copy from iTunes because the full-boat refused to download to my Windows machine, and it’s $5 cheaper.  So here’s why I’m glad I made the purchase:

Beans.  The first item is beans!”  It’s an oversized, emphatic delivery that didn’t make much sense on the first couple of passes, but what if the journey to Mars is a beanstalk and Captain Jack Carter is Jack!  That would be an interesting transnarrative bridge into the realm of allusion that just sets my imagination tingling.  Hey!  Maybe there’s more going on in this story than a shitload of humor, action, plot twists, character development, scenic splendor, poetry, mythos, worldbuilding and buttkicking special effects.  Maybe there’s also a bottomless well of story-wonder into which one can endlessly dip.

Also, it’s clear that Carter’s fruitless search for the fabulous Spider Mine of Gold isn’t just common knowedge in them thar parts, it’s a source of infinite mirth for the local dickheads…but The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Deadwood led me to believe that a down-on-his-luck prospector’s very last idiotic choice would be to flap his jaws with regard to the location and value of his objective of quixotic quest, so how do the dickheads know so much?  Chatty therns?! or perhaps this first first film is an emergent kind of hybrid longform-blockbuster that invites the viewer to view it repeatedly, raising more questions than one film can answer  –  so it really ought not to be approached as though it were bristling with self-contained answers and explanations, but far more like an immensely-enjoyable pilot episode than a season’s-worth of deconstructible puzzle-fragments in a single box.  And Carter ends the grocery transaction by tossing a tinyl brick of refined gold (with an engraved spiderlike emblem) onto the shopkeeper’s counter; not ore or a nugget — but there’s really no time for anybody to think, “What the Fuck!” because the humor, action, plot twists, character devolopment, exposition, and all that other stuff I mentioned a moment ago) just keeps right on happening at a wonderfully-satisfying pace.  So therns are powerful, manipulative parasites, but are they lawyers, priests or derivatives traders?

“Populations rise, societies divide, wars spread, and all the while a neglected planet slowly fades.”   Why doesn’t that sound like “big, dumb fun”?  Dejah Q.

Colonel Powell of the 7th Cavalry in 1867 isn’t Captain Powell of the CSA, and he clearly isn’t Carter’s friend&fellow prospector, but I don’t mind.  The liberties this film takes with the details of the novel(s) aren’t cheap, exploitative nor careless.  I’m confident they matter.  Paraphrasing Powell, who’s attempting to recruit Carter into the 7th, “Folks are being attacked in their homes by Apaches!”.  It’s an interesting irony that Sherman invented Total War (waged against entire, noncombatant populations [and Virginia Carter’s family]) on his way through Georgia before Custer brought that terrorist stratagem agains the red people of Earth.  Carter, the war-weary cavalry officer responds by saying (in paraphrase), “Fuck you all.”  On the other hand, new departures from the literary identity of Carter simply enrich and deepen the novel’s central character, who says:

“I do not believe that I am made of the stuff which constitutes heroes, because, in all of the hundreds of instances that my voluntary acts have placed me face to face with death, I cannot recall a single one where any alternative step to that I took occured to me until many hours later.  My mind is evidently so constitued that I am subconsciously forced into the path of duty without the recourse to tiresome mental processes.  However that may be, I have never regretted that cowardice is not optional with me.”

The darker, torn, more-contemplative, even Hamlet-like Carter who appears in the film has fought his way (and lost his family) to a wonderfully-bitter, adult realization of grudgingly-obstinate pacifism, in spite of his reflexive impulses to answer heroically the immediate call of duty.  He’s more interesting and four-dimensional than Burroughs’ original character, and far more likely to say something cynical, like, “Stupid are the brave”, before bounding off reflexively to do the right thing without regard to tiresome mental processes.  Same guy, better darknesses, deeper pain.  And just when you expect the reversals to end in a cavalcade of trumpet fanfares, ticker tape and fluff; they don’t.  Stuff dovetails, gathers and ramps the resonance UP!

There are also historical allusions to The Battle of Five Forks and Carter’s nearly turning the tide of battle that resulted in the award of The Southern Cross for conspicuous gallantry…and stuff like that.  And Jack kills a nine foot Thark with a single blow.  And althugh Carter’s inert physical body is revealed to be back in a cave on Earth, the Ninth Ray medallion telegraphed a copy of him? to Barsoom in form of an emale.  Obviously, I don’t object to (my own) ridiculously-tortured interpretations, so long as they result in MORE of this exceptionally-delicious cheese.  And don’t forget, there’s dip.

Subtitles help with grasping exposition in the relatively-rare instances when knowing exactly why what-the-hell’s-happening actually matters, unlike one hell of a lot of movies (in which sound effects and score are ruinously-louder than dialogue).  Here, most of the humor and pith is VISUAL!

I no longer like this film (which, much like Casablanca, isn’t getting any older/staler with each successive pass, just richer and more flavorful, and more intriguing).  I love it!

13 Jul 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Grey

It’s a well-told tale of an enormous blank, white sheet on which several very-dark souls try to say their piece.

The cosmoloogy of this film is explained by the narrator at the very beginning as he writes and reads a letter he’s writing to a loved one who’ll never receive it.  It’s a tale of a handful of evil (lone wolf) men exiled to the frozen north; a tale told by their defective protector, who’s only sure of one thing, that he belongs in the company of discards, omegas and rejects.  His narration is like a suicide note, written in blood, on a rest-stop bathroom mirror by a soulsick guy in transit, who truly belongs exactly nowhere.

And the airplane that’s meant to transport John Ottway (and his similarly-impaired companions) “home”, crashes in the middle of an enormous page of absolute tabula rasa, where the crash, the storm, the cold and the pack of pretty-darned-plausible CGI wolves reduce the size of his company until the film concludes in the final confrontation of Ottway and the alpha wolf in a gentlemanly contest of champions – to which Ottway brings a fistfull of tiny broken bottles, electrical tape, and a woefully-inadequate hunting knife.

This is a story that’s mostly-told.  It’s told very well, within the confines of the mythology it fabricates, leaving Ottway plenty of time to repeatedly consult the suicide letter that reminds the viewer of the warm&loving side of the mirror from which Ottway’s personal choices (and pathological predispositions) divorce him.

But it’s a told tale (and possibly also a tall tale) that felt the usual Hollywood-conventional need of multiple camera angles, inserted music, and a wealth of spoken words to tie the viewer into the precariously-suspended lives and deaths of several men whose almost-constant companions are a pack of enormous wolves who make Ottway & Co. seem profoundly-insignificant snacks in their BigBad (hu)manly badass bravado, by comparison.

I think it would have been a more effective film if it were shot through the eyes of the hometown team, from the points of view of the natural (CGI) predators.  STILL, it is, nonetheless, an effective, engaging, suspenseful adventure that I’m glad Sam turned me on to.

As a NetFlix rental disc, all the special features are completely unavailable, because it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and a movie executive’s got to make a buck somehow (ScottFree and Inferno); disappointing.  When the wolves aren’t at the door, I might actually buy myself a copy of this one.  Easily 80% of the film incorporates effective elements that worked very well in Jaws, The Flight of the Phoenix, ConAir…it’s only in the very last reel that the relentless, ubiquitous menace of The Pack abates for several minutes while the unrepentant “lone wolf” humans focus the viewer’s attention on more important things than their sociopathic survival; like family, relationships, theology and various bits of wholly-unrelated bullshit.

This film reminds me of Joss Whedon’s assessment of Air Force One because I spent 117 minutes watching a character study in which there is no recognizable change in any of the characters.

What do I have to do today to make it a good day to die?  It was an excellent question when it was posed in Little Big Man 42 years ago.  Still is.

 

Second pass, 09JUL2012:  In 1908, Jack London published To Build A Fire, a short story that built Yukon cold, and newbie hubris into a classic tale of human stupidity witnessed by a dog.  There was no pressing need for wolves.  The Grey probably needed them.

The film doesn’t quite work as a realistic portrait of seven survivors of an Alaskan plane crash because significant details get in the way of a literal reading; Ottway is attacked early, but arterial blood spurting in heart-pulses from his right lower thigh requires only a wrapping bandage to permit instantaneous healing that lets him take the lead in a desperate march from the wreck through the snow to the relative safety of the trees the very next morning.  Later, there will be desperate floundering in a river from which Ottway emerges in dry clothes.  A desperate 30foot leap off a cliff into a treetop with the aid of a tether made of knotted rags, rope and clothes while The Pack waits at the base of the tree for Talget, and not at the edge of the cliff.  Diaz spits blood, as though he might have been more seriously damaged, during his attack, than he let on.  Maybe that’s meant to make his decision to resign from the trek and life more plausible.  I don’t think it did.  Burke just quits breathing.  Henrick drowns.  Hernandez and Flannery pissed them off and straggled.  Wolves just raised the stakes, most of the guys died of their own ignorance.  As would I; not to throw stones.

It doesn’t really work as a fable, either.  The alpha’s eyes are lime-colored.  The charcoal gray of his coat makes an awkward comparison with the deep steely blue of Ottway’s eyes — unless the title of the film pertains to the uncertainty of the survors’ survival; the life&death struggle in a gray area involving Ottway’s belated exhortation for God to prove His existence by intervening in behalf of a suicidal widower whose father once proclaimed the virtue of NOT going gentle into that good night.  No.  That also stinks.  There’s zero uncertainty in my mind concerning Ottway’s survival of the final confrontation with the alpha.  Seven pairs of  outraged, shining eyes glared back at the five remaining crash survivors on the second night.  That Ottway stole all the way home is an ironic tribute to Hollywood bullshit.  That it was the wrong home is actually pretty damned interesting.

 

07 Jul 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 9 Comments

The Best of Both Worlds; Part II

Okay, so a single Borg ship kicked Starfleet’s butt (39 ships) at the Battle of Wolf 359, and advanced to Earth with the clear intent of assimilating the Federation homeworld.

Unfortunately for them/IT, the cybernetic equivalent of a Vulcan mindmeld permitted Lt. Commander Data to effect direct interface with the abducted Locutus, whereupon the re-emergent Picard-identity assisted Data in putting the entire Borg complement to sleep, so the cube blew up, turning the irresistible Borg invasion-threat into a resounding defeat.  Ho hum.  Agincourt, it ain’t.

It seems worthy of note that the abduction of Locutus was accomplished by the plucky crew of Enterprise with Borglike, split-second efficiency and explicitly unPicardian, Riker-formulated unorthodoxy, or so we’re unsubtly told.

I’m glad it wasn’t necessary to wait several months for the anticlimax this time.

The point I wanted to resolve in this second post revolves around the corporate continuum from Serenity through Enterprise to the apparently-nameless and undifferentiated vessels of the Borg.  It’s about conscience.  Individual Borg combat units have none, and best way to make the corporate minions of Enterprise look like paragons of soul is to force them into combat with Borg ultra-corporate drones.  “Death to The Cubicle! Yay Starfleet!”

Nope.

Corporations were invented to do big things while reducing personal liability to zero:  Borg Citizens United.

Ultimately, the Federation’s objectives greatly resemble the Borg’s; the incorporation and assimilation of the diverse Culture(s) into a viable galactic union bound by ties that nobody finds objectionable.  (That just means nobody’s Liberal.  [That's a handy Sorkinism])

I guess I just prefer Independents, Starfleet rejects, and unregenerate rogues living wittily on the razor’s edge at the fabled intersection of No and Where.  And I prefer them a lot!  YoSaffBridge needs her own show!

30 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Best of Both Worlds; Part I

The Borg are a unified extrapolation of the comparatively-disunified Starfleet entity.  They mark the opposite pole in continuum from the Independents of Firefly through the military/industrial, uniformed group-personality of Starfleet to the embedded (conflict-free) insectlike protocols of Borg reality; collective impersonslity.

But wait, there’s more.  It’ll probably seep into print when I’ve seen the other episode, on the other side of the third-season-ending cliffhanger.

30 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tin Man

Episode 68 in the Star Trek:  The Next Generation series guest-stars Harry Groener as a mutant Betazoid, Tam Elbrun, whose empathic/telepathic powers are unusually acute.  Harry also played the Mayor of Sunnydale, Richard Wilkins, in another universe, a largely-unrelated star system.

Unlike the vast majority of empathic Betazoids, Tam Elbrun’s sensitivity to the thoughts of other people appeared at his birth, rather than in adolescence; a crippling, terrifying power that predisposed him to reclusive avoidance of others – until his introduction to a massive, living, alien vessle known as Tin Man.  Tam’s emotional discomfort with people is mirrored in Earshot, a third season episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (the one that proximally paralleled the Columbine High School disaster).

The purpose of this post is to suggest value in the pursuit of transnarrative media reading; to suggest that the relatively-standalone format of Star Trek:  The Next Generation links surprisingly-interestingly with the serial-narrative of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (for instance) like stardates and hellmouths and character-arcs align across the seemingly-vast, insurmountable distances/barriers of differing broadcast networks and series/franchises; constellations.  The links show up in the people who write, perform and produce these tales.

Joss Whedon has spoken of his Firefly series as a kind of loving-yet-acerbic critique of the Star Trek franchise(s) in which the spirit of enterprise is expressed differently; not-so-much as the conquest or exploration of The Final Frontier as a chronicle of a voluntary family of misfits bound together on a homey freighter (rust-bucket) that the sleek, sterile, military uniforms in Starfleet would customarily ignore/interfere with scornfully, while pursuing some Greater Good, per orders.

The Tin Man episode states explicitly that (at least one of) the purpose of life is to care for others; a purpose that creeps out of subtext on the U.S.S. Enterprise, and waves like a radiating banner on Serenity.

I’d like to believe that my current pursuit of marathoning select old television shows is providing me with the means to see moments that inspired the U.S.S Mutant Enemy (for example) to create the alternative cosmologies to which I’ve lately become addicted, to assemble the writers, actors and crews that mean far more to me than the expensive logo-banners flown by competing studios, broadcast networks and distribution channels.  And the quickest, most-satisfying, and fruitful means to find relevant, resonant, meaningful bridges between moments-that-matter is by concentrating attention on the PEOPLE who make this stuff, rather than moves of the monied interests that fund it.  That’s all, now I’m on to Hollow Pursuits, the ironic title of episode 69, but not without noting that Tam Elbrun’s name put me in mind of Gabriel Tam’s appearance in Safe, a key episode of Firefly that led me to see (possibly-ridiculous) links between Gabriel’s tie bar, the interrupted boardroom meeting, BlueSun and Christopher Buchanan, Bill Moyers, David Simon, David Milch…

Even if these pursuits are hollow, they’re fun.

Apologies for nearly-identical triple post.  I’m looking for the means to delete the two previous entries, and training myself to proof this stuff before endeavoring to publish it so goddamned repeatedly.

30 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I had low expectations, based on previous disappointments in this franchise.

This one turned out to be a good deal more than a reasonably-plausible, remarkably coherent, intelligent origin story.

It’s also wondefully satisfying as a dovetailing, standalone emotional rollercoaster that peaks in an ecstatic declaration of independence;

the single word, “NO!“, spoken by a chimp (played passionately and believably by the incredible Andy Serkis).

 

On the second pass, this film’s cleverer turns (quotes, overt and implicit references) do stand up to closer scrutiny.  There are also goofy elements that absolutely don’t stand up.

When the viewer has already experienced the emotional tempest that makes this film go, the second viewing reveals unfortunate (wishful thinking) peculiarities:

  1. Star research scientists don’t get to fixate for 5-6 years on failed projects.  They get terminated.
  2. All apes don’t brachiate.
  3. References to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and to astronauts lost on a failed Icarus mission to Mars may set up still more sequels, but they ring pretty false and pointless in the close confines of this one.

There’s another level of peculiarity on which this film operates.  The human lead, played by James Franco, isn’t the protagonist.  About 24 minutes into the film, he’s shown to be a turncoat whose inability to experience the narrative from the real hero’s perspective makes him completely unreliable.  In fact, all of the humans in this piece exhibit disturbing flaws, ineptitudes and vices based in self-serving attitudes, myopias and blindnesses; greed, carelessness, cruelty, stupidity, drunkenness, lust, rage, sloth, general dickishness and complacency.  Non-human primates are presented as shockingly cooperative, self-sacrificing for the greater good and dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal, except for the really, really stupid ones;  humans.  That’s an intriguing proposition made more fascinating by virtue of the fact that much pivotal information is delived in this movie verbally by people whose interest in elocution is obviously negligible.

On your second pass, try turning on the necessary evil of subtitles.  They’re no ALZ113, but they help shortcircuit wishful thinking.

 

28 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Endgame

I just spent the last six weeks stranded in the Delta Quadrant, watching all 171 episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, courtesy of NetFlix.  In my estimation, the very best of these remarkably-inventive stories, The 37′s, opened the second season and ended the entire  seven season series with the ringing resonance of Endgame, an episode so rich in internal quirks, twists, character and irony that the shock of mythic satisfaction I’m presently experiencing impels me toward the other sagas in this franchise (except Enterprise) with unparalleled enthusiasm.

There’s probably no better way to overcome the helpless futility of cliffhangers, commercial interruptions and appointment television than marathoning juicy, chewy, moralizing, spiritually-elevating junk like this.

Tastes great, less filling; highly recommended!

16 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Pomography

Since nobody’s asked what’s meant by my occasional abuse of the term, POMOGRAPHY; it is, in my mind, very-directly related to the semi-popular corruption of the term, “POMO” (“post-modern”), to mean damned-near anything.

I like the fact that the lower case of most typed fonts make POMOGRAPHY practically-indistinguishable from PORNOGRAPHY.  And that a Google search turns up, among other things, photographs of Pomeranian puppies, Indians of Northern California, apples, and remarkable knots of confusion pretty-much wherever it’s dropped in a sentence.  And that temporarily skipping over it (and jamming it, eventually, into some kind recognizable context) requires an incredible act of interpersonal faith.

I’m also really fond of the idea that “pomography”, particularly in graphic and photographic art, endlessly crawls the razor’s edge between sexual eccentricity and creations that engage the viewer/creator in fanciful flights of conflict over unconscionable subject matter and uncomfortable self-awareness.   Once upon a time, the key to recognizing PORNOGRAPHY was explicit evidence of a publisher’s commerical interest in the undivided attention of the sweating, addicted (and usually-deeply-hypocritical) viewer.  I think that’s far less true, anymore.

Blindly and typically; “I get off on sophisticated erotica, you’re just a PORNO-FREAK!”

The Apple-connection, it seems to me, is extra-especially fruitful as a means to immerse the user (I think PORNOGRAPHY is primarily a utilitarian trigger to sexual abandon [involving stimulus mechanisms that vary tremendously and unpredictably from user to user]) in unrequited thought.  It’s the customer-oriented, ease-of-use aspect, and the sleek&tempting packaging of an ultra-attractive manifestation of whatever’s expressly forbidden, specifically because, by its very nature, the lure of that thing inspires doubt, logistical juggling, self-examination, and careful evalutation of fundamental, agenda-driven conflicts between intimate desires and arbitrary rules.  To totally estrange yourself from your prefered platform and operating system, in mid-sentence, try it today.

I think it’s a great word for puncturing pomoposity and thinkering with gravity.

I’m confident that clarifies absolutely dick.

16 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Edge of America

I cried like a baby and laughed like a fool.  Simultaneously.

There’s a powerful, vibrant celebration of humanity in the films of Chris Eyre I need.

Smoke Signals, Skins, Edge of America knocked me out more than enough to look forward with great enthusiasm to

The Doe Boy, Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time, A Thousand Roads, Imprint, After the Mayflower…and all my relatives.

07 Jun 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Avengers — 3D

Well…that worked!

Despite my misgivings (expressed in summarily reviewing Graphic Novel Movies) the strengths of the legendary writer/director carried the day out of the stadium and off the battlefield with fanfares, banners and there might have been some bunting, beating the pants off Hollywood chic, money and the tradition of big-dumb tentpole blockbuster junk.  It’s a fine film that’s packed with clever dialogue delivered with consummate grace by a very-deep bench of seasoned, professional actors portraying characters whose depth telescopes a bit from film to film, but dramatically and dimensionally in this film.

It’s weaknesses derive from Hollywood’s embrace of a medium that Hollywood doesn’t understand. Perhaps Hollywood never will.

3D produces a perceptual effect in an audience that jittering multiple-camera operation defuses and MTV editing obliterates.  These fashionable devices grate against the 3D viewing experience by jerking the audience around the mise en scene arbitrarily in ways that resemble a psychotic episode that culminates in nausea and neuralgia.

My concern for Whedon’s shortcomings in visual storytelling persist even after my thorough enjoyment of this kickoff blockbuster that relies on the current licentious abuse of point-of-view (of a nonentity) to tell a tale that’s far more than merely big&dumb, it’s enormously-spectacular and profoundly hearty.  The 3D experience is an ideal platform for pomography (post-modern; self-aware, relativistic graphic storytelling) and pornography, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant.

I fiercely object to the way The Avengers was shot and edited, but in spite of those counterproductive hurdles, it’s about stuff that’s eminently worthy of concentrated contemplation, and nobody I know who’s writing and directing films is better qualified than Joss Whedon to provide clever, pithy, insightful, joyous entertainment that knocked my socks off while stimulating my brain beyond its accustomed limitations, and will continue to do so when I own a copy that complements the growing list of narratively-complex shortform blockbusters that tie the bow on this fascinatingly-continuous tale of the Cosmic Cube.

Talkytalk is cheap, but an action movie that repeatedly differentiates sentiment from faith from conscience from confidence from hubris is worthy of very close scrutiny.  Talk persuades, action inspires faith (which is neither sentiment nor sentimental).  This action-movie is, at its root, a religious experience for devout agnostics.

“Moments not moves!”  I always wondered whether that Mutant Enemy axiom was about camera moves.  The action-moments are deeply satisfying, but they set up moments of buttery serenity so rich and smooth I hoped they’d never end.  The camera moves and the varieties of flobotnam are a fundamental problem that belong to/on this kind of turf.  They’re counterpointed and greatly mitigated by the heroic strengths (creative, rhetorical, personal and interpersonal) of a filmmaker I greatly admire, but they’re flaws in the fabric of two industries that demand a whole lot of love.  Whedon does.  More like this (but even better) would be great! and sooner would be best.

Conversely, Haywire shows all the flaws in the absence of love.  There are worse ways to spend 92 minutes, but most of them involve waiting in line at the department of motor vehicles.  Gina Carano needs her some Whedon.  But then, who the hell doesn’t?

05 May 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Digital Television a follow-up report

Speaking as someone who’s over the hill in a line-of-sight broadcast environment, Digital Television Sucks!

The 19″CRT I bought in late 2001 still works with my newish set-top digital tuner and my ineffectual 12-position RadioShack antenna (that looks a lot like a radar-recon aircraft, for no discernible reason).  Unfortunately, they all work together to  deliver a greater number of crisp, pristine commercials that are frequently interrupted by the shows I actually want to watch — and those shows (no matter what I do to capture clear signal) reach my receiver with infuritating gaps in video and audio that I don’t want to get used to.

It bears repeating that the commercials come in loud-and-clear, while the programs I’ve tuned in to watch simply don’t.

Between my receiver and the two transmitters (at 12 and 20 miles from me) upon which I depend are:

  • the 2-story building next door
  • a 2-story waste-water treatment tank, 400 yards away
  • lots of tall trees, the ususal vagaries of Bay Area weather and more-or-less constant wind
  • San Francisco International Airport
  • and an industry designed to deliver compelling propaganda that’s intersperced with content I value (and the broadcast industry regards as worthless in comparison with costly political slander and the gold mine of shameless, self-promoting Brand-Stroking).

BREAKING NEWS:  Direct to you from the Oval Off___.  “My Fellow A__________.  Due to ______s beyond __________and___ hostilities have ____________-_________ between the United State_of__________and________ coupled with _________ asteroid bombardment, sunspot ac___________and global thermo______._________ ____tsunami__ _is ____ly no alternative to war!” ________________”Tastes Great, Less Filling”…(a series of loud, clear, uninterrupted,  obnoxious, repetitive commercials)…What’s in your wallet?”

Broadcast digital television sucks because  It’s toasted.  So too is the broadcast television industry.

02 May 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Adventures of Tintin

PERFECT!

 

05 Apr 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Infinity starred its first-time director, whose mother wrote the screenplay.  The film is composed of a number of engaging anecdotes concerning the early life and first marriage of Richard Feynman, the celebrated physicist, teacher and mensch.  It’s an intelligent, sensitive and heavily-edited film that feels like a string of elaborate in-jokes that meander around immensely-important subjects concerning life, learning and (nuclear) death — but it doesn’t provide a valuable sense of the quirky, hyper-intelligent, conflicted and paradoxical protagonist, Richard Feynman, a paragon of curiosity and a beacon of lifelong education with an aptitude for lethal humor.  Evidence suggests that one has to look elsewhere for that unique sensibility by doing a lot of additional homework before finding the personal satisfactions that seem to be locked in this film; satisfactions shared by the Brodericks.

This is my first encounter with a commentary delivered by mother and son; frequently-overlapping conversations with constant deference by only one of them to the other — it’s like watching Charlie Rose interview practically anybody; frustrating as a mother.

28 Mar 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Anonymous versus Contagion

Anonymous is a significant setback to the Oxfordian cause of persuading anybody that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote exactly everything we’ve been stupidly misled to attribute to William Shakespeare.  It does this simply by being an amazingly confusing movie in which adjacent cinematic events take place at both ends of a 40year period early and late in the reign of Elizabeth I, involving young and old actors (who are meant to resemble one another), their significant others, and enemies in an ingeniously-woven conspiracy narrative that lost my attention a few minutes before the expository disclosures that make 90 minutes of interminable and bewildering tedium entirely worth my while – well, almost worth my while.  What if William Cecil had told Edward de Vere (rather than Robert Cecil) what he’d had in mind all along?  How does an anonymous playwright coax properly-nuanced line readings from his untalented front’s tin-eared, illiterate actors?

While I was still interested in the convoluted story line, it occured to me that the Oxfordian premise smells like it’s driven by an elitist agenda; that a lowly, uneducated, plebian actor shouldn’t have written the most important body of work in the Engllsh language.  That stuff must have been written by a brilliant, forgotten aristocrat.  And that’s the arrogant notion that yanked me out of a movie that’s primarily dedicated to an incredibly trivial pursuit; ornery academics putting an uppity Shakespeare back in his proper place, academic obscurity.

Wikipedia, I’ve since learned, lists a few dozen discrepencies that make the license Anonymous takes with fact smell significantly worse than I thought it smelled while I was watching the movie.

On the other hand, Contagion is the terrifying story of havoc wrought on the global population by a new, profoundly-lethal viral disease.  Every bit as potentially-confusing as Anonymous, this film whips the viewer’s attention (and an excellent ensemble cast) from Minneapolis to China, Atlanta, London, San Francisco…freely, wantonly and ruthlessly tracking initially-boggling threads of several disturbing tales that may/may-not justify the investment of engaged interest in a remarkably-bumpy ride on a hyperlinked magic carpet.  I think it works well enough to justify repeated flights to re-explore a dozen suspenseful threads, not the least-memorable of which involves Elliott Gould’s delivery of a fairly brilliant line, “Blogging isn’t writing.  It’s graffiti with punctuation.”  And “Great stories are rarely true.”

Both films would benefit greatly from a commentary track (or 6) providing the kind of insider-insight that permits the audience to evaluate and discriminate the efficacy of filmmaker intent versus execution.  Neither of the NetFlix rental discs I’ve got include “special features”, which raises an interesting irony regarding MRC-style (Media Rights Capital) restrictions and the unavoidable disclaimer that precedes the delivery of content in this medium;

“Whatever the idiots who made this junk may say in their stupid interviews and their masturbatory commentaries, you can’t hold responsible us faceless corporations that own this valuable intellectual property.  Because we say so!” 

Yet in order to gain access to that worthlessly-creative  infra-junk, I’ll have to pay the IP’s owners for my very own personal copy (of the BLUE-RAY disc and the appropriate unnecessary and obsoleting hardware they seem also to be hawking) in order to listen to the idiots’ valueless blithering.  I believe that kind of penurious, mercenary, unscrupulous thinking is at least the square of irony, and ought to have a special name (that’s briefer and more precisely specific than FUCK. YOU!) highlighting irresponsible, money-grubbing, misanthropic, misattributing corporate anonymity.

After the second pass through Contagion:

  • Deadwood was about second-chance strangers coming together to initiate the natural coalescence/formation of a rudimentary and rapidly-evolving community/culture, out west.
  • John Adams was about imperfect people breaking away, en masse and cohesively, from England to try forming a more-perfect union back east, where second-chance strangers are made.
  • Dancing with Wolves was about an alienated individual finding belonging in a doomed community, in spite of his practical comfort with the habitual isolation he found indistinguishable from solitude.
  • Contagion is about the natural process governing the Articles of Disintegration into chaos with the aid of a panic-accelerant called virtual social media and a viral catalyst that requires physical contact.

Just a bit of tasty junk I plan to think about; related, cyclic, self-destructive, and prone to endless repetition.

From the middle of the second pass through Anonymous:

Although this movie’s less confusing the second time around, it has a pair of dual, opposed resonant kinks.  The one I’d like to applaud involves the belief that entertainments can teach, inspire, foment all manner of cohesion and action in an audience.  The other one still stinks of flattering aristocratic unreason.

11 Mar 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Hugo

The pace of this magnetic, beautiful, resonant film is so agonizingly slow that everything that happens seems completely predictable.

It also seems criminally naive to blame Melies disheartened retirement on disinterested postwar audiences rather than on his being repeatedly raped into bankruptcy by the thieving Thomas Alva Edison and defective international copyright law designed to canonize plagiarists and obliterate originators.

07 Mar 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GraphicNovel Movies

Notes from a letter to a friend:

The trouble with graphic novels and comics that get to the BIG SCREEN is the universe of information we’ve missed out on.  After the first Iron Man film, I was inspired to hit my friendly, neighborhood Marvel vendor for access to the papertrail containing all the stuff that didn’t get into the movie.  I bought three thick, juicy Iron Man graphic novels that barely scratched the surface of Iron Man lore.  It turns out the same is true of the X-Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man papertrails…and that just means that comics are very like soap operas – there are character-complexities, esoteric references and oblique subtleties that regular folks (who haven’t been addicted to monthly installments of stories that have been churned out since 1966) will simply miss, unlike the junkies whose lives have (for decades) been built around that addictive stuff.  Frank Miller’s Sin City is probably a little bit less like the bottomless content icebergs involving characters (like Superman) that go all the way back to the 30s.

I checked out of Marvel-land in high school, but whole armies of writers and artists have woven wonderful, complicated narratives while I wasn’t looking, and tracing the work of Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller or Brian K. Vaughan…, for insight into Coraline, Sin City, 300…is one hell of a daunting task – because those motherfuckers have been astonishingly prolific.  Thor, The Avengers and Captain America?  Forgetaboutit!

Then, there’s the other thing you mentioned – that the stories that make the screen are going to be jam-packed with CGI, crowd-pleasing, gratuitous violence, and they’re totally based in narratives that were castrated by The Comics Code that strenuously attempted to eliminate truth in sex, truth in violence, truth in crime and truth in humanity in publications aimed at the theoretical “sensibilities” of 12-year-old boys.

Now the kicker.

DisneyPixarMarvel-ESPN-ABC is now one company.  I can’t suggest you take a look at the first Iron Man movie without ignoring your resolve to-never-line-the-pockets-of-Disney-executives-with-your-hard-earned-cash.  The thing is that that first Iron Man film was built by its director, Jon Favreau, on a slightly different model than all the superhero/comics movies that preceded it.  Favreau’s explicit intention was to build the incredibly-costly CGI bullshit around the performance of the actors, afterward, rather than moulding the actors’ performances to suit and fit the computer graphics.  It’s an interesting, subtle difference, which (I think) made that film eminenty worth watching for the creative contrast; lead with the cart or the horse.  But the second Iron Man movie is significantly less focused on the moral dilemmas intrinsic in the character expressed by the fascinatingly-quirky actor (Robert Downey, Jr.) than the first one was.  Go figure.  Gwyneth Paltrow has very little to do in either film.  Mickey Rourke (in Iron Man 2) is also underserved.

Graphic novels and comics that become movies aren’t necessarily exploitative bullshit, but most of them were far better/richer and more completely interesting in the original medium which Hollywood has optioned, bought and stolen (solely to make huge piles of money).

Brian Kellar Vaughan (in my experience) is the only graphic novel author whose creations (in the paper form) are invariably golden.  Hollywood keeps releasing rumors that Vaugahn’s stuff will be SOON APPEARING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU, but none of them have made the leap – even though Vaughan spent a few years recently in the writers’ room for LOST.  Vaughan’s bigger stories (Runaways/Y, The Last Man/Ex Machina) run to multiple volumes, but Pride of Bagdad and The Hood:  Blood from Stones are brief and inexpensive examples of superior storytelling.  Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore get press and movies, but I’ve generally been disappointed in the ultimate on-screen result.

As you know, I’m a sucker for the stuff Joss Whedon wrote.  If I see his name on a product, I’m more likely than not to want a look.  I’m branded.  Well, here’s an interesting thing I learned.  After I’d gone nuts (in 2006) for his long-cancelled 2002-3 television series, Firefly, I picked up the DVDs for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel, got immersed in Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible, and flung small chunks of money at the X-Men graphic novels Whedon wrote.  I found constant, bewildering gaps in the continuity of his graphic novel stories, as though Whedon really requires talented, human actors to round-out his scripts and narratives.  The X-Men graphic novels and Buffy/Angel comics lacked something vitally important that was always present-in-abundance in his television shows.  This discovery leads me to suspect that Joss Whedon’s talents aren’t best expressed in comic books and graphic novels (translated through graphic artists), but his wild-ass, intricate, off-the-wall ideas need gifted actors and technicians to whom he can explain them after assembling the right people into a cast&crew he can charm and persuade to realize his work – which doesn’t speak well for The Avengers movie (due in theaters next May), because the cast of expensive “stars” (like Downey, Jackson…) was assembled by other (more mercenary) people long before he got the job to write and direct this potential fiasco.

Conversely, Brian K. Vaughan writes stories (particularly the Ex Machina series of comic books) that work amazing magic in exactly the opposite way.  The narrative and static panels of art feel (after I’ve read them) at least as real and plausible and fluidly-continuous as though I’d seen its moments in a beautifully-executed movie, if not in real life.  Unlike Whedon, Vaughan’s stories pulse with a dramatic vitality he imparts to them

  • without being present on-set,
  • without the creative control of an executive producer, and
  • without a significant cult-following that hangs on his every word.

Big money butchers Philip K. Dick, hammers Richard Matheson, runs from Harlan Ellison.  Movies made from their science fiction and comics work only-vaguely resemble the originals, but even with the handicaps Hollywood inflicts, the movies that flow from the pens they used still generally kick the crap out of vehicles rewritten for ridiculously-expensive talent (Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Matt Damon…) by less-legendary individuals.

13 Feb 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Walking On ‘Ere

My first iTunes purchase was transacted 26JUL2006.  In the past 5½ years, I’ve had three hard discs crash, rendering several of my downloads inaccessible, forever.

Today, cruising the iTunes store, I noticed something new.  The PURCHASED button on the main page led me to the discovery that everything I’ve lost can be downloaded again, from the cloud – at no cost, so that’s precisely what I’m presently doing; stalking stuff I’ve already bought, and plucking it out of thin air — so too should you.

08 Feb 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Moneyball ot

It’s a wonderful film!

It’s about a second-tier-underdog General Manager’s impossible task of fielding a competitive, professional baseball team without the ability to bid competitively for the best talent.

It’s about a remarkable wealth of acting talent springing brilliantly off a surprisingly-deep bench to insert a nonstop mosaic of flavorful bursts of uniquely-personal characterizations throughout a film that’s perfectly-paced and discouragingly faced with the ridiculous challenge of draughting an entertaining and enlightening film from a textbook devoted to the inspired study of inferential statistics.  Pitch that.

It’s about RISK! so it took the better part of a decade to get made.

It’s also about the levelling of a cockeyed playing field that’s been cockeyed for decades because of the unfair advantage vast sums of money give certain participants.  It’s about dozens of fascinating things, only one of which is baseball…or history…or record-setting, or whatever rocks your boat.  There’s something insanely-delicious in this one for everybody.  “And if it just doesn’t work, it’s all your fault — Just kidding.”

So Moneyball is an amazingly entertaining, two-fisted, manly film that happens, also, to instruct activists in the discovery and application of overlooked means (in the details, stupid) to overcome the unfair advantage the Citizens United decision provided corporate wealth to skew elections, everafter.  And like it or not, (and it happens I don’t) the only second-tier, minor-market, underdog, can’t-win Cinderella nosing around this year’s Presidential Ball appears to be Ron Paul.

The A’s didn’t even get deep into the 2002 post-season, but they changed the game…

back.

02 Feb 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Cowboys & Aliens

As a Firefly freak, I absolutely don’t have a problem with intelligent remixing of the western and science fiction idiom.  The first thirty minutes of this one show no sighs of anything idiotic…then the aliens arrive, and the western takes a dive through the event horizon of a space-spitoon that even the deepest bench of veteran actors can’t escape.

“Fighting Terrorists Since 1492″, is a lovely throwaway bumpersticker rimshot I noticed in an early episode of Breaking Bad, a while back.  It’s the property of an Indian (Navaho?) deputy sheriff, and it belongs in an honored place as the mission statement of Cowboys & Aliens, which it, of couse, isn’t.

Never mind the tactical imbecilities that dot the storyline.  This movie eventually facilitates the unceremonial burial of old tomahawks as Chiricahuas, outlaws, townsfolk and the romantic leads join together into an improbable fighting force to defend Earth against an exploitative scouting party for extraterrestrial conquistadores.  Jack Kirby told this story brilliantly, very long ago, without the, you know, western stereotypes.  Loogey-honking.  P’ding!

It’s entertaining, once, but Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine and Walton Goggins can’t stand up against the tower of pointless hooey, which is, in the final analysis, Cowboys & Aliens:  A movie that needn’t have been quite this vapid, raggedly paced, pseudosuspenseful and politically insignificant as this one was.  It coulda and shoulda shone a little insightful light on American history.  And didn’t bother.

Any extenuating cirumstances that might mitigate the harshness of my evaluation of this attempt-at-a-film were unavailable (as were the commentary and all of the other Special Features) on the “rental disk” I got from NetFlix, because that’s how the studio executives in charge of schlock want to play.  As if I’d pay-to-own a copy of a movie I didn’t particularly enjoy watching – because the commentary and behind-the-scenes content are its saving grace.

In all fairness, I was irate at the conclusion The Final Cut until I simmered down enough to catch its director’s commentary in the course of a reluctant second pass through the film, but I wouldn’t have bought the DVD based on the unexplained execution of the intent that only becomes explicit with commentary.  The Final Cut has become one of my favorite films, because of the intent that drove its execution.  My copy of The Final Cut DVD came very close to being destroyed.  I’m saying that filmmaker intent can be the saving grace, unless the special features are made, as a matter of moronic studio policy, strictly unavailable.  With regard to Cowboys & Aliens, who the fuck gives a shit?

23 Jan 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tunes of Glory

The Caine Mutiny is a splendid film unless it’s compared to Tunes of Glory.  All of the ethical and interpersonal goods are delivered in the latter without the tedious building of a case against Captain Queeg, and the spectacularly complex, subtle performances of Guinnes and Mills are complemented by the skills and grace of a subtle director whose interest in the infinite shades of character-gray between black and white is admirably adult and invisibly breathtaking.  In the course of Ronald Neame’s 2003 interview, his distaste for the current fashion of frenetic manipulation in camera operation is made explict and sharply-but-gently contrasted with the frame of mind in which he arose:

  • The camera should be written, managed and handled as though it didn’t exist.
  • Fastidiously smooth pans that stop before the editor cuts.
  • Long, unbroken takes of events that unfold in a given scene from the least-possible number of points of view.
  • Dialogue delivered clearly over spare music that never intrudes upon, muddles or confuses the audience’ apprehension of every single word spoken by performers whose obligation and gift and duty is to enthrall the attention of the viewer in stories that are too deeply layered and too complex for words alone.

Neame expressed his belief that the current trends in camera operation, editing and sound mixing will eventually be reversed in the elevation of cinematic technique to create great work in a cohesive and collaborative manner that works to the perceptual and comprehensive advantage of the audience, unlike the priorities of the current fashion.  He also said that the current trend toward freneticism in visual storytelling began with television’s insistence that the viewer IS the camera.  With that last parallel I’m forced to disagree because the camera has always represented an epistemoligical nonentity.  I think the current trend favors the absurd, confusing nonentity.  I hope he’s right, that fashions change, and that the light at the end of this long tunnel isn’t a camera aimed in the wrong direction, vainly attempting to find the action behind the scense, offstage; reality tv as the ultimate blunder in the struggle between art and commerce.  Ignore the skilled, professional actors — watch the producers/distributors pick the pockets of the numbskulls in the theater/studio audience.  Neame also produced Lean’s Oliver Twist.  A tiny joke.

16 Jan 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cheyenne Autumn

In 1964, Warner Brothers released John Ford’s last epic western, which cost four million dollars to make.  It was a crappy movie that didn’t break even.  It ran two and a half hours in the final theatrical cut, and improved when a comedic island of nonsense was removed from the middle.  ARCH is a little too understated a description of performances that drive socially-relevant points home with heavy expository hammers as ethnic caricatures trudge stoically through Ford’s emblematic mid-space of human history and his stars articulate plotpoints in the foreground, and geologic time looks on these mortal eccentricities from far beyond our focus and nearly every frame.

A movie about the 1500 mile return journey in 1878 of fewer than 300 Northern Cheyenne Indians to their ancestral homeland in Montana from their year-long internment in Oklahoma starred Sal Mineo, Dolores Del Rio, Victory Jory, Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland, as the primary Indian representatives.  Monument Valley, on the border of Utah and Arizona, stands in for Oklahoma.  Richard Widmark and Caroll Baker head a cast of compassionate, ineffectual white people whose indecisive ambivalences result in the gradual near-extermination (by cavalry, inclement weather and illness) of a whole lot of pseudoCheyenne in the forms of Navahos, Mexicans, Italians and Whatnots.  No Cheyenne, and none of the Navaho extras speak.  They’re scenery, but what kinds of subversive, postmodern things might Ford-subsidized Navaho have to say if they were allowed to speak?

When Dull Knife and Little Wolf speak to one another in their native tongue, Montalban’s and Roland’s words aren’t subtitled in English, because the filmmaker didn’t give a screaming shit what those characters actually thought.  And sometimes the speak English to one another, for reasons that don’t make much sense unless those central characters are simply shallow plot devices that nudge the story along, kinda like scenery.

Cheyenne Autumn is a very odd kind of apology for Ford to have made approaching the end of a long career laden with extremely-familiar, creaking stereotypes forged in 4.5 dozen successful, self-serving American films about cavalry, cowboys and Indians.  It’s a movie about the destruction of people beneath the wheel of an oblivious political machine controlled by people so remote that the stifled anguish in our foreground is inaudible to anyone who isn’t present, yet the pseudoCheyenne representatives remaing largely impenetrable masks of stoic resignation, even to the attentive audience that paid to see this story unfold.  It might as well be a tale of Irish Nazis following crazy-lethal orders as a revisionist western set in OklaUtah.

John Ford made history.  John Ford also made history stupid.

Our modern tendency to repeat mistakes previously made whenever The People square off against The Wealth would be more predictable and less disaster-prone without the screen of self-congratulating obfuscation John Ford dropped between us and the American Indian.

The inevitability of Manifest Destiny and the inevitable offshoring of American jobs are not separate processes.  People unite to protect Life and Liberty, but the protection of Property requires a draft that’s organized by people with jeopardized property.

13 Jan 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Spiral

An odd little wrinkle:

In the twentieth episode of the fifth season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (May 2001), the Sunnydale crew holds hostage a general of holy knights who spills a bunch of backstory about Glory, the season’s BigBad.  It seems Glory is The Beast, a powerful god who was overthrown in an unspeakable hell dimension ruled by a triumverate of jealous and capricious gods before she was imprisoned in the body of a newborn male whose identity was (and remains) unknown to the knights who mean to topple Glory once and for all.

If that wasn’t sufficiently complicated, two years later (in February, 2003), Angel faces The Beast, who covertly serves the scheming Cordelia Chase, who will bear and give birth to Jasmine, the incredibly powerful god-in-transit from at least one unspeakable hell dimension.  Oz?  My head’s starting to hurt.  But hey!  The Beast awakened from rocky inprisonment  deep in the bowels of the Earth to emerge from the ground in Los Angeles in the very same alley where Darla gave birth to Connor.  What?!

And let’s not forget Illyria, whose (A Hole in the World) backstory sounds remarkably similar to that of the other two gods whose ultimate objectives involved the apocalyptic dissolution of natural barriers between familiar definitions of chaos, paradise, heaven/hell and unspeakable hell dimensions in which people are no longer discrete packets of private, unique identity…kinda like The Master’s plan to be the mass-production Henry Ford of Sunnydale/BtVS in the first season, with an irresistible vision of billions of beastly HappyMeals in denim served piping-hot to all the vampire beasts and hellishly-beastly demons drawn toward the Hellmouth.  Wasn’t there a Beast among the X-Men?  Maybe The Beast took some kind of part in building the hole in the world:  Idle speculation.  Slime and antlers.

I think looking for stinking plot holes in Mutant Enemy products is an absolute waste of time.  It’s far more interesting and exciting to attempt to connect deliciously-harmonious points of reference across arbitrary divisions (like those erected by competing broadcast networks; nonsequential presentation, content [standalones vs seriality] meddling, budget curtailment and eventual cancellation).

This post is only a remark, a gracenote for somebody’s preliminary investigation of probable interseries resonance between a couple of complex, compact and fascinating supernarratives and Yeats’ gyre, and realwold information/privacy controversy, and the seeming-inevitability that The Beast would eventually have made itself evident in Firefly.  Reavers?

Grushow/Groosalugg?  Of just how much invaluable realworld/fictional woven resonance is one small underfunded production company capable?  Whither Mutant Enemy? Check that question out!  They’ve infiltrated most everything interesting in recent American television.  And why aren’t those amazing motherfuckers federally subsidized?  That‘s a band I’d love to see reunited.

Also, whither Beauty?

10 Jan 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Margin Call

This is the film that pardons real vampires.  Skip it.

09 Jan 12 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Or Will You Ever Be?

Hymie Simon died five days ago.  Jacob Kurtzberg kicked in ’94.  Better known as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, they together, late in 1940, created a hugely-successful, iconic goyische asskicking character named Captain America in an inital comic printing run that went to 800,000 copies.

In a better United States, Captain America, appearing before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, could freely state that his real name was Shlomo (not Steve) Rogers, or Chaim, or Aaron, without creating a ruinous sensation in the press.

Imagine, if you will, Hayward, Wisconsin in 1915; and a lone, exhausted, Ojibwe woman giving difficult birth to her terribly premature son, in the snowy field behind the outbuilding of a redneck bar.  Perhaps it’s a daughter.  Chinatown.  The alley behind a mosque.  The back porch of a juke joint, cantina, Armenian restaurant…pretty much anywhere that pits the principles articulated by the Declaration of Independence to the ultimate test of commercial success in the actual Land of the Free.

I’m prejudiced.  Kind of partial to the tale that thoroughly expresses the indomitable spirit in a scrawny, little, victimized Indian kid who becomes the personified emblem of a global struggle to resist total war (an American invention first practiced on Confederate sympathizers and Plains Indians) and all “permissible” variations on the theme of human extermination.  How would Hiawatha do it?  Taking coups from Hitler.

I’d like to live in that other America.  Maybe it’s the native america.  The question that persists is how to go about making that relatively ideal America synonymous with this crappier one.

19 Dec 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?

The second episode of the second season of Angel may not be entirely perfect, but it’s reallyreally beautiful; visually, musically, thematically.  As if there weren’t enough backstory dragging behind a 240 year-old vampire, this episode loops a single thread of his shameful past from the present through a lyrically assembled series of events that localize crucial choices, filmic allusions and shame-based behaviours to a personal emotional disaster frozen fifty years in his past.  It does this without the jarring, unpredictable, blinding flashes and ear-splitting noises that make most of the episodes in this series remarkably difficult to watch — even though I know that these interstitial transition story-devices mark the inevitable approach of Jasmine, two seasons down the vampire’s steeply-uphill path to redemption.

I suspect the 8 minutes trimmed for time, and moments removed to appease Standards & Practices might make this episode still more sublimely satisfying than the produced version already is, but putting them back wouldn’t alter the look that comes over Angel’s face at the very end of the episode as he gazes kinda-lovingly around the lobby of the haunted, insecurity-riddled hell of an old hotel he’s just liberated from the fascinating/abhorrent paranoia demon.  It’s a legible look of homecoming that foreshadows Malcolm Reynolds’ first, enraptured visual study of Serenity, at the end of Out Of Gas, my favorite episode of Firefly (also written by the same remarkable guy).

Tim Minear’s fine-toothed commentary doesn’t go much out of its way to itemize each of the chewy allusions he wrote into this episode, beyond the mention of Chinatown.  I noticed/imagined quotes from a host of hotel-based horror/noirs; The Shining, Barton Fink, Psycho with fond nods to Rebel Without A Cause, The Defiant Ones, Ox-Bow Incident, Pinky, Advise and Consent, and possibly The Manchurian Candidate, with strong tonal resonance with Bad Day at Black Rock and Shock Corridor – but then, the content and the context of this episode is steeped in still-topical issues that bleed from most episodes of The Twilight Zone; prejudice, self-interest served at cost to others, alienation, mob violence, lethal secrets, insupportable shame and manipulated insecurity – it’s as though Tim Minear were Serling’s unsung son.  Temporal variations in our collective sociocultural attitudes toward racism, homosexuality, miscegenation, communism, lynching, scapegoating, crowdsourcing, and bullet-headed stupidity play tacitly, deep in the viewer’s imagination without crowning The Present Day with bullshit awards for enlightened, progressive platitudes (except for one unfortunate line that Minear explicitly regrets).  It’s an amazingly tidy, nonlinear, meandering, complex and contradictory, yet beautifully-managed, profoundly-disturbing episode.  HUACpaTooie!

In the interest of candor, I might as well report that I find Angel (one of my favorite television series) a real chore to watch because of the

  1. aforementioned, blinding and deafening interstitial transition thing,
  2. mumbled/whispered dialogue alongside BIG musical score and (industry-standard bogus) violent sound effects,
  3. the increasing prominence of the Cordelia Chase character,
  4. 80% of the Pylea excursion,
  5. most things involving Connor,
  6. and the mercifully-rare instances of crossover in which the hit&miss chemistry of Geller/Boreanaz usually leads me to gag on the smarm.

But it’s worth it because these shows are almost always about something real and pending that deserves to be re-evaluated regularly.  And Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?  is certainly one of the best of them, right up there with The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.  And there’s Billy, Skip and the indescribably delicious Alexa Davalos.

24DEC2011:

Jasmine’s the personification of the internet, the singular server of an ever-widening social network, the adversary of oldschool privacy, free will, and both the highest ideal and the ugliest dreads of humanity.  The interstital transitions persist more intermittently after Jasmine’s vanquished (in the Whedonverse, where death isn’t necessarily terminal).  Jasmine’s termination may have been instrumental in the liberation of Illyria, lest two monumentally-powerful higher largely-female powers converge on Earth kinda simultaneously to vastly overshadow the vampire from whose name the show derived its title.

Given the vicissitudes of unexpected preganacy (in season four), network anti-seriality notes and series cancellation, Mutant Enemy ground the standalone form of season five to an incredibly satisfying halt.  Perhaps its a little more accurate to say they modified the course of a streaking killer-asteroid into a stable orbit.

12 Dec 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

The Black Death vs The Season of the Witch

The striking similarities between these two movies begin with their settings in or nearly in 1348CE, and introduce stalwart holy knights who are charged by The Curch to root out The Evil cause of The Black Plague that is presently reducing the populations of Europe by something like 50%.  The Season of the Witch is a vastly superior movie starring Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman.  (A movie is a film that I’ll probably never revisit.)  It goes in search of conventional heroes who encounter problems and furnish solutions; and once I’ve seen the patented Hollywood packaging of the usual Hollywood product, there’s very little reason to go there ever again.  The Season of the Witch is just like that; boxed entertainment.  The End.

The Black Death is difficult to watch because of all the fashionable camera movement (even in extended dialogue scenes).  Action scenes apparently give filmmakers unlimited license to disorient and nauseate a manipulated audience, but this film takes those liberties whenever talking heads are babbling or silent or severed.  I also hated the fashionable editing practices that go hand-in-hand with wobbly camerawork.

The Black Death, however, has a significant advantage over The Season of the Witch; it’s about something I find far more interesting than neutralizing the diabolical machinations of the malicious imps of Satan.  The Black Death is about the rightness of righteous intolerance.  It comes right out and describes The Church as Power unjustly dedicated, for thirteen unbroken centuries, to pervasive sociopolitical dominance, the subjugation of women, and of the faithful, and the merciless extermination of disbelievers/heretics and unChristian infidels.  That’s a littly ballsy for exploitainment.  It also installs Sean Bean as the leader of a tiny band of sociopathic felons tasked by The Church to determine exactly what ungodly, necromantic force prevents an isolated village from falling prey to the catastrophic plague that’s ravaging everybody else.  It’s a film about the plural shadow of devout belief (rather than doubt) hidden in a bloody, exploitation movie that really coulda/shoulda been better made.

Inevitably, our “heroes” find the plague-free village peopled by ________________ (that would be prejudicial spoilery).  It’s probably sufficient to say there are zero signs of Satan-worship, aliens, nor people from the future.  The unChristian inhabitants make cogent and interesting talking points regarding faith in the invisible, implaccable, vengeful Lord of Christian creation and orthodoxy — which sets the heavily-armed, sociopathic killer-Christians, in their midst, on edge.  It’s probably enough to say that an isolated village of pissed-off infidels in the plague-ravaged bowels of Papist England in 1348 aren’t a single hair more pleasant company than psychotic fighting men hellbent on roasting bleeding heretics at the bidding of The Cardinal.

Don’t read this (The [global] village is inhabited by lying, two-faced, manipulative, sophisiticated, self-serving, murderous agnostics:  very much like Us!)

Were it not for the intrusive and excessive camera-movement/editing quirks of this film, The Black Death would deserve the kind of careful attention it clearly attempted to provoke.  Unfortunately, the film also wobbles to its bloody and irresolute conclusion with a ludicrous voice-over epilogue designed to inflect the thrusts of serious conversations of patrons leaving the theater away from universal parallel witch-hunts, toward the isolated personal issues of a vengeful monk…Hollywood schlock.  Expecting to be nauseted, I might revisit this one.

16 Nov 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Captain America: The First Avenger

Yeah.  That worked about as well as anything I was expecting possibly could.  He’s never been Jewish.  That’s just me thinking wishfully.

First pass; intense satisfaction, patience fabricated from pure Wakandan vibranium, and ridiculously keen anticipation.

Tutonic legend freak, The Red Skull, gets Cosmic Cubed (perhaps) to Asgard, meets Loki, Tutonic legend, and a pair of fascinatingly-complex villains devise new junk that merits endless speculation.  Good Golly this stuff is fun, but it needs lots more Agent Coulson.

Third pass 30OCT2011:  The Red Skull is an antiquarian.  He’s Indiana Jones, J.R.R. Tolkien, Joseph Campbell — dusting off the cobwebs to reveal long-forgotten practical power.  During their climactic fight, he accuses Captain America of pigheaded, myopic, nationalistic imaging of their common Destiny; a future in which there are no flags.  He may well be a ruthless egomaniac, but the Skull is, nonetheless, interesting, visionary.

Steve Rogers (the sickly, undersized, constant victim of other people’s abuse of superior power) suddenly beomes The First Avenger because all the other Avengers were born later (with the probable exception of THOR), but the suddenly-mighty Captain America isn’t remotely interested in wreaking vengeance on the many individuals who victimized weak Steve Rogers (most of whom probably died during his 70year nap).  Captain America’s mission is (chivalrously) saving the planet from the abuses of superior power, he’s the prototype, the foundation upon which S.H.I.E.L.D. was built from the Strategic Scientific Reserve, the primary narrative representative of which is Peggy Carter:

Courtesy of Wikipedia, actress, Hayley Atwell;

An officer with the Strategic Scientific Reserve and the love interest of Captain America.  Regarding her preparation for the role, she said,

“I’m training at the moment six days a week to make her a bit more military and make it convincing that I could kick butt.”[8]

About the character Atwell stated,

“I likened her character to that famous Ginger Rogers quote. She can do everything Captain America can do, but backwards and in high heels. She’s an English soldier through and through, although she always looks fabulous. She might stand there with a machine-gun shooting Nazis, but she’s obviously gone to the loo beforehand and applied a bit of lipstick. She doesn’t need to be rescued.  That’s exciting to me – her strength”.[9] “I think she’s quite stubborn, a slightly frustrated woman who struggles with being a woman in that time. But more importantly she’s a modern woman and she sees something in Captain America that she relates to, and becomes kindred spirits. He treats her very differently to how she’s been treated by lots of men, in this kind of dominated world she lives in. So she’s very much a fighter.”[10]

The transition from one secret government institiution, S.S.R., into another, S.H.I.E.L.D., is an intriguing thread of continuity (across fascinating decades of recent [male-dominated?] adversarial history) made manifest in the point of view of Peggy Carter, who appears in 2011 at the end of this film looking almost exactly as she did in 1942.  I wonder why.  If Peggy Carter lost Steve Rogers to his noble decision to sacrifice himself (or New York), that choice had deeply-tragic consequences, for her.  If, in 2011, Steve Rogers awakens in a simulated 1942 hospital bed, greeted by the (identical) granddaughter of Peggy Carter, true love gets fucked.  If it’s The Original Peggy, fresh out of preserves in 2011, there‘s a shitload of valuable personal (gender-polarized) history sacrificed in the name of the Carter/Rogers romance.  Ginger wasn’t Fred’s automatic, natural doppelgänger, maybe that was Hermes.  They worked (choreographed, tried, failed, revised, rehearsed beyond exhaustion) until they worked like nobody else.

There’s an enormous body of unproduced (perhaps unwritten) masterwork detailing The Potts Perspective on Stark, Carter on Rogers, Watson on Parker…It’s written from the shadowed, ordinary side of unqualified, superheroic celebrity, and it hands the bullhorn to people who REALLY know how to communicate something all of us will eventually come to regard as invaluable.  How to thrive while being eclipsed.

(Never mind that suspended animation wasn’t widely known to be an available option in 1942.  Steve hops into a few utterly-unfamiliar, foreign cockpits and flies expertly, too.  This film is richly-inlaid with the usual bullshit, but the stink is offset by the ennobling charm of noticing at The Red Skull’s Flying Wing [the MacGuffin that opens the film] is buried in snow and ice, very like the saucer in The Thing, and that David Niven’s introduction into Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death resonates beautifully with Steve’s and Peggy’s radio conversation as both guys plummet fearlessly to their respective deaths in their respective films.

And champions of the myopic view of culture pigheadedly wave copyright pennants as an impediment to Progre$$, while the biggest A-List creators in Hollywood are also the biggest fans/tributers/borrowers ["pirates"] who ever studied pedicure at the feet of recognized masters.)

The point I’d like to make here is that Captain America:  The First Avenger isn’t just mindless, escapist entertainment.  Its excellences, failings, quirks and logical inconsistencies point directly at stuff that’s worth thinking about and fixing in real life while waiting for the next Marvel spectacular to hunker down on our faces and bathe us in its investors’ ecstatic delight (on its way to the bank).  It’s also a crucial installment in an ongoing cultural event that may provide significant and valuable information to Schmidts and Jonses and Tolkiens and Rogers (both Steves and Gingers) in centuries to come.

Something about this particular time in American history smells like it was accurately predicted from between the dusty covers of quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore.  To misquote Livia Soprano, “Poe us”.

Fourth Pass 07APR2012:  So!  Steve Rogers wakes up almost 70 years into his future and isn’t greeted by Peggy Carter, but a very attractive young woman who resembles her a lot — and I totally missed that obvious fact.  Never mind.

Fifth Pass 06MAY2012:  After seeing The Avengers in a local theater on the evening after its domestic release.  I noticed that Loki elaborates on the Red Skull’s vision of OneWorldOrder in which there are no flags of nationalism/division by positing his curious and interesting belief that humankind naturally belongs on its knees devoting unqualified, obsequious homage to one superior individual, naturally, that’s him.  Say now, that’s a fun idea for tying together the underserved notions of Captain America as the amplified version of the iconically-naive anti-bully, Steve Rogers, and for providing insight into the Red Skull’s character, and The Hulk’s and Thor’s and…y’know, I wish I’d spent less time dawdling over homework, so I’d know lots more about the characters played by Scarlett Johanssen and Jeremy Renner.

Hanging around in my theater seat, clear to the end of credits for The Avengers isn’t optional. It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings or Thor chews, whichever comes last.  Hanging, I noticed the names of Jenny Agutter and The-one-and-only,  J. Michael Straczynski (in a construct-authorial-homage cameo), whose faces I didn’t recognize, unlike Stan Lee, Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton, Paul Bettany and Lou Ferrigno (these last two were employed as voice talent), and cruising IMDb today, I see Alexis Denisof as The Other, whoever the fuck that may have been.  I never knew how much I loved falafel until it was time to get up from my theater seat, steal the 3D glasses (for the hell of it) and go home to re-refresh my memory of the elements I already own of this kinda-wonderful-deeper-than-expected saga.  It’s fuckin’ aht! or an incredibly-reasonable facsimile thereof.

26 Oct 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Red State

Here’s a rich, angular, suspenseful film that’s packed with actors I admire turning in spectacular performances; Michael Parks, John Goodman, Stephen Root and Melissa Leo, with engaging cameos by Kevin Pollak, Anna Gunn and Matt L. Jones (Brandon “Badger” Mayhew from Breaking Bad).  The film is significantly more visual and prettier than anything I’ve come to expect from the nimble, verbal pen and direction of Kevin Smith.  It’s also a good deal darker, dead-serious and unrelenting than whatever I was expecting, but it’s also remarkably rich in language woven to drape Michael Parks in luscious opportunities to inhabit the part of an iconic, plausible, realistic, believable, spellbinding, damn-near-persuasive, righteous maniac.  Move over, Robert Duvall.

It’s a film about ass-coverage, fanaticism and ubiquitous, fanatical ass-coverage – inronically, buttfucking is the central bone of contention in a tale that reaches around several unexpected corners to expose whole herds of sacred cows unflatteringly on the horns of legitimate, current dilemmas; realworld problems, skanky heroes, and precious little conventional, Hollywood bullshit.

While there were moments of prolonged yammering that rang ever-so-slightly false, they were generally screamed over the sound of semi-automatic riflefire, which makes up for an awful lot.  I didn’t know bigtime lethal pandemonium came so easily to Kevin Smith.  Now I do.  Red State is a chewy, thoughtful kickass film that wipes feces and sputum off it’s testicles with wit, elan and an inimitable appetite for violent, colloqual charm.

20 Oct 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

99%11 — Demonstrative Attacks on Wall Street

I’ve always found it interesting that the 11SEP2001 attack on Manhattan wasn’t aimed at Liberty.

It targeted Wall Street, like a wake-up call for 99% of Americans who came to lust for revenge against the alarm clock,

while the captains of our financial institutions effected our economic collapse.

Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/13nuc)

Who Are the ’99 Percent’?

Anti-Wall Street protesters have differing motivations

By on                 September 29, 2011 – 6:42 p.m. PDT
Hundreds of people descended on downtown San Francisco Thursday to support the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations that are going on in New York. The tagline for the protest is “We Are the 99 Percent,” and here’s how they describe themselves:

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.

We wondered who were the “99 percent” protesting on the streets on Thursday and why they were demonstrating. Here’s a random sampling.

Charlene Woodcock

Charlene Woodcock, 71, retired book editor

QK: Why are you out here?

CW: I’ve seen the wealth of this country – and especially California – go from the middle class to the very rich. It’s destroying California, it’s destroying our schools. The Republicans are doing their best to privatize everything they can and it’s destroying the country.

QK: What do you want these protests to accomplish?

CW: A state bank. North Dakota has a state bank that isn’t doing it for profit.

QK: What do you have against Wall Street?

CW: They broke laws, they made a mockery of process of granting loans to enrich themselves in the short term and they didn’t give a damn about the long term.

Mary Ann Meany

Mary Ann Meany, 60, lawyer

QK: Why are you out here?

MAM: I’m out here because the program I work for has been cut, my court has been cut, every social service in California is being cut and I think it’s time that we all recognize that there’s a social contract that we have to support. I work in juevenile court – employees, commissioners, court reporters have been cut.

QK: Do you blame Wall Street for those cuts?

MAM: We use Wall Street as a symbol and a signal of whether the economy is good or not. I don’t think it’s the right indicator. We think the economy is doing well because Wall Street is doing well but we still have high unemployment and people aren’t willing to pay taxes and things seem to be breaking down.

Larry Yee

Larry Yee, over 50, service technician

QK: Why are you out here?

LY: I’m a member of CWA 9410. I’m here in support of our brothers and sisters asking for fair jobs and making sure the banks don’t just walk away after the disaster they caused in the financial market. We all need to speak up and make sure our voices are heard.

Evelyn Sanchez

Evelyn Sanchez, 35, community organizer

QK: Why are you marching out here?

ES: I’m very much in touch with families that have been affected by this crises. Both immigrants who have been cut off from services as well as families who are facing budget cuts in their school system.

QK: What does Wall Steet have to do with those cuts?

ES: A lot of our laws and policies are designed to favor them – their health and their well-being and not enough is being done for us, the people, who are on the street. I’m happy to see there are so many people here who are sick and tired of the agenda of our politicians and that’s doing what’s best for corporations and the financial sector. It’s about time they pay attention to the needs of the people.

Karen Henry

Karen Henry, 50, runs clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies

QK: Why are you out demonstrating?

KH: I came out here because I am fed up with supporting corporate America. There’s a much bigger gap between the rich and the poor. And we gave all our money to the banks and we don’t have anything left. This morning I was going to work and I heard Bank of America is going to charge $5 for debit transactions – that’s friggin’ ridiculous! It goes into some stockholders pocket while it gets eaten out of ours. I heard about the demonstration today and decided to come. I left work early and decided to come.

Chris Tully

Chris Tully, 36, unemployed

QK: Why are you out here?

CT: To support the 99%. To support Occupy Wall Street. They’re out there for us. I’m against corprorate greed and I want to see a higher employment rate and banks should pay.

QK: Why should the banks pay?

CT: They’re the ones that benefited the most from all of us in the bailouts and their still making massive profits. They continue to do so.

QK: What do you hope will come out of these protests?

CT: I’m hoping to see a stronger sense of community and be more organized. Everyone tends to walk around thinking they can’t make a difference and we’re out here to show them we can.

Ulises Olvera

Ulises Olvera, 19, student at San Francisco State University

QK: Why are you out here?

UO: To stand in solidarity with all the workers and see if we can make some change.

QK: What kind of change do you want these protests to make?

UO: Drastic change

QK: Like what?

UO: Like the way the tax dollars are collected. Who gets taxed and the amount of taxes we impose on people who have money and people who don’t have money. I come from a working class family and in the last five years, they have been struggling just to make rent and it’s been really tough. I’m from San Deigo and a lot of my friends, their parents are agricultural workers, and it’s been hard on them too. They’ve lost jobs in the last couple of years.

QK: How is Wall Street responsible for that?

UO: They hold all the wealth and they get preference on how money is dispursed and they’re pretty much in control of everybody else. So whoever has the money has the power and that’s how they control.

Darnell Boyd

Darnell Boyd, 50, tenant organizer for SRO Hotels
Boyd lives at the Mission Hotel and he helps organize tenants.

QK: Why are you out here?

DO: We need the rich to pay more taxes. And we need them to not cut aid and medicare.

QK: What does Wall Street have to do with that?

DO: I think they’re [rich] Wall Street. They need to pay their fair share.

Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/13nuc)

30 Sep 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

The second season of this series is a prequel for the first season.  It’s another masterpiece of complex character embroidery that serves to provide contextual backstory.  Every central character relates to every other along multistranded threads of interaction that are riddled with bizarre combinations of loyalty, devotion, conspiracy and betrayal.  I’d like very much to cruise this series again; marathoning the second season again before plunging directly into the first.  This show is brilliant!  but I have a couple of problems with it:

Just as the relationships between principle (and secondary and tertiary…) characters are multilayered and complex, so too the relationship between spoken language and visual information is fascinating:

  1. Every physical conflict is photographed from multiple-angles, and edited into a bewildering hodgepodge of milisecond glimpses that are (apparently) intended to goose-up the viewer’s excited appreciation of innovative, amplified and hyper-real ACTION, which, after all, is the primary draw/appeal of this show — just as Fred&Ginger dance routines were signature tentposts that masterfully integrated and magnetized audience attention to the narratives in their films.  I find the postproduction manipulation of action scenes in this Spartacus deal profoundly intrusive and a counterproductive, destructive distraction from the seamless integration of months of conditioning, hours of rehearsal, and admirable dedication of skilled performers to realize each choreographed illusion of hyper-violence.  From the beginning, Fred said, If the camera moves, I won’t!  I like his decision that effectively countered the then-revolutionary Busby Berkeley approach to camera operation by insisting on long takes shot from a stationary position, no dramatic/spectacular overheads, and realistic transitions in profoundly-integrated narrative context that drives theatrical audience attention purely in the service of story.  Leni, Busby, Dektor and MTV have kinda-sorta taken a crap on all that.
  2. The exception to Point 1 appears in the final episode of Season 2, when in Bitter Ends, the characteristic editing style leans toward significantly longer snippets of action that permit the viewer a much better idea of what the fuck’s going on, who’s doing what to whom for what foreshadowed reason, and reaction-shots from outside the ring of violence are regarded (at long last) as far less important to storytelling cohesion than the coherent images of photographed violence.  Why?
  3. Subtitles distract, but I find them a necessary evil.  Actors with a wide variety of British accents swiftly delivering elevated dialogue (that often lacks personal pronouns, drops objects and subjects from sentences and dwells in a realm of peculiar syntax) make the use of subtitles indispensibly mandatory, for me.  I think big American money must insists that aristocratic Nazis and Romans be played with classy British accents, social dregs are Cockney, heroes kinda Nebraska-ish…always.  Check it out.  Diona sounds like Oakland, Lecretia’s meso-sophisticated Sydney, Gaia’s upperclass Swinging London from the 60s — to my ear.  I think it’s a subtle Hollywood manipulation that’s been operating so effectively for decades that we barely notice it.
  4. The larger vision of the Roman Republic revealed in this series presents the viewer with an elaborated awareness of the lower strata of a vast social pyramid (slaves, gladiators, lanistas, minor officials, and gangsters) and glimpses of absolute assholes who dwell in slightly higher castes in the social order, without ever showing us the major assholes (for contrast) in the seats of power in the city of Rome, itself.  We constantly sense their pervasive influence, but are not permitted a bird’s-eye view of the structure of the Republic, except through the myopic, rhetorical fantasies, convoluted conspiracies, and vague aspirations of their (contemptible) tools, the very characters we come to know and/or hate as the episodes unfold.  And the percieved differences between heroic and villainous characters (and their actions) are so microscopically minute that they’re practically immeasurable.  Forget your moral compass?  No sweat, you probably won’t need it.
  5. Perhaps the most uncomplicated relationship in all of this wonderful mess is that between Lucretia and her husband; an almost-unflagging devotion that makes them totally cool with rape, murder, dismemberment and all manner of mayhem visited on anybody other than the two of them.  But how/why that singular bond became remarkably exceptional isn’t remotely clear.

In spite of these objections to presentation and big-picture context, I continue to find this show entertaining and instructive as all-get-out.

25 Sep 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

THOR

Well, that was just ENORMOUSLY enjoyable!

21 Sep 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

OneHour Photo

Mark Romanek holds Harry Truman accountable for photofinishing Japan, as though World War Two were a race/war.  It’s an uncommonly visual film that opens as disconcertingly as did All The President’s Men.

The heavenly order of SlaveMart is maintained by specialized angels in cerulean vests, whose mission is to serve our better natures, while being judgmentally-scrutinized from above by Bill, the multiple-monitored, big-pictured SlaveMart manager, whose inescapeable omniscience is almost entirely powerless before the unexpectable threat posed by Sigh Perish to Bill’s only begotten daughter, on whom Sigh zooms in.  Psych!  Feint!  Gambit!

By invoking Evangelion (the 60foot-tall, darkly-winged Angel/agent of Retribution against bad guys); and by transforming Robin Williams’ look to resemble Truman, at whiles; and by framing the Yorkin family as a pillar of apparent nuclear-familial piety riddled with broken promises on the eve of their semi-private, emotional implosion; and by depositing bad Will (Hunting) Yorkin in the hotel room of Maya Burson; and by carefully or serendipitously orchestrating dozens of similar, powerfully-disturbing snapshots, Romanek makes OneHour Photo a deeply compassionate exercise in modernAmerican (and global and universal) regret.  He even provides Truman, by means of Sigh’s expository allusion to a deeply-nightmarish backstory, an excuse for the unforgivable decision to execute an unthinkable plan to destroy the nuclear family as only he can (and Truman did).

Most of the action in this exceptionally-interesting film takes place after the final act, as people who’ve been exposed to it think and talk (some may even radiate) about it; Shanley-style Doubt.

17 Sep 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Dawn Patrol (1938)

This is a propaganda film that manages in 103 minutes to convey tremendous amounts of fast-paced, coherent, stirring information about comradeship, the joys of insubordination, the lethally-lonely duplicity of command, vengence, despair and sacrifice.  Those are themes one would cynically expect of a 1938 American film designed to support Allied spiritual preparation for the Second World War by celebrating the exploits of gallant, flying heroes of The War To End All Wars…but somehow this film also manages to weave a powerful, cogent, fundamental, explicit and universally-appropriate antiwar statement from all of the cliches its primary themes employ.  Go figure.  No, really.  Don’t miss this one.

Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, Melville Cooper and Barry Fitzgerald lead an ensemble cast of players in this remake (of a 1930 adaptation of a Saunders short story, The Flight Commander) that successfully spins its themes with remarkable efficiency in the first several acts, and culminates in utterly wordless action in an illustrative masterpiece of unequivocal, purely-visual “narrative” exposition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dawn_Patrol_(1938_film)

31 Aug 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Random Adjustment Harvest Bureau

Beyond the title of this post, I really haven’t much to say.  Plot devices in Random Harvest are much klunkier and very different from those used in The Adjustment Bureau (also klunky), but the numerous points of emotional engagement are almost identical.  I don’t mean to say that the more recent film intentionally mirrors the earlier, it’s simply that they share a lyric momentum and pace that drives toward a final, monumental chord that rings brilliantly with optimism in the Garson/Colman romance, and kicks the ass of order-following middle management in the Blunt/Damon assay (significantly easier).

I agree with Lisa Hayes (creator of UltraFem) that Philip K. Dick wrote tiny, jewel-like ideas into stories that Hollywood inflates, bathes with steroids and hammers almost beyond all recognition/affection into major motion pictures (that don’t work particularly well).

The NetFlix rental of The Adjustment Bureau marks my first experience of a clearly-marked “rental” DVD that shows me all of the special features, but won’t give me access to them.  George Nolfi’s intentions in writing and directing this film will remain unknown to me until I cough up the purchase price — or NetFlix registers and acts on the outrage of customers like me (who declare the disc defective and ask for a replacement — there has to be a less ridiculous strategy).  Media Rights Capital may well be responsible for this new wrinkle in the value-subtracted method of data distribution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_Rights_Capital

I believe I’ve just discovered a brand of content to avoid like the plague (that transforms loyal customers into zombie-like consumers).  I don’t actually fault NetFlix.

I’m midway through an early-Garson marathon.  The films are superb, but they just seem to improve as that radiant personality receives more ’40s screentime:

Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Pride and Prejudice; Random Harvest; Mrs. Miniver; Madame Curie.

Update 29Aug2011 — My second NetFlix rental MRC DVD (Devil) confirms the earlier expectation that the Media Rights Capital logo signifies no special/bonus features will be available to customers playing rental disks.  It’s a reasonably effective means for studios (Universal, this time) and entertainment distributors to discredit and devalue NetFlix in the minds of NetFlix’ clientele.  I sense the birth and spread of stupid industry-wide practices intended to subtract worth from viewer experience in favor of the illusion of capital gain (upholding shareholder value by crapping on product/audience).

So long as NetFlix fails to identify castrated titles in its catalogue, customers won’t bother to avoid them, won’t boycott MRC-style manipulative practices, and the bean-counting mercenaries win yet another minor, short-term victory enroute to the absolute-complete disenchantment of audiences for studio product — not (only) because these two particular intellectual properties are fairly-blatant Christian propaganda shit, but because the fundamental intentions of its owners really stink of spite and avarice.

07 Aug 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

An American in Paris

If this film weren’t tweaked ever so slightly, I think Warner Brothers could have found it eminently actionable.  That’s how much it reminds me of Casablanca.

There is, of course, the romantic commonality of Paris.  The brash, iconoclastic hero’s permanent sidekick is a first-rate piano player, and a bit of a slacker.  The love-target was a continental waif who owed so much to her admirable protector that their marriage (of gratitude and cradle-robbing convenience) seemed inevitable.  And the hero is so entirely at-home in his expatriated ex-patriot adventure that he radiates a uniquely winning American (and disaffected [almost unAmerican]) confidence that natives and tourists recognize and bow before.  This citizen of the world reflects the maturation of the formerly-insular American character — as the stormclouds of global war gathered, AND in the chillier, atomic aftermath of that more violent conflict.

Rick, the drunkard, and Jerry, the painter, are practically the same guy.  Ilse and Lise, Sam and Adam, Victor and Henri…in fact the closer I look at both films, the more alike in wit, structure, engine, tone and personalities the seem.  It’s really only the similarly-polished crisp finishes of their respective skins that makes them seem markedly different (dancing&singing versus labyrinthine plot twists) — and the fact that the couple walking toward Destiny at the end of the movie is two dark guys in the earlier film.  Go figure.  Between Wilson, Raines and Levant, I wonder which one is and was the most invisible man.  Even if these comparisons aren’t breathtakingly original, I think they serve to highlight variations in zeitgeist and backlight the silhouette of the mysterious specter of national will, especially in context of international crises.  Call it Mentertainment, because Gentertainment was the exclusive province of Fred Astaire (or maybe Hugh Heffner).

Neither cinematic masterpiece gets any older with frequent re-exposure, unlike most things.  All hail The Freed Unit!

08 Jul 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dark Victory

This film is a premake of The Magnificent Ambersons, without that pesky loss of wealth.  Bette Davis plays a fabulously wealthy, arrogant spoiled brat who is fawned over and adored by just about everybody, including Humphrey Bogart, as her lowly, insubordinate, Irish, horse trainer and George Brent, the manly, heroic, saintly, lying, crusading brain surgeon who diagnoses her inoperable brain tumor.  The brat’s comeuppance impends from the very opening moments, and drags its heels maddeningly-slowly through this 104 minute star-vehicle.

Miss Judith’s sad predicament would probably have been far more interesting (to me) if Bogart’s moment of egalitarian honesty with her, late in the plod of the plot, had led to the human revelation of reciprocated carnal tension  –  and Brent were a bit of a charlatan, whose matrimonial intentions really revolved around Judy’s enormous financial inheritance &/or her surprising ample rack — and Ronald Reagan’s affable, uppercrust sot had been mercilessly brutalized by everyone capable of inflicting pain on his ass with spurs, blunt force and cramming innumerable riding crops up his dark victory.

I guess I despise this tale’s conspicuously mythic principles:

  1. The lives of ordinary people are terribly insignificant; in keeping with the indefatigable conceit that inherited wealth makes anybody beautiful, adorable and important.
  2. Never tell the whole truth to a person with a limited lifespan.  (Pssst…that’s everyone, so always bullshit your ass off).
  3. Happiness and virtue reside in prolonged denial.
  4. Irish actors (Brent and Fitzgerald) feign haughty Anglo-American accents, while Bogart needs a plebian brogue for no discernible reason.
  5. Always photograph 31-year-old Davis (playing 23) through focus-softening gauze unless you can pull the camera back to Cleveland.  (Tootsie humor)
  6. The best people die alone, finely and with dignity.

Irrational segue into a brighter vane:  After Top Hat and (even more-particularly) Swingtime, Carefree is an enormously disappointing experimental let-down.

Segue 2:  I read somewhere recently that David Suskind cited The Golden Age of Television as having begun in late 1938.  Most everybody else thinks it started ten to fifteen years later.  I think he meant that Orson, Winston and Adolph demonstrated the unlimited and barely-imagined power of broadcast media to rock the planet with panic, confidence and aspiration.  If I’ve caught his drift correctly, it’s an extremely insightful statement about the crass, commercialization of quality entertainment bent to the proprietary ends of the special interests that own it — who aren’t necessarilly vapid assholes, that’s just the role they’ve actually played in the corruption of TV from the transcendentally teletheatricality of Marty, 12 Angry Men and Patterns to Fox News (which might well be Murrow’s worst nightmare).

17 Jun 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dinner?

Scott –

I’ve set aside time for four supporters like you to join me for dinner.

Most campaigns fill their dinner guest lists primarily with Washington lobbyists and special interests.

We didn’t get here doing that, and we’re not going to start now. We’re running a different kind of campaign. We don’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs — we never have, and we never will.

We rely on everyday Americans giving whatever they can afford — and I want to spend time with a few of you.

So if you make a donation today, you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to be one of the four supporters to sit down with me for dinner. Please donate $75 or more today:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

We’ll pay for your flight and the dinner — all you need to bring is your story and your ideas about how we can continue to make this a better country for all Americans.

This won’t be a formal affair. It’s the kind of casual meal among friends that I don’t get to have as often as I’d like anymore, so I hope you’ll consider joining me.

But I’m not asking you to donate today just so you’ll be entered for a chance to meet me. I’m asking you to say you believe in the kind of politics that gives people like you a seat at the table — whether it’s the dinner table with me or the table where decisions are made about what kind of country we want to be.

It starts with a gift of whatever you can afford.  Please make a donation of $75 today, and we’ll throw your name in the hat for the upcoming dinner:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

I’ve said before that I want people like you to shape this campaign from the very beginning — and this is a chance for four people to share their ideas directly with me.

Hope to see you soon,

Barack

No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on 6/30/11. You may enter by contributing to Sponsor through https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-With-Barack. Alternatively, visit http://my.barackobama.com/Dinner-With-Barack-Alt to enter without contributing. Four winners will each receive the following prize package: one round-trip
ticket within the continental U.S. to a destination to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion; hotel accommodations for one; and dinner with President Obama on a date to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion (approximate combined retail value of all prizes $1,075). Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States and District of Columbia and 18 or older (or of majority under applicable law). Promotion subject to Official Rules and additional restrictions on eligibility. Visit http://my.barackobama.com/Dinner-Rules for full details, restrictions, and Official Rules. Sponsor: Obama for America, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601.

ONE DAY LATER 16JUN2011:

Scott –

I’ve worked for President Obama for almost five years — but I’ve never actually sat down for dinner with him.

That’s why I’m excited about (and maybe a little jealous of) the opportunity you have to join the President for dinner.  He’s going to sit down and swap stories over a meal with four supporters, and you could be one of them.

You should really give this a shot. Donate $75 or more today to be automatically entered for the chance to sit down for dinner with the President:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

This isn’t going to be a formal affair or a banquet for hundreds of guests.

It’s just you, three other supporters, and President Obama, sitting down together for an evening among friends.

It’s not often you get to talk to the President one on one about your hopes for the country and your ideas for this campaign. So I hope you’ll put your name in the running.

Donate $75 today, and you’ll be automatically entered for the chance to claim your seat the table:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

Good luck,

Julianna

Julianna Smoot
Deputy Campaign Manager Obama for America

18JUN2011

Scott –

Since we launched our “Dinner with Barack” contest on Wednesday, we’ve been getting asked a lot: “Is this for real?”

Yes, it is.

President Obama is really going to sit down with four supporters for dinner. And if you donate to support this campaign before 11:59 p.m. on June 30th, you’ll be automatically entered for the chance to be one of those guests.

Make a $75 donation today:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

We’re able to put on a contest like this because this campaign isn’t like other campaigns.

The organization we’re building across the country is for supporters like you to help shape. And unlike ones that count on special-interest PACs and Washington lobbyists to foot their bills, we rely on support from grassroots donors like you. So I’m asking you to own a piece of the campaign — and when you do, you’ll get a shot at a once-in-lifetime opportunity to have dinner with the President:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

Thanks,

Rufus

Rufus Gifford
National Finance Director
Obama for America

21JUN2011 6:52 AM

Scott –

The President and I have a routine — we get lunch together almost every Friday.  But all I get is lunch. You could be one of four supporters to have dinner with him soon.

Donate $75 or more today to have your name automatically thrown in the hat here:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner-with-Barack

I’m reminded every week that sitting down for a meal with the President of the United States — without TV cameras or a big crowd — is something only a few people will ever get to do.

You’re not going to want to miss this chance.

I wish you luck,

Joe (Biden)

No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on 6/30/11. You may enter by contributing to Sponsor here. Alternatively, click here to enter without contributing. Four winners will each receive the following prize package: one round-trip ticket within the continental U.S. to a destination to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion; hotel accommodations for one; and dinner with President Obama on a date to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion (approximate combined retail value of all prizes $1,075). Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States and District of Columbia and 18 or older (or of majority under applicable law). Promotion subject to Official Rules and additional restrictions on eligibility. Click here for full details, restrictions, and Official Rules. Sponsor: Obama for America, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601.

Given the eccentricity of my crackpot ideas, they’d probably send me to dinner at Gitmo.

30JUN2011

Scott –

If you’re planning on donating to this campaign at any point in the next 16 months, you should do it now.

Tonight at midnight is not just your last chance to enter the “Dinner with Barack and Joe” contest, it’s also a hugely important fundraising deadline for this campaign — the first time we’ll report on our progress to the public and the press.

The next few hours are critical for us. Please donate $75 or more today:

https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner

Come next fall, people might not remember this date — or make the connection between the strength of our campaign then and the steps we took in these early months.
But anyone worth their salt in politics knows tonight is one of the most important tests we’ll face as a campaign this year. Let’s hit it out of the park.

Thanks,

Jim Messina
Campaign Manager Obama for America

No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on 6/30/11. You may enter by contributing to Sponsor here. Alternatively, click here to enter without contributing. Four winners will each receive the following prize package: one round-trip ticket within the continental U.S. to a destination to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion; hotel accommodations for one; and dinner with President Obama on a date to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion (approximate combined retail value of all prizes $1,075). Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States and District of Columbia and 18 or older (or of majority under applicable law). Promotion subject to Official Rules and additional restrictions on eligibility. Click here for full details, restrictions, and Official Rules. Sponsor: Obama for America, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601

and at 15:30

Scott –

I wanted to say thank you before the midnight deadline passes. And I’m looking forward to thanking four of you in person over dinner sometime soon. If you haven’t thrown your name in the hat yet, make a donation of $75 or more before midnight tonight — you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to be one of our guests.
https://donate.barackobama.com/Dinner
More soon,
Barack
No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on 6/30/11. You may enter by contributing to Sponsor here. Alternatively, click here to enter without contributing. Four winners will each receive the following prize package: one round-trip ticket within the continental U.S. to a destination to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion; hotel accommodations for one; and dinner with President Obama on a date to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion (approximate combined retail value of all prizes $1,075). Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States and District of Columbia and 18 or older (or of majority under applicable law). Promotion subject to Official Rules and additional estrictions on eligibility. Click here for full details, restrictions, and Official Rules. Sponsor: Obama for America, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601.

 

 

02JUL2011

Scott –

I know we’ve been asking a lot of you.  In the first major test of this campaign, you delivered.

More than 475,000 people decided to own a piece of this campaign in just our first quarter — a promising sign of what’s to come if we all stay focused and work together.

We’ll be in touch with more information as we continue to crunch the numbers. But for now, I wanted to pass along a quick video I think you’ll like.

If you missed it, the President held a press conference earlier this week. The last few minutes were really something special. It’s a good reminder of why we’re fighting so hard to get him re-elected:

Watch the President give a nice reminder of what we're fighting forhttp://my.barackobama.com/Thank-You

Thanks again. Hope you have a great holiday weekend.

Messina

Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

26SEP2011

 

Scott –

Here’s something you don’t have in common with 140 other supporters of this movement who tell us they live in Foster City, CA.

That many of your neighbors have decided to own a piece of this campaign by making a donation of whatever they could afford. For some, that meant just $5. For others, it meant $100 or more. But each had their own personal reason for giving.

Our records show that you aren’t one of the 140 people where you’re from who have stepped up for 2012. Now’s your chance to change that.

Make a donation of $25 or more today to support the campaign before the critical September 30th deadline.

Here’s why you should join your neighbors in supporting this campaign: We’ve been running the numbers, and with hundreds of thousands of individual donors across the country — we are now well on our way to a million people.

In the 2008 campaign, it took us more than a year to reach that milestone. This time around, we could cross it as soon as October — just six months after the launch of the campaign.

Between now and then, we have an important fundraising deadline.

Our opponents have significant operations on the ground in key battleground states, full-time candidates without day jobs, and a lot of media attention to fuel their campaigns.

President Obama has you. And when you’re building a grassroots organization from the bottom up, the first person gets the next one involved. And the first 140 provide the foundation and inspiration for the next 140.

Support the campaign before the deadline, and bring us closer to one million donors — give $25 today:

https://donate.barackobama.com/One-in-a-Million

Thank you,

Messina

Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

15 Jun 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.