Archive for the 'Movies' Category

14
Aug
08

cod and chuck klosterman: both baked [2/2]

In an earlier post, which can now be found in WordPress’s “classic posts hall of fame”, I discussed Cod – capital C. The fish, not the Cape. For Capes, I refer the reader to “Capes, Superman”, an excellent Wikipedia article on the subject. No, no, the cod, the fish, the bland yet aromatic hunk of flakes and breading that recently seduced my wife and me, and entered us into a Menage A Trois. Menage A Trout? I can barely manage my own mental stability! HAHAHA.

The title of that, and this post, referred to Chuck Klosterman. He of many hats. Stoner sportsman. Expositive non-fiction/fiction mashup writer. A Burroughs who writes about Britney Spears’s vagina, and her place on Gene Simmon’s “To-do list” of cunniliguist conquests. Compelling stuff.

Was titling these posts merely a grab for more pageviews. A spamming of the tag system? A disgusting attempt to trick and draw in ignorant readers to my web of jarbarfing? Partially. But it was admittedly not as flagrant as tagging my post “naked girls”. I have, and will continue, to do this. Houston rap forever!

You see kids, when I’m eating baked cod, I like to read the works of a baked cad. Klosterman fits the bill. And as such, I just finished reading his book “Killing Yourself To Live”, which is by his own admission 85 percent true, and 85 percent padding. I’m worn out and not motivated enough to give a scene by scene rundown of the book. In fact, I enjoyed his first book “Fargo Rock City” much more. I found it in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble. The bargain bin continues to be one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life. My furniture is exclusively from the “dumpster collection”.

“Fargo Rock City”, a collection of essays about heavy metal, its legitimacy as bastard heir to the 1980’s Kingdom of Rock, and the Knights in Simple Service of loving that Kingdom is a fun read. It was my introduction to Chuckie K and his apparently world-famous take on pop culture. I immediately ordered his other three books and cherished the thought of flying through them. Unfortunately, “Killing Yourself To Live” kind of… hangs itself. It’s not a bad book, and it may very well be better written than his first. But the subject matter is more personal, less “tongue in cheek”, more “hand on chin”. I put the book down after thoroughly not really enjoying the first half. Recently I finished it. Between those two periods of time, I’ve moved, bought a new car, and done a whole lot of growing. I wouldn’t say I’ve done any incredible emotional maturity in the interim. I haven’t tripped on mushrooms or discovered a whole new worldview. But for some reason, the second time around this book was more palpable. I may re-read it just because I do sincerely enjoy and admire Klosterman’s writing, even if sometimes he throws in a few too many asides. Asides always punctuated by “ANYWAY”.

So that’s out of the way. The book is off the porch, and in its stead is Philip Lapote’s “Totally, Tenderly, Tragically”, a book that appears to be a pretty damn serious collection of film criticism. I’m only a few essays in, but thus far Lapote’s juvenalia (Is the book arranged chronologically? Shouldn’t have skipped the introduction!) alone makes me realize just how out of my league. Not only in knowledge of cinema, which is heart-breakingly apparent, but essaying in general. Composition. Clarity of thought. Coherence.

It’s going to be a long night…

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10
Jul
08

Flixster: Everyone Loves Shrek

Here’s some listening material while you put your pants on

There was a time, not so long ago, when I was on top of Internet Trends. Some of this was just because I was young, angry and full of energy to expend on completely pointless tasks. (Like this blog? Asshole.) But another reason was that I’d mine this log of URLs vomited by the zeitgeist for ideas to write about for this magazine I used to work at. Back then there wasn’t any Digg or similar sites to spread viral activity like the bathrooms at the Paradise Garage. You could actually get paid for finding stupid, marginally interesting internet memes and writing about them in a print magazine. Maybe you still can, but back then it didn’t seem like you were TOTALLY stealing money by just copying and pasting your browser history into a textfile and throwing your byline on it.

Since then, the internet has (d)evolved. Anyone under 25 with a passing interest in remaining “connected” is guaranteed to know what’s the hottest YouTube video of the moment. In fact, me even believing YouTube is still cutting edge shows how completely lame I’ve become. I’m sure there are dozens of more in-your-face, bleeding edge sites for people to get their LOLs on. When I visit 4chan or similar web forums, I’m literally lost. Clicking on links trying to find my way around makes me nauseous. Helen Keller thinks I’m a herb. Do people still even use the term “herb”? For reference it means “sucker duck”.

So it’s with equal parts excitement, interest and confusion that I joined Flixster. Flixster is a “social networking site”, you know, like Friendster or Orkut, oriented around movies. It’s IMDB with herpes, and I’m kinda digging it.

There’s some problems with it:

Everyone on the site is 13 years old and/or mentally handicapped. This means everything is either rated 5 out of 5 stars, or 1 out of 5 stars. There is no middle ground in their ratings. Luckily, these ratings tend to balance out, so you’re stuck with Citizen Kane and Batman: Ice Dude’s Revenge staring each other down at 3 stars. This is common on ratings based systems. People, in general, are horribly retarded and it’s a great thing that the most power we give them in life is the right to vote in elections and on internet movie sites. For now, voting requires leaving the house, this ensures politicians can sometimes build roads that just don’t go The Mall. But I digress.

You know what? I’m already bored with writing this. I was bored with the concept of Flixster two days ago, which was about 10 hours after I joined. Hahaha. Unfortunately I can’t continue this farce of a blog post. The end.

Here’s my profile.

17
May
08

A Memento for your thoughts

Memento. Mindfuck of a plot twist front to back, headache, black and white, not-quite-noir but sort of, celebration of the tattoo industry, film. Or so it would paint itself. And according to The Internet Movie Databaseit’s also the 27th best movie of all time (currently) – a pretty lofty pedestal. It sits nestled between North By Northwest and Sunset Blvd, two films that have been universally lauded for decades. I know I’ve seen both of these, films but I can’t recall either. For the sake of blogeristic integrity, maybe I should re watchthem, take notes, and get the key ideas tattooed on my pectorals. Theoretically, one is supposed to do their homework. But I’m comfortable withcribbing this. For better or for worse, I nearly always am. Still, I’m, at the very least, 99% confident that my following assessment of Memento’s place amongst the legends, nay, the TITANS OF CINEMA is accurate. Statements that follow should henceforth be considered canonical.

Before that though, a little something about numbers, and charts and all those great things we nerds obsess over like Britney Spear’s lyric sheets.

Obviously, something’s very out of wack about rating systems these days. While I realize everything is ultimately partially subjective, we’re veering towards lawless averages here. “The Average” has been completely devalued is no longer a function in relation to mean. We, as a culture, have apparently evolved to  a popular mode where the following occurs. Nine stoned teenagers give “The Crow” a perfect 10 out of 10 score. One curmudgeon like me scores it a 5 (or perhaps a 6 if we *really* analyze the cinematography or set design). And somewhere in Oklahoma a retarded midget uses pig shit to scrawl a big, backwards 1 on a Wal-Mart circular, drops it in the mailbox addressed to “Santa C/O The North Pole”. He then locks in his vote by posting a series of spam comments in some online message forums declaring the return of Adolf Hitler. Somehow the midget and I cancel each other out (if I had a nickel…) and dreams of nine kids in G-Unit jerseys are fulfilled.

Weirdly, I was just reading a new-to-the-market computer game review magazine my father had given me, and they went into a similiarspiel as way of editorial introduction. The premise: “Everything else you’ve read about Halo 2 is wrong! Get ready for hard hitting PC gaming journalism. All of you with something to hide beware – This is will be our Watergate!” Also, they want to publish semi-scholarly articles on the gaming industry in their pages. Using this approach, they hope to return legitimacy to their beloved art form: the computer game review periodical. Ultimately this magazine will fail. The editor and staff will end up pulling out their hair, burning down their houses and slitting their wrists in their bathtubs before knocking their purposely plugged-in laptops into the water. Somewhere a toaster oven and hair dryer will unite, mourn their obselecence, have a brief fling in Paris, sire an illigitimate electric nose trimmer, name him Luc. They will then enter into a suicide pact, down a mixture of overproofed ryed and sleeping pills, and watch the ships on the Seine one last time.

I blame all of this on a major shift to non-competitive rule making in Little League, the spread of The Internet, and Womens’ right to vote. Only the last of these was a partial joke. The rest have magnified the ugliest facets of Democracy and shoved them down my throat. By “my” I mean “We, the intellectual elite”.

Honestly, this is just all piss and vinegar. Sure, Memento was ok but it was not, by any stretch of the IQ=90 imagination an 8.6 out of 10. There is no way it is legitimately in any half-serious film aficionado’s top 100 list.  Let alone #27. Odds are, I could personally find 27 Santo movies that are more awesome. Honestly, would you want to be stranded on a desert island with only Memento, a portable generator, a plasma screen, a region free DVD player with XviD support, some Bose speakers, and a Harmony universal remote to control it all? I might.

I’m sure the less discerning viewer mostly salivates over the “unique” plot structure. You know, the reversal of steps that forces the chiseled protagonist to strip to the waist, bronze up, and ink a series of instructions to himself lest he forget he needs to avenge his wife’s murder. (I will gloss over the impossibility of a man handsome enough to be a leading man settling for a diabetic wife. You have to suspend disbelief somewhere. It is essential when watching film).

OK, that’s fair enough. It was clever, but under scrutiny not *that* clever. Going backwards in time, step by step, is fine and all, but the linearity of the reverse plotting is opaquely traditional when you look at it. The plot itself progresses from point A to B like that thing we all love, “reality”, does. It just does so in little chunks that are put out of place. Not even out of place in a honestly baffling way, like trying to remember your childhood when drunk at Christmas. Just out of place in a novelty way, like “grr, where are my car keys!?”. Ultimately, this premise, the modernistic creation of ones own reality through rearranging ones memory, doesn’ t hold up. In the end, it is revealed as nothing more then superficial plot device. The wife’s dead, drug dealers are dicks, and in Hollywood anti-heros are always grim, badasses with scars, stubble and chips on their shoulders. Everything and everybody gets “solved” with guns. A man has a hard enough time trying to figure out “reality” alone in the car of a drug dealer he just killed, without having to recite cliched lines of dialogue someone wrote for him. Through all of this, the protagonist is a tattooed bouncing ball we follow, reciting the words: “Why is this rated so high? Why is this rated so high?”

Still, I don’t think it’s on the contrary I gave the film a 7/10 score. To me that’s a bit above average, like the OK looking girl surrounded by fat friends at an Irish wake. The acting was serviceable. Again, like the OK looking girl….

Guy Pearce is the lean, pointy haired good guy gone bad boy killer, Joe Pantoliano the goofy, amiable but nefarious glimmer of possible hope who never pans out, and Carrie-Anne Moss the one-sided, snake venomed, transparent diner-trash set piece. And they all played their rolls as the director undoubtedly asked of them. Problem is, characters in Tide commercials have established more pathos with me.

So yeah, long rant. I can’t say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this taut little mystery. But as mysteries go, I’ve seen better. It’s a good film, and obviously well worth a watch. It was midnight. I had a comfortable beach chair to sit in, a bag of chips, and a tall glass of water. There wasn’t much else going on at the time… Like that OK looking girl I was talking about earlier.

12
May
08

Super High Me: Decent

Well, it took a couple of daysbut I finally finished watching the pirated screener of the new Comementary “Super High Me” tonight. Starring Doug Benson as “Himself”, the film follows his Super Size Me homage to marijuana. The premise is to chronicle the events of 30 days without inhaling (marijuana smoke), then 30 days of constant 24/7 fo’shizzlism. Benson’s a pretty funny guy I guess. Something about the whole “Comedians of Comedy” circuit rubs me the wrong way, and I guess it’s mostly its reliance on cynicism and the gross-out that does it. Benson doesn’t really fall into this too much, and in the movie most of his standup is related to the pot experiment so it’s pretty tame by cutting edge Comedy Central standards.

The movie doesn’t prove all that much. In that regard it’s kind of like “Super Size Me”. But unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t really take itself too serious, which kind of makes what agenda it does have more palpable. I’m sure stoners and liberals and college kids will love this movie. A good number of reformed, responsible adults probably will view it with a certain favorable nostalgia as well. Me, I liked it even though I swear I see a certain horrible desperation in Doug’s eyes around day 6 of his smoking binge. And it’s a desperation that I can relate to too well sometimes, and that makes me uncomfortable.

For the 99% of people to whom that certain hitch won’t be a problem: I’m sure this is a pretty damn good party movie.

To me, it was just a decent way to kill a slow couple of nights at work.

6/10

23
Apr
08

Helter Shelter

First off, I’d like to guarantee that the title of this post will go down in history. It is clever pun smithing at its finest. No one has ever come up with that combination of words before. That being said, the field of artistic criticism is dead. Bury its ashes and puke on its grave.

Over the course of two nights at work (gotta pace myself), I watched the Rolling Stones documentary “Gimme Shelter”.  Evidentally this had a Criterion release. That signifies two important things.  First, as I’m on a personal mission to archive all the Criterion releases (legitimately) for my HTPC this movie has “Come To My Attention”.  To me, this reason is the most important reason for the film’s existence, and also the only reason I watched it. Honestly, I’ve heard of the film before, and had some friends with generally sound opinions in movies recommend it, but come on, the Stones? I was never really that hyped.

Aye mate, shit\'s gawn get rowdy!

Secondly, Criterion typically remasters and publishes “important films”. In the nerdosphere, this is sometimes called The Criterion Treatment. This is similar to the Anchor Bay Treatment, but not as wildly regarded. Why? I don’t know. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of films are worthy of this “treatment”. This is debatable I guess;it’s ends up being a lot like inflation. Sure most of these movies are more interesting then the dreck that hits the IMDB 250 during the always ridiculous period right after a popular film is released (Batman Forever). But damn, it’s getting kind of hard to automatically assume you’re going to enjoy a movie because it has the Criterion label.  Sure, the work in question will undoubtedly be important to film in some way. The acting will probably be good. Cinematography is going to lean towards well structured and engaging. There probably won’t be that many explosions, or bus chases.  But the Criterion label could one day become the equivalent of Peruvian currency: too much of a good thing.  I honestly doubt it, but I have to pretend to say something halfway interesting on here…

Aside: It’s a toss up which I’d rather watch, an Anchor Bay (eff Starz) or Criterion release. Nine times out of ten, Anchor Bay’s Evil Dead would win. The tenth time I’d find myself watching 7 Samurai and thinking “Holy shit, this is long… but somehow that’s ok”.

Anyway, I ended up watching this film. I was really tired. I turned off the lights at work to better view my laptop screen.  Shit was getting mystic and otherworldly.  A raven perched on my cubicle.

After the fact, a couple of things strike me. The Rolling Stones had some pretty interesting lyrics. I’m not much of a “classic rock” guy. During my formative years I listened to bleeps and bloops and the occasional post punk noisy caterwaul band. I grew up on electronica, wav files and porn with a .gl file extension. The Rolling Stones were something my dad would turn up to 11 in the mini-van and screech along to: Jumping Jack Flash in particular. Even though this film isn’t really about the Stones, I came away with a more then casual interest in their lyrics.  For instance, the opening lyrics to “Sympathy for the Devil”, the song which famously and tragically starts their set at Altamont:

Im a man of wealth and taste
Ive been around for a long, long year
Stole many a mans soul and faith
And I was round when jesus christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around st. petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

Now, that’s actually… lyrical. And smart. I mean, its not mind-bendingly obscure, or vague and existential. It’s straightforward and captures a theme with imagery that becomes metaphorical. It’s good Rock N Roll. It’s good songwriting. And it’s a lot better then most of what I remember Jim Morrison coming up with.

So the blessed event of this release is that they subtitled it. Without these subtitles I doubt I’d have been able to catch any of the lyrics. In general, I’m not strong with song lyrics anyway. I thought the chorus to Old McDonald went “G.I. G.I. Joe”. But even what my malformed, cauliflower ears couldn’t hear, my cataract covered, near blind eyes could see. Honestly, this left me begging the question, “what is this band doing singing to hippies at a race track in California?” These lyrics are about the Blues (capital B). Memphis row house girls grinding on daddy’s lap, that type of thing. Contrast this with the Jefferson Airplane’s performance earlier in the film and their singer’s peaceful, spaced-out calls for calm and you get a pretty good idea why Flower Power never really worked like Soul Power, Power to the People, or even Shania Twain did. The whole situation was absurd.

Which is where it all goes wrong. Somewhere on the web, I read a review that called “Gimme Shelter” one of the most compelling horror movies the author had seen. Before I viewed the film, this struck me as hyperbole. Afterwards, I absolutely agree. The film reaches an early climax when we finally get to Altamont. We see the promoters push the show through all it’s well chronicled difficulties. Hippies are compared to lemmings. Even though the concert was free, the smell of huge amounts of money and exploitation are drifting in the air. This event is doomed from the beginning, and a claustrophobic feeling of dread builds like a cold sweat.

During the show, masses of hippies writhe, undress, fuck, go bug-eyed and hallucinate. The editing intersperses scenes of calm with scenes of impeding violence. Watching the second half of this film is a stress test. It’s like being in a dark room waiting to be hit by a hammer. Images of stoned out youth partying their brains out take on sinister, primeval undertones. In a way, this is conservative propaganda at its most subversive.

I hadn’t slept in almost a day, and was tripping right along with the crowd. It was terrifying man! I’ve actually been to raves that are like this, and retrospectively it’s just absolutely crazy that every single event where more then 10 people are crowded together for more then two hours doesn’t end in unrelenting destruction. I guess that’s the point of this documentary and why Criterion picked it up for release.

I hated to do it, but I gave it an 8 out of 10 on IMDB. Perhaps the second most terrifying horror film starring hippies after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.