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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

…On District 9.

Posted by Steve on August 17, 2009

I’m very glad I went to see District 9 Friday night. And I’m glad I went to see it again yesterday. I wanted more after the first time, and yesterday I gave myself more – and at the same time, got to notice all sorts of little things I’d missed the first time. The sorts of rich backgrounds of a truly well-made film. Which, this most certainly is. It’s the most imaginative sci-fi movie I’ve seen in years – as far as I can remember, at least since Dark City. It’s intelligent, it’s a thrilling action movie, it’s emotionally gripping, and in the best traditions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, it is honest in portraying the deep and rudimentary flaws in human nature – in a way, like Children of Men. And indeed, I predict that like Children of Men, it will be horribly snubbed come the Academy Awards: I doubt it will be nominated for the Best Picture it will deserve to win, and I doubt Sharlto Copley will be considered for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

So be it. All I can say before we go to happy-cut-tag-land to prevent spoilers, is: Go see this movie. It is amazing. And remember, “A smile is cheaper than a bullet!”.

Actually, before the cut, I’ll add something else. The woman “E” who wrote this review displays a lamentable ignorance of human history. I agree that the movie contains a level of gore that will disgust many people (though going to a movie with Peter Jackson’s name so prominently associated with it, you should expect gore. Being surprised by gore in a movie associated with Peter Jackson is like being surprised by fart and Jew jokes in a movie associated with Mel Brooks), and there is horrific barbarism (though in my opinion, there is justice meted out and redemption had), which was unsettling even to me the first time. But to watch the movie and say “[I] was insulted that they tried to make that comparison” is equivalent to watching Children of Men and saying “I was insulted that the movie suggested prison guards would put a prisoner in a black hood and garbage-bag cloak, stick him on a box, and string him up with wires“. Considering that the movie pulled the details straight out of real events – as I will explain in spoilering form below the cut – you should not be insulted. If anything, you should be ashamed of your limited knowledge of actual human history.

Read the rest of this entry »

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…On watching Watchmen.

Posted by Steve on March 6, 2009

I watched the 12:50 showing of Watchmen today. I haven’t ever read the comics (written by Alan Moore and some other guy who actually let his name be put in the credits), so I don’t know how good an adaptation it is.

I just know what sort of a movie it is.

It is an amazing movie. It is a human movie. It is a beautiful movie.

Oh, its world is grimy and dark, its superheros are a mix of the bloodthirsty, the callous, and the apathetic. In its world righteousness and cruelty are inextricable. It insinuates that people’s love for each other is rarely more than just lust’s lee from an Arrakeen storm of isolation and despair. The Pandoran hope it holds out for humanity is based upon lies and slaughter.

Oh, this superhero movie is human!

And watching it played havoc with my emotions. I should have been able to feel the full measure of disgust at its more gruesome and twisted moments. I should have been able to feel the full measure of awe at its more awe-inspiring moments (on an aside, it makes wonderful use of Koyaanisqatsi with a brilliant splicing of “Pruit Igoe” into “Prophecies”. It never hurts to borrow from the single greatest film score ever. Actually, in general this made great use of music, including Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). I should have been able to feel the full pathos at its declaration of the one true miracle in the universe. But for the most part, I felt a feeling of failure. A particular, individualized failure, not the ever-present low grade “toothache” sort of failure felt from believing that the characters Rorschach (who is as much an Avatar of idealized justice as he is a man) and Ozymandias are both to significant degree philosophically right. No, this is a feeling of personal failure. The sort of bone-deep sense of inadequacy that comes from answering questions about envy: Who do you envy? What do you envy? Why do you have to envy it?

When Batman Begins came out, I watched it several times in the theaters because it was a spectacular movie. But, much as I loved it, I went home afterwards feeling bad about myself every time. In comparison to Batman, well… Batman is not someone I could compare myself favorably to then, and he isn’t someone I can compare myself favorably to now. Batman is strong. Batman is inspiring. Batman is motivated to push himself successfully in the service of a great purpose. When you get right down to it, Batman is someone I would much, much rather be than be me.

Batman is a far nobler superhero than the superheros of Watchmen. Far more deserving of the “I wish I were that. I should be that.” sort of respectful envy that I feel towards so many fictional characters (and believe me, that sort of embarrassing admission, far more than any concerns over potential professional, legal, or interpersonal consequences, is the reason I avoid personally identifiable information and the use of my last name with this blog). Of course, though the Watchmen are so much less pure than Batman, I’m also less now than I was then. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

Perhaps it’s wrong of me to watch superhuman feats of martial arts and condemn myself for the inability to replicate them. But then, I am morbidly obese, and in the past few weeks where unemployment’s given me far too much time on my hands I haven’t corrected that. Surely, then, my condemnation is deserved.
Perhaps it’s wrong of me to watch suicidally unwavering commitment to a cause & course of action and condemn myself for lacking such dedication. But then, I’ve never finished any of those books I started writing, and in the past few weeks where unemployment’s given me far too much time on my hands I haven’t corrected that. Surely, then, my condemnation is deserved.

Strange thing about it is, these characters I compare myself to so unfavorably, well… unlike several of them, I have never murdered innocents or passively witnessed such. Surely that makes me a better man than they. But what of it? To paraphrase Chris Rock, “Whaddya want? A cookie? You’re not supposed to murder innocents, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!” Or to quote the Confiteor, “I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.”

The characters of Watchmen deserve opprobrium for their sins of commission. I, for sins of omission. The absence of power is every bit as unworthy of respect as the misuse of power. These characters intersperse power used for ill with power used for good. I just don’t have any power, for good or ill. I lack will-power, and watching Watchmen required me for a few hours to stop burying that in my mind and trying to avoid it – and its implications – in my consciousness.

Soon enough, that will pass. Like the masses in Watchmen, I will bow my head to the weight of my inadequacy and shoulder on through the life of my own making. For as this movie tells us, to those great enough, the world’s smartest man might as well be the world’s smartest termite – and I am not the world’s smartest man.

I am, however, rambling. So to take away: Watchmen, good movie and accurate portrayal of the essence of humanity. Me, real person – but not one I’m proud of.

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…On Grizzley-Man and Grizzly Man.

Posted by Steve on August 5, 2008

Once upon a time, I was a high school student (along with Ames of Submitted to a Candid World). And during my days as a high school student, I took many classes, one of which was 10th grade physics (ditto Ames). During these days as a high school student, I was “that kid”. You know, the one who finishes the hour-long test in about 10 or 15 minutes, gets an A, and talks about how he hadn’t studied any? Yeah. Ultimately that caught up to me, and I finally failed a class while I was in grad school, but that’s what happens when you never go to class, do homework, or even bother showing up for the final exam. Where was I? Oh, yes. In this 10th Grade Physics class, I finished a test after about 15 minutes. For reasons known only to him, the teacher, a tall thin man who wore long thin ties, would not let me turn the test in yet. So, I doodled on it. In the process, I created a super-hero: Grizzley-Man. Half grizzley-bear, half human, he looks more like a sasquatch-Gumby with jagged limbs and a gaping saw-toothed mouth (because I draw for shit) than an actual hybrid of Ursus arctos horribilis and Homo sapiens sapiens really would. According to the legend I made up for him, he was created in a secret Soviet lab by splicing human and grizzly bear DNA and accordingly has consciousness, intelligence, opposable thumbs, giant claws and teeth, a need to hibernate, a love for salmon, 59 chromosomes, and massive size and strength. My physics teacher hated him. I have long toyed with the idea of writing a comic book or novel about him and his adventures (he dates Russian supermodels).

Need I mention I find bears fascinating? They’re so cute looking while at the same time looking like the godless killing machines they are.

All this taken together, it was perhaps inevitable that I would watch Grizzly Man. That I did tonight. It’s an interesting film. Obviously, the nature footage is gorgeous. The people in the film, well, some struck me as a bit off-kilter, though perhaps it’s job-related that a coroner describes deaths in an emotional state that defies easy description. Perhaps…

As for the man himself, Timothy Treadwell, well… I don’t know what was in the 99 hours of footage he’d taped that Warner Herzog cut, and I don’t know what went on during the thousands of other hours (13 summers * 3 months a summer * 30 days a month* that wretched song from Rent…) he spent with bears in Alaska. But in the footage Herzog cut together after Treadwell was eaten, something stuck out in my mind: for all that he spoke of himself as being wild and the bears being wild, he acted as though the nature around him had been tamed and domesticated. Partially true, actually, in the case of some foxes. But… he speaks of the bears as wild. He isn’t ever shown treating the bears as wild.

Regardless, a very interesting movie.

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…On Seeing The Dark Knight

Posted by Steve on July 18, 2008

I went to see The Dark Knight today after work. I’ll say nothing about the movie, except that though I liked it a great deal, I didn’t feel like I was watching a Batman movie so much as I was watching a movie about The Joker. That could just be an effect of Mr. Ledger’s outstanding performance. Watching him is, indeed, gripping.

Before the previews started, the screen was blank and there was no sound. I liked that. Not that I go to movies often, but I wish when I did, I weren’t being deluged with ads, inane movie trivia, and “behind the scenes featurettes” (longer ads) until the previews started. Strangely, though, this one also came without any sort of “Please turn your cell phones off and keep your mouth shut” sort of message before the previews or the movie. I was pretty certain those came standard.

Instead of ads, I got to listen to two guys a few rows behind me talking about movie musicals. And then, of course, there were previews. The two main things I took away from those were these:

  1. There is to be a 4th Terminator movie, and little could be gleaned about it except that it appears Christian Bale is John Connor. This is, people, a good thing. Christian Bale has made roles work that really had no business working at all (see Equilibrium). He can be an action star, but his characters aren’t all identical, and he can pick his movies. Plus the guy can seriously act for real: take a watch of The Machinist if you don’t believe me. Now, this new Terminator… I wonder if it’ll be tied into the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show. That show… I watched the season, and I thought it… well, it’s trying to be well-written, thought-out, quality sci-fi. Not always succeeding, but definitely in the “A for Effort” category. One particular reason I hope the movie’s tied to the show is that the show has made the good decision to ignore Terminator 3 and pretend it never happened. Since that movie turned into self-parody so very, very quickly, I’d say ignoring it is in the best interests of the franchise.
  2. There is to be another Mummy movie. I only ever saw the first one. Not real excited about it… except it kinda piques my interest just because it has the ever-watchable Michelle Yeoh. I realize her martial arts credentials are strictly limited to what’s been choreographed for her movies, though that’s not peculiar: many stars have likewise simply been dancers and stunt performers rather than actual martial artists in the Bruce Lee/Dolph Lundgren vein. Nonetheless, the woman portrays dignity incredibly well, and I maintain that she totally out-sexied Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – in part because of that dignity and gravitas she brings to her roles.

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