Saturday, June 29, 2013

Question for the Week of June 24-30: Levine the Machine

As I noted last week (and a month ago), I probably have to sideline these Question entries so I can recharge and come up with material more like those that I had when I started doing this: the senselessness of Donovan's plan in Last Crusade, the improbability of Hugh Grant's role in so many of his romcoms, and why entertainment comes up with the dumbest, most ill-informed scientific ideas ever. Fortunately, inspiration is never far away.

Films are just one of my interests, but I chose to blog about it because I find it easy to discuss. So yesterday, in talking about an old favorite with a coworker, I suddenly got struck with a Question like the old ones, a Question that isn't just "my favorite X":
In Glengarry Glen Ross, why does Shelly Levine lose his ability to banter and lie with the office manager?
David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross has been well-received since it premiered as a play in 1983; I'm not just talking about people loving the piece - it won Mamet the freaking Pulitzer Prize. The 1992 film adaptation is also widely-loved. People quote Alec Baldwin so often, despite his appearance lasting maybe 3 minutes. Hell, for a movie about 7 men, it is a bit surprising how many women know the dialogue and adore the picture. I won't even start to try to review it here...

If you're familiar with the film (if not, stop reading and watch it asap), then you know what happens at the end: the realtor's office which is the pic's main setting has been burgled overnight. It's morning now, and Kevin Spacey, playing John, the office manager, walks into the middle of a conversation and ruins everything. Al Pacino's uber-salesman, Ricky Roma, is trying to keep Jonathan Pryce's broken family man, James, from canceling a real estate contract James signed the night before. Roma is, effectively, conning James. John sees the distraught James and informs everyone that the bank has already received the deal. This blows the sale altogether.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Subway Tagger Zings Jack the Giant Slayer

If you don't know much about New York City - specifically, us long-time natives, as opposed to some of the transplants who just don't quite get the vibe of this town - we tend to have an openness to us. We feel invited, in general, to talk to our fellow city-dwellers, and to comment on the things that we see around us.

Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn't come from a sense of superiority, but rather from a sense that we're all equal enough to give each other a hard time or to feel free speaking to our fellow men and women. It usually comes from a positive place, although you might get called out for things you do, and in a less-than-pleasant way.

I have to appreciate the sense of humor displayed by the random person who marked up the poster for Jack the Giant Slayer. It's extremely succinct - 3 words, no curses - avoids juvenile humor, and I do agree with what it points out:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bill Murray Skydiving Fantasticness

If you've been checking out this site since late last year, you know I have respect and affection for Bill Murray - he has his own tag here, which is rare for me. And, really, everyone should love this guy. He's basically the only comedian from my younger days who never really "lost it" - lost his comedic mojo and ability to make people laugh (see for comparison Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey (mostly)...).

And, as an amateur comedian myself (so many people have asked why I won't do standup), I must love the fact that this guy seems to live a healthy and happy life. Only Jerry Seinfeld has fewer known "dark periods." George Carlin had to go in for alcohol and Vicodin rehab at 68, embarrassing to occur at such a late time in his life. And many comics - for whom Dave Attell is basically the posterboy - are dark, unhappy folks who are never really joking about being bitter drunks or drug addicts - their comedy genuinely reflects a deep anger/self-loathing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Aliens Rap

3 and a half years. Seriously, robomayhem's vid has been around for 3.5 years and I only heard about this two weeks ago. How did such an oversight happen?

It's not perfect, keeping more in the style of rap that the UK's The Streets are known for, but still, this is a fun way to remember a truly phenomenal film. It's not from laziness, I simply need say no more, so enjoy, please:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Upstream Color Review

I can't draw worth a damn, but I've always diagrammed pretty well. Often my wife, La Chiquita, will ask me what the hell is going on in a movie, and if I can't sum it up in 25 words or less, I'll sometimes reach for the little whiteboard we keep in the kitchen to provide a timeline or other visual aid.

Not one of my diagrams, obviously (thanks XCKD!).

Some years ago, Shane Carruth's Primer went beyond my plot comprehension skills. The film, about the nightmare that necessarily results from the discovery of time travel as characters go back to the past, creating alternate timeline upon alternate timeline in the process. Primer was a strange movie in that the plotting felt so rock-solid, even though I could hardly tell you what was going on from scene to scene. At one point I resolved to rent the film and spend a weekend poring over it, Zapruder-film style, acetate board in hand, until I understood its secrets. Alas, I discovered that other fans had taken the trouble to do this, and their diagram alone makes me happy I didn't try. For a simpler explanation, this one helps:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reviewing with Others, Pt. 41: N.A.S.A.: The Spirit of Apollo

I watched the indie music documentary N.A.S.A.: The Spirit of Apollo several times. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but the movie was a little challenging to review - part of that was due to its relatively short duration, and part of it was due to my reaction to the music it showcased.

Fortunately, I was able to work it all out and review the movie. If you'd like to learn my thoughts on this artist's commune, just check out this link to my review.

Update: I had to wait until the post went live before I could get a link; as of 10:35am, the link is up.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Question for the Week of June 17-23: Won't Watch Ever

I nearly had to declare the weekly Questions over. I haven't received any new requests in a while, and I have three draft entries that are stalled out (read: it'd take a while to finish them). But, as I was thinking about how I don't want to do any more "what's your favorite X" entries for a long time, it came to me:
What movies are on your personal "banned" list? What are you never going to watch?
Well, I think I've made clear a few times that I don't care about genre - romantic comedies, drama, horror, action - are all treated equally by me. I review movies about lifestyles that are not my own. I prefer reading subtitles for foreign works.

Sure, I've taken to claiming that I won't knowingly see depressing fare unless I have someone to hug afterwards (no, really, no Dancer in the Dark or Million Dollar Baby), but that rule actually has an exception. I'm an egalitarian, and so that attitude must extend to the films I see. A good review might even get me to watch movies by people I gave up on like Oliver Stone, Brian DePalma, and Takashi Miike.

All that aside, there are many films which I do not want to watch and will actively avoid seeing. Even for free, my time, patience, and interest is not infinite. Someone wants to pay me to do this? Fine. But if not, then never, because I will have to put my differences aside and be open-minded. Though I recently admitted that my film education is not complete, I have enough experience with movies to feel comfortable with these choices:

Irréversible - This movie is famous for many things: events apparently transpire backwards, so you see the end first, then the scene before the end, all the way up until you reach the ending of the film, which shows the chronological beginning of its events. Nifty as that is, people say that its central rape scene is brutal and awful, and I really, really, really hate those.

There's a reason I have a Sexual Violence tag on this site, to warn people that a movie has the sort of footage that can be extremely difficult to watch. Hell, it's actually happened to so many people in real life, and I don't think seeing it on-screen would be very... edifying for victims of same.

Also, it sounds as if there is a fight in the movie that might be as repugnant as the sex assault. Between the former and the latter, I am left with no compelling reason to watch this pic.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hannibal and Hannibal and Hannibal

When it came out, the Silence of the Lambs was one of my favorite films. It was the rare favorite where my appreciation matched the critical acclaim--the film swept the major Oscars that year, becoming the first and so far only horror film to win a Best Picture Oscar. The two leads, Jodie Foster as intrepid FBI trainee Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, the imprisoned serial killer who helps her solve a big case won Best Actress and Actor, respectively.  It was a de facto sequel to a movie I'd liked when I was younger--Michael Mann's Manhunter--and after seeing the film, I went back and devoured the Thomas Harris novels Silence and Manhunter were based on, Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. The books were actually better than the movies. I was hooked.

About ten years later--Harris is one of those guys who takes his sweet time between books--a sequel to Silence was announced, with the rather obvious title of Hannibal.  The movie deal for Hannibal was secured before the book was written, and supposedly the principals from the movie gave Harris feedback on the book, pre-release.

In Hannibal, something horrible happened to the evil Dr. Lecter. He got Lestated.

Yeah, talking about this guy.

WARNING: Beyond this point there be SPOILERS for the film (and book) Hannibal, and light spoilers for other works in the Hannibal Lecter franchise. Aside from one light spoiler about the pilot of the TV show Hannibal, I leave that unspoiled.

Quick Update: Schedule

And it's all good news! So:
I figured out what was causing posts to publish in early draft format, so that shouldn't be a problem again.
I added a contact email to the Token "About Me" Stuff section of the How To Use Net-flixation page.
Today, DJ will grace us with his 3rd post of the year, set to publish in about 20 minutes. I'm not familiar with the topic - TV's Hannibal - but his writing is great, as always.
An hour ago, I managed to think up a good Question for this week, so I'll post that over the weekend.
This weekend will see a return to nice, regular Reviewing with Others entries, which have been difficult because I've had a basement flood 2 or 3 times, along with other obligations.

Enjoy the ride, everybody!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Great Moments in... Film Interviews

I love L.A. Story. It's a great comedy, and a lovely romantic comedy that makes me continue to wonder what happened to Hollywood's approach toward that genre. But let's not worry about the present, let's just enjoy the past together.

If you haven't seen this picture, it was made when Sarah Jessica Parker was a complete unknown, and when Steve Martin was one of the funniest actors in film. Martin shares the lead with his then-wife, the fine Victoria Tennant. The picture is a pastiche/satire of life in Los Angeles, and Martin's local weatherman is trying to arrange a date at the most exclusive and chic restaurant in town, L'Idiot (pronounced "ley-id-i-o"):

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Braindead (aka Dead Alive): Peter Jackson's Early Glories, pt. 3

This review nearly didn't happen. I got d--ked over by an acquaintance, as is their wont, and I suddenly found no way to see Peter Jackson's 3rd film, Braindead before the weekend was out.

By freak luck, I found a tweet from French Toast Sunday, informing LAMB members that they had 30-odd hours to get their reviews in. Fate seemed to help me on my way - after I'd committed myself again, I was joined by one of my roommates, a guy with no idea of what Peter Jackson used to get up to before his Hollywood era - like that hard-R-rated Muppet movie that was his sophomore film. And in the end? I missed the deadline (wah-wah), but had a good time.

Dead Alive opens on a scene like Indiana Jones running to his plane in Raiders. An explorer and his guides run from tribals, towing a wooden cage. Although the guides risk their lives for their job, they hack their employer to pieces when they see that their prize, a confined creature, has bitten and scratched him.

1992's Braindead, which I know as Dead Alive, is an extremely dark fairytale about Lionel. He's a nice guy who lives to serve his mother, Vera. His dad died a very long time ago, and the responsible guy does whatever she wants.

Their problem is that her age is now advanced and he's shouldn't be taking care of just one person (her, he mostly neglects himself). His problem is that he either doesn't notice or can't escape the fact that she's manipulative, doesn't appreciate him, and is extremely possessive of her son. Oh, and did I mention that she's a brutal kind of person?


Today's review will be posted by 1-ish!

UPDATE - Oops, by 5:58PM. I preferred to keep my job, y'know?...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Question for the Week of June 10-16: My Filmic Aspirations

What are the gaps in your movie knowledge?
I may post here often, and I may have some very strong opinions, but I'm not the perfect film buff. The fact is, that either very few people are, or no one really is. Perfection is an impossible goal, often, but one should always aspire to be better tomorrow (or next month) than one was today. As such:

I have to watch a lot more of the arthouse films - both from the US and other countries - that were produced between the 1950's and 1970's. I've only experienced certain directors, like Resnais, Renoir, Bertolucci, once, if at all. That's a pretty big gap right there.

I haven't been watching many foreign films lately. In fact, over the last year, I've seen more hours of foreign TV like Luther, Line of Duty, and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, than foreign films (7, that I recall). As such, I need to watch more Kurosawa, rewatch several of Ghibli's fine works (I have reviewed one or two per year to make them last), and catch up on some of the big hits of the last spell, like Holy Motors.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Change of Plan

So... busy. Insanely busy. Not just the usual "wow, I'm underslept" kind of busy, but the "I barely have time for personal calls" kind of busy. I prioritize fairly well, and the high standards I keep for unpaid hobbies don't mean much compared to professional responsibilities.

The latter keeps the former going, at least until I'm independently wealthy (and then, probably, drunk on power and champagne). So it goes...

I was going to publish for the next four days straight to make up for the lack of posts, but I actually stopped, got some rest, and called a friend I trust. DJ had a better idea than going hog-wild for the next two weeks. He suggested just filling out all the weekdays for the rest of this month, at least until I'm back to the promised 4/week; this month, it'll be an average of 4/wk.

I liked the idea a lot, and that's what I'm going with. And it'll all work out, because instead of just declaring a blog-cation now, I got to work on a few things. I went to a press screening on Monday for Short Term 12, a fine indie drama that won both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award for Narrative Feature at SXSW this year.

I also have to watch Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead), because it's the Large Association of Movie Blogs' Movie of the Month for June. It's a must for me because I truly love that film (and I mean to post more than two Peter Jackson's Early Glories entries). I'll also have a Question for Friday and a Reviewing with Others review up over the weekend.

Until then, think happy thoughts, and enjoy something nice. Perhaps a Recommendation or a Fan-made Gem...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Star Wars Bloopers, Eps IV-VI

I know it's ridiculous, but I actually keep Fan-made Gems distinct from Youtube Gems. If someone has gone out of their way to compile a set of videos, or to splice something together - it's Fan-made. But if I just find a sweet video that was made by the pros behind a pic...

In any case, I'm grateful that someone uploaded this. It brings back happy memories of the days when SW and ESB were two of my favorite films ever and nothing really spoiled my zeal. I was hungry for more films in that universe, and I wasn't completely won over by RotJ (not even as a child), but my love was... unsullied.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Great Moments in... Film Heckling

Yes, yes, it's time for another intallment of Great Moments in... So what's today's entry?

Well, it's fairly pointless to write much about it. Who doesn't know Princess Bride? I've written about this movie twice already and it was part of a Fan-made Gem last month, and also used a clip from it to kick off my Avengers review.

I dare anyone to not love ("twue wove") this scene!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Review Part 1: No Spoilers

I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness in "IMAX" 3D with my brother, J, part of a belated birthday celebration. This is going to be a two-part review, starting here with a spoiler-free part 1, and dropping the gloves to talk about all the details in part 2. I won't spoil Into Darkness here, but I will feel free to discuss plot details of any other film with "Star Trek" in the title, up to and including J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek.

Anyway, after the movie was over, I was looking for the barrel into which I could toss my 3D glasses. J reached out his hand and said, "Here, give 'em to me." I did, and without another word, he snapped the glasses in half. That's how he felt about Star Trek Into Darkness. I can't say I much disagree with him.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Question for the Week of Jun 3-9: Simultaneously Bad and Good

Someone recently asked me if I saw anything lately that struck me as equal parts bad and good. In a pure d--k move on my part, I didn't talk about a film - I talked about the poster for the movie Dreamscape.

For one thing, I described how the top and side borders of the image create a doorframe made of little scenes and images from Dreamscape itself: well-dressed men holding guns, two lovers leaning in close, dogs, a motorcycle, a guy with nunchucks... And I really love the snake motif going down the right side, then up the left, capping off with a monster-snake's head at top - the whole thing creates a mirror in the lower right corner with a man and a boy descending some stairs.

It's beautifully-drawn, an intelligent use of the space that (a) gives you a sense of what's in the picture and (b) gives you a reason to be interested in it. Lovely.

Yet even a casual glance at the image makes me think, "why does this look like a poster for Temple of Doom?"