23 February, 2011

Yes, I Will Watch This

As much as I don't buy Justin Timberlake as a nerd or Cameron Diaz as talented, this just might work.

Also, am I the only one looking forward to when Jason Segel gets fat? That's going to be hilarious, right?

21 February, 2011

Listen, Because This Concerns You

Everything Is A Remix: KILL BILL from robgwilson.com on Vimeo.

I don't really care for the Kill Bill films, but this video is pretty fucking awesome. I guess, if pressed, it could be used as either and argument for or an argument against Quentin Tarantino being a skilled film maker. At the very least, though, it's probably proof that he's a skilled film nerd.

20 February, 2011

Those Bitches Are Dead

Last Tango in Paris is all over the place in tone, emotion, and content, but then again, most anonymous sexual affairs are, aren't they?

Tango reminds me of a particular place and time in my life that I spent with a particular woman. I can't assume that this is a feeling or an experience most people have in their pocket, but I think most people at least have a best friend or know of a best friend that's had a passionate, sexual, and ultimately unfulfilling love affair with another person*. It happens and it's human and I can't think of another movie that quite encapsulates something like that-- even however passingly it might be in this case. It's just two people that have full lives meeting in a room, screwing, and having these great conversations. Though, I can't say I've ever been that bald or had a wife kill herself on me or used butter in quite that way or ever felt the need to bring up porcine/human relations while doing. . . that. That, I'll admit, is outside of my realm of experience.

Now-- a few caveats-- There are more than a few moments that leave me cold. The Last Tango is Paris is well acted and great looking. It's a bit like taking a cross-country tour in a sports car. It's great at first, then you'll hit a dirt road and wonder why the fuck you even started out on this whole thing.

It isn't so much that I'm not aroused by them or that I'm disgusted, it is that shat occurs on screen is so far out of my realm of experience or understanding that I can't help but feel that I am watching amoebas fuck. I know what they're doing. I could write out what's occurring on paper, even. Can I empathize with it? Fuck no, which is probably why I picked up watching Battlestar Galactica again, but at least when I'm alienated, something is bound to explode-- IN SPACE.

Tango is nowhere near as romantic as a movie like The Dreamers (which, as I think about it, really isn't all that romantic, now is it?). It's melancholy at best and, as the plot progresses, it hits the "at worst" qualifications and becomes down right miserable. The apartment in The Dreamers is also better than Tango, but, admittedly, that's a bit of a personal fixation of mine.

That doesn't mean it isn't a film about romance or people coming together (hold the rimshot). In it's off kilter way, it's about off kilter people finding each other. . . and then slowly but surely losing their minds. That's indicative of art films, though, isn't it? At some point, on the margins, things are going to suffer and cease to make any real, logical sense. It can't because that's the kind of picture Bernardo Bertolucci (apparently) set out to make.

It's about the Art and, while I think this movie has aged in many ways the 1970's couldn't have predicted (the elimination of the X rating, for one), it has changed into a fairly modern drama. It's something more than "porn masquerading as art," as William F. Buckley put it when the movie first came out (but, as brilliant as he may be, is hardly a man I would trust with appraising either art or pornography). All of the shock and controversy has fallen by the waysides by now and even the most difficult scenes would strike a modern audience as rather tame when compared to movies like The Accused, the Saw series, or, a movie I'm convinced no one has ever watched for noble intentions, Irreversible. What's left now that all the dust has settled and all the leads are dead is a rather straight forward film about two people that probably should have never wound up in the same bedroom at the same time.

Another thing that reminds me of my previous romantic experiences is the fact that Marlon Brando's character really is quite an asshole. With this, I can symapathize. I bitch about my dad all the time and while we don't connect 100% of the time-- thank Christ-- we do have an overlapping character quality which is the uncanny desire to give people close to us a hard time. I first started noticing this tendency when I started annoying the women I had a relationship with a hard time, only because I could. It's not one of my more endearing qualities, I realize. I started to see an overlap with this character when he started being king of a jerk to Jeanne for no real reason. He's a ball-breaker and he's pretty funny when he gets going, which is something I'd like to think of myself as.

I can appreciate a ball-breaker if he's funny enough. Brando straddles the line between being roguish and just being an asshole without being too likable or too annoying. Tango, which I feel I can't state enough, isn't a great film-- it's an interesting film-- but even for all of the flaws in its character, it reminded me just why Brando could get away with being a crazy asshole for so long. It's because he's one of the best actors of all time. Without Brando in this movie, even with all of the nipple and bush taken into consideration and even with Vittorio Storaro behind the camera, there really isn't a movie. So, as screwy at the movie is and as unsatisfying as the last twenty minutes are, it's almost worth wading through it all just to see Brando do what he does best.

With that said, I won't lie to you, I can't understand about a quarter of what Brando is saying-- but he says it so convincingly, damnit! After a certain point, I started looking forward to the scenes where he'd speak French-- a language I have no affinity towards-- so I could read the subtitles. He mumbles his way through the film and, method acting be damned, it's annoyingly indecipherable in a way that only 1970's films I think ever were.

It seems to me that the 70's were the only decade in film that weren't all that concerned with recording the voices of the people in the film. It's like all of the world's boom mic operators were just stoned off their asses between 1968 and 1977. I liked when they did that in Alien because it kind of set up a muted tone that would pay off when shit actually started going down. Here, though, in an earthbound, personal drama, it's out of place as a certain eight-foot tall, hideous, obsidian, space penis might be. I can only imagine the reasons for letting one of the greatest actors of all time go to waste because somebody couldn't be asked to screw with the levels.

Speaking of Brando (by the way, I have no idea what his character's name is and I refuse to look it up) I also can't help but feel a certain, painful pathos for Brando's turn as a sloppy, horrible, sincere drunk who doesn't quite understand the consequences of his actions. It hits a little to close to home, in fact it hits the home repeatedly and with a large hammer. There's probably a lesson in the last fifteen minutes of the film. I think I know what it is.

Alright, I've come to a conclusion while thinking back on the movie, and, you know what? I guess it is porn disguised as art, because the movie does basically follow the plot of a porno. Tango doesn't have the same conclusions, it wants to provoke a bit more than it wants to arouse. The storyline is minuscule and it's padded out by a sub-plot that feels like Jean-Luc Godard crashed his moped on the set of Taboo 3. Most of the plot doesn't seem to do much other than add a delay to the inevitable screwing and Brando speaking in soliloquies. I guess that's pornographic in a way. High porno, at worst.

Movies can sometimes afford to not quite work and, in fact, some of the best and most memorable movies of all time probably fit into that category. A movie can be screwed up and still be worth seeing. Having a nice butt run through a shot every once in a while can't hurt, either.

SUB-NOTE: Hey, look, there's a reference to French film I understand! The lifesaver Jeanne throws into the channel has the ship "L'Atlante" painted on it. You, as an astute scholar of French romances, would know that L'Atlanate is a movie about separated lovers who live on a river boat (the film is also referenced in the ending of Lovers on a Bridge, another very Gaullic romance about crazy people brought together and separated and brought together again by love).

SUB-NOTE PART DUEX: You know what? Just go see Lovers on a Bridge, you'll thank me later.

SUB-NOTE PART TROIS: What the fuck is that trailer? Seriously? Does that make you want to watch it? Like, at all?

SUB-NOTE TERMINAL: I couldn't fine any images from the movie that were worth a damn (and didn't have straight-up, rude titties all over the place), so, as an apology, here comes the master of repartee, William F. Buckley--

You're welcome.

*That's my PC/college training coming into play. Otherwise I would have said "with the opposite sex," but I guess that's assuming all too much nowadays. That would've been rude.

17 February, 2011

This Needs to Be Shared

The animated opening for the film Charge of the Light Brigade. I'm pretty sure if I did salvia again, the whole experience would feel like this.

They don't make 'em like that any more, do they?

15 February, 2011

The Terrible Movie About the Matrix That Wasn't a Matrix Sequel

There's no doubt Johnny Mnemonic is a bad movie. History has proven this. There hasn't been any kind of redemption through a director's cut and there no cult following has ever materialized. The crowd of ironic cinema goers has moved on to much shoddier fare than this. The only people who ever wind up watching this. . . thing are people like me, movie nerds with too much time on their hands and who want to see sub-genre train wrecks complete with Dolph Lungren as a fanatic cyber-monk and a junky dolphin that Ice-T owns that can hack government super computers*.

I'd wager that it did more damage to science fiction and the cyberpunk sub-genre than we'll ever know. It's kind of amazing that it's this bad, considering that it's based off of a short story by one of the better science fiction writers of the past thirty years (William "I Created the Term Cyberspace" Gibson). Making a movie about this subject look this crappy and sound this goofy would presumably take far more effort than making a film that was actually good.

Johnny Mnemonic is one of those silly movies of the 1990's and reeks of being a work made on the fence between two eras. It came early enough to know about the internet and the revolution of technology that would ensue, but not late enough to know what the actual shape of things would be. On the one hand it knows that the internet would be a daily part of our lives-- something most movies about the future can barely even comprehend-- and on the other hand it didn't manage to predict cell phones or that a terabyte hard drive would be smaller than the book the original short story was included in. It's also one of these weird 1990's movies that thinks that people would actually want to go into the internet. While he isn't a speculative futurist, Dave Chappelle got one thing right: If you could actually travel to the internet, nobody would ever want to.

Chappelles Show
If the Internet Was a Real Place
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story

To quote Roger Ebert:
`Johnny Mnemonic" is one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema, a movie that doesn't deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis but has a kind of idiotic grandeur that makes you almost forgive it. Based on a story by William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk fiction, it has the nerve to pose as a futuristic fable when in fact all of its parts were bought off the shelf at the Used Movie Store.

That's probably sums up what this movie is more than anything else. With that said, even though it doesn't deserve it, I really do want to seriously analyze this movie. Why? Because I'm almost positive nobody else on earth has ever felt the slightest desire to. Being first as something is a rarity nowadays, even if it's under as ignominious circumstances as critically analyzing Johnny Mnemonic.

The movie is dumb as dirt, Ebert is right about that, like most things that are stupid, Johnny Mnemonic doesn't know that it's stupid. Despite being Blade Runner's thalidomide baby, it has serious pretensions about being a well-thought out movie. I guess, maybe if there was some thalidomide baby born into really supportive (and borderline delusional) parents, that didn't want to tell junior that it had anything wrong with it, that kid's future would look something like this piece of crap.

It reminds me of much better films, so with that said, it isn't entirely without merit. It's kind of worthwhile, if only due to reflected glory.

From the first few minutes on it's clear that this flick is referencing the cyberpunk Holy Grail, Blade Runner. The entire aesthetic of the film is ripped off wholesale from the adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, with a few added plot points about the internet. Besides the seedy, rain-slicked streets packed with Asians and neon, there's at least two shots that are direct send-ups of its better (those being when Johnny first arrives in China, he stands on top of his car a la Deckard in his foot chase with Zhora and the second shot is just a simple panorama of the city).

Despite having all of the budget and technology that Blade Runner didn't have, Johnny Mnemonic looks like a bad film school knock-off. It's profound, that kind of incompetency. How hard could ripping Ridley Scott's last sci-fi movie be when you've got all of the blue prints at your finger tips? Someone already did it! All you have to do is follow the instructions. It must have taken them far more effort to make a crappy, knock-off version of the movie considering the newer, quicker resources they had at their finger tips. I mean, even Keanu Reeves' hair looks bad and that's probably the easiest thing in the world to fix.

Shameful shit.

There must be an over/under for making movies looks good. You've either got to go way high on the budget-- like Avatar, Terminator 2, or Superman Returns or something-- where you end up with a true, larger than life spectacle, made by the best in the business with as much time as they need. Or you've got to shoot low like with Monsters or District 9, where the effects become more impressive because of how little they cost. Now, while Mnemonic didn't have the technological resources as any of the above movies, I think it might be a victim of being neither a flawed, low-budget art house picture and it isn't a big-budget summer blockbuster. It's this lukewarm sci-fi nothing that is only really notable for its intense goofiness.

Or in the director's words:
"[The movie] started out as an arty 1½-million-dollar movie, and it became a 30-million-dollar movie because we couldn't get a million and a half."

Alright, enough of that. We know it's bad. As I said before, even though it has no real worthwhile qualities of its own, it reminds me of much better pictures. For whatever reason, one of those is Persona.

That's right, this fuckin' film--

Ingmar Bergman is one of the great artists of the 20th century and for whatever reason one of the dumbest movies of the 1990's reminds me of what is perhaps his greatest work.

There's a reason for this. So, let me show you the method to the madness, While the subject matter of either film diverges greatly, there is an interesting overlap between the time and I think if even Johnny Mnemonic can understand one of the things that makes Persona great, then there's no reason you shouldn't understand that, as well(do I need to mention the thalidomide thing again?).

There is no doubt that there's a stack of thesis papers and critical studies as thick as my fist just on that opening alone (Hell, I'm sure I've written at least one of them) and they're all probably better thought out and better sourced than this little blogging here, so don't take my word for it. It's just funny, to me, and I thought I'd share it with you, that two years after I saw this movie and studied it that the one thing that would get me to think about it the most is bad sci-fi.

The opening and closing of Persona is famous for it's collection of unrelated and unexplained images that reads more like a cinematic free-association riff than it does an Eisensteinian montage. As an audience we have to assume that it is a metaphor for something rather than any kind of narrative. Bergman's body of work often concerns itself with psychoanalysis' conflict with art and the opening seems to encapsulate that idea because, if anything, it's Bergman at his most artsy and his craziest.

I suppose it is the idea of the montage (which, as you probably know, isn't always something people did in the 80's before a big competition, but, rather, the combination of two images that, as a result of their juxtaposition, create an idea larger than the sum of their parts) taken to its most abstract limits. It all of the trappings of a montage without anything to contextualize it.

What got this whole ball rolling is that the key to unlocking Johnny's woefully small brain hard-drive isn't a pin number or an decryption key, but three images randomly chosen from whatever happened to be on TV at the time. I like that. I like that a lot. It might just be the most clever thing in the movie. Now, while that makes it something of the tallest dwarf in the mine, it's still a good idea because in a way this is what Bergman was going for in the opening of Persona. In both cases it is images-- not words or technology, but art-- that are used to peer into the protagonist's mind. While the reasoning and execution is different, I'd like to think that this shows even the most imperfect pieces of art are not without fleeting moments of perfection-- even if they're accidental.

Now, watch this opening before you start calling me an idiot.

I can wait.

It's clear there's potential within this movie. It's based off of a William Gibson short story that has the same name. What drives me the craziest with works of art that don't work aren't necessarily their flaws, but they're wasted potential. Messy movies are fine, a film can survive being a mess. Some of the greatest films of all time are messes-- The Thin Red Line and Magnolia pop to mind. Movies are such an amazing art form and it hurts to see people with so many things to work with squander what they have.

SIDE NOTE: I like that Johnny carries a briefcase full of equipment. In my best-of-all-world's part of the brain, I want to believe that Christopher Nolan and his brothers saw this movie and at least thought that the brain-hacking briefcase was a good idea. Even if it didn't-- there it is-- It might be in one of the most infamously bad movies of the 1990's, but it shares a huge link with Christopher Nolan's most recent masterpiece, Inception.

Think about that for a moment.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: Watching bad movies is a lot easier for me to do than to watch a good movie. Artful films, important ones, take a patience and the right kind of mood. A lot of the time I don't have this. Either I'm busy or drunk, or I don't want to watch it on a shitty TV or whatever. It isn't a process that comes as simply as sitting down and watching something I know doesn't really deserve my time (see: Reign of Fire).

Over the past couple of weeks I rented a few movies that I would consider to be "great." There was Seven Days in May (which I've neglected to write about here, but I should get around to it) and Serpico. Each of these took me about a week to watch each, because I knew they were worth the time. This isn't something I'd do with an Earnest movie. The latest movie I've got from Netflix is Citizen Kane. I've only had it for two days, though, considering that it's supposed to be the best movie of all time, it could take me a month before I actually sit down for it.

SIDE SIDE SIDE NOTE: Also, you know what is a much better, much more fun, much more compitent (but no less silly) movie about cyberspace is?


I love Hackers.

LAST SIDE NOTE: Now that I'm going over this again, there's another couple of stories that are about enlightenment or salvation through information and through art. Recently the post-apocalyptic action movie The Book of Eli was about just that (in this case a book, not a bunch of screencaps from the TV) and, less recently, but more significantly, Fahrenheit 451. What is is about dystopias and their inability to properly store needed information? You think they'd at least have knocked that one out by then.

*Oh man, I would totally pay good money to see a super-intelligent dolphin go head-to-head against Ken Jenning on Jeopardy. Are you listening, Hollywood?

13 February, 2011

I Would Go and See This

I think SNL heard that I was getting drunk and ridiculous on Friday night and they decided to make a sketch for me.

Hmmm. Now I kind of want to rewatch Scum.

10 February, 2011

Stephen Fry on Language

Someone pointed this out to me. I find it pretty amusing and it harps on an important issue to me, which is people who think that correcting others on their shortcomings is the same as having knowledge. Pendants are among the worst people on earth and they don't contribute anything to discourse other than to act as a speed bump to getting anywhere interesting. There's correcting somebody politely and then there's using it as a wedge to distinguish yourself from the masses that don't quite get things as well as you do. That's awful and if I'm ever in charge, they're going to be the first people up against the wall. That and people who think that turning on their brights is an adequate replacement for a working headlight. What goes through these peoples' heads?

Anyways, here's the link.

A Wee Bit of Film Theory

In CASINO ROYALE, James Bond is the Bond girl. Look at the way they even show him emerging from the ocean like Ursula Andress. Sexual torture, too, if less creepy-glam than being stripped and painted gold. Vesper Lynd is Bond: never not in control, never without a plan, seducing to further her goals. She has to die so Bond can become her.

--Warren Ellis.

05 February, 2011

Dead as Fuck

Tura Satana. 1938-2011.

04 February, 2011

Lost Arts

They Should Stop Making Me Movies

There's no money in the damn thing. Not that this doesn't look good or anything, it's just they should work on their own passions and not mine.

03 February, 2011

Yeah, I'll Watch the Shit Outta This, Too

I mean I'll hypothetically watch it. I I paid for movies or had money or anything, I'd totally be down. It's from the director of The Visitor, it's got Paul Giamatti doing his schlub thing, and Amy Ryan. What else could you want?

Okay, yeah, I'd like to see that too, but it's an indy feature, where would they even find something like that?

Alright, I didn't know that. I'll give him a call. This could be good.

02 February, 2011

Ellis on Writing.

The lesson is simply this: you just have to recognise that, no matter how much weight you put behind it and how much you tart it up,sometimes a story just doesn’t bloody work, and you have to take it behind the stables and shoot it through the head. No writer is perfect. We all have dead bodies to our names.

The corpse gets thrown in the Loose Ideas folder, where one day it will doubtless be cannibalised for its more interesting/less ripoffy parts and interpolated into something new and better. Storage of corpses is important. As in life, you never know when bits of them will come in handy.

--Warren Ellis.

01 February, 2011

These Are Always Good

They're good because despite being cliched and ridiculous, they still somehow manage to elevate themselves above it and become mildly inspirational. I guess there's a reason they keep going back to that well.