I especially appreciate Cowboys & Aliens for many well-placed shots of Daniel Craig's very attractive silhouette. Lovely back, I see exactly why they featured it in all the posters. Nice shoulders on that dude.

It is... an interesting experience. Exciting. But it does not hold up to any scrutiny AT ALL. Do not scrutinize. You will hurt yourself. I am not kidding.

And it dabbles in some

1) rather

2) sad

3) tropes.

spoilers below, big ones rot-13d. )

Is it a spoiler to say the little Airbender is in it? I don't think it's spoilery to say that the little Airbender is in it. I think I mananged not to hold it against him. ;-)
For the record, I don't really consider myself an X-Men fan, so there are things that are canon that I either don't know or don't (and won't) care about. My most indepth experience with the franchise was the "X-Men Evolution" show. (Particularly episodes featuring the voice of Matt Hill. I HAVE A THING, OK.) And I'm mildly obsessed with X-23. So I'm looking at the film from that perspective; there are easter eggs that I can recognize and that make me happy, but mostly I'm wanting the film to stand on its own legs, as it were -- on the information that it provides us. (I did see the first three, missed the Wolverine one.)

There are things I'm supposed to get mad at that I keep forgetting to. I never remember to be pissed off enough at the "black guy dies first" thing as long as it's not an embarrassing death. I'm always just so pleased when there is dignity** (and, you know, absence of bob-walking and a hip hop soundtrack. There is nothing wrong with those things. But those things are treated too much in film as a genetic trait and not a completely aesthetic and surface and NOT REMOTELY UNIVERSAL style choice. This is why I forgave "300" so many things...more than I should...) I ask for very little. This is why I keep getting "Not aggressive enough" on my employee reviews. *aggressively wields red pen* *deploys aggressive commas* *with aggression* *except not on the Internet, I come here to relax*

(**And this one was hot and fun and very very importantly, not $*#(*)& this at all.)

I do regularly get highly pissed off at stories that try to pretend to me that things were nicer and more enlightened and less dangerous than they actually were. So, for example, long ago I spent several days furious with "Far From Heaven" trying to show me an interracial relationship between a white woman and a black man, in the '60s, without showing me any fear, trepidation, or even the sublimation of fear and trepidation through defiance and posturing, in this couple -- beyond normal adultery nervousness. It was hard to enjoy the nuances and fine acting and pretty background musical riffs when I kept suppressing shouts of "YOU IDIOT THEY WILL HANG YOU FROM A TREE THERE WILL BE FIRE OMG LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER ONE TIME." That sort of thing. Don't tone down the actual life danger, please! There was life danger! It still makes people only slightly older than me really really nervous, let alone people like my mom, who actually had to get up and move to the Negro section of a train on some occasions. It was not a small thing overcomeable by a pleasant expression, 15 minutes of chat, and some shared vinyl records..

Which ultimately means I'm more in this camp [links may spoil]

than this one

or that one.

Although to be frank I am not OUT of any of those camps.

Seriously -- these were 2011 teenagers masquerading as 1960s ones. Two seconds meeting each other and the kids of color are just going to up and comfortably party down and drink and gyrate with the white (and white-looking) ones? Not even some guarded looks????? Not to mention the social differences, you found that girl in a strip club, she is not going to automatically think you are taking her to a place where there are all nice men around whom she should let her guard down and... Oh, give me strength.

Which would not have been so weird if all the characters had just been white like an actual '60s comic book***, or, more importantly, if the movie hadn't fully remembered to shoehorn in and lampshade all the nasty sexism. Both or neither. This is a comic book, just go full fantasy-60s with it, why can't we have the girl power AND the we-are-all-one-under-the-skin?

(God, and the evil Hispanic tornado dude didn't even get a line. Very Kal Penn in Superman, film.)

I would be more fully in Camp 2 (and really, I do like that article the best, I think) if the film had remembered to make Xavier...not a dick. I think it might be easy to miss, but... c'mon, let's be quite honest, he was a dick, and the only reason he seemed like slightly less of a dick is that he was a dick in James MacAvoy's extremely pleasing dulcet tones and baby face. Seriously, the film completely forgot to make Professor Xavier's point AT ALL (and he did kind of have one!), while lovingly and meticulously crafting Erik's with soft lighting, tons of backstory, and emotional closeups in nearly every scene. Even in scenes Fassbender was not in. (And I am not convinced that was unintentional, to be honest.) whoops, mild spoilers )

I swear, this is the first time I haven't really been on Xavier's side (even back when he was Patrick Stewart and I was finding Ian McKellan both sympathetic and kinda hot). I just want to SMACK him. He starts out with smarm and ends up... well, I'm repeating myself now.


Nicholas Hoult! Oh, I am so proud of your versatility. I almost didn't see you there.

That Kravitz/Bonet kid is so gorgeous I don't even know what to do. 0__0

Shout-outs! I usually hate cameos and shout-outs. I did not hate these. I thought they were excellent. HELMET. Oh, Helmet. *loves on evil helmet*

Nice handling of Mystique. Nuance. Exploring the formation of minority racial identity pretty much by-the-book. Well done.

Deep? Yes I believe I think so. Sort of.
Flawed? Quite. And not ignorably so. Almost shoot-self-in-the-foot so.
Enjoyable? I am not going to tell you about which part I went and applauded (quietly! I am polite), because I am pretty sure I was not supposed to be doing that. YOU FORGOT TO MAKE XAVIER'S POINT, FILM. I might be walking on air a little at the moment. Oh I'm so ashamed.
Worth admission? Oh hells yes.
Worth the bedbug risk? Yeah-huh.
Worth a repeat viewing? Yup.

***Not saying that's OPTIMAL, saying that's LESS JARRING/HYPOCRITICAL-seeming.
GoT: I'm somewhat glad about the upcoming purgings, if only because it means we'll be out of King's Landing soon (surely there are fewer whorehouses outside of King's Landing???) and I won't have to watch anymore protracted graphic sex in front of unwary family members.(Sorry, Mom!) (I was going to say "surprise graphic sex" but considering the network I'm watching I have no right to be surprised, really.) That said, I really, deeply liked, in a literary sense, the calm juxtaposition of the situation with what Baelish was threatening, veiled very thinly, to do to Ned Stark. Kinda embarrassed that the juxtaposition didn't hit me until the next day. "He knows it's an act, that you put on an act for everyone, but he thinks he's the one man manly enough to convince you that your act is real." Brrr. Also hot. Oh god, I'm ashamed. Ok, not really.

PoTC, a lukewarm review, but there is some warm in the luke I swear )

Also — seriously, WHY do people leave the theater before the credits are done? Don't you guys remember World's End at ALL? (Maybe a better question would be — WHEN will these filmmaker guys stop putting important plot-related scenes after nine hours of credits? Although it is not possible to have a film offend as deeply at this as World's End did. This was just a teaser — the scene at the end of World's End was a crucial wrapup of the entire plot in what was meant to be the last film of the trilogy.)

Deep? OK, it's not even fair to expect that.
Enjoyable? More or less.
Worth admission? Yes, sort of, especially without the bloody 3D. I'm not sure I would have said "yes" last week when I saw it, though, especially since admission for me is thirteen [expletive] bucks, $14.50 for advance Internet purchase. But those spooky mermaids deserve a big-screen viewing.
Worth the bedbug risk? No.
Worth repeat viewing? No.

Okay, so that's my film viewage for this month. Heh — I saw Hanna nearly five weeks ago and am only just now getting around to typing up my notes. Yes, I took notes, I take notes, I am a note taker, don't judge me. ~___^


May. 28th, 2011 08:52 pm

Let the record show that I liked this film immensely. However, I began mentally dissecting it not during the commute home, but during the film itself, which indicates I had some fairly serious issues with it.

Now then.

You've seen this film before. This is not a bad thing, but yes -- this is not groundbreaking. What is nice is a sort of non-Hollywood sensibility (at least, at first) that pervades the production. Actors taking their roles very seriously, disappearing into them, and being very, very good -- emotion being conveyed by those actors as opposed to swells of background music... and so on. Obviously, it passes Bechdel. And we have Saorise Ronan, who is...everything that they used to keep telling me Dakota Fanning was, except this time around, I believe it. But yeah, if you are at all familiar with this genre, you know exactly what will happen, what will be revealed, and how it will all end. There are some lovely riffs on things in the interim, though, and that's what this film hinges on -- in fact, it's not letting these riffs do enough or be significant enough that messes up the film for me.

Analysis with mild spoilers )

Anyway, awesome acting across the board saves the script.

Deep? Ultimately no.
Enjoyable? Yes.
Worth admission? Definitely.
Worth the bedbug risk? Yes.
Worth repeat viewing? For quality, I'd say yes. It would be diminished by knowing exactly what was going to happen. As I said, you know the plot of this thing, but there are some really nice riffs in the interim, and it's lovely to listen to Saorise Ronan speaking languages. And of course everybody doesn't die, but on a repeat viewing you'd know exactly who does.


May. 28th, 2011 07:40 pm
So there was "Hesher." And I wanted to love it, and for a long time I did -- and then it became an extravaganza of fridging and slut-shaming, like, ridiculous, gratuitous, and not remotely sensible slut-shaming, like slut-shaming that hinged on quasi-pedophilia being legitimate to even make a lick of sense, and so I had to break up with it before the closing credits were done. But while the love lasted, it was indeed love.

There is no actual pedophilia in this film by any stretch. However. [spoilers] )


Deep? Yes, kind of!
Enjoyable? Mostly. Funny, when it meant to be, and heartstring-tugging without being maudlin on all the right notes. The grossness of the title character was a very distant second to the very real pain that all the characters were going through (and acting the hell out of). Had the only fart joke I've ever laughed aloud at since preadolescence, which is saying something, and yes I am embarrassed, and also shut up.
Worth admission? I wanted it to be. =/ Maybe if I had walked out of the very last fifteen minutes...
Worth the bedbug risk? Ultimately no.
Repeat viewing? Nah.



May. 28th, 2011 07:19 pm
Thank you ever so.

Thank you for being cute.

And unserious.


And for taking your shirt off...

... while leaving Natalie Portman's butt completely covered - nay, dare I say it, completely offscreen for the entire production.

And for being actually kind of layered and nuanced with your Loki Lie-Smith.

Read more... )

Anyway. Cute movie.
Deep? No.
Canonical? Don't ask me silly questions. ;-)
Fun? Yes.
Worth the 3D? No, the 3D was profoundly annoying, although I can see how it might have been great had I not hated my glasses for making everything dark and pinching my face and being suspiciously fingerprinted. Yuk.
Worth the bedbug risk? Yeah, pretty much.
Worth admission? Yes, worth the non-3D admission. I am offended by what I paid for3D just because the 2D was sold out. Since when does 2D sell out first? Grrrr
Repeat viewing? Nah.

(When will people learn not to walk out of this sort of film during the credits? OBVIOUSLY there was an extra scene after the credits providing answers to the fate of one character and hints at the next [possible] film.)


Source Code

May. 9th, 2011 07:01 pm
Source Code -- it’s impossible to not compare this one to Inception just in terms of proximity**. (Obviously for one to be released so quickly after the other, the two projects had to be in development at the same time, more or less, and so it’s fairly childish to accuse the one of “copying” the other -- especially since as a sci-fi trope this is older than Methuselah). Up front, I’ll just let you know that for reasons that are tiny in number but loom large in my brain, I prefer Source Code. (If I must spoil, I’ll Rot’13.)

Both deal with alternative times/spaces/worlds located only in the mind, and the ramifications of one’s behavior in those worlds on what is real.

There’s dead women at the heart of each. Sort of. There’s a thin tightrope stretched over those Fridges, shall we say.

There is a healthy dose of your typical “I have to tell my father”/Oh if only my son knew” business. Um...yeah.

In a nutshell, Inception ultimately registered with me as sweet (and triumphant), whereas Source Code registered with me as bittersweet (and triumphant), and because of that, I feel that I walked away from Source Code not only with more going on inside me emotionwise but more to ponder. One could take that sentence and dismiss Source Code as a tearjerker, which is not entirely misguided, and I would allow it had Inception not attempted just as much jerkage with footage of cute slo-mo children with curly hair.

Don’t get me wrong. I walked out of Inception feeling quite joyful, and perfectly OK with how I’d spent my cash.

It’s just that in contrast I walked out of Source Code feeling that it had actually given me what it promised me.

Hands down, Inception was the more ambitious, both in concocting a rationale and rules for the sci in its fi and in its cinematography. Source Code does not do this, which is probably a good thing in terms of the film aging well. I listened to the character explaining his technology and had a distinct impression of the way the progression of real-world knowledge renders science fiction, well, adorable eventually, in a “World of Tomorrow” at Disneyland sort of way. Source Code handles this by being very swift -- having an impatient character technobabble very quickly and with great impatience, using the word “quantum” a lot, telling the POV character “oh, you just wouldn’t understand anyway huff-puff-blowhardblowhard OH WE DON’T HAVE TIME CLOCK TICKING DOWN YOU UNSCHOOLED BARBARIC NEOPHYTE, OMG” -- but in so doing, scientifically soundly or not, he lays down the rules of this game concisely and in short order. (And -- for the most part -- the rules don’t change, it’s just that Mr. POV refuses to believe in them.) So it's very clear that the "rules" are not the important part of this story (and I think that's a good thing). They're not pretending to be real rules, they're simply establishing a framework in which we are going to ask and debate some questions by seeing them acted out.

(Mr. POV also kinda gets called on his racism. 0_0 Kinda)

Source Code... is just a much smaller film. Despite the fact that at stake is the nuclear death and contamination of all of Chicago (whereas what’s at stake in Inception is an extremely mercenary business practice, with the justification “they are bad people” tossed off and meant to be accepted because... because), Source Code versus Inception still feels like comparing a traditional English “cozy” mystery with something world-spanning, location-leaping, cast-of-hundreds-having, by Robert Ludlum. There is violence, there is action, there is planning, and there is punching and leaping from moving objects (with fire!), but because the scenario cycles over and over again with the same few people, the same significant objects, the same clues that must be fitted and refitted to make the correct sense, I dunno, it’s more or less inevitable that the characters become more multifaceted. Annnnnnnd, I can’t say more than that without spoiling big time. Bummer.

I think the main thing, though, is that (for!me!) Inception had a fatal (for!me!) flaw that completely removed all menace from the story for!me! That is to say: Removing the ability of the characters to die in Inception basically changed the game from “will Hero get this objective he wants, or will he never get it; will that be the sacrifice” to “will Hero get his objective now, or will he have to wait a little bit, equaling not much of a sacrifice at all, really?” I did not feel as if the main character had much at stake, much menace, in a physical sense or an emotional sense. (If I had felt, as many [with reason] did, that the ending was ambiguous, then my opinion might change. Clarification -- I felt that what ambiguity there was didn’t matter.)

OK, I’ve gone as far as I can without Rot’13-ing. Use this translator: http://rot13.com/index.php

In contrast, Source Code convinced me that everything was at stake for this one character, including [uvf evtug gb qvr] and furthermore, everything was at stake for [crbcyr jub jrer, yrg’f snpr vg, abg rira erny. Znlor lrnef bs GAT’f Ubybqrpx cer-pbaqvgvbarq zr sbe gung, V qhaab. Zbevnegllllllll....

Jurer Vaprcgvba -- V’z FBEEL, ohg V unir gb FNL vg -- cergraqrq gb envfr zrgnculvfvpny dhrfgvbaf nobhg gur nsgreyvsr, ernyvgl, naq gur angher bs pbafpvbhfarff, Fbhepr Pbqr npghnyyl qvq envfr gubfr dhrfgvbaf.] It’s actually amazing to me how (for!me!) all that could hinge on just one simple factor, the ability to die. But there we are. It hinges. There is a hinge. Sorry, there I am. Me! Myself!

I think Source Code might have been better sci-fi, made more of a statement, and possibly would have gotten closer to being a flawless work (It isn’t. By any means.) if the film had just gone and [raqrq ng gur serrmr senzr]. It would have been... gutsier? But I would have been much more incapacitated with the crying in the streets But choosing to do things the way they ultimately did provide a measure of redemption for a couple characters, including one I didn’t think ought to have been demonized in the first place. So that was nice. Cold Science does not get short shrift in favor of the nebulous Power of Heart, shall we say. The way they handled things, however, does lend more credence to the "rules" mentioned up top, which makes them too much of the focus of the story, too much of the source of ultimately trivial debate, as opposed to the larger and more universal questions that were already dealt with, so to speak.

Er, what else? The reveals are all heartbreaking even if you did guess them in the first 15 minutes, which I did, sort of (they attempt twistiness). It works for the story.

No clever ending, this isn’t a real review. I liked it. I don’t want my money back. :-D And I didn’t rewrite the script in my head all the way home, which is saying something.

**And, well, because everybody and their Grandpappy Jim has already done it.
(And I kind of wish they wouldn’t, even if I’m engaging in the same shenanigans here.)
tsubaki_ny: (camellia (tsubakinohana))
I desperately want to write a version of Tristan and Isolde now. This might be the first time I’ve been inspired to anything new, as opposed to updates and rewrites, in more than a decade. Whoa. Disoriented now. In a nice way.
Oh, [livejournal.com profile] corvus_imbrifer, you always cheer me up.

Inception: The Abridged Script

Shockingly accurate! :-)
Too many things bouncing around in my head (as well as some background stressors). I believe I shall start with the stupidest first, get that off my chest.

Highly, highly disappointed in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” I thought I could put up with far more foolishness than that (I have been using movies lately less as entertainment and more as a tranq, which is why I haven't seen "Inception" yet -- I'm pretty sure it's ridiculously right up my alley, I adored me some "Memento" and even kind of liked "Existenz," for the plot if not the aesthetic -- but I just don't have the stamina right now, and I hope I develop the stamina before this thing leaves theaters) -- but apparently I am wrong.

I was initially wrong for thinking that I could use this movie to prolong the glow from "How to Train Your Dragon" simply because "Apprentice" contains Jay Baruchel. Poor Baruchel is just not a magical omnipotent being, which would be required to make this film work, I think.

Basically, you have a couple of charming young people whom I suspect would actually be pretty good actors elsewhere, thrown in with a couple of scenery-chewing established guys whose careers are so secure that they really don't have to give a crap about what all the one-note scenery-chewing they're doing here, all blended up smoothly and spread liberally across what I would call the worst script of all time if I hadn't quite literally JUST come from watching the YouTube "Earthbending clip" from the Airbender live-action thingum, and gone straight to the theater (which is up the block).

There is a Girl, who is basically there to be The Girl, and doesn't really have much in the way of characteristics beyond Pretty, Nice, Blonde, Likes Music, Fear of Heights, which makes Baruchel's years-long torch-carrying less convincing than it shoulda-coulda have been.

And there is Jay Baruchel, delivering a lot of lines in way that would have been extremely charming, because he is charming, if the lines had been funny in the slightest. It's just so flat. (Although he did say them as if they were funny, which is more than Cage did.) It's been a week since I saw this and I'm having a terrible time even just trying to remember any of them. Lots of "Oh I'm caught up in this crazy world against my will, no, no I say, I am normal and I'm going to class!"

How does it go?

Baruchel is the chosen one. Obviously. Read more... )

Also saw "Despicable Me," another one I expected to love more than I did. It never let me forget that I was watching a kid's movie, though. Basically, it was all too aware that it was working on two levels, so while I laughed out loud at the 'Bank of Evil' (so much fun stuff buried in that scene's... uh, scenery), I felt myself nodding off at the prolonged toilet humor sequences, and it often left me wondering if I was only laughing because I was surrounded by a theater full of laughing people.

Still, I was laughing.

Do all movies have to end with a quasi-"modern" dance sequence nowadays? It was semicute in "Ella Enchanted and outright weird in this last incarnation of "Alice in Wonderland." I'm ready to have that stop now.

It's heartwarming exactly where it should be, et cetera, et cetera. The two younger girls are beyond cute, though the oldest is a bit of a cipher. And I enjoyed the werewolf. Oh I sound like a Scrooge -- it's a fine film, it's definitely funny, but it's not something I'd hold in my heart, y'know? (Probably I was tainted beyond repair by "Sorcerer's Apprentice.")

I would totally watch Jay Baruchel tame live-action dragons, though.
Jaden Smith is cute.

Damn -- Jaden Smith is not just a cute child, he is a stealth delivery system for relentless, indomitable, weapons-grade cuteness. It's unbelieveable. That shite should be regulated.

And yes, I am so taken in by this pure, unstudied, genuine, unselfconscious cuteness that it is messing with my critcisms of this film. It's very hard to be critical when you're sitting wide-eyed in the dark going "OMG, HIS WIDDLE CHEEKS, LOOKIT LOOKIT, OH NO NO NO HE IS CRYING, OH I WANT ONE CAN I HAVE ONE PLEASE"

He falls asleep on people's laps. That's just calculated!!

Overall impressions:

1. The film is a sports film, just like every other sports film you've ever seen. There are no surprises. I thought there were going to be some surprises, but I was not correct. (I never saw the original "Karate Kid" or any sequels, so while I suspect there were nods and parallels, they would have gone over my head.)

2. It really does have a patina of "vanity project" thinly smeared all over it. This is especially evident when they show the outtake photos in the closing credits, not to mention Jaden's little rap, just like Daddy. (Dammit, THAT'S STILL VERY CUTE.) Will and Jada prominently feature. It is also clear that this is Jaden Smith's first acting job, although --

3. -- I think this could have had something to do with the direction and cutting. There are a lot of off beats to the film, places where a lot of soulful looks and repetative dialog could have been chopped to make a sleeker, more polished product. E.G. There's an extremely emotional scene with Jackie Chan weeping -- I don't think I've ever seen him do that on film before in quite this way -- and you KNOW exactly what he's doing in the scene and what it signifies very early on, but they make the kid keep asking and asking and make the man keep explaining and explaining, and it's overkill, really. Their silences are more powerful. They didn't need to hand-hold the audience and walk them throough it so much. So perhaps those off beats are not Jaden's fault. Directing a kid actor is a particular art. He can be very, very affecting, and really quite funny. So the off beats probably just mean they should have trimmed about 40 or so minutes from the overall product, tightened it up.

4. There are tongue-in-cheek moments, or at least, attempted tongue-in-cheek moments, that I'm afraid might not be blatantly ironic enough. For example, "karate" -- all parties involved know full well that what Jaden's character is learning is not "karate" -- a character actually says this in the film. This is an attempt to make light of the inaccurate title, but I'm not sure it works. (They do show a scene of Jaden actually trying -- poorly -- to learn karate itself in the beginning of the film, from a Japanese television show; you can hear the counting out "Ichi! Ni! San!") Also, I don't know how I feel, or how I'm supposed to feel, about the observations about China -- I found it obviously not true and meant to be funny when Dre says things like, "Everybody in China does kung fu, Mom!" but I'm not certain that everyone will find it that obvious, so will it just be enforcing stereotypes even as it attempts to make light of them? I was a little uncomfortable. I think... I dunno, a more consistent script or maybe tighter direction would have helped some. And other things, like... it really, really shouldn't be surprising in this day and age that a Chinese girl can do a modern street dance on one hand... but on the other hand, the character "Dre" is a little city kid who has never been anywhere so would he know that? I don't know. Again, I never saw the originals, so likely I'm expecting too much subtlety from the franchise. all spoilers Rot-13'd )
Why yes I did go see "How to Train Your Dragon" a third time today. Shaddup. (Still haven't broken my "Serenity" record, so nyahh. ^_____________^)

Read more... )
Robin Hood was an odd experience in filmgoing. I can sort of see -- though not quite -- why the anti crowd doesn't like it much.
Read more... )


Apr. 16th, 2010 10:00 pm
...are made of pure, unadulterated happiness.

[warning! tvtropes.com links!]

I may have to see this film about three more times. Seriously, people, this is how you do children's films. Take note***.

I was nervous. I'm always nervous when I have actual expectations -- I do best when I expect nothing, and then I am quite pleasantly surprised.

But I sat through about half this movie thinking "But... but this is flawless!!" before a trope flicked me in the nose hard enough for me to actually notice and be jostled out of the story slightly -- but you know... tropes are not the same as cliches. Tropes can be well-done. So having medium-to-high expectations this time around did not turn out to be a hazard.

(Jeeze -- I don't know if I've ever experienced this before! I think the last film I had skipping-down-the-street-in-anticipation expectations of was Return of the King, and while I loved it, it was not completely eyeroll-free.)

And no, I did not need to see it in 3D. (Although I may try it later.) It's transporting enough without it.

Sigh. All I lack is a catchy tune to sing on the way home to keep the tale with me a little longer.


(More later if I think of it. For now, I had much too lovely a time to pull this one to analytical pieces just yet. ^__^)

(Oh, and David Tennant was in it! And Craig Ferguson! No one told me!)

(eek! Even the author loves it, and apparently it was changed a great deal from her original books.)

*** (Another note -- I've never read the books)

ADDENDUM: Mild Blatant spoilers in comments.
I really, reeeeeally wanted "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" to make sense. (And yeah, I wanted this more for the sake of the late Heath Ledger than for any inherent merit the film might have had.)

I could just be not cool enough to get Terry Gilliam. I don't know.

The flipping out and in of other actors almost worked (and is unfair to criticize anyway what with the circumstances), but I'm not sure the film would have been sensible even had the same actor played the role all the way through. The problem is (spoiler beneath cut -- with heroic attempts at vagueness, but still quite spoilery ) )

The sex scene is hilarious, though. In a good way. Very Pirates of the Caribbean. And it's the first time in ages that Colin Farrell doesn't annoy me. So. Yeah.

And I kinda like Lily Cole (although her character's last-minute motivations ultimately make no sense either, and there's really not very much for her character to do, to be honest, though she gives it the old college try like crazy).

I was still very touched and sad Due To Circumstances, though.
...or something.

Saw Tim Burton's Alice on Friday, with [livejournal.com profile] jinkamoo and her sister, plus some buddies. IMAX and 3D, lord have mercy. At 10:45 at night, to boot (still, a full-house showing!). And I've just discovered that I did NOT lose my work ID in the theater, so today is looking up.

Overall, I liked this film. (Alice's dresses are amazing ^__^) That said, it lacked something profound and difficult to put into words.

Foundation, probably. Framework.

I’m not so snooty as all that -- I like “Family Guy.” I like it a lot. I enjoy that brand of simple humor that is all about “Huh-huh, we grew up in the eighties, huh-huh, remember that song, remember that scene?” I am amused by it. But there’s a difference between pulling that stuff for a full-color half-hour with intent to be funny, and for two-and-a-half exceedingly grey hours with intent to...just reference the source material. It’s not...clever? Clever is not the word I want to use to contrast with “Family Guy” -- “Family Guy” is glib, but far closer to blunt instrument than “clever.” Okay, I’m not going to talk about “Family Guy” anymore; it is irrelevant.

I would feel slightly more unfair comparing this film (which is obviously more of a riff than a faithful adaptation) to the book, except that once down the rabbit hole, the film itself parallels the book for about twenty minutes. And it’s a GOOD twenty minutes. In fact, I didn’t realize until the paralleling stopped that we had started to meander. Egregiously.

Framework. My first gut reaction upon leaving the theater: “It’s not that it’s a BAD film, it’s that they pulled too many things out of their butt.”

The original stories (I know, I know, book =/= film) followed narratives that seemed random and meandering but, on closer examination, paralleled, in dream form, both real-world elements (a card game, a chess game, word and logic puzzles, real schoolroom poetry, math problems) and elements from the story's own "real world" (Alice's cats, her sister's admonishments, etc.)

Cleverness in this film, on the other hand, is just going down a checklist and including recognizable characters and items onscreen, plus adding a realistic dimension to things that might better have been left whimsical (the Red Queen/Queen of Hearts' big CGI head is an obvious homage to John Tenniel’s art, but they make it a plot point -- she’s evil because her feelings about her big head play into some kind of inferiority complex that makes her go out and CONQUER THE WORLD WITH FIRE. Everybody is given a “real” first name, but these names are only used once apiece, so quickly you can barely hear them... and they are not puns grrrr!!)

There is also way too much use of the Significant Echo, where a catchphrase used somewhere near the start of a piece is repeated toward the end, either for greatly ironic or greatly touching impact. The problem with this...I guess it’s best explained with a slightly spoilery example, and I have to compare with “Through the Looking Glass” to illustrate why this doesn’t work. The phrase in question: “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

continue )

NOTE: Comments may contain spoilers.
Ach mein Gott, the headache I am having. It runs from crown to chin.

Okay, so obviously the Good Lord Jesus Frederick did not wish me to see "Avatar," and it's quite possible I should have listened, although what I feel is not quite regret.

Signs given:
1. Five minutes into the film, the film goes black for ten. There is unrest.
2. Last climactic big battle scene is completely covered over by a superimposed "MOVIE QUIZ." You know, those Q&A ones you're supposed to get while you're waiting for the film? "What role did Fig Newton play in the yadda yadda yadda?" That sort of thing. You know how the main reason I gave for seeing the damn thing was the guy (I didn't know who, at the time) doing the perfect bow and arrow pose in midair? I MISSED THIS. I mean, I heard it, but all I saw were random limbs around the edges of the frame! I did learn that Nilla Wafer played three completely different roles in the popular film "Cookie Jar" in 1764, though. Commence further unrest.
3. The requisite inappropriately laughy/shouty/why are you even here? kids in the third row. They follow me, I swear. (They also give standing ovations. Go fig.)
4. Ach mein GOTT, this headache I am having. Is there a thing where people with contacts or astigmatism or something can't use 3-D glasses? I have never managed to see a full-length 3-D film without pain. Not even in my living room. Somebody promised me this one was supposed to be different. *baleful look*

But I did see it, and, okay, yeah, everything They All Said is pretty much true. I think the following commentaries jibe best with my feelings on the matter (review-type spoilers):

Asking the Wrong Questions: Avatar

Boing Boing: What storytelling risks could Avatar have taken? (some pretty good comments)

I'm not disgusted in the same way I was disgusted at Alexander, because Avatar doesn't fail in the same way Alexander did -- the latter film offended (egregiously homophobic while pretending not to be), but also failed at all the emotional manipulations it was so obviously trying out. This one doesn't miss those. You can fall into it, mostly. (You will then be kicked out repeatedly, but it does initially snag you. The CGI people are excellent actors. And death scenes do not play out like something from Looney Toons. Although about three of the audience teenagers seemed to find impalement HIGH-LARIOUS.) It did not, however, rise (ha) to the level of The Last Samurai, which pulled the same thing, but at least could be argued semantically, if one were inclined toward a desperate last-ditch effort. ("Samurai" can be plural, it doesn't have to mean Tom Cruise! Yeah, I did say "desperate...")

I think the main flaw of Avatar is the main character, which is... a problem. bigger than review-type spoilers beneath cut )

So. Yes. I'm being really pedantic with all this; I have to, I'm posting it in two places. ^___^

The thing is, I am into CGI and special effects all that tech jazz. I'm the type of person who buys very large, full-color "making-of" books in addition to watching the DVD extras about forty times apiece, and who will then try to tell you about why they are awesome and innovative over lunch (quoting extensively from said books); I'm the one who destroyed a VHS of, I think, "Aladdin," way back in the day by rewinding it frame by frame over and over again (DVDs are so nice for that); and if I had a smidge more artistic ability than your average weevil (which I do not), you'd better believe I'd quit my industry in a heartbeat and devote myself to trying to design computer games or something. (If I had any courage at all I WOULD attempt to at least join a costuming department of some kind. :-D) And I don't think this film is worth watching on the small screen. It needs a big screen. The new 3-D methods (though profoundly painful, oooouch, ibuprofen kicking in) are gorgeous, the real-person interaction with CGI-person completely seamless -- nothing throws you out of the experience in that respect. Underwater feels and looks like underwater, fast pans over the landscape feel like roller-coasters, flecks of dust and seed pods float subtly in the air inches from your nose (I had exactly one psychosomatic sneeze, no lie), standing at cliff edges produces actual vertigo, and it's not just a matter of a single element clumsily incorporated into the story lurching out of the screen, it's immersive -- I wanted to fall into that world, and felt like I really could, and it wasn't even IMAX.

I came away from this -- actually, I came away from the previews, even -- thinking, very strongly, "Dammit, they're going to take this brilliant precious immersive technology and devote it to... 'Pirhana.' WHY GOD?"

Sigh. Oh, Cameron.

Maybe if they could have spliced together a good-parts version for me. I would be really sorry to have missed the good parts.

Peter Falk! I need you!

Anyway, the nice thing is that because of all the snafu, the theater gave us vouchers, so I shall get to see Sherlock Holmes gratis.

(And I have to admit -- unlike some commenters in my links above, I was never bored.)

(Oh -- there was a bomb scare outside my building and they evacuated us, is why I had time to leave Midtown and gad about watching movies all evening. False alarm, apparently. Or at least, "situation under control.")
Dear team of fine, talented individuals who came together to bring to digital, full-color life The Mouth of #@$*&(&(*$# Sauron


that was his welcoming hospitality smile

And I am NOT going to watch the making-of featurette. At all. Not even a little bit.

Addendum: They did that to this guy! Actually, that makes me feel a lot better. He looks pleasant and affable.
Miscellanneous up-catching:

I seem to be on a mission to destroy myself. On Saturday I bit nearly halfway through my tongue in a restaurant (I can eat non-soft foods -- but nothing hot -- again with my entire mouth since yesterday, so it's all good, but I've developed a measure of sympathy for people with tongue studs) and I've somehow managed to lacerate four of my cuticles. It's like I took paper to myself and just sliced away on purpose. I'm not sure how this happened, but I think it might be related to hanging up Christmas lights. Support your local liquid-bandage industry!

The combination of Octavian Nothing and To Ride Hell's Chasm is going to contribute to this destruction, I think. Two books on the systematic dehumanization of dark-skinned people. Hooray.

How can I explain this -- these are very socially correct books, and I obviously don't have a problem with the message that "being mean to darker folks isn't very moral." Perfectly happy to get that message out there.

Buuuuuut...this isn't news to me, this isn't a lesson I need to be taught or a new POV that I've been unaware of, and it really just feels...unrelenting. That's it, there is an extremely unrelenting quality to these works. It's not making me feel like more of a Real Person. It's making me feel battered. Reading time is my escape place, and here I am escaping to a place where the majority of the people would either hate and distrust me or feel that I was furniture. Bleagh. Been there and read that repeatedly, and all that jazz.

I am going to finish them if it kills me, though, because they are well written books. REALLY good, especially "Octavian Nothing." *sob* But I suspect I am not the target audience, even if their authors might think I am.

So I'm reading them in small increments. Interspersed with Fumi Yoshinagi manga. (After "Flower of Life," I have a hard time believing anything anywhere NEAR as joyful as Fumi Yoshinagi manga can exist on earth.)

Also FINALLY read the classic "The Black Cauldron" over Thanksgiving (I'd forgot!) for the first time ever, which is surprising considering the trajectory of my fantasy fanhood. Never encountered it in my childhood, when it might have worked better. I’d tried to read the series before, back in the mid-’90s. The series was in the university library. I dunno. So this time I nicked it from a friend's childhood bedroom. ^__^ (It's okay! I did not remove it from said bedroom.)

Holy redemption-through-assault, is all I gotta say. Jaysus. Better-plotted than the Disney version, though. (Though I still have a small measure of affection for the Disney version -- also first encountered as an adult.)

Oh and — saw finally saw “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was lovely and moving, with one major flaw. (I think Tavie touched on this.)

It’s hard to spoil this extremely simple and basic story, but I’ll lj-cut anyway:

spoilers rot-13'd )

At any rate, the atmosphere is beautiful, the acting great, and the kid who plays Max is a treasure. (For which the director has to get at least half-credit. Directing kids is an undersung talent. This guy got kid Max to act and speak like a kid on-camera -- very natural, with all the pauses and stutters and idiosyncracies that real-life speech has -- instead of like a precocious, punchline-declaiming cuteness generator.)

I think its biggest success is that it made the tiny fears, disappointments and tragedies of normal childhood seem as big and significant as they do when you're actually a child. Which is what it set out to do. So, good film. Go see.
Yesterday was the last day of writer’s group for 2009, which sorrow and pain was muted by liberal application of sweet Connecticut wines, coquitos (MMMM), and a viewing of Zardoz, starring Charlotte Rampling, Sean Connery, and

(not Pauline Collins/Queen Victoria from Doctor Who! Reader, she married him)
(him today)

in a blond Apollo wig, culottes, and an adorable coral crocheted sweater-vest, which I envy dreadfully and want to recreate tout suite. I would wear it with a black tank top, however, as me exposing my nipples would be an entirely different sort of political/fashion statement than the one he made.

I highly recommend this film. I think you should all go out immediately and rent or Netflix this gem, watch it this weekend, take lots of notes and then come back Monday and explain it to me please because by God I am confused, I am confused and disturbed in a way that will linger for some time.

(It’s odd, but yes, it is John Alderton, not Sean Connery in his bright red panties and butt-length braid or Charlotte Rampling in her unadulterated gorgeous-ity, who had the most profound impact on me, as I am actually more familiar with Alderton’s work and am used to seeing him as either a Wodehousian bumbler or a vaguely Machiavellian Edwardian chauffeur with jet-black hair and a Welsh accent, not a Logan’s-Run-esque sex kitten with a ludicrous "evil" laugh who talks like Queen Liz)

It might be best if you were thoroughly stoned before embarking on this venture. I am not sure, because I’ve never actually been thoroughly stoned, but I don’t think wine did the job properly.

But nah, man, this experience absolutely MUST be paid forward — how can you go on living a full life knowing that you’ve missed the spectacle of the opening sequence, the strange and majestic slow progression of what is apparently the daddy of the Big Giant Head from 3rd Rock floating through the air over the vasty Scottish plains of the 23rd century, vomiting a rain of shotguns down upon a horde of red-bediapered horsemen just after intoning “The Gun Is Good. The Penis Is Bad” in a voice suspiciously close to James Earl Jones’s (and providing EXAMPLES — and also, later, there are diagrams of the mystery that is erection in 3-D slideshow), then sending them off in a wave of pillage and rapine** through the rolling emerald-green countryside? You CAN’T, that’s what.

Here is the narrator of this tale. Note the jaunty beard drawn on in marker pen.

"I am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz. I have lived three hundred years, and I long to die. But death is no longer possible. I am immortal. I present now my story, full of mystery and intrigue -- rich in irony, and most satirical. It is set deep in a possible future, so none of these events have yet occurred, but they *may.* Be warned, lest you end as I. In this tale, I am a fake god by occupation -- and a magician, by inclination. Merlin is *my* hero! I am the puppet master. I manipulate many of the characters and events you will see. But *I* am invented, too, for your entertainment -- and amusement. And you, poor creatures, who conjured *you* out of the clay? Is God in show business too? "

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Mine is an evil opening monologue!

Oh and the GREEN BREAD. The stunningly original recurring motif of the green, mass-marketed bread!!

I feel I am not adequately describing this masterpiece to you, and am thus doing you a grave disservice. I apologize.

Surely this MUST rival Manos and the Hands of Fate as an example of sublime mastery of the narrative form? How can this have gone so long unacknowledged? I can only guess that U.S.-centric chauvinism has kept this filmic work from finding similar success amongst the mass audience it deserves.

Sadly the DVD got stuck about halfway through, and it was nearly midnight on a Wednesday anyway, and raining torrentially, so we all effed off home.

Gonna miss this group.

Also gonna need to make a concerted effort to write for the next month even without Sunday-by-midnight deadlines...

Recommencing in January. ^_____^

**All joking aside, that was bloody disturbing. Of course, this was from the director of "Deliverance" and "Excalibur," therefore I should maybe not be surprised at that...



December 2013

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