Thursday, July 31, 2003

More MOVIE MADNESS~!, courtesy of Bayou Video.

An Evening with Kevin Smith
So it's not a movie, exactly, but it is a DVD. It's a four-hour (!) compilation of Q&A sessions writer/director/actor, sort of, Kevin Smith (of Clerks) did at several colleges in 2001. Four hours may seem excessive, but Smith is a hilarious storyteller, and it's a blast to hear him talk. Worth a rental, if only for the obscenely funny story about what happened to his script for Superman Lives (Hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters: "You know why you and me are gonna do a great job making Superman? ...Cause you and me, we're from the streets."). If you're not a fan of Smith's films, you probably won't have a good time, though.

(Rating: ****1/2, but only for View Askew fans)

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Not a easy film to get through. Easily one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. Steven Spielberg took over this project from the late Stanley Kubrick, and the result is an occasionally distracting marriage of two disctintly opposite filmmaking styles -- the warm, emotional (some might say sentimental) tendencies of Spielberg with the intellectual, detatched (some might say cold) methods of Kubrick. But despite all that, it's still a great film, and the lack of Oscar nominations for Spielberg's direction and especially Haley Joel Osment's devasting performance as the robot child David are an absolute travesty.

(Rating: ****1/2)

A Clockwork Orange
Speaking of Kubrick. A friend of mine once told me that this was his favorite movie. At the time, I hadn't seen it, so I just said, "Oh, that's cool." But now that I've seen it twice...that kinda disturbs me. Because this one fucked-up movie, my friends. I don't even really know what to say about it -- I'm not sure if I liked it. But most Kubrick films leave me with that feeling, that "What the hell was that?" feeling in my brain, where I'm not sure if I was entertained or anything. The movies just sit there, refusing to leave my head. I guess that's why he was such a great filmmaker. This is certainly an excellent film, but I don't know if I'd ever want to watch it again.

(Rating: ****)

The Shining
(I actually borrowed this from my friend Robert, as opposed to renting it.) Kubrick again. Watching this movie prompted a very long, very heated discussion with my friend about the liberties this film takes with the Stephen King novel (and it does take a lot of liberties). He's a die-hard King fanatic (as am I), and was quite unhappy with the plethora of changes -- he felt the film deflated and destroyed the book's story. I pointed out that it just changed the story slightly -- the book was about the Overlook Hotel's ghosts using Jack Torrance to get to his son, Danny, so that they could become real (or some shit, it's been years since I read the novel). But in the movie, Kubrick simplified things: the Overlook Hotel's ghosts are now just after Jack for reasons that aren't explained. In the book, the hotel loses. In the movie, the hotel wins. These changes (along with some problems with the film itself, like some bad acting and questionable choices in the score) led my friend to hate the movie. I, on the other hand, accepted the alterations as Kubrick recognizing that some elements of the novel were impossible to film -- such as the lion-shaped bushes that come to life and eat people -- while others were too complicated to work in a film version -- such as the croquet mallet that became an ax in the movie, and the hotel's long and storied history -- and did what he had to do to make a good movie. And I also admired Kubrick's fascinating camerawork: he shies away from close-ups, instead using medium and long shots, and always leaves an unusual amount of empty space above the actors' heads. When a character goes from one place in the hotel to another, we don't cut away -- Kubrick follows them through corridor after room after hallway in long, unbroken shots. All this together gives us the impression that Jack, Danny and Wendy are dwarfed by the hotel, that their eventual fight against it is futile. Oh, and I think I win my argument about the changes: after all, ABC aired a new six-hour mini-series of The Shining a few years ago, scripted by Stephen King himself to be as faithful to the book as possible, and it sucked ass. So there.

(Rating: ****)

High Fidelity
It's about a year ago, right, and a few friends and I were sitting in a car in the parking lot at College of the Mainland during acting class. We're supposed to be learning our scenes, but our scenes all suck, so we're just hanging out, talking. One guy, Wayne, is in the backseat, reading a script that I never finished. The owner of the car, this great girl named Kelly, is throwing CDs into the stereo almost at random. She starts playing this one song, and it's really really good. I've never heard it before, but it's easily one of the coolest songs ever. "Who is this?" I say. She smiles, a really wide smile, and says, "The Beta Band." "It's good," I say, and she laughs. "Yeah, I know. You can have this CD if you -- it's a burned copy. I have the original at home." I gladly take the CD. She's still laughing, so I ask what's up. "Have you seen High Fidelity?" she says. I haven't, so I say so. She says, "See it. You'll understand." Now I have seen it. And I do understand. Oh, man, what a great movie. And my all-time top five track ones, side ones: "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana; "Enter Sandman," Metallica; "Everything in Its Right Place," Radiohead; "On the Bound," Fiona Apple; and "So Much to Say," Dave Matthews Band. (Just see High Fidelity. You'll understand.)

(Rating: *****)

And then there's The Life of David Gale...but that one's inspired me to write an actual full-blown review. I know I said I'd do that for Moulin Rouge!, but I mean it this time.

Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or am I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Monday, July 28, 2003

Rarely does anything I write make me laugh. I love humor, and I love comedy and funny things, but I can rarely seem to write them least in a way that seems funny to me.

But lo and behold, I actually managed to come up with an exchange that made me laugh long and hard...

ADAM: "You killed David!"
IAN: "No, I didn't, he committed suicide."
ADAM: "With your gun."
IAN: "Yes."
ADAM: "In your house."
IAN: "Yes."
ADAM: "In front of you."
IAN: "Yes."
ADAM: "By shooting himself in the face."
IAN: "Yes."
ADAM: "Twice."
IAN: "...Yes."

That's from Burned, the latest short film from Vacant Studios (who were working on another movie you may remember). The plot is...ridiculous, really, and I won't embarass myself by providing a synopsis here. But those lines make me laugh.

We just shot the film on Saturday, and we're now in the post-production phase. We're editing, we've got a guy working on a score, we've got sound effects to dub in -- there are moments during this production where I'm thinking, "Holy shit, I'm making a real movie!" Then I watch some of our footage (example: a moving car simulated by spraying a stationary car with a hose, creating "rain" that obscures the view of the non-moving background) and that feeling goes away.

The camera stuff is actually somewhat competent, in some cases. The film takes place in two locations -- one a place of happiness and contemplation, the other a den of sin and death. We shot the scenes in the happy location in the daytime, in a very white room, with bright light streaming through the covered windows, creating something that looks like the afterlife at times. The other location was photographed (er, well, I guess "videographed" or something, since we used my digital camera) at night, in my apartment, which features no air conditioning and very poor lighting. So everyone looks like death warmed over, they're dripping with sweat. The only lights in the room are almost always in the frame, creating bizarre shadows and making everyone seem ominous. Add to this the fact that we shot in black-and-white, and the effect is almost startling. Now, if only the movie hadn't been yet another goofy parody, we could've had something incredible.

But the experience of directing this short flick -- as dreadful as the process was at times, thanks mostly to my apartment's lack of air conditioning and my own determination to finish this fucking movie NOW, DAMMIT -- has inspired me to want to start writing again. I've got a strong desire to start writing another screenplay -- not just a goofy short film to shoot in one day with my friends, but a real, feature-length screenplay. It's been close to a year since I tried that. I think perhaps the time has come again.

Now, where is that Final Draft disc....

It could've been God stopped the bullets, changed Coke to Pepsi, found my fucking car keys. But you see, that shit don't matter.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Oh, I forgot one...

The Japanese film that spawned The Ring. The original is superior, if only because it doesn't try so hard: while the American version featured non-stop rain and gloom and people coughing up medical equipment and such, Ringu manages to be far creepier by just looking normal. There are also some minor plot differences, all of them improvements -- this movie's story actually makes sense! Highly recommended, assuming that the Japanese audio won't bother you.

(Rating: ****. The Ring received ***.)

"If you could fight any celebrity, who would it be?"
"Shatner. I'd fight William Shatner."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Haven't updated in a while. Not like it matters, because no one reads this anyway. But I still feel bad.

I've been renting movies like a madman over the past month or so. Since my current financial situation doesn't allow me to purchase DVDs (though I've got quite the impressive collection already), I've rediscovered the joy that is renting. I think it was simply the evilness of those evil Satan-worshippers at Blockbuster that turned off in the first place, so now I'm going to Bayou Video, a little video store that resides between the Dollar General Store and a barber shop. It's small, but it's got class. And movies are cheap, plus no one there worships the Dark Lord Lucifer, at least to my knowledge.

Here's a list of the movies I've managed to rent there, along with a brief capsule review (I am planning to start writing full-blown reviews to add to my film reviews section, but this will do for now).

The Truman Show
What a great movie. When people talk about the 1999 Academy Awards, they usually talk about the "injustice" that was Saving Private Ryan's failure to win Best Picture (an award that went to the vastly superior Shakespeare in Love). But what few people remember is an even greater injustice: the nearly complete shutout of Peter Weir's stunning The Truman Show. A satire that manages to be both funny, pointed and moving, Truman features a brilliant performance by Jim Carrey and one of the great moments in all of cinema: Truman's reunion with his "long-lost" "father," all orchestrated by his unseen director, Christof (played superbly by Ed Harris). And the stunning climax, when Truman comes face-to-face with God and turns away. A true masterpiece.

(Rating: Essential #60)

Punch-Drunk Love
It's now official: writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (who also gave us Boogie Nights and Magnolia) is the best American filmmaker working today. Punch-Drunk Love is the romantic comedy for people who don't like romantic comedies, and the Adam Sandler movie for people who hate Adam Sandler. Sandler's Barry Egan is strikingly similar to other Sandler creations like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison: lonely, sexually frustrated, prone to violent outbursts. But unlike those characters, whose emotional deficiences are celebrated and played for laughs, here he becomes a object of pity, as we see him tormented by the relentless childish teasing of his sisters. He falls in love at first sight with the glorious Lena (Emily Watson) while avoiding the henchmen of the sinister operator of a phone-sex company (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Yeah, it sounds bizarre, and it is, but what would you expect from the guy who had Tom Cruise strutting around a stage screaming "Respect the cock and tame the cunt"?

(Rating: *****)

The Evil Dead
I'd been waiting to see this for years. I'd heard so much about the greatness of this cheapo horror flick. I was skeptical -- after all, it was the film debut of director Sam Raimi, whom I've never been fond of (the man behind the horrible The Quick and the Dead, the cheesy For the Love of the Game, and the wildly overpraised Spiderman). But last night, I finally got a chance to see it., did it suck. Sorry, people, I just don't get it. The first thirty minutes or so are pretty good, but it eventually decends into an endless stream of gore splattering across the screen. And it's just not scary at all. Sorry.

(Rating: *1/2)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
This just might be the greatest action movie ever made. Do I really have to say anything else?

(Rating: Essential #38)

Unprecedented: The 2000 Presedential Election
George W. Bush is Satan. I wonder if he ever worked for Blockbuster....

(Rating: ****)

The Game
The film David Fincher made between Se7en and Fight Club. Anything is going to look bad between those films, and it doesn't help that The Game is pretty predictable. Looks great, well-acted, but the script lets Fincher down.

(Rating: ***)

The only movie I can think of that is actually funnier in retrospect than it is while you're actually watching it. Kinda like high school. A great movie, and what might be Bill Murray's best performance.

(Rating: ****1/2)

And that's it. I also rented Moulin Rouge!, but I think I'm going to write a full-blown review of that one. Gotta go now -- I have to go to the video store.

"I wish he would have done this for me when I was a kid."
"But you didn't have a drug problem then."
"It still would have meant a lot to me."

Monday, July 14, 2003

"Not Waving but Drowning"
by Florence Margaret Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

I love that poem. I read it in an English textbook years ago, and happened to stumble across it today while looking for something else. How about that.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Song of the week:

"Locomotive (Complicity)"
by Guns N' Roses

Gonna find a way to cure this loneliness
Yeah, I'll find a way to cure the pain
If I said that you're my friend,
And our love would never end,
How long before I had your trust again?
I opened up the doors when it was cold outside
Hoping that you'd find your own way in
But how can I protect you,
Or try not to neglect you,
When you won't take the love I have to give?

I bought me an illusion, and I put it on the wall
I let it fill my head with dreams, and I had to have them all
But oh, the taste is never so sweet as what you'd believe it is...
Well, I guess it never is
It's these prejudiced illusions that pump the blood
To the heart of the biz

You know I never thought that it could take so long
You know I never knew how to be strong
Yeah, I let you shape me,
But I feel as though you raped me,
Becaause you climbed inside my world and in my songs
So now I've closed the door to keep the cold outside
Seems somehow I've found the will to live
But how can I forget you,
Or try not to reject you,
When we both know it takes time to forgive?

Sweetness is a virtue
And you lost your virtue long ago
You know I'd like to hurt you
But my conscience always tells me no
You could sell your body on the street
To anyone whom you might meet
Who'd love to try and get inside
And bust your innocence open wide

'Cause my baby's got a locomotive
My baby's gone off the track
My baby's got a locomotive
Got to peel the bitch off my back
I know it looks like I'm insane
Take a closer look I'm not to blame

Gonna have some fun with my frustration
Gonna watch the big screen in my head
I'd rather take a detour,
'Cause this road ain't getting clearer
Your train of thought has cut me off again
Better tame that boy 'cause he's a wild one
Better tame that boy 'fore he's a man
Sweetheart don't make me laugh;
You's gettin' too big for your pants,
And I's think maybe you should cut out while you can

You can use your illusion, let it take you where it may
We live and learn, and then sometimes it's best to walk away
Me I'm just here hangin' on, it's my only place to stay
At least for now anyway
I've worked too hard for my illusions just to throw them all away

I'm taking time for quiet consolation
In passing by this love that's passed away
I know it's never easy,
So why should you believe me,
When I've always got so many things to say?
Calling off the dogs -- a simple choice is made
'Cause playful hearts can sometimes be enraged
You know I tried to wake you --
I mean, how long could it take you
To open up your eyes and turn the page?

Kindness is a treasure
And it's one towards me you've seldom shown
So I'll say it for good measure
To all the ones like you I've known
You know I'd like to shave your head
And all my friends could paint it red
'Cause love to me's a two way street
And all I really want is peace

But my baby's got a locomotive
My baby's gone off the track
My baby's got a locomotive
Got to peel the bitch off my back
I know it looks like I'm insane
Take a closer look I'm not to blame

Affection is a blessing
Can you find it in your sordid heart?
I tried to keep this thing together
But the tremor tore my pad apart
Yeah, I know it's hard to face
When all we've worked for's gone to waste
But you're such a stupid woman
And I'm such a stupid man
But love like time's got its own plans

'Cause my baby's got a locomotive
My baby's gone off the track
My baby's got a locomotive
Got to peel the bitch off my back
I know it looks like I'm insane
Take a closer look I'm not to blame
If love is blind, I guess I'll buy myself a cane

Love's so strange...
The world is an enormous crock of shit and I hate everyone

Just some random hatred tonight, folks.

1) People on the internet who TyPe LiKe THiS, mAkINg iT FuCkInG IMpoSsIbLe tO REaD. You are not cute. Cut it out.

2) The word "jalapeno" is pronounced "ha-la-pain-yo." Not "halla-pee-no." Or "ha-la-pay-no." Or "halla-pain-ya." Or "hal-a-pee-na." Or anything else. Say it together now: "ha-la-pain-yo." There you go.

3) On a related note, the word "extra" does not have a "y" in it anywhere. So please explain to me what the hell makes some people pronounce it "x-tree." Stop that!

4) When someone reverses their position on something, they do not do a 360, they do a 180. A 360 is a complete circle. If they did a 360, they'd end up where they started. So do a 180 on this 360 crap.

5) If you ever find yourself in a politcal discussion with someone who occupies the right side of the political spectrum, heed this advice: when, in response to a criticism of a Republican official (especially Fearless Leader himself), the conservative brings up Bill Clinton's sexual escapades, that is the point where you can stop taking them seriously. Everything intelligent, interesting, or even relevant that they had to bring to the conversation has now been said, and they're running purely on inertia. Bringing Clinton's penis into a discussion that way is the political equivalent of "Yeah, well, at least my mom's not on the cover of Crack Whore magazine!"

6) If someone likes a song/band/movie/sports franchise that you yourself don't care for, this does not make them "stupid," "gay," or "fucking retarded." While they may be any and all of those things, coming to this conclusion based solely on the fact that they cheer for the San Diego Padres is, perhaps, a bit hasty.

7) Guys: put a fucking shirt on. Seriously. I don't know what the purpose is here -- maybe you think that if all the men take off their shirts, women will think that's what they're supposed to do and follow suit. I don't know, and I don't care.

8) And for god's sakes -- tip the pizza man, you cheap bastard!

That is all.

I've worked too hard for my illusions just to throw them all away...