Wednesday, December 29, 2010
5 of the best films this year were serious ventures with big ambitions but slight budgets. Don't let these indie gems fall under your radar.
Dogtooth takes a simple and elegant premise and makes it believable and disturbing-- Can mom and dad keep the influence of the great big scary world out of their children's reach? Maybe all it takes is a really tall fence and lots and lots of absurd and bewildering lies. What about when the children begin to come into adulthood? Oh, What tangled webs we weave.
Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blue Valentine takes a relationship's sweet beginnings and juxtaposes them with it's painful and awkward disillusion. More like A Woman Under the Influence, it removes all barriers to its realism and plays the notes as earnestly as possible. What it amounts to is a powerful warts and all emotional experience that nearly won it an NC-17 rating for an "emotionally intense sex scene."
Greenberg is smart, but not as smart as he thinks. Life continues to clue him into this and he keeps refusing to listen. He casts nervous aggression haphazardly in all directions scoring a few hits but mostly missing his aim. He's the defensive little egoist many of us know and many of us are. Director Noah Baumbach(Squid and the Whale) and Ben Stiller bring this little monster to life with uncanny precision.
In our little corner of the woods...perhaps a little further into the woods, a desperate young woman and her derelict uncle are forced to confront a cadre of grizzled drug runners in order to save the family homestead her meth cook father put up as bond before disappearing. Her heroic story is set against a stark Ozark winter that hits every dismal detail on it's rotten toothless head.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Fiercely Anonymous street artist Banksy plays puppeteer with a terrible little protege and perhaps the audience as well to ask a well crafted question about art and authenticity.
Of course there's also that insufferable big budget success from the Memento guy that despite it's being completely uninteresting and unimportant, never the less, has sparked more controversy and debate than we've seen sense the original Matrix. But, alas, my tastes are too refined. A great film cannot be properly enjoyed unless only a few people can enjoy it.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Don DeLillo seems at his best dealing in bits of minutia, character revealed in the slightest gestures, every detail mined for its significance. It's little wonder then that his newest book Point Omega, sets itself the task of digesting a heady peice of contempory art, where mining for meaning is the name of the game.
The brief novel, singles out a recent video work, a real-life installation by a German video artist entitled 24-Hour Psycho, a slo-mo rendering of the Hitchcock classic with a 24-hour run time. The artwork becomes the jump off point for the story, weaves throughout it, illuminates the story's central themes, to the point that the novel seems as much a work of art appreciation as it does a narrative.
DeLillo's attentiveness to seemingly insignificant detail within his observations reliably cut straight to the heart of the matter. His characters are real and sympathietic, but I feel that however ideosyncratic, they are at bottom a means to a conceptual end. I don't mean this to say that somehow he is a lesser writer for it, rounding the edges off his characters to fit nicely in a conceptual framework. On the contrary, i think he's one of the few writers who can take a top-down idea and see it from the bottom up. In this way he shares a vein with his conceptual artist counterparts.
Having never viewed 24-Hour Psycho, I feel I can appreciate it anyhow. Much like his similar book The Body Artist, all the conceptualizing does take place within the confines of a traditional novel. There are descriptions of art and interpretations of art. But through the words and because of the words, there seems to be very little lost in translation, its almost as if you were experiencing the art first hand with all those fleeting associations, quiet reverences, and little epiphanies caught in their tracks and brought to bear on the page.
Oh i almost forgot...there is a story too! A filmmaker follows an old man(a powerful ex idea-man for the war in Iraq) to his vacation home in Arizona in hopes of making an experimental film about him. Heady Ideas about time and space are rendered realistically and convincingly, and a hunger for film and media criticism is handsomely rewarded. Point Omega is the work of an aging yet powerful writer who still has much to tell us.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Here are 44 of of my favorite foreign flicks, that you could watch right now, given you subscribe. Netflix allows you to view the movies you've rated in a handy best-to-worst list, so i skimmed these foreign gems off the top (4 and 5 star ratings), and whittled them down to stream-able play now titles.
You the Living
The Sea Inside
Let the Right One In
My Life as a Dog
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Jules and Jim
4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Knife in the Water
Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Watch the trailer here
Branded to Kill
The Piano Teacher
Battle of Algiers
Man Bites Dog
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Long ago and far away beyond the days of YouTube, Matt and I decided that our pointless banter was too amusing to be kept between us, and set out to record a chunk of it. Using the most powerful, state of the art animation tool at our disposal--Microsoft Paint--we were able to create an entire world in which a shitty drawing of a fork and a shittier drawing of a ham stand in a white room and talk without moving too much.
Due to the sophisticated nature of animating the dialogue, YouTube was an unacceptable solution to carry our vision. But now it seems technology has finally caught up with us, and you may now enjoy our idle musings as they were originally intended.
More to come:
Episode 2 - Fork Vs. Ham
Episode 3 - To Fork From Ham
Episode 4 - Forks Over My Hammy
Friday, July 23, 2010
Here's a few ideas I've had for TV sitcoms.
1. A brilliant but lonely genius with several degrees in robotics is disappointed by his intellectually inferior friends. He decides to use his knowledge of robotics to create a humanoid robot that will share his passion for the high and lofty. But, a freak accident creates EARL( Electronic Artificial Robot Lifeform) a hillbilly robot whose favorite pastimes include dog breeding and racism. This unlikely pair learn to live together, and our brilliant but lonely genius learns a thing or two about friendship.
TITLE: MAKING FRIENDS
2. Two best friends, fat Sam and skinny Bruce meet an early demise. When their monthly fishing trip goes awry Bruce and Sam's bones are picked clean by a school of hungry piranha. Strangely the two survive and come to live in a culturally diverse inner-city group home. Sam and bruce couldn't be any more different but their bone structures are identical. Hilarity ensues as the members of the group home mistake them for one another.
3. Homicide detective Sean Simon's career is threatened when he is struck in the eye by a suspect's bullet. A chance encounter on a new assignment teaches sean that his injury has given him special psychic powers. Lifting his eye patch to expose his grizzly mangled eye hole, Sean witnesses the murder as if it were happening before his eye. Sean must now use his special ability to try and catch the cities killers before they can kill again. Sean can see with one bad eye what the rest of the force will never see with two.
TITLE: DEATH PERCEPTION
4. Two twin brothers separated at birth unwittingly become friends when they move down the street from one another.
"Mama left them both to die when they were kids
Now they're all grown up, look what they did!
They started out in different cities, Somehow they both ended up in Cincinnati.
Now they're living on the very same street.
Who would really think that they would ever meet?
Brothers who see eachother every day
Now, lets hope they don't decide to be gay..........together
They're two of a kind,
they're there for eachother
they have the same mom,
but they don't know that they're brothers
Brothers Amigos they don't know that they're brothers
TITLE: BROTHERS AMIGOS
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
I've been reading a lot of critics lists recently and feeling abit overwhelmed. I've spent much of the past ten years taking in foriegn films. I'd be confident in saying it's nearly half of what I've watched which is no small sum. Come to find out, according to most international critics, I've somehow missed nearly all the best foreign films of the decade. I've more or less decided to try and become aquainted with much of what I've missed, which include the entire careers of a girl named Claire Denis and a guy named Apichatpong Weerasethakul, by many critics measure the best it had to offer. The first of these favorited flicks I've been able to find is a beautiful Hungarian thing called Hukkle.
With an extremely slight narrative and hardly a word of dialogue, Hukkle comes off as more a poem than a drama. The filming takes place in a small hungarian farming town, and captures in many ways the sublime banality of its inhabitants and the local wild-life. The camera wanders from scene to scene through odd and suprising little vignettes, visual analogies, and unimportant coincidences. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Harmony Korine's Gummo. Both take a similar approach employing local non-professionals to go through familiar ritual as the camera catches as best in can its own unique perspective. In Gummo the community seems to be decaying, there seems to be something sinister in each dying tree. It's a distinctly American poem.
Hukkle on the other hand takes place in a far quianter setting. The little village seems as if it's been there for a thousand years and will stand a thousand more. Everything seems healthy and utopian in a way that only little european towns can. Except people are dying unnaturally. A(the) local police officer is trying hard to figure it out, but is left just as baffled and we are. Those few sentences pretty much make up the "plot" of the film.
Resting upon this slender frame are poetic moments of death and rebirth somehow given both the reverence of a nature documentary and sly elements of comedy. A cat which seems to be rolling about playfully in the grass is actually dying in fits. A pig with comically large testicles is walked across town to be bred with a sow, the owners looking on together fondly. A frog sneaking up on a creek side investigation is suddenly devoured by a catfish. And throughout it all an old man seems to have an extreme case of the hiccups.
You may follow along with the cop, the films only intellectual element, trying to solve the mystery at hand but the film doesn't cater to this impulse over any other. It's a relief to be offered such engaging audio/visual poems, and not be overburdened with the facts and the circumstances, or with one character's particular emotional point of view. The film knows how generous its being. In one interlude we observe an older woman watching a soap opera. The sounds of the program off camera fill the small room with melodramatic dialogue and a cheesy score. Your happy to be enjoying a film that leaves room for your own experiences and doesn't attempt to cheapen your emotions. In this way, it comes and goes with less form and ego having, like good poetry, said something less direct but more meaningful.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
There has been a bit of confusion out there as to whether or not fetuses are really people. Some people think that they don't have souls and so are more like a dog or a vacuum cleaner. Others think that maybe a fetus can be put to work, especially if it has children of its own.
I've put together a few facts that should finally clear things up.
This is a fetus at 18 weeks. As you can see, it has fingers, toes, ears, and skin. Looks very much like it could be a human.
At 22 weeks already we begin to see changes. Our fetus, who likes to be referred to as Arnie, has made some startling advances. The onset of pubic hair and a newfound curiosity in the opposite sex mark this delicate stage.
By week 25 more great milestones. The fetus must now learn to start taking responsibility and think about where it's going to be in another week or so. A pivotal time to be sure.
By week 28 the fetus really begins to express its individuality. Staking out its identity, the fetus begins to rebel against the provinciality of the womb, and longs to be free of all feeding sacs and amniotic fluids.
Coming into week thirty the fetus has likely been to Europe or the far east at least once. This new stage in his development marks a more open minded attitude. The fetus is likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and is often marked by many other factors including growing out a beard to try it out, a discreet tribal tattoo, a preference for khaki shorts and comfortable footwear, and a vague idea of the real truth behind the lies.
By week 33 the fetus has settled into more consistent facial hair styles. The fetus begins to thin a bit up top and likes to take it easy with a few close friends maybe if he has time after work.
In this final stage of development the fetus buys a sports car and tries to get back in touch with a previous stage in his development.
The fetus is then born and looks kind of like this. It acts real aloof and doesn't even mind pissing on itself. If it doesn't fuck things up, it may one day even be a person.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Here they are, in easy to consume reverse chronological list format, my 10 favorite albums of our bygone decade. Do scroll down into the archives to find individual love letters to each one.
It's hard to find much to relate to in metal music for me anymore. It turns out that the problem is mostly the vocals. They're usually screamed in a manner such that lyrics are rendered useless. One might argue that the vocals are more of an artistic touch meant to convey a feeling or emotion. Well ok, this can be made to work I'll agree but it becomes hard to beleive that this sort of anger can be sustained, in the singer, much less(more importantly) in the minds of listeners over any period of time(teenagers and psychopaths excluded). Screaming as an instrument does makes sense to me, very few bands though can pull this off.
Take the vocals away though and a few things happen. The focus is taken off the screamer and instrumentation must carry the song along. Without a vocalist the traditional song structures seem awkward and vestigial. With the music of midwestern post-metal group Pelican this emphasis is given to the change of movements and the building of melodies, harmonies, and volume. The songs swell and break almost organically.
Unlike say jazz though the effect isn't entirely avant garde. In the absence of lyrics to hold a theme or narrative, the songs retain a sort of cinematic quality. Bands like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky have used this to great effect in actually scoring popular films. Yet without a proper narrative the compostions have to be interpreted though the scant few impressions given by song title, album title, and album art.
With Pelican's The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw the impressions are grand, naturalsitic, time spanning, and represent fantastic and unstoppable forces of nature. With this in mind the album can play as various narratives. To me, it's glaciers slowly carving out continents, it's great squids and white whales and mammals coming aground, it's the volcanic birth of islands and mountains. Its great and powerful forces of nature playing out thier ruthless and unpeopled stories.
Consider the difficulty of trying to express such a scope verbally, and you'll find that those who try often end up sounding over the top and goofy, where classical intrumentals have succeeded. Much like the classics it's not just size of your orchestra, but the grace and complexity with which you can use it. Fire in our Throats is Pelican's most melodic and complex composition to date, every bit as nuanced as the albums of thier post-rock bretheren mentioned above.
Nevermind those metal bands who strive for darkness of the industrial, the tribal, the fuedal, and the sacrelige, Pelican is capable of expressing the greatness and complexity of the natural and the primordial which is far more interesting.