Monday, April 12, 2010

Daytime werewolfery, frabjous day, dying suns, struggling NASA paycheck to NASA paycheck, and other nonsense no one believes in.

At the end of this post, piling folly on folly: unreserved hope for the films of 2010.

The long title serves to warn that this is a long post.

I was going to start a Joe Dante marathon as soon as my Bergman marathon was over, but, as y'all know, I never did finish my Bergman marathon.

Good Friday morning I was up too early and needed a scare.  With werewolves on the mind, I brewed some coffee, pulled Dante's The Howling off the shelf, popped it in, and settled down for some pre-dawn lycanthropy.

The Howling's werewolves are both different and not so different from the Universal Wolf Man.  They can change whenever they want, full moon or no full moon.  That's a big difference.  An even bigger difference?  These werewolves have embraced the curse.  They love it.  They are wild, restrained only as far as is socially necessary to protect themselves from being hunted and exterminated.

Those differences noted, Larry Talbot would still be morally conflicted if he was bitten in this other world.  In the end, the only likable characters in The Howling are those who welcome death as a relief.

I loved the ending.

Saturday, a couple of the guys I work for wanted to see a movie and we came to the group consensus of Alice in Wonderland.  An 11:45 showing at the Regal.  We were the only ones there.

I should have written about the film immediately, but I didn't, so all I've got left are vague impressions.

The "real world" parallels to the Underland reality are funny and I found it refreshing that it wasn't quite the 1:1 correspondence of Oz/Kansas.  I found myself smiling through the entire garden party/proposal sequence.

The whole "return to Wonderland" idea allows a lot of wiggle room for playing around in Carroll's universe without being unfaithful.  Like Return to Oz, one of my childhood favorites, in its playing loose but respectful with sources, this Alice in Wonderland is an amalgam of Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-glass, Carroll's poetry, and also all of the adaptations of Alice so far and our cultural expectations of Alice.

What I found most refreshing was the innocence of this 20-year-old (!) Alice.  

In a cinematic culture of raunch and ruin, in which too many of today's children have had their imagination formed by the likes of Saw and Superbad, or, maybe worse, sitcoms and Spongebob, I choose and champion the beautiful naivety of innocent and lovely Alice.   

Or the savage grace of Max.

In this context of enjoying Alice, I caught up with Where the Wild Things Are on DVD.  WtWTA is as good as all of its defenders have said it is.  

Here is youth that carries the dying sun in its heart.  

A heavy burden indeed.  Max here is as innocent as Alice, but wounded and grieving.  If Alice is an ideal from the past, Max may be closer to our current reality or at least the reality of my generation, the dying sun generation.

Both films go far in capturing the spirit and sensibility of youth.

Note to self: the Sun of Righteousness has risen, is even yet rising, and shall never set.  

I suppose I knew I had to experience disappointment eventually after a solid run of films like the above.  The next film I watched was 1935's Werewolf of London which is pretty bad by most standards.  I don't even care enough to trash it right now.

Not at all what I expected, but not at all a disappointment, The Box is magnificent.  Not quite Shyamalan The Happening level magnificent.  All the same, entirely to be celebrated uniquely magnificent.

I hope I'm clear in comparing the two.  I described The Happening as a noble failure and am now placing The Box right beside it.  The Box doesn't work as metaphysical suspense thriller.  It falls flat and is often more than laughable, bordering on outright lunacy.  We're a race of greedy murderers and judgment will come.  Either through a lightning-inspired superior being or killer plants.   

But, there is a sincerity and intensity and honest craftsmanship here that should not be mocked.  

I need to stress... The Box is so much better than any typical Hollywood studio picture.  I totally support The Box.  I mean it when I describe it as magnificent.  It's amazing that a film like this got made and seemed to have a good advertising campaign and strong studio support.  I hope for a long and happy career for Richard Kelly.  He's proven himself to be extremely talented and wildly inventive even when restraining himself.  I want more.

In TV land, Lost keeps on disappointing.  I wish I could care more.  I'm almost ready to stop watching (stupid empty threat).  I fell asleep twenty minutes into the Desmond episode.  Don't worry.  I watched it later in the week.  It sucked.  

Even worse than a parallel timeline is a parallel timeline in which parallel folks start discovering that they suck.  Because I know they suck.  The solution is not to make the characters aware that they suck.  The solution is to just STOP already.  Okay?

So, now I've worked myself up into a frenzy of negativity.  

You'll just have to believe me that I remain cheerfully optimistic.  Even about the direction of Lost.  Especially about 2010 in film.

2010 may end up being really, really great.

We're probably getting True Grit by the end of the year.

We're definitely getting a Jonah Hex adaptation with a great cast.

And...

Kelly Reichart may have a Western done by the end of the year... Meek's Cutoff.

That's three Westerns.

It seems almost certain that we'll get Tree of Life in November.

Iron Man 2 will be shocking if anything other than the most fun movie of the summer.

So, even before the Cannes lineup announcement, here is a 2010 anticipation list...

This list is based mostly on me having read tiny blurbs on each film and getting excited over a director, a cast, or just an idea.  I'm sure I've missed some worthy films or may be giving some of these films too much credit, but, hey, I'm still excited.  Tell me about what else I should be excited about.

20 all-American films expected to deliver AWESOME!!!  I'm feeling patriotic.  

1) True Grit (Coen)
2) Tree of Life (Malick)
3) Meek's Cutoff (Reichart)
4) Jonah Hex (Hayward)
5) Iron Man 2 (Favreau)
6) Survival of the Dead (Romero)
7) The Town (Affleck)
8) Toy Story 3 (Unkrich)
9) The American (Corbijn)
10) Get Low (Schneider)
11) The Last Airbender (Shyamalan)
12) Robin Hood (Scott)
13) The Green Hornet (Gondry)
14) The Fighter (Russell)
15) Your Highness (Green)
16) Kick-Ass (Vaughn)
17) The Last Exorcism (Stamm)
18) Cyrus (Duplass)
19) My Soul to Take (Craven)
20) You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Allen)