Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brandon's Project

I've made a quick and easy google site consolidating all of Brandon's 1940-1959 top ten lists published so far. It's nothing fancy, but it's a nice reference all in one place. I borrowed a huge tub of movies from him and have to get to work on watching them. If it accomplishes nothing else, this google site will at least help me prioritize my viewing without always having to search through Brandon's blog archives.


I haven't commented on any of your lists in a while, but I have to ask: What happened to Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 1941? Sturges and Walsh weren't the only directors making multiple great films that year. I haven't seen Hitchcock's Suspicion yet, but Mr. and Mrs. Smith is one of his best, an underrated comedy that doesn't seem to get enough love, which is why it was striking to me to see you not even mention it in your 1941 post. What's the deal?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm a creep

I'm done with Inception.  A much more interesting film is the Hughes Brothers' The Book of Eli.  As usual, I recommend going in with as little knowledge of the film as possible.  In a better world, us three would have seen Book of Eli its opening weekend and a great storm of posts would have ensued.  Without going into any details, I'll just say that Book of Eli is not "perfect" or a "masterpiece," but it is extremely interesting (to me, at least) and a lot of fun.  See it.

I also caught up with Green Zone and found it satisfying enough.  We may be too close to the events depicted to be able to enjoy being entertained by them.

The A-Team movie succeeds where Green Zone fails.  Almost non-stop goofy fun (though the last half hour drags a bit), the film also manages to comment on everything from the privatization of war to the limits of civil authority in determining "truth" and enforcing justice. 

And the flying tank scene is ridiculously awesome.

I must have just lost whatever last shred of highbrow credibility I may have ever had. 

And I watched Baghead.  I almost turned it off a couple of times in the beginning and middle, trying to convince myself that the best way to get through my DVDs is to just not watch a movie past the first 20 minutes if I'm not interested by then.  

I didn't turn it off.  I kept watching.  The forgiveness at the end is a delight. Even if I'll never watch Baghead again, I'm glad I didn't give up on it.

I'm doing okay with weeding my DVDs (I've got a box with a few dozen titles ready to go to the store that will pay me a buck or two a piece for them).  I still have hope that I'll have Netflix back by the end of the year (thanks for rubbing it in my face with your Wii post, Brandon!) and I'm pretty sure that I have my DVD buying addiction under control now.  With a couple of notable exceptions already written about here, I've refrained from all DVD buying in the past couple of months, passing by $5 bins and shelves with only the most cursory painful glances.  I was in Hollywood Video twice in its last two weeks open and resisted major temptations each time (though why did I think it was okay to go in these stores?  I'm an idiot.)  

Netflix, we shall be reunited soon!  Wait for me, darling!

I just watched the Social Network trailer.  I'll go see the movie because it's Fincher and Eisenberg and because others are excited, but the trailer didn't do anything for me.  Sorry.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Straight Story

Jason, I concede to you that Brandon seems to have joined you and gone over to the dark side.  Earlier in the day yesterday, things didn't seem so grim.

I'm mostly done with Inception, but I want to respond to your Samson reference.

"My point is that sometimes a film needs to be amoral so as not to distract the audience. It's a story, right or wrong, and I don't always want to be preached at. Samson wasn't exactly a good guy, but we love reading about him. The consequences of his actions caught up with him, but we are never told specifically by the narrator that his actions are sinful (I don't think- it's been a while)."

If a film is amoral or immoral, then to hell with it.  It may be stunningly crafted like Synechdoche, New York or a mess like Inception or a worthless waste of time like Halloween II or an all-out assault like Bruno.   Any way it is, I'm not interested in coming back to it.  The films either don't resonate with me at all or actively turn me off.  Okay, I might revisit Synechdoche.

Inception wants to be a heist movie.  Well, the best heist movies of the past, from Asphalt Jungle to Rififi, all acknowledge the essential shadiness of the job being done.  Sometimes the characters have our sympathies, sometimes they don't.  But, in the past we always knew that what they were doing was wrong.  I haven't seen Ocean's 11 or any other recent heist films that I can think of, but if Inception is representative of these films, then I'm not interested.

But I'm getting distracted.  Back to Samson.

You wrote, "Samson wasn't exactly a good guy..." What?  It really has been too long since you've read Judges.  Samson is EXACTLY a good guy.  He's set apart from the womb as special!  And his life is spent in service of the LORD and as a judge in Israel for 20 years.  He's most definitely one of the good guys.

14:4 it was of the LORD
14:6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him
14:19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him
15:14 and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him
15:19 But God clave an hollow place  

But, yes, next in the story comes his indiscretion with a harlot and his chasing after Delilah.  The narrator does not specifically tell us that Samson sins here, but we also lose the refrain of "the Spirit of the LORD came upon him."  You're right about that, that Samson's sin is never exicitly mentioned, but it is implicitly obvious.  We know (and the original audience steeped in the Law certainly knew) from the context of the rest of Scripture that Samson was to uphold God's Law.  We don't need the narrator to tell us specifically that Samson has transgressed the law.  

The difference in Inception is that we have no moral frame of reference in the film.  Nolan presents us with these figures engaged in an evil act (I'm bringing this judment to the film; It's not there as such in the film) as our heroes as they achieve evil.  Judges presents us with a hero engaged with righteousness who obviously falls from the path, then is redeemed.  

I get your point.  I don't want to be "preached at" during a story either.  But, there is a clear difference between the Samson story and Inception.  One draws us nearer to Christ (just to be clear here, Jason, that's the Samson story!).  The other one (Inception) subtly advocates for the awesomeness of being a mind thief.   

I don't think I'm being "moralistic" or a prude here.  I've already named two heist movies I enjoy and there are plenty of crime pictures that I adore.  It all has to do with perspective.

There is a sense in which I understand your "amoral" comment that is evidenced in Hitchcock's work.  Rope features a couple of reprehensible young men, but there are multiple times in the story where we, the audience, are tense because the crime may be discovered.  In the moment, we irrationally wish against justice and hope for the crime to succeed.  Hitchcock gives us a taste of the criminal and perverse, then ultimately makes us question why we sympathize with it.  Nolan just takes us along for the ride.  Just the thrills, ma'am.

I don't know if I'm being clear here, but I'm trying to hammer out posts quickly here to satiate you ravenous dreamhounds.

Be patient

"Come on, John, where are you?"

I'll have more posted sometime in the next couple of days.  

Keep in mind that, for the past year, I have had no Internet access at home and 98% of my posts here, including all of these Inception posts, are written on and posted from my iPod touch.  If that's not dedication to movie club, I'm not sure what is.  

Be patient!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Conversations 2010 #18

Conversations 2010 #18

You guys are both way ahead of me now, but here's my response to some of what you posted earlier today.
"I don’t think that you have considered what is possibly the worst facet of rape which is the emotional aftermath. Murphy’s character didn’t even know what happened to him."

Yikes!  On the contrary, I have considered it.  It's Nolan's avoidance of consequences that is part of the problem.  Cobb slips Murphy a roofie (literally), then "rapes" him.  When Murphy wakes up, he feels like a new man.  WTF!?  I don't think that I'm grasping at straws with this analogy; the uninvited invasion of someone's mind (not to mention changing the fundamental way they think about the world) surely constitutes what I'm calling psychic rape.  For Nolan, what that drunk girl at the party doesn't know about what happened when she passed out doesn't hurt her.  It makes her stronger. 

I won't push this any further.  The main point was that Cobb and co. are engaged in an unexamined evil act, much worse than your typical "one last job" bank heist.

That's really all I wanted to clarify in relation to your post.  Reading all of your posts about Inception, I think that it's safe to say that this isn't going to be the debate of the year between us, as fun as this all has been.  All things considered, it looks a lot like we're in agreement on most things.  I've focused on the negatives, but I do respect Nolan and see plenty of positive in the film (otherwise I wouldn't still be writing about it).  [In other words, I'll probably be there with the rest of the fanboys when Batman 3 opens.]  You've leaned slightly the other way and highlighted the positive elements, but it's obvious that you're aware of the negative.


The only thing that could have saved Inception would have been the sudden inexplicable appearance of Jar-Jar Binks.

Anyhow, here's a response to your list:

"1) The shifting gravity fight in the hotel. It was so skillfully done- graceful and fluid. I felt like I was on an amusement park ride."

1) What?  I felt like was on a movie theater seat.  And I was confused.  In reality, everyone is on a plane.  In dream level 1, everyone is being tossed around in a van until they reach a free-fall state, then crash.  In dream level 2, the bumpy van of level 1 is causing everyone to be tossed around until zero gravity state is reached.  So, level 1 environment that affects the dreamer (Murphy) affects level 2.  In dream level 3, we find our team invading a snow fortress.  This level is stable in spite of the dreamer (Murphy) in level 2 being jolted around, turned upside down, and ultimately losing gravity.  In level 3, the status of the dreamer in level 2 is apparantly irrelevant.  In level 3, our dreamer dies and goes to limbo.  Limbo makes less sense than any other level.  Is limbo a level, a fourth dream within these dreams?  The film seems to suggest that limbo is a place independent of the dreamer's dreams.  Or does each person have their own private limbo?  How does Cobb enter Murphy's limbo?  If he didn't make it out, what would happen to him upon awakening?  Would he be trapped in Murphy?  How could they share a dreamspace apart from using the contraption doohickey that enables the "sharing?". Oh well.  To be honest, I don't care about these questions.  My rambling point is that the 3rd dream level being unaffected by level 2 while level 1 affects level 2 seems arbitrary.    

"2) The sets in general, but specifically the post-apocalyptic limbo setting."

2) I hated the sets in general, especially the "post-apocalyptic" limbo.  Limbo is stupid.

"3) The notion of dreams-within-dreams and how one could use them in an extraction-type scenario. I could probably get a couple points from this one, but I felt that Nolan set up and executed logically and clearly how something like that could work. Which brings me to..."

3) I actually mostly agree that "Nolan set up and executed logically and clearly how something like that could work."  I just don't find the execution, logical as it may be developed, all that thrilling.  

"4) The exposition. I knew precisely when certain scenes were written to explain what was going on, and I appreciated them. When a premise is simple, I don't need a film to explain to me what's going on, and it's irritating when it does. But the idea of exploring dreamspace in the way the film does was new to me, so I liked hearing the characters explain what they did. And even though I knew it was exposition, I felt that it was inserted naturally into the course of events. I went to see Inception because I wanted to see a movie that explored the subject of dreams and their relation to reality in an exciting way, and not an action movie that used it as a hook to get me to see an SFX fluff piece. I was not disappointed."

4) We just disagree here.  I'm happy to be clueless and hate this sort of heavy-handed exposition.  There are a few moments that felt natural, but most of the time the characters were talking to each other so that the audience could be filled in.  When the exposition is this obviously forced, it draws me out of a story, not further in.

"5) The special effects. You can have a movie about the strangeness of dreams without them, but grandiose effects in a dreamworld setting can really engage me in a way that telling me something is a dream and throwing a midget in there to prove it doesn't. I especially liked the scene where Page's character folds the street on top of itself and then they walk around it like an Escher drawing. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is another good example of effective SFX to create a visually compelling dreamworld."

5) I won't argue with this.  Some of the special effects are astonishing.  My defense of Alice may make my next statement seem like a lie, but I have to confess that I've never been a fan of cgi and think that it still has a long way to go.  Models and costumes and cardboard are still the wave of the future.  I offer up Moon as a recent example that fits all three of your criteria.  Have you seen it?

"6) The fluid nature of reality throughout the entire film. Nolan throws a dream-within-a-dream scenario in there right from the start that makes you question throughout the entire film whether or not anything that's happening is real. And he doesn't answer that question in any kind of definitive way ever."

6) I question whether or not this movie's fans are for real.  I can't answer that in any kind of definitive way ever. 

"7) The discussion potential the film. I felt that Inception contained a number of events around which substantial conversations could be formed. I love and could discuss over again many times the nature of reality and what that means, so the fact that this was a central theme of the movie makes it all the more attractive to me."

7) Yes.  These posts of mine prove this point of yours.

"8) The cast. Granted, not a lot of time was spent on character development, but the actors did an excellent job within those constraints. Yes, Page was a little flat, but only a little. And I don't blame her for it. Joseph G-L is always fun to watch, and Tom Hardy's solid performance was a nice surprise."

8) G-L and Hardy look like they're having fun.  I'm not so sure about the rest.

"9) The director. I like Nolan's style, and have enjoyed so far everything of his I've seen. It was nice to see that post-Batman (straightforward premise, great SFX, inconsistent character development), he could still tell a compelling story."

9) I saw Memento when it first came out and hated it immediately.  I felt like Nolan was reveling in his own cleverness like a pig wallowing in its own shit, shouting "look at me!". As much as I hate to admit it, I think that Armond White is dead right in comparing Inception to Memento.  I do remember liking Insomnia, but I've disliked everything else Nolan has done, including both Batman films.  I still need to see The Prestige.

"10) The ending. When the camera panned towards the spinning top, I knew that Nolan was about to wedge himself between two cliches for the sake of a dramatic ending. That final minute was going to affect in a huge way my perception of the film: a crappy ending will undo for me two hours' worth of enjoyment, and my anxiety at that moment had almost more to do with whether or not the ending Nolan chose was going wreck the whole thing than the question of whether or not what was happening was real. I don't think he could have executed it more deftly. Everything from the timing of the pan, to how long the camera rested on the spinning top, to the slight wobble just before cutting to the credits was just perfect. The response of the audience was wonderful (gasping, chuckling) and, as I found out in a discussion with Adrienne, it wasn't as straightforward as I thought (I thought that it was obvious that it was meant to be "real" and Adrienne was sure that it wasn't)."

10) The ending needlessly calls into question everything that has just been resolved.  It's clever, but I honestly wasn't on the edge of my seat or impressed at all.  I was a bit annoyed, not because I need things settled, but because the spinning top felt like a gimmick tacked on to a conventional happy ending.  Nolan wants to have his cake and eat it, too.  That said, I can't argue with you about Nolan's technique and the way he stages this last moment.

That's all for now.  Maybe that's all I've got on Inception.  We'll see.

Jonah Hex Forever!



What's in a name?

To support my blathering below, I'm throwing out the following:

The name Dom means "Lord."

Thr name Mal means "Bad."


I almost don't want to write any more about Inception.  I feel like if I do keep talking/writing about it, then Nolan wins whether I like the movie or not.

But, of course, Nolan HAS ALREADY WON and his film is going to be talked about regardless of whether or not I participate.

My previous post was half tongue-in-cheek, written more to amuse myself and hopefully you, too (I loved your response), than as a totally serious dissection of Inception or as a serious defense of Jonah Hex or Kick-Ass as better films than Inception.  That said, I actually found it extremely helpful to compare Inception to other films in order to highlight what specifically failed for me in the film.

My "soulless staircases" comment referred to the visual embodiment of the emotional disconnect and lack of human understanding that your post seemed to also acknowledge as a central failing of the film.  Robin Hood, for all of its failings, does have both a stronger visual style, tied to its themes, and a whole lot more heart.  I'm not a big fan of Scott, but I do think that he is a generally more competent craftsman than Nolan and less likely to get hung up on what is merely clever at the expense of the soul of the story.

There is one primary idea that I want to explore before giving up on Inception.  No critic that I've read seems to have commented on the fact that the action of extraction is essentially psychic rape.  Inception is pyschic rape which impregnates.  This is made all the worse because the rapist works while the victim is sleeping and works hard to keep the victim unaware of this mind penetration.  

This is the real moral failing of Inception.  Never once is the morality of extraction/inception questioned (and I'm not even talking about clunky exposition, I'm talking about the story structure and where our sympathies are directed.)

The possibility of success is doubted.  Its illegality is made clear.  But the act of invading someone else's mind without consent is never examined as an evil.  (leaving aside Mal jumping out the window for the moment.). Our action team is made out to be a group of heroes.  We want them to succeed.  As you point out, Brandon, Nolan wants us to worry about their safety once Cobb's deception comes to light.  Interestingly, I don't think that scene does call into question Cobb's evil inclinations, his willingness to rape Cillian Murphy.  All of the other characters are there, too, and are willing to do the job for cash and the exhiliration of dreaming.  They're upset that there are more risks, exposing their own selfishness, not necessarily condeming Cobb's.  

I don't think Nolan ever steps back to ask what Inception means for Murphy's character.  In fact, if anything, I think Murphy is portrayed as the rapist's girl of girls; the girl who says no who really means yes.  Like that mythic girl, Murphy likes this manhandling and it's good for him.

Back to Mal and her window jump.  Throughout the film, this woman is a controlling killjoy who pops up to disrupt our hero.  This woman is so messed up that her husband HAD TO use inception on her.  And then the bitch had the nerve to follow through on the idea that she's given, not once, but twice.  By the time we see her "real" death, we're happy to see her go.  By the time we see her (Dom's subconscious version of her) second death, we're relieved that she's out of the way.   

I've got to stop writing so much while at work and get things done.  More later.        


Monday, July 19, 2010

Shared Blogging

Brandon, I'm eagerly anticipating your post. No cheating. You can't read this until you've made your own Inception post.

On the occasion of being in nearly complete agreement with Armond White about Inception, I offer up this list in honor of his dastardly contrariness.

I've seen 11 films in 2010.  10 of them are better than Inception.

Top Ten Films of 2010 That Are Better Than Inception:

1) The Book of Eli
The inclusion of this film here is completely unfair.  I watched the first 2/3rds last night and don't know how it all ends;  I could be really disappointed.  But, in honor of White, I won't let my not having seen the whole film stop me from discussing it here as better than Inception.  Book of Eli caught me up in its violent post-apocalyptic atmosphere.  The shot of Eli washing with a KFC moist towelette is seriously brilliant.  There's nothing even remotely close to that level of human understanding in the miserable inhuman puzzle box that is Inception. 

2) Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 succeeds as a prison escape action picture while remaining a heartfelt children's comedy.  Inception also works on dual levels, successfully embedding an intricate heist setup within an almost dizzying Zelaznian science fantasy premise.  I respect Nolan's ambition.  I'm just not impressed with the end product.  There isn't a single moment in Inception that is half as audaciously awesome as TS3's Mr. TortillaHead or a quarter as tense or emotional as TS3's incinerator scene.

3) Shutter Island
Shutter Island is a Titan standing next to Inception.  Inception talks big and walks big, but it's all bluff and bluster.  Shutter Island is the real deal.  Both star Leonardo DiCaprio.  Shutter Island may be his best performance.  Inception doesn't give him anything to work with besides mouthfuls of exposition.  Shutter Island has some of the most beautiful, daring, and disturbing dream images that I've seen in a movie.  Inception felt less like a dream and more like I was stuck listening to someone else tell me at length about their dreams over breakfast.  Shutter Island explores living in a shifting psychological reality in a much more emotionally satisfying way.  Inception barely scratches the surface.  Related to all of this, Shutter Island effectively explores grief and living in the wake of loss.  Inception cheapens every relationship in it.  None of the characters feel any more real than the tidy dreamscape that they find themselves in.

4) Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland is a much more pleasant dream than Inception.  It's that simple.  Alice is good and reflects on how her behavior affects not only herself, but others.  Cobb is selfish and almost evil and this is never questioned.  I choose Alice.

5) How to Train Your Dragon
Again, good-hearted simple stories are more enjoyable than bad pop pyschology.  How to Train Your Dragon's reluctant hero is floating around in mine and Jung's collective unconscious while Inception's despicable Cobb and his neutered ugly dreams have no place alongside the truly wondrous, so clearly evidenced in How to Train Your Dragon.  Nolan's vision is an obvious sham in comparison.

6) Robin Hood
I admit that I may be a sucker for medieval garb and that that may be the only reason I liked this film at all.  Inception?  No medieval clothing.  No interesting clothing at all.  And Robin Hood's set design and action set-pieces are all better than Inception's soulless shifting staircases. 

7) The Ghost Writer
The Ghost Writer has a great sense of physical location and atmosphere that is completely lacking in Inception.  Also, explain to me, Mr. Nolan, how Polanski can make a ferry ride feel more tense and menacing than any single second of your big budget dream action sequences.  I hated the falling van (multiple dream time) sequence especially-  really, not an ounce of suspense- I just wanted the damned thing to hit the water already.

8) Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 has a great cast having great fun with weak material. Inception has a great cast sleepwalking through weak material.

9) Kick-Ass
Kick-Ass is juvenile and ridiculous, surrendering to the very comic book tropes that it tries to comment on.  That said, there's no denying that there are plenty of isolated fun moments.  Inception, a few instances of lame humor aside, is way too serious in pursuing its ideas.  Unfortunately, the heist is centrally uninteresting and all of the really interesting dreamstuff that could have been explored is entirely ignored. 

10) Jonah Hex
Megan Fox is awful to look at in Jonah Hex.  Even so, Fox still manages to be 100% more compelling than the completely bored and boring Ellen Page in Inception.  Enough said. 

In summary,

I hated Inception.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Conversations 2010 #17

Conversations 2010 #17

Brandon, you forgot to write about one moment in Punisher: War Zone. You know the one. It occurs right after your beloved bazooka blast. Frank throws a hoppin' meth-head off the roof. As the hopper falls, he is impaled on a spikey fence. Frank jumps off the roof, connecting foot to hopper face on the way down. Snap. The purest illustration of how perfectly punished I felt watching Punisher: War Zone.

I did go alone to a 10:30pm showing after a long day/evening at work. Not the best circumstances. With some distance, I can see how the ridiculous violence could be enjoyable instead of just punishing. But I still might need that quart of rum to make it through a second viewing.

Briefly, what I've seen lately...

Caught in a Cabaret and In the Park are two lame Chaplin shorts. The girls and I gave up on Chaplin and gave Bob Hope a try. The Paleface. A big success. We'll be watching Son of Paleface soon.

The Killer is Loose is the best of the early Boeticher I've seen so far and an interesting early example of the sort of cop vs. killer suspense films that seem commonplace today.

My Favorite Wife is fun and that's enough. Randolph Scott is great in it.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reminded me of The Ghost Writer in that both are smart films with solid story structures, confidently and competently crafted. Both were thoroughly engaging and decent diversions, but I don't really want to ever see either one of them again. Meh. So what? Disposable art. There is some content that I wouldn't mind discussing, but it's pointless if you haven't seen it.

I wrote something about John Cassavetes last October, but never finished it. I was reviewing what little I wrote in anticipation of seeing A Woman Under the Influence on Wednesday night. Wednesday morning, I watched Charles Kiselyak's documentary A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes. I appreciated some of the talking heads, but mostly find these docs a waste of time. The Ford one was no good. The Boetticher one is no good. This Cassavetes one is no good. I think it has more to do with the specific structure of these sorts of documentaries that doesn't allow for anything other than surface analysis of their subjects.

Anyhow, we didn't make it to see A Woman Under the Influence. We'll get a babysitter some other night. Probably go see some crappy superhero movie. Oh well.

Instead, I played some games with Joel J. I don't write about games here, but it should be noted that I probably care about gaming more than I care about moviegoing. For my money, Twilight Struggle and Magic: The Gathering (two of the games we played the other night) provide a far superior aesthetic and narrative experience than any of the films that have come out so far in 2010. I'd put the best of games up against the best of films any year. Not in competition. That's silly. Apples and oranges and all that. But, in terms of art and experience, I don't see one as superior to the other. 2005 gave us The New World, Grizzly Man, and Broken Flowers. 2005 also gave us Twilight Struggle, Byzantium, and Descent: Journeys in the Dark. So, I was more than happy to play games.


I saw Inception this morning. I went in mostly blind. I'd seen the trailer months ago, but have read no reviews and knew nothing about the film besides the director, the cast, and that the story involved dreams. That's it. Did I like it? Stay tuned. Same blog time, same blog channel. Meaning I might post it tonight or it might be a couple of weeks. Take that rotating saw to the gonads and eat it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Conversations 2010 #16

Conversations 2010 #16

I posted 6 minutes before you.


Conversations 2010 #15

Conversations 2010 #15

Brandon, the problem with you watching Punisher War Zone is that it might be really fun to watch if you go in knowing it is bad and if you have invited enough friends over and have had enough time to fortify youself with a quart of rum.  I hope you liked it.  It still sucks.

Jason, I agree with you about adaptations.  If you haven't read the book already, see the movie first.

Peace out.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Conversations 2010 #14

Conversations 2010 #14

That's the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #101, the first appearance of Morbius and, more importantly for current purposes, the earliest Amazing issue I owned featuring Curt Connors aka The Lizard. In the late 80s I religiously bought every back issue of Spider-man that I could find either at the flea market or at Time Tunnel Comics, long since out of business; the first shop that I had a membership at.

I was a natural comics nerd before I was nerdy about anything else. I've mostly given up on keeping up with comics, but I still love them. My comics interest has gravitated toward older newspaper strips and I love reading Krazy Kat and Thimble Theatre with the girls. Newspaper strips are mostly terrible today. Pickles is the only newspaper strip left that I think is consistently brilliant. There are also a few good online strips that I know about and probably quite a few that I don't.

Jason, it's good to see you back. Facebook sucks.

The pathetic irony of me giving you a public lashing for your absence, then taking an extended absence of my own was not planned. Sorry about that.

I've enjoyed your recent posts and want to see them coming. Notice the addition to the sidebar on the right?

I did read Amazing Spider-Man #632. I bought it because of your printed letter. I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent story and... Chris Bachalo art! I was a huge Shade the Changing Man fan in the early-mid 90's and always loved Bachalo's artwork. I don't think Shade was ever collected in tpb format, so I don't know how easy it'd be to find, but it's worth checking out. Do you like Peter Milligan? I have no idea what he's doing now, but for a while he had a good run on some X-titles including a fairly recent zany series with Mike Allred. I gave all of my Shade issues to Spike a while back. I'm pretty sure they were in the box that was stolen, otherwise I'd see if he'd let you borrow them. [edit: I just checked; there are tpb editions available. Check it out.]

Anyhow, I can't justify the $4 an issue cost to keep buying Spider-Man issues (I do like that they eliminated the other titles and are releasing Amazing more often), but I enjoyed this issue and have been keeping up with the series by reading new issues at the comics rack at Wegmans. Thanks.

This (2nd part of a) Conrad strip reminded me of the Shed storyline...

Have you read any of Peter Conrad's stuff online? Stymied was good and Lou's Garage was great. I've always really liked his work and what he's doing now is still interesting. I first came across a comic of his in Backwards City Review.

Brandon, did I let you borrow Un chien Andelou? I can't find my copy and can't remember who I loaned it out to. Or maybe I just lost it.

I just read Armond White's review of Jonah Hex. Wow! I wish I had seen the same movie as him. Unfortunately, Jonah Hex sucks in spite of White's championing it. His reading of the film is more than generous. It's crazy. The guy is crazy. I don't know what else to say.

I'm sorry to hear about your disappointment with Killer (though it still sounds like you liked it). It was specifically Emerson's defense of the film that got me really excited about it. I'm still excited to see it. The only other Winterbottom film I've seen is The Claim, which was an interesting and visually gorgeous Western based on a Thomas Hardy novel. I remember liking it, but can't remember much about it.

I haven't posted anything lately because I haven't really watched anything.

I got the rest of Breaking Bad Season 3 from my friend Ben and have watched episodes 9 and 10. I'll probably write something when I'm done with the season.

The only film I've seen in July so far is Big Fan. I was a bit annoyed by some of the homo-erotic implications, but I enjoyed the fandom aspect. I don't care at all about professional sports, but I can sympathize with the essential nerdiness of extreme fandom. The film isn't all that interesting visually and some of the editing really annoyed me (for example, the shots of the QB poster, tying into the homo-erotic thing above). Patton Oswalt is great. To be honest, so is everyone else in it. I have some problems with the script and with the direction, but Big Fan is definitely worth checking out. I'd be willing to discuss it more if one of you guys sees it and want to talk about it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

This post is more of a mess than usual. It's a hodgepodge of stuff I've written over the past few weeks of June.  I've watched a lot (even with a whole week of watching nothing but 25 minutes of a film I walked out of), but have had trouble concentrating and/or caring about much at all, least of all writing here.  Maybe it's Summer.  Maybe it's mourning.  I've just been floating through.

But film club must go on.

Dialogue from Rohmer's La Collectioneuse:

Adrien: To do nothing, yet think while doing it, is exhausting.  Working's much easier.  You follow a well-trod path.  Ther's a kind of laziness to work.  Work is an escape, a clear conscience bought on the cheap.

Sam: Of course, that makes you the least lazy person I know.

Adrien: I haven't taken a vacation in 10 years.

Sam: Sure.  You're on a permanent vacation.

Adrien: No.  Well, yes and no.  Not exactly.

Sam: It amuses me how you're always trying to justify yourself.

Adrien: On the contrary.  I don't have a guilty conscience.

Sam: You're a liar.  You feel guilty because you have no money.

Adrien: Listen, Sam, I'm sure you've heard of the Tarahumara Indians.  When they enter a town, they beg from house to house.  They stop at a door, then stand in profile with an air of haughty contempt.  Whether given alms or not, they leave after a set period of time... without a thank you.  When I beg, I always turn in profile.  Besides, we're always someone else's slave.  I find less dishonor in living at a friend's house than in being on the government payroll.  Most people's work today is useless.  Three quarters of all activity is parasitic.  I'm not the parasite.  It's the beauracrats and politicians.

Sam: If I were 6'6" with an eagle's profile, I'd feel nearer to the gods too.  You're nostalgic for the good old days, while I'm happy to live in this modern world.  

Adrien: I'm as modern as you are.  But what matters today isn't work but laziness.  Everyone says work is just a means to an end.  We speak of a leisure society.  But when it comes, we don't know what leisure is.  Some people work 40 years for their life of leisure, but when the time comes, they're lost, and they die.  In all sincerity, I think I serve mankind better by taking it easy than by working.  It's true.  It takes courage not to work.

Sam: More courage than going to the moon?

Adrien: Of course you can go to the moon too.  But that's both fascinating and contemptible.  

Sam: I think if I listen to any more of your little monologue, I'll fall asleep right in this chair.  You're like a small child, happy as can be with his mediocre life.  Go to the moon, Adrien.  Jupiter too.  Hurry... and when you get there, send me a postcard, if you have the money to buy one.

Adrien: [in English]Listen here, you old villain[/in English].  I've always been sorry I wasn't rich.  But if I were, my dandyism, as you call it, would be too easy... lacking any heroism whatsoever.  And I can't imagine a dandy not being heroic.


That dialogue isn't quite as rich when ripped from its context and apart from the wonderful actors who deliver the lines (and of course it's the subtitle translation from the French), but it stands on its own for the purposes of shedding light on Jim Jarmusch's first feature film, Permanent Vacation.

Allie, the dandy hero of Vacation has no home, no job, and no real friendships.  He has been living with a girl, but leaves her for no other reason than that it's time to move on.  Maybe he's starting to feel too grounded.  He talks to plenty of people here and there, but he is alone.  And likes it that way.

Still, he knows that "most people's work today is useless."


I'm giving up on what I started above.  I'm behind in writing and don't want this blog to ever cause me stress.  So no more on Permanent Vacation except to say that it's worth watching at least to see how Jarmusch started.  

I've also seen:

I Shot Jesse James is everything Brandon said it is.

The Baron of Arizona shows off Fuller and Vincent Price at maybe their most playful.  Serious fun.

Cutter's Way has a couple of good moments and a decent ending.

Piranha looks like it was a lot of fun for the child actors.  Ironically, horror may be the most fun genre for child actors. At least when it's piranhas and not pedophiles who are the monsters.  Piranha is silly and fun and ultimately stupid.  Dante knows how to craft a whole better than the sum of all pirahna parts.


Here's my (not so) deep thought for the day: 

Every year in film sucks, more or less, by this time of year.  

We're still getting the leftovers from last year in January, February, and March with nothing worthwhile new coming out.  April, May, and June all contribute to a wasteland of crappy domestic releases.  July, August, and September typically give us a small handful of arthouse releases and maybe one or two decent wide release studio pics.  Only in October, November, and December do we usually get the waves of Oscar contenders from the American studios and, more importantly, we get to see releases of a small trickle of foreign pictures that played elsewhere in the world earlier in the year.  Most important, those of us far from major metropolitan cinemas get to start seeing on DVD all of those limited releases, both domestic and foreign, that never made it to our local cinemas.  Even with Cornell being close and Art Mission and Cinemapolis, there are films that don't make it here or, if we're lucky, might run for a week.  Blink and you miss them.  

So, 2010 may still be great.  I just can't see it yet.

Yes, all of this because... Jonah Hex is terrible.  The worst 2010 film I've seen so far.  She-Wolf of London had no werewolf.  Jonah Hex is a Western without the West.  There's nothing recognizably Western here past the surface.  Instead, Jonah Hex plays out like any bad '80s Seagall action picture.  Our action hero must stop a terrorist from blowing up Washington D.C.  There are more explosions and maybe as many stupid deaths as the equally atrocious Punisher War Zone from last year or the year before (I can't remember).  The story is a mess and a great cast is wasted.  And, yes, somehow Megan Fox is made to look absolutely unappealing as the half-naked prostitute.  Seriously, Hayward and co., you screwed up every last thing.

It was so bad that I had to immediately check to see if any critics had defended it. Surprisingly, Darghis wrote the most positive review, but the best that she could come up with was that Jonah Hex is better than The A-Team.

I also caught a matinee showing of Robin Hood.  This movie is also a minor mess, but it follows the historical epic model faithfully and there's enough here to enjoy.  The historicity is slight and plenty of contemporary ideas and humor fill out the frame.  The father-son stuff mostly works.  The "rights" talk gets preachy, but is fine.  Von Sydow as an aging knight is a delight.  Blanchett is great up until the finale in which the script demands the ridiculous.  I liked it all enough to be there for whatever sequel may come.

I started my Cornell Summer job.  Breaking Upwards is awful.  I walked out after 25 minutes.  I rarely walk out of movies, but this one deserved it.  I don't care to write about it.  I'd rather eat glass than spend any more time with these people. I'd rather watch Jonah Hex a dozen more times.

Bend of the River is the sort of Western I love.

Night and Day is great.  I've since heard that it's really great in 3D.  We went 2D, partly because of price and partly because of my general resistance to 3D.  
Toy Story 3 is beautiful, a perfect payoff to a perfect trilogy.  Yes, I teared up during the incinerator scene.  Yes, that scene alone makes Toy Story 3 the best film of the year.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is never as good as it should be.

The Scarecrow might be my favorite Keaton short.  I love watching silent comedy shorts with my girls.

Keaton's The Paleface is also really funny. 

The Big Heat is brutally good.

I missed Metropolis because I ended up working an overnight shift to help a co-worker.  

One Mysterious Night is enjoyable fluff.

Escape in the Fog is stupid enjoyable fluff.  The fog is effective.

It Came From Kuchar is incomplete on its own.  I wish it had been screened with a couple of Kuchar shorts beforehand or afterward.  Oh well.


During college, if anyone asked me what my favorite movie was, I had a quick answer: Rubin & Ed.  I discovered the film at Star Video through the guidance of the owner Jerry.  I was about 13.  I tried to buy the store's copy, but he wasn't selling.  A couple of years later, I was riding my bike in Center Moriches with my friend Tim.  He wanted to stop at this junk/pawn shop and look through a barrel of tools.  In that barrel of used tools was one VHS tape.  Rubin & Ed.  I think I paid $5 for it.  

But enough about past purchases.  What sales have I recently succumbed to?

Yard sale find - 3 for $10, all new in shrink.  DVD straight from Trent Harris - $25.  Vestal Hollywood Video sale - 6 for $21 and 1 for $6 

I Walked With a Zombie & The Body Snatcher
Isle of the Dead & Bedlam
Road to Zanzibar

Rubin & Ed

Julien donkey-boy (Korine)
Chunking Express (Wong)
Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut)
Cache (Haneke)
Terror's Advocate (Schroeder)
Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion

A Serious Man (Coen)

In related news, I've started a box of DVDs to get rid of, but right now its contents are much smaller than the rows of unwatched DVDs on the shelf.  I need to stop buying DVDs.  It's probably my biggest stupidest consumer-collector mentality problem at the moment.  Stop.  Just stop.