Monday, August 16, 2004
Monday, August 9, 2004
Edgar G. Ulmer, that is.
2. The only reason I wish I could draw is to document images from my dreams. They're not any kind of weird, faux surrealist thing but I have very concrete dreams about places: last night an oddly-designed apartment but other than that they're usually places that could actually exist.
Sunday, August 8, 2004
"This is a car advert from somewhere. When they finished filming the ad the people who made it noticed something moving along the side of the car, like a ghostly white mist. The ad was never put on TV because the unexplained ghostly phenomenon frightened the production team out of their wits. Watch it and about halfway look and you will see the white mist crossing in front of the car then following it along the road... Spooky!"
Oddly enough I spent part of Saturday morning checking out MP3s on Douglas Wolk's blog and one called Fluxblog. A few nice discoveries, some junk. But I love the idea and would like to find more. Just wish it wasn't so labor-intensive. There are programs that could suck all the MP3s off a website and into a folder but I find dealing with those just as much work. Guess I still gravitate to Internet radio more (somebody else was playing me one that had a bunch of Scandanavian pop bands; need to find out what it was).
I'd really like to see rarities like Feelies B-sides (wonder if that full concert from Married to the Mob was ever bootlegged?) or non-CDed Sun Ra.
I loved part of that Corbett book [Extended Play: Sounding Off From John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein] but other parts seemed like that quasi-philosophy you get from writers without the background to properly understand post-structuralists.
Strange to see somebody mention that Gimme Indie Rock compilation since I was just listening to it Friday night after seeing it in a box I was cleaning out. Did you see that Rhino is putting out a box set of 80s "underground" which is a lot of the same kinda stuff (though I don't think some of it was underground at all).
I guess there’s really not much connection between Collateral (Michael Mann 2004) and Derrida (Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering Kofman 2002) except that I saw them both today. They’re not even both films exactly since the latter appears to have been shot mostly if not completely on video.
But as a point I wouldn’t have even considered if they had been seen a few days apart is the revelation or not of personal lives. In Collateral people dig at others’ backgrounds and which then gets trotted out; in Derrida, Mr. Jackie (as his family seems to refer to him) point-blank refuses to discuss some details about meeting his wife. Since he does actually tell what happened (or at least allows his wife to do so) it’s unclear exactly what he’s withholding. Emotional details? Some meet-cute at odds with his philosopher image? It would be easy to make this an American vs. European distinction but of course the sample rate is far far too low for that. (And obviously in Collateral much of this is simple narrative expediency but still I’ve known dozens of people--ranging from some of my grandparents to my store’s former shipping manager--who would have done exactly this. It’s still unclear how much of what Cruise’s character says is true.)
Another pointless connection: Race is an issue in Derrida but is pretty much just decoration in Collateral.
Collateral yes: the sense of a real city that you usually don’t get in Hollywood films (I was reminded more of bits of Ghost Dog and super-low-budget films that had to be filmed on the streets or not at all), the nearly abstract cars and lights (back from Thief?), a noir that’s not locked in by being a “noir”, the dialogue and plot structure (glad to see that writer Stuart Beattie is working on the adaptation of 30 Days of Night), the nightclub shootout, top-notch music selections, the acting.
Still, too bad the ending didn’t have the punch of the rest (& I’m so glad they didn’t tack on a “surprise” extra ending like, say, Die Hard).
I’m not sure why I originally even bothered with Derrida. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve read any of his work (other than bits and pieces on books, most notably in Acts of Literature) and a movie seems hardly appropriate to explore his writing. As it turns out, Derrida is not really an introduction to him but a smart and sharp look both at the nature of documentary and at the process of thinking. Yeah, that sounds way too abstract but the film gets into the concrete details and generally avoids the pretentious (deliberately, as evidenced by the weaker, more manipulative deleted scenes on the DVD). The result is a documentary that doesn’t feel exhausted by one viewing.
The Big Lebowski is a cult movie? I thought it was bland, humorless and tedious but then the Coens can do a lot of wrong in my eyes. (Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, Fargo, yay; everything else nay and worse for O Brother which deserves utter, unrelenting contempt.) Jonathan Rosenbaum and Alan Moore are both supporters of Lebowski but that hardly explains anything.
By the way, if you need to register for the NYT just make up stuff; it works. I'm not sure why they even bother.
Saturday, August 7, 2004
Thursday, August 5, 2004
My review of the Crosby-Hope Road box is now up on the TCM site.
tongue in cheek, but I fear it's just lazy writing. Octavious just happens
to be funded by the Green Goblin's son? Peter Parker just happens to want
to do an article on Octavious? Peter just happens to be in the bank
Octavious robs? The newspaper editor's son is marrying Peter's girlfriend?
Why such a contrived effort to get Peter Parker at the pre-wedding party
(to take pictures?) just to set up--what?? If this were taken to a higher
asburd level it might be acceptable but ends up just being silly, and
wearying, and leaving me like I've seen it all before. Couldn't there be at
least one surprise?
Well, it's a movie about a guy who sticks to walls and shoots webs out of his wrists. Reality? The stuff about Oscorp funding Octavious and Parker wanting to write about him can be just narrative economy: How long would it take to make the connections if this was "realistic" and why waste the time? In any case both of these elements are setup in the first film. (The comic book version of this is that superheroes go "on patrol" and constantly interrupt robberies, muggings, fires, etc though in the real world where there may be a few hundred police officers active in a city they are rarely able to appear when the crime is occuring. Again who wants to see several pages of Batman trying to get to a hold-up?)
Yeah, Parker being in the bank is a stretch and by the way how did Ock know which cafe Parker and MJ were having their little chat in? Also stretching is the connection to Jameson's son (who was also mentioned in passing in the first film and in the comics becomes the villain Man-Wolf); where on earth did he run into MJ? But in the end I don't think this is important to what the film is about. A well-constructed plot would matter more in a mystery (where in fact it's pretty much the entire point) but here not so much. There's a lot of coincidences in Dickens too--Oliver Twist is practically structured around them--and not as mistakes but key elements.
I did like the film; it's pretty much a B+ type of work and while I would rather a lot of this stuff not be in it I think the ending is a bigger mistake because it undermines the themes of sacrifice and "great responsibility." (Which come to think of it are pretty much the themes of Babylon 5 though there pretty much nobody gets a happy ending, at least in a conventional sense.) I guess what I'm getting at is that usually our responses are more important than reasoned critique. There are lots of well-made, intelligent films that I think are worthless (most of Bergman's for instance) and plenty that are sloppy but also important.
(And unfortunately the nature of blogs means that I have the last word, at least temporarily, when this is merely my response and not a rebuttal. Clearly Greg is right about much of this; the difference is that it didn't really affect my reaction to the film but did his.)
Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Michael Chabon's keynote speech at this year's Eisner Awards captures, I think, one of the key elements that drew many, if not most, of us to comics. Really not "one" element but intertwined sense of wonder, richness of world, clear but not quite clean morality, and above all an encompassing sense of storytelling that has room for life's quieter moments just as much as super-intelligent, talking gorillas.
His reasons for a decline in childrens comics are reasonable and likely true but he avoids the all-too-obvious economic factors. As comics, at least American ones, retreated from newstands to comic stores there was less and less incentive for creating childrens comics and in fact as Chabon points out a feeling that comics should be distanced from that. But how were kids to be drawn to comics stores--that are often designed, consciously or not, to repel outsiders--even if the goods were there? The recent explosion of manga in the U.S. shows that there was an untapped market though it's still way too early to see how much of this is a trend and how much will actually stick (& more likely the former if Tokyopop keeps flooding stores with barely distinguishable books).
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Fan-made trailer (hey who else would know who Oracle is?) that probably
cost a few hundred dollars and still looks more interesting than most real
movies. (That line about the White House, by the way, is straight out of a
recent issue of Superman/Batman.)
You can see a teaser for the actual film Batman Begins at
http://batmanbegins.warnerbros.com/ that looks sorta promising.