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“There’s Magic Everywhere in this Bitch”

Is it actually possible to make a rap video this bad and it not be intentional? I just started my 35th year of life, and this is a very good way to begin it.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Music | 23 Comments

My Words at the Time

This may bring back some memories for some of you. For others, it may well be mystifying and/or disturbing. Either way, it had to be embedded.

. . . to be continued.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | IMs | 3 Comments

Greatest Trailer Ever!

I saw the non-‘mature’ version of this trailer last night, in preparation for the craptastically awful movie Paranormal Activity, and knew it was something special.  But then … oh, but then, the ‘mature’ version.  I might have to go and live-blog this movie.

October 11, 2009 Posted by | boredom | 10 Comments

A Rambling Post About 1970s American Film

Last night I watched John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.  It was at the time, in 1976, a spectacular failure of a movie, surviving in theaters roughly six days, but has since been embraced by the film community. As a lover of 1970s cinema in general, I figured it was my duty to watch it. While I can understand its failure to gain an audience (the point of this post isn’t to comment on the film, but I will say I liked it — though perhaps only understood what the hell Cassavetes was shooting for after watching the interviews on the DVD’s special features), the full extent of its failure caused me to wonder when things started to change in terms of the reception of high-quality, edgy cinema in America.

The ’70s didn’t get off to a good start. The top two grossing movies in 1970 were, respectively, Love Story and Airport, neither of which you really ever have a reason to watch now — the year was slightly redeemed by the presence of MASH at number three. In 1971, things were a bit better. The top-grossing film was Fiddler on the Roof and third-highest was The French Connection. (Number two was Billy Jack (!!!).) In 1972 you had the undisputed reign of The Godfather — nothing else comes even close to it in terms of box-office pull. Then in 1973 you have a cluster of classics all at the top: The Exorcist, The Sting, Papillon . . . and, of course, Magnum Force.

So far, pretty good. Things take a noticeable turn, however, in 1974. The top movie of the year, The Towering Inferno, wasn’t awful, but certainly not something you’re likely to have near the top of your Netflix queue anytime soon unless you’re a Paul Newman or Steve McQueen (or, for the few & the proud, William Holden) completist. Rounding out the top five are the execrable films Earthquake and The Trial of Billy Jack.  If the year is rescued at all it is by the two enduring comedic classics, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  All this may be enough to indict 1974 as the turning point, but it is not enough until we note, too, that The Godfather II was only the sixth-highest grossing film.

Things kind of returned to form in ’75, with Jaws, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (ugh), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest & (shockingly) Dog Day Afternoon dominating theaters. They’re not all great, but each kind of “special” in their own way. I will submit, however, that 1975 was but the last gasp after the debilitating cock punch in 1974.

1976 may have given us Network, one of my favorite films of the late-70s, which incidentally did not crack the top-ten grossing films of the year, but it also birthed the Rocky series. Sure, the first one isn’t bad (neither is the second, really). But, aren’t they forever tainted now? 1976 also gave us All the President’s Men, which I watched again recently, and it just felt like it had aged as badly as Robert Redford’s face. The only two notable movies in the top-ten grossing films are The Omen and, of course, The Enforcer.

After this begins the age of the super-duper blockbuster, beginning with Star Wars and Close Encounters (1977), Superman and Grease (1978) — the highlight of either years being, respectively, Annie Hall and Every Which Way But Loose. In 1979 you have the spectacular death rattle that was Alien, Apocalypse Now, and The Muppet Movie. And then, like Keyser Soze, the ’70s were gone, replaced immediately by the 1980 onslaught of The Empire Strikes Back, Stir Crazy, 9 to 5, and Airplane! Now, yes, all of these delighted me as a child, but I can’t say I’ll be too disappointed if I never see any of them again, though surely TBS will test my resolve soon enough with a showing of 9 to 5.  Indeed, 1980 could not even be rescued by Clyde the orangutan, as even at the ripe age of six I was disappointed by the misguided sequel, Any Which Way You Can.

EDIT: I realized after submitting this post that it did not, in fact, have any point.  No upshot.  No argument, as such.  So what am I saying, really?  Basically, that 1973 was a watershed year for high-quality cinema that was eagerly watched by the typical American moviegoer, that 1974 was the cockpunch that knocked the life out this phenomenon — which means that while there were signs of life between 1975 and 1979, it had been dead for a while before it was finally buried in 1980.  This is not to say high-quality cinema ceased to exist.  Simply that the overall cultural & economic embrace of high-quality cinema in America did, and in large part contributed to the rise of the low-to-middlebrow films that spurred the massive growth of the major studios through the 80s and 90s.  I make no claims to originality in this thesis.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | film | 9 Comments

Secret Society

My SoCal source for good new music recently alerted me to Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, and, my, does it live up to his praise. New Amsterdam Records is streaming most of their seven-track album, Infernal Machines, which should give you enough to know whether it is your kind of thing. It certainly is mine.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Music | Comments Off on Secret Society

Monday Movies: Hunger

Thanks to my friend Gabe [edit: not the Gabe in the comments, even though I thought it was at first — all this time I just assumed the commenter Gabe was my real life friend Gabe], I learned that Steve McQueen’s visually arresting Hunger was available via Comcast (&, he says, Time Warner) On Demand. If you get a chance, I very highly recommend you check it out. It is no exaggeration to say there is nothing else like out it right now. Conceptual/experimental, but not “difficult”; political, but not easily politicized; filled with long & beautiful shots, but neither long nor beautiful.

I’m still not entirely sure what to think of it. The film’s three acts are so different, and there is minimal effort to unite them in any traditional cinematic way. McQueen provides minimal details about the larger context of the Troubles, much to the consternation of Leftists who expected and craved a paean to Bobby Sands that would rally us all to “the cause,” whatever that might be. Obviously, he sympathizes with the IRA prisoners, especially their willpower in the face of power, but his unwillingness to simply celebrate their protest makes his film all the more provocative. The easy analogue of the final act of the film, where we bear witness to the death & decay of Sands, is The Passion of the Christ. The crucial difference, though, is that McQueen is well aware that Sands’ martyrdom is pure tragedy. There is no masochism here, because there is really no “by his stripes I am healed” motif. As the film’s final text makes clear, shown immediately after his final breath, Sands’ hunger strike leads not to redemption or resurrection. Rather, his death, along with those of the other nine Republicans, not to mention the host of Unionist prison guards, compel the British government to conceding everything but their central demand, i.e., to be extended the official status of political prisoners versus mere criminals. Much worse, or perhaps not worse, but more complexly, the deaths would go on to be be appropriated by an Northern Irish leadership that preferred, for good or ill, the peaceful impasse of parliamentary compromise over the revolutionary means of the people they appeal to as icons & martyrs.

McQueen is wise not to be heavy-handed. Indeed, there seems to be no temptation at all to be so. And yet, and this is what separates Hunger from well-intentioned films that try to “see both sides” of big issues, neither is McQueen content to leave you at peace.

I was very pleased to learn this evening that some kind soul has uploaded in three parts the entirety of the jaw-droppingly good dialogue between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham). Surely it will be deleted by YouTube soon. Take advantage before they do.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Monday Movies | 26 Comments

Preliminary Thoughts on The Watchmen

1) WAY too tied to the source material. I’m not entirely sure that Snyder should’ve altered the story too much — it worked fine, I think, and will ideally get even more people reading the graphic novel — but the dialogue, oh dear god. Even in the best of novels the dialogue has to be altered for it to work in movies. This is all the more true for comic-book adaptations.

2) I can’t help but wonder whether better acting might’ve at least rescued some of the poor dialogue. Not sure. As it is now only the three-named actors, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Comedian) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach), stood out. Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan was fine — but his was also the easiest role. The scenes that featured Carla Gugino (Spectre I) and Malin Akerman (Spectre II) together were absolutely painful to watch.

3) Worst soundtrack ever?

4) Worst sex scene ever?

Conclusion: This movie, more than any of the others taken from his original writings, substantiates Alan Moore’s claims that some stuff just isn’t meant for adaptation. Snyder went out of his way to create a film version of a comic book series, and did in fact do so. The problem is that in doing so he ended up with a bad movie. The fact that he this likely would’ve been the conclusion of many had he gone for an ambitious overhaul is not an adequate excuse. I’m not one to usually claim something unfilmable, and don’t think The Watchmen is in some kind of special creative class, but I walked away from the movie thinking it would’ve been better to keep this a dream left unrealized.

March 7, 2009 Posted by | film | 34 Comments

Another dating classic

This is especially for the married couples and/or live-togethers … one partner asks/tells the other to do something (clean the bathtub, take out the trash, etc.), but seemingly goes out of their way to do so when the other person is doing something else (reading, watching TV), and then gets mad when the task is not performed RIGHT THEN, at that very moment.

February 21, 2009 Posted by | the science of dating | 22 Comments

Monday Movies: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

We’re starting a new weekly (we hope) feature today. In the vein of Adam’s new Thursday tradition of posting on tv shows, I will be posting notes, reflections, thoughts, digressions, etc. each Monday on random movies that come through my Netflix queue. These notes will be cross-posted here — discussion is encouraged at either site.

Now, on to the first movie ….

  • There is, in my estimation, no better presentation of a film’s opening credits than those in Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Tarantino might try. but he just can’t top this:
  • Some movies you’re convinced you’ve seen, if only due to the shame of having to admit you never have. Maybe you’d caught bits and pieces on TBS or AMC. Maybe, as with The Good . . ., the the soundtrack is so iconic that the sound has become embedded in your memory, no matter how false that memory might be, and you refuse for a long time to put the movie on your Netflix queue out of a misguided fear of cinematic redundancy. After all, the only thing worse than receiving a movie with a scratch is one that you’ve already seen. (Unlike my wife, who can watch a good thriller, say, Silence of the Lambs, and get so into it each time that she is genuinely shocked at moments she’s seen a dozen times before, I generally have to wait years between watching a movie multiple times.)
  • Tuco, the titular “Ugly,” is almost certainly symbolic of humanity. Eli Wallach manically bounces between ridiculousness and desperation — his performance is dizzingly inebriant, if that makes sense. He never transcends cliché really, but by this same token transforms it into pathos. What is more pathetic than the inability to die, which he clearly should on more than one occasion? Hanging from a noose while standing on a rickety cross, only to be “rescued” by the one who put him there (i.e., Blondie, aka “the Good”) — this is both the stuff of theodicy and anti-theodicy.
  • “The good, the bad, & the ugly” is a commonplace idiom that indicates universality / totality, and for my money it is also as good an expression of the Hegelian Absolute as there is. The English translation switched the original title, “The Good, the Ugly, and the Bad,” but the change is more dialetically reasonable. What else could Spirit be but Ugly?
  • The Good/Blondie (Eastwood) clearly is a physical force to be reckoned with, but he is not so much omnipotent as he is incredibly lucky — the most notable exception to this is the climactic showdown, which is nothing but the imposition of his seemingly omnipotent will. He is rescued from the brink of death a couple of times in the movie, but each time his salvation is the stuff of happenstance and deus ex machina, the most prominent being a runaway stagecoach in the middle of the desert, filled with death and the promises of wealth. There is perhaps something metaphysically plausible about the Good mostly being an observer — primarily of suffering. We might charcterize this as an active observtion, though. For example, while it is a con, he repeatedly rescues Tuco right at the moment of his hanging; furthermore, though it is self-serving, he brings final solace to a dying Union captain by blowing up a bridge that was his damnation. The pinnacle of his self-sacrifical action is when he does the least, offering a few puffs from his cigar and giving his coat as a blanket to a dying Confederate soldier.
  • Angel Eyes/”the Bad” is clearly not an observer. He is schemes, uses pawns, and will unload a gun into your gut. He enjoys it all. But even then, there seems a strange distance from his activity. It’s not that he rationalizes his murders by calling them a “a job,” and thus removes himself in some sense from blame, as you see in other movies. Rather, he insists that he is just single-minded in finishing what he’s been commissioned to start, and he starts nothing that does not end in death (even if, as in the very beginning of the movie, killing is not technically part of “the job”). Not sure what to make of this on a metaphysical level, though.

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Monday Movies | 5 Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day

Some songs to sing to your beloved today.

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Music, Valentine's Day | 1 Comment