Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The IMDB crawl

I'm on the computer in my school's computer lab because, well, I'm bored as hell. It's finals week, my mind is burned out, and I just need to let my mind relax and not be on hyper-tense mode all the time. So I'm on IMDB checking out my favorite actors and I go to Christian Bale's page. And I'm shocked. Somewhat excited. I would've screamed if it was socially appropriate for me to do that in a group setting.
Christian Bale is rumored to be in the new Terminator movie as John Connor. WHOA! Crazy! I haven't seen Terminator III yet, but dude. Christian Bale killing robots and protecting the human race from complete cyborginaztion. I don't even know if "cyborginaztion" is a word, but it deserves to be if Christian Bale is John Connor. Even though I have a sneaking feeling it's kind of going to be like Equilibrium, but with a slightly better plot.
Also on my Christian Bale search, I saw the character posters for I'm Not There, which I still haven't seen. Cate Blanchet looks amazing as Dylan though, the best out of all of them. Why haven't seen this movie yet? Oh yeah, I'm poor as fuck.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fitting in at Film School: Lost Highway

David Lynch. Enough said. He's a film school god. I understand why, I like him a lot too, but some people are over the top. No, he's not the greatest director of all time. No, he doesn't get his ideas from God. Yes, he was an Eagle Scout. We had a David Lynch authorship class at Columbia and that shit filled up faster than...well I can't really think of a good enough simile for it. His work is great though. For those who aren't familiar with David Lynch, he's an interesting fellow. Most of his films are dark, intriguing, confusing, beautiful, sexy, etc. Lost Highway, one of his first, is no exception.

The Summary: Wow. A summary for a David Lynch film is hard. But I'll give it a try. Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is a new wave jazz saxaphone player married to a pseudo-gothic Renee (Patricia Arquette). When the two start receiving incredibly creepy videos of someone stalking them, Fred becomes worried for the safety of Renee. He starts becoming paranoid, especially after he encounters a stranger who is able to be at a party with Fred and at his home at the same time. Another videotape is sent to Fred's house, this time showing him killing Renee. Fred is arrested for the murder of Renee, though he denies that he did it. He remembers nothing of the murder, but flashbacks of the incident start to sway his thoughts of innocence. While he is in jail he starts having headaches, which seem more like hallucinations. One such hallucination causes him to have a seizure and pass out.
When we enter his jail cell again, Fred is gone and replaced by Pete Dayton, a young mechanic. The police are baffled as to how he got there. Pete returns home with his family (his dad is Gary Busey, how awesome is that!?), while the confused police follow him 24/7. Pete returns to his job as an auto mechanic for Richard Pryor (also awesome) and an old client, Mr. Eddy, returns for his services. Mr. Eddy's a big-time gangster with big-time connections and a big-time hottie girlfriend Alice, who basically looks like Renee but blonde. The two hit it off, begin a relationship much like Fred and Renee had, and Lynch gets crazy.

I don't want to give away the end of it, but trust me, you need to be awake for it. I will admit, Lynch's films are something you can't just jump into on a Saturday night after you've been at the bar drinking. His films need time. You need to be fully conscious and ready to be immersed into his world. It requires diligence to watch some of his films, which might explain why some people don't like them. But they should be watched. Lynch manages to bring back film noir and experimental techniques to commercial filmmaking. Noir is back in a huge way, partially due to Lynch. His lighting, his stories, even Patricia Arquette are all reflections of the noir style. And he does it well. It's not a nod to noir, it is noir. His storytelling also brings experimental filmmaking to a mass audience. Experimental film is great, but has a limited audience. No ordinary person is going to watch a fly crawl over a human body for twenty minutes. But they will watch the absurb events in a Lynch film. He makes his technique accessible to the general public without losing them. Sure, you'll be confused. I would be afraid if you weren't. But it's the fact that he can bring real art to a theatrical release film that is impressive. Every shot is composed beautifully. If you want to make films but preserve your artistic integrity, work like David Lynch. If you don't care and want to whore yourself out to the studio, work like Michael Bay.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fitting in at Film School

Film school seems fun. And it is for the most part. You're making your own films from start to finish. You watch films in class instead of sitting through boring lecture about plants or something. But being in the critical studies program is a little different. For one being in it means you don't really aspire to make films as a main career. Which, you know, kind of guarantees you a steadier job in some respects. But it also means you have to know your shit. You need to watch a shit load of movies. Like, Martin Scorsese watches a movie a night! How the hell does he find time to do that? I try to watch at least two a week. But then again, I am no Scorsese.

When I came into Columbia, I had seen a lot more modern films. I knew I had to step my game up once other students started asking me about films. It's strange, and I admit to doing this, but people judge you based on the movies you watch. Like, the more old-school film buffs will be like, "Oh you mean you haven't seen Godard's first film Operation 'Beton'? Wow...that's interesting." And they have to say the foreign title. Because saying the English title would be a crime. Or there are the experimental buffs who scoff at you if you haven't seen Dog Star Man. It's just this weird thing that we do.

I realize the importance in watching the masters, and I do that. But I want to totally own these pretentious film kids. I want to know exactly how may Renoir films have Jean Gabin in them. Not only do I think it's important for my future career, but it's also important for my street cred. So I'm going to start this series of posts called "Fitting in at Film School," so that all prospective film students don't have to go through the same ridicule I had to. Based on what the asshole kids at Columbia have said in class or to me directly, I have made up a list of films to watch. And the usual suspects are on there: David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, anything super-experimental. Anything in the Criterion Collection is on the list, with a few exceptions (Wes Anderson, what?). Basically, if it was foreign, surrealistic, art house, all that jazz, it's on there. Anything made by an auteur is on there. So hopefully this series will help some kids out, and at the same time help me school some dicks. I'll show them...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

So remember that time I said I was going to post every week? That seems to not be happening. Boo on that. I'm going to work on that. Consider it my new life goal. Well, saying it's a life goal is a bit extreme. More like month goal. So, expect more posts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Digital Rewind: Little Children

Mary Ann: Oh that's nice. So now cheating on your husband makes you a feminist?
Sarah Pierce: No, no, no. It's not the cheating. It's the hunger - the hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness.

I'm not going to lie, the first reason I added Little Children to my Netflix list is because I read about it on the A.V. Club's Inventory list of 14 Tragic Movie Masturbation Scenes, not knowing fully what the film was about. So it arrived with my weekly Netflix shipment and I sat down after my grueling Saturday morning to watch it. When I told my friend Cara that I was she told me to be prepared to be depressed.

She was right. But I wasn't outright, "I want to kill myself. My life sucks," depressed. It was more like I felt sorry for these characters, trapped in a world that they thought would be perfect. We've all been there. We've entered a situation that we thought would be perfect and we find out it's a shit hole. Except most of the time, we can escape. For Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) their escape for true happiness is hindered by their children. What would you do if you loved your child but hated everything else in your life? Would you give up what you love to have the thing you want?

I think the fact that children are a major part of the film makes it easier for everyone to watch. Set in a small suburban town, a former child molester named Ronnie (Jack Earl Haley) is released from jail and sent to live with his mother. Of course the town is in a panic. We see all those moms we grew up with: the ones whose lives revolve around their children and you just know that those kids are going to grow all kinds of messed up, and the moms that are totally cool but are the ones that we hate because they forget about us when we're little. And every one's freaked out in their own way. It is creepy that someone who exposed himself to a kid is right down the street from you. But what I liked about how director Todd Field shows Ronnie is that he's human. He hates that he did this in his life. He knows he's messed up and wants to become better. But he can't escape that stigmata. It really makes us as a viewer look at Ronnie in a different light. He's constantly under fire, whether it be physical from Larry (the self-appointed child protection group) or emotional (the glares of every parent in the area).

And what of Sarah and Brad? Both were formerly successful people and Now they're stuck at home with their children while their spouses go out and live the lives they wish they could live. Some men and women want to stay home, which I totally respect. But Sarah and Brad are not one of those people. They don't hate their duty to their children, but they resent it. Playing with a three year old is not mentally stimulating. As the oldest cousin in a big family, I know from first hand experience it can be downright annoying. But you have to pay your dues. You know you were the same exact way when you were three and everyone had to deal with your needy ass. And now it's your turn. But Sarah and Brad never get a moment to themselves. And the moments they do get are few and far between. Instead of studying for the BAR, Brad watches skateboarders and wishes he was one of them. Sarah has her fitness walk with her friend in town where she can release her anger via strutting.

And of course they have each other. After meeting in the park, the two start a sexual affair that slowly turns more romantic. I honestly don't think they actually like each other, and it's more that they know they both need the same thing. They need to feel the hunger from another person, a hunger their spouses or their kids don't possess but they do. Brad even says in the film that he isn't even really attracted to Sarah. And why should he be? He's married to knock-out Jennifer Connelly. Sarah's husband...yeah. He's a character. Which is why she becomes more attached to Brad than he is to her.

I didn't even realize how long this movie was until it was over and I was like, "Holy shit, I have to start getting ready!" It does not feel like 2+ hours. You just get sucked into this little world and when it's over, you're jolted to reality and are thankful that that wasn't your life. It definitely showed me where I do not want to end up in ten years. Now I just need to figure out where I want to be in ten years...

Sidenote: The guy who plays Ronnie in this film is playing Rorschach and Patrick Wilson is playing Night Owl in Watchmen. Good casting, other than I think Patrick Wilson is too pretty for Night Owl. We'll see how the actual movie goes. Tell me why again we're letting Zach Snyder direct this?

Friday, October 5, 2007

I love the sound of you walking away...

Ten points to whoever can identify that lyric.

Where the hell is The Onion?! It's slowly disappearing from my radius. For those who don't know what The Onion is, first of how dare you. Second off, it's a free (if you can find it) newspaper that has a hilarious fake news section and an excellent Entertainment section (which is all real). Which maybe one day I will work for. Here's to hoping. I just submitted my resume for an internship.

This panic all started freshman year when I lived in the South Loop. I would constantly go to The Onion boxes, open them up, and find hobo belongings. Which is not passable for a newspaper. The homeless people in the South Loop take all the newspapers, stash their belongings in the boxes, and try to sell The Onion to tourists and green Chicagoans. I was forced to walk to Borders and pretend to have enough money to buy something there in order to take a copy.

Flash forward a year. I start working at Petco. I'm bored as fuck at the register. Mornings aren't the peak pet shopping time. My manager Matt throws me a copy of The Onion. "If you ever get bored," he says, "We have an Onion box outside the store." My heart explodes with joy. Success! I have found an actual box! I spend months of newspaper bliss until one day, I go out there to grab the latest issue and the box is gone! Where the hell could a newspaper box go? Well, they took it away. What bitches.

Flash forward to yesterday. I'm standing at the bus stop and realize, hey, there's no more Onion post box. The latest edition bundle is just set on top of the U.S. Really Crappy News box. Does this mean that there will be no more Onion by me? Am I forced to look for another reliable spot? Am I just cursed to settle for mediocre real newspapers? The battle continues...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Ideal Husband, circa 1989

Let's face it, all women are trying to find that ideal man. Or woman. Depending on how you swing. However, that's not where I'm going with this. Women collect this dossier of information in their heads about their perfect other. He has to be tall, or he has to be an astronaut. It doesn't matter how unrealistic or how unattainable these qualifications are. We still hold them in our mind and judge every man who we meet against them. When we go out on a date with someone and we say, "You know, I don't feel that connection," it really means, "Sorry, you don't meet at least one or two of my standards." It's shallow to some extent, but everyone does it.

Films have a lot to do with building my dossier. Which is probably a bad thing. I'm completely buying into this unrealistic image of a man. But at least I know it. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Every since my dad showed me Indiana Jones, I've had this obsession with rugged men like that, as I'm sure every straight woman has had. But the one man that I constantly try to find in the real world is Lloyd Dobler.

Say Anything is hands down, the pinnacle of 80s teen cinema. Which is funny, because it comes at the end of the 80s. Maybe it's so good because it's actually realistic. Don't get me wrong, I love The Breakfast Club and all those Molly Ringwald, John Hughes movies. But at the end of the day, is that really going to happen? I wish. I prayed that on my sixteenth birthday the attractive jock would realize I was the girl for him and not that bimbo cheerleader he always fucked around with. But Say Anything is a realistic story. The end of high school is the end of innocence. You're now being thrown into the real world, where the decisions you make will affect what happens when you graduate and get a job (hopefully). And Lloyd Dobler isn't like that. He just wants a "dare to be great" situation. That's what he wants after he graduates. College is meaningless unless you've done something meaningful. What fucking high school did he go to!? I want to go there! My high school just stressed being successful.
He's the perfect man. Good musical taste (he listens to RHCP in the car, awesome), sensitive, funny, respectful. And what does his "dare to be great" situation turn out to be? Loving Diane! And she's so fucking stupid! How does Lloyd Dobler, the perfect man, end up with a twat? She has no idea that all of us are on the other side of the screen cursing her name. Why would you ever consider giving up a man like Lloyd Dobler? I seriously think every man should watch this movie and learn one thing from it and apply it to everyday life. It could be that women can't resist "In Your Eyes." It could be that phone calls are overrated and letters are the real deal. I don't care. I hope Cameron Crowe is actually a real life Lloyd Dobler. I hope he seriously wrote this movie about himself. That would give me a little hope for my romantic life.
At this point I may be coming off like some angry single woman who eats Oreos constantly and stalks Jude Law. I'm not, although I do like Oreos in moderation. I've dated fantastic men, and I've dated the scum of the Earth. I think everyone can say that about their romantic life. I'm just saying that this film showed me that men can be mature after high school and I shouldn't deal with juvenile bullshit. It's a great thing to realize, and if you haven't done so I urge you to try. So every time you hear Peter Gabriel on the radio, nod your head in appreciation. Because the light, the heat is in your eyes Lloyd Dobler. Wear that ridiculous trench coat proudly.

Sidenote: I never realized until my last viewing that Jeremy Piven is totally in Say Anything! God, that man is amazing.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Elusive B-Buster

It's September. School is starting. Yay! I never thought I would say that about college in high school, but seriously. I go to film school. I listen to lecture for up to an hour and then watch a movie. I have no right to complain. Fall's coming, which is awesome because I've had enough of this bi-polar Chicago summer weather. But September's also the end of the summer blockbuster season.

Thank fucking God. The best movie I saw this summer was Superbad. Granted, I didn't see every movie that came out. That's nearly impossible on my finances. But if you want to send me money to do it, I'll gladly oblige. But every single movie I saw was such a huge disappointment. Usually when I go see a movie during the summer, I mentally prepare myself for a different mindset. Summer is not time for the Oscar-caliber film. It's warm outside, every one's looking for a good time. The majority of people don't want to go to the movies to sit and think. I prepare myself to be entertained above all. But I wasn't even entertained for the most part. I just sat there and squirmed, waiting for the films to end.

Some of these galactic disappointments included:
  • Hot Rod - Really Andy Samberg? Really? Did this movie have to exist? I want that era back where SNL affiliates put out good movies. Like Wayne's World. Why can't we have another Wayne's World? That movie was so good! Hot Rod was just playing off the flash popularity of The Lonely Island. Which I mean, is well deserved. Lonely Island is funny. But that's just it. It's funny in the media it's presented in -- short, five minute webisodes where Jorma, Akiva, and Andy be the Jewish funnymen they are. The movie just seemed like they came up with a bunch of funny things that could be webisodes and strung them together with a weak plot. And added a hot Isla Fisher.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - I love Harry Potter. I consider dropping out of college and finding Hogwarts quite frequently. Actually, that's really sad. But yeah, the movie was just....bland? That sounds so art school, but it was. I felt like the director was like, "Well, you know the last two movies were so good, I can just do a mediocre job and not really add anything to the franchise and get away with it." Plus, since I read the book, I was kind of taken aback with how much they cut out. I understand they have to cut out a lot of stuff because, you know, the book's as big as the Bible. But the stuff they cut or changed were kind of crucial. It just made for a bland experience.
  • The Ten - Every time I saw this preview, I laughed. It looks hilarious. And it is...kind of. Some parts are. But it just kind of dragged. And there were a lot of parts of empty air between those laughs. I like the concept. Ten films about the Ten Commandments. But it felt like they were going for dick and fart jokes. Which, hey, I am not offended by. I like dick and fart jokes. I laughed at most of them. Because I'm immature like that. But when you're marketing a movie like this to the indie/adult audience, dick and fart jokes won't always cut it. That's why I liked Stella so much. The rhetoric was so well planned out that you couldn't help but laugh. This film, not so much.
So yeah, there are many more but I don't want to go on and on about it. Go watch Superbad. It was super fantastic.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Space, or Places I Never Want to Go to

Did I miss something? Because I feel like I truly did. Since when did ripping off Kubrick become cool? Trendy even.

I saw the movie Sunshine almost a week ago and I hated it. Why? I'm not sure. But I'm sure that Danny Boyle deciding to remake 2001 and adding the ever-so-sexy Cillian Murphy had something to do with it. And also the fact that is was a genre switcher. But honestly, those two things didn't bother me that much. They irked me. Side note: I'm bringing back the word irked.

But regardless, I honestly don't know why I didn't like it. It was a great concept. Essentially, it's about a team of scientists and astronauts (Chris Evans a.k.a. The Human Torch included, which led to many a space joke) who are traveling to the sun to deliver a "payload," a huge pile of minerals and resources that when dropped into the sun will cause it to be revitalized. The script was fantastic, but the group interactions were really weird. Like, imagine for a second if you will. You're a scientist traveling to the sun. Now, traveling to the sun takes a long fucking time. This isn't Star Wars, we can't put it in light speed and jet. This is realistic. We have to fly there. So we're flying to the sun with eight or nine people. For eight years. Yeah, that sucks. You're going to like some people more than others, that's kind of a given. But in the film it seemed like all this animosity just started emerging. Chris Evans and Cillian are always fighting. Over nothing. And it's always Cillian showing he's smarter and Evans responding to it. Hm, a physicist versus a fucking ship pilot? Who wins? It just didn't seem real to me. Even though, I know in some respect it will never be real to me considering we don't have the technology to travel to the sun and if anyone was traveling to the sun, it wouldn't be me. I still can't figure it out. God, this is frustrating!

Seriously, every movie I've seen in theaters this summer had been a huge disappointment. I would see a preview and be like, "Shit, that looks amazing!" and then are terribly let down. Have I just been seeing the wrong movies? Have I been relying on Hollywood for all the entertainment I should receive a bit too much? I don't know. All I know is that I need to see a good movie.

Side note: I just watched London last night with Mr. Evans and it was awesome. Although, it was hard to comprehend how two men could do so much coke without dying. Maybe it's because I have never tried. Not that I want to.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The End is the Beginning is the End...and then the beginning again

So I'm excited. Why do you ask? Well I hope you assumed I was going to tell you. Because that would be mean if I didn't. I hate it when people start a sentence and you need to know how it ends and then they stop and change the subject. I will never experience blue balls (fingers crossed), but I can guess it would be like hearing somewhat say, "Guess what?" followed by "Nevermind."

But yes, I'm excited because this is the new blog! I'm sure no one read Robot Ninjas. And that's ok. This is like the hotter, more intelligent cousin of Robot Ninjas. Livewire. It's been a couple months in the making but now it's here and I'm pumped. Especially since I have the incredible Craig Dickey writing by my side. I have a feeling this blog will be better, happier, more productive...well, you know how the rest goes.

All exciting news aside, I've been thinking. Actually, I starting thinking about this after I talked to my friend Big Jon about comic books. But when I look at film adaptations and the original work, I realize that Alan Moore always gets screwed over when it comes to his work transferring to the screen. For those who don't know, Alan Moore's a fantastic graphic novelist whose work has appeared in the films V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine (partially. Alan Moore created the character John Constantine in the Vertigo series "Swamp Thing."), and From Hell. Now just look at those four films there. How good were they? Really? If anyone thought they were good, go read the original Alan Moore novel. Because I assure you, it's ten times better. No, twenty times. I mean, I thought V for Vendetta was good but I recently read the graphic novel and was blown away. Alan Moore has such a creative mind and his storytelling is so innovative. He's doing something that mainstream fiction writers dream of doing.

So why is it so hard to translate his ideas to the screen? I read an article where they interviewed Moore and talked about his work being translated to film. I love what he said about the V for Vendetta script:
"It was imbecilic; it had plot holes you couldn't have got away with in Whizzer And Chips in the nineteen sixties. Plot holes no one had noticed."

What Moore found most laughable however were the details. "They don't know what British people have for breakfast, they couldn't be bothered. 'Eggy in a basket' apparently. Now the US have 'eggs in a basket,' whish is fried bread with a fried egg in a hole in the middle. I guess they thought we must eat that as well, and thought 'eggy in a basket' was a quaint and Olde Worlde version. And they decided that the British postal service is called Fedco. They'll have thought something like, 'well, what's a British version of FedEx... how about FedCo? A friend of mine had to point out to them that the Fed, in FedEx comes from 'Federal Express.' America is a federal republic, Britain is not."

When you read the graphic novel, it really does become evident how much they cut out. The book is intricate. You're not always following Eve. You follow V, the inspector, members of the Finger. It's so elaborate. You see how this neo-British society is affected on all sides. The film is very cut and dry. There's just a straight viewpoint. And I know what people are thinking. "How can you make an elaborate story fit into a two-hour movie?" Look at the Harry Potter franchise...well, some of it. How about Guillermo del Toro's contribution? That movie is fantastic. And that book is fucking long. So yeah, duh, things were cut out. Did I notice? Not until I really thought about it. But when I watch Constantine and see that not only is he American, he doesn't wear a tan trenchcoat, and he doesn't swear as much, I cringe. When I see at the end of the movie he stops smoking, I break shit. Constantine doesn't ever stop smoking. Ever. He got fucking lung cancer, which through a series of amazing tricks and turns was made immortal basically. And he still smokes. He knows no one can do anything to him. Oh, and p.s., the real Constantine would have so tapped that Rachel Weisz ass. He had sex with a lesbian. Enough said, he is a pimp.

But enough about Constantine. Moore doesn't even write Constantine any more. But seriously, go read Alan Moore's versions of these films and you see what I'm talking about (although I myself haven't read all of From Hell yet). It's darker, wittier,, more positive adjectives and such. And if you're turned off by the whole "It's a comic book" thing, don't be. The illustrations are fantastic. Plus, dude, the Japanese read graphic novels all the time. And the Japanese are cool. Therefore, if p then q, you will be cool if you read graphic novels.