Sunday, February 25, 2007

To be continued....

This blog continues on


Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Adventures of Crispin Glover

So, I saw What Is It?, the directorial debute (I think) of Crispin Glover. Many people know him only as McFly from the Back to the Future series, Willard, or from Charlie's Angels (which I haven't seen). In fact going back until about 6 years ago, I didn't know who he was. It was only from a co-worker mentioning how excited he was that there was a new Crispin Glover movie coming out, did I know that such a name existed. However, having seen River's Edge earlier this year, I'm in a Crispin state of mind.

Once before, a couple of years ago, I stood in line at Anthology Film Archives to get tickets to this movie. I arrived 3 hours before, in the cold, and there was a line around the block. I did not get tickets but I knew someone, who knew someone, who did and they said it was crazy.

What is it? started as a movie staring actors with downs syndrome and grew into a movie about provocation. Crispin Glover tours with this film and a slide show he presents before the film. Afterwards there is a Q&A. This, in my case, set many of the issues I had into context. Glover attempts to present content that is "outside the realm of good and evil", meaning a non-corporately influenced or censored material. In this case that means people with downs syndrome pouring salt onto snails and a woman with a monkey mask masturbating a man with multiple sclyrosis. This is the world we're entering.

To say the film is difficult and inaccessable, is an understatement. The only reason I didn't hate this film was that I could see that there were some ideas at work, some artistic intent and lofty goals. However it's a film wherein most of the dialogue is incomprehensible, and the narrative, which Glover in the Q&A described as traditional, is nonexsistent.

I can't rate this film without taking into account the slide show that preceeded it. The slide show was much more interesting than the film and consisted of books from the 1800s, reworked by Glover. Themes begin to surface as the pieces are read and the occasional funny line punctuates the madness.

Overall Glover was an excellent host and portrayed himself as an artist and I believe he is one. I give the film 2 stars, but when combined with the slide show I give 3 stars.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hopped up on Theraflu

So, I'm a little sick and I took some Theraflu to help me sleep. Only after I took it I saw that it said "non-drowsy" and now I can't seem to sleep. I decided to watch a movie until I fell asleep, which will hopefully be soon.

Theraflu, by the way, is the worst stuff on earth. Does anything taste worse? I nearly vomited with each swallow, and I don't vomit (twice in 12 years). I can still taste it even though I drank a little coke and a ton of water. What does this have to do with film? Nothing, it just couldn't go unsaid.

My first exposure to Costa-Gavras is the film, Missing (1982).

"If you hadn't been personally involved in this... unfortunate incident, you'd be sitting at home, complacent, a more or less oblivious to all of this."

Exactly! That something like this could, and did, happen isn't shocking in the world we live in today. The proliferation and saturation of information allows us to be aware of how easily it is for "evil" people to get their way. This film, with it's strong portrayl of characters fighting against the beurocracy is smart and emotionally involving in spite of the heavy reliance on facts. Sometimes this gets in the way of my emotional involvment with characters but the interaction between Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek is realistic and moving.

I am pretty sure that Z, by Costa-Gavras, is a great movie and probably better than this one but it's damn good. I'll give it 4 stars on netflix and recommend it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Warren Oates

For those of you who don't know, Warren Oates is one of my favorite actors of all time. He's on a short list (which I don't put too much thought into and is a work in
progress) with Henry Fonda and DeNiro. The film is Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, by Sam Peckinpah, and it's one of my favorite titles ever. This is a showcase of sorts, for Oates. The central character, Benny, is a hustler living in Mexico and in love with a prostitute. He takes on the mission of getting Alfredo Garcia's head for a hefty ransom, in order to make a life with the woman he loves. Tragedy strikes when she is killed and he is left for dead.

The Peckinpah style vengeance takes the momentum of the film after that point, when Benny sets about finding the orgins of his mission. His obsession takes over his life and he begins talking to himself and the head. He loses his grip on reality.

These are themes that I like in my films. Oates realistically portrays one man's descent into pathetic madness. The film is filled with slow motion shootouts and archetypal characters. This is a film bordering on mythic in it's approach.

It falls short in many ways for me, the first of which being the early half of the film and it's disjointed structure. The gaps in logic and story as well as stilted dialogue, reign supreme in this section. The last 30 minutes the film picks up it's pace and the myth making tone feels right. It's as though Peckinpah was rushing to the finale. Skipping on coherent and believable plot in favor of Oates' performance "tics".

Oates is the star of the film and the major draw for anyone viewing. Very few actors could combine dark aviator shades and a white suit to make a powerful performance.

The film gets 3 netflix stars.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hollywood Moviemaking sometimes works

HBO just showed Peter Jackson's King Kong and I thought I would check it out. Allow me to say that I watched the movie in it's entirety and planned on writing a section about how much of a crime it was to watch a movie like this pan and scan. However, I realized with 5 minutes left that I could have been watching it on HBOHD channel. There goes that rant, defeated by idiocy.

I thought the film was an excellent example of what Hollywood movies can be capable of. Huge vistas, engrossing action, well crafted plot, cutting edge special effects and big name stars, all add up to one of the best Hollywood pictures of it's type I've seen in quite some time. The type I'm refering to is action movie. I don't like action movies as a rule. Peter Jackson chose to remake an interesting subject with emotional connections bulit into the plot and not tacked on. There were beautifl shots and exciting sequences that really moved and involved me.

This is a Hollywood movie so it does have hackneyed overacting, shallow character development, and clumsy exchanges. In particular the relationship between the first mate and the boy was rife with cliches. The attempts at humor rang false.

Another thing that bothers me in mainstream big budget specticals like this is the special effects. While Kong looks good by himself, as do many of the monsters in the film, their interaction with the world and other characters always looks fake. A creature that large moving that fast would look different with a person. I don't know how clear I can be about this but it is off putting and takes me out of the film. The final sequence with Kong on the Empire State Building fighting with the planes is a perfect example of the fake appearance of the effects. The planes in the seuence are digital and look like it. If one is to go back and watch a film where planes are filmed live in the sky, they look different. It isn't the fault of the digital artists that they can't reproduce life. They aren't being asked to. What they are making now looks great to 90% of the people who like effects heavy films. I find it distracting most of the time. When I don't, is a rare occasion.

I'll give it 3 stars and I'll conceed that if I had seen it in the theater my experience may have raised the rating.