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Intrigued by what feel more and more like deliberate nods to Joseph Merrick, AKA "the Elephant Man," in descriptions of Mario Incandenza. The oversized head topped with sparse hair, for instance, and the sly repeat notes about the piles and piles of pillows the bradypnea-afflicted Mario must sleep upon.
The connection is interesting in part because of Wallace's obsession with David Lynch... )
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Dear Jennifer Dawn Graham:
I made this for you. Yes, you. See, it says on the bow. Happy birthday.
Love,
Christopher Nolan

Dear Heath:
I don't want to sound selfish, but I will never forgive you for dying so young.  Not just because there will be no way for anyone to follow your Joker, ever, but also because you were one of the most talented people in my generation. I hope you are doing well wherever you are.
Love,
zb

Dear Aaron:
Bad. Ass.
Love,
zb

To Christian:
I knew you were destined for greatness the moment I heard you singing "Santa Fe."  And no, I'll never let you forget it.
xoxo,
zb
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This Tuesday the 8th of July, PBS will feature The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, a film by my fellow Michener compatriot Kieran Fitzgerald. It's a documentary about Esequiel Hernandez, a seventeen year old American citizen who was shot by Marines in a Texas border town in 1997. None of the Marines were ever prosecuted for the crime, nor were they officially reprimanded in any way.

It's an amazing film, featuring interviews with Hernandez's family, with most of the Marines  who were involved, and with several high-ranking officials who were either involved in policy or critical of policy during the late nineties. Kieran has done a fantastic job at giving a complete and even-keeled dissection of the complexities of this tragedy. I absolutely recommend you check this one out, especially given that we're currently in process of re-militarizing our borders. Check your local PBS listings for times.
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Much of the movie was spent singing, very quietly:

"Indiana...Dr. Jones...Indiana...Dr. Jones Jones Jones..."

...to the tune of John Williams' music. I believe this joke (if you can even call it that) was started a few years ago when [profile] drawgirl, [profile] hplovescats and I were busily writing Indiana Jones: The Musical! while tossing back tequila shots. Sing it through once and you'll never be able to hear the theme song again without muttering our perfect lyrics under your breath. 
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Tonight we saw Big Man Japan at the Alamo Drafthouse and I highly recommend it. It's a mockumentary about a sixth-generation tokusatu-style hero (think Ultraman in a fallen age). Sato is pitiful, broke, and his ratings are down, but he's still up for the daily grind: in his case, a jolt of electricity that makes him grow to thirty feet tall in order to fight the giant monsters that occasionally attack Japan. It's funny, but in that bleak Brazil type of satire rather than the more flippant Spinal Tap kind of satire. An amazingly smart movie, and also amazingly sad; as much about the strained internal battle Japan wages with itself over the worst of its consumer culture, and especially the disruptions facing the nuclear family, as it is about bizarro monsters.

It's a really Japanese movie--there were in-jokes lost on me and as gaijin go I'm relatively Japan-savvy--but if you're at all a Japanophile (or love kaiju or Super Sentai genre stuff), you really should see this. It's pretty amazing.
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...I have two wishes.

One is that someone, somewhere (perhaps the Alamo Drafthouse?) will do semi-annual showings of Grindhouse in its original format. Because I love it enough to watch it on my TV but any day, any time you want to show it in a theater I will be there shelling out money to do so.

And two is for someone to make me a gif animation icon of the scene at the end where the girls are punching the everliving shit out of Stuntman Mike. The only problem with this would be that I'd want the whole two or three minutes of savagery, which I think is beyond livejournal's capabilities.
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[profile] hplovescats sent me the following video with a note saying he thought it'd be "right up my alley." Does anyone else's boyfriend send them things like this?



The only thing I find annoying is that I didn't make the movie first. I've been making this joke for years.

Even more interesting, though, is the hot new product coming out of South Africa: the anti-rape condom. I spent a good chunk of time on Rapex's website going over the tersely worded FAQs after [profile] drawgirl forwarded me the link. Check out the Rapex font for a clear idea of what this product is about. 
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30 Days of Night, like many quality horror movies, is not a horror movie so much as a survival movie. This is a trope more often found in zombie films, like Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later, than in vamp flicks: the humans must band together to fight the outside menace, usually hiding out in microcosms like isolated farmhouses or malls. Their survival depends on the strength of their community, and usually on one forceful leader who makes hard choices for the rest of the gang. The tension comes from internal and external forces both and often you find yourself forgetting about the monsters outside, because the ones inside are so fascinating.

What better location for this sort of drama than Barrow, Alaska, cut off almost entirely from the outside world in the depths of winter? And what better monster for such a setting than vampires, whose reign of terror in movies is usually limited severely by the sunlit hours?

The movie works in part because the vampires are Scary Monsters and not Sexy Goths. I did get briefly sidetracked entertaining myself with the idea of Anne Rice's vampires mincing around Alaska. Velvet and lace meets a full line of Carhart products. Does this Gore-Tex go with my corset? Alas, such fashion victimization was not to be, but that's all right; the grotesque, inhuman creatures in this movie were much more terrifying. They hiss and squeal gutterally, and when they attack they mean business. No drink-of-me-and-live-forever foibles here. No romantic hypnotism.There's not any camp to this movie, not any wackiness. Just terrifyingly hungry vampires.

The movie makes great use of Alaska. While the versimilitude department could probably poke several holes in it (Barrow apparently only has one or two Eskimos therein, Josh Hartnett is nowhere near hairy enough to be an Alaskan man, and honestly, we keep our oil up there; you think no one would notice the town's shut down?), the panoramas and sense of isolation are spot on. It's a movie that knows what to do with quiet, which is increasingly rare in an age of soundtrack abuse and thumping heavy metal behind elaborate fight scenes. Oh, don't worry, elaborate fight scenes there are; but the crux of the film is the increasing strain of trying to guess who's going to make it to day thirty. Also, this is the movie that dares to answer the question: what happens when you use bear mace on a vampire? Answer: the same thing that happens when you use bear mace on a bear. You piss it off and fail to slow it down much at all.

This movie has crazy people, guns, bear traps, oil, flannel, alcoholics, pot-growing grandmas, and an entirely new standard of seasonal affective disorder. If that doesn't make the folk back home proud, I don't know what will. B+.
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All morning long I've been wandering around singing the Lucky Charms jingle, except I've been singing: "They're magically realistic!" It just pops into my head and I can't help myself. It's long ceased to be funny but I can't stop. I wish I knew photoshop, I'd create a cereal box. Garcia Marquez dressed like a leprechaun?

I'm gearing up for school by re-reading Heart of Darkness. I still remember reading it in high school; my English teacher assigned it right after Pride and Prejudice. She said that she liked to put the girly book and the masculine sea-exploits back to back. As it turned out, most the boys were relatively uninterested in Marlow's adventure. Me and my friend Shy both went wild over it, loved it at least as much as we'd loved Austin (we were more or less doomed to life in the English departments of our respective future colleges at that point). The richness of Conrad's language, the descriptive poetry, the sadness and resignation over the moral incompetence of colonialism, the relish for absurdity. And he didn't even know English until he was fully grown. It's craziness.

Anyway, this time around it can't help but make me think of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (yes, Manque Man, I finally go to it!). The implicit critique of imperialism and consumption, the saga of power disparities weaving through out the different narratives of Mitchell...it feels sort of like Heart of Darkness is in some ways the spiritual inspiration for Mitchell's work (though you could probably say that just as easily of Melville). And then on top of that, the depths in both writers' respective projects: the fact that neither Conrad, nor Mitchell, is writing a book about one given "issue," but rather is writing within a scope of human behaviors. Conrad's not writing to get the British out of Africa necessarily, he's writing to explore some of the unexpected danger and moral murkiness that surfaces when one group conquers another. And of course Mitchell doesn't even keep himself to one setting, but skyrockets across a whole pattern of experiences.

Is this post getting pretentious? Then let me confess I went to Stardust the other night and had a great time. It's one of those movies like Ever After: if someone asked me about quality I'd have to sort of scuff my feet, but if someone asked me about fluffy adolescent enjoyment factor, well hot damn I can get behind that. I sort of missed the stripped-down quality of the Gaiman/Vess version, but there was enough to like to keep me happy (three words: gay air pirates. Okay, De Niro is terrible in drag, but in the context of such a light movie it was all very sweet).

And now I'm off to defer my student loans. Can this day get any better?
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...has the official Captain Bonney stamp of approval.

The Depp-o-licious factor rates in at a full ten, due in part to several shirtless moments. Additionally getting rave reviews are: sea goddesses unbound, the presence of the Mysterious and Treacherous Orient in the person of Chow Yun-Fat, Bill Nighy and Geoffrey Rush in a balls-out competition to become the favorite character actor of one zenithblue, the sexiest wedding ever, and a surprisingly sad ending.

There were things I would have done differently, were I in charge of the film, but all things considered it was a fun night at the movies and earns three out of four jolly rogers.

Additionally, in a surprising epiphany on my part, I realized that overwhelming loathing I've been feeling for Keira Knightly is something most people refer to as "jealousy." Here's my impression of her: "La, la, la, I'm Keira Knightly. I'm going to wear a corset and then trade it in for a sexy pirate jacket. Then I'll be a pirate queen! I'm going to smooch all the boys and then whip about on ropes and shoot vile redcoats! Lalalalala!" Bitch.

[profile] scarredbyitall, I think you might change your mind about your boyfriend's monkey-aquisition scheme if you see what a cute wee rice hat you could make him wear. Also: monkeys + firearms =good clean fun.

Yarrrr.

Hot Fuzz!

May. 12th, 2007 10:22 pm
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Hot Fuzz was brilliantly fun. My unending love to Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for making me believe anew in the power of parodies to be actually clever and entertaining, instead of mere regurgitated dreck. Fans of Shaun of the Dead will be happy to see that the boys retain their interest in ludicrous death scenes and lots and lots of fake blood. Don't miss a cameo by Peter Jackson as a psycho knife-wielding Santa.

Seriously, my little pop culture junkies, go see it now if you haven't already.

Paprika

May. 3rd, 2007 09:34 pm
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Fans of Satoshi Kon, the innovative maker of such films as Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers, should be apprised that his most recent film Paprika is as worth the price of admission as anything else he's done. Kon makes movies that stand alone beyond the scope of anime (I don't mean to disparage the craft of animation, but Kon is an artist who has appeal for otaku and non-otaku alike). As with previous movies, Paprika experiments with structure and image, incorporates metafilmic narrative jokes and surreal fantastical elements, and utilizes Freudian doubling imagery (people with two selves, split selves, selves where there aren't supposed to be extra selves). Oh, there's also a cute girl who rides clouds in a schoolgirl outfit.

I love the Japanese.

I felt like a grizzled old otaku at the screening; there were a lot of very young women wearing cat ears in the crowd. It was a good group though, even if it was full of novices (half the crowd didn't know who Kon was until the introducer said "Perfect Blue" and then they all gasped with excitement. Did they not know what they were seeing, besides "anime?"). There were a few other gnarly veterans there and we all cheered and laughed together and had a wonderful time at our Kommunal Viewing Experience.

Now I'm off to the coast for a few days...catch you kids on the flip side.

Grindhouse

Apr. 13th, 2007 11:27 pm
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Okay so:

Fucking. Awesome.

Seriously.

Planet Terror was good insane pulpy fun, and I ewwed and yelled and laughed. But Death Proof in my opinion was some of Tarantino's best writing, and actually good and emotionally involving and really honestly barely more grindhouse-ish than standard-issue Tarantino. Death Proof had me half out my seat yelling with joy at the screen. Death Proof gave me this crazy visceral reaction, a memory of walking to my car at one A.M. after working at Spartacus all day wishing someone would try to attack me so I could take out his eye, a memory of feeling someone pushing my boundaries and the bliss of shoving back with all my might and then slapping my ass insolently at them. I know it's maybe only a half step above yelling "Girl Power" with the Spice Girls in terms of revelatory feministic moments to feel like a high speed exploitation drama is self-actualizing, but I don't even care. That movie was pure bliss.

Of course it suffices to say: Grindhouse. Fuck yeah. Fuck yeah.
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If you like talking shit about stupid people...and I know some of you do...you need to see Idiocracy, like, right now. Here is just one example of why:



Totally don't remember this ever hitting the theaters, but then I don't remember Office Space hitting theaters either. Someone in the movie industry must have it in for Mike Judge. 

Somehow the script made me imagine what a conversation between me and [profile] blozor might be like if we started talking some customer service shop.
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George Saunders disappointed me for the first time tonight. His "Shouts and Murmurs" article for the New Yorker this week is a scathing, scathing send-up of the recent Borat movie. It's a mock memo from one film exec to another with further ideas for how to make Borat more "funny." It includes suggestions like "Do we have footage of the woman Borat identified as unattractive being consoled in her darkened living room later that night by her huband? Particularly good if, all her life, she's fought the feeling that she was not attractive..." And so on.

Thing is, while I enjoyed Borat by and large, I walked away with a few qualms about some of the cruelties. Comedy is not for sissies, and for the most part Borat is fun to watch--most of his victims are enjoyable because they are in positions of complacence. They are insular closed groups of people who don't traffic with outsiders (the southern hospitality people, the humorless New York feminists, the rodeo folk). There's something satisfying about seeing a strange feckless element thrown in to test their adaptability (also I tend to think a lot of people actually catch on to the fact that this guy's not for real mid-interaction and just decide to roll with it--some people are suckers but other people, like the driving instructor for instance, seem much more genial).  However--there are low blows in the movie that really do seem cruel. The two that stood out to me are the first two Saunders points out, the woman being called unattractive, and the extreme poverty of the Romanian villiage he uses in the beginning of the film. Yes, haha, they live in ramshackle huts. Oh, the comedy! The comedy of poverty!

So yes, I think there are things to criticize in this movie. And yes, I think it's possible to enjoy something conditionally, which is the peace I've made with this film. Back to Saunders, though, the thing that bothers me most is that the writing in this New Yorker thing is just not very good. He just sarcastically bitches while wagging his finger at his audience, saying "shame on you!" And that's the awful thing, because Saunders is a freaking incredible satirist, and is twenty times the humorist Sascha Baron Cohen is, and he should be able to come up with something far more clever and humane than standing on a pulpit sneering at everyone who happened to find the appearance of a black prostitute at a southern hospitality dinner absolutely hilarious. To have an ethical critique of this particular brand of shock comedy is reasonable. I just think it'd be more interesting, more worthwhile, to examine the phenomenon a little more closely. I don't think the case is as black and white as he makes out.

Because here's the thing, George: you aren't going to convert people who already think he's a comic genius, and the people who have qualms are already figuring out their moral grounds. Your proselytizing just feels like an old man's moral rant. Take me somewhere better and bigger than that.
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I didn't expect to like this movie as much as I did--I thought it might be another clever meta-narrative comedy that fueled itself mostly off the gimmick. 

thoughts on Stranger Than Fiction, no real spoilers )
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The Prestige was just marvelous, if you're wondering. Christopher Nolan is probably my favorite young mainstream director these days--he knows how to make a solid entertaining movie but he also knows how and when to inject art into it. And M. Knight Shayalaman should take lessons from him how how to shape a plot with twists and turns that doesn't make you want to murder the director. Of course Nolan hits a lot of my buttons--the moodiness of his tone, the flirts-with-noir aesthetic. Without me offering up any spoilers, the plot of The Prestige manages to pull off a lot of its stranger twists by a careful balance of philosophical horror and psychological gloom and wild plotting. Ah, bliss.

The one thing I'll say is that Christian Bale acted circles around Hugh Jackman. I'm not sure, the more I see him in, that Jackman is that great an actor. He was good in the movie when he was on stage being a showman, but his offstage stuff was a little flat, especially compared to Bale's smoldering performance. But it didn't detract too much. Who knew Bale, who I knew (with great interest, at one time) as Jack from the musical Newsies, could pull off such intense stuff.

Also: motherfucking Ziggy Stardust. My hero. After the movie I was babbling about Nikola Tesla and Jareth from Labyrinth and my friend Guillermo looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Oh my God, Tesla was David Bowie, wasn't he?" And I was like, "Cha, idiot." And he was like, "That's why he was so fucking charismatic! I just thought he was awesome. I didn't know he was awesome and David Bowie!" I think there's probably a mathematical equation someone could write showing that "awesome" is limited by "David Bowie." Or maybe the square root of David Bowie is awesome.

And: I'm so glad someone finally gave Andy Serkus a fucking job where he doesn't have to wear a motion capture suit. That dude is awesome.

Anyway, go see the damn movie. It did verily please me.
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Dear Theater Idiots,

I realize that I have no idea what the actors are saying. Indeed, most of the audience probably has no idea what the actors are saying. I am sad to admit that I don't know a lick of Mandarin. That doesn't mean, however, that I want to listen to you YAPPING YOUR PIEHOLE all through the fucking film. Comprehension is not the only reason to shut up and listen to language. The music and the sound design and yes, the beautiful language I fail to understand are part of the experience of the movie. So shut your fucking yap while Jet Li is talking.

Sincerely,
Zenith


Dear [personal profile] alecaustin,

I miss you! Martial arts epics aren't the same without you!

Hugs,
Zenith


Dear Fearless,

You were a pretty good time at the movies. I mean, you were no Crouching Tiger or Hero, but I enjoyed myself. The martial arts were spot on. The epic parts had some structural problems, but the good stuff was quite good. As with all good martial arts movies, I thought you improved greatly when the hero lost everything he loved and went to the idyllic countryside (who knew Hobbiton was in China?). And I am a sucker for a redemption arc. And also sectioned staffs are my favorite martial arts weapon--how did you know? I did not cry the way I usually do, for which I hold you a little bit responsible, but I was rather moved at the end. Not bad. Now I shall watch Hero again and weep like a maniac.

Best,
Zenith

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