You have perhaps read my colleague's laughable attempt to justify his allegiance to the cretinous organization known as Netflix. Allow me to enlighten those of you who are stupid enough to have been convinced by his idiotic ramblings...
What, I ask, can you expect to find when you rent from Netflix? I'll tell you what...a huge, varied selection of movies (indeed, 10,000 more titles than Blockbuster's catalogue, director's cut and limited editions (where applicable), a decidedly clean and easily navigable rental interface, and a noticeable and refreshing lack of aggressive marketing campaigns for particular movies.
Ha! Boring! I trust Blockbuster to make certain decisions for me. Blockbuster is the "family-friendly" rental chain. Blockbuster knows that you're not going to stop yourself from renting unrated movies with naughty bits, like Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs. They are certain you'd rather have the neutered, R-rated version, prepared specially for Blockbuster (presumably over the screaming objections of Michael Winterbottom), in which entire sequences are snipped from the movie and replaced with duplicate shots from elsewhere in the film. Blockbuster knows that you don't know that it's better that way. Is it hippocritical of them, given that they also used to have exclusive distribution rights to Zalman King's patently soft-core Red Shoe Diaries? Yes it is. You know who else is a little hippocritical sometimes? America. You know who smokes a little ganj and is out of touch with middle America most of the time? Oregonians.
On the matter of brick-and-mortar stores, the advantage is clear. Blockbuster's stores are only vaguely alphabetized, and the staff seems, for the most part, to be wandering about in a daze which precludes their ability to assist you with anything except becoming less certain of whether or not the store has the title you are looking for. And why shouldn't they? At $6.50 an hour, I'm sure they have a few other things to worry about than explaining to YOU why Broadway Danny Rose has been shelved in the "Thriller" section. Blockbuster is, once again, endeavoring to teach you a lesson YOU were not previously aware you needed: it's not all about YOU, asshole.
In honor of Guy Fawkes Day, here's a link to an old Ao2 article reviewing V for Vendetta. At Audience of Two we have an occasional series entitled "3 for All", in which three people review a film and then we mash the reviews up into a single, nonsensical review.
I'm particularly happy with the latest review of the Darjeeling Limited. However, having finally seen the movie, I must amend my previous review. The movie was WONDERFUL. Will write more when I'm less jet lagged.
I don't know what makes me more angry about this...the idea that no one bemoans a "stealth Christian agenda" when something like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Nativity Story hits theaters (maybe because Christians have never heard of a "stealth agenda." They prefer the "machine gun to the temple agenda"), or the audacity of their perception of themselves as a persecuted minority. Do they really think they're in danger of overthrow at the hands of a mega-budget Hollywood movie starring Nicole Kidman? Don't they realize her horrid acting is enough of a shield from any potential atheist proselytizing?
Let's leave out, for the moment, the lopsided pro-Christian bias of the anchor in the Fox News clip above...are these people really incapable of comprehending that the argument they're making against the apparent "atheist agenda"--the evil atheists are using a book/movie as a vessel to infiltrate children's minds and get them interested in a more in-depth understanding of atheism on a larger scale!--is excactly what happens in every single Sunday School classroom? Every goddamn (whoops!) week? And are they unable to see the argument that acting incredibly defensive when you are in zero danger and are simply pissy about the fact that someone disagrees with you makes you a whiny, insecure bitch?
One of my links in this post goes to the blog of Gerry Charlotte Phelps. On it, she's got a link to a book called White Guilt, by Shelby Steele. Here's the description from Amazon:
Evidently, Ms. Phelps and Mr. Steele are not only deluded enough to believe that Christianity's strangle hold on American "morality" is in danger, they are also convinced that white people need to be even less sensitive than they have been over the years to the possibility of other worldviews.
All of this, combined with Gerrit's post from earlier today, has given me half a mind to put a boot of rightousness up somebody's Bible-shooter. It's self-righteous, delusional evangelicals, not blacks, who need to take Shelby Steele's advice: shut the fuck up and stop complaining.
Having seen a number of movies lately, I've gotta say, I really wish they cost more. Sometimes I try to be proactive about this, by sliding the teller a $20 and then "forgetting" to pick up the change. But it's well worth it, for the opportunity to sit in a crowded movie theater. Here's what I saw lately:
Gone, Baby, Gone: Afflecks have a tremendous hurdle to leap when they're on-screen, as they are hideously unlikeable. Shrimpy Brother Casey is even more unlikeable than usual in this film, trying to play a streetwise tough guy. But he pulls it off, and the movie doesn't suffer too much for his presence. The film never feels tight, but you have to hold indie movies to a lower standard because they usually suck. The film overall holds your interest until the final moral dilemma, which is handled well. Slightly recommended if you're bored.
Control: Sparse, simple, and yet fascinating. It somehow carried my attention the entire time, even though it wasn't terribly exciting. If Walk the Line can be accused of oversimplifying Johnny Cash's life, Control could be accused of not taking enough artistic liberty. It never really attempts to say anything about the dude's life, it just presents his life and lets you draw your own conclusions. I think there's something to be said for that approach. The filmmaker still took an angle: "The dude from Joy Division was an interesting dude." As an introduction to a band I knew nothing about, the movie was fascinating. Overall, I can't stop thinking about it.
No Country For Old Men: A triumphant return for the Coens? Maybe, maybe not. Most people I saw it with liked the first 80%, but didn't care for the ending. Pretentious film snobs will pounce on this as bait, reflexively saying they loved the ending so they can prove their intellectual superiority. I'm not yet convinced. Maybe the ending rings true to the book (I dunno, haven't read it), but the Coens are talented enough that they should have been able to concoct an ending that's stays deep, while also taking on a form the average moviegoer can understand and enjoy. My interpretation would spoil things, so I won't try now. The movie's still recommended, as the rest is a hearty action romp... of DESTINY. Just make sure to pay attention when you think it's safe to doze off towards the end, because I probably missed something being half asleep through the final scenes.
It seems there will be no free movies on this bus, but no matter. There are so many buses rolling south on 95 right now, I've been able to catch 30 seconds of a different movie every few minutes when one passes us.
Now, I have no idea what's going on in any of these movies, as I can't hear them. So, with that as a caveat, here are the plot summaries of everything I've seen thus far...
"Angst & Stocking Caps"-a man with a goatee sits at an outdoor cafe with his girlfriend. They are angry at each other. So angry...and yet, so in love.
"Am I Santa Claus, or a Benevolent Hobo?"-it's tough to tell without the sound.
"The Scrolling of the Text"-theoretically, this text conveys information regarding the plot and characters of the film.
I am quite excited at the impending release of the first feature film in which I'm fortunate enough to appear. It's called Friends (With Benefits), and it's going to be submitted to Sundance in search of distribution and subsequent release. I am keeping my expectations low, as I have no idea what to expect. I am unfamiliar with the scene at Sundance, and I haven't seen the finished cut of FWB. I have heard from cast members who had bigger parts than me that it looks good, and the script is a bawdy good time of the sort that people seem to enjoy. It's kind of an intellectual American Pie meets Kicking and Screaming (the Noah Baumbach one, not the Will Ferrell one). I play a crazy guitarist in a band fronted by one of the main characters.
Here is why I am gangbusters excited about this movie: the director's earlier works are certified cult classics. Among them...
Psychos In Love
In which "a strip-joint owner and a manicurist find that they have many things in common, the foremost being that they are psychotic serial killers. They fall in love and are happy being the family that slays together, until one day they come up against a plumber who also happens to be a cannibal." (summary from IMDB)
In which "Eoj is an alien who won a game show and the grand prize is a trip to earth to have sex with as many earth women as he can. Hildy is a reporter who is writing a biography on Eoj's adventures." (IMDB)
Cemetary High (aka Hack 'Em High and Scumbusters)
In which "a group of High School girls with guns go on a killing spree. They are intent on ridding the world of scummy men."
This is fucking incredible. Add to it that he's got a fairly successful career as a pulp novelist, and that some of his artier work has been playing well at festivals, and I think this movie is poised to actually find a foothold. It's a can't-miss genre in terms of marketability (super-bawdy, graphic sex comedy), and the director's got a dual reputation for T&A space fantasy and moody ruminations on unrequited love. Plus, his books are primarily riffy, titillating, banter-based head rushes, easily digestible and fun. Sha-BLAP! I am excited.
Meanwhile, a member of the Christian fold is currently on the air promoting the Erroneous History agenda, as you can see in this clip (thanks once again to BK for the tip)...
So, this is a personal invitation from Taximan's Lament to any members of the evangelical community who are concerned that The Golden Compass is going to ruin America to rail just as hard against The View for presenting information which could damage the public's perception of Christians. If The View is off the air by this time next week, 2log is officially a success. If not, I will continue to assume that the Crusade against an over-budgeted Nicole Kidman movie is exactly what as it seems: petty, annoying, and offensive to rational human beings of all religions and beliefs.
Actually, I'll continue to assume that even if The View is taken off the air.
Walking out of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" with Flav the other week, I couldn't help but think about murder. Not murdering Flav. That would have been too easy, as brother man was not expecting it.
Rather, I was thinking about murder in film. Walking out of the movie, I thought to myself: "That was a realistic portrayal of murder." But... how would I know? How would the actors know? How would the directors know? I know few people who've ever seen or committed a murder, (making an exception for veterans who observed war casualties). For all the thousands of fictional murders I've seen, I have no context to judge what an authentic murder looks like.
I decided to run some simple numbers... is the amount of media violence disproportionate to the number of murders committed here in the colonies? The Parents Television Council reports that a child will have seen 40,000 murders by the time they're 18. This is based on a figure of 3-4 hours per day watching television. Based on this, a TV left on for an entire year would observe roughly 15,000 murders. The actual number of murders in 2004 was 14,000. This puts the fictional murder rate on par with the actual murder rate. Meaningful? Meaningless?
But enough philosophy. Here's Grand Theft Auto's newest trailer, released a couple of days ago:
I have long been meaning to write reviews of two movies I saw recently (last month, actually), but due to my busy schedule, I have been unable to do so until now.
No Country for Old Men
The Coen Brothers' latest film has only grown in my estimation in the month since I saw it. It has three 't's going for it: tone, theme, and technique. As is well-known in film theory, these three 't's are the requisite elements of a great film.
Tone: No Country for Old Men is like the Coen Brothers' classic Fargo in its mixture of extreme violence and small-town folksy humor. In Fargo, there was the indomitable Marge Gunderson, the very pregnant police chief of Brainerd, MN. In No Country, we have the (more domitable) Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). Surveying a grisly crime scene, Sheriff Bell says, "If this ain't a mess, it'll do till the mess gets here." Later on, after the body count has risen still further, Sheriff Bell and another old-time Texas lawman discuss the decline of civilization: punk kids with green hair and nose rings who won't say "sir" or "ma'am." In both movies, these Prairie Home Companion-esque touches of humor help to leaven the heavy stuff going on all around. Perhaps I'm reading too much of my personal philosophy into it, but it's as if the films are saying there's lots of evil in the world, so it's best to try to stay calm and have a laugh or two. It's worth noting that the characters who fare best in both films are those who refuse to freak out.
Theme: Though it's set in 1980 with cars and telephones and modern weaponry, No Country is really a classic western. Everything about the film is in epic proportions, from the wide open spaces of the southwest to the unstoppable dark force of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). The themes of the movie are appropriately mythic: greed, death, the forces of civilization vs. lawlessness. The movie is based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, which I have not read, but I saw connections with other McCarthy books that I have read. In particular, witnessing Chigurh's seemingly superhuman invincibility, I was reminded of the diabolical Judge Holden from Blood Meridian. McCarthy, like the Coens, is adept at mixing humor with the most graphic violence I have ever seen in print. Apparently this is the first time the brothers have adapted someone else's work for a film, and it seems to be a perfect match. Perhaps it is the influence of McCarthy that gives No Country a more fatalistic bent than Fargo. Gerrit described Chigurh to me as an Angel of Death, and I think the term is apt. Once he has set his sights on you, you are powerless to stop him (although for at least one character, death arrives via other agents before Chigurh can get to him). In one confrontation, Chigurh tells his victim to call a coin toss, with the implication that heads or tails is equivalent to life or death, and thus to entrust her fate to chance. She resists him, saying (unfortunately, IMDb doesn't have the exact quote) something like, "There's no chance involved, it's just you." In Fargo, the characters seem to be more in charge of their destinies--it is their bad decisions that bring about their doom, not blind chance.
Technique: The Coen Brothers' skills as filmmakers shine throughout No Country. The film primarily tells its story visually--there are long stretches without dialogue or even music on the soundtrack. There is little in the way of exposition--details are filled in organically as the story progresses. Early on, the Coens introduce us to Anton Chigurh's killing methods, so that later in the film they can build tremendous suspense with the most economical means: stocking feet walking down a hallway, the beeping of a tracking device, etc. Alfred Hitchcock would be proud. Of course, technique for the sake of technique would have little value, but here the Coens always use it to serve the needs of the film and its themes.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
As in No Country for Old Men, many of the characters in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead do not live to see the closing credits. The title comes from a proverb that I hadn't heard before: "May you be in heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you're dead." I found the film thoroughly entertaining, but ultimately shallow where No Country was profound.
Everything in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead--every emotion, every action, every character--is heightened to the edge of hysteria. Hardly any scene goes by without some character sobbing, screaming, or pulling on his/her hair. As in Fargo, a single bad decision compounds itself many times over, leading to the downfall of a family of prestigious actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, and Rosemary Harris). The moral seems to be that there is no such thing as a victimless crime. (Incidentally, it appears that the cost of hiring such a great cast led to budget shortfalls in other areas--wardrobe was not able to afford a shirt for Ms. Tomei until about halfway through the film. This led one audience member at the showing that Gerrit and I saw to leave the theater about ten minutes into the movie, shouting, "This is the filthiest movie I've ever seen!")
The film is told in a fragmented way (the screen literally breaks up like a jigsaw puzzle at several junctures), doubling back to show the same events from various characters' points of view. This is an effective, if not exactly original, narrative technique, but I thought that it drew too much attention to itself in a way that the Coens' methods in No Country did not. Props to Sidney Lumet for taking risks, though, as he's no spring chicken--the man's 83 and his first film, 12 Angry Men, came out fifty years ago.
My review probably comes across as negative, but I actually did enjoy the film. I was so engrossed in the drama that I couldn't believe nearly two hours had passed when it was over. And yet, with the exception of certain scenes with Ms. Tomei, it doesn't linger in the memory in the same way as No Country for Old Men, or Blood Meridian for that matter. I had my half hour (or perhaps 116 minutes) in Lumet's heaven, but I think I'll take my eternity in the Coen-McCarthy hell.
Check it. I was browsing through the Onion's AV Club the other day, and I had to unplug my internets after a few minutes. It made me so unbelievably sad. It's like getting shot at point-blank range with bullets of negativity. Every column is named something unnecessarily pessimistic like "The Hater," or "What We're Barely Putting Up With This Week." Awww... it sounds like some lonely, disaffected hipsters need hugs. I guess destructiveness is the inevitable byproduct of having nothing to believe in.
Anyway... where was I. Ah, yes. Film reviews. The AV Club writers each listed their ten fave movies from '07. Since the bloodstream at 2log isn't saturated with PBR, pretention, and Xanax, I thought our top 10 films of '07 might offer a more interesting perspective. Whomsoever takes an interest in movies, please throw in your 2 bits for your fave films over the past year. Here's mine:
Juno: By far the greatest movie of the past year. In every way, it's a better version of Knocked Up. Funnier in the funny parts, more sentimental in the sentimental parts, and consistently smarter. Ellen Page is a far wittier and more talented lead than Seth Rogen. All around, it makes Knocked Up look like a pathetic failure.
Knocked Up: Uproarious and amazing. Could somebody start a TV channel that just points a camera at Seth Rogen 24/7.
Casino Royale: The intro theme? Better than diamonds. By the time you're at the crane scene in Madagascar, you know that the Bond franchise has received a defibrillator blast.
Enchanted: First off... Amy Adams deserves parades for her performance. Not a parade singular. Parades. Disney's Princess franchise is one of the most amazing tropes in our culture. This film manages to poke fun at this trope relentlessly, while also reasserting its importance.
The Darjeeling Limited: I don't understand why I liked this movie, but I did. The first Wes Anderson movie I liked. Unfortunately, seeing it made "The Life Aquatic" look bad, so Wes is now 1-3, with Bottle Rocket remaining unseen.
The Simpsons Movie: "Actually good" was the review I heard most often. It was no South Park movie, but it wasn't trying to be. Just high-quality fun.
Ratatouille: If you don't like this movie, you don't have a heart or you don't have a brain.
No Country for Old Men: Probably lives up to the hype.
Live Free or Die Hard: Yippee Ki Yay
I'm Not There: Good enough for me to enjoy it.
Honorable Mention to Superbad, Hot Fuzz, Control, and whatever incarnation of Bourne we're at.