Media Log 2010
GAME: Trilby's Notes (2006), 6 Days A Sacrifice (2007)-- Ben Croshaw.
I found that I am only good at Adventure Games. I need to play more games like this. Ending was disappointing but how much he retcons the first two Chzo Mythos games is kind of hilarious. Gotta give Croshaw credit for making the ending of 7 Days A Skeptic, the worst ending in a videogame ever, work. Here's an LP of all of them if you're too lazy to play them (but don't play the first two, they are retarded).
MOVIE: Love Is A Treasure (2002),-- Eija Liisa Ahtila.
I guess it says something worrying about my mental state when I identify so strongly with characters who are non-functionally schizophrenic.
MUSIC: Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major, KV. 16 (1764)-- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
It sounds like it was written by a fucking eight year old.
TV: Downtown (1999)-- Chris Prynoski, George Krstic, Anne D. Berstein.
Family Guy writers and such should watch every episode of this show to show them how to make cutaways actually forward plots and act as character development. The characters act real and shoot pop culture crap without being obnoxious or "cool" about it. The interactions of the characters are compelling and the animation style is original and nice to look at.
GAME: Loved. (2010)-- Alexander Ocias.
THe creator said he wanted to make something confrontational and it really is. The game is stark and semi-abstract and quite striking in its design. The minimalism it takes allows for a bit of thought about what exactly is happening while still being very linear both thematically and gameplay-wise. It pays to play a few times through. A very very good and charming miniature art game.
MUSICAL: Into The Woods (1987)-- Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine.
I'm generally pretty anti-musicals but I liked this a lot. It had some cute momentts (It Takes Two), some pretty heartbreaking ones (Witch's Lament), and some totally fucking retarded parts (retarded but hilarious: Hello Little Girl. Retarded and terrible: the finale reprise of the opening theme). It seemed like a more mature and well written version of the basic idea of Shrek (ie, twisted fairy tales). A lot of the relationships between characters are quite interesting; the Baker and his wife, and the witch are good characters. My biggest problem is that the last number, the reprise previously mentioned, completely undermines the more tragic themes and story of the second act; it makes it all retarded pap and tells that audience to stop caring. Would be better to just end with "Be careful the tale you tell, that is the spell that children will listen to...".
MOVIE: Seven Samurai (1954)-- Akira Kurosawa.
It was just an action movie... Kind of just meaningless and heartless. I mean, it wasn't bad, really, but there was nothings special about it. It's better than a lot of things, but it gets too much credit for basically just being a modern-ish action movie just from the 1950s. The only really great thing in this film was that Toshiro Mifune was pantsless throughout most of it. His big monologue was pretty good too and his death also the most retardedly contrived thing in cinema.-- Throughout the whole film it was built up that the reload time for the muskets is realistic-- it takes a while especially in a tense situation, then by the end, to make sure they have a contrived tragedy right at the end, Mifune's character is shot less than a minute after the bandits' last musket was fired once, destroying the conceit for plot convenience. Mifune's death in itself was wholly predictable-- one could easily assume that about half of the samurai were going to die by the end, and the one that must die has to be the charismatic underdog, the Mifune character... But as I said, he's half naked throughout most of it and one of the most handsome men in Japanese cinema so oh well. Well, another things that I quite respect about itis that it treats every death as an actual thing, no one is simply expendable, like in most movies. (Lastly: in a film study textbook I read once, it talked for a couple pages about the symbolic nature of a large bonfire in one scene; the whole passage ended with the line "In addition to being a symbol, the fire in this scene is also a fire").
MOVIE: Metropolis (1927)-- Fritz Lang.
It's kind of weird that little 3 second shots here and there actually made a big difference and the restored cut is much improved. still sucks that 5 minutes are missing but still. The "new" footage is in bad shape but I would say the fact that it doesn't detract testament to that the thing on a whole-- the point, the themes, the ideas, etc-- are more important than outward appearance... I mean, it's all still clear, just scratched up. The Thin Man's subplot is cool and I like it a lot more than I did before. (There was one major con though hat really had nothing to do with the movie itself: whenever I got to the theatre it seems everyone else in the place is an idiot (at A Woman Under The Influence, people were laughing at Mabel Longhetti's breakdowns. At Cremaster 3, people were laughing every time something "weird" happened (ie, all the fucking time)). There were people giggling at every close-up and sign of the slightest histrionics or stage-like acting; people laughed as the Worker's City flooded and it seemed all the kids were to die. There was a chick right in front of me who went"godDAMN" and "dun dun DUUUUUN" just about any time there was a dramatic turn and I had to restrain myself from punching her in the back of the head.)
BOOK: Turn Of The Screw (1898)-- Henry James.
I am only halfway through but seriously this is the stupidest story ever written. How it managed to get so much critical and scholarly attention is beyond me. The Governess in the story is a vapid superstitious idiot and everything she thinks she sees can be chalked up to that. However I gotta say I liked the introduction bit at the Christmas party, that was kinda neat and well written... But everything after that...
MUSIC: La Dousa Votz (1100s?)-- Bernart De Ventadorn.
The jolliest troubadour melody. It is hoppy and bouncy and seductive and expressive.
MUSIC: The First Booke of Songes And Ayres (1597)-- John Dowland.
The first great British pop album? Ranging from heartbreaking to catchy and charming, it really is a great collection. "Come Again" probably is my absolute favourite on there and is a masterpiece of English songs if there ever was one.
MOVIE: Ikiru (1952)-- Akira Kurosawa.
Is this seriously one of the heights of Japanese cinema? is Sight And Sound retarded? Is this giant pile of stale-ly shot, cloyingly and insincerely sentimental, over-long, heavyhanded pap really worth that much? This is really solidifying Kurosawa in my mind as most overrated director if what are supposed to be his two greatest films (this and seven Samurai) are just so bland. If it was American, people would probably laugh at or jeer at all of the corny dialogue (and especially the hamfisted intro narration). The only moment that really felt touching in any way was probably only the first time Watanabe sang Gondola no Uta-- the second time, with the iconic swing, was barely anything at all. I'm surprised that the cinematographer who worked on Ugetsu also worked on this. The aforementioned swing scene, this big thing that seems to have made people want to think about their lives and touched the cold black hearts of film critics everywhere just left me with a colder blacker heart-- completely unmoved. The complete theme and message of the movie is nice and good and upright but the execution and its way of attempting to present those themes just end up making for stumble after stumble until the film just falls flat on its face never to recover. It all just felt so watered down and milquetoast. I really wanted to like it and thought a story more "modest" would suit me better than a "Samurai Epic" or something, but Seven Samurai was much better than this even... Considering going to a Yojimbo/Sanjuro double feature after this but I dunno anymore, i just dunno.
MUSIC: Londonderry Air (-1885)-- Anonymous.
One of the most haunting and picturesque melodies I've ever heard. Just played solo with no adornment, it is stark and romantic and beautiful as any solo arrangement by a famous composer or another. It does Ireland proud.
MUSIC: Gretchen Am Spinnrade (Op 2, D 118) (1814)-- Franz Peter Schubert.
I have ruined all other German Lieder by listening to this first, for even in my scant experience with the classical sub-genre, this is one of the best songs I've ever heard. Touching, expressive, original and hauntingly catchy for a classical piece. Something else that struck me is that it could probably be transcribed to guitar pretty easily for something also very interesting.
MOVIE: The Fantastic Mr Fox. (2009)-- Wes Anderson.
Considering the Oscars, it really is a travesty that this (and equally with Coraline) lost to the saccharine Up-- in both best animated feature and also for best music; both Anderson's and Selick's films are more mature, more daring, and more sincere-- and the music of both Coulais and Desplat is more original and has more character than Giacchino's heavy-handed and painfully average score. As to talk about the film itself, the most striking thing is the weird, almost playfully, flat compositions that dominate the whole film; in a way I felt like I was in Chantal Akerman's doll house throughout most of the film. The compositions are theatrical and allow for fairly restrained editing for the most part, which give the film a more unique, in a way modest, touch. It's strange how expressive the photography is considering the flat style, but this sets it clearly apart from the average overstimulated way of shooting. The voice-acting and casting is top notch (Kylie's voice being so fucking adorable). It is also interesting how they recorded the voices in actual settings, having the actors act things out. It lended a lot of verisimilitude to their vocal performances. The "cussing" filter in the film also, amazingly enough, does not become cloying and annoying-- continually cute and quaint and fitting and never too childish.
MOVIE: Inception (2010)-- Christopher Nolan.
Every time a Christopher Nolan film is released, it is hailed, en masse, to be the second coming of Christ in the form of a film. Christopher Nolan doesn't really make films though, he makes rollercoasters. Inception isn't something where anything is learn or truly examined as much as it is a brain twister. It doesn't engage the heart and mind and soul in any way very mature as much as it , more often than not, dazzles every human's reptilian hindbrain and excites it with shiny fancy gimmicks and contrived chases and little riddles to keep you busy while he pulls another trick out of his sleeve to make sure the next flash blinds you enough to not notice the lack of substance. While it was a pretty good rollercoaster or lateral thinking puzzle or at times both at once, as a film it was very little to say much about. The single emotional, as opposed to intellectual, string it tries to pull is pulled so sappily and so much like some kind of soap opera it got a bit sickening and tiring after a while (while it still "kept you guessing"). Better than The Dark Knight and Memento , not as good as Following and The Prestige. (On a brighter note it did in a way rekindle a certain interest in both videogames and architecture and installation art. The music and sound design were quite nice and added effective and affecting accents to many parts; many of Zimmer's eerie drones helped create a dreamy vertigo effect. The acting was competent and the overall idea is smart even if emotionless and empty on any deeper level. The special effects were done quite well with some very striking things-- the spinning hallway being the simplest but also most interesting-- and I like that Nolan, as much as possible, wanted to avoid computer effects so that things could be done just in-camera with tricks that way, which ultimately look more "real" than just about any computer graphics can even today. Noticing the Edith Piaf song in the film was called "I Regret Nothing" or something like that in the credits made me laugh too. Even if Nolan is nothing but a Juggler, he's one of the better jugglers.)
MOVIE: I Want Your Love (Screentest) (2010)-- Travis Mathews.
Cassavetes + cocks = http://www.iwantyourlovethemovie.com/ . This is like pornography minus the emotional emptiness. Before sexual objects, the men in this short film are people, awkwardly and lovingly trying to navigate through sex and their own relationship with eachother. On top of that, the shooting of the film is tender, beautiful and as I mentioned before, very reminiscent of Cassavetes; very many close-ups, often handheld, non-standard editing. The close-ups in the film not only probe for emotion and reveal the characters, but the closeness of the camera somehow avoids a sleazy voyeur aspect, in a way more simulating a physical closeness with the men-- as if a hug. The dialogue is true and the course of action taken is realistic, but through developing the emotions and emotional connections before anything happens and while it happens too, makes it all beautiful and enhances whatever sexual appeal was there by having affection be there too. The pacing and restraint in the film just makes it more touching and also more sexy in the end too. Also I gotta say that Brenden is adorable (And Travis Mathews's vision just makes him even more adorable). I'm looking forward to see the whole product when it is finished as well as Mathews's other work now. (Sex and Sexuality are facets of human behaviour and emotional lives so those aspects that can be explored artistically-- as it was here)
MOVIE: Live Bait (1995)-- Bruce Sweeney.
This dude is basically the Canadian version of John Cassavetes. He's quite competent with what he does. The only problem with that is that there's a John Cassavetes already, just south of that border, who is MUCH BETTER than competent. I mean, this is no Shadows, but there's not much I can say is terrible about it. The acting is good, the cinematography is at times expressive and well laid out, at others boring and does nothing. The writing is realistic and sharp for the most part; while none of the jokes will really make you laugh, there are heartwarming moments. The characters have more depth and the overall storytelling is more intelligent than average-fare, but it's not intelligent or deep enough. While absolutely nothing about this film is bad, there's very little that's exceptional in any way, though.
MOVIE: Dirty (1998)-- Bruce Sweeney.
This dude is basically the Canadian version of John Cassavetes. He's quite competent with what he does. The only problem with that is that there's a John Cassavetes already, just south of that border, who is MUCH BETTER than competent. I mean, this is no Love Streams, but there's much much MUCH stupider, vapider, and worse out there. The cast of characters is interesting and more relatable hold onto your heart better than in Live Bait, but many of them aren't fleshed out enough (only the characters Angie and Tony I feel are very "full", and while there's something quite striking about Nancy's character portrait, it's also a bit flat, conventional, and without much to it). The shooting is vaguely better, and the use of underexposure and dark atmospheres really lent well to the aimless characters tumbling through their emotional lives with the lights burnt out. The title is also fairly misleading as it only has one character whose problems are very "dirty" in any way, and I feel that the film would be better if his aspects were downplayed a bit more; while his fetishism never rose to sensationalist/shock-value levels, he was also a squirmingly awkward character and not in a "revealing" way, just in an awkward way.
MUSIC: Go Outside single (2010)-- Cults.
Some of the most happy and sunny lyrics coupled with some pretty depressing lyrics-- The music feels something like if Air France was less dance-y. Definitely just as floaty as Air France, and just as full of cute cloudy beautifully minimalist songs as No Way Down.
MUSIC: The Lion And The Cobra (1987)-- Sinéad O'Connor.
Now this is a hardcore pop-star, someone who really does do and act and perform differently (funny how every single youtube video in any way related to her, as the highest rated comment, has something to the effect of "She was right 20 years ago and we're only just realising it" (it must be reassuring for her now, after what was something like career-suicide for her back then)). On to the actual music however: her vocal delivery is some of the most original and affecting of the 1980s, and her own songsmithing ability is top notch, the best four songs on the album written solely by her
TV/MOVIE: Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995, 1997)-- Hideaki Anno.
(This includes the original television show, the recap Death and Rebirth, and the film End of Evangelion)... Disarmingly intelligent most of the time, a giant-robot-anime basically about depression/anxiety and brain problems and it represents them through a sort of "heightened reality", representing the protagonist's inner turmoils with robots fighting "angels". The show's overall art direction and design is very good, sometimes the cinematography is quite dizzying but this just adds to the overall mood of everything. THe characters grow and realistically resist growth throughout everything that happens, and while just about everyone ends up being a terrible person, they all have their own valid reasons for having come to that point. I dunno-- I'm gonna hold off saying anything about the sequels, "Rebuild of Evangelion", until after all four are made
MOVIE: To Sleep With Anger (1990)-- Charles Burnett.
It's like something that Oprah would recommend-- except it's not idiotic saccharine pap.
MUSIC: Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard ( A True Story) single (2003)-- !!!.
Artistically interesting disco music, who knew?
OPERA: Macbeth (1847)-- Giuseppe Verdi (directed by Richard Williams).
http://www.procantanti.com/macbeth A cool critic or another said something like the best of arts will leave you feeling beat up afterward WELL DAMN this is a pretty good opera, then. Done in a theatre that could probably only fit 100 people at most with just a pianist, the stage was intimate and made things even more powerful than it would be in a large theatre. Unfortunately I sat a bit too close to the piano so sometimes the piano drowned out the singers. It's quite a good adaptation of the Shakespeare play, for one thing. The drama and structure is still great, with some of the pacing and characters changed slightly. The singers were all quite good, especially Macbeth. Lady Macbeth had a tendency to shriek at times, but was still emotive and well performed. And while Banquo's actor was a good singer, he was not a good actor. An interesting change from the Shakespeare play (and perhaps just in this production?) is the omnipresence of the witches-- who are more like the Three Fates here than just three magical crones-- always at the wings fo the stage, unseen, or even standing around with the rest of the cast, invisible, the witches are always keeping watch of the events and subtly pushing them int he "correct" direction. It made the play kind of eerie. For under twenty bucks, it's pretty damn cool. HOWEVER after the final curtain, try to high-tail it out of there before everyone attempts to peer pressure you into joining the troupe.
MOVIE: Top Hat (1935)-- Mark Sandritch (Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan).
A little more mature than most romantic comedies of today, and while cleverly and constantly with its tongue in its cheek, always comes off as sincere and warm. While the plot in and of itself is quite by the numbers, the dances are highly expressive and beautiful; jaunty yet flowing. Astaire and Rogers dance their feelings better than they act them. Astaire, especially, turns every single movement he makes into dance-- his highly relaxed poise just makes it so charming. EEvery movement, retaining spontenaeousness of feeling, looks as elegant and emotive as his routines. The shining sequence in the film is probably the dance in the rain: The flow of the scene is just perfect and the melody of the music and the shuffle of their feet following and matching eachother tell of the first steps of romance much better than the awkward dialogue beforehand. The sets more oftent han not, unfortunately, looked like cardboard. In a way this made you concentrate more on the people in the scene rather than the scenery, which is good, but there are times where they seem to be really trying to make the sets pretty as hell, but they rarely if ever manage it. The movie is cute, not great, but by no means bad at all. The dances, in and of themselves, tell more romance and charm than the script (which, while occasionally extremely clever and cute, is still a bit clunky) ever could here. So, as a movie, not bad nor great, as a dance piece, though, it is giddy, creative, and uplifting.
MUSIC: Paniots Nine (1963)-- Joe Maneri.
Makes you feel like you're in Krazy Kat (he's such a dahlink (Maneri too, actually)).
COMIC: Shirtlifter (2007-8)-- Steve McIsaac, Fuzzbelly, Justin Hall.
Shirtlifter 1 is worth overlooking (as I am doing now). Shirtlifter 2 does a lot more with comic-book medium and with a wide variety of depressing and also adorable stories alloof a vaguely autobiographical content from Steve McIsaac. McIsaac's art is not amazing, but often he does his subjects justice (that is: if you're into chubby muscly hairy dudes, you'll probably dig the comic's art (while sometimes the art falls perfectly into the ridiculous, like one frame in the first story, one dude's penis is hilariously 3-feet-long)) and while by no means amazing, is still passable. "Safe" and "You Can Tell Us Anything" are sad as hell. The former is about neurotic tendencies and AIDS, the latter is about parental mantras. Another good story in the collection "Crush" comes off like a big-gay-Harvey-Pekar story and pulls it off pretty well too. You Do The Math is a cute little way to end the collection-- a musing about being "out". While sometimes navalgazing and such, still a good read. Shirtlifter 3 starts off McIsaac's longer "Graphic novel" type work, "Unpacking" which also showcases his hilarious inability to draw women. There are two other shorter stories in the collection, a small excerpt about a charming drifter by Justin Hall "The Liar", and a musing on real sex versus erotica by Fuzzbelly, "FBuds". McIsaac's art improved in this story, as did his storytelling skills. And what might have devolved into another cliche "straight dude finds out he's not straight, much to the chagrin of wife/parents/religion" story becomes fairly complex and interestingly characterized. While the art still sometimes falls flat and awkwardly into the uncanny valley, McIsaac improves slowly and that's a butt-ton better than nothing. The dialogue is interesting and the sex is pretty sexy; it lends an interesting contrast to the dialogue-heavy portions with the sex scenes being completely without dialogue, thought bubbles, or text of any kind-- the simplicity of sex at the time lends to more complexities to living with it. McIsaac even continued the story "Unpacking" online here as well as Shirtlifter 1: http://www.moderntales.com/comics/shirtlifter.php . The short story "FBuds" is probably the best thing in the book: it is an adorable send up to "real sex" with charmingly simple and gestural art. Another Big-Gay-Harvey-Pekar story, but better written. The soliloquizing about wishing porn to be more sincere hits me pretty personally, wishing for it to be more tender, less raunchy-- "Nobody wants to hear about real sex. Real romance. Real intimacy... Forget about your soul mate, let's hear abut your cell mate. Eventually it gets to a sex scene among buddies, two chubby dudes going at it, the protagonist narrating how nice his partner's small penis is; it is a fairly simple two pages of vanilla, but nicelooking, but not idealized or overly fetishized, sex. Afterward comes some adorable post-coitus pillow talk. I'd like to see more Fuzzbelly comics, but unfortunately he seems to mostly just do design work. The Justin Hall excerpt here is as unidealized as you can get though; the whole thing is about an aimless drifter artist, seemingly just caught up in moving around, and obviously (as the title suggests) never really telling anyone anything and paying off whoever helps him with sex. The little portion of the story here made me want to read more; I can't really think of a whole lot to say about it now.
MOVIE: Swing Time (1936)-- Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan, George Stevens.
The only thing this one has on Top Hat is that the sets actually look good and not like cardboard and their grandma's basement. The adorableness and clever little bits of dialogue from Top Hat seem quite watered down here. Fortunately, two main points of interest remain: The weirdly warm and sincere chemistry Astaire and Rogers have, and also the dance sequences are just as expressive, and here have a bit more of a story-flow to them. "Pick Yourself Up" being the awkward first steps of romance, the "Waltz in Swing Time" being the glorious high points, and "Never Dance Again" being a heartbreaking end of it all. While much of the dialogue and the plot is far less sweet and far less interesting, while still being extremely similar to Top Hat it just falls on its face any time when singing/dancing is not involved-- That dancing, though, marvelously saves the film. And anyone who gets angry at the Bojangles in Harlem sequence (Also featuring some really great dancing) really just doesn't get it: Astaire's makeup has absolutely no caricature elements and the sequence itself is made to be a loving tribute to Bojangles Robinson and one of Astaire's favourite dance teachers.
COMIC: Krazy Kat (1916-18)-- George Herriman.
Ah, the beginning... There's something weirdly magical and charming and such about Herriman's work. There's so much hope and love in all of those giant experimental Sunday strips. Some of the best being the one about birth in 1917, or the "does a rolling stone gather moss?" one from 1918. There's something coy and clever and oddly human about the interactions of all of the mildly surreal funny animals. Something kind of odd I found when reading was that I never thought of Krazy Kat of being "indeterminate gender"-- he always seemed quite male to me. While even Herriman said that Krazy was genderless (perhaps just to get around some backlash about having a sort-of-male character seem to be in love with another definitely-male character. haha), I felt like there was some kind of gestalt around him that still made him a masculine presence, despite obvious feminine features. Thinking about this a bit, I thought it was kind of funny: I just immediately put Krazy into the category of a homosexual man in my mind without a second thought because that is my "normal"; I kind of imagine that heterosexuals might think of him as more female considering the context of the story and such. (Then again, he's almost always referred to as "he" anyway). Perhaps someone could read gender/sexuality politics backward to this work without making it too painful: A potentially homosexual or intersex character is the protagonist of the works and also his position is a natural one-- he's just another character, no different than the others; kind of a progressive outlook. I NEED TO READ THE REST
MOVIE: Liar Liar (1997)-- Paul Shadyac.
A rewatch. Perhaps it's just nostalgia, because this is one of the first films I remember going to in a theatre, but I've always found this film, despite many many many many obvious faults, to be quite charming. In the very least, it is the best out of this, Bruce Almighty, and Ace Ventura (all directed by Shadyac, and starring Carrey). The concept, while terribly silly, for most of the movie leads to some amazingly funny stuff. The film also has a big syrupy heart but often times it really is more cute and endearing than diabetes-inflicting. I dunno.
MUSIC: The House Of Life (1904)-- Ralph Vaughan Williams (As performed by Richard Williams and Roger Parton).
For one thing, this makes me really really have to read Dante Gabriel Rossetti's gigantic sonnet-sequence The House Of Life. Most of the 6 songs in the cycle are crazy-complicated and crazy-heartbreaking. The music is as amazingly, confoundingly dense as the sonnets on which it is based around. I really can't think of anything to say except that it was beautiful. Raised the hairs on the back of my neck! (They also had another person come in and explain what the hyper-dense sonnets meant, as there are plenty of times they get pretty confusing so that helped a lot of things)
MOVIE: Carefree (1938)-- Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan, Mark Sandrich.
Out of the three Astaire films I've seen, this one feels the most completely stilted. It still had some really funny moments (particularly when Rogers is under the influence of drugs or hypnosis) and some really charming moments but there were too many moments when all the movie portions were just contrived and annoying. That said, as per usual, the dancing is the true place where there's any art in these films. There are numbers that communicate chemistry and romantic confusion more than anything else in the films would. There's an honesty and tenderness in these movements beneath the glitz and glamour in the quips of dialogue and spindly plot. In the Golf scene, a cocky machismo is shown on the gold course; in "I Used To Be Colourblind" a sweeping fantasy, ending charmingly with the first kiss in an Astaire/Rogers film really lifts the heart; "The Yam" is silly but effervescent and overflowing with life and love of it and is the first of two great highlight dances in the film (Especially charming is the way the dance seems to sort of affect people-- the whole crowd ineptly but joyously mimics and follows Astaire and Rogers-- this is the one bit better than its Top Hat equivalent ("The Piccolino" ensemble dancing was kinda boring, to be honest)); the highlight is the "Change Partners", an affectionate and dear back and forth, going over mistakes, trying to get love to be returned. While all still beautiful, never quite reach the heights of Top Hat or Swing Time. Not Irving Berlin's best music, but certainly not entirely painful. The ending shot manages, in the least, to be a pretty adorable concept...
MOVIE: School For Postmen (1947), Jour de fête (1949), M Hulot's Holiday (1953)-- Jacques Tati.
His films seem like the comedic equivalent to Jackson Pollock paintings-- or perhaps Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie. I a giant mess of democratically weighted scenes, giving such a living whole sense of place it's astounding. There's a beautifully chaotic yet planned mess of things happening on screen at all times that sometimes it's hard to keep up with the gags, it's hard to know who characters are-- it's almost like just watching people from your window. The dance/politics scene in M Hulot was one of the most adorable scenes I've ever seen. I want to compare M Hulot's Holiday to Coleman Hawkins's version of Body & Soul: The way a theme is played with and around and scribbled-- never stopping to second guess itself or give anyone a heads up, just doing its thing, and joyously and unpretentiously as well. Tati's bumbling characters just drag so much joy into everything they touch, even while wrecking shit. I had so much more to say but I can't think of anything anymore except that I'm hella-excited for Mon Oncle, Playtime, Trafic, and Parade. Tati es joie de vivre!
MOVIE: Royal Wedding (1951)-- Stanley Donen, Fred Astaire, Nick Castle.
I really wish I could say this was a good movie, but even the dancing wasn't up to snuff. Many if not all of the coupled-dances were completely phoned in. The only two worthwhile scenes are the Astaire solo dances-- the one with the coat rack and the othr on the ceiling. Both have a beautifully over-the-top and parody-like quality to them; Not quite with as much power as he could have in the 1930s, but in a way somewhat matured.Sunday Jumps", a dance with hat-rack and gym equipment show a tongue-in-cheek aspect, somewhat a parody of the hyper-masculine style of Gene Kelly (or rather, making fun of comments that he and Gene Kelly had similar styles (which he hated)). "You're All The World To Me" shows a unique, impressive flare, giving some new dimensions with a classy use of special effects. It is unfortunate, however, that neither of these dances hit the emotive heights of Astaire's others, but they are by no means less than above-average, but they don't really exceed that by any margin toward greatness. The whole movie, in and of itself, was muddled and even more dopey and vapid than Carefree on most counts. Neither of the couples in the film had any sort of chemistry and felt like they were just going through the motions. There were a few glimmers of brilliance in Astaire's and Powell's Bro-sis relationship, but those were so few and far between that it hardly makes up for anything at all. The shooting, lighting, and cutting was sloppy at best; Donen certainly improved between this and Singin in the Rain. The music, too, was stilted, boring, sugary, and sometimes downright painful. But still, this film gets points for the two Astaire solo numbers that show he's still got it (funnily enough, the idea of dancing wit the hat-rack came from an older choreography partner, Hermes Pan, and that was probably the best idea in the film (so, seriously, piss off Nick Castle)).
MOVIE: Play Time + Nightclass (1967)-- Jacques Tati.
Play Time is the comedy version of This. It is fucking mindboggling; Godard was right when he said that it basically came from another planet. Like the best arts, it somehow manages to be both critical and warm at the same time-- also like the best arts, it will get the viewer to see the world in a new light, pay more attention to technological interactions, watch peoples' beautiful little foibles more attentively, lovingly. M Hulot continues to be the most charming man in French cinema. If any film is a pluralistic universe, it is this one, heh. Nightclass really does help you appreciate how well-rehearsed Tati's chaotic freeform sight gags are and is downright adorable.
OPERA: La Traviata (1853)-- Giuseppe Verdi (directed by Richard Williams).
As performed by "Opera Pro Cantanti". When I first read the synopsis of this play I really thought it sounded kind of trite and stupid, but it is a triumph; it shows that it really isn't WHAT you say but HOW you say it. How much sincerity of emotion can be put behind it is astounding and beautiful. There's also a really affecting use of negative space in this play-- the tiniest moments of complete silence, used to emphasise a variety of emotions (from awkward tentativeness to fear to anger to anguish) just add so much to the already complex and beautiful melodies.
MOVIE: Vivre Sa Vie (1962)-- Jean-Luc Godard.
Certainly not bad, but Susan Sontag was probably just getting wet over it being CULTURALLY AWARE when she called this film one of the most perfect pieces of art ever. And it is socially aware! And it makes a good social statement! But unfortunately where it succeeds blindingly well as a newspaper article on the perils of prostitution, it is only pretty good as a film. There are times when the stiff formalism is simply pretentious, while there are times when it is legitimately beautiful; at the every least, it is a unique vision with interesting pacing. It felt cold, robotic, almost sociopathic. While, even then, it seemed like there were real attempts at warmth, empathy, and humanity, and I can appreciate Godard giving it the college-try, he ultimately seems like he doesn't know how to express humanity and sincerity (just cynical disconnected criticism). At least he sincerely tried, and his trial was far from bad in any dimension.
MOVIE: Alphaville (1965)-- Jean-Luc Godard.
One of the funniest experiences I've ever had, but for all the wrong reasons. For one, this movie was purposefully made idiotic, which, unfortunately, is still idiotic. All the pseudo-philosophical jumble of the film is ham-handed and often time delivered in a hilarious manner, highlighting how little anyone (including Godard) knew what the fuck they were doing. Hilarious note: The print at the theater I went to was an extremely awful, extremely old 16mm print, which eventually broke the projector. The first time it broke was right when Lemmy Caution shoots Dr Von Braun with the line "Goodbye M Caution"-- I was laughing so hard, so loud, at how perfectly ridiculously pretentious-art-film-stereotype that was and how much of a stupid way to end such a stupid movie that would have been-- but that wasn't the end, which I found out 2 minutes later when the film kicked in again, which made me laugh even more... Probably the dumbest movie I've seen since Point Break or Pink Flamingos.
OPERA: Dido and Aeneas (Z. 626) (1688)-- Henry Purcell.
This production. It is an odd musical irony that one of the greatest pieces of opera ever created is in a language almost entirely unsuited to the form of singing. I did not expect to like this as much as I did. This play is musically and dramatically almost perfect. The minimalism of this opera is so fucking striking. It is something like a haiku in how it is so compact, yet vivid, and pragmatically suggests nothing more than itself (thanks Tarkovsky). In the extremely minimal words of the piece (if spoken, this could be performed in about 10 minutes) are able to, almost like magic, suggest and bring about emotions much more complex than the words really allow. Nahum Tate's libretto is so economic it's almost eerie; music, obviously, adds much of the depth and meaning, but the strikingly minimal phrasing, poetic yet simple verses, and dramatic symmetry are as much in the libretto as the music. The outward simplicity of composition makes things even more sparse and striking. From "Come away fellow sailors" to "Fear no danger" to the absolutely soul crushing "When I am laid in earth" this play seems to run a full gambit of human experience in its tiny tiny frame. I haven't gotten to any of the most important points or said anything to really reveal the piece in writing, but I don't think I can do that at all. This music, this drama, is ineffable, divine in every sense of the word. At first it doesn't seem like a whole lot, but there's such warmth and sincerity and LIFE...
DANCE: Esplanade (1975), Promethean Fire (2002), Black Tuesday (2001)-- Paul Taylor.
I know nothing about dance. I know these were amazing however. Esplanade ranges from touching to hilarious to heart-wrenching. The wohle idea apparently stems from just watching people in a park, doing things, but ultimately it all comes down to a semi-abstracted semi-narrative about love. Promethean Fire is a tad more serious-- What I get from it is the idea of rebirth through catastrophe. the fire comes and ignites a maelstrom, which destroys and wreaks destruction and havoc, but everything rises anew and stronger than before. Black Tuesday is a neat tragicomic look at the great depression. It's ironic use of music can be funny and also harrowing, and sometimes emotions flip on a dime. The least of the three works here but by no means bad or uninspired. PAUL TAYLOR YOU ARE A COOL DUDE.
MOVIE: Wavelength (1967)-- Michael Snow.
This is supposed to be hard to sit through. It is supposed to be either boring or grating. What? I actually found the film soothing and calming; its tone and style was more hypnotic than difficult to me. While it isn't the OMG MOST AMAZING THING CANADA SHOULD BE PROUD "art-film" that it is touted as, it is a really clever and ingenious flipping on its head of narrative and pacing and general cinematic storytelling conventions.
MOVIE: Breathless (1960)-- Jean-Luc Godard.
What am I missing? As much as the editing really was quite striking and amazing even today, the actual MOVIE that accompanies it often just left me feeling old and disinterested (with everything in the world). The editing and pacing really is quite unique and flows quite breathlessly, as the title implies; even when it is about to collapse from exhaustion it still moves briskly. Of course it is smart, but is it really doing anything? It was by no means bad. I guess I've just been spoiled by directors that have both STYLE and WARMTH/HUMANITY (Ozu, Tarkovsky, Cassavetes, Tati, etc). It's a film for film students to pedantically pick apart-- not a film to be felt whatsoever.
MOVIE: Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1927)-- F W Murnau.
The warmest fairy-tale on film. The film just oozes with this weird optimism that is quite infectious. In a way, the plot is a bit hokey, but it really becomes something in the hands of rather talented silent actors/mimes, and also quite cleverly and touchingly shot, constructed, and set. The love of the world that this film has a great sincerity and openness that betrays what might outwardly seem like a "rural good, urban bad" scenario. I don't know really what to say but I left the theatre wanting to hug someone (which is better than leaving Breathless wanting to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes in one sitting)
MOVIE: Footlight Parade (1933)-- Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley.
Aside from the occassional quite clever off-colour joke, and the sublime, surreal "By A Waterfall" sequence (8/10 for Berkeley in this department!), there's really not a whole lot to say... Well, okay, it also sometimes had some interesting camera angles, but still-- every single bit of "movie" and "narrative" in this movie were painful and kind of terrible. The only things that save it at all are the long-awaited musical numbers at the end (all very well directed by Berkeley).
MOVIE: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)-- Mervyn LeRoy, Busby Berkeley.
What makes this a hair better than Footlight Parade is that the plot and characters aren't half as grating as the ones in Footlight Parade. It didn't feel like they were just rushing through their lines to sound like smooth fast talkers, you got a few moments to actually feel for them. There's still a lot of mis-steps and something about Dick Powell honestly unsettles me but yeah. The music too was more than just cute little ditties for the most part, and actually had a bit of weight to them. The musical numbers, especially "The Shadow Waltz" and ESPECIALLY "Remember My Forgotten Man" show an amazing talent in Berkeley's hands. From pleasantly and interestingly cheeky (We're In The Money), to softly, sensitively romantic (Shadow Waltz), to heart-wrenching and tragic (Forgotten Man)-- and to for the most part pretty dumb (Pettin In The Park (hey, even Berkeley has a bad day now and then)).
MOVIE: Nanook Of The North (1922)-- Robert J Flaherty.
RACISM. IMPERIALISM. EXOTICIZING THE OTHER. I dunno, I mean ever Flaherty said something to the effect that his work is "a dramatic treatment of actuality" and not "HERE IS OBJECTIVE TRUTH". The film was actually fascinatingly shot and paced. Emotionally striking and beauti-- OH MY GOD HUSKY PUPPIES OH GOD SO FUCKING CUTE COME HERE BOY AWWWW HUSKY PUPPIEEEEES-- And while there were some obvious sort of colonial trappings to Flaherty's treatment, he showed the inuits he filmed with a gigantic amount of respect. In a way the film sort of addresses the other-cultures-are-cute sort of attitude with the opening intertitle talking about the "happy-go-lucky" eskimos and then the last bits of the film are Nanook and his family facing-- OH WOW OH GOSH MORE PUPPIES LET ME HUG THE FLUFFY HUSKY PUPPIES PUPPIES PUPPIES-- a bit of trouble in a hunt, enigmatically ending on a beautifully emotive shot of Nanook's face, close-up, looking right at the camera.
MOVIE: Sans Soleil (1983)-- Chris Marker.
I mean this in the best possible way with the utmost respect, admiration, and awe toward Chris Marker: WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH. I saw it in a theatre and it's playing again next week; I'm probably going to have to go. The only things I know for sure is that it was one of the most overwhelming cinematic experiences I've had (second only to Cremaster 3 and a few others).
MOVIES: Muscle Beach, The Savage Eye, Ulysses, The Tropic Of Cancer and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1948-77)-- Joseph Strick.
Joseph Strick is a kind of amazing director. He has a really great style of intercutting scenes and a very striking, if brisk and playful, approach to editing in general. From gentle satire in Muscle Beach, to criticism of American culture with The Savage Eye, to a surreal day in Dublin with Ulysses, to the hilarious bacchanal of Tropic Of Cancer, to the contemplative and deliberate A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I really want to see Road Movie, My Lai Veterans, Criminals, and The Balcony now.
MOVIE: 42nd Street (1933)-- Busby Berkeley, Lloyd Bacon.
For the several Busby Berkeley musicals I've watched I've kind of felt like the musicals seemed tacked on, kind of odd, and weirdly paced all toward the end but I think I "get it" now. You really get into the feeling f the production and the anticipation of the whole affair of making a show of any kind by having it like that. Also notable in this film is that the love-triangle plot of the movie has a certain edge of maturity, as does the director character (the two main plotlines of the film). The tertiary characters don't get as much development of Gold Diggers of 1933, but there is a lot of charm in the movie portions, and there's a lot of sublime, albeit somewhat tentative, beauty in the song/dance numbers. Shot well, acted well, paced well-- I really want to see something Berkeley directed entirely, though. The ending was interesting, even, and not just NOW HAVE A LAST NUMBER, but is actually just a small 45-second epilogue that adds some bittersweet subtext.
MOVIE: Interviews With My Lai Veterens (1971)-- Joseph Strick.
Strick again shows his skill for editing in this short, composed entirely of straight-forward interviews with soldiers from the My Lai massacre, as the title would suggest. The impact really comes from the juxtaposition of five different personal accounts, all mixed and jumbled up as the whole event seemed to be. A minimalist documentary.
MOVIE: Criminals (1996)-- Joseph Strick.
Combines something like The Savage Eye with Interviews With My Lai Veterens-- a mixture of the surreal/poetic narration (albeit more gentle than The Savage Eye's narration) with the harsh hyper-real interviews. It's touching and at times a little traumatizing; it does a weird job of showing a wide variety of criminals with a wide variety of intents and modes of operation-- an unrepentant rapist, many who killed in the flights of passion, people stealing money from church collections, people stealing to support family. A sad and all-too-real look at the "garbage" that society discards.
MOVIE: Road Movie (1974)-- Joseph Strick.
Holy moly. It's like a more polished (albeit not better) Last Chants For A Slow Dance. Some stunning travel montages, superb dialogue, and visceral acting. It's just a film about three people getting by however they can.-- or perhaps a metaphor for the roles of women in society, whatever. The actors were in top game and play off eachother like goddamn magic.
MOVIE: Flying Down To Rio (1933)--Thornton Freeland, Dave Gould, Fred Astaire.
Despite the real-life ambivalence they apparently had toward eachother, the chemistry that Astaire and Rogers have feels so warm and sincere, even in this very early outing. They really steal the show and have a much more interesting feel to their relationship than the main-couple of the film. The music by Youmans is surprisingly nice and the idiotic dance-name-song doesn't fall into the terrible pitfals of stupidity that The Piccolino and The Yam fell into. The title song, though, is a quite nice pop song, really. During the final big "dance" sequence on a bunch of planes, the few glimpses you get of Astaire jumping around, exaggeratedly conducting a jazz-orchestra is much more expressive and interesting. Many of the big chorus dances just feel like Busby Berkeley-Lite in their attempt to be big, bombastic, and whatever. While none of them were bad, really, none were very dynamic or emotive or original, really. It's still got its cute lines and stuff and if you like Astaire, you'll at least kinda dig this. Also there are nipples visible if you're just a horny little dickass.
MOVIE: F For Fake (1973)-- Orson Welles.
OH ORSON, YOU LITTLE SCAMP, YOU... In this film-essay you are Chris Marker with a beard, a sexy voice and a cigar. The joyous pace of this film is goddamned infectious and its tongue-in-cheek handling of EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD gives it a more-artistically-serious-Marx-Bros-style-joie-de-vivre feeling. The whole truth/reality discussion about film is fertile ground both for fascinating insights as well as painfully pretentious blather; thankfully this film avoids most of the latter.
MOVIE: The Battle Of Algiers (1966)-- Gillo Pontecorvo.
The film is amazingly even handed in showing the general brutality and disgusting violence of war that both sides will always commit. I imagine any number of my film-student friends, if they watched this, would say "yeah it was kinda cool but they couldn't run a camera". I can think of any shot from this filmthat would have been improved with a dolly, with a better light meter, with a professional focus puller; its subject matter and its mastery over form transcends these petty matters. The sound and music work was often amazingly striking and GETS YOU PUMPED. Like A Man Escaped, this is a film that can show that a REALLY TENSE EXCITING MOVIE can be intelligent and soulful too. The sequence with the three women planting bombs was one of the most harrowing scenes I've seen in a film.
MOVIE: All The Vermeers In New York (1990)-- Jon Jost.
Jon Jost's "Professional" film-- at only 250,000 dollars. A lot to me, but a pittance to the film industry. At once it is more elegant than Last Chants For A Slow Dance, but in an equal amount of other ways, less so. It hasa warmth and an emotional maturity that Last Chants lacks. However, it lacks a certain intensity, the bare-bones minimalistic beauty, and the strange intimacy of roughness. It is still a beautiful musing on missed connections and art and money and people and lives. There's soemthing that is heartwrenching, yet quiet and stately. It's been described as a comedy of manners and in a very loose and freeform way it is; for all the culture-critic edge it has, it is extremely funny, and extremely warmly funny. Everyone is a person. Many reviews seem to say that the characters are shallow, bt I didn't get that impression, they are just given to the audience in a very gentle and nuanced way. The film doesn't take your hand and lead the way; it doesn't even just hold your hand and take a stroll; it is a brief, fleeting, heartfelt caress. Something about it, like John Campbell's Pictures For Sad Children, makes me feel sort of like exactly what I wanted to say has been said infinitely better than I ever could. I respect Jost. The music, too, was sublimely beautiful and makes weird travelling from baroque to free jazz and postmodern classical; sort of like the classical-beauty in the modern-world thing with "all the Vermeers in New York". I didn't get teary at the film or the ending or anything in it, but the more i think about it, the more i feel like i am gonna cry. I want to hug Jon Jost.
MOVIE: Don Giovanni (1979)-- Joseph Losey.
This film is made entirely out of polished marble and black lace. Every shot oozes with an odd stately beauty that perfectly fits Mozart's music. Some of the greatest costumes and production design I've ever seen. The climactic dinner scene is amazingly made; all actors, albeit operatically theatrical, make goddamned stirring performances. There may be times where it drags, and the theatricality of opera shows through, but these moments are rare. The weird, kinda creepy, addition of a character, the Valet in Black, added a very strange feeling to many of the scenes; this odd observer, silently and coldly watching over Giovanni's every movement.
MOVIE: You, The Living (2007)-- Roy Andersson.
Life is confoundingly, depressingly beautiful. Every dreaming, whining, remembering, bitching, playing, boring moment is magical.
MOVIE: The Short & Curlies (1987)-- Mike Leigh.
The triumph and tragedy of humanity on the smallest scales and all the more striking, beautiful, and affirmative from it. Everyone in it needs and/or deserves a hug.
MOVIE: Totally Fucked Up (1993)-- Gregg Araki.
Like a better, braver, gayer Breakfast Club.
MOVIE: Chinatown (1972)-- Roman Polanski.
A triumph of style over substance, edge over empathy, sly over soul; the most nihilistic, and tautly written, film ever made. I'm still not sure if the ending is mindnumbingly contrived or brilliantly devestating.
PLAY: The Father (1887)-- August Strindberg.
Didn't exactly get me excited about reading more Strindberg, but there were flashes of brilliance here or there, places where the characters raise themselves above gender-politics-cartoons. However I do think that this probably has a lot of power and subtext to be released in performance.
OPERA: Semele (HWV 58) (1744)-- Georg Frederic Handel.
As directed by Robert Carsen/conducted by William Christie. While I generally feel like modernizations are tacky as fuck, this one was done with quite a bit of restraint and without large breaches in the text trying to be EDGY or whatever. The music is goddamn wonderful and the gigantic show-offy cadenzas are a helluva lot more interesting and feel more emotionally resonant than anything to be found in Bel Canto. The libretto, by Willaim congreve, is actually relatively well written/paced and characters have a bit of complexity to them.
OPERA: La boheme (1896)-- Giacomo Puccini.
As directed by Franco Zeffirelli/conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Zeffirelli has such a great handle on colour. The music is the most romantic, the most pregnant with emotion, that I've ever heard. Everything flows together in such a rose-coloured and yet tragic air. Acted and set beautifully, and the actors/singers even seemed quite at home acting for camera rather than stage far better than the ones in Losey's Don Giovanni did. It all felt right. Mirella Freni's performance was fucking heartbreakingly beautiful.
MOVIE: Miss Julie (1888)-- August Strindberg.
After watching Chinatown, I was sort of thinking that a plot that taut and propulsive could only be achieved at the sacrifice of deep characters and characterizations and heart and so on. and then I read Miss Julie. A psychological horror of manners. While it's easy to write off a bunch of things about the play as misogynist, that's supremely missing the point and just completely ignoring every other aspect (and there are many other aspects )to the characters and the play itself.
VIDEOGAME: Jurassic Park: Trespasser (1998)-- Dreamworks Interactive.
A swing and a miss. The failure of this game really is sort of tragic-- a million great ideas, a billion bad decisions. They went out on a limb and failed, but they failed in the right direction, this shitty game apparently having a direct influence on the Half Life 2 development team and such. It is also perfect fodder for Let's-Plays, as shown by the great LP by Research Indicates.
TV: Johnny Staccato (1959-60)-- Various + John Cassavetes.
Of course Cassavetes's episodes are on a much higher level thna the rest, but by no means are the rest BAD. Quite a few are pretty good-- Nature Of The Night and A Nice Little Town have the character studies and sympathetic portrayals that make JC's episodes so much better, and ones like A Poet's Touch and . There are some awful idiotic episodes though, especially The Naked Truth, the first episode (for which Cassavetes actually publicly apologised for!). Acting is almost always top-notch, especially when JC's entourage make some cameos-- Val Avery, John Marley, Gena Rowlands, and so on. The episodes Cassavetes directed, though... Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. .... Well, to be honest, "Night In Jeopardy" wasn't that good. But Evil and Solomon make up for that TENFOLD. Two of the best anytihngs on television ever. Two fucking riveting and beautiful halfhours. Evil concerns faith, false hope, and the value of standing for your beliefs. Solomon is a musing about the nature of pacifism that raises real questions about innocence and wdfn;oijsdgoiuserpojsf i am rambling I don't know what to say but it was amazing oh my god. A Piece of Paradise and Murder For Credit, too, are empathetic and complex and the wife's performance in Murder For Credit is par with some of the best film performances out there. Makes me want to see the other three television shows that Cassavetes directed really really REALLY REALLY BAD. The Saul-Bass-Inspired (or Saul Bass made?) intro sequence to the first half of the show's run is also a great little 15 second clip-- it is unfortunate that they changed it to the action-packed generic thing for the second half of the run.
movies, games, plays, books, poems, comics, cartoons, music, everything.