Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Marvin Gaye: What's Going On?

Man, it's fucking hot. I'm sweating like a mofo just writing this.

I watched "Marvin Gaye: What's Going On?" last night on Netflix. It's an hour long doc condensing the singer's fucked up youth, amazing career, crappy dancing and tragic death into a bit size nugget.

It's not the best doc by a long shot. But if you're eating dinner and you dig Marvin Gaye, then why not throw it on? That's what I did. Thing is, I think "What's Going On?" is a masterpiece. I don't have anything else by the man, but that album is monumental. Can't go wrong when you put it on. Such a warm, enveloping sound. The dude had such an ear for pitch, it's crazy. I really dug how in many cases he just went out did what he wanted to do artistically, regardless of the consequences. Shame his cross-dressing, religious psycho dad had to go shoot him when he was only 44.

The doc's just background material. Really what you need to do is go put on the album. Then everything will be alright.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

the Darjeeling Limited

I think I like each Wes Anderson film more than the last one. So that's a good trend. Moonrise Kingdom looks pretty good, but the proof will be in the pudding.

I loved the Darjeeling Limited when I saw it in the theatre. This might be the second time I've watched it since then. I've found it less hilarious with each viewing. It's like this time around it was more like watching a play unfold than a comedic film. I'm always drawn to the incredible colors and the perfect soundtrack, though. The saturated Indian color palette in this flick is just simply beautiful.

I dunno what it was but I just didn't find myself laughing at the subtle humor. It felt more like a drama this time. I couldn't even laugh at "hey, look at those assholes," b/c I knew it was coming. Best line in the film.

I still enjoyed it. I was focusing on different things this time. Like how awesome their dad's luggage is. Or the unique color of his Porsche. Or how Anderson really uses wardrobe to great visual effect. It was good to revisit. I just wish it could still have that same punch it did the first time around.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hitchcock Poster Art

Bad Eye liberated this book from a friend of his and kindly passed it along.

It's a simple book. One spread per film, and it covers every film Hitch directed. Each spread has a single paragraph intro that's generally just a film synopsis, some small reproductions of posters and/or lobby cards, and a full page poster on the opposing side. And that's how it rolls.

It'd have to fuck up royally for me not to enjoy it. It doesn't fuck up royally. It's worth a perusal for sure. However, it's certainly not without faults:

• The intro paragraph offers nothing more than a synopsis. I think a Hitchcock fan would prefer tidbits of information about the film more that was is generally given. If you deleted the intro paragraphs and made the photos on that page even a bit bigger it wouldn't have hindered the book at all. So I think if something can be deleted without determent, you should reconsider what it is you're writing.
• Who the fuck sets body copy in bold?! Use regular or light. Jesus, man. I know it's just one paragraph but get your typography right. That pissed me off more than anything.
• All the posters and lobby cards were culled from one man's collection. While this makes for an amazing collection of Hitchcock poster art(!), it's definitely not the best of the best when it comes to what's AVAILABLE. Very little was shown from Japan, for instance. Little from France. Thankfully, quite a lot from Poland/Czech (b/c they make great Hitchcock posters!). But overall, it's impressive for the collector, but not impressive as a representation of what's out there.

I'm glad it's now in my collection and I'm glad I read it. Thanks, Bad Eye!

I'll leave you with some choice cuts. I gotta run cuz England is about to play their last game in the opening round of the European Cup:

This is for Strangers on a Train. Awesome.

I love this one and it reminds me of a Carcass album cover. It's disturbing.

Again, Carcass-esque. So much to look at. It rules.

Flying Skulls.

Such a unique take on Vertigo.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ashes of Time Redux

Wong Kar Wai is to "unrequited love" as Alfred Hitchcock is to "the wrong man."

Kar Wai is extremely consistent thematically thoughout his body of work, but also consistently innovative and different in the way he tackles his recurring themes. It's like he's telling the same story from many different angles, perspectives, contexts and points of reference as he can. In this case we have a film he made in 1994 about swordsman, bandits, jilted lovers, revenge, regret, and most importantly; time.

I was stoked to see that Samo Hung was the man responsible for the fight choreography. He's a talented actor, director, and choreographer, responsible for many of Jackie Chan's Golden Harvest production films. That's his fucking golden age, man. Anyway, there was a decent amount of swordplay and even a little magic thrown in, but Kar Wai treated a lot of the fight scenes to make them look almost comic book like. He doesn't do anything straight-forward, and that's quite alright.

The Redux version of this film actually came out in 2008. To cut a long story short, Kar Wai needed to restore the original masters after the company who housed them went bankrupt. Upon seeing the state of the masters it turned out they needed to more than a simple restoration. So Kar Wai had Yo-Yo Ma cut a new score, and re-did some of the other audio that had degenerated over the years. I think he monkeyed with the editing a bit, too, but it wasn't a radical change. I haven't seen the 94 version so I don't know the true extent of the changes, but I don't think they were huge.

Of course, Chris Doyle was the cinematographer tapped for this film and it has his signature (amazing) look. Sometimes I really don't know where Kar Wai would be without Doyle. He's so integral to making a Wong Kar Wai film come across as a Wong Kar Wai film. But this had a different avant garde approach to the cinematography at times. I felt like you were looking at a hand-tinted painting of the dessert, rather than a photographed image of the dessert. It was weird. But it's all good.

The story was twisty, and even though the characters are sort of introduced one at a time and their stories are told individually, they start to overlap as the movie goes on. You start piecing together who they are and how they're related. It's slightly complicated but I didn't get totally lost.

Visually it was great, it's got my favorite theme for any story, and the acting was top notch. But I can't recommend this film. I think there are more accessible Kar Wai films to get into first before you watch this. It's a strong film and it has its place as part of Kar Wai's oeuvre, but there's probably a reason it didn't receive instant critical acclaim like Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express or In the Mood for Love. It's a film for nerds who like to wallow in the agony of lost love. I dug it.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Marie wants to watch everything and anything that stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I am a bit more discriminating. Hesher wasn't any good.

And Marie agreed.

JGL is a Cliff Burton inspired character who essentially freeloads from a family he meets through happenstance. Hesher is somewhat cro-magnon in his look and in his actions. Very blunt. As it turns out, his ability to deal with reality in a head-on fashion is just the antidote needed for the family he meets. They're trying to deal withe death of a loved one, and not doing such a good job (to put it mildly). Hesher is their unruly wake-up call.

Overall, I just wasn't all that engaged. I coulda left at any point and not cared. It sucks for the main kid. You definitely sympathize with him, but it's hard to get close because his character is forcing people away. He doesn't let you in. Then there's the dad...well, there's no connection there. And there's Hesher. I don't think JGL is all that great of an actor to be honest. I don't know what aspect of acting you could say he excels at. I find he plays things down too much. The only time I thought he was truly great was in Brick. Otherwise, he just seems like an indie heart-throb for girls to swoon over. The character of Hesher was over the top. I think he could have been played with a bit more humanity. Too one dimensional.

If Natalie Portman had taken those damn glasses off for more of the movie then she could have saved it by virtue of her being THAT hot. She's a legitimately good actress and I enjoyed her character the most. She had the deepest and most honest portrayal of any character.

The thing I liked most about the film was the marketing. I dug the posters. And of course I liked the soundtrack, which was choice cuts from the first two Metallica records.

Not 'orrible by any means. But not worth watching.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Monsters in the Movies

It took me a while, but I finished Monsters in the Movies – 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares, by John Landis.

I think I got this for x-mas from Marie and I started reading it chapter at a time in between other books I had going. I like how personal it is. It's written by Landis and it's clearly in his own passionate and honest voice. He'll trash some films by major Directors (when it's warranted) and he'll sing the praises of his personal favorites. He's clearly a man who loves horror and moreover, who loves good cinema. He's got a broad perspective on what makes a "monster" and that's what makes this book so good. I'm not a huge Landis fan, but I appreciate his passion and knowledge on the subject. It makes for an entertaining read. Definitely not dry.

The book breaks monsters down chapter by chapter and genre by genre. Each section has a couple pages of text-heavy intro, and then it flows into numerous spreads with many photos with brief commentary alongside each one. Most chapters end with an interview. So it's intro, pictures and comments, interview, rinse-wash-repeat. Done.

I think it's a worthwhile purchase. It's informative but also entertaining. It's not written by a bookworm historian and that's why the book has personality. Landis himself sets this apart from any other academic collection of movie monsters.

I'm into it and I'm not even that into horror. So I say check it out. You'll dig.