Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Skin I Live In

I already reviewed this when I saw it for the first time. I believe I gave it "movie of the year." Mind was blown into many little pieces all over the theatre.

So I got the disc from Netflix so I could watch it again. Thankfully, I have a terrible memory so I didn't remember all the plot. It made for a fresher second viewing. I think Marie remembered more about the film that I did, and that was just from me telling her about it. She never even watched it.

Yeah, it's still amazing. I already gushed about it in the first review. I want to add that the score was really fucking good. I really paid attention to it more this time around. Also, the film seemed somewhat Hitchcockian. Like this could be something Hitchcock could have done had he lived later in the century. It's twisted, fucked up, and beautiful in a way I think Hitchcock would admire.

The framing is unreal. The editing just leaves you rapt. Glued to the damn screen. I wish I had a 90"TV to watch this thing on. The colors and lighting are second-to-none.

I tell ya what, a 6 Series has never looked so damn good, either. It has an elegance (in white) that suits a Hitchcock leading man.

Unless I watch Taxi Driver again this year, I can't see anything else beating this for "best movie I've watched all damn year" again. It's THAT good the first time around, and the second...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Speed Tribes

I finally finished Speed Tribes. Don't know why it took me so long. I really freakin dug it.

Bad Eye loaned this to me. He said a bunch of his biker buddies passed this book around in the late 90's when he lived in Chi-town. He was keeping it alive.

"Speed Tribes" is the translation for Japan's bosozoku. What's that? Outlaw motorcycle clubs and car clubs. Or as it turns out, mixed clubs rolling on two OR four wheels. Whatever they can afford. They're sort of like Japan's answer to England's mods and rockers. Riding around, taking uppers, getting drunk, making noise, being rowdy, fighting, taking downers, sleeping in an underpass and doing it all again the next day.

Speed Tribes is broken into about a dozen chapters. Each one profiles a different type of Japanese youth subculture. From bosozoku to bar hostesses to political activists to computer nerds. The author just tries to give you a cross-section of Tokyo youth and Japanese culture. It's diverse and very fucking intriguing.

Marie and I are probably going to Scotland next year and then Italy after that...and I think/hope Japan could be the next holiday after that. It's high up on my list o' places to go. I'm mesmerized. I might not come back.

I'd recommend anyone read this book. It's so surreal at times. So foreign. But it makes you want to be there and see this shit with your own eyes. I just find Japan a very interesting place. And likewise, this is an interesting book.

Iron Sky

I don't generally care for sci-fi or last night I decided to watch a sic-fi comedy film. Two wrongs might make a right, right? Oh yeah, and I detest CGI and this film is ALL CGI.

So why'd I watch it?

Iron Sky has a brilliant premise: The Nazis fled the Earth in 1945 and hid on the dark side of the moon until 2018, when they were finally ready to attack Earth again. Moon Nazis with spaceships. That's fucking amazing.

It's the same attraction that made me watch Dead Snow (about Nazi zombies). Nazis just look so bad ass. It's a cheap gimmick that works! Throw in a totenkopf and some gothic script and I'm there.

Iron Sky is pretty good. The satire is what really shines. There are many cinematic allusions peppered in, as well as musical or cultural allusions that you have to catch. I'm sure you could watch it a few times and find more little gems. Did they pay for the quiet Pink Floyd synth sample or have I  just blown their cover? ;)

It opens with a white astronaut in a white suit named Sanders (colonel?), and a black astronaut in a black suit named Jackson. I liked it from the get-go.

Overall, it could have been much better. But it was a good attempt. The Sarah Palin parody was particularly funny. I can't stand that woman, but seeing her portrayed in such a bad light (like a female GWB) puts a smile on your face.

I thought the acting was actually really good. The script was pretty freakin funny. The CGI (although constant) wasn't annoying probably because it was so ubiquitous. It never stood out.

I don't think it's such a bad way to spend 90 minutes.

I'm a pretty harsh critic for things like this, but every time I thought "meeeeeh, I might turn this off), they said something particularly witty or clever and I soldiered on. There were a couple women who definitely weren't hard on the eyes either. That helped.

Some pretty irreverent marketing material.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

I just watched another Pinky Violence film. It starts off with topless Japanese women dancing at a go-go bar in the 70's. I was hooked.

I first heard of this strand of Japanese sexploitation when I was researching foreign biker films. Sukeban Gerira was awesome so I thought I'd check out some more similar titles. Criminal Woman has half the bloody cast from Sukeban Gerira. I'm sure there's a lot of cross-over amongst these genre films. Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto are the big stars of the era. Here they are again, getting topless and fighting all the time. I gotta say, the violence was a lot better in Sukeban Gerira, and so was the sexploitation. But whatever, this was still entertaining!

This is a part yakuza / part women-in-prison film. Covering all the grindhouse bases. It's amazing how Japanese female prisons were filled with so many hot chicks in the 70's. Funny that...

The sound effects are ridiculous, the action is retarded, the plot is very straight-forward, the characters are archetypical...but it all works. Take it for what it is. The one genuinely redeeming artistic feature is the composition. The DP and Director do a great job framing everybody. It's like a chess game. Everyone moves into their spot perfectly and really uses the fore, middle and background spaces very effectively. They set up dynamic compositions. For all the campiness of the film, you can't deny the great composition of the shots. Definite artistic merit.

I'm not really into grindhouse per se, but the Japanese can't go wrong. I'll dig their grindhouse. I've got some more Pinky Violence flicks peppered into my Netflix queue. We'll see how many I watch before watching hot Japanese chicks from the 70's rip each others' shirts off gets stale...Yeah.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five Broken Cameras

I just got back from the Arab American Museum. Where else would I possibly be on a Friday night?

Marie and I were invited to see a film by a couple friends of ours. As they know a thing or two about a thing or two, we took them up on it. I didn't know what the film was about prior to the screening, other than it was nominated for an Oscar...and it probably had Arabs in it. 

Five Broken Cameras is a documentary about living in a Palestinian village that's being occupied by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers. The man behind the camera didn't go to an expensive Art School. He's not a film nerd. He's just documenting what he sees as a sort of therapy and catharsis. And he's getting shot at. 

Needless to say, the film is a bit rough around the edges. But "rawness" is a value, not a criticism. Just ask Iggy. 

Emad, the protagonist, loses 4 cameras to the fighting. He struggles with tear gas, live bullets, and the specter of Death on a weekly basis. That's life on the West Bank. It sucks hard. But Emad and his village soldier on. What other option is there? 

We're introduced to an interesting cast of characters. It's cool to see that throughout the five year period that this was filmed in, the main characters chronicled rarely resort to any kind of violence. It's all relatively peaceful. Okay, they throw rocks here and there. But tell me you wouldn't want to be out there with an Israeli-made Uzi mowing down the bastards that just shot your brother? 

Anyway, the music's good. The editing is what holds the whole thing together. It's very well paced. The footage is crude, but there was skill in taking such raw elements and weaving them into such a polished end product. Hats off. 

There's a scene with an old man and his daily driver...a donkey. It just made me think about how I get up, open my garage, and decide which of my two cars or motorcycle do I want to take to work that day. It's fucked up. 

The super shitty aspect about this whole thing is the needlessness of both parties' plights. Truth be told, the Israeli's have no claim to the land. But who the fuck said the Palestinians could have it either? In thousands of years of living on this planet, we still cling to archaic principles about ownership of the Earth. You'd think if people on both sides of the fence were looked at as PEOPLE, none of this would matter. There'd be nothing to fight over if we weren't slaves to a colonialist idea about ownership and conquest. I'm sure many years after I'm dead humans will be pushed to the point where they have no option but to abandon this idea. Or they'll blow everyone up arguing about it. I don't care. I'll be dead anyway. 

Watch the movie here:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Two-Lane Blacktop

Here's a movie that goes nowhere.

Two-Lane Blacktop. 1971. James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. Two guys driving a 1955 Chevy rat-rod across America. They drag race in small towns for money to fuel their endeavor. That's it.

At some point they meet and challenge a dude in a yellow 1970 GTO. First dude to DC wins pink slips. It's on...

Of course there's a girl. There always is. But in this case "girl" is the operative word. She looks about 17.

James and Dennis are stoicism personified. They don't crack a smile the whole time. They don't talk about anything. The only time they open their mouths is to eat or discuss engine specs. If they're not talking about how the car's running, they're not talking at all.

Warren Oates is the man behind the wheel of the GTO. He does all the talking. He picks up hitchhikers. Quite the variety. And he talks and talks and talks.

There's no real back-story on any of the characters. It's just the two cars and America. It's SORT OF like Easy Rider. But Easy Rider was a masterpiece and this isn't.

If you want some muscle car porn, then hit play on the video above. If listening to the growl of a GTO for 90 minutes doesn't really thrill you then you might wanna stay away.

390 horses. 500 ft/lb torque. 0-60 in 7.5 secs. All that power and that's all you can do with it? Weak. Simplify and add lightness. James and Dennis did...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Truth in 24 II

Heard about this a few days ago from a co-worker after I was lamenting the fact that most "car movies" are utter shite compared to biker flicks. You've got Grand Prix, Le Mans, Death Proof and the jaw-dropping Senna. You can count the good car movies on one hand and still have a digit left over. Truth in 24 II may have claimed that fifth digit.

It's an 83 minute documentary narrated by Jason Statham about Audi's run at capturing the win at Le Mans in 2011. Unlike Detropia, here we have a doc' that knows how to build tension and weave a story. The final third gets real hairy. Nail-biting stuff.

Is it as good as any of those other car flicks? Not a chance. Is it a top-notch documentary? Eh, not tier 1 material. But is it worth seeing? Absolutely. It's a grade B doc'. If it had focused a bit more on the personalities and the dramas within the rivalries then I think it could have sucked you in a bit more: If it felt like there was more on the line. Like the German manufacturer it's documenting, it's a bit cold and clinical. Statham's voice and intonation does a good job of adding some humanism to the whole affair, though. Fastest is probably a close comparison to the film, but Fastest is far more intense. I looooved that flick. Going to watch its predecessor, Faster, soon.

Le Mans is a fucking mental race, man. The stamina, strength, and strategy needed to win is ridiculous. Not to mention the technical expertise and racing talent. Anyone who competes is super-human.

You can stream it on Netflix or watch the whole thing on YouTube (see above).

Do it.

Red, black, white and Helvetica: What more do you need?


I was hoping this was gonna be better.

You want documentaries about the city you live in to be good. Still waiting on a great one for Detroit. The best I've seen so far is the portion of Urbanized that deals with the D. Anyway, here we have a doc' about Detroit called Detropia. It's by a couple of women from the east coast. It's not very good and I'll tell ya why...

You remember those people in art school who never listened to the instructor or did what the assignment asked? The art-fags who did their own thing...and it was crap. The art-fags who did their own thing because they didn't have the talent to do what the instructor asked? That's what this documentary reminds me. Ok, that's a harsher comparison than this actually deserves, but whatever.

The documentary could have been recut and reedited 10 different ways and it wouldn't have affected the narrative. That's the problem. It's just one scene after another. There's very little in the way of beginning, middle, or ending. There's not much of an arc or denouement. It's too flighty and too loose.

I liked the opening montage quite a bit, but then I realized that the whole 82 minutes was gonna be like that and I was actually bummed. I was thinking it was a cool way to begin a film and at any moment we'd hear a narrator's voice or something. Nope. It just drifts between different people in Detroit. It checks in on the UAW, an urban explorer/vlogger, some out-of-town art-fags, and the owner of the Raven Lounge. Evidently it's a blues bar in Detroit. Never been, but the owner seems like a rad dude. Hell, the president of the UAW is pretty damn funny himself. You meet some good characters along the way.

This topic has a lot of potential but I'd like to see it handled by someone with a much stronger handle on story-telling. Client 9? Now that was a good fucking doc'.

I wouldn't recommend this. Blah.

The elaborate end of Robert Ebb

Worth 12 minutes of your time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

the Loveless

I loved the Loveless.

This film was the surprise of the motorcycle movie night season. I'd been saving it for later on because the poster just looked so bad. Plus, it was from '82 and a bit of a gamble. But I eventually watched the trailer and thought it looked like it might actually be alright. I was wrong. It was better than alright. It ruled. Legitimately.

This is Willem Dafoe's first flick. He looks barely twenty years old in it. He plays a character similar to Johnny in the Wild One. Of which, this is a total homage. But it's more than a cheap imitation. This is art.

The editing is great, the music is exceptional, the sound is cool, and the composition is fucking killer. Whoever the DP was, he did an outstanding job. It reminded me of Control or a Hitchcock flick. Very calculated. Very photographic. That's why this film ruled.

Oh, and the cars and the bikes didn't hurt it.

There was one thing that kind of let it down though...and that would be the casting. These actors were kinda crap. Very melodramatic. Delivered their lines like they were...acting. All the lingo is supposed to be 1950's hipster slang, but it's just not delivered very convincingly. Dafoe saves it. The rest of the pasty, skinny runts are pretty second-rate. But on the bright side, you've got the chick with the Corvette. She's a good actor and a Corvette has never looked so fucking sexy than with her behind the wheel. You have to see the flick.

What's it about? Typical biker movie stuff. An M/C rolls into small town America. The good ol' boys don't take too kindly to the greasers and shit goes down. Only, the Loveless adds a bit of a twist to the typical plot. It's got its own sub-plot that rears its ugly head and really makes the ending fucking awesome.

Definitely recommended.

Gay porno?

Much better.