This post started as a note in my journal: one of those things that starts crawling out from your head while you’re in the shower, like a worm on the sidewalk in the rain. I meant to write it before the Oscars, because that makes it seem topical rather than tangential.
Every year, Husband and I make of game of trying to get through all the Oscar nominees. Usually, some of the films we saw earlier in the year of our accord. These, ultimately and often, end up being my favourites. And, praise be to me, the Academy’s favourites, too. Of the last seven years, the only two “Best Pictures” I didn’t see in theatre way before hand were The Hurt Locker (wasn’t playing nearby) and The King’s Speech (meh).
When The Grand Budapest Hotel opened last weekend, Husband and I missed it. It was only playing in one theatre and it sold out. (Get your shit together, Vancouver.)
One week on, even with a wider release, we barely squeezed into the theatre.
Casting glances around to our fellow movie-goers, I realized that the stereotype of the bespectacled, cardigan-ed Wes Anderson fan isn’t true at all. Every demographic was there: from child to senior, with every Millenial, Gen-X, and Boomer in between. My parents even like Wes Anderson movies even though I suspect they’ve never discovered they are all by the same guy.
Last night’s viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel wasn’t the usual Friday night blockbuster experience. This film managed to have the varied population of Coquitlam in the palm of its hand. You could hear and feel the audience’s presence the whole time: not just laughter, but gasps, cheers, held breath, and the absence of muttering, talking, and rustling.
Perhaps it is rather ironic that the AMC website uses cocktail recipes to market Mad Men, because, when viewed correctly, Mad Men is about the devastating effects of a life lived for alcohol.
But it’s subtle, as addiction often is at first. I never noticed it as much on the first viewing. The sheer normalisation of wanton alcohol consumption on Matthew Weiner’s Madison Avenue is what strikes you first. “I’d love to have a bar in my office,” you think. It seems so glamorous and Romantic. These are the kind of people who tip back half a bottle of Canadian Club then smash a glass in a fireplace and make love to Elizabeth Taylor.
But on the second viewing, it takes on a different colour. The fates of Freddy Rumsen and Duck Phillips (the former losing his job after drunkenly wetting his pants and the latter fallen so far from the wagon as to get kicked out of the Clios) are far less humorous when you watch it again. These are two men whose personal and professional lives were ruined by alcohol but are so carelessly brushed aside by those who can still conceal their disease.
I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I like to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1924)
Don Draper’s New York City is Nick Carraway’s New York City (not Jay Gatsby’s… that would be too obvious).
As other projects eroded away under the weight of my own disinterest, I’ve decided to cut my losses and not let a withered vine waste internet space. I’ve amalgamated Celluloid Heroes posts into this blog. And after a bit of bushwacking, I found my old Livejournal account from 2005. I’ve also brought some of those posts over. Even if they do not amount to nothing more than “Yay! The semester is Ov-vah!” they are still a mark of who I once was… in a terrifying version of It’s a Wonderful Life.
This is the California where it is possible to live and die without ever eating an artichoke, without ever meeting a Catholic or a Jew. This is the California where it is easy to Dial-A-Devotion, but hard to buy a book. This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity, the country of the teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life’s promise comes down to a waltz-length white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce and return to hairdressers’ school. “We were just crazy kids” they say without regret, and look to the future. The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.
Joan Didion, Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream, 1966
Don Draper’s California is Joan Didion’s California.
It’s been how many years now since Arrested Development went off the air? Oh jeez, I’ve lost count. I do know it started about eight or nine years ago, and that’s when I started watching. I’ve also lost track of how many people I’ve introduced it to, of course then needing to watch it along with them. This also means I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen the series through.
This past month, my husband (whom I introduced to it, of course) just watched the series through for the second time. And I got to watch him watch Arrested Development. I remember him two years ago watching it for the first time. It was strange how I looped back so quickly to the memory. The two of us – not a couple, but roommates; those days of awkward flirting still ahead of us – and our other old roommates from The Commune, sitting in that old backyard, on that old rickety wooden patio furniture, with my old laptop plugged into an extension cord, watching my old Arrested Development DVDs, and drinking that old stack of booze that one other temporary roommate left behind.
For such a critically acclaimed show, Downton Abbey is pretty crap. What are the problems with it? Those frequently cited include: contrived, formulaic, elitist, and cloying. But others? I think the fact that it is so highly rated is what makes this almost unbearable. Were this show just considered so-so, I’d be fine with it. It would be a guilty pleasure, even. But I can’t handle the idea of everyone thinking it so wonderful. It’s just… not. So what about it frustrates me so badly? In short: it is clichéd and nostalgic to a fault.
There is nothing original about it. I’ve actually laughed out loud at the absurdity of many of its plots and dialogue. Jarring anachronistic speech aside, it falls back on convention so readily I genuinely want to believe it is a satire. But it’s not. Its characters are two-dimensional, either white-hat types or moustache-twirling villains. Its period setting does nothing to make itself relevant; one just gushes at the fancy dresses and swoons over the romance of a time and place that never really existed.
As for the nostalgia, it is naive to think that simply by making class visible, Downton Abbey is criticizing the class system. IT IS NOT. If anything, it upholds it. It casts it like a beacon, a museum piece of a bygone era, something to cherish and admire. Where something like Mad Men functions as a microscope, Downton is a pedestal.
Shows like Mad Men are successful because play on our fondness for the romanticized past by subverting your expectations. The unexpected adherence to the “realism” of the times is what provides the critical eye; it underlines what is wrong with those attitudes. For instance, in Mad Men, sexism and racism are dealt with without the filter of modern-day moralizing. This leads us to examine those issues as they really were and how those issues still exist in a contemporary context. Contrarily, by anachronistically altering the world view of that era in order to preserve our modern values, shows like Downton Abbey actually cover up the issues.
Actually, it doesn’t just cover them up, it varnishes them with the thick gloss of tradition. Not tradition in a historical sense, but in a storytelling sense. For instance, one of the worst moments in the show is when Maggie Smith’s character (one of the Lady Granthams), reads out Mr. Moseley’s name as winner of the rose competition in the village despite the judges pandering to her social status and unjustly awarding her the prize. Such a cliché in the worst possible sense. Beyond the laziness of that “character building” device, all this does theme- and story-wise is acknowledge that class differences existed back in 1914. Which we all know anyway.
But, hey, the show seems to suggest, it wasn’t all that bad. The upper classes were benevolent rulers who treated their servants like beloved members of the family. And they were just so gosh-darned nice. As Mary points out, Lord and Lady Grantham share a bed, which is weird for the day. Their marriage of convenience turned into one of love and respect. So apparently, arranged marriages are all sunshine and roses, too.
The show started with potential here to work out class issues, especially with Bates and Lord Grantham being war buddies, but it has failed to live up to its promise by engaging in ridiculous soap opera plots. The moment it all turned is when Lady Mary appeared in Anna’s room, telling her that what’s-his-face-the-Turkish-guy, died. His name is something stupid, isn’t it? I can’t remember, he just seems to be The Hot Turkish Guy. A plot point like this sudden, inconvenient death (while functioning as a way to not only move the action forward but to push it off a fucking cliff) has failed to pull itself out of its own absurdity.
And the absurdity continues. Now I’m all for characters having interesting pasts and (as it looks like the upper class characters don’t have much of a past at all) this task will fall to the servants of Downton. But, seriously, do you have to do it in such a hackneyed way? Do you really have to go the long-lost lover come back for some middle-aged romance? The “I used to be a drunk and a thief but I’m a nice guy now” trope? Two evil servants who wants to fuck up some shit with no apparent motivation other than they were passed over for promotion? The secret VAUDEVILLE PERFORMER? HONESTLY?
I’ll give you some credit, Downton Abbey. Beginning the show with the sinking of the Titanic was interesting. Perhaps even inspired. However, a historical touchstone that moved the entire country and shook the foundations of the household so much as to set the entire story into motion should not come to be the most subtle plot point in the series.
I also admire the introduction of the middle classes into a common trope usually focused on only the upstairs/downstairs dynamic. At first it seemed like a marker of increasing complexity, as if to note Hey, it’s the twentieth century. Class dynamics in Britain are not gone, they just splintered into shades of grey. But alas, Downton Abbey, you’re all about the black and white.
The complexities of the class system are inherently intriguing. (Before you claim that I am just going all Marx on this show, class is the most explicit theme Julian Fellowes is working with here.) But the class discrepancies have been battered out into doldrums of a soap opera, relying so much as it does on cliché. Where do I even begin? Lady Sybil’s rapid campaigns for suffrage? The bile-ridden banter between the upper class and middle class matrons? How about the Disney-level nuances given to the supporting characters? The humble gardener wringing his hat in his hands? Ditzy Daisy the kitchen maid? The crotchety overweight cook? The chauffeur who is both IRISH and a COMMUNIST? (Oh my god, he wants to read! He must be a Communist!)
That aside, Lady Grantham’s “Americanness” and her vast fortune (that somehow saved the estate) at first seemed like it would raise intriguing insights into Anglo-American relations and financial interdependence. But all it really did was loudly proclaim: “This is great, isn’t it?! This whole class thing. Shame if something were to happen to it.” You see, Matthew Crawley, the new heir to the estate is just so… middle class.
But we like Matthew. As does Lord Grantham and Mary (Albeit her like of Matthew is rather more complicated. Perhaps the only marginally complicated thing in the whole show.) Even though Matthew is likeable, we are still led to lament the idea that the middle class shall one day in inherit the titles and wealth of the landed gentry. *Cue snooty guffaw.*
We are supposed to think that it is a crying, fucking shame that Mary will not inherit the estate. Even if Matthew was a total dick, our sympathies are drawn to the plight of the acidic Mary because the show explicitly tells us they should be. However, I feel no sympathy for Mary. Yet, Downton Abbey, you tell me I should. Why are no real qualms made as to whether Edith or Sybil should have a right to the estate? So it’s a gender thing, you say, not a class thing? It’s apparently unfair that Mary does not inherit because she’s a women, but it’s no worry that Edith and Sybil are shafted simply because they were born second and third? So, there’s no problem with this part of Inheritance Law.
Even though Lord Grantham says himself that he’s just a steward; the estate does not belong to him. By this (frankly odd) logic, are not then the servants (the ones who actually get their hands dirty in the maintenance of the estate) the caretakers? And why the hell does it matter who inherits just as long as they keep the building from crumbling to the ground? I can’t be the only one who thinks Mary would be appallingly bad at this, right? I wouldn’t trust her to keep a goldfish for the weekend, let alone take care of a whole fucking estate. And if she marries, does this not all go to her husband anyway?
Ugh. I’m exasperated just thinking about it. I mean, the show does hit the mark in some small moments, but it is by no means capable of inciting an intriguing premise. It’s essentially pap with the odd interesting idea. Apparently, that’s been enough for critics, audiences, and the Hollywood Foreign Press, but all that does is make the disappointment worse. The expectations were so high. But all it is is Emmerdale a hundred years ago.
I once heard someone describe Mad Men as the television equivalent of the “Great American Novel.” The “Great American Novel,” as a descriptor, carries with it sense of formality and scope. By definition, it is… well, defining.
What does it mean, then, when something like Mad Men has a far more expansive impact on the cultural landscape than your average contemporary novel? Are we really in, as some critics might claim, a golden age of television? Or does television just reach a broader audience than literature?
(SPOILER-FREE, BUT YOU WILL PROBABLY HATE ME ANYWAY)
I’ve lamented before, often at great length, about the inherent difficulties that lie in attempting to review something so beloved as Harry Potter. That difficulty is only compounded when taking into account the fact that this is indeed the last film in the series. There seems to be such an outpouring of grief and/or relief over what many are calling the end of an era. As a fan, I can understand the emotions at hand here, even though the term “mourning period” seems rather ridiculous when one takes things in perspective.
These following are snippets of a conversation yesterday with Dr. Roommate, regarding the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast:
Me: I’d be like, “Yay, I don’t have to serve you anymore! You know why? Because I’m a f*****g candlestick because of you, you stupid d*****bag!” Then I’d waddle into town and haunt people.
Dr. Roommate: We all know that all Lumiere cares about is sex anyway.
Me: God, that must be frustrating for him!
Dr. Roommate: Yeah, with no penis. But who knows what goes on under that candlestick holder.
It all began as Dr. Roommate mentioned how weird she suddenly realized it was that Mrs. Potts actually boils tea inside herself then serves it to Belle. ‘It’s sick when you think about it,’ she said, ‘It’s like Mrs. Potts excreting bodily fluid.’
It’s difficult to offer a review of a Harry Potter movie without first providing a preface stating one’s biases. Are you a Harry Potter fan? If you aren’t, why are you going to bother seeing (the first part of) the last instalment now? Why are you even bothering to read a review? Perhaps you plan on making a game of it by bringing your binoculars and your “Who’s-Who-of-British-Film-and-Television” spotters guide.
If you are a fan, you will see this film regardless of what I have to say about it. With that said, you will love it. Being a fan myself, I find it difficult to imagine what it could be like watching these films without the plethora of knowledge about the wizarding world firmly ingrained in several wrinkles of my grey matter.
There are reasons why Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of my most favourite movies ever. Sure, it’s the cinematic equivalent of the least genetically blessed lovechild of a dimestore novel and everything terrible about the eighties, but it holds a certain je ne sais quoi. I literally Do. Not. Know. What.
A few possibilities echo through my mind, metacortexually (yes, it’s a word I just made up, but go with it):
I really want to see a spin-off sitcom with Billy the Kid and Socrates as roommates a la the Odd Couple.
I love how two ridiculously stupid stoner kids can throw out such eloquent verbiage as: “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”
I think they really, really, really – and I mean, really – nailed Napoleon’s character, especially with how he cheats at bowling.
Thanks to Janin for getting the above image for me after I fruitlessly scoured all that Google images could barf up yesterday. You rule.
So I’m hungover this morning, and the reasons why are really quite irrelevant at this point, as it’s nearly three in the afternoon and I’m back into my pajamas for the second time today. In my drug-addled lethargy, I opened my laptop to try to get some work done, and decided to put a movie on in “the background.” Most people I know do this fairly regularly. For some reason it makes you feel like less of an oxygen-waster to have DVD plugged in rather than just turning on the television. It’s nice. It really helps me balance my day. It’s a distraction from whatever tedium you’re trying to work through. You can tell yourself: “I’m going to plug in Braveheart and work/study/clean throughout the whole thing.” Bam. Two VHS cassette tapes later and you’ve spent a good three hours getting shit done. So what characterizes a good background film?
You need a film that you can not pay attention to for a good ten, fifteen minutes at a time, and then tune into again and know exactly what’s what and who’s who and why the hell they’re doing whatever they’re doing. This familiarity is essential: whether it be because you’ve seen the film a million times; it’s full of familiar tropes and cliches and conventions; or, it’s so slow-paced that a single event takes a good ten, fifteen minutes to occur. So, these are my top ten background films… please tell me yours in the comments!
The spy for the 21st century was not James Bond, but Jason Bourne. The grittiness, global perspective, and moral quandaries of the Bourne triology (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum) instantly rendered James Bond moot. In following with the general post-9/11 trends, the Bourne films did not present the now-outdated black and white world of evil master criminals with the unquestioning moral righteousness of the government agents, but rather a corruption-from-within trope that proved much more relevant. A refashioned reboot, starring new 007, Daniel Craig, went back to the beginning with Casino Royale, and was a direct response to the success of the Bourne films.Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Crime, Crimefighters, Crime, and More Crimefighters”
The biopic has always been a Hollywood staple, and has traditionally been treated as a sweeping epic: one whole life’s story. Over the years, what was once a glorification, or even blatant excuse for hero-worship, produced warts-and-all critiques. As the last decade began, we were still watching our most beloved icons struggles against the first act of adversity, followed by the second act of inevitable struggles, character faults, and brink of despair, followed by the third act of redemption. It always seemed amazing that every life’s true story – Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Ray Charles in Ray, Beatrix Potter in Miss Potter, Muhammed Ali in Ali, Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, to name a few – could be tailored to a cookie-cutter formula. Only a few managed to break the mould, but they had to be almost subversive to do so, from the “po-mo” brilliance of the Bob Dylan-inspired I’m Not There (you can’t really call it a biopic), to Julien Temple’s fantastic documentary, Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten.Continue reading “The Decade in Film: True Stories and Those Based on Them”
Art has always lit the way for the great march forward. Hollywood, purveyor of popular art and entertainment, has always had to tread a careful line between progressive art and conservative entertainment. You need to push enough boundaries to stay relevant but be familiar enough not to alienate your audience. It is not surprising then, that the last decade has seen the careful balance between liberal and conservative. While many traditional story tropes were told in brilliantly new postmodern ways, we saw other conservative (as in traditional) storytelling devices, like the sweeping epic of Brokeback Mountain or the biopic of Milk, being used to tell very forward-thinking stories.Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”
The arrival of The Lord of the Rings arguably killed the epic. Virtually every traditional fantasy film – pumped out at a consistent rate in an attempt to duplicate The Lord of the Rings success – since has flopped. Think merely of other (mostly children’s) book adaptations, such as Eragon, Beowulf and The Golden Compass. The Chronicles of Narnia are still being churned out, but they lack the pervasiveness into the mainstream subconscious that something like The Lord of the Rings has. The old, familiar worlds of dragons and elves and knights were instantly rendered moot after Middle Earth. The epic formula has seemingly ceased to grab audience’s imaginations, other such epic flops include The New World, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, and HBO’s critically applauded but quickly cancelled Rome. As popular as The Passion of the Christ was at the time, it is largely forgotten and irrelevant now. The successes have been such films as Harry Potter and Twilight, which have taken us into a postmodern pastiche of fantasy elements – witches, wizards, vampires and werewolves repackaged for the 21st century.Continue reading “The Decade in Film: The Epic and Science Fiction”
The war film as a Romantic narrative is virtually over. While this slow decline began with Vietnam, it only really grew apparent with the Iraq war. The war that was always seen as most Romantic, the most justified in our self-righteousness, was World War II. The Nazis are still the go-to bad guys of the twentieth century, and while this still applies, we’re increasingly seeing them as fallible humans rather than evil autocrats.Continue reading “The Decade in Film: The War Conflict Film”
Throughout the great interwebs are a million articles on the best films and best television shows of the decade. As arbitrary and meaningless as it is to divide human history into ten year periods, each decade’s zeitgeist doesn’t magically change over night as December 31st becomes January 1st. Attitudes and values evolve over time, and with the speed of global communication in the 21st century, that evolution is happening faster than ever. If we need to pin down a moment our current world became the one it did, beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s 9/11.Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Introduction”
There’s been a lot of these lists floating around lately, obviously due to the impending end of the so-called Noughties. (Personally, I much more interested to see if that name sticks.) For something so recent, everyone’s list is bound to be different. We don’t have the benefit of time depth to lend an objective weight to the proceedings. We don’t have the hindsight of sixty years to realize how influential something like Citizen Kane became. We can’t know what films will stand the proverbial test of time to become the eventual classics our grandchild will moan and fidget through. We can’t know what blockbusters and Oscar-winners will simply drop from remembrance all together (although my money’s on Transformers and Crash, respectively). It’s simply too soon. Thus, I’m hedging my bets.Continue reading “My Top Ten Films of the Decade”
Pop music and films are like peanut butter and chocolate – well, maybe not quite. That implies some sort of undeniable cosmic, fated force drawing the two together like soulmates. Pop music and films are more like peanut butter and banana – still pretty damn good. There’s something about the perfect pop song synchronized beautifully with a key moment or epic montage that can prove iconic. Stealer’s Wheel will never sound the same after Quentin Tarantino got his hands on “Stuck in the Middle With You.”
But what about when several filmmakers grasp on to the same catchy ditty? What songs have been so overused that they border on cliché? Some of these songs are used so repeatedly that they become shorthand for what the scene in the movie is supposed to encapsulate. It’s a shame, as many of these songs were used brilliantly the first time, or even the first few times. After awhile, though, these songs are so overused that they are almost expected; they can’t even be used without irony. They are parodied so often that the parody itself becomes a cliché, and that parody gets parodied, and that parody gets parodied and so forth in an ever-rambling hall of postmodern mirrors. In effect, the song gets ruined. Or is in great risk of being ruined.Continue reading “Overused Songs in Film and Television”
First of all, Willem Dafoe was killed off in the first one, so what the hell are you playing at?
I’ve seen Boondock Saints once. I liked it. My sister is obsessed with it. She does, of course, harbour weird and twisted deep feelings for Willem Dafoe, so I’ve generally come to question her taste on most things. Awesome actor? Yes. Would I kick him out of bed for eating crackers? Hell yes, I would. Who the hell eats crackers in bed anyway? My god. That’s what kitchen tables are for. Anyway, it was a good movie, typical of all those post-Tarantino gangster/vigilante type movies the late 1990s were rife with, but a good one at least.
Ah, The Lord of the Rings. The epic to end all epics. Cinema experienced a resurgence in the epic genre during the nineties and early noughties, which really culminated in LOTR. Can you think of anything more epic or more recent? Nothing can top it.
In an attempt to get some work done yesterday, I put The Lord of the Rings on in the background. I got through the entire trilogy over the course of the day. I was over-caffeinated and far under the average levels of human normalcy. During nearly twelve long hours, as I got some writing done, and my roommate went about the course of her day – coming and going, leading a far healthier social life than me – we geeked out just a little bit too much. The progress tracked on Twitter, I’ve come up with the 20 Most Epic Moments in The Lord of the Rings. Without further ado:
Ever since Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, there’s always been a certain je ne sais quoi about a well-wrought antihero. Whether cheeky rogue or bloodthirsty tyrant, an antihero is a welcome deviation from the white-hatted norm. At once both appalling and subversive, a good bad guy / bad good guy always proves a more interesting character than the morally unambiguous square-jawed hero. There’s something relatable in their flaws, something endlessly intriguing in their motivations; unique in each of their psyches that layers their story, that gives extra weight to their performance. We can learn their lessons or appreciate their many dimensions.
I watched The Triplets of Belleville for the first time a week or so ago, and, as expected, I was blown away. “That makes the top ten,” I instantly thought, which led me to consider what my top ten animated films actually would be. I had to think long and hard about this, and I intentionally tried to cut down on my Disney. Disney films usually are pretty good, but they’re just so… (to borrow a phrase from my roommate)… vanilla.
First things – this list is by no means an attempt for a holistic, omnipotent judgment swung down on animated films everywhere, this is simply the top ten animated films as chosen quite subjectively by me. There are gaps in my cinematic experience (i.e. I’ve yet to see Waltz with Bashir, and my knowledge of Japanese animated classics is regretfully limited).
Sometimes I see a film where I wonder if there was anyone that film passed through in the journey from set to screening that had even the most remote knowledge of typography. If you’re going through the pain and torture of creating a film (I know that pain and torture, I make films myself), it’s not that much more difficult to dedicate a little extra effort to the credits. Simply inserting whatever font in Final Cut works is really just half-assing it. Let’s be honest. So, yes, I can be a bit of a typography geek, but there really are some basic typographical rules that one should adhere to:
So there was an episode of Lost that aired back sometime in the spring that bothered me. To expand upon what I wrote back then, I want to talk about the improper use of breaking the fourth wall.
You know those moments in films, they are there to shock you. They shake you out of your seat! They add to the realism of the film! They highlight the tragedy and/or humanity of a life lost by an explosive device and/or hand-made prison shank! They bring the experience of exploding death right into your living room! They can break the fourth wall.
My excitement to see this movie borders on cliche: like a kid watching the clock tick down the last seconds until summer vacation, or trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, or approaching the gates of Disneyland. All readily accurate cliches. Due to a weekend of various birthday celebrations, I won’t get to see it until Sunday at the earliest. I think I might catch a matinee alone. That sounds kind of sad, eh? I like to see movies alone, especially movies where I really want to lose myself in the experience. This seems like just that kind of flick. It’s being hailed as Spike Jonze’s masterpiece, which can only be a good thing.
Also, this is probably the cutest behind-the-scenes picture I have ever seen (director, Spike Jonze, and star, Max Records):
In my never-ending quest to work for free, I caught two press screenings for Press+1: Whiteoutand The Informant! One was fantastic and the other was terrible. I’ll leave you to guess which is which. It’s been nice. Seeing films. I haven’t seen anything else since, rented, theatrical or library-loan or anything. Actually – I lie. I borrowed St. Trinian’s from my parents last night. Decent. You have female anarchistic rebellion for the women in the audience; Emily Strange’s School Days for all the kids and goths; and sexy schoolgirls for the guys. Roommate Shannon made me watch Scorsese’s Gangs of New York with her. My review in a few short thoughts: lose Cameron Diaz, as I can’t think of any film that was actually improved by her presence; Daniel Day-Lewis was fantastic, but what I really saw was a character ripe with the mind-blowing awesomeness that would become Daniel Plainview; and, just like I said with Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, somewhere in there – somewhere over that muddy, top-hatted rainbow – was a good film.
This month has been quite the maelstrom of epicness. Well, not in regards to my life, but in regards to those around me. Of the people I know, more have come out of this month married than divorced, so that’s always nice. In addition to the newly crowned Darcie Adkins, nee Vaillant, Caitlyn LePard, one of my dearest friends for these last twenty-odd years, is now Caitlyn Atkinson. Frankly, I’m a little annoyed that there’s been all this alphabetical order queue jumping. Don’t we have to wait behind enough ‘A’ names as it is? I’m extremely happy for Caitlyn and Jim – in fact so happy that a hyperbolic statement is virtually impossible in attempting to describe my elation – and it was honestly the first wedding I ever cried at.
I had the honour/stress of driving up to Manning Park, the lovely wedding venue, with Caitlyn a few days before the wedding to meet up with Steve, the groomsman/wedding planner, to start setting everything up. Despite the stress and workload, everything went swimmingly. Which was fantastic for Caitlyn and Jim, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly hoping for it to play out like a late-eighties comedy; something to fill the void John Hughes left. There was the usual cavalcade of mishaps and stock characters continually teetering on the edge of emotional breakdown, but everything ended well and happy, with only minor injuries. Personally, my funny bone could have used a few more footballs to the groin, but at the least the bride and groom were happy. I’m sure they didn’t think slapstick would have suited their wedding anyway.
Last night I caught a press screening of Observe and Report, the latest in an increasingly unfunny stream of Seth Rogen movies. I cracked a smile here and there, mostly at Anna Faris, who I think is actually ridiculously funny (see Just Friends). I do applaud films where solid, funny roles are created for women, except this isn’t one of them. She’s a sex object, and a crudely rendered one at that. Why, she’s nearly pixellated. Also, the film’s pacing is inconsistent, and best likened to myself in junior high gym class trying to get through the timed runs: violent bursts of sloppy, flailing speed followed by exasperated pain followed by casual strolling, over and over and over again.
Now, I like Seth Rogen. I think he’s funny, in a natural, relatable way. The problem with this film is he’s neither relatable nor hilarious. As Ronnie, he should be a lovable loser, but he’s just not lovable. Rogen’s almost too good at playing this nutjob. You want him to fail, and you feel a little (SPOILER ALERT) ripped off when he doesn’t. I don’t think I’ve as earnestly rooted for an unhappy ending since Titantic. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, and the film wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t funny, either. In a week, I probably won’t even remember it.
I did. I caved. After however many years of just saying no, I finally started watching Battlestar Galactica. (like with Lost, I also blame Jason for this twelve step-worthy practice.) I am currently still in the middle of the first episode/mini-series, even after two false starts. So far, decent enough. (I am told that it gets better – even better.) However, there have been a few details that have made it hit a little close to home… in a way that I’m not sure endears the show or cheapens it.
I’ve actually (well, sort of) met Tricia Helfer, and she was really nice, so seeing her as a big bad Cylon doesn’t quite have the effect I think it should. I think/hope this will change. Also, every time I see Gaius (James Callis), I think of this and expect him to yell, “Come the fuck on, Bridget!” The scenes of Caprica City are actually filmed at SFU, my alma mater, so watching the world be destroyed in the same place where I used to sit with a cigarette and catch up on my readings is a little weird. Also, when a motley gang of refugees ran across the scene, I am convinced one of them went to high school with me. I guess that’s what happens when you live in Hollywood North.
So last night’s episode of Lost was pretty good. It prominently featured Desmond, so that’s an automatic win. What I didn’t like was the scene where a couple of red shirts get blown up and random guts and/or water hit the camera lens. UUUUGGGH. I actually said outloud, despite the fact that I was alone: “NO! Why? Why the hell would you do that?”
I know many filmmakers think this adds to the realism and highlights the tragedy and/or humanity of a life lost by an explosive device and/or hand-made prison shank. Yes, I get it. It can work very effectively when done in the right context or style, being: the whole film or show operates on that premise (e.g. Saving Private Ryan), with that style (e.g. Children of Men), or with continual instances of metafiction (e.g. Hot Fuzz).
First, let’s not confuse Metafiction with Realism. Metafiction is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the conventions of fiction, i.e. it lets you know that this is a film, or that this is a written document. This does not necessarily create realism. Realism can be achieved through the creation of a fictional world existing within its own verisimilitude (in its literary context, is defined as the fact or quality of having the appearance of being true or real). This is what Lost had done brilliantly. However, when those guts and/or water splash across the camera, it immediately breaks the fourth wall, in a highly inappropriate metareference to the fact that there is a camera there at all.
I hate, hate, hate it when films that have a wonderful fictional reality suddenly destroy it. Part of what works with Lost is the fact that this elaborate mythology works; that you believe it in and of itself. It is simply ruined when you throw in something that harkens back to the “real world” of the filmmakers; it carelessly reminds you that this is just something created by mere fallible humans, and that characters die for reasons as slight as the fact that the actress got a DUI. It just doesn’t jive, fool!