Sunday, October 30, 2005

Last night, I saw a promo for the new crappy children's movie, Zathura. The promo was using music from Requiem for a Dream. Some incongruities just tickle me. True, Requiem for a Dream music was used for Two Towers promos, but this is much better.

I see from the imdb entry that Zathura is distinguished by having yet another shitty David Koepp screenplay.

So, Trisa and I are leaving in an hour and a half. I'm a little worried about Boschen and Nesuko, as this'll be the first time I've had to work on an update at another location. Hopefully no unexpected calamity shall arise.

I was captivated last night by this Off to War show. It seems to be a reality series about American soldiers in Iraq. I say reality series instead of documentary because it seems somewhat aimed at the Real World crowd, with its interview style and unfortunate John Mellencamp theme. Probably an admirable attempt to reach out to the young people, but it's already doomed in that regard by being on a Discovery Channel.

Anyway, it was fascinating to watch soldiers on a daily routine dealing with traffic jams, wandering Iraqi merchants trying to sell them porn, and the hospital situation. Gods, the hospital situation--American soldiers standing around in a small cluster, handing things out to aggressive and desperate Iraqi women. And I was quite struck by the fact that the American soldiers were trying to speak English to them. In fact, I didn't once hear an American soldier say anything in the native tongue. That seems to me a lapse in training and I wonder if the culture clash would be as severe otherwise.

It was interesting that each of the soldiers interviewed seemed to feel that they were sent to Iraq for no good reason. One sergeant said that, after what he'd seen, he couldn't imagine democracy as we know it emerging in Iraq. Just a little of Off to War makes that clear to the viewer, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Damn. 4:40am. I guess you can't teach a dog new tricks. He has to have chains nailed into his limbs so's he can be a living marionette.

I'm trying to adapt my sleeping schedule to something closer to Trisa's, who I'll be staying with in San Jose for some time starting to-morrow. Yesterday, I managed to wake up at 11am after having gone to bed at around 2am or so. I was quite proud of myself. Guess I got too comfortable--now I can't sleep.

So I ate some oatmeal and watched some 100 Scariest Moments show on Bravo featuring various celebrities and critics talking about said moments. I was intrigued by the presence of Peter Jackson, Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, a couple Buffy cast members (Tara and Drusilla), and Jennifer Tilly, among others. I was a bit thrown by the presence of the Coors Light Twins, but, still.

They were talking about The Exorcist, which, if I remember, was at number four (entire movies seemed to count for "moments" somehow), and they were all talking about how that movie absolutely gets you. That it's so unpredictable, that it crosses boundaries that you would've never expected it to. It was when John Landis was saying how you completely bought into the girl floating off the bed that I recalled seeing the movie in the theatre a few years ago and noticing how the entire audience seemed completely unaffected, half-bored even. There was frank laughter whenever the little girl cussed and, yeah, that sort of thing is played for laughs in modern movies.

More and more, I think people are going to see movies for self-contained realities that have no intimate relationship to their lives--at best, they can jive with the opinions in the movie.

I went to see A History of Violence again on Thursday and my love for it increased greatly. Because this time, the only people in the theatre were me and a perfectly quiet old man sitting in the back. The first time was on a Sunday night with a young El Cajon crowd that sounded as though they clearly belonged in the Deuce Bigalow theatre. You know homophobia's bad when guys in the crowd are referring to a sex scene between a man and a woman as "gay."

Without those chattering voices around me, I was able to settle into the movie and approach it on its own terms a lot more easily. The wall with multicoloured light cast on it was now a clear window to a reality, playing in my senses.

When I was telling my friend Marty about my experience first viewing the movie, and the assholes in the crowd, he said, "Where's the bomb when you need it?" It was such a perfectly Morrissey thing to say, and he was right. You know, I spent a good part of my adolescence wondering about how Stormtroopers might be real, complex souls, only to find out now, when I'm older, that they may have been soulless clones all along.

It always feels like a misfortune on so many levels when I notice that a large group of humanity living nearby is hopelessly stupid. Bill Maher mentioned on his show last night that only 15% of Americans believe in evolution.

And every day is like Sunday . . .

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I love David Lynch.

Discussing his newfound love for digital video, the man says, "Some would say it looks bad. But it reminds me of early 35mm, that didn't have that tight grain. When you have a poor image, there's lots more room to dream."

That's what I call an exquisite attitude (you can read more here).

But I've been neglecting another of my favourite Davids, namely Cronenberg, as I've not here discussed my feelings about

A History of Violence

Not Cronenberg's best, far from his most ambitious, but probably the best movie in theatres right now (I feel I can safely say that without having seen Capote, partly because I'm a smug bastard).

Viggo Mortensen is well cast as a man who, when we first meet him, seems an ordinary denizen of a small American town, but who is eventually revealed as having a sinister, bloodied past. It's the same qualities that made him ideal for Aragorn, actually--he can be the dangerous, wild-faced Strider, but also the good and noble Aragorn.

His Tom Stall at the beginning of A History of Violence seems basically an affable, decent, if quiet, man, but there is a subtle, buried fierceness you can see in his eyes. I'm sort of reminded of the opening shot of Blue Velvet, where David Lynch showed that even under an idyllic, suburban setting, there're vicious insects scrabbling under the grass. In Cronenberg's new film, even in the ostensibly normal, peaceful atmosphere of the beginning, there are harbingers of a violent reality kept at bay; the strange anecdote from the cook in Tom's diner, the juxtaposition of Tom's daughter screaming about imaginary monsters at night with the film's opening scene, and, well, Mortensen.

The very first scene is two thugs lazily committing horrific crimes. A subtle, somehow perfectly Cronenbergian touch I noticed was that one of these thugs bore a resemblance to Mortensen. Cronenberg relies on people knowing Viggo Mortensen's the star of the movie, so that one or two people in the audience might be saying to themselves, "Looking for Viggo . . . Looking for Viggo . . . Looking . . . Wait, is that him? I know he looks different without the Aragorn makeup so maybe . . . I don't know--no, no I don't think it's him." So already there's a little shadow of Tom's duel life.

Maria Bello's good as well. She has the task of conveying the horrified disorientation at learning her husband of fifteen years may not be who she thought he was, an idea audiences are largely too jaded for. And she's good in the movie's two sex scenes, which are both very different in tone and are both instrumental in conveying the nature of hers and Tom's relationship. The second scene in particular was terrific for conveying her internal conflict.

Daily life, sex, violence . . . The film does a wonderful job of showing that these are all, in fact, part of the same fabric, and that one of the biggest tasks we may face as human beings is holding all three in the same perception of the universe. This is almost the opposite of what most films seem to do these days, which is to perceptibly switch modes between violence, dialogue, sex.

The violence in the movie is sudden and terrible, and lingers as something you're still trying to understand moments after the action has passed. In that way, it was somehow Kurosawaian. And unlike many directors of late, like Chris Nolan in Batman Begins, Cronenberg does not use quick cuts and manipulative editing as a crutch to make up for the actors' inability to perform the stunts. Instead, Cronenberg uses quick cuts and expert editing as an enhancement for the violence. Godard said, "the cinema is truth 24 times a second, and every cut is a lie." So, like everything in the medium that the audience is hip to the artifice of, the presence of these cuts has to be justified by artistic brilliance. Cronenberg succeeds. Baz Luhrmann ought to be taking notes.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A new Boschen and Nesuko is now online. And I'm long overdue for another cup of coffee . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oh, Thursday, you are a harsh female thug. It's like you crept up behind me and hit me with a blackjack. But otherwise, the day hasn't been so bad, really.

I almost didn't wake up in time to leave for the maid, but a nightmare about 8 1/2, which I'd watched last night, woke me just in time.

Here are some signs I didn't get nearly enough sleep;

1) I settled for a muffin at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for breakfast.

2) I almost banged up my car pretty good in the Hillcrest Landmark parking garage.

3) After purchasing my ticket, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out which of the five, clearly marked theatres was screening Mirrormask.

4) As I was leaving the parking garage, the lady I gave my parking validation to asked with a thick accent, "Where did you go?" ME: What? HER: Where did you go? ME: Who? HER: You! ME: Oh. The movies.

5) I found my way back on surface streets. On one street, it was clear that I was going to need to U-turn at the next intersection, and I couldn't remember whether or not one was allowed. I made a mental note to check when I was in the left turn lane. About fifteen minutes later, I reminded myself. ME: To do what? OTHER PART OF ME: To check to see if you can U-turn! ME: Why? Where? OTHER PART OF ME: Why, over . . . wait, why're we moving in the other direction already? ME: We're going home. This is the way. OTHER PART OF ME: Yes, but we needed to U-turn. We must have U-turned to have been moving in this direction. Why can't we remember--oh, never mind . . .

Anyway, here's some more on movies I've seen lately;


First of all, Roger Ebert's review is retarded. Ebert himself admitted on Ebert and Roeper that he was biased against Fantasy movies, which was pretty clear to me from his Lord of the Rings reviews. You could tell he really hated to admit that those were good movies.

But, fortunately, albeit quite against my will, his review lowered my expectations, so I was partially pleasantly surprised--and partially I got exactly the good movie I was expecting.

I went to Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's panel on Mirrormask at the Comic-Con a couple of years ago, which would have made anyone excited to see the movie. Even Tim, who was with me at the time and has little interest in that sort of movie these days, seemed somewhat engaged by the presentation.

Anyway, as the movie started, I sort of regretted having watched 8 1/2 the night before, as it was suddenly clear to me that Mirrormask was, in some ways, a similar animal, only not nearly as good. And I became a little frustrated with the beginning of the movie, which was awkward and laden with some too obviously expository dialogue. I began to wish actually that the movie was more like what some of the negative criticisms about it said it was; a confusing and nonsensical ride.

I didn't really get into the proper mindset for the movie until the character Valentine started talking about his tower. His tower, his tower--kept mentioning it until finally the pervert in my brain woke up and said to the rest of me, "Oh, I get it."

Valentine is for this movie what David Bowie's crotch was in Labyrinth. Or, really, where Jareth's relationship with Sarah was meant to deal with a teenage girl's emerging sexuality in Labyrinth, so was Valentine's relationship with Helena in Mirrormask.

Mirrormask, in the early stages where Jim Henson Co. was just approaching McKean and Gaiman about it, was meant to be a sequel to Labyrinth. So I can very easily picture the two sitting at a table and tossing about what they liked about Labyrinth. And, personally, the sexual undertones would have been pretty high on my list, so I just about fell in love with Mirrormask at that point.

McKean's imagery is wonderful, and his stylistic use of cuts at times made me wish it were more of a Dionysian film. Gaiman, though, is the most Apollonian of writers. And perhaps that's why Ebert didn't get it.

Gaiman carefully crafted in little fun and interested ideas in bits of dialogue that contribute to a whole that generally mirrors those little bits. And the detours are nice and welcome--like the floating giants, which was a sweet, sad moment.

I think the only thing I'd really change is that I'd remove the very last, one-word line in the movie.

Stephanie Leonidas, who plays Helena, looks like a young female Cary Grant.

8 1/2

Now this was brilliant. And no, can you believe it, I'd never seen it before!

It starts with an easily interpretable dream sequence; Guido, a film director, is stuck in oppressive traffic. He struggles out of his car to then float away . . . only to be pulled down from the clouds by his producer.

What follows is Guido's wanderings through a life cluttered with a wife, mistress, producers, a cardinal, a difficult writer, anxious financiers, and an assortment of more difficult to label others.

The movie's about truth, and the usefulness of truth or the truth in lies . . . among other things. Mainly the movie is itself. That's one of the marks of a great movie--it doesn't need to be reduced to what its themes and plot are. It is it's beautiful self, and that's enough.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Okay, now I'm gonna talk about movies I've seen recently . . .

Corpse Bride

Eh. A decent way to spend a couple hours. A pretty movie, with a couple of palatable songs. I recognised the voice of Danny Elfman himself as "Bonejangles." Not as good a tribute as Fred Astaire in Swing Time, but they don't make Fred Astaires any more. Or Bojangleses, for that matter.

I was surprised we didn't get to hear Johnny Depp sing, since all this time he's been talking about how his first love is music. I wonder if he has a really bad singing voice and everyone's afraid to tell him? It's funny, but in a so-called musical, the only of the principal characters who gets to sing is Emily, the corpse bride herself, and even she has to share her song with two of the more cartoonish supporting characters who otherwise dominate the musical numbers.

A lot of the visuals recall earlier Tim Burton movies--the opening shot of the bleached 19th century city was reminiscent of the one in Sleepy Hollow, where we see Depp's similarly dressed character peering out the window in a similar fashion. Also, the corpse bride's entrance is shot almost exactly like Beetlejuice's.


The film's about as good as Donnie Darko and ends on the same note. What's with all the noble sacrificing, anyway? Not that I mind, really. I mean, it is admirable and all. Though mainly what it reminds me of is the scene in Amelie where Amelie's watching television and imagining herself as some sort of tragic saviour. But I like Amelie Poulain, and if you're like her, then I like you too.


AH. This was a very satisfying movie. I was saying to Trisa afterwards, "I feel very satisfied right now." It felt good. There was a huge amount of non-bullshit in the movie that more than made up for the two milligrams or so of bullshit I detected.

I've never seen Firefly, but now I very much want to. Serenity was good, uncompromising movie-matter from beginning to end. I mean, yes, compromises were made, but never with the result of damaged goodness. Most everyone talked like grownups, too! In the tracking shot where we meet the crew, two unruly children sitting in front of me decided to leave the theatre when they realised they couldn't follow the dialogue. That is plain great. And it felt great.

Man, I don't think I'm very articulate right now. I feel like a jazz DJ. Isn't it weird how all DJs on jazz stations seem to have inordinate difficulty expressing themselves with words?

Er, that's a digression (obviously). Anyway . . .

Robyn's been complaining that the movie isn't as much of a Western as the television series is. Not having seen the series, I'd say overtly Western qualities (i.e. those not normally shared by space operas anyway) were limited to superficial details; dialects, sets, weapons (Captain Mal's cool quick-draw pistol), references to pioneering, and heists. The personalities of the characters are, for the most part, in wide-open violation of typical Western personalities, and anyway, Whedon's trademark catty dialogue is about as far away from John Wayne as you can get. Which makes me wonder how Western the series can really be.

Actually, the only thing that really bugged me about the movie was all the Galadriel shots of River's feet. I mean, sure, I like her feet, but I got bored by what was being said with them. Again and again, "Oh, poor vulnerable little River nonetheless steps boldly into dangerous/dirty situations/places!" Oh, that River! Where will she get to next? Of course, mainly I liked River. One shot of her holding a bloody sword and hatchet reminded me somewhat uncomfortably of Nesuko. But, hey, Nesuko has a kukri, so she's completely different, right? Right.

Oh, and a lot of people are upset by a certain character's abrupt death. Maybe I'd feel differently if I'd seen the series, but personally, I loved Whedon for it. One of the things about death that's always struck me as particularly bad is the fact that it's a barrier placed between yourself and the deceased that you can't be prepared for. So it seems something of an insult, to me, that characters are constantly given really long, drawn out death dialogues that last comfortably as long as it suits the audience. Sometimes, that does work. But it is overdone. I love Farscape, but one of the most irritating few minutes in my television-viewing life was watching Zhaan bid her personalised farewells to each member of the crew. I was left feeling not so much that Zhaan had died as Virginia Hey was leaving the show.

Er, anyway, I deeply loved Serenity. Sorry Robyn and Moira. I cannot share in your disappointment.

And now it's 6am and I think this is getting long anyway (it's kind of hard to tell since I write my first draft in notepad with the word-wrap off. Weird, huh? Yeah, I've only been doing it the past couple months . . . Don't know why but I like it.). I guess I'll talk about the rest of the movies in my next post . . .

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hurray, I made a banner! See;

Boschen and Nesuko

There's a whole new focus on banners on my links page now. It's like I'm trying to work my brain on the whole linking-structure-web-philosophy thing. Rather far from my forte, or so the dim feeling in my skull informs me. I intend to make more, big, sweeping changes on my site this week, but I probably won't, because I'm like that.

See, I'm not even feeling up to talking about Serenity and History of Violence yet, both of which I've now--finally!--seen.

*. . . yawn . . . * maybe I'll post about them to-morrow . . .

Friday, October 07, 2005

The new Boschen and Nesuko chapter is up. And it's only 7pm (here)! That's the soonest I've gotten a chapter up in a long time . . . Now maybe I'll go see one of those movies I've been wanting to see all week.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I've decided to go cold turkey on sweets. That's right folks; I don't like sugar. It sucks. Sugar can suck my ass until it's retrieved all it's foisted on me.

A chocolate pudding and whipped cream pie at my mother's house last night pushed me over the edge. I couldn't even finish it for how gross I felt.

Meanwhile, one grandmother gives me banana cream pudding and a huge bag of caramel brownies, while another wants me to eat a huge bag of chocolate muffins, bearclaws, and scones. And it's like this every gods-damned month. I know they mean well, at least I think they did the first couple months I was telling people I want to lay off sweets. But I'm through being polite. I'm upset that the very thought of sugar makes my stomach turn. I have a feeling it didn't need to be this way. I fondly remember being able to enjoy mocha or flavour syrup in my coffee. Now I can't. Not even vanilla.

I think I'm gonna eat a lot of plain oatmeal from now on. Gods, that actually sounds incredibly appealing. Yeah. As Wilfred Brimley says, when he thinks he's alone, "It's the right god-damned thing to do, and the right fucking way to do it."

In other news, I felt all lazy and sleepy yesterday, in a somewhat entrancing way that never happens to me anymore, so I didn't feel very guilty about not starting the Boschen and Nesuko page until 11:30pm or so. What surprised me was that I pretty much finished it by 7am, except for the last panel which I decided to leave for to-day since it uses the same colour palette as to-day's page. A complicated page--not page 228 complicated, but very complicated--yet it charmed me in an unexpected way, which I think helped a lot. Now for page 236 . . .

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What happens when a repressed Westerner's sexual fantasy about Geishas is purchased by Steven Spielberg, who loses interest, and gives the project to the almost-competent but celebrated Rob Marshall(Chicago)? Why, an American movie in English starring Chinese actresses--who speak that English with Chinese accents--about Japanese culture in the early twentieth century. With very silly looking blue contact lenses. And I shall likely be the only person who's bugged by it all.

But I bet Japanese audiences will be amused.