Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spider Kingdom of Beautiful Oatmeal

Holy shit, Yahoo mail's gotten annoying. It's crashing Firefox for me half the time now. It seems not a day goes by Yahoo doesn't what to pile on a few more tonnes of bloat. I just wanna check my fucking mail, you degenerate slave of hyper-intelligent horses.

My tweets last night;

Exclamation marks are never the point.
A day's barely placated by green tea.
New barons of Twitter we must anoint.
Templar Celeborn is no Roy Batty.

Finished watching the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven last night--not nearly as historically accurate as I'd hoped. I didn't see one pageboy haircut, and Eva Green hardly ever covers her hair. I was also reminded of Terry Gilliam's frequent complaint that movies in the Middle Ages feature too many people with perfect teeth. The Wikipedia entry has a rundown of much of what was and was not historically accurate, but for the most part, aside from my desire to see a simulation of the time to attain a certain headspace for my comic, I'm not concerned with historical accuracy if it's abandoned in favour of a good story. However, in this case it was often flagrantly abandoned in favour of a lousy story, particularly in its decision to portray all Templars as ridiculous assholes and all Hospitallers as wise and reasonable men. The two orders weren't very much different in reality. And, in reality, groups of people aren't normally so neatly divided into good teams and bad teams.

But the movie's a fantasy--it even follows the basic monomyth as described by Joseph Campbell, with Orlando Bloom's Bailan, who is portrayed with very modern sensibilities about foreign cultures and religions, adopting the role of that archetypical hero. Bloom delivers an exceedingly bland performance that I think confirmed for most of the world that he's not leading man material. And even aside from that, why was he continually cast as a blacksmith for a while? No amount of exercise is going to make that scrawny neck of his any bigger. It was like a bunch of people said, "Wow, that guy's perfect as an elf! Let's completely miscast him now to even things out!"

So, as a fantasy, it's not necessarily a bad idea to have clear cut heroes and villains, but in this instance it's one of several aspects that make the film feel utterly limp. Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan has less dimensions than Prince Humperdink in The Princess Bride, though they both seem to be doing Henry Daniell impressions.

While I like Ridley Scott's habit of not hammering every beat like even good filmmakers seem to do nowadays, his understated yet relentlessly beautiful style is not served by plain archetypes. That's why Blade Runner's his best movie--it's one of the few where the characters have truly complicated depths. Those depths aren't overtly expressed most of the time, but Scott's style somehow manipulates the viewer into concentrating on the characters to great benefit. But there's too little, for the most part, to find in Kingdom of Heaven. With its overture and intermission, it seems as though Scott was endeavouring to make his own Lawrence of Arabia. But Harry Gregson-Williams' score is as bland as the rest of the movie, completely lacking the majesty and scope of the strong themes from Lawrence of Arabia

I was really impressed with Edward Norton's performance. He wears a metal mask for the whole movie, but his personality comes right through with head tilts, voice, and eyelids alone, without feeling like an exaggerated mime performance. I didn't recognise him until I checked the cast during the intermission--with the slightly nasally voice, I had an eerie impression I was seeing a young Marlon Brando.

The film did have great costumes, sets, and wonderful cinematography. In fact, it seemed to me it must have been in making Kingdom of Heaven Scott realised the movie he really wanted to make was the movie that ended up being his next film, A Good Year, which is about little more than a guy hanging out in a beautiful world.

I did manage to get some footage of the spider from behind my computer yesterday;

I happened to be listening to a track from the Videodrome soundtrack at the time, and I thought it fit, so I kept the native sound. The heavy breathing is part of the Videodrome music, it's not me. I am not Darth Vader.

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