Saturday, August 31, 2013

Clear Paint

I had an annoying dream last night. Two or three very large extended families came over to the house for a party. People came into my room while I slept to "clean" it, removing most of my possessions and knocking over my computer monitor to break it. Rambunctious children stole a bunch of my things and opened a secret passage behind my computer which I've dreamed of before--it leads to a long, shining steel corridor, like old fashioned Dalek decor.

I got to sleep just after 11:30 last night, easily getting up just before 8am to-day. The workmen have been getting here even earlier and staying later--until 6:30pm yesterday--but fortunately they've stopped blasting country music so I've stopped blasting Wagner and mariachi music. But they're even here to-day, Saturday. Whenever I get up early on Saturday, an old hard wired instinct manifests again compelling me to watch cartoons. This morning I watched Urusei Yatsura and the second episode of Ranma 1/2 from the new Blu-Ray release. And what an exceptionally nice Blu-Ray release it is.

It's so sharp, it's like looking at a flipbook of original painted cells. The animation in the first season of Ranma, too, remains impressive. There's so much careful little moments of business to help establish character you simply never see in anime anymore.

Twitter Sonnet #542

Peaches collect below the guillotine.
Lemons choke a stained stucco alley.
Pineapples are stripped bare in the canteen.
Tomatoes ride storms and are called Sally.
Oranges jam signals to the marmalade.
Strawberry birth signs lead to the bonnets.
Grape eyes wind up in the bloody Kool Aid.
Pomegranates have seen enough sonnets.
Apricots analyse the bright beehive.
Plums will soak wine in a normal bowler.
Pears can parse the dead from the slow alive.
Dates can get stuck in the second molar.
Cherries crack the bowl not even or odd.
Blackberries write strange numbers in the sod.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Bad Fix

They say Jesus died for our sins but Edward G. Robinson died for our virtues in 1937's Kid Galahad, a solid Michael Curtiz gangster boxing film. Sort of forerunners to films noir, the gangster films in the 1930s tended to feature Robinson or James Cagney paying for a life of extravagant crime and we feel bad for them, too. In this case, Robinson's main crime is not being as attractive as Wayne Morris, who plays the boxer Robinson's character manages, Ward "Kid Galahad" Guissenberry.

Robinson's character is Nick Donati, a boxing manager connected with the mob and the underground gambling racket. His primary competitor is Turkey Morgan, played by Humphrey Bogart and throughout the film the two compete on the field of paying off fighters.

Donati and Guissenberry meet at a party Donati's been throwing in a hotel room for several days and nights after he lost half his money on a fighter who double crossed him. Guissenberry's a bellhop who's called up to help mix and serve drinks, except he's an innocent farm kid from the midwest and Donati's girlfriend Louise, or "Fluff" as she's rather suggestively called, has to teach him how to mix drinks.

Fluff is played by Bette Davis, burning from the inside as usual like Joan Crawford with suppressed resentment and indignant ambition that comes through in her big crazy eyes.

She's obviously the brains behind Donati's operation, we see her continually holding him back from some rash action, knowing not just the better move but how to explain it to him so he doesn't feel slighted. He loves her, but she soon falls for the better looking and better mannered Guissenberry. She coins his name "Galahad" after he knocks out a guy who hit her.

Unfortunately for her, Galahad falls in love with Donati's sister, fresh home from the convent, despite Donati's attempts to prevent her from meeting anyone in his seedy life, preferring to keep the young woman on the little farm north of the city with his mother. But Louise leaves Donati anyway, knowing her heart's for another, and along with her go his brains.

So there's this triangle between the boxer, his manager's sister, and his manager's girlfriend. Meanwhile, his manager is Donati, a gangster who manipulates men to win money in fixed bets, who acts like a tyrant with his sister. But Edward G. Robinson gets top billing and he's the one we feel for. It's true he does turn around near the end but the movie doesn't seem to suggest this makes up for all his past behaviour. Louise pities him, but at the end I sense she'd still rather be with Galahad. In this sense, the movie really is a particularly true forerunner of the noir in showing how the equations dictated by popular morality are inadequate to explain or satisfy human nature.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Sleep of Lostness

I meant to get up early to-day then I got up even earlier. Am very tired. Drawing slowly and badly. At least I have no math homework to-day. It took me all day to do twelve problems on Tuesday. Which, by the way, is why I wouldn't expect the next Boschen and Nesuko for another week and a half. I decided, since I'll be going to school at the same time, I'm not going to stick to a hard and fast schedule with this comic because I simply can't. Hopefully I'll still be able to get it out fast enough that it doesn't stagnate in my brain.

Last night I dreamt I was on some kind of land-bound steamboat going in circles. I was at a table and there was a guy sitting across from me with his head down on his folded arms, on the table. A red faced, middle aged man with a big moustache was pacing and I told him I thought Ray Bradbury's message to the people of the world was not to be afraid of self-examination (though I don't, in waking life, necessarily think that's the main message Bradbury had for the world). As I said this, the man at the table lifted his head and I saw that he was either Larry David or Ray Bradbury. Or some combination of the two.

I received from Amazon last week the copy of Bradbury's Yestermorrow which I bought for one cent, apparently from a Salt Lake County library. It's a collection of essays and I'd been wanting to read for fifteen years or so the essay contained in called "The Aesthetics of Lostness". Bradbury, who hated electronic publication, managed to keep this three or four page essay offline and it's still not something you can just google. It's about his design for Horton Plaza mall here in San Diego and it discusses the thrill involved in being lost, "safely lost", as an adult. The joy of attention sharpened by unexpectedly unfamiliar surroundings. Which is why Horton Plaza has disjointed floors, floors you can reach from the floor below but you can't go back the same way, and there are strange little pockets. In the essay, Bradbury describes the wonder of stumbling upon an area that exclusively holds magic and toy shops. In light of that, it's rather a shame nearly all the stores at Horton Plaza now, like in all shopping malls, are clothing stores.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oh, the Heartbreaking Days of Fruit Stands and Sequins!

Sometimes I get a nostalgic yen for 1960s and 70s nostalgia for the 1920s and 30s. There's something gooily special about how they saw things in the second and third decades to be so gooily special. 1968's The Night They Raided Minsky's puts burlesque under the goo-scope. It's an entertaining film though, like most progressive movies of the period, it ends up actually being fundamentally more conservative than movies a decade earlier.

The movie begins with stock footage of 1920s New York streets juxtaposed with footage of extras on sets, shot for the film. The new shots often beginning in black and white before switching to colour, essentially saying to the audience, "Look how well we matched the stock footage!"

And they did do a decent job, at least until Britt Ekland gets off the train looking like a time traveller.

She's Rachel Schpitendavel, an Amish girl who's come to the big city to rebel against her family. Britt Ekland's beautiful but her performance does nothing to counteract the fact that the character's written like an anaesthetised six year old. She wanders the city wide eyed before stumbling into Minsky's Burlesque where she's charmed by the comedy routines onstage and doesn't see anything fishy in them hiring her to perform her religious dances. She's had professional training in dance--one wonders how, since the Amish don't dance.

This movie is loosely based on a true story, and the fact that Rachel is written just blindly wandering into everything is a little disappointing since, according to the movie, the person she's based on invented the striptease (though that's not actually true). Unlike Lady of Burlesque, The Night They Raided Minsky's was allowed to show an explicit strip tease, yet Stanwyck's performance remains the stronger one in portraying a woman in control of her sexuality. When Rachel strips, it's basically an accident done in innocence while her lover, a burlesque comedian named Raymond played by Jason Robards, looks on disapprovingly from the wings.

Robards has better timing than the comedian in Lady of Burlesque, though the music and comedy in this movie still feel more distinctly 60s, or 60s sentimentalised 20s. There's even a sad clown to sweep up the stage at the end.

Before she goes onstage in the finale, Rachel does give a little speech to her father and Raymond about how it's her body and she can do what she likes with it but it feels as though it the screenwriter felt obligated to write it while not quite at heart sympathising with the philosophy. Most of the movie follows Raymond and his partner, Chick (Norman Wisdom), as they compete over who gets to seduce Rachel, who's generally oblivious, mirroring some of the stage routines.

There is an interesting attempt to mirror the kind of humour onstage with the offstage action in the film, particularly in fight scenes which dissolve in to pie throwing style antics. There are several jokes in the stage acts that were also used in Lady of Burlesque, most notably a courtroom sketch.

The movie nominally argues for Rachel's freedom while repeatedly demonstrating she lacks the mental capacity for it. Partly this is a side effect of the vaudevillian humour, but mainly it's just that Rachel isn't as clever as any of the male characters who jockey for the position of honoured chaperone. So the message at the end is a little confused, perhaps arguing women ought to be left in the care of the schmaltz Force.

Twitter Sonnet #541

Hairs that end in hands hold the bobby pin.
Octopus follicles squeeze shut the brow.
There's no birthday card can walk without sin.
The ornament turns red too early now.
The bald heavy list repressed the hairy.
T shirt tables tally no rare baboon.
In a bell jar Link can keep no fairy.
Chaos can curdle with Vidal Sassoon.
Winnie the Pooh's silhouette now melts.
Shadow drizzle blooms by a white bed sheet.
Velvet cones may hold icy suedes or felts.
Red is the colour of the violent beet.
Curtains conceal antigravity hordes.
Feedback rouge jumps the flaming limelight swords.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's a G-String?

It's too bad they don't offer degrees in solving murders in movies before they're revealed because I just aced another one with 1943's Lady of Burlesque based on The G-String Murders by burlesque strip tease performer Gypsy Rose Lee. The Hays code sadly prevented the movie from containing anything but offhand references to real stripping but it's a charming film with a couple fascinating moments. Mainly it's Barbara Stanwyck as Dixie Daisy, a fictionalised very of Lee, who makes this movie work.

Early in the movie, she performs a routine where she strips off layers of hand muffs as sort of a metaphor for real stripping. In a comedy routine later, faithful to the slapstick bits in real burlesque shows, there's actually a bit more cheesecake, mainly focusing on Stanwyck's legs.

This scene is also remarkable for how the performers change to a louder routine in order to mask the sounds of a gangster beating a woman backstage. This is another way in which the film was dangerously close to violating the production code, having its protagonists complicit in such a thing. Though any sensible person would see it's because their lives and livelihoods are all dependent on the graces of the mobster.

One of the comics in this scene is Stanwyck's love interest, one of the film's weak points as his delivery is much to fast, tending to run past the punch lines.

The best parts of the movie are the ladies just hanging out in the dressing room teasing one another or lightly mocking one another's ambitions to get out of burlesque. It's all a little bittersweet as it's easy to imagine how great this movie could have been without censorship. A g-string is used to commit the murders but the object referred to as such appears to be just a pile of glittery streamers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Watcher and the Dealer

"You're my conscience," Jack Manfred says, in 1998's Croupier, when his girlfriend, Marion, asks him what she means to him.

"Don't you have a conscience of your own?" she asks. He doesn't answer her. If Manfred does have a conscience he would prefer to lose it, to rise above the moral conflicts of the world, much like the Lord Byron character for which he was likely named. This excellent film noir is about a man's quest for detachment, his quest to become purely an observer and manipulator of life rather than a participant.

He has two occupations in the film which reflect this motive; he's a novelist and he's a croupier, the person at casinos who deals cards, manages chips, and operates the roulette wheel at a casino. As the film begins, he speaks in third person narration, talking about himself as though he were detached even from his own presence, about his satisfaction in no longer hearing the roulette ball. It's a sign to him that he's orchestrating in an exceptionally cold and efficient manner, he's achieved a perfect connexion to what he's doing, merging man and task, subsuming the man.

We see over the course of the movie three women in Jack's life, the personalities of each saying quite a lot about him. At the casino he meets Bella, a fellow dealer who when Jack first sees her, in the locker room, casually strips in his presence, which leads him to see her as "trouble."

When they do have sex, when she brings him back to her apartment after she's seen him savagely beat in an alley a man who'd tried cheating him at the roulette table, he explains to her, "I hate cheats." He says it to her coolly despite the fact that by being with her he's cheating on Marion, something reflected when she smiles and replies, "All men are cheats."

Jack clearly doesn't have a problem with cheating--in fact, after he's given a list of rules by his employer at the casino, we watch him proceed throughout the film to break every single one--sleeping with a co-worker, acting as accomplice for cheaters, and befriending a "punter", one of the gamblers.

No, what Jack hates are people who cheat him, people who see through him to where he becomes a pawn in their game, which is the reason he thought Bella was trouble. Not being shy with her body means she has no inhibition about using it to get what she wants. And, after they sleep together, he seems to find his fears prove true as for a moment she does see through him.

There's another dangerous woman, a punter from South Africa named Jani played by Alex Kingston--River Song from Doctor Who. She's fantastic in this movie which was a little weird for me. It's like someone you grew bored with over months of doing school projects with them who turns out to transform into a fascinating creature in the evening. She even manages a decent South African accent.

She attempts to manipulate Jack into acting as accomplice in robbing the casino, but Jack is happy to go along with it since he knows she's manipulating him. He calculates the odds of attaining a profit from the venture to be in his favour, but in so doing he breaks not only the casino's rule but his own--that he never gambles. And as when he breaks a rule of the casino, he's comfortable doing it because he wants to. His maxim, which he repeats at different points in the film, is "Hold on tightly, let go lightly."

He wants to be able to rely on his ability to perfectly calculate and manipulate situations to insulate him from potential emotional trauma inherent in the unexpected. His relationship with Marion is perhaps even more telling than his relationships with the other women.

After both Marion and Bella talk to him about how horrible and unreliable men are, Jack spots Marion out with another man. This prompts a reminiscence--he remembers how his mother walked out on the family when he was young and never came back.

It's not hard to see that in being his "conscience" Marion is Jack's subconscious attempt to introduce a mother figure into his life. She's a former cop who now works as a shopping mall security officer and Jack describes her as a romantic. She doesn't want him to be a croupier, she wants him to be a novelist, though she's upset when she discovers he's writing a novel about being a croupier. She's the moral influence he consciously wishes to distance himself from but his subconscious needs compel him to pursue. He speaks warily of addictions but his relationship with Marion may be the most destructive addiction of all. She both comforts and constrains him.

Clive Owen is excellent as Jack, allowing just the right amount of buried feeling to come through the exterior. Mike Hodges directed the film coolly and beautifully, it's one of the best modern noirs I've seen.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carter Got It

In 2004, Total Film ranked the greatest British films of all time from a poll of twenty five critics. This is the top ten;

1. Get Carter
2. A Matter of Life and Death
3. Trainspotting
4. The Third Man
5. Life of Brian
6. The Wicker Man
7. Kind Hearts and Coronets
8. Lawrence of Arabia
9. From Russia With Love
10. Naked

This is a bad list. From Russia With Love, I would agree, is certainly the best of Connery's Bond films but including any James Bond movie while not including any Alfred Hitchcock movie is absurd. Bond movies at their best are imitations of Hitchcock films and Hitchcock made a lot of movies before leaving Britain for Hollywood, among them The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, the former of which beats From Russia With Love at its own game. And, as much as I liked Trainspotting, it's simply not as good as The Third Man or Lawrence of Arabia. And I'm amazed any movie critic thinks A Matter of Life and Death is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger's best film.

As for the number one, 1971's Get Carter is a fine pulp gangster film though I'd argue its director, Mike Hodges, made a superior film in 1998 with Croupier.

Get Carter stars a poised and effectively threatening Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a gangster working for some guys who, among other things, run a pornography racket in London. When Jack's brother in Newscastle dies he finds himself compelled to investigate as the story going around that his brother committed suicide seems fishy. He also goes to see his niece is looked after.

On the train to Newcastle we see Jack reading a Raymond Chandler novel and this is a reflection of the story Get Carter ends up being. Like a Philip Marlowe story, Get Carter follows a clever man of action as he fights his way through a complicated plot with a lot of characters and makes love or gets rough with a new beautiful dame every ten minutes or so.

The main difference is that Carter is unquestionably a bad man. We sympathise with him because he wants to honour his brother and look out for his niece but he's happy to throw a man off a building and injure someone else's niece in the process.

I see a lot of people writing about the film lauded it for its realism but when a movie pits one man up against an entire criminal underworld and he repeatedly wins, we're talking about pulp. But like I said, it's good pulp.

There's an obvious, misogynous double standard in the gangster culture as Carter feels no remorse in exploiting one woman after another but becomes murderous when his niece apparently chose to be in a porno of her own free will. But there are some genuinely, wonderfully sexy moments, including Britt Ekland's one scene (despite the fact that she's the top billed actress) where she has phone sex with Carter. But my favourite is a sequence where Carter being driven somewhere by a reckless, beautiful woman is intercut with footage of him having sex with her.

Twitter Sonnet #540

Attacking Appalachian fighters break.
Orange hair blasts out a dry dodo's message.
We must all refill for the monster's sake.
Dancing horses, Braille rich stucco presaged.
Practiced portraits waver Wayne's memory.
Garthish gambols bogart his balding pate.
Upstairs, typed quests yield boards of emery.
Some instrument necks need steel strings to sate.
Elbows on rooks are too Dalekian.
Little angry tentacles choke the knight.
The bloodless bishop's so Kubrickian.
Make the animal crackers last all night.
Closer shoes enable small mystery.
An indoor day becomes too blustery.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"But I'VE Heard Nonsense, Compared with Which That Would be as Sensible as a Dictionary!"

This has been one weird, angry day. First workmen showed up unexpectedly at 9am who acted like I was imposing just because I wanted to make oatmeal before they covered the microwave with a sheet of plastic. I only got five hours sleep because of this and expected to perform badly at the chess tournament to-day but it actually went surprisingly well. I mean, I lost three out of five but the ones I won went better than usual and I was close to winning two of the games I lost.

I'm not a great multitasker so the sudden influx of IMs I received probably didn't help. I had drunk friends IMing me from the evenings in Singapore and Holland while I was still in a sober Saturday morning.

It was towards the end of the tournament things got really weird when we were apparently griefed by International Grandmaster of chess and poker Almira Skripchenko. I'm having trouble believing it was really her from the tone of her conversation. Though I guess there's no reason a grandmaster couldn't suddenly go completely batshit at a Second Life chess tournament. I can certainly say the games I saw her play were some of the best played games I've ever seen. Maybe it isn't out of the question that the same person who plays chess and poker professionally would spam chess groups about her Second Life casino. The tenor of this conversation I had with her gives one pause, though;

Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY AM I BAN HONESTLY ??
Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): I think it's because you've been spamming group chats.
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): never
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): idiot
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): stupid brain
Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): You spammed my group.
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): i dt know you
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): you are 1200 élo ?
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): or less ?
Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): You sent a spam message to The Queen Alice Chess club
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): retard
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): close guru
Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): I wasn't planning on banning you, so long as you didn't do it again.
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): retard
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): you have to be ban of sl
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): all people like you
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): thinking like you
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): i am GMI

She then sent me a teleport to one of her clubs with the message: "STOP PLAYING THERE IF YOU ARE NOT A RETARD !!!"

The conference chat she initiated with everyone at the tournament was somewhat more entertaining. "[Withheld Name]" appears where I’ve removed the original names from the transcript.

Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): I AM SURE YOU NEVER HAD A COACH [Withheld name, the organiser of the tournament]
[Withheld Name 2]: thats you not missing much.
[Withheld Name 3]: you were probably banned by [Withheld Name 1] because of this: "[Withheld Name 3] WILL BE FUCKER UP IN SL"
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): I KNOW HON
[Withheld Name 3]: don't play innocent
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): [Withheld Name 3] YOU ARE AN HASSHOLE CLOSED LIKE THE WATER
[Withheld Name 2]: whats wrong
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): ASSHOLE
Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): How do you close water?
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): WC
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): BULLSHIT
[Withheld Name 3]: all i did is report what happened, as-is. i just showed a screenshot.
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): I AM GRAND MASTER !
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): YOU ARE MANIPULATORS
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): WITHOUT A LIFE
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): AND HEART AND BRAIN
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): PATHETIC
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): WAKE UP CHESS PLAYERS
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): I AM NOT AGREE WITH THAT
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): I PLAY FOR FREE IN MY SANDBOX
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): celia playchess ? rofl
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): what does that mean ?
Celia [My friend]: a sandbox... nostalgia... been a while ago for me that
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): siick
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): [Withheld Name 3]
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): siick poker and chess now
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): shame on you get a life
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): be in love with your authism
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): close your eyes to see the true !
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): little beginners for me
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): [Withheld Name 1] someone is watching u from the sky ...
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): he is not happy !!!
Zyngo v10 Mesh (manon19): o.OMG !!

"Authism" refers to [Withheld Name3]’s autism. So can this really be the same seemingly reasonable Almira Skripchenko interviewed in this video?

It's really hard to believe this nice lady would go Linda Blair in Second Life. But, then, Second Life and chess are much bigger in Europe than they are in the States, maybe this did seem like something worth thoroughly embarrassing herself over. Bobby Fischer, the Jewish born anti-Semite, certainly didn't have all his marbles. I guess it's not hard to see how having a widely considered to be indisputable measurement of one's intelligence would turn a person into an egomaniac.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sour Note Symphonies

If stale beer on mouldy linoleum had a soundtrack, it would be country music. Holy shit. There are some guys working on tearing up the floor in the kitchen right now and they brought their own little radio which they've tuned to the local country station. Somewhere in my mind was an awareness of how bad country music is but I'd kind of forgotten. It's like a slow French kiss with Karl Malden's two week old corpse in the middle of a dead wheat field on a very dry and hot summer day. It's like discovering you accidentally put tar on your peanut butter and honey sandwich instead of honey and then realised the peanut butter is two years out of date. It's stupefyingly bad.* I'm just glad I can't hear it when I have my own music playing in my bedroom here.

I suppose this is close to how repulsed most of the internet seems to be by the fact that Ben Affleck's been cast as Batman for the sequel to Man of Steel. Maybe I'd care if I had bothered to see Man of Steel. It's unlikely I'll feel too compelled to see the sequel. So mostly I'm just amused. This really is incredibly bad casting. And, as I did in my review of Argo, I have to qualify this by saying I don't hate Ben Affleck. I didn't hate Argo, either, though I didn't especially love it. He's simply not . . . Batman. A lot of people are pointing out that this was like when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, except it really isn't. Heath Ledger had Brokeback Mountain under his belt at that point, a movie in which, whether they admitted it or not, everyone who saw it knew Ledger had given a beyond brilliant performance. And it was a character unlike any Ledger had played before.

Ben Affleck has always pretty much just played Ben Affleck. I guess the most un-Affleckian role he's played was the renegade angel in Dogma but even there he seemed like a douchier version of Affleck. He was basically identical to his character in Mallrats.

It gets even funnier when one is reminded that Zack Snyder wants to model this Batman and Superman relationship on the one in The Dark Knight Returns, that Affleck is supposed to be playing an aged Batman. Affleck is one of those guys who's probably going to sound youthful when he's 80. He just has a boy voice and he always will, like Mickey Rooney or Leonardo DiCaprio. Or Frank Miller.

Frank Miller, who in the 80s wrote The Dark Knight Returns, is rumoured to be a consultant on the Man of Steel sequel. Miller's never quite equalled the heights he reached in The Dark Knight Returns and in the past decade his writing has sometimes been simply embarrassing. Still, I'm amused imagining him trying to digest this casting.

Again, I don't hate Ben Affleck. I loved Chasing Amy. If you're casting a regular, young, not especially bright nice guy, I say go with Affleck. Nothing about any of his previous roles suggests he could portray someone who, haunted by the violent deaths of his parents, channels intense and weird issues over decades into an obsessive endeavour to battle crime.

Though if Affleck is blamed for bringing down the movie industry for this, I'd say that's unfair. It's true, this movie the studio will certainly bank on to be a blockbuster will almost certainly be a bomb, and Spielberg and Lucas recently predicted a couple more disasters like that would radically change the industry and I think they're right. In fact, I think Man of Steel is a demonstration of how the industry is already changing--the studio basically gerrymandered its opening to insure a profit with product placement and early screenings. Lucky for them, too, since it dropped off the top ten in the box office with shocking speed. The inclusion of Batman in the next film is a sure sign the studio is fully aware that this Superman could never stand on his own in a sequel and it's a sign the studio believes it can't acknowledge this Superman can't stand on his own. They're bluffing in a high stakes game against Marvel here and they're in the process of losing big.

Betting on Affleck is like buying stock in Sears. What safer bet could there be than the director and star of the recent Best Picture winner? Apparently minds were too slow to learn anything from the fact that Heath Ledger didn't win Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain. Anyone want to watch Crash (2004) again? Yeah, I didn't think so.

*I'm talking about modern radio country, I should say. I kind of like Johnny Cash and forays Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan take into country.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Murder, the Naked Nude without Clothes, and Killing!

Here's an example of how lack of restraint or subtlety on the part of a director can sink a film. You certainly couldn't blame the cast of 1961's The Naked Edge which includes Deborah Kerr, Eric Portman, Peter Cushing, and you wouldn't know it's Gary Cooper's last role, shortly before his death. There's plenty of vigour in his performance. But director Michael Anderson directs a Hitchcockian suspense movie almost like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

In fact, it's very easy to compare the movie to a Hitchcock film because it shares a screenwriter with Psycho and its plot is so close to Hitchcock's 1941 film Suspicion that it's practically a remake. But where Suspicion indulges in a slow burning sadistic and personal terror, The Naked Edge has the story of a wife's rising suspicion that her husband made his fortune by murder play like pans falling out of a kitchen cupboard.

Cooper and Kerr play husband and wife and, again, I can't fault them when their back and forth about his possibly murdering his boss several years earlier is shrill rather then exquisitely painful. Cooper starts to sound so repetitive in his questioning whether or not Kerr suspects him, and Kerr in response can only sound halfway between doubting and believing so many times before she just starts sounding annoyed at being asked the same question over and over.

I love Deborah Kerr. I'm always reminded of how Michael Powell said she was the most intelligent actress he'd ever worked with particularly when half the movies I've seen her in are markedly beneath her talents. Her face has all the nuance and subtlety Anderson's Mickey Moused score and ecstasy junkie placement of close-ups would seek to obliterate.

Peter Cushing's role is tiny--Eric Portman gets a little more interesting material to work with but, if you're thinking about watching this movie, I'd recommend you just watch Suspicion instead, especially if you've never seen it before. But also if you have seen it before.

There were a few movies in the 50s and 60s with the word "naked" in the title--The Naked Truth, The Naked Spur, The Naked Jungle, to name a few--I think to draw in crowds aware of the abolished Hays code but I don't think any of these movies actually have nudity. So I was surprised to see even a brief glimpse of Deborah Kerr's left breast in The Naked Edge. Since The Naked Edge wasn't the title of the source material, I suspect someone thought this was a selling point, which is rather amusing since we're talking about a very brief and incidental moment in the bath.

Twitter Sonnet #539

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ass Math

I'm very short on time to-day due to a text book that arrived late for the math class I started on Monday. Once I gave up on Amazon delivering it to-day (when it was supposed to be here yesterday), I bought the Kindle version and struggled through a bunch of word problems that were assigned as homework. The textbook is called Crossing the River with Dogs and it looks like this class is going to be all word problems. The teacher is entirely too much of what is widely considered to be fun for my taste. I'd hoped to get another math class like my last one, where we never worked in groups and no-one ever got to know each other. Nice and blissfully antisocial.

Now it seems I have a debt of socialising karma to pay; "This class is going to be fun!" the teacher informed us on Monday before revealing we'll be working in groups for every class session including tests. Tests will be done in groups. Fucking hell. At least this'll be the last math class I'll ever have to take.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Very Special Petri Dish

Ah, love. Love! What's better than love? Why, A Very Special Love. And just what's so special about the love portrayed in this 2008 Filipino blockbuster starring superstar Sarah Geronimo? Well, who would believe that a wealthy and handsome young man and his gorgeous, virginal secretary whose personal philosophy dictates that she obey this man she's obsessed with in all things and overlook all of his flaws could ever end up together? How could you not root for these underdogs?

I watched this movie on a dare after discovering its existence through Wikipedia's "random article" feature. It's not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, actually. It's deeply conservative and rigidly formulaic but sort of charming.

The closest film I could compare this to is Mariah Carey's Glitter and A Very Special Love shines in the contrast. I suspect this is largely due to American complacency. Where Mariah Carey comes off at all times high strung and tight lipped, Sarah Geronimo has a genuine smile. However bad the movie was, I couldn't help laughing or cringing with her in her attempts to get close to her boss.

The story couldn't be less imaginative--it's the standard progression of poor working class girl attempts to draw the eye of her aristocratic idol, he tolerates her with mild bemusement before blowing up at her in one scene, then feeling guilty, then there's the scene where she takes care of him while he's sick, and one day he realises she means more to him than his endless string of beautiful but high maintenance girlfriends. Then of course there's the Test of Their New Love that occurs two thirds through the movie, in this case the stress of his (Miguel's) men's magazine failing and him taking out his self hatred by yelling at her for loving him unconditionally. And finally there's the tearful reconciliation outside during a rainstorm.

Miguel's story is that his mother was the mistress of his wealthy father and he's never felt like he's had the love and acceptance of his multiple half-siblings, sons of his father's wife. He's basically Jon Snow and interestingly the Philippines appear to be almost as old fashioned as the world depicted in Game of Thrones.

This is even more apparent in the story of Geronimo's character Laida whose mother consoles her, when it looks like Laida and Miguel are on the outs, that at least her virginity's in tact so she has something to give her true love when she meets him eventually. Laida's family is poor, her parents and many siblings crammed into three or four rooms. In one scene Laida's mother casually uses the toilet while her daughter's in the bathroom.

Laida's family is one of the things that reminded me much of a Bollywood movie family--there's the goofy dad, the mom with special wisdom, and the little brothers and sisters who have a couple token moments of squirreliness at the beginning before settling into roles as repositories of love and support for their big sister.

This is in contrast to Miguel's relationship with his family. Laida's family may be poor, but since her mother didn't have premarital sex they're rich in traditional values that make their minds much healthier. So healthy that Laida can redeem a lost soul like Miguel just by loving him so much.

So. A Very Special Love is unrealistic, insults your intelligence and probably your lifestyle, and adheres to formula like fly paper. But it's kind of cute.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Murdering the Second Dimension

Finally a new Monogatari episode's been subtitled--apparently the reason all the fansub groups ignored the week before's episode was that it's a recap episode. I was surprised to hear of one in a Monogatari series but now I see on Wikipedia this season will have a rather incredible twenty six episodes. In this day and age in the U.S., U.K., and Japan, it seems almost every show has seasons or "series" of twelve episodes tops. 26 episodes in a season harkens back to a different era in television at this point.

Unfortunately, having watched the Suruga Monkey arc so recently highlighted too many dull signs of the new episodes' more conventional bent. How am I supposed to go from a show about demons manifesting from sexual abuse and the "Rainy Devil" swinging Araragi around a room by his intestines to a show about Araragi travelling back in time to turn in his homework on time or about Hanekawa overcoming her shyness? How the fuck did this happen? Oh, of course I know--the original series was massively popular because of the character designs and somewhere a bigwig thought, "Maybe it'll be doubly popular if it doesn't challenge the viewer in any way!" Oh, well.

Last night I also watched the first episode of Britain's long running detective series Midsomer Murders. It was recommended to me by my friend Celia, co-owner of my chess club. Celia is a lab assistant of some kind and is the best chess player I know--the impression I have is she has a real brain and mine feels like a lump of stale pudding in comparison. I had trouble relating to her in conversation because I relate to everyone through art and she'd never even heard of Harrison Ford when I was telling her about Comic-Con. She doesn't seem to be familiar with much in literature, television, or cinema and it was some time before I learned she loves British detective shows, none of which I'd seen--shows like A Touch of Frost and Midsomer Murders.

The episode wasn't bad although a lot of it pretty blatantly panders to elderly women. Maybe this is the Orthopaedic Gaze. The detective protagonist is John Barnaby, a solid gentleman played by John Nettles without the slightest hint of the psychological eccentricities or personal demons I'm familiar with in the only detective shows I've ever watched (The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and versions of Sherlock Holmes). The episode opens with a woman named Simpson in her 70s or 80s being murdered and we then meet the people she socialises with, women also in her age group including a woman Simpson was in a friendly orchid hunting competition with, who Barnaby and his partner share information with throughout the episode for no reason within the story's logic I could discern, and the mother of an undertaker who spies on the neighbourhood with high-powered binoculars to blackmail people she's witnessed committing a variety of transgressions.

Her son is an undertaker and an unpleasant caricature of a homosexual. But maybe that goes with the territory now and then when watching television from over a decade ago, possibly I'm making too much of it. Though Wikipedia has this paragraph about the conservatism of people behind the show;

In March 2011 the producer of the series, Brian True-May, was suspended by All3Media after telling the TV listings magazine the Radio Times that racial diversity in the programme was non-existent because the series was a "bastion of Englishness". When challenged about the term "Englishness" and whether that would exclude different ethnic minorities, True-May said "Well, it should do, and maybe I'm not politically correct." He later went on to say that he wanted to make a programme "that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed". True-May's comments were investigated by the production company. He was reinstated, having apologised "if his remarks gave unintended offence to any viewers", but he has since stepped down as producer. The following season saw the series' first Asian characters appear, in the episode "Written in the stars".

But there was nothing too overt I saw. Barnaby's partner, one of the show's biggest weak points, is a sergeant so unbelievably stupid it's difficult to find it plausible he made it through grade school let alone advanced so far in law enforcement. He's young, though, and I think the idea was to provide a foil for Barnaby that continually validates people older than fifty five. He's the only one who makes an actually homophobic comment and it's vague, remarking on how he's creeped out by a guy who's both gay and an undertaker.

He also almost hits a bicyclist while driving and consistently says the wrong thing when Barnaby's questioning witnesses.

I'm starting to feel a little cocky now that I predicted both the killer's identity in Presumed Innocent and I figured out the solution to the mystery in this episode of Midsomer Murders rather early on. There's one character introduced who, in the first second she says hello to the police, I knew she was going to confess to a murder truly believing she'd committed it but it was going to turn out she actually hadn't. I knew this not from any evidence presented in the episode but judging from her performance, her degree of physical attractiveness, the size of her eyes, and the amount of time that had passed in the episode before she was introduced.

If murders in real life occurred based on formulaic filmmaking, I'd be the greatest detective who ever lived.

One of the highlights of the episode, though, was a young and very beautiful Emily Mortimer and her fiance, played by Julian Glover, who you might recognise from Game of Thrones,

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,

The Empire Strikes Back or Doctor Who.

As usual, he plays an aristocratic asshole and, as usual, he does it very well.

I found myself liking Nettles enough by the end, too, to feel pleased with him when he solved the murders.

Twitter Sonnet #538

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