Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Entertainment During the Storm

OK, first of all, I just wanna point out that I've got a hurricane coming my way, so I don't know if I'll still have power by the time this posts (I wrote this on Sunday; I schedule all of my blog posts over the weekend). As you know from Monday's post, weather fucking terrifies me. As a result, I haven't been able to get much writing done because I've been too busy keeping track of the coming storm. I just like to worry myself unnecessarily, I guess. Anyway, to keep myself entertained during the storm, I'll probably just imitate Claire Trevor's "Moanin' Low" routine from Key Largo.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

dir. Irving Rapper


"A Very Precious Love" - The Ames Brothers

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 82 - Nightmares

dir. John Lamond


Roger and I discuss the inscrutable Australian slasher flick Nightmares. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Scares Me


Followers of my blog will have no doubt noticed that I haven't discussed horror movies this month. It's October, Halloween month: everyone discusses horror movies now; you have to discuss horror movies now; why ain't I discussing horror movies now?  Doubly odd is that I'm a horror fanatic; I discuss horror movies year round. So, why would I avoid it now? I suppose this is partly due to my somewhat contrarian nature—everyone else goes right, I go left. More than that, however, I guess I get horror movie overload this time of the year.

It's impossible to escape horror this month. Everywhere I turn everyone is talking about old favorites, new likely-to-become classics, the underrated, the overrated, and all in-between, horror-wise—stuff, like I said, I write about year round. Maybe I'm just like that indie scenester douche who complains, "Oh, I was into this band before they were cool." (You can hate me now.) Or maybe it's the opposite: maybe I'm like that kind-hearted fellow in the Christmas movie who explains that the generosity I displayed wasn't in fact a Christmas miracle, but something we should all follow all the time. To focus on horror in October would belie the fact that, "Folks, I believe everyday is Halloween."

Or maybe, experiencing the horror overload that I do every year this time of year, hearing people talk about the movies that scare them, it's just that I'm reminded that horror flicks generally don't do much for me anymore. Wait, you're now asking, doesn't that contradict everything you just wrote in the previous couple paragraphs? Not so fast—I still love the heck out of horror movies; they just rarely scare me anymore. I guess, in an odd way, they're rather comforting. I love 80s slasher films, for instance, because they're so rote, so predictable, so familiar; even if I've never seen a particular flick, I'll always know everything about in advance. These movies operate like clockwork. They're safe.

I've seen so many horror movies, it's damn near impossible to get lost in them, to get terrified. I can see the strings being pulled; I always know they're just movies. Not only that, they usually contain the sort of unrealistic scenarios that I just can't relate to. I love The Exorcist, but demonic possession isn't an actual thing; it's not something I have to worry about encountering in my life. A movie has to present a likely threat to seriously unsettle me.

So what really scares me? This fucking Hurricane Sandy coming my way. Fuck. I hate fucking weather.

[Behold, true terror.]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Maybe?

When I first heard about the remake of The Evil Dead, I thought no way was I gonna bother with it. The original is far to dear to me. But then I watched this red band trailer (NSFW, obviously) and...I don't know. Maybe?

Friday, October 26, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 81 - We Hate John Holmes


Roger and I discuss many topics on today's episode, but if you take away one thing, know that we hate John Holmes. You can listen to the episode here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Let There Be Light (1946)

dir. John Huston


“Here is human salvage—the final result of all that metal and fire can do to violate mortal flesh.”
-Narrator

Big thanks to my friend Audrey Amidon for bringing John Huston’s documentary Let There Be Light to my attention. If you've listened to some of our podcasts (to those who haven't, do yourself a favor and check them out: Return to OzEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), you'll know that Audrey restores and preserves films for the National Archives. And Let There Be Light was one of the bigger films the National Archive has worked on.

Anyway, Audrey recommended Huston's film after she saw The Master and noticed a few similarities between the two films. I just watched Huston film and, oh my God, was she right. Various themes, shots, themes (nostalgia), and lines, ("buy two acres and raise some chickens" and “undoubtedly, there will be people on the outside who won’t have any understanding of the condition, who may think of it as being a rather shameful condition”) were liberally borrowed from Huston's film and used in the VA hospital segment of The Master. And with good reason, Let There Be Light a powerful, unflinching work. (By the way, this doesn't diminish my appreciation for The Master; it just makes me glad I know the reference.)

The National Film Preservation has made Let There Be Light available on their website. It's free, but you should donate. That is, if you're not an asshole.

Incidentally, Let There Be Light and Frank Capra's war-time doc The Negro Soldier will both have screenings in November. Here is the info from Audrey:

NARA will be screening the digital restorations of Let There Be Light and The Negro Soldier on the following dates at our downtown DC location:

Wednesday, November 7, at 7 p.m.
William G. McGowan Theater
Classics Restored: The Negro Soldier and Let There Be Light
In honor of Veterans Day, we premiere high-definition versions of two classic World War II–era documentaries, preserved and digitally restored by the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Team. The Negro Soldier (1944; 43 minutes) was produced by Frank Capra’s Army motion picture unit to help unite white and black troops in the fight against the Axis. Let There Be Light (1946; 58 minutes), commissioned from Academy Award®–winning director John Huston by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, follows the treatment of emotionally traumatized GIs. The screening will be introduced by Dr. David Culbert, author of Film and Propaganda in America: A Documentary History.

Friday, November 9, at noon
William G. McGowan Theater
A Classic Restored: The Negro Soldier
A repeat screening of a high-definition version of the film, preserved and digitally restored by the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Team. (1944; 43 minutes)

Friday, November 16, at noon
William G. McGowan Theater
A Classic Restored: John Huston’s Let There Be Light
The third in the World War II trilogy commissioned from Academy Award®-winning director John Huston by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Let There Be Light follows the treatment of emotionally traumatized GIs from their admission at a psychiatric hospital to their reentry into civilian life. Today we premiere a high-definition version of the film, which had been suppressed until 1980 but has been preserved and digitally restored by the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Team. (1946; 58 minutes)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 80 - Pray for Death

dir. Gordon Hessler


Roger and I discuss Pray for Death, a movie with two great tastes that taste great together: revenge and ninjas. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fire Ants 3D: The Invincible Army (2012)

dir. Michael Watchulonis

[Yes, those are fire ants. No, they're not connected to anything but each other. Yes, I apologize for the nightmares. No, I don't know why that man is eye-raping the ants. Yes, they will one day destroy us all.]

Why do I do this to myself? I hate bugs; I hate pests; stories of invasive species creep me the fuck out; but damned if I ain't always drawn to documentaries on this shit. As soon as I saw that Netflix had a short film on the invasive fire ant species that has decimated crops in the Southern US for the past bunch of decades, I was pissed at myself. I knew, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I'd end up watching this shit. You see, I'm a worrier by nature. If I ain't got something in my life to legitimately concern myself over, I'll search for things to fill that void. Life going ok now? How can I change that? How can I make myself feel that everything is on the verge of falling apart? I guess I'm addicted to stress. Who knows why? But it's there.

(Incidentally, as you can tell from the title, this mini-doc is in 3D—so glad my computer doesn't have that capability. Which, by the way, who the fuck would wanna watch this shit in 3D? My guess: the same kind of person who'd get a kick out of 3D surgical films and 3D snuff films. What I'm saying, anyone who tells you they want to see a 3D film on the the insects that will one day destroy us, has a basement stacked with bodies. But, of course, that could just be my "eww, insects, gross; get 'em away from me" bias talking.)

So, yeah, this doc would prove a perfect way to fill that stress need. But I'd be lying if I said that was the only reason I was interested. Despite everything I just said, I've always found ants strangely fascinating. I guess it's that whole hive-mind thing they got themselves goin' on there. It's kind of neato. An individual ant is the equivalent of single neuron in a human brain—pretty useless all by its lonesome. But get enough ants together and they develop the kind of collective intelligence capable of constructing the kind of underground colonies that would make a team of engineers envious. So yeah, that shit is cool.

But what of the actual doc? Eh, it's ok I guess. I'm not sure how the narration style was decided on, but it would seem that director Michael Watchulonis, after visiting Disney's Hall of Presidents, thought, "I really like what they got going on here, I just wish it wasn't so lifelike." Aside from that: run-of-the-mill nature doc stuff. If you like being creeped out, if you find ants fascinating, check it out.

Dave's Rating:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Doc Visits Universal

And rounding up Back to the Future week is the awesomest bit of awesome. Here's a promo for Universal Florida featuring Doc.

Friday, October 19, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 79 - Ben Affleck Is Awesome


Roger and I discuss many topics on today's podcast, but if you take away one thing, know that we think Ben Affleck is awesome. You can listen to the episode here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Siskel and Ebert on Back to the Future

Ok, apparently it's Back to the Future week here at the ol' KL5-FILM. Why? With Back to the Future, you don't need a reason. Anyway, here's a clip of Siskel and Ebert discussing the movie. Spoiler Alert: they both loved it. Because you'd have to hate joy to not love this movie.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 78 - Heathers

dir. Michael Lehmann


My friend Heidi Holmstrom and I discuss Heathers, the awesomely dark satire of high school life. We also compare it to Rock 'n' Roll High School. You can listen to the episode here.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Back to the Future (1985)

dir. Robert Zemeckis


"The Power of Love" - Huey Lewis and the News

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trailer Time (VHS Edition): Back to the Future (1985)

dir. Robert Zemeckis


I love youtube. It's got everything. And although, yeah, I love that it contains the trailers to pretty much every goddamn movie ever made, I mostly love that it also contains many lesser revered cheesy-as-fuck vhs trailers from the 80s and 90s. Sure, the below embedded vhs spot for Back to the Future probably aint the best example of vhs cheese, but it does contain a gloriously awful, intrusive narrator. Enjoy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 77 - Blood Games

dir. Tanya Rosenberg


Roger and I decided to celebrate the baseball playoffs the only way we know how: with a podcast episode on Blood Games. What happens when a baseball game between rednecks and buxom bombshells goes wrong? Listen to today's episode to find out. You can listen to the episode here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nicholson Cuckoo Oscar

I post this Oscar clip not necessarily for Nicholson's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest acceptance speech, though it is pretty charming; but for the noticeable absence of Pacino. This was the year after all, the man was nominated for Dog Day Afternoon. Generally, when other nominees fail to show up to the Oscars it is because someone else is already a shoo-in, and it seems that Nicholson was the general favorite to win that year. Now, not to take anything away from Nicholson's masterful performance in Cuckoo's Nest, but Pacino's turn in Dog Day was arguably the best performance of his career. It is astounding to me that it could have been taken as such a given that Pacino wouldn't even stand a chance. Perhaps it was because Nicholson's performance was the kind of show-boating exhibition generally favored by the Oscars. Who knows?

Then again, maybe Pacino was just busy that night.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pootie Tang (2001)

dir. Louis CK


I used to have strict comedy rules: not only were there certain things I did and did not find funny, I was adamant (to myself mostly; I didn’t have friends as a young’un) that certain things were inherently funny and others completely devoid of comedic potential. Invariably, most of these rules—because, in addition to being friendless, I was a pretentious goddamn teen—rested on the level of the intended humor’s sophistication, wit, what-have-you. I looked down on scatological humor, on silly humor, on dumb humor; this shit was too lowest common denominator for my tastes (man, my younger self is so punchable). Even when presented with examples of funny low-brow humor I would contort my face beyond recognition, trying to hold back the laughter. No, that’s not funny; it can’t be because it violates one of my comedy rules.

Who knows why I was such a comedy prick? Maybe I was just over-compensating for my lower class background. I couldn’t find low-brow humor funny because I had to rise above my social station. Who knows what kind of over-compensation for an inferiority complex caused this? It just was what it was.

As I aged, however, those imaginary rules got thrown out the goddamn window. I realized, who gives a shit? If something makes me laugh, it makes me laugh. Who knows why? Who cares why? No need trying to justify it. It just hit the giggle center in my brain: that’s all that matters—no need to try to understand it, either. So, I’m always slightly reluctant to review comedies here. Dissecting funny seems rather pointless. In examining and trying to intellectualize what I find funny and why it makes me laugh, don’t I risk turning it not funny? (Jesus, this might be one of my douchiest intros ever.)

Possibly. But let’s do it, anyway.

With Louis CK’s Pootie Tang, a movie my younger self would have found far too dumb to enjoy, I think I might be setting myself up for failure. There’s no real way to write about this movie and still produce an entertaining review. Not that I don’t like the movie. Far from it—CK’s debut feature is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen; and not in spite of its dumb humor but because of it. And make no mistake about it, Pootie Tang is dumb—purposefully, proudly dumb, dumb in a way only a comedic genius could concoct. Of course, it should be noted that though comedic genius Louis CK may be billed as the creative driving force of this movie, he was unceremoniously let go during post-production, studio hacks finishing the editing of the picture.

(Incidentally, I’d love to see a director’s cut of this picture. Pootie Tang as CK originally intended is no doubt an inspired masterpiece, and not just a damn funny picture. Also, most of the following backstory on the film is merely speculation from me based on half-remembered things I think I once heard about the production of this film. So take everything with a grain of salt.)

Though the studio’s inability to get behind CK’s vision was no doubt frustrating for the young comedian, it was at least understandable. You see, one of Pootie Tang’s chief conceits is that its main character—a magic-belt wielding, cartoon amalgam of every glorious Blaxploitation cliché—speaks in a mutated, indecipherable slang that all those around him inexplicably understand (a dialogue technique, incidentally, Louis would revisit and use to great effect on his inspired show Louie). When CK presented the film to the studio, they felt a voice-over was necessary to explain to the audience the hows and whys of this. You can’t just have a character speak gibberish and not explain why everyone can understand him. Also, how will audiences know what Pootie is saying if it’s indecipherable?

But, of course, that’s one of the genius points of this movie: you don’t really need to know his exact words, because these clichéd situations are so familiar, the context clues of others’ responses so informative, and general chit-chat so predictable and empty of meaning that you can get the idea of the non-things people are saying even when you can’t hear what they’re not saying (huh?).

So, since Louis was required to dumb down the movie for the masses he went overboard. He employed voice-over to not only explain the dialogue, but everything else. And by everything else, I mean everything else. When a character is introduced, the voiceover explains who the hell that bitch is; when that character reappears in the next scene, the voiceover explains that it’s the character we were just introduced to in the previous scene; when characters laugh, the voiceover explains that the characters found the situation funny. In one scene, the voiceover even repeats every line of dialogue the characters are saying, just in case we didn’t hear it the first time. Grating at first, this purposefully obtrusive, over-explanatory narration becomes funny through repetition. It is almost an experiment in audience abuse, wherein we eventually have no choice but to relent to its will.

Such is the movie as a whole. I really couldn’t explain to you why the image of a lithe, pimped-out urban superhero using his belt to beat evil-doers into submission is funny, but it sure makes me happy.

Dave's Rating:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Urbanized (2011)

dir. Gary Hustwit


And now we have arrived at the third entry in Gary Hustwit’s design trilogy, a series of films designed to showcase the design behind all of the everyday things we take for granted: with Helvetica it was fonts (my apologies for not reviewing the excellent Helvetica) and Objectified, objects. With the previous entries Hustwit more than proved his chops as not only excellent documentarian but also stylist, a man with a keen eye for presenting the mundane in a novel way. It is with Urbanized, however, that Hustwit has really come into his own, has proven his ability to dissect important issues, to ask the important questions. And although many questions remain purposefully unanswered, Hustwit does offer several remedies many cities have already implemented in answering the problem posed by a booming population.

Urbanized, as you may have guessed, details the hidden design—sometimes good, sometimes bad—that goes into creating our public living spaces. As you’ll know from watching the previous two entries in Hustwit’s trilogy, damn near everything we encounter in our day-to-day life has been designed to within an inch of its life—and for good reason: this shit matters. So, though cities may seem naught but a cluster of people who all just happen to be living in the same place, without urban planning, without urban design everything would just be a huge clusterfuck consisting of smaller clusterfucks, which in turn are jerking off while watching other clusterfucks get clusterfucked. And just as with objects and fonts, just as much can be gleaned from what went wrong as from what went right, urban planning-wise.

Beginning on a dour note, Hustwit plunges us into Mumbai, India, a city with no plan—nor even a desire for a plan—for how to deal with its booming population of slum dwellers. Arriving in the city with hopes of work, these folks have been unable to purchase affordable housing in the booming city, so they’ve resorted to building a shanty town on the city’s edges. And it keeps expanding. But Instead of figuring out a way to handle this influx of people, the city planners have ignored it, hoping it would go away. Which has only made matters worse.

Hustwit contrasts this with Santiago, Chile, a city with a novel approach to clearing shanty-towns. Although the city does not have the budget to build finished, fully-furnished homes for all these people, it does have just enough money to build structures that include either a bathtub or a water heater, which the residents can choose between (previously the people had been living in shacks with no access to plumbing or electricity). Overtime, as the residents save money, they can purchase new amenities and complete their homes. Living conditions have dramatically improved because of this policy.

I could go into all of the details of all the cities—good and bad—presented, but you get the idea: examples of bad (or no) urban design are presented only to be contrasted with planning done right, and vice-versa. In examining the past and the present, Hustwit keeps the focus continually on the future. How do we house everyone, how do we make cities livable for people—not just places where cars sit in traffic—and how do we do it in the least environmentally impactful way possible? Depressing at times, Hustwit’s film can leave one feeling hopeless, but there are enough examples of design done right to spread just enough happy jam on this sadness sandwich.

Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: You Light Up My Life (1977)

dir. Joseph Brooks


"You Light Up My Life" - Kacey Cisyk

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 75 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

dir. Michel Gondry.


My friend Audrey and I discuss our love of dogs. Also, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Objectified (2009)

dir. Gary Hustwit


Our brains are hardwired to seek novelty. This is how we learn. When the same information, the same scenarios, the same routines bombard us, we become numb to it all. We don’t fully process it. It is only when something new presents itself to us that our synapses fire, that we become aware, that we take notice. It is in these instances that we really learn, that we really process the information. And not only does this process cause us to learn, not only does it shake us from our mental rut, it makes us happy—thus priming us to repeat the cycle: we continue to seek novelty because it causes us to learn, which makes us happy.

So, our caveman ancestors, because their brains were hard-wired for this shit, sought novelty, became addicted to learning, advancing the culture. Hence, the entirety of human civilization and all its attendant advances designed to better the condition of the species: indoor plumbing, the printing press, electricity, the space program, the ShamWow. (OK, before anyone jumps down my throat about inaccuracies, I ain’t a scientician; I ain’t fully up to speed on the how-fors and why-fors—or even the what-fors—of this shit. I’m just regurgitating and interpreting some shit from a couple of online science articles (linked to above) I skimmed a week or so ago. What I’m saying is, I ain’t a trustworthy source on scientific information. In fact, never believe anything I say, ever.)

Cut to today: Designers prey on our need for novelty by designing new versions of the same useless objects we already own but don’t need because they know we will buy these new versions, thus triggering our happy-making novelty-seeking synapses.

Oh my God, it’s the new iphone. I don’t have it yet but I had the previous one but this one’s slightly different. I want it; it’s new; it’ll make me happy. I’m going to camp outside for the night so that I can be the first in line to buy it because this will be the one thing that makes my life complete and it will make my life complete before it does the same thing for anyone else because I’m gonna get it before anyone else, so I need to get in before anyone else. And oh my God, the doors are opening; I’m rushing in to get it. There’s only a few left and someone tried to take the last one but now this last one is mine because...I don’t know what happened. I blacked out, and the guy who thought the last one was his became the person who no longer had the last one because now he’s lying in a pool of his own blood and my crimson-stained hand is now holding the last one. My life is complete. I can’t wait to pay for this and take it home, and now I just paid for it and now I’m outside and I’m testing it out, and it’s slightly different; it’s novel; I’m happy. But now I own it. Now it’s not new. Now I’m depressed again. When is the new iphone coming out?

Repeat ad infinitum. Eventually we die. (Of course, without people buying new versions of the useless shit they already own, there’d be no economy. So there is that.)

So that’s what Objectified is about. Of course, it comes from a pro-design perspective; but still—this movie’s a good-un.

Dave's Rating:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Reason to Watch Con Air

Dave Chappelle.

Actually, truth be told, I do quite enjoy most of Con Air, but Chappelle's performance is what draws me back.

Friday, October 5, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 74 - Apples (also, Face/Off)

dir. John Woo


On today's bonus episode Roger and I discuss apples (also, Face/Off). You can listen to the episode here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Face/Off (1997)

dir. John Woo


Did John Woo suffer severe head trauma sometime in the mid-nineties? I really wanna know. Last week in my review of Hard Target I struggled to place the action director’s American debut within his earlier oeuvre. After watching Broken Arrow and now Face/Off, I’m convinced Hard Target is a masterpiece on par with Woo’s Hong Kong pictures. What went wrong?

Well...fuck it, I’ll just bullet point some shit:

  • Just the whole plot: Nicholas Cage = bad guy; John Travolta = good guy; faces get switched; shenanigans ensue. So why do they switch faces? Nicholas Cage and his brother previously planted a bomb somewhere in the city. Brother gets arrested; Cage becomes comatose after a shootout with G-Man Travolta. The Feds need to find out from Cage’s brother where the bomb is planted. Logically, they decide to put Cage’s face on Travolta’s head and then plant him in the prison with Cage’s brother so that Cage-faced Travolta can glean information from said brother. Because it makes so much sense.

["Hey, brother, I sure enjoyed planting that bomb we planted. Say, where’d we plant that bomb again?"]

  • So why does Cage then get Travolta’s face, you ask. After the face-transplant, the Feds decide, "Why do we need to continue surveillance on comatose Cage? What with all that money we spent perfecting and implementing face-transplanting technology, we can’t afford to keep a security camera in Cage’s hospital room. I’m sure he’ll never wake up, use one of the phones we left in his room...what? Why wouldn't we leave a phone in his room? It just makes sense. Besides, it’s not like he’ll wake up, use that phone to call one of his accomplices, who will then kidnap a face-transplanting doctor and force him to put Travolta’s face on his body. But yeah, security cameras are expensive."

["Yeah, there’s no one here. They left me a phone and everything. Am I on candid camera or something?"]

  • Back to Cage-faced Travolta. The Feds decide not to tell any of the authorities in the prison that Cage is actually just Cage-faced Travolta and not in fact Cage. Because, you know, it’s not like prison guards, when given the opportunity to watch over a known terrorist responsible for untold deaths, are going to beat the man to pulp, leaving him in traction or possibly a coma—thereby preventing Cage-faced Travolta from talking to Cage’s brother.

[Yeah, they would have went to town seconds later.]

  • And back to the face-transplanting. Cage and Travolta do not have anything remotely resembling similar body types. I can buy the face-transplanting; I will never believe it’s possible—in one night, no less—to transform Travolta’s body into Cage's, or vice-versa.

[No comment necessary.]

  • Cage-faced Travolta, after a prison escape and other shenanigans, makes it home to his wife, whom he must convince that he is actually Travolta—which he does by showing affection the way only Travolta does: by mimicking the hand gesture of a doctor closing the eyes of a recently deceased cardiac case.

["I’m calling it: the patient expired at 9:34 pm."]

  • And now the most ludicrous plot element. At the very end, after Cage-faced Travolta has killed Travolta-faced Cage, the doctors give Travolta his old face back. But why then did Travolta also opt to get his paunchy body back? Or was this just a cruel prank by the physicians?

["You are not to step into this house until you give me a legitimate reason for not keeping the six-pack."]

And now, a few words on what went right. First of all, the performances: this movie is, after all, if nothing else, a showcase for some great Nicholas Cage and John Travolta showboating. Now I’m generally not a fan of Travolta’s acting but the man turns in a serviceable imitation of Nicholas Cage here. The pre-face transplant Travolta scenes are something of a chore, but when he is allowed to go Cage, the results are adequate.

It is Cage, however, who really shines. As you'll know if you've listened to more than a few episodes of my podcast or if you regularly follow my blog, I love batshit Cage—which Face/Off features to the nth degree. In the pre-face transplant scenes, the man goes full Cage, relishing every crazy minute he is allowed to give in to his crazy side. And in the post-face transplant scenes he believably plays a buttoned-down man pretending to be crazy.

And also, I’ll be honest, I’d be lying if I said Face/Off wasn’t at least entertaining. I was skeptical at first when I saw that the running time pushed the 2 1/2 hour mark, but the movie was a generally enjoyable ride the whole way through (not that this changes my opinion that face-transplanting action movies should never be longer than ninety minutes). But still, I didn't see a lot of Woo here. Aside from a few stylistic flourishes—slo-mo, sideways-falling double-gun shootouts, and doves (what is it with the doves, anyway?)—Face/Off very well could have been, dare I say it, a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

And I don’t even necessarily dislike nineties Bruckheimer films. The Rock and Con Air are tons of fun. But I don’t enjoy these movies the same way I enjoy Hard Target—and certainly not the same way I enjoy Hard Boiled or The Killer. Meaning, Face/Off is an interchangeable piece of nineties action trash. It was an enjoyable way to pass the time but it didn't leave me with anything but an ass-dent in my chair.

Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Deep Cover (1992)

dir. Bill Duke


"Deep Cover" - Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 73 - The FP

dir. Brandon Trost


Roger and I discuss The FP, a vision of the future in which gang battles are settled by Dance Dance Revolution. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blind Spot Series: Grey Gardens (1975)

dir. Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer


[This post is part of my Blind Spot Series, in which I watch, for the first time, famous movies I should have seen long ago. And seeing as the movies in this series are generally well known and regarded, I don't necessarily discuss their plots or thoroughly critique them. These movies have already been analyzed to death; so anything I could bring to the table would be superfluous at best. What follows is merely my reaction to watching Grey Gardens for the first time.]

As I'm sure I've mentioned numerous times before, I grew up dirt poor. And no, this wasn’t that phony “money’s a little tight right now, so you’ll have to go to canoe camp instead of yacht camp” poor; I’m talking public housing, food stamp poor. And although I'm no longer shit poor—though I'm still just scraping by, for the most part—I still feel poor. Indeed, I’ve a feeling, even were I to get rich (not gonna happen) I’d always have a poor mentality; I’d always have poor rage. Meaning, I’ll probably always be a bit none-too-fond of richers.

So, understandably, I don’t generally seek out entertainments based on richers; but if said entertainments feature said richers getting comeuppances, well, it’s usually a surefire guaranteed way of putting a smile on my face. Which is what I was expecting with Grey Gardens. Having a vague understanding of the Maysles film (formerly wealthy mother-daughter codependents languish in their decaying mansion), part of me was hoping to experience the slightest bit of schadenfreude when watching this documentary.

Boy was I wrong. Not only did I find the Beales’ story compelling, not I only did I sympathize with their situation, I felt gross for watching the movie. You see, I just couldn't shake the feeling that the Maysles were exploiting these women for use as a human freak show. Which, as I said, I initially wanted; but this movie made me do some soul-searching, made me rethink my expectations—but not in a good way.

Now I can’t get into the heads of the Maysles or the Beales—nor would I pretend to—but one has to wonder why the acclaimed documentary filmmakers chose the Beales as their focus. Did they really hope to document a subject in dire need of explication, or did they think, “step right up, folks, witness the horror that time and deteriorating mental states have wrought.” As to the Beales, a very valid point can be made that they agreed to participate in the film, so any accusations of exploitation are therefore null and void. But mentally this duo is not all there (which, of course, is part of the appeal of this movie). Why did they choose to participate in the film? Maybe they just wanted attention. Maybe they just wanted someone to talk to.

Of course, I guess you could say that what I do on the blog/podcast is no different than the Beales agreeing to have their lives exposed. As you well know if you regularly follow my shit, I’m an extreme emotional exhibitionist. I have no problem revealing the sort of personal stories most people would rather keep hidden. Is what I do necessary or compelling? No; but I continue to put myself out there. I really don’t know why I do it, to be honest. Maybe I just like attention. The difference is that I have control over the way my story is exposed; it’s not up to the whims of another artist (fuck it, I’ll call myself an artist). What I’m saying is I’m exploiting myself, so I don’t know if it should count.

Of course, one can argue that most documentaries are exploitative to an extent. Sure, a sympathetic filmmaker may follow the wishes of his subjects and only film what has been agreed to, but the very act of editing a film takes control away from the subject. Even the most faithful representation of the subject matter will, in the end, be guided by the voice of the filmmaker. Meaning, the subject no longer has agency over the way her story is told. She is merely a player in someone else’s constructed narrative.

But to return to one of my initial points, Grey Gardens left me with a big question: What is the purpose of this film? What does Grey Gardens offer other than a front row seat to decay? Is this really necessary? What does Grey Gardens offer, after all, that couldn’t be supplied by any number of reality shows. I really don't know what the difference is between Grey Gardens and shows such as Hoarders or Honey Boo Boo. (Granted I've never seen either of those shows so I could be way off base here.) I really can’t understand why Grey Gardens is considered art and reality shows are accorded “harbingers of the downfall of civilization” status.

And here is my real issue: the acclaim afforded Grey Gardens. Look, we humans can be a perverse lot; we’re all rubberneckers to an extent. Though many wouldn’t admit it, we all have varying levels of fascination with the things respectable society dictates should be kept hidden. That’s why the most depraved news stories get the most attention. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to traffic in the freak show element of human nature—whether as exploiter or spectator—at least own it. We’re all in the gutter; just admit it.

Dave's Rating: I have no idea how to rate this movie.