31 December 2007

Post 65

C'est tres fade....

I just saw the second National Treasure movie, and I was very--unimpressed. The villain had no clear motive and suffered a very unconvincing change of heart; the protagonists' recklessness brought no consequences; the humor was low-brow; the overall effect overstepped the line between Unrealistic and Unbelievable.

And now for the rebuttal:

The special effects were pretty good, and the one shot when you see Ben in the reflection of the SUV's glass was pretty good, too.

Hm. Fantastic....

The movie was, I suppose, "fun"--just what every stupid American movie-goer wants.

29 December 2007

Post 64

Well, if I've been on a serial killer kick the past couple days, I'm now on a Teddy Roosevelt Wannabes kick because I just watched Night at the Museum.

It's an okay movie; all-star casts are always fun, and I especially like seeing the likes of Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney. The acting's decent (I don't, as a general rule, like Ben Stiller, but he's actually pretty watchable in this flick); the story's intriguing enough; some of the camera work was admirable, and the special effects were dead-on, but I wasn't satisfied with the ending--what happens to the three old guards? I mean, seriously, do they go to prison, or did he let them go, or did they somehow turn to dust? Where'd they go?

All in all, an alright feel-good sort of movie, but not much for literary quality.

28 December 2007

Post 63

I just finished watching Arsenic and Old Lace. It appears, then, that I am on a serial killer kick--well, perhaps two serial killer movies in two days doesn't really constitute a kick, but it still seems rather morbid.

I really like Cary Grant, and I really like Frank Capra. I just like old movies in general, really; black and white is where it's at. This isn't my favorite old movie, but I do like it a lot--certainly more than the one I watched yesterday.

As far as witty dialog goes, this movie doesn't nearly match Casablanca or even Charade, but it's still far superior to most modern movies. I really appreciated the "There's No Place Like Home" theme sneaking in a creepy sort of minor key into the musical score when Jonathon and Dr. Einstein showed up and were telling the old ladies they were going to stay. I also liked how Dr. Einstein was talking to Johnny's shadow in the basement as they talked about killing Mortimer.

On the whole, a fine flick; I'd especially recommend it for Halloween parties (the whole story occurs on "a Hallowe'en night" anyway).

27 December 2007

Post 62

Mea culpa....

So, I just got back from seeing Sweeney Todd. This raises a very important moral question--one that has nothing to do with murder or revenge or lying or anger or--or anything remotely related to the movie itself, actually. Sweeney Todd is rated R; I am a Mormon. Good Mormons don't watch R-rated movies; Sweeney Todd is my first.

It was an innocent mistake, really; my ignorance is to blame. It's a stupid story, really, so I shan't relate any details, but basically I thought the title was Swinging Todd and had no idea that it had nothing to do with WWII-era music and dance until I saw the movie poster at the theater.

Yes, I'm a moron. And you read my blog, so maybe you are, too.

Anyway, this post really isn't a movie review, but it also isn't the sort of writing in which the author babbles about his guilt and pleads for the readers' forgiveness; my intent here is to explore the rigidity of morality and the implications thereof.

While I was on my mission, I came up with a catchphrase that became a sort of--eh--the appellation of "battle cry" is entirely too enthusiastic; perhaps "mission statement" would be better--either way, I decided that I wanted to become the sort of person that could honestly be described this way, and I still do; I want people to say of me, "He's straight-laced but not high-strung."

A noble balance to seek, don't you think--being straight-laced without being high-strung--or maybe upright without being uptight? I mean, when I think of my theological role models--heck, when I think of pure Christianity--I just can't get into the Puritanical point of view that advocates such over-the-top piety that rules out all fun.

That said, a quick punch for my relative conservatism: I am appalled by those my age who think that life is all about fun and that fun=happiness, so don't think that that's the direction I'm headed in.

Strictness of morals has been a recurring theme in my ponderings throughout the year 2007, but I've yet to reach a solid conclusion about anything. Lately, I've simply done my best to keep all the commandments that I know and then followed every whim that pops into my head, hoping that my righteous living keeps me close enough to God and far enough from Satan that the former will prevail over the latter in domineering said whims. But that isn't a very stable philosophy to live on; I mean, don't you have to nail down and quantify and qualify morality at some point if you hope to be even remotely consistent? The poet in me says that morals cannot be pigeonholed so neatly, yet my internal philosopher (unschooled, though he may be) cries out that they must be and that the life I'm living dangerously resembles the ever-popular "Do what feels right" sentiment--the Lord of Misrule that has led many like me into riotous living.

Okay. I'm rambling. Let's refocus a bit; come on, little Schmetterling; stay the course, young man!

Music is the main reason that I have scrutinized my morals this year. Since I've returned from my mission (January '07), my musical preferences have gotten progressively harder; whereas in high school, Billy Joel's "Pressure" was too intense for my palette, I now regularly listen to Ozzy and Aerosmith--I even enjoy things like "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger and occasional Metallica songs. Granted, I'm no hard rocker, and the moral dilemma presented by my choice of music really has nothing to do with how hard a song is; the real question here has to do with profanity and vulgarity (I'll draw a distinction shortly) because a lot of these artists employ them.

Here I wish to make a couple of nearly-arbitrary definitions for two closely related words: profanity and vulgarity. For the sake of this discussion, profanity is cussing, and vulgarity is shady content. So Bon Jovi's "Keep the Faith" is profane without being vulgar; Aerosmith's "Rag Doll" is vulgar without being profane. Good enough? Hope so....

So let me say here that I really have no problem with profanity. Maybe that makes me a bad Mormon, but that's how it stands. I myself am not one to cuss, but I think that even a "bad word" can sometimes be the right word. Jon Bon Jovi taught me this; "Keep the Faith" and "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" are two very powerful, beautiful songs, I think, and I feel that the profanity in them are more than just fitting but actually beautiful in their own right.

Now, granted, profanity is rarely beautiful; it is, in fact, repulsive most times, and I choose not to cuss because I feel my vocabulary is strong enough to allow me to express myself in other ways. Just watch, oh, say, The Freedom Writer--a movie I like a lot and actually own--and you'll see that someone can cuss a lot without being very good at it. Profanity, to me, is like a bitter herb or a nasty pigment: it ought to be used but sparingly and only when nothing else will do. This is not to say that Freedom Writers would be better without the cussing--it would probably come out sounding sanitized and unconvincing--I'm just saying that in music especially (and perhaps poetry also, though I have no convincing examples there), sometimes bad words are good words.

Vulgarity is much different, and this is where things get rather problematic for me and my morals. On the whole, I am opposed to vulgarity. I don't like things that are dirty, crass, suggestive, raucous--I don't like vulgar things! This is not to say I've never laughed at a dirty joke, but I kinda wish that I could say I haven't. I really--I just--I don't like it, and maybe I'm only mollycoddling myself, but I kinda wish it'd go away!

That said, it isn't as true as I wish it were (honestly, I was only looking to use the word "mollycoddle" or one of its derivatives), but it's pretty close to the truth; I really don't like vulgarity, but I do see its place in art as well as reality. Opposition in all things, right? And in the sanitized life I live, I sometimes thirst for color, for worldly things--not to be worldly, but to--to--to be in the world--yaknow--without being of the world.

Since I'm probably not done referencing it, I'm just gonna put the lyrics to Bon Jovi's "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" here in their entirety, and then I'll kinda pick 'em apart so you can see what I mean (I'll number the verses for referencing):

Hey, man I'm alive; I'm takin' each day and night at a time.
I'm feelin' like a Monday, but someday Ill be Saturday night.

(1)Hey, my name is Jim; where did I go wrong?
My life's a bargain basement; all the good shit's gone.
I just can't hold a job; where do I belong?
I'm sleeping in my car; my dreams move on.

(2)My name is Billy-Jean; my love is bought and sold.
I'm only sixteen; I feel a hundred years old.
My foster daddy went, took my innocence away;
The street life ain't much better, but at least I'm gettin' paid!

And Tuesday just might go my way;
It cant get worse than yesterday.
Thursdays, Fridays ain't been kind,
But somehow I'll survive.

Hey man I'm alive; I'm takin' each day and night at a time.
Yeah, I'm down, but I know Ill get by.
Hey hey hey hey, man gotta live my life
Like I ain't got nothin' but this roll of the dice;
I'm feelin' like a Monday, but someday I'll be Saturday night.

(3)Now I can't say my name or tell you where I am;
I want to blow myself away--don't know if I can.
I wish that I could be in some other time and place
With someone else's soul, someone else's face!

Oh, Tuesday just might go my way;
It cant get worse than yesterday.
Thursdays, Fridays ain't been kind,
But somehow Ill survive.

Hey, man I'm alive; I'm takin' each day and night at a time.
Yeah, I'm down, but I know I'll get by.
Hey hey hey hey, man gotta live my life!
I'm gonna pick up all the pieces and what's left of my pride.
I'm feelin' like a Monday, but someday I'll be Saturday night.

Okay, so that isn't their entirety (there's some repetition-to-fade-out kind of stuff at the end that I chopped off), but that's the bulk of it--unedited.

Kay. So. Let's look at this a bit, yeah? Check out that first verse. OHMYPOORVIRGINEARS, he said the S word! Yes. He did. It's vernacular; you got a better suggestion? You really think a kid my age in that circumstance is gonna say something more sanitary than that? Get real! So there is a meager defense of profanity, but that's not really why I included these lyrics.

Check out verses 2 and 3; 2 talks about prostitution and abuse, and the speaker in 3 is suicidal. But here is the important part: it doesn't advocate these things. Orson Scott Card wrote an essay (maybe several, I dunno) about the place of evil in fiction; he said the important part is to portray evil without justifying it, and I feel that this song is a moving example of that. It'd probably be better if you heard it rather than read it, but I hope you can get the idea. Verse 2 tears me apart whenever I hear it; it's so incredibly sad and says so much about the pain of abuse and the sorrow of regret. 3 to me is the most powerful of all, though; I imagine many parents (mine included, perhaps) would be offended by a song that says "I want to blow myself away," but people like that are taking things out of context because here we have some poor youth saying he's tired of life and just wants to kill himself but then give that stirring refrain of hope: maybe tomorrow will be better, so I gotta hold on the best I can. To me, the contrast of feeble hope in the midst of such terrible times is powerful enough to justify the use of profanity and even vulgarity.

That said, I'm still steadfastly against things that advocate vulgarity. For example, Aerosmith's "Rag Doll" is just about the catchiest song I've ever heard, but it's--uh--not really the sort of song that I could recommend to you.

So those are my morals; I think they're pretty good, but I still struggle with them. See, I'm aware of my failings; I know I'm not invulnerable. Earlier this year--back in the spring sometime--I went on a road trip to visit a sister in Flagstaff. Before going, I checked out a bunch of CDs from the library to keep me company while I drove. One was "Devil's Got a New Disguise: The Very Best of Aerosmith." It is because of that CD that I know that I like a lot of Aerosmith's songs; they are a very talented group, and I enjoy their music. I was listening to that CD as I pulled into Flagstaff and had some of those songs ("Rag Doll" included) stuck in my head that whole weekend.

One night while I was there, I had a dream. I don't remember anything about the dream except that it disturbed me when I awoke because someone had cussed in it. I'm okay with cussing being around me, but I don't cherish the thought of it getting inside. As long as I can remember, I've been fed cute little metaphors like "You can't roll in the mud and not get dirty," but I never really thought that such things applied to me because I'm not one to dabble in dirtiness; I just tolerate it.

Now, this isn't to say that I'm afraid that one day I'll wake up and *POOF* I'll be a pottymouth, but I can't help but wonder what the implications are of having dreams I don't approve of.

Anyway, that's the pondering I've been doing this year, and it's raised questions like the following:

  • How much badness ought I tolerate?
  • Does supporting culturally unsanitized art make me an unsanitary person?
  • Even though portraying and advocating evil are two very different things, they are sometimes hard to differentiate between; is the line, then, too dangerous to safely play around?
Hmmm.... Perhaps those questions make me sound a tad more namby-pamby than I'm feeling, but hopefully they make sense in the context of this blog....

So. Sweeney Todd. What is my opinion of The Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Honestly, it's a quality flick. Cinematography, writing, acting, singing--all very fine. The music was amazing. But I would never ever ever ever EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER recommend it to anyone because it is an incredibly demented story.

That said, I've kinda been hungry for catharsis lately; I've been looking for a good tragedy for a few days now. Just last night, I got to thinking about what I said about Cast Away, and I wondered whether I could find an irony more painful than that. And I did. Sweeney Todd has the most painful irony imaginable: a man seeking to avenge his dead wife ends up killing her (I figure that, since I'm not recommending this movie, I may as well ruin the ending for my readers). That's right--turns out she isn't dead at all, and he kills her (not knowing it's her, of course; he finds that out afterward, and then he himself gets killed).


Or something like that....

25 December 2007

Post 61

Hey, merry Christmas everyone! Quick yuletide thought for you presented in less eloquent terms than it probably deserves:

Despite its pagan roots, to me Christmas is about the most beautifully Christian thing I can think of; really, it's an amazing metaphor. Think about it: Christmas started out as this celebration of the winter solstice but has been transformed into a celebration of the birth of our Savior--the holiday is a convert of sorts. Its trees (which originally had something to do with cultist fertility rites, I'd imagine) and candles and gifts and strange traditions glorifying unsavory things have been totally converted to the ways of Christianity, and each element has had Christian symbolism thrust upon it insomuch that its past of wickedness has been totally forgotten--just like when we repent.

Sure, our Witness friends shout out against holidays started by "ancient, false religions"--a very valid concern, in my mind--but I think that we've all come from "ancient, false" traditions in our own way and are all working toward the truth, and if Christmas can so thoroughly make such a dramatic change, why not us?

24 December 2007

Post 60

Okay. Not bad.

I watched The Italian Job a couple days ago. I think that since people stopped bugging me to see National Treasure, The Italian Job has been topping the "Dang Kyle, You Need To See That Movie" movie list.

I was pretty impressed with it. I actually have to wonder whether the people who wrote the newest Die Hard flick were inspired by The Italian Job in certain aspect--ya know, the whole taking over the traffic lights and posting messages in control centers bit. The Italian Job was far less--uh--over-the-top, though; I liked it a lot more than I liked Live Free or Die Hard.

I really enjoyed this movie. It may have actually overtaken The Bourne Identity as Most Tolerable Action Flick for me--'course, The Bourne Identity's tolerability has been greatly tarnished by two pretty terrible sequels (kinda the same way that I don't really like Pirates of the Caribbean anymore). The Italian Job is fun, clever, engaging, exciting--really, it's everything an action flick oughta be. I'll recommend it to ya.

19 December 2007

Post 59

Good news: a movie review that breaks from that 4-point-check rut I've been stuck in!

I just watched Cast Away. I've seen it a couple of times before, but it's been a while. It was on TV, so it was interrupted by an excessive number of commercial breaks, but I still enjoyed it.

So. Let's write a review!

I really like this movie--mostly because it does so many things that go against mainstream Hollywood. That said, I don't think rebellion alone merits appellations of greatness, and Cast Away is far from great, but I still like it okay.

In my mind, Cast Away is not a movie about a man stranded on an island for four years; yes, that's part of the movie, but I don't think it would be fair to say that that's the main conflict. To me, the thing that makes this movie beautiful--and I do think it's a beautiful movie--all of the beauty in the movie happens after Chuck returns from his island.

But let's back up a bit and take the movie chronologically, shall we? We'll divide it into chapters: Pre-island, Island, and Post-island.

The set-up is great, but there were times I felt like I was watching the bad execution of a fine screenplay--most noticeably on the plane flight from Russia when the one lady asks that guy about his terminally ill wife; the acting was just--not good. I thought the Chuck-Kelly thing worked well, though, and that was the most important part. Just as an unimportant sidenote, I really appreciated that when they kissed in the copy room, they simply kissed for a long time as opposed to attempting to devour one another. Also, I can appreciate the outside-of-the-box thinking that produced such things as package-POV camera angles, but I don't think the idea was really all that great.

Several things make this movie very unique, and most of them are seen on the island. First, after the plane wreck, as he's drifting on his raft, there are long periods of time with naught but sound. That's a stylistic risk that I'm pretty sure turned off a lot of mainstream Americans. Then, on the island, there are many scenes with very little sound. I was struck by how little background music there was during the island scenes--there may not have been any at all, though I'm not sure. Looking back, it seems to me that there wasn't any music on the island at all, though there was some immediately afterward as he was sailing away. Fascinating idea; I'll have to pay better attention next time.
Overall, I think that this portion of the movie was well done. I think it develops well, that the four-year gap is well placed, and that the whole thing just works really well.

This is, as I said, the chapter that makes the movie. To me, the island and everything else is just back story to the drama that surrounds his homecoming. I. Love. The way the Chuck-Kelly thing plays out; I can imagine nothing more poignant and beautiful. It really doesn't matter where he was--he could've been a MIA POW or sold into slavery or abducted by aliens, it doesn't matter; it's the painful inability of two lovers to come together that get the catharsis train tearing up the track, and I love that train! I really can't say enough for the final chapter of this movie; I love everything about it. I think that it's brilliant, and I'm very sad that so many people probably can't get passed the just-another-shipwrecked-movie line of thinking. Taking that line of thought, I have a fairly low opinion of this movie, but by transcending that point of view and looking at the heart of this film to see it for what it is--a film exploring the pains of disappointed love--I find a movie that truly is beautiful.

18 December 2007

Post 58

Just so you know....

cash advance

That is all.

17 December 2007

Post 57

So, I saw Casablanca this past weekend and--gads!--I hate to keep using the same grading system for movies because I'm not sure these are the most important elements of cinema, but it just seems to be working so well for me that I--well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, dontchya know.

Anyway, this was my first time seeing Casablanca, which, given my stance on old movies, makes me a terrible hypocrite. A couple of my good friends upon hearing that I'd never seen it said, "You? You've never seen that movie? Weird...." But I have repented, and I'm glad I did. It wasn't quite as powerful as I thought it'd be--really, the whole love triangle wasn't as painful to watch as I was hoping--but it is a quality movie. The DVD case says it's the best Hollywood film ever made, which I'm afraid I just can't agree with, but I do concur with my one roommate who at the end of the movie said, "Best ending to a movie EH-VER!" I really can't think of a movie with a better ending, and I can't imagine I'll find an denouement that I'll like more.

But on with the review:

1) Camera work. Frankly, I was totally unimpressed. It was good, but it just failed to wow me, which is okay, I guess--I mean, if you don't notice the camera work, it must be seamless, no? Good camera work is fairly invisible, just makes you feel like you're there watching what's happening. One thing I did notice, though, is that camera angles changed with less frequency than what we see in modern film. Watch anything that's made these days--commercials, TV shows, movies--anything, and count the seconds between shifts in camera angles. I am quite confident in guaranteeing that you'll never make it to 15, and if you make it to 10 more than once a scene, I'd be pretty impressed. In Casablanca, no such cinematographic ADHD exists; it was made for a generation with a longer attention span. I wasn't anal enough to count seconds, but the first time Sam plays "As Time Goes by," we get a shot of Ilsa's face that is ridiculously long by today's standards but that is perfectly reasonable for the moment being captured. On the whole, good enough, but the closest thing to artsy that I saw was when they got the name of someplace in shadows on the floor; that was pretty cool, I guess.

2) Dialog. FANTASTIC. This movie is a real winner for dialog. Especially from the police guy--every single thing that comes out of his mouth is beautiful; I was amazed. I've heard lots of witty dialog in my short life, but I think this movie may take the cake. Unfortunately, I think the writers were unsatisfied with witty dialog and also tried for catchy dialog; "Here's looking at you, kid" is by far the movie's most famous line, I'd say, but it's never said in such a way as to be--I dunno. It always just kinda feels thrown in, like the writers were saying "We'll put it here and here and here and here, and then people will quote it forever." They were right, of course, but I don't think Bogart ever delivered it very well. But that's beside the point, I suppose, because the point is that This Movie Has Excellent Dialog.

3) Unfolding. I still don't like the term "unfolding"; there's gotta be one better. In this review, as opposed to everything coming together and the mystery being revealed, by "unfolding" I mean character development, plot, timing--the works. I think Casablanca gets fairly high marks here. I can tell it was made in a different era, though, because our leading lady is vacillating and weak; I'm sure the entire western world (or at least the Feminists therein) cry out against that one line--"You'll have to think for the both of us," or whatever it is she says. On the whole, though, I think it's all pretty good, and, as I said, the ending is a-frickin'-mazing, so I can't really complain. I suppose the ending really decides how well the unfolding went, and Casablanca has the best ending EH-VER, so I can't complain about the development too much.

4) Music. I was happy that "As Time Goes by" worked its way into the underscore so much. Very effective, methinks.

So, there you have it. I really enjoyed this movie, but I'm not sure how much of a hurry I'm in to see it again because it's the ending that makes it so good--well, that and the dialog. I suppose I could survive the bulk of the movie because of the dialog, and then seeing the ending would make me happy that I did, so--yeah, I'll recommend it to you. Go out and rent it. Why not; it is a classic, after all.

15 December 2007

Post 56

Yea-yeah! Go me!

And all you other bloggers....

Check it ow-out: Apostle of the LORD saying blogs are good.


My admonition: get a blog if you don't have one.

That is all.

Post 55

Well, well, well; what have we here?

I like old movies--a lot. If it's directed by Capra or staring Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant or either Hepburn, chances are that I will love it and desire to own it. I have often been heard to say, "They just don't make movies like that anymore," and I honestly believed that.

But last night I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and I was quite impressed. I wouldn't go so far as saying that it matches Charade in quality, but it's definitely up there; down-to-earth good, clean funny like this is hard to find these days ('course, it came out in '88, but whatever).

Using the rubric I employed in reviewing Charade:

1) Camera work. Nothing terribly fancy, but when Lawrence is sending Janet off on the plane, I really appreciated the use of the reflection in the window. Brilliant; brilliant, I say!

2) Dialog. This movie is just plain funny. Like, holy cow, I laughed a great deal. And there are funny conversations not just one-liners. Good stuff.

3) Unfolding. Yes. Very good. That's all I'll say because--well, you'll just have to see it for yourself.

4) Music. Eh, I don't really know. It was good. I wasn't really paying attention. As I said, the only reason I picked up on Mancini's genius in Charade was that I'm familiar with the theme.

Anyway, I highly and unilaterally recommend this movie. I am proud to have it on my shelf.

Funny story: last night, I came home with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and one of my roommates came home with an acquisition of his own: Robots. I was intrigued because this particular roommate's movie collection is full of intellectually stimulating, thought-provoking kinds of films, and Robots just didn't really strike me as the type of movie that would foot that bill.

And I was right. We had a double feature--Dirty Rotten Scoundrels followed by Robots--and I was kinda--I dunno. Robots was fun, I guess, but it was just another one of those fluffy sort of feel-good cartoon flicks with some kind of contrived moral lesson. There were some pretty good gags in it, but that just gave me the impression that it was a very concept-driven movie (ie "Let's make a movie about robots so we can use this joke and this gag and this one-liner and this bit and this scene and this character and--yeah. Where's my storyboard?")

Final analysis: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels highly recommended, Robots not so much (though if you find yourself at a party where Robots is on the agenda, I don't mean to imply that you ought to leave early to avoid it; I'm just saying that it isn't the sort of movie that you'll want to go out of your way either to see or to avoid seeing).

13 December 2007

Post 54





Humph! NO!


Okay. So. I just watched Rocky, yeah? And I liked it. Right. Good, great, big deal, fine.


So I wikipedia'd Stallone just to see how he got his big break--writing and staring in your first big break is quite the break, sez me--and this is my blog, so DON'T ARGUE!

Anyway, I scrolled down and saw that he is currently directing (but not staring in) a production called Poe, which is about Edgar Allan. Well, I naturally was intrigued because I LOVE POE.

Well, I imdb'd it and learned that they cast frickin' VIGGO MORTENSEN as Poe! VIGGO MORTENSEN‽ As E A POE


Okay, so let's look at the pros--'tis only fair, I suppose. I suppose we can see some physical resemblence....

Okay, so it's workable; I'll give him that. But seriously--the man is holding a sword! I mean, Poe was crazy, but he certainly didn't go cavorting about with elves and hobbits! I mean--seriously, people!

Quick tangent: have you ever seen the movie The Majestic? There is a great irony in that movie in that The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the movies played at the majestic, yet Jim Carrey starred in the flick.

What? Don't you see the irony? Don't you know the story of The Day the Earth Stood Still?

Well, let me enlighten you! Harry Bates came up with this great story that he pitched to a movie company, and they bought into it. Somebody--producer? director? not all that important, really--just some bigwig moron got this bright idea to cast some well-known actor as the alien, and he got said actor to agree to it, so he called up Mr. Bates and said, "Hey, good news: I got [so-and-so] to be your alien. Whaddaya thinka dat?"

You know what Mr. Bates said? He said NO WAY! NO FRICKIN' WAY, MR. BOSSMAN! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING

You know why? I'll tell you why: Mr. Bates knew what he wanted from his movie. He wanted an alien to step off of that spaceship not some celebrity. He wanted the audience to say, "Hey look! It's an alien!" not "Hey look it's Whatshisface! I love that guy!" or "Ooo So-and-so! He's the bee's knees!" So they cast some unknown, and it was a smashing success; everyone loved it, and now the movie's a classic (in the sense that it's a great movie that no one--including me--has ever seen).

Lesson learned? Good.


That is all.

Post 53

Wow. I just--wow. I am--frankly, I'm completely flabbergasted.

Gee whiz. Whod thunk?

So. I just watched Rocky. Never seen it before tonight. As I was watching it, I was thinking, "Meh. It's nice and all--good ole underdog motif, and it's done well enough. I can tell why it's a classic--ril nice feel-good movie, ya know? Nothing special, though. Don't get me wrong; I like it okay, but it's nothing special--that's all I'm saying." And the night before the big fight, when he's talking to Adrienne, saying, "I just can't do it. I'm not gonna win. I just want to go the distance. No one's ever gone the distance before," I, of course, am thinking, "Yeah, right. You're gonna go in the ring, get the living crap beat outta yeh, and then you'll throw a few of your beef-rib-breaking punches and the champ'll go to his knees and give up his title."

But I was wrong. And that's why this is an excellent movie: the underdog went the distance against impossible odds, but he didn't win--split decision, yes; win, no. And split decision went to reigning champ, so underdog didn't win; he just held his own.

That's a story worth telling. Mad props to Stallone--he did write the movie, after all.

Note of lesser importance: I also really appreciated that Adrienne wasn't some sad neglected hottie just waiting to be discovered. Man I get so sick of this she's-worth-10-cows-if-she's-worth-a-hoof sort of heroines. I like that Rocky was just a good, down-to-earth fellow who got his good, down-to-earth girl.

I gotta get me one of those....

11 December 2007

Post 52

I threw a movie party this last Saturday night. We watched Charade. Quality, quality flick; they do not make movies like this anymore, and that makes me inexpressibly sad. Let me give you a few reasons why everyone should see this movie:

1) Camera work. Charade was made back in the days when cinematography was still an art. The angles and shots are all masterful. For one brilliant example, when Audry Hepburn is looking through the magnifying glass at the photograph, we get a glimpse from her perspective four different times. On the first and fourth time, there's a cool zoom effect that really takes full advantage of the way light bends through curved glass--but only the first and fourth time; the second and third glimpses are just straight--no zoom effect. Shake things up a bit, ya know--just because something's cool doesn't mean it has to be done every time.
That's the only specific example I can think of now, but when next you watch it, pay attention to how the camera moves and the angles it shoots--they're all very good. Granted, the stamp thing may have been a little melodramatic, but it did its job very well, and you can't ask for much more than that.

2) Dialog. Somewhere in the last couple decades, witty dialog has died out from movie culture. Now, rather than having highly entertaining conversations between characters, all we ever get are snappy one-liners. Charade has amazing dialog sprinkled throughout--especially between Audry Hepburn and Cary Grant. There is no way to give a very thorough sampling here, but if you just watch the movie, you will most certainly understand what I mean.
Humor was of a different caliber back in those days, too--more refined, really. There's a movie called Holiday (Cary Grant acting with Kathrine Hepburn) that I've only seen once but desperately want to own. There was some dialog in there that made me think, "Holy cow, that's really clever!" but that didn't make me laugh out loud. I really respect that kind of humor. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy laughing--and I laughed a lot while watching Charade--but just that something can be humorous without being raucous is--a foreign idea in my generation.

3) Unfolding (?). I think there's a highfalutin literary term for this--probably some French word--but it escapes me now. Just the whens and hows of the telling of the story are brilliant. For example, when Cary Grant (I believe he's still Peter Joshua at that point) follows Scobie by hopping from balcony to balcony and then follows him into the room and strikes up a conversation--I, the viewer, think, "Woah. That's one heckuva way to pick a fight! Ballsy, Mr. Grant--very ballsy," and then I realize, "What he's--he's one of them? How can that be?" Little by little, the screenwriters reveal what's really going on--another good example is when the real Mr. Bartholomew gets a phone call--all of the timing is just perfect, and we don't know until the very last scene what was really going on. It's amazing.

4) Music. Henry Mancini was a genius; I've always known that, but I never realized until this past Saturday as I was watching this movie just how much of an opportunist he is (that's probably a bad term for it, but I don't have better). It's impossible to pick up on unless you're familiar with the movie's theme--and the only reason I happen to be familiar with it is because it's on the Henry Mancini CD I own. But if you can familiarize yourself with that theme, you'll realize that anytime there is ambient music in that movie--not the underscore, but actual ambient music being played in the numerous restaurants and even the carousel in the park--all of that ambient music is based around that theme. It's--very creative and very impressive, and I really appreciated the overall effect.

So there are just four reasons why you should see that movie. Other less critical reasons include things like Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau (and Jame Coburn, if you know him; I know him from Maverick, though I didn't realize that as I watched the movie), a funny French investigator, a villain with a claw for a hand, and "It's a rip roaring good time!"

05 December 2007

Post 51

And now this exciting bit of news:

When Chuck Norris goes cow-tipping, he lifts a cow up and drop kicks it into the neighboring farm. All the other cows simply tip themselves over to keep from having to walk back in the dark.

That is all.

Okay, not really. My absolute favorite Chuck Norris joke--er--fact is:

Chuck Norris owns the greatest Poker Face of all-time. It helped him win the 1983 World Series of Poker despite him holding just a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoly card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game Uno.

That's an impressive poker face! He probably uses that often now:

Chuck Norris sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Chuck roundhouse kicked the devil in the face and took his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn't stay mad and admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play poker every second Wednesday of the month.

THAT'S all.

01 December 2007

Post 50!

so i just cut the pinkie of my left hand quite badly and have it wrapped in gauze and athletic tape and a bag of ice and a washcloth, and i'm holding it above my heart, so you'll have to deal with a lacj of capitalization today because i only have one hand for typing and i don't want to spend the whole day on a movie review.

last night i watched jakob the liar. i own it--have owned it for a couple weeks now--but i just barely got around to taking it out of its shrinkwrap and watching it.

i've only seen it once before, and that was at a party (of all places!), so i got a lot more out of it this time around.

frankly, it's a very depressing movie, but i really like the way the story is told. i read a book on writing once that said that if you choose to write in first person, you are not allowed to kill the protagonist. i hold up jakob the liar as a powerful example that even that "rule" of fiction is negotiable. and the fact that he lies to give us false hope at the end of the movie--painfully beautiful.

i love this movie, but it isn't one to watch when you need a pick-me-up.