Friday, February 02, 2007

Recent Media Consumption, 2-2-07

49 Up
This is the 7th film in Michael Apted's opus on British class divisions and the veracity of the Jesuit motto, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man," based on a quote by Francis Xavier. (Source: wikipedia)

I have found these films revelatory, immensely sad, heroic, harrowing, poetic, and upsetting in a good way. When you see the years fly by on these people, our common mortality and frailty just smack you in the face. Essentially, they're all happy stories (take that! you cynics), but with a solid chaser of the unhappiness that visits all our lives.

Ironically the two common themes in 49 Up are that everyone reports how they've finally become very content and happy in their own skin, and they also unanimously agree how much they hate it when the 7 years roll around and they have to do another series of "Up" interviews for the film.

Apted must've taken them at their word, because while he did leave it open for there to be a 56 Up, he also included enough "the end" commentary and imagery so that if there is not another one, there's closure. I personally hope they will all change their minds when the time comes.

The first 6 have been collected in a set, and most libraries carry it, so if you've not treated yourself to this amazing document, clear off your calendar and step up.

Open Season
Animated films have been very hit and miss in the last couple years. This one's a hit. The whole fam damily was laughing out loud throughout.

My only quibble is the depiction of the hunter. Of course, since Bambi, you can't have a hunter be a nice, decent guy in a kid's film. But this guy was one of the funnier ones depicted so far. I love it when he jumps out of his pickup and plays air guitar on his rifle. I honestly think this movie would have been a scootch better had they stuck closer to his goofy side and actually dealt with the reality that hunting is actually a noble and even necessary endeavor.

The Illusionist
Ed Norton saves any film by his mere presence, and sadly, in this case, that is the only saving grace. The premise is cool, but the ending is telegraphed somewhere in the middle of the first act. It completely loses its way after act 2, and act 3 is resolved by a character remembering moments of the film in flashback to connect the dots for those in the cheap seats who missed it the first time - which would only occur if you were necking, or had the affliction the guy from Memento has. Worse yet, it feels like a BBC/PBS retread of the old Bill Bixby (pre-Hulk) series, "The Magician".

I hate hate hate the now decade-old trend of saturating or color-tinting the palette of a film to one dominant shade. Blue is the usual culprit, but this one used a sepia tone (that's "yellow" in guy colors), making everyone look jaundiced. Basically it just emphasizes the fact that the director really wanted to do the film in black and white but didn't want to fight the studio. The studios maintain - and correctly, I believe - that when most people see black and white in the previews, they dismiss it as a dull and pretentious art film. Skewing the colors to one muted tone is NOT the way to get past this.

Jackass number two
Jaw-droppingly tasteless humor.

One stunt involves one guy putting on a bubble-boy helmet that's attached to a funnel in which a morbidly obese guy shits. The guy wearing the helmet projectile vomits from the resulting odor. Even with my vomit phobia, I doubled over laughing.

This film is filled with oceans of vomit, btw. It's the go-to joke for half the flick. The rhythm is someone does a jackass stunt, like slingshotting a shopping cart off a ramp with some poor soul inside, then there's a puke segment.

But damn if it ain't funny. The extras contain about an additional hour of stunts and vomiting not originally included in the main film.

Spike Jones (the famous director) tells the cast at one point that someone is going to get killed making these films. I think he's right. It just hasn't happened yet. Though they probably came close when they stood in front of an anti-personnel mine filled with rubber pellets. You can tell they had to stop filming for a while to let the guys recover enough so they could even stand up again.

Do watch this film, guiltily, while your family sleeps. But close the doors so you don't awake them with guffaws or retching. This movie is appropriate for adult children only.

The Descent
Nifty little horror film about a group of women who get together to do extreme outdoors adventures once in a while. This time they go spelunking in an unexplored cave in the deep south; hilarity ensues.

Man, if only they'd used the fabulous real underwater cave photography from this turkey, it'd've been a blockbuster. Perhaps someone, maybe the talents behind the amazing Tom Hanks James Bond trailer, will do a mash-up of the two films, and we'll have that classic after all.

It is scary though. In a reversal of our usual roles (I leapt up and called for Jesus while we watched The Grudge), this one got to my wife while I just kinda grooved. My lovely wife actually gasped and covered her mouth during one of the jolt scenes, poor dear.

Clerks II
I love all the films of Kevin Smith, even Jersey Girl. The man has a gift, a gift I say!, for dialogue. To my continual amazement, I never hear of Hollywood employing him as a script doctor.

Clerks II is perhaps the most sequelly sequel I've ever seen. You can watch it without having seen the original, but don't if you can avoid it.

The boys are still in McJob ruts, where they discuss the minutia of life, love, and movies. But, Kevin Smith is one of the rare possessors of a penis who can write realistic women, kids, and probably even animals. Every moment, regardless of how out-there, rings true.

This is the only movie I've ever seen that takes on the vagaries and labyrinths of racial slurs as it effects real people (I thought Crash was utter trash, Matt Dillon's performance notwithstanding), and how sometimes you can't possibly know everything that could be considered one. When I was growing up I learned and used a plethora of slurs that I had no idea were slurs. So when one of the guys trips over that same situation, it was nice to feel a twang of grateful recognition.

If you're a fan of Smith, you'll love this one. If you're not, you know you won't. For folks who've never seen a Smith film, I recommend Jersey Girl. I think it was the unfortunate victim of the "bennifer" bad press from that bastard branch of the media manufactured by gossip columnists and paparazzi.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
For those of you in the cheap seats, this is the sequel to a movie based on a ride at Disneyland starring one of our best character actors channeling Keith Richards as a pirate.

It's considered a kids movie, but it has monsters in it that would've kept me up for a year had I seen it before I hit my teens. The dead pirate whose head resides in a conch shell like a hermit crab gave me the fantods at this age.

Both 1 and 2 are very entertaining popcorn movies; nothing more, nothing less. The third one is due this summer. If you like big, loud, splashy movies, this one's for you.

One from the Heart
One of my charming quirks that is no end of mirth for my movie-addict buddies is that I will knowingly and purposely watch a movie that has been widely dismissed as excrement, just to see how much it sucks. Once in a very great while, I've found a movie that I thought was good, to spite the world, so that's mostly why I do it. Sometimes it's just fun to watch the train wreck.

This, of course, is in the pantheon of the biggest flops ever in moviedom. Yet, Coppola lovingly restored this film and remixed the soundtrack for 5.1 surround. And the library was able to scare up a copy through interlibrary loan, so there I was.

Dammit, the first act of this film is pretty good. Coppola employed stage play techniques, like putting one set behind another masked by a scrim curtain that becomes transparent when the set is lit. It was a clever way to show the action in two separate rooms at once. The music was written by Tom Waits and performed by him and Crystal Gale ("Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue"), and it's pretty damn good, too. (And for the George Costanza's of the world, you get a few scenes where Teri Garr is topless.)

But then....

Let me put it this way. Denver's oldest (still open) amusement park, Lakeside, has a ride called the Wild Chipmunk where you ride in a single tiny car on a roller-coaster track that contains several whiplash turns. If I recall correctly, I think there's a warning sign by the entrance that recommends people who are pregnant, have heart conditions, dentures or glass eyes should not ride the Wild Chipmunk. Kids loiter under the ride to collect the coins that jingle down after they're yanked out of people's pockets by the extreme g's.

Well, One from the Heart cruises along beautifully, and then WHAM!, it takes a Wild Chipmunk turn into utter suckitude. You can pinpoint the exact moment, too. Raul Julia and Teri Garr suddenly step into the street and a dance number materializes around them, and there you are, your glass eye is sailing through the firmament, metaphorically. I can't stress what a jarring turn this movie makes. You wonder how Coppola could've missed it. (I have a theory, read on.)

It remains terrible from that moment on. Sometimes it gets worse.

Again, maybe our mash-up talents could save this movie by doing three crucial edits: remove the Vegas strip song and dance number, somehow save the dialogue but don't show Nastassja Kinski walking on the high-wire when they visit Frederic Forrest's "thoughtful spot," and completely cut the crushed-car orchestra that Forrest conducts. Even then it would be merely good.

One interesting thing, though: in the extras it's made known that the now ubiquitous film editing method and hardware to support it, called "Non-linear editing," where the director can view any given take on-set during the principal photography, was pioneered during One from the Heart. It was one of the first films, if not the first film, to use the process during the filming.

I'm willing to bet that Coppola's energies were absorbed by learning and using that wiz-bang system, so much so that he didn't have much left over to devote to the film itself. Perhaps that's why he missed its turn into the abyss.

Film history buffs should put themselves through this experience, if their library can find a copy to borrow.


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

We just saw The Descent ourselves. Tell your wife that I actually shrieked--and I am NOT a shrieker--at probably the same part that got to her. Eudoxus laughed at me.

You saw the original version, not the American one with the truncated "happy" ending, right?

Yahmdallah said...

I'm not sure, honestly. I knew there was a different ending.

Ours ended in a car. Did I see the one you saw?

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Oooooo! You saw the Americanized, truncated, not-nearly-so-creepy version. Rent it again! And add Dog Soldiers to your list while you're at it. Stupider but funner, as Offspring #2 likes to say.

Anonymous said...

Homie, what are you doing here? You haven't updated your own blog since before Christmas.


Yahmdallah said...

Yah, OH, I agree with Joel. Get some verbiage on. You've got fan, y'know.

Yahmdallah said...

"Fans" that should read. Sheesh. I just kinna type capn.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Trying to get back into blogging mode ... Missed lots of good blogging time being too queasy to look at a computer screen, and then it takes a while to get the muse to come down from Mt. Silicon.