Monday, July 18, 2005


Notes from my pop-cultural weekend:
  1. Amazingly, I didn't hate Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All the advance hype and trailers and TV promos indicated that we had another seriously misguided Chocolate Factory adaptation on our hands.
    This one is certainly closer to Roald Dahl's vision than that 1971 snooze-fest (Yes, Gene Wilder is good. Yes, there are some nice songs. The movie's still a turd.), yet it still misses the mark. The opening third was too good to be true (Those aerial views of the snow-cover factory! The Indian palace made of chocolate! Wee Freddie Highmore and David Kelly! That "Willy Wonka" number with pyro!). You can feel the thing deflate the second the kids enter the Factory. Once inside, there's still much to enjoy (Veruca Salt punishment is particularly well-executed) but it all feels a bit rote. As for Mr. Depp... Well, he's not as bad as those ads would have you believe. His/Burton's interpretation of the character is an interesting gamble that ultimately doesn't work. Props for being daring, but no thanks. Sasha Fere-Jones (as only he could) nails it: "Dahl's holy retribution meted out via garbage and blueberric DNA just hangs there in the frame next to the Oedipal cavities and head-braces and candy grass. These ideas just don't go together: NOT peanut butter and chocolate."
    Sorry for the ambivalence, but hey... I'm kind of thrilled to have partially enjoyed a Tim Burton movie. It's been a long while since I've been able to say that.

  2. Basement Jaxx at the Hollywood Bowl. Holy mothertruckers. 80 minutes of wall-to-wall, fully realized, elastic-pop-house music that was like a church revival in a whore house. Best/Bester/Bestest/etc: Lisa Kekaula (of the BellRays) ripping the shit out of "U Don't Know Me," the Jaxx sneaking "Hollaback Girl" into "Oh My Gosh," the flamenco-guitar breakdown in "Red Alert," a squad of people in gorilla suits dancing to "Where's Your Head At?," and the "Bingo Bango" encore that featured a drumline, a horn section, and six old-school Las Vegas showgirls. Ba-nan-as.

  3. My copy of Rubber Johnny arrived. Have yet to watch it. Was a little too drunk on Saturday to stomach it. I'll report back when I have successfully made it through all six minutes. (I wasn't, however, too drunk to stomach Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves. Granted, I did doze off... But the movie is just as weird and wonderful as I remembered.)

  4. Also picked up Taschen's latest entry in the "Directors" series: Paul Verhoeven. Still working my way through the subtle joy that is Mr. Verhoeven's oeuvre, but I feel compelled to share this quote that popped out at me during my first pass. It's from Elizabeth Berkley: "We were filming the scene where Nomi's about to go into her audition at the Stardust and she's saying 'I can't do this.' And suddenly I thought, I can't. I can't do it. I looked up and saw the sign that said CRISTAL CONNORS IS GODDESS, and for a second I saw ELIZABETH BERKLEY STARRING IN SHOWGIRLS, and it was so emotional." Poor girl.


At 5:09 AM, Blogger girish said...

Ben, here's a stoopid question for ya: I've neither seen nor read "Willy Wonka" [wasn't part of the growing up experience in faraway India]. D'you think I might enjoy the Burton? I liked Burton a lot until circa "Ed Wood".

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Girish, you might enjoy the Burton adaptation. Hard to say. It's much closer in tone to Burton's earlier work than his more recent drab, blah, no-good output. My advice: dig into some of Roald Dah's books. Yes, they're for the kiddies, but they're hilarious and witty and full of grotesqueries.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

is #1 in English? I don't even know what you are saying.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Ben. Shall pick up the Dahl book before I see the film.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Yes, I think #1 is in English, I'll grant you that it's all over the place as that's the way the movie is. I think the first third is excellent and then, once inside the Factory it's all over. Down, down, down... But that first third is the best thing Burton has done since, oh, 1994 or so. And Johnny? He gets an A for effort, but, uh, no. He made me laugh, but it just doesn't work. (And, despite what others say, it's not at all the Willy Wonka from the Dahl book.)

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

oops! meant number 2! my bad.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Oh. #2. Hmmm. It too is in English, but is super fragment-y. That was intentional. The show was loud and bright and sexy and showy and not a bunch of nerdy white people standing behind keyboards and DATs and sequencers. Plus there were gorilla-people and showgirls. It was, as the kids say, the shit.


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