Friday, March 24, 2006

Do it!

You readers of the WCS (all three of you remaining) are witty-ass people; now let your voices be heard. The makers of Snakes on a Plane have been listening to the interweb buzz surrounding their shitastic new Samuel L. Jackson vehicle and have actually added fanboy-submitted dialogue to the final cut. Head over here and make a contribution and/or vote for a line.

My personal favorite: "Motherfucker, I CHECKED the 'NO MOTHERFUCKIN' SNAKES' box when I BOUGHT these mothefuckin' TICKETS to be on this MOTHEFUCKIN' PLANE WITH ALL THE MOTHERFUCKIN' SNAKES ON IT!"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Skankvision 9000.

Brick update coming in the near future. (Pssst, it's really f-ing good.)

In the meantime, don't miss MZS's post on the worst films that've won a Best Picture Oscar. And don't skip the comment section either. If you do, you'll miss items like this:
I'll concede that Ridley [Scott] has perhaps too high an opinion of himself, but Tony's Scott's movies go too far in the other direction. They are unnervingly proud of their skankiness. They seem to be shot with a special camera system, Skankvision 9000, that amps up the skank factor. I think that accounts for the haze in every frame of a Tony Scott film; it's not a smoke machine, it's the skank floating in the air. After stuff like MAN ON FIRE and REVENGE, I felt like I needed to go get vaccinated or something. Peckinpah is Merchant-Ivory compared to that guy.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

All right, all right, all right.

Criterion has finally unveiled the specs on its long-gestating Dazed and Confused edition. It's clear that Richard Linklater really put some time into this-- check out the modifications to Criterion's hilariously verbose ABOUT THE TRANSFER section:
Dazed and Confused is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. Director Richard Linklater and director of photography Lee Daniel supervised this new high-definition digital transfer, which was created on a high-definition Spirit 4K Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System. To maintain optimal image quality through the compression process, the picture on this dual-layer DVD-9 was encoded at the highest-possible bit rate for the quantity of material included. The soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the original stems, and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss, and crackle. Plus, Melba Toast is packin’ 411 Positrac outback, 750 double pumper Edelbrock intakes, bored over 30, 11 to 1 pop-up pistons, turbo-jet 390 horsepower. We’re talkin’ some fuckin’ muscle.


Friday, March 17, 2006

And one more thing.

I should just let the haiku speak for itself, but I want to add a few things about V for Vendetta.

Politics aside, I couldn't believe how incoherently the film unravels; it's all muddled backstory, bogged-down rhetoric, and inert action sequences. The sad thing is, there's something there. An undercurrent, that x-factor, that whatever that makes Alan Moore's graphic novel so legendary. In nearly every scene I thought "God, I bet this works really well as a comic." (Forgive me, I haven't read it.)

Now, as for film's much-hyped revolutionary politics... puh-lease. How anyone* can claim this as an important/progressive film, when Michael Haneke's Caché is only two months out of the theater, is beyond me. What's that? Haneke's film is an art-house film that no one would go see? Okay. Fine. Steven Spielberg's Munich was a pop-political MultiPlexer that aesthetically and philosophically shames V. (Manohla summed it up perfectly: "The more valid question is how anyone who isn't 14 or under could possibly mistake a corporate bread-and-circus entertainment like this for something subversive. You want radical? Wait for the next Claire Denis film.")

On an unrelated note, since we see V rock out to Cat Power and Antony and the Johnsons, I was hoping that we'd get a flashback sequence that showed V as a young music-blogger circa 2005. Tell me that wouldn't've made the film a little better. You know it would.

*Like, say, Dave Poland: "Some audiences will be sure that there is a direct attack on George W Bush. Others will make no connection at all. But the truth is, until we are all wide awake most of the time, this film will be relevant forever. Like the Brothers Grimm, Shakespeare, and the Bible, V for Vendetta is a work of parable."

(Emphasis mine.)

Haiku Review: V For Vendetta.

Nat-Nat, Fight Club called.
Return its politics to
Hot Topic. Thank you.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Is anyone out there?

I didn't forget about youse, but... Whatever, you know how it goes.

Before I disappear down the rabbit-hole once more, some bits and pieces:

  • Check out Jonathan Glazer's return to music videos. It's a clip for Massive Attack's excellent new single, "Live With Me," and while it's just as technically gorgeous as one would expect, it's a bit heavy-handed in that Leaving Las Vegas sort of way.

  • If you have the chance to see Goldfrapp on their current tour, do it. Not only do you get to hear them recreate nearly all of their retardedly sexy new album, you'll be treated to she-wolves in bikinis, disco-ball pony-girls, and Alison Goldfrapp controlling a theremin with her crotch.

  • Sigh. You know I love Armond, but this review is almost self-parody:
    Let Viggo Mortenson rehash the tired clichés of fantasy and thrillers. Moviegoers with hearts, minds and eyes know that Paul Walker is a more significant movie icon. Walker confirms his movie star status with Eight Below. [snip] Director Frank Marshall understands Walker's charm and frames it right, along with Jason Biggs' less glamorous but no less companionable and ethical presence as Shepherd's sidekick. Eight Below enhances what in lesser hands would merely be Disneyana; the secret is not anthropomorphism but a natural, inquiring humanism. In this way, Eight Below recalls the humane genre revisionism that occurs in Running Scared (the other jab in Walker's current one-two punch).

  • They've been picking up my slack: Josh on Walter Kirn's new novel/experiment in hyper-text, Brennon on the funniest movies of all time, MZS welcomes back The Sopranos in a spectacular evaluation of season six's first episode (warning: it's filled with spoilers), meanwhile Dave Kehr dismisses The New World here and here.

  • Gimme a day or two and I'll let you know if Brick lives up to the hype.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fun with context.

From my inbox:
From: Joshua
Subject: Oh, Wernie
Date: March 8, 2006 3:10:45 AM PST
To: Ben, etc., etc.

Did you guys see this funny thing Herzog said to Ebert in response to a question about The Discovery Channel's airing of Grizzly Man with commericials and additional footage? It appeared in Eb's "Answer Man" column, and I've unfairly cut out the previous paragraphs where he thanks Discovery for financing the film in the first place. This is only one more reason why I love German cinema:

"Sure, centuries from now our great-great-great-grandchildren will look back at us with amazement at how we could allow such a precious achievement of human culture as the telling of a story to be shattered into smithereens by commercials, the same amazement we feel today when we look at our ancestors for whom slavery, capital punishment, burning of witches, and the inquisition were acceptable everyday events."

He should've added "Crash winning the Oscar for Best Picture" between the burning of witches and inquisition part, but, yeah, he's pretty dead-on.

Friday, March 03, 2006

His heart-exploding words.

I've been trying to warm up to Rhett Miller's new comme ci comme ça album The Believer. While I've never been the biggest Old 97's fan, I spent most of September - November 2002 exclusively listening to Miller's solo debut The Instigator. I get the feeling I'll come around to the new album, but listening to it has only made me go back and reacquaint myself with The Instigator. Okay, so that's a lie; I haven't made it past "Our Love," the album's opening track. In the past two days I've listened to the damm thing nine times. (This according to my iPod's handy play-counter.)

There's much to obsess over: the off-the-chart power pop chorus, Jon Brion's galloping electric guitar work that nearly jumps the rail at the 1:48 mark, Jim Keltner's monster drumming. However, it's the opening verse that really kills me. Check it:
Richard Wagner's letters to his lover Mathilde were a mess
He should have quit before he had written the address
They made love on the mezzanine her husband was his friend
Vienna in a fugue-state working on a thing
That when he finished it took almost seven hours to sing
He still found time to write to her his heart-exploding words.

That's right. Dude took Richard Wagner's epistolary activity with his mistress and turned into into a pop song. The second verse, while not as great (what's up with the third to first person jump?), tackles Franzie:
Kafka in his letters to his lover Milena was alive
But he was waiting for a love that never would arrive
Their rendezvous was singular her husband was his friend
She is a living fire she is a reason to live
She is killing me burning only for him
I'll spend my whole life loving her my heart exploding words.

I love the incongruity of a guy writing a three minute song for his girl and expressing his love via biographical sketches of two long-dead artists.

The Miller song made me think of how hilarious it is to hear Natasha Bedingfield namecheck nineteenth century poets in her TRL-sanctioned hit "These Words." ("Read some Byron, Shelly and Keats / Recited it over a Hip-Hop beat / I'm having trouble saying what I mean / With dead poets and drum machines.")

Your turn: in the comment section, your vote for the most unlikely fodder for and/or reference in a pop song. And the Nabokov ref in Sting's "Don't Stand So Close to Me" doesn't count. Go.

2 + 2 = 5 (Altman edition).

Remember how I said I was going to get back into the swing of making a weekly list of the pop cultural strata clogging my brain? Despite my recent silence (damn you, work!), I meant it. So here's round two of the resurrected 2 + 2 = 5, dedicated to Robert Altman, in observation of this weekend's Altman Blog-a-thon.

1. McCabe & Mrs. Miller's elliptical structure.

Girish recently asked readers to name "One film you've wanted to see for a long time, available on video/DVD, that you haven't gotten around to seeing yet." Pathetically, my answer was McCabe & Mrs. Miller. I'm a huge Altman fan; I'm a big Pauline Kael fan; Pauline loves her some McCabe; for Christ's sake I've owned the DVD since 2002! And still, it sat on my shelf for years. Last Sunday I finally saw it and it did not disappoint.

I won't lie, the opening twentyty-some minutes worried me. I'd forgotten that I often have to find my sea-legs when watching an Altman film for the first time. The early scenes of McCabe establishing his new town felt so vague, I was convinced I was missing crucial details. By the time Mrs. Miller came to town, I was onto Altman's M.O. and was squarely in his pocket. Those first twenty minutes were jarring because the film's structure is so elliptical; nearly every time a new scene is established, an unspecified but substantial amount of time has passed. It's a total violation of conventional film grammar, but it gives the film a chaotic propulsion that I love. For instance, Shelley Duvall is in maybe four scenes total; in those four scenes her character goes through a dramatic transformation. We've missed months and months of her life, but each time she shows up we momentarily recalibrate, fill in the blanks, and then go with the flow. It's that kind of unorthodox spirit that makes A Decade Under the Influence and the other '70s cinema hagiographies somewhat (please note I said somewhat) palatable.

2) Altman's Lynchian-before-there-was-Lynch period.

I saw David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me on VHS when I was in eighth grade. I didn't understand what the hell was going on, but it was so beautiful and odd and inexplicable that I became obsessed with Mr. Lynch's films; I still am. But imagine my surprise when, two years ago, I saw Images and 3 Women and realized that Bob had put two dream-fugue mindfuckers in the art-house years before Lynch. People get so fixated on Altman's multi-character epics that they forget about these two psychosexual delusions and what-the-hell-just-happened? identity-swapping dramas.

3) Philip Marlow's supermarket exchange in The Long Goodbye.
If you haven't seen it, forgive me, this just won't do it justice:
Philip Marlowe: Excuse me, I don't see any Courry Brand cat food here.
Supermarket Clerk: Some what?
Philip Marlowe: Some Courry Brand cat --
Supermarket Clerk: Could you spell that?
Philip Marlowe: Courry Brand, C-O-U-R-R --
Supermarket Clerk: Oh, we're all out of that. Why don't you get this. All this shit is the same anyways.
Philip Marlowe: You don't happen to have a cat by any chance?
Supermarket Clerk: What do I need a cat for, I've got a girl.
Philip Marlowe: Ha, ha. He's got a girl, I got a cat.

4. The ballet set to "The World Spins" in The Company.

There's not enough love for The Company. Dr. T and Cookie's Fortune seem to get all the attention from cinephiles looking to shower attention on Altman's recent, underappreciated output. That's a shame, because The Company, about a year in the life of the Chicago Joffery Ballet, is an intimate and lovely docudrama anchored by the exceptional Malcolm McDowell. However, the film's greatest moments are the various ballets recreated throughout. The most stunning of them is a piece performed by Emily Patterson, set to Julee Cruise's ghostly pop song "The World Spins" (written by, ahem, David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti). In it, she glides, piourettes, and floats across the stage with the help of a bungee cord. Altman captures the scene with such effortless fluidity, that when I saw it for the first time I held my breath in awe. It'd be impossible to film a dance sequence with more artistry.

5. Gosford Park's ensemble.

This category was originally going to be "Helen Mirren in Gosford Park." Every time I revisit the film, I'm floored by how beautifully she underplays her role. Then I think, well, she got an Oscar nomination, so people clearly see how great she is. But do they remember how solid, how refined Emily Watson is? Or how hilarious Michael Gambon is? (Watch the first dinner scene again and just look at the way he's eating his food.) Or Stephen Fry's bit of ham 'n cheesery? Or Kristen Scott Thomas's self-deprecation? Or Maggie Smith... Or... You get the picture.