America, Fuck yeah!
The chorus from the movie’s most memorable song pretty much says it all, encapsulating the movie’s love-it-and-hate-it attitude towards the USA. The movie manages to be political without being partisan, insightful without being dull, and completely fucking hilarious. Go see it now.
Released with no fanfare that I know of, Code 46 is one of the best SF movies I’ve seen in a long time.
The movie tells of a bustling, gleaming future where everyone in the world speaks perfect English, liberally sprinkled with Spanish, French, Arabic, and Chinese (five of the six official UN languages–I didn’t notice any Russian). It’s a world that looks very much like our world today–the same cars and clothes, though the cities are perhaps shinier.
I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who doesn’t want it spoiled, so I’ll discuss the rest of it inside. Go watch it and then read the rest of this post.
Continuing its fine tradition of showing movies with live sound, the Alamo had a showing of the animated feature Allegro non Troppo, accompanied by Peter Stopchinski and another three musicians, who played variations on the music in original score. These were quite good–they fit with the action on the screen, and nodded in the direction of the originals without being retreads. But I have to say, you can’t do justice to Bolero (or anything like it) with a quartet.
I’d seen Allegro non Toppo back in high school. It was great seeing it again, and the live accompaniment was a real treat.
After too many weekends devoted to productive house-drudgery, tt was a two-movie weekend for Gwen and me.
On Friday, we saw Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. Some simplify this down to a pot-humor movie, others point out the significance of having the audience identify with Asian-American leads. Both are fair points, I suppose, but the movie mostly made me think of After Hours: a surreal overnight journey. With pot and low humor, yeah. Anyhow, it’s very funny, and falls into my “much better than it needs to be” category.
Number two on our viewing list was Garden State, also a surreal trip through New Jersey in its own way, but a story driven much more by characters than situations. And although it has plenty of funny moments, the movie isn’t a comedy. It’s more complex than that, and so is my reaction to it. While it’s worth seeing, there’s a lot about it that seems out of kilter. The lead character (played by the writer/director) moves through life with his emotional affect tamped down by pharmaceuticals; in some ways, that’s how the whole movie felt. Perhaps this was intentional, but in many cases, I suspect its the result of hack editing. Characters become important without the audience knowing whether we’re suppose to like them or not (and I don’t think this is an intentional effort to keep the audience off-balance), and characters develop strong relationships without the audience seeing how strong they are. Symbolically freighted elements–like a boat out of water at the bottom of a quarry–parade before us with no particular relevance to the rest of the picture. So the audience feels these events and tableaux pass by without really getting emotionally engaged in them, just mildly amused. But there’s still plenty to like: the dialog is good, the surreal quality is interesting, and Natalie Portman is a superstar waiting to happen.
One thing about Garden State that struck me was the soundtrack. Almost every incidental song was something I know and like; at least half are already in my music collection. “Damn, they have just nailed my demographic/psychographic makeup here!” I said to myself, and it annoyed me: as Douglas Coupland wrote, “I am not a target market.”
Dumb name, decent flick. The Bourne Supremacy is another action-type movie that doesn’t require excessive neural activity to enjoy, but it does have car chases, including one in which an improbably sturdy Russian cab acquits itself admirably against the entire Moscow police department and an assassin in a Mercedes SUV.
Matt Damon had an interesting role in that he had very few lines — most of the acting was in his face.
Last night Jo’s Coffee hosted an advance screening of Beyond Black Rock (surprisingly, not in the IMDB), a documentary by Austin locals about Burning Man.
Quite a crowd turned out: the entire parking lot behind Jo’s was jammed full–perhaps 500 people. Some of my fellow fire freaks and I were going to provide a little pre-show warmup; as it turns out, I was the only one of the people slated to perform who actually did show up; the guy who was supposed to be coordinating this (and shall remain nameless) called me at the last minute to inform me of his non-appearance and, implictly, to hand off the baton. There were plenty of fire people there, though not many actually had their rigs with them, but in the end, four of us went up and burned, and there was much rejoicing.
Oh yeah, the movie! Enjoyable. Focused a lot on the people who organize it and the organization of it; also featured at some length a couple of artists (including the amazing David Best) who were putting in installations there.
Saw The Story of the Weeping Camel with Gwen last night. This is the first Mongolian movie I’ve ever seen (unless you count Genghis Blues, which I don’t). It’s not clear whether this is a documentary or a work of fiction that just happens to be made with real events and real people who are basically being themselves. Subtitling was very minimal, telling just enough to keep the audience from getting confused.
It’s a slow-moving movie. Not much happens, and the things that do happen are small things. But it gives you a feel for what it must be like as a nomadic camel-herder living in the Gobi Desert. It’s astoundingly bleak: it’s hard to imagine that there’s enough vegetation to support the goats and camels in the flock, and it’s hard to understand how human beings came to inhabit that part of the world. But the people don’t seem to have bitter lives, or much desire to do anything different.
At one point a couple of boys head out to the nearest town; Gwen and I just looked at each other and asked “what do they steer by?”
In 1995 (was it really that long ago?), Richard Linklater made Before Sunrise, where two young people, Jesse and Celine, meet and spend a night in Vienna, having a “My Dinner with Andre” — style rambling conversation. They agree to meet six months later at the same train station where they separate.
I always wondered what happened to them. In Waking Life, there’s a segment showing Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who played the characters in Before Sunrise) in bed together. When I saw that, I thought that it answered the question in an oblique way.
Apparently not. Before Sunset answers the question directly. It’s another two-person gabfest, this time in Paris. The movie almost feels like it was filmed in a single shot–the conversation almost never pauses, and it does have some very long shots (something you don’t see much anymore). I especially liked one that wound up up up a staircase.
The story is bittersweet and wonderful, and like it’s predecessor, ends without answering its big question.
Tangent: in finding links for this entry, I discovered that there was a movie titled My Dinner with Andre the Giant. It strikes me as funny that Wally Shawn, who was in My Dinner with Andre, starred in a movie with Andre the Giant, one of my favorites, The Princess Bride. If anybody should have made My Dinner with Andre the Giant, it’s him, but Andre the Giant is no longer with us.
Saw Spider-Man 2. It’s as good as they’re saying–not just good as comic-book movies go, but good as movies go in general. The special effects don’t dominate the movie, but they’re damned entertaining.
Doc Ock’s tentacles are pure genius–good enough that I didn’t bother asking myself “how’d they do that?” and just enjoyed the effect.
Though we planned on seeing Supersize Me, Gwen and I arrived at the theater a few minutes late, so we decided to catch Fahrenheit 9/11 instead. Not exactly the feel-good movie of the summer, we both walked out silently and barely said a word on the way home. There was very little in the movie that was news (though the bits about James Bath were interesting), but the impression they make when taken together is one of horror.
Anything Michael Moore does is automatically controversial, if for no other reason than he’s the one doing it. That said, I suppose there’s plenty to take issue with in the movie, but still, it’s very strong.
There are facts and there are stories. Moore uses facts as building-blocks for stories, and he’s clear about where he’s troweling in the mortar of speculation to make them hang together. Critics can and should fact-check Moore’s ass, and Moore knows that: he’s pretty meticulous about backing up his facts. And critics can take issue with the edifice he’s constructed. But the building-blocks fall into place pretty snugly in this movie without a lot of mortar to hold them there. That says a lot.