Words By S.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

On Child Actors.

Filed under: Film,Television — S @ 5:05 pm

I am of the multitude of moviegoers that is prone to announcing, “ugh, I hate child actors” with the utmost disgust.

Normally, I avoid films in which there would be an abundance of child actor presence, however months ago, I saw the [Swedish] film “Let The Right One In” and it made me ever so slightly change my tune (but, not by a whole lot).

The film stars two 12 year old Swedish children, one who plays a vampire.   They were both very good actors – actually, all of the children in the film were very good actors.  And afterwards, my friends and I commented on how normal and typical “every day” everything in the movie seemed.

That, in addition some interviews and articles I have been reading, got me to thinking…  Perhaps I don’t “hate child actors,” for the ones I’ve seen in a number of films (including ones that I grew up watching) aren’t all bad (after all, one of my favorites was always the French short film ‘The Red Balloon”).  There is such a difference between child actors in British and American film, and other forms of cinema that perhaps I just hate the child actors that I see every day.

To me, there’s nothing more irritating and creepy than the Dakota Fannings and Haley Joel Osments of the world with their cherub faces, and well-before-their-time intellect.  It’s almost as if they’re pod people, or even robots, sent down to suck the lives out of the normal every day people of the world, merely by appearing on film.

And let’s not get started on the Olsen twins…

At the same time that I am freaked out by them, I also have no choice but to feel pity for them.  It’s almost like pageant children who are picked out because they’re “cute” and shoved into show business by money/fame hungry parents who may or may not have their best interest at hand (Jean Benet Ramsay, anyone?).

In addition, when the child actors grow up, most of the time, they’re never as “cute” as they were when they were 6 or 7, instead looking like some bizarre, older and caricatured version of their younger selves;  and they end up royally fucked up, coked out, and corrupted.

How and why does this happen?

On the rare occasion that it doesn’t happen, how is it that they escaped the “child actor curse”?

How often is it that we see former child actors parodying themselves on television sitcoms or cameoing their past characters in slapstick films?

Sometimes, though, I do enjoy child actors.  I like it when I see an adolescent that acts and seems like a normal human being.  I like it when they look normal, as well – like all the children in ‘Let The Right One In’.   To me, it  seems like they’re the types who are well-adjusted, and will grow up to be normal adults.  Perhaps even not getting stuck parodying themselves for the rest of their existence.

I guess it’s more that I pity child actors…

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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

Filed under: Film — S @ 10:17 pm
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Gonzo (adj.): Crazy; eccentric.

I had the pleasure of seeing this film today (when the entry starts off like that, you know it’s a good one).  As the title so succinctly puts it, Gonzo is a film about the life and work of the late journalist/author, Hunter S. Thompson.

Part biopic, part documentary, the film nicely fuses the works of Hunter with his life.  Chock full of interviews with friends, family, and important figureheads that were impacted by Hunter, as well as readings of his works by Johnny Depp, the film does a nice job summarizing his life and his legacy.

The film starts with a voice-over and scene of Hunter typing up an article about the September 11th attacks, the day that it happened.  In the article, he predicts the future of the world, as it is today.  From there, we delve into his life, and learn about the impact he would make on American society.

We follow the life of Hunter from his lower-middle class childhood in Kentucky to his trek to Aspen, Colorado.  Along the way, we get visual aids from archival footage via home movies, game shows (“will the real Hunter S. Thompson please stand up”), photographs, interviews and reenactments.  Hunter’s two wives and son also provide a lot of input into telling his story.

Throughout, the film is reinforced with readings from his books, done by Johnny Depp, and also clips of the films Fear and Loathing and Where The Buffalo Roam.

We learn about his friendship with artist Ralph Steadman as well as with lawyer Oscar Acosta.  We learn about his impact on the presidential candidates George McGovern and Jimmy Carter.  We also learn about his impact on American society as a whole, and subsequently the impact his fame would have on his family life.

The film did a good job of expressing Hunter’s brand of humor, showing his humanity, as well as showing his drug addled, gun wielding craziness.  And, when approaching the subject of his death, continued to express it with his brand of humor and eccentricity, without becoming overly sentimental and sappy.

A very good film, indeed.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Role of Sex in the Art House Film.

Filed under: Film,Popular Culture — S @ 7:38 pm
Tags: , ,

One evening, I decided to watch a documentary about sex in the indie film world.  The documentary was all about the use of real sex in art house films, as opposed to simulated sex.  It had the major art film players making commentary on the importance of using real sex and how it makes these films different from, not only their big budgeted Hollywood counterparts with their simulated sex, but also from pornography.

While I found it to be very interesting, subject matter-wise, the whole thing felt trite and pretentious (much like your average art house film).  For one, it left you with such statements as:

“In porn, you have the pizza boy who comes to the door and has sex with the lonely housewife, and that’s it. In an art film, you might have the pizza boy who comes to the door and is turmoiled and finds out who he is and his meaning through having sex with the lonely housewife.”

Therefore the difference between an art film and porn is… plot.  The pretentious filmmakers also used the documentary as a soapbox to make social commentary and assumed that anyone who opposes their use of real sex in films is “afraid of sex”:

“I hope that people will be less afraid of sex in movies and less afraid of sex in their own lives.”

Really?

How typical/predictable/any other synonym you can think of.

I didn’t like your piece of crap film that was sex-laden and weak-plotted, therefore I must be afraid of sex.  Your film couldn’t have just sucked.

The best example of an art film that utilizes actor/actress actually engaging in intercourse is Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs.  I was intrigued when it was initially released, however I never went to see it.   Normally, I am one for forming my own opinion after watching a film, however this time I allowed numerous reviews (both positive and negative) do the dirty work – so to speak.

The plot of 9 Songs, for those that don’t know, is: American girl goes to study at a school in England, and she and English lad “fall in love”.  The entire story is told through the young man’s fond memories of his first love.  They include nine indie rock shows (hence the title), and lots of sex.   From what I understand, there is not much acting in this film – the minimal dialogue that is in the film is 100% improvised, the concerts come from stock footage, and the sex comprises probably about 90% of the film.

The selling point of the film is supposed to be the “real sex” – even highlighted by the movie poster:

Essentially, what Michael Winterbottom appears to have done is to attempt to see just how much sex and nudity he could get away with by creating a 69 (get it?) minute amateur porn under the guise of “art film;” and naturally, Winterbottom fans sopped it up as a “great/important/beautiful work of art”.

From what I understand, the actress (Margo Stilley) has attempted to remove her name from this film.  I guess she must be afraid of sex too, huh?

The documentary didn’t make me feel one way or another about the use of real versus simulated sex in film, but it did make me highly irritated with the pretension and self-importance of indie filmmakers.  For one, I can fully understand when sex (real or not) is used to aid a story (i.e. Requiem For A Dream), but not when sex is used as a shock factor in a film that has no real story or a weak plot.  Lastly, I find it highly insulting for anyone, let alone a filmmaker, to assume that his consumer is closed-minded or afraid of sex just because they don’t eat up the product.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Control.

Filed under: Film,Music — S @ 10:15 am

Control movie poster

Over the weekend, I saw Anton Corbijn’s Control. In case you couldn’t tell from the movie poster, it is the story of Joy Division front-man, Ian Curtis.

If you know Joy Division, you know about the “untimely” death of Ian, and the subsequent outcome of those involved in his life.

I wrote a previous blog entry about the book ‘Touching From A Distance’, from which this movie is largely based. In that entry, I mentioned not being able to feel anything for Ian, Deborah, or any of the involved parties. I also mentioned that the book had the tone of being a self-pitying, victimization of the writer.

While the film still produced a disconnect between me and the involved parties, there seemed to be less of the victimization of Deborah Curtis, but I’ll get to that a little later.

In my head, Control was going to be an amazing story of this enigmatic man. It was going to humanize him, tell more about his life, how the band started, how the affair began, and possibly delve into why it was that he committed suicide.

It was going to be a fantastical tale of a boy growing up in “suburban” Manchester, his family life, his relationship with a young Deborah, and his relationship with his music. It was going to be a young Ian running around with a young Peter Hook, boys being boys.

We were going to get the history of the band in all its forms. There was going to be Stiff Kittens, followed by Warsaw, followed by Joy Division. There was going to be Joy Division vs. The Fall – when, where, why? It was going to give more information than the 30 minute segment from ’24 Hour Party People’.

Instead, what I got was little more information than what I already knew.

Yes, the majority of the information came from Deborah Curtis’ ‘Touching From A Distance’, but all of New Order, Tony Wilson, and the like were involved. Somewhere in there, between all of them involved, there should have been a little more light shed on the story.

I guess my problems with the movie fall on the writing.

The acting was quite good, everyone pulled off their parts well. Sam Riley played a very convincing Ian Curtis – and even managed to get the spastic, epileptic seizure-like dance moves down. Samantha Morton played a very good Deborah. Bernard, Hooky, and Morris were all very well played. Toby Kebbell as Rob Gretton was absolutely hilarious. However, Craig Parkinson as Tony Curtis left a lot more to be desired.

In ’24 Hour Party People’, Steve Coogan’s Wilson was over the top, loony, and funny in the best of ways. He was sarcastic, he was a dick, he had dimension. In ‘Control’, Parkinson’s Wilson was subdued, low-key, and boring. I quite understand that in ’24 Hour’ Wilson was the major focus, as the film was about Factory Records, La Hacienda, and all things Tony. This doesn’t mean that he should be so boring as a secondary character. Tony Wilson was never a boring, stale person at all.

That was a major disappointment.

The music in the film was utterly fantastic. This sort of goes without saying, my being a Joy Division fan. However, the music was done by the actors, performed live on set just for the movie. It could have been disastrous. It could have been Sam Riley attempting to clone Ian Curtis’ vocal nuances at every turn, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was Sam Riley not really attempting to sound too much like Curtis at all,and in turn making the music his own. And it was done extremely well. “Bernard Sumner”, “Peter Hook” and “Steven Morris” all did amazingly well at making the music their own, as well. It was refreshing to hear a re-creation of the music, rather than a carbon copy. It was almost like hearing a reincarnate Joy Division.

It was also refreshing to see humor throughout this film. It would have been very easy to make a doom and gloom piece about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. After all, your subject matter is a man who killed himself at the age of 23, a band whose music was quite moody, and this legendary band who people take very seriously. It’s very easy to forget that they were still all very young, and had friendships from very young ages. The humor – dry in some spots, and crass in others, was very appropriate and did humanize them to a degree. There were the usual 20 year-old male fart and sex jokes, and antics. It’s not so often that you would see such a thing in a movie like this one.

As I mentioned before, I expected more about Ian’s affair. In her book, Deborah Curtis mentions finding out about Ian’s affair with Annik Honoré, the Belgian music journalist. She talks about how Ian and Annik managed to keep their affair going with the help of band members and Tony Wilson sheltering the two of them. In the movie, the start of the affair is shown, and Ian grappling with his feelings for both Annik and his wife, but not much else is shown.

In ‘Touching From A Distance’, Deborah portrays herself as a helpless victim, slighted by this affair. She portrays herself as clueless as to what was happening, and unable to do anything about it once she found out. In the film, however, Deborah is portrayed as having some backbone and standing up for herself. In the film, she confronts Ian several times, and eventually asks for a divorce – as I’m sure she did in real life. In the film, Deborah is portrayed as a fairly charming, plain woman who knows what she wants and knows how to stand up for it. She’s fairly clever, and funny. She’s utterly sympathetic, allowing the audience to feel for her. I’m sure this was what Deborah was attempting to convey in the book, but something was lost in translation between brain and pen, and this picture was askew. The film helped to bring this portrayal of her back to the masses.

The portrayal of Annik Honoré as “the other woman” was pretty one-dimensional.  I’m sure the fact that Deborah Curtis was involved in production had a little to do with this.  And though she was the “other woman”, it would have been nice to give her some dimension and shed some light on what the fuss was all about.  After all, if you’re going to continue an affair for years, there has to be something there besides sex.

Overall, Control proves to be a good companion piece to 24 Hour Party People and ‘Touching From A Distance’.  It was an okay film.  It doesn’t shed much more light on any one aspect of Ian’s life than anything else has.  It didn’t make me feel any more or less than what I already had for any of the  parties involved.  In short, it wasn’t a life changing, epic, stunning film.  It was a run of the mill, story of a man and a band and an affair that was shot very prettily.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

No Country For Old Men/I’m Not There.

Filed under: Film,Music — S @ 12:23 pm

No Country movie poster

On Monday, I went to see the latest from the Coen brothers, No Country For Old Men. A film whose story is based around the idea that life is not as simple as “good prevails over evil”.

The central story is about a man named Llewelyn Moss (played by a wonderful Josh Brolin) who finds a stash of money, takes it, and is then hunted by the most “evil” villain alive – a man named Anton Chigurh (played by a fantastic Javier Bardim).

Tommy Lee Jones plays Sheriff Bell, a pre-retiree who is becoming disillusioned by the evils in the world, and who wants to help Moss save his own life. Sheriff Bell is, essentially, who the title of the film is about.

The film is done beautifully in a very subdued style. We watch as events happen and paths cross, all the while watching Bell grapple with the decision to give up.

And though there are moments where a bit of dialog is funny, it’s circumstantial humor and is not relied on to keep the film going. Very rare is it, especially now, to have a suspense or drama that does not rly a little bit on comic relief. In fact, it’s the lack of the comic relief that keeps the film feeling very real.

In all, the film is damn near perfect, with little – if any, flaws at all. I would highly recommend it.

I'm Not There poster

Also on Monday, I went to see the film I’m Not There. You may recall in a previous post, my having mentioned wanting it see it in spite of a hatred of Bob Dylan’s music.

While the movie didn’t make me like Bob Dylan, it did give me more of an appreciation of his music. I’ve always thought his lyrics were amazing, and if he had a better voice, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would love him.

The film was really good, and also very different – maybe even a little disjointed.

On the surface, it is a film about Bob Dylan and his life, however it’s done in a way that makes it about aspects of his life, career, personality, and songs as well. Thus, no one character is completely Bob Dylan, so much as a piece of him or a song.

It is definitely a film that requires you to be familiar with his life,  or else it would prove to be quite confusing.

As for individual performances, they all get a bravo – except Richard Gere, who I have to say I was highly unimpressed with. His acting just seemed to be a little flat. He reminded me of Richard Gere in all of his other movies (except for one).

Part of the reason I was drawn to see it was due to the fact that Cate Blanchett played one of his personas. She was absolutely fantastic! Honestly, she may possibly have done the best Bob Dylan and her performance was downright flawless and perfect.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger were pretty surprising. I would never have thought to picture Christian Bale playing a singer/songwriter, but it worked. Very well. Up until he had the strangest Bob Ross-like afro I’ve ever seen. In fact, I think it took away from his character because it was so distracting and funny that I couldn’t stop laughing. That, I blame completely on costume design.

Heath Ledger essentially played a similar aspect of Dylan as did Bale, but also combined it with a second aspect – that of Bob Dylan, family man. He acted in a way that I had never seen before, and it was great. He truly is a good actor, and this film definitely brought it out of him.

Perhaps the biggest surprise (and gem) was the performance from Marcus Carl Franklin, who played a character named Woody Guthrie. The kid acted and sang his butt off, and it was fucking great. I have never seen this kid before, and I don’t know where they found him, but if he continues to act as he did in this, he will have one hell of a career for sure.

What I did like about the film, and one of the reasons it did make me appreciate more of Dylan’s music, is that the entire film was drenched in his music. There were a combination of covers and his original singing, as well as some of the actors performing his songs. It was great. The film also probably possessed one of the best uses of ‘Stepping Stone’ (performed by The Monkees, and by far my favorite Dylan song) ever.

I think one of the best things about the way this film was done was the creativity of it. It truly is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and I think that – in addition to the outstanding performances – is what made me like the film so much.

Again, I’d definitely recommend it – though, with the warning that it most definitely is not a biopic.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

I Hate Bob Dylan.

Filed under: Film,Music — S @ 12:02 pm

I hate Bob Dylan, yet am strangely drawn to the film I’m Not There.

I love Cate Blanchett.

I love Christian Bale.

Perhaps them playing Bob Dylan will make me… not hate Bob Dylan?

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Filed under: Film — S @ 10:27 am

Pirates movie poster

I wanted to wait until after the opening weekend to write this, but then thought, why? If you don’t want the film ruined for you, just don’t read it. Simple as that.

The third Prates installment, At World’s End is an interesting film, for sure. I saw it last night in a packed theatre. It was a good thing we fandangoed our tickets, or else we definitely would not have gotten in. We arrived at the theatre about 40 minutes early, thinking that it would help us get good seats easier, only to be greeted by a humongous line. We got decent seats (we ended up not having to sit in the very first row, thankfully) and commented on how few people dressed up like pirates, as we would have originally have thought. There were a few that wore full pirate garb, full maiden garb, eye patches, and Mickey Mouse ears with pirate bandannas on.

Interesting, to say the least.

The movie started off quite eerily. Actually, it was downright creepy. The opening is a new ordinance being read that says “anyone who is a pirate, harbors a pirate, or aids a pirate in any way will be put to immediate death, no trial.” As the ordinance is being read, the viewer watches as droves of prisoners are lead to the gallows to be hanged. The bodies are then cut down, thrown into a pile, and the next lot is up. This continues until a small boy, could be no more than ten, is lead to the gallows. He is holding a coin and starts to sing:

Yo ho, all together
Hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die.

It gets creepy, however, as one by one everyone at the gallows starts to sing with him, as well as the hundreds, possibly thousands of prisoners waiting to take their turn. It’s similar to the Mickey Mouse Club song being sung in Full Metal Jacket by all the soldiers in Vietnam marching among snipers, bombs and desecrated buildings and carnage.

Top of the list of “Creepiest Moments on film” for sure.

Cut to a disguised Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) singing the same song while rowing along a river in Singapore, where the true action begins. It is here that we meet Sao Feng (played by Chao Yun-Fat) and his Chinese crew of pirates as they face off with Swann, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and their crew.

It is also in the opening where this installment starts feeling really bizarre, what with all the mutinies going across the board. It almost seems as though everyone has a mutiny against everyone, to the point that at some moments, it’s just confusing and we’re left wondering why it is that these people are even working together in the first place.

But, all goes well, and Swann, Barbossa and crew get Sao Feng to agree to give them a ship and crew so that the may go to Davy Jones’ Locker to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp).

As the crew is doing their death defying sail to save him, we see just how Jack Sparrow is faring in this place of death and isolation. In a scene that felt as if I was watching Secret Window all over again, we see Sparrow aboard The Pearl hallucinating and just going crazy. Envisioning himself as both the captain and crew, we witness his madness in a somewhat comical sense (we also get the pleasure of seeing numerous shirtless Depps which is a treat in itself). It was beautifully acted and funny, but it felt all too familiar.

As the story goes along and Sparrow is rescued, we find out that there are even more secret motives in this film. Elizabeth Swann has her own, private reasons for wanting to rescue Jack; Barbossa has his reasons; Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) seems to sort of just be there for the ride, as he merely wants to get to the Flying Dutchman in order to save his father. A very funny moment in the film occurs when Sparrow asks, “Did anyone want to rescue me just because they missed me?” which also seems to set a theme for the entire film.

As illustrated in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Sparrow does explain that the pirate nature is to be underhanded and dishonest, “you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest,” and this seems to overtake At World’s End a bit too much. There was a moment in the film when I turned to my friend and remarked, “this is like watching The Godfather“. As the movie went on, there was even more mutinying as Sparrow makes his own secret deals with all the captains for his own gains.

Though the film is set up to be that Swann, Barbossa, Turner, and Sparrow are the heroes, I found myself wondering if anyone but Barbossa is actually a hero in the film. This film had a lot of good qualities to it, but it had an outstanding number of bad qualities.

There are a lot of funny moments in the film – not least is the addition of Keith Richards as Sparrow’s father. There are also a number of supernatural themes running throughout the film, not limited to the Calypso storyline. The most annoying storyline, however, is the William Turner/Elizabeth Swann love story. The one moment of true heroism, and the largest fight scene in the entire film, is completely ruined by the marriage of Turner and Swann. The absurdness of having the two of them share a newly wedded kiss in the middle of an all out war on the sea was unbelievable and disappointing.

It was said that At World’s End would be the final installment in the Pirates series, however the left the ending wide open for more to be included. My only hope is that, having resolved the Turner/Swann story, should they decide to make more, that the two of them will be left out.

In all, I didn’t hate this film, but I most certainly didn’t love it. Perhaps giving it another viewing or giving more than 12 hours for it to sink in would give birth to a final opinion of the film rather than uncertainty. However, I have most definitely seen much much worse.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

S does Grindhouse.

Filed under: Film,Music,Popular Culture — S @ 11:06 am

After this weekend at the cinema (when I went to see Hot Fuzz), I made the realization that there has not been a week in this month where I have not attended a a film event at the movie theatre. It felt odd, yet satisfying to make that realization. And, of all the films I have seen this month, my favorite movie-going experience was sitting through 3.5 hours of fantastic cinema at Grindhouse.

Grindhouse movie poster

In an overdue film review, I felt that the Tarantino/Rodriguez powerhouse project was flawless. The fake trailers, the old school ratings cartoons, the film projector “fuck-ups” were all perfectly calculated and executed. As were the homages to Tarantino’s past films (but more on that later). Onto the films!

Our first of the double feature was Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.

Planet Terror movie poster

This was essentially a zombie-action film, chock full of explosions. As humor-filled as it was action-packed, this was a film about a sleepy little town, like the type you would find off of a random exit on a major highway. In this sleepy little town, a major military operation was happening, which would eventually bring forth a militia of flesh eating zombies.

The heroes in this film were Cherry, a go-go dancer with a dream to be a stand-up comedian; Wray, owner of Wray’s Wreckage, a wrecking company; JT, the owner of the local barbecue shop; the town’s police; Dr. Dakota Block, anesthetics extraordinaire; a couple of foul-mouthed babysitting twins; and the owner of the local go-go club.

Behind the chemical that causes the zombification of the town is Abby, a bio-chemist with a rather… fondness for balls, and the military – freshly returned from killing Osama bin Laden.

One of my favorite things about this film (aside from the fact that I love zombie films) is the distorted time structure. This film looks like it would have been set in the 1970’s, stylistically. This town, and particularly JT’s, looks like Bumfuck, USA circa 1970 (think: Motel Hell), and the Go-Go-Go club only helps with that image, and yet these are technologically savvy people. The doctors have text messaging via the latest in the palm pilot-meets-cell phone gadgetry; the hospital has high-speed internet and computers in the examining rooms, though the hospital looks cheap. The town’s police squad and station also appear to be straight from the 70’s, and yet the guns they use by the end of the film are amazing.

Another of my favorite things about this film were some of the cinematographic style choices. For example, when Dr. Dakota Block’s husband is walking down the hospital corridor to overly dramatic music, in a style that screams “soap opera”. Some of the other genius style choices were in the form of cheesy slasher film, big budget Hollywood explosion film, and western.

Another genius point (which is extremely subtle, and I only picked it up when I went to see it for a second time) is how they connect Planet Terror with Tarantino’s Death Proof. If you listen carefully during one of the car scenes, you will notice that the driver is listening to a radio show by DJ Jungle Julia…

…which brings me to Tarantino’s Death Proof.

Death Proof movie poster

This film shows off Quentin Tarantino’s genius. So much happens in this film that it’s mind boggling, but before I get to that, I will tell you what this film is about.

As you can see from the movie poster, it’s about a car chase (on the surface). However, as Tarantino puts it, “it’s a car chase horror” film. Stuntman Mike (played by Kurt Russell) has a bit of a… chick habit. He likes to stalk pretty girls. His first victims are Pam (Rose McGowan), immediately followed by DJ Jungle Julia (played by Sydney Portier), Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), and Lanna Frank ( Monica Staggs).

Stuntman Mike is, like his name promises, a stuntman. He even has a death proofed car to prove it. (Note: Death Proof takes its name from the technique of death proofing your stunt car.) However, in satiating his hunger for pretty girls, he must kill them… with his car (think Crash – Cronenberg’s 1996 film, not that self-righteous piece of crap that won the Oscar). One day, Stuntman Mike chooses to mess with the wrong women when he goes after Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Zoe Bell (herself), and Kim (Tracie Thoms).

Death Proof is fun, exciting, thrilling, and just about every other synonym you could possibly think of. As a person who knows nothing about cars and has never watched a car chase film (this film is a self-proclaimed homage to Vanishing Point), my saying this means a lot. This was a fantastic way to end a double feature, for sure, and it leaves a lasting impression.

Like Plant Terror, Death Proof has a distorted time frame. So much of it appears to be from the 70’s – a dj being treated as a celebrity (she even has her very own billboards all over Austin), the poem, the motif, the cinematography, the hair and clothes – and yet, DJ Julia has a cellular phone and text messaging, which brings it right back to present day.

Another example of Tarantino’s genius is the constant element of surprise in this film. So often does the viewer assume that they think they know what is going to happen next, only to be horribly mistaken. Also, using Kurt Russell was such a fantastic move, it was so great seeing him in something this great again. I had forgotten just how good he is.

As usual, Tarantino’s music choice in this film is fantastic. Most notably, the closing song of Death ProofChick Habit by April March. This song is perhaps as mind blowing and memorable as the film itself. Fantastic music choice.

As I mentioned before, there were a few homages made to Tarantino’s past films – mostly, Pulp Fiction. My all time favorite being Stuntman Mike saying that he say Jungle Julia’s billboard “next to the Big Kahuna Burger.” Also, in the form of Stuntman Mike saying, “…tasty beverage” (subtle, yes, but then so was the connection between the two films). Finally, the most obvious was the Acuna Boys (Kill Bill vol. 2) both as an advertisement between the fake trailers and features and as the restaurant Jungle Julia and the gang go to.

All in all, this film was perfection. It delivered even more than I had hoped to see, and not once did it feel like I was sitting in the theatre for over three hours. This film was sheer greatness and is so hope-inducing for the future of cinema.

The only thing I cannot understand, however, is why it is not grossing as well as it should. Thoughts?

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Teaching Death.

Filed under: Books/Literature,Film,Life,Ramblings,Television — S @ 9:03 am

Watching a very funny episode of The Robinsons* during which George had to teach his six-year-old about what death was, I began to think of how one would actually go about teaching a child what death is. It definitely raised a number of questions, such as:

  • How old should a child be when taught about death?
  • How does one go about bringing up the topic?
  • What is considered appropriate and inappropriate when teaching death?
  • What to do if questions about an “afterlife” should arise (particularly if, like me, you’re atheist)?

Granted, I do not have kids, so I won’t have to concern myself with this issue for quite some time (if ever) – it is a good topic to educate yourself in. Just how do you teach death?

In Little Miss Sunshine, the topic of suicide is brought up around a seven-year-old, in what turned out to be one of the funniest scenes ever in a film, and they were brutally honest. In The Robinsons, it took George days to figure out what to tell his son, and finally he gave a dictionary explanation chock full of synonyms – obviously much too confusing for a developing mind.

There are also a number of books on the subject, such as:

Butterflies: Talking With Children About Death… And Life Eternal by Rev. P William Vanderwyden (naturally, this book assumes that you want to teach your child the Christian philosophy)

My Pet Died (Let’s Make A Book About It) by Rachel Biale

Pet Death (Death, Value, And Meaning) by Sandra Helene Straub

And countless others, either dealing with death according to a particular religion, or dealing with the death of pets. But, is that all there is?

Say your child is raised atheist and without pets, then what? What “handbook” are you supposed to use for teaching your children about death?

Are you to be technical and medical at that point? Are to say, “Well, you simply just cease to exist”? Why are there so few secular books about death that do not deal with the issue of pet loss? Are you expected to just be brazenly honest?

To my readers with children – how do you teach children about death?

* = If you’ve never heard of/seen this show, you really must. It is a hoot!

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Perfume.

Filed under: Film,Ramblings — S @ 1:24 pm

Perfume movie poster

For those that are not aware of this film, the story is as follows: A man, born without a scent of his own, has been given the gift of a heightened olfactory sense. He can pick apart objects and can track objects down by their scents. (Think: canines)

He has fallen in love with the scent of women and wishes to be able to preserve and re-create scents, thus he becomes a perfumer. His ultimate goal? To be able to preserve the scent of women.

And so you have, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

Sounds interesting enough, yeah? I thought so, too.

I treated myself with a trip to see this film, yesterday, with the best expectations imaginable. The story sounds intriguing, the cast is pretty pleasant enough, can’t go wrong.

Wrong.

Perfume, the novel

The film, based on the novel by Patrick Suskind, has been ridiculed for tackling something that is difficult to translate to film. However, having heard that said about a number of films based on novels – I was more than ready/happy to give it the benefit of the doubt. Having not read the book (mistake number 1), and now knowing what I do (namely the ending), I have no desire to read it.

While the ending is likely increasingly more descriptive in the novel than in the film – it (the film) was descriptive enough for the entire film to have been turned sour, for me. Suffice it to say, the film’s ending cannot have been too far off from the book’s ending.

The ending struck thoughts of, “Wait, what?” “I really hope this is a dream sequence.” and “Um, wtf?” into my head, whilst watching.

Any film that induces the thought, “I hope this is a dream sequence” into anyone is a terrible film, in my opinion. Let alone when it leaves you thinking, “I hope this is a dream sequence” and turns out to not be a dream sequence.

What started out as a film that I would have possibly given a B/B- quickly deteriorated into a D. I’d not recommend seeing it, but should your curiosity be sparked, by all means, do. But, make sure to pay matinee prices.

And don’t say you weren’t warned.

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