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March 17, 2004

It's not about making sense

I was once again convinced of this statement when I saw Cory McAbee's movie "the American Astronaut" today. It was such a Cap'n-esque experience. It was not about the story, which was downright silly. It was an ode to film, to images. The lighting, the shots, the acting... The movie spoke of such a love of film. There was song and dance, comradery, a heroic male lead, a great soundtrack. I got really, really pissed off when people in a row behind me jabbered during the movie, laughed in all the wrong places... I had a feeling they had absolutely no idea that this was the work of an artist, this was a movie made with love (and absolutely no budget!) It's a sci-fi movie where there are hardly any special-effects. There was even a scene where you could see the microphone so obviously that it had to be deliberate. I wanted to stand up and shout: "shut your effin' faces! this is a work of art!" (I think this also had to do with the fact it reminded me so much of what I try to do with my webcomic Cap'n.) I didn't ofcourse, and was baffled at the end of the movie when they talked to eachother of what a great movie it was...
Anyway, go see it, rent it, whatever, if you don't feel the need for things to make sense, just be as a creator thinks they should be...

August 10, 2004

Celcius 37

Two months after everyone else in the whole wide world, I saw Fahrenheit 911 the other night. This was what all the fuss was about? 45 minutes of solid but pedestrian documentary making about the troops in Iraq, their experiences and their background, preceeded by 75 minutes of snark and innuendo?
That said, the editing was very strong, the soundtrack would be a worthy edition to my music collection and the portrayal of President Bush's personal ineptitude and lack of seriousness was right on the money. Also, the bit about the alert colors and the culture of fear resonated with me, having just read Imperial Hubris: Why The West Is Losing The War on Terror.

But these things could have fitted into a much shorter, much less manipulative movie; or one that treated these issues in greater depth. That would have earned F911 the appellation "Documentary", instead of it being merely a luke-warm polemic.

September 26, 2004

Nosferatu


Friday, I went to see Nosferatu *), at the Lutherse Kerk in Groningen, with live accompaniment from the church organ. Nosferatu is a silent classic made in 1922, and for the most part has stood the test of time.
As with most silent movies, there are some elements that now look vaguely silly: the acting is straight out of the stage melodrama, the make-up artists also seemed to think they were working for the stage, and some special effects fall flat (the best example being the use of a spotted hyena traipsing through the Westfalian rocks to represent a werewolf). But it has great (if slightly slow) pacing, beautiful romantic/Gothic imagery (shot, largely, on location in Westphalia) and best of all, one of the best, most convincing movie spooks ever. The title character, first shown in the shadows of castle Orlog, a tall, gaunt, bald creature standing in a stiff, upright pose with his hands folded like the claws of a predatory monster at rest, is genuinely scary even with the over-the-top make-up. I wonder if Max Schreck, the name of the actor who played his, was a pseudonym - it was certainly aptly chosen.

I have had the DVD of this movie in my house for some months without ever getting around to watching it. The booklet notes mention that the problems I had with the acting were addressed by the director, F.W. Murnau, in later movies, in which he tried to get rid of holdovers from stage drama. Bully for him, and for all I know, his later movies may be even better than this one.

At this screening, music was provided by Joost Langeveld, a reputed improviser on the organ. He worked well with the pacing and suspense of the movie, using prepared themes for the characters and for certain key moments. The church organ at the lutheran church is a mighty instrument which Langeveld often seemed to treat as a synthesizer or sequencer. A wholly appropriate backing for a great horror movie (not everyone I spoke to afterwards agreed, though). However, I would have preferred to hear music based on the original score, which is said to be pseudo-Wagnerian (the DVD doesn't have it either).

Continue reading "Nosferatu" »

October 7, 2004

I'd like to see this too

Spike challenges us to recommend

science fiction films where the pursuit of science isn't cast as a monumental act of hubris against God and Nature. Seriously.

Please tell me all about flims you enjoy that feature technology or scientific experimentation, but are as devoid of evil/insane scientists, researchers, or cold, faceless sci-tech corporations gettin' their comeuppance as possible....

I'd prefer a moral that doesn't involve things MAN, in all-caps, was never meant to do, because MAN (also all-caps) was never meant to wear underpants, rent climate-controlled re-conditioned lofts in the meatpacking district to impress their girlfirends, be immunized against polio, or live past thirty-five.

...Taken to its logical conclusion, the assertion that scientific curiousity or advancement isn't what's meant for humanity means we should all still be living in trees, trying to find a comfortable way to sit on an estrus swelling and working termites out of the branches with twigs.

Unless you people have a problem with twigs now or something.

To which I can only respond with a rousing "RAH!" but no actual recommendations. Some of the Star Trek movies might qualify but I'd like to think that she wants to hear about movies that are actually worth spending 90*) minutes on
for artistic and entertainment reasons as well as scientific ones.

*) If it's much more than 90 minutes, the bar gets raised much much higher than any Star Trek movie is capable of clearing. I don't know if the Dogma manifesto had a rule about movies needing to be concise, but it should have had one.

November 2, 2004

Theo van Gogh murdered

Controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh has been shot dead in Amsterdam, the radio reports. More when I have it.

Theo van Gogh was a columnist, filmmaker and chain smoker known more for his provocative attitude, slovenly dress and outspoken views about social issues, particularly about Islam, than for his actual movies*). His last work, a TV movie called Submission, got quite a bit of publicity though: it featured misogynistic verses from the Qu'ran projected on the nude bodies of Muslim women. Van Gogh courted controversy and thrived on it. His commitment to freedom of expression was absolute, and while he made many bitter enemies in 20 years of polemical writing, he always made a point of assuring that his enemies could at all time have their say. He made no distinction between attempts to silence his opponents and attempts to silence himself.

The news now says van Gogh had received death threats recently.

Van Gogh, a third cousin of the 19th Century painter, was stabbed and shot dead on the streets of Amsterdam at 9 AM on Tuesday. The gunner was pursued by the police and shot in the leg before being arrested. One police officer was also wounded. The murderer's motive is not clear at the time of writing although undoubtedly pundits will spend the rest of the day guessing.

Van Gogh left behind one young son.

Update: The gunman was somebody known to the Secret Service, AIVD. Also, I forgot to mention that a pamphlet was pinned to van Gogh's body. The contents are as yet unknown. BBC coverage mentioning that the gunner was a Moroccan in traditional dress | CNN coverage | Harry's Place responds. | Review and report on Submission from the Taipei Times

Latest: I just heard someone say that doing one thing or another that I didn't catch was "In de geest van Theo". Brace yourselves for another episode of mass hysteria.

Continue reading "Theo van Gogh murdered" »

November 9, 2004

Submission: see for yourselves

The Dutch media were too chickenshit to repeat it, but Theo van Gogh's short film "Submission" can be viewed at genoeg.nu.

Two comments:

1. Genoeg.nu seems to exist only to disseminate "Submission"; it has no other links on its front page. Don't know what that's about.
2. The movie is pretty good if a bit heavy-handed. Keep in mind while you're watching that it consists of three different narratives.

November 30, 2004

Shaun of the Dead

I'm feeling too much like a zombie myself to write about this at any length right now, but Jeroen and I watched Shaun of the Dead ("A romantic comedy. With zombies") on DVD last night, and gave it two thumbs and two big toes up, each. That's a lot of digits in the air. It's a funny, well-written, well-shot movie that was just what we needed because both of us are under the weather. It's very English, by the way, which means that it was full of normal-to-ugly looking people, the group that was fighting off the zombies didn't do anything outrageously stupid until the stress started getting to them (despite the fact that one character is pretty damned stupid — his stupidity is believable), nobody knew how to handle a gun and British idiom were used throughout.

January 12, 2005

Lilya4ever

Yesterday my girlfriend and I decided to rent a movie, as we often do. Our tastes differ quite a lot; I am prone to liking A-movies that didn't quite make the grade: films starring James Spader, Kevin Costner or Kurt Russel immediately catch my attention and I usually enjoy them. Maybe it's because I expect very little and often get more than a little in return. I'm pretty sure a movie like 3000 Miles to Graceland flopped bigtime, at least I'm pretty sure it was instant video fare here in the Netherlands. But I enjoyed it bigtime. I even, dare I say it, enjoyed waterworld. The odd thing is I absolutely hated succesful movies like Gladiator and Spider-man 2. Go figure it out
Well, as you can imagine I have yet to find someone to share this oddity with. Fortunately I like many Arthouse films as well, though my local video-store, located at crawling distance, is poorly stocked in that department. My girlfriend has a tendency to look for the saddest stories she can find, if possible based on true stories. Not per sť my thing, but relationships are about give and take, I guess. So yesterday we rented Lilya4ever. It must be the saddest fucking movie I ever saw. As Reinder put it, it makes the collected works of Ingmar Bergman look like the Benny Hill show. It tells the story of a Russian teenager being abandoned by her mother, left to fend for herself. This eventually leads to prostitution, once she runs out of money and the heat is cut off in her dreary apartment, and there's no more food on the table. Her only friend is an even younger boy whose only joy in life is playing basketball with an empty can and sniffing glue. Soon she's shanghaied by a "lover boy," a good looking young man being nice to her and shipping her to Sweden, promising her a Better Life. In Sweden she's locked in an apartment and only let out to prostitute herself. Not trying to spoil the ending for you, this ain't no feel-good movie. It is a beautiful, well made film, though. Superbly acted, well directed.
But oh, so fucking sad.

April 10, 2005

"I've seen it. It's rubbish"

Planet Magrathea reviews the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy movie and piles steaming heaps of hate on it. In the short version, linked here, it looks like a lot of writer MJ Simpson's opprobium is of the "how dare you deviate from the Holy Writ in any way" variety, but the long version of the review, with spoilers, highlights some things that I too would have difficulty with. The final, damning verdict is that


That's the movie we've been waiting 26 years for. And let me tell you, it was not worth the wait, not for this. The whole film is true to neither the letter nor the spirit of Douglas Adams' books and scripts.

I'm really sorry to hear that. (via cmkaapjes who got it from Fark)

Continue reading ""I've seen it. It's rubbish"" »

July 19, 2005

Modern day Robin Hoods, those Warner brothers

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Not long from now the modern day Dukes of Hazard movie will appear in theatres: the gang of modern day Robin Hoods now played by Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson, with Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg. With this cast I have very little hope they'll do the series much justice, it seems to become more of a spoof like the Starsky and Hutch movie. In that light I tried to imagine what our heroes would drive these days: (pictures behind the cut)

Continue reading "Modern day Robin Hoods, those Warner brothers" »

Did they even watch the show?

I knew she's not the smartest person in showbizz, but to forget the doors to the General Lee are (supposed to be) welded shut?
Watch the video (beware, errors in Firefox and Opera) here, (and you'll have to watch some commercials first).

Edit: another link to the video thanks StatusNil
For your convenience, I made some screen-shots (behind the cut):

Continue reading "Did they even watch the show?" »

July 27, 2005

And another one in a series of mental notes...

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is one of many public domain movies on the Internet Archive. Me want, so me will download when on the iBook. So should you. (Via)

November 4, 2005

Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Curse of the Were-Rabbit was hilarious, every bit as good as I expected it to be. Go watch it. What I like about the Wallace and Gromit series in general is that it isn't just funny but very well staged, lit and shot, and this new episode made for the big screen was no exception.
The movie was clearly a subtitler's nightmare. Many puns went untranslated or had very tenuous translations. Luckily the audience picked up on them anyway.
Sidsel was slightly bothered by the showing of a short animated cartoon before the movie: a computer-generated story about penguins getting into trouble during Christmas. I liked both the short itself and the fact that they were showing it before the main feature; I'd love to see that tradition permanently restored, in fact.

February 16, 2006

[cmkaapjes] Keep your cash in your pocket

The genre of biopics is not one that has given us many memorable titles, at least not many come to mind: Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, Bird seem to be happy exceptions. I always hope a picture will exceed my expectations, but in the case of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the line this sadly did not happen. Though Johnny Cash's life was interesting enough, the makers of the movie concentrated solely on the lovestory between him and June Carter. The result: a sappy run-of-the-mill love story with a great soundtrack.

Joaquin Phoenix tried hard to mimic Johnny Cash's voice and movements, and though he's not a great actor, succeeded well enough. The screenplay however, lacks in originality and nowhere in the story we get a clear picture of the man Johnny Cash. We only get clues in the form of the death of his brother and his relationship with his father. But American Christian morality is poured over it like a thick nauseating gravy, so that we're never sure about his true feelings. I suspect he hated the man that put him down like that, but honouring ones parents seems to be the prevailing sentiment. June Carter is portrayed as a prom-queen goody-two-shoes, and we get absolutely no idea why she puts up with the pill-popping rock star Cash.
The movie starts out promising with a glimpse of the famous Fulsom-prison show. Then we're treated to the obligatory flash-backs of his youth, the obligatory flash-backs of his early tours with the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. This part of the movie is quite enjoyable though, mainly because of the many musical scenes. These scenes seem to be for name-dropping purposes mainly and do little to speed the story forward. The name dropping reaches its height with Cash's friend Waylon Jennings being featured in two scenes, without the audience once being told who this long-haired guitar-toting guy is, or what his relationship with Johnny is. Cash's friendship with Bob Dylan is also hinted at, but never plays a role anywhere.
When due to his addiction to amphetamines the touring comes to an end, so does whatever momentum the movie had. I was very glad my friend had brought a small bottle of scotch to the theatre. It was the only thing keeping me going through the long and tedious scenes of Reese Whitherspoon (who could do with an extra couple of pounds in my book) getting Cash to give up his addiction. After a grueling half hour of family-oriented scenes he beats his addiction and we get on with the show. Thankfully the soundtrack picks up here to guide us through the last romantic scenes.

I was very surprised to see that rottentomatoes gives it a fresh rating of 83%. Apart from it being about Johnny Cash, and thus having a good soundtrack, it really is a mediocre lovestory at best. No doubt it'll do great at the Oscars...

December 25, 2007

[Adam Cuerden] Hogfather Sketches

Sketches from our group viewing of Hogfather while I was in Groningen. More under the fold.

Continue reading "[Adam Cuerden] Hogfather Sketches" »

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