Category: Movies

Statue

Another piece of unused footage intended to be used in Uncle Meat, courtesy of Ed Seeman. Via Ed:

It shows Cal Schenkel creating the Zappa likeness statue to be used for the cover of "WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY"

Redboxin'

Caught a rather interesting and unlikely pair of movies last night: Beasts of the Southern Wild and Hotel Transylvania.

Beasts isn't like most movies, and it took me awhile to really hit a point where I could describe what I was seeing. But at the point where Hush Puppy finally comes face-to-face with the aurochses, it hit me: a movie about a little girl, with one parent missing and the other suffering from a vague illness, a watery disaster, strange beasts, strange houses, and strange modes of transportation? This is a live-action Miyazaki movie. I don't really give a shit about the Oscars, but it's nice to see this movie nominated for a few because the film, its director, its writers, and its stars deserve the recognition.

Hotel Transylvania is, of course, a thoroughly different animal, but I enjoyed it. The script was decent enough, Sandler and the other SNL vets' hammy performances suited the material, and, most notably, Tartakovsky managed to pull off some cool Tex Avery/Chuck Jones shit that you really don't see in a lot of CG films. It leads me to believe that he's just the right guy to take a stab at the Fleischer style in a Popeye movie.

Skyfallin'

The theme of Skyfall is the conflict between the old and the new. You can tell because every third line of dialogue reminds you of this.

I think the trouble is that the writers and director don't seem quite clear on what that premise actually means.

Spoilers follow.

Does Silver represent the new, because he is a computer hacker and a new kind of enemy? Or does he represent the old, because he's a Cold War-era agent who's gone rogue for reasons that are entirely tied to the way M has run MI6?

There's also the question of the contrast between the original Bond films and the Craig-era ones. This movie makes a big point of bringing back the trappings of the original films -- Moneypenny, Q, a 1960 Aston Marton with machine guns -- but it also makes a big point of how the original movies felt a lot more high-tech and futuristic than the current ones. (The gadgets Q gives Bond are "A radio and a gun -- not exactly Christmas, is it?") So which is the old and which is the new? And that's before you even get into the point that Craig's Bond, and Casino Royale as a whole, are throwbacks to Fleming's novels, the oldest version of Bond there is.

There's another conflict between the old and the not-quite-so-old: the last two Bond films seemed intent on introducing Quantum as the new, non-infringing version of SPECTRE, a shadowy organization that would pose a recurring threat through the rebooted franchise. And then, in Skyfall? No trace of Quantum at all. We're back to isolated, one-off villains -- perhaps because someone at the recovering-from-bankruptcy MGM realized that self-contained movies without recurring villains just make more sense for the film franchise. (Hell, even when the old films were using Blofeld as their go-to villain, they still had a different actor in the role every time; it may as well have been a different character.)

On the whole, though, it all hung together pretty well; I thoroughly enjoyed the first and third act. (The second act was stupid and had Magic Computers. I don't know where the writer picked up the phrase "security through obscurity", but apparently he missed the part where it is not an expression any security professional would ever use without sneering. The less said about the movie's idea of data encryption and depiction of code as a stupid-looking early-1990's wireframe screensaver the better.) But nonetheless, perfectly decent. Though I'm kinda glad I waited to see it at the cheap theater.

Molé Stout

There's not really anything I could say about Valentine's Day that wouldn't be either a cliché banality or a banal cliché. So instead I'm going to talk about this Ska Brewing Molé Stout I bought at Top's yesterday.

It's good! It's dark, it's chocolatey, it's got a hint of peppers. And it's four bucks a six-pack at Top's! I will probably buy more.

Guess that's it. Off to dinner and Die Hard 5: Son of Die Hard.

You Are What You Eat

Via uploader br1tag:

You Are What You Eat (1968) is a strange, psychedelic and convoluted film as incoherent as its hippy brethren 200 Motels (1971) and Rainbow Bridge (1972). It belongs with that small collection of movies in which more people own the soundtrack than have actually seen the film. The soundtrack is phenomenal. The bright yellow cover is as eccentric as the vinyl itself that features audio cut-ups, squealing Moog synthesizers, relentless psychedelic improvisations, lounge music, Tiny Tim oddities, and the final appearance of The Hawks before they changed their name to The Band.

The list of those involved with the film is an incredible roster of counter culture heroes and weirdos. Tiny Tim, The Electric Flag, Frank Zappa, Peter Yarrow, Paul Butterfield, Super Spade, David Crosby, Hamsa El Din, Barry McGuire, the radio personality Rosko and several others.

Ahmet Emuukha Rodan

Ahmet talks a bit about his name, his dad's love of monster movies, and his children's book, The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless.

Dr. Demento Part 2

I've been wanting to include a good piece of Bickford's fantastic animation from Baby Snakes for as long as I've been posting Zappa videos. But the truth is the movie's as long as The Hobbit and I've never managed to find the time to watch the whole thing. (Saw the first hour or so, maybe...)

One of these days...

Wreck-It Ralph: Fuck the Haters

Finally got around to seeing Wreck-It Ralph today. And I must say, it was great; one of my favorites of the year.

I'd braced myself, based on reviews, for a movie that went off the rails after the first act and descended into poop jokes, product placement, and a completely different character's arc -- and an ending with a lousy message. But that's not how I read it at all; spoilers follow.

I'll grant that there was product placement -- hell, the climax revolved around Mentos. And there were poop jokes -- because it's a kids' movie with Sarah Silverman.

And the ending -- Ralph goes back to being a bad guy but now he enjoys it? I guess I can see how some people thought that betrayed the story's premise. Hell, I'd have figured they'd go the route of Ralph's clear inspiration, Donkey Kong, and make him a hero in a sequel.

But you know, there is something to be said for the message: you may have a lousy job, but you can find ways to make it better. There's a bit of Camus's Myth of Sisyphus to it; Sisyphus may not have a choice in how he lives, but he does have the freedom to feel however the hell he wants about it. (And it doesn't hurt that Ralph's coworkers finally start treating him right.)

I'll also grant that the movie spends an awfully long time in Sugar Rush, but the game proves to have a pretty rich set of environs after all. Indeed, it almost feels like they cheat a little bit, like there's a whole lot of stuff in there that doesn't belong in a racing game.

Then again, maybe it's a franchise. Maybe it's like in Mario Kart 64 where you can go off the track and ride right up to the castle from Super Mario 64. Maybe Sugar Rush is just one piece of a larger world. Don't know -- but it's even fun thinking of examples of games that make this idea make sense.

And as for Mario Kart, the racing sequence really does a wonderful job of evoking it. The tracks have a lovely design, familiar but different, and beautifully realized.

For all that, I'd almost grant that the movie peaks early, in its opening act -- except that my favorite part was the credits.

On the whole, sure, it's not perfect -- it's probably not even my favorite animated movie of the year. (Maybe my third, after Pirates! and ParaNorman. Yes, before Brave -- though Brave would be #4.) But you know, it's a movie that steps into the shared-franchise space of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story and actually manages to be a worthy entry -- maybe not as good as those two, but that it can even stand in the same league as those giants says a lot.

Pioneer of Future Music

I posted a bit of this about six weeks ago, specifically the interview with Denny Walley. Anyway, here's the whole thing:

I thoroughly enjoyed it; do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing. All at once if you've got an hour forty-five to spare; parceled up or as background music if you don't. Whatever suits your idiom, it's well worth hearing in its entirety.