Sunday, July 20, 2014

SNOWPIERCER: more reflections…

More *SPOILER*ful thoughts and crazy talk concerning bits and pieces of the immersive world created in Bong Joon-ho's SNOWPIERCER…

"Blow it up!"

Saw this animated GIF earlier today (7/19/14)


And immediately thought to myself—Dayumn! That is baddass! That is, like, EdgarWrightian* badass! I mean—"Blow it up!"? That, plus the one-armed crucifix in Gilliam's quarters, that's pretty much the end of the movie right there! Will have to keep my eyes open for more signposts on a next screening—I love this movie more and more!

*Not that Edgar Wright invented foreshadowing, or whatever you want to call it. He only perfected it is all. =)

How do the matches get into Curtis's pocket?

I didn't think of it until after the movie, of course, because it certainly didn't bother me in the flow of the film and storytelling. But okay, that's a legit question.

A legit, but probably not very satisfying answer—There is ample time between on-screen events for off-screen activity to account for getting the matchbook from Chan in the tail up to Curtis in the Water Supply section. After the Battle of Yekaterina Bridge, they clean up and sleep in the Water Supply car, so Gilliam, Curtis, or Edgar, realizing that there are going to be more tunnels, could have ordered the matchbook be passed up to the front line.

So, yeah, seriously, lotsa time and opportunity for that to have happened.

But, okay, it would've been nice to have seen Grey catch Curtis's eye, toss them to him, Curtis maybe surprised, and then Yona explaining, "He says there will be more tunnels… He's right."

Bent spacetime in "My Dinner with Wilford…?"
If you listen, the conversation in the Engine between Curtis and Wilford flows at a regular pace, but as you watch, the action appears to jump in places. It's somewhat hidden by cuts to activity in other parts of the train, and maybe cuts to reaction shots in the Engine, but to me it is striking, conspicuous, perhaps meaningful. A little disorienting if you're paying attention, but I *like* it.

It also speaks to me about a possible psychological side effect of the Engine itself, maybe even a physical (as in physics) one, too. After all, what do we know about the energies involved in a perpetual motion engine, right? Also about Curtis's state of mind, his exhaustion, and potential susceptibility to Wilford's words.

One memorable jump… Wilford is at the grill, cooking up his steak, speaking at Curtis. He's monologuing, and to illustrate a segment of his philosophizing, we get a cut or two to the Kronolheads massing at the narrow bridge, and suddenly (it seems to me), without missing a beat in his speechifying, he's at the table, eating, opposite Curtis, who now has a full plate in front of him (but of course, he does not touch any of his food, we never see him eat).

Does time flow differently around the works of the Engine? Does the Engine itself/herself ("She's getting sensitive lately."), choose and cause time to jump as it/she wishes? A demonstration of power? Or a manifestation of the Engine's respiration? Could the engine be an entity? A "sensitive" perpetual motion machine. What would such a creature want most? To continue, I should think.

Perhaps the closer you are and the longer you're exposed to the Engine's power, the more crazy/Wilford-like you become. The Engine needs an Engineer to maintain it, and the Engineer needs everything and everyone in its place to do that. The Engine needs the system, the balance, the population control, and the population.

The time skipping triggers a flash of deja view to the end of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, in which Bowman experiences aging/time jumps in the presence of the Monolith.

Chef Paul…

This is a detail I didn't really get until after a second screening…

The way Curtis, Edgar, and other Tailies speak of Paul when they encounter him in the Protein Block section is a little puzzling. They recognize him, but he looks way different somehow. It's been some time since they've seen him. First I imagined he was drafted from the Tail section for his expertise in some part of food science or processing or such, the way that Jerry was taken for his skills as a violinist. So, Wilford must have put Paul to work on an alternative to long pig, because the Fronters weren't going to share their livestock and the Engine was losing potentially valuable spare parts to the Tailies' bellies.

The timeline is kind of funky, tho. If he was drafted to *create* a food solution for the Tailies, that was almost 18 years ago, because the first protein blocks showed up at least two months after the Snowpiercer started its endless journey. How and why would so many Tailies recognize a man they only knew for two months at best? So, maybe he was drafted to take the place of the original chef-scientist? MAYbe… But I think that we should listen to exactly what Paul says to everyone when they first meet him. That this (the turning of a valve) used to be done automatically, but since a part went extinct, it has to be done manually now. That's not just small talk. That's the explanation of his entire purpose on the train, as dictated by Wilford.

Well, that and passing on the Informant's message capsules/bullets.

I imagine Claude showing up with security a few years earlier and asking for people who'd worked in factories or food processing. They would step forward and maybe Claude would pick out the three tallest individuals and then ask them to jump as high as they could, maybe to touch the ceiling. And Paul was the lucky winner, escorted from the tail section to the Protein Block car to learn his new place in the World.

Crazy crazy talk…

This is SO far out of the SNOWPIERCER ballpark, it's somewhere in orbit, but that is where my head likes to go sometimes—outer space.

What if the world of SNOWPIERCER is somehow virtual? Powered either by electronic or psychic/oneiric means, it doesn't really matter. Would it be one individual's world? A shared world or dream? I can easily imagine metastories that would support both possibilities, but let's not go even farther out. If the frozen apocalypse IS a WORLD ON A WIRE or SOLARIS-type sim, it might allow for technological or mental hacks, like matches appearing when needed, the jump-starting of the elder Marco killing machine, or the time skipping disruptions (or super speed?) in the Engine.

Fight your way to the front!

Keep on keepin on~

Monday, July 07, 2014

SNOWPIERCER: bits I *love* about it…

Rattling off some things I *LOVE* in the film, probably followed by the rambling and tangent-hopping…

*SPOILERS* follow!



"A blockbuster production with a devilishly unpredictable plot." — Wilford.

The whole world of the Snowpiercer is a metaphor. There doesn't need to be any subtext or metadiscussion. Of course, there is, and it's fun and meaningful, but man, it's ingenious in its simplicity as a device that also works as an environment and world.

The broken one-armed Jesus/crucifix figure in Gilliam's quarters.
Take 1: A representation of Gilliam, one-armed spiritual leader to Curtis and the Tailies.
Take 2: Foreshadowing of Curtis's dis-arming in the Engine.
Take 3: A red herring foreshadowing of Curtis's role as savior. He's not truly a messianic savior type, but he is an agent of revolution and change. (I've gotta lock down my definition of "savior.")

The "laying of the pipe" that begins the Tailies' revolution, with Grey's ninja parkour delivered coup-de-grace as a beautiful kinetic climax and finish.

Seeing the American "doctor" from THE HOST as the Snowpiercer's bug bar chef.

The reveal/appearance of the masked axemen as the gate opens, just as Yona yells not to open it.

The Sam Sheepdog/Ralph Wolf break in the Battle of Yekatarina Bridge to acknowledge the new year.

"Surrender" and "Die" tattoos on "Snake Eyes" Grey's arm. So wish we got more of him, and the significance of his other tattoos. "Coffee?" "Tea?"

That Yona is "clairvoyant." Might've been nice to hear Nam try to explain it to Curtis at some point. "Sometimes she just knows things." or "She's lucky." Still, pleased that it's treated as subtle and wasn't over-explained.

Spark: Hrm… I'd dismissed Nam and Yona being addicts as a cover, for the most part, but is it the Kronol that enables or enhances her ability?

The running of the fire from the rear of the train to the Battle of Yekatarina Bridge. It starts in the dark of the bowels of the train's tail, the strike of a match in the hands of the young thief, Chan, who lights the torch. He starts to movie it forward and then hands it off to Andrew, who roars with it thru the darkness. I think it's "Snake Eyes" Grey who carries it next, and when the fire arrives at the Battle, it has spread and multiplied into dozens of torches in the hands of a swarm of fighters. When it begins, it really does feel like it starts in a cave, even underground, and in a primordial past. It could be many things—hope, love, knowledge, change, fury—and maybe it is one or many of those things in each Tailie's hand. In the end, it makes for a gorgeous and powerful visual sequence and a simple and brilliant tide-turner in the battle.

Slipping on the fish = BJH moment. Everybody slips, everybody falls.

It's horrible, but Edgar's death. Not because he dies, but because Curtis makes the decision to go after the high-value target, Mason, and leave Edgar to fight for himself. Strategically, it's a smart move, because with Mason in hand, the battle is ended. (We saw that it wasn't enough to take a ranking officer—"Surrender or die?" ---> "Shit.") It is a general's decision.

The Gill-ford population control plan requires that Nam is in a prison drawer. Maybe Nam was framed for a crime. Maybe Nam was extorted into participating (Wilford could use Yona as leverage). Thing is, Wil-liam think they have him right where they want him, but in fact, Nam is exactly where he wants to be. He's played the players wonderfully. I wonder if Gilliam, who's on the scene when he's revived, joins them, and moves forward, has any inkling.

Spark: Remixing Wilford and Gilliam—Is "William Gilford" (or Guilford?) somebody?

The arm-freezing as punishment. Horrible and clever. Also a great way to explain any conspicuously missing limbs among the Tailies before Curtis reveals the truth behind the early days of hunger, violence, and cannibalism in the tail section.

Everything about the shoe. That it's a shoe, which was chucked at G.W. years ago as a vile insult, a cultural learning moment for the U.S. That Mason turns it into a know-your-place teaching moment. And that it is placed on Mason's head by Andrew when they are ready to move forward.

The pause to record/draw the revolutionaries. All of the illustrations made by the Painter as records.

The sushi break in the aquarium car. A magical break at an oasis in the apparently endless desert of violence, misery, and injustice. Also a nice opp for a teaching moment about balance, population, and control. The aquarium as a microcosm of the microcosm of the Snowpiercer.

Everything about crazy banana pants school. The Wilford bio video. Teacher's mania. The Eternal Engine spirituals, and call and response routines—We all freeze and die! Probably most especially Tanya cracking her new year's egg on the head of the bratty little girl, tho.

Nam explains to Yona how the leader of the Seven is an Inuit woman who taught him about all the different kinds of snow there are, but he does not reveal that she is her mother. At least, that's my belief. Think about it… When he's at the window and begins to speak—"There's a woman at the front…"—aren't you just certain he's talking about the woman he loves?

The showdown between Franco and Curtis across that looping hairpin turn in the tracks. They each see the bullet that could have killed them, embedded in the train cars' windows. However, you'll note that Curtis got his shot off first. Respect.

What was Curtis at age 17 on Earth that he's such a remarkable shot?

That Curtis IS ready to take over for Wilford. He never wanted to be the leader, insisting that Gilliam would and should be. But from the start of this revolution (when he forces security's empty hand by holding the gun barrel to his own head) he's made the hard decisions of a leader, reluctant tho he may be. The math of it weighs heavily on him and while he resists, the survival mantra of Wilford and the spell of the Engine prove very compelling.

Spark: Hrm… If we're to believe in the Gill-ford partnership, then Gilliam chose and groomed Curtis for his role in the revolution and as eventual successor to Wilford. Is it possible that Wilford does not know that Curtis was the man whose attack inspired Gilliam to sacrifice his limbs? Wilford *does* refer to Gilliam's remark about it being better to hold your lover with two arms, but that just means that Wilford knows that Curtis didn't/couldn't give up his own arm, not that he was the man who killed the mother of the child who grew up to idolize him. So, maybe Gilliam's selection of Curtis as revolutionary leader and next Engineer was designed to truly change the system. Could the man who had witnessed this "miracle" of sacrifice (by Gilliam and the others who followed him) to save the children of the Tail ever be a man who uses them to replace machinery?

That Yona is the one to snap Curtis out of Wilford's and the Engine's spell. Yona comes to Curtis seeking fire, and when she looks into his eyes, she *sees* that he's lost, or nearly lost, to the Engine. Then—knowingly?—she turns her gaze to the floor and *sees* Timmy, performing as a cog of the Engine, and she scratches at the panel to reveal the horrible truth. Curtis has the sense to understand that Yona has *seen* something important, and helps, and it is exactly the thing that he needs to see to break the spell.

It does make me wonder, tho, how far or long could Curtis have gone in Wilford's place? At some point, he would learn of the extinct technology that's been replaced by children like Andy and Timmy. When confronted with that, would he do the math and arrive at the same result as Wilford (a "needs of the many vs. needs of the few"), or would he F the math and do something truly revolutionary? Enlist the help and resources of the rest of humanity to come up with a solution? Manipulate someone else into taking his place and making the horrible decision? Stop the train and let humanity freeze rather than sacrifice its young.

Like I said, I love that Yona's there to wake Curtis. How desolate and despairing that other path could have been! No matter what, when you come out of the film, remember that JHB gave us a *HAPPY* ending!

Spark: Yona's part in this deja vus me to DARK CITY, THE MATRIX series and SECOND FOUNDATION. She's an X-factor that breaks a cycle and disrupts well-planned, intricately designed system.

In a pretty wonderful and beautiful embrace, Nam and Curtis shield Yona and Timmy with their bodies from the worst of the Kronol explosion and the ensuing crash. Thanks to their two dads, they survive the violent reboot of humanity.

And speaking of happy endings, heh… SNOWPIERCER's ultimate reboot proves to be a Benetton world! The end of an inhumane system run by white people (of privilege) is the beginning of a new world blanketed in white, to be built and populated by an (ESPer) Eve and Adam of color who come from nothing.

Fight your way to the front!

Keep on keepin on~

Sunday, July 06, 2014

SNOWPIERCER: some reflections…

After two screenings of SNOWPIERCER (hafta say, it's even better after a second viewing =), some top-of-my head *SPOILER*ful reflections, questions, comments…


"A blockbuster production with a devilishly unpredictable plot." — Wilford.

Jesus Christ?
Yes, there's commentary on religion and authority built into the social structure of the Snowpiercer and the events of SNOWPIERCER, but I didn't take away anything attached to a specific established religion or belief system. Jesus Christ *does* get a sort of shout-out, but for me, more as *a* savior than *the* savior. I don't see Curtis as a stand-in for JC, but I definitely see a couple of references in the film that paint Curtis as a potential savior. Why JC? How about the Yekatarina Bridge fish? The masked axemen bring out a massive trout or some such and each man dips his blade into it, blooding their axes. I had a fleeting thought—should I recognize this fish as poisonous? Definitely not a blowfish, tho, so that doesn't seem likely. Then maybe it reads literally—YOU are this fish, and we are going to gut you. And even if that idiom might have passed out of usage on the Snowpiercer (18 years of protein bars), the action definitely serves as intimidation. Of course, if you look at the fish as a symbol, in the West, its probably most recognized as standing for Christianity and Jesus. So, does Curtis equal the savior? Well, ask the broken Christ/crucifix figurine we see in Gilliam's quarters at the start of the film. You know, the one that's missing an arm? =)

Falling.
In the Yekatarina Bridge battle, Curtis slips on the blooded fish and falls. When that happened, I just grinned like an idiot and thought, "THAT is Bong Joon-ho." I've had this thing about his films that I love—his characters fall. I first noticed it in MEMORIES OF MURDER, when the detectives show up at the scene and tumble down the hill from the road. It just seemed so… embarrassing, y'know? Yet completely natural. Everybody falls. Even the creature in THE HOST (and of course, all of Daesu's family =). And so does Curtis. It's a beautiful (I think) theme throughout his work.

Edgar 1.
Edgar's steak. Edgar tells Curtis that he thinks he can almost remember the taste of steak. Given that he's almost a train baby, perhaps he's thinking of the taste of Gilliam's arm?

Edgar 2.
How the heck did Edgar get that accent growing up on the train, eh?

Edgar 3/names.
IMDB trivia claims Edgar is named after Edgar Wright. Are there other filmmaker's names in the characters, a la NIGHT OF THE CREEPS? (Terry) Gilliam? The Francos (Zeffirelli? James?!) ? =)

The Francos.
IMDB tells me that the two well-dressed enforcers who accompany Mason on her trips to confront the Tailies are known as Franco the Younger and Franco the Elder. The names suggest that they are related, but the few glimpses of interaction I recall from the film (also) suggest that they are partners/lovers. The Elder certainly takes the Younger's death verrry personally and fixates on Yona for it.

Franco the Elder speaks…
Franco the Elder tells Yona "No more bullets" in non-English. Is it Korean? I couldn't make it out.

Grey.
What is Grey's connection/relationship to Gilliam? Adopted son? Lover? Both?

What Nam sees…
Love how Nam puts things together in the background of all of these violent events (and set pieces). Against discussions focused on the survival of humanity in the closed system of the train, couched in flowery propaganda and doctrine, Nam is collecting hard data on the world outside and building a key/bomb to open the gate that will get them there. First, the Yekatarina Bridge plane wreck. Then, the snowflake, which he can "read" thanks to the lessons of the Inuit woman who jumped from the train. Finally, the thing that Nam sees thru the windows of the greenhouse car and *almost* tells Curtis about, the polar bear. LOVE that he just trails off and doesn't reveal that last fact.

Nam was part of the Wilford-Gilliam plan…
So, Nam must have manipulated things to get himself thrown in the prison drawers before Snowpiercer's next population control strategy. Maybe he was a legit Kronol addict? Or played one well enough (along with his daughter) to, apparently under the influence, commit a crime worthy of the drawers? Or was properly framed for such an offense? Or just plain agreed to or was extorted into playing this part in the next revolution. Kinda crazy, but also exactly the supervillain level of manipulation you'd need to choreograph "The Curtis Revolution."

Gilliam might have been ready for a real revolution…
Early on in the film, Gilliam agrees very quickly w Curtis's self-deprecating remark along the lines of "not everyone is what they seem." Curtis says it to try to discount Edgar's hero worship of him. Gilliam throws in a kind of "you can say that again" in reference to himself, playing the role of Curtis's revolutionary mentor. Once the revolution has reached the water car, and Curtis decides to split their forces, leaving Gilliam and most of the Tailies in the rear half of the train, Gilliam tells Curtis not to let Wilford speak to him. That he should cut Wilford's tongue out before he can say a word. For Gilliam, this means that he hopes that Curtis will complete his mission without learning of Gilliam's collaboration with Wilford, and follow thru without doubting anything he's learned from Gilliam. Sure, maybe it was because the pop control plan was going off the rails, and maybe Gilliam realized that Wilford would be forced to exact retribution against many Tailies and especially himself, but I think the hope was there. Unfortunately, Curtis *did* let the devil Wilford speak.

Programming the children…
So sinister. The gesticulations assigned to certain Eternal Engine propaganda seems designed to teach children to be replacement cogs and widgets for the train (the way softball pitching in P.E. might teach a child how to lob a grenade at a target =). Mason and Wilford explicitly demonstrate the motions and the children in the classroom show that they've been taught certain motions to go with their songs. Would've been good to see the Tailies get some indoctrination, tho, to sort of fill in some blanks.

What Yona sees…
Is "clairvoyance" the way to describe what Yona demonstrates? She can see thru or behind things. Not necessarily into the future. She demonstrates her ability by describing what's on the other side of the gates between cars just before they're opened. Then she sees the murder and menace in Franco's eyes. Finally, she sees little Timmy under the floor panels in the engine. Maybe final-finally, she is the first child of the train who gets to see a polar bear.

The messages…
There must have been messages smuggled to the Tailies via the bug bars before the events of the film, but the ones we actually get to see revealed (that I remember—I feel like I might be missing one) are…
  1. NAM's name, in Timmy's protein bar. Along w info that he's the security specialist responsible for designing the gate locks. A vital component to any plan to reach and attack the front of the train.
  2. WATER, in the loose capsule in protein bar fun factory car. For Gilliam, where the revolution should end. For Curtis the revolutionary, as explained by Gilliam, a strategic target. For Curtis the future Engineer: a lesson in natural resources.
  3. BLOOD, in the New Year's egg. For Gilliam, he doesn't see this message, but it is his death sentence, for letting the revolution get too far. For Curtis the revolutionary, an almost-too-late warning. For Curtis the future Engineer: the death of 74% of the Tail population, a second lesson in population control.
  4. TRAIN, freshly written by Wilford. For Curtis, a final Engineer lesson. The train is the entire world, and it carries all that remains of humanity, and the most important thing he can do is protect it, no matter the cost.
Fight your way to the front!

Keep on keepin on~

SNOWPIERCER: deja views…

I love going to my movies, and oftentimes, I'll get a sense of movie deja vu. That is, I'll be watching a film and have it remind me of another film (instead of, like, a real memory of an event or experience of my own like actual human beings have, bleah). As far as I can remember, this is never a bad thing. So, while screening number two is still fresh-ish, here are a few out-of-movie experiences I had while watching SNOWPIERCER…

Turn back now, for here there be *SPOILERS*…



CABIN IN THE WOODS / ESCAPE FROM L.A. / all of those ones, y'know. =)
An ultimate reboot. The protagonist/s hit the RESET button on the world, destroying the current society/civilization in favor of a blank slate and fresh start. Love that it's a Benetton slate, with Yona and Timmy as the non-white Eve and Adam in an otherwise white-blanketed world.

THE SHINING.
Yona's clairvoyance, but specifically, her almost instant reading of Franco the Elder (the psycho enforcer whose lover Yona kills) as Death/Evil.

THE MATRIX (and sequels).
Wilford's revelation that he and Gilliam are working together to maintain the balance of human beings and fear and hope needed to sustain humanity in the closed system of the Snowpiercer. Systems of control and order executed via manipulation.

MOOD INDIGO.
A single snowflake making a difference. There's not much to compare in meaning behind the event, but given the uniqueness of the event itself, that it happens at all in each film resonates for me. In INDIGO, it floated in thru a window and into Chloe's (Audrey Tautou's) lung and only we get to see it. In SNOWPIERCER, it floated in thru a cracked window and only Namgoong saw it.

OLDBOY.
Curtis fighting his way across the car against the axemen. Felt to me like Dae-su hammering his way thru the thugs in that gangster "hotel" hallway, all side-scroller-game-like.

THE HOST.
Yona protecting/cradling/leading Timmy out of the rubble of Snowpiercer threw me back to Hyun-seo protecting the little street urchin when trapped in the Host's subterranean nest and even when regurgitated by the creature at the end. Also, Curtis and Nam shielding Yona and Timmy with their bodies.

BRAZIL.
The presence of a propaganda system woven into the fabric of society. In BRAZIL it was Central Processing. In THE DOUBLE, it was The Colonel (I think?). In SNOWPIERCER it's the lessons of Wilford and the Eternal Engine.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (the original series/movie).
I don't remember it being so pronounced in the SciFi Channel reboot (I remember more of a focus on prejudice based on "race" and religion), but in the original, there are marked inequalities among the survivors in the different ships of the ragtag fugitive fleet. The Rising Star was a front car, and several partially radioactive cargo transports would've been the tail. The fleet was basically an "exploded" Snowpiercer.

METROPOLIS!
The doctrine and reverence paid to the Sacred Engine. The call and response routines in the classroom… Teacher's, Mason's, and Wilford's recitations with accompanying signs and gesticulations… all in praise and worship of the Sacred Engine. And the front car, the Engine itself, seems an update of the Machines of Metropolis, no? Heck, is SNOWPIERCER a remake of METROPOLIS? I'm gonna hafta watch that again sometime soon.

MEMORIES OF MURDER / THE HOST / other films by BJH…
Curtis slips and falls on the fish during the Battle of Yekatarina Bridge. It's something I've noticed and loved in JHB's films. Characters (and even a creature, in THE HOST) slipping and falling, accidentally, clumsily, embarrassingly. Surly detectives, terrified fathers, grieving families, revolutionary leaders… It's just so human and natural and a demonstration and visualization of chance, gravity, weight, vulnerability, pain, and surprise. And in the audience, it's a connection to that caveman who laughed at his friend who slipped on a banana peel, fell on his bum, bounced, and rolled down the mountain and got eaten by that sabre-toothed tiger. Or something. =)

It's kind of a great encapsulation of the genre-less-ness of JHB's storytelling, too. Life doesn't know about genres. It just happens.

Keep on keepin on~

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST: the good, the bad, and the huh…?

A *SPOILER*ful ramble on X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST follows. So turn back if you haven't seen it!

Basically, fanboy hack that I am, I very much enjoyed watching the movie. It was kind of a mess in a storytelling way, and didn't take full advantage of all of its talent (more Trask!), but it did deliver a ton of fun (Quicksilver & Blink) and comic book fanboy button pushing, so I have to recommend it. For me it's probably the second-best of the X films. If you put a non-metal gun to my head, I'd say from best to WTF (and not including the Wolvie solos films), it's…

FIRST CLASS
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
X2
X-MEN
X3

Note that I've seen DAYS and X3 (and the WOLVERINEs) once and the others twice.

Okay, on with the rambling!

The Good…

1. Quicksilver vs. Pentagon guards. Just lovely and clever and cool and fun and so very satisfying. I do have a geeky problem with it (see below), but was able to ignore the voices for the sequence and thoroughly enjoy it.

2. Blink (and friends) vs. Sentinels. The future X-Men use Blink's portals to wonderful advantage. Particularly enjoyed her riff on the Fastball Special—having Colossus build up terminal velocity in free-fall from way high and then dropping him into a portal that exits 90 degrees from his fall, ballistically launching him at a Sentinel. Helping energy manipulators blast thru her portals from one place to another. Once, severing a Sentinel limb. Would've liked to have seen more of that. Nightcrawler used that tactic vs. both Magus and Nimrod in the MCU, didn't he? Or no, one of those was Rogue, w Nightcrawler's power.

3. Professor X recognizing Wolverine's return from the past in the now-changed future. That was a sweet time travel bookend moment for me. Wolverine's time jump is now part of history, and anyone who knew about it then would remember it (unless Professor X removed that info, which I hope he did, lest the strategy be used/overused to change history to some malicious advantage =). I like that Wolverine seems to have memories of the original timeline still intact (surprised by Jean and Scott) when his consciousness snaps back to the future. I hope he can keep memories of both timelines, without the "new" one overwriting the original.

4. Post-credits scene. APOCALYPSE! Surprised that so few people in the theater seemed to understand what they were seeing. Perhaps the absence of his trademark orthodontic headgear was a fail? But, no—"En Sabah Nur!" Ancient Egypt! Four horsemen on the horizon? Come on, people! Anyhow, I wonder which X-MEN roster will face him. Multiple teams in different eras would be pretty sweet. Or even multiple teams in the present. He's definitely the Thanos of Mutantia. I'm almost disappointed to see that the next film is supposedly X-MEN: APOCALYPSE as a build-up of a film or two would be nice, but I guess we shall see.

5. The events of this film apparently negate those of X1 thru X3. Interesting. So, maybe we could get a legit Dark Phoenix story?

The Bad…

1. 1970s Wolverine vs. Magneto's bombardment. I don't believe that Wolverine could run at Magneto and brush off/deflect his bombardment. Mags was chucking sizable chunks of rubble at him and Logan was blocking them with swings of his arms. I'll allow for Wolverine being above-average strong and agile, maybe Olympian, but we should've seen him take damage deflecting blows like that w his body. If he'd had his adamantium-laced skeleton and claws, okay. The metal would protect the structure of his body. He'd also be stronger as well, his muscles adapted to carrying around an extra couple hundred pounds of metal as part of his person. But as he was, we should've seen his forearms snap, bone jutting thru broken skin, and MAYbe he heals while he continues moving forward, but not without a lot of pain.

2. I believe it's been established that Wolverine can be killed by asphyxiation/drowning. *MCU SPOILER* That's how he killed his son, Daken. *Maybe* it's a matter of time? So, brain death takes much longer for Logan than the average human. Okay, but seriously, how much longer? When do we think MyStryquer recovered his body? At best, the same day, but given the hullabaloo, I'd think it would take quite a bit more time to assemble the resources, meager tho they may be—boat w winch, tools, soldiers/agents w clearance—that s/he uses to recover Logan's body. And under whose auspices then, right? I don't see how Wolverine's body could create oxygen, which is really what would have to happen, right? Hrm… Okay, how about his healing factor kicks in once there's oxygen available again, but there was brain damage as a result of the lack. MAYbe this is the start(?) of his modern feral existence and memory loss? Frack. I may have to re-watch other X-MEN movies to get that straight and I don't really want to do that, bleah. Would've been bold to let Wolverine die that day, drowned while saving the future. Also, an "out" for Hugh Jackman if he wanted it. =)

3. Quicksilver's walkman. Okay, maybe he has an aura that extends his perception of time while he's moving at super speed, and within it, his walkman plays at regular speed relative to himself. But then, what about his precaution with Magneto, holding his neck to prevent whiplash? A physical range limit to this aura? Would be fun to have him conduct an Einstein's Twin test, with clocks, maybe with Beast's guidance. Still, regardless of the rules surrounding his speed and a supposed aura, the scene was a thing of beauty, probably tied with Blink's portal strategies for coolest execution of X-Men-itude in the film.

4. Kitty Pryde is shunting psyches back in time? WTF? Why not introduce Rachel? Why not introduce a completely new, never-before-seen mutant? Why not create some b.s. pseudo-science explanation that combines Kitty's phasing w someone else's telepathic or temporal abilities instead?

5. When Kitty phases thru electronics, she disrupts them. I didn't spot her using this vs. the Sentinels. I'd think it would work at least once vs. a Sentinel, right? Or maybe it's deemed too dangerous a power to allow them to adapt? But then, if the battle they fight would never have happened in the first place (after time shunting Bishop back to warn them) why not use it, right?

6. Future-Sentinel blast-attacks. Why did they have to resemble the Destroyer so much? I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it. Friends with whom I saw the movie questioned it and didn't like it. I dismissed it pretty quickly as just a dopey design choice, but to people who only/mainly know Marvel's creations thru the movies, I guess it IS confusing, creating a visual connection when there is no real connection.

7. Magneto hijacks the Sentinels. I like that he bonds steel to them to physically control them as puppets, but I don't love that he seems to command them as a kind of admin as well. That he can order them to do things and let them do them, without apparently controlling every joint, limb, engine, and weapon on them, and fighting the Sentinel's native programming to do it.

8. Using Mystique's power as the basis for the Future-Sentinel adaptive technology. If you're gonna steal a mutant's ability to make this possible, it would be Rogue's. Mystique is purely cosmetic, right? Altho, I suppose her musculature changes, so… she'd become stronger if she took the physique of a body builder? But would she be able to fight the way she does in such a body? I dunno. Anyhow, using her genetics does not explain how a Sentinel could gain control over moisture (Iceman) and fire (Pyro/Sunfire?) or why they'd need to generate a blast based on those powers somewhere inside its body that would need release via a hollowed-out head cannon. Why not just blasts thru its hands/arms? Or just mentally projected? Blerg.

9. The next threat: Apocalypse. Not a bad thing on its own, cuz he is basically the Big Bad of Mutants. Would be interesting to see his blue hand mess with events throughout history in a next film. Altho, maybe he's beaten/subdued in ancient Egypt somehow, and released in the modern day? Anyhow, the thing I *wanted* to see… Remember Kulan Gath? He took over Manhattan with some transformative spell that turned anyone within into a fantasy/medieval version of him or herself? When the X-Men and Spider-Man beat him, it involved turning back time to the event that triggered Gath's release and the spell's beginning. The fateful price for retconning that event out of existence? The arrival of Nimrod. I would've *loved* to have seen a ripple from the prevention of the DOFP future in the 70s lead to the creation of a new (yet familiar to fanboys) threat. A Nimrod story would've been cool, but would require a lot of exposition at some point about the Future-Sentinels developing time travel tech or somehow mimicking time travel abilities. Maybe too TERMINATOR-y? How about begun at the Pentagon, in response to Magneto's escape? Forge's Neutralizer? A Hound program? A Cure program? The birth of Legion?

10. A muddy ensemble for a movie. Who the heck am I really invested in here? I know who I *like* but if I was coming to this film without having my knowledge of the characters from the comics, or even from the other films (unlikely, I suppose), would this work as a film? Wolverine seems like he'd be the one to follow, but he's actually just an enabler. I *think* the fulcrum is Mystique, and her decision to kill/not to kill. Mystique spares Magneto, but not Trask, right? She's only prevented from killing Trask. Is that really a powerful decision? There's also the young Xavier, who needs to be convinced "to hope," and be set on a brighter path. Not the greatest inspirational speech from older Xavier, btw. While I dig the telepathic connection via Wolverine's time-shunted psyche, X and X's scenes "together" were not as powerful as I'd hoped.

The Huh…?

1. Why the heck didn't young Charles and Hank get to Wolverine before MyStryquer? I guess it *could* allow for the events of X2 and the WOLVERINE films to persist in the brighter timeline… In the new timeline, did Magneto's rebarring of Wolverine (and Wolvie's surviving the process) *inspire* Stryker to seek an adamantium grafting process? Wack!

2. Okay, if we just accept Kitty's consciousness shunting ability in the future, Wolverine has let the young Professor X in on it. Perhaps the Professor and Kitty together have worked on this ability and used it to tweak the timeline more than a couple times? She can do it for shorter periods of time with someone who doesn't have a healing factor. A dangerous get-out-of-jail-free card in future films, no?

3. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. They certainly don't appear to be twins in the movie. Does Wolverine introducing Peter to Eric in the 70s mean that Magneto finds his children sooner in the new timeline than in the original (if he ever does)?

4. The Sentinels design. Couldn't we have seen just ONE of the familiar GIANT Sentinels from the comic book? Maybe as a failed/failing/mothballed prototype in the 70s? Or as drones/guards in the future? The 70s design was cool enough, but I wouldn't have minded them being larger and clunkier, cuz how are you gonna produce those w 70s tech in the first place, right? The future Sentinels are totally forgettable and forgotten. They absorbed powers, okay, but I can't remember a distinctive silhouette. And actually, I can't remember what the faces of either the 70s or future models look like.

Allright, I know if I give myself enough time, I'll find more things to love, not-love, and WTF about, but I think this hits the biggies (and mediumies, even).

Keep on keepin on~

Monday, April 28, 2014

IFFBoston 2014: the first five days…

And now, some brief late night ramblings on my IFFB 2014 screenings so far. If I write "SEE IT!" I mean see it in a theater if you can. Of course, that may not be an option for many people and sadly, many of these films. If that turns out to be the case, please try to see a "SEE IT!" any way you can. =)

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day1.

BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (Q&A w directors Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet, co-star Aiden Gillen, and soundtrack artist Dustin Hamman)
IFFB | website | my ramble
SEE IT! Rambled on it here.
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day2.

FIGHT CHURCH (Q&A w directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel and pastor-fighters Paul Buress and Preston Hocker)
IFFB | website | my ramble
SEE IT! Rambled on it here.

SHORTS G: NARRATIVE (Q&A w "Distance" director Aimee Long)
"How To Stand Up For Yourself"
IFFB 
When a little girl decides how important something is to her, she takes a stand against her mother's rule. Will Mom give in, or follow through with tough love? I can see what the film was going for, but it failed to connect with me. 
"Lambing Season"
IFFB
Really enjoyed this one. Bridget enlists her fiance's help to confront her long lost father, whom she's tracked to a sheep farm in Ireland. She approaches her father under false pretenses, planning to learn about him as part of a documentary film crew, without revealing her true identity and relationship to the man. What if for his own reasons, her father has had the same idea? 
*SPOILERY* notes to self. Leaving the "resolution" of the film's conflict up to the urgency of nature/a natural event is pretty perfect. Also appreciated that her father tried to hide himself behind the identity of "Father Patrick," for being a father, and for Bridgid's Patrick being a father-to-be. 
"The Hero Pose"
IFFB 
Also loved this one. A man spends the day with his daughter in their front yard and on their porch while he waits around for prospective buyers of his clunker of a car. The girl, otherwise bored out of her mind, engages Dad in some free flowing conversation that reveals quite a bit about the separated parents and how each has or hasn't moved on. The girl is a horribly irresistible charmer in this. 
"Samnang"
IFFB 
Love love this. Samnang works the overnight shift as doughnut baker. When he's told to train the boss's sister to do his own job, Samnang is not pleased. It's going to be a long night. We get to see Samnang work his shift once on his own. Kind of magical watching him engaged in the donut making all alone. The next night, we see him "share" the kitchen with his trainee, someone whom he automatically sees as a threat to his job security. The only job he has and one he needs. Attitude and little passive- (and later, active-) aggressive moves mean a lot in this. It's lovely to watch unfold. 
Also—doughnuts!

"Distance"
IFFB 
A well-realized glimpse of a near future world of high toxic pollution and travel rationing. A great effects team did some solid work, unfortunately, the story wasn't all that compelling to me.
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day3.

THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO (Q&A w director Ian Cheney)
IFFB | website

SEE IT! In this documentary, ostensibly about the origin of General Tso's Chicken, an investigation into this apparently ubiquitous American Chinese menu item becomes a surprising and tasty gateway into the history of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. Also, you find out who General Tso is. A deliciously enlightening watch.

FAT (Q&A w director Mark Phinney, cast, and crew)
IFFB | facebook

So impressed by this. The lead, Mel Rodriguez, delivers a powerful performance as Ken, a man whose life and relationships seem to fall apart as he comes to grips with with obesity, addiction, depression, and denial. Hard to watch at moments, but appropriately so. The TIFF blurb says it pretty frickin well…

Powered by an utterly fearless, tour-de-force performance by Mel Rodriguez, FAT is a bracingly personal inventory of the indignities of battling obesity. Making his feature directorial debut, comedian Mark Phinney has adapted a series of autobiographical essays into an unflinching portrait of a life consumed by a compulsive and tragically self-destructive relationship with food. Often deeply discomfiting, FAT is also darkly funny, and above all, a film of remarkable emotional honesty.

There are some technical issues that I hope can be fixed, or overlooked, so that this film gets much more exposure.
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day4.

THE CASE AGAINST 8 (Q&A w litigants Sandy Stier and Kris Perry)
IFFB | website

SEE IT! A wonderfully crafted documentary following the progress of the case built against Proposition 8 in California, the law which outlawed gay marriage in the state by popular vote. The film follows the case almost from its conception and the formation of its legal team, whose anchorman, Ted Olson, would have been the last person anyone would expect to be asked, much less to agree to join in the lawsuit. He in turn picked a most unlikely partner, David Boies. Do these names mean anything to you? The didn't to me, until placed in the context of news reports from 2000—they were the leaders of opposing counsel in Bush (Olson) v. Gore (Boies). Once the legal minds are committed, we meet the plaintiffs of the case, two couples, one gay, one lesbian, vetted by these lawyers and their team. The film follows all of them over the years it takes to develop, try, and ultimately rule on and against Proposition 8. It's a helluva story and an excellent cinematic telling of it.

WILD CANARIES (Q&A w producer)
IFFB | website

Did not love this. Appreciated a lot of what was going on here, but felt like the movie was a bit schizophrenic. The screwball noir-ness worked not-too-badly, but the relationship bumps just seemed too base and mean-spirited. In general I like when a film doesn't give a damn and defies classification—life doesn't know anything about genres after all—but the change-ups in mood/tone caused by the relationship tangles weren't complementary to the mystery. Gotta say, tho, this film overall is a very interesting different direction compared to GREEN, which screened a few years back at IFFB, from the same writer, director, and stars. Alia Shawkat's role in this totally flashes me back to Maeby Bluth in her Hollywood exec era, heh. I do wish that Kevin Corrigan got more screen time. He was channelling SOMEONE in this, but I couldn't quite put my finger on who. Walken, maybe?

OBVIOUS CHILD
IFFB | website

SEE IT! Love love this. Hilarious, thoughtful, rude, and sweet romantic comedy featuring fierce and lovely Jenny Slate as a 27 year-old Brooklyn comedian who gets dumped, fired, and pregnant just in time for Valentine's Day. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre. Until this film, I knew Slate only as John-Ralphio's sister (and hilariously nightmarish girlfriend of Tom Haverford) on PARKS & REC. From now on, I will be paying attention to everything these two women have done and do.

*SPOILERY* notes to self. Peefarter!
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day5.

9-MAN (Q&A w director Ursula Liang, editor, and three players)
IFFB | website

SEE IT! (esp. if you dig volleyball!) Would make a great double feature w GENERAL TSO!.Excellent documentary that follows several teams of Chinese 9-man volleyball players over the course of a year, from try-outs to nationals. Along the way, we encounter the generations of Chinese immigrants and American born Chinese who have taken up the sport and why it means so much to their communities and culture. Also features some impressive highlights of tournament play. =)

*SPOILERY* notes to self. Ontario Canadians (I think?) have no problem using the word "oriental" to describe people of Asian descent.

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER
IFFB | website

I enjoyed it, but it's a tough recommend to everyone. Sad and dark but nice to look at. When a Japanese office lady discovers a VHS tape of the movie FARGO apparently hidden in a seaside cave, she takes the Coen Brothers at their word and believes the events of the film to be true. She becomes obsessed with the notion that the money that Steve Buscemi's Carl Showalter buries in the North Dakota snow is still there.

The ending may not be the most satisfying (no wood chipper?!), but sadly, it does seem correct. I would have appreciated some more fish-out-of-water/cross-cultural encounters and maybe a little less bleak-ness, hard as that may be to come by in the Dakota/Minnesota wilds.

*SPOILERY* notes to self. Bunzo! A beautiful shot of Kumiko at twilight, trudging thru a snow covered clearing in the woods, in her motel blanket poncho, looking like an arrowhead against the white ground, dark trees a thick band on the horizon, darkening sky above her. When Kumiko discovers the VHS tape of FARGO at the start of the film, she has been led there by a map. I'm not certain if it's a map of her own creation (she makes one to guide her FARGO quest) or something that she acquired somehow. There really is only one way this can end, but I hoped for a CITY SLICKERS sorta explanation of a kind-of-actual FARGO treasure, buried in the snow and ice beside a random stretch of North Dakota road. Y'know, part of a live-the-movie FARGO tour dealio? Alas, not to be. It turns out that the "true story" card lifted from FARGO and used at the opening of KUMIKO also applies more accurately to KUMIKO than FARGO. A young Japanese woman did in fact die in the snow on what several people believed was a quest for the FARGO McGuffin. The true true story is even sadder…

GOD HELP THE GIRL
IFFB | website

SEE IT! (esp. if you like musicals!) Horribly adorable. Like SHORT TERM TWELVE meets LINDA, LINDA, LINDA… kinda sorta. So, yeah, I might be a sucker for youthy angst/right-of-passage stories on film, and if you're gonna create a musical around such a story, and set it in Ireland, whose music could be more fitting than Stuart Murdock's? He's the lead singer of Belle & Sebastian, his/their music is featured in the film and he wrote and directed. The story is pretty simple…

Young woman trying to find herself runs away to Glasgow hoping to break into music by getting a song played on a popular radio show. There she befriends a philosophical folksy guitar player and his ingenue student. Of course, they decide to form a band (altho whether it needs a name is not a forgone conclusion… Hrm, there's a name, eh?). And—Wacky musical fun ensues! The result: some very lovely musical candy with more than a few sweet comedic turns and great laughs.

*SPOILERY* notes to self. I dig the pyramid that the doctor or whoever-she-was drew up for Eve. It was about how to build a life. When you get to the higher levels, if they break down, the ones below them will catch you. And if you try to skip the lower ones, to try for the top, if you don't make it, you fall hard. Elegant.
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Keep on screenin on~