Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy frickin Halloween =)

Keep on creepin on~

SATURDAY by Ian McEwan

But it's too late for apologies now. Unlike in Daisy's novels, moments of precise reckoning are rare in real life; questions of misinterpretation are not often resolved. Nor do they remain pressingly unresolved. They simply fade. People don't remember clearly, or they die, or the questions die and new ones take their place.

p. 159.

Thanks to Paris Jen for putting the book in my hands.

Keep on keepin on~

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CONTROL: Joy Division tunes and every shot a gorgeous photograph


Saw CONTROL tonight, the biopic about the musical life and conflicting loves of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the band Joy Division. Had some JD fans and non-fans in the away party—In, Rowan, Kim, Jeff, and Al. Myself, I'm kind of an amateur fan, familiar with and dig most of the music, but mostly clueless about the story and history of the band and its members.

* October 30, 2007. For an excellent, more musically informed and fan-minded take on the film, please check out designfemme's very fine write-up.

It's the first feature film directed by Anton Corbijn, who's known better until now as a photographer and director of music videos for the likes of U2, Joy Division, Nirvana, and Depeche Mode. I knew his name as a photographer and figured he'd done music videos, but didn't know the extent of his video experience until discussing with Kim after the movie.

I enjoyed the movie for many reasons, but the cinematography is probably the greatest. This guy Anton is a damn good photographer. I felt that every freakin shot in this film was framed for thoughtful and striking composition. No doubt the black and white helped trick my brain into paying attention to just that.

Sam Riley as Ian Curtis is brilliant. He plays the gifted sensitive pretty Brit alien boy to perfection. If you're familiar with concert footage and video of the band's performances, you'll see that he channels the original's attitudes and demeanor uncannily.

For fans of the band, I imagine this film will be a hit. The musical performances are very well done (all the actors perform and play their own instruments for the film and soundtrack) and shot and don't have any of that annoying but almost standard m.o. crazy pan/depth of field crap that you always see in films with concert footage. Granted, the device works for certain bands/subjects/films (I remember feeling its coolness impact way back in THE COMMITMENTS), but it would not have fit this one.

For non-fans, I think it's a toss-up. It's a decent story, but, it's also something of a cliche of one, as far as talented rock star stories go. It's the same problem/truth I had with CASH. I mean, just imagine writing your own rise-to-stardom-only-to-burn-out-too-soon rock star story. Humble beginnings. Maverick attitude coupled with knowing and confident talent. Purity of heart. A true love. Breaking into the biz. Marriage and maybe a family, probably too soon. Life on the road and growing success straining that home life. Temptations of stardom on all fronts escalating... until... an encounter with another true love, or an addiction, or both. Losing control and slipping into a downward spiral. Repeat, ad lib, and fade...

That the story can be reduced to cliche formula shouldn't be counted as a strike against the film. It's true to its story, at least as told by Curtis's wife, as the film is based on her book. Cliches often become cliches for a reason, right? I mean, we have the phrase "tortured artist" in common use, don't we? So, the tragic story of this artist could be the tragic story of almost any great artist. This particular cinematic telling features some great music and visuals, tho. Perhaps the most interesting and unique parts of the details of this rendering of the cliche are the context that they provide for certain songs that Ian writes and performs at those points in his life.

I remember that being one of the great things about CASH. When I was watching the movie, and JC performed "Ring Of Fire," for the first time I understood (or at least, for the first time I *thought*) that the ring he was singing about was a wedding ring. That sorta blew my mind.

Perhaps I'm easily impressed.

Sadly, the loves of Ian's life—wife Debbie, played by the magickal being known as Samantha Morton, and mistress Annik—come off as rather flat. We know that he falls for them, but honestly, once the film's done, you will likely not be able to explain to anyone why. (But perhaps that's love...?) On the other hand, Ian himself, along with his bandmates, manager, and distributor, are all lively and damn entertaining characters. Their repartee keeps things light between Ian's darker self-destructive moments.

I highly recommend the film for fans of Ian Curtis and Joy Division. I also push it strongly at anyone who enjoys a good musician's or artist's biopic, particularly if you appreciate a pretty looking picture on your giant rectangles of light. If you're not so much into any of the above, I'd say you can pass. Without an appreciation of the band and the music, or the likelihood of getting caught up in the photography of these characters in their often stark and bleak environments, you'll likely feel the pace of things to be very slow. Although if you know a friend who's eager to see it, go with, and soak in some of the fan's afterglow if you can.

Reader beware, *SPOILERy* remarks follow, mostly just facts and film moments I want to remind myself of before they slip thru my colander of a memory. If you'd rather not spoil your appetite for the film, stop reading here.

The name "Joy Division," according to Ian in the film, was taken from the name of a WW2 brothel frequented by soldiers of the something-or-other. I'd always thought it was an anti-war play on military jargon, y'know?

* Looked up some more on "Joy Division" and it's from the novel HOUSE OF DOLLS, the name given to brothels of prisoners-turned-prostitutes from Nazi concentration camps, made to serve Geman soldiers.

There are so many gorgeously composed shots in this film, but the one that jumped back into my head at the end of the film when comparing notes with other was of Ian looking out the second floor window of his flat, down onto the street, where his wife Debbie passes, walking away, pushing their baby girl Natalie in her pram.

The pram was pretty frickin creepy in a number of scenes. In the black and white picture, it appeared deep and dark blackest black. Ominous and creepy.

I'd heard of how Ian Curtis ultimately did himself in, but I could never picture it. The movie doesn't show you his final fate, but gave me all I needed to picture it, and it was not how I imagined.

I'm always struck by how methodical certain accomplished artists are about pursuing and advancing their craft. In his childhood bedroom, we see that Ian's got two boxes on his desktop, one labelled "Bowie," another labelled "Roxy / Ferry," each filled with piles of newspaper and magazine clippings. Also on his desk are a number of three ring binders. On their spines: "Poems."

Keep on keepin on~

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

apple pickin' & crackin'

Where'd all those apples come from? Well, two weekends ago I went apple picking for the first time ever. Partner Joe makes an annual trip w his family, along with designfemme and Jeff. In past years, I've had scheduling conflicts, being out of town or playing in a volleyball tournament. This year, I was two weeks out of my cast, and not making any such plans, so I was finally able to join in on the apple safari.

We hit the HoneyPot Hill Orchard in Stow. Still pretty gimptastic, I hung back from climbing and picking and enjoyed watching the kids attack the trees and apples. I carried one of the large bags, which they did a pretty good job of filling. After two or three hours, I think we walked out of there with four bags full of apples. A pretty good haul. Along with Joshua and Alicia, I think Jeff did the most climbing and picking from within the trees.

The kids were crazy for apples. I think Joshua sat on a ladder in one of the trees and went through three of them, fresh off the branch. Alicia took down more than a couple on her own, thrilling us with her elegant and practical technique (she doesn't like the skin, so when she bites thru it, she takes a decent chunk, chews on it until she gets all the meat and sweet of the apple down, and *ptui* ejects the leftover skin bits—if you like, you can see her skills over at designfemme's place).

A couple years back I discovered that I'm allergic to apples, so I refrained from sampling any of the goods. Apples, apples, everywhere, and not a drop to drink... Or something...

At one point along our safari, I picked up a grounded apple, wanting to test something. Years ago—I think it was back when I was in high school—my mom showed me how she could split apples with her bare hands. Pretty frickin cool, and impressed all my sister's and my friends. I don't remember exactly how/when I learned to do it myself, but I eventually did. I couldn't recall the last time I'd done it, tho, and was curious to see if I still could, especially with the lame arm. So, I grabbed the apple w both hands, turned it around a bit until it somehow felt right, dug my palms in a little, pulled my hands apart, and *POP!* Split the apple!

Hrmmm... Perhaps the apples DECIDED to make themselves poisonous to me... in retalition for the development of my freakish talent as a threat to their existence...?

I think I cracked a half dozen or so before I realized that anyone had noticed. Joshua and Alicia weren't all that impressed, or perhaps were too hopped up on apples to focus, but the "adults" were asking me, basically, WTF? A few apple picking passersby stopped to ask and try as well. So, I held an impromptu apple-crackin' seminar with them. It turned out not to be something I could easily explain. You *can* power it, break an apple in half with just brute strength, but the way I was doing it gives you two apple halves with a flat clean split surface, and doesn't require a lot of sustained effort. I told them that I turned the apple in my hands to find a particular position. By feel, it seems to be a combination of symmetry and best purchase for my palms and fingers on the surface. The best result, I think, happens when you've found one of probably several best planes in the apple to break it, probably determined by the shape of the core, y'know?

Eh, that's just guessing. Perhaps a farmer would have some kind of real know-how about it. For me, it really is just a feeling of it being in a "sweet spot" of a position in my hands. I think you've gotta just try it.

I talked to my mom soon after the orchard trip and she was surprised and happy to hear about my apple crackin' prowess. When I asked, she said that she just picked up the skill as a child. I sorta remember her, from when she first showed me, telling me that it was a convenient skill, one that would let you share an apple with a friend. I also figured it kinda made them easier to chomp into. The apples, not the friends. She said that she thought that a lot of her friends, and probably a lot of people who grew up near farmland or in the countryside and rural areas in general, would know how to do it. I have yet to meet anyone who can already do this, or even anyone who's seen or heard of anyone being able to do this.

Anyhow, by the end of our orchard romp, both Jeff and Joe were splittin apples easily enough, and I hear tell that since then designfemme too has joined the ranks of the apple crackers. If you'd like to watch some actual apple crackin', dfemme's got a video posted of a demonstration of my freakish ability.

Now, how to harness this power for good?

I hope to work my way up to human head-sized produce... =)

Keep on keepin on~

p.s. I like apples. While cookin up my apple pie, extreme sportsman that I am, I decided to sample some of the goods. (I made sure I had some benadryl nearby.) Turns out, whereas a bite or two from a peeled grocery store-bought apple triggered an allergic reaction within a minute, first one slice, then another, of apples picked at the orchard went down sweetly and fine. No respiratory hinkiness, itchiness, or other allergic signs. What does this mean? Unless HoneyPot Hill does or doesn't do something to their apples that most orchards do, then something happens to apples between the orchard and the market that messes w the chemistry and causes an allergic reaction for me. Note that I am fine with processed or cooked apples, i.e. pie, crisp, juice, cider. So cooking and/or other chemical changes will remove whatever allergic agent is present. I shall hafta investigate organic or farmers' market options. Anyone else experienced this difference in reaction to apples? I've also had a similar allergic reaction to store-bought cherries, which I never went out of my way for, and so don't miss so much.

Monday, October 22, 2007

PAPER MOON: brilliant father-daughter road movie con artistry

trailer/clip | five and ten clip | Brattle series
There's an episode of THE SIMPSONS where the Simpson boys take up grifting and try running cons on everyone in town. They show up at Flanders's front door as bible salesmen, claiming that Ned's dead wife, Maude, had ordered a deluxe edition bible with his name printed on it before she'd been killed by an errant tee-shirt bazooka blast. Ned has a flash of recognition and wonders aloud at how the situation seems an awful lot like that movie PAPER MOON. Bart cries "abort" at this and he and Homer bail on the con.

Saw PAPER MOON tonight at the Brattle. I'd never seen it before. I'd known of the movie for many years, but until that SIMPSONS reference, never felt that it was a serious gap in my movies-watched-ology. It is a damn entertaining flick. Ryan O'Neal plays Moses Pray, a grifter posing as a door-to-door bible salesman, travelling the country roads of Depression-era Kansas. When he attempts to work an angle involving a young girl who's lost her mother, he ends up saddled w the responsibility of being her guardian. The girl, Addie, played by Tatum O'Neal, turns out to be just as stubborn and wily as her unwitting new mentor and quickly works her way into his schemes. Wacky fun ensues.

Also, a nice rudimentary how-to for some grifty action. If NINE QUEENS is an advanced level course then this would be a beginner one.

The Ryan-Tatum father-daughter dynamic on screen is a ton of fun to watch. Young Tatum is wonderfully willful, an old soul who delivers a powerful pouty stonewalling on demand. The way she disarms, outwits, and even outshines her mentor, repeatedly, is brilliant and hilarious.

Y'know, I never could've guessed this particular bit of cinematic deja vu would occur, but I hafta say, this film, in the flavor of the relationship and wacky misadventure shared by the outlaw and his precocious young ward, feels very much like an inspiration for Luc Besson's THE PROFESSIONAL. The connection between the two in PAPER MOON is more father-daughter than the out-of-sync lovers of Natalie Portman and Jean Reno in THE PROFESSIONAL, tho. Thankfully, cuz otherwise, that would be creepy.

Pretty nuts seeing little Tatum here and present-day Tatum playing the tattooed alcoholic wild child on RESCUE ME.

If you're in the mood for some snappy dialogue delivered by a pretty ultimate odd couple in a grifter road movie, well, you've gotta check this out. =)

Keep on keepin on~

Sunday, October 21, 2007

easy as apple pie...

My Sunday afternoon...

How dya like them apples?

Thanks to T and epicurious for their guidance. =)

The next day...

My first apple pie, and it's won the approval of my sister, a renowned pie connoisseur/snob. Seven apples went into this one. Given the size of my remaining apple inventory, I think I can bake another two, maybe three.

Keep on keepin on~

Techno Viking x Beat It

This is an overdub of the original vid, which, by the hammer of Thor, is thumpingly impressive to begin with.

Keep on keepin on~

a good day =)

Snaps from the Boston Pumpkin Festival...

Check out the Borg pumpkin cube, round noon...

(Pumpkin PI, get it? =)

Later, that night...

Keep on keepin on~

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Richard Scarry's Beastie Town...

THANKS to my sis for pointing me to this childhood button-pushing mash-up. As she pointed out, tho, it's missing our lil pal, Goldbug. O well. CARS AND TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO, the oversized hardcover, was my favritest =)

Keep on keepin on~

Saturday, October 13, 2007

THE DEVIL DARED ME TO: a New Zealand stuntman Cinderella story

site | trailer | BFFF 2007

Caught THE DEVIL DARED ME TO, a stuntman fable concocted by New Zealand's apparent sketch comedy answer to JACKASS, at day two of the Boston Fantastic Film Festival at the Brattle last night.

Young kiwi south islander Randy Cambell has got "stunts in his bloody blood!" Under the mentorship of egomaniacal and nerve-rattled daredevil king Dick Johansonson, he'll never get the chance to show it. However, when the well-mannered Cambell finally seizes an opportunity to take his stuntman fate into his own hands—dousing a car in petrol, jumping in the driver's seat, lighting up a cig, and flooring the gas pedal—he succeeds in saving careers of Johansonson and his team, as well as setting himself up as Dick's rival. In the years that follow, Randi does everything he can to live up to the ambitious but not-so-death-defying legacy of his dead stunt legend father, and Dick does everything he can to upstage and foil him. Wacky kiwi-accented zaniness ensues. Also, burning—literally—daredevil romance! =)

A New Zealand stuntman fairy tale, it sets up the world of daredeviltry as the southern hemisphere's equivalent of America's NASCAR. The flick is a bit light on plot, but strong on dumb, spectacular, crazy fun, and populated with some lovable and dastardly (it's so easy, but to my 11pm friday night brain, seeing "DICK" printed across the chest of the jumpsuit, t-shirt, and baseball cap of the villain, repeatedly sent me down the road to giggles) characters, or caricatures, who endure some terrible tragedies and achieve outrageous death-defying triumphs (as well as a few bloody, bone-crunching, balls-crushing, steel- and glass-punctured near-misses).

It seems that a decent chunk of the film's humor counts on the audience having some native New Zealander context, but between the melodrama, scheming, stuntman/stuntwoman-in-love montage, and other bits of universally appealing dialogue, a la "they've got sophistication dripping out of their arseholes" this stunt action comedy's got more than enough material for inspiring gasps, groans, and laughs in kiwi-clueless viewers.

EAT PIES. DRINK BEER. SMOKE CIGS. It plays again Monday night at 5.30pm. If you're rollin thru Harvard Square round then, lookin for a zany big screen spectacle with a powerful accent, do check it out! =)

Keep on keepin on~

Friday, October 12, 2007

ironic tees from

Thanks to Keri for the redirect to despair's latest offerings. =)

Keep on keepin on~

sign here

Keep on keepin on~

the view from the balcony tonight...

A grand night all around. Accompanied by the fair and sporting Miss Tricia, I caught a (second) screening of DARJEELING LIMITED, with the director and writer Wes Anderson, writer Roman Coppola (who directed the superfantastic CQ), and star Waris Ahluwalia (plays the porter on the Limited) in attendance, sitting for a post-movie Q&A session. How does the Brattle not kick ass? =)

Anderson, Schwartzman, and Natalie Portman created a short film "prequel" of sorts to DARJEELING LIMITED, entitled HOTEL CHEVALIER. It's been released online for free via iTunes, and I thought that the only time it would get big screen play was at the New York Film Festival premiere of LIMITED a few weeks ago. Turns out, the reel that played at the Brattle tonight included CHEVALIER as an appetizer. I personally think it's better experienced separate from the feature film. I watched it online a couple days before seeing LIMITED the first time, and I think the time/"distance" between my experience of the short film and that of DARJEELING enhanced the storytelling in both. The short itself feels a bit like an exercise, a lovingly constructed one, but not a complete tale. You certainly don't need to see it to appreciate DARJEELING, but I have to say, seeing DARJEELING definitely added to and augmented my appreciation of CHEVALIER.

In the course of the Q&A, director Wes said that he thinks that as DARJEELING opens in more theaters, HOTEL CHEVALIER will likely be included as an opening short, and of course, definitely on the dvd release.

I refrained from asking any questions myself. I had only two somewhat formulated.

1. What is the significance of Bill Murray's "man on the station platform?"

2. What is the deal with the little kid apparently holding a gun on Adrien Brody in the scene where he is praying in an Indian temple?

I did not go as far as asking them because I suspected that both would be answered with a "happy accident" sort of response, a phenomenon I feel is vital and intrinsic to the art of filmmaking. That is, these were elements of the film that were not designed with intentional meaning or subtext, but simply for "coolness," practicality, or serendipity. As the Coen brothers said about the hats in MILLER'S CROSSING, "Sometimes, a hat is just a hat." Director Wes fielded two other questions of the "happy accident" sort, addressing Jack's (Jason Schwartzman) going barefoot throughout both films as well as the significance of characters being submerged in water in DARJEELING and all of his other works.

Regarding my question 2, when talking it over w Tricia, I realized that the kid likely had an incense holder in his hands, and not an actual pistol. Still, I want to think that its appearance in the child's hands, as the form of a gun, could be significant, perhaps in a Lonely Hearts Club Band cover way.

As for question 1, I can see all kinds of possible readings of the man on the platform. I'll spare you them now, as they'd be a bit spoilery and probably tiresome.

I'd gone shopping during lunch to pick up some dvds—BOTTLE ROCKET and RUSHMORE—in the hopes that the guests would be available for autographs at the end of the evening. Alas, Jason, who was scheduled to appear, couldn't participate, done in by a broken foot. I would have had Wes sign both discs and Jason sign RUSHMORE. Unfortunately, the guests had to bolt after the Q&A to make a plane for their next destination. Nuts. Still, I'm glad I found the dvds for the two films I picked up. Except for DARJEELING, I haven't given Anderson's films more than single viewings so far, and feel that he peaked with his first release, BOTTLE ROCKET. RUSHMORE and LIMITED are next in my esteem, then ZISOU and lastly, TANNENBAUMS.

TRAPPED ASHES: tales from the creepshow...
BFFF 2007 | miceSpace

Once the Q&A wrapped up, I had to ditch Tricia and stick around for a late show of TRAPPED ASHES, the kickoff film of the Boston Fantastic Film Festival 2007. ASHES is a modern riff on the classic TALES FROM THE CRYPT model of horror filmmaking. That's the Peter Cushing TALES, not the Crypt Keeper one. The basic model—a group of strangers with no connection to each other are brought together in a situation that requires them to share their most frightening personal experiences. Half the stories were way over the top and a bit gonzo/scandalous, involving blood-sucking teats and a monster worm, but get some points for following thru unflinchingly on screen on their premises. I would've liked to see something a bit more imitative of the Hammer era horror films. This collection of shorts offers a variety of horroriffic textures, with each segment directed by a different modern cinematic horror and tall tale master, including the creators of retina-burning visions such as LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, GREMLINS, THE MATRIX, and FRIDAY THE 13TH. As a result, compared to the original old school TALES FROM THE CRYPT-era inspirations, this anthology felt a little wilder, a bit TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, a bit CREEPSHOW, both good things, but unfortunately, not nearly as interesting, more late night Cinemax than I usually go for.

Still, did you catch that? Blood-sucking teats.

Okay, me sleep now.

Keep on creepin on~

Thursday, October 11, 2007

life imitates noir?

A little cinema-connected scandal bubbled up thru Google news at me and I want to share.

Stripper Accused of Borrowing Movie Plot.

Y'know, I meant to go back and revisit some of John Dahl's films after seeing YOU KILL ME. I remember LAST SEDUCTION pretty well, w its classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY twists, turned by sultry Fiorentino and stooge Peter Berg (director of THE KINGDOM, which is a kickass heartpuncher of a thriller). Funny, Fiorentino's seductress actually makes references to INDEMNITY in the choice of some alibis. This ex-stripper really was following the movie by following the movie. I also remember really digging RED ROCK WEST (I was keen on Lara Flynn coming off of TWIN PEAKS, y'know), but now, not so much recalling the specifics. I remember being annoyed by WEST after seeing it, cuz I saw it in a theater after (I found out later) it had already played on cable, and felt that I'd been gypped, believing the film to be a made-for-cable movie. I seem to recall reading or hearing later that some f'd up clueless marketing and distribution issues resulted in the film being on the small screen before the big. Man, it's sad how the entertainment machine can mismarket, undersell, and kill a good film. Dahl's got a good handle on noir atmosphere, and from what I've seen has had the great luck/benefit of drawing some great actors to inhabit it. Yeah, definitely need to go back and look at his previous stuff.

Maybe take some notes... =)

Keep on keepin on~

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I'm gonna *try* to see it all, except MERCY, which I've already seen. If you're gonna catch MERCY, have a looksee at the festival's blurb to prep/steel yourself.

My take... MERCY is an indie film about a newly released ex-convict trying to begin his life anew on the outside. It is made far from easy, as at every turn he seems to encounter reminders of his crime... Is it society, his own conscience, or a true haunting that persecutes him? Although at times clunky and heavy-handed in style, grinding the monotonous, repetitive nature of the man's new so-called life into the audience's senses, I feel like I get the purpose of those sequences—the creation of a cinematic experience of the character's own living hell. Perhaps the association gives MERCY a bit too much credit, but in concept, and aspiration, it reminded me more than a little of the living hell created in the film THE CROSSING GUARD (a film I really dig). An indie producer's first attempt at directing, you'll pick up a taste of Lynchian style as well as many noir element. Unfortunately, the director may be a bit too successful at re-creating the living hell of the film's subject for the audience. Good ideas and idea potential, a great lead actor, a bunch of remarkable stark and striking visuals and locations, but for more than a few people, its relentlessness, and some creative leaps in logic, are probably hard to take.

Keep on creepin on~

Sunday, October 07, 2007

please sponsor Emily in her ALS walk!

Volleyballer Emily, one of the beach die-hards, is doing the "Walk to D'Feet ALS" event next weekend, to raise money for research for a cure to ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. If you're of a mind to donate to a medical cause, please consider making it this one and contribute by sponsoring Emily's (and her team's) walk, which is dedicated to her grandmother, who was diagnosed with the disease.

Thanks for any gift you can make.

Keep on keepin on~

Friday, October 05, 2007

mr. potato | head | line

Just had to take a break and share...

You can see which story I clicked on. =)

What could the article possibly cover...?

A story about a law enforcement agent outed or ousted for some kind of crazy plastic cosplay action?

A review of a new feel-good 80s throwback MANNEQUIN-esque film about a mild-mannered meter matron and a Mr. Potato Head whom only she seems to be able to interact with... and even love...? Maybe she's crazy... But if she is, how else could she have gotten the tip about the latest shipment of the Russian mob's copycat toy smuggling operation...?

An interview with soldiers finding some peace and relief from post traumatic stress syndrome through play therapy?

Nuts. Just a drug bust.

In tried-and-true mule fashion, the drugs were found wrapped and packed in the rear cavity.

Keep on keepin on~

Thursday, October 04, 2007

the "DTMB" circle of life...

I admit, I found (even still find) the power of the phrase undeniable. F the original context. I am a slaved wanna-be hipster (apparently) co-opting cog in the machinery of the culture mill. Thanks for reminding me of my place, Paris Jen. =)

October 9, 2007. Taser Business Rolls.

Don't Taze me, bro~

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

two trailers what gave me goosebumps...

Forgot to mention that before hunkering down for WINTER, I found myself completely entranced by trailers for two films I can't wait to soak in...

Richard "DONNIE DARKO (the original for me, thanks)" Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES...

I dig this guy's brain. In DONNIE D, he caught on film the best cinema dialogue about the Smurf way of life I've ever encountered... Granted, it may have been the only cinema dialogue about the Smurf way of life I've ever encountered, but that doesn't make it any less spot-on brilliant. I'ts kind of dangerous how button-pushing and captivating the trailer is to me. That would be just the sort of thing an alien researcher could use to lure me out in the open somewhere before abduction, probing, tagging, and release. I like.

...and Johnnie "ELECTION" To's EXILED...

...which will be playing as part of the Brattle's BOSTON FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL next week!

I've seen three Johnnie To films (that I know of, I might've seen a couple and not known him by name at the time), and they're all excellent cops and gangster intrigue tales. And I do love me some Anthony Wong. I first saw him as psycho killer Hong Kong triad leader in John Woo's HARD BOILED. Around that time, I heard some story about how he was an actual gangster with his fingers in the HK film industry, who funded film projects to get himself starring roles. I haven't heard anything definitive that counters that story, and frankly, I hope I don't, cuz I kinda like it. Especially now that I've seen him in a wide range of films and characters, a lot of them police officers and detectives, heh, most recently in the INFERNAL AFFAIRS series, which inspired THE DEPARTED. He frickin rocks.

The Brattle will also be playing DARKO soon (the superior original cut, according to the Brattle listing), in conjunction w the Cambridge ART, which is putting on a live stage version of the story. Wack.

Keep on keepin on~

THE LAST WINTER: why *wouldn't* the environment fight us off like an infection?

site | trailer

Went solo to THE LAST WINTER tonight at Kendall. A sort of meditative man-vs-supernature-eco-horror flick set in the
arctic. Something, it turns out, I rather like. Called to mind quieter bits of THE THING and, oddly enough, some FINAL FANTASY: SPIRITS WITHIN. Before I forget character names and familiar cast, let me get down who/what I remember...

Ed Pollack, oil company man and arctic advance team lead
...Ron Perlman.

Jim Hoffman, eco-scientist and activist assigned to the advance team
...James LeGros.

Abbey, oil company woman and second-in-command
...Connie someone, so frickin familiar.

Motor, the camp's Mr. Fixit
...familiar guy, got a Mark Ruffalo thing goin on.

Elliot, Hoffman's assistant
...also played the guy who loses his head in Stephen King's KINGDOM HOSPITAL, in the same glasses, too, looks like.

In 1986 some joint government and local-interest operation set up a test drill site in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (is that the correct name?), ran it for a limited time, dismantled and capped it, and then classified the results. At some point in the near future (the story's present), the results are released and Northland Industries, a petroleum company with a supposedly conscientious plan and appropriate oversight for getting to the oil with minimum impact on the environment, wins rights to drill in the region. Advance teams are sent to prospective drill sites to establish initial camps and conduct research to ensure that the conditions of the sites are favorable to building the roads needed to move in the equipment and population needed to begin drilling.

At one of these camps, close to the original test well site, things are getting a little... weird. Northland high muckymuck Ed Pollack flies in to check in on his team—Abbey, a sometime lover and second in command, Lee, an apparent native Alaskan and crewman, Dawn, another native/eskimo/inuit blood, the camp's cook and medical expert, Motor, mechanic and engineer, Maxwell, newbie crewman and son of a Northland exec and adopted nephew of Ed, Hoffman, the team's eco-conscience and researcher, and his assistant, Elliot. Ed's on a timetable, and needs approval from Hoffman and Elliot to begin moving trucks into camps. Unfortunately for Ed and Northland, studies of the local climes reveal they are way out-of-wack, and Hoffman won't approve the construction of ice roads for another season/year. The temperatures are all over the place, and overall, way too warm for what's expected of an arctic winter.

Meanwhile, Maxwell seems to be falling prey to "big eye," a kind of madness that sets into those individuals who can't handle the isolation, cold, or general f'd up conditions of living in the arctic. He finds himself wandering over to the test site more and more. He tries to explain to Hoffman that he's seen something in the wind and snow, creatures, or ghosts, and says that the test site is haunted. He poses the theory that the ghosts of the dead that created the oil are preparing to attack them, for intruding on their home.

Maxwell's behavior continues to get more and more erratic and wild, until one night, he wanders off on his own, naked, into the arctic night. The rest of the crew find him the next day near the capped well, dead in the snow from exposure, his eyes plucked out by black birds, ravens or crows. He'd taken a video camera with him, and on playback the tape reveals that he wanted to capture video evidence of the ghosts. The team watches and listens, but can't make out anything Maxwell describes until the very end, when he has the camera trained on himself, pleading with them to see and hear the creatures, when from behind him a streak of a vicious, skullish shape seems to strike him down, flinging the camera into the snow.

Ed immediately takes the digital tape out of the camera and chucks it in the fire, claiming that he needs to protect the kid's parents from this vision of their son, cracked, wacked out, wild-eyed and suicidal in the arctic, all as a result of a recommendation and mission that he himself is responsible for.

Well, would you believe things only go downhill from there?

Throughout the film, different characters voice theories of the cause of the madness and mishaps that plague the camp and team in a rising crescendo, and they're all great riffs on the classic sci-fi/horror theme of man vs. (super)nature. Lee and Dawn provide snippets of spiritual explanations from Native American lore. Maxwell speaks for madness, while Hoffman and Elliot try to bring their science to bear, but more and more really on "feeling" over measurement, while Ed and Abbey fight to the last to push the company line and meet the growing chaos with denial.

Good times.

The story's got a lot of great ideas. Visually and fright-wise, the movie is mostly about what you don't see, which can be a little disappointing, but I appreciate what a great job it does of building and sustaining the atmosphere of isolation in an alien wild, with the hint of menace both within and without the camp and its team. And as ever, I give the film and its cast bonus points for building characters that I quickly get to know and like.

There's a great bit when we hear Maxwell ponder aloud: I wonder if it's like this all over.

I've seen a few films from one of the production companies involved, Glass Eye Pix, mostly at the Brattle's Boston Fantastic Film Festival screenings (AUTOMATONS and THE ROOST, I think — be sure to check out this year's offerings!), and they've all been really well-crafted films of atmosphere and mood built on riffs of simple and classic horror-ific film ideas. Some great indie filmmaking. I hope to see more from them.

Keep on keepin on~