Saturday, February 23, 2008

Persepolis isn't so good. I am referring to the movie, having not read the comic. I thought about reading it, though, when it came out a couple years ago, and was generally acclaimed across the board. In the time since I've started to feel like the critics I like reading didn't really like it. Marjane Satrapi did other comics, which seemed like they were largely ignored.

I don't think I've read a big bashing of the book though, which does seem to be what the public is crying out for.

I walked out of the movie, thinking of the vague criticisms that haven't been quite formulated into essay form by other people. I left not because it was egregiously offensive, but because I felt like I "got" it. Where it was going, that there was nothing to get. The history happens in the background, and is never really presented in a way that's actually useful- knowing that world events effect some people is probably not as politically useful as knowing why the things are happening. The actual happenings are all in the background. What's in focus is this ordinary girl. This is what some people think is amazing, this is what works for people. But even her life isn't that much in focus, in terms of actually giving you insight to it. Was any of it in focus? It all seemed a blur, of signifiers of "ordinary girl"- western pop culture- and signifiers of Iran- revolution and the Shah. But why were things happening? The most vivid moments don't seem like they're coming from anywhere. Which kind makes them less than vivid.

I keep on thinking of The Wire, which is wrapping up now, and presents such a view of the way people effect systems while still being a part of them, and doesn't depict any of them as evil, just sort of at odds with each other. It gives you a great deal of insight into how political systems and bureaucracies work, by depicting them as made up of people, and then showing the consequences of people's actions. It's in deep focus. There, things that happen seem "real" in a way that they don't at all in Persepolis.

Also, Persepolis- while probably looking better as animation than it did as a comic- doesn't look so great. It has an alright style- an interesting one, that does the job (I guess- in a lot of ways, another style could convey more about character, or feeling, or information about Iran or whatever virtues the work's supposed to have that I didn't really pick up) but there's never a dynamic composition. There's a lot of cartoonists whose style doesn't really work for me and seems generic but who are masters of body language or balancing an image. Yeah- not a lot of body language in this one. These are the things that actually convey things graphically, like character, rather than just vague events. It's the same thing- not a real eye for detail, things aren't in focus. Things aren't felt. So I walked out early, maybe missing some stuff, but kind of convinced I wouldn't due to the nature of autobiography.

(Huh, Neko Case is covering The Train From Kansas City in audio form in the other room. I didn't know she did that.)

I liked The Savages, though, with its Chris Ware poster, and its single allusion to the work of Lynda Barry, and its eye for real things. It's probably also somewhat autobiographical, but with an eye towards details, and with a plot controlled by its characters. The detail about the toes curling up, Laura Linney surprised someone would want to read an unproduced play- and the way Philip Seymour Hoffman never offered- a student asks "what's the difference between narrative and plot." It's not the most visually stylized thing, but then, it's not animated, and has actors to do the work of conveying feeling with body language. There's even sight gags! This is Tamara Jenkins' follow-up to Slums Of Beverly Hills, a movie that was essentially okay, and this is better than, while still not being completely awesome. Who knows what of it I will remember months from now? (Probably Philp Bosco writing "prick" on the wall.) Sure, other things- the use of prescription drugs, the bad sex- will fade into other movies that had a better eye for detail, or that I just saw first, but still, it's got scenes other than that- where the subject matter is, with the decision to put the father in a nursing home- all of that works, and is well-observed, and can be recalled easier than I can recall the history of Iran as depicted in Persepolis.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sometimes I read news that makes me go "What the fuck? No fucking way, no fucking way!" like the retard I am but keep hidden. The news of David Fincher directing an adaptation of Charles Burns' Black Hole is the latest thing to do this, even with a crazy election going on. That could actually work really well.

Oh also: I like this band High Places. I wonder if having an album that's actually produced will ruin them or make them better- it seems like it could go either way.

I saw some movies recently:

Jodorowsky's The Rainbow Thief is really normal, despite the title seemingly implying a whole movie that never takes place. It's really light compared with something like Santa Sangre. It's spiritual tones- "money isn't important" are the sort of thing seen in other movies, but here filtered through vague allusions to alchemy and somehow more convincing for Jodorowsky's well-established kook credentials.

Nights Of Cabiria has this one absolutely amazing scene involving hypnosis. The majority of the movie still feels cynical, even if that's not its intent- it only seems to be able to throw off the shackles for a brief period of time.

WR: Mysteries Of The Organism starts off with some fascinating documentary footage of Wilhelm Reich's followers and townsfolk, and then everything else is kind of dull, from the narrative stuff in Yugoslavia to the documentary footage of people just trying to be sexually liberated. The ten to fifteen minutes of documentary footage is interesting. So's the DVD menu. Elijah Brubaker's Reich comic is pretty good so far though. (Oh wait, I guess three issues have been printed. When I say "good so far" I'm talking about the first issue, which is the only one to be shipped to stores thus far.) I prefer the free expressiveness of the art to the restraint shown in Chester Brown's Louis Riel, although there's some stylistic choices that seems not so well-done.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

David Lynch's On The Air is great! I started watching in on VHS, and have so far seen the three episodes that actually aired.

Every episode just leads to this slapstick everything-goes-wrong-but-it's-all-right finale. There's stupid sound effects all over the place, and things repeat in each episode that aren't quite gags, but are just weirdness. Miguel Ferrer is a really good actor. There's also bits of extended sexual innuendo of the type that annoyed me on Arrested Development. Holy shit, was this show ahead of its time! Although also while looking back in time- there's all kinds of corniness and one character is your standard "foreigner" caricature.

David Lynch just directed the pilot, but like with Twin Peaks, his style hangs over the episodes he didn't direct. It's kind of the opposite of what you'd expect from him- a slapstick comedy- but the way in which he's present totally works and is amazing.

I'm not bemoaning the loss of it from the airwaves or anything, because part of the reason I like it is because it's clear (ABUNDANTLY clear) why it would be a failure, but I would bet money it was funnier than anything on ABC at the time, or since. It's completely the opposite of The Simpsons or Seinfeld- probably the only examples of funny things at the time- partly because of how assured it is in its corniness and lack of hipness. Which is mainly why it's so great. I laughed really hard at this show, but it's funny on a number of different levels.

It seems like this great companion piece to 30 Rock, actually, in that its that show's complete opposite.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An ongoing list of movies that aren't available on Netflix for one reason or another, that I have either seen and am now recommending, or and hoping to encounter at the video store the next time I go to look for rentals, which will be Monday. This doesn't count things that were never released, like the Timothy Carey movie The World's Greatest Sinner, which I do hope to see at some point. (I'll recommend to people watching the Stanley Kubrick movie The Killing, and trying to pay attention to the character Timothy Carey plays, especially if you don't know who he is- Just watch that movie looking for anyone who might be a great character actor and you'll have fun. That movie's great!) I also won't list things that are kind of recent or that rumor has as coming out shortly that can be saved on Netflix. I'll mention things that are available to be saved on Netflix if the movie in question is really old and more likely to be found on video.

Brewster McCloud: I have seen this. It's great. Bud Cort stars in Robert Altman's favorite movie that he directed- it feels like it influenced Wes Anderson way more than Harold And Maude, or any of the other movies Robert Altman directed that I've seen, but with this kind of fractured editing and a freewheeling style that's completely at odds with the more controlled nature of some of those other things.

A Matter Of Life And Death: This is Sammy Harkham's favorite movie, and even though he's not the greatest cartoonist, that guy's proven his taste. This is apparently in the upper-tier of Powell And Pressburger films. Black Narcissus is amazing, as is Peeping Tom, and to a lesser extent The Red Shoes. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp is good enough, and I haven't seen any of his other movies. I really want to see this.

Tampopo: This isn't available in a region one DVD. I tried to watch it on DVD on a player that couldn't handle it. The people I was going to watch it with have seemingly since seen it, presumably on VHS, and loved it. I've had it talked up to me quite a bit.

WR: Mysteries Of The Organism. This is on DVD! Criterion put it out this Summer! Netflix doesn't have it, although they have the director's follow-up, Sweet Movie, which is really filthy and I was totally into it. This is a kind of fractured-collage movie about Wilhelm Reich, and I guess also the political state of Yugoslavia in 1968? Anyway. The first issue of Reich, the comic book autobiography of Wilhelm Reich drawn by a dude who used to live in Olympia, is waiting for me to be purchased at the comic store the same day I rent this movie. The plans to build an orgone accumulator are delayed for the time being but will maybe start up again after that day.

Time Masters- Bryan Fordney said this was amazing and posted some screen grabs. I didn't look into it until now, when I found out it was the same director as Fantastic Planet, and has designs by Moebius! Dude!

On The Air and Hotel Room- the TV shows David Lynch around the same time as Twin Peaks. These actually are at the Olympia video store, unless they've been stolen since three years ago. If they're on VHS here, they might also be where you are.

The Rainbow Thief and Santa Sangre- I've seen the latter. It's pretty restrained and normal for Jodorowsky, although it has this sort of horror-movie vibe, and maybe the misogyny that people see in his comics but I don't get from The Holy Mountain at all. The Rainbow Thief stars Peter O'Toole, who you may know from the movie The Ruling Class, and Christopher Lee, who you may know from the movie The Wicker Man, if all you know about cinema is early seventies British-psychedelia films, which I think would be a totally fine thing for that to be all you knew. I really like the idea of them in a Jodorowsky movie. I also like the idea of just watching another Jodorowsky movie, actually. These are the last two movies he directed, in 1990 and 1988, respectively. Might as well bring up Tusk as well, from 1980, which might not be as good but I would probably watch.

Possession: Another movie recommended by Sammy Harkham! I don't know if people read that Family blog I link to, but I sure as shit do. This was brought to his attention by people who work at a famously great video store in Los Angeles. I bet they have this movie available. Note: They also screened it on film at the Silent Movie Theatre.

Phase IV: Another thing brought up on the Family blog. Saul Bass made a movie! It's a science fiction movie about ants! There's a lot of footage of ants running around because the plot sort of stops mattering to the film at a certain point! There's another movie with the same title starring Dean Cain that Netflix knows about but is probably terrible!

A Thousand Clowns: This used to be available on Netflix as a Play Now thing you could stream on your computer, but this laptop doesn't have the hard drive space for that. This is Jesse Thorn's favorite movie, he of The Sound Of Young America radio program that I also link to from the blog sidebar. Apparently it has both a man-child and a child-man as characters! I really want to see this.

Spirits Of The Dead: This is a horror anthology collection of three films, including one directed by Federico Fellini. I heard about this from that Eli Roth AV Club feature where he programmed a theoretical film festival. Apparently the other two movies aren't so great, but the Fellini one is amazing.

Hellzapoppin!: Alex Tripp had this shown to him in class once. Apparently it stars this old comedy duo, but this movie is really weird and plays with the form of cinema and cliches and whathaveyou. Alex loved it, and that guy is basically me when it comes to movie tastes.

The Landlord: Hal Ashby's first movie. Apparently kind of legendary in black cinema circles, I think? I hope to see it at some point. Maybe not so pressing as the others, but still.

Insignificance: Nicolas Roeg's career kind of fell apart after making a bunch of crappy movies, but this has kind of an interesting premise and a Jim O'Rourke album named after it. Jim O'Rourke's favorite movie, apparently, is Performance, by the way. This movie has no rock stars, but Gary Busey plays Joe DiMaggio.

Also it seems possible I'll end up renting Two-Lane Blacktop from the video store because Netflix has it as having a "very long wait." I'm not even sure I'll like that movie. I hope I like it enough to make it seem imperative that I see Cockfighter right away, because I like that that movie exists, but right now it seems like I will see it years from now because of how many other things I would rather see before that. (Apparently there's a scene in that movie where a dude presents the head of a rooster he bit off to his beloved as a gesture of his affection. Cinemaaaaa!)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The first part of this post is about Olympia:

My mom, who lives in the New Jersey suburbs, has talked to me about Olympia and its whiteness, its lack of urbanity. I tried to defend it to her, because she hasn't really spent any time here, and only knows what I tell her about it. I kind of defended it in bad terms, which I'll now redefine. Olympia, despite its lack of any real minority population, still has this culture that my mom and a lot of people like her romanticize and associate with different races, that's a lot "warmer" and more "wild" and "open" than people's traditional experiences with their neighbors. Someone at the Capitol Theater told me, that after they'd introduced me to someone and I was a huge weirdo and then ran off, that the person I was introduced to said "That's what I like about the Capitol Theater. People here are so different than what I'm used to." At the time I was just confused, but then I realized the thing how I was being viewed. That's the Olympia I live in, though.

The thing is, because it's done by white people, it's more easily accepted and integrated, dealt with. Right now, I believe, the single most popular record in the country is the soundtrack to Juno, composed largely by Olympia resident Kimya Dawson. I have nothing against Kimya Dawson at all. I am generally wary of things that are that embraceable, for reasons that have nothing to do with the thing being embraced: They can't help being lovable.

Oh right, that's a thing I wanted to bring up, that apparently there was, like, a half-a-million-dollar offer to her to write a theme for Wal-Mart? She turned it down.

I look around Olympia and see a place being developed in weird ways from what it was when I moved here, five years ago. Five years ago means I am in no ways from here. In all likelihood, the people moving into these condos popping up have a greater claim to this area than I do, as they're probably from neighboring towns I've never been to. Olympia's a safe place, with a lot less meth use than those places, and probably better schools. Incidents of violence are rare.

That story I told of being forced into a fight by some drunk out-of-towners the other week was notable for its oddity. The only thing that might keep property values down is the stupid anarchist/activist graffiti that we all suspect is being done by rich college kids who have recently moved to town. They're all stupid, but fuck it, god bless them for being unpleasant.

Still, areas filled of junk cars and old greenhouses are all getting cleaned up to make way for town homes and condos. I can't blame it on the pleasantness. I can't even call it gentrification yet.

But I do feel there's a thing out there in the mass culture that I find kind of offputting, encroaching upon some kind of graveyard. It seems possible it'll do good things- please god let it get Obama elected- (I'm sure that comes out of left field completely) but it is, in itself, its own blandness. Obama is nowhere near as bland as the last two Democratic nominees for President, as a person, but I think I'm just put off by the general mechanism that sways the masses.

The second part of this post is about movies and comics and music and shit.

This new mainstream would need to lead to a new "________" (multiple choice fill in the blank for a series of synonyms, with a) being something like "independent sphere" b) "underground" c) "counterculture") that could travel farther. The whole soft indie comedy is starting to feel at this point like Pulp Fiction-inspired neonoirs started to feel after Memento came out. (I like Memento, I'm citing it as a last hurrah.) I'm imagining a psychedelia that's vaguely informed by stuff like The Holy Mountain and the recently viewed Sweet Movie, only this time with satire that's actually funny. I saw Daisies after an interview in Arthur with Jimmy Joe Roche promoting Ultimate Reality. Ultimate Reality isn't quite the sort of the thing I'm talking about, but it's on the right track. It might vaguely feel like a poor man's Paper Rad, rather than an offshoot of its more narrative directons. (Man, that complete Cold Heat book can't come out soon enough. That kind of stuff might be exactly what I'm talking about. Only I imagine a movie instead of a comic, due to cinema's ability to integrate myriad parts to form an overwhelming whole and thus be accessible and communicative.) I talk about this sort of stuff all the time on this blog.

In addition to that stuff, I really like the movies made by Powell And Pressburger, The Archers. I just saw The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp- I'd tried to watch it before and couldn't make it through it, but that movie's pretty good. I was reading this thing about their mission statement, their list of thoughts- one was that a filmmaker needs to a be a year ahead of not just his peers, but the general trends, because a film takes a year to make. So, there's that.

I talked about Chameleon Street and the idea of a black Orson Welles. It turns out that some people think of The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp as a British Citizen Kane. Which it is nowhere near as good as, but: People talked about There Will Be Blood as being like Citizen Kane in terms of its American-ness, its story of capitalism sort of creating and destroying a man. The Powell and Pressburger film should probably be viewed as a British alternative in terms of not being about capitalism at all, so much as it is about manners and gentlemanly decorum falling out of favor as time goes on. Which means its not as interesting. (Meanwhile, A Matter Of Life And Death is called the British Wizard Of Oz and is apparently Sammy Harkham's favorite film, and is completely unavailable in the U.S. on DVD.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

As someone who doesn't care about Bob Dylan at all, I'm Not There just made me want to see Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. This isn't to say it's bad: It's a fine movie, but it's at its best when its able to depict something other than Bob Dylan saying cryptic things in interviews and press conferences, which is approximately a third of the film- Essentially, that's all Ben Whishaw's depiction does.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I don't intend to post everytime I receive a compliment, but oh man. This is from my friend Jamie, who is currently a member of the band World History, who you should see while she's still in the band. About my movie, she said, in an e-mail, that it "reminded me of a harmony korine film, but with a lot more substance. and without the artsy arrogance. or chloe sevigny. i hate chloe sevigny." Thanks Jamie! (For future reference, I will only post compliments of me that include insults of other people. I might also just post any insult of other people that I am told I can post.) Jamie is also the only person to have paid for a DVD, as all other copies have been given away for free. She gets a thousand gold stars. If anyone wants a copy of that movie, "The Reason Why Our World Is Coming To An End," or the DVD I burned today, where I tell a version of "the aristocrats" for twenty minutes that I recorded in early 2006, after a winner of the contest to be a DVD extra was already announced, but before I learned that submissions had to be under ten minutes, contact me.