Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The new Harmony Korine movie, Mister Lonely, is deeply mediocre. I don't have nearly as much to say about it as I have to say about The Dark Knight. The performances are all pretty bad. Werner Herzog, so awesome in Julien Donkey-Boy, is pretty mediocre here. Despite it being maybe more narrative and straight-forward than his other films, the endings are even more abrupt and arbitrary. Individual scenes don't stand out as distinct from the rest of the film, which seems kind of like a weakness.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When watching The Dark Knight, I came pretty quickly to the conclusion that it's a better movie than Batman Begins. The question is how it compares to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie, with its completely different tone. I compared Batman Begins to the 1989 film when it came out, too. There, you're talking about two films in terms of their success to start a franchise. Here, you're talking about two films about the same characters, and all the things those characters represent, responding to each other.

There's this thing, though, with the Christopher Nolan films- and I guess most of the superhero movies of the twenty-first century- of being really invested in the idea of gravitas, of importance. Real-world parallels. This, as well as the fact that the Burton movie really isn't that old, really seems to cast the action of The Dark Knight in these kind of mythic terms. And The Dark Knight works really hard to establish the conflict/relationship between these two figures.

There's something to the notion, I think, of these superhero comics as the closest America comes to a myth. The fact that these stories then become retold not out of any oral tradition but out of capitalism and exploitation of copyrights, and that they only find resonance after the fact, with the creators just sort of trying to make a buck on a trend- I find that completely American, in a really awesome way.

One of the things about the 1989 film and the 2008 film is how both are really of their time. Saying you prefer one to the other seems like it betrays biases just as surely as it misses the point. Still: The fact that the 1989 version had things like brightly colored vats of chemicals really appeals to me. It feels like comic books, kind of garish and retarded, with limited color palettes. The way that the 2008 version talks about terrorism- It's not problematic. It still allows for weird garish deathtraps and whatnot, convoluted moral decisions and whatnot, which is just as much a part of all the superhero comics. (Although- how weird is it that the poster image, depicting the side of a building on fire in the shape of a bat, does not happen at all?) It also allows for more property damage- that's the nature of a blockbuster film in 2008, as opposed to 1989.

But it's awesome. I love how huge The Dark Knight is, how chaotic it gets, the scope of the action scenes. The relentlessness to it, how somehow we're all so cynical or imagery-saturated that the tone feels like a horror movie, in how you wait for the other shoe to drop in every scene that lasts long enough for a normal interaction to play out. I love how it feels like a western, at the same time the Harvey Dent story feels like greek tragedy.

Although the ending's kind of bad, with its Two-Face stuff that just feels like a watered-down version of the Joker stuff, rather than the natural conclusion to a character arc, or even an understanding of the character as laid out in various other media.

What's weird, though, is how much it actually seems like a movie- especially when taking westerns into account. At the same time, the ending pretty explicitly seems to be setting up a sequel, with a new status quo, even as the rest of the movie- in working REALLY WELL as a movie, in terms of having themes and a point- works against a sequel even making sense of the world they've established- how do you top a conflict between chaos and social order?.I don't remember how the 1989 movie ends, although I feel pretty certain it wasn't in "stay tuned for THE PENGUIN" fashion.

In both movies, the Joker is the more interesting performance, and sort of what the tone of the movie revolves around, with the Batman figure being more stoic, and thus less interesting. There's no Prince songs in 2008, and no joy-buzzers that burn off flesh. Instead, there's knives, and a mannerism of flicking out the tongue when speaking. I prefer the 1989 version, but that's because of the type of person I am, my age, etc. Heath Ledger, like the movie he dominates, is fun and compelling to watch throughout. When his storyline's done, the movie takes a downturn.

It's weird that the slogan/recurring phrase for The Dark Knight is "Why so serious?" and it tries to play that as a threat, almost as a defense mechanism when that really is the question you want to ask the movie about its tone if you're someone who preferred the 1989 version. "Why so serious, Christopher Nolan?" And then Christopher Nolan thinks that if someone is going to make him smile, it will be by taking a knife to the sides of their face. This is the difference between the guy who made Insomnia and the guy who made Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. I guess I should just be thankful that the Darren Aronofksy version was never made.

Oh yeah: The Dark Knight had all these crazy bits of things exploding that I was really into, and laughed out loud in excited glee at. It also had bits that didn't really make sense and felt like plot holes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I really liked this bit from a Wall Street Journal interview with Lil' Wayne:

Wall Street Journal: How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you have a notebook of rhymes waiting for music?
Lil Wayne: I don't write my raps. I don't have time to put writing down on paper. If I did, I'd be a lot more dangerous.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

So, the other night, Extreme Animals and Fortress Of Amplitude played a show I set up here in Olympia. It was pretty cool, those guys are very nice, etc. It was great. I'm not saying this up-front because I'm about to contradict it, just as my way of saying this isn't what the post is about.

Sometimes I try to look out at all the things that seem current to me, or that feel like the future, and I try to view them all as one kind of unified field. Essentially, I am looking at all of the things I like, and then I project myself onto the universe, as my way of saying, okay, I get all this.

David Wightman of Fortress of Amplitude is totally into metal and totally also playing rave music, while also apparently writing classical music for orchestras. And making CD-Rs of cheerleading music and going to grad school. He is 100% knowing what he's doing, and doing it all with total sincerity. It's kind of amazing. Jacob, the other guy in Extreme Animals, is also totally busy with a bunch of different projects but it seems easier to contextualize him and the things he's doing if that's the sort of thing you're into- you can make all the paintings and the videos and the music fit into a "Paper Rad aesthetic," rather than just being "the products of a dude with a restless, creative, mind." Maybe these Extreme Animals tours- separate from Paper Rad tours- work to recalibrate people's perceptions, to say "this is not the thing you are stealing graphic design ideas from. These are people who know exactly what they're doing. You do not know what they are doing, not really, not completely, not enough for you to try to emulate or write a paper about. The best thing you can do is get to know exactly what the hell it is you yourself are doing."

And then when they left I got a Donald Barthelme book in the mail and tried to look for clues there, you know, to try to work out what it is I'm doing, since these dudes have just connected the dots between technical metal, raves, and the internet.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I am a little bit in love with Carla Bozulich right now. I'm listening to the record that interview was ostensibly promoting. All over the place, frequently intense, occastionally unhinged. Demented in the best way, going for it in a way I could connect to Linda Sharrock or Lexie Mountain. I also like this bit from a review of an older record at the same website: "It sounds like what Flannery O'Connor would listen to before killing one of her characters. I listen to it all the fucking time." I'm listening to it for the first time, no new habits yet, but this is pretty good. Music that can control weather, that can split the sky open and summon torrential downpours.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The lost footage from Fritz Lang's Metropolis being found in Argentina is one of those things that completely astounds me. In the early 1980s, a completed version of Carl Dreyer's The Passion Of Joan Of Arc was found in a Norwegian mental hospital, after being thought lost. I don't know how this Metropolis footage holds up, either in terms of print quality or in the story being told, but the Dreyer example (in its restored form, probably my favorite silent film, beating out Murnau's Sunrise) gives me hope.

It all stands as a testament to the resilience of analog recording media.

Even though we'll probably never see the original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles' vaults still promise riches I hope to see unearthed before I die.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hold on to me tightly as if I knew the way.

I put in Pavement's Westing (By Musket and Sextant) the other day, and it's a great record. It sort of has this thing in line with the up-to-Wild-Love Smog records: This way noise is integrated with pop songs in a way that's completely separate from the shoegaze records at the time. It's a lot uglier. the sexuality of shoegaze is lost in favor of self-loathing and anxiety. Stick your fingers in my mouth, pull my lips back and watch me smile.

That band Times New Viking would almost be mining this aesthetic, but the things I've heard from them seemed a lot more shallow and facile: More like garage rock.

The Smog record Julius Caesar would also exemplify this style, just bummed out as hell and expressing it through dissonance. There's violin lines that slash at themselves but still play melodies, catchiness persists through these rudimentary rhythms. Everything is chosen to sound fucked up but still be musical, as isolated elements, and then they're put together.

Is this what Royal Trux sounds like? They were all on Drag City around the same time.