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SO EXCITED.

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Revised and (when it comes to the hair) fully customized.  Much better.  :)

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PS…I need to own these cartoon boots in my real life…

So everyone is doing their “best of the decade” lists and apparently I’m no exception.  Though the Aughts (also known as the 2000’s) were horrible in a lot of ways for the world – or at least for the US (Bush years, ongoing wars, September 11th, massive recession and economic meltdown) there were also some great things and going through my list of films that came out from 2000 – 2009…it was a VERY strong decade.  So strong in fact that I can’t bear to just post a Top 10…so I’m doing a Top 25.

As usual, keep in mind that there are many movies I have not yet seen that might have made the list but just didn’t have a chance because I haven’t gotten to them yet…notably missing off the top of my head are:  The Wrestler, The Cove, 35 Shots of Rum, Revanche, Wendy and Lucy, and Synecdoche, New York.

I’d also like to offer up honorable mentions to the following:  The Station Agent, Ballast, Police Adjective, Friends With Money, The Savages, Syriana, Children of Men, Monster’s Ball, Michael Clayton, Go, Lovely & Amazing, Requiem For A Dream, Irreversible, Brodre (Brothers), The Incredibles, and Dead Man’s Shoes.

Okay, onto the list!

25. The Dark Knight

24. Dogville

23.  Movern Callar

22.  The Departed

21.  Brick

Read the rest of this entry »

the sound of music

I’m not generally a big fan of musicals – which is good as a lot of them – especially the older ones of course – tend to be pretty anti-feminist and anti-progressive in general.  However, a few musicals from my childhood have slipped through the cracks and remained good memories for me – Grease 2, A Chorus Line, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, West Side Story – I know it’s an unusual group – but gimme a break.  Anyway, The Sound of Music has always been one of those fairly pristine happy musical memories.

No longer.

And man do I wish I could go back in time and NOT catch it again on television this past weekend. Ignorance is bliss and all that.

I mean, we all know those ‘I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen‘ lyrics are a feminist nightmare, but the choreography in that scene has always belied the true nature of Liesel and Rolfe’s relationship – a far more interesting and intelligent girl hoping to seduce a rather dense and shy boy.  And so I was always able to pretty well rationalize away the ramifications of that song – in my own mind at least.

However, I had completely forgotten (or deliberately blocked out?) the fact that ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria‘ – a somewhat lighthearted and silly song sung by the nuns early on, is also played while Maria walks down the aisle dressed in shockingly virginal white.

Really movie people?  REALLY?!

So I mean, I’m not exactly making a big leap here when I say you’re suggesting that you solve a problem like Maria by marrying her off?  Considering this movie was made in 1965…ugh.  The insult is then further exasperated by including a shot of the nuns looking on almost hungrily from behind the gates (bars?) of the abbey as Maria gets married.  SO, not ONLY do you solve a problem like Maria by marrying her off – but we want to make sure to further reinforce that women are nothing if not married – either to a man or to God (and by the wistful looks on the nuns faces – preferably a man) by showing seemingly desperate nuns looking longingly into the ceremony?

As if that was not enough, one of the only scenes with Maria (that isn’t singing) post wedding, is when she tentatively tries to advocate for the children singing in the Salzburg Music Festival – at which time she is immediately shut down by her husband.  And unlike the brash outspoken ‘fight the good fight’ woman she was as a single governess – a woman who would never step down from what she believes in – as a “happily” married wife she literally steps back, puts her hands behind her back, and lightly bows her head in acquiescence to Captain VonTrapp’s orders.  Shortly thereafter she sings a bit of ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen‘ with Liesel in which they both longingly sing about ‘belonging to a man’ – good role modeling Maria, good role modeling.

All this to say DAMN YOU FEMINISM FOR RUINING THE SOUND OF MUSIC FOR ME!  Damnit!  I’m never going to be able to watch this shit with a clear conscience again.

And here’s the real question – if I have kids someday – do I put them in front of it?  I mean, certainly once they’re old enough they can choose what they want to watch – but when they’re young enough that I’m choosing for them – do I want to corrupt their little minds with these antiquated ideas – that they may not even realize are ridiculous and antiquated until far too late?  Damnit I say again.

Completely Unrelated Sidenote: I cannot believe how gorgeous Austria is and it has now shot up to the top of my travel wish list.

So I saw this first poster for Whiteout LONG ago, and thought it looked pretty badass. It got my hopes up a bit that they might not botch the translation to film.

Whiteout Teaser Poster

Then I saw the trailer and thought it looked pretty “eh”

Then I realized they recast the other lead female role to be a man and I said “F U Hollywood.  Why you messing with awesome shit that already WORKS!?!”

THEN, just yesterday I saw a NEW poster for the film and my heart when all pitter pat, pitter pat.  They did SUCH a good job emulating the badass Frank Miller Whiteout TPB cover. Check it out:

frank miller whiteout cover

Whiteout Poster #2

Nice – right?!

Man, I’m such a sucker for things that look good.

There’s also this poster, which I think is mostly great.  It’d be better if you could tell the figure is a woman – although that’s tough to do in a parka…

Pretty Good Whiteout Poster

And then there’s this new one, which is mostly blech.  I mean, it’s very pretty (Kate Beckinsale IS very pretty – it’s hard to hide that kind of prettiness) and the effect of the ice is nice – but it so doesn’t speak to the strong visuals that already exist for this book – and it doesn’t really give you any clue what the movie is about – so why make something so ordinary and non-impactful…? I guess just because we’ve learned that people respond to pretty?  Bah.  I’m so bored with pretty.

Eh Whiteout Poster

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll actually see this in the theater – so far as I can tell the score is dead even 3 points for, 3 points against.  Anyone care to push me one direction or another?

coldsouls poster

Cold Souls.  Sophie Barthes (writer/director).  Film.

I had the privliedge of seeing this movie way in advance last spring at the New Directors/New Films Film Festival in NYC.  We saw it at Walter Reade Theater (one of my favorite theaters in the city) and it was one of those kind of perfect movie experiences.  Seeing something in advance of everyone else is always pretty cool…but seeing something really good in advance of everyone is WAY cool.  I didn’t originally plan to write a review of this film as I rarely do film reviews on this blog, but as its release date came closer I realized I wanted to write about it – if only to help it (not like this tiny blog actually gets any people out to the movies) but it makes me feel like I’m helping – and that’s almost as important (not really).

[Mild Spoilers – in plot summary]

The Good: Paul Giamatti playing Paul Giamatti works as brilliantly here as it did when John Malkovich played himself in Being John Malkovich.  And this film borrows lightly from Being John Malkovich in the sense that the sensibility is the same – a dark funny offbeat comedy set in a very real world, with one very interesting twist.  In Being John Malkovich that was obviously that you could go through a hole in a wall and be inside John Malkovich, in Cold Souls it’s that the soul of a person can be removed and stored and replaced later (if the person so desires) and that you can even try on other souls for size.

I think writer/director Sophie Barthes’ brilliance here is that her concept is totally original and wonderfully executed, but that she never takes her concept too seriously.  The soul, as Giamatti quickly finds out, is a troublesome little thing, that though it can weigh you down, life is pretty not good without one.  And so Giamatti returns to have his soul, well, returned.  Unfortunately his soul has been lost/stolen and the hunt begins for him to get it back.  Cold Souls fully explores this slightly fictional world and with interesting results.

The wonderful Dina Korzun (Forty Shades Of Blue) plays Nina, a soul trafficking mule, that tries to help Giamatti get his soul back, while also dealing with her own complicated life and the harsh ramifications of trafficking in souls.  Giamatti’s soul has been taken by the gorgeous but horrible Sveta, the girlfriend of the head honcho on the Russian side of the soul removal operation.  Sveta (played wonderfully by Katheryn Winnick) is a Russian soap actress that has been told Giamatti’s actor soul is actually the actor soul of Al Pacino, and once she has it, she’s not inclined to give it back, liking the way it feels, and believing that it will strengthen her acting chops.

Smaller performances by powerhouses Emily Watson as Giamatti’s wife Claire; David Strathairn as apologetic Dr. Flintstein; and Lauren Ambrose as lab assistant Stephanie, only gives extra weight to an already fantastic cast full of beautiful character performances led masterfully by Paul Giamatti.

The movie is full of surprises – both in how it all plays out – and in how darkly funny it is, while still managing to tackle thought provoking ideas.

The Bad: I honestly can’t think of anything.  I suppose it’s possible that there are small nitpicky things that I didn’t like when I saw this months ago, but in retrospect I can’t recall anything but the good stuff…which speaks well for the film in the end.

The Ugly: Nothing.  I love the way this movie looks and feels.  It’s beautifully shot and actually feels cold throughout and to good effect – from the sorrow in Giamatti (pre and post soul removal); to the clinical futuristic offices and labs; to the stunning Russian landscapes and the poverty and plight of some of its citizens forced to sell their souls on the black market.

4.5 Stars

rabid-lamb-comics-unemployment-clothes-postable

Now, please keep in mind I do of course mix this up with different babydoll nightgowns, ratty sweaters, and sweatpants.  But yeah, it’s decidedly not awesome.

If we hadn’t gone out this weekend (twice!) I think Adam would have forgotten what I looked like in real clothes.  Speaking of this weekend, we saw two really good films this weeked at the New Directors/New Films series.  Treeless Mountain and Cold Souls. I don’t know if either will be getting a wide release, though the latter has enough star power that it seems like it should (Paul Giamatti), it also features in a small role some “new” actress (Katheryn Winnick) that I have to say I could not take my eyes off of.  To be “that guy” (or girl, as it were) she looked like a lovely version of Scarlett Johansson…only taller and a bit older.  Va va va voom.

youngblood

“Most of the great graphic novels are gone, and ‘Youngblood‘ is one of the few comic books left with tentpole potential,” Ratner said.

This from a CBR story that Youngblood has been acquired for Brett Ratner to direct for mid-six figures.

I can’t even begin to take apart Ratner’s statement because it’s so ridiculous.  Also, anyone that knows ANYTHING about comics and graphic novels can tell you he doesn’t know a god damn thing about comics based on this sentence.  Which kind of explains the whole X3 nightmare.

I guess the silver lining in all of this is that Youngblood sucks pretty hard already and Ratner sucks the biggest amount possible, so they’re kind of a match made in heaven.  Since Ratner’s goal in life seems to be going around ruining awesome stuff (again – the X Franchise, among other things) then I’d rather he’s kept busy on something that kind of sucks to begin with.  As Adam put it when he brought my attention to this article – “a perfect storm of suck”.  Well said Adam, well said.

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Vinyl

Not quite, but I’m surprisingly close.

Who is Alan Zweig you ask?  Alan Zweig is a talented documentary filmmaker with a grim (though not unwarranted) outlook on life.  I came across Zweig’s films, as I come across many great things, via Adam.  Thanks Adam!

A few weeks ago I was trying to work (I think it was writing) and Adam put in Zweig’s documentary Vinyl.  My attempt at working did not last long as I was drawn in from the office to the living room repeatedly by fascinating, funny, introspective, and really sad stuff I was hearing in Zweig’s fascinating film.  We both fell in love with Zweig’s Vinyl, partly because it’s just a wonderful documentary about collectors of vinyl and partly because Adam and I both suffer from obsessive compulsive collecting to a certain degree…not for vinyl, but for various kinds of media…it is worst in me for books and comic books/graphic novels, it is worst in Adam for film as he’s managed to mostly curb his inner comic collector.  Regardless, I guess my point is that we were really able to relate to the people Zweig interviewed (including Zweig himself), but from a slightly safe distance – though collecting is a bit of a problem for us – mostly financial – it hasn’t managed to take over or shape our lives (yet?) in the way that most of Zweig’s subjects admitted it does for them.

The film Vinyl is an unflinchingly honest documentary about collectors, and what and why they love what they love, and also why they have sometimes come to hate it.  Zweig himself is incredibly frank about the fact that he believes his collecting gets in the way of his life – particularly for his relationships and general growth as a person living a “normal” life.

Being throughougly entranced by Vinyl (released in 2000) Adam quickly hunted down Zweig’s other two documentaries, I,Curmudgeon (2004) and Lovable (2007), these in combination with Vinyl are often referred to unofficially as his “Trilogy of Narcissism” and the title fits, in the best sense of the word.  All three documentaries are executed in a very stripped down interview style.  There is no fancy lighting, or great sets.  The interviews are almost exclusively shot head on as medium-ish shots, in the subjects’ own homes, with the exception of Zweig’s “confessional” interviews with himself where he shoots just his head/face in a mirror.  I suppose this would drive some people crazy, but I found it charming, and honest.  Zweig is far more open I think and vulnerable talking to himself in the mirror than he would be in a more professional or staged setting, or if being interviewed by someone else.  He knows exactly the questions he wants to ask, and he is brave about not dodging the ones that have horrible answers, or worse, the ones he doesn’t actually know the answers to.  It’s almost like watching someone in therapy.  But real therapy, not some staged witty version of what is usually written for “realistic” therapy sessions.

I, Curmudgeon in a nutshell is about being a curmudgeon…being a person that can’t just be happy and go with the flow.  The people he interviews range from just sarcastic and bitter to chronically depressed.  Zweig considers himself a curmudgeon, although he seems mild in comparison to some of his fellow curmudgeons.  This was by far the most depressing of the documentaries – perhaps because I related to it too much.  I don’t really consider myself a curmudgeon, and I doubt people I know would categorize me that way, but I absolutely have a dark sarcastic side and I often suffer from bouts of depression and I find myself either annoyed or confounded by people that just seem happy.  Unlike most of the people in Zweig’s film I’m pretty good at hiding it (not good for me by the way) and I’m very socially ept.  I suspect many of Zweig’s interview subjects would actually take issue with me empathizing with their problems…but I do, and I love that someone even wanted to make this film – it is so outside the realm of “traditionally acceptable subject matter” for mass consumption.

Loveable is Zweig interviewing solely women, women who are single and have been for a very very long time, some to the point of having always been single.  Because Zweig contstantly ruminates in his films about finding love and a real life partner I can’t help but feel a small part of him hoped through his new film to find a woman that felt as unloveable as he did, and that they could be loved by one another, thus pairing off two people previously incredibly lonely.  I don’t begrudge him this (we all want to be loved, right?) and I don’t think it affected his film, except perhaps in the editing room (some of the scenes run a bit long or repetitive).  I suspect he fell in love with all of these women a little bit, as they were all pretty amazing, and yet touched with the same sadness that he is. Overall it’s a gripping and almost shocking documentary in that it really is surprising that some of these women are single and have always been single.  A couple of them I nearly fell in love with myself.  In the end, though I thought the film was excellent,  it is the subject matter I related to the least (I have ended up lucky in love if nothing else in my life) and thus it was less powerful for me than his other two films.

In the end I can’t really recommend Alan Zweig or his films to just anybody, a lot of people will hate what he’s done here, however, if you’ve read this review and “get it” you should probably check him out immediately.  For the record, here are the ratings (out of 5):

Vinyl – 4.5 Stars

I, Curmudgeon – 4.0 Stars

Loveable – 3.5 Stars

E-@Theletes

E-@Theletes.  Directed by Jonathan Boal.  Produced by Artem Agafonov

I had the opportunity through this blog to review a screener copy of E-@Theletes, a direct to DVD documentary about professional gaming. 

The subject matter is quite frankly, fascinating.  Regardless of whether you’re the kind of inner circle gaming geek (said with love!) that this documentary is geared towards or not, this film’s subject matter is just captivating…if only because whether you think professional gaming applies to you or not, in some way in the future it probably will.  There are people out there that never thought mobile phones or home computers would affect their way of life, and I think it’s safe to say that even if you hate mobile phones or home computers and choose not to have them, they are simply a way of life at this point and absolutely affect everyone.  I suspect professional gaming will be in a similar category one day. 

The Good:  As mentioned, the subject matter is fascinating and this documentary comes at the very beginning of what I expect will eventually be a huge industry as we slowly replace much of real life with online life, which is already happening in the form of games like Second Life.   The documentary covered a lot of different aspects of the gaming industry, including opinions from authors and experts, interviews with gamers and their families and girlfriends, as well as with some industry people and borderline visionaries.  It’s hard to imagine, but in their own way these people are not unlike the guys who first tried to get a sport like basketball going…and I have little doubt they’ll be successful and that someday competitive gaming will be mentioned in the same sentence as more mainstream sports like basketball, football, and baseball.   It’s not going to be in the next five years, but eventually it will happen, it’s the direction we’re all headed.  That said, I’m still waiting for my freaking hoverboard…

The Bad:  The music is not so good and the needle drops are sometimes oddly placed, often overpowering the actual interviews, which, in a documentary, is not a good thing.  Several times I lost whole sentences from the interview because the bad music was too loud or started at a strange moment.  I’m sure the budget could not handle the cost for buying the rights to a couple awesome songs, but it’s unfortunately for such a small thing really could have brought this piece together.  There were a couple moments in The King of Kong a similar documentary film about gaming, most specifically when Joe Esposito’s extremely cheesy Karate Kid jam “You’re The Best Around” is played and literally the entire theater lit up in smiles…for so many reasons.  This documentary could have benefited hugely from a few moments like that. 

Early on the documentary did feel a bit unfocused.  It felt at times like Boal shot every single thing he could in an effort to figure out what the story was here – and that’s probably how it happened – as often does in documentaries as you wait for the story to emerge – but as a viewer I don’t want to feel that in the final product.  For the uninitiated to the professional gaming community (me) I felt kind of thrown into the deep end of the pool in the first scenes.  There is no real explanation of how the system works, or what they’re trying to accomplish, and the competitive gaming community IS pretty complicated.  I’m a fairly savvy viewer, and I’m familiar with less mainstream stuff like comicons and such, but as I’m not well versed specifically in competitive gaming I found myself  lost and a bit confused for the first twenty minutes.  Perhaps Boal didn’t want to risk alienating the insiders he knew would be interested in his film, but I have to believe there’s a happy medium somehow where you can appease the fantatics and the uninitiated at the same time and with minimal frustration for either group. 

Once the story solified as a focus on two US competitive gaming teams (3D and Complexity) and their intensifying rivalry, it really started to get a focus and became far more interesting.  The human element, as always I think, really helped drive the story forward.  Once Boal focused on 3D and Complexity and less on the larger scope of gaming it was easy to see that though many people probably consider professional gaming a silly waste of time, the people we met in E-@Theletes have invested serious amounts of time, money, and love into the venture, and it really helped me care both in regards to who was advancing and winning big prize money and also about the future of professional gaming in general.  

The Ugly:  The packaging is not pretty.  I think the distributor made a real mistake here, though I’m sure it was all budget and cost related, much like the music limitations.  All the images on the front and back of the DVD are very dark and far too small, and the pictures sit on a black background as well, making everything extremely muddy and dark.  The summary on the back is also not so compelling compared to the actual content of the film, which is strong. 

Additionally, as a woman, I found the summary on the back to be a little misogynistic, and it turned me off immediately even though the film itself proved far less offensive than I expected based on the summary.   It’s unfortunate that women do take such a back seat in this film, they are literally only featured as mothers and girlfriends, but considering the very thorough interviewing done by the filmmakers I can’t blame them…I think women just aren’t into competitive gaming enough yet to be anything other than side characters.  I look forward to the follow up documentary in a couple years where women have definitely stepped up in the gaming community and made their presence known. 

In the end it is a shame for all the work that went into this documentary that the packaging is not doing it justice.  When you go straight to DVD it’s more important than ever I think to have some powerful packaging and an excellent (accurate) summary.  Don’t be fooled in this case – the actual film is far more interesting than the packaging would lead you to believe. 

Overall, I give it 3 stars (out of 5) for the fascinating subject matter.  I’m sure the director, Jonathan Boal is a little burnt out on the professional gaming community, but I for one would love an update in a few years showing us how that industry has advanced. 

The DVD releases this Tuesday, January 27th and will be available to rent from Netflix and to buy from Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, and Best Buy.  The DVD is a two-disc set and includes Director/Producer commentary, deleted scenes and a making of documentary.

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