Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Out out brief Replicant

From Blade Runner:
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
From Macbeth:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Can there be anything more tragically beautiful than Shakespearean nihilism?  Charlie Kaufman tries his hand at Shakespearean nihilism in Synecdoche, New York.  Go check it out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blade Runner: 2/5

My beef with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner:

1.  The Characters.  I did not connect to any single character.  Not Deckard, not Roy Batty, not Tyrell, not even Rachael.  Nor did I care for Roy Batty's arc.  "Look!  Even our genetically engineered pets aren't as horrible and destructive as we are!"  That kind of theme ranks right up there with "You know, communism works on paper" in terms of originality and freshness.  I don't even want to engage that line of thought.  To me, the characters are the most important part of the story, and they fail to do anything for me here.

2.  The Music.  The music in Blade Runner hasn't aged very well, imho.  The synthesizers instantly tell me the movie is stuck permanently in the 1980s.  I don't hold that against Scott (how could he have known how quickly synthesizers would go out of vogue?), but it really interfered with my suspension of disbelief.  Are you trying to tell me that in 2019, we have gone full circle and are back into synth pop?  Maybe we will be, but watching the movie in 2010, I couldn't help but realize I was watching a movie made in 1982.

3.  The Visuals.  I don't care for cyberpunk.  I know a lot of people love it, but it just isn't my cup of tea.  I can't say much more about that.

My tea with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner:

1.  It's right in the sweet spot at 117 minutes long.

2.  I appreciate the contemplation on morality throughout.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Less Is More

So today I'm reading about movies, as I tend to do a lot these days, and I stumble across this:
[Orson] Welles would have loved [The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford], were it not for it being over his two hour maximum comfort zone[.]
It seems Mr. Welles and I have something in common (other than mastering deep focus cinematography and the low-angle shot).  As I (too) frequently tell The Missus, there is a spectrum to movie running times:

  • Less than 90 minutes: something terrible happened to cut the movie short (e.g., the creators didn't realize the idea wouldn't pan out until way too late in the process).  They feel like TV episodes run too long.  Classic example: The Ex (89 minutes).  When I see a less-than-90 running time, I expect holes and dissatisfaction.
  • 90 to 120 minutes: the sweet spot, especially in the 100-110 zone.  These movies are long enough to develop storylines and characters but still short enough to watch repeatedly.  Classic example: The Graduate (105 minutes).  When I see a 90-to-120 running time, I get excited about watching a director who understands less is more.
  • 120 to 150 minutes: you're pushing it.  Every minute past 120 better be important.  The creators are on the verge of author appeal.  But, if done right, those extra minutes don't feel extra.  Classic example: The Empire Strikes Back (124 minutes).  When I see a 120-to-150 running time, I check the director.  If it's Quentin Tarantino, OK.  Anybody else, I am pre-planning a bathroom break.
  • 150 minutes to infinity: 9 times out of 10, the director has gone too far.  The movie ceased being about communicating with the audience and started being about the director "expressing himself or herself"---only the audience doesn't know it.  By the time the movie ends, almost any kind of tacked on ending will seem amazing because the audience has put so much effort and time into watching it.  But when you sit back later and talk it out, the truth comes out.  (See, e.g., Stephen King's It.)  Classic example: Avatar.  When I see a 150-plus running time, I put it back on the shelf until I have an entire afternoon free.
Listen, directors, if it's too long for Orson Welles, it's too long for me.  Do like the Coen Brothers (average running time of 107.2 minutes, ranging from 94 (Raising Arizona) to 122 (No Country for Old Men---their only 2-hour-plus-er)), and not like James Cameron (average running time of 140.1 minutes, ranging from 94 (Piranha II---the only one less than a hundred and one of only two less than two hours) to 194 (Titanic)).  A friend of mine likes The Godfather.  I like The Godfather, too, but I refuse to watch it again.  I don't have that much free time.

Who really wants to sit still for 2 hours and 55 minutes?

Mirrors freak me out

Since it's mid-July and time to start ramping up the scary movies, I spent an hour and a half this weekend watching Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity.  And---I can't lie---I spent another hour and a half tossing in bed trying to escape my nightmare.  The movie slithered into my subconscious, exploited a random nightmare I had in fourth grade, and held me in its grip for about half a day (until I fell back asleep and had a nightmare that I got way too deep into the drug industry).

I prefer my scary movies to slip just a little bit inside my head.  I'm not really scared of people, so movies that use people as the main scare (e.g., Saw, The Silence of the Lambs, Hostel) may be entertaining, but they don't scare me.  I prefer my scares with a hint of the supernatural.

My favorite scary movie ever is The Exorcist.  It's creepy at parts, frightening at others, and satisfying in the end.  I also like The Shining, but I don't find it very scary.  But for the scariest movie ever?  For the movie that stuck with me for days and weeks afterward, not letting me sleep?  For the movie that found a fissure in the dam of my subconscious and turned that moon into a space station?

The Ring.  The American version.  Yep.  I'm lame.  In my defense, you have to admit that the washed out colors, the girl whose face hides behind a curtain of straight black hair, and---most importantly to me---the shot where the woman looks into the mirror and there's no effin camera.  Oh and the end?  When she takes the fly off the TV screen?  F r e a k y.  If Paranormal Activity scared me for 12 hours, The Ring scared me for 12 weeks.  Like I said: fissure in the dam of my subconscious.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


The health food aisle at Target.