October 5, 2017

Movie reference from a Japanese pop compilation

Having purchased Nippon Girls and Nippon Girls 2 on vinyl and finding both albums filled with liner notes, I was prepared for some cultural spelunking.


First up: the movie "Susume! Jagazu tekizen joriku" (1968) [ IMDB ]. Sheila Burgel, author of the wonderful liner notes for NG2, commented in a paragraph on Akiko Nakamura that There is a fantastic scene in GS [Group Sound] film Susume! Jaguars Tekizen Jourika (Landing In The Presence Of The enemy The Jaguars Advance!) with Akiko Nakamura performing 'Niji-iro No Mizu Umi' in knee-high socks, a black pinafore and what appears to be an enourmous tutu as a top. I eventually found the IMDB reference with Akiko's name but the only hit with that wonderful translated title is for an Australian band who, though I'm sure are fine musicians, were just not what I was looking for. I eventually got to the IMDB link after finding a blog entry on "DIE, DANGER, DIE, DIE, KILL!" titled "Hey You, Go! (Japan, 1968)" about a movie with Akiko in it. Definitely worth a read and his video review with clips from the movie is here:

I have no idea how one title got translated to another, and Todd at DDDDK! reviewed a copy he got with no subtitles, so no insight there. He described it as similar to a Beatles or Monkeys film from the same era. I had watched the Monkeys' film Head and was... disappointed. Maybe better in a foreign language? According to DDDDK!, the movie is a showcase for the GS band The Jaguars--really just the lead singer--and Akiko plays his love interest. The song of hers we get on NG2 is "Namida no Mori no Monogatari" ("The Forest of Tears", worth listening to while it's up on DailyMotion). The one from the movie (YouTube below, while it lasts) sounds like it utilizes the chipmonk speedup that Burgel says was popular at the time (you wouldn't believe how many Japanese records from the 60s regularly employed this hilarious technique). Not as recommended.

posted by sstrader at 8:54 PM in Cinema , Music | permalink

April 15, 2017

Weekend in Austin

Impulse-bought tickets to see Kool Keith at Antone's in Austin the weekend of April 7th. In late Friday and out late Sunday.

Friday night was drinks at the Driskill Hotel bar where we were staying (and where we stayed back in 2012). Snacks-for-dinner at the Easy Tiger beer garden where we learned our patio-bench neighbors ran out on their bill (waitress: "I don't suppose you saw where those people went, did you?"). More drinks elsewhere then the best Late Night Pizza I've ever eaten in my life at Peckerheads (sausage and mushroom?). Back to the hotel at around 2.

Not-too-late start next morning/noon and lunch/brunch at Irene's. Biscuits and gravy and eggs and bacon and a bottle of champagne for mimosas. Irene's locale took us west so we went further to Waterloo Records (sadly no purchases) and then HOPE Outdoor gallery. I'd heard about it from a Reddit post where some people painted a cool Ghost in the Shell mural. The mural was long gone, but the park was still cool: weeds and dirt and concrete structures all covered in graffiti with a dozen or so guys painting new ones. Recommended. Then drinks (and A/C) just down the street at a south Louisiana restaurant called Shoal Creek Saloon.

Remnant of the GitS mural

Back to the hotel for what was to be a short nap but what wasn't. Panicky wake up and abandon dinner Plan A (Justine's had a 45-minute to hour-and-a-half wait (enjoy the soft-core porn at their web site!)) to Plan B at Perry's Steakhouse close to the hotel. Piano and guitar jazz/pop at the front room seating with Thelonious Monk, Gerry Rafferty, The Beatles, and several other jazz artists I couldn't place. Next stop: Antone's for some music! Caught the end of the openers Cure for Paranoia: smooth singing/rapping with a touch of psychedelia. Then the beginning of Money Chicha: 60s, singer-less organ/guitar/latin percussion group. (Minor interruption in the middle of their set for me as I had to run back to the hotel to resolve gastro-intestinal dystonia!) Back for Kool Keith who played till around 2. Highlights were sections from Octagonecologyst including the infectious Earth People, several from Feature Magnetic, a tray of chicken wings brought out to the bar (I took caution from my recent history and passed on them), and some freestyle with Bushwick Bill (who later did some recordings with KK in the studio until 5 that night). Perfect concert!

Who's kool?

Sunday started with lunch/brunch at Swift's Attic. Spicy Bloody Mary bar and delicious croque madame for me while looking around for members of the advertised Strader/Fiedler wedding to see if I would recognize any long lost relatives (nope). We then had a couple of hours for museum-going. First, The Contemporary Austin for a show of paintings by Garth Weiser from the last 10 years. Amazing layers of paint and lined textures that look different from every angle and range. Refreshing. We also saw a short silent film by Mark Lewis titled Galveston: camera view slowly descends on a tall office building, ending upside down at street level passing through the town. It made the rest of the day seem unusually right side up. Next stop was the Museum of the Weird! Mummified babies, two-headed animals, and fur-bearing trout (my favorite) in the front room with the Minnesota Iceman stored in a freezer in the back. Four of us also got a show from a man who can hold on to live wires without getting shocked. Coincidence of the day: both he and Bushwick Bill were little people.

Electricity is weird

Final drinks at The Jackalope (in between Late Night Pizza place and Museum of the Weird) where we watched Mars Attacks! Off to the airport where boarding was delayed then takeoff delayed but we lost the right to complain after hearing about what happened on that United flight the same evening. Home in time to be reminded that we had to shut off the water just before leaving for the airport because of a leak. The bucket held throughout the weekend, so no unwelcome surprises.

posted by sstrader at 10:17 AM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged travel | permalink

March 14, 2017

GitS and whitewashing

I'm not that comfortable with some of the accusations of whitewashing that have been made recently. There are many recent instances, but the key one I'm interested in is Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie.

There are certainly horrific examples of whitewashing from decades ago ranging from blackface to exaggerated Asian (Breakfast at Tiffany's!) or Indian affectations. These can be explained away as cultural gaffes of history, like an older person using an impolitic term. It's not great that they happened, but our embarrassment of them as a culture is a sign that we've grown. Recently though there have been very public discussions on and dissatisfactions with European whites playing characters of other cultures and cisgendered playing trans. I feel that the legitimate issue with whitewashing is when, simply, a crude stereotype or one-note character is presented. The stereotype is lazy and racist (*-ist (side-note: I've noticed the word "racist" used as a catch-all for social over-generalization w/r/t race or nationality or gender, and I kind of like its transformation into a catch-all)) and so is the easiest to spot and critically dismiss. The writer or actor doesn't care enough to understand the othered group, and so presents a thin, shadow of a character. What could be a dynamic secondary or tertiary character becomes filler with a check mark for "different".

However, and this is key, actors should be allowed to act. They perform as characters with advanced skills they haven't personally acquired, or with mental aberrations and manias they do not possess and could never acquire or as people that could never exist. Taking that into account, is nationality or gender so out of the realm? Though I haven't seen it, the show Transparent seems to be, critically, the canonical example of a cisgendered actor playing a transitioning character. With quality writing and performance observation, the specter of minstrel shows dissolves into an illumination into the lives of humans of the world.

Over the past few months, I've been watching pinky violence films from 1960s/70s Japan. They generally deal with female street gangs fighting aggressive male competitors, or corrupt government institutions taking advantage of the poor or female or both. In several (e.g. Sex Hunter, the Rica series), those who have mixed national parentage--"half-breeds"--are treated with focused brutality by the alpha gangs and a strong-willed female thug steps up to protect them. In Sex Hunter, the half-breed Kazuma is played by the Japanese/Italian actor--with visually uncertain heritage--Rikiya Yasuoka. In the Rica trilogy, the lead Japanese/American woman is played by Rika Aoki. I am uncertain whether the actress is herself multiracial. Nationality it seems is very fluid.

Back to Ghost in the Shell, it was pointed out in a comment from a recent Reddit thread that five of the seven other main actors are of distinct, non-Japanese nationalities, and I'm reminded that a main theme of the story is that of fluid gender, individuality, and consciousness. This seems key.

posted by sstrader at 7:30 PM in Cinema , Culture & Society | tagged ghost in the shell | permalink

July 13, 2016

The music and the cinema and the theater

Last month was full of the arts...

Music: Sat 4 Jun we went to see ATL Collective performing OK Computer at Terminal West. Notable was the harp showcased in several of the songs and the choir of eight or so accompanying. It was a good balance of authenticity and variation. Next Sat 11 Jun was the ASO season finale with Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and Brahms Symphony No. 2. Andre Watts was to have performed the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto but canceled due to back problems. I have great guilt about not going as frequently as we used to (~10-15 shows a season), and this concert made me wish I'd act on that guilt. Next season!

Cinema: The week of the 12th started with The Lobster [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 4/5 ] at Landmark. The Greek director, Lanthimos, made one of my favorite films, Dogtooth, and this was cut very much from the same weird. Next were two older "classic" films at the Plaza: Zardoz and Showgirls (which I had first seen only a year ago). Zardoz was... both horrible and smart-ish? It reminded me of The Man Who Fell to Earth with its mix of bad acting yet original ideas. I had seen Man Who Fell recently at Landmark and, in my post-research, got interested enough in the author Walter Tevis that I got two of his books: The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mockingbird. The latter depicts a future in which robots rule over the drugged, illiterate humans. Cf. Bacigalupi's story "Pump Six" depicting a similar and similarly bleak future.

Theater: We lucked out finding out about a staged reading of James Joyce's Ulysses at Shakespeare Tavern on 15 Jun, performed by Aris. Years ago I got a couple hundred pages in the book and failed, so seeing this was a cheat but very rewarding. If they don't perform it again, it is worth seeking out elsewhere. The last speech by Molly Bloom was emotional and outstanding. Also lucky to hear about West Side Story at Cobb Energy Center on 26 Jun, performed by Atlanta Lyric Theatre. My first time seeing it live! There's such social relevance in this today--immigrants treated as troublemakers, poor people pitted against minorities, police abusing power, and an overloaded social net)--that it should be performed more frequently.

posted by sstrader at 8:33 PM in Cinema , Concerts | permalink

January 22, 2016

Race, actors, representation

The 2015 Oscars, much like those of 2014, have not nominated any blacks (or, save Inarritu, minorities) in any categories. While black groups are acting on this with boycotts and editorials, the primary social presence is via the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. This is on its face a statistical oddity, so what representation would we expect based on the racial makeup of the US? The Wikipedia article on this, excluding measurements of mixed race, provides several groups of slightly different percentages. The first group comes from the article header representing census numbers, the second from the section on racial makeup representing estimates:

  • White - 62.6%
  • Hispanic (ethnic) - 17.1%
  • Black (race) - 13.2%
  • Other - 7.1% (remainder from the above)
  • White - 63.0% (2012 est.)
  • Black - 16.3% (2014 est.)
  • Hispanic - 14.1% (2012 est.)
  • Asian - 4.4% (2008 est.)
  • Other - 1.2% (remainder from the above)

Going with these numbers, we are ignoring actual minority participation in the acting community (i.e. there are probably no Quaker bankers, few white rappers, etc.), barrier to entry (here's where racism comes in to play), and representation in high-quality and possibly well-financed films (if there is a ghettoization of a minority, participation and support of projects becomes extremely problematic). Also, and perhaps more importantly, we are assuming that artistic skill is distributed evenly across humans no matter the race or ethnicity (or gender or left-handedness, etc.). Given that best and supporting actor and actress categories have five nominations each, any racial or ethnic minority would need 20% of the population to make a slot statistically representative (I suck at statistics; are there issues with this logic?). Blacks and Hispanics are under that 20% margin, but not by too much. Suspicious?

Related: there has been some grousing regarding non-transgendered (cisgendered) actors getting transgendered roles. I have not read enough of the articles/editorials to provide a good summary, but Jared Leto is probably going to win an Oscar tonight, and I feel weird about it (updated) from two years ago gets close to the group gestalt. Simply: it's an insider complaining that a dramatic representation is not as faithful as it could be. Complications arise when the insider status coincides with deep prejudice from society and the oft-correlated ignorance that begets prejudice. More even than racism, I'm treading into dangerous waters here.

As a relatively well-informed musician and a long-time industry software developer, I know from imprecise dramatic liberties. Many example exist; some are egregious; most are harmless. The getting-it-right is satisfying to see, but art is suggestion and generally not encyclopedic. A good writer can hit key points and work around that they don't know the difference between F# and Gb or how EBCDIC is related to ASCII.

With that in mind, I dislike the assumption that like must play like. Writers and actors research in an attempt to portray the diversity of human nature by having the full of humanity in their palette. Many don't succeed; some don't spectacularly; most are harmless. When you've seen a good actor in two roles in diametric opposition and embody them to their fullest, it's difficult to want to make typecasting a requirement. We constantly accept that French characters only ever speak to other French people with a French accent, and accept that the actor is not actually French. When did actor-to-role authenticity become mandatory?

Conversely: is man-playing-woman ever acceptable? Or--and here's the real icky part--is white playing black ever acceptable? Is this the same as cis-playing-trans?

posted by sstrader at 5:29 PM in Cinema , Culture & Society | permalink

January 9, 2016

Where was I?

What excesses happened in December?

Movies: We started with Krampus [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] on Sunday the 6th to remember the reason for the season. A goofy, garish horror flick that re-frames X-mas in the same way that any recent Grimms' stories attempt to honor the source material. Watch if you like Evil Dead or Rare Exports (another seasonal flick) or maybe Troll Hunters (haven't seen tho). End of the month was of course Star Wars: The Force Awakens [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. We went Sunday the 20th and revisited Saturday the 26th. I was surprised that for all the flaws, it was still so emotional. I didn't have a big problem with the many dramatic parallels it has to the original movie. With the time that's passed, the re-emergence of the original actors, and the purge of George Lucas, calling back to the 1977 original felt a useful touch to clean the slate. Tarantino's 8th, The Hateful Eight [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] was a couple of days later on Monday at Atlantic Station during the 100-city tour with 70 mm film projectors and surprise guest Walton Goggins to introduce. Jennifer Jason Leigh's and Goggins' characters were the absolute best and worth a rewatch just to see their performances again. The 70 mm was impressive and reminded me of watching the re-mastered Lawrence of Arabia last April at Landmark. Next up: more violence with The Revenant at Lafont in Sandy Springs.

star wars cards

Childhood obsession I found a few years back when cleaning out my parents' house.


A gift from Lisa!

Music: Friday the 18th was Yacht Rock Revue's 70s Holiday Party at Venkman's. Not much X-mas music but lots of AM fabulousness with the musicians dressed as Star Wars stormtroopers. New Year's Day +1 we went with a co-worker and friends to Smith's Olde Bar to see Puddles Pity Party to continue the 70s theme of YRR. We first saw him by chance at The Goat Farm for a Halloween party in 2014 where he performed in front of a huge screen projecting video from a drone that was flying around the stage. It broke our brains with craziness and was as enjoyable a second time. Schmaltz pop songs performed by a sad clown with a booming tenor voice. Is he respecting the songs or mocking them as if channeling a McSweeney's detachment? Or is this the apotheosis of karaoke (or American Idol) with concerts consisting of a singer singing covers against a pre-recorded backing band? Cf. also Peaches etc. singing originals against a sequencer or Girl Talk etc. performing with a laptop. Next up: more cover songs with Yacht Rock Review performing a Led Zeppelin vs. The Who battle of the bands tonight at Venkman's.


Jeff Lynne battles the force

Events: my first company holiday party Friday the 11th at the CFO's house/mansion in Buckhead. Wine at the basement bar/piano lounge and food from the ginormous food truck out back. Our Uber driver said that Tyler Perry lives nearby but we never saw him. X-mas proper in Knoxville with Too Much Good Food. NYE proper at Gun Show for the second year in a row with more Too Much Good Food. Next up: dieting.

posted by sstrader at 10:35 AM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged new years | permalink

November 7, 2015

Three Jess Franco films

A month or so ago I came across references to an early 70s vampire exploitation movie called, simply enough, Female Vampire. The director, Jess Franco, is noted for his voluminous output of trash/exploitation horror and a distinctive style as a director. His x-rated output kept him from the mainstream but his work still drew some respect for the occasional gems. I just watched three early films, each wildly unique.

First up: Female Vampire (1975) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ].

Female Vampire

The review over at At the Mansion of Madness got me started on this journey. The story involves a mute Countess Irina Karlstein (Lina Romay) cursed by her family heritage to suck the, ahem, life force from people without ever finding happiness. Absent the many softcore porn scenes, the mood is very static, moody Gothic horror. Notable are the scenes as Irina walks the foggy landscape of the island of Madeira, often with the specters of her victims, as if it were a half-world or purgatory. The blog review above points out that the story has links to a female vampire tale from 1872, 26 years before Dracula, called Carmilla. Side note: underground cinema can produce many versions of a movie with alternate cuts and re-releases. Female Vampire has quite a list of AKAs, a few of the English titles are: Bare Breasted Countess, Sicarius - the Midnight Party, The Black Countess, The Last Thrill, The Loves of Irina, and Erotikill.

[ updated 16 Jan 2016 ]

Countess Irina Karlstein is a reference to the Karnstein family in Hammer Films' The Karnstein Trilogy. These consist of The Vampire Lovers (1970, based on Carmilla), Lust for a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil (1971).

[ updated 8 Oct 2016 ]

Back in August, a web series was was released on YouTube based on Carmilla and set in a modern-day college. Apparently very goofy, lesbian-chick centric with such a loyal following that they are releasing a movie in 2017. There are three seasons and a season zero.

Next: Succubus (1968) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ].


Wow. After Lina Romay's vampire I was unprepared for the strong references to David Lynch's Lost Highway, Fellini's La Dolce Vita, and Jean Luc Goddard's Pierrot le Fou (the latter two probably were being referenced). The story: the lead performer (Janine Reynaud, who we'll also see in the 3rd movie) in a sado-masochistic stage show slips into visions of a past life or, possibly, visions implanted by an unscrupulous psychiatrist (?). It is at times impenetrable with its shift in scenes and what I take to be an unreliable narrator in the lead, who often does not remember who she is talking to. Weird and engaging. Original title: Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden (Dreamt Sins).

Finally: Two Undercover Angels (1969) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ].

Two Undercover Angels

This was just crazy, stupid fun. Two freelance detective sex-pots groove their way in and out of nightclubs hunting for a deranged art killer. The level of silliness cannot be overstated. I felt I was watching a live action Scooby Doo or somesuch, but a review over at 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting pointed out that Franco described it in an interview on one of the DVD releases as What if Abbott and Costello had made a parody of Judex or Fantomas and what if that somebody replaced Abbott and Costello with a pair of sexy lesbians? Yep. Notable: Morpho the hairy faced female assistant to the killer, the crazy masked lady that appears periodically, and the constant slapstick antics. Whaa? Preceded by Labios rojos (1960) and followed by Küss mich, Monster (1969). I know what's next on my list. Original title: Rote Lippen, Sadisterotica (Red Lips, Sadisterotica).

posted by sstrader at 8:44 AM in Cinema | permalink

June 7, 2015

Notes on We Don't Care About Music Anyway

Documentary about avant garde electronic music in Tokyo [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Very good. Structure worked with the music. Performances alternating with a round-table discussion by 8-or-so of the musicians represented. Worth watching for the natural, organic statements of intent that resulted. Music in the same vein as that from No Fun Fest back in 2009.

  • Is the avant garde a symptom/expression of a society's psychological disfunctions? More than mainstream forms, I see it as a working though of as-yet unformed or forming ideas.
  • Often works from existing instruments and extends them. Re orchestral writing expanding how sounds can be produced from stringed instruments (cf. even simple alterations like sul tasto and sul ponticello and then extend to other areas). Prepared piano. Records repurposed. Microphone feedback. Even when using modern devices (sequencer) it can be physically beat on to produce unintended sounds. "Hacking" your instrument.
  • Use of autonomic body processes to generate music. Think of all the personal health metrics that people are generating that could be converted to music. John Cage did similar things to remove the human hand from art. Both try to tap hidden forces, but the autonomic technique seems to have different intent.
  • Issues of authenticity. Object and location imbue meaning. Even the avant garde suffer the anxiety of influence.
  • "Contact mics allow you to amplify microscopic phenomena."
  • "To compose is to remember things that have entered us."
  • How does music reflect environment? Images of landfills and destroyed buildings shown as cultural memory. To be used by artists? Or triggered by artists?
  • All musicians were older (>30?) and, except one, male.
posted by sstrader at 1:06 PM in Cinema , Music | permalink

March 14, 2015

Recent movie-watchin'

Over the last month or so, Lisa was out of town so I got to watch a lot of my movies. Here:

Two art documentaries, The Artist is Present [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] and Exit Through the Gift Shop [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Artist was more moving than I'd anticipated. Abramovic's show from the film's title--where viewers took as much time as they wanted to sit in front of her--went, in my mind, from being attention-demanding by the artist to more an act of respect for the viewer. Many who sat were brought to tears; a Tumblr page documents some of them. Exit was interesting at first when it was documenting the various street artists and their cavalier exploits (are there any other kind?!), but its twisty hook halfway in left me cold. Maybe I just wanted a different documentary. Exit is about, as the title would suggest, the commodification of free expression. I wanted a Scratch-like history of that free expression. Oddly, I was put off by Maria's conspicuous wealth acquired via an art form that started as rebellion against the over-commodification of art (paintings as investments instead of expression), yet showing street art in galleries did not bother me. A quote from the article VISUAL ART PERFORMANCE VS. CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE for reference:

One impulse behind Visual Art Performance was the rejection of making objects for sale in favor of creating non-commodifiable, ephemeral events that were meant to critique and undermine the capitalist structures of the art market. Some artists, like Marina Abramovic, have managed to commodify that work in retrospect, completely abandoning any pretense of anti-capitalism, in fact becoming major players in it.

Re-watched A Clockwork Orange [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] after a coworker commented on it. It holds up well, but its violence has become more satirical than grisly over time. Still, Malcolm McDowell is a memorable bastard. I'd avoided reading the book since many cite it as extremely difficult because of the first-person slang used, but decided to buy a copy and give it a shot. I got the Rawlinson-edited Norton edition because it contains a glossary and various essays on the book and the movie. Haven't started, but several random excerpts have been enormously entertaining. I had gone into one weekend with the hope of watching some classic Japanese cinema. I couldn't work up the courage to watch Ran (almost 3 hours), so I scanned Mubi's list of 30 MUST SEE JAPANESE FILM CLASSICS. I had already seen Woman in the Dunes (#13), Rashomon (#14), Tampopo (#28), and Audition (#30). For some reason Funeral Parade of Roses (#16) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] caught my eye. Their description sold me:

A feverish collision of avant-garde aesthetics and grind-house shocks (not to mention a direct influence on Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange), Funeral Parade of Roses takes us on an electrifying journey into the nether-regions of the late-'60s Tokyo underworld.

The director did interesting things with time-shifting and repeating scenes. I could see some of what Kubrick borrowed in the slapstick fast-forwarding. Experimental but actually moving at times with a wow ending.

More experimentation with The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. It wasn't until the 10th time I was reminded of Amer that I realized it was the same directors. Very style heavy but with a menace that files it with the memorable Berberian Sound Studio.

More mainstream stuff: I finally got to see Showgirls [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] since Netflix recently added it. Like not knowing what Rosebud is, I felt that a basic cinema element was missing in my education. The most unsexy sexy film I've ever watched, it wasn't as all-out horrible as was promised. Biggest surprise: Gina Gershon looking like she did on Seinfeld! The Grey [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] was stunning from start to finish. Writ as all metaphor, it maybe could have ended as melodrama but didn't.

posted by sstrader at 5:54 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 31, 2014

Where was I?

Cinema: Army of Darkness at Plaza Theatre the 8th of last month and Texas Chainsaw Massacre the 22nd of this month. TCM reminded me of movies from the Drive-In Cult Classics collection that I had picked up back in 2011. At times, the movie was a crazy assault to the senses: abrasive soundtrack, exaggerated malevolence. Guardians of the Galaxy at the beginning of the month (!!!). Must go see it again.

Music: The Musical Box performing Selling England by the Pound at Variety Playhouse the 24th of last month. Great follow up to seeing them do Lamb Lies Down on Broadway January of last year. Was blown away when the lead singer started the narrative that I knew would lead in to Supper's Ready. Really just a wow night, and ended at The Vortex in L5P with death metal fans from a show at the Star Bar.

musical box ticket.the-musical-box.selling-england

Travels: Lake Tullahoma, TN the weekend of July 18th. Fourth annual trip to St. George Island the end of July. Second semi-annual trip to Lake Keowee the weekend of August 15th.

lake tullahoma st george lake keowee

Started new job in Buckhead on the 4th! Commute is now Marta and reading or Vespa-ing on nice days.

posted by sstrader at 5:00 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged drive-in, st george island | permalink

August 10, 2014

Upstream Color and Under the Skin

I just discovered the YouTube channel "Understanding Art House" by Nerdwriter1. There're only two videos out, but those two are the excellent Snowpiercer and Under the Skin. Here's the video for Under the Skin:

After watching it at Landmark, I was reminded of Shane Carruth's equally abstract Upstream Color from last year. Both struck me as simple stories told in an un-simple manner; each using its own visual language. Upstream Color, at its most basic, could be viewed as the story of woman whose life is destroyed, willingly, by drug addiction. The men from the bar who feed her the drug are merely manifest agents of her own desire. They drain her bank accounts and sell her possessions as she would. The latter half of the movie is her struggle through recovery by partnering with a fellow ex-addict. The pig farm maps to their contrasting impulses of desire and structure.

Under the Skin represents the lead's development over time with how she relates to partners. First from having power without empathy as she lures and desiccates others. Then to a series of conversations and examinations that softens her relationships, which then leads her to live with a man who treated her kindly. That relationship ends as she is reminded shamefully of her past alien-ness. She finally shuts herself off from others, feeling unable to connect, and becomes a victim of that isolation.

That said, there's always an unfairness to analyzing abstraction as absolute metaphor. The imagery in each film is resonant precisely because it works beyond language. Neither film needs to be mapped to a traditional narrative: their internal structures are expressive enough.

posted by sstrader at 8:58 AM in Cinema | permalink

December 6, 2013

Three sci-fi music videos

Broken Bells Present "After The Disco" part 1 and 2 - late-night TV watcher gets transported to a barren planet where he saves a stranded Space Chick. Style is more 1950s sci-fi.

Broken Bells "The Ghost Inside" - with Christina Hendricks on a doomed flight to a vacation planet.

Kvelertak "Evig Vandrar" - Norwegian metal band. Animated video with inexplicable story of warring factors on a desert planet, reminiscent of Heavy Metal.

posted by sstrader at 8:34 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 5, 2013

Ghost in the Shell: Arise

[ updated 17 Aug 2013 ]

Got the Japanese release of the first movie from YESASIA. The music fits perfectly. Good story and good start to the set. Can't wait for the rest. Preordered #2 due out December 25th.


Origin story being released as four 50 minute OVAs this year and next. Different look than the movies but similar to the TV series. Awesome.

posted by sstrader at 4:06 PM in Cinema | tagged ghost in the shell | permalink

December 1, 2012

British crime dramas we watched in 2010-2011

Was remembering these recently for some reason.

First, Wire in the Blood about a slightly eccentric psychologist who helps the police with their more disturbing cases. This is the common outside specialist trope that, if it isn't present, is replaced by a detective with equally obscure specialties. Second, A Touch of Frost about an older, unorthodox detective working in a small town. Because of his age, this had a bit of a "Murder, She Wrote" feel for me. Both series worked nicely with the relationships of a core three or four characters. Wire lasted 6 years and ToF a full 18, yet with some seasons consisting of only 1 or 2 movie-length episodes. They were a nice diversion to watch periodically since, like other crime dramas, they lacked any cliffhanging addictiveness between episodes. It's odd how long we lived with these characters in the background.

posted by sstrader at 3:09 PM in Cinema | permalink

October 13, 2012

Notable movies looking at my Netflix history

The Baader Meinhof Complex (ugly story about rebellious German youths and their excess, see Reds); Audition (wtf I own this, elegant, humorous, brutal); 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 days (very dogme telling of Romanian women), Paranoid Park (GvS with another beautiful film, see Elephant!), The Host (Korean monster with a hint of Lynch, brilliant), District B13 (Mother. Fucking. Parkour. That is all.); Oldboy (hammer fight in the hallway, self-tooth-pulling); Irreversible (the most artfully horrible thing I've ever seen); Tell No One (French noir), The House of the Devil (2009 revival of 1980s horror that is pitch perfect); Monsters (recommended by Matt, part of the genre of modern smart sci-fi with Moon and District 9).

I recommend all of these.

posted by sstrader at 11:05 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 29, 2012

Battle Angel Alita


I pieced together all of the Battle Angel Alita issues after an io9 thread discussed them favorably. There's also an anime adaptation and a proposed live action version that's been abandoned by James Cameron. To piece together the full run, I had to hop between Amazon and B&N. Used books can sometimes appear for ridiculous prices and although I didn't have to shell out too much, issue 7 was kinda crazily overpriced. I'm reading 6 right now, so we'll see whether 7 is actually that much better.

Mysterious past. Unexplained skills. Oppressive society. The story's a little silly at times, but it's overall a nice diversion.

posted by sstrader at 7:47 PM in Art , Cinema , Language & Literature | tagged anime, io9 | permalink

January 22, 2012

Dirty Pair DVDs

The Dirty Pair anime DVD releases are a confusion of re-releases and re-labels. I bought some DVDs and have been trying to figure out what releases I still need to get (without accidentally getting duplicates). Here is what's available (on Amazon) and what they contain of the original shows/movies.

Original series

10-episode OVA series

3 movies

Dirty Pair Flash (an alternate storyline/universe), details on Anime News Network

posted by sstrader at 7:42 PM in Cinema | tagged anime | permalink

December 11, 2011

Cinema form

/Film has a review of the preview of The Dark Knight Rises. In it, the reviewer emphasizes the importance of seeing this in IMAX: I can't even imagine watching the film in digital or 35mm, missing out on much of the epic scope. I have mixed feelings about such technical requirements.

There're various similar areas of concern of authenticity and experience when watching a film. Some directors and critics insist that a film be watched in the theater. I follow that rule only when there's awe to be gained (Tree of Life, LotR) but that's just a preference. The (now-dead?) practice of colorization started a whole religous war. It feels gimmicky and can be done well, however there are important aesthetic arguments against colorization. Framing and emphasis in black and white is achieved with tonal and textural contrast. At it's simplest: a lighter figure standing against a dark background will draw attention to the figure. When color is added, color intensity and palette relationships--as opposed to contrast--begin to define what the viewers' eyes are drawn to. The director's choices are being overruled by the colorization. A newer technical requirement is 3D. Just as B&W encodes certain artistic choices that color could alter, 3D encodes choices that 2D could alter. A spear thrust at the camera is an unimpressive circle because of 2D perspective. It has a notably different affect in 3D. Similarly, but more born of necessity, subtitles and dubbing can alter a film. In my opinion, the lesser altering of the two is subtitles, since you still retain the original actors' vocal tone and prosody. Beyond these outside influences on a film, there are alterations that may be made by the creator. A director or studio may release different edits to a film. Blade Runner, notoriously, has seven different commercial versions available. This is common with any art form. Multiple versions exist of many symphonies and different painters have stated that a specific work is never finished. Which one should be considered canonical? And then there's the true religious war that George Lucas started with his digitally inserted aliens and gun-shy Han Solo.

So, although many choices made by the artist are part of the work's expression, I wonder whether the higher resolution of IMAX isn't just a luxury of venue.

posted by sstrader at 5:18 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 30, 2011

This month's movies

Winter's Bone [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. A quiet film. Small but beautifully done.

The Tree of Life [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. This was the most beautiful film I've seen in many many years. It had a wildly unusual structure with a long, non-narrative first third that weighed against the subsequent narrative sections and gave them a context that would've otherwise not existed. The family scenes took up the bulk of the latter two thirds with Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and their three sons giving stunning performances. The overall style reminded me of Tarkovsky's Mirror.

Centurion [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Silly 10th Century romp with Romans attacking Picts in England or thereabouts. Minor commentary on the hubris of invading empires; lots of blood. After watching Black Death (a better film), I've been wanting more in this genre.

Trip With the Teacher [ 1/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Continuing the Drive-In Cult Classics collection. Notable for the over-the-top villain (ACT) and two very uncomfortable rape scenes. The bad was boring; the very bad was too infrequent. Still, I was mesmerized at times by the dialog and 70s-ness, and people seem to love this inscrutable catfight scene:

Cold Weather [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. What an odd and wonderful mood this sets up. The three leads--brother, sister, and brother's friend--had very natural relationships on screen. Conversations were quirky and believably realistic, with humor that for the most part wasn't put on. Highly recommended.

Fright Night [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I didn't remember much from the original, so Lisa&I re-watched it a couple of years back. It's difficult to replicate a movie that was very of-its-time, but this remake succeeds with a good cast and that silly premise. Good, not great.

posted by sstrader at 11:25 PM in Cinema | tagged drive-in | permalink

August 6, 2011

Technotise: Edit and I

A year ago I had found some random clips of an animated Serbian cyberpunk film called Technotise: Edit and I. The plot revolves around an underachieving psych student in Belgrade 2074. Her dual jobs of counseling an autistic genius and working as a mule for illicit computer chips collide as an AI starts growing within her. This AI is somehow related to the autistic patient's ability to see the future. Great action, genuinely funny scenes, excellent visuals. If this had come out of Japan instead of Serbia, it would already have been through the theaters. This film deserves so much more attention.

posted by sstrader at 6:10 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 21, 2011

Do not order DVDs from CINEstrike! Films, 5 Minutes To Live, or Sam McAbee

CINEstrike! Films, what was once 5 Minutes to Live, has ripped me off in the worst way possible: one in which if I had done research, I would never have been ripped off. I ordered movies almost two months ago and can get no response. According to several complaint sites the owner is Sam McAbee: LinkedIn, Georgia State University 1994-1997, Facebook, MySpace. The web sites are: http://cinestrike.com/, http://www.5minutestolive.com, and (according to LinkedIn) http://5mtl.com. According to a BBB complaint, the CINEstrike! phone number and "address" is (404) 805-7456, PO Box 941484, Atlanta, GA 31141-0484. According to another site: 1-678-896-3330. Here are links to some complaints:

List of online articles by Sam McAbee:

Back in 2007 when it was 5minutestolive.com, I ordered Arrebato, Figures in a Landscape, and The Killing of Satan. I'd found the films in 2005 during a bout of unemployment and vowed to return. What a god damn shame that this guy offered something so intriguing that I remembered two years later, and yet he appears to be a serial thief. Ah, regrets.

posted by sstrader at 11:05 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 11, 2011

Evolution and history

Finished reading Brooke Gladstone's graphic novel (graphic essay?) The Influencing Machine. In one section, she surveys the various ideas about how our tools change us. Early humans may have begun walking upright after using tools because tools required their hands to be available. This pairs with the fact that predictions of the Internet dumbing us down or isolating us have been, so far, completely wrong. And since 2004, reading books has increased. Ultimately, BG feels that we are evolving to be more adapted to high data stimulation. (She also takes a nice dig at Apple: Any company that offers cool devices--but bans applications that might offend some users--stand in the way of evolution. Worrying about offending people drags us back to the lowest common denominator.)

Watched X-Men: First Class [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] on Friday (sadly missing Run Lola Run at the midnight movie, yet still staying out till 3 AM). In it, the first group of mutants--Magneto and Xavier, et al.--are integral in both causing and resolving the Cuban missile crisis. When evolution is discussed, it's presented in terms of its binary opposites replacement (H. sapiens v. Neanderthals) and modification (quadrupedal to upright) respectively. Media fear mongers are Magneto; Brooke Gladstone is Xavier.

I haven't and probably won't see the last Transformers. The second one was enough pain for one lifetime. However, I was intrigued that it and X-M:FC share a main theme of hidden history: Transformers using the moon landing as a focal point. This is an unlikely example of screenwriter cross-pollination.

posted by sstrader at 7:06 PM in Cinema , Culture & Society | permalink

April 6, 2011

Where was I?

Last month's movies:

A restored print of Taxi Driver at Phipps. Atlanta got it and New York City did not. Weird. More humor than I remembered and it was a nice mix of improvised and scripted scenes. La Dolce Vita at Rialto for opening night of the Italian film festival. Another nice get for Atlanta: April 19th is the 50th anniversary of LDV's premiere at the Rialto, so an original 35mm print was unvaulted and donated for the evening. Pause for a break in the film around 30 min from the end, but otherwise a beautiful print of a grim view of humanity. Second viewing and I still love this film. Sucker Punch [ 3/5 ] with Matt the Friday it came out. We were set up for failure as the ~60% Rotten Tomatoes rating plummeted to 20%. Yikes. The critics were much too harsh. It was an empty-ish film at times, but beautiful to look at and inventive. Very much worth the extra $$$ for IMAX.

Last weekend, Sat through Mon, was NYC for Lisa and Nat's 1/2 marathon around Central Park. Poor training but a very good time. Restaurants were: Barboulud for lunch, a swank French bistro. Peasant for dinner; we did this on one of our first trips to NYC and it has stayed my favorite. Philip Marie for post-race brunch, nice enough, bottomless drinks with brunch. Dublin Wine bar for late afternoon goof-offery. Late dinner at Les Halles (more French!), would definitely go again. Finally, lunch at Grimaldi's Pizza to give us energy to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.

Best part of the weekend was the improvised comedy musical that Baby Wants Candy performed on Saturday night. Audience shouts a a title (Somali Pirates of Penzance!) and the actors and musicians go with it for the next hour/hour-and-a-half. This was better than most scripted comedies and tickets were but $20 apiece. I think we maybe sat by this guy.

IMAG0733.small.png IMAG0733.small.png

Sitting in the front row of Baby Wants Candy with the drummer drumming and a be-top-hatted snowman. Subway peace, yo.


Walking the Brooklyn Bridge after some za at Grimaldi's.

IMAG0733.small.png IMAG0733.small.png

More Brooklyn Bridgery. No, I did not take enough photos.

posted by sstrader at 10:18 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

November 15, 2010

Mutants and dwarfs

[ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]


Back in September we went to see the fourth Resdient Evil movie (Afterlife!). In 3D (!!). The same 3D technology used for Avatar (!!!). Needless to say, you need to like this sort of thing to like this sort of thing and even then you may not like *this* sort of thing. The 3D was very attractive and the monsters were garish enough. Major marks against it for characters less endearing than in previous entries, and plot holes--in a genre that refuses to acknowledge the existence of plot holes--that were inexplicable. Still, it was everything you need in a cinema/drafthouse/3D experience.


Also at the Buckhead Fork & Screen. The Met simulcasts their operas, and with the Ring Cycle being performed this season we decided to try it out. The cushy seats and wine and light food at F&S is perfect for a 3+ hour opera, but the close quarters make reading the subtitles nearly impossible. Get there early and choose a table at the front of a tier. The backstage preview they broadcast before the performance was a nice addition. Hearing the Rheinmaidens casually riff their parts as they get comfortable with an uncomfortable set was fantastic.

Walkuere is May, but before that is Nixon in China in the middle of February!

posted by sstrader at 10:07 PM in Cinema , Concerts | tagged metropolitan opera, opera, resident evil, ring cycle | permalink

October 2, 2010

Random thoughts an hour into watching the documentary The Corporation and watching it to the end

(based on notes taken during)

  • Are ads more powerful now or are children adapting better? The movie suggest the former, but the continuum of 20th century history does not.
  • David Foster Wallace (and others') expression of consumerist ennui relates to the idea that children are indoctrinated to be consumers against their natural disposition. That capitalist/consumerist impulse is detrimental to us as we grow older and manifests dissatisfaction as we wonder why we have this compulsion to purchase. I love buying books and music.
  • In the documentary, Noam Chomsky is sitting in for Theodore Adorno to prove that Adorno was correct in arguing that capitalism corrupted us via consumerism.
  • Corporate philanthropy is often/always connected to corporate tax benefits. How much more could we have done with the money if we didn't sink 90+% of the money into corporate tax write-offs?
  • I laughed at the concept of Disney-mediated neighborhoods until I considered that it's exactly what those afraid of "modern society" based on a false nostalgia would want.
  • Regarding the idea that corporations mediate all of our interactions: Facebook scares me even more.
  • In 1980, Warren Berger was the deciding vote in the judgment to allow life forms to be patented. He felt that it was not an important decision. Again, I'm reminded of The Windup Girl. The Berger decision will be the moment in time that is most remembered as when corporations were given primacy over life.
  • Canada does not allow bovine growth hormone. The film stated that it was because of traces of Prosilac in milk, but it was actually because it was detrimental to the health of the cows.
  • Bolivians fought back successfully against corporate control of the water system.
  • At many points in this documentary, individuals point out that democratic governments have no power over multi-national corporations. At the start of the Gulf oil spill, Hugo Chavez said the exact same thing. (can't find citation)
  • Many right-leaning groups long for anger at the government to get so strong that an armed, patriotic revolution happens. Other countries have had such armed revolutions directed against corporate control. World trade protesters sometimes become violent and are castigated for it. Isn't that the same?
  • It was refreshing to see dispassionate, thoughtful, and reflective comments from Chomsky, Zinn, Moore, and Klein. Michael Moore's revelation tyeing his auto-worker roots to global warming was interesting.
  • Ultimately hopeful.
  • The first industrial revolution is not working. It is flawed. It is unsustainable. - Ray Anderson

August 22, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

[ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]


I read the books beforehand on the recommendation of basically everyone on the internet. They were enjoyable, felt directed towards a younger audience, were a little too sweet at times, and yet had some very clever storytelling. Re-readings increased the appreciation. The movie was, simply, fun. Like the books, it veered into sweetness too far for my tastes, but overall the movie has such an energy that you can't dislike it. Although coming in at a weak 5th place its opening weekend, the movie really needed more people actively not disliking it.

There were many nice touches, both from the books and created for the movie. The 8-bit opening logo, the flashy battles, Kim Pine's glib hatred of everything, Comeau's all-knowing chatter in the background, and Wallace Wells scene stealing. The movie was definitely its own creation. There are a few complaints (the final scenes with Scott+Knives+Ramona seemed rushed and insincere) that are ultimately inconsequential when measured against the mania of the film as a whole. It feels a bit like The Fifth Element in this regard. Planning a second viewing.

posted by sstrader at 11:50 AM in Cinema | tagged comic books, scott pilgrim | permalink

August 15, 2010

Some random pics from Scott Pilgrim

Most found randomly around the internets. Others taken from Edgar Wright's daily photo blog...

Continue reading "Some random pics from Scott Pilgrim"
posted by sstrader at 10:33 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 5, 2010

Crater Face

Beautiful animated story by Skyler Page:

posted by sstrader at 2:32 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 2, 2010

Gone with the Pope

70s brilliance via SlashFilm, here's a restored flick called Gone with the Pope. Make sense of it how you will:

posted by sstrader at 7:46 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 12, 2010

Video: Technotise: Edit and I

Cool Serbian animation, from the graphic novel Technotise, called Edit and I:

Technotise - Edit and I

Prieuré de Sion | MySpace Video

[ via io9: Technotise: What the hell is it and why is Hollywood spending millions to remake it? > io9: Sexy Serbian Vixen Steals McFly's Hoverboard In New Scifi Animation > Quiet Earth: Slick Serbian scifi animation in TECHNOTISE: EDIT AND I (EDIT I JA) ]

The plot is set in Belgrade in 2074. The main character is Edit, a female psychology student. After her sixth failure at the same university exam, she decides to have the chip installed to help her pass. From that moment, her life changes and unusual things start happening to her.

Supposedly, it's getting a live-action remake from Hollywood (yeah, that old thing) and the producers created studio hype by getting someone to make a mock trailer by pasting together clips from other sci-fi flicks. wft?! I'll quote a pithy comment from io9: So let me get this straight - a director used other people's work as a animated storyboard for a trailer to remake an animated film into a live action film? Quite the wtf.

[ updated 3 Jul 2010 ] Added some notes.

[ updated 19 Jul 2011 ]

Full movie up on YouTube now!

posted by sstrader at 12:10 PM in Cinema | tagged io9 | permalink

June 3, 2010

Holiday weekend, Carnival of Souls at Plaza

Friday after work watched a terrifying storm from inside Marlow's down the street. Hail and sideways rain hit and people started taking pictures of the fact that you couldn't see the other side of the street. Rainpocalypse. Went to the matinée on Saturday and saw one of my favorite old creepy movies!

Continue reading "Holiday weekend, Carnival of Souls at Plaza"
posted by sstrader at 12:23 AM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

May 25, 2010

Tokyo Shock

Over the past several months, I've watch several genre films which I call Tokyo Shock, based on the fact that most come from the Tokyo Shock DVD label. They're generally categorized under gore or horror, or more specifically "Asian horror," but I like the Tokyo Shock moniker to group them together for the unique combination of styles that they contain.

Continue reading "Tokyo Shock"
posted by sstrader at 8:32 PM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema | permalink

April 23, 2010

This week's movies

Every now and then, I get the urge to watch a movie every night of the week. Here's this week's:

  • Kick-Ass [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 4/5 ] (watched last Friday at a very busy Atlanta Film Festival-packed Landmark) - Very pleasantly surprised. Humor, gore, and some nice serious moments. Clips along nicely. Still can't figure out why so many people I talk to thought that this was a kids movie. It. Most. Certainly. Was. Not.
  • La Strada [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 4/5 ] - Second Fellini I've seen including La Dolce Vita. Had more of an Antonioni feel a la Il Grido; both philosophical road movies.
  • Les diaboliques [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 5/5 ] - Stunning French suspense. Should have been predictable, being 55 years old, but kept us guessing.
  • The Square [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 4/5 ] - Australian noir, again at the Atlanta Film Festival. Written/directed by two brothers who I'm sure are sick of being compared to the Coens, but it really had a Blood Simple vibe without the boredom.
  • Onechanbara [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 2/5 ] - (portmanteau of "big sister" and "sword fighting") Minor zombie entry. Expecting more gross-outs than it delivered. Nice bikini though. Purchased with Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl (both of which I've seen and recommend), and still waiting on Vamprie Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (with Onechanbara's lead as FG) and Samurai Princess ordered from YesAsia.com. Poker Industries disappeared and so my Asian flicks now come from this much more polished, and more expensive, site.
onechanbara_flyer the_machine_girl_poster
posted by sstrader at 12:15 AM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema | permalink

March 23, 2010

Where was I?

March 3rd went to see the documentary on gig posters called Died Young, Stayed Pretty at The Plaza. Spoke with the director and purchased a copy afterwards. The characters were entertaining and good editing, but the subject wasn't fully examined (what are the copyright concerns? what is the history? are there regional differences?). Still, entertaining.



Shakespeare Tavern on the 10th to see a dramatic reading the Two Gentlemen of Lebowski. They did a more active read-through than expected with some bounding about the stage and frequent White Russian refills for The Dude. It worked perfectly as both Shakespeare and Coens. We, and most of the crowd, were in tears throughout.

Show's about to start on Twitpic tickets.shakespeare.2010-03-10

ASO on the 12th with the Liszt 2nd Piano Concerto and Petruchka (plus a Beethoven overture). This was a nice complement to January's Rite of Spring and last November's season opener with Garrick Ohlsson performing Rachmaninov 3rd. The piano in Petrushka seemed too muted (says the pianist). Otherwise nice.


Friday the 19th was hanging out at the Cheetah where Lisa got a signed pic two years before. Only excitement this year was dropping my phone on the way home and having to replace the battery. :-/

posted by sstrader at 11:25 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | permalink

February 18, 2010

Where was I?

Mid-February, catch-up edition with (mostly) restaurants:

  • Last night at Serpas for Fat Tuesday dinner. Cold cold cold out with a second line leading us to our table. The fried oysters are even better than when Scott Serpas was the chef at Mitra in Midtown.
  • Sunday the 14th - Valentine's dinner at Anis in Buckhead. I'd been wanting to go back to Basil's across the street from Anis (we'd been once, probably 10?!? years ago), but we decided to try something new. Paid off. Anis is a cozy little French bistro with suprisingly good dishes. I had the Escolar and Lisa the steak.
  • Saturday the 13th - house party at Jennifer and Snehal's. Beautiful house with rotating art collection (my plan for our place since we're just about maxed out on the art : wall ratio). Hundreds of candles leading up the walkway and driveway. Talks with old friends and new acquaintances (whose names I will never remember).
  • Friday was the snowpocalypse in Atlanta!!

    IMG00197-20100212-1631.small IMG00199-20100213-0919.small

  • Thursday was District 13: Ultimatum at Landmark [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Watched the first one last June on a whim and loved it. This was more light-hearted but just as much fun.
  • Previous Saturday the 6th - Long day with Mickey at The High for da Vinci then lunch at Table 1280 (finally trying the menu there). Excellent. Evening was Bacchanalia Mickey+Mason+Danice. This was another place I hadn't been for prolly 10 years and it far surpassed my fond memories. Every. Single. Item. Was perfect. Flavor!!



  • Friday was Elevation Chophouse OTP with all (Lisa and Mickey had lunch at Flip w/out me). Met M&D's cute new puppy Dooley beforehand.
  • Previous previous Sunday, January 31st - Lazy day (natch) with dinner at Baraonda.
  • Saturday I picked up a top hat of sorts from the costume shop and that became my admittedly lame 20s outfit for Stacie's b-day party at the top floor of The Park Tavern at Midtown. Shenanigans and dancing till late.

    IMG00188-20100130-2227.small IMG00189-20100130-2259.small

  • Friday the 29th was our 11th anniversary (observed) with a phenomenal performance of The Rite of Spring at the ASO. Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Osvaldo Golijov's Suite from Youth Without Youth. Both beautiful pieces. First complete Golijov I've listened to and much more tonal than I expected (for some reason). Dinner afterwards at Oceanaire. Second time there and recommended.


posted by sstrader at 12:48 AM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged beetle | permalink

February 8, 2010


Finally watched The Hurt Locker [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] a week or so ago and after seeing Avatar while we were in Vegas for Xmas. It's tough to compare the two films and no one would ever try if they hadn't been fated to go up against each other for awards--with Avatar winning the first round at the Golden Globes. Not having seen Hurt Locker at the time, I was angrier that the virtuosic Inglourious Basterds [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] lost to Avatar.

What to say? With Avatar cf. The Hurt Locker, I was looking for any simple manifestation of masculine and feminine themes. What we first get is a reversal: with Mr. Cameron's Gaia-heavy world contrasting Ms. Bigelow's bomb-laden Iraq; and then a deeper alignment: Avatar is actually not a movie but a high-tech gadget fetishized by geeks and Hurt Locker an elegy to the debasement of the human spirit when confronted by an endless war. Yet ultimately it's simple-minded to play gender games with these flicks, as comparisons become forced when so simplified.

I continue to be shocked at the celluloidoclasm that Avatar is wreaking on cinema history, and it continues to be difficult not to hate it for others' overblown praise. The best comparison is to look at Avatar like the iPhone (or iPad) or Lady Gaga: the fanatics tend to create anti-fanatics, when all that's needed is simple criticism.

posted by sstrader at 10:38 PM in Cinema | permalink

January 8, 2010

Assault Girls

I'd first heard about the movie Assault Girls (Asaruto gâruzu) [ IMDB ] from a couple of io9 articles last year. Out on 19 December in Japan but no sign of it here except for the two stylish and trashy trailers. Looks like a lightweight story of giggly girl adventure on Arrakis; lush yet throwaway. Twitchfilm has a comprehensive review describing it as, ultimately, a flick for fans only with (much) more style than substance. Still, I'll be looking for a copy in the future. At ~65 minutes, it's too short for a feature, but maybe Plaza Theater will pick it up for a double-feature with Oshii's Avalon [ IMDB ].

The first clip is an 8-minute segment featuring one of the main characters and pretty much defines style over substance--with a Japanese wtf at the end.The second is the official trailer:

posted by sstrader at 5:27 PM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema, io9 | permalink

October 21, 2009

October movies

Three very different horror(-ish) flicks. First, Zombieland! Believe the hype and don't read the spoiler reviews. Entertaining buddy-film (aren't all zombie films like that to some degree?) with a more winking, American humor than the slapstick but very funny Shaun of the Dead. The early comparisons were unavoidable but unnecessary. The gore was similar to the humor in a Tarantino movie, but I can't put my finger on how. Either way, it was incidental to the characters. Next, the much-touted Paranormal Activity. A small movie that felt more like Open Water than Blair Witch, but again the comparisons are unavoidable. Here's hoping that the people behind PA go further that those behind OW and BW did. No offense intended. Finally, I Sell the Dead at the Plaza. A silly romp in Merry Ole England where our heroes rob graves (natch) and find out that the supernatural dead bring a higher price. What would be a very entertaining comic book was just an OK movie. Still, it had it's moments. Worth a rent.

We had every intention of going to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original) at the Plaza, but it looks like we missed it. I've never seen, so it should eventually be a shocker. Nothing else scary that's worth watching this month.

posted by sstrader at 12:20 PM in Cinema | permalink

September 28, 2009

Days of Wine and Roses (4/5)

I haven't seen my generation's contribution to the cinema of alcoholism (e.g. Leaving Las Vegas) but have seen Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream and would put Days of Wine and Roses in a similar class. One odd difference is that from the start of Days, we get more of a sense of grim, self-loathing from the leads. The manic beauty and potential in the primary characters of the two modern films were absent in Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. In fact Jack Lemmon's outwardly directed self-hatred is revealed in the first few minutes. My memories of Trainspotting are not as fresh as those of Requiem, yet I found nothing in the early part of Lemmon and Remick's romance to match Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly's beautiful and hopeful rooftop scene. Jack Lemmon's character was constantly complaining and any success in their careers or marriage was tainted by a subtle menace in the dialog. There were no Halcyon days.

Minor differences aside, the three films are similar in how much they feel like watching a slow motion train wreck. Without too heavy a hand, Blake Edwards paces the unique downfall of the two leads skillfully enough to merit the nearly two hours of screen time. Both actors were outstanding in their most shrill and exhausting scenes, yet it was the more quiet scenes that delivered: Lee Remick in a stupor, absently mumbling what seemed like a full page of uninterpretable dialog to her young daughter as she tucked her into bed.

I felt the scenes of Jack Lemmon in straight-jacket dementia were a little much, and I don't watch Mad Men yet oddly had it in my mind the entire movie. Definitely have some slapstick comedy at the ready to cheer you up afterwards. I don't think you'll want a drink.

posted by sstrader at 10:25 PM in Cinema | permalink

September 5, 2009

Started the holiday weekend with a jog

Was slack for the week, so this was a much-needed workout and I got to run past all of the traffic standing still on Peachtree.

Thursday night, we went to see In the Loop [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] at Landmark. Quick of wit and ultimately depressing for its bouncy, manic, nihilistic view of politics and the Iraq War. In other words: it's spot on (as the Brits would say). Many of the quips from the snappy dialog are only sinking in today. Afterwards was dinner at Apres Diem for the first time in a while. Sea bass special was only slightly over-buttered and the vegetables on the side had nicely under cooked baby carrots. A pleasant surprise.

Last night, I watched Il Grido (The Cry/Outcry) by Antonioni on The Auteurs [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]; the first Antonioni I've seen. The story is that of a man (Aldo) who'd been living with a married woman (Irma) for seven years while her husband worked out of country. In the first few scenes, Irma receives news of her husband's death and she realizes she no longer loves Aldo. He attempts to reconcile but eventually is shamed and leaves town with their young daughter. The bulk of the film depicts their travels on the road. He has many opportunities to start a new life with interested women, yet his melancholy and longing for Irma always pushes him back to wandering and eventually back to his home town in an attempt to rejoin with her. It's a meandering, episodic film and the b&w shots are neatly composed, adroitly framing the actors. The overarching theme of individual selfishness and alienation is presented in numerous variations: sexual interest, filial respect, parental love. In a backdrop to the final scenes of Aldo's return home, the citizens of his home town fight against being forced to live his lifestyle on the road, with the government threatening to raze the town in order to build an airstrip. One is always subject to the selfish power of another.

Today, the Blinky and Bettig prints get taken to The Rolling Frame Review. They did an excellent job framing our prints from VaHi Summerfest a year ago. Both prints are more beautiful in person than I remembered. Really very stunning.

posted by sstrader at 12:18 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

August 12, 2009

Weekend cinema and The Auteurs web site

Went to see The Hangover on Friday [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Enjoyable slapstick and a good end of week movie to veg out to. I fixed my laptop over the weekend. It had stopped displaying when I would hook it up to our Bravia and so there were no Netflix or AMC b-movies streamed over the last two weeks. Fix was a mix of FN-key toggling and NVIDIA config. As usual, I have no idea how it went wrong.

Upon its return, we finished watching the outrageous Tokyo Gore Police [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] from Netflix! Highly recommended bit of over the top that I'm sure, without even looking, Tarantino was indebted to when making Kill Bill. Japan has replaced the police force with a private force that hunts down mutant/fetishistic killers called Engineers. Hose-spurting dismemberments ensue. The DVD or soundtrack may be a future purchase. Also watched The Undead from AMC. It was an almost worthless Roger Corman flick. Two "doctors" hypnotize a prostitute in modern day to reveal her past lives. The bulk of the film was some scattered story of her unjustly accused of being a witch several hundred years prior. Most of AMC's b-movies have been very entertaining. Except for the D-cup hottie that played the head witch in the past, this was painful. Also on Netflix was Outsourced [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. A nice enough comedy of an American manager sent to India to train his and his coworkers' replacements. I wanted to like it more, and it was OK, but there were some oddities (the romance was introduced abruptly, the characters were only moderately likable) that bothered me. Resolution was done well though.

[ updated 7 May 2011 ]

The "D-cup hottie" was none other than Allison Hayes of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman fame. The Sexy Witch blog has an article+pics about her role in The Undead.

Went to the drive-in on Sunday to see Viva Las Vegas! (I don't expect anyone to believe this, but when I told one of my coworkers their reply was: what's that movie about?). TCM is showing movies at drive-ins throughout August for $1/carload. We ate fried chicken (fingers) and drank PB&B martinis (peanut butter and banana). The movie was basically a travel ad for Vegas and an exercise video with Ann-Margaret, but it was fun to cheer on the hero with the rest of the crowd.

Earlier this week, Trakovsky tweeted about The Auteurs movie web site. A good selection of classic, foreign, and independent cinema from $0 to $5 a viewing. My first film was Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I put a quick review on their site; here it is:

First movie I've watched from this director.

More of a formalist study than a dramatic one. The individual scenes are composed as microcosms emphasizing a primary theme. People occupy the same space and yet never connect. Each character's actions and language (or lack) are almost undecipherable to those they wish to communicate with. Distance is emphasized by showing the actors through windows, mirrors, TV monitors, and even a decorative waterfall.

At times a bit too stylish-for-style's-sake, and some of the manic improvised scenes don't quite work, but overall a beautiful and funny film.

What they have in their catalog is wonderful; what they don't have is infuriating. I hope they get the rights to more.

posted by sstrader at 6:41 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | tagged asian cinema, drive-in | permalink

August 4, 2009

Found items

Cleaning up my desk, I found a wrist band from the DJ Qbert show when he was here in Atlanta at Django in October 2007 (which I somehow didn't blog about):


And also found the ticket for 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Fox--attended a little more recently--two Saturdays ago:


Went with Lisa, LC and her friend Alan, and Robert. We had drinks beforehand at Baraonda with my co-worker David and his friend Mark. 2001 looked great on the big screen! The Ligeti in the score (which I'm embarrassed to say that I remembered as Penderecki) was as beautiful as ever.

posted by sstrader at 10:49 PM in Cinema , Concerts | permalink

June 28, 2009

Movies from the last week or so

Another couple of weeks of movie watching. From AMC's BMC site offering free streaming B movies:

  • Devil Doll - A ventrilloquist doll is possessed. Or is it?!? Nice camera work!
  • The Horror of Party Beach - Standard beach/monster fare. Sub-par. I think MST3K did this one? ... Yes. Yes they did.
  • The Hellfire Club - Oddly titled 18th c. adventure piece about a nobleman cheated out of his fortune. Color. Fun.
  • The Playgirls and the Vampire - Sexy Italian babes on their way to perform their burlesque routine are storm-stranded in a castle with their goofball manager.

Some fun stuff at the Plaza Theater on Ponce:

  • Blue Velvet - Neither of us had seen this since ~college, but I--having had *many* viewings cf. Lisa's one--remembered much more. Still shocking at times. Corny dialog. Best scene is Hopper listening to Stockwell's mimed version of "In Dreams".
  • Big Man Japan [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - Faux documentary about the last monster-fighting hero in Japan. From a once feted line of heroes (his grandfather being Big Man Japan #4), our protagonist is almost hated by the citizenry because of the destruction he inevitably causes when fighting the giant monsters. A sad/funny look at celebrity with an (as yet) indecipherable ending.

Also started the 26-episode anime series Gilgamesh last night while looking for something new on Netflix streaming. Four episodes in and relatively entertained.

posted by sstrader at 5:13 PM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema | permalink

June 10, 2009

Recent movies

We've been watching quite a few streaming cinema picks from Netflix. The options are few, which means selections from quality will eventually be compromised. Several of note:

  • The Signal [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - A linear story, split into three parts, each with a different director and each with a very different feel yet still cohesive. More brutal than I expected (for some reason, I didn't expect hardcore violence in a movie about a signal that makes a person murderous).
  • District B13 [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - Very fun not-too-distant-future romp through a slum/prison where a parkour-crazed kid takes on the local drug lord. It's like a French Guy Ritchie film: colorful characters and frenzied action.
  • Capricorn One [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - Rewatched Serenity one night and wanted another scifi. For some reason this popped into my head. I hadn't seen it since I was in HS and was unexpectedly entertained by the snappy dialog. Especially liked Elliot Gould as the hardened reporter and Sam Waterston as the jokey astronaut.
  • Transsiberian [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - More thriller than mystery. This is a nice enough drama.
  • Teeth [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - I was looking for some good horror late one night and found this. Surprised to see RT give it ~80% and so dove in. It's completely buoyed by the lead, Jess Weixler, who I think of next to any of the best female indy(ish) leads (Election, Dawn of the Dead, Saved!). Also, the humor, though gross at times, is never too garish.
posted by sstrader at 6:25 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 9, 2009

Don Hertzfeldt: Rejected Cartoons

9+ minutes of pure Hertzfeldt genius:

Found from a Reddit comment noting the silliness of a C++ example that sez, quote my spoon is too big. my spoon is TOO big! my SPOON is TOO big! I am a BANANA! Unquote. We have his short The Meaning of Life on The Animation Show DVDs and although Rejected is not nearly as grandiose, it has a similar style and a jarring meta quality that TMoL doesn't.

posted by sstrader at 10:58 AM in Cinema | permalink

June 2, 2009

District 9/Alive in Joburg

I'd found a cool video called Alive in Joburg back in Jan 2008 and was reminded of it tonight when Lisa described a new movie coming out called District 9.

On rewatching, I still like the look of the Joburg clip, and more than the (brief) extract from the District 9 movie. The original has a short-story feel that I assume will only be used as a backdrop for some sort of action/detective story.

posted by sstrader at 11:31 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 12, 2009

Where was I?


Out first Mahler symphony live back on the 24th. Runnicles gave a short talk at the podium beforehand outlining the major themes and providing a quick biographic background for the piece. A nice addition to the evening. Forget where we went afterwards for dinner. :-/


Star Trek on Friday the 8th of this month. Outstanding reboot of the series; everything I'd hoped. I went in enjoying the Spock and came out liking the gruff McCoy more. It was the perfect movie for a Friday nite after the work week: action and visual flair but with an engaging story. Dinner at Top Flr aftewards. We sat downstairs in a quiet little back corner booth. Nice.

Looking forward to Moon with Sam Rockwell. June 12th in NY and LA. Love the computer in the trailer:

Off to a long weekend on NYC. Flight leave tomorrow night at 7...

posted by sstrader at 7:59 AM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | permalink

April 30, 2009

DVD player dead, The Wrestler, and the first episode of Lain

Last June, our DVD player died and I, upon the advice of a cinephile at work, purchased the OPPO DV-980H. An (otherwise) no-name player that, for $160, plays every fucking format ever conceived by the binary gods. Add to that the USB port on the front that allows you to browse and play anything from the contained file system and you have a pretty pretty pretty good player. Aha. Sadly, just last week it decided to stop recognizing DVDs (unknown disc) and so I searched for recompense and found (oddly) that my warranty was good for One More Month. On its way.

Watched The Wrestler [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] from Amazon download ($3.99). The most resonant shock was the unexpectedly painful scenes when he's wrestling. You need to really brace yourselves for those. The rest was a quiet film of a twilight of life. The beauty of these scenes was that they were tragic without being "precious." I feel like there's more for me to get out of Marisa Tomei's character, but that's for further consideration.

After fudding with video players and Vista's cruel cruel attitude towards DVDs, I finally got my HP+TV to play my new Serial Experiments Lain DVDs. First episode of 13: very sparse, abstract, and moody. Emphasis on powerlines as communicators of the spirit. One scene: Lain is on the metro and it stops for a wreck (that we don't see). She looks up at the cables above and sees blood dripping off. I approve of a fixed-length story.

posted by sstrader at 10:39 PM in Cinema , Home Network & Gadgets | permalink

April 3, 2009

Where was I?

Again, remiss in logging my comings and what not. Quickly:

Two concerts last month. First Horacio Gutierrez effortlessly performing the Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto.


March 27th was the Sibelius Violin Concerto performed by Leonidas Kavakos. Sibelius wrote two versions, the first being more demanding, and Kavakos was the first person sanctioned by Sibelius's descendants to record it. I'll assume that's the version we heard at the ASO. Like Gutierrez's performance, Kavakos made the impossible look effortless. The concerto was more programmatic than I remember although it seemed to have more the manner of a psychological examination. The first movement had the soloist and orchestra in conflict, melodic statements were contradicted with a blast of horns. Themes echoed in each, but the orchestra seemed decidedly antagonistic to the pathos of the violin. Second movement brought more than a reconciliation. Here, the orchestra was positively sympathetic with the violin's passionate monologue, coming in at times to support and coax the story being told. The final movement brings them together in celebration and allows the soloist full reign without either rude or supportive interruption.


L & I went to the concert with Shelby, Robert, Alicia, and Dan, and afterwards went up the street to Blue Fin for drinks and food.

Last weekend (28th/29th) Lisa was in Knoxville for her first 1/2 marathon! She finished with a notable, nearly Kenyan, 2:09. I on-the-other-hand stayed in town to go to my niece's confirmation. I made the unenviable mistake of getting lost in the church's parking lot and ending up in the Baptist church instead of the Methodist. Realizing my error just as I made it to the ASO-like auditorium, I skipped out and found the next closest church. Success! Although I wasn't too late, it will be a long time before I choose to suffer through (and, Caroline, if you're reading this, first: stop reading my blog because it's usually NC-17; second: I dislike your church, not you!) another interminable 90-or-so minutes of being told (1) the only correct way to live is to live in praise of Jesus and (2) a church's primary goal is to recruit the young into the church. My only hope is that those young learn to think critically and cast off the propaganda. I had thought that church would attempt to be a proponent of community good. From what I saw, your time would be better spent actually volunteering a few hours a week at a food bank or charity organization. I'm sure churches actually do that, but the waste of time that is the weekly insistence that your sky-daddy is the one true sky-daddy only serves to perpetuate and reward ignorance.

That being said... while Lisa was gone I took advantage of streaming Netflix + laptop + TV to watch A Scanner Darkly [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I'm still not sure what to think of this movie. I never really got engaged with the characters though I'm not sure that the viewer was intended to. The author seems to be denouncing the "war against drugs" because of its symbiotic relationship with addiction itself (a position I can't really see), and also denouncing the cost of addiction. There are a few scenes that resonate: the protagonist being assigned the role of monitoring his alter ego; the constant, big-brother quality of law enforcement given too great a power; the protagonist's nostalgia for the family he may have abandoned. Ultimately, the parts didn't come together for me. Mild recommendation. Some might actually love this film.

Also watched was Dollhouse on Hulu. I've got lukewarm feelings about this show. Lots of fan service which is nice but does not continued interest provide. There are some dramatic surprises paired with some overly self-conscious Joss Whedon dialog. I'll keep watching. And I love Hulu: although the frame rate is a little low, the image is beautiful (laptop -> 40" Bravia). Kudos, I say!

Finally, I'm battling giant cockroaches in my bathroom. Four in the last month, but I think the Agent Red (Raid) I've applied is diminishing their numbers. I've begun tracking cockroach sighting on the chalkboard calendar in the kitchen. No sign of them in any other area of the condo. weird...

posted by sstrader at 4:12 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged philip k. dick, prokofiev | permalink

March 17, 2009

All About Lily Chou Chou

[ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]

I got this DVD not long after it came out (~2002) based on a recommendation from Salon when I was an actual subscriber and read O'Hehir's review of the movie. Teen life is alienating enough, but Japanese teens--at least to my outside eyes--must have a thoroughly unique pain to endure. British schools might be just as cruel. Lily is a bit of gritty and lush experimentalism that entices its audience at the same time that it pushes them away. For instance: an expressive scene of precise teen-clique aggression is well done but then its impact gets a bit lost with all of the time shifting in the edits. That said, this movie is definitely worth the effort. I can't believe that my second viewing was only two weekends ago.

The Wikipedia entry contains some interesting background: On April 1, 2000, [the author] Shunji Iwai went live with his internet novel, in the form of a website called Lilyholic, where he posted messages as several characters on the BBS. Readers of the novel were free to post alongside Iwai's characters and interact with each other, indeed this BBS is where some of the content from the movie comes from. Threaded in the movie's scenes are typed discussions from characters on a Lily discussion group. The storytelling style looks relevant even (especially) now in 2009, but as the older kids start digging this social web thing the impact of pairing images of teens suffering group exclusion with the promise of egalitarian freedom online is lessened. Although far from tame, the edge of online presence no longer has the feel of a wild new world. I'm looking at you, Facebook.

Maybe Lily is due for a revival.

posted by sstrader at 2:14 PM in Cinema | permalink

January 29, 2009


Just received my copy of Time Within Time, the diaries of Andrey Tarkovsky from 1970 to 1986. Did several one-page-tests* and all turned out fascinating. Of note, a quote he wrote down from Gustav Mahler on 26 August 1977:

What our contemporaries say about great art not being necessary for the creation of a work of art is utterly senseless. It would be nearer the truth to say that a huge investment of artistic means into everything from the first, general outline to the last detail, is a necessary condition for the creation of the kind of perfect work that could not be imagined in the wildest dreams of our naturalist friends--those impotent creatures!

And anything that is not imbued with that supreme craftsmanship is doomed to die before it even sees the light of day! (Mahler, quoted by Natalia Bayer-Lekhner, July 1896)

* (The one-page-test being the indisputable measure of a Good Book: open book to a random page; read it; judge the entire book by the contents of that page. Infallible.)

(The notes and drawings and ephemera remind me of another favorite book of mine, The Notebooks of Anton Checkov. )

Ignoring the critical approach of historicism towards this quote, and ignoring Mahler's psychology in general, I was reminded of a Dijkstra quote I'd come across days prior (via Reddit -> Peteris Krumin's blog article "MIT's Introduction to Algorithms, Lectures 17, 18 and 19: Shortest Path Algorithms" -> "Edsger Dijkstra - Discipline in Thought"):

Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a factor that decides between success and failure.
posted by sstrader at 12:57 PM in Cinema , Programming | permalink

January 14, 2009

Where was I?

New Year's: taxi to Palate and wine whilst waiting for Shelby and Robert to arrive. Message earlier from Debbie and Kevin that they couldn't make it because of work (!). Quick ride over to Feast and dinner in a big tent with ~20 others + Bonaventure Quartet (minus singer). Spent the midnight hour on the dance floor with Lisa! Rode back to S & R's and fiiiiiiinally got a taxi ride back home. Photos.

#nye2008 Dance. Dance! on TwitPic

The girls:

girls 1 girls 2

At some point (last week?) we went to see Let the Right One In [ 5/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Simply outstanding. We've been very lucky with films recently and this was no different. The love story (of sorts) was cute and unconventional. The story revealed itself and reformed any previous vague events into humorous and grotesque shocks. The snow and mood were perfect.


Symphony Friday the 9th: the great Brahms Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham [ IMSLP ] and Prokofiev's 5th Symphony. Shaham rocked, jumping all over the stage (at least, as much as you can in that space). Great to see that he had a long line of fans waiting to get his autograph during the intermission. The 5th I should know better, but even though I have his complete symphonies I haven't given them a dedicated listen. I'm just happy it wasn't the 1st. So. Sick. Of. That. Work. After, we tried to hit Trois' bar but it was closed for some stupid reason (Lisa was pissed) so we ended up at Marlow's. Eh.

Sat was volunteering at Kennesaw Mountain to clear trails. Ended early because of rain, but it was fun and will definitely be continued next month (1st Sat of every month).

@lmfoley on Kennesaw Mt. on TwitPic

We were s'posed to head over to Villa Rica for fondue with Debbie and Kevin, but their youngest got ill and plans were cancelled minutes before we were about to head out. Over the past couple of years, every attempt to go out with them has been usurped by chaos.

Other than goin' out fun, we: got a new TV for a BARGAIN (40-inch Sony Bravia), will be giving our old one to the nieces tomorrow to serve as a Wii TVii, got checked up and qualified for life insurance (kicking in the beginning of next month), and are working on a re-fi for the condo. Crazy, and expensive, month.

posted by sstrader at 10:36 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged new years, prokofiev | permalink

December 6, 2008

Nerdcore Rising (4/5)

Saw it at the Plaza last night after Lisa spotted it yesterday afternoon [ website | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I've been waiting for this to come out! Learned about nerdcore in August 2005 and we saw MC Frontalot at Drunken Unicorn back in May 2006.

Most insightful scenes were in New Orleans. First, they watch two black blues musicians on the street during one of the many periods of tour downtime. Interspersed are interviews and voice-overs with Frontalot and the band plus others (nerdcore musicians, Weird Al, Prince Paul, Jello Biafra...) discussing the history of white appropriation of black music. Well done. The second scene was after their New Orleans show. They played the alwaysfunny "I Heart Fags". Choice line:

I heart fags 'cause I am a San Franciscan,
If you're dissin' on my homos then a censure's what you're riskin'...

After the show, several young gays, male and female, came up to hug Frontalot. Their warmth and appreciation was wonderful and Fontalot commented later how outsiders are outsiders no matter the reason.

Many angry geeks were interviewed--insisting that "they" control the world and "jocks" better watch out--but there were genuinely honest and funny moments too. Lots of geek ts, best was a chick's that said "+1 Shirt of Smiting". The movie had a good range of commenters, it was awesome that the director got Prince Paul. There was much to enjoy, and many moments of just honesty and uncertainty. Purchase imminent.

posted by sstrader at 11:17 AM in Cinema , Music | tagged new orleans | permalink

November 27, 2008

Paprika (4/5)

[ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]


Saw this refd with Perfect Blue [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] and admired for its cyberpunk cred. Ultimately for me it was Bergman's Persona (an epitome of postmodern genre) writ in kana and top notch anime. It felt like GitS: Innocence + Miyazaki + Bergman. Animation spoke to the narrative and the narrative referenced the relationship between a virtual world (email, IM?) and the psychological world. There is so much cheap and so much insightful within this film that I forgive the cheap. Honestly, there were so many cultural references that I'm not sure I really understood.

Give it a try, and you'll have the same mixed admiration.

posted by sstrader at 12:02 AM in Cinema | permalink

October 24, 2008

Notes on Resident Evil: Extinction

Rewatching the movie. We'd originally seen it (pretty drunk) at the drive-in. A few weeks ago I impulse purchased all three from Amazon on the cheap.

  1. Resident Evil
  2. Resident Evil: Apocalypse
  3. Resident Evil: Extinction

We've been rewatching (also drunk) late nights when we get home and don't have the minds to focus on anything, shall-we-say, coherent. Watching Extinction now:

  • Milla Jovovich Resident Evil 3 v. Milla Jovovich Fifth Element has matured and become more attractive.
  • Each movie--though essentially a video game as GH had commented to me--has it's own set/mood. Underground claustrophobia; apocalyptic city-scape; world dessert.
  • I like the different scenes in Extinction: underground outpost, Milla, and Damnation Alley convoy.
  • Pros of Milla riding a motorcycle in such a situation: gas mileage, versatility; cons: exposure! But I guess a car is not that protective against zombies.
  • Alternate title for the movies: Milla Jovovich Wakes up Naked and Wears a Sexy Dress.
  • Desert color scheme throughout works well.
  • Two female leads. Yes, they're basically sexy bitches, but still GRRL PWR.
  • When symbolism is so heavy-handed, any social/cinema insight is going to be more meta. I don't have any insight yet, but I know it's there.
  • Milla Jovovich is the female Keanu Reeves, but because she's female she can get away with it. Definitely not a complaint.
  • Resident Evil > Tomb Raider. RE has fun; TR takes itself way way too seriously.

All in all, good fun, seven thumbs up, etc.

October 13, 2008

Where was I?

Friday was all-Tchaikovsky at the ASO. The first of a block of eight concerts we got for the season. I was never a big fan of Pyotr, he always seemed the prissy Romantic with flowery melodies, but I'm warming up to him. Francesca da Rimini (enough drama to fill a 2-hour movie!), Violin Concerto in D (soloist Robert McDuffie, seen years ago in a recital where he played a violin+piano arrangement of Glass's Violin Concerto), and Symphony No. 1, "Winter Daydreams". After the Violin Concerto, Bobby McD brought out one of his students for a duet (Ravel piece for violin and cello). Excellent all around but Not Enough Seats Filled! That's bad for the Symphony, but good for me since maybe Lisa&I can take my Mom.


Caturday was an afternoon picnic lunch w/ Lisa and my Mom. Evening, Lisa went to watch the sad, sad LSU game and drown her liver in gin. I got caught up on piano and met her at The Vortex at midnight. We got home somehow.

Sunday was la-zy. Caught up on some TiVo (Supernatural!) and then went to see Quarantine (3/5) at Atlantic Station [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Zombie/Blair Witch hybrid. What gorey, nerve-wracking fun! A few missteps and the people who made the poster and ads can die in fucking hell for spoiling the ending, but it was still a blast with the crowd ewwwing and clapping as bones popped out of legs and people punched the rabid hordes. Afterwards was Cypress Street Pint and Plate with our New Favorite Bartender Lindsay the Philosophy Major. Hipster music, watched Planet Earth on TV (ocean bottom then mountains?), surfed for images of cute baby hedgehogs, and had arguments about race and homosexuality. What a fun bar. I am so glad I live in Midtown!

Lisa got ill in the middle of the night with an unspecified sickness. Hopefully not zombie rabies. She assured me that I haven't planted a seed in her. No need for me to skip town. Yet.

posted by sstrader at 4:56 PM in Cinema , Music , Where was I? | permalink

September 28, 2008

The Lucky Ones (3/5)

Two Mondays ago was a screening of The Lucky Ones [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] at Landmark. It's the first Iraq War film I'd seen--all seemed to be reviewed as pretty much crap--and it was much better than expected. Light-hearted with a balanced undercurrent of Serious Issues. Basically a road trip/buddy movie with three soldiers on a month leave and each trying to resolve some task originating from the war. One needs to reconnect with his wife after two years of deployment, another to return personal effects to her lover's parents, and the third to convalesce from a war wound. Rachael McAdams keeps the tenor of the film light through most of the picture. Definitely worth a rental.

posted by sstrader at 12:09 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 3, 2008

Where was I?

In Destin last weekend. Left Friday morning and returned Monday morning. Relaxing, but I got burned the first day out on the beach :(. There were eight of us in a dee-luxe house, so there was a lot of stayin' in and drinkin' and eatin' and gabbin' and watchin' goofy DVDs. Minor drama when I went walking one night and came back two hours later with a rented scooter, but scooters are fun so it was a win. Until Monday morning when it ran out of gas on Lisa & I on our way to fill up and return it. Another :(.

Detox during the week whilst I finished various reads. I wanted some funcrazy cyberpunk for vacationing, so I picked up Mona Lisa Overdrive for the beach and read most of it on the drive back. I had gone to Kroger on Thursday beforehand because I'd been wanting try out its DVD rental kiosk. I flipped through the movies, saw Cloverfield was already checked out (!), and realized that that's the movie that needed to be taken. I must find it! Planning to find another Kroger, instead I just went to B&N, bought a copy, and realized I needed to pick up a beach book. They only had MLO in mass market paperback, and I'm struggling now to find the other Gibson novels I don't have in either hardback or oversized paperback. Oddly difficult. Cloverfield was a win and FEAKED EVERYONE'S SHIT OUT during the subway scene. I pass-ed out-eth so Lisa & I watched it again when we got home.

On our return to the ATL, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Eighth Season graphic novels (#s 1 and 2) and the last book of Y: The Last Man were waiting for me. Hoo. Ray. The Buffy stories were fun and it was great seeing the wild changes that have occured; probably would've been difficult with a TV budget. The artwork had two problems: body proportions and likenesses. Most of the time, people's heads were absurdly too large for their bodies. Not Peanuts-large, but large all the same. Skilled artists otherwise, so I can't explain it. Getting the likeness right is always a pitfall of adaptations. They were close-enough. The painted covers had them perfect. I powered through Y the morning before work on Tuesday. Had started the night before and got hooked while trying to avoid work. Ultimately Yorick's five year trip was the enjoyable part of the story with this final episode simply capping things off. The whole series was a way to offer riffs on sexual politics (and reversals) and sexual identity. The defining scenes at the end were when 355 lectures Yorick, worried that he alone would not be a good father-figure to a son, that mothers are more responsible for molding men than fathers. Later, an aged Yorick lectures one of his 22-year-old clones that it was Dr. Mann's asshole father that pushed her to be a great scientist. You gotta find a balance. The scene with Ampersand made me very sad.

Last night was Dark Knightus Interruptus. Ten-or-so minutes in and the Great Atlanta Storm of August 2nd 2008 hit. It directed its greatest force at the powerlines that fed to the Midtown Landmark Cinema. Specifically to the theater that was showing The Dark Knight at 7:00 PM. BLAST! Sad tweets here, here, and here. We gave it 20 minutes, then headed back to Pint and Plate where the drinks were flowing, the sliders were ... sliding, and power flowed through the tubes like Coca-Cola!

posted by sstrader at 11:22 AM in Cinema , Language & Literature , Where was I? | tagged comic books | permalink

July 21, 2008

Movies and weekend

WALL-E [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] (5/5). Went to see Wanted and ended up at WALL-E. We were planning on going to see it anyway, but really didn't expect to be so taken in by the sweet-but-not-sappy story. A few times during the movie I had somethinginmyeye. The dialog-free opening was silent film genius and ultimately more beautiful than the spaceship sequence in the second half. With no people, the Earth scenes held to their own almost-real reality. The people we were introduced to in space were depicted more cartoonishly. And really, the movie is all about WALL-E and EVE's relationship; the people just get in the way. Definitely a movie to purchase.


Wanted [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] (4/5). Crazy shooting sexy Jolie with the loom that tells the future and secret societies attacking each other. The first 20-30 minutes had a perfect mix of humor a la Office Space with the protagonist schlub narrating his hate for cubicle hell (I hear ya, brother). Second third is his training as an assasin (we need a montage!), which had its moments. Finally there's the twist (not that twisty) and a nice, non-Hollywood resolution. Overall, it was like The Matrix with a sense of humor.

Friday night dinner at Six Feet Under in Midtown West. Fried fish gets a +1, valet parking gets a -1, so it was a wash. Saturday was dinner and drinks at Cypress Street Pint and Plate until 3 AM. Sunday was a late lunch at Noche then late night pizza delivery. Weekend's not a weekend unless you overindulge.

Best part of last week was the birthday dinner at Straits where we saw the owner, Ludacris and had a great meal, plus, Lisa gave me a Garmin GPS unit for my car. I can't drive anywhere now without having it show where I'm at.

posted by sstrader at 10:33 PM in Cinema , Personal | permalink

June 10, 2008

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (4/5)

[ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]

Late in the movie our two protagonists, partners Batou and Togusa from an elite security force, case the inventively decorated mansion of a criminal hacker who's the main suspect for a recent stream of homicidal androids. As they walk down a hallway bordered on one side by tall, stained-glass windows, human silhouettes within the windows cast shadows against the opposite wall. The shadowed hands reach for doorknobs or various objects on shelves. This short scene is iconic for much of the movie's intent: intentionality can easily be simulated, and observers can be tricked into perceiving nonexistent consciousness.


Along with somewhat slow philosophical discussions, Innocence contains vibrant scenes of violence, moments of dramatic tension, and elaborately rendered tableaux that stand as unique expressions in cinematic art. Within the framework of police procedural, we're immersed in examples of how human society has detached from nature by replicating a false environment. The movie examines the extent to which we will be able to extend such an environment in the future. Similarly, rituals and ceremonies are depicted as reimaginings of that ideal we are attempting to attain.

The mix of action and contemplation, more believable and more subtle than from The Matrix, is well-balanced, and as with the first GitS the cinematography is outstanding.

posted by sstrader at 11:10 PM in Cinema | tagged anime, ghost in the shell | permalink

June 5, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl (4/5)

[ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]

I was very lukewarm about seeing this. The reviews I had seen were good enough, but the premise sounded to preciously quirky to produce anything more than a diversion on cable some weekend afternoon. The movie is about a lonely guy in a small town who orders a Real Girl (aka Realdoll) and then proceeds to show her off as his fiance, all the while getting in conversations with her and signing her up for social events.

It's easy to make the sad-sack loner too pitiful, but I think that Ryan Gosling pulls it off with oddity more human than put on. His character and those of his brother and sister-in-law only slowly reveal a history you can sense from the beginning but aren't immediately privy to. Gosling's desperate attempts to just be left alone paired with his sister-in-law's increasing attempts to not allow him an out is a more central and satisfying dynamic in the picture. The other is Patricial Clarkson's deft role as GP/psychiatrist. She showed calm acceptance but also pushed him when he needed it.

The only issue I had with the film is its extreme gentleness in how small towns treat their eccentrics. There was one Absolute Disapproval (based on religion), but no kids mocking him in the street, no real morality outcry, no eww-it's-a-sex-doll. I felt the dramatic tension waiting for those events, but the absence made the movie--if I dare say this about a movie about a man engaged to a doll--less realistic. Still, it was a sweet, emotive story in the same spectrum as Eternal Sunshine.

posted by sstrader at 10:23 AM in Cinema | permalink

May 22, 2008

Books, movies

Lisa and I were bemoaning the great novels out there that haven't been made into movies. People bitch and bitch about themovienotbeingasgoodasthebook, but that's always been a dead arguement for me. A movie is different from the book. Period. Anyway, I think I started with how great Chabon's books would be on film or maybe she brought up the McCarthy she's read and wanted to see.

There are a surplus of good-to-great directors out there, a surplus of actors, and a surplus of script writers, so these fictions should be rich territory to mine for film. The sad truth is that the system hinders development when it should be facilitating it. Production companies buy the rights and sit on them. Executives haggle over scripts and dumb down rewrites. Directors demand expensive techniques. Studios demand blockbusters. What we need is some sort of low-budget, Playhouse 90 sort of system. That series showed weekly live and filmed dramas often adapted from books, each running 90 minutes. George Clooney did something similar in 2000 with a live broadcast of Fail Safe.

This would be a wonderful series to revive, but it'd probably end up on HBO or some other cable channel we don't subscribe to.

[ updated 24 May 2008, Chabon's birthday ]

Just heard Garrison Keillor talk about Chabon on the writer's almanac and decided to read a little about him. Surprise, the Coen's are adapting The Yiddish Policemen's Union for film.

posted by sstrader at 12:54 PM in Cinema , Language & Literature | permalink

May 13, 2008

Where was I?

Lisa and I were in Portland for the Indie Wine Festival Thursday April 30th through Monday May 5th. Wineries, book store, lots of amazing restaurants and bars, and some great hiking. All documented in Twitter but not easily linkable. Photo entry and highlights to come.

[ updated 1 July 2008 ]

Photos posted here (somewhat slow) and a few random artifacts from the trip. The flight there:

portland.flight-there.1 portland.flight-there.2

And back:


The access card from the Hotel Deluxe (a classic movie themed hotel):


And the card from a small shop in Dundee called The Dapper Frog. We picked up a couple of wine toppers when we were there for the Willamette Valley wineries:


[ updated 21 Dec 2009 ]

A friend was asking about restaurants in Portland, so I dug up our TripIt page for that trip to help jog my memory. Andina had crazy South American drinks (Lisa first discovered the Caipirinha there) and deliciously unusual, Peruvian recipes. Saucebox was a hip seafood and sushi joint (aren't they all?) with a crazy mural of robots and aliens and somesuch nonsense of which I wish I would have gotten the artist's name. Lunch at The Dundee Bistro in the tiny tiny town of Dundee when we went to Willamette wineries. Super-fancy dinner at Bluehour (which I think we were late getting to because of a post-Willamette nap). The service and food was absolutely outstanding.

Went to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at The Shakespeare Tavern last Thursday (runs through June 1st). One of my favorite movies and the play was outstanding. Much more bawdy than I remember from the movie, and I caught more of Stoppard's wordplay in this version, sometimes clever and sometimes vaudevillian.


Friday was Iron Man (3/5) at Atlantic Station. Without Downey and Paltrow, the movie would have only been a minor effects-vehicle. They were electric throughout (he getting most of the screentime, of course). I had difficulty getting past the silly science that seemed to stretch the bounds of even comic-book-science. Radical direction changes in a metal suit (whether in the air or hitting the ground) would be catastrophic to the body. And when Paltrow reached into the metal tube that went into his heart in order to pull out some faulty wire, well ... just silly. All-in-all a fun ride though.

Saturday was my niece Sarah's ballet recital. There were some very good dancers there and (at times overly) complex choreography. One senior was Absolutely Amazing showing off such grace and flow throughout her whole body that she can only be moving on to professional dance. I noticed the greatest sense of flow in how she used her hands and wrists in relation to the rest of her movements. Seeing such art helps you more clearly differentiate mere skill.

posted by sstrader at 12:17 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

April 16, 2008

GitS. Prepare to die.

Live-action Ghost in the Shell. From Dreamworks. In 3-D. Gah. Expect Hanna Montana as Kusanagi and The Rock as Batou with the Tachikomas sounding even more kawaii than they do in the TV series.

A more reasoned analysis over at io9. Best comment from the thread: Will he replace all the guns with walkie-talkies?
posted by sstrader at 8:59 AM in Cinema | tagged ghost in the shell, io9 | permalink

March 26, 2008

Bruce Campbell reviews movies

Sort of. More accurately, he types up blistering NSFW rants on movie-type subjects over at Rotten Tomatoes. Current content is justifiably abrasive insults hurled at Tyler Perry (not abrasive enough, actually) and equally justifiable lusting after Zooey Deschanel. Seems to be ~once a week.

posted by sstrader at 7:15 AM in Cinema | permalink

March 17, 2008


The Indiana Jones trilogy as animated gifs [ via Filmwad > Geekstir ]:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
posted by sstrader at 11:44 AM in Cinema | permalink

March 8, 2008

Where was I?

Wednesday: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] (4/5) at Landmark. Like Maria Full of Grace, less painful to watch than I had feared yet still moving. Otilia's expression in the last couple of seconds of the film was agonizing and perfect. Except for the time period, it is almost a Dogme film and that served the story and locale. How did this film get ignored by the Oscars? Fucking hacks. I just wish now that I would've gone to see another overlooked film, The Band's Visit, when Landmark had it. Next week, In Bruges; after that, Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park (note to anyone: rent his film Elephant, stunning).

Last night: Diva [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] (4/5) at Landmark. This was a favorite of mine in college, and it was great to see it again, anew. Funny and frantic with the style-over-substance approach failing in only a couple scenes. Labeled as French New New Wave (no Wikipedia entry for that style, but many refs from a Google search), it almost made the 80s look cool. Afterwards was dinner at Steele and drinks at a new bar next door to Steele called Amore. Wow! The interior--at least from my drunken memories--was like an ornate Italian opera house, with small tables throughout, alcoves, an interior balcony, and warm lighting. Definitely go for dinner.

posted by sstrader at 2:54 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

March 6, 2008


One year from today [ via FilmWad ].

posted by sstrader at 2:48 PM in Cinema | permalink

February 21, 2008

Where was I?

Last Friday dinner at the Corner Tavern in Little Five Points then The Howlies et al. at The Star Bar. Saturday dinner at Paul's in Buckhead. I give it a medium recommendation: good food, service, and atmosphere, but nothing wow. We had later reservations and so got a table in the main area; I'd like to go back and see what the upstairs looks like.


Tuesday I received my Asus EEE 4G laptop. I had been thinking about getting the Nokia N800 for travel, wifi hotspots, and to use as a portable internet radio machine but then ran across recommendations for the Asus whilst browsing Amazon. The Asus is less handheld but more powerful, so I went with it. Specs: 2 lbs, 7-inch screen, 802.11b/g, 512 MB memory, 4 GB flash drive, 3 USB ports, web cam, Linux Xandros with KDE, Firefox, OpenOffice, etc. I've heard that you can put Java and Eclipse on there, but I'll have to get over my Linux-ignorance first. First impressions are positive. It's fast, typing is easy enough (my mitts are not beefy), and the screen is bright and roomy enough. We'll see what happens with Eclipse...


Lunar eclipse dinner and drinks at Eclipse di Sol (wha-huh?). We had a perfect view of the event from the patio, and the clouds cleared out completely around halfway through. That little sliver in the photo above is the moon taken from my crappy camera phone. First, animated fun at Landmark with The Academy Award Nominated Animated Short Films. Best was Peter and the Wolf [ Wikipedia | IMDB ], an inventive telling of the standard story and without the narration. Peter's duck and bird friends were a-dorable and this version has a noble twist at the end. Descriptions of all five shorts below stolen from the Landmark web site:

Don't miss this rare opportunity to see all 5 of the short films nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2007 Academy Awards. Program includes: I Met the Walrus (Canada), an animated documentary about 14-year-old Jerry Levitan, who snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in 1969 and persuaded him to do an interview; Madame Tutli-Putli (Canada), in which a timid woman boards a mysterious night train and has a series of frightening experiences; Meme Les Pigeons Vont Au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven) (France), about a priest who tries to sell an old man a machine that he promises will transport him to heaven; Moya Lyubov (My Love) (Russia), in which a teenage boy in search of love in 19th century Russia is drawn to two very different women; and Peter & The Wolf (UK & Poland), Prokofiev's classical music drama of a young boy and his animal friends who face a hungry wolf.

posted by sstrader at 3:48 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

February 15, 2008

Sweeney Todd (4/5)

[ IMDB ] [ Rotten Tomatoes ] [ Wikipedia ]

I went reluctantly last night because the wife wanted to catch it before it faded to DVD. After the first song (an overture from Depp and his young companion as they sail in to London), I was completely engaged. The music was outstanding. Melodies developed in unexpected ways, lyrics rolled with imperfect rhymes, harmonies were at times surprisingly dissonant and pregnant with Prokofiev, ABA repeats varied their themes to show the character development. Sondheim is king.

As amazing as the music was the metaphor. There was so much potential in the relationship of the barber (a man-in-the-iron-mask darkly rewritten), the emotionally damaged pie-maker who finds in him a stability of sorts, and the adopted street-urchin (the barber having killed his seedy boss). That triangle seemed to me a shorthand for every family dynamic. And the plight of the barber's teen daughter was grim grim and very Charles Dickens. I had a few minor issues with the denoument but overall outstanding. Go rent it!

posted by sstrader at 7:14 PM in Cinema | permalink

January 22, 2008

Alive in Joburg

Cool independent video posted in a scathing review of Cloverfield. I disagree with the review, but loved the video:

~6 minutes of mock-documentary about a very odd alien invasion...

posted by sstrader at 1:24 PM in Cinema | permalink

January 18, 2008

Cloverfield (4/5)

Yes. [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]

posted by sstrader at 1:57 AM in Cinema | permalink

January 11, 2008


Just started watching the 2nd season of Extras last night (Orlando Bloom, David Bowie). Amazing. The scenes with Gervais and Ashley Jensen are funny and charming and painful. Their relationship from the first season, and to a great degree the pathos of the last episode, is added to even when she's only providing a dull-witted stare into space (on par with Seinfeld's Puddy). The bleak purgatory of Gervais's The Office is relocated and somewhat softened with less hateful characters. Again, it is reminiscent of the lovable misanthropy of Seinfeld yet with a stronger commentary on human nature.

The repetition of guest stars suffering from Shallowhollywooditis works, but you have to be in the know. That is: I'm not familiar with some of the lesser-known actors who appear, and so their exasperating flaws don't resonate as much as those of Kate Winslet or Patrick Stewart. Still, it's the leads that win the day. Brilliant.

posted by sstrader at 7:04 PM in Cinema | permalink

January 7, 2008

Auto Focus (3/5), Permanent Midnight (3/5)

Auto Focus [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Permanent Midnight [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ].

Two NetFlix flix that have been sitting around for months because we didn't want to be depressed but I would have been equally depressed if we returned them without watching them.

Our queue is seldom ordered, and these two just happened to come up at the same time, being perfectly paired if you want to feel low afterwards. Both are buoyed by strong leads in unflattering roles and both leads' downfalls are difficult to watch. Add to that the fact that both scripts kept me engaged for similar reasons: they provided a view into the quirky life of a successful-ish television star (Bob Crane) and a successful-ish television writer (Jerry Stahl). Auto Focus was more successful overall as a movie. Ben Stiller was too over-the-top at times, and I never believed that his wife would have stayed with him. The over-the-top was part of the style (it had a rushing, second-half-of-Goodfellas feel through much of it) but just seemed to fall apart at times. And the Sheherazade aspect of the first two thirds seemed clumsy in how the story was being told compared to the story being told.

Time to cleanse the palate with some Collected Three Stooges Volume 1.

posted by sstrader at 11:29 PM in Cinema | permalink

Michel Gondry videos

  • Bjork, "Bachelorette" - This is what hooked me on Gondry. The vivid depiction of a mediated life whose only content is the mediation. Told in ~five-and-a-half minutes.

  • Cibo Matto, "Sugar Water" - "Bachelorette" was dazzling in its structural recursion and slight social commentary. "Sugar Water" presents a similar structural coup in a split-screen crab canon. Instead of looking forced or overly technical, it is thoroughly enjoyable. Like one of the YouTube commenters, I have to admit that I don't fully understand how Gondry pulled it off. Stunning.

  • Less stunning, but still notable for his theatrical staging, is Radiohead's "Knives Out". Simple and creative is Gary Jules' "Mad World".
posted by sstrader at 12:10 AM in Cinema | permalink

December 15, 2007

I Am Legend (4/5)

This was a more subtle piece than I'd expected from Will Smith [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. The whole of the movie--scenes with screaming, 28-days-later, speed-freak mutants aside--has the same quiet bleakness of No Country for Old Men. The soundtrack invades infrequently. There is no greatness to the story as a whole, but small points, left unspoken but paralleled across disparate scenes, were far above what cheaper post-apocalyptic flicks might offer (think Resident Evil, et al.).

The film advances on two fronts, with interspersed scenes: post-infection with Will Smith possibly the only uninfected person on Earth and searching for a cure; and pre-infection revealing the cause and the crisis. The first act is lonely but somewhat lighthearted with Smith's dog stealing many scenes. The second act moves into more serious territory and more action: Smith's lonliness is almost to the point of insanity just as he encounters other survivors. The resolution is uninteresting and yet the details and the storytelling of the whole are what resonate.

Of minor social interest: Omega Man came out (along with several similar films) at a time of environmental crisis. In it, humankind's altering of self via medicine threatens their destruction. In Soylent Green, the threat comes from the altering of their environment via overpoplulation. In Planet of the Apes, from inappropriate dominion over the animal kingdom. Each was in response to actual problems and took those to an absurd conclusion. These exaggerated conclusions help us define, through art, our anguish from real-world stresses. I had commented previously how predictive art is more warning--drawing a straight line instead of a curve--than prediction. I'm not sure if movies like I Am Legend and Children of Men fit that for today.

posted by sstrader at 1:02 PM in Cinema | permalink

December 10, 2007

No Country for Old Men (5/5)

A perfect Coen brothers' film [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. The acting excelled for all involved; the dialog--couplets of quips--was incisive and comic; the characters were iconic without becoming flat. Even after seeing what was done in Fargo I had expected a nihilistic dreariness, but ended up being more engaged than oppressed throughout the fleet 2-hour running time. The dialog's the thing, and although I would otherwise have characterized it as classic Coen dialog, Lisa informed me that, having read The Road, it was classic Cormack McCarthy.

Some have bristled at the oddities of the ending, so prepare to be on one side or the other of that debate. Even if certain style quirks distract you, expect to be engrossed in this bleak yet sharp modern western.

posted by sstrader at 7:06 PM in Cinema | permalink

4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (1/5)

Somewhat painful crap [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Hoping for a minor distraction, this flick ended up being little more than a made-for-TV or even straight-to-video affair. We watched it on a lazy weekend afternoon, IIRC, and it was just barely up to the task. Who knows, maybe I needed to see the first one to appreciate it.

posted by sstrader at 2:15 PM in Cinema | permalink

December 9, 2007

The Golden Compass (4/5)

Went Friday night at Atlantic Station and thoroughly enjoyed it [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Good turnout too; it's fun to see a movie on opening night in a packed room (as long as I get a good seat) and with an appreciative crowd.

I had only heard of the books over the last year reading random comments on geek sites. Apparently, it's what the younger geek grows up with (for me, it was the Dune trilogy). Their love of the books made me curious. The only other bits I had heard were from an email that a co-worker at this hypothetical company received. It was from a manager in a different group, addressed to their subordinates, and accidentally cced to my co-worker. In it was what I'm sure was boiler-plate fire and brimstone from some Catholic League rep. Inappropriateness in the workplace aside, it was somewhat funny.

At around 30 minutes into the movie, when Lyra escapes from Marisa Coulter, I was completely invested in the characters. The young actress who plays Lyra, Dakota Blue Richards, was outstanding as a precocious child that was not "acty" or annoying. There was little of Daniel Craig, but his role will continue in (hopefully) subsequent movies. Nicole Kidman was Eee-Vil. The other standout was Lyra's CGI daemon, Pantalaimon. CGI has come a long way from Lucas' horrific He Who Shall Not Be Named, and Pan was absolutely wonderful. Finally, I was impressed with the look of the film. The cinematography had a glossy brightness to it that could be contrasted (not unfavorably) to LotR's more earthy tones.

The Christian outrage with the film comes from author Pullman's notorious my books are about killing god quote. Boycotts were called on primarily by Dobson's evangelical Focus on the Family and the Donahue's Catholic League. Other religious groups have specifically supported the movie. And, to emphasize a point from the author, his books are about organized religion as a whole and not any specific religion.

From this set up, I went into the movie looking for metaphor. After a few distractions I decided that movie-as-puzzle is not as enjoyable as movie-as-story. The metaphors would wait till the end, and that allowed me space to enjoy the characters and story. The story is as much about the abuses of organized religion as it is about the abuses of any fascist government. Children are taught to limit their beliefs and ignore reality by being indoctrinated early on with religious/nationalist dogma (think Soviet media control or American nationalism). The poor and disaffected are targeted with the most aggressive tactics because they are the people the least likely to be defended (think European Jews or any of the African genocides). A good metaphor can attack multiple targets.

How can I dismiss Christian outrage with this film but accept my own criticism of The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto, and 300? Granted, 300 is the only one I've seen, but I don't go in for the you-have-to-see-it-to-understand argument. If a movie presents itself as historically accurate and botches facts, those are easily debatable without attending a screening. All three of those movies were criticized by historians familiar with the times in question, in an attempt to address the directors' posturing of accuracy, and were shown to contain not insubstantial errors. That was my primary complaint. My secondary complaint was that these errors were introduced to produce cheap effect. Finally, at least for 300, after seeing the film I was baffled why a shallow spectacle was being praised as one of the most meaningful films people have seen (this from comments people had made to me). How to explain what was nothing more than a visually stunning Jason and the Argonauts being instead taken as the apotheosis of socio-political philosophy? And of two people I know who saw 300, the first sentence of praise from them, emphasizing its importance in their appreciation of the film, contained the statement "and it's a true story." In that there was a battle, yes. But when the details are so infelicitously manhandled, the story's historical bragging rights should be considerably diminished. The creators boasted of historic fidelity, failed on major points, and then fans declared that such criticism was nitpicking. "It's just a movie" was the most common retort, I believe. You can't have it both ways.

posted by sstrader at 4:42 PM in Cinema | permalink

November 17, 2007

Where was I?

Catching up on the past couple of months, for Future-Scott:

  • Lisa out-of-town a lot, so I got to watch a bunch of anime. Kite was very very very dark with hardcore sex that mistreated its protagonists. Bleak ending. Mezzo Forte was very fun, but also had hardcore sex that mistreated its protagonists. There's a contract that a writer has with their audience that says that any transgression will help the character or the story. These were very borderline. Mezzo Forte was good in that the transgressions actually "didn't happen" to the heroes, but they were a little extreme for western sensibilities. Still, I recommend Mezzo Forte (if you're OK w/ the 5 min. of hardcore porn). The Cowboy Bebop movie was completely G/PG and very entertaining. Except for the standard genre idiosyncracies, it was a classic action flick. If you have no problem with the animation/japaniquirks/slapstick, this is highly recommended.
  • Company dinner at Buco di Beppo (sp? later) where the spouses met the spouses. We were in "the Vatican Room" where a crude visage of The Pope sat upon a lazy Susan (lazy Lilith?). Bland wine and very bland food except for a few good dishes. Great to finally get the better halves together.
  • Went to see Resident Evil: Extinction [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] at the Starlight Drive-in. Been a while since we went to the drive-in and this was the perfect movie for that. It was Milla Jovolicious. Prior to that was a light dinner at Haas in East Atlanta. Nice bar, nice food, recommended.
  • This past week was a $25 5-course dinner at Food Studio. Excellent. The next night was dinner at Houston's then drinks at Eno top flight night. Barbarescos that Lisa liked but I thought were average.
posted by sstrader at 4:57 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | tagged drive-in, resident evil | permalink

November 1, 2007


A little while back I started getting on an anime kick thanks to Robert introducing me to Ghost in the Shell when we went to see Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in the theater. Then, I watched the first film on Netflix streaming and thoroughly enjoyed it. Netflix also has the first season of the TV series Stand Alone Complex. I soon purchased the first movie, the first season, and the second season. Photos of the wacky tchotchki that came with each DVD will be posted as soon as I get the final volume. Right now 3 tachikomas are guarding my desk at work. Word is that the DVD of the second movie is crap, so I'm holding off on that.

The next step is, of course, to find other anime that I like. I'm warming up to Cowboy Bebop on TiVo. Clips I've seen from the movie look awesome. I also watched Mezzo DSA on Netflix streaming. Cute/sexy teen chick fighting bad guys with goofy dialog in between. The overall mood of the series is a more hip Scooby Doo but with about the same level of maturity. I was shocked to find out that the source movie, Mezzo Forte, is said to be quite more mature. Extreme violence and hardcore sex. Fight scenes look good in the trailer. So, naturally, I purchased it and the director's other ultra-violent anime flick Kite. Should be interesting. These were probably some of the source material Tarantino was referencing in Kill Bill. The rest of the anime on Netflix streaming looks weak, or rather, it looks like what you think anime would look like. Absurd/cute/mecha.

posted by sstrader at 5:15 PM in Cinema | tagged anime, ghost in the shell | permalink

October 13, 2007

Host backstory

Remember those opening scenes in The Host where the ridiculously caricatured and evil Americans poured expired formaldehyde down a drain (can that stuff even expire?!?) and ultimately spawned the giant lizard/monster? Well, apparently it was based on an actual event. Filmwad's recent list of movie monsters pointed me to an article at Asia Times telling the story of the McFarland incident where:

In February of 2000, civilian mortician Albert McFarland, employed by the US Forces in Korea (USFK), ordered his staff to dispose of about 120 liters of embalming fluid down a drain in the mortuary at the US Army base at Yongsan in the center of Seoul.
posted by sstrader at 11:34 AM in Cinema | permalink

September 22, 2007

Top Flr

Went to Top Flr after seeing Eastern Promises [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] last night. Top Flr: every dish we had was excellent. Mixed green salad with lavender honey dressing and figs, lamb skewers with tsatsiki and cauliflower couscous, gnocchi with spinach and garlic, and pork tenderloin (plus a couple of vegetable sides). The pork and gnocchi were the stand out dishes of the meal. Prices were between $5 and $12. The pork was the only entree we ordered, the rest were appetizers or sides. All had very good flavor. Where Da Vinci's used to be.

posted by sstrader at 10:35 AM in Cinema , Culture & Society | permalink

September 1, 2007

Brick (4/5)

This is a concept-piece that could have gone really wrong [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I liked it more than I should have possibly because it didn't go wrong and in fact had some really keen turns within it. The story is noir but told with teens in basically believable roles. As with noir, the characters quirks are ratcheted up quite a bit, but their source rings true. The hero, Brendan, is a moody ex-dealer who's lost his girlfriend to the life. She now dates one of the seedier dropouts and in a moment of peril calls Brendan for help, but quickly recants. He knows something's up, finds her body in the sewer, and soon goes on a tear to take down the underworld he was once a part of.

The language is pure 40s gumshow with terms more familiar ("bulls" for cops), terms I'd only heard once before ("yeggs" for burglers), and many that just flew by uninterpretably around bloody mouths or sobbing. At times, the characters did slip into unsuccessful characature, but more often the hard-boiled life would be parodied with scenes of triangularly folded notes slipped into lockers or a mother doting over a crime boss pow wow with country juice glasses. The humor softened the flawed earnestness, and the story had the twists and red herrings to keep you guessing up to the end. I have the feeling I'm going to like it more-and-more as time goes on.

posted by sstrader at 1:17 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 26, 2007

Stardust (4/5)

I wasn't really sure what to expect, and so I was very pleasantly surprised with this [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Village boy born of unusual circumstances pines after local hottie/bitch. Goes on quest for a fallen star to charm said hottie and ends up finding Claire Danes--sassier than your average fallen star or your average Claire Danes role for that matter. Nefarious forces are also converging on her, and so Our Hero must grow into his role as protector. There was a perfect mix of fantasy, action, humor, and romance. Afterwards, I wanted to compare it to the fun fantasy of Terry Gilliam, but now realize it is really a direct descendent of The Princess Bride [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] twenty years later, even though I was not as enchanted by The Princess Bride as the rest of the world was. Nice ensemble appearances by Ricky Gervais (much better than the comercial clips suggest) and Robert De Niro. The 2+ hour running time flew by.

posted by sstrader at 7:44 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 22, 2007

Where was I?

Long week.

Last Wednesday, I got the itch to go to my newfavoritesushiplace Fune. We fell in love with their salted squid appetizer the first time we went, but every time since it has gone downhill. Still, there is much good to enjoy. Drinks at The Vortex after where we saw our long-lost bartender Artie.

Thursday was the downtown dinner week evening with friends at Pacific Kitchen. Outstanding food; we'll definitely be going again for the full menu. And to top it off, we walked to a new(ish?) bar just down the street called The Albert. Tin ceiling, gothic arch liquor shelves behind the bar, and a friendly bartender.

Friday was a vacation day for me. Call it an atheist holiday: Friday is our sabbath. I got caught up on things I needed to get caught up on, and then we went to Enoteca with Codermonkey and his wife before they went to see Kathy Griffin (a surprise that I pretty much spoiled with my big mouth). We got the lowdown on their honeymoon in Europe: Paris was spent on jet lag and bad weather, London was much better with musicals and late-night chicanery. Lisa & I are now talking about doing a London weekend and catch Wicked or maybe even Lord of the Rings (I didn't even know they made it into a musical!). Lisa & I continued on to Avra for drinks and gabbin' with the bartender and ourfavoritewaitress, then more drinks at The Vortex while we played the pornographic video games. Rearrange puzzle-pieces to reveal naked ladies from the 70s! Awesome!!

Saturday we went to see Paris, je t'aime (3/5) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. A quirky, varied, and satisfying collection of 18 short stories about love in Paree. For all of the variety contained, it held together. A hot walk up Highland for pre-dinner wine at Murphy's then tapas afterwards at Noche. I ended up snagging two bottles of Syrah at Murphy's wine shop: a Rosenblum and an Australian Molly Dooker. The walk back to the car off of Ponce was much cooler after dinner. Ended at McCray's.

Sunday was low-key with drinks at The Grape before watching the 7:50 show of Superbad (4/5) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] at Atlantic Station. We had intended to see the 6:30 show, but everybody in Atlanta was in line to see a movie that night. I don't need to add to the praise, but Seth's "drawing affliction" was ridiculously funny. Home after and The Asphalt Jungle (4/5) [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] from my film noir collection.

I need a break...

posted by sstrader at 1:54 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

August 13, 2007

Sunday movies

Lisa bought Carnival of Souls (3/5) at a truck stop on her way to Asheville a week or so ago. Woman survives a car crash in a river and subsequently feels detached from society. Interspersed are visions she has of creepy zombie-type characters spying on her. For all of the bad dialog and bad acting, this had a nice moody feel to it. I particularly liked the scene in the department store where the camera goes blurry for a second and then Mary looks around to try to understand what happened. There was more unease than horror.

Candace Hilligoss

Finally watched Eraserhead (3/5). "Finally" meaning for as long as I've liked David Lynch I should have seen it years ago, and for as long as the DVD from Netflix was gathering dust I should have seen it weeks ago. If I had never heard of the movie, I could've thought that it was a recent work of his. Same characters, same static shots, same non-humorous humor. The ending was perfect. Both it and Carnival were oddly similar in their images and mood (although the Lynch was, obviously, done with greater technical skill).

Jack Nance
posted by sstrader at 4:35 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 3, 2007

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (0/5)

We saw this in the theater and recently re-watched it on TV (noting the painful swear/pussy dubs). I would have maybe given it a 1/5 when I first saw it. Now, with time to reflect and watch it anew, I can say with confidence that it holds no value whatsoever. Even for fanboys of Kevin Smith. It is--unfortunately--painfully valueless. I don't say it often, but please avoid.

posted by sstrader at 10:44 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 19, 2007

Sonata for Viola (3/5)

First of all: Shostakovich is the shit motherfuckers, and I'll stab anyone in the face who doesn't agree.

As for the documentary [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ], it was exemplary at times and yet somewhat too abstract (formalist?!?) for what I wanted. The archival footage was both phenomenal in its clarity and impact (Bernstein's version of the ... 7th ... IIRC) and suspicious in its splicing (a video of a speech had mute talking and canned applause?). I wanted a second, special edition DVD with all of the source material. Alas.

It was more symphonic music than chamber, I prefer his chamber and solo works, and yet it quickly won me over. His story was told with care. There was no plodding on about the Stalin brouhaha and neither too much about his being a tool of the party. But also, the ambiguity we understand--while scholars of both sides argue--was somewhat elided. What's the appropriate way to handle such a subject?

There are clips of him playing piano (I knew about his skill but never really knew. wow.) and hugging Bernstein in the above concert (not what you're thinking, he was married three times). Shots of his grave, hospital room (phone number 140-94-06), at Prokofiev's funeral, signing manuscripts, et al. were phenomenal to see for me. I'm not sure what impact they have on those unfamiliar but again, face stabbing is threatened. Worth the effort for who he is and for the rare footage you might otherwise not get to see. I'm obviously biased, but it might even win you over with his music.

posted by sstrader at 9:35 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 9, 2007

Where was I?

Codermonkey's wedding two Saturdays ago (June 30th). They shuttled off to Gay Paree soon after, then to London, and they're probably back home (although his blog is still curiously quiet).

The fourth was spent at Stacy and Alby's joint where I was slightly more anti-social than usual when I saw that someone had brought a deluxe DVD of The Kids are Alright (purchased soon after). Then drinks on Ecco's back patio w/ Shelby and Kabao and a very slow-to-recover day at work the next day.

Friday was my brother's b-day dinner at Rathbun's Steakhouse. Mixed reviews from friends but we had a great meal (despite the two bottles of port that were accidentally added to the bill). Drinks afterwards at Ecco (see a pattern?) and then I--and I am not fucking you about this--logged in to work to help with a midnight upgrade. In bed by 5.

Saturday afternoon was all piano. I went through Bach's French Suite #4, the Stravinsky I've been working on (the last two pages are the killer), and variation #29 from the Goldberg Variations. 29 has like the most oblique rhythms of all of those. I had avoided it because of that but I'm now completely warmed up to it. Saturday evening was Allison's b-day and drinks afterwards at the Old Towne Bistro and The Catch, OTP.

Sunday was that crazy Russian movie Daywatch at The Plaza on Ponce with Scott and LC. The four of us had watched Nightwatch a year or so ago, so this was the long-delayed part two. Very visually creative. The plot is a mishmash but worth the ride. I recommend hunting it down. Dinner at Manuel's.

posted by sstrader at 1:55 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

June 28, 2007

Ghost in the Shell (4/5)

I have a lot of notes that I don't think I can/want-to structure. Here they are:

  • References the cult sci-fi movie Dark Star where the agent is in a claustrophobic, shotgun control center. This looks exactly IIRC like the control center on the space ship in Dark Star. References Bergman's Persona when the puppet master and the female lead (names?) were on the floor talking near the end. The final scene where TFL wakes up references 2001's bedroom scene in The Infinite and Beyond. I may be stretching a bit on that one.
  • Interesting comment with the human as eternal rookie to the cyborg cop. It keeps the cliched cop movie trope, but re-purposes it in an AI world.
  • Obvious symbolism: birth when TFL was diving (although emotional and effective), the evolutionary tree being shot up (we're on the threshold of a new etc.). Rich overall in its symbolism though. High signal to noise.
  • Voice work was monochromatic, may be translation issues. They, all, talked, like, they, had, commas, in, between, their, thoughts.
  • Directing was in the same class as the best directors in cinema history. Just because it was animated doesn't change that.
  • The freeze frame (only the character's mouth moves) during heavy dialog does not help you focus on the importance of the dialog. In theory it should, but in practice it only illuminates lazy animation.
  • Oh MAN, in many of the city shots without narration or dialog this was so very Tarkovsky. Beautiful stuff.
  • The emphasis on water and glass reflections was subtle symbolism to mind/body/consciousness issues even though it sounds trite in the telling.
  • Much more heart than the cheap wire-fu-retread of The Matrix.
  • Even though it's an animated future, their clothes look too Miami Vice. Sorry, they just do.
  • The layered plot within a genre narrative was much like good film noir: it rises above its basic genre vocabulary. Great noir breaks the bounds of its language while still using its language. That's what GitS did.
  • More symbolism: the puppet master and TFL looking up at the shattered skylight when they were crippled (and child-like?) saw a birth canal in the elongated lozenge of light.
  • I do recommend this to non-anime people (which I am). I saw the second film with Kabao when it came out in the theaters and loved its heady dialog and exhaustive animation. I was just as happy with the origin story.

    posted by sstrader at 8:44 PM in Cinema | tagged ghost in the shell | permalink

June 14, 2007

The Fog of War (4/5)

Watched The Fog of War [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] the other night. It's about one of the highest-ranking officials of the Department of Defense who later became president of the World Bank and who served during one of the worst wars in American history but (wait for it) recognized many of the colossal mistakes that he had made during that war. To be fair, McNamara reveals himself in a much more ambivalent light than to say that he was mea culpa-ing, but a little self-examination goes a long etc. His confessions/remembrances are mixed with pride of accomplishment, grave regret, and pragmatic deflection. This movie is an historical document.

The reviewers' obsession with the camera viewpoint (McNamara looks directly at you) didn't hit me while watching. Perhaps a subtlety of affect that I couldn't discern. The Glass soundtrack was--and this is odd--too distracting as Glass. His music has possibly become iconic and no longer capable of resting in the background even though I thought his piano pieces for The Hours were outstanding and appropriate. The coda of the film was artful and daring and precise in capturing the ambiguities told throughout.

W/r/t Iraq: we are so fucked.

posted by sstrader at 8:46 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 9, 2007

Man Bites Dog

I watched this film yearsandyears ago and was recently reminded of it. The lone comment on IMDB sums it up: I really wonder what happened to those who made this. They should have been stars by now. ... Genius doesn't come along often. Do yourself a favour and watch this. It's an ultraviolent and absurd view of media voyeurism that doesn't fall into the trap of sensationalism (yeah, I know, that's what everyone says). Matt Zoller Seitz's essay from the Criterion release is a good read.

posted by sstrader at 12:16 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 3, 2007


The Lives of Others (5/5) at Landmark on Sat. It takes an easy target--the tragedy of state surveillance in socialist East Germany in 1984--and pulls out a finely structured and poignant drama. The emotional impact lasts until, unbelievably, the very last minute of an unusually paced final act. Really, this film needs to win some sort of award.

After I found out that I was foolish enough to order Arrebato from 5 Minutes to Live even though it was in "Spanish with no English subtitles" and not in "Spanish with English subtitles"--making me question my command of reading English anyway--we watched Figures in a Landscape (3/5). A nicely abstract flick that examines the idea of man as primarily a malignant atagonist to society. Robert Shaw and a young, doughy Malcolm McDowell are Mac and Ansell: fugitives fleeing in the titled landscape from a helicopter of great menace and (eventually) military troops. Their characters are bristly at first and eventually become almost sympathetic. It has the dry, dramatic minimalism of Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 and the existential barrenness of The Naked Prey.

posted by sstrader at 8:52 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 29, 2007

Where was I?

Friday nite at Slice in Glenwood Park with friends. Glenwood Park has a small neighborhood with walkable streets but only just a few restaurants so far (Slice, Vickery's, and Vino Libro). Friday was perfect for some patio food and wine.

Saturday was the Symphony with the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony and the world premiere of Michael Gandolfi's Garden of Cosmic Speculation based on Charles Jencks garden in Scotland. First time I'd heard the Pastoral live, and it was a very lively performance with the separate sections of the orchestra really standing out. The Gandolfi was, in places, phenomenal. He has MP3s of the work at his site, and I can only assume they are from the ASO's performances this past week. Movements I-V were outstanding with a mix of Messiaen, Reich, and a little Persichetti yet still original and at times very rock and roll. Good use of polyrhythms throughout. He lost the crowd with his Baroque pastiche in the sixth movement suite. Although well done, it didn't fit with the rest of the work. The remianing movements got back on track and the final movement, "The Nonsense," provided a spectacular ending. During the intermission, before his work was performed, we actually saw him mingling in the lobby. I had the chance to go say something, but what? After the performance I realized that an invitation to free drinks at The Vortex would have been appropriate. Maybe next time.

Afterwards was a late dinner at Trois. Nice atmosphere and great food. I had: Alaskan Halibut with pea fricassee, tender onions, and tomato confit. Lisa had: Braised Beef Oxtail with roasted scallops, butternut squash, thumbelina carrots, and pecorino. Both were outstanding. Chatted with an older couple having their last meal in Atlanta before their return home to Manhattan.

Sunday was, of course, poolside drinks and chatter up at Liz and Matt's. Many arguments were had; I got scraped in odd places while swimmin' around with the dogs; and I got schooled on various human rights issues by Matt's friend and his friend's g-friend (whose name I forget but who is in school for international studies).

Movies were: The Killing of Satan, which would be a good challenge for Joel and the robots; The Narrow Margin, an outstanding protect-a-mob-informant cop drama from 1952, smarter than most coming out today; the 1933 King Kong, which I can't believe I've never seen; and the first 3rd of Clash by Night with Barbara Stanwyck, Marilyn Monroe, and directed by noneotherthan Fritz Lang.

posted by sstrader at 7:26 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | permalink

May 14, 2007

Where was I?

Saturday nite was 28 Weeks Later (70/82 on Rotten Tomatoes). When it's violent, it's much much much more gorey than the original. The opening chase is perfect and nerve-racking. There are several points where you question the logic (although you're grimacing at the same time). And the daughter in the film is distractingly gorgeous. Not as good as the first movie--simply based on originality--but still good and it had me creeped out for the rest of the evening.

Got caught up on Lost (4 episodes) and Heroes (3 episodes) this weekend. Lost finally got to the we're-actually-dead theme, which was probably the major theory out there. Heroes had their wonderfully tragic future episode, "5 Years Gone," where everyone dies and evil wins, hopefully setting us up with key information to defeat said evil.

Drinks Sunday night celebrating non-mother's day for Lisa.

posted by sstrader at 6:59 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

May 5, 2007

I slipped a mickey in her MacGuffin

Behold! My new 3-volume, 15-disc set of film noir:

I went crazy one night and ordered all three on the cheap from Amazon. Some I've heard of (The Asphalt Jungle) most otherwise (Gun Crazy aka Deadly Is the Female). And the covers are outstanding.

posted by sstrader at 9:27 AM in Cinema | permalink

April 13, 2007

Where was I?

Not blogging, that's where.

The past week has been a knock-down-drag-out with my JSP hosting service. Their reliability has been spotty these past few months, and now they're blaming me for one of their servers going down. I doubt my sites get that many hits. What I've learned: I have a new-found mistrust of the Resin app server, MySQL 4.1 chokes on non-ASCII chars, JProfiler kicks more ass than I thought it kicks. If you're a Java developer, stop being a jackass and get JProfiler. Possibly even a legal copy.

Fun stuff:

Friday was the (crappy) Braves game, prefaced by a couple of bars--including Fune--and ending with a wild ride back to Cabbage Town with the Cabbie Who Knows All Shortcuts and dinner/drinks at Caroll Street Cafe then crashing at Alicia and Dan's. Saturday was Mollie and Hugh's housewarming. Great house! And a nice, small yard. Sunday was Easter with the extended family up in Alpharetta.

Wednesday was Tears of the Black Tiger (3/5). Highly recommended Thai western that's more over-the-top than you can possibly conceive. A few jumbled scenes, but so creative overall that it must be watched.

posted by sstrader at 5:02 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

April 3, 2007

Top 10 films

For no particular reason. I've just been praising several films recently, saying they're in my top ten, yet not fully sure what my top ten actually are. Let's see:

  1. Zerkalo (The Mirror) - The first Tarkovsky I'd ever seen, and so it sticks with me. It has a similar theme of Persona--examination of self--yet with a completely different and more autobiographical approach. Sadly, not available on DVD, and I've no VCR to play my VHS tape.
  2. Persona - Bergman at his experimental best. Its split-in-the-middle structure reminds me of several David Lynch films.
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Sweet without being Hallmark.
  4. Cure - A moody murder mystery that kinda falls apart under its own confusion at the end, but ultimately a unique vision. One of the less kooky expressions of East Asian mysticism.
  5. The Saddest Music in the World - This has the same astonishing dream-logic as Ishiguro's novel The Unconsoled, and yet the story (and the images) make the going less frustrating.
  6. Lost Highway - This choice is a little cliched, but still. The experimentally slow first half (like the famous driving scene in Solaris) is workable only with its cinema-saturated second half.
  7. Solyaris - The other Tarkovsky film. Holds up nicely today even for a 1972 sci-fi flick. The remake wasn't as bad as people's avoidance of it warranted, it just didn't have the thoughtfulness of the first and so got punished for its differences. The images in this Tarkovsky aren't nearly as beautiful as those in The Mirror, but they still have a solid emotional feel.
  8. Irrversible - I really hesitate with this one because it's a film that I cannot recommend, may never watch again, and yet still love it and its message. Similar to Eternal Sunshine, yet very different (if that helps in any way).
  9. bout de souffle (Breathless) and Pierrot le fou - The obligatory cheat. I haven't seen enough Godard, but what I have I loved. In fact, I'm tempted to give up this item in the list to all of French New Wave, but I suspect it's a style that could go bad quickly. Still, the improvisatory livliness is fun.
  10. Criminali della galassia, I (Wild, Wild Planet) - The only camp movie on the list. What can I say? I'm a sucker for its unbridled 1965 wackiness.

I tried to avoid as many "classic" top tens as I could and even excluded some films that I would give a 5/5 to but that weren't as memorable to me. Classic blog stuff! Nice and self-absorbed. Now let's see how long I go without changing my mind...

posted by sstrader at 6:55 PM in Cinema | permalink

April 1, 2007

Where was I?

Last Sunday tried the new sushi restaurant on 7th called Fune. Excellent sushi-on-a-conveyor-belt and good wines. I'm not hip enough, but they'll just have to get used to me.

Friday was The Crazies! on TiVo--I like me some B-movie--and then re-watched Eternal Sunshine. That's definitely in my top 10, and re-watching brought back some swell but forgotten details that I won't spoil here. I had recently passed it around to co-workers, and from our discussions I got the itch to see it again.

Saturday was goofin' off over at Alicia and Dan's after they and the wife and others drank all day watching some sort of sporting event that was happening in Atlanta. We ended the evening with the Borat movie. 3/5 with many laughs. I don't know how he survived some of those skits. Not the least of which the naked wrestling, although I heard that the rodeo was a narrow escape.

Lisa's in Tulsa till Tuesday (hey, it's a Nora Ephron novel!) so I'll be bachelorin' it and will probably be quite stir crazy by then.

posted by sstrader at 6:36 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

March 20, 2007

Art lie, now with more science fiction

Neal Stephenson calls 300--now get this--Classics-based sci-fi and that behind critical complaints lies politics and not aesthetics or history. 300 came out of the Rotten Tomatoes starting gates strong but has since fallen to 60%/51% where its defenders revel in its action-fluff and its detractors see merely fluffy-action. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon sets the tone for most of the complaints:

A recent, characteristically beard-stroking New York Times article pondered the way reporters at an international press junket for the computer-generated extravaganza "300" zealously attempted to read the movie as a metaphor for George W. Bush's war on Iraq. ... The bigger question to ask about "300" is why, for a supposedly rousing tale of heroism, it's so curiously unaffecting.

And I baffle at Stephenson's sucking up to his readership by turning 300 into some sort of a techie history that it is not. I guess he'd consider A Knight's Tale to be included in this new form of sci-fi with its heavy metal soundtrack and Hollywood-based history.

I wonder if the TMNT adaptation will have as many fervent defenders?

posted by sstrader at 12:00 AM in Cinema , Culture & Society | permalink

March 14, 2007

Art lie

I'd previously read about some of the historical indiscretions in 300 the graphic novel and 300 the movie, but this article contains a more complete explanation. The most notable elisions:

  • Sparta, like other Greek states, was a slave state--those few free Spartans lived off of the hard work of the many slaves
  • The elite did not go through the difficult training that the slaves did--greatness did not result from social Darwinism
  • The political leaders where part of a check-and-balance to the kings--they were not decadents leeching from the brave soldiers
  • Spartan men paired with boys--Athens was not unique in this, and in fact Sparta was much more characterized by it
  • Many other Greeks fought at Thermopylae--unlike in the movie, they were equal to the Spartans

Most of this you remember from history class, but the article points out the philosophical deceit in the changes made in 300.

No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300's vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.

This movie, like Apocalypto or Passion of the Christ, seems in a special vein of rewriting of history that is not new. An artistic interpretation is a delicate balance between volumes of historical research and an iconic shorthand needed to summarize it. At what point can we criticize that shorthand for its representation of history? Do artists get a free pass to be praised for selective accuracies in their research and praised for expressive interpretation in their art, even when their interpretation defies fact?

posted by sstrader at 11:55 AM in Cinema | permalink

March 9, 2007

Recent movies

Borrowed The Departed from a co-worker. Very strong but definitely not the monument that some critics are making it out to be. Great dialog and very Donnie Brasco. The ending was kindof a mess but well-paced.

Finally watched South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. Oddly, it was on TV and--if Comedy Central is to be believed--completely unedited. I'm not sure how they'd say uncle fucker that many times if it were edited. Very funny with only maybe 20% dragging (The Mole's scenes were bla). The ending with Kenny was sweet even with the topless 36D angels. Trey Parker did some good work with the music, especially the chorus/medley near the climax and Satan's song "Up There."


Saw a "sneak preview" of the Korean monster flick The Host. Outstanding. The comedy overlaps with tragedy and at times you don't know how to respond. The CGI monster looked plenty scarey and had an uncomfortably vagina dentata oris. Quick reference to Gojira at the end (how could they not?) and a beautiful/moody final scene. The characters were wonderful with a greater depth than you'd expect with the amount of slapstick in the movie. I wish it would get wide release to ward off the threat of Hollywoodremakititis.

Purchased The Animation Show (Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt's collection from their animation festivals of 2005 and 2006) from Amazon. We went to see the ones in 2005 and we just missed the 2007 one the beginning of last month IIRC. Many good moments and high quality packaging. Hertzfeldt's "The Meaning of Life" is almost transcendent.

mol crowd mol space
posted by sstrader at 4:21 PM in Cinema | permalink

February 23, 2007

New David Lynch tonight

Inland Empire at Lefont tonight at 6. The original Mothra tomorrow nite at 10.

posted by sstrader at 9:40 AM in Cinema | permalink

September 2, 2006

Idiocracy (3/5)

[ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ]

Equal to Office Space and equally uneven. Lisa and I walked out of this movie helplessly mocking others' and our own gaffes and idiocy. Suddenly the world looked--too much--like the hilariously stupid world of 2505 thought up by Mike Judge.

There were only around 20 people in the theater which is I guess understandable from the absolute absence of marketing and even some ridiculous title change. As the reviewer from AICN said of the studio's handling: now that I've seen it, I know for a fact that FOX is fucking retarded. Many of the events in the film feel not so much 500 years away but more like they're only a few years off, so the marketing snub is simply Fox devouring its children. Several of the uneven moments felt oddly like we were watching the TV edit. I'm not sure whether to fault Judge or Fox, but considering how Fox has mishandled every aspect of the film they're the likely candidate.

Overall it was light-weight, but there were many good laughs.

posted by sstrader at 9:29 AM in Cinema | permalink

September 1, 2006


AKA Untitled Mike Judge Comedy, opens at Atlantic Station, Regal, and Phipps tonight. Read The Esquire article on how Fox studios f'ed him over on this one.

posted by sstrader at 1:10 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 31, 2006

The Descent (4/5)

After our failed plans to see The Descent (recommended by noneotherthan Bobafred and Mingaling) last Friday, we decided to go last night. It was a predictable setup but with enough variation to become one of the better genre flicks. A group of friends go off into the wilderness, one has had a traumatic experience and so is the unreliable observer, non-supernatural problems occur, weird freak-out shit begins, friends die one-by-one. The odd variations really really made this movie though. The first notable twist was that all of the friends are female. This choice allowed the movie to completely abandon the sexual dynamics you usually get, and the writer mostly avoided overly cliched female group roles. Mostly. I also liked the amount of time spent in the caves anticipating the trouble. I've never gone spelunking, but I'm pretty sure now--weird monsters or no--that I don't want to.

I loved what I think were two movie references within the movie. First was the lead's Martin Sheen Apocalypse Now impersonation as she guardedly emerged from a pool of blood. Then, was her blood-drenched Carrie pose and another Carrie moment later when she thrusted her hands out of the ground. Overall, her transformation in the film--and everything that's suggested in the final scene--was the most satisfying. I think my only complaint is that some of the fight scenes were (just a little) too choppy.

posted by sstrader at 8:43 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 25, 2006

Where was I?

Last week:

Friday at Dan and Alicia's for grilled pizza. Completely exhausted from the previous evening's b-day get-together for Cathy, but I made it to an acceptable hour.

Saturday an early dinner at The Best Restaurant in Atlanta, according to Atlanta magazine, The Globe, where the chef created what I can only assume was a culinary joke: seedless watermelon salad with feta and pumpkins seeds. Not a hilarious joke, but I still think he was up to something.

Sunday morning we finally made it to the aquarium. Favorite fish: the fish that looked like leafy plants and the colorful worms who swayed like fingers sticking out of the sand in one of the smaller tanks. They would peck at the random fluff that would float by and then disappear into their holes when their larger tank-mates would swim by. In the evening we went to Little Miss Sunshine at Atlantic Station. Great film and a solid cast. The young girl lacked all of those affectations that make you hate seeing children in movies.

Tonight is The Descent (83% on Rotten Tomatoes) and then dinner at Kyma with our $20 coupon. That's one free glass of wine!

posted by sstrader at 6:31 PM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

June 6, 2006

Movie weekend

Going to Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 at Landmark this Friday (should be similar to Irritant #4 and Here Child, Finish Your Nothing). I caught his complete Cremaster series several years ago there and a year prior saw the Cremaster installations at the Guggenheim. Both were very gooey.

Sunday is The Other Side via The Atlanta Film Festival. A gripping tale of a man who returns from hell to solve his own murder and redeem himself as Terminator-like bounty hunters chase him down. Filmed in Atlanta! (Not the hell part, the returned-from part.)

And this is sortof tempting: An Inconveniant Truth is at Tara this weekend--as anyone who's on the MoveOn mailing list knows. That may be a Saturday matinee thing if we're not movied out. It's going to be too science-lite for my tastes, but it's for a good cause. And that liberal media we all know and love has dubbed it 89% worth seeing.

posted by sstrader at 5:38 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 13, 2006

Where was I?

Last Friday: neighborhood Cinco de Mayo party OTP at Tedra and Bill's with some other ITP friends. Lisa came in second in the limbo contest (on Cinco de Mayo?!?) to the less top-heavy Shelby. I should have escaped with a giant, eight-foot-tall inflatable cactus sticking out my sun roof but can see now that it might have brought undo attention on the drive home from unwanted persons.

Saturday was the Kentucky Derby party at Mary and Andrew's. Last year, Scott took home the purse; this year, LC and I raked it in. I can't speak for her, but I spent my winnings on My Pretty Pony collectibles.

Tuesday, we went to see Sophie Scholl at Landmark. Simple and moving. I compare it in emotional impact to The Constant Gardener but less artfully filmed. Her arrest occurs relatively quickly, after a few scenes familiarizing us with the main characters and the society they live in, and is followed by a series of interrogations that make up the bulk of the film. The interrogations become a battle of philosophies between her and an investigator who is impassioned yet ultimately reluctant to sentence an intelligent and sincere young lady. Nazis are an easy target, but this film is more about an inspiring act of bravery. You'll be in tears for the last 30 minutes.

Thursday we had a new HVAC unit installed in our condo. Our old one, though only 9 years old, was installed poorly and died an untimely death. After an estimate of $4100 from CoolRay we got a second estimate of $6500, and the choice was simple. The installation took all day, but I got to go up on the roof for the first time. What a view! Although we pay approximately $1,000,000-a-month in association dues, they say it's too expensive to build a deck up there. Jackasses. Anyway, we now have a fancy new digital thermostat that keeps us below the 80-85 we've become accustomed to.

That night was The Fantasticks at Shakespeare Tavern for Alicia's b-day. I knew very little about the show except that the sheet music was ever present in the music room in high school. Because of that, I expected a silly little musical but was very very pleasantly corrected. The play is smart and the theater's directing keeps your attention. The female lead knocks everyone else off stage with her resonant coloratura flourishes--with such skill in a relatively small theater, one viewing will make you realize what jackasses those American Idol contestants are. Social criticism aside, this was such an enjoyable show I've been recommending it to anyone. It's playing through June 25th.

We got home that night--after seeing Alicia's playful new dog Jesco and having a few drinks at Milltown Arms--and drunkenly watched the season finale to The Office. We usually don't delete drunk viewings of shows, just-in-case, but that rule was forgotten and now we're downloading it for $1.99 from iTunes. Anyone know how to de-encrypt iTunes videos?

symphony may 2006

foxen cabernet franc

Friday was the ASO and a wonderful and varied program of Borodin (Overture to Prince Igor, clip), Berg (Violin Concerto, with Cecylia Arzewski, clip), Schubert (Symphony #8), and Liszt (Les Preludes, clip). We hadn't been in quite a while and this was a perfect evening to return. After that, we had a drink that the hip-yet-accessible Table 1280 right next door. Dinner reservations were at 11 at South City Kitchen down the street on Crescent. Too. Much. Food. So. Good.

Continue reading "Where was I?"
posted by sstrader at 12:53 PM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | permalink

May 9, 2006

Sophie Scholl and The Hours

Going to Sophie Scholl [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ] tonight at Landmark. It's getting very good reviews. (see my first post back in June 2004 about the White Rose student resistance in Nazi Germany).

sophie scholl

Last night was The Hours (3/5) [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ]. The melodrama was cranked up a little high--I'm not sure how many depressed people you can fit into one movie, but this has gotta be a record of some sort. Although it had (1) an unsatisfied 50s housewife, (2) an unsatisfied modern-day working woman, and (3) two tortured poets, the telling of the story and the characters involved were engaging enough to bypass the bathetic. The theme of the stories throughout asked the dual questions: how much suffering would you endure to make others happy, and how much suffering would you make others endure to allow yourself to remain happy? Ultimately, we can never know the depth of suffering that another person feels, so the decision must always be based on asymmetric knowledge. I suppose that a high number of depressed characters is required to convey such a message.

Continue reading "Sophie Scholl and The Hours"
posted by sstrader at 1:34 PM in Cinema | permalink

April 25, 2006


Friday I was itchin' to get out, so Lisa & I went to Pura Vida (always great) then The Star Bar (we didn't really fit in) then The Yacht Club (ah, home). Heading home, we had our first Near Death Experience of the year: an SUV barrelling towards us and a couple of other hapless innocents as it insisted on not only getting ~2 miles-to-the-gallon but also going the wrong way on a one way street. They did quick work of the ozone layer, but we were a little harder to kill and live today to tell about it. Beware Piedmont Ave. on a Friday night.

Saturday was an annual crawfish boil at one of Lisa's previous boss's house. Great time cut short by prior commitments. She fulfilled those commitments while I took advantage of some quiet time to practice piano. Then some programming. Then watched two of the Nacho Cerda shorts. The one praised by Ultra Violent Magazine was very praise-worthy but not really that shocking. Except for a couple of acts of depravity, it was more stylish than sinewy. Finished up with Koyaanisqatsi at around 2.

During my Sunday jog I decided to double my standard route, turning it into a ~10k. My feet were cramping for about an hour afterwards, but it felt good. Evening was Thank You For Smoking [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ] at Landmark. Very sharp.

posted by sstrader at 12:34 AM in Cinema , Personal | permalink

April 15, 2006

Nacho Cerda

Just impluse-bought a three-movie set by director Nacho Cerda from Poker Industries: Aftermath, Genesis, and The Awakening (somewhat explicit image). Aftermath sounds like an extreme gore-fest. The other two promise to be more imaginative films. Genesis is about a man whose sculpture of his dead wife begins transforming into flesh as he changes into clay. The Awakening presents the story of a student who falls asleep in class and wakes up with everyone and everything around him frozen in time. Should be weird. And with a 15% off coupon!

I've ordered from Poker Industries before, but can't really recommend them: their check-out is un-encrypted! Can you believe that shit? I took the chance this time, but they really need to clean up their act.

posted by sstrader at 5:52 PM in Cinema | permalink

March 28, 2006

Seven Sherlock Holmes movies

After getting pointed to a Sherlock Holmes blog by the singularly perceptive A. C. Douglas, I dug through and found a reference to public domain torrents where you can download eight Holmes movies. Not being the most keen-eyed fan, I found seven grouped together and ordered them before noticing the eighth. Free to torrent, if you have the time, but almost as free to purchase on DVD: $1 each with a minimum of five movies. They come in AVI format and the quality is not great, but they appear watchable.

How do these fit in the canon? Well, they're set in the 1930s/1940s, so they present sort of an alternate-reality canon. Below are the movies in film order, with the story name (taken from the chronological table in the back of Volume I of Klinger's edition) and dates of their occurrence (in Holmes' life) in brackets. Four are from Conan Doyle's material, three are original screenplays also available on the cheap at Amazon.

Continue reading "Seven Sherlock Holmes movies"
posted by sstrader at 11:17 PM in Cinema | permalink

March 17, 2006

CSA (3/5), Tristram Shandy (4/5)

Saw these as a double-feature on Sunday. They have similar non-narrative conceits but each has a unique and uniquely creative approach. CSA is a fake documentary about the United States, and the world, as it would be if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Tristram is a blend of a making-of movie and of the movie itself, which is based on a book that I am told is just as confusing and complex. At ~90 minutes each, they made for an ideal pairing.

CSA is seldom overly-serious and has many inappropriately hilarious segments. By then end, you're shocked at just how closely those inappropriate segments are to a reality that is only a few decades past. Although it's hard to seriously consider that slavery could still exist in the 21st century no matter the path of history, with lynchings occuring up to the mid 19th century in an America where slavery was ended, CSA seems not so off-kilter. After the movie, I felt that the joke just didn't hold up, even for only 90 minutes, but I've keep thinking about it and enjoying it more. There was much to appreciate and some really very funny comments. Most unprintable here. The several footnotes at the end were invaluable.

Tristram had many subtle comedic turns and yet surprisingly displayed a very honest and human portrait of the main character, played deftly by Steve Coogan. It switches between being a movie adaptation of the book and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie. Coogan, with equal flair from his co-star Rob Brydon, comes across as both neurotically self-absorbed and sardonically self-confident. The frustrating stagnation of any progress in either the movie being made or the story being told is some sort of Sartean hell they're all in, yet one that is not so bleak and contains more slapstick than anguish. Very sweet and with many worthwhile moments.

Both movies should be re-watched.

posted by sstrader at 5:59 PM in Cinema | permalink

March 16, 2006

V for Vendetta (4/5)

Got some tickets to a preview at Landmark from a busy LC. Thanks!

This held together better than the original graphic novel. All of the coincidences and seeming coincidences were there, along with some of the strongest writing--marked with V's theatrical speech--and most striking images--V's silhouette against the prison in flames, or Evey's rebirth in the rooftop rain. Even with the changes and rearranged scenes, Alan Moore's key narrative ideas were all there and even improved upon with some well-placed humor that added to the entertainment without interrupting the drama. The Wachowski brothers have redeemed themselves, albeit with another's writing. Good enough, and very entertaining.

Is it a comment on America? It's clearly Moore's own story, unmolested by overt commentary, which tells of a fascist state in England but that could exist anywhere. In it, the government invades citizens' privacy under the guise of protection from enemies, tortures those it feels are a threat, forgives its moral sidesteps by wearing a mantle of religious righteousness, and fabricates imaginary threats in order to keep its citizens afraid and complicit in their abuse. It also has a populace whose majority believes they are being lied to [no link available]. It's not hard to see how some would want to cry foul.

Continue reading "V for Vendetta (4/5)"
posted by sstrader at 8:20 AM in Cinema | permalink

March 5, 2006


Another observation from La Dolce Vita: paparazzi are everywhere and are almost unchanged from how we see them today. Flocking and unscrupulous, yet a necessary evil to fill US and People with those glossy images. Cinema is a great source, even in its fiction, of cultural knowledge. Fellini used the paparazzi as a metaphor for a detached life--living through observation--but their existence is not likely to be wholly made-up. It reminds me of the lowbrow newsmen in His Girl Friday. As we despair in what was presumably lost from the All the President's Men reporters of the 70s (though not of Anchorman) to our current wanks, we forget about the yellow journalists of Citizen Kane.

Continue reading "Paparazzi"
posted by sstrader at 10:15 AM in Cinema | permalink

March 4, 2006

La Dolce Vita (5/5)

Not much to say that hasn't already been said. This was a gorgeous and gorgeously pessimistic film that fit nicely into its almost three hour running time. It shows the downfall of a journalist who mixes with the wealthy and shares in their decadence and directionlessness. The very final shot provides a nice and hopeful balance to the immediately preceeding scene of the lead hitting rock bottom. Very beautiful throughout. Mastroianni is stunning as the lead.

Almost as much has been said about the actress Anita Ekberg, playing an American movie star, as about La Dolce Vita. A wealth of images are available (some in the buff or in the almost buff) to illustrate what a force of nature she was, however, the most striking image remains from the scene of her and Mastroianni in the Trevi Fountain.

mastroianni and ekberg


There are many groovy 50s tunes to enjoy, heavy on organ and bass. The most striking music was from Nino Rota's score: a short chorale-type piece that first appears when Marcello and Maddalena are parked in her car and meet the prostitutes.

Continue reading "La Dolce Vita (5/5)"
posted by sstrader at 3:52 PM in Cinema | permalink

February 18, 2006

The Edukators (3/5)

Good. A little long but with some satisfying moments and an approapriately un-preachy ending. Aaaaand, the main protagonist (1) carried a messenger bag, (2) drove a VW, and (3) used the All-powerful Newton! Someone to be respected. The three main characters "terrorize" the wealthy by breaking in and impishly re-arranging their furniture in unlikely stacks, leaving only the message "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei" (your days of plenty are numbered). Something goes wrong (of course) but not terribly wrong. The story is generally well-paced, but maybe 20 minutes could have been cut from the 2:07 running time.

Continue reading "The Edukators (3/5)"
posted by sstrader at 1:42 PM in Cinema | permalink

January 29, 2006

Two movies, two dinners

Watched The 40 Year Old Virgin [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ] a couple of nights ago (4/5). A few flat moments but otherwise very funny, and it was the first DVD with outtakes that were worth watching. The four leads worked well together. Then, Friday, we watched the really stunning Lord of War [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ] with Nicolas Cage (4/5). A dark, satirical view of the corruptions of super-powers, similar to The Constant Gardener or (as I can only assume) Syriana but with an absurdist distancing instead of the others' gritty, expose style.

Friday night was dinner at home with possibly the most perfect filet mignon that we've ever cooked. The secret (via recommendations from my bro') is to grill them first and then finish cooking them in the oven. Paired with a Spanish rioja. Su-poib! Then on Saturday, we went to Rathbun's for our seventh anniversary dinner. Our first experience there. Stand out dishes were their Lamb Scaloppine appetizer (wow) and Lisa had a taco stuffed with lobster. Nice. Then, a very short couple of drinks at the new bar The Spotted Dog just down the street from us on North in the old fire station. It was packed and will probably stay that way.

posted by sstrader at 10:36 AM in Cinema | permalink

December 18, 2005

Aeon Flux (2/5)

aeon flux

Held with considerable distain by most critics (making Rotten Tomatoes Worst Flix of 2005), this movie really isn't that bad but it's got some problems and could have easily been much better.

Continue reading "Aeon Flux (2/5)"
posted by sstrader at 1:34 PM in Cinema | permalink

December 9, 2005


I was describing (trying-to-describe) extreme cinema to a coworker the other day, and he commented something about there being a diminishing return with such envelope-pushing styles. We were on another subject entirely so I didn't pursue what he meant, but it reminded me of the scene that Peter Jackson recreated from the original King Kong. The scene had been cut from the 1933 version because it would be too frightening to the audience. Giant stop motion spiders were too frightening. Do we really consider that the ideal level of shocking imagery--not too prurient and not too gory--or does that even go too far? We could revert further back to the Gothic novels of the 1700s and 1800s or further to the grim Byzantine crucifixions. As stark and emotionally skillful as Irreversible and Requiem for a Dream are, can their presence be considered a value judgement against graphic expression?

posted by sstrader at 11:42 PM in Cinema | permalink

November 26, 2005

Movie roundup

Movies from the last couple of weeks:

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - Clever, quick black comedy about a petty thief (Robert Downey Jr.) who gets mistaken as an indie actor and pairs up with a Hollywood private eye (Val Kilmer) to sleuth several murders. Downey veers sloppilly from wit to idiot, both equally entertaining, while Kilmer is the well-dressed Felix Unger who can barely tolerate his accidental partner. (4/5)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - Many good moments and not too long. Dark and violent and definitely PG-13 with much of the darkness psychological. Lisa felt, and I agree, that the ending just sort of dropped off with no well-expressed denoument; the characters simply stated their minds and the credits rolled. Unsatisfying after the previous 2-1/2 hours of conflict. (3/5)
  • Fever Pitch (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - Well-cast and well-written romantic comedy. Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon are sweet and real and avoid most of the romantic comedy cliches here. Good writing from the Farrelly brothers who can often inject pathos in unlikely situations. (3/5)
  • Layer Cake (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes) - A Guy Ritchie-styled film (no, not Castaway...) with classy drug dealer Daniel Craig always one step behind the Big Bosses but still out-smarting them, if only barely. Nice twists and nice characters but another unfortunately flawed ending. Overall edgy and entertaining. (4/5)
posted by sstrader at 12:23 PM in Cinema | tagged harry potter | permalink

November 4, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck. (5/5)

good night

Nuanced and well-constructed. The story centers around the point in time when Edward R. Murrow and his team guardedly began reporting on the hypocricy of McCarthy's investigations. I was ready for a simple story (McCarthy = Evil) but was delighted to see how, in a way, director George Clooney made the 50s the main character. There's much to appreciate here.

Years ago, a co-worker tried with bluster to convince me that McCarthy was a true patriot who performed a noble service to this country. I appreciate a good Devil's Advocate, but this was ridiculous and scarey because he was serious. This was several years before 9/11, so I thought the guy was just presenting a fringe, kook-pot position that could never surface again in the mainstream. Oh well. One important point that should be considered: in the 50s it was the politicians that were in control of the fear-mongering and persecution. Today, to a large extent, it's the fringe media and their terrifyingly numerous following. Where McCarthy once declared anyone who contradicted the president as anti-American, today it's personalities like Ann Coulter who do the same.

The movie is not as extremely political as my comments here. However, I'm the target audience of such a subject, so the distasteful parallels resonate. Don't let that keep you away from a truly skillful piece of cinema and more proof (along with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) of Clooney's surprising artistry.

Continue reading "Good Night, and Good Luck. (5/5)"
posted by sstrader at 6:58 PM in Cinema | permalink

October 30, 2005


Through a series of recovery-induced cogitations on TV shows, I remembered a series of a few years back called FreakyLinks (The Blair Witch Project was on today, as was a movie called They. I think the creators of BWP were involved in FL, and one of the actors in They was the main character in FL. Kinda freaky, huh?). FreakyLinks had the feel of the original The Night Stalker that early X-Files had, but without the unfortunate over-seriousness. I miss FreakyLinks, but it appears that it'll never be on DVD. TV.com has descriptions of all 13 episodes.

In my Googling for FL, I found a site called FreakyLinks which contains various forms of weirdness (hosted in WS, which I learned a while back is Western Samoa). Containing an image of a lime green skull with a swastika on its forehead, it declares itself as your portal to disturbing sites on the net. They have a considerable amount of questionable content, but I went right for their Video Mayhem section. Ooooh. I'm drooling for some of these bad, bad movies (unfortunately only on tape). Lots of extreme violence, gore, hardcore sex, and general bad taste to a degree that believe me you cannot imagine. Highly recommended even if you only go there to read the movie descriptions. It reminds me of a similar site I found when I was on sabbatical called 5 Minutes to Live. They have DVDs.

posted by sstrader at 11:48 PM in Cinema | permalink

October 20, 2005

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (5/5)


Wonderful. This movie had me in tears laughing during the madcap ending, and I'm still smiling about many of the scenes today, however I don't want to spoil anything by describing any of the bad puns (with Gromit rolling his eyes throughout) and sight gags. Classic Nick Park. In the theater (Phipps) with Lisa and I were one person a few rows up and a parent + children a few rows back--all of us snickering. Even the security guard who snuck in at the end was cracking up. There were enough details to warrent a second viewing (just looking at the IMDB information brough up gags that I missed).

Just really, really, very fun and sweet.

Continue reading "Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (5/5)"
posted by sstrader at 11:51 AM in Cinema | permalink

October 1, 2005

Review: Ascenseur pour l'chafaud (4/5)

This film could've had a much longer release that one week. The plot, varied characters, and camera work are enjoyable and fresh even 50 years later.

Continue reading "Review: Ascenseur pour l'chafaud (4/5)"
posted by sstrader at 12:44 PM in Cinema | permalink

September 18, 2005

Two OK creepy movies

First was a few days back on TiVo. I had gotten hooked on part of Below a couple of weeks ago but didn't have time to finish it, so I had TiVo get a repeat broadcast. Co-written by Darren Aronofsky, who directed Pi and Requiem for a Dream, Below is about an American submarine in World War II whose crew picks up a handful of survivors of a downed British ship. Both the crew and the survivors seem to be hiding something as they suffer ill-fated and supernatural accidents throughout the film. It has more mood than scares, but the mood was engaging with the surviving characters struggling to understand what's happening to them. Two effective scenes. First, when one of the crew presents a very plausible theory that they're all already dead and the noises outside the submarine are divers attempting to retrieve their bodies. Second, when one member glances at a mirror and his reflected image is almost imperceptibly delayed in its response.

I'm not sure though that submarines were ever that large inside. Sure, everyone has to duck through doorways and such, but there seemed to be an abundance of rooms and levels.

Second films was John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness last night (keeping me up until 3). I only caught the last half, but it completely hooked me. A giant container of evil!! is found in a church and physics students and a priest attempt to discover its origins and contents. Moments of science v. religion matched with creepy possession. Some good Carpenter gross-out scenes, and very nice dream transmissions from the future (I know, cool!), but I'm not sure that it delivers as much as it could have. Lost opportunities include gangs of possessed people gathered outside the church that could have been more menacing, and the hacky use of the person wandering into a darkened room.

"Wow" trivia for the movie: the transmissions from the future are sampled on DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... album:

This is not a dream, not a dream
We are using your brain's electrical system as a receiver
We are unable to transmit through your conscious neural interference
You are receiving this broadcast as a dream
We are transmitting from the year 1-9-...

Almost the only source I could find was here.

Continue reading "Two OK creepy movies"
posted by sstrader at 12:57 PM in Cinema | permalink

September 9, 2005


Elevator to the Gallows starting September 23rd for a week run at Landmark. Coolcoolcool. The Miles Davis soundtrack is moody and rambling: too sparse on its own yet a perfect fit for new wave noir.

posted by sstrader at 3:32 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 16, 2005

Hey, lover...

Get out of the house, you shut-in!

OK, so Lisa and I went to the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema (with Lady Crumpet, Scott, and Brian) to see Man with the Screaming Brain introduced by the man with the screaming brain, Bruce Campbell.

Continue reading "Hey, lover..."
posted by sstrader at 2:15 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 23, 2005

Where was I?

Finished up the DoD certification yesterday at 1:20 (woo-hoo!) and worked until 4:00 with cleanup and documentation. Contract ends on Wed. I was completely burned out from the previous few weeks/weekends of long hours so got home and crashed--which then had me awake reading for several hours in the middle of the night.

Watched In Good Company [IMDB] last night. It had some very nice surprises and avoided most of the cheap, sit-com irony. Its satire of the Business World was more nuanced than most, yet it still went a little too far with the Evil Corporate Merger and the Evil Backstabbing Corporate Climber. The relationships of the main characters--Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlet Johannsen--were perfect.


posted by sstrader at 11:58 AM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

June 27, 2005

Where was I?

Hit my 40 hours early on Friday and struggled through traffic to get home. Jogged and then sweated my way up MARTA (it takes me, I swear, hours to cool down after a jog, especially when it's in the 90s) to meet everyone at Copeland's before going to see Land of the Dead at Buckhead Backlot. It was a fun, stupid movie in an appropriate venue: people were noisy and having a good time.

land of the dead

We continued the evening at The Bucket Shop for (more) drinks and (more) greasy food. Latelate night.

Hijinks on Saturday with more jogging and some piano time. Out for dinner at Wahoo in Decatur. Average food, nice atmosphere. We had a very nice chenin blanc though--can't remember the winery. Finished up at Thinking Man's Tavern just down the street (which we were originally introduced to by the Kirkwood Duo). Another late night.

Recovery Sunday consisted of cleaning: bathroom, floors, laundry, desk. Also celebrated our sixth year of not watching the gay pride parade that runs right outside our front door. Judging from the two hours of cheering and honking, I don't think that we were missed.

Busy week up ahead as a laundry list of new features has appeared that need to be coded and tested in the 11th hour. Naturally. End of the first week of my new messenger bag and I'm the Hero of the Playground! To top it off, my new laptop fits in it perfectly.

Continue reading "Where was I?"
posted by sstrader at 1:11 AM in Cinema , Where was I? | permalink

May 18, 2005


Anthony Lane bitching about Yoda's technique of wisdom-through-fractured-grammar:

Break me a fucking give.
Continue reading "OSV"
posted by sstrader at 1:42 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 8, 2005

Historical art

Recently, I've been struggling over the question of historical accuracy in Kingdom of Heaven [IMDB] with regard to aesthetic license. From what I've been reading, Ridley Scott has elided many religious issues from the movie in order to emphasize political and social themes. A historian, specializing in the fourth crusade, defended this shift in focus on NPR by pointing out that art throughout history has always transformed historical events to fit the taste of the day. That seems like a good point, but are artists always allowed the play the entertainment card when their accuracy is criticized?

There have been several recent films based on historical events: Alexander [IMDB], Pearl Harbor [IMDB], Troy [IMDB], etc., and many more before those, each with varying levels of fidelity to the source.

In a recent article from the Skeptical Inquirer, Massimo Polidoro (whose writing I had previously read concerning The Priory of Scion) highlights some of his investigations into the Kennedy assassination. He points out some of the flaws in Oliver Stone's movie JFK, flaws that were compelling to the author before his research but that now seem contrived. To write his book, Polidoro did not take advantage of any information that was unavailable to Stone, he merely examined the existing information more critically.

You can't really blame Oliver Stone for making mistakes: he put his theories out there to be either accepted or disproved. Fair enough. This is similar-but-different to the artistic license taken in other historical dramas. At what point is the art abusing its subject? Is it ever? Pearl Harbor was a movie with issues similar to Kingdom of Heaven (and another movie I haven't seen). It apparently ignored it's main subject to focus on secondary stories. Again, artistic license, but aren't critics justified in their complaints? Isn't there an amount of attention deficit going on with the director to make a movie about the crusades that ignores religion? And what would be more relevant to the interests of our current society than a historical examination of the relationship between Christians and Muslims?

I don't know, maybe I should just blame those damn liberals in Hollywood.

Continue reading "Historical art"
posted by sstrader at 4:02 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 4, 2005

April 23, 2005

Review: Rebirth of a Nation


I felt like I was at the East Side Lounge: listening to DJ music and watching art film collage. Even though "stylish" is not a just criticism of art, I'm struggling to find intent or meaning in DJ Spooky's [Wikipedia] Rebirth of a Nation beyond its style. And with a format as strenuous to the viewer as it was, there should be more of an intellectual or emotional payoff.

Continue reading "Review: Rebirth of a Nation"
posted by sstrader at 6:15 PM in Cinema | permalink

April 21, 2005

DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation

We're thinking about going to Woodruff Arts Center to see DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation on Friday. I read about it in Film Comment last September and am surprised to see it here. What a cosmopolitan city we live in!

Continue reading "DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation"
posted by sstrader at 1:27 PM in Cinema | permalink

April 17, 2005

April 3, 2005

Review: BASEketball (0/5)

TiVoed a bunch of movies recently. This was a groaning waste of time, but I dutifully sat through the whole thing. The story is: professional sports has degrated into such a commodified mess so these average Joes create a new, unsullied sport that becomes an instant hit. Tedius scenes of their team winning, then losing, then winning ... oh, whatever, I have no idea what the drama's supposed to be. The comic scenes were alternately boring and gross. Usually boring. And Trey Parker and Matt Stone had little comic range. Please avoid.

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posted by sstrader at 1:57 PM in Cinema | permalink

April 1, 2005

Review: Wet Hot American Summer (2/5)

This was an incredibly uneven comedy with some hilarious scenes, but it completely falls apart at the end. And in some places in the middle. And the beginning. But for a weekend afternoon flick, you could do worse. The skits that don't degrade into bad SNL territory (if one could find good SNL territory) have a surprising mania about them.

The gag is that this is a teen summer camp movie making fun of teen summer camp movies. In one scene, a counselor gives a rousing speech to the plucky softball team suggesting that they suffer through their inabilities throughout the game and come up with a rule-breaking, wacky play in the last few seconds. After one of the kids suggests that the plan sounds a little hackneyed, everyone agrees and they decide to forfeit the game. End scene. This approach works with great effect at times and goes horribly stupid at others. Spoofing an already lighthearted genre leave little room for error.

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posted by sstrader at 11:39 AM in Cinema | permalink

March 31, 2005

Review: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (3/5)

I looked at my watch a little as the movie worked through. the. glacial. pacing., it had problems with inelegant dialog at times, and there were a some noir cliches that could have been cleaned up. But with all of these flaws I still enjoyed I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. We watched this over the weekend, and I've kept thinking about it the few days since then.

This film has become increasingly compelling to me as I realize how much misdirected action there was and how much was left unresolved. Characters lashed out at the nearest object, causing others to suffer through no fault of their own. As with much modern noir, this film is nihilistic, but it's got its own style and pacing of nihilism. Not for everyone but just satisfying enough if you're in the mood.

Continue reading "Review: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (3/5)"
posted by sstrader at 7:41 PM in Cinema | permalink

Review: The Animation Show 2005 (4/5)

The Animation Show 2005 is a collection of 12 short, animated features. This is the second collection presented by Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt. Although the range of styles represented in these would be enough to make this a notable film, the quality and originality in some of the pieces were captivating. It had only a few weak moments. The Web site has details on each. My favorites, alphabetically:

  • The Meaning of Life - The final work and a perfect ending. Very funny stick-people with unexpected experimentation and range at the end. Almost like 2001 [IMDB] in its breadth.
  • The Man With No Shadow - Stunning colors and painted technique. Probably worth several viewings to fully understand the fable.
  • Pan With Us - Drawings photographed in different, live scenes give the impression of animation (a la a flip-book) co-existing in the real world. Difficult to describe, but not nearly as difficult as it must have been to create.
  • Ward 13 - Lo-fi claymation of an accident victim who wakes up in an evil hospital. Slapstic monsters and chase scenes ensue. An equal achievement to the Wallace and Grommet toy train chase in The Wrong Trousers [IMDB].
  • When the Day Breaks - Anthropomorphic animals as city-dwellers in moody charcoal and pastel animation. Very thoughtful.

I can't say enough about the depth of a few of these pieces. Read the details for each on the Web site to get a sense of the technical achievements. Go see it to experience the results.

Continue reading "Review: The Animation Show 2005 (4/5)"
posted by sstrader at 12:40 PM in Cinema | permalink

February 26, 2005

Media thesaurus

Long, long ago I discovered musicplasma and since have been using it to find bands-who-are-like-other-bands. Recently, they morphed into liveplasma and have integrated movies, actors, and directors in their engine. I haven't researched it, but I suspect that they leverage existing databases (IMDB, Amazon) and build their graphs from that data.

Continue reading "Media thesaurus"
posted by sstrader at 3:12 PM in Cinema | permalink

Weird cinema

Oh why, oh why am I unemployed and poor? Now I can't buy up dozens of these amazing and horrible movies from 5minutestolive.com. Browsing through the stacks, I cannot believe that some of these films exist and can be purchased!

The Homegrown section has such classics as J.C. (a Jesus/biker movie ... billed as the Jesus/biker movie), The Rats are Coming - The Werewolves are Here (that about says it all), and Young Playthings (a bizarro Swedish porn film). Or, checkout the International section for the many Turkish scene-by-scene ripoffs of Hollywood films (Star Wars, Exorcist, etc.). Along with, ofcourse, Gimme Gimme Octopus.

I swear I'm going to buy up all of these films and open a theater some day.

posted by sstrader at 7:13 AM in Cinema | permalink

February 25, 2005

Shakespeare in Love

This movie, and Stoppard's other Shakespearean homage Rosencranz and Gildenstern are Dead [IMDB], just amazes me. The quality of writing, first of all, surpasses that of most other "romantic comedies" that are produced--even the secondary characters, of whom there are many, are realized with an individuality that let's-face-it most blockbusters don't attain. On top of that, the references to the works of Shakespeare, to that era, and to our current society are masterful. I would almost complain about the over-indulgence of modernity, in the form of feminism and the concept of artistic integrity, in these films. However, those indulgences tie the essence of the two eras together and make the differences relevant. They are a virtuoso commentary on our own age, from someone well-versed in a previous age.

Philosophically, I love the final scene of Shakespeare in Love. In the context of a fiction of Shakespeare writing a fiction, Stoppard has his fictionalized characters (one historical and one completely fabricated) compose a fanciful story based on their star-crossed love. That fanciful story is influenced by what the (fabricated) character (Gwyneth Paltrow), did and will do, along with what the (fictionalized) Shakespeare will do (write Twelfth Night)--which is also what the actual Shakespeare did. Whenever I see it (just tonight) it almost makes my head explode in a self-referential black hole.

I cannot recommend these movies enough.

posted by sstrader at 10:45 PM in Cinema | permalink

February 2, 2005

Aaaaand ... CUT!

This month's Harper's has selections from the blog Query Letters I Love. That site contains pitches for movies from people who seem ... a little less than qualified to pitch movies. But we can still benefit from their mania.

Take, for instance, this little gem:

It isn’t just the monkey that sets 'Laughing My Sphincter Off' apart from other cancer memoirs, it’s also my skewed sense of humor. The one-two-punch of the monkey’s low down physical commentary coupled with my friskiness of mind give the reader a unique look inside the soul of a person battling colorectal cancer.

Or this (presented in its entirety)!

LOGLINE: Remember the olden days, when good and evil clashed and gods and goddesses walked the earth? Well, they're back...And they brought their own soundtrack!

Be prepared to waste a lot of time here...

Continue reading "Aaaaand ... CUT!"
posted by sstrader at 12:45 PM in Cinema | permalink

November 4, 2004

October 28, 2004

October 14, 2004

October 8, 2004

August 13, 2004

Open Water (Spoiler)

Some additional thoughts on Open Water. Do not read if you haven't seen the movie. I really, really mean it.

Continue reading "Open Water (Spoiler)"
posted by sstrader at 9:23 PM in Cinema | permalink

August 12, 2004

Review: Open Water (3/5)

ticket stub

I spent much of the exposition of this movie waiting for the event to happen. That waiting was a little distracting, as was the poor sound quality, but both were manageable as you got lost in the flow of the story and responded to the two protagonists. It was those two actors that kept my attention.

Continue reading "Review: Open Water (3/5)"
posted by sstrader at 9:44 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 27, 2004

Review: Gojira (3/5)

This was the original Japanese version with no Americans spliced in (those Americans being Raymond Burr) and with English subtitles. Even considering the added distraction during action scenes, or with dodging tall people in front of me, I prefer subtitles over dubbing for the added naturalism. It's like hearing Haydn on authentic instruments: you may not as readily connect with what's going on without the benefit of sounds you're used to, but the authenticity adds to the experience. And although I know I'd seen the American version of Godzilla at some point in my life, the time that had passed and the notable differences with the original made this a new experience.

Continue reading "Review: Gojira (3/5)"
posted by sstrader at 11:23 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 26, 2004

Review: Fight Club (4/5)

Ah, nothing like a two-hour-and-20-minute midnight movie. But, I have to admit that Fight Club holds up. Don't trust those people snoring (at Fight Club?!?) in the back row--the movie has very few flaws.

In fact my biggest complaint when it came out was with its passionate supporters and their oddly misdirected interpretation of Palahniuk's story. I've often heard the many biting quotes in the movie used as support of the fight club ethos: we're a generation of men raised by women ... self improvement is masturbation ... without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.

However, the absurd rebellion that culminated throughout the movie was not a doctrine to cure male society's ills: it was an absurd response to fringe aspects of male society. Palahniuk took the weak individuals from support groups (weak from illness or mental exhaustion) and held them up as ridiculous counterparts to short-lived "encounter" groups such as the Promise-keepers. What would be the opposite manifestation? What would be the extreme opposite? Fight Club, with its slack-jawed members, answered civilized male guilt in a way that makes Ted Nugent seem quaint. In fact, the subtlety of Fight Club becomes a satire of Ted Nugent's brand of back-to-nature-manliness. It's ultimate goal devolves into nihilism, where no amount of civilization can be trusted.

All of that chaos can be traced back to Edward Norton's psychotic break as he tries to find blame for his chaotic life. He's cured himself in the end, but the struggle has left its mark. This extreme movie becomes an argument against extremism.


-> Rotten Tomatoes

posted by sstrader at 10:47 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 23, 2004

Donnie Darko

A director's cut of the engaging Donnie Darko is making the rounds and Dan Kois has an extended discussion in Salon on what it all meant. I had the general concept correct (brag), but the analysis threads in many off-line facts provided by the movie's writer-director, Richard Kelly.

Previously, Salon had an equally informative analysis of Mulholland Dr. Both follow similar formats: the first third is a detailed description of the whole movie, emphasizing the relevant points. The second third ties them together, and the final third answers more concrete questions using a fake Q&A.

The Donnie Darko analysis is subscriber-only, so I'll be a bastard and mirror it here until told otherwise.

posted by sstrader at 9:21 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 22, 2004

Review: I, Robot (3/5)

Contrary to what was feared by /.ers everywhere, this is not Men In Black 3. Yes, Will Smith offers up his share of wisecracking, but it's all secondary to the movie as a whole. The real complaint about Will Smith movies is that they're more Will Smith than movie. Wherever the deficiency has been in those films (in the writers, directors, etc.), I, Robot is solid enough to hold its own.

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posted by sstrader at 12:42 AM in Cinema | permalink

July 7, 2004


Here's a comical retelling of Spiderman 2 created entirely with Legos (54meg MOV file). Some of the action scenes are better than the movie. Where can I get the little Lego web-maker?

Thanks to BoingBoing.

posted by sstrader at 6:45 PM in Cinema | permalink

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkban (4/5)

I've now seen all three Harry Potter films--just in the past few days--and I enjoyed the ride quite a bit. I'm in fact looking forward to the next adaptation. The characters are growing up, as are the actors, but as they grow and grow older a shared history keeps them familiar--having seen Azkaban before The Chamber of Secrets, I now finally understand Ron's fear of spiders. Although Harry and Hermione and Ron hold our attention and provide a strong focus, all of the recurring secondary characters and in-jokes (who'll be the next Dark Arts professor?!?) provide a rich backdrop.

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posted by sstrader at 12:05 AM in Cinema | tagged harry potter | permalink

July 6, 2004

Review: Spiderman 2 (4/5)

Spiderman 2 was a strong entry as far as superhero movies goes. It was equal parts humor, action, and pathos. The range was required for the movie's length--without it, a lesser attempt would have lost our interest. And although it did wander some, its characters kept our attention. Many movies of this genre try to tell you how you should feel about the characters, a flaw inherited from comic books themselves. The Saturday after I saw the movie, I channel-surfed past the cartoon and was reminded how dismally obvious comic melodrama can be. The Spiderman movie successfully allows the primary characters to define themselves without resorting to paint-by-numbers development.

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posted by sstrader at 11:35 PM in Cinema | permalink

July 1, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 transcript

Red Lind Rants has a transcript of the movie. Just in case it gets knocked off for copyright or what-have-you, I've mirrored it here:

Part 1 (0:00 - 43:43)
Part 2 (43:44 - 1:19:43)

Sites that criticize the movie (taken from comments at Red Line Rants):

And someone posted this link to a site full of movie scripts, but Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't there (yet).

posted by sstrader at 8:55 AM in Cinema | permalink

June 30, 2004

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11 (5/5)

Tarantino said that Fahrenheit won the Palm d'Or at Cannes because simply it was the best film. It's easy to scoff when the Hollywood elite praise a liberal documentary screened in a French town--no one would disagree that it was a sympathetic audience. However, Tarantino may very well have been right. Fahrenheit 9/11 was a solid documentary with a strong sense of form and pacing. At almost two hours, it needs a skilled hand to hold it together, and I honestly didn't expect Moore to succeed as well as he did.

(The high marks aren't in any way from disparate expectations but from admiration of his successful execution.)

Moore not only structured the film well but also somehow captured, unearthed, and edited a volume of short scenes that acted as building blocks to the whole. These vignettes--of Marines targeting the poor for recruitment, of a cookie-loving protest group infiltrated by the police, of a mother reading her dead son's indictment of Bush's war--provide an emotional pulse and act as a backdrop to the larger themes: Bush lost the 2000 election, Bush's ties to Bin Laden money and oil allowed him to ignore terrorist threats, government-linked corporate interests benefit from both the military presence and political upheaval of the war. The movie presents a volume of facts and connects them to an insidious conclusion. Is it the correct conclusion? Well, Moore's job was to make the coherent argument, ours as a society is to find any flaws.

A point to think about: this film is being called too biased to be a documentary, and yet it provides more facts and documentation than most documentaries I've seen. The bias is there, but it's backed up and has the transparency that, Moore argues, our government is missing.

Prior to me seeing the film, many people I spoke with, moderates included, had no interest in going to this movie. Even a more liberal friend who saw Fahrenheit 9/11 gushed at first but then quickly became sheepish about the movie as if he felt others would think a charlatan duped him. America often trades in hyperbole and melodrama even if it has no substance. Why the sudden conscience when the hyperbole has a factual basis? There are many arguments to be made, but arguing against style means you're too easily ignoring content.

I'm an extremely sympathetic audience, but I'm also a critical viewer. The only problem I had with the film was a few scenes with Bush acting the dope and Moore editing banjo music in the background. They were few, and at two hours he can have his fun. Often such emotional bubblegum was needed to clear your head. However, I was surprised to enjoy some of his archetypal Michael Moore scenes where he harasses people by putting them in absurd situations. There were only a few, but they too served the overall film well.

Prior to viewing, I had thought that Fahrenheit 9/11 would suffer in comparison to Control Room. Having seen both, I realize that they are two very different films, and neither suffers when compared to the other.

It deserves to continue to pack the theaters.


-> Rotten Tomatoes

posted by sstrader at 9:28 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 29, 2004

Review: Control Room (5/5)

Control Room is a documentary about Al Jazeera right before the beginning of the Iraq war until not long after the end of major conflict. I have not seen Fahrenheit 9/11, anticipate seeing it very much, and yet now feel that I have seen the definitive expression of this war. In Control Room, the director's assessment of each side of the conflict was not equal, but it felt so honest as to be irrefutable. Both Arabs and Americans were shown at their most dubiously confident and most dishearteningly troubled (though one is more sympathetic than the other). The characters, real characters, were worthy of the best you could hope to see in a drama. You care about all of them and end up wishing the world were simpler and that it didn't involve these honest people caught in the middle of all of the lies and pride and anguish of events that none chose to suffer.

There's humor enough and an even hand that presents the tragedies. But you ultimately succumb to the scenes with the Al Jazeera reporter during his dialogs with the U. S. military's Central Command media representative as they struggle to communicate to the other what they know-in-their-hearts is true.

There were a total of nine people in the audience for Control Room while Fahrenheit 9/11 filled two screens, yet that cannot be considered unjust. As one Al Jazeera reporter commented in the movie: because of such actions, my soft-spoken voice will no longer be heard above the anger that has been incited. Control Room will ultimately be remembered.

[Two small technical issues: (1) cuts during interviews were slightly noticeable but almost hidden. With such raw honesty, the editorializing should have been more overt. (2) Generous clips from Al Jazeera were included and only designated by the imprimatur at the lower right. Most of the documentary was so similar to the news clips that one was often indistinguishable from the other. A more obvious framing should have been used.]

Continue reading "Review: Control Room (5/5)"
posted by sstrader at 12:30 AM in Cinema | permalink

June 28, 2004


Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is getting respectable attention:

Editor & Publisher says that 9 Out of 10 Critics for Daily Papers Back 'Fahrenheit'.

It's breaking records at the box office, and has a respectable 84% at Rotten Tomatoes.

posted by sstrader at 12:44 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 19, 2004

Ebert on 9/11

Although Roger Ebert gave a thumbs-up to Garfield and defended his decision on Ebert & Roeper by saying he's a fan of Family Circus and Cathy too, I still respect him because of this article about Fahrenheit 9/11.

The pitfall for Moore is not subjectivity, but accuracy. We expect him to hold an opinion and argue it, but we also require his facts to be correct. I was an admirer of his previous doc, the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," until I discovered that some of his "facts" were wrong, false or fudged.


Because I agree with Moore's politics, his inaccuracies pained me ... I cannot ignore flaws simply because I agree with the filmmaker. In hurting his cause, he wounds mine.

Continue reading "Ebert on 9/11"
posted by sstrader at 11:06 AM in Cinema | permalink

June 5, 2004

Review: Ichi the Killer (4/5)

Man, seeing this film may have finally gotten my recent obsession with ultra-violent cinema out of my system. I had previously watched Ichi director Takashi Miike's film Audition and thought I had enough of it then. This went much further, but had an equal amount of humor. As Tarantino commented recently on Kill Bill: saying it has gratuitous violence is like saying that pornography has gratuitous sex. That's all it is.

(Which I'm sure was an unfair over-generalization, but you-get-the-point.)

Warning: This review contains graphic descriptions of scenes from the film.

Continue reading "Review: Ichi the Killer (4/5)"
posted by sstrader at 7:55 PM in Cinema | permalink

Review: The Day After Tomorrow (2/5)

An arctic ice shelf drops into the ocean, tornadoes decimate Los Angeles, hurricanes the size of Greenland flash-freeze everything in their path, and Manhattan first floods and then ices over. The Day After Tomorrow was quite a spectacle (most of which was shown in previews).

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posted by sstrader at 7:12 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 31, 2004

Review: Shattered Glass (4/5)

In 1998, the nascent online journal Forbes.com published an article exposing that a writer for the 84 year old print journal The New Republic completely fabricated his story on hackers. The author of the hacker article, Stephen Glass, was a respected writer at TNR and had articles published in several other major magazines including Rolling Stone and (a favorite of mine) Harper's. Twenty-seven of his 41 articles for TNR (touted as "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One") were later found to be either partially or completely fabricated. Shattered Glass attempts to show how someone with so much influence deceived the system for as long as he did.

Continue reading "Review: Shattered Glass (4/5)"
posted by sstrader at 4:02 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 29, 2004

Review: The Saddest Music in the World (4/5)

The dream logic that makes up The Saddest Music in the World won't be for everyone (we had two people walk out 2/3s into the film), but its surprising and surprisingly unique imagery and keen satirical rhapsodizing on grief should temper any criticisms of quality. It has both a unique vision and the depth to support that vision.

Continue reading "Review: The Saddest Music in the World (4/5)"
posted by sstrader at 10:57 AM in Cinema | permalink

May 23, 2004

Review: The Rundown (3/5)

The Rundown begins as a smart action movie. We get a colorful and colofully filmed night club brawl, where The Rock takes care of bidness within a collection of jarring camera cuts and Monday Night Football-influenced on-screen graphics. Much of the editing creativity is carried on later in the movie, but it's always strategic and never overdone. After the opening scene, we're presented with The Rock as the flawed hero hoping to get out of a debt owed from a Bad Mistake in his past. The details of the mistake are never outlined, but with just one more job he can go free and pursue his dream of opening a restaurant.

Continue reading "Review: The Rundown (3/5)"
posted by sstrader at 5:23 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 21, 2004

Review: Van Helsing (2/5)

This is going to be short.

I need to come up with a new phrase for movies that, although not good, are distracting enough to be inoffensive. Movies that don't shoot very high and attain their goal. Movies that should get a thumbs-sideways. Movies that are value agnostic.

Whenever I come up with that phrase, I will use it for Van Helsing.

The only complaint: beware of the Lifetime Television For Women ending. It comes out of nowhere and is incredibly bad. All of the story has resolved itself, but the cinematography of the last couple of minutes is ... well, just weird and sappy.

posted by sstrader at 5:10 PM in Cinema | permalink

May 17, 2004

Hispanic directors

Pedro Almod�var's got a new movie coming out called La Mala educaci�n (Bad Education). Let's get our hispanic directors straight.


Almodovar and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo are from Spain. Almodovar's recent film was Hable con ella (2002) (Talk To Her) and before that was Todo sobre mi madre (1999) (All About My Mother). He's been a director for several decades. His films deal with relationships under very unusual circumstances. He handles his subjects with considerable humor and candor.

I've only seen Fresnadillo's movie Intacto (2001) (Intact). It deals with a group of people who possess and trade "luck" by competing in various games that emphasize randomness over skill. His style could be compared to the magic realism of Latin American artists. He has had a much shorter career than Almodovar.


Alejandro Gonz�lez I��rritu and Alfonso Cuar�n are from Mexico City. I��rritu directed Amores Perros (2000) (Life's a Bitch) and most recently 21 Grams (2003). His movies tell stories of several people whose lives intersect in dramatic and sometimes ironic ways.

Cuar�n directed Y tu mam� tambi�n (2001) (And Your Mother Too) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). Y tu was a very raw depiction of two teen boys "coming of age" during a road trip with an older woman.

posted by sstrader at 2:17 PM in Cinema | tagged harry potter | permalink