Friday, January 25, 2008

(in your most booming voice now): "WHAT??!!?!"

This may just be the greatest thing on the Internet. I actually got through it on my first try, but that in no way does justice to its inherent genius.

In case you don't know, Brian Blessed is a god who currently walks with us. He's best known for his huge performances (literally and figuratively) in most of Kenneth Branagh's films (Exeter in Henry V was particularly good, and a world away from my friend Mary's version when I did it*), and parody of the same kind of role in the first series of Blackadder.

But he's also been in Cats -- the only reason a sane person would /see/ the damn thing -- and donned eye make-up and a dress for a spot of high camp in Doctor Who (possibly the highest camp** ever in the series, and a thing of beauty to watch***).

AND he's climbed Everest three times, though not to the top, along with successful attempts on Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua.

I think the perfect film would involve him and Robbie Coltrane arguing over something. Anything.

*Well, it would be, wouldn't it?

**Sontag's article is not without its problems (she makes a direct link between camp and homosexuality (natch) that's troubling to say the least) but it is the /first/. And like everything she writes, intelligent and insightful.

***So, yeah, the 1980s.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In which the monster eats some people and destroys Whole Foods

I saw Cloverfield last week. I wasn't very impressed, and the more I've thought about it, the less I like it. Although, to be fair, it was enjoyable. Aside from the motion sickness. My collected opinions:

As a piece of drama, it pretty much falls flat on its face because it wants -- boy howdy, and how -- to be a character piece, but it's built as a melodrama. It's so completely and utterly based on plot that there is only some cheap, perfunctory character development or conflict. It bumps along fueled by cliches. All its best moments are direct rip-offs of other movies.

It feels like the movies own instincts lean towards wanting it to be a monster movie, and its instincts are right. The characters are whiny and dull and worse, completely predictable, so the vaguely defined and (for most of the film) vaguely seen monsters are far more interesting. This wouldn't be a problem if it settled down into melodrama. You don't expect the characters to be interesting then, and it's a relief to see them act they way you expect. Here, it's a cheap let down.

But the monsters in the "character movie" idea of the film that keeps trying to assert itself are just a means to an end, which is why in both you see so comparatively little of them, despite how intriguing they are. Appropriately, as they eat up the characters, they were the mechanics to initiate a vaguely sadistic audience to watch the characters break down. We eat them up, too.

And towards the end, even the physics of the world begins to break down. Characters become like cartoons: "oh look, they popped up *again* after being knocked down"; they /explode/ for ill-defined reasons; the camera stands up against every attack (including a nuke) and the battery lasts forever.

Well, I think it's illustrative of my biggest criticism of the movie: it /wants/ to be about the characters, yet one of them explodes -- explodes! -- and no one says much about it. (I know, they can't, they're too busy... that's the problem.)

You don't need every story point (Not plot point, and there's a big difference there, and this movie has noooo problem with the plot) explained, and there is a suspension of disbelief. But that can't be tortuously stretched and has to be internally consistent. And like I said before, by the end of the movie, that belief begins to break down as the character keep getting knocked down but keeping getting back up. That's the essence of comedy, right there, or more aptly, farce. But with the heavy hand the script has, it doesn't even acknowledge the possibility of humor and it moves the audience into a place of vague sadism. A good director would know that and try to at least downplay it, if not out and out re-write it.

With a movie so desperately self-consciously aware of itself, I thought that intro bit was corny, and wound up raising more questions that a normal "shut and watch, the movie's starting" scene would be. Why not do what the characters suggest and have some kids in China watch it on Youtube, with hokey military warning intact, too? But that'd be too close to making a /point/ for this film.

The only really interesting thing about it is it's use of 9/11 imagery -- which for me was uncomfortable. If that footage had been used in a better movie -- a movie /about/ something or that used that imagery to /say/ something other than a cheap effect -- it wouldn't have been so weird.

At 73 minutes, it's kind of long for what it is. I mean, the ending is completely predictable and effectively communicated in big, red letters, so it really could have ended 15 minutes earlier. What's left after that is basically the money shot for the monster fans.

That said, I did get a kick out the building I used to work in getting to be a setting. And then wholloped.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What I think about HR 888

Or, why

Mr. FORBES, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mr. AKIN, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. CULBERSON, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. FEENEY, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. HAYES, Mr. HENSARLING, Mr. HERGER, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. MCHENRY, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mr. PEARCE, Mr. PENCE, Mr. PITTS, Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin, Mrs. SCHMIDT, Mr. WALBERG, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. WOLF, and Mr. YOUNG of Florida

need to review their Ninth grade Civics class. If you need to learn about the Bill, you can read it here. My response? Haranguing my above-named Congressional Representative co-sponsoring it.:

[The real question, though, upon reflection is why Rep. Ryan et al. (need I even say there's an R next to their name?) decided to drag their districts along for the ride to 1764. The South being fuzzy on Constitutional law I get.]

Mr McHenry --

I'm writing to encourage to you to vote against H. Res. 888, should it ever come before the House. It is clearly in defiance of the separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment. It serves no purpose other than sheer self-congratulation on the part of those adherent to the Christian faith.

Personally, as a non-Christian, I find it offensive that a bill so clearly pro-Christian is attempting to word itself in the generic name of "religion".

I see it as a clear repudiation of the Constitution wording and intent, and a vote for it as nothing less than proof of your unfitness for the office you hold. I take it as read that a member of so august a House should be at least as familiar as I am with the documents that found this country, and the opinions and lives of the men who created them. All of these point to a deliberately atheist state, and this Bill (along with the related -- and alarmingly passed -- Bill 847) is nothing less than an attempt to undermine this, and an attempt to falsely re-write our history as a specifically Christian nation.

For these reasons, I am scandalized any such bill should come before the House, let alone co-sponsored by my own representative. Please be aware that in this, you do not represent me, nor many, many others in your district. Hopefully, your awareness of the position you hold, your knowledge of your country's history and practice, and your conscience in representing your constituency will all prevent you from furthering this bill.


Indie Pete

So have you been reading Diesel Sweeties where Indie Pete turns out (maybe really) to be gay? That's kind of hot.

But really, it's an excuse to give some people an opportunity to look at this Diesel Sweeties and say: do you really, seriously need something this obvious to tell you "Fuck off"?