Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007)

"Antonioni's specialty, the effect of moving as in a chess game, becomes an autocratic kind of direction that robs an actor of his motive powers and most of his spine. A documentarist at heart and one who often suggests both Paul Klee and the cool, deftly neat, 'intellectual' Fred Zinnemann in his early Act of Violence phase, Antonioni gets his odd, clarity-is-all effects from his taste for chic mannerist art that results in a screen that is glassy, has a side-sliding motion, the feeling of people plastered against stripes or divided by verticals and horizontals; his incapacity with interpersonal relationships turns crowds into stiff waves, lovers into lonely appendages, hanging stiffly from each other, occasionally coming together like clanking sheets of metal but seldom giving the effect of being in communion.

At his best, he turns this mental creeping into an effect of modern misery, loneliness, cavernous guilt-ridden yearning. It often seems that details, a gesture, an ironic wife making a circle in the air with her finger as a thought circles toward her brain, become corroded by solitariness. A pop jazz band appearing at a millionaire's fete becomes the unintentional heart of La Notte, pulling together the inchoate center of the film - a vast endless party. Antonioni handles this combo as though it were a vile mess dumped on the lawn of a huge estate. He has his film inhale and exhale, returning for a glimpse of the four-piece outfit playing the same unmodified kitsch music - stupidly immobile, totally detached from the party swimming around the music. The film's most affecting shot is one of Jeanne Moreau making tentative stabs with her somber, alienated eyes and mouth, a bit of a dance step, at rapport and friendship with the musicians. Moreau's facial mask, a signature worn by all Antonioni players, seems about to crack from so much sudden uninhibited effort.

The common quality or defect which unites apparently divergent artists like Antonioni, Truffaut, Richardson is fear, a fear of the potential life, rudeness, and outrageousness of a film. Coupled with their storage vault of self-awareness and knowledge of film history, this fear produces an incessant wakefulness. In Truffaut's films, this wakefulness shows up as dry, fluttering inanity. In Antonioni's films, the mica-schist appearance of the movies, their linear patterns, are hulked into obscurity by Antonioni's own fund of sentimentalism, the need to get a mural-like thinness and interminableness out of his mean patterns.

The absurdity of La Notte and L'Avventura is that its director is an authentically interesting oddball who doesn't recognize the fact. His talent is for small eccentric microscope studies, like Paul Klee's, of people and things pinned in their grotesquerie to an oppressive social backdrop. Unlike Klee, who stayed small and thus almost evaded affectation, Antonioni's aspiration is to pin the viewer to the wall and slug him with wet towels of artiness and significance. At one point in La Notte, the unhappy wife, taking the director's patented walk through a continent of scenery, stops in a rubbled section to peel a large piece of rusted tin. This ikon close-up of minuscule desolation is probably the most overworked cliche in still photography, but Antonioni, to keep his stories and events moving like great novels through significant material, never stops throwing his Sunday punch. There is an interestingly acted nymphomaniac girl at wit's end trying to rape the dish-rag hero; this is a big event, particularly for the first five minutes of a film. Antonioni overweights this terrorized girl and her interesting mop of straggly hair by pinning her into a typical Band Aid composition - the girl, like a tiny tormented animal, backed against a large horizontal stripe of white wall. It is a pretentiously handsome image that compromises the harrowing effect of the scene."

-Manny Farber, "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art"

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Monday, July 30, 2007

YouTubeArt: Christopher Walken Cooking A Chicken

The pears look very nice.

Via Movie City News


Termite Art Programming Alert: IFC's Indie Sex

Attention fans of me (I know I've got my mother's attention at least): I am a talking head in IFC's big new doc mini-series Indie Sex, which premieres four straight nights this week on everyone's favorite independent film channel. Set your TIVOs, DVRs, VCRs and all other affiliated recording devices for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at midnight. There are four hour-long episodes: Censored, Taboos, Teens, and Extremes — I'm in all of them but Taboos. I have seen rough cuts of all three episodes and these look to be excellent, not to mention graphic. So watch, but don't bring the kiddies.

Things should be settling down for me in thet coming days, so expect me to get back to posting about actual movie stuff in the near future — first up: a piece on a Cronenberg classic I'd never seen...until now.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Southland Tales Has a Release Date [UPDATED with Richard Kelly interview at Comic-Con!]

UPDATE: The Termite Art man of action, Matt Singer, is covering the San Diego Comic-Con for IFC News, and had a few words with the director, Richard Kelly. Here's Matt's summary of the interview: "I spoke with the good Mr. Kelly about SOUTHLAND TALES today at Comic-Con. It was very exciting to see a SOUTHLAND poster with a release date.

Mr. Sweeney (and perhaps some of you) would be interested to know that it is indeed a different cut of the film. In our interview Kelly referred to the Cannes as basically his test screening; instead of bringing the film to a mall to show to teenagers, be showed a rough cut to Cannes.

In the interim he's reedited the film and added something like 90 more effects shots that were funded by his distributor Sony. But the movie is coming and he is totally psyched. So am I."

Now I don't know if I entirely buy that the Cannes cut was a "test screening", but it sounds like he's content with the finished product, so that's good news.

Southland Tales, the film maudit of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, finally has a release date of November 9th, with Samuel Goldwyn Films taking the plunge. What is left unclear is if it is the 160 minute version that was widely reviled at Cannes, or an edited down version that was demanded by Sony after they acquired the film in '06 (they are partnering with Goldwyn on November's release). I would imagine the Cannes version will never see the light of day, unless it turns out to be a cult hit like Kelly's '01 Donnie Darko, one of many generational touchstones I've yet to see.

So why do I want to see it? Mainly because of the vocal support of J. Hoberman ("Southland Tales actually is a visionary film about the end of times. There hasn't been anything comparable in American movies since Mulholland Drive.") and Amy Taubin ("As oneiric and overwhelming as two memorial films of Cannes past - David Lynch's 'Mulholland Dr.' and Wong Kar-Wai's '2046' - and a lot funnier, 'Southland Tales' attributes the war in Iraq and the devastation of the planet to the greed and increasing desperation of Big Oil and to the all-encompassing (at least in the US) media culture, of which the film is unabashedly a part.") Color me excited:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

IFC at Comic-Con 2007!

Hey guys, I am writing you live from the floor of San Diego Comic-Con. Go to IFC.com and watch our webcam from the floor. When I'm around I'll wave hello!

Also you can read our IFC comic there as well. Written by yours truly and drawn by my good buddy Robin Enrico.

Gotta run, the geekiness awaits.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Termite Art Wedding

There comes a point every man's life when he sucks it up and gets married in a three minute ceremony officiated by an angry woman. For Rob Sweeney, today was that day.

Yes, that's right suckers, today was a very special day here at Termite Art. Today our little Rob became a man. Or he became a manchild who's now married. Either way, we were there to witness all the action. First there were manly handshakes all around because that's what real men like me and Rob do at times like these.

So why a wedding and why now of all times? Y'see Rob's lovely bride Andrea is from our beloved neighbors to the north. A bureaucratic thicket ensured that this wedding, something in the offing probably months from now, would instead be taking place today. At the office of the city clerk. In front of these people.

Poor bastard. By the way, I have been instructed by the bride and groom that under no uncertain terms am I to make a joke about green cards.

Hey, I didn't say anything. Talk to Gerard Depardieu.

Now, not surprisingly, I'd never been to this marriage center before. It is a fascinating place. There are signs EVERYWHERE.


Can you imagine working in a place like this and someone tries to pay with a check? You know that happens like four times a day. Must drive them crazy. And what kind of place makes you pay for a marriage with a money order? Why not just the cold hard cash? "Yeah hun, we'll get married in a few minutes. Nah, I gotta stop by CVS first! No they don't take checks! No, no credit cards either!"

Oh and you can't smoke either. The city clerk is uptight, boy.

Anyway, the lovebirds were first in line to register for the assembly line of ceremonies this morning. But the actual weddings don't start until 9 AM, and we were very early. So...


There was one upside though. We were able to enjoy all the luxurious amenities that the clerk's office had to order.

Eventually we tired of waiting and I decided to take matters into my own hands.

You wouldn't believe how easy it is to marry people — thank you phony Internet ordainment!

After much shifting in our folding chairs, the moment was upon us. And once I fiddled with my camera enough to get it working...

You'll notice the newlyweds miming an exchange of rings like they're Marcel Marceau or something. Evidentally no rings...yet. No one can know they're married. Except, apparently, the readers of Termite Art which, as I understand it, is the whole of the internet.

Like I mentioned earlier, the actual weddings begin promptly at 9 AM. I looked at the clock on our way out the door.

For the time-telling impaired, that's three whole minutes. When they say marriages are a blur, I guess this is what they're talking about.

The judge was courteous but clearly bored and generally looked down on us like a bunch of children. Look, even adults can spill their Snapple cans in the chapel, okay lady? I started to get the feeling that she maybe regretted marrying our beloved Rob and Andrea. TOO BAD SISTER! ONCE DONE IT SHALL NOT BE UNDONE! And they got the paperwork to prove it suckas.

After the ceremony it was time for the reception of course.

The happy couple ritualistically devoured a jelly donut as a symbol of their committment to each other. I have pictures of that too but, frankly, the pictures are so graphic I dare not even post them for fear of inciting a sexual riot.

Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun, and if I can lower my typically impenetrable shield of snark for just a moment, I absolutely love these two people, and I'm very excited for both of them. Congrats and many happy years to both of them. Here's a few more parting pictures.




David Wain, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino (and Matt) at Studio SX

Man I've been waiting to see this. At this year's South by Southwest I was invited to do a little live interview in this thing called Studio SX, which is basically this giant plastic cube in the middle of the SXSW trade floor. Passerbys can hang and watch the interview.

Now I'd never done a live interview in front of an audience before, and trying to keep up with these three guys is particularly difficult, but it seemed to go well at the time. It's finally been put online so you can check it out yourselves and see how I did.

It's part one of two — I'll post part 2 once I find it online.

Monday, July 23, 2007

La Captive (2000)

I'm entering year four of my In Search of Lost Time project, reading a volume of Proust's opus every summer until it's finished. I'm in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah right now, so this yearly tryst of mine won't be over until 2010.

The two most recent film adaptations are Raoul Ruiz's Time Regained (1999) and Chantal Akerman's La Captive (2000). Both adapt volumes I've yet to reach (the 7th and 5th, respectively), so their worlds are still somewhat new to me. This is especially true with Akerman, who, according to Jonathan Rosenbaum, takes a number of liberties with the text. I'll have to take his word for it, but it makes sense, since the suffocating, almost sterile atmosphere of Akerman's film is miles away from the endless textures and observations of Proust's work. What Akerman has isolated from the work is the moment when one realizes one cannot fully possess their lover. Their thoughts and motivations will always maintain an element of opacity - the two are always two, never one. The main filmic influence here is Hitchcock, and specifically Vertigo, from which Akerman lifts the opening sequences of pursuit, and the focus on the curl on the back of a statue's head. The theme of obsession and thwarted desire is established immediately, as Proust's Narrator, here known as Simon, surreptitiously follows Proust's Albertine (here Ariane) to a hotel. He's framed sneaking behind corners, creeping at the sides of the frame, while Ariane strides freely from left to right through the rigorous compostions. It's clear that Simon is the captive of the title, not Ariane, even though Ariane is the one cooped up in Simon's airless apartment.

Another influence is Eyes Wide Shut, another film about the sexual fear of the other, and another film where the city is the locus of desire, a dreamworld where our most secret desires can be enacted. Simon is deathly afraid that Ariane is a lesbian, and prowls the streets of Paris looking for her possible lovers. Simon, played by Stanislas Merhar, is a stoic esthete, deeply guarded and only giving away emotion during his coughing fits. He's almost a blank, which is a 180 degree turn from the endlessly reflective digressions of Proust's Narrator. His love, Ariane, is played by Sylvie Testud (who also stars in Akerman's superlative farce, Tomorrow We Move (2004). She is, unlike Simon, free. Evading his persistent questions with gentle lies and feigned confusion, she is not tied down by the obsessive need to dominate him, to strip mine his every thought. Her coyness is used to defend her independence of thought, something Simon fails to learn until the final shot that tracks over his damp head.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

YouTubeArt: El Cantante in a Nutshell

The movie doesn't come out until August 3rd, but I saw a screening of El Cantante yesterday and I had this nagging feeling that I'd seen this before. But where? Ah and then I remembered:

Their love will last a lifetime.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Odds and Ends

-Recommended reading for comics fans: a discussion between Douglas Wolk and Timothy Callahan about "bad readers" and "bad creators" in comics, with regards to the new issue of Marvel's New Avengers. Wolk is basically the best comic book critic around — accessible, witty, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium — and Callahan, who I wasn't familiar with before, is clearly no slouch either. This may be total gibberish to anyone whose not interested in super-hero comics and its criticism, but to those who are (like myself) it's quite exciting stuff indeed. I just bought Wolk's brand-new book, Reading Comics as well — that's gonna be the centerpiece of my beach reading on my vacation this summer. Can't wait.

-One addendum to last week's IFC News Podcast (you can always subscribe on iTunes too, y'know). Alison Willmore and I discussed some trailers: the idea was with Cloverfield getting all this hooplah, it'd be a good time to look at some other trailers and see how well they sell their respective films. Upon going back and listening to the podcast, I think it's one of our very best in terms of entertainment value, but I'm a little upset about one thing: we spent 25 minutes talking about trailers but didn't list a single one we actually liked when in fact there were several we really enjoyed while doing the research for that podcast. My personal favorite was for a film I wasn't familiar with before, but now very much want to see (and isn't that the purpose of a trailer), a law thriller called Michael Clayton. You can watch the trailer here.

-This brings me back.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

YouTubeArt: Even more Airplane! vs. Zero Hour!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

YouTubeArt: Airplane! vs. Zero Hour!

Devotees of the Zucker Bros. will know that their landmark 1980 spoof Airplane! got the idea for the movie by leaving their VCR running late at night. The brothers, David and Jerry with buddy Jim Abrahams, would leave their tape recorder going in the wee small hours to capture really weird commercials which they could mock in their Kentucky Fried Theater. Well, one night they taped Zero Hour!, an outlandish 1957 film about a plane crippled by an illness on board. This awesome YouTube video, linked to via the equally awesome IMDb Hit List compares the two films. I always knew one inspired the other — but I don't think I realized just how much of the dialogue the guys straight-up stole:

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Monday, July 09, 2007

It's Resnais'ing Men

"I'm a great consumer of Wong Kar Wai, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Arnaud Desplechin, and David Lynch, but above all I hope there's something of the influence [in Private Fears in Public Places] of Kim Manners. He directed some 50 episodes of The X Files, and the virtuosity of his shot-breakdown technique and of his mise-en-scene, and the way in which he treated actors' performances, all of it impressed me. He's the best of the best. I'm not an expert in television series, but in Millennium, The Shield, The Sopranos, 24, and others, I find the cinematic syntax more rich and inventive than in the majority of cinema."
--Alain Resnais, in the November 2006 Positif

*he used frequent X-Files composer Mark Snow to compose music for his recent (fabulous) movie, Private Fears in Public Places

Resnais tells a Last Year at Marienbad joke in The Guardian:

"An assassin is arrested by the police for a murder. They know he is guilty. 'But I have an alibi,' he protests. 'I was at the movies when the crime took place.' The detective asks, 'What did you see?' 'Last Year in Marienbad.' 'Tell me the story,' says the detective. The killer can't. Naturally, he is condemned."

Friday, July 06, 2007

YouTubeArt: Orson Welles, Hammered

Linked to in a fine article about the original Transformers movie on Slate. Remarkable. Have a good weekend!

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Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

There are several moments in the new Live Free or Die Hard that simply could not exist in the universe that we, the audience, occupy. The movie absolutely decimates the laws of Newtonian physics; somewhere, right now Sir Isaac is bawling and planning how, exactly, he will get his revenge on Bruce Willis (my suggestion: get Satan to finance a Hudson Hawk 2). Live Free or Die Hard does not call for the suspension of disbelief; it asks for its complete annihilation.

Which is why Live Free or Die Hard is the stupid action movie you should see this holiday weekend should you deem that your holiday weekend should include the viewing of a stupid action movie. Live Free or Die Hard doesn't make a lick of sense — narratively, logically, emotionally — and it doesn't give a good damn. It is quite happy, thank you very much, to just be about a character we like doing impossible physical stunts we enjoy pretending a human might actually be capable of accomplishing. Transformers gets bogged down by its massive human cast and its fetishization of American military might; LFoDH is just stunts and gags, all killer no filler. Transformers can't even lay claim to have the coolest big rig in theaters this Independence Day. That award goes to the big'un Detective John McClane drives up a cloverleaf in order to destroy an F-35 fighter jet. Eat it, Prime.

McClane (Bruce Willis, of course) — who, I suddenly realize, is a big part of the inspiration for the character Kiefer Sutherland plays on 24, in that he manages to have more effed-up days than any human being could ever possibly have, and they always seem to involve saving members of his family from international peril — is once again the only man who can stop an "ingenious" terrorist plot. This time it's engineered by Deadwood's Timothy Olyphant, an evil genius who employs far more movie hackers than real hackers. Movie hackers, if you're unfamiliar, are just like the ones we have in real life except they look like movie stars and they know kung fu. Real hackers spend 16 hours a day in front of their computers and don't have the time (let alone the interest) to go to the gym four times a week, but movie hackers can somehow type 120 wpm while doing one-armed push-ups.

Still, at least two of the computer geniuses are well cast: Kevin Smith, in a brief role as an uber-nerd known as "The Warlock" and Justin Long as Matthew Farrell, an algorithm expert who does some work for Olyphant without realizing he's becoming an accessory to a cyber-apocalypse. Long is about to eliminated as part of Olyphant's plan, when Det. McClane shows up to escort him to Washington D.C. The lucky bastard survives and then tags along for the rest of the adventure, in much the same role Samuel L. Jackson occupied in 1995's Die Hard With a Vengeance. It is interesting, I think, to compare Jackson and Long. As the sidekick to the hero, they both exist to provide the audience a character to identify with and relate to, as well as another perspective on our lead. Jackson's character was a lower middle class shop owner, while Long is a computer geek. That difference says a great deal about where Hollywood is now compared to where it was 12 years ago. Today the Internet and its audience is deemed so important to the success of a franchise picture that they are given an onscreen representative, just as, in a different time, a little Asian kid suddenly got to hang out with Indiana Jones. Long's role isn't that much different than Shia LaBeouf's in Transformers either. He plays second-fiddle to a talking truck and helps saves the world through the use of eBay.

But I am clearly thinking too much for a movie that demands that you do as little thinking as possible to enjoy it. Here is an example of a scene that requires no actual thought in order for proper enjoyment: about halfway through the film, McClane and Farrell are trying to escape D.C. in order to figure out a way to defeat Olyphant, who has crippled the city's traffic grid with his total control of its stop lights. McClane and Farrell drive into a tunnel — which is problem number one. If traffic is so bad, how do they get into this tunnel without any problem? And, for that matter, where are all the cars? The mouth of the tunnel is totally empty.

Now Olyphant's helicopter (the one McClane will hit with a car, as seen in the film's trailer) tells him that it's going into the tunnel. Now he has a plan: he will let the traffic at the other end of the tunnel in, using every possible lane. Sounds good; unlike the end we watched McClane and Farrell enter, this one actually has cars sitting outside it. But with six lanes of cars streaming towards our heroes, Olyphant decides this isn't enough, so he let the traffic in from the other direction as well. Here's problem number two — we've already seen that end of the tunnel and we know there is no traffic in it. And yet when Olyphant's lackey clicks a few keystrokes, there the cars are, magically out of nowhere to menace our heroes.

We are not supposed to notice this. In fact, director Len Wiseman is counting on the fact that the scene will look and feel so exciting, we won't have time to realize this (or the fact that, somehow, a helicopter hovering above the mouth of the tunnel is able to fire on a car a quarter of a mile into the tunnel). For the most part, he is right. Long manages to play the annoying sidekick for laughs, no easy feat, and though Olyphant is no Alan Rickman — he's not even no Jeremy Irons — he does enough to convince us of his heinousness. Of course, Willis is always charming as McClane and this time he sports an even more agreeable Luddite-caveman un-P.C. vibe. Olyphant's character tells McClane that he is an outdated hero and, to a degree, Live Free or Die Hard is nearly as old-fashioned as he is. It harkens back to a time when action movies were allowed, if not encouraged, not to make sense, as the men at their center did things no man could ever do without the aid of a movie studio's effects department. This is a depressing fact in at least one way: it requires us to think of things from the late 1980s as "old-fashioned." Which makes me really, really old.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New York Gets Caught in the Grip of Transformers Mania

You've already read the greatest review of Transformers ever. Now you can read mine:

The old Transformers cartoon was made for kids. The new live-action Transformers movie is so infantile it could have been written by one. What a shock, then, to see the names of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman listed as its screenwriters. The talented co-authors of Mission: Impossible III and many of the very best episodes of Alias don't seem the type to write a graphic robot urination joke. The soundtrack of the first Transformers movie, the cartoon one from 1986, implored its audience to "dare to be stupid." Orci and Kurtzman have bravely answered the call.

Also, one addendum to the review; while looking up some movie times for tomorrow (gotta do my patriotic duty for Independence Day and watch John McClane shoot evildoers), I made an alarming discovery: Transformers is showing at least 46 times at the AMC Loews in Times Square. Seriously, 46 times. Here is the list when you look the movie up on Moviefone.com:

4:20am | 4:50am | 5:20am | 5:50am | 6:15am | 6:40am | 7:10am | 7:40am | 8:10am | 8:40am | 9:10am | 9:40am | 10:00am | 10:30am | 11:00am | 11:30am | 12:00pm | 12:30pm | 1:00pm | 1:20pm | 1:50pm | 4:30pm | 5:00pm | 5:15pm | 5:30pm | 5:50pm | 6:00pm | 7:00pm | 7:40pm | 8:10pm | 9:00pm | 9:30pm | 10:00pm | 10:30pm | 11:00pm | 11:30pm | 11:50pm | 12:10am | 12:40am | 1:10am | 2:40am | 3:00am | 3:20am | 3:50am | 1:40am | 2:10am

Because you see whole new layers to Transformers when you watched it at 6:15 AM.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Behold! A 7-Eleven Shall Become A Kwik-E-Mart!!

So I'm surfing the Interweb minding my own business when I come across this article, informing that as part of the promotion for The Simpsons Movie, 11 7-Eleven stores across the country are being transformed, for one month, into Kwik-E-Marts. The article said that one of the 11 7-Elevens was in New York City but didn't give an address.

There are only 2 7-Elevens in NYC. The first, 23rd and Park, was a bust, so I went to the other, across from the Port Authority on 42nd between 8th and 9th. And EUREKA! A veritable nerd paradise:

Never before have I seen such a craven attempt at cross-promotion. And never before have I acted, in response, like such an immature loser. It was like I couldn't help myself: OOH! OOH! A Squishee machine!

They were selling Simpsons memorabilia and super-cool recreations of productions from the show like Krusty-O's and Buzz Cola (sadly, no Duff Beer — not in keeping with the family friendly image, I guess). There were tons of cool signs and stuff all over the place; my favorite was the sticker of Jasper on the Ice freezer:

The staff had even gone through and made awesome hand-made signs to go with:

I generally acted like a total idiot — I can never, ever return to this store because of how I behaved (which might not make this the best promotion in 7-Eleven's history). Mel came along to see for herself and to document my patheticness and snapped this picture which was, no joke, not posed. I was actually, shamefully, having this much fun:

Though my Squishee was totally watery and not at all frozen (somehow in keeping with the level of foodstuff quality I'd expect at a Nahasapeemapetilon establishment) there was one totally awesome treat both Mel and I enjoyed far more than we should have: the official Simpsons Movie donut:

The donut, while almost certainly toxic given the amount of chemicals required to make something that pink, was delicious and allowed me to create my very own art project:

And, of course, once you go that far, you kinda need to do something incredibly stupid, like this:

If anyone wants to animate that for me, I'd appreciate it. All in all, quite an adventure. The photos and the memories, and the slightly dirty feeling I have about getting so excited about going into a 7-Eleven, will last a lifetime. And now if you'll excuse me, back to business:


Edward Yang (1947 -2007)

This is unbelievably tragic news. Edward Yang has died at the age of 59. According to the Associated Press, he had battled colon cancer for the past seven years, explaining his silence since the release of his sublime masterpiece, Yi Yi (2000). Mike Anderson at Tativille has a fine appreciation, and I'm sure GreenCine will archive the many remembrances soon to come.

Earlier tonight, curious about why he hadn't released anything since 2000, I did some brief research, discovering an animated project entitled The Wind had been announced, with Jackie Chan as a co-producer. Then I checked Tativille and learned of his passing. What a punch in the gut.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Getting Home (2007)

The New York Asian Film Festival is in full swing, and I've seen three solid entries so far: Park Chan-wook's sweetly demented love story, I'm a Cyborg, but That's Ok (miles better than Oldboy), Patrick Tam's lush family breakdown epic, After This our Exile (with rich photography from Mark Lee Ping-Bin), and Zhang Yang's sentimental-slapstick corpse comedy Getting Home.

Of course the last is my favorite. The latest from genial humanist Zhang Yang (Shower (1999), Quitting (2001)), it finds construction worker Zhao lugging his dead friend across China in order to fulfill the promise that he would be buried with his family. Structured around a series of vignettes about the people he meets on the way, the film is immensely generous to its characters and deeply in love with the Chinese countryside. It's a countryside filled with folks uprooted and confused by the rapid industrialization of the country. He meets an elderly man who pays villagers to enact his fake funeral, a woman scarred by the factory boiler, and a mom abandoned by her striving student son. It could almost be called a comic version of Jia Zhangke's Still Life, which uses an art-film aesthetic to chart similar characters. Both contain people drawn to the Three Gorges Dam looking for their family, only to discover their dispersal through the flooding of towns. Rural life is disappearing, and while Jia uses precisely composed long-takes to mark it, Zhang stuffs a corpse into a tire. Different modes, similar preoccupations. Both should be seen - but right now Getting Home has no distributor, foreign comedies rarely seeing the light of day over here.

The greatest Transformers review of all time

A gentleman I'm not familiar with at an internet site I'm not familiar with leads off his review of Michael Bay's Transformers:

Transformers is better than sex. I mean, I don't want to overhype it or anything, but I just got back from the screening, and if I had the chance to watch it again right now, or some hot woman would have sex with me if I went home with her, I can't think of a woman alive who would tempt me away from a repeat viewing.

This is meant seriously and it is, without a doubt, absolute madness. Oh but there's more. Just in case we think this guy's not speaking from experience (a likely thought) he assures us:

And I'm not some teenager who's comparing this movie to what he thinks sex would be like. I'm a grown man and I've had some fantastic lovers. I once dated a bipolar girl and they are dynamos in the sack. That's what I'm comparing Transformers to: crazy sex (the best kind, if you can survive the lows).

I recommend you go to the site and read the whole thing. It is, in its own particularly idiom, a thing of beauty. My own review of Transformers will go up on The Reeler early next week but I can promise it will not be as good as this review. I don't want to spoil it but I will say this: I make no "better than" comparisons. I do, however, compare the movie to "going to the circus and ignoring the animals on parade to watch the guy who cleans up after them."