Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Me and You and Everyone you know

One of the many amazing things about Miranda July's debut film is that there doesn't seem to be a tribute of vision.

The movie is uniquely her own.

One of the sad facts about modern American films is that while watching them, there always seems to be references, or tributes, or even straight rip offs of other movies. It's probably because of the success of filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, and Kevin Smith.

The case is particularly true of Independent Film. Rather than trusting their own voices, filmmakers seem to be aiming to be the next Quentin Tarantino.

One finds out pretty quick while watching Me and You and Everyone you know that Miranda July doesn't give a shit what people think. She's telling a story, and telling it her way.

The movie is a quirky, stylish, and honest romance.

Notice that I didn't call it a Romantic comedy.

Sure the movie is funny, and does have the romantic comedy structure. But the movie doesn't seem too concerned about trying to make people laugh, or setting up jokes, or putting people in absurd situations. Under Miranda July's unique writing, and directing, the film is more interested in just observing the honesty of the characters. Almost like observing people in line at the grocery store. But what makes the experience unique, and theatrical is that the characters talk in a poetic simplicity, and sometimes..... to even their own surprise there is artistic poignancy, and weight to what they say and do.

It's not surprising that Miranda July is a performance artist. The film does have that sensibility, but it's not pretentious like most performance art. Instead it's heartwarming and likable.

At the heart of the movie is the story of Richard Swersey, played by Deadwood's John Hawkes, a divorced father of two, who's trying to put his life back together. At his job he runs into Christine Jesperson, a strugling, lonely, performance artist. Around these two people are other characters who share Christine and Richard's need to somehow connect in a world that's sterile, and seemingly heartless.

The movie is an enjoyable triumph. There are tons of scenes that I could describe, but I don't want to ruin it.

In lesser hands the movie could easily fall apart but Miranda July succeeds winningly, and is definitely a voice to look out for in the future. It's especially fortunate considering the lack of unique, interesting female writers, and directors in the business.

Don't let this movie slip by.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Grizzly Man

Sometimes you eat the bear, other times......
Grizzly man is Werner Herzog's fascinating documentary on the life of Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell is the man who lived amongst Grizzly Bears for 13 summers. He was an amatuer wildlife and bear preservationist, who along with his girlfriend, was unfortunately killed by the bears he was staying with in Alaska's Katmai National Park.
Most of the movie is footage shot by Treadwell himself as he observed, and mingled with the bears in their natural habitat. The documentary is interesting because it shows two sides of Treadwell's passion.
One side is the man's affection and obvious love for the bears. He claimed to be protecting the bears, and also using his experiences and footage to educate people on the lives of the Grizzly Bear.
The other side is the darker, more disturbing idea of his vanity, which showed Treadwell's fight against his inner demons, which seemed to push him closer and closer to danger amoungst the wild bears.
Herzog does a wonderful job staying objective with his character study of the man. He presents both sides of Treadwell. and the various arguments pro and con for his work.
If the viewer wants to condemn the man, all they have to do is point to Treadwell's seemingly, uneducated, reckless encounters with the bears, not to mention his emotional rants against the government, park services, and even other preservationists.
If the viewer wants to praise the man. One can point to his educational sessions with children, his honest devotion, and affection for the bears, and the fond memories of his friends.
Personally, I was struck by the devotion, and passion he showed for the bears, but seeing his footage and hearing from the man himself, I found myself questioning his motives for his so called studies.
First of all, I didn't see anything groundbreaking or even productive about his studies. To me it seemed like most of his energy went into seeing how close he could get to the bears. Almost like a daredevil who is constantly pushing himself to jump farther and higher, in search of finding his limits. And no matter what his supporters say, the man did enjoy the attention he gained from his experiences, so much so, that often times his work resembled a vain cry for attention.
In all honesty, the man was not Jane Goodall, he was not scientifically researching, and observing the bears.
I also don't see the advantage of desensitizing bears to human contact. Nothing good can from that. There is nothing scientifically productive to having bears mingle with humans. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that the bears were not in any unusual amount of danger of poaching or human explotation, as Treadwell claims. If anything the bears themselves would be the culprits of killing their own species, albeit due to starvation caused by humanity's neglect of nature. (Which is a different argument altogether.) Than there is the unforgiveable death of his girlfriend, who was terrified by the bears, and had even threatened to break up with Treadwell because of his dark side.
But ultimately, that's all just opinion.
The movie does a fantastic job of leaving it up to one's own beliefs. Make sure to check this film out if you have the chance. It comes out on DVD on December 27th.
It's a fascinating look into an unusual man's life, told by a master storyteller.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


There's a lot to like in Peter Jackson's King Kong, but unfortunately there's also a lot to dislike.

It pains me to criticize the movie because a part of me feels that maybe I was in the wrong state of mind while watching it.

I wasn't ready for a summer popcorn movie.

This is awards season, and when you watch a movie in December, one is expecting movies of importance. King Kong is not important, after all it's a giant ape movie. But there is historical significance to the original classic, and this movie is directed by Peter Jackson, so maybe I'm right in expecting greatness.

First off the good. The character of Kong is amazing. I must've heard about 10 times DURING the movie people saying "Wow, he looks so real." Everything from the facial expressions, to the way that he moved was impressive. It's a technical achievement that must be seen, and is a triumph on all accounts. There is also lots of creatures and bugs on skull Island that is fun and interesting. Peter Jackson does a great job of creating a new world on the island. The production design of period New York City is also impressive. Jackson does a great job of transporting us back to that period of time.

That's about it...... as far as the good stuff.

Let me just point out that Jackson was being very faithful to the original. Lots of the shots, images and plot lines reference back to the original film. But shouldn't a man of Jackson's ability take that source material, and expand on it? Make the movie more relevant and even, god forbid, more realistic? If not, why even make a remake?

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe that's not the point.

Again, a part of me feels like a scrooge picking on the movie, but there is just too much stuff that I couldn't get past. My brain just wouldn't allow me to relax, and just enjoy the movie.

The first act of the movie is just painful, and awkward to watch. First off, we find out pretty quick that Jack Black's Carl Denham is an unsavory human being. There is nothing redeemable or fun about the character. We also have movie crew members that are not interesting or memorable in any way. Then we have the crew of the ship Venture. For some STRANGE reason, Jackson spends an unusual amount of time introducing us to these characters. Especially the characters of Hayes and Jimmy. I don't know why we are introduced into their world. They have no relevance at all to the themes of the movie. It's a father and son type relationship that goes absolutely nowhere. It's an abysmal mess, and a gigantic waste of time. Then there's Naomi Watts character Ann Darrow, and her love interest, playwright Jack Driscoll, played byAdrian Brody. They are both likeable, but the script hardly gives them a chance to get to know each other, it's too busy dealing with the father-son relationship, or Carl Denhem begging everybody to trust him. Which makes it very awkward later on when Jack Driscoll risks life, limb, everything to save her.

At about an hour into the movie one starts wondering where the hell Kong is? I realize in the original that they put off showing kong for awhile because the special effects of the time were so time consuming, and they needed to pad the running time of the movie. But this isn't Jaws where we get a glimpse of the beast, we don't get teased by his actions to perk our interest. What we get is bad, long, unneccessary exposition by characters we don't give a shit about.

I mean the movie is called King Kong, and the first HOUR and 15 minutes of the movie doesn't even reference the character.

Instead we get a boring ass ship, and an unlikeable director with his forgettable movie crew.

When we finally GET to the island the movie becomes a saturday morning serial, although with amazing special effects. Which is a good, and bad thing. We have strange natives who attack for no reason,(in a awkward slow motion), there are giant bugs, dinosaurs, giant vampire bats, and of course..... eventually....finally.....King Kong.

Again, I'm trying to restrain myself. This is after all a giant Ape movie. I should have let my inner child come out, and just soak everything in. But the fact is, I expected more from the movie, and it let me down.

Let me also say the movie does have some fantastic action sequences like the fight between Kong, and the 3 T-Rex. There is also nice quiet moments between Kong and Ann Darrow on the island. The way they look at the sunset together is touching.

But thinking back, there were too many moments of extreme absurdity that my brain just couldn't get past. Like when a skull Island native pole vaults his way onto the ship to kidnap Ann Darrow. The way Carl Denham gets over the death of his movie crew members like they were drummers in Spinal Tap. The way that Ann Darrow is first handled by Kong, violently ripping her free from the constraints. Then how she is able to survive being tossed around by him as they run through the jungle is BEYOND belief. How Ann Darrow remarkably tames the beast by doing a silly VAUDEVILLE act.

I'm serious....vaudeville.

Then there is the part where characters survive a long drop, or when a character uses a tommy gun, yes a TOMMY GUN to get bugs off of Adrian Brody WITHOUT shooting HIM, or when characters unbelievably survive a stampede by dinosaurs, or when Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow grab onto a flying giant vampire bat to escape kong, or when two characters stand ON TOP of the Empire State Building without a hint of wind to blow them off the tiny platform they are standing on. Come to mention it how DO they transport a 25 foot tall Kong to New York from far away Skull Island? How do they keep him restrained without killing him? How do they get him into a theatre without anybody seeing him? Where do they keep him when he's not rehearsing the show?

God, I'm sorry..... I AM a scrooge. Let me just say that I did enjoy the scene where Ann Darrow finds Kong in New York ,and then when they are on the ice together in central park, and he's sliding around with her in his hand. It's touching and almost magical to see the affection they have with each other. Which leads to another problem I had with the movie. The original King Kong had an effective theme of unrequited love, The Beauty and the Beast.

I'm not sure that this movie had the same theme, in fact I'm sure of it.

Ann Darrow had affection for Kong in this movie, so the theme would have to be what?
A tragic love story of two souls that could never be together? Romeo and Juliet.....I guess....between a Giant Gorilla........ and an actress.

Again, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for this movie.

I'm sorry.

Friday, December 16, 2005


The special edition dvd of Frank Miller's Sin City finally arrives, and it's worth the wait. The dvd is packed with tons of special features, and is a significant upgrade over the bare bones edition that came out several months ago.

The original theatrical cut is included on the first disc, and features commentaries by Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and another commentary with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller.

The real bonus of the dvd though is on the second disc where you get extended versions of each of the stories.

The stories are seperated into 4 different movies, complete with credits. Although there isn't a significant amount of footage added, the scenes are interesting, and do contribute to the overall story. It's also a cool feature to watch each story seperately from the others, almost like reading the graphic novels. There is also a fun feature where you can watch a speeded up green screen version of the entire film, so that one can have a taste of what it's like to work on a tech heavy movie like this.

The transfer of the movie is also impressive......actually it's gorgeous. On my high definition, big screen I found that my jaw had a habit of dropping every five seconds. I can say with certainty it's the best looking dvd available. My only complaint is that in the extended versions of the movie there's no option for DTS sound. DTS sound is, however, available in the theatrical cut.

But that's nit-picking the dvd easily qualifies as a must own, it's a triumph on every account.

As far as the actual movie, my favorite story line is the The Hard Good-Bye featuring Mickey Rourke's character Marv. It's refreshing seeing Mickey Rourke doing inspired work again. I hope it becomes a trend for him and not a fluke. Clive Owen and Rosario Dawson are also solid in the The Big Fat Kill story. The final story That yellow bastard suffers from the mis-casting of Bruce Willis as a 60 year old wronged cop, and Jessica Alba, who never really looks comfortable in her own skin as the stripper Nancy.

The movie is, however, a triumph for Robert Rodriguez. Frank Miller has been reluctant to allow his Graphic novels to be filmed in the past, but he was won over by the enthusiasim of Rodriguez, and his ability to translate the novels to film faithfully. They are planning several sequels to this movie, and frankly I can't wait.

If only more film makers followed the example of Rodriguez, and treated the source material with such reverance, we'd be treated to some good work.

Especially in the comic book world where lousy translations are common.

Exorcism of Emily Rose

I'm not a big fan of the horror genre.
It's probably because I see through the conventions of the genre. I see the set up coming a mile away, the music is insulting with it's manipulation of feelings, the visual tricks don't usually surprise or scare me. It's also hard for me to feel any empathy for the characters of horror movies because they are not fleshed out or realistic. Most of the time they are all dead meat walking.
For some reason whenever I see an actor scared, or running away from a killer, I picture them in the food line at craft services on the movie set.
In other words, I'm extremely aware that they are acting.....or at least trying to act.
I can think of only three times while watching a movie that I felt genuine fear.
The dinner scene in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, watching the movie the Exorcist, and watching the movie Poltergeist.
In the case of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the fear I felt was more of an adrenaline rush, a visceral fear. Those are magical moments in movies, extremely rare like catching lightning in a bottle. I rarely ever feel that kind of fear while watching a movie.
In the case of the other two movies, they followed a seemingly simple formula that is inexplicably rarely used in movies, and creates a long lasting, almost traumatic type of fear.
At least for me, there's a very simple formula for creating fear in an audience.
Create the helplessness of likeable characters through science.
When you back up helplessness through science, suddenly you're stuck with something truly scary....the unknown.
It's not the special effects or sound, or music that really scares audiences. It's the idea that we can't explain why something is happening.
For me, genuine fear is created when the writer, and director go the extra mile, and put the characters through realistic medical tests, and honestly try to solve the problems through logic BEFORE giving in to the special effects.
The movie the Exorcism of Emily Rose is ambitious because it's not really a horror film. It eventually gives in to the conventions of the horror genre, but it's more of a court room drama interested in raising questions that LIGHTLY touch on the horror formula I speak of.
What's admirable about the movie is that it doesn't really try to preach to you about Religion. It has the opportunity to EASILY go that way, but in the end it respects and even honors the view of logic and science.
There are two opposing views in the film. The medical view that Emily Rose was suffering from psychotic epilepsy, and the spiritual view which was that she was really possessed..... by the devil.
Um...yeah, not realistic.
However, CINEMATICALLY.....both views are equally chilling.
The movie is loosely based on a case from Germany in 1974, the girl's name was Anneliese Michel, she was given an exorcism that failed, she died from starvation, and in the aftermath of the controversy, the church later acknowledged the girl was not actually possessed. You can check the whole story out here:
The movie benefits from the presence of solid character actors Laura Linney, Campbell Scott and Tom Wilkinson. They give the movie a feeling of legitimacy. What's admirable is that the case of mental illness is not short changed. Sure the emotional impact of the movie leans toward the spiritual argument of the events. But everything that happens in the movie is clearly explained through science and medicine.
I don't believe the movie is a complete success however, and I can't completely recommend the film. There are soap opera type moments in the movie. One moment in particular, the death of an important witness, is just plain ridiculous, and laughably executed. I would have also liked to see more of Campbell Scott's character. Lots of the horror stuff is also not effective and unnecessary, sort of like the makers knew they needed shots for the trailer to spice up interest.
The most effective thing about the film was that for the most part, it didn't treat the audience like complete idiots.
Which is rare in horror films.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What do you see?

What do you think this picture is ?

For some strange reason, some people are unable to make out the image they are looking at. For me it's obvious. But I'm curious to see if you'll able to notice what it is. So I'll give you a minute to analyze the picture.

Okay, back?

Well if you don't know already, the picture is of Brayden.....

inside of Erin's belly. It's a sonagram image of him from about a month ago.

I was inspired by the movie 40 Year old virgin, you see there's a scene where everyone is watching a video of one of the workers unborn child, and all the other characters don't see the baby. They say things like, it's a weather chart or something silly like that.

We've only showed it to a few people, I believe my mom and Rosalyne can see the baby. But our friend Jago, and Erin's dad can't see the little guy.

If you don't see him he's laying horizontal, with his body facing towards us, and his body is towards the right of the picture. The top of his head is towards the left of the picture. You can even see some of his fingers curled under his chin.

He's basically just chillin'.

What's cool.... is that if you look even closer...... he's wearing an Angels Jersey.

We're going to get one of those 4d sonagrams in a couple of weeks, apparently it's almost as good as drilling a hole in the belly, and taking a picture through that hole. I'll post the best picture when we finally get it.

It'll be interesting to compare the two.

Monday, December 12, 2005

40 Year Old Virgin

I'm a sucker for toilet humor.

A part of me thinks I like it because uptight people find it inappropriate, rude and get so easily offended by it. I get a kick seeing, or imagining people's distasteful reaction to the jokes.

But the real reason I think I like it is because I know from first hand experience, both as a writer and actor, how difficult it can be to execute effectively that type of humor.

Right now, nobody is doing it better than Judd Apatow and his posse.

Judd Apatow, if you don't know, is the director of 40 Year old Virgin. He also produced Anchorman, Cable Guy, Kicking & Screaming, and is producing Will Ferrell & Sasha Baron Cohen's upcoming Nascar comedy and is a writer on Jim Carrey's upcoming Fun with Dick & Jane. He was also a writer on Ben Stiller's T.V. Show and created Freaks & Geeks and the underrated Undeclared.

So when I say Judd Apatow's posse I mean Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey,Vince Vaughn, Paul Rudd, and now Steve Carell.

That's a pretty powerful, not to mention freakin' hilarious group of friends.

The 4o Year-old Virgin stars Steve Carell as Andy Stitzer, the unfortunate character mentioned in the title. Andy is a the guy who collects toys and doesn't take them out of the box, he plays video games during his time off, reads and collects comic books, paints his model soldiers and uses all the money he earns buying the latest technical gadgets. One day his co-workers reluctantly invite him to a poker game, and find out his unfortunate secret. The well meaning friends than decide to aid Andy in his pursuit to shed the title of being a 40 Year-Old virgin.

The movie is everything you'll think it'll be, lots of hilarious, inappropriate humor. Yeah, it's full of sex jokes and toilet humor, but you'll also find a sweet romantic comedy that'll please your female friends when they stare at you in disbelief as you laugh at some of the more offensive humor.

What's also interesting about the movie is that the comedy is not mean spirited. The movie could easily cross into that kind of humor, but it chooses to respect and even admire the character of Andy. So much so, that it unfortunately crosses into a typical PG-13 romantic comedy, which can make the movie feel longer for some, especially now in it's 17 minute longer unrated cut.

But even critics of the film will admit that it is a coming out party for Steve Carell, he's had scene stealing work in Anchorman and Bruce Almighty, but he really carries the entire film this time, and does so impressively. Carell manages to make Andy dorky, yet sweetly affable. One can almost imagine that someone like him could have such unfortunate luck with women. Although, in reality I doubt 40 year old virgins are as normal, or kind hearted as the character in the film. In reality they are very creepy, trust me I know, they shop at my job everyday.

The rest of the cast does a solid job, standouts are Catherine Keener who, in a change of pace, plays the likeable love interest. Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Seth Rogan are funny as Andy's well meaning friends and Gerry Bednob and Shelley Malil are scene stealing middle eastern co-workers.

If you're in the mood for a good laugh make sure to check this movie out, and also if you watch the dvd make sure to check out the funny special features, and deleted scenes.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I used to hate Television Shows.

Seriously.....for about a decade.

I hated laugh tracks, commercial breaks, and in show product endorsements. I hated the simplicity of story lines, time limit story arcs, and fucking sweeps week guest stars. I hated diseased society explorations, and entertainment fluff pieces on talk shows.

I also hated the voice of the dude that said: Stay tuned for previews of next's week episode.

Come to think of it....I still hate all that stuff.

My point is, for the most part, I avoided television programming. Usually I watched sports or threw a movie onto the t.v. screen. I mean I wasn't a total movie snob, I occasionally watched Seinfeld, Star Trek, Cheers and other iconic shows.

But I wouldn't rearrange my schedule for it.

I'd have it on while I was eating Del Taco, or when I was waiting for a friend to pick me up. I'd throw the t.v. on so I wouldn't feel lonely at night, or if my mom left the television on in the living room, and I was too friggin lazy to turn it off while I was talking on the phone, you know that sort of thing.

Then something remarkable happened.

Home Box Office.

I don't know if everyone reading this has it, but if you don't you better figure out a way to afford it. Steal some money, donate some sperm or sell you body, cause you're really missing some good shit.

Seriously, it's the most remarkable stuff in ALL of entertainment.

I don't know if you've noticed from my blog, but a good movie is a rarity nowadays. I don't know if it's just that I'm a cynical bastard, or I'm just getting cranky in my old age, but most movies nowadays are just horrible.

Sometimes when I'm watching a movie that's a comedy I WISH there was a laugh track, cause I just don't get it.

I literally don't know when I'm supposed to find something funny.

All this PG-13 Lindsay Lohan, Steve Martin, underage white bread comedy drives me nuts...... And all the dramas that I watch nowadays.....I fucking find hilarious.

They crack me up.

Seriously, I can't stop laughing at how bad they are. All this life and death stuff.....the mental illness, and heart transplants. Seriously, it's like watching 2 hours of a public service announcement, or a history lesson.

I literally have to get up, and walk out of the room cause I feel the movie stealing my brain cells.

Of course, it's only funny if I've rented it for free from my job.

When I go to a movie theatre, and have to pay for a bad film.........I feel like I've been sexually violated. I walk away from the theatre shaking my head, almost in tears, scolding myself for being so stupid.

I shouldn't have put myself in that position..... to watch that piece of crap.

For whatever reason, most of the good stuff....... you'll find on the television screen.

For me the good television shows are more satisfying than a solid two hour movie.

When your watching a good show you get to watch characters grow and develop. It's more of a effective character study and complicated story arc.

In other words, more sophisticated entertainment.

It sounds odd to admit it, but it's true.

Here's a list of 10 shows mostly on H.B.O. that I've discovered recently, and I heartily recommend.

The best show on television. I don't care what anyone says, you won't find more interesting and fascinating characters ANYWHERE. The characters are all fully fleshed out, and complicated. Not to mention the cast. Not since Reservoir Dogs will you find such a talented, and impressive array of character actors in the business. The production design is top notch, not to mention the story lines, writing and directing.

2. Curb your Enthusiasm
The funniest show on Television. Welcome to the fictional world of Larry David. You'll witness all the quirks, and inappropriate behavior your gut can handle. Hilarious writing, impressive since the show is 90% improv.

3. DA ALI G Show
The best reality show on television. Sasha Baron Cohen and his three alternate personas will have you wetting yourself in laughter. A parody of all talk shows, everyone is in on the joke, except for the unfortunate guests, who often times reveal their ignorance, vanity, and unfortunately racism for all to see.

4. The Office (B.B.C. version)
I've never watched a show that made me laugh so hard, and tugged at my heart strings like this program. What's so great about this program was that these characters are in your life already....they just have different names. The U.S. version is pretty good too. But make sure you watch the two seasons, & the Office Special to truly appreciate it's brilliance.

The adventures of two grunt soldiers, Titus & Pullo, in the back drop of Julius Caesar's Rome. Sure it's soap opera entertainment, but strong acting, and wonderful production design, not to mention good writing will keep you satisfied for hours.

6. Tilt
The main reason to watch this show is Michael Madsen's Matador. But you've got poker,
con-games, revenge, pretty girls, and the Vegas back drop to keep you going when he's not around.

7. The Sopranos
The ONLY reason why this show is not number one on my list is because it takes so fucking long for them to produce the show. In between seasons you forget how truly GREAT the show is. If you need a synopsis, you're hopeless and should probably just stop reading now.

8. Extras
From the creators of The Office. The show is a great parody of the entertainment industry. What's cool is seeing all the star power contributing to the show. You just know that they all LOVED the OFFICE too, and jumped at the chance to work with Gervais.

9.The Contender
I hate reality shows. Survivor, and Big Brother are full of people who just need attention, and aren't talented enough to be actors. The Contender was a boxing contest, with struggling boxers. If you don't know it already, boxing is the toughest sport to be a success at. Even the Champions aren't guaranteed success and money, yet they put their life on the line everytime they compete. Just for the chance at glory. You can see the desperation, and hunger in each of the fighters eyes, even when they are competing in silly skills contests. Each episode ended with a challenge, and fight. Almost like Roman gladiators, two men entered, one man left. Hans Zimmer's score is incredible in the show, if you don't get emotional listening to it, go see a're probably dead.

10. Dave Chappelle show
It was fun while it lasted. A combination of Saturday Night Live and In Living Color....only funnier. I'm not surprised Chappelle decided to stop. There was nowhere else to go but down. At least you have two seasons on dvd to watch.

I don't think there's anything groundbreaking or controversial about my list. All the shows recieved critical acclaim. But the fact that I had ten shows to watch was impressive for me, and showed me that there's exciting stuff going on in television, and hopefully a lot more down the line.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Le Samourai

Coming from a theatre background, the things that I usually respond to, and demand from a movie are a strong narrative, interesting dialogue, and solid acting. But when you witness the art of a visual expert in storytelling , it's amazing how fast all those criteria become secondary.

Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai is a visual feast for cinema fans.

Le Samourai tells the tale of Jef Costello, a lone hired assassian, who must untangle himself from the aftermath created in one of his less than perfect outings. Despite all his careful preparations, and back up plans, he is up to his neck in mounting trouble, and must use all his resources, and impressive abilities to try, and escape before it's too late.

Although, not strong in narrative, the movie does excel in it's attention to detail, and visual storytelling.

What's unique about Melville's style is that he doesn't rely on words to tell his story. He does everything visually. For instance, the first ten minutes, there is no dialogue. Just a series of seemingly small physical actions taken, that will compile into a large action, that will eventually lead to an important event.

What's also impressive is that Melville doesn't rely on a musical score to set the mood. Most of the movie takes place in an eerie silence. When you combine that with the stark ,dark, cold, look of the film, what you get is a slow simmiring pot of a movie, not really action packed, but suspenseful and thrilling.

The movie is an interesting tribute to american ganster and Japanese Samurai films. It should come to no surprise that Melville is an idol to John Woo, and Quentin Tarentino. John Woo even writes a tribute essay in the DVD booklet. I also know that Woo does an audio commentary on his other movie available from Criterion, Le cercle rourge. If you dig Le Samourai, make sure to check that one out too.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cinderella Man

Reading the description on the DVD box, and seeing all the ads for the movie Cinderella Man, I was under the assumption that the movie was about boxing and the true story of depression era boxing champ James Braddock.

Unfortunately....I was wrong.

The movie does feature a ring, and there are fighters in that ring, but Ron Howard has made a movie about a different kind of sporting event.

Professional Wrestling.

The kind of movie Michael Learner's character, Jack Lipnick, wants Barton Fink to make.

A Wrestling Picture.

The movie has the good guy underdog. He's got the starving kids, and he's just trying to keep his family together. He basically tells the kids to say their prayers, and take their vitamins so that they can all become Hulkamaniacs just like him one day.

He's going up against the huge, scruffy dirty looking bad guy, a.k.a Andre The Giant, who does two chicks at the same time, is loaded with money, goes around threatening to put everyone in a choke hold, and he wants to kill the good guy so he could sleep with his wife.

Also when you least expect it, he likes to punch you in the balls.....hard.

For some reason though Ron Howard gets the details of the sport wrong. Ya see Ron, in professional wrestling they don't use gloves, they use their hands, so they can grab each other, scratch your eyes and stuff, also for some reason I didn't see alot of drop kicking, or using of the top turnbuckle.

I guess Russell Crowe was afraid of jumping off the top rope.

Ron Howard does get the part right where the good guy manager, Paul Giamatti A.K.A Captain Lou Albino, distracts the bad guy so his man could hit him....but usually he hits the guy with a chair.

I thought putting the movie in the depression era was also pretty cool of Ron Howard. That way we, the stupid audience, can distinguish the good guys, and the bad guys easier.

Cause that's friggin' hard man. Don't make me think.

Also, he shows us all the family stuff, so we'd like the good guy even MORE. Unfortunately it was friggin boring. All this starving, crying crap.
It has the little cute girl asking mummy for "some more please" like in the musical Oliver.
It has stuff with his wife, who he loves...friggin a lot. He loves her so much he's willing to wake up... and go to work.....when the sun is not even OUT man!
It has the drunk friend who's lost his way.
It has the sweet Irish priest who prays for littly Jimmy.
It has the homeless people standing in long ass lines.
The hungry kids playing in the streets so they can forget their bellies are empty.
It has a lot of dirt and..and snow and....and dirt.
Then it has the hero losing a couple of bouts, cause.....times are tough for our hero.
Brother can you spare a dime tough.
Meanwhile, the bad guy gets to wear the tuxedos, hangs out in clubs, and four star hotels. He likes to talk loud and smack girls on the ass.
He also kicks a lot of fucking ass.
He kicks so much ass that he's actually kills people.
Seriously, no joke.
He has a finishing move that would make Jimmy Superfly Snuka's top rope jump look like patty cake.
His finishing move is he waits till your staggering against the rope. Then he corners you in a way that you can't get past him. Then with one hand he grabs the top rope..... then he jumps in the air, and with the other hand he punches you in the face...hard.....snapping your neck.
Fuck yeah.
I mean, I like Hogan's leg drop, but I don't think he's ever killed anyone with it.
Anyways, the rest of the movie is a lot of the wife crying, saying don't fight, the kids crying cause they need their daddy, the manager screaming for him to fight. The Priest praying for his soul, the people cheering....stuff like that.
Then the fight happens. The big fight.
Well, I would tell you who wins the fight, but that would ruin the surprise.
Cause man....the audience will NEVER...I mean NEVER guess.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What's in a NAME?

I read somewhere that parents spend more time thinking of a name for their child then choosing the kind of Child car Seat, or Crib they want for the baby.

No Shit.

We found out Erin was pregnant in October, and shortly after we found out the little guy has a Penis. I saw the thing myself on the sonogram, at least I hope that's what I saw, I guess it could've been a snail shell with a worm sticking out between his legs, but that's highly unlikely.

So that night we spent about 15 minutes coming up with the name Seth. I've always liked the name Seth, I remember reading in school that Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve. He was the good son, he had nothing to do with that whole murder deal between his brothers.The name is a hebrew name which means appointed one. I assume he was appointed by God to populate the whole friggin world, which means he had to sleep with his sister, right? Anyways, that's a different subject that doesn't need to be explored right now.

So for a month the name was Seth, baby Seth, or Fetus Seth wherever you fall in the whole debate, I don't want to offend anyone. Anyways, shortly after, Erin and I started hearing whispers like:

Don't you want to take more time to figure out the name?

Shouldn't we consult our friends and family?

Don't you want to think about other options just in case?

In case of what? In case he's a hermaphrodite, and he needs a more feminine name to offset his masculinity? Erin suggested we should buy a baby name book.....just in case. I said no. We don't need a book to figure out our growing baby, er, fetus, name. I could use that money to buy a Dvd or a pair of socks or something. Believe me, right now with our financial situation, a pair of socks is a luxury.

Then my friend complained that the name was too plain. Imagine that?

My friend JAGO thought the name Seth was too boring.

He kept saying Seth sounded too much like he was a creature that would move REAAAL Slow. Seth the Sloth, he'd say.

I said if we were going to give him a unique name, we should make his middle name unique. I suggested Qui-Gon, like the character in Star Wars. Seth Qui-Gon Manukay, or Yoda,

What about Seth Yoda Manukay?

Erin looked at me like I was insane.

I don't know why....who the hell wouldn't want to be named after a Jedi Master?

The guys at work said don't pull a Nicholas Cage, who named his Son Kal-El which was Superman's Krypton name. I told Erin, she liked the name Kal-el, said we can call him Kal. Apparently that's an important thing, a nick name to go with the name.

Kal-El Manukay?

That's a lot to live up to. Super-friggin-man.

Anyways, apparently, Erin wanted to give the little thing her family name as his middle name. Which was Danielson.....yes, Erin knows, in High School they always teased her by calling her Daniel-san like in the Karate kid.

Seth Danielson Manukay.

Then something happened. A small strange nebbish man came into my job named Seth. I looked at him, and quietly asked myself

Is that what a Seth looks like?

Are there any athletes named Seth?

Is Seth a nebbish name?

Is that a book worm name?

I don't know any Seths maybe it's not a good idea to name him Seth?

I came home proclaiming his new name was Marlon.

Like the Fish? Erin asked.

I looked at Erin.

No, like Brando.

I realized that this was going to be more complicated than I thought.

The next couple of weeks was a nightmare. Every night we'd go over names. At work I'd looked at the names of the characters, and actors on the Dvds I was surrounded by.

Leonardo, Rocky, Vincent, Josh, Angelo, Christian, Modigiliani, Bogart......Bogart Manukay What about Brando Manukay?

Nothing was off limits. I tried everything. I even tried athletes but everything sounded odd.

Vlad, Shaq, Magic,Troy, Jarrod......Kobe...God no...

Then we finally came up with Quentin......yes I know....Quentin Tarrentino. But we liked the name......we could shorten it and call it Quint.

I told people it was down to two names:

Quentin or Seth ?

I had remembered that there was a Pitcher for the Angels named Seth Etherton, he was athletic and strong looking, so the name wasn't just for small nebbish men. Seth was a good name.

But once we admited we had reservations about the name Seth. Everybody...I mean EVERYBODY started to voice their concerns. Erin's Dad informed us that the main character on the O.C. was named Seth. We've never seen an episode. People admitted that it wasn't there first choice either. They said it was too plain.

Then my friend Ron admited to me that he didn't like the name Seth, he said Seth reminded him of the guy you got to fix your computer, and the guy screws it up, and makes it worse.

He also shared with me that he once knew a guy named Seth, apparently the guy's car broke down on his way to a Van Halen Concert, it was plowed into by a drunk driver killing him as well as his wife and kids.


Quentin Danielson Manukay......little Quint.

I looked up the name Quentin, and apparently it means "the fifth" as in the fifth son.

Which means...... jack shit to me.

Everyone also kept thinking that we were huuuuge fans of Quentin Tarrentino.

Wesley, Cameron, Russell, Garrett, Truck, Rock, The Rock.....I know.....

What about David?......That way when I call him, and the dog I can say David!!! Mamet!!! Come here!!!

Erin was not amused.

Rod, Jason, Ryan, Quinlan, I liked the name Gabriel...

But my friend Norman has a new born son named Gabriel.

It was a nightmare....I hated thinking of names. I was ready just to name him Ray Jr.

It was too hard...... basically, we were looking for a unique name, that we could shorten, that had a cool meaning, and if possible.... tied in with the family. In short we needed a miracle.

Last night a miracle happened.......


I don't know anyone named Brayden. Anyone. For some reason it sounded so familiar though. The meaning of the name was of celtic origin and meant Brave ....interesting. You can shorten it and call him Brady or Bray...... cool. And if you also notice, my name is within that name:


Brayden Danielson Manukay

But why did it sound familiar? Brayden....Brayden......Brayden?

Then I realized it sounded similar to another in Hayden Christianson....who played Anakin Skywalker.......the Jedi Knight.

Thank you God.

So for now we're going with Brayden......Brayden Manukay.

I guess.