Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anthropology today #2

[NOTE: I wrote most of this some time ago, it's a bit of a mess - if you get bored/annoyed/incomprehensed part of the way through, don't worry about continuing, I don't think it gets any better].

As I wandered past my local Chrysler dealership on the way home yesterday, a thought occured to me as I took in the beefy good looks of the new (to NZ) Chrysler 300C. It's a notion I've had before in one form or another, but it seemed to come in particularly coherently yesterday. Let's hope it's somewhere near as coherent when I write it down:

The 300C is a pretty new car, and it's flavour of the month, at least as far as styling goes. All the schoolboys (including the 40-year-old ones) want one and all that stuff. Even I like it.

As I walked past it yesterday though, I thought, "When does it stop being cool and new and interesting and stylish?" Inevitably it will - all new cars do.

I further thought, "Why is it that people don't seem to be able to recognise that this is going to happen?"

I further further thought, "Don't be so arrogant, pretty much everyone knows that these things happen - how is it then that they either pretend they won't happen, or forget that they will happen?"

I can see that this is already far less coherent than it is in my brain. Let me try a different example - fashion. Everything from Haute Couture to Hallensteins is cool in the present (stretching it a bit with Hally's, I know), but at some point it turns to shit.

Yet, rather than try and get something that will never date, or has already dated, people flock to buy these things that they know will be outmoded in a few months.

I don't have any answers for this, and I'm sure it's been analysed a billion times before as part of the whole "What makes something cool?" question, but I still find it interesting.

Perhaps it only happens in our Western Capitalist cultures - cool and fashion are just cogs in the great corporate conspiracy to make us buy more stuff.

The bit that I find most fascinating is the way everyone - from the dude in the street to the respected commentators - seems to ignore the way new items fall from popularity. Will Jeremy Clarkson still be raving about the Monaro in five years time? Or will he be laughing at it and ridiculing it, like he does with every other five-year-old car?

The really really interesting thing (maybe only to me) is that these same things that are cool/fashionable/whatever now turn into the opposite. In this way, they define what is cool next (by being not cool), and the cycle begins.

Maybe this goes some way to explain the regurgitation of fashions/style from twenty (or more) years ago?

Enough of this!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fuck yeah!

Team America: World Police is, bizarrely, a film I hadn't really been looking forward to. Bizarrely, because I love South Park (also the fictional version), and I loved Bigger, Longer and Uncut as well.

No, I thought the world had seen enough of Trey and Matt's genius, and as for bringing back SuperMarionation, well it was OK in a camp kinda way in the '60s, but now?

Still, now that DVDs are pretty much on tap, I though I might as well add it to the list. I'm glad I did.

Turns out I'm Just Gay Enough to actually quite enjoy musicals, and this is a modern musical - in PUPPET form! In the process of finding links for this entry, I've read quite a few reviews, either overwhelmingly negative, or overwhelmingly positive. Not a one seems to say anything about the obvious morals of the Parker and the Stone.

Every South Park episode I've seen (and I haven't seen them all) has a very good (and plainly evident) moral lesson built into it. I don't know if people can't see past the offensiveness/hilarity (depending on their point of view), but these moral plots are there every time.

TA:WP is no different. Most of the movie is about ripping as much piss out of as many things as possible, whether it be action movies, Kim Jong-Il, or entire nations. Perhaps this breadth of pisstaking has confused a lot of viewers and reviewers, who expect a much more binary view to be taken.

However, you don't have to look too hard to see what they're trying to get across (I'm not gonna put it into words here either, figure it out yourself).

Personally, I really like their "fuck everything" attitude - why should a lack of support for the War On Terror mean you must therefore support the opposite?

Its getting near the end of the day here and I seem to have lost the thread somewhat. What I mean to say is that this is a great movie, with a great message, contrary to what you may have heard.

However, if you're easily offended, well, you can just ga'an and get fucked.

Some of the most interesting DVD extras I've seen too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Sorry about the mis-spelling. We have a cafe (actually, they call it a caffe) called Metropolis in my town, which a friend of mine insists on calling Metrolopis. It's stuck now.

I first watched this movie a long time ago. I can't remember exactly when it was, but I would definitely have been less than 11, possibly more like eight or so. I remember absolutely loving it at the time. I was also watching a lot of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy about that time. I'm not sure why there was such a focus on these things - this was well before the video era, it must've just been what they had on after school (or on a Saturday morning) in England. Come to think of it, they should put those things on after school now, instead of PokeDigiMegagodIsoundlikeaparent.

Meandering back to the original point, I remember loving Metrolopis then. This time it wasn't so good. This may well be due to it being a "restored-exactly-as-Fritz-Lang-intended-even-down-to-referring-to-missing-footage" edit. I don't remember it being anywhere near this long - surely my attention-span at that age wouldn't have withstood it?

My 31-year-old attention span certainly didn't - I had to watch it in two goes! The second half seemed a lot better, more like what I remember.

The score is apparently also the original (presumably played live at each screening?) by Gottfried Huppertz. It is overblown and horrible, an absolute cliche of silent film. While this does make it seem more authentic, I had to turn it down so it didn't detract from the film so much.

This place talks about the Giorgio Moroder soundtrack from 1984, often misreported as a Queen soundtrack. It may well be this version of the film I've seen. I certainly remember the video for Radio Ga-ga, and recognising the bits they'd nicked from the movie.

Back once again to what I was talking about - while the film didn't grab me as such a brilliant, depressing vision of the future this time, I still love it.

It has such a wide-ranging influence, noticeable in everything from Blade Runner's bleak vision of the future, to the weird machinery of Brazil, to the architecture of the third reich.

The main plot (the heart is the mediator between the hand and the brain) is one of those old classics that are eternal and timeless.

The sheer scale of some of the scenes is astounding, too. There appear to be thousands of extras quite a lot of the time, and although some sets are obviously miniatures, others appear not to be. No wonder it cost so much to make!

Overall then, a great film. The flaws are overridden by its technical magnificence and historical significance.

On a slightly different note, this is the first silent film I've seen in a long time - boy, people really knew how to act back then, particularly with their hands. I've never seen so much actual clutching of breast (outside of "art" films anyway)!

Friday, October 21, 2005


"Why?" I screamed, pushing the blade into the soft flesh of his throat.

"Why did you take something so beautiful and turn it into . . . into this pile of . . ." I was apoplectic with rage, unable to find a suitable description for what this . . . creature . . . had proudly given birth to.

"You had it all - you could take any one of those components and put them in a room by themselves - they'd be fantastic, but you . . . you still manage to ruin everything.

"I spent years learning my craft - I know I was never going to reach the top, but damnit, I was better than most. When I got the chance to contribute to this, I was overjoyed. At last, people would be able to see what I was truly capable of.

"Thanks to what you have done, all I feel is shame, where I should be feeling pride." I eased my knee off his chest, cruelly hinting at respite, only to push it back with a sickening crack. He deserved no better.

"Did you know that people laugh at me when I tell them I was part of this? It's worse than pity or disgust. They try and cover it up by telling me that I couldn't possibly have seen how it would turn out, but it's of no comfort to me.

"Through the months of hard work, you kept telling me how it'd all be worthwhile in the end. Did you really believe that, or was it just another lie to keep the drones producing? Well? I WANT AN ANSWER!"

"I . . . I . . . " he rasped, " . . . it still seems OK to . . ." I cut him off with a quick flash of steel.

"Not much for an epitaph," I thought. I'm no killer, but I felt no remorse for what I'd done. I've atoned for his sins, do what you want with me now - the weight has been lifted.

Excerpt from confession of Animator 17 (real name suppressed), who murdered the producer of a well-known movie (real title suppressed). After seeing the film, the judge handed down a suspended sentence.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pure energy II

Spirited Away I had been quite hotly anticipating, having seen Howl's Moving Castle at the Film Festival and loved it in spite of its terrible ending.

I also saw the earlier Miyazaki film (wankity-wank) Princess Mononoke recently, and I loved it, particularly for the odd and inventive creatures it featured. SA has a rich cast of strange, frightening, and humorous creatures too, in addition to the standard Anime kids in unfamiliar surroundings succeeding against all odds (despite or perhaps because of their naivete) to become PURE ENERGY.

That makes it sound like I didn't like it - far from it, it's stupendously great. No matter how much of an anime nut you are though, I think you'd agree that not a huge amount of horsepower is used up in plot creation.

As I may have said before, the animation is often not very nice either (it's like there's a code of practice in the anime industry or something) except for the occasional wickedly computer-animated scene or two.

No, the majority of the creative power is used to create a believable fantasy world (in the ones I've seen, at least). Very little explanation is given for why and how this world exists, but it's so well done I find that I don't question it. The creatures are so intriguing and odd, the things they do so unfamiliar that it seems almost like a slice-of-life documentary.

Until, that is, the young hero kills (or in this case befriends) the monster, saves their love, and turns their parents back into humans again.

This is great escapism, please don't try to turn it into some kind of a metaphor (unless it's a pisstake, then please do).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The best $ I've ever spent

(all prices in NZ dollars; some items may no longer be available)

The best $25 I ever spent:
The Modern Day 3000. Not only does this have a massively cool name, but it is incredibly useful and as can be seen, was very cheap.

What is it? It's a hand-held rechargeable vacuum cleaner. Wicked handy when you have a small person eating in your house. It picks up rice and other bits of crap, but most importantly, it picks up liquids too!

Not only that, but the crud container is transparent, so you can see all the stuff whirling around as it goes in.

The instruction manual refers to a mystical Modern Day 5000, with more features - one day, one day.

Also, I got it from a shop that only sells vacuum cleaners, with the most incredibly aggressive salesmen. I'm sure their temperament isn't helped by having at least three display cleaners permanently, noisily operational. This shop (well, half of it) also has the plushest carpet I have ever seen anywhere - again, useful for demos.

The best $41 I ever spent:
My no-name FM transmitter, bought from the ubiquitous TradeMe. For those that don't know, it has a mini-jack plug, which you connect to your mp3player/laptop/old-skool cassette player. Once you turn it on, you use the buttons to set it to broadcast on an FM frequency.

This particular one goes from 88.0 to about 108.0 I think, in 0.1 increments. Anyway, once you've selected the frequency you want to transmit on, you simply turn on any FM radio (house stereo, car stereo, even nana's tranny) and tune in.

This thing scores on several counts:
  • It has 4 memories for storing frequencies
  • The LCD screen is backlit, in blue!
  • I have seen one advertised that is exactly the same, except for two things: the word "Belkin" printed on it; the $89.95 price.
Now we can have the massive indecison of not knowing which one of the 2000 tracks on my mp3 player to listen to in the car, as well as when walking! I can also watch those downloaded movies on a laptop, sitting at the kitchen table, without a massive cord running to the stereo, and still get 5.1 sound!

The broadcast range is about 10-15 metres I think. My plan is to spot a car with a "GT ON 2 IT!" sticker on the back, tune the transmitter to whatever The Edge frequency is, and beam Einsturzende Neubauten into their car stereo.

This is part of my Strategies Against Arsitecture program.

The best $1000 I ever spent:
Bit of a jump there, but this isn't an exhaustive list, more will come to me some other time.

In 1999, I decided to buy a crap van, throw in a mattress, sellotape a barbecue to the side, and go to Gisborne for the end of the world. Naturally, I ended up buying an actual campervan. This was a 1979 Bedford CF (still the most recent vehicle I've owned), with a wood/fibreglass parallelogram-style pop-top, a wardrobe with mirror, a sink with a pump-tap and weird-tasting reservoir, many many cupboards, a table that converted to a bed, and most importantly, curtains.

It would do about 90 km/h, and was always incredibly hot to travel in, but it didn't matter, you were on holiday, it was part of the fun! I am now completely ruined for tents - you cannot beat pulling up to your campsite in the pissing down rain, popping the top and boiling the jug, while your fellow campers steam up the windows of their cars waiting for the deluge to end, or wrestle with soaking canvas (OK, nylon).

We took it to the Big Day Out one year (admittedly, it did the usual thing of running on three cylinders, meaning we left on the day, rather than the night before), and the same cup o' tea trick was pulled at midnight, at the side of the road in front of someone's house in Mt. Smart.

It was also very good for driving to parties, parking on the back lawn or driveway, and being able to sleep, drunk, pretty much at home, but not have to go back and get your car the next day. There were only strange naked men in it once or twice.

Obviously, this was when parties that didn't necessarily involve fairy bread or pass-the-parcel were still part of our social vocabulary.

For extra bonus points (not that it ever needed any), the ancient Dymo labels on the engine cover were later deciphered as call-signs from when it was a Kinleith Fire Service vehicle. The Tok was strong with this one.

I really really miss the old bugger, but it had to go, it would've been stupid to have more than one old-vehicle-project-that-I-never-start, and there was already one of those with major seniority.

Must go now, I'm getting all teary. Please tell me about your favourite purchases.

Monday, October 10, 2005

13-foot Hasselhof

Don't dismiss The Spongebob Squarepants Movie as "just a kids' movie", although that's exactly what it is.

I imagine there are probably people about the place who haven't been into the Spongebob world - follow the link if not, it gives you an excellent grounding in the basics. OK, I lied, that link is pretty much Nickelodeon hideosity.

It is the usual kid cartoon world of wacky, lovable creatures - OR IS IT? Watch more than a couple of episodes and you'll see some real weirdness creep in. Witness Spongebob's pet snail, called Gary, who meows, and his friend Sandy, a squirrel who must live in a diving-suit in order to breathe underwater. These are just the regular characters.

So, this movie has the titular 13-foot Hasselhof (watch the DVD extras to find out about that one), Scarlett Johanssonsensonsun, a massive rock'n'roll finale with crossdressing, and a proper moral. What more could one want?

Watch out for this though.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Sharalaxy

I always meant to go and see this one at the cinema, but as usual, I never quite got there.

Having read the posthumously-published collection of Douglas Adams' essays and so on, I was prepared for this. HHGTTG has been through radio play, book, TV show and now movie forms, and there are differences in each one. As the man himself was at pains to point out, they're not meant to be slavishly adherent to whatever you believe the original version is.

Obviously this upsets the fanboys, pedants and trainspotters, but if it's how the author intended things to be, sweet as.

Overall, I thought it was great, with plenty of Adamsisms and the vast majority of plot elements and characters being recognisable from previous incarnations of the story.

Ford Prefect was an inspired piece of casting, and naturally upset some people. Actually, I thought all the cast were pretty great, with the exception of Zooey Deschanel. She was OK, but seemed a bit vacant some of the time. Her character was not quite what I remember from the books (yes, I remember what I said about them not having to be the same), to me her part of the storyline got a bit hollywoodised.

Still, D.A. may well have intended this as some kind of giant joke on the rest of us, and it's nowhere near enough to ruin the movie.

So, give it a go, it's better than bad, worse than excellent, and if you haven't read any of D.A.'s books, give one a go too.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Say, what's the big idea?

A beautiful, sunny, cloudless morning for the walk to work today.

This presents a slightly odd problem though - what music should I listen to?
  • happy bouncy stuff to complement the skies?
  • slightly depressing stuff as a contrast to make me appreciate the day more?
  • acoustic music - does that fit better with the day (it seems more natural or organic, like the sun)?
  • heavy, distorted guitars and roaring vocals, for the opposite reason?
  • stand-up comedy?
As I have an mp3 player these days, with about two thousand tracks on it, all the above options (and more) are available to me without much hassle.

What did I go for in the end? Random (or Shuffle as Sony insist on calling it) - just no way to decide.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You were only supposed to blow the bloody review off! #9

The Italian Job (not the stupid remake) is a classic film, particularly amongst old car anoraks such as myself. It's right up there with Bullitt and the original Gone in 60 Seconds.

I'd seen bits of TIJ here and there, and played the (actually quite good) Playstation game, but had never seen the whole film.

It's fantastic, of course, and not just for the cars.

I've seen it dismissed quite a few times as merely a thin plot leading up to a great car chase, and even as a giant Mini Cooper advertisement (which it unintentionally is) but it's definitely got more to it than that (something it shares with Bullitt in my opinion).

There are some very memorable lines (as referenced in the title of this review) and some great characters. Benny Hill's Professor Peach is hilarious, but his character's mother is even better, completely mad. Noel Coward's Mr. Bridger is another standout, and you can't forget about Charlie Croker!

Most of all (like many old films), it's a record of a different era in every way:
The social attitudes of the sixties;
  • Charlie Croker's attitude to women;
  • British jingoism;
the filmmaking style of the time;
  • virtually all shot on location;
  • real Italian traffic jams(!);
  • sixties camerawork and editing;
  • wanton biffing of expensive cars off ridiculously scenic precipices
and most importantly, the material objects of the sixties;(all the car links are different)

If you love old cars, watch this.
If you love Britain, watch this.
If you love the sixties, watch this.
If you don't love any of those, but you love a good laugh, watch this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Unfair review #8

About Schmidt is the last film I saw. It's good and bad, in pretty much equal measures.

  • Jack Nicholson playing the old man he actually is (or would be if he lived in the real world, not Hollywood).
  • The many little moments of comedy, most of them recognisable from real life.
  • The deep sadness of the main character.
  • The lack of direction in the story - it meanders, seemingly as if it was made up on the spot. This can't be the case, as it originated as a novel, but it seemed that way to me.
  • The deep sadness of the main character - I know I've got this as a good point, but even with the final scene of the film, I found it rather unrelenting, and (I'll admit) a little bit overwhelming.
  • The length. ***SPOILER*** This is the longest World Vision child sponsorship advertisement I've ever seen. ***SPOILER***
I really can see the appeal of the film - it's a rare and accurate slice of what life really is for a lot of people - but overall, it just isn't for me. Do not watch this if you like your movie-watching experience to be all about escapism.

I'll watch it again when I'm 60 (hopefully the holographic re-dub will be out by then).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Anthropology today

The first in an occasional series.

Here's something I've struggled with for a long time: individuals vs. groups. Allow me to explain: it seems to me that many humans spend their time and effort doing their utmost to be as different as they can from any other human.

The riceboy bolts more and more things onto his car; the goth bolts more and more things onto his face, all in an effort to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd.

What is the result? Rather than standing out, they become more and more like the rest of their group (whatever that may be). I'm no different - all the time I buy things and do things that literally millions of other people do, all to try and individualise myself.

Even those cultures that supposedly celebrate diversity really don't. Look at the hippies - "be whatever you want to be, man, take it easy, do what you like - but make sure you smoke dope and have long hair or we'll ostracise you, you square."

It seems like we all want to be unique, but never really can be. Just as well, too - if you end up too different from the people around you, things can go bad.

Far from being depressed by this, I find it a hopeful thing - if humans can continue to strive for something that all the evidence points to as being unreachable, we might just get somewhere.

This has been brought to you by the letter "#".

Unfair review #7

I would like to briefly evangelise about Fatso - if you are considering joining up with an online DVD rental co. in NZ, this is the one to go for. If you're not considering joining one, have a think about it.

They sent me a movie called Amores Perros the other day. The translation is supposedly "Love's a bitch" - I thought it would be "Love Dogs", but what the hell do I know?

Not only is this a fantastic movie, it's actually three separate fantastic movies, linked together in quite subtle ways. I suppose a comparison with Pulp Fiction could be made, as it is similarly non-linear, but this would be unfair.

PF is great, but there's something cartoony about it - stylishly ultraviolent it may be, but the characters lives and deaths don't really affect me that much. They're interesting and amusing, but not really involving.

AP, for me anyway, was much more pathossy (o no you din't). I was sad, I was angry, I was calmed, I was tense, I was relieved, all along with the people on screen.

What people too! Everybody in this movie, without exception, looked fantastic. I don't mean they were beautiful necessarily (although a few definitely were), they just looked very very interesting.

I spent the whole movie thinking it was set in Brazil - turns out it was Mexico.

This has not diminished my appreciation, although it has made me feel just a little racist. They all look the same to me anyway though (dogs, I mean).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Unfair review #6

Went to see Dogville the other day. Again, didn't use much gas to get there as it was in my living room, which is conveniently located within my house.

Dancer in the Dark by the same director was a very very good, if not completely enjoyable film. I found Dogville to be in much the same vein, at least as far as plot goes.

The two movies have similar unrelenting, shocking depictions of betrayal, and what "ordinary people" can/will do at their worst. I imagine Lars von Trier (if that is his real name) must have either had some bad experiences himself, or has done some things he's ashamed of, or is very good at delving into the depths of human nature through imagination alone.

D in the D used colour, lighting and camera style (can't think of the correct word here, comments please) to highlight the difference between the reality and the fantasy of the main character. Reality was close to the Dogme 95 manifesto, washed-out colours, hand-held camera, while the fantasy musical numbers were in beautiful, glowing colours, using all sorts of flashy crane and tracking shots.

Dogville also made some use of the Dogme 95 doctrine (which I'm pretty sure I hate, by the way) - the vast majority was shot using (pretty much) a hand-held camera. Other aspects of Dogme 95 were ignored - there was non-diagetic music, and it wasn't filmed on location . . .

. . . kind of. The shtick with this film is the set. It's entirely within one massive soundstage, and is a layout of a (very) small town, with a main street lined with the characters' houses. These are all drawn in outline on the stage, and save for a few random bits (like the meeting-hall belltower, and some furniture), there is nothing else. No walls, no doors, no windows.

I'd heard two conflicting opinions about this - people either said, "If I wanted to watch a fucking play I'd go to the theatre," or, "It didn't matter, the film was great." I fall into the latter camp, although I did think the method used to get the story across was a bit distracting at first. Once the film was about a quarter over, though, I really hardly noticed.

This was a brave attempt to do something interesting and different, and either it didn't work, but the story was so great it shone through, or it worked brilliantly, and made a great story even better. I'm not totally sure which I think it is.

If you've seen D in the D and found the ending a little - um - depressing, not to worry, Dogville is almost upbeat by comparison.

Sort of.

Unfair review #5

Went to see Paris, Texas the other day. Didn't have to go far actually, it was on DVD at my house.

I'm pretty sure this is the first Wim Wenders movie I've seen, and I quite liked it.

It's quite sparse, in all ways, but it gets along OK. Crucially, it made me want to keep watching to see what happens.

The cinematography is beautiful, and there are some really great moments from all the characters.

Being who I am, I loved the dilapidated Ranchero the main character buys and drives from California to Texas - I'm sure it was chosen for the sybolism it provided, but to me it's also a great example of a great car.

This hasn't been much of a review, but it is an great film.

Billboard bollocks

The country in which I live is in an election year - well, an election month. Actually, we're in an election fortnight at the moment.

The city in which I live sits astride a river, and consequently has several bridges. This enables its citizens to move from one side of the river to the other as they go about their daily business without having to resort to boating or swimming.

Our clever politicians have found another use for our bridges, however. Any time there is any kind of election, when the polling day is near, the various candidates stand on the footpaths of the bridges during rush hour, waving their placards at motorists, and saying, "Hello, Good Morning," to those on foot.

What the fucking fuck is this for? Why the hell would I (or anyone else) be more likely to vote for someone because they do this? It's not like the general public is unaware an election is imminent, bloody billboards are everywhere, the TV ad campaign is stepping up, the parties even seem to have got down with the kids and are advertising on the nation's major trading site.

I had to walk past our incumbent (this word always makes me think of a cucumber, not too far wrong when it comes to intelligence) MP on Friday morning, I was so apoplectic with rage that I could only shake my head.

I wish I'd said:
  • "Wow, yes, I've always thought that the ability to stand on a bridge smiling translates to excellent skills for helping to run a country. Consider yourself elected!"
  • "Do you really think so little of your constituents that you imagine they will respond well to this?"
  • "Furk if you sad pastic winker."
  • "My daughter and I," (for I had her with me) "heartily thank you and your colleagues for my crippling student loan, and her future, more crippling student loan."

Actually, I don't wish I'd said any of those things.

I really wish I'd used the pram to tip her off the bridge.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Unfair review #4

Went to Broken Flowers at the Film Festival on Sunday evening. It was the last movie in the festival here, and I'd been really looking forward to it.

Dead Man is still one of my favourite films of all time, it can hardly be beat, and I loved Coffee and Cigarettes, so Jim Jarmusch is down as one of my favourites. Shit, nearly forgot about Ghost Dog!

I also quite like Bill Murray - he doesn't seem to mind taking the piss out of himself, or playing roles that seem uncomfortably close to the real person. Plus, Ghostbusters played a fairly important part in my childhood.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, Broken Flowers is great. I think I really enjoy films that don't necessarily have an explanation for everything, and leave you to draw your own conclusions (or not).

There are lots of interesting characters, and only the slightest indication of how they became that way - no stupid exposition scenes or anything. I imagine some people find this frustrating, but I really like it. It seems more real to me - I mean, when you meet someone new and quirky, you don't usually get a potted history of what made them that way. They're just weird in isolation (until you know them better).

Tilda Swinton's character Penny was a particularly good example of this. She was an angry woman, living in an odd place with strange people, and no indication (of course, I may have missed it) of how she ended up this way. I found myself wondering how her and the Bill Murray character were ever together - a good illustration of how much two people can change over twenty years.

I'd already seen Tilda Swinton in Thumbsucker, earlier in the festival, and she was completely different, almost unrecognisable. I know this doesn't necessarily indicate any great acting skill, but it was interesting nevertheless.

Some of you may find the ending of the film a little abrupt - I know I did! All I can say to that is: make sure you read the cast list. I had to have this pointed out to me by the more intelligent person who accompanied me to the film, and for me, it made everything a whole lot better.

Faster, pussycat

I've been listening to The Killers quite a bit recently. I've had the album for a while, and thrashed it when I first had it, but it kind of faded away to be swallowed up by the General Random (or Shuffle as my Sony friends prefer to call it), as things do in this mp3player age.

The latest video is great though (as have been all their videos) - it can't be long before we see Brandon Flowers appearing in movies, surely? He has that combination of good looks and seemingly nonchalant arrogance that make him look like he'd be a great actor.

Yeah, a load of crap I know, how can I judge that from a few videos?

Anyway, what I started out to say was that their music (lyrics, melody, everything) seems like the sort of thing that would be very easy to associate with an important part of your life.

I'm not sure I'm getting across what I mean here - you know how particular songs immediately evoke certain periods of your life? For example, any Nirvana instantly takes me back to my late teens, and Space Oddity-era David Bowie takes me waaay back to when I was three or four.

My point (and I may have one) is that you probably don't realise this music for what it is, while it's contemporary. It only becomes this way with hindsight. I know, I know, WTF am I on about - I'm just saying that I may look back on The Killers' current album the same way in a decade or so, and I'm putting a record of that here so I can prove myself right or wrong.

Does anyone else know what I'm on about? Please comment here or email me if you do.

Unfair review #3

Went to see Banana in a Nutshell on Sunday afternoon. It was preceded by the various omens listed in the previous bhog, so obviously I was a little nervous.

The film is about a Chinese New Zealander and her restrictive, traditional parents, and her 7-year relationship with a Pakeha New Zealander.

First off, there were a lot of people waiting for us to be allowed into the theatre - then again, I believe it had sold out screenings in Auckland and Wellington. A fair number of the people in the crowd seemed to be Asians (apologies for this inaccurate term, I have no better) with their Pakeha partners.

I needn't have worried - all the omens were obviously good ones, as this was one of the best of the festival. There's a lesson to be learned here I think - my favourite film from last year was also a low-budget NZ documentary - Kaikohe Demolition (see this if you haven't - it is available to rent now).

The sound was loud and distorted (I think the cinema may have done this), but it couldn't spoil a beautiful and honest slice of life.

This film has it all - humour plays a big role, as it does in real life, but it isn't a comedy, and there are some moments of extreme sadness as well.

My heartfelt congratulations and gratitude go out to Roseanne Liang for letting the audience so deeply into her life - it must have taken a lot to put that kind of thing in the public domain.

As Merrill J. Fernando says, "Do try it."

Someone to watch over me

Odd things going on around Hem-u-tern last Sunday. As I walked to work in the bright, crisp sunshine, I took a medium-cut along the riverbank, and was startled by a bird flying at me.

Not one of your boring sparrows or seagulls though, this thing was brightly multicoloured - some kind of parrot I suppose. It had blue and red and lots of green if that's any help . . .

Later that day, I walked from work to the cinema. As I walked down the hill into town, I could hear a kind of medium-pitched whining, like maybe someone operating an electric planer inside one of the buildings. It got louder as I (presumably) got closer to it, until it was obvious that it was coming from a side-street.

Being the curious type of person I am, I took a detour down said street to investigate. This noise just kept getting louder as I walked between parked cars and a concrete wall. I was almost at the point of putting my fingers in my ears, when the volume started to decrease again, as if I had walked past the source of the noise and was now heading away from it.

There was nothing and no one on the side of the wall I was on, aside from empty, parked cars, so it must have been someone cutting or planing or drilling something on the other side of the wall. I reached the end of the wall and peered around it to find . . .

. . . nothing but the dusty, empty car park. Now I felt a bit weird, like I was in Repo Man (inexplicably) or something. I had to get to the movie, so I walked back past the cars, the noise becoming agonisingly loud again. It was at this point that my (admittedly small) brain was able to detach itself from the assumption that the noise was something spinning at high speed, and realise what it actually was - a car horn, blaring steadily away in the spring sunshine, not a soul in sight.

I guess because you usually only hear car horns in short blasts, they sound alien and unrecognisable when blasting continuously, like the result of the classic movie-style "dead man's slump". I felt like I should do something - the car was unoccupied, and it sounded painful for the poor vehicle (a late-90s Laser), but I had to get to my movie.

The cinema I was going to is upstairs in the mall, with a couple of shops alongside it (some of you reading this will be very familiar with it). One of the shops is Central Park Interactive (gaming), which had coincidentally gone into receivership at the start of the film festival.

Having gone to a few movies in the festival so far (alright, this was my sixth), I'd walked past the boarded-up shop a few times in the last week or so. This time was different though - one of the six TVs that surround the entrance was turned on, broadcasting static and loud white noise directly at me.

Normally I wouldn't take too much notice of this, but having been bombarded by a decidedly odd bird, and an eerie car horn already, I just felt even stranger.

Bright sunny days like that always make everything seem kinda surreal anyway.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Everybody's doing it so why don't we?

I bought a Sony SA32 online (for a wicked good price) the other day. Got it delivered to work, it turned up yesterday.

I had joked to people that it was bigger than my house - it is a CRT, so isn't compact by any means.

Turns out that the joke was on me. The box it came in was too big to fit through any of the (standard-sized) doors in my house. I'd got an obliging colleague to help me lift it off the trailer (too big to fit in the car as well), so he helped me to take it out of the box and bung it on the living-room floor.

I wasn't keen on leaving it on the lawn for the afternoon - not that anyone could have stolen it without a crane and a medium-size truck!

The thing will be temporarily installed in the lounge while we either: (a) decide that it's far too big and trade around for a 28-inch; or (b) get so attached to it that we keep it. Hopefully I can be sensible about this and get the smaller one, but my track record at being sensible isn't great, especially when it comes to expensive electronics.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Unfair review #2

Went to Howl's Moving Castle at the Film Festival on Tuesday night.

I'm not sure if you know this about me, but I'm fairly new to the Anime (or whatever you young bastards call it) genre. In fact, I was always biased against it, relying solely on what I imagined it to be like. I was particularly annoyed by the terrible animation (i.e. seemingly 1 or 2 frames a second) that is a feature.

Thankfully, a more enlightened and pretentious person forced their Cowboy Bebop DVDs (the series) on me. These are fantastic, and have opened up a whole new world to me.

So, I bought my tickets for HMC and Steamboy (you can read what I thought about that in the previous post) at this year's Film Festival.

I'd sat behind a guy at a film earlier in the week, whose answer to a friend's, "What was HMC like?" was, "Weeeell . . . it looked nice." He then added that Disney had fucked it, particularly with the voice talent, and that the last half was pure Hollywood bullshit.

He was a dick (obviously), although he was at least partly right. HMC looks fantastic! The opening scenes of the lumbering castle are pure CGI magic, and their immediate juxtaposition with a hideously animated scene (of a flock of blob-like sheep) only make them better.

I can't speak for whether Disney shat all over it - by lucky mistaken coincidence, I had booked tickets for the non-overdubbed version.

The last five minutes are most definitely the low point of the film though, in terms of plot at least, but despite being tied up all too neatly and quickly, those few scenes aren't enough to detract from the film as a whole.

The characters in HMC are great - interesting, flawed, contradictory. I tend to compare everything to Cowboy Bebop as it's my first real point of reference, but the characters are similar.

I went into the cinema feeling tired, and expecting something pretty and vacuous, but emerged feeling refreshed, energised and entertained. I think there must be something wrong with me.

Unfair review #1

Went to Steamboy at the Film Festival last night.

I'm sure there were some fantastic graphics, but I couldn't see them through the gloomy brown tone of the film.

Likwise, I'm certain there were some innovative plot elements, but again, they were obscured by the usual anime plot of "young boy/girl is thrown into strange situation, overcomes odds to become PURE ENERGY" (to paraphrase a colleague of mine).

Perhaps I'm a bit new to the genre, but I felt that setting the whole thing in Victorian London and Manchester may have been overreaching somewhat. This may have been that most unusual of things - a foreign language film that would be improved by overdubbing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I can't believe it's not bugger!

Lorem ipsum dolor etcetera . . .

Historical first blog entry - it's not gonna be up to much. Today is one of those days where everything I try to do doesn't work out. A fair part of this can probably be attributed to increased stupidity - like I say, just one of those days.