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.