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Category Archives: movies

Watchmen link roundup

You know, for a movie I thought was pretty flawed, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about Watchmen. If you ask me nice, maybe I’ll tell you more of my thoughts, but for now, here are some links I liked.

  • Patton Oswalt (who should just go ahead and crown himself the king of 30-something comic-book nerds) hasn’t seen Watchmen yet, but he thinks you should. He also thinks you should watch more TV.
  • The AV Club’s Tasha Robinson compares the book to the film, and comes away loving both. Though I do disagree with her take on the film’s ending, which I like more the more I think about it.
  • Roger Ebert makes Watchmen the focus of one of his patented brilliant, rambling essays, talking about the metaphysics of Dr Manhattan.
  • And finally, Saturday Morning Watchmen! It’s short, but awesome and funny and a little creepy! Kind of like me.

fall films

zack_and_miri.jpgThe Vancouver International Film Festival is in full swing, but I’m giving it a miss this year. You need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the festival, and as of late, my filmgoing has been more about catching up with things I think I’ll like, more than exploring great swaths of unknown movies in the hope I’ll stumble on something exceptional.

And so, in that spirit, I sat down this evening and did a little counter-programming: putting together a little list of the “prestige-season” movies I want to check out. As usual, I’m a total auteur groupie. Finding out a director I like has a new and promising film gets me way more excited than who’s in it, or even what it’s about. Though I also follow the buzz from the Toronto Film Festival and Cannes, just to be enervated by the rush of being swept up in new hype cycles.

Anyway, here are the movies I’m most excited about:

  • Synecdoche, New York (oct 24). The directoral debut of Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, two of my all-time favourite movies. Advance word is that it’s prickly, hard to connect with, and a walk-out-magnet, all of which makes me want to see it even more.
  • Zack & Miri Make a Porno (oct 31). It’s cool these days to hate on Kevin Smith for his cult of personality and continuing anti-style, but fuck it. Even when they’re not very good, the man is making the movies he wants to make, the way he wants to make them. And Clerks II was damn entertaining. So suck it, haters. Advance word from TIFF is very positive, with not a few comparisons to Judd Apatow, so I’m doubly there.
  • The Road. (nov 26). Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition), and starring Viggo Mortensen. Plus, I’m a sucker for grim post-apocalyptic movies, which is probably why I got sucked into seeing Waterworld. Twice. My only question is whether or not to read the novel before seeing the film. That, and how much like killing myself the movie will leave me feeling.
  • The Wrestler (dec 19). Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) apparently told Micky Rourke that he had an idea for a movie that would get Rourke an Oscar nomination, and then clinched the deal by telling him, “You have to listen to everything I say. You have to do everything I tell you. You can never disrespect me. And you can’t be hanging out at the clubs all night long. And I can’t pay you.”
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (dec 26). Brad Pitt ages backward! Now that is a high concept I can get behind. David Fincher’s lesser films are still pretty good, and his best are Fight Club and Zodiac, two of the best films of the past decade. So there’s that.
  • Frost/Nixon. (dec 26). This is the one movie I’m not seeing for the director (Ron Howard, who I see as more of a competent craftsman than director I get excited about). I’m seeing it because since reading Nixonland, I’ve become mildly obsessed with the character of Richard Milhous. Plus the trailer looks pretty great.

Other movies I’ll be keeping an eye on: W. (Oliver Stone biopic of the president), Rachel Getting Married (Johnathan Demme in Mike Leigh country), How To Lose Friends & Alienate People (for the great Simon Pegg), City Of Ember (I’m not sure what to make of the trailer, but it has Bill Murray and Tim Roth), RocknRolla (I just keep giving Guy Ritchie chances, in the hope that he’s got some spark of talent left), Changeling (Clint Eastwood directing a J. Michael Straczynski-penned historical thriller, starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich), Milk (Gus Van Sant film about murdered politician Harvey Milk), Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle film about a street kind in India who wins a game show — I’d be more excited if the advance publicity didn’t make it sound so saccharine), and The Brothers Bloom (con man story from Rian Johnson, who directed Brick, which I didn’t love, but admired a lot).

great moments in film criticism, #2

“Then the animals begin to flee, the alien ass weasels arrive, and the film abruptly morphs from Stephen King’s Clerks to a Max Fischer production of Aliens.”

random nuggets of Eric

So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been devoting my hours to work at Worio, a Yaletown start-up I’ve been associated with essentially from its inception (though other people have done much more work than me). I enjoy the work, and it’s a nice break from grad school. Not only is the pay better, but pretty much every day I can go home feeling like I’ve accomplished something. The PhD program is not like that.

The only downside is the schedule. I work 10 to 12 hours a day, and that’s not counting the 45-minute commute each way. I go to the gym two or three nights a week, and out for dinner, movies or concerts a couple of other nights. I typically leave the house at 8 AM and get home at 10 or 11 at night. Saturday is usually spent running errands, and Sunday is my day of rest.

And so, other things have to fall by the wayside a bit. I don’t think I’ve looked at YouTube in a month! A month! And I’m lucky is I see more than one movie a week (though my commute means that I’m reading a ton of books, which is pretty cool, though I have an iPod Touch to watch videos on now). This blog is another victim. I just don’t feel like I have the time or energy for full, thought-out posts. Not that what I write is usually more than “Here’s a cool link. BLANK is cool! (Insert joke here.)” Even so, I do have opinions and I know how much you care about them. But maybe for now, I’ll just do a bit of a random thought dumpage. Let’s try it, shall we?

andorra.jpgThe new Caribou album, Andorra, is terrific — kind of a wistful sixties psychedelic pop version of Caribou that perfectly fits walking though downtown Vancouver in the fall. I’ve been listening to the entire album pretty much daily. My roommate even liked it so much she blogged about it, too. Actually, 2007 has been a great year for Canadian indie music. Besides Caribou, I’ve been really enjoying the 2007 releases of The New Pornographers, The Arcade Fire, Tegan and Sara, Pink Mountaintops, Champion and You Say Party! We Say Die!. And I’m sure there’s plenty of others I haven’t heard yet.

As I mentioned before, somebody used my credit card to commit several thousand dollars worth of fraud. It’s taken a few calls to the bank, but the damage seems to have been undone — at least the damage against me. I wonder how common this kind of thing is. Somebody is out a lot of money — there’s no way the bank has made anything like the money the lost off my past half-decade of credit-card use.

kyrgzhatsnip.jpgI’m still hugely looking forward to my post-PhD trip across Asia in a couple years, but I haven’t had anything particularly insightful to say lately. The part of the route from India to Turkey will be interesting. I will either have to go through Pakistan and Iran, or through the Central Asian republics and Russia. I’ve been reading a bit about both. On the one hand, Iran has better transportation and I culture I’m very interested in. On the other hand, Central Asia has thrilling headgear. But I think the final decision will depend on the state of the region when I get there, c. 2010.

Can you believe 2010 is now the near future? Like, I’m making plans for that year? The mind boggles. I feel all the time like I live in a William Gibson novel.

facebook-snip.jpgI’m still on Facebook, though all I ever do is update my status message every couple of days, which I see as kind of a creative exercise. I don’t even read the updates of people on my network very often. However, I still find it kind of fascinating — I think its genius is that it’s the first web page on the internet that is explicitly targeted toward the extroverted majority of human beings. The people who (unlike, say, me) honestly want to know what all their friends got up to last weekend, and who (also unlike me) typically do something with their free time that’s more sociable than watching DVDs or reading comics and books about statistics and economics.

Speaking of books about statistics and economics, I recently read and enjoyed Tyler Cowan’s Discover Your Inner Economist and Nassim Nicholas Taleb even more interesting Fooled by Randomness. Each of these looks at how the authors’ fields (economics and financial mathematics) informs their worldview in subtle and unintuitive ways, complete with amusing anecdotes. While I’d recommend these books in general, I think I personally got a lot out of them because while I’m neither an economist nor a statistician (a shocking revelation, I know), my own research owes a lot to these fields, and I increasingly find myself looking at the world through a haze of utilities and variances. Also, Taleb’s book provides some evidence that it is possible to work on interesting problems in finance, be well paid, and not turn into (or start off as) a boring, status-obsessed asshole.

Wednesday night I saw Tokyo Police Club at The Plaza. The band didn’t even come on until midnight (on a Wednesday night!), and then the sound was pretty awful. Tired and bored from standing around waiting for the show, and disappointed by the shitty mix and always too-hot Plaza venue, we left after about five songs. Enough people were bolting that there was already a fairly long queue for the coat check at that point. Nice try, boys. I don’t know whether it’s the Plaza or TPC to blame, so I blame both.

seriously, Rules of the Game?

even_dwarfs_started_small_s.jpgEdward Copeland has compiled his internet-surveyed list of the top-voted non-English-language films (you can see how I voted here). Kudos to him for doing it — it was no small feat, and a list like this is useful and interesting to a whole lot of people, including myself.

But the list itself left me unsatisfied. Ultimately, it really did turn out to be nothing more than a predictable ranking of The Foreign Classics Canon. Of the Top 25 films, the most recent is Ran from 1984 — and it was made by Akira Kurosawa, already acknowledged at the time as one of the pantheon. And if you know anything about foreign film as it is presented in film studies courses and Sight and Sound surveys, I’m sure you can name the other 24 — especially if I tell you that all but one or two were made by Great Auteurs. Cahiers du cinéma, you have a lot to answer for.

I guess what disappoints me is that what we really have here is the internet community reinforcing the academy. I mean, the number one film is Rules of the Game, which to my mind is the classic example of the masterpiece that is only judged such due to groupthink (and aided, of course, by the colourful history of the film itself). Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fine and interesting film. But are there actual film buffs out there — actual film fans, I mean, not Film Studies professors and historians — who would in their heart of hearts say it’s their favourite film? Or has the critical (pun intended) mass around the film grown such that it’s just easiest to go with the flow? And I have the same question about a lot of other films on the list. Are there people out there who can watch Contempt and say, “wow, that really speaks to me”? Or do they, like me, struggle to stay awake, admire what Godard accomplished, and quietly resolve not to ever watch it again?

Of course, the problem with these surveys is that the top films don’t actually have to be the favourites of anyone at all. They just has have to place on enough individual lists. Films that are easy to build consensus around will place highly. This will in turn reinforce the consensus on the next list (people love to vote for winners, especially if they think it will make them look smart), and pretty soon you have a canon of nice, safe, uncontroversial films that may well be excellent without particularly speaking to anybody.

I want to see a different kind of list. I want to see an anti-canon. Instead of a poll of 100 films, I want to see a list of a hundred people’s single favourite films that weren’t nominated. I want to see the top 100 films you would never be shown in film school. I want to see the list of peoples’ votes for “respectable” films that should be striken from the canon. I want a list of buried gems. I want to feel that I haven’t seem everything worth seeing, because I know I haven’t. I want a list that stimulates me to think differently and try new movies I wouldn’t ordinarily, movies that fill my withered veins with cinematic blood. Is that so much to ask you people for?