February 2011

The Tourist Trap

 

imageBecause Burt likes action movies and I like dramas and comedies, we seldom agree on what movie we should see next. When The Tourist was released recently, we decided to go - I love Johnny Depp movies and Burt feels the same about Angelina Jolie movies. This movie looked like a great opportunity for both of us to see our favorite stars in an action-romance.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

 

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The Harry Potter movies have been enormously successful. They are based on a very old story theme, the lost prince. What child has not wondered how such an extraordinary person such as himself could possibly be related to their mediocre and average family? Maybe they are really a prince who was kidnapped and swapped for an ordinary child while still a baby. Along comes Harry Potter and his family of “muggles” who were just too horrible to be believable.

The Top Oscar Goes To "King's Speech"

No "Inception?"

The King's Speech won the Oscar last night. In the opinion of the majority of the voters of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, it is the best picture released in 2010. The King's Speech is a good movie, entertaining, instructive, with drama and humor. It tells the tale of two blokes and their wives, with glimpses of their happy home lives with their children. One bloke has an impediment that the other bloke helps him to overcome. The King's Speech is a buddy flick. The two blokes become mates.

Vulgar: Clowns Getting Raped and the View Askiew Universe

Opening Kevin Smith’s Clerks back in 1994 is View Askiew’s little company logo, a grotesque looking clown, whose clearly seen better days. Whether or not that clown is the same clown Vulgar focuses on is all a guess. The character and that logo, though, bare some similarities, though.

Written and directed by Bryan Johnson, Vulgar even stars Clerks’ leading man Brian O'Halloran, further connecting the title character here to that mascot. Either way, the film opens in a rather light hearted mood. Granted, Will, a professional clown, can’t find the part he’s supposed to entertain at and in the process gets pelted with water balloons. When he finally gets to where he’s going, though, the cops are in the process of taking away the birthday girl’s father for abusing the mother. It sounds worse than it feels or looks on screen. And while Will continues to struggle, viewers get the idea that he’s bound for something else.

After checking out the personal ads, where people look for willing participants in piss play and whatever other weird fetishes can be circulated in print-ad form, Will figures comedy for adults isn’t too different than entertaining kids. Hatching a plan to work bachelor parties as a gag, Will, who takes the name Vulgar for his new gigs, winds up landing a bum gig his first time out, gets rapped and sent on his way. The experience is, obviously, a downer, but removes a wealth of societal conventions from the guy who, as a result, ends a hostage situation and lands a plum gig hosting a tv show as a result.

Wisconsin Death Trip: A Documentary Training Ground

My inability to properly recall character poem works to describe an entire town is a bummer. If I could summon the title of that book, everyone reading this would be impressed with my connecting James Marsh’s Wisconsin Death Trip to that book of writing. Either way, the film attempts to encompass the entirety of a town and its history through recasting various newspaper articles, photographs and remembrances from town members. If you haven’t ever been to Black River Falls, though, don’t worry. There’s no need to head out that way in the first place. And after watching Marsh’s’ film, it feels as if we’ve already been there.

Preceding the director’s award winning Man on Wire, Wisconsin Death Trip marked the first time Marsh received any sort of widespread acclaim despite working on a pair of films prior to this 2000 release. The surprising thing is, apart from Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris’ investigation of a crime scene, reenactments and the merger of fictional elements and documentary hasn’t always been met with too much appreciation. And to be sure, a variety of black and white scenes working to display what Black River Falls looked like more than a hundred years ago doesn’t always work well. But seeing as Wisconsin Death Trip feels like the visual reckoning of your local police blotter dating to the nineteenth century, it’s forgivable.

If nothing else, Marsh had a novel idea. Taking the most salacious stories – surely the sedate ones were omitted to allow inclusion of murder, cocaine taking and adultery – and dressing up a variety of players to reenact them while overlaying sporadic photography dating to the original period is engaging…for a while.

One More Reason Why Darren Aronofsky's Cool

Darren Aronofsky’s a winner – or at least famous enough to have people critically examine his films. That’s pretty impressive. The funny thing is, though, going back and watching his first film, Pi, released in 1998. The director was 29 at the time his first feature was released. And judging by the tone it apes, viewers shouldn’t be hard pressed to imagine the director as being a relatively stoic and dour figure. That well may not be the case, but after watching Pi it’d be hard to imagine the guy’s days and nights filled with rainbows and flowers.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

Harry Potter         

         The Harry Potter movies have been enormously successful. They are based on a very old story theme, the lost prince. What child has not wondered how such an extraordinary person such as himself could possibly be related to their mediocre and average family? Maybe they are really a prince who was kidnapped and swapped for an ordinary child while still a baby. Along comes Harry Potter and his family of “muggles” who were just to horrible to be believable.

Films That Should’ve Received Academy Awards

Many of us have become rather disenchanted with the Academy Awards each year. Not unlike many other forms of entertainment, they seem to have become a political spectacle rather than a nod to actual artistry over the years. Hey, maybe they’ve always been that way. At any rate, we all could likely picture a dozen or so movies at the very least that we feel should have received Academy Awards—or at least nominations—over the years. Here are a few of mine; please feel free to add your own.

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry: Established Anti-Establishment

For whatever reason, Peter Fonda was clearly infatuated with not just car culture, but the concept of the road movie, tying it all into a perspective on life related to hippie idealism and what would become the DIY ethic.

After making Easy Rider, which some consider a game changer in terms of independently produced feature length films, Fonda went on to appear in more than just a handful of car and heist flicks. In 1974, he stared in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry along Susan George, the film’s other titular character. First off, dirty as used to describe George’s character is kind of surprising. It, obviously, insinuates that the character’s a trollop. And she is. But including that in the film’s title’s still shocking considering the time this film was made.

Either way, George finds herself attired in a denim halter top through the entire feature. Larry, though, comes off as a hard hearted would-be racecar driver bent on nothing other than making a dollar so he can build a proper vehicle to drive. Set up as a heist cum road movie, the narrative begins with Larry and his mechanic involved in ripping off a grocery store. Mary, having watched Larry leave in the morning without saying goodbye, follows the pair and insinuates herself into the plot.

That all takes just about twenty minutes.

Black Swan and Why Darren Aronofsky's Cool

Seeing Pi in 1998 was almost as revelatory as seeing Clerks a few years before. Both were done on shoe string budgets and made a concerted effort to move beyond what was then accepted fair for feature length films. Before factoring in post-production costs, Clerks was cheaper to make even as each picture made about the same amount of money.  Being able to watch, first hand, the eventual insinuation of independent filmmakers into the broader culture was inspiring. And while a case could be made for Smith abandoning the feel of his earlier films for work in genre pictures, there still usually a bit of dada-esque weirdness in anything he touches.

Cockfighting and a Silent Warren Oates

Let’s start this thing off with the fact that there’s no way Cockfighter could be made in the modern day. Beyond the fact that budgeting and shooting a flick would probably be precluded by the lack of studio support, there’d be such a tremendous fervor over the film’s content that constant protests would become problematic for completing just about any sequence in the feature.

So, thankfully, Monte Hellman coaxed Roger Corman and Warren Oates into make the film in 1974 when people still cared about animals, but attributed human characteristics to them a bit less. I mean, after all, we’re talking about chickens. And really, the animal isn’t known for its intelligence. Moreover, they taste good.

Moog: More of a Music Vid than a Documentary

It’d be hard to say anything revealed or explained during Moog’s hour long run time was wrong and not factually based. But there was more hypothesizing about the spirit world and organic gardening than there was actual history about he synthesizer.

Dr. Robert Moog is certainly the reason for the narrative portions of the film having the idealized hippie flair it does. But the extended interludes between interviews winds up being something just short of ODDSAC’s, another Plexifilm release, refusal to do anything other than look cool. Yeah, synthesizer’s sound cool. And laying music over wild nature scenes makes for good viewing while stoned, but if your film’s an hour long with fifteen minutes of music video stuffed inside of it, there’s a problem.

Anyway, Moog takes a few candid interviews with the film’s namesake, spins it out and attempts to take the guy into various situations where he’ll be fawned over. Going from the garden to the backstage area of an concert seems like an odd shift. And it is. Also, involving Rick Wakeman and Bernie Worrell in the same conversation. Apart from the former just being an overblown douche, the latter comes off as intelligent as an old hammer. Of course, both guys can play – and viewers, thankfully, get a bit of a sample. But hearing Wakeman talk for five minutes about how cool the synthesizer was doesn’t really serve a point when we’re taken back to him moments later talking about the same thing – and then summarily dismissing both Worrell’s and Moog’s comments about the otherworldly qualities of connecting with an electronic instrument. But if you’ve heard the guy’s music, hearing Wakeman talk makes sense.

83rd Annual Academy Awards Coverage

Our writers across the Klat network LOVE entertainment - with movies and television shows being the bread and butter of our blogs. It is no surprise, with the upcoming Oscars, that this will be an exciting time for our writing team to give opinions, dispel (or create) rumors, write movie reviews, help out with party ideas and recipes, and wrap up everything else related to the Academy Awards in one big theatrical bow. Check this page frequently to see what's new - we will be covering this event from here on out!

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards will take place this February 27th, 2011 at 8PM EST (east) / 5PM (west) PST on ABC.

Mr. Saturday Night: A Dour Borscht Belt

Having recently revisited the Larry Sanders Show, Billy Crystal made an impression on me while sitting around being interviewed. As with mock-talk shows and real ones, there was a bit of banter during the lead in/out from/to commercial. The Sanders character at some point, says “You’re doing great,” to Crystal regarding his career and his then new movie – Mr. Saturday Night.

Since that piece of cinema came out in 1992, I wasn’t prone to head on down to the local Cineplex and take in a feature of this scope. The film centers on the career of a single comedian and traces his overly Jewy life from childhood, performing for his parents, to the end of his life, performing in front of rooms full of diaper wearing adults.

Wild Combination: Arthur Russell as an Untroubled Genius

First things first. If you’ve heard bits and pieces of Arthur Russell’s oeuvre and don’t like it, there’s no reason to be disappointed that you can’t enjoy his legacy. It’s actually pretty likely that there’s some stuff your ears haven’t been exposed to that you’d actually enjoy. Finding those songs, though, is gonna be difficult. And you’ll understand why after seeing Wild Combination.

Opening in the middle of nowhere Iowa, Russell’s parents detail his childhood a bit and still seem a bit upset about finding some weed in his room. At the same time, though, Russell’s father recounting his doling out a whooping after than transgression starts to get a bit teary eyed. We’re less than fifteen minutes into the feature.

"Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?"

If you want an educated insight into global terrorism...don't watch this documentary

 

 

 

In 2004, Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days in the Oscar-nominated Super Size Me. Four years later (and him 25 pounds lighter), his wife becomes pregnant with the couple's first child, and Spurlock worries about bringing a newborn into a world where the combined efforts of the United States military and intelligence cannot locate Osama bin Ladin. In the vein of any good action movie, Spurlock decides to find the man himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objectified: Inustrial Design as Entertainment. Kinda

Something like five or six years ago Gary Hustwit set about working up a documentary focused on a pretty interesting topic – the Helvetica font. With an obvious interest in all things design oriented, the next logical project for the guy to embark on was an examination of any and all designed objects.

That’s what Objectified is – and please forgive the name.

With such a wide and varied topic, viewers should have expected to run into a feature that was able to dissect not just the process of design and development, but its history and how that relates to normal people’s everyday lives. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. And if you head over to the Objectified website, there’s mention of a third film being in production seeking to comment on the layout of cities. It’s an understandable progression. The thing is, if Hustwit and company ran outta steam for their second feature length documentary (well, it was something like an hour and fifteen minutes), another one doesn’t seem to be in order.

Just like Helvetica, Objectified begins with a bunch of contextualization. Viewers, like myself, need a background in design’s history in order to understand where, let’s say, Apple fits into the whole thing. Graciously, Hustwit and his interview subjects oblige with a wealth of information. The problem here becomes the connection to modern day consumerism. Whereas Helvetica posited a shift in ur-fonts, no such thing occurs on this second film.

ODDSAC: Animal Collective on Film and Disappointing

ODDSAC represents a new synthesis of music and film, a ‘visual album’…”

    -Lame press release

First, there’s no real reason for visual album to appear in quotation marks. The phrase isn’t meant to be smarmy or taken from another source. Apart from my immense distaste for the public face Animal Collective’s taken on over the last few years, crafting a film in tandem with a spate of new songs seems like a good idea.

The thing is, I’ve seen The Wall and thought it stunk. So, removing the plot and replacing it with a bunch of weird scenes – although the campfire one’s pretty funny since that word’s been used countless times to describe AC’s music – and a few impressive visual tricks doesn’t make for a cool final product. It’s just ephemera, already a part of the hype machine, that’s capable to getting press notice and advancing all the careers of all involved. Again, there is new music. And it’s still admirable to attempt new approaches to art making, but still…

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