Monday, November 9, 2009

Odds and Sods

Believe it or not I digested other media then horror films this October. Some of which I even wanted to write about, and did, then didn't have the inclination to turn into proper posts once the month ended. But still wanted to get my two cents in. Well here they are!

Whip ItWhip It is the kind of funny, intelligent movie that hardly ever gets made for young adults, and it’s failure to connect with said group has caused no end of wailing and gnashing of teeth on my end.

Maybe it’s my own odd affection for films set in Texas. Maybe it’s the fact that Barrymore has a sense of place, people, and community that’s nearly Linklaterian. Maybe it’s the fact that even Juliet Freaking Lewis who normally makes me want to tear out my eyes and jab knitting needles in my ears does a good job in this movie, but I kind of sorta loved Whip It.

While I doubt Barrymore is going to prove herself to be the next Altman, she aquits herself admirably with this film, showing a sharp eye for talent, with the ensemble cast, creating a real feeling of intimacy. This is the kind of movie I hope to be able to share with my own children someday.

Batman And Robin:

A lot of people have been bitching about the second arc in Batman and Robin, I for one have been enjoying it as much as the first. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really been reading the series lately, and thus haven’t read the last dozen, “Jason Todd is an asshole” stories, but I like the way Morrison handles the character. While I agree that it was a mistake to bring him back, Todd’s purpose in the comics was to serve as a monument to Bruce’s failure. The one time he wasn’t up to the task. Well now he’s the same thing, except this time he’s a walking talking example of it who is murdering people. I think Morrison's take on Jason That he's basically the runt of the litter, (I love Damien's contempt that he let the fucking Joker kill him) is interesting. He's not a badass he's a bitter, weak and losing his hair. It takes all of two seconds for The Flamingo (who I'm also loving) to take him down. Paring him with Sasha who is proving to be a living example of Damian’s first failure, gives it a nice feeling of synchrony and dare I say tragedy.

I like how Morrison is taking the language of the old Batman TV show, flamboyant villains, identical henchmen, outlandish plots, and visual sound effects, and is turning it on its head. When you talk about something like subverting Iconography, its normally just empty buzzwords. Morrison knows how to do it.

And we’re not even on The Flamingo yet, the second memorable freak that Morrison’s created this run. Most modern day comic books feel like they’re written by people just happy to get a chance to play with the toys. Afraid even to take them out of their packaging. The genre feels positively inbred now, is it any wonder that it’s so unwelcoming to new readers?

I have to give credit to Morrison, I may not always like him. In fact I may very often hate him, but he’s never interested in just playing with someone else’s toys, he wants to use his own.

Ultimate Spiderman:

So one good things come out of Ultimatum, Bendis is energized on this book like he hasn’t in years. While Ultimate Spiderman has long served as the one comic that was guaranteed to be at least pretty good, Bendis has really kicked it up a notch. Moving things on a faster clip, weaving an intriguing plot with the same deft ear for character that’s always set him apart.

A lot of people are getting hung up on the artwork but, You know it's grown on me. I hated it when I read the annual, and there's stuff that still bothers me; mostly the way the characters only seem to have noses half the time and the way he can't seem to figure out that there are old people (his Aunt May is freaky).

What I like is the fact that he seems to have his own twist on manga style. It's not like he’s a Huberto Ramos (for whom I would not brake my car if I saw him crossing the street). He takes the warmth and dynamism of Manga and marries it with some good American detail.

I love his Mysterio, and MJ but I really like the way he's gotten Bendis to step up his game plotting wise. For those who complain his books are nothing but talking heads, these are event packed.

Sky Crawlers –

Sky Crawlers is the latest from Ghost In The Shell director Mamoru Oshi. Which means you’ve either already seen it or you never will.

It tells the story of a young group of pilots fighting a war in a vaguely European setting against an ill defined enemy. There is of course something totally up, but it’s not really a secret to the characters only to us.

In a lot of ways Oshi is like The Monte Helleman of anime. Many are put off by his deliberate pace (slow) existential (slow) musings, and meditative (slow) style. But the rhythm and world he creates are so unlike any other, that I can’t help but be drawn to them. Still for those who don’t respond to long indistinctly animated scenes of a basset hound frolicking, or characters reading the morning paper might be turned off.

It plays like a version of Never Let Me Go in which the characters occasionally get into planes and blow each other up. The problem with the movie, which I think keeps it decidedly second tier Oshi, is the fact that while the film’s central conceit works as metaphor, it works as nothing else.

Sky Crawlers isn’t Oshi at his best, and at his best I think he genuinely is one of the greatest filmmakers in anime or any other medium, but it’s an intriguing odd movie, that’s more then worth your time.

Where Men Win Glory

John Krakauer remains one of my favorite authors, and Where Men Win Glory, might be his masterpiece. Krakeur’s muse has always been those who push themselves to the very edge of experience. In Tillman he seems to find his ideal, and then watches with dismay as he’s tossed away. Its the story of a good man so poorly used by the country he sacrificed everything to serve. This book will piss you off royally no matter what your political leanings are. Still the book isn’t just another tract of Bush era crimes. Aside from side trips into the philosophy and anthropology of War, and a damning look at the whole “Saving Private Lynch” fiasco; It also contains one of the most concise, damning and terrifying portraits of the last fifty years of Afghan history. If you consider yourself at all involved in politics, or indeed are a sentient being living on the planet you owe it to yourself to read Where Men Win Glory. It’s the best book of the year.

Bright Star:

Jane Campion is an incredible director. The depth, beauty and sensuality of her frames are more or less unmatched among the formalists. So it’s been a real bitch that I haven’t liked any of her films.

The Piano was one of the damndest experiences I’ve had with a movie. A case of it simply not working for me despite both my and the movie’s noblest of intentions. I just sat looking at the screen bemused. Clearly something was happening though I had no idea what.

Holy Smoke was an agreeably strange movie, with it’s Freaky to the nines performance by Kate Winslet, and Harvey Keitel’s wang. But it’s not exactly something I’ve been dying to see again. And the less said about In The Cut, that ghoulish anti-vanity immolation the better.

But with Bright Star, Campion has really hit upon something. There might not be much on the surface to separate it from the dozens of other “tasteful” costume drama’s out there. But Campion’s artistic ferocity really hits home. She strikes at something primal, bringing out the emotion of the story full flower. Capturing the beauty and sensuality of Keat’s poetry, in away that usually isn’t touched in the dubious genre that is “films about writing”

The lush beauty of her frames, the doomed romanticism of the performances, all combine to make Bright Star something truly memorable.

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