movie and music update

i need to backfill a few movies i've seen and some music i bought over the last month or two.

a month or two ago i watched thank you for smoking. the movie was both enjoyable and frustrating. can something be so ironic or mocking that it flips around to being sincere? the story is basically about a p.r. man for tobacco, and the contortions he goes through to spin things. but it's also about everyone else spinning things and being hypocrites too. i felt like it was a statement about moral relativity, but was embracing it as natural and good -- or at least so common that we might as well accept it. i kept expecting the people living on lies and deceit to reap the results, but instead it seemed to say that everyone defines their own moral code and that's fair enough. it mocked the absurdity and hypocrisy of the characters and their positions, but at the same time embraced it as normal and valid. the movie makes you think, but the interpretation i walked away with wasn't a view i feel comfortable espousing.

over thanksgiving i watched flags of our fathers when i was in brady back on oct 21st. (i mentioned it in a blog post on oct 25th, but haven't gotten around to discussing it.) it's the story of the guys from the famous raising of the flag on iwo jima during world war two. part of it is about iwo jima, part of it is about them being brought back to the u.s. as heroes to pitch war bonds. it was done by clint eastwood, who is evidently also planning on releasing a movie about the same time frame from the japanese perspective. i believe it was based on a book by the son of one of the four guys. it's been awhile since i saw it, but at the time i thought the action scenes were impressive. the perspective and possibly more honest telling of events from that time frame was also interesting. the parts with the son talking to his (now dead) father's friends to learn about what happened seemed sort of disjointed from the rest of the film. and it had some interesting takes on ira hayes and the way white u.s. culture perceived and treated him. don't think you're walking into a "hoo-rah! G-d bless america cuz we're perfect and that time was perfect back then!" film. it's more complex and honest than that.

about a month ago i watched a scanner darkly. it's a rotoscoped film by richard linklater, based on a story by philip k. dick. i've only read one or two of dick's stories, but they're certainly intriguing. in the mid or late 90's it became hip to want to do movies based on his stuff. (blade runner was a forerunner by years, and is one of the few movies from dick's stuff that is good. although minority report had some coolness.) this movie has a number of well-known actors. the rotoscoping gives the film a surrealistic feeling, which is pretty much appropriate for stories by philip k. dick, but overall i didn't feel like the movie was that strong. which doesn't mean i think it was bad, but it felt like at some point the rotoscoping became distracting more than enhancing, and overall the movie just felt sort of flat to me.

last week i watched the big kahuna, a film with kevin spacey and danny devito. the trailer made it look good, but the trailer had little in common with the movie. they sliced dialogue and sequences so it played like some other movie -- a movie i'd have rather seen than the one i did. i didn't see at the end that it listed the movie being from or based on a stage play, but the movie smelled of it. maybe that's just the feel someone making the movie wanted. whatever the case, i thought the dialogue and visuals were constrained and fake feeling, something i feel is a necessary trait of most stage plays...but film isn't constrained like that, and i'd rather it not be. even though there were some decent conversations and societal questions raised in places, overall i'd not suggest the movie.

this past weekend i watched constantine over at the potts' house. i don't think i had originally realized it was based on the dc comic hellblazer. i never read hellblazer, but i had a couple of issues and was familiar with john constantine because i read a lot of vertigo stuff back in the day. (e.g., i have a complete run of the original sandman series.) trying to pull all of that story-telling style and tendencies from my brain was difficult, but i think the movie had the feel of a lot of the vertigo stuff i used to read. i was really impressed with the visuals/effects. keanu reeves playing constantine really jacked things up for me though. he just isn't the right guy to play a hard-nosed bad-ass. he was good in the first matrix film because he played a constantly confused and overwhelmed character. that's what he's good at/for. they really should have gotten someone else to play constantine. really. outside of that, i thought the movie was decent, and like i said i really enjoyed the special effects. oh yeah...the guy who played satan, and the portrayal of satan, was excellent.

last night i watched tape. it's a movie shot on digital by richard linklater. i think it was part of a project to give some directors a minimal amount of money to shoot a cheap film on digital. it has a grand total of three people in it, and the whole movie takes place in a hotel room. and if you can't get past that, you don't deserve to appreciate this film. it starts off with a very slow pace, but the tension and conflict slowly builds over time until it's pretty intense by the end. the context is a couple of high school friends getting together, and there are some unresolved issues. one brings up something that happened in high school, and forces an awkward scenario by having the third party come over. the movie is based on a play, but unlike the big kahuna, this doesn't feel like a stage play on film to me. the movie is not about visuals, although the filming style is good for the movie -- it's about the characters, their perspectives and faults, and how they interact. i felt like each character wanted control of the situation at any point, but each one had a different way of dealing with things: one buries/denies/avoids, one rationalizes/trivializes/distances, and the other confronts/manipulates. each technique works and falls apart, and they are emotionally cornered as the three people work through the awkward situations. although the interplay between the characters seems forced at points (the writer had to force ongoing interaction to keep the people talking, after all), overall i felt the actions and feelings of the characters seemed very realistic. in general, i could see a lot of this drama playing out in real life between real people. the central subject matter is pretty emotional and touchy, and each character's handling of it seems plausible. if you can handle a minimal cast, an extremely minimal set, and a slowly building pace that is completely based on character interaction and confrontation, i think you'd really enjoy this movie.

and while i was doing my xmas shopping, i picked up a few cds at half price books:

  • tennessee saturday night - red foley (proper)
  • wildwood flower - june carter cash (dualtone)
  • red dirt girl - emmylou harris (nonesuch)

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