Friday, August 31, 2007

Love Life

The other night I watched a movie titled Room 666. It's by Wim Wenders, and it's simply interview footage of various major filmmakers at Cannes '82 talking about the future of cinema. Susan Seigelman was on it, and she said something that piqued my interest; simply that filmmakers make films because "They love life." Huh. I wonder if that's as true in 2007 as it was in 1982. Do today's film-school whiz kids like life near as much as they like movies? Do digital CGI types really want to capture life, or create a substitute for it?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Wide Stance?" Is that what they're calling it these days?

Here's how dopey I am: when I heard about Senator "Wide Stance" Craig's Lavatory Lovequest, I thought "Why be a closet case? Why not take a tip from Barney Frank and be Out?" Then I realized, duh, Frank's a Dem, Craig's a Republican. I have chums who are Log Cabin Republican types: openly gay, openly Republican. That's okay for them because they're not running for office. The day when an openly gay person can get elected on the Republican ticket ain't here yet.

Also, spare some thought for cops who are so low on the totem pole that they get assigned to potty patrol. There are worse jobs, but not many. I'm too squeamish to sit on public toilets in a non-emergency situation, anyway. The idea of hunkering down on the polluted porcelain for an eight-hour shift is smelling-salts-worthy. But if one is that uptight one probably shouldn't be a cop anyway.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Needs Must Be Met

The Netflix website is down again. If this delays Cosplay Encyclopedia from getting to my mailbox on time I'm gonna be peeved.
Over the weekend it was too hot to go outside, so aside from doing a monologue show on Saturday (two more showings next Saturday! Lucy's coffee, showtimes 6 and 8 PM, admission 8 dollars) I stayed home and watched movies. I saw Chocolat (The Eighties one by Claire Denis about growing up in Cameroon, not the Nineties one by Lasse Halstrom about a candy shop) and Jan Svankmajer's Alice, a largely stop-motion version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Once I would have hated it because it's not the typical sugar-and-spice Alice, but now I loved it. When I did read the book I was astonished at how cruel it is; the characters suffer frustrations and indignities, and this movie focuses on that. OTOH it also highlights the transformative elements of the story in wonderful ways. Things take on and change identities in ways that go to the heart of magic; stop motion is used with astonishing creativity. The movie has the repetitive qualities of a grueling nightmare (The mad tea party of this film is a perfect representation of my personal nightmares' logic) but it's been said that we seek movies that match our dream worlds, and this one matches mine.

Chocolat is a splendid film; a young girl observes the loves and quarrels of Cameroon's people. The photography is gorgeous, the actors are iconic, and the story grows bit by bit, letting you figure out what's going on and what's at stake. I loved the way the story accumulated from lots of small stories.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Abstract Art

I like abstract art, and in some of my recent websurfing I've stumbled across a lot of haters hatin' on abstract art. I don't get it. The key arguments against abstract art seem to be:

1. It don't look like nuffin.

2. It don't take technical skill like drawing a horsie does.

3. Mean old abstract art fans hate representational art and have overlooked good representational artists.

Taking these objections in reverse order:

3. Sometimes, not always. I like representational art too. Edward Hopper is one of my fave 20th century painters, and my enthusiasm for comics gives the game away.

2. It takes different kinds of skills. Representational art imitates the appearance of God's handiwork; abstract art imitates the logic and processes of God's handiwork. Jackson Pollack's drip canvases look to me like close-ups of tree moss; that's a compliment. He created a new way to represent, not moss, but the processes by which moss (and other growing things) accumulate. Other abstract painters focus on how light hits the eye, and their canvases are like looking through an old windowpane which has been richly textured with time and grime. It takes wise eyes to find these things and bring them to canvas.

As for Objection 1., I just don't get it. If you've ever worn plaid boxers or a striped shirt, you've worn abstract art. If you've ever admired an Oriental Rug, abstract art has touched you life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Actor's Nightmare, Extended

The other night I had an intriguing version of The Actor's Nightmare. That's the dream where you're in a play, but you realize that you've never read the script or attended rehearsal, and you're about to publickly screw up and let down everyone who's counting on you to make the show work. It's awful.

But this time the dream began earlier on the day of the show. I was aware that I still had time to read the script, but first I had to take care of some chores. So I went through the day (I'm not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow; I usually have a rule against sharing dreams) and with each task I tried to perform I realized I was having the same basic problem as in the regular actor's nightmare: I didn't know what to do or how to do it, and people were watching as I screwed up and let them down. Again and again. The dream ended backstage with the curtain about to go up, and my realizing that I never did get around to reading the script.

It's like The Actor's Nightmare extended to cover my whole life, which is about right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Breaking SiteMeter Update

I love SiteMeter. You know why I love SiteMeter? Because thanks to it I know that the last person to look at my blog was using a Department of Veteran Affairs computer out of Washington D. C. and was googling "anime defecating." My day is made.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shame on Animeigo

Animeigo is an Anime distribution company that's been around since the relatively early days of anime distribution in the West; it's always had a rep for being a scrappy little company, by fans, for fans. That's cool. And recently they released domestic versions of the Urusei Yatsura movies. That's cool. Urusei Yatsura is a goofy comedy series created by Rumiko Takahashi of Ranma 1/2 and Inu-Yasha fame, but the second Urusei Yatsura movie (from the future director of gloomy SF art anime like Ghost in the Shell) was moody and weird in a way I really enjoyed. The second one was the only one I could find until recently, so I was eager to see the others.

Recently Netflix delivered the first one to my mailbox, and in typical Aaron fashion I watched the behind-the-scenes feature of the English dubbing before I watched the film. It's simply footage of the English dub voice actors recording lines, and I found it reassuring; anime dubs are a crapshoot, but these actors mostly seemed like the real deal. Lovely voices and the line readings had integrity.

Then I watched the film, and found the dub disappointing. It was like a patchwork quilt in which the patches were mostly good but they'd been poorly stitched together. The level and nature of the emoting didn't match the visuals very tightly, and that's the directors' fault (there are two credited dub directors) since the director's supposed to be responsible for making sure the actors' efforts are matching up.

Plus there was a lot of "indicating" in the dub. You know how, when you're telling a story about something that happened to you, you'll demonstrate what people said with "angry voice" or "confused voice" or whatever? They're not convincingly angry or confused voices, and they're not supposed to be; they just communicate the idea of anger or confusion. Well, that's called Indicating in thesp-talk and it works in a story but not as a theatrical or cinematic performance. When an actor does it, it seems half-baked and phony. There's a lot of that in this dub.

But that's not why I'm angry at Animeigo; like I say, cruddy dubs are common in anime. I'm angry about another bonus feature on the DVD. It's a half-hour collection of dub auditions that didn't make the cut; it opens with humorous opening titles and hollerin' sound FX that communicate we're about to hear something really painful. Then we're treated to a bunch of audio auditions, some of them actually bad, some just odd. The implication is that we should spend a half-hour scorning the auditionees who weren't picked.

Well. Every working actor has auditioned and been turned down before. Your Favorite Actor has auditioned and been rejected. It's part of the deal, so holding up unchosen actors for scorn is simply wrongheaded. It's also callow and swinish; how would you like it if you applied for a job or school and later found your application on their website under the heading "Check out the essays that didn't make the cut LOL!" A company that treats applicants with such contempt is a company that doesn't deserve to stay in business. Actors should be able to audition without fearing that any uninspired performances on their part won't be trotted out for the sneering amusement of others.

One more thing: although putting this audition reel on the DVD would be rotten even if the actors on it all stank, some of them seemed about as good as the folks who DID get selected, which suggests the real reason Animeigo put this reel on the DVD at all; it's the classic insecure person's tactic of elevating oneself by pushing others down. "Look what a good job we did! After all, we didn't hire these losers!" Actually, Animeigo, you did a poor job on that dub, even with some pretty good actors on there, so screw you. I won't be buying or renting anymore Animeigo products.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TCM: The Beginning

I finally saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. I've been dragging my feet because I was so unenamoured of the remake. Well, this is the real remake. Something of the original film's acid-edge and gallows humor filter up through the basement drain of this flick. The 2003 remake was a pretty thing, but too much a film-school showreel. It felt like a funhouse horror show; this one feels like actually being trapped in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of... well, my relatives, only maleviolent. It took me back to the stomach-clenching anxiety I often felt as a carpet cleaner waddling into disturbing people's homes, and that's all I ask of a TCM movie.

One thing though: R. Lee Ermey's character is conciously and deliberately sadistic in a way the original film's characters weren't. The original Sawyer family was unconciously sadistic, giggling in excitement, but it came bubbling up from inside. It makes for a different family dynamic; one thug lording it over a passive and sheepish family is a bit different from the Sawyer family, in which everyone seems to have infected one another with a poisoned undercurrent of sadism.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Act Of Seeing With One's Own Eyes

I saw this short Stan Brakhage movie last night. It's simply silent footage of autopsies. He doesn't film it scientifically; if you're itching to learn the ins and outs of forensics, this isn't the place to start. Rather than filming and editing in a clinical and orderly way that allows us to see the whole process from start to finish, he films and edits like Hillbilly In A Hospital: "Gawsh, look at this! Yow, lookadat! An' you'uns ain't gonna believe this..." But there's a poetry to the way he juxtiposes one body with another, one cut with another.

The main thing I walked away with was a rekindled desire to lose weight. They say beauty is only skin deep, but fat ain't. When they cut into svelte bodies everything inside has a certain integrity; glistening red, almost Christmasy, and artfully balanced. Everything inside looks like it's there for a reason. But when they cut into fat people it's like slicing into a garbage bag stuffed with curdled yogurt. I had no idea how close the fat is beneath the skin. When they open a trim person you can almost hear the tinkly bells of a little soul flying out; when they cut into the fat people it's more like an enormous flatulent discharge. I don't want to end up like that, so I'd better go out into the God-mocking heat and waddle around a bit.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Throwing the Bones

Saturday I went to a local Psychic Fair and had a seer Throw the Bones on my behalf. Shut up, it was great. She threw a handful of small talismans onto a scarf and drew mini-ley lines between them to scry out the parameters of my situation. It was actually quite useful. I don't believe there's any supernatural guiding hand behind these things; it's a storytelling system, but taken as such I find it an amusing game, and I firmly believe that a lucid and intuitive storyteller can construct a narrative for me that points out possibilities I hadn't considered. The Seer made me more mindful of the need for hard work and guidance from friends. If she'd just told me to work hard and be open to help from friends, that wouldn't really have stuck; it's easy to shake off good advice. By making a combination game/story of it, though, her advice had sticking power. It didn't hurt that she was HOTT.

Slightly edited to improve grammer (probably not enough, though) and to tell my readers to shut up.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Natural Beauty and Human Horror

This NPR story about an isolated FEMA trailer park is so harrowing I can scarcely believe it made it onto the airwaves. These people describe an utterly nightmarish life. Go ahead and offer up a prayer for them.

The photo gallery that accompanies the story on the website shows a place of real visual beauty. The sunlight filtering through the trees looks so lovely that I almost wish I lived out there. Behind the images of natural beauty and charming homemaking, though, is a story of real horror.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It takes all kinds.

I check local theatre audition listings on a regular basis, and thought this one was amusing. It's pretty obviously someone making smoking fetish movies. I don't have a smoking fetish, but in the interest of egging on such low-key oddball eroticism,
click here to pay for those cancer bills.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Movies and life

My Dad has said that Apocalypse Now reflects his own experience of the Vietnam War. I would not have expected this; when I saw the film I thought it was too stylized and formalist to reflect an authentic experience. I was a naive college boy, though! However much a hothouse flower the film may be it reflects, or perhaps more accurately resonates with, my Father's experience.

It's interesting how a film can do that via poetic rather than documentary means. One reason I love Texas Chainsaw is that it reminds me of how I felt during the year I spent as a carpet cleaner, constantly going into unfamiliar homes which were often populated by erratic, fearful, angry or lonely people. Perhaps I'll share some of the more amusingly sordid tales; although no one ever threatened me with a chainsaw I learned quite a bit about human variety, as well as human frailty.