Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Check it out in Quicktime here.
Also, I can't decide what the coolest thing about this trailer is:
-Brian Poseh playing a priest
-The SILVER FUCKING SURFER
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Requiem For A Dream, to me, was a deeply personal movie experience. I saw it at a time when many people in my family were still reeling from my cousin’s drug-related death. After seeing it I went out and bought it and I made my parents watch it (one could not have more awesome parents than I as they equally loved the movie) I knew of my fathers past, which at times was pretty scary, and how my mother factored greatly in his personal redemption. Knowing this made me self-aware when it came to participating in situations that involved illicit drug use among friends and “friends.” I tell myself that I never let it get out of hand, and in retrospect I don’t think I ever did, but Requiem For A Dream served as a visceral reminder of what not to do. Though my father ended up being one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, his road to get there was tough and Requiem For A Dream was my first literal experience of his tales, albeit kicked up a proverbial notch.
Having been so affected by Requiem For A Dream, I’ve been looking forward to The Fountain for what seems like a millennium. I couldn’t wait to see what Darren Aronofsky had to show me. I felt a deep connection to his style and narrative that has only been cemented further after having finally seen the film. I’d be lying if I didn’t think, on some cosmic level, that The Fountain was written directly for me.
This isn’t a notion that I think is entirely without merit, as I had stated above Requiem For A Dream helped my family and I through a trying, difficult time in our lives by revealing new perspectives on situations that it was hard to see a different side of. What Requiem did for drugs, The Fountain does for death. I experienced a life event last year that unfortunately everyone will have to go through at some point, the death of my mother. Yes it was over a year ago now but as I recently discovered, I’m not the only person in my family who is still trying to deal with it. They say time heals all wounds, but according to The Fountain, there are just some wounds that time can never fully heal.
We begin with a conquistador named Tomas that is set about on a quest to find the biblical "Tree of Life" by Queen Isabel of Spain. His tale is interwoven with that of a modern day brain surgeon looking for a cure for his wife, who is dying from an untreatable brain tumor; and that of an unnamed space traveler on his way to a dying star with a nearly dead tree. It’s hard to see how these stories connect just from the literal description or synopsis, but as with most science-fiction films, its never really about what its about.
The yarns that Aronsofsky spins in The Fountain are all linked by one theme: everlasting life and the desire to find it (or end it, depending on your perspective). Our conquistador views it as a literal quest, much like that of any conqueror or explorer searching for anything. Our brain surgeon views it as an obsession, a means to escape the pain of his wife’s impending fate. Our space traveler, who seems to be the most tragic of the three, views it as a curse. He tattoo’s his arms (with ash and a rusty old calligraphy pen) with rings like a tree, (assumedly) one for every year he’s been alive. I didn’t count each one, but he’s filled one arm entirely, and the other is almost out. As we’ll learn later, this isn’t to merely count the time, but as a means of torturing himself for what he’s done.
Death is immensely haunting, it’s a beast that stalks us every day. I assumed The Fountain would be profoundly sad, as with almost every tale of death and its ramifications. I figured I would cry; many scenes took place in a hospital and I still have trouble even thinking about a hospital room because of all the time I spent in them during my mother’s illness. Loss is sad, death is loss, so obviously death is sad. But, to me, The Fountain wasn’t sad at all. Sure there were sad scenes, almost every good story with a point is going to have some, but as a whole the movie was overwhelmingly positive. It’s hard sometimes to see the good side of death, beyond the usual “They’re better off” speech.
We’re often so hung-up on the here and now reality of death that we forget what death means not only in the long run, but it’s spiritual implications as well. I used to be an atheist, and I’ve heard some good arguments for atheism, but I’ve always been of the “why not?” school as far as the existence of God is concerned. It’s never been something I’ve committed myself to, but it is a concept that I’ve thought a lot about. I believe spirituality is a personal matter, meant for discussion with those you love and care about, so I’ll keep this brief. I’m of the notion that we’re all connected, every living thing on this planet is connected on some level: every human, animal, insect, plant etc. What is that connection? I don’t know. Will I ever know? Probably not, but I’ve got a few ideas.
The Fountain is ultimately about that connectedness and how death is merely a shifting of those connections from the physical to the metaphysical. My mother is dead in the physical sense, but her “spirit” or “aura” has the ability to live forever (depending on the person, "spirit" or "aura" can mean a dozen different things. In the case of The Fountain, the physical represents the human form, while the metaphysical is represented by the more tacit conceit of a tree or nature. Is The Fountain saying that our soul becomes a tree when we die? No not really, but it can be interpreted as that. It’s merely stating that no matter what happens to us, no matter where our physical body ends up, we will always end up back in nature. The “we” that ends up back in nature is more for the individual to decide, do our bodies decompose and hence fertilize the earth or do our souls “become trees”?
Death is the ultimate unavoidable truth of our existence. No matter what happens to you when you live, you are always going to die, there’s simply no way around it. The Fountain doesn’t claim to know everything, and it doesn’t claim to offer any kinds of answers, just suggestions. Because of the powerful nature of the movies message, I can’t really interpret much of what those suggestions are for you. You just have to see it and interpret it for yourself, because of that I’m sure plenty of people will be turned away by this film, even the people that it was made for; either by the concept flying over their heads or by not noticing or caring for it’s inherent subtleties. The Fountain is not an obvious movie.
As with most things in life, people are always looking for the quick answers and they aren’t used to having to find the meaning for themselves. Even with death, we try and just forget about it and if we forget about it, then we forget about the pain it caused. I’m not saying you should remember it every second of the day or think about it whenever you can, just recognize that you will think about it and that it will make you sad sometimes. Much like The Fountain, life isn’t about what life is about, life is about the journey and the acceptance of its unavoidable end.
Monday, November 13, 2006
To me, there are only 3 reasons to give 20th Century Fox my attention: “Prison Break”, “House” and re-runs of “The Simpsons”. Other than those three things I usually avoid most of Fox’s output like the plague. Sure I watch Star Wars a lot (Fox fundamentally just distributes that) and they’ve also made some of my favorite movies of all time, but as a general rule of thumb, if it says “Fox” on the movie poster or television advertisement I’ll give it negative 10 points to start with.
Why do I dislike Fox so much? Well, if you don’t know the answer to that question, then you probably like Fox a lot. You probably enjoy the new episodes of “Family Guy” (which they’ve been patting themselves on the back for bringing back, which is kind of like flushing a turd then diving into the toilet after it). I’ll bet you even like “The War At Home” (only Fox could co-opt a phrase like that and make a shitty sitcom out of it).
I’ll bet you’re getting all wet just waiting for the next season of American Idol (which should be renamed “What’s Really Wrong With America and How We’re Too Fucking Dumb To Fix It.”)
American Idol is basically the worst television show to have ever existed. The first few episodes focus solely on degrading and poking fun of those of us who still dare to grasp onto that American Dream we were all told about when we were little: making millions of dollars for being famous; even people who were never actually on the show become famous (William Hung anyone?). The rest of the season is just a validation for millions of Americans of that very same dream: If they can do it why I can’t I? That’s why so many more people are tuning into it now than ever before, they all want to suckle on the golden teat of opportunity in the form of a TV show that further glorifies the mediocrity of Middle-America.
Not to mention the Fox New Channel, which is basically a punch line in and of itself (kind of like saying “Michael Jackson” or “Brokeback Mountain”), you already know what the joke is. But the thing about Fox News is that it’s not funny. It’s just kind of pathetic, sad and hateful.
Anyways, what Thank You For Smoking was really about was spin; how people use and manipulate information to their advantage (FOX NEWS CHANNEL). The main protagonist is a lobbyist for Big Tobacco, played by Aaron Eckhart (who is probably the best actor working today that no one gives a shit about). He is joined on-screen by a crazy leftist senator played by William H. Macy, whose own personal crusade is to put and end to Big Tobacco’s stranglehold on the American Public. The best scenes involve these two actors (although Robert Duvall’s turn as the prodigal Grandpappy of the Tobacco industry is pretty brilliant as well.) They aren’t always on the screen together, in fact they never even meet face to face until the end, but they play the spin game off of each other like a video game they already beat. They are still playing it to discover all the hidden icons, and because they’re really fucking good at it.
The rest of the film is filled with pretty solid performances as well: Rob Lowe as a hot shot Hollywood agent, Maria Bello as a lobbyist for Alcohol, David Koechner as a lobbyist for the firearms industry (doing his schtick with master precision) and Sam Elliot (who else?) as the original Marlboro Man. These performances are all well and good in their own right but they almost don’t matter because they’re just there for Aaron Eckhart to play off of. Aaron Eckhart is Michael Jordan and the rest of the cast are the 90’s dynasty Chicago Bulls, they’re all good, but Michael Jordan is the star. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Bill Paxton, B.J. Armstrong and the rest of them all existed to make sure that Michael Jordan got the ball and did his thing. I don’t mean to discount the rest of the Bulls or even the rest of the cast of Thank You For Smoking, but it’s true.
Performances aside, the reason the movie pissed me off is because of Fox. I’ve got to imagine that a huge, massive corporation like News Corp. has a cold, calculated reason for taking part in every one of their investments. So why would a company so notorious for laying the spin on thicker than cheap cologne willingly promote a film that, pun intended, smokes them out and reveals them to be the giant assholes that we already knew they were? (the film never directly references Fox or any of its affiliates, but give me a fucking break, when you think of “spin”, who do you think of?) So why would Fox release this movie? You’d think they’d buy it and never release it, the way Big Oil does with alternative fuel technologies.
This reminds of the case of Boondock Saints. It was originally released to an extremely limited number of screens. With the help of Blockbuster Inc., Troy Duffy, the films director, managed to get a few more screens and a slightly longer theatrical run with not much fanfare. Part of Duffy’s agreement with Blockbuster stated that Blockbuster would receive exclusive rental rights when the film was released on video. Not so shady on the surface right? Boondock Saints is about two brothers who grossly misinterpret the teachings of the bible, basically: you sin, you die. It’s like The Punisher with a religious tilt.
So what’s so wrong about Blockbuster getting exclusive rental rights to Boondock Saints? Blockbuster has always claimed to be a family friendly company. They don’t even stock pornography. In the early nineties the MPAA created the NC-17 rating, originally intended to be for movies with strong adult themes, thought not necessarily involving sex or pornography. Blockbuster decided not to carry any NC-17 films. Why? Because Blockbuster has an extremely close relationship to the American Family Association, an organization devoted to setting the moral standard for America based on Christian values.
So Blockbuster, a company with heavy ties to a notorious conservative Christian organization, gets exclusive rental rights for a movie about two Christians who believe that they are the right hand of God and that they decide who is right and who is wrong and who deserves to be punished (i.e. die). Does anyone think that’s a little, I don’t know, scary as shit?
So why did Fox decided to distribute Thank You For Smoking, a movie that pretty much calls them out for being terrible people? I’m reminded of a recent South Park episode in which it is discovered that all the conspiracy theories about the government being complicit in the events of 9/11 are actually propagated by the government itself. I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like this:
“If we convince people to convince people that we were somehow involved in the attacks of 9/11, then it appears as if we have maintained control of the situation all along.”
So by backhandedly promoting the ideas of your enemies, you are giving a slight wink that you have control over what is going on. Fox, promoting a movie that tells you that spin is propagated by near worthless shysters, is telling you, “We know what you are thinking, and we own what you are thinking, and even a tiny little movie like Thank You For Smoking won’t stop us.”
Monday, November 6, 2006
Just a quick refresher, Success Quotient equals:
(Gross - Budget)/Screens
Average Ticket Price
First off, we'll do Flushed Away:
Weekend Gross: $19,100,000
Average Ticket Price: $6.80
Which translates to:
The Success Quotient for Flushed Away? -4399.467.
Don't let this be an indication for Flushed Away failing miserably, its only the first weekend, and it still has a strong possibility of kicking that number up a notch.
Now lets do Borat:
Weekend Gross: $26,375,000
Average Ticket Price: $6.80
That gives a Success Quotient of: 1417.667
To put that in perspective, Revenge of The Sith had an SQ of just over 1600 for its ENTIRE RUN.
Now let's see if Borat can keep up the momentum.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
When I’m done watching a movie, I’ll either “get it” or not. I’ll either understand the infinite complexities of it’s craftsmanship (maybe after a couple days to think about it) or I’ll just hate it. Generally, I don’t hate bad movies. By bad movie I mean a movie who’s original intention was not all that honorable to begin with (lots of explosions and violence, shaky plots, terrible actors and/or directors). Some might call them Popcorn films, or blockbusters etc. etc. If I have a seething hatred for a movie it is almost always a good movie, and by good movie I mean a movie whose original intentions were quite honorable (lots of weepiness, plenty of pandering, critically acclaimed directors and/or actors and/or writers and/or cinematographers and/or ad nauseum.) The general consensus when it comes to good movies is that you are supposed to like them, they are made by geniuses and a genius never fails. What would make me hate such a good movie so much that 9 times out of 10 I can’t get to the halfway point of the film? The answer: Powdered Wigs.
There’s something about period pieces that have always irked the ever lovin’ shit out of me. The idea that someone would pay money to see John Malkovich affect a funny accent and prance around in obnoxious clothing and fanciful wigs is just so foreign to me. I’m not saying that it’s John Malkovich’s fault (that’s something I’m going to reserve for a completely separate article) or even the fault of the directors or writers, or heck the powdered wigs. My problem is that when I see Helena Bonham Carter on screen wearing a massive dress adorned with pearls and jewels and gold and whatever the hell else they adorned dresses with back then, I just have no way to relate to it.
So when I go see a movie that is painted with all the shitty colors of a movie that I’m going to hate, and I don’t hate it after I see it, I have to analyze why I thought I wouldn’t like it in the first place. Marie Antoinette features all the warning signs of a period drama: Fancy Wigs, Pretentious Accents, Overly Decorated Homes, Powdered Skin, Lots of Clothes and Dresses, Aristocracy on the downfall, Pompous Characters, and Romance of the trashy novel variety (i.e. a queen in love with a man below her rank or class.)
I don’t wear Fancy Wigs and my home, though overly decorated features no gold trim or massive oil paintings. I do not powder my face or wear make-up. I have plenty of clothes by mostly just jeans and t-shirts. I’m not rich and the only concept I have of being rich is from watching that Richie Rich movie with Macaulay Culkin. Also, I’m a middle class white kid from the suburbs of Chicago, pretty much any girl I would want is in my class (Note: I already do have a pretty awesome girl.)
So Marie Antoinette had a lot going against it but I walked away thoroughly enjoying, nay, loving the movie. Why? I could identify with it. As soon as Kirsten Dunst stepped onto to screen I had that connection down pat (I think she’s a really good actress that hasn’t been given enough opportunities to demonstrate that fact), then she started talking and it wasn’t in a mildly European sounding accent (In movies not set in English speaking countries, people almost always speak English, and by giving their characters an accent from whatever region they are supposed to be representing, they must be from that region, right?).
Kirsten Dunst, throughout the movie, was this cute little girl whom I could relate to because she speaks like my friends and I speak. It was the subtle affectations of Kirsten Dunst’s every-girl voice that hooked me in. It wasn’t anything that I even actively realized was occurring until the movie was almost over. She didn’t over-pronounce or artistocratically drawl once during the entire film, she was just Kirsten Dunst.
Secondly, the music, oh my god the music. I heard a lot of people got their panties in a bunch that Sofia Coppola didn’t use period music in this film. This is probably a shitty comparison but A Knight’s Tale used classic rock during some of it’s battle sequences and I thought that was genius. I’ve heard the thunderous timpanis and gleefully exuberant horns before and even when they’re used well it’s generally still music created for the purpose of eliciting some reaction from the viewer. The theme from Jaws is one of those, it was done perfectly, but it was still something that no one had ever heard until they saw the movie.
I’ve always been a big fan of movie soundtracks, particularly soundtracks that feature music that I’m familiar with (the keyword being “familiar”). Wes Anderson has done this really well, and Quentin Tarantino should probably be given some sort of crown illustrating the fact that he’s really good at putting together a soundtrack. Anyways, when I’m watching a movie and a song that I’m familiar with or better yet, a song that I like, starts shooting through the speakers I am immediately familiar with what is happening on screen.
Music has that power, it sets the mood of the film, sometimes in a greater sense than the photography, costumes or writing can. Because, like I mentioned above, the cinematography, the costumes and writing were all created for the sole purpose of being in the movie you are currently watching. How does one connect with a movie other than directly relating some part of it to another part of their lives? I’m willing to bet that if you LOVE movies you probably LOVE music to. So when New Order starts playing during a sequence in Marie Antoinette, I know what is happening. It takes me from sitting in front of my computer listening to Substance via MP3 to running through a costume ball alongside Marie Antoinette and then Prince Louis. If I can emotionally connect to a movie then it doesn’t matter what else happens, I’m absorbed in it.
So maybe saying that I hate Dangerous Liaisons or Girl With a Pearl Earring is a little obnoxious, I guess I just have to admit something about myself that not many people are willing to admit: I just don’t understand them. So my hatred is misplaced, I understand that. I guess I don’t hate them, but I still don’t like them. I don’t like them in the same way that I don’t like calculus or long division. I’ll choose Marie Antoinette and arithmetic any day.
I don’t think the point of Marie Antoinette was to make it more accessible, just more identifiable. If the story were meant to be more accessible, it would have been directed by some Music Video Throwback and featured a much more contemporary (read: much more AWFUL) soundtrack. I think Sofia Coppola was very careful in not selecting more current music (though she does whip out the Strokes and there is a cameo by Phoenix) or going overboard with the very “now” dialogue. She does it in a way that I imagine she’s been thinking about doing it since she was young Marie Antoinette’s age. Its very playful, almost like the actors are her dolls and the movie her dollhouse. When a little girl pretends to be a princess, she doesn’t speak in the voice of a cultured dauphine, she speaks like a little a girl.
Then I watched the trailer. I can now state with confidence that Day 2007 won't be bad at all.
It will be pure shit.
What we're looking at appears to be a prequel to Dawn 2004, judging by the zombies (they look and sound and move exactly like Zack Snyder's undead) and the premise (evil corporation/government/military creates virus which infects entire town). This, in itself, doesn't bother me (although, shouldn't the title be Night instead of Day then?). In fact, I think it'd be an interesting concept - if done well. It doesn't look like we're getting that next April.
First of all, if the quality of the trailer is any indication, then this film is being produced by people who have clearly have no business advertising any kind of fiction. The trailer editors apparently come from the "give away every possible twist" school of film advertising (and the twists weren't all that brilliant to begin with). We find out one of our "Dawson's Creek" survivors is infected, but no one knows whom. Then, we find out which one, as he furtively stares at the bite mark on his arm. Congratulations, trailer guys - you've successfully deflated an already cliched suspense-building technique. We find out that the disease was produced by your standard evil scientific research, like that was going to be some kind of revelation. The basic message of the trailer seems to be, "this movie is so predictable that you'll know what's going to happen fifteen minutes in, so I'm going to save you that fifteen minutes right now."
If that didn't insult my intelligence enough, there's the coitus factor. Toward the beginning of the trailer, before the Bad Stuff starts happening, there's a girl saying, "I want us to be special," or some such typical prelude-to-fucking bullshit. This shifts to a quarter-second of her and her boyfriend doin' the nasty. It's subtle as a hammer, as if the producers themselves were nudging us in the ribs with their elbows and saying, "Hey guuuuuys...BOOBIES!!!" If random gratuitous sex is one of the selling points of your film, you need to go back to zombie school.
At least Ving Rhames is in the film, playing Badass Black Sergeant. I liked him in Dawn 2004 as Badass Black Cop. But even he seems to be bored with his lines.
This isn't "remake bitterness." The original Dawn of the Dead was a zombie masterpiece, but I still enjoyed its 2004 remake (which, incidentally, had a much better trailer--none of this giving-away-everything and what-have-you). The original Day of the Dead is one of my favorite zombie movies of all time, but it doesn't color my opinion of this film. The fact that I could wipe my ass with celluloid and produce a better zombie film, however - that's definitely a factor.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I really enjoy it when I go see a movie that I know little to nothing about and come away with some sort of intense reaction. Often times I’ll have a pre-decided judgment about a film and I’ll walk away either disappointed or pleasantly surprised. I had thought that The Phantom Menace was going to be the movie to end all movies, little did I know while caught up in the fanboy hysteria, that the movie was actually pretty terrible. I was disenchanted by the Star Wars franchise and even more so after Attack of The Clones. So when a movie that I am neither for nor against makes me feel something, anything, I have to give it props.
When I added Hard Candy to my Netflix queue all I knew was that it was about an older man who meets a younger woman through the internet. All said, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the movie. Other than that premise, I can’t really say what compelled me to see the movie. I think that when it came out to theatres back in April I had read a review that said it was pretty good. It probably has more to do with the fact that I think the older man/younger woman situation is immensely intriguing. I guess I’m too young to understand the predilection for the creepy old man crowd to be falling head over heels for young teenage girls. Or maybe I’m just jealous that an older woman never swept me off my feet during my teen years.
I grew up during the beginning stages of the instant messaging boom. Everybody who was anybody had an instant messaging program, I was a member of at least three (AIM/AOL, Yahoo!, and ICQ). I would sit on AOL for hours and talk to complete strangers. Though the traditional definition of stranger is a little blurry online. You’re talking and relating to this person that you’ve never met, but are they still a stranger even though you’ve never had any real live contact? Anyways, I’m completely familiar with the addiction that young people have with chatting online and the fact that I understand that makes Hard Candy all the more creepy.
At first Jeff (Patrick Wilson) doesn’t seem like a creepy guy when he meets Haley (Ellen Page) at a coffee shop. Sure he looks significantly older than Haley (who’s only 14), but he just seems so nice. It isn’t until we get to the playfully coy banter between the two that this isn’t just some whim that Jeff acted upon and we realize that he is indeed attracted to this young girl, and the young girl to him.
The events of the rest of the movie make this opening scene seem so much more innocent than it actually is. Jeff has many opportunities to stop what he is doing and walk away but none of them are taken. Instead, he keeps sinking himself further into Haley’s charm. He buys her a t-shirt (which she gladly tries on for him), but only after attempting to buy her sweet things from the barista. By the time she agrees to model for Jeff (who is a professional photographer), he is hooked and any opportunity he had to end this is completely gone.
One of the most significant things about this movie is that at first, you’re going to take Haley’s side. She’s young, cute and innocent. Obviously, Jeff is manipulating her because he’s old, she’s young and young people are never ever guilty. As events progress during the film, you’ll switch to Jeff’s side, especially after she drugs him and ties him to a chair. But the movie doesn’t let you take one side for too long before revealing something about one of their two main characters that either repulses you, or attracts you. Neither of these characters are heroes, but neither of them are villains either. In that duality, the movie reveals itself to be more about the people contained with in the plot than the actual plot itself.
So when I say that I knew pretty much nothing about this movie when I went into, I’m not lying. I really didn’t know what was going on with the movie until the end to tell you the truth. Because every time I thought I knew what was happening, and every time I thought I knew where a character was going to go, they either didn’t go there, or went there but went even further. It’s like if I really, really thought that John Kerry was going to be president, I would have been surprised that he didn’t get voted into office, but I also would have been surprised had been voted into office and then been voted President of The World.
As soon as Haley goes home with Jeff you realize that maybe this isn’t just some little thing that Jeff decided to do. Maybe it was his intention all along to get her to come home with him. So you immediately know that Jeff is a little shady at this point, but later on his original intentions for letting her come over come into question and those questions are horrifying. I don’t want to reveal too much about what exactly happens and what exactly is revealed about our characters during the course of the film, but I will say that at one point, you’ll have a new found appreciation for the comedy of Brian Posehn. If you’ve seen the film, and you know the bit I’m talking about then you’re probably ready to vomit right now just from thinking about it.
Patrick Wilson is pretty amazing in this film. He pulls off the suave player/tortured victim dichotomy with ease. Ellen Page on the other hand, while not bad in any way, I’m not sure how good she was. I don’t know if she just can’t act and was just pulling out every clichéd Movie Torturer vibe she could grab (sarcastic wit, devilish eyes, smarter-than-thou attitude) or if that was the point of her character. I’m going to assume that the fact that she and her character are both young, the only way they know how to be the bad guy is not from life experience but by imitating the films and television show’s they’ve watched. Someone so young certainly hasn’t had enough to time to be that fucked up, and there’s a certain percentage of it that has to be an act, despite Haley’s insistence that she is an honor student. Don’t get me wrong, Haley is absolutely terrifying at times, but she’s almost too terrifying.
I haven’t even gotten to how beautiful the film is. I recently made the brilliant decision to get an HD-TV and I already had a progressive scan DVD player. Oh my lord was that a wise decision. David Slade, the director, knows how to tell the camera what do and what to look at (especially the aforementioned Brian Posehn reference) but it’s Jo Willems’ cinematography that tells the cameras how to see it.
There’s plenty of red during the films most violent scenes (as well as light glares and shaky cameras) but during an early scene with our two main characters standing and relating to each-other in an entirely pink room, the camera moves slowly and gracefully and is really the only point in the movie that we can feel Jeff and Haley connect on a deep, profound level. Haley observes some of Jeff’s photography and points out one in particular that she thinks is beautiful, this also happens to be a picture of the only model that Jeff ever fell in love with. Jeff is restrained but angered that she removes the picture from the wall to look at it closer, but he politely takes it from her and puts it back. In that action we can see that Jeff is more complex than his suave jet-setting photographer image and for an instant Haley sees that, just before she tears it all down.
When the credits began to roll and sat a let the movie marinate for a while, I was floored. Floored because I still don’t think I know what was going on. I mean, I saw what was going on and I knew what happened with in the film but what happened outside of the events of the film was a lot more grey. I didn’t fully grasp what Haley’s motivation was. Vengeance seemed to be the only answer I could find and the only answer that the movie itself provided. But after all was said and done I think that was the point. You never really got to know Haley, while you got to know Jeff a lot more than you would ever want to. In that, Haley maintained her innocence despite her increasingly violent actions, while Jeff ended up with the short end of the stick and despite the movies end you still don’t know who the actual victim was.
Friday, September 22, 2006
I think I may have just seen the best movie of the year. As a Dork I’m partial to proclamations of that sort, but seriously, Idiocracy was amazing. I’ve just never seen something so funny and so good. This definitely isn’t good/funny in the same way that something like Annie Hall is good/funny, it’s good/funny (more funny/good) in a way I haven’t seen since the Golden Age of The Simpsons. I was reminded of Bill Hicks’ joke about redneck aliens, to paraphrase, “We traveled billions of light-years, we just wanna sit back and whittle some.” It’s obvious that the primary function of this film is to make you laugh, but much like the comedy of Bill Hicks you get this sense that there’s something else going on.
Everyone always has this grand vision of the future being full of hyper-intelligent meta-humans. Everything is silver and glowing and things float all over the place. Like Hicks’ comment above, Idiocracy asks you re-imagine the fundamental concepts of Science Fiction, where Hicks asks you to imagine Aliens as being closer to Rednecks, Judge asks you to imagine the stupidest possible future. There’s no flying cars or endless sea of towering, glimmering skyscrapers, but there is a Costco the size of
The whole plot is kind of secondary to what the movie is actually about. We’re launched into this future when Joe (Luke Wilson) and Rita (Maya Rudolph) get frozen as part of a super-secret Government human hibernation program. They’re only supposed to be in there for a year, but due to circumstances out of their control, they are left there for 500 years. The traditional moving-forward-in-time montage is given a kick in the pants when we see a Fuddruckers get built, torn down and replaced by a series of similarly named restaurants until we finally get to “Buttfuckers” right around the time Joe wakes up (There’s a brilliant scene of Joe dumbfoundedly staring at a “Buttfuckers” while some kids birthday party is going on inside).
Like I said, the whole how-we-got-there doesn’t matter. This movie could’ve easily become a mockumentary, it’s already got insightful narration. I do like that they picked Luke Wilson, he’s really good at playing it straight when everyone else around him are being goofballs. Joe’s not all that offended by the world of the future, just a little frustrated because he can’t explain himself. No one will listen to him, primarily because he “talks like a fag.” (i.e. using big words.) When he tries to tell people that they have to uses water to grow crops and not Brawndo, a Gatorade-like drink that completely replaced water except in the place of toilets, he has to convince them that he can talk to plants and that the plants told him they want water. (“But Brawndo has everything a plant needs, it’s got electrolytes!”) I also loved Dax Shepherd who plays Joe’s lawyer, Frito (most of the characters are named after products). I really had no idea that Dax Shepherd could act, but then again, judging by his past roles, this one may have been perfect for him.
The humor in the movie is pretty dumb, like almost Tommy Boy-style, but that’s where the movie reveals itself to be a lot more that it’s outward appearance. Sure there are plenty of fart jokes and dudes getting kicked in the balls (“Ow, My Balls!” is a popular TV show in the future) but the fact that these are so common place is what makes the humor in the movie so smart. It’s not that people go out of their way to see crude humor and overt sexuality; life in 2505 is crude humor and overt sexuality: you can go to Starbucks for a handjob and read “U.S. News & Naked Ladies”. Vending machines swear at you and going to the hospital has become more like going McDonalds. Everything is blended so insouciantly into the fabric of society that it’s almost unrecognizable as trying to be funny. In doing so a world is created that is fairly believable (though one could obviously nitpick the shit out of this movie).
This is not only where the true genius of Idiocracy actually lies, but I suspect it is the same reason why Fox pulled it from wide distribution. I can imagine that half the audience that Fox would market this to would laugh along with the movie and not at it, like it should be. Am I saying that most of the people that would probably go see this movie are no better than the people this movie makes fun of? Yeah, I’m saying that. The movie begins with a look at a high-I.Q.-ed couple thinking about having kids. Then it cuts to a hillbilly who can’t remember which girl he got pregnant. It cuts between these people, going from the smart people still trying to find the time to have kids, to the hillbilly with 8 kids, whose kids are now having kids. I can imagine one of the hillbilly’s children’s children going to see this movie and coming home still laughing at the farts, but not understanding why the farts were there in the first place. I’m not saying that every comedy has to have farts that are existential. It’s just that this film does.
When I think about the world that this movie creates and proceeds to make fun of, I get kind of depressed. It’s not hard to think that the ultra-dumbed down society that this movie creates could eventually be a reality. Is Mike Judge attempting to make a case for eugenics? No I don’t think so. Though halting a few people’s reproductive capabilities wouldn’t be bad idea, I think he’s trying to say something else. There was an Onion article just after 9/11 with a headline saying something along the lines of “Americans Long To Care About Stupid Shit Again”. In today’s world of complete lies being shilled as justification for war, the advocation of torture by our own President and our elections becoming a complete mockery, it’s getting really hard not to give a shit anymore.
I’m not going to claim to be in the running for White House correspondent’s job, but even I give a shit now. Up until 9/11, the majority of Americans had no idea that there were people out there that actually hated us. Idiocracy isn’t trying to preach at you, it’s just reminding you that giving a shit isn’t “gay” and that eating Doritos and watching MTV all day might not be the best thing to be doing with your life. The movie isn’t telling everyone to go join Green Peace or help PETA convince another celebrity to get naked, it’s just saying that being aware of the world you live in isn’t a bad idea.
In that sense I think the execution of Idiocracy was much better than that of Office Space, but I think they share similar concepts. Both are about taking charge of you’re life and your destiny and taking responsibility for your actions. But Idiocracy has a much grander scope, it isn’t as singular as Office Space. If Idiocracy gets a wide release or hopefully a DVD release at least, I can see it going beyond the cult status of Office Space. I don’t want to speak too loftily of this movie, but I really liked it, and I think that there are thousands of people out there who will think the same thing I am.
There’s a really good line that’s kind of used as the theme of the movie, that I think has some importance today, “You either lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Joe chooses to get out of the way at the beginning of the film, and being of
Thursday, August 31, 2006
My immediate reaction upon exiting the movie theatre after seeing Snakes On A Plane was: “That was the most obnoxious movie I’ve ever seen.” I mean obnoxious in a good way. I liked the honesty of its camp. It created a new genre: Proto-Schlock, or self-aware awfulness. I was endeared to this idea, and I appreciated the movie for not trying to be good but instead reveling in its own inherent badness.Then on my way home I tried to switch lanes, and the dude two car-lengths behind me decided he didn’t want me to, and he sped past while I was halfway into the other lane. Whenever a situation like this comes up I use Ol’ Trusty to sort it out. I flipped him the bird. Not content with being just a plain asshole, he decided to make a run for the Major Asshole award by then slowing down and swerving into my lane, to teach me a lesson or something.
Maybe I shouldn’t have given him the finger, or maybe he shouldn’t have been an asshole. Regardless, I was now in a bad mood. When in a bad mood one tries to think about things that will pull him out of that mood, but instead he usually gets pushed deeper into his misery. It’s kind of like when a dude is trying to make his boner go away by thinking about baseball, but in his head the dudes on the field turn into ladies, and then they turn into naked ladies. So I thought, “I’ll get myself out of this mood by thinking about Snakes On A Plane.” Bad fucking idea.
The first image that popped into my head was of some dickhead blogger creaming in his Levi’s while watching something that he wanted to happen in Snakes On A Plane actually happen on the screen. Months ago this guy posted some bullshit about Snakes On A Plane that the producers read. They, sensing the hype that this movie had already created (when they hadn’t yet spent a dime on marketing), decided that they should field suggestions for the movie from the internet. So what this blogger wrote caught the eye of the producer. The producer called the writer, the director, and the actingest motherfucker in
Mind you, the movie had already been shot; it was fundamentally in the can. So the producer thought that it would be a good idea to change this piece of shit into an R-Rated piece of shit. They shot new scenes and put them into the movie. Then they had this movie containing new scenes SUGGESTED by the “fans” (Can a movie have fans even though it hasn’t proven itself to be fan-worthy; i.e., no one’s seen it?).
Look at this from the perspective of the filmmakers. The writer wrote this script, either from his idea or from someone else’s. It doesn’t matter. He wrote the script. He wrote the movie that was ALREADY made. It doesn’t matter if it was bad to begin with; it’s his job to write what he gets paid to write. Same with the director: the quality of the material is inconsequential. So he heard that they wanted him to write new things based on what some dickhead on the internet wanted. It’s like when a chef slaves over a steak only to hear that the person who ordered it wants ketchup with it. Ketchup? Don’t you like what I made for you? Sure, it might not be the best steak ever, but fucking ketchup? Why the fuck did you order it in the first place if you’re just going to smear ketchup on it? The writers and filmmakers are the chef, and the dickhead bloggers are the ketchup. It’s the writer’s steak that the producer ordered. If he didn’t like what he ordered, why the fuck did he order it in the first place?
Being a blogger myself, I realize the irony in me making fun of bloggers, especially after having written something in which I all but solicit the producers of the next Batman film to do what I say. But here’s where I’m different: I stated that I do not actually expect anyone to pay attention to me. I was just ranting. In the case of Snakes On A Plane, someone said something ridiculous about the movie, which was then read by someone else who sent it to someone else, etc., etc.
All this attention caught the eye of the producer. The producer then figured, “Let’s shoot some new scenes based on what these inter-tards are saying about our piece of shit movie!” So the internet community is getting a boner. “Lady Hollywood is paying attention to us!” Now people will start coming up with the most insane things they can think of and start posting them in whatever public forum they can find. The producers will read these new insane things and decide to put them in movies. It’s like a cannibalization of attention. The attention is causing more attention, which in turn is causing even more attention.
The closest thing I can compare this with is Adult Swim. When Adult Swim started on Cartoon Network it was really fun and goofy, and it was something great to watch while you got drunk with your friends. Then Adult Swim started putting things people wrote on their message boards on television and since then anything anyone has said on the boards has been posted with the hope of it being featured on television one day. So everything posted on them is obnoxious and obvious. But Adult Swim keeps putting quotes on television, so now people have to outdo each other. Poster A posts something clever. Then Poster B posts something cleverer than Poster A. Then Poster C comes up with something cleverer than Posters A and B combined. It keeps going on and on like this until you pay $8.50 to see a poorly shot Sam Jackson say, “That’s it! I’ve had enough of these mother-fucking snakes on this mother-fucking plane!”
I guess I might be treading the same water as the Chuck Klosterman article from Esquire that Jim Emerson and I both wrote about. But something neither of them covered is this: How is what happened with Snakes On A Plane any different than censoring a movie? Doesn’t changing a completed movie in order to make it more violent make changing a completed movie in order to make it less violent okay? We’ve all heard about companies that take DVD releases of certain movies and get rid of the “naughty bits” and then re-release these so-called “cleaned-up” versions of movies. Well, what if there was a company the put more naughty bits in (a couple more streaks of blood or a couple more swear words)? Would we be up in arms then? Would we have so derided George Lucas for “special-editioning” Star Wars if we had suggested it?
It makes me sad to say it, but Snakes On A Plane was made by professionals, by people who make films for a living. I’m all for audience participation; in fact, audience participation has elicited some of the most exciting developments in the entertainment industry. Sony has been fond of having fan-created poster contests. The movie Slither just had a contest in which you could edit your own trailer. Outside of movies, The Four Horsemen, a group of toy sculptors, solicited fans for toy ideas. Fans then voted on the best idea for a toy line. They then voted on which characters from the toy line to develop. They then voted on the sculpts for the characters and ultimately voted on which character would be produced. To an extent, audience participation can and will continue to work. But people, please leave the brushes in the hands of the artists. We’re the audience for a reason: we sit back and watch what someone else has created. If you’re not content to sit back and watch, then make your own movie, and we’ll see how much you like it when someone blogs a couple new lines for you.
I guess the final point I can make about this movie is that it all comes down to a case of overestimating the buying power of those heavily involved in the culture of blogging. Bloggers are a small fraction of vocal and passionate people, which are a fraction of passionate people in general, which are a fraction of people in general. When you get down to it, the massive group of people who had created the hysteria surrounding this film weren’t all that massive after all.
I’d honestly be more afraid of what Snakes On A Plane represents had it been more successful, but as it stands it was just a shitty movie that’s been talked about a lot more than any shitty movie ever has.
So did I like the movie? Yeah I did, because it sucked, and I like shitty movies. I’d probably watch it again too, but I wouldn’t pay money for it again. Mostly because Snakes On A Plane is the first intentionally manufactured sign of the coming Movie Apocalypse. I’m glad to have seen the product of the entire filmmaking process becoming irrelevant. The new way to make film will involve many more people and will crank out many more pieces of shit. It’s like
Saturday, August 26, 2006
I’m at a point in my life (fresh out of college, working a “real job”, about to get married) where I’ve been granted a new perspective on things. I think about money not as something to be earned, but as something to be saved (For the most part. I’m working on it, honestly). I think of the future in realistic terms, sacrificing the wide-eyed idealism of youth for the hopeful truth of adulthood. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an adult per se (I might be close; I’m not sure yet.), but I wouldn’t consider myself a kid either. The term “young adult” is slung around at mere children, so I’m certainly not one of those. What am I? I really have no idea, which is why Clerks 2 was so appealing to me.
I’m going to refrain from the plot recap hooey found in most reviews and cut to the chase. Why did I like this film? Because it was a reminder of my own existence; it presented damn-near every apprehension I had about growing up in glorious Technicolor.
Let’s face the facts: growing up is total bullshit. You can’t mooch off of parents (or future in-laws) forever. There is a point where the comfortable existence you’ve established over your entire life is completely upended, and you are faced with the fundamental question posed to every moving being in the animal kingdom: Are you going to evolve or die?
The characters in Clerks 2 seemingly have chosen the latter, leaving themselves to rot in a shitty job that pays even shittier money. From what we can tell, flipping burgers is their highest form of social interaction, short of the car ride from their co-worker’s house to work. But have they really chosen to relinquish themselves to the fate of the failed American dream, or are they just off to a slow start?
I’d like to think that they are taking things slow. Extremely slow. It’s been ten years since the first film, and they don’t seem to have grown up at all. They’re still bitching about their jobs, bitching about their girlfriends (or lack thereof) and they’re still bitching about the one thing that everyone on the planet likes to bitch about: life. Has life dealt them an awful hand? Nope, they’re just lazy fucks.
This is where I come in. I’m currently working a job that I don’t particularly care that much for. I, much like Shaquille O’Neal, am in it for the money. But unlike Shaquille O’Neal, I don’t make much of it. I make enough to not sink into poverty but not nearly enough to comfortably distance myself from it. I’m not doing what I would like to be doing, and wouldn’t you know it? I don’t know what I want to do.
Like Dante and Randall I’ve sacrificed personal fulfillment for security, which is a sacrifice I’m definitely not the first person to make. I grew up with the idea that going to college would get me a job and pay me good money. Guess what. I went to college. I got a job. Compared with not working, I’d even say it’s a good one. I make okay money, but I’m not even touching the salary I was all but promised when I signed up for college.
Dante, Randall, I, and almost everyone I know are part of a group of individuals that was fundamentally duped into believing that education means something. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go to college. If you want to be a doctor, please go to college. If you want to be a lawyer, please go to college. But if you want to be a graphic designer (like I presently am), why the fuck do you have to spend $40,000 on a degree to prove to someone that you know how to add a lense-flare to a photo using the magic that is Photoshop? It’s a job that virtually anyone can do if given a small amount of training. By “small” I mean: “Here’s the mouse, click around until you make something.” Schools like the one I went to (The Illinois Institute of Art) churn out utterly worthless graduates who get jobs because they work for cheap and don’t know any better, and because no one knows what good graphic design looks like and no one cares.
So what does this predicament have to do with Clerks 2? Well, it all boils down to disillusionment, to the fact that the magic show you thought you had waiting at the end of your high school or college career is really just a douchebag hiding a rabbit in his pants. It’s like when the trailer for a movie is better than the movie itself, except this movie is life, and the trailer is all the bullshit that your parents, peers and teachers force-fed you in high school: “Go to college, get a job, make good money.” College was boring and useless. The job where I can use my talents effectively does not exist, and everything is so expensive that, unless I plan on suing someone, winning the lottery or marrying then killing some old broad for the insurance money, I’m not going to be rolling in the dough any time soon.
But it’s not like there isn’t hope. I’m young, and I still have a lot ahead of me. I’m going to get married, eventually buy my own home and have kids. Who knows? I may eventually get a job that I absolutely love.
In Clerks 2 Dante and Randall finally have the heart-to-heart that the fans of the original film secretly wanted them to have. After the events of the first film, Dante and Randall went to college, they eventually just stopped going after wasting their time for years, perhaps something a lot of us would have liked to do. Randall sums up his feelings on education, and in turn my feelings on education, “One semester we took criminology for God's sake! Criminology! Who the fuck are we studying to be, Batman?” You go to school for years with every intent of doing professionally what you’re doing in school. What Randall is saying is, if you have no idea what you want to be, why waste your time (and money) pretending to be something?
The movie ends gloriously with a slight “fuck you!” to the establishment. Isn’t the daydream of everyone who works in a humdrum office the idea that if they ran the place, things would be different? Well, let’s just say Dante and Randall finally take the shit on the pot that they’ve been sitting on for over a decade.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I guess I should say something about Snakes On A Plane as well, everyone else has, why the fuck shouldn’t I? Here’s my thing about this movie: I want to see it because it looks hilarious. Not like Animal House hilarious but like, Red Planet hilarious or Lost in Space hilarious. I get a huge movie boner for really bad movies. Really I do. Unlawful Entry, love it. Eight Legged Freaks, fantastic. Reign of Fire, one of my favorite movies ever. So yea, I’m going to see Snakes On A Plane because I know it’s going to be terrible.
That being said, I think that’s also the reason why EVERYONE AND THEIR GRANDMOTHER is going to see it and that pisses me off. I feel like what dudes with mullets felt like when Metallica cut their hair: betrayed, angry, hurt, but still giving them money. I’ve loved shitty movies from the get go and now everyone is jumping on the shitty movie bandwagon. I hate to sound like the kid who liked Korn before they got popular, but I owned their first two records long before the quarterback of my high school football team used Freak On A Leash to pump himself up.
So fuck you to all you shitty movie bandwagon jumpers-on (proper grammar bitches.) I’m a really shitty movie enthusiast, do you even know how many times I’ve seen Jingle All The Way? Or Demolition Man? Or Captain Ron? I couldn’t even tell you, their as familiar to me as the layout of his living room is to Matt Murdock. It’s like I know it’s there but it’s just reflex so I kind of don’t know that it’s there. You dig? It’s not even that I like these movies in a slutty-girl-wearing-an-angel-t-shirt irony kind of way either, I really do like these movies and I’ll defend the shit out of them any day of the week.
We need to know what’s bad to know what’s good right? A movie like Pee Wee’s Big Top is like The Joker and a movie like say, Schindler’s List is Batman. How would we know who Batman was if we didn’t have the Joker there to keep him in check? Shitty movies keep good movies in check, otherwise we might get a Chancellor Palpatine style guerilla attack from over-blown, shit slathered “good movies” (notice how
So now that I have the whiny bitch part of the argument taken care of, I’d like to take care of something else. Chuck Klosterman wrote a great article for Esquire about Snakes On A Plane where he bitches out
Anyways, what I ultimately have to say to Chuck Klosterman and the general public is: Who gives a shit?
(thanks to Robyn for the link to Esquire Article)
Monday, August 14, 2006
Let me give you an example. Lets say now-a-days a movie ticket costs $10 (I know what you’re saying, “Where does he get his movie tickets for so cheap?”) and the record breaking weekend gross for the current hot movie is $150 million. About ten years ago, a movie ticket would have cost around $5. Let say ten years ago the then current hot movie’s record-breaking weekend gross was only $80 million. Now which one was more successful?
You might say that the movie from now was more successful because it made nearly twice the money that the movie from ten years ago made. This is fundamentally what Hollywood tells us. But do grosses really measure the success of a movie? Can the amount of money people pay for a ticket be the sole indicator for a movies success?
This is where I call shenanigans on Hollywood. I know Hollywood is all about making themselves look good. Whether it’s cosmetically or financially, they’re all jag-offs who for one reason or another can’t afford to not be “successful” (when referencing Hollywood style “success”, I like to use quotation marks. In a city where a man shoving his own fingers into his anus and affecting a funny voice can be granted a cartoon and a sequel with a bigger budget, the term “success” should be a lot more relative than it is.)
Think about this: If 20 people pay 10 dollars to see a movie, this movie made 200 dollars. What if 40 people paid 5 dollars to see a movie, this movie would also make 200 dollars. Let me ask you again, which movie is more successful? I’ve long been more interested in how many people saw your movie, not how much money they paid to see it.
Let me put this in a historical context. In 2005, the average movie ticket cost $6.41. The top domestic grosser for that year was Revenge of The Sith which made $380.263 million in that year. So how do we find out how many tickets were sold for Revenge of The Sith? (Let’s assume that 1 ticket = 1 person, even though there are nutballs, me included, who see a movie at the theatres more than once) It’s simple, divide the domestic gross by the average ticket price and you get: 59,323,400.94 tickets sold. That’s a lot of tickets. That’s almost 1 quarter of the population of the United States.
Now lets go back 15 years. The top domestic grosser for 1990 was Home Alone, it made $285.761 million that year. Almost $100 million less than Revenge of The Sith. The average ticket price was $4.22. So how many tickets were sold? 67,715,876.78 tickets. That’s 8,392,475.84 more tickets than Revenge of The Sith. So which was more successful? Even though Home Alone grossed significantly less than Revenge of The Sith, it’s quite obvious that many more people saw it.
Now I’m not naïve enough to think that how many tickets sold should be the sole decider of a movies success. Unlike one-sighted Hollywood, I realize that there are quite a few other things to consider, but if they want to make this about money, lets make it about money:
One of the top grossers of 2005 was Chronicles of Narnia, it made $291.710 million. It made $65.556 million its opening weekend, it premiered on 3,616 screens. That’s an average of $18,130 per screen. So how many people saw it per screen. Lets divide the per screen gross by the average ticket price ($6.41): 2828.39 tickets sold per screen. Sounds like a lot, no?
Now let’s look at the total gross of Chronicles of Narnia, $291.710 million. The movie had a budget of $200 million (not including marketing). So the movie only made $91.710 million domestically. In Hollywood, a movie is considered a “success” simply because it made more than it’s budget back, in this case, they’re right. Chronicles of Narnia was definitely a financial success.
So how can we scientifically measure how successful a movie was? Obviously a movie with a high budget will be seen on more screens than a movie with a lower budget. This is also true for ticket sales, high budget (for the most part) means more tickets. If we want to get down and dirty mathematical about it, this is how I propose one would measure a movie’s success:
NOTE: We’re going to stick with domestic success. Ticket prices and screen counts overseas are too varied and that information isn’t as widely available as the information concerning the domestic box office.
First we have to determine how much money a movie made, in other words, the profit made off of a movie. Take the Total Domestic Gross of the movie (DG) minus the budget of the movie (B, marketing budget won’t be included, some marketing costs are covered by other companies, there’s no way to figure out how much was spent by the studio, unless you worked for the studio). Now you’ll only be working with profit. Then take the average number of screens it was on per week. (Add each weekly screen count, divide by number of weeks in theatres to get AS). Now take DG-B and divide that total by AS, you’ll get how much money the movie made per screen it was showed during its entire run. Then divide that number by average ticket price for the year the movie premiered in (ATP) and you’ll get an idea of how many people saw your movie per screen. Let me display this mathematically:
Sound good? Let use some real numbers. We’ll use Revenge of The Sith, a movie that’s been called “successful” and successful.
Domestic Gross: $380,263,000
Screens By Week: (3661, 3663, 3650, 3322, 2923, 2371, 1759, 1355, 988, 667,
429, 359, 300, 307, 268, 213, 166, 99, 49, 38, 27)
Average Screens: 1267.33
Average Ticket Price: $6.41
(380,263,000 – 115,000,000)/1267.33
So why do all these numbers matter? Domestic gross is how much money was made off of a movie. Budget is how much the studio spent to make the movie. You need to subtract the budget from the domestic gross to find out how profitable the movie was. The more money a studio spends on a movie, the more money the movie will make (for the most part). So by using only the profit made from a movie we can get a look at how financially successful a movie is. Higher profit = more people saw your movie. If a movie grosses under budget then that can hardly be considered a success.
I’m going to start compiling a list of the Success Quotient of as many movies as I can, of varied “success”. I’d like to include plenty of big budget movies, but I also can’t wait to start calculating the success quotient of smaller films.
All information for this article was gathered from 3 sources:
Budget and Gross information from:
The Internet Movie Database
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Zombies have plodded across the silver screen in almost exactly the same way—slowly—for about as long as the modern zombie convention has existed. Here and there, a film would bend the rules—Return of the Living Dead, for instance, had a few pretty spry zombies—but for the most part, filmmakers piously followed the doctrines set down by zombie-film granddaddy George Romero.
In the past four years or so, however, a couple of filmmakers have taken the initiative and portrayed zombies that moved damn quickly—as fast or faster than survivors. The trend began in 2002 with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and continued with Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. Granted, Danny Boyle would tell you his film isn’t a true zombie movie, since its “Infected” are living people with a disease. That may be so, but popular culture saw the film as an innovative take on the zombie genre. Dawn 2004’s runners wouldn’t have been possible if Danny hadn’t gone there first.
Now, this is only two zombie movies out of hundreds that have been made. Films have been released since then featuring good-old shambling revenants—Romero’s Land of the Dead, the loving British send-up Shaun of the Dead, and other, less notable films. Zombies in other media continue to shamble, like in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide and its upcoming sequel, and Capcom’s recently-released Dead Rising (which, aside from having zombies, is completely different from that other Capcom franchise. Yes, I’m talking about Mega Man.)
So sprinting zombies hardly have a monopoly on the genre. They barely have a foothold. Even so, a lot of zombie enthusiasts are taking umbrage at these speedy corpses. George Romero understandably prefers his own shambling type, reasoning that rigor mortis would probably result in a slower zombie, though he has expressed his respect of Dawn 2004. Folks on message boards throughout the internet have been far less tactful. On the flip side, there are those who see running zombies as a welcome change from their slower brethren and the inevitable next step in the evolution of the zombie flick. What is so fundamental about a mere difference in speed that has people divided?
I’ve frequently said that the difference between the fast zombie and the slow zombie is the difference between terror and horror. The difference is subtle but important: “terror” is merely intense fear; “horror” is a combination of intense fear and revulsion.
Your casual horror fan will probably prefer the fast zombie. The fear it creates is much more visceral than its shambling counterpart. When something rushes at us with intent to feed, whether on screen or in real life, our limbic system initiates our bodies’ fight-or-flight response, pumping us full of adrenaline. It’s a similar feeling to the thrill we get from riding roller coasters. Unfortunately, it’s not very cerebral. It’s scary merely because it’s gonna eatcha.
The slow zombie, on the other hand, has a more cerebral effect. Its slow, shambling gait, clumsy movement, and vacant eyes are almost alien to us; we’re used to seeing human bodies imbued with intelligence and purposeful, or at least controlled, movement. Something human is clearly missing from slow zombies. The spark of life is gone. Even if we don’t grasp that at a conscious level, we realize it on a level higher than the primal instincts which give fast zombies their appeal. Fast zombies at least move like living things, even if the exposition tells us they have no pulse. Slow zombies move more like we would expect dead things to move if they were imbued with some monstrous animating force. In other words, slow zombies pull off the whole “dead” thing far more effectively.
Being more deadish makes slow zombies not only scary (still gonna eacha!) but repulsive. Death as a concept is anathema to thinking beings; as humans, we have a lot of psychological hang-ups about the phenomenon. Corpses make a lot of people really uncomfortable; moving corpses doubly so, since they blur a line we’d much rather have distinct. Now give one an appetite for living flesh, and you’ve got a recipe for true horror.
Slow zombies are clearly not as dangerous as their speedy counterparts. In countless flicks, the lone hero (or, frequently, heroine), having out-survived the other main characters, must make his or her way through a crowd of flesh-eaters in search of safety or help, often with little or nothing in the way of weapons. This would be impossible with fast zombies. But fast zombies, no matter how decomposed they might be, don’t invoke death as an abstract and they don’t effectively blur the line between cadaver and living creature. As a zombie fan, I can’t get enough of either. But as a sophisticated connoisseur of undeath, I’ll take horror over terror any Night, Dawn, or Day of the week.
Monday, August 7, 2006
It was announced last week that production on the sequel to Batman Begins, tentatively titled The Dark Knight, would begin this coming January. Along with the news that all major players from the first film would be returning (with the exception of those that died, and Katie Holmes), it was announced who had won the much-coveted role of The Joker.
Heath Ledger is officially signed on to take this role and let me tell you, I couldn’t be more excited. Until I saw Brothers Grimm and Brokeback Mountain I never would have pegged Ledger to be a legitimate actor. His performance in Brothers Grimm was innocent and understated; while in Brokeback Mountain he stole the show. The Joker will be an interesting role for him to take, one that’s vastly different than ANYTHING he’s ever done and as long as he doesn’t ape Jack Nicholson’s amusingly retarded interpretation of the character, I think he’ll be fantastic.
That said, Warner Bros. has an opportunity to make a movie that kicks even more ass than the first one. Batman Begins, to me, was near perfect. It had everything I’d ever wanted out of a Batman movie, nay, a Batman story. It was dark as hell yet still hopeful. It treated its material REALISTICALLY, which is more than I can say for Tim Burton and that other cunt.
Notice I said NEAR perfect, so that means there is still room for improvement and the following is a list of the top seven ways to make The Dark Knight as good as it can be:
1. Make It Darker; A Lot Darker: Batman Begins was dark not only figuratively, but literally as well, as Batman should be. The content of the story went to the dark and sticky parts of our psyche and explored more dysfunction than Superman, Spiderman or any other do-gooders ever would. With the Joker on board as the villain, you can go to places never seen in a superhero movie. I’m talking murderous rampages and elaborate pranks that always end up with someone dead. Just because this is a big budget Hollywood picture doesn’t mean you have to pull any punches. They didn’t with the first one, so why start now? Take into consideration the Alan Moore scribed Bat-tale, The Killing Joke. That’s how fucked up the Joker is.
2. NO KATIE HOLMES: The worst thing about Batman Begins was Katie Holmes, she stuck out like a sore thumb covered in day-glo orange feces. Having her acting along side some of the greatest and most consistently good actors of our time is a bit like Verne Troyer challenging Manute Bol to a slam-dunk contest. “Out of your league” doesn’t begin to describe it.
3. Love Interests Are Bullshit: Batman is, for the most part, a solitary guy with barely enough time to care about himself so why would he get involved with someone else? Between running a major corporation, being a millionaire playboy and gallivanting around town in a Halloween costume, the logistics of maintaining or even establishing a relationship just don’t make sense. When is he going to go on date? Before or after tying up bank robbers and jumping off of tall buildings? Batman chose to be Batman and he shouldn’t sacrifice that role for some hussy. I’m not saying there’s no room for a love interest in a Batman story, but just don’t toss someone in for the sake of having some T & A to throw onto the movie poster. If you absolutely have to have a love interest, do it well.
4. Introduce More Characters: Batman’s been in comics for the better part of a century now, he has, at last count, a jillion and one characters waiting to be brought to the fore front for movie glory. Talk about balls using Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul as your villains for the first one, two characters that though popular, are in no way the selling points that The Joker, The Penguin or Mr. Freeze could be. Harvey Dent has GOT to be in this movie. Not necessarily as Two-Face, but introducing his character and having him get close to Bruce Wayne (i.e. Batman: The Animated Series) will make a great set-up for the third Bat-movie. Speaking of set-ups, why not introduce Selina Kyle, the woman that eventually becomes Catwoman, as well? Hey a lady! That means love interest. (Also an opportunity for Warner Bros. to redeem themselves after that Halle Berry fronted piece of shit.) It wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw in a reference to the Grayson’s as well.
5. Keep The Gadgetry to a Minimum: The fault of the previous incarnations of Batman was that they made Batman into a superhero version of James Bond, with all kinds of doohickeys and what-who-zits. The Batmobile should have some modifications it would only make sense to adapt it to Batman’s ever growing needs. But turning it into a missile? Or tricking it out with Neon hubcaps? Why don’t you just throw some fucking spinners on his 24’s and a plasma screen on the back while you’re at it? Honestly though, we don’t need a Bat-Credit Card or Bat-Shark Spray or any of that Bat-Bullshit. Batman will have what’s useful, and only that.
6. Batman is established: We’ve done year one, got that figured out. Lets pick up a couple years into it and now he has a reputation in Gotham that he has to maintain. Lets also figure that this reputation is beginning to make Batman a little jaded, he’s being more aggressive and starting to lose it a little a bit. The lines between Bruce Wayne and Batman are starting to become a lot more blurred. He needs something to bring him out of it; he’ll need something to remind him why he became Batman in the first place. Nobody is perfect, especially Bruce Wayne. No one can be expected to throw on a costume every night and fight the bad guys. It’s got to be physically and emotionally taxing. Show us that! Show us Batman going nuts! (Here’s a suggestion: Batman beats the piss out of the Joker and instead of letting Batman go through with it, the Joker snaps his own neck. Now everyone thinks Batman killed a guy. That’s how you end the movie, that’s how you set up the third one. The people of Gotham will be claiming “Why do we need Batman?” The third movie can answer that question. Not only that but it would be a fucking sweet reference to The Dark Knight Returns.)
7. No Bat-Nipples: This one is self explanatory.
NOTE: I completely understand that the movie is already written and my advice means little, if anything, to the powers that be in Hollywood. But the glorious thing about the Internet is that I bitch and complain all I want in a vain attempt at reaching out to those who are completely and utterly out of my grasp. So here it is, my call for attention you fuckers.
Monday, July 31, 2006
When I first heard that Kevin Smith was making Clerks 2, I was immediately sure it was going to be a bad move. I mean, how the hell do you make a sequel to a movie about slackers, in which nothing of importance happens? And how the hell do you make it over a decade later? I thought for certain that it would either be a total retread, with similar gags but no spark of originality or creativity (Blues Brothers 2000) or it would be even goofier than the original, like many of Smith’s later movies. Clerks somehow worked because it was simultaneously shallow and deep: on one level, it was about the antics of a pair of wage slaves with a few pop-culture references for good measure; on another, it was like an anthem and a rallying cry for a generation of slackers trapped in retail jobs without the slightest idea how to move up in the world or what they would do when they got there. Shit or get off the pot! Would Kevin give us that magical mixture again?
Turns out, yeah.
Kevin Smith has been all over the place, what with romantic comedies, adventures in Catholicism, and Carrie Fisher dressed as a nun. Clerks 2 goes right back to the source of Smith’s popularity—not only by returning to Dante and Randall, but by revisiting the themes of the first film. Once again, our dear clerks are working shitty jobs, with Dante trying to maintain at least a veneer of responsibility, and Randall not giving a shit and loving it (and somehow not getting fired). Jay and Silent Bob hang out selling drugs for most of the movie, doing little to advance the plot (until the deus ex machina at the end, but that’s forgivable). No shit-monsters, no Chris Rock, no La Fours. Classic Clerks action.
But Clerks 2 is no retread. The audience is introduced to new characters, including a hilariously sheltered young Christian named Elias. More importantly, our clerks have changed in the past decade. Well, Randall is as flippant as ever, but Dante has changed. He’s got prospects now—a rich fiancé and a promise of a home and a job in Florida. But he’s also got more ties in Jersey than he realizes.
I’m going to try to avoid spoilers here, but like the original, Clerks 2 does have messages. At first, we’re inclined to support Dante as he finally gets ready, in his 30s, to leave the world of clerking behind for good. Randall, we believe, is hopeless—lacking ambition or in fact any concern beyond goofing off. But, the film asks, is that such a bad thing? All around us is the message that “growing up” means a stable marriage and a house with a white picket fence—but is that for everyone? Do we seek it for ourselves or because we’re told that we should want it? Or is a lack of ambition just a sign of self-satisfaction?
All these conflicts—Dante vs. Randall, Dante vs. himself, Elias vs. his own horribly repressed upbringing—come to a boil during the infamous donkey show scene—the same scene which prompted Joel Siegel to walk out of the world premier, bitterly cursing. Once again, Dante’s future seems to be ruined, and it looks like it’s Randall’s fault. What follows isn’t a vicious convenience store fistfight, but a true catharsis. Randall’s flippant exterior is finally cracked; the two achieve greater mutual understanding (in a totally hetero way), and thanks to the inexplicable assistance of Jay and Silent Bob, a happy ending is snatched from the jaws of improbability.
Though the ending is rather contrived, I honestly cannot see that this movie could have wrapped up any differently than it did. If the film had ended without a resolution, it would truly have been a retread. If the film had ended with Dante going to Florida, it would have violated the film’s entire message. If Dante had just said “fuck you, Randall,” and took off on his own, well, that would be a huge downer.
If Kevin Smith plans to “retire” Jay, Silent Bob, and his other characters from Leonardo (which would probably be a smart thing to do), he probably couldn’t have asked for a more fitting closer than Clerks 2: a return to the beginning, but also a true dénouement to Dante and Randall’s aimless existence. Bravo, Kevin. Thanks for the ride.
There is a certain cadence associated with any proclamation of passion. You can’t just say “IREALLYLIKEMOVIESALOT!” if you really like movies a lot. Most people who are passionate about anything, I mean really passionate, I’m talking dress up like your favorite character and go get said characters autograph at the local convention style passionate, will have string of words to explain their obsession that are more passionate than all the comic book references that Kevin Smith could ever hope to shit out. You could ask me “Why do you like movies Justin?” and I would proclaim “They allow me to escape reality and let me live in the collaborative conscience of a small group of individuals for a short window of time. Movies are quite possibly the most accessible conveyor of art, message and/or opinion anyone could ever hope for!”. Well stated and meaningful, to an extent.
Sure I gave you a reason, but what the hell does that mean? I just listed off a string of big words I probably don’t understand very well, but why did I do that? Did I do it to make myself sound smart? Well, maybe a little bit, but the over riding reason for my spew of vocabulary is passion. When you bring up movies I can barely contain my excitement for talking about them. It’s really the only time I can’t shut up. I’m a pretty quiet dude, but bring up movies and I’m dropping more science than Einstein falling down stairs.
So the real reason I yelled about movies is that I love them so much that any string of words can be used to justify why I like them because like most passionate people, I really have no solid idea on why I’m so passionate or even what initially made me so passionate. Sure I’ve managed to cobble together an explanation after being a movie dork for years and years, but what would have been my answer to the above question 5 years ago? I dunno, something less smart sounding I’m sure.
The thing about being passionate is that you really can’t pinpoint where and when you first became passionate. There’s no magic moment, passion is a slow process, One day you’re watching Star Wars with your buddies the next day you’re fighting a stranger with plastic swords while waiting in line to see a movie. What the hell happened in between there? When did you go from relative indifference to full-fledged nutball? About the time you met Jeremy Bulloch when you were 12 and gave him a drawing of Boba Fett and actually believed him when he said he would hang it up in his study? Or maybe it was when they re-released the original trilogy to theaters in ’97 and you and your dad paid to see Episode 4 and then snuck into screenings of the other 2 movies? Or maybe it was when you convinced your dad to drive you to Toys ‘R Us at to buy the new Episode 1 figures? To tell you the truth, there’s no way for me to really know what made me fight a stranger with a plastic laser sword, or illegally view Episodes 5 and 6 or walk out of Toys R Us with 100 dollars worth of plastic men at 1 a.m. on a school night.
This vagueness applies to all kinds of passion, even with love. I couldn’t really pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with my fiancé. I could tell you when I realized I loved her, but it was just recognition of a feeling I’d been having for a considerable amount of time. The same thing applies to my passion for movies. I didn’t know I was passionate about movies until I looked at my DVD collection one afternoon and realized that with every paycheck over the past 6 months I’d purchased at least one DVD. At that point I had over 100 DVD’s, now it’s closer to 400. I’ve slowed down on my buying but the passion is still there.
What I’m really saying is how can you be sure how much you love something until you spend your last 75 dollars on an out of print Criterion Collection Robocop DVD? Until all you have is zero money, zero life and the manifestation of years of dorkitude sitting in various boxes and shelves around your bedroom, you have no possible idea about who you are, or what you’ve become.
Let me explain the concept of “zero life”. When every waking moment is saturated in the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into being a Movie Dork, then you have zero life outside of the context of movies. You go see movies with your friends, you talk with your friends about movies, you buy movies and eatdrinksleepshit movies. When you get to the point where you can’t remember the last conversation you had that didn’t somehow involve movies, then you’re a dork. (the biggest culprit in destroying non-movie conversation is the classic line “that reminds of me of the scene from *insert movie here*”).
Being a Dork is in no way a bad thing. You might call it a geek or a dweeb or even a nerd, but the concept is still the same. Dorks, true dorks, are living breathing databases of knowledge gleaned from years upon years of near freakish obsession with the most minute details of their own personal love. A true Dork has more passion in their finger than even the most promiscuous of the Don Juans who troll clubs at night looking for their next lay. Waxing your mustache and shaving you’re chest is not passion. But feeding you’re dog Exlax because it ate your Boba Fett figures plastic missle is.
Despite all of our social obstacles and boundaries, I think that we’re living in somewhat of a Dork Renaissance. Dork Culture has saturated many facets of society that it was once thought no dork could ever reach. A-List Hollywood actors are champing at the bit to get themselves attached to the next superhero project. Robot Chicken is being watched by millions and popularizing the action figure dork underworld. Special Editions, Collectors Items, Directors Cuts are flying off the shelves! What better time to be a dork than right now?
There’s never been a better time, so let your Dork flag fly. Wear your “Han Shot First” shirt in public. Spend half of your paycheck on Comic Books. Go to 4 different Wal-Marts in a 24 hour period looking for the exclusive Marvel Legends Giant Man series! Consider this the opening shot of Star Wars. Horns blaring! Yellow text flying! We are the imperial cruiser that is chasing down the Tantive IV of mainstream acceptance! Guess what fellow Grand Moff’s? We have the Rebel ship.
p.s. I swear to god that isn't a picture of me.