Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Oscar Wilde, Jude Law's prettiness, and working on my English-Lit degree

Repost from 2010. I think people just like the Mean Girls meme.


While it's a Wilde-meets-Mean Girls LOL image thing, this isn't too far from the truth, if you've seen Wilde or have read Wilde's "De Profundis." Jude Law was kind of brilliant as Bosie, who was basically a beautiful man, but a godawful boyfriend. Considering how many Jude Law movies I've almost inadvertently taken in these past few months, it's the only role where his prettiness fit perfectly with the role, whereas with eXistenZ, it was really distracting, and not helping the fact that eXistenZ turned out to be the only Cronenberg movie I've ever hated.

This is perhaps my long-winded way of saying that for the next 2-8 weeks I'm going to be too busy writing papers on Oscar Wilde and other 19th century writers to blog much. Any posts will likely be short and/or video-based.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Call and Response: The Pussy Posse Bad Movie Edition

Repost from 2010.

Recently, the local blog for the James River Film Society had a post on the top 5 worst films directed by Christopher Nolan, with Inception being at the top of the list, although it was an un-numbered list. The author called Nolan "the most celebrated bad director since Ed Wood."

Now, Nolan is no Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau. He is a technically competent director. I would consider him more along the lines of a more subtle and less heavy-handed and narcissistic M. Night Shyamalan. Or a more lucid Michael Bay, but who has the ability to hire better actors (then proceed to waste them, like Cillian Murphy). But Inception is his worst film. While I think that The Prestige is a fun film, the rest of Nolan's films have never stuck with me for too long after I left the theater or turned off the TV. So I am not so sure that his stories are as compelling, smart, or deep as everyone makes them out to be. Inception at least has the honor of making me laugh, then a little angry afterward.

I guess all discussion for Inception must begin with a preface that yes, I understood the movie. I am not stupid and have been told that I can explain the plot (or more precisely what is going on) in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond better than most people, and The Beyond is a very strange film in terms of time and space. Inception had five layers of dreams with a big stupid action movie as its creamy center, with overwrought guilt as the peanuts. Too bad that the film tried to both embrace the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time giving it a structure, so that dreams have "architects", and when there is a team involved, there is a leader whose subconscious serves as mainframe of sorts. Otherwise, why would everyone dream an action movie? Why would only Ellen Page's character be concerned that their leader was unstable? Even as a newbie, she should have the right to say, "let's use a more stable team member so no one gets hurt." Contradiction, misplaced ambition, and discontinuity, thy name is Christopher Nolan.

Inception lost me almost at its opening scene. You cannot open a film with Leonardo DiCaprio being washed up onto a beach and not immediately think "a hundred years after the Titanic sunk, Jack finally washed up on the shores of...Japan?" Then Leo was nice enough to give his old friend Lukas Haas a brief role as an "architect" where he is kidnapped and never seen again. If "architects" are so disposable, why not fire Ellen Page as soon as she gets into the brain of Leo to find that he is one messed up dude? Do the inception-eers only have one client? What do they do when they are not battling Ken Watanabe? Does Leo just watch action movies? Because in the dream world, there is a whole lot of Bourne-like sequences going on, as well as the mountain scene that while some have called it a "Bond villain fortress", I call it something out of a xXx sequel. I think I would have liked the film a lot more if Vin Diesel inexplicably showed up on a snowmobile and high-fived everyone. This goes to show that perhaps they should have chosen a team member who likes comedies and British heritage films from the 1990s.

Then there is the overwrought and maudlin domestic drama that is Leo's subconscious. It is also where DiCaprio becomes a terrible actor. While I have not seen the original Solaris, I have seen the re-make by Steven Soderbergh, and I get the impression that if you're the wife of a well-meaning, but misguided guy in a somewhat dark sci-fi film, you will commit suicide. At least the Solaris re-make had some basis in reality, as the wife commits suicide because her husband disapproves of the abortion she had. Leo incepted his wife, she became mentally unstable as a result, and committed suicide. She haunts his subconscious because he feels guilty, as he should. The suicide is shown on film, and DiCaprio's reaction is some of the worst acting I have ever seen in a big budget film. If you cannot make me teary-eyed over the suicide of a family member or missing your children, you fail! Those are two of my top triggers.

I am not sure what could have saved Inception for me. It was not weird or ballsy enough for me to respect it in its failings. I know I was not expecting an action movie, although perhaps I should have, given that is what Nolan does now. It seems illogical to try to use the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time trying to make them logical or rein them in by using the concept of "architects". I think to make things worse, it reminded me in some ways of my favorite Phillip K. Dick novel, Ubik.

Can you find Leo strutting through this M.C. Escher piece? And Sad Keanu? The Leo Strut meme almost makes up for Inception. This one is a good hat tip to one of the two scenes I liked in Inception, where Ellen Page made the Paris dream city into a cube.




Also, my friend Erica made this Advice Phillip K. Dick meme awhile back:


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A couple of weeks ago, Movieline included Spider-Man 3 in their series Bad Movies We Love. Spider-Man 3 is also known as "the one where Spidey went emo". Which is true, as far as the haircut goes, and the fact that I am convinced that while Leonardo DiCaprio is starting to look like a grown-up now, Tobey Maguire will always look like a teenage boy. And it is also true that despite their image, emo boys can be insensitive jerks too, which is what Peter Parker becomes in Spider-Man 3. But I have always thought that if anything "emo Spidey" is just an homage to Ted Raimi, who is of course, the brother of Spider-Man 3's director, Sam Raimi, and who also appears in all three films as J. Jonah Jameson's assistant. Emo Spidey is an homage to Ted Raimi when he played Joxer on Xena: Warrior Princess. Joxer always thought that he was cooler and more heroic than he actually was. In other words, he was a dork, but a sweet guy. Joxer would totally think that these were some sweet dance moves, contrary to what the ladies on the street think:




Despite looking like a teenage boy, I'm not sure Tobey Maguire does dorky as well as Ted Raimi or even Jake Gyllenhaal.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

There is a Facebook page now.


Regular Wednesday posts will resume next week. holdontoyrgenre.com now has a Facebook page, although some bugs are still being worked out. You can find and "like" the page at:  http://www.facebook.com/holdontoyrgenre

All other social networking buttons are to the top right of the page. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

(Film) books, check 'em ouuuuuuuuut!

Repost from 2011, pre-grad school days. I re-read the two middle books at least twice during the course of my graduate education. The nitpicking may still stand, but I can discuss the theoretical issues with the two books pretty well when I want to.
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Here are some of the film books I was reading a month or so ago. Other than the Jonathan Lethem book, I felt the need to start out with some classics and basics

Feminist Film Theorists (Routeledge Critical Thinkers Series) - Shohini Chaudhuri
I think the number one thing I learned from this book is of the divide in early feminist film criticism that was American (sociological) versus British (psychological). And for the most part, this book puts forth the more psychological theorists. It's a minor fact, but it sort of explains why I do not absorb the psychological aspects too well. I was very close to minoring in sociology during various points in college as well. This book is mostly good as a starting point, but not much else.




Games of Terror: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and the Films of the Stalker Cycle - Vera Dika
This was released roughly a year before Carol Clover's Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover's book is more in-depth. Dika has some fleeting good ideas and it's not too bogged down with psychological theories; but it's a basic book that monotonously outlines the monotony of slasher/stalker films by discussing the plots of about a dozen films; in particular the Jamie Lee Curtis ouevre. Dika's jumping off point is Psycho, but from there she goes straight to Halloween, while only giving passing and brief references to Peeping Tom and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My problem with this book and Clover's book is that it skips over Black Christmas. I do not know the history of Black Christmas past what Wikipedia tells us, and it wasn't a film I remember seeing around often in video stores when I was a kid and teenager. Was Black Christmas that obscure? Did Dika ignore it because it was Canadian or because it had an experienced cast in John Saxon, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea; a post-Sisters, pre-Superman Margot Kidder, and a pre-SCTV Andrea Martin? Peeping Tom, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Black Christmas do not completely fit in the checklist of plot occurrences that Dika outlines for the films she discusses in this book, but neither does Psycho. By and large, The Burning seems to be more obscure than Black Christmas, yet that film receives a section in this book.

Other issues I had with this book: the frequent misspellings and typos. She misspells Steven Spielberg's name quite often. It was also hard to tell whether or not Dika was approaching these films from a feminist POV (and then a feminist POV as to whether or not slasher films can be feminist). And the way she used a Freudian binary system to declare characters as valued or devalued did not sit well with me. It's not a terrible book, but it has some issues that made me twitch.


Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film - Carol J. Clover
I have read this book twice now and in regards to the first book I reviewed in this post, I am perhaps still finding trouble absorbing most of the psychological criticism in this book. The only thing I feel as if I better absorbed this time around was the chapter on possession films and the chapter on the sort of meta horror films that concern viewing horror films (Peeping Tom, Demons). I did check out a lot of the films mentioned since having first read this book in 2006, like the oft-mentioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and I Spit on Your Grave. In fact, I checked out so many of these films that I could parse out some of Clover's mistakes (wrong dates, the implication that Motel Hell was inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when Motel Hell was released six years before that sequel - also TCM2 is a terrible movie and I don't understand why anyone would want to write at length about it). I can't get too mad at Clover about them though, because for one thing, she's an expert in something like Nordic history. Film is not her primary academic interest, although the dates thing bugs me a bit because most VHS boxes back in the day did have dates on them, and it's not that hard to figure out dates from the roman numerals on copyrights at the end of films. And again, nary a word on Black Christmas, although at least Clover does cover Peeping Tom extensively. Also, for better or for worse, I can't shake off the fact that it is acknowledged by Clover herself in the Afterword that the writer of Slumber Party Massacre 3 changed the story significantly after reading the first chapter of her book, which was released in an academic journal in 1987; making for that film's ugly and brutal third act three years later.


Proof of my marginalia in Men, Women, and Chainsaws.




Deep Focus #1: A Novel Approach to Cinema: They Live - Jonathan Lethem

They Live is the first book in a new series of books published by Soft Skull press that allows fiction writers to discuss their favorite films. I haven't read any other books in the series yet, so I don't know if all the other writers take the same approach as Lethem. Lethem writes about John Carpenter's They Live on a almost shot-by-shot or scene-by-scene basis, each with a timecode reference. Some scenes receive only a paragraph of discussion, others receive up to four pages. It took me awhile to get used to this approach as I was sort of expecting something akin to the short books the British Film Institute publishes on films (although it is mostly film critics and academics who write those) that are long essays or treatises on a certain film. But after getting used to Lethem's approach, I found that he does have some interesting things to say about They Live, especially in connection to the art of Jenny Holzer and Shepard Fairey.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The GifGif Project at MIT



I have a weird fascination with animated gifs, something I may have spread to my classmates in grad school since two of them made animated gif Tumblrs for a spell. I presented on the topic of animated gif Tumblrs last year at a conference, on a session centered around the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. So I am excited about the GifGif project at MIT that is attempting to "map the emotional language of gifs" and create a way for people to explore and search for gifs based on emotions rather than tags (or perhaps even a certain show, film or video).

The emotions are pretty simple so far. The site is run on a voting system where visitors vote on which of the two gifs best expresses a particular emotion. When the site was first promoted a month or so ago, I voted on over a thousand gif pairs...because it was a slow day at work. It's an addictive and easy way to pass the time.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Slowly, possibly, maybe under re-construction.

To the likely two people who still check this blog: I am pondering a return to blogging. I am still sorting some things out. Content and presentation may be done a little differently, just as an experiment. I may slowly begin releasing the archives soon, but under some minor content curation. New writing will likely come later. If I feel the need to explain anything further, I will do it eventually.


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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On hiatus, possibly permanent.

I still want a pair of these. 

The TL;DR/jadedpunkfeministfilmcrithulk version: Last semester of grad school. Busy. Will need employment and new place to live after graduation.* Busy. Not really into blogging or horror anymore. Zombies might still be okay. Reallyreally hate slashers now.

*Actually starting a twitter account called jadedpunkfeministfilmcrithulk may be about all I can do with my degree. Too bad it would not produce a cent of income.

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