roadrunnertwice: Young Marcie Grosvenor from Finder, asleep in a ward drawn from Finder trails. (Wardings (Finder))
We went and saw Paranorman again, because it's at the Laurelhurst, and I'm pretty sure it is the best movie I've seen all year.

I'm most comfortable talking about movies on a narrative and writing level, because that's kind of where my competencies live, but any attempt to explain why Paranorman is so good demands that one range further afield, into areas where I'm not positive I really speak the language. But anyway: the cinematic craftwork, the animation, and the acting are all just really good. Impossibly good.

One thing that kept striking me both times I saw it was how well observed everything was. We had this back and forth outside the theater about real vs. better-than-real, and what I eventually decided was that the animation and design let the audience see the world the way a skilled artist sees it, giving us the illusion of a superhuman power of observation — not just including small details like the way a discarded flyer flutters against a cyclone fence, and not really forcing them on us either (like that fucking scene from American Beauty), but making it feel like we're discovering them ourselves and letting us feel kind of awesome for having done so. I think this is the thing I was grasping after when I was trying to talk about No Country For Old Men about four years back — not mere superhuman observation, but effectively showing you what it feels like to be a superhuman observer.

And in a related vein, I think the animation makes a more or less irrefutable argument for why one would bother with stop-motion in the age of CG. There were several shots where what should have been impossible was instead just brutally grindingly difficult.

Okay, anyway, I don't want to go on forever about the thing. But I do also want to mention how good the acting was and what a good actual horror story it was. About the latter, I think all I said last time was that the lightning witch at the end was legitimately scary, but thinking again, the whole situation is legitimately scary. This is kind of the big switcheroo vs. the movie as-advertised, and is partially obscured by the zombie slapstick, but the bones of the story are actually closest to The Ring, or maybe Stephen King at his rare best. The movie underneath the movie comes out in Norman's "How could you?!" and "They were men like you and they were scared and they did something unforgivable." And then it takes over the surface movie completely at the lightning witch sequence, as soon as we can hear what's left of Aggie's real voice. My point is, it's a familiar horror story, but we're coming at it from the wrong angle of approach and the real scary gets to hide underneath a fake scary for a while, and that's pretty cool.

As for the acting, I simply point to that awkward-but-chill back-and-forth between Norman and Neil about throwing the stick. And the lightning witch sequence, again, of course.
roadrunnertwice: A mermaid singing an unenchanting song. (Doop doop (Kate Beaton))
We saw Midnight in Paris last night, and it was actually very good! Things:

  • New rule: Corey Stoll must make a cameo in ALL MOVIES in-character as Ernest Hemingway.
  • [ profile] schwern and I both wish the message had been present in a less message-y fashion. But whatever, it was two minutes of eye-rolling and then it was done.
  • The recursion of the central conceit was HILARIOUS, and I am very proud of being the first one in the room to catch on. But I think it would have improved the shape of the flick if it had recursed outwards once -- have someone from god-only-knows when drop in on Gil and Gabrielle one night after the credits, and give him a chance to pay it forward by taking someone around to have a good time and meet some people.
  • Alison Pill, totally my favorite now. I feel a bit cheated that we didn't get the promised scene of Zelda on valium, though.


Dec. 6th, 2011 11:54 pm
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Speaketh Bollocks)
We saw Jennifer's Body last night, and it was completely great! And then for some reason we checked the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic reviews, and it looks like practically no one had any idea what the movie was even about.

I mean, you guys saw it. It wasn't that hard to get, right? It's about that one particular type of friendship between girls who have known each other since forever, the kind that sort of hovers between romantic and platonic and sustaining and toxic. And not only did it hit pretty hard, but also it plain worked and it held together and all the checks it wrote cleared the bank. It was a good fuckin' movie! What is this 43%/37% horseshit?

Requisite props to [ profile] culturepulp for having at least seen the same goddamn movie I did, though I don't think he enjoyed it quite as much.

Also, I see from his review that it shared a director with the 2005 Æon Flux! Which was yet another movie I thought was wonderful and many other people seemed to not get AT ALL. Do people not like reincarnation and doomed love and rebellion against fate and second chances and gymnastic assassination?! Man, stab me, what the fuck. Anyway, she also directed Girlfight, so maybe I should see that too, whatever the hell that's about.

EDIT: Hahahahaha HOLY SHIT, 10% for poor Æon Flux! Balls to the haters, that movie was solid.

Obligatory book update: I took a vacay day and plowed through 3,800 words of the climax of this thing. I think I've got about a third of this scene left, and after that we're down to the denouement, such as it is. (It's book One of Probably Three. Blargh.)
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Roadrunner - Going faster miles an hour)
Next up: Speed Racer.

Okay, so the first time I tried to watch Speed Racer*, I made the mistake of doing that "Megavideo" thing, where it seems to magically want to show you a movie for free but then it cuts out after an hour and tries to make you pony up. And I was like, "Yeahhhhh maybe I'll just find three bucks and rent it on iTunes instead for a +8 to my save against bullshit." So I did! And then I forgot about it until it started warning me I had like four days left, so I watched it on the 6th.

And wow, what a deliciously broken movie! It was completely insane. I liked it a lot, and with absolutely no irony. Yes, it's silly as hell, but it's an incredibly ambitious work of silliness and how can you not love it for that? It is glorious.

  • That thing where they run different parts of the same shot at different speeds and it kind of makes you queasy? Aces.
  • The wipes. The CONSTANT WIPES. Wow.
  • I don't think I've seen anything structurally similar to that part where the same clips are functioning simultaneously as conditional future tense, present tense (maybe), and past tense. In fact, it was complicated enough that I probably described it incorrectly, but it was totally legible in situ, which was impressive as hell.
  • In a way, the movie is there to teach you how to be enthralled at ending credits that consist of a chimp thrashing around in a go-cart over the top of the dimensional gate sequence from 2001.
  • I kind of love that it's a non-functional piece of SF. Based on the positioning of past technological reference points, it seems to be taking place now or earlier, but there doesn't seem to be any way to get there from here, or from slightly earlier than here, or for that matter from the 1940s.
  • The face Royalton makes right at the very end of that confrontation between him and Speed is one of the most perfect things I've seen on a screen. So hilarious.

I actually have a lot of lingering questions about to what extent we're supposed to take the candy-colored insanity of this world as literal and to what extent it's a reflection of the characters' emotional landscape. In part, this came to my mind with something someone (either Kip Manley or Mike Russell or Bill Mudron) said about how Scott Pilgrim may have been the first unqualified success of this new conception of what visual FX are good for, but Speed Racer was the first one to land on that shore at all, and people will evaluate it very differently in just a few years. In Pilgrim, we're very much wearing Scott-goggles for the entire film, although Scott-goggles are us-goggles for much of my generation and the FX are always functioning at least partially literally anyhow. (No matter what else a zombie functions as, it's still also a flesh-eating zombie.) And I can't shake a suspicion that there's something kinda sorta similar going on here, but it doesn't map very cleanly at all, and I'm having a hard time tracking it down.

Anyway, Speed Racer! Definitely worth a watch, especially if you saw the previews, said "eww," and haven't thought about it since. Give yourself some time to calibrate to its aesthetic, and check it out.

* The 2008 Wachowski version, we're talking, just to make sure we're on the same page here.
roadrunnertwice: Scott fends off Matthew Patel's attack. (Reversal! (Scott Pilgrim))
Okay, let's post a pair of essaylets tonight! This one's been simmering for a while, and it just came up again in a conversation with [ profile] roler, so I'll get it out for public comment:

The ending of the Scott Pilgrim movie kind of sucks, and that actually doesn't really bother me. Which might surprise those who've heard, for example, my insufferable Howl's Moving Castle spiel. In short, I think the way the movie engages with video game grammar and video game logic allows multiple endings to harmoniously co-exist in a way not possible when those methods of story aren't invoked. (Wayne's World notwithstanding, because Wayne's World is special that way, and besides, it doesn't work quite the way I'm talking about here.)

Which is to say, video games are a narrative form where multiple endings are equal peers in an integrated whole. Sure, there's usually a "best" ending, but if you do a perfect playthrough to the good ending and then never touch the game again, you actually haven't experienced the whole game. Multiple passes, some of them "failed," are expected and accepted on the road to completion.

This lets the Scott Pilgrim movie diverge radically without becoming an "alternate" take on the story; it remains an integrated part of a single work. Without importing the concepts of branching paths and multi-pass completionism from video games, any ending to a story is necessarily the only ending, which polarizes readers and viewers and forces adaptations to exist in private worlds apart from their sources.

Anyway, the ending of Scott Pilgrim: The Movie is the perfectly legitimate ending that happens if you don't do any of the sidequests* and don't manage to keep Crash and the Boys alive through the fight with Patel. Yeah, it sucks; play better next time! (i.e. read the comics.)

* Ramona's fights at the library and Lee's Palace, learning how to fight girls, meeting Lisa at the mall (necessary for moving in with Ramona at the end of the Roxy chapter), helping Kim move house, the recording sidequest, facing Nega Scott early enough that you can unlock the Power of Understanding once you get to Gideon, getting a fucking job**, etc.

** Zvi, who hadn't read the comic at the time, pointed this one out: "I do think it's interesting that this is the only movie I can think of where the hero's sole reward at the end of the film is romantic fulfillment. He doesn't have a job, he doesn't have a place to live, he doesn't have a calling: all he's got going forward is Ramona. On the one hand, I disapprove of that as a conclusion for anyone, but, on the other hand, if that sort of thing is going to say with us, I think it should be an ending for boys, too."
roadrunnertwice: Young Marcie Grosvenor from Finder, asleep in a ward drawn from Finder trails. (Wardings (Finder))

I just read Jason Shiga's Meanwhile today (so did my brother, so I had some warning), and it put me in one fuck of a Mood.

Don't get me wrong, it's amazing and a very very worthy read. At first glance, it resembles an old Choose Your Own Adventure book, but it uses the narrative strategies and stripped-down aesthetic of modern competition-grade interactive fiction* like Shade and Everybody Dies, which is not a thing I've seen in print before and which lines up beautifully with Shiga's natural economy of visual style and flair for absurdism. (Actually, when you get down to it, it is a piece of modern IF implemented on glossy paper; "You two are talking about this the way you talk about video games," said Katie, which, yes. We even found ourselves modeling its state machine in our heads [anyone else find the one big state-dropping glitch?], and the kick of satisfaction when you finally isolate the main stable loop and get your bearings for the next stage of the campaign is a heck of a thing.)

But orthogonal to all those virtues: it goes to a place that made me very desperate to get the hell out of the house and think about something else; if you've read it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. (Incidentally, I'm a little gobsmacked by the online reviews from people who got the book for their kids. Really? I know kids generally handle the macabre well, but that's some pretty stiff existential revulsion waiting for you at the "good" ending.)

So anyway, then I called a friend and we went down to the Laurelhurst to watch Unstoppable, which was precisely as fun as Mike says it is. Denzel Washington and New Kirk are ON A TRAIN, BITCH, is pretty much all you need to know on that one. Precise and economical plotting! Action scenes that aren't bullshit! Occasional lulz! ("Some shots were fired," plus anything involving Ned.)

And then somewhere in there I lost my phone, so I'll see if I can find that tomorrow.

* i.e. what we used to call "text adventures." After they went obsolete, lone enthusiasts picked up the slack and they kept evolving; they don't tend to act much like Zork anymore.

roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Schlock.Tagon&Kevyn - Trap)
We just watched Daybreakers, and Schwern pointed out that the only possible sane epilogue would consist of the protagonists driving around the country in a classic car leaving shot glasses of tainted blood on random street corners.

Anyway, what a bizarre and silly movie. I quite liked it! It's been a while since I've seen something simultaneously so clever and so dumbass.

Oh wait, actually, I do have something more to say about it: I really liked how they followed every single rule (save one, arguably) of Mainstream Consensus Vampirism and still managed to come up with a relatively new story. That's heartening, regardless of whether you care one way or the other about vamps.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Kekkaishi - coffee milk)
Wow, they actually got to use Scott and Wallace's ACTUAL (photo-referenced) HOUSE! I just think that's awesome.

Things that are not cool about Scott's apartment
1. Only one room
2. Only one bed and it's shared with a gay man
3. No light
3. No NATURAL light
4. Tiny bathroom
5. Tiny kitchen
6. All items in the apartment belong to the gay man

(via @radiomaru.)

Also, Warren Ellis just did a webcomics week over at his forum, and my favorite discovery so far is Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell. It is more fun than a barrel full of stoned monkeys. Run, don't walk; read the whole thing.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Ryoga is lost.)
I'm always down for going to a concert alone, but I nearly never go to the movies alone. How 'bout you all?
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Hagrid - Two Wheels Good)

On his Twitter, producer Frank Marshall continues to deny the production has discriminated by giving opportunities for actors of color to white performers. After a series of twitters back and forth between angry fans and himself, Marshall made his final comment on the subject last week saying, "The casting is complete and we did not discriminate against anyone," defensively adding, "I am done talking about it."

Yyyyyyeah, see, that's not how it works. If you do something racist and then declare it to not be racist, it's, uh, actually still racist. Sorry 'bout that.

(A brief moment of disclosure: I haven't even watched Avatar yet; been meaning to get to it, haven't gotten to it. And I would have been ignoring the movie version, because theatrical live-action adaptations of original animated works almost uniformly wind up as fetid piles of donkey shit. Alas, Paramount is making this particular pile rather impossible to ignore.)

roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (galboy-akira)
I keep thinking about Me and You and Everyone We Know from time to time, and I keep liking it more and more in retrospect.

The deal, I've decided, is that I went in expecting it to be quirky and indie and cute, and it turned out to be legitimately weird as fuck. (Well, and cute. But the cute is almost beside the point, and I'm having a hard time expressing just how much I appreciated that.) The point being, it's not a cult classic or a generational touchstone or any of that crap; it's just good, and I think I love it. You should probably watch it.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (I am fucking broken.)

EDIT: It's Me and You and Everyone We Know!

I kind of don't want to explain the emoticon, though, because it's a lot funnier if you see it in its natural habitat. Especially that second time.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (OMG LEAFS)
Right, so anyway, I did end up watching No Country For Old Men. As a story, I suppose it was decent enough, but as a movie, it was stunning. Every single frame was a thing of beauty, but it was more than that; it seemed like the Coen bros. were able to make the camera catch more than it should have been able to.

Through the entire film, I was somehow granted a nearly synesthetic sensitivity to texture and color and light. The moment my mind keeps going back to was when the sheriff was walking into one of those shitty motel rooms. The carpet in the room was cheap and nearly worn out, and whoever'd laid it hadn't been very conscientious about the job, and as the sheriff walked across it, it bunched up into a wave in front of his feet, rolling in front of him with each tread. I've seen that in real life; the brown carpet in our living room does that. It's probably happened on-screen many times. But would I have seen it in any other movie?

I've only the vaguest idea of how that sort of thing might be accomplished; film is largely a foreign language to me. But I can recognize magic when I see it, and whatever combination of lighting and framing and movement they did that with qualifies. If you care about what it means to operate near an art form's limits, find some time to see this movie.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (WELL?! DO YOU?!?)
So we saw Transformers the other day. It didn't suck! Mind you, I'm not a Gen X-er, so so I don't really have much in the way of nostalgia for the original material; I'm basically just applying the standard (silly summer blockbuster) > (toy commercial) formula. Anyway, it was fun, it was mildly witty, it had a lot of exploding things; amen. (Actually, wait, you know what really bugged me? The shuck-and-jivebot. He made me want to apologize to everyone in the world for being a white person. WHY, WRITERS, WHY???!! Okay, I'm done.)

But this post isn't a movie review. This is about that one line where one of the Sector 7 spooks explained that they determined the cube's age using carbon dating. Ever since I heard that, a single question has occupied my every waking thought:

roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Wardings)
Not To Be Confused With.

Hey, let's talk about Howl's Moving Castle. Specifically, let's talk about how bad the Studio Ghibli movie sucks. AND HE'S OFF! )

Haha... all right, sorry about that. This was one of those things where I felt like I was on the verge of grasping something really important, and it was somehow vital to my craft that I spend the time obsessively digging it out. You know how it goes.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Mischief brewin'!)
And Bond was as good as you people said it was.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Viva! La Revolution!)
So Greg and I watched Old Boy tonight, and we were in agreement -- it was one of those rare, special movies that one actually regrets having watched. It was a skillfully, beautifully, expensively made slice of evil; totally gratuitous, and bad on every level I care about. I am a worse person for having seen this movie.

EDIT: And then I watched some Ouran Host Club and everything was better again. (I finally grabbed the rest of the series.)
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
The Producers! OMFG SO GOOD. Man, why did Hollywood decide to stop being completely barking mad?
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
Got the movie bug for the first time in a while, and decided to start an account at Nicollet Village Video. (That's the grungy independent video rental joint a few blocks from my apartment. They get big points for being super-convenient and more powerful than any Blockbuster on selection; they lose big points for shelving incredibly foul anime porn mixed in with everything else. Put that shit away somewhere, man. Eew.) What spurred this? Well, I want to watch some stuff with really good fight sequences, and see if I can learn some ways that smart storytellers handle that sort of thing. It seems like a good thing to know, and besides: punches. Unfortunately, I don't know much of what to look for, other than Sonny Chiba's oeuvre. So I'm open to suggestions.

In the meantime, I had to rent something to open an account, so I just watched Aeon Flux. I liked it. More than I was expecting to. I think they made some really good choices about thematic movement, and that the atmosphere did a good job of supporting that. But then, things like secret histories and last stands and past lives have been on my mind lately.* Maybe I'll steal some of their tricks.

* c.f. That Fucking Book (which is going quite swimmingly, thank you).
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
You know, I've been meaning to see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room for a while now, but I didn't realize it had gotten 97% on the Tomatometer. Wow!


roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
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