Friday, June 26, 2015

This Week in Neat-O

:: These Videos Will Completely Change The Way You See Iconic Landmarks. I actually find it kind of interesting that there's a Pizza Hut that you can see the Great Pyramid from. I know people get all angry about commercialism and etc around the great landmarks, but I think it's fascinating to see how much life and humanity has gone on around them.

:: Surprisingly interesting Reddit AMA with a guy who worked at a Florida McDonald's from 1971 to 1973.

:: Trailer for the documentary He Named Me Malala, about Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban shot in the head.

:: The teaser for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, which is the final film in the series and is supposed to tie everything together. I've really enjoyed all of the movies in this series.

:: Does TRUE DETECTIVE Owe You Diversity? is an interesting discussion about what kind of stories we want to see on television. The comments section devolves immediately into snobbery and insults, but the author does ask some interesting questions about points of view and authorial voices.

:: The 7 Stages of Falling Out of Love With Your Fandom charts the process by which I fell out of love with the new Doctor Who pretty accurately. (Though heaven forbid that io9 write something that doesn't take yet another shot at The Phantom Menace.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Interesting documentary about Cobain. I didn't pay much attention to grunge or Nirvana at the time; honestly, I never even heard Nevermind all the way through until last week when, after watching this, I decided to finally listen to it. It's interesting to see this movie now, 21 years after Cobain's suicide, with different perspective and hindsight. At the time, I was annoyed by this whole idea of Cobain the Gen X Christ, which is basically how a lot of the entitled babies in my high school viewed him. This documentary follows Cobain biographically, but sticks a lot to his memories, his writings, his journals and drawings, his home movies and home recordings, and some very well done animated sequences to try and create a portrait of a mental and emotional state, eschewing the overly-reverent "voice of a generation" stuff to show a man, a husband and a father, who just wanted security, happiness, and a way to express himself. And like any human being, Cobain emerges as complicated, contradictory, and not always likable, but undeniably whole. At the end, I wasn't sad that we lost the lead singer of Nirvana, I was sorry that people who cared about him lost a husband, a father, a friend, and a son. Not always coherent, but the style really fits the subject. Absorbing and at times beautiful. ****

MAGIC BOY (1959)
Toei Animation's second animated feature, the story of a young boy who spends years learning magic in order to combat an evil witch whose bandits are raiding the countryside. Very much in the Disney model, hearkening back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, when there were cute animals around but there wasn't a whole lot of shying away from the darkness of folktales. An engrossing movie, very well animated. I saw the American dub version from 1961, and it wasn't as condescending or cutesy as some later dubbed Japanese animated film dubs. ****

RAIN (1932)
A sound version of Sadie Thompson, which I saw a few months ago. I liked the silent version better. Rain--the story of a prostitute targeted for saving by a missionary--is well-directed, but it aims to be important and loses the humanity that is so essential to this story of morality and religious hypocrisy. Also, I think Joan Crawford isn't quite up to the role, as much as I usually like her. Walter Huston fares better as the missionary, though I wish he had found room for the occasional nuance inside the imperious self-righteousness, because what happens to the characters sort of depends on it. Not a terrible movie at all, but it's slow and doesn't quite come together. It wants to be powerful, but loses its grasp on the characters in its drive. **1/2

Lifetime movie starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig and produced by Adam McKay. I can understand why Will Ferrell was so annoyed that the news about it leaked; clearly it was meant to catch the audience by surprise in the hopes of becoming some kind of viral stunt. Taken on its own, it's a pretty straightforward Lifetime movie, and I think that was the point. I think people were supposed to watch it and get online and say "What is this weird movie on Lifetime?" and then it would be a little pop culture monent. Instead, the release was heralded, and when you watch it you can see nuances to it, but you can also see how it would've been funnier if it had just happened out of nowhere, the joke on audience expectations. It's just played too straight. It's not supposed to be a satire, it's really a prank that got spoiled. The final product has some humor to it, and some of Ferrell's line readings in particular are hilarious simply because of how earnestly they're delivered, but the absurdity on its own sometimes feels lacking. It's fun because it's just so odd, but it's not the laugh riot some reviewers were clearly expecting. ***

EMMA (1996)
I never caught this one, which came out as part of the vanguard of an explosion of period pieces (including adaptations of most--all?--of Jane Austen's books). Gwyneth Paltrow plays the title heroine, who wants to make love matches for all of her single friends, and gets caught up in misunderstandings. I thought it was quite a charming movie, very fun and light without being simplistic. It also took me back to a time when movies like this were very popular; the mid-nineties seem like a completely different planet of filmmaking these days, and I like going back there from time to time. I thought Paltrow was quite good, but I really liked Jeremy Northam. I miss that guy; such a talented actor, and the only thing I think I've seen him in in the last decade was The Tudors. Very nice to see him in his role here. ****

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Brief Note of Irritation

I've been reading an awful lot of what I can only call Confederacy apologia lately, particularly on Facebook. This is apparently the thing we've all decided to argue about in regards to the recent racist terrorism in Charleston. So I'm seeing a lot of embarrassing and disappointing posts that are all along the lines of watching somebody bend themselves into pretzel shapes to try and explain away why slavery wasn't that bad, a system of government set up to preserve an economic system that depended on Black slave labor wasn't inherently racist, and how flying a flag that's a symbol of treason and racism is just some kind of tradition and doesn't have any other meaning except, I don't know, heritage or some selfish bullshit.

I am sick of reading these posts and I am not going to argue them. They're not worth it.

I am going to say: blow it out your ass.

Blow that disingenuous shit right out of your ass.

I will not entertain your parsing of history and symbols just to try and excuse why racism is okay or somehow doesn't exist.

Because that's really what you're arguing. Yes, you all agree, the murder of nine human beings in a church--a specific church that has historically been a target of racist violence, and thus was chosen by a racist for its symbolic historical value, so obviously symbols mean something--but, you seem to all be saying, let's not be hasty and blame racism and the Confederate treason and the long history of American slavery and gun culture, because, gee, is the flag that stands for rebellion against our system of government and the dehumanizing of Black Americans really emblematic of a pervasive racism that exists in the American system?

I can't do it. I can't reason with such sad stupidity. I'm too old and too goddamn tired to pretend that you have a point that's worth any kind of discussion.

You're a moron and I don't want to hear your moron ravings and pretend everyone's entitled to their opinion, no matter how morally repugnant.

So, sorry I can't offer something more reasoned and more evenhanded, but blow it out your ass.

If that means you can't read my blog anymore, well, bye.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Song of the Week: "Father to Son"

Sometimes I think my favorite genre of music is something esoteric I call Rock Soundtrack to an Epic Fantasy Game. That's what I get for listening to so much prog rock while playing Ocarina of Time two decades ago. So here's an epic fantasy track from one of my all time favorite albums, Queen II.