What I'm Watching

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What I'm Watching: My Neighbor Totoro

Posted By on Sun, May 22, 2016 at 10:03 AM

totoro6.gif
Many, many things about the Academy Awards annoy and repulse me, but I am most galled by the mere existence of the category Best Animated Film. All film is, in fact, animation, and the separation ghettoizes "animation." Which is ironic, because nearly every major studio release depends on animation to tell its story and impress its audiences.

Director Brad Bird has most famously and accurately remarked on this misunderstanding:

“People think of animation only doing things where people are dancing around and doing a lot of histrionics, but animation is not a genre. And people keep saying, ‘The animation genre.’ It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, ‘What’s it like working in the animation genre?’ I’m going to punch that person!”
I do not advocate punching anyone, but I certainly believe Bird is correct. Animation is not a genre. Films of any genre can be made in animation, just as they can be made in live-action film. Animation is bigger than any genre — we might call it a “mode” of filmmaking.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 14, 2016

What I'm Watching: The Trust

Posted By on Sat, May 14, 2016 at 9:01 AM

Still from The Trust. - SABAN FILMS
  • Saban Films
  • Still from The Trust.
Film exhibition is not what it once was. The advent of digital streaming platforms has rewritten the rulebook. We can now use digital technologies, licit or illicit, to watch in our homes the kinds of movies that, until recently, we had to visit a cinema to see.

As many commentators have noted in recent years, one result of having easy internet access to current films is that many people now visit the cinema only to see “event” movies. Most such films are giant, noisy, action-packed spectaculars that promise the kind of grandiose viewing experience that comes across most thrillingly in a proper movie theater. Big screen, dozens of speakers turned up to 11, maybe some 3D glasses, if that’s your thing.

Just try this at home, is the implicit message to spectators. That’s the same message that Hollywood conveyed in the 1950s, when the studios were terrified that television would steal their viewers. It was then that such devices as CinemaScope, surround sound and 3D made their debuts, precisely because they offered viewing experiences that humbled those offered by tiny, black-and-white, staticky TV screens.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What I'm Watching: Premium Rush

Posted By on Sat, May 7, 2016 at 9:01 AM

Wilee-cam in Premium Rush - SONY PICTURES
  • Sony Pictures
  • Wilee-cam in Premium Rush
David Koepp’s 2012 action film Premium Rush was not much of a box-office success. Worldwide, the $35 million film stopped a little short of breaking even (though I’m sure that video and other second-run markets eventually made it profitable). And, from what I can tell — because I always have my ear to the ground on such matters — nor does the film have anything like a cult following.

I’m having a hard time understanding why this film is not better beloved. It’s exciting, funny, clever and visually appealing. I saw it recently for the second time, and my fondness for it had not diminished.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 30, 2016

What I'm Watching: Inside Man

Posted By on Sat, Apr 30, 2016 at 9:00 AM

A man inside the vault in Inside Man - UNIVERSAL PICTURES / 40 ACRES & A MULE FILMWORKS
  • Universal Pictures / 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
  • A man inside the vault in Inside Man
Years ago, after a chance viewing on cable of Spike Lee’s early short film "Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads," I started paying close attention to the career of this important director. Lee’s first eight features — from She’s Gotta Have It (1986) through Do the Right Thing (1989), right up to Clockers in 1995 — constitute a diverse, challenging, visually exciting body of work that should make any filmmaker proud.

Conventional wisdom holds that Lee’s work began a steady decline in quality with his next feature, Girl 6 (1996), though I think that film is underrated. I’m no fan of the broad, sloppy Bamboozled (2000), but several of Lee’s subsequent features — He Got Game (1998), Summer of Sam (1999) and especially the fantastic 25th Hour (2002) — suggest that he was still full of cinematic ideas at the beginning of the 21st century.

Still, around that time, I found myself less and less interested in Lee’s films. Around 2000, he started making more documentaries than fiction films; I think he’s better at the latter. I guess that disinterest carried over, for me, to his features, the last of which I saw in the theater was She Hate Me in 2004. It wasn’t until last week that I finally got around to seeing Inside Man, which makes me an outlier.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 23, 2016

What I'm Watching: "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"

Posted By on Sat, Apr 23, 2016 at 9:00 AM

One of the many happy, drunk interviewees in "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" - FACTORY 515
  • Factory 515
  • One of the many happy, drunk interviewees in "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"
In 1991, at the height of their extended “Celebrity Brat” phase, Guns N’ Roses went on tour in support of their albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Three or four friends and I caught their show at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., and it turned out to be one of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen. Not necessarily for the music (which was excellent, if sloppy) but for the atmosphere, the crowd and various other extra-musical events.

My friends and I made a point of arriving at the stadium a couple of hours early, because we’d heard that the tailgating at the show was a unique experience. We were not disappointed.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What I'm Watching: "How High Is Up?"

Posted By on Sat, Apr 16, 2016 at 9:05 AM

"How High Is Up?": Larry and Moe use tire irons to pry Curly from his sweater. - COLUMBIA PICTURES
  • Columbia Pictures
  • "How High Is Up?": Larry and Moe use tire irons to pry Curly from his sweater.
I have studied and written about film for something like two decades now. I love films of all kinds, from Hollywood rom coms to seven-hour Eastern European art films to spiky avant-garde films that blast the eyeballs and the brain. But when I reflect on the kinds of movies that turned me into a cinephile at a young age, I realize that most of them are decidedly “low-brow.” I grew up watching kaiju movies, martial arts films and, yes, Three Stooges films.

Most of the Three Stooges’ films are perfectly free from topicality, and most have narratives that are barely coherent. For those reasons, the films have an almost unfair historical advantage over many other movies: They barely age at all. The Stooges’ brand of slapstick comedy is exactly as funny as it was 50 or even 70 years ago. (These guys made a lot of films, and they made them for a long time.) Many “low-brow” comedies of today — I’m thinking of Scary Movie and its descendants — have already lost whatever meager relevance they had because they are mishmashes of topical jokes with short shelf-lives. The Stooges, though, are eternal.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 9, 2016

What I'm Watching: Duane Roelands' "Joke Life" Vines

Posted By on Sat, Apr 9, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Duane Roelands, internet comedy genius - VIA VINE.CO/DWROELANDS
  • via vine.co/DWRoelands
  • Duane Roelands, internet comedy genius
Twenty years ago, when I first stumbled across a website that comprehensively listed all of the samples and arcane references on the Beastie Boys’ masterpiece Paul’s Boutique, I remember thinking, Aha! Someone has figured out what to do with this “internet” thing!

I know Paul’s Boutique backwards and forwards, and for years have marveled at and puzzled over its array of funky, witty samples. The album’s producers, the fabled Dust Brothers, plucked basslines from the Eagles, single guitar notes from Mountain and scads of musical and verbal ephemera from decades of American music, television and film. The album remains a remarkable achievement. But, as enjoyable as it is, Paul’s Boutique is also incredibly densely layered, its musical fragments and obscure name-checks fairly begging the listener to unpack them.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What I'm Watching: Westworld

Posted By on Sat, Apr 2, 2016 at 9:11 AM

Yul Brynner as the steely-eyed gunslinger in Westworld. - MGM PICTURES
  • MGM Pictures
  • Yul Brynner as the steely-eyed gunslinger in Westworld.
Only upon sitting down to write this column did I learn of the upcoming HBO series “Westworld,” a star-studded affair that’s based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name. I’m surprised that this semi-corny, semi-obscure movie was deemed worthy of having its narrative world expanded. But it also makes a certain amount of sense.

I just watched the original film, and its story promises more than it delivers. I can see how others — like the show’s creators, Lisa Joy and Jonathan “Christopher’s brother” Nolan; and its executive producer, J.J. Abrams — would want to expand on a potentially fascinating narrative universe that never realized its original potential.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What I'm Watching: Detroit 9000

Posted By on Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 9:01 AM

Hari Rhodes in the climactic scene of Detroit 9000 - GENERAL FILM CORPORATION / ROLLING THUNDER PICTURES
  • General Film Corporation / Rolling Thunder Pictures
  • Hari Rhodes in the climactic scene of Detroit 9000
Detroit 9000, a policier with an uncommonly frank approach to American race relations, originally came out in 1973. Twenty-five years later, the film was rereleased by Rolling Thunder Pictures, Quentin Tarantino’s boutique distribution company that operated under the Miramax umbrella from 1995 to 1998. Established shortly after the success of Tarantino's epochal Pulp Fiction, Rolling Thunder gave this former video-store clerk his first “establishment” role as a taste maker.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What I'm Watching: Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

Posted By on Sat, Mar 19, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Plastic versions of the Carpenters in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
  • Plastic versions of the Carpenters in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
The first time I saw Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, it was on a ninth-generation VHS tape that one of my college film-nerd friends had dug up somewhere. Upon recently rewatching it for the first time in 20 years (thanks for the heads-up, Bobby!), I found it even more thought-provoking than I did when I was one of those film nerds. OK, I’m still a film nerd.

Superstar is famous for two things. It was effectively banned by a court order (about which more below), and it uses Barbie dolls as its main “actors.” The dolls are not animated, but are operated, with deliberate crudeness, as puppets, manipulated by unseen hands in real time as the camera rolls.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
e-newsletters:

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation