Sunday, June 07, 2009

last night

No, not the Don McKellar film that I love (and highly recommend). The
last night I want to talk about is mine. I hosted a dinner party for a small group of my dearest friends, and it was amazing. I regret that (A) I a drank a little to much, and (B) my loved one was not feeling well and could not attend. Otherwise, the evening was a great success. I slow-cooked ribs on the bbq with an apple wood smoke pouch, homemade bbq sauce, and a spice rub that I applied some twenty hours before grilling. Marinaded mushrooms, a salad with "Green Goddess" dressing, and sweet tasting, deep fried onion rings accompanied the meat. Oh, and I also grilled up a few chicken breasts for the sake of pleasing the anti-bone palate.

Sadly, and very possibly due to (A), we never got around to watching a movie. I didn't necessarily think we would anyway, but dinner and a movie is as classic a combination as peanut butter and chocolate, so I feel an incompleteness. I was more than happy to engage in our poignant conversations, but somewhere in the back of my mind I was constantly thinking about what I want to do with my life, and the answer fell between just
this (entertaining friends with my incredible food) and visiting the picture shows (whether they be at the cinema or "On Demand").

Yes, there are jobs that I know would satisfy me: teaching film, English, pop culture... Exploring my creative side and writing and/or making movies. But the more I think about it, the more I long to be a housewife. In an ideal world I would enjoy the cooking and suffer the cleaning in exchange for the opportunity to pop in a DVD once or twice a day, the way that some people commit to their soap operas.

My friends all asked if I would consider going back to school for culinary training. As much as I enjoy preparing meals, I'm not a big fan of high pressure kitchen situations. I do love Hell's Kitchen, but I don't want to be the "donkey". Their idea to open up a Bed and "Dinner" is slightly appealing, but not necessarily realistic. I like being the host, and good friends always make the hard work seem worthwhile. So please, send your dollars to me so that I can fulfill my dream of being a stay-at-home movie watching, meal-preparing house man.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

hot/not fun in the summer time

A couple of months ago I drove past the remnants of a bad traffic accident on a nearby highway. Tragically, a man had been killed and, as grotesque as it may sound, my traveling companions and I could not help but gawk at the tattered bits of clothing and the pool of blood that had been left on the road. It's probably callous of me to compare this sense of morbid curiosity to my feelings about the summer/blockbuster movie season, but I swear that the carnage I witnessed on the 401 was far less unnerving than my encounters with
The Love Guru and You Don't Mess With The Zohan last year. Inasmuch as I would like to avert my eyes from such car wrecks, I can never seem to muster up the will to look away.

I'm not quite certain what it is about these warmer months that makes me ignore better judgment and shell out funds to see so many lackluster films on the big screen. Sure, there are always a few big budget pictures that stand to exceed my expectations, but I am also drawn to the films that (95% guaranteed) I
know will disappoint me. Childhood nostalgia is not enough to explain my willingness to endure two Hasbro toy inspired movies this summer (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Transformers 2), especially knowing that I writhed through Transformers not so very long ago.

My inability to engage in a conversations that don't involve the movies, coupled with the fact that most of my peers watch more films during the summer than any other time, may account for a fraction of this drive to see all of said season's releases. I don't blame my friends for catalyzing my desire to be "in the know," but I do have to acknowledge my chum over at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind for inspiring me to take a look at
the top 10 summer movies that have caught my interest so far. Having his template to outright steal makes it all the easier to talk about the following flicks:

10. X-Men Origins : Wolverine

As a comic book fan who grew up reading X-Men and Wolverine almost exclusively, my expectations going into this movie are kind of low. The character has a pretty comprehensive history, and I worry that there's a bit too much story for one film to tackle (even without the extra burden of incorporating Gambit). Still, my connection with the material ensures that I will be amongst the first in line to witness Logan's first claw pop.

9. The Boat that Rocked

If you're keen on quality romantic comedies, you probably know the work of Richard Curtis:
Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, & Love, Actually. Although Hugh Grant is suspiciously absent from Curtis's latest cast, the writer/director has nevertheless assembled a delightful troupe of British actors and managed to throw Philip Seymour Hoffman into the mix, to boot. It looks as if love will take a backseat to rock 'n' roll in this picture, but I am just as eager to see Curtis romanticize the past.

8. Drag Me to Hell

How good is it to see Sam Raimi return to his horror roots? Some are touting this as an Evil Dead remake, but I tend to think that these "critics" are simply Jonesing for Bruce Campbell. As much as I would like to see ol' Bruce take the lead role in another Ash project, I am more excited to see what kind of thrills and chills Raimi can muster up with a budget that honors his Spiderman-free vision.

7. Whatever Works

I'm no expert when it comes to quantum physics, but movies and T.V. have taught me that if one meets oneself in the past, present, or future, the world will implode. So I am dying with anticipation to find out what culminates when renowned neurotic Woody Allen works with Larry David, star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the man upon whom Seinfeld's George Costanza is based. This will either be one of Allen's most entertaining pictures or a catalyst for the apocalypse.

6. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

It's not nostalgia that urges me to see this movie so much as my desire to find out how the filmmakers have managed to make any of these characters look straight. Generally, I prefer homosexual undertones to blatant American propaganda, but I'm currently on a mission to support any film that's based on a line of action figures in hopes that we will one day see a live action adaptation of Thundercats. (Sorry, Courtney; it's how I feel)

5. Public Enemies

My thanks goes out to director Michael Mann for casting Johnny Depp in a role that forced him to get a badly needed haircut, and for providing a professional working environment for the tantrum-prone Christian Bale. Moreover, I'm excited to see some tommy guns back up on the big screen, especially in what appears to be a film of exceptional quality-- even outside the realm of summer standards.

4. Inglorious Basterds

I'll never understand what people felt was so ingenious about
Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, but I've really dug Quentin Tarantino's subsequent films. He seems to be at his best when paying homage to arcane genre styles, and Inglorious Basterds stands to be his most gritty ode to the Giallo pictures of the '70s. If you're squeamish about blood, you might want to skip this flick, but I for one am intrigued to see Brad Pitt collect some Nazi scalps, especially through the eyes of Q.T.

3. The Time Traveler's Wife

Bearing in mind that the book is always better than the movie, I am cautiously interested in this adaptation of one of my all time favorite novels. The cast doesn't necessarily mesh with the images in my head, but since no official trailer has yet been released, I'll reserve my ultimate judgment for the time being. Author Audrey Niffenegger's complex story may be a challenging one to translate for the screen, but in the hands of the guy who penned
Deep Impact and Stuart Little 2, what could possibly go wrong?

2. The Limits of Control

Counter programming tends to be futile during the summer months, but film goers like me who need a break from being marketed to like we're mindless will likely glom on to this picture from director Jim Jarmusch. Indie fans (not to be confused with Indy fans) will appreciate the cast that has been assembled, including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael García Bernal, and Isaach De Bankolé. The trailer suggests echos of Jarmusch's earlier film about the code of the criminal,
Ghost Dog, which was equal parts art film and entertainment. I expect The Limits of Control to be a breath of fresh air amongst the typical mid-summer stinkers.

1. Star Trek

I can hardly contain my excitement for J.J. Abrams reboot of the only Star Trek incarnation I have been a fan of: the one where the captain is Kirk. I've never been big into any of the subsequent Treks, including any of the feature films, but I am a product of syndicated reruns and grew up with my eyes glued to the T.V. screen once a week for the adventures of the original Enterprise crew. I always thought these characters deserved better treatment after the show was untimely canceled, and despite my fondness for Shatner, I do believe that this film and its cast stand a very good chance of exceeding my expectations. Abrams has proven his talent both on television (Felicity, Alias, and LOST) and on film (with a surprisingly engaging third installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise). Given his track record, I am quite convinced that he can satiate the hunger of rabid Trekkies and deliver enough creative dynamite to attract and/or win the attention of more reluctant viewers. In honor of the film's release, I have spent the past few months attempting to grow eyebrows like Zachary Quinto. Problem is, my pet tribble keeps trying to hump my face.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

who's watching the watchmen?

Apparently, at a one o'clock Saturday matinee on opening weekend (here in Windsor, Ontario), only me and fifty-or-so other movie-goers. It's a smaller number than I would have anticipated given the intensity with which fans of the graphic novel cherish this material. Watchmen, the book, may have something of a cult following, but in terms of niche markets, it's one that is considerably large and unwaveringly loyal.

Though I understand its significance, I am not as endeared to Alan Moore's masterpiece as some of my fellow comic book junkies, and I have often been the recipient of heaping amounts of flack as a result. Still, morbid curiosity overwhelms me when a property as notoriously unfilmable as Watchmen sees the light of the projector, and the power of cinema compelled me to grab a seat in the theater as soon as time would allow. Inasmuch as I dislike Watchmen (again, the book), I was equally concerned for its fans; I felt certain that a film adaptation of such a complex work would almost certainly disappoint in terms of their rabid expectations. It may sound absurd, but I wanted the movie to be good enough to appease Watchmen's devoted audience.

And I think it is. For me, however, the cinematic adaptation is, in some ways, faithful to a fault. I have read the graphic novel several times now, always with a sense of laborious effort, and many of the issues that I consider problematic with the book emerge in the film, as well. With its dense mythology, both in terms of the origins and legacies of the costumed heroes and the sophisticated politics of the alternate historical world they inhabit, Watchmen might very well be the only comic that begs out for a supplemental Cole's Notes companion (that's Cliff's Notes, for you Staties). Even with a generous running time of 163 minutes, the film struggles to accommodate the sheer volume of exposition that Moore's story contains; in spite of the richness of its themes, the movie, like the graphic novel, is often burdened by sluggish pacing.

The film is a bit more efficient than its printed counterpart in summarizing the way that Watchmen's historical time-line diverges from our own. Of course, a reviewer must exercise even greater economy, so here goes: A naked blue man who can manipulate matter and energy intervenes in the Vietnam war, enabling the U.S. to win. Subsequently, President Nixon's popularity skyrockets and laws are altered to allow re-election for a third term in office. The Soviets, who don't much like that the United States has a nuclear man under contract, continue to stockpile munitions, and by the mid 1980's, distopian Cold War paranoia has reached new heights. Now, I know that a society disillusioned with government and living in fear of seemingly imminent nuclear war is not really a foreign concept to contemporary audiences, but having seen so many blank reactions from the crowd to numerous Cold War references in Indy and the Crystal Skulls, I suspect that the film will prove to be as inaccessible to many viewers as the book is to me.

Having said that, I admire the nuanced details that director Zack Snyder employs as a means of illustrating his/Moore's/artist Dave Gibbons' hyperbolic vision of this alternate era. For instance, living caricatures of prominent figures-- Henry Kissinger, Pat Buchanan, John McLaughlin, Truman Capote, Fidel Castro, Annie Leibovitz, David Bowie, Eleanor Clift, Ted Koppel, and so on-- litter the scenery, contributing not only to the overall design of the film, but greatly to the politically rebellious sensibility of Watchmen's narrative. This device, however, operates on the assumption that audiences will perceive such details.

The film's stunning production design is probably its most significant saving grace. While the dull color palette and stiff panel layout of the comic tend to compete with, well, everything else in the room for my eyes' attention, the movie is visually dynamic and intricately textured, and it remains captivating even when the plot lacks similar energy. The main through-line of Watchmen, you see-- The murder of costumed vigilante The Comedian prompts several of his fellow exiled crime fighters to investigate who-dunnit, why, and whether or not they might be next-- is of secondary importance to the characters' personal/philosophical struggles and paralyzing memories, and certainly to the material's explicit moral critiques. In essence, this revisionist superhero tale is quite poignant thematically, but Alan Moore's writing style tends to be cumbersome, and when transposed directly to dialogue, sounds clunky and stilted.

So it seems that most of the elements that fashioned my antagonistic attitude toward the book have prevented me from engaging with the screen adaptation of Watchmen to a notably greater degree. Still, I have revisited this story on a number of occasions, and each time I do, I experience highly charged intellectual and emotional reactions that make me wonder if something isn't resonating after all. I'll never admit to that, of course. I have a reputation to maintain as the sole Windsorite to denounce Watchmen, not as one of the few who showed up to see it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

my ballot

I may have been a tad harsh towards the Academy Awards the other day. Now that we're in the home stretch, the one week countdown has begun, I'm beginning to feel the symptoms of Oscar fever. You see, what those tricksters over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
do is, rather than announce which films deserve awards for achievement, they select a number of movies for each category and then make us wait several weeks until the winners are declared. Thus, an aura of suspense is established. I have once again fallen prey.

Of course, Alfred Hitchcock once said,
“There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” So I will maintain my position regarding the sedative qualities of the show itself (although I am intrigued to see what Hugh Jackman has to offer as a host; an interesting hire, to be sure). But I'm a sucker for the competition itself, and every time I glance over the list of nominees I feel the urge to grab a pen and start filling out my Oscar pool ballot. This year, for the first time, I'm going with the heart instead of the head. Though I have had considerable success anticipating who will win in the past, it makes me feel dirty when I have to put a check mark next to a movie like Gladiator just for the sake of winning a few dollars. In order to clear my conscience, I'm focusing this time on the pictures and performers I want to win... (for the full list of nominees, click here)

Best Motion Picture of the Year


I know that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE will take the trophy, and that's alright by me, but I can't ignore my appreciation for Gus Van Sant's bold and significant film.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Sadly, I have not seen THE VISITOR or THE WRESTLER, so I don't have all the evidence I need to make a super informed decision. Sean Penn was great, but I prefer the subtlety of Langella this time 'round.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role KATE WINSLET (THE READER) Actually, I think she should win for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Her performance in that film, however, was snubbed. Not to worry. Her work in the nominated title is also spectacular.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Posthumous awards always depress me a bit. Is Michelle Williams still single?

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


I'm not her biggest fan, but she was good in VCB. Plus, I tend to lean towards anything Woody Allen.

Best Achievement in Directing
What a wonderfully envisioned and beautifully crafted film.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen


I haven't seen HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, and I hear it's really good. When done right, though, dark comedy is my favorite genre, and In Bruges is spot on.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
This may be one of those rare cases in which the movie is as good as or even better than the book.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

There's tough competition in this category. As I mentioned before, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a worthy adversary, and THE CHANGELING and The Dark Knight certainly hold their own. The Reader is a bit weak in comparison, but by no means shabby. The camera work and lighting in Slumdog just seems a little bit more ambitious, and it's flashy without being distracting. The technical work in this film really invigorates the narrative.

Although Costume Design is not the most exciting category of the evening, it is one that I feel quite passionate about this year. Button's sprawling scope, a story that spans several decades, poses a particular challenge, and every visual element, including the clothing, is authentically detailed.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
If what I've heard is true, the elderly Benjamin Button is brought to us via motion capture technology and computer animation. He looks so real it blows my mind. But the transitions between practical effects and CGI in Iron Man seemed flawless to me, and it's not often that a summer release is able to deceive my eyes.

Best Animated Feature
I know I railed against this movie in a previous post, but there's no denying that its sophisticated animation out trumps the competition. Still, I would like to live in a world where a greater variety of animated films are made to challenge the notion that Pixar is next to godliness. Was RATATOUILLE really better than PERSEPOLIS?

Obviously I have left out a few categories, partially because no one gives a rip about Best Achievement in Sound Editing and/or Makeup, but also because I have (unfortunately) not seen a one of the Foreign Language films that are nominated. As for the ones I have committed to, well, I might be a tad reluctant to wager money on my selections, but I can rest a bit easier this year knowing that I have been true to myself (and the nominees that really should win).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

a nod to the oscars
I muse about this year's best picture nominees...

The other day it occurred to me that for the last few years I have really only watched the Oscars out of habit, perhaps even because it is expected of me. In my younger days it was a real event night; friends would gather at my apartment and we would fill out our own ballots, guessing the winners with a close eye on the Vegas odds. My famous nacho dip never lasted long, but the bar was fully stocked, and I would inevitably drift into a state of fuzzy headedness by the time the Best Picture category was announced.

Rather than having to be reminded who won the next morning, I watched the last couple of Academy Awards ceremonies stone sober, only to realize that I was better off when I was half in the bag (or better yet, two thirds). Harder drugs are recommended if you plan to abide those vapid red carpet interviews. Seriously, the whole thing's a yawn fest.

While my mind is not yet made up whether to watch this year's broadcast or not, I have managed to see the five films that are nominated for best picture, and in good time, which is not always an easy task in a city that won't run The Wrestler because we need to reserve screen space for The Pink Panther 2. To the Academy's credit, they generally nominate five movies that are
amongst the better films of the year, and over the past couple of weeks I have been exceptionally satisfied as a patron of the cinema:


I think Slumdog will take the award this year, and rightly so. It's better than three of the nominees, and just a bit more cohesive than the fourth. Apparently this film was nearly released straight to DVD, which would have been a shame not only in terms of limiting audience exposure, but also because director Danny Boyle's visual techniques are so vivid and exciting on the big screen. The picture has more than a handful of tragic moments, even scenes that are difficult to watch; ultimately, though, Slumdog Millionaire is tempered with themes of love, sacrifice, and destiny that should appeal to reluctant viewers. The film also ends with a Bollywood dance sequence that could put a smile on anyone's face.


My opinion of this film is a bit skewed due to the fact that I saw it very shortly after having read the book. The adaptation is very faithful to Bernhard Schlink's novella, both in plot and tone, but I feel as though the movie lacks some of the crucial details that define the characters' motives. The book is not one that easily lends itself to a cinematic treatment, and I am eager to hear the thoughts of others who have seen The Reader, both those who have read Schlink's work and those who have not.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the extraordinary Kate Winslet. I can't say that it doesn't appeal to me to see her naked for a considerable portion of the film's first act, but what I really noticed was her performance. Between The Reader and Revolutionary Road, she has proven herself a force to be reckoned with, and is deserving of the attention that has been cast upon her this Oscar season.


"Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments." The tagline to Benjamin Button reminded me that the movie is, in fact, several moments too long. You would think that a film chronicling the lifespan of a man who ages backwards have more interesting moments, too. It doesn't, really. And even if it did, Button would still suffer from the fact that screenwriter Eric Roth basically regurgitated the formula he used when he penned the script for Forrest Gump. Still, I wasn't surprised to see this film nominated for best picture; the Academy seems to have a soft spot for anything with an epic scale. From a technical perspective, Button does trump some of the competition, but its chances of winning in this category are severly hampered by its tendency to induce sleep.

Having said that, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button certainly rivals Slumdog Millionaire in terms of cinematography. I don't generally recommend a movie just because it looks good, but Button is really something to see. Also, the special effects will give Iron Man a run for its money, and I think it would be a shame if this picture isn't recognized for its amazing costumes. Benjamin may walk away with a couple of statues, yet.


I find it hard not to be a little bit critical about Frost/Nixon. For one thing, it seems like an easy movie to make: it's based on a play which was largely composed from transcripts of the actual Frost/Nixon interviews, and the bulk of it takes place in one room. It also seems a bit redundant given that video tapes, internet clips, and DVDs of the original broadcast are readily available, and quite intriguing to watch.

On the other hand, Frost/Nixon is compelling in its own right, and I think the dramatization of events is particularly helpful in terms of engaging viewers, like me, who did not live through Nixon era politics and the subsequent decade-or-so of heightened paranoia and disillusionment. And unlike The Reader, the tale of David Frost, underdog, is one that seems to cry out for narrative treatment. Of course, the film really belongs to Frank Langella whose interpretation of Nixon neither glamorizes the ex-president nor attempts to elicit our sympathies, but does provide some speculative insight into the nature and degree of his self-delusion. While, Frost/Nixon may not be as strong a contender in the Best Picture category as some of the other nominees, it is one of the more engaging films I have seen this year.


If I were a voting member of the Academy, this is the nominee that would make me hesitate before ticking the box for Slumdog Millionaire. It sounds strange to say so, given my general distaste for biopics, but the decision to limit the film's scope to the eight years during which Harvey Milk was politically involved with the gay rights movement and elected to public office was one that allowed director Gus Van Sant to avoid the kind of superficial portrait that I have come to expect from this type of movie.

In my opinion, Milk is a far more important film than Slumdog, not only because of its subject matter, but also in terms of the images we see on screen. Van Sant is not shy about including scenes of male sexuality, sometimes affectionate, other times far more carnal, and I can't think of another mainstream movie that portrays this kind of intimacy as authentically and unapologetically. I know a lot of people will be uncomfortable with these images, but I believe that visibility of this sort is a step towards humanizing people who belong to a highly oppressed and misunderstood minority, and whose rights are still inadequately protected.

Of course, a subject of this magnitude is not easily condensed into a two hour package. Nothing in the film seems to be dispensable, but it does feel a bit long, and there are a few scenes towards the end that appear to have been designed to facilitate a path towards the conclusion rather than mesh with Milk's established tempo. The acting is a bit hammy in some of these later scenes, too, a minor quibble given Sean Penn's otherwise stalwart performance as Harvey Milk (who, in all fairness to Penn, tended to be an exuberant figure himself).

Are these moderate criticisms enough to deny Milk a shiny bald man-statue? Well, it's enough to tip my own personal scale towards Slumdog Millionaire. Ultimately, though, I'm more interested in watching quality films than seeing who wins awards and who's wearing who. So while I may not watch the Oscar broadcast this year, I would like to thank the Academy for their viewing suggestions... It was an honor just to screen your nominees.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


A myriad trusted critics, including the likes of Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott, have plunked WALL-E into their lists of the top ten films of 2008. According to, the latest Disney/Pixar release is amongst the top reviewed movies of the annum, garnering a 96% approval rating from some 200+ contributing writers. It was also a top-grossing film, fifth in the U.S. last year.

Now, I get the money thing; by and large, consumers are willing to throw wads of cash at products that are sentimental and shiny (never mind the fact that WALL-E's narrative is rife with anti-consumerist themes). And I understand the film's appeal to children, whose underdeveloped minds allow them to appreciate entertainment without it having to maintain coherent sense. What perplexes me, I guess, is the number of rational thinkers (read "critics") who were willing to take the intellectual leaps of faith that WALL-E's logical inconsistencies demand.

Before you accuse me of over analyzing children's fare or, worse yet, of suffering a stagnant imagination, let me explain some of my personal Pixar peccadilloes. First of all, Pixar’s creative team is known for injecting some pretty sophisticated humour into their films, a brilliant device that engages grown up viewers and increases the lifespan of their pictures (a child of ten can watch Toy Story in his/her teenage years and glean so much more). Since the writers, animators, and filmmakers strive to appeal as much to me as they do to mini-me, I have no qualms about assessing Pixar flicks as seriously as I would any other film.

And, certainly, some of their movies are more juvenile than others. Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life just aren’t as sharp as the Toy Stories, Monsters, Inc., or The Incredibles. and To be fair, I consider the formers to be above par in the category of family films; they are simply less interesting to the part of me that likes the nutritious side of a Frosted Mini-Wheat. So forgive me if I hold WALL-E to a high standard.

Secondly, I am prone to childish wonderment. I can suspend disbelief when it comes to populations of sentient aquatic life and insects (Anthropomorphism or bust!), and I can certainly dial into past fantasies of toys coming to life and monsters under the bed. I have never seen Cars; can’t get passed the fact that if there are no drivers, there is no evolutionary reason for a race of vehicles to evolve. (Perhaps this is why I am more critical of the Transformers cartoon than I was at age eight.)

In the case of WALL-E, my issue is not one of premise. The film may smack viewers like you and me in the face with its all-too-obvious environmental messages, but I think the plot serves as an effective allegory for the younger crowd. No, for me the devil is in the details on this one; from beginning to end I just couldn’t get past the nonsensical “logistics” of WALL-E world. Par example:

1. Why is WALL-E the only remaining WALL-E unit in service? We see the mangled remains of his peers, but no coherent reason is given as to why they can’t recharge just as he does. Our WALL-E is frequently replacing his own burnt out appendages with parts salvaged from his former coworkers. For lack of any other evidence, I have to assume that the prequel will feature a murderous rampage sequence.

2. Whose idea was it to program a waste allocation droid to be curious? This robot equivalent of a trash compactor collects—and is fascinated by—such objects as an egg beater, rubber duckies, and bubble wrap. It’s as sensible as constructing a vacuum cleaner that wants to learn opera.

3. For that matter, why program a utility robot to feel emotion at all? Like fear… WALL-E makes C-3PO look butch. And the stupidest thing of all, integral to the narrative mind you, is that WALL-E falls in love with another robot. What is the point of gender coding your appliances? “Yeah, EVE’s primary directive is to probe the earth for evidence of sustainable life, and we’ve also given her mercenary capabilities in case she runs into danger, but she has a real soft spot for show tunes.” The mobile dumpster seduces EVE by screening scenes from Hello, Dolly! To what end? I used to bang pots and pans together when I was a kid… I doubt they ever received any sexual gratification out of it.

4. Now, the earth is covered with mounds of rubbish, so the humans take off on a space cruise leaving a squadron of Johnny-5’s to clean up by crushing the trash into cubes and assembling the blocks into columns. If so much as a bean sprout appears, mankind will return. But there will still be towers of garbage!!! “Yeah, this planet used to be a hole, but now that all of those oil drums and used tampons are stacked vertically, I think it’s kinda homey.” Launch the refuse into space and plant a frickin’ garden, people.

5. Which leads us to the physical state of Homo sapiens in the WALL-E universe. A cute expository gag details man’s evolution from Fred Willard to immobile butterball, but I think Darwin would be hard pressed to posit a survival of the fattest theory that would account for our newly acquired cartoon features.

Yes, if we relinquish the burden of walking in favor of hover-chairs, there will be a significant chance of weight gain; but the people in WALL-E look more like Barbapapa than that guy who had to have his trailer wall torn down on Jerry Springer.

6. Furthermore, the Willard character's video recording from some 700 years prior clearly informs the ship's captain that, "Due to the effects of micro-gravity, you and your passengers may have suffered some slight bone loss." Well, yes, and I'm not a doctor, but I have enough common sense to determine that if there are any muscles surrounding those ostio-toothpicks, they will have atrophied. Nevertheless, when these tubbies are thrown from their floating hammocks, they are able not only to support their own girth, but to traipse about with only the slightest bit of effort. The medicine practiced by Gregory House is more plausible.

And these are only six of the many things that make me go hmmm (In fact, several warrent a "What the-- ?!?"). I won't claim that I'm not a bit nit-picky, but my disbelief can only be suspended for so long when my intellect is being chided to the Nth degree. I also admit that there are probably more dire issues to discuss, like the position a friend of mine took when he wrote that: "In making a film that is ultimately cute and adorable and feel-good, Pixar has shown that it has the ability to make even the most pressing, important and dire issue of our time into fodder for mere escapism." Ultimately, though, I have too much trouble taking the film seriously enough to bother. I suppose if I had children, I would be more concerned with WALL-E's potential harm and/or foul. As it stands, I'm content to inhabit the role of curmudgeon. The critics can continue to play the wide-eyed fools.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

the not-top ten project
a series of posts in which an amateur film critic discusses ten movies he loves, in no particular order, that may or may not be his favorites.

entry #3: Casablanca

Narrator: With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But, not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up - Paris to Marseilles... across the Mediterranean to Oran... then by train, or auto, or foot across the rim of Africa, to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon; and from Lisbon, to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca... and wait... and wait... and wait.

Having received a new DVD copy for Christmas and already watched it twice, it seems inevitable that Casablanca should be included in a list of movies that might possibly be my favorites. As I was telling a friend the other night, this is the one film that I can watch at any time, whether I feel like it or not. The moment it begins I am hooked, swept right in, and captivated all over again... And I have seen Casablanca a lot of times.*

I thought I would be a bit more reluctant to write about it than I actually am, though. The pretentious part of me feels like it's too obvious, maybe even redundant, to heap more praises upon such a popular, mainstream film. My insecurities make me question whether I am qualified to address a film about which so much has been said by critics, scholars, and loads of people who are far smarter than me.** And my nostalgic instincts urge me to revel in my feelings for Casablanca privately, rather than share them with anyone else.

Ultimately, it is my passion that inspires this love letter to Casablanca; whenever I see it, even think about the film, certain praises want to burst out of me (Wow. I think I just came a little). Okay, I'm on the verge of composing a sonnet right now, and no one wants that. So I will spare everyone by simply expressing some of my thoughts about the film in the more accessible literary tradition of "point form."

- For all of its indelible performances, famous moments, and oft-quoted dialogue, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Casablanca is the Marseillaise sequence. I can't believe the number of times I've been choked up while watching this scene:

- I first saw Casablanca when I was 12 years old. I had to watch a classic movie for a school project, and I chose this film because I was intrigued by a cartoon that came enclosed in an old edition of Trivial Pursuit. It was a one-panel caricature of Bogie and Dooley Wilson with the caption, "Play it again, Sam." It hung in my locker all throughout high school.

- One of my fondest memories of the time I lived in Vancouver is the night I watched Casablanca on the big screen at a repertory theatre. It was enhanced by the atmosphere: an old cinema house with a balcony, and an ashtray at every seat.

- I know a lot of trivia, history, and behind the scenes stories about the film. This has never affected my being absorbed by the story.

-The minor characters in Casablanca are as interesting as their leading counterparts. Every role is well drawn, and the faces in this film are mesmerizing.

Mr. Leuchtag: Mareichtag and I are speaking nothing but English now.
Mrs. Leuchtag
: So we should feel at home when we get to America.
Carl: Very nice idea, mm-hmm.
Mr. Leuchtag: [toasting] To America!
Mrs. Leuchtag: To America!
Carl: To America!
Mr. Leuchtag: Liebchen - sweetnessheart, what watch?
Mrs. Leuchtag: Ten watch.
Mr. Leuchtag: Such much?
Carl: Hm. You will get along beautiful in America, mm-hmm.

- I'm not a huge fan of Ingrid Bergman, but I am addicted to her in this film. The precision with which her face is lit is a testament to the art of cinematography.

-I pray to the gods of cinema that Casablanca will never be colorized or remade. Rumors (a while back) that Madonna and Kevin Costner were to star were very distressing.

-In Roger Ebert's insightful DVD commentary, he addresses the debate about whether or not Casablanca is a "perfect" movie. He cites a couple of lines of clunky dialogue and a few unconvincing special effects as evidence that it is not, but I have never labored over these glitches. I love Casablanca, imperfections and all.

I could go on forever lauding Casablanca and reminiscing about the fond memories and life experiences I have that are intertwined with this picture. Suffice it to say, Casablanca does not fall into the ambiguous region in the category of "what may or may not be my favorite films"... We're in the midst of a beautiful friendship, I like to think. So I prefer not to be one who is fortunate through money, or influence, or luck. I'm not looking for an Exit Visa anytime soon.

* Second only in viewings to The Muppet Movie.
** Who would undoubtedly have phrased it "...than I."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

forgive me, reader(s), for i have sinned... it has been over a month since my last blog entry

And, yes, I have been watching copious episodes of Mythbusters rather than fulfilling my duty as an amateur/fake movie critic by watching and offering commentary about every film ever released. Hopefully this unplanned hiatus is nearing its end, and I will soon be back with my self-beloved insights.

In the meantime, readers in the Windsor area may be interested in checking out this week's episode of The Comic Book Syndicate (airing on Cogeco channel 11, Friday and Saturday at 11:00 pm). Look for a handsome mustachioed fellow impersonating Commissioner Gordon.

Everyone else, please Google search and/or Facebook search The Comic Book Syndicate and demand that the show extend its viewing area.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who is The Batman?

So, as far as lame disguises go, it's probably fair to say that Superman's ranks pretty high on the "really?!?" scale. I mean, Clark Kent takes off his glasses, puts his underpants on the outside, and he's suddenly unrecognizable? It seems as if wearing some sort of mask would be considerably more effective as a means of hiding one's identity.

Then again, if you think about this issue far more seriously than it warrants, you might, like me, come to the conclusion that Batman's cowl is only marginally superior. Say that your uncle or, like, your barber or somebody was Batman. Don't you think you would be able to identify his jawline? Even if a real-life billionaire-- Donald Trump or Bill Gates-- decided to fight crime, chances are you've seen enough photographs and/or television footage of these guys that their chins would ring some bells, even if you didn't know Don or Bee-Gee personally.

Well, lets put it to the test... How many of the following Hollywood jaws can you identify? If one of these actors was, indeed, The Batman, would you know?