The mechanism that allows you to feel is broken

I’m not a huge fan of grammar pedantry, but I loved this exchange from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. (Delivered by SWOON Michelle Monaghan)

Harry: I’m interrupting. I feel badly. What are you drinking?

Harmony: Bad.

Harry: Bad? Sorry?

Harmony: You feel bad.

Harry: Bad?

Harmony: “Badly” is an adverb. To say you feel badly says that the mechanism which allows you to feel is broken.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang really is one of the great underrated films.

Eternal Occupation of the Spotless Mind

I have an idea for a film script about a bunch of Wall Street stock brokers who decide to set up an Occupy camp INSIDE Occupy Wall Street, to protest the Occupiers. Occupy Occupy Wall Street.

Then another group decide to Occupy THEIR camp, making them Occupy Occupy Occupy Wall Street.

This continues in a Charlie Kaufman fashion, until the entire globe is eventually Occupied. The whole world living in make-shift tents, whilst the banks, buildings, factories etc. lie abandoned and crumbling. No one remembers who they are protesting against, or why. Everyone just living a simple lifestyle, without the trappings of modern life.

Michel Gondry will direct, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Zooey Deschanel will star.

The Tree of Life (2011)

Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is a mad, glorious, ambitious, beautiful mess of a film. Ostensibly it is about a middle-aged man, played by Sean Penn, recalling his youth growing up in Texas, living with two younger siblings and his parents, the tough, stern Brad Pitt and the loving, affectionate Jessica Chastain. But it is much more than that; it is really a meditation on life in its entirety. Penn’s life is placed within a grand cosmic scale, the film breathtakingly showing us the creation of the Universe itself, and the emergence of life on this planet. It also shows us the beauty and ugliness of human life, as the boys parents instill in them both love and fear.

Parts of this film are stunning; the creation of the Universe and the forging of the Earth are truly spectacular. More impressive is the films centre-piece; the 1950s American family life, the shadow of Pitt’s aggressive father looming over everything. But this isn’t a gritty, kitchen-sink rendering. Like the aforementioned cosmic set-pieces, this is presented as grandiose. Boy-hood playing becomes as profound as the emergence of life, the back garden as epic a stage as a galaxy. But it is not all slow-motion gloss; the harsh realities of life are not airbrushed, as the boys content with death, loss, and fear of their own father. His failings too are rendered with utmost clarity.

For me this film is about how everything is sacred. The film clearly treats every second, every person, every thing as a thing of beauty. Every fleeting moment of life, whether it be the birth of a star or a family meal is as important and intertwined into the fabric of being as everything else. All these moments have an effect on how things unfold, no matter how large or small. The fragility and smallness of human life is blown up onto a grand a scale as the creation of everything itself. The film opens with the question of grief, and responds by showing us the vast complexity of everything, by some way of a non-verbal answer.

It is also about a lot more things, but I’ll have to think about them.

(spoilers after the jump)
Continue reading “The Tree of Life (2011)”

Help fund a new documentary about Alan Watts

Any regular readers of this blog will know one of my favourite writers and one of the chief influences on my outlook on life is Alan Watts. Although he died in 1973, he has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years via the web. I believe his work and his ideas are more vital now than ever.

Chris Britt and Alan’s son Mark Watts are trying to get funding to produce a documentary about Alan, his life and his work called “In The Way”. I’ve always thought Watts, who was a colourful and controversial figure, would make an excellent subject for a documentary. Not only would his life alone make a fascinating story, but it would serve as a great platform for his ideas to reach a new audience.

They are using Kickstarter to raise funds. Kickstarter is a service where people can ‘crowd-source’ funding for projects; if they don’t make their target, backers get their money back. They’ve set themselves the task of raising $50,000 by April 27. I really hope they make it. To promote it, they have a Kickstarter page, and have made this short trailer

“In The Way” Kickstarter page
More Alan Watts on Pricky Goo

Catfish

I’m not going to say much about this, because I think its best you go along and see it with as little expectations as possible, aside from the fact that its stunningly good in my opinion. It has just pipped “Inception” to the title of best film I’ve seen this year, and unless “Tron:Legacy” truly pulls it out of the bag, “Catfish” will keep the coveted title.

I’m a sucker for well-made documentaries, and this is a piece of art. Again, there’s loads more I want to say, but I just want to get people to go along and see it. I will say that there is an opinion out there that it’s a hoax. I don’t think so.

(I would also say, the trailer is slightly deceptive about the tone of the film…..but the way it does go is much more shocking if you ask me)

Scott Pilgrim Vs My Eyeballs

When I first saw the trailer for “Scott Pilgrim Vs The World” I was excited to see the finished product. I have long been a fan of the work of director Edgar Wright and the movie’s recipe of nerdish pop-culture references, motion graphics, video game physics and lovable losers looked like it could be a winning formula. It hadn’t occurred to me however, that these very things were what disappointed and bugged me most about two recent films I expected to like but did not; “Zombieland” and “Kick-Ass”.

Like those aforementioned films, I left the cinema let down. “Scott Pilgrim” is an adaptation of a comic-book about a 23-year old slacker who falls in love with a delivery girl, but in order to be with her, he must defeat her “Seven Evil Exes” in video-game style confrontations. So far, so good. The problem is that director Edgar Wright from the first frame throws every single visual trick in the book onto the screen to realize this video-game world. Its not enough that the fight scenes resemble “Street Fighter II” but everything the characters do is governed by animated behavior which is drawn from not only video-games but comic books too. So, sound effects are realized as words-on-screen in a Batman-in-the-60s style, people going for a wee is represented by a diminishing “Pee Bar” like a draining battery, typography pops up all over the place, and actions are accompanied by 8-bit video-game sound effects. At first this is great, by 10 minutes into the film when its constantly happening, not so great. When the action gets going, we are treated to a constant barrage of this stuff which takes in everything from “Tekken” to “Legend of Zelda” to those Dance-dance revolution games. This leaves a mess; both visually and plotwise. As a nerd who grew up with comics and NES, I should have revelled in it, but it was too much. The effectiveness and novelty of such references were lost in the avalanche.

It reminded me in some way of “Inglorious Basterds”. A director takes elements of his style which in isolation are memorable additions to his work but stretches them out over an entire film. When Tim and Daisy in “Spaced” enter into computer-game fights in the real world the result was thrilling and original, coming as it did in the middle of a real program about people you cared about. Similarly, when Wright used his now signature quick-editing-montage in “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” it was a treat. In “Scott Pilgrim” we are witness to one long, giant pop culture reference literally represented on screen using every trick in the book. The result is exhausting.

But this is not the films only problem. I suppose I could put up with all this techno-wizardry if it accompanied the story of characters I could cheer for. Sadly, the central characters of this film are simply unlikable, mean people. A friend remarked how he just felt bad for Knives Chau, a 17-year old girl Pilgrim ditches for the girl of his dreams, Ramona. Knives does nothing wrong, but is essentially cast aside as yesterdays news in fairly cruel fashion. Yet we are supposed to root for Scott.

This film really is a classic case of style without substance. It has its moments, but most of them are already catalogued in the heavily rotated trailer. When I think about it, alongside “Zombieland” and “Kick-Ass” I wonder if I just don’t have the taste for this brand of post-modern hyper cinema. Self-referential narration, tricks of typography , music-video-editing, breaking the fourth wall, and constant pop-culture references seem to be increasingly present in films aimed at the geek market. But if all this smoke-and-mirrors just clouds shallow, whiney, unlikable characters (which populate these aforementioned three movies) the films fail to stand up. What we are left with is a self-referential circle-jerk which will eat itself.