Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bladed Thesis

In the spirit of good ol’ Manny Farber’s termite art
I saw this on HBO On Demand – it’s probably germane that I loved Daredevil, but only because Brennan and I had a whole drunken routine to go with it, not because it was in any way a good movie that a human being might enjoy watching.  Anyway, here are the termite points about Elektra:
- Elektra suffers from severe OCD.
- Elektra’s father forced her to tread water over her mother’s objections.
- Elektra fell in love with a blind man in the previous movie, then another blind man (a woefully miscast Terrence Stamp) resurrects her and becomes her teacher, who then rejects her and throws her out of the dojo.
- The main villain’s superpower is apparently that he can turn into some nice 500 TC bedsheets; he also constantly tries to prove himself to his father.
So, either the movie is about the Death Drive, or it’s actually Miniature Elephant Art.  By Miniature Elephant Art I mean crap that masquerades as crap that can easily be deconstructed and redeemed, but in the end is still crap; elephants pretending to be termites.  That is, Elektra appears to be a dumb action movie, but contains some psychodynamic elements that seem to tread the border between trite character rationalization and heavily encrypted but interesting meditations on psychoanalysis; these meditations, however, turn out to be kind of pat and a little too easy to put together, which reveals that the crap was crap all along.  If we want to be a little twee here we could turn around again and award the movie laurels for being so mannered as to cause us to notice ourselves making all these critical moves.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Touched by a Porkchop

I just noticed this, but at some unspecified time in the past, Mr. Ryan Edwards, who is one of the actual FOUNDERS of Bullseyeart, posted a comment on my bloggery about Magic Butter (noting, as I did recently, that the site is now free). He also pointed out that I had combined other founders Josh Kimberg and Nick Cogan into one hideous chimera, "Josh Kogan", who as far as I know never existed, but if he did would probably have resembled the meat fairy in The Woodcutter. Anyway, it just goes to show that they care.

Bullseyeart Wikipedia


I was just watching an old episode of Six Feet Under (one of my many favorite shows ever) in which Olivier Castro-Staahl, Claire's art teacher, brought up the opposed concepts of White Elephant Art and Termite Art. These ideas belong to Manny Farber (pictured), the film critic, and mean the following things according to facile internet definitions: White Elephant art destroys its meaning and creativity in pursuit of seriousness and acclaim (we have an English word for this: pretentious), whereas termite art burrows and eats away the boundaries of its genre as it goes forward, just eating and regurgitating wood fibers all crazy-style. Farber inscribes classic B movies in termite art, and laments that the institutionalization of the old B genres (sci-fi explosion epics, for instance) has turned termites into elephants. I just thought I might draw a little analogy here and say that White Elephant art is "L.A. Serious," the kind of films that seem to be reaching for an Oscar before they reach for meaning. Brokeback Mountain would perhaps fall into this category if its execution weren't so good much of the time - Ang Lee's terrible scene at the fireworks, for instance, is utterly White Elephant, and of course didn't occur in the story, which demonstrates the trademark concision and power of Termite Art (and is perhaps also embedded in a genre, the Western, that we don't ordinarily think of as serious). Pretty, pretty interesting.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Two Splendid Websites

Encyclopedia Obscura
No, this is not an H.P. Lovecraft fanfic clearinghouse, it’s the website of Norwegian aficionado of obscure and misbegotten old Nintendo games, cartoons and movies.  He’s a very funny writer (see his review of Korean martial-arts film Robo Vampire especially) and has unearthed some delightful Nintendo ephemera, including Kabuki Quantum Fighter, which I think I actually played in the late 80s.

A very, very similar but somewhat more encyclopedic website (oh, irony!), X-Entertainment covers the bizarre toys that we young males played with in the 80s.  So many of them seemed so natural, yet most of them bore the indelible marks of total weirdness, or at least were made and marketed by Japanese people.  The site restored to my memory such priceless jewels as Army Antz, Monster in my Pocket, and He-Man’s deadly enemy/grotesque freak of nature Modulok.  Again, the writers are surprisingly good and many of the articles caused me to snort loudly during a particularly boring episode of House.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Come Mr. Taliban

CHEERS to Harry Belafonte for being articulate and intelligent and letting our corrupt, misguided administration have it. Not that others have not said it before, but apparently the American people simply aren't listening.

JEERS to Wolf Blitzer for acting like a jerk-off in this interview with Harry Belafonte that I'm watching now.

Vampire Movie Review Roundup

Underworld Evolution
If you didn’t find Underworld unnecessarily confusing enough, you’ll love the sequel.  In it we get to meet Marcus, an unpleasant vampire elder who has wings for some reason and flies around impaling people with his wing-bones for basically the whole movie; he’s trying to rescue his brother William, who is a giant, crazy white werewolf who looks unfortunately like a giant, crazy sheepskin rug.  Back in the dark ages, it seems, Bill Nighy and his team of totally apeshit crazy vampire knights imprisoned William because his werewolf antics were becoming an embarrassment to the family (exactly like Ted Kennedy).  As per vampire LARP regulations, they had to lock the werewolf away in his gothy casket with a ridiculous amulet (the same ridiculous amulet from the first movie).  This leads to a lot of amulet-investigating, interrupted very frequently by extremely violent battles.
Perhaps fortunately the movie allows this plot relatively little screen time, wisely choosing to stick with awkward, bitey vampire sex, trucks driving into things, and Kate Beckinsale leaping off tall ledges and landing in her ridiculous Hot Topic boots.  Watch it for a surprisingly pornographic sex scene with Beckinsale and Felicity alum/insane blue monster Scott Speedman, followed by a delightful plot twist in which Beckinsale and Speedman search the vilest, most dilapidated highway maintenance garage in Romania for a vehicle and manage to come up with a dusty but serviceable 2005 Land Rover.  Also, some vampire who drives around on a giant black boat and is not explained until about forty minutes in.

Blade Trinity
     Classic vampire movie review action!  This is now on Starz On-Demand, which as many of you may know is my Harvard and my Yale.  Basically, this is the sad story of a quirky, interesting vampire movie starring Parker Posey (I know, right?) and Ryan Reynolds which is trapped inside a colossally stupid vampire movie starring Wesley Snipes (Jessica Biel is also in it, but she is neither funny nor stupid).  Also, Ryan Reynolds looks exactly like Matt Goldberg, if Matt Goldberg decided to put his capoeira skills to use fighting the thirsty dead.  Ryan Reynolds dispenses so many wisecracks that the balance of funny-to-embarrassing comes out in his favor, and Parker Posey is exactly what I would imagine a completely drunk and crazy vampire to be like.  She also sprints off-screen every time Wesley Snipes shows up, which seems wise.

Frank Rich Editorial
I don’t care what you say about Frank Rich, this editorial on truthiness (I’m linking to a blog that apparently copied it from the NYT website, it seems accurate) is pretty much rad/chilling.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Porkchopolis Now, ACTUAL Redux

In the first piece of goods news since evil Democrats made Sammy Alito's poor wife cry, www.magicbutter.com is now FREE. For those of you who have not attended college or at least have not spent hours in darkened rooms drinking gin and Surge in front of your computer, Magic Butter emerged from Bullseyeart.com and features once-popular cartoons like Miss Muffy and Rat Chicken and never-popular cartoons like Internet the Animated Series and Porkchops. For a while they offered these Flash shorts on a subscription basis, but now they are free. Go watch 'em and order some of their Basquiat-esque clothing.

News for Nerds

Roar (1997)
I stumbled across this on the Sci-Fi channel; it’s another one of these bad fantasy shows that SciFi has resurrected after their deserved first-season cancellations. Heath Ledger, surprisingly, stars as a polite and friendly Irish warchief circa 400AD. His older sidekick sports a handlebar moustache and looks more like a leather-daddy than Pictish warrior – they are all named things like Colm and Liam and I’ll be damned if I remember which one is which. It seems basically like a silly Xena knock-off, but is certainly an interesting piece of TV ephemera.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 – Avatar Tuners
Avatar Tuners is, of course, the secret bonus unnecessary subtitle for this most recent Megami Tensei outing. I played SMT:DDS1 but not all the way through; I found it kind of boring and monotonous, and also monstrously difficult, although in a rare twist I actually liked the story. About a fifth of the way through I returned it to Gamestop, which involved a shouting argument with a Russian immigrant and the manager which left me shaking with rage SO BAD that I had to move to England and marry into a wealthy family and kill a troubled actress before I even wanted to TALK about it.
Anyway, we’re talking about the sequel here. Every review I read said that the first game was not as good but you needed to play it in order to have the faintest idea what’s going on in this version. This is true if you are kind of slow or if you suffer from the vapors or aphasia. I chose just to enjoy the new plot as an in medias res beginning – it’s not too hard to pick up on, since it’s kind of a blend of the Matrix and most Megami Tensei games (although not as willfully dumb as the matrix). As usual for the series the world has ended, people have made deals with the devil, and your character is part demon, part waifish Japanese wisp. It doesn’t look to be as philosophically interesting as the opposed reasons in SMT: Nocturne (you got to pick between Struggle, Solitude, and Silence, so in retrospect they weren’t that interesting either). The fact that this tissue-thin story is winning my praise really says something about the general quality of RPG plots, but it is not something that hasn't been said frequently and inarticulately before.
The camera controls are a little stiff and there’s no way to shut off the clamorous, idiotic music, but they’ve brushed up the graphics, combat and character development systems and it looks like it’s going to be a whale of a game. The balancing also seems better. The game is wickedly hard for about the first five battles, but after that it settles – most battle require some thought and there’s definitely a possibility that ANY encounter could leave you dead, but that’s a nice change of pace from the ponderous or very easy systems of a lot of other PS2 games (Dragon Quest VIII and any final fantasy, for instance). Also, the battles generally resolve in less than a minute, which sounds like it would cause seizures, but is actually just perfect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A delightful New Yorker article on Battlestar Galactica, my new favorite show, which I praised in my blog literally WEEKs ago. It seems odd that girl reporter Nancy Franklin chooses to spend fully a third of the article talking about what Science Fiction is like as a genre (only to admit that the new Battlestar doesn't fit), but her descriptions of Starbuck and Doctor Baltar are absolutely dead-on, and perhaps her magazine legitimacy will convince those reluctant to watch a show about a giant spaceship and its problems with sexy robots. Also, NB, available on iPod video, for those of us who like to enjoy the series in a postage-stamp sized format.

Friday, January 13, 2006

"Let's escape on my barge!"

Kinds of Funny
Will Arnett and Amy Poehler both made it into New York magazine’s New Yorkers of the Year list – in the interview Arnett introduced the phrase “L.A. funny”, a phrase that he and Poehler use to mean just barely funny enough to be considered funny (as opposed to “New York funny,” actually funny). Learn it and use it, people!

Let me see, Casanova. This movie was one of two things:
  1. The Japanese made an irresponsibly allusive Playstation game about the life of Casanova, which then got picked up and made into a movie for some reason.

  2. Heath Ledger and his friends went on an unusually well-financed LARP set in 18th century Venice.
I really wanted to like this movie – anything transcendently stupid enough to try to be a Venetian court drama AND a ninja battle has to be at least worth watching. But it’s basically a modern romantic comedy with a bunch of brocade outfits, and it falls prey to all the stupidities inherent to the genre: pale characters, L.A. funny dialogue, convoluted yet inane plot, meaningless action sequences, and of course the central romances have absolutely no substance to them. Maybe watch it for Jeremy Irons' purple gloves, I can't think of any other reason.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dem HOV Fetus Exclusion Blues

Another fine zinger from Rafil Bonerston-Smith - just try breaking this news to Rosasharn, unless she is too busy symbolically suckling vagrants. GROSS-OUT!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Always Bet on Black

This is a swell movie and was also a swell movie years ago when it was Crimes and Misdemeanors. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is perfect as lucky Irish jerk Chris: his fleshy, saturnine face, tumbling speech and penetrating glare bubble up through his plucky tennis-pro persona and reveal the murderous voluptuary beneath. It’s hard to believe that he also played Gimli the perverted dwarf in Lord of the Rings. Emily Mortimer is delightful as his clueless GFF Chloe Hewett, Matthew Goode is note-perfect as her brother Tom Hewett, whose job is to be thin and jolly and handsome and have a wonderful time. Scarlett Johansson plays Nola Rice, who starts out on a delightfully subtle, vulnerable note before mega-morphing into a shrieking harpy, but she is always very good at acting and such. E. Hastings pointed out that Rice looks like she’s about to burst into tears whenever she’s discussing her acting non-career, although in real life Scarlett Johansson is a famous actress! Talk about movie magic! The movie’s central question, whether it is better to be lucky or good, is interesting although of course you don’t really get to choose that kind of thing; it also suffers a little from trademark Woody Allen intellectualism (i.e. Chris ostentatiously reads Dostoyevsky early on so we know he has depth). The direction and cinematography are invisibly assured and perfect (and reminds me why filmmakers rely on the small vocabulary of traditional pans, pushes, etc.), and the soundtrack is an amazing selection of famous, scratchy opera performances. All in all, this movie made me think it would be very nice to be an immensely wealthy person in England, and also that it is not nice to do murders. Recommended viewing for people who are trying to decide between these two options!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

He's a Hungry Fighter

Maybe the Best White Ninja Comic Ever.

Also, I'm upgrading my review of Battlestar Galactica from "pretty good" to "one of the best series I have ever seen." I would seriously rank it alongside Rome and maybe even Six Feet Under. It's ambiguous, intense, and makes me almost hysterical over the characters, who are now uniformly delightful (even Dr. Baltar and poor Number Six). I have rarely been as simultaneously happy and worried as I was this week when Commander Adama told Starbuck to shoot vile ol' Admiral Cain directly in the head. Superb television watchery. Even if you don't like sicence fiction, it's worth a shot, since it's very little about robots and lasers and much more about politics and people and dissapointment.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A One-Way Ticket to Palookaville

"I'll canary up, see - I'll finger the mooks who took the mazuma, but I don't wanna see the inside of the Big House, and if any of youse flatfoots try to put the flimflam on me, I'll ring your chimes, fella!"

Some More Reviews

I only caught the last half of this movie, on Stars, the Channel Where Movies Go to Die. I can’t believe that I haven’t already seen it and fixed it in the firmament of cinematic classics, and I also can’t believe that anyone actually made it. The premise is somewhere between Mean Girls and one of the less-loathsome Austin Powers movies – the eponymous D.E.B.S. are superspies-in-training at some kind of Department of Homeland Security superspy academy, which requires them to wear Catholic schoolgirl uniforms and wield enormous guns. Also, they are all attractive young women. Lest you think this movie offers too little to the randy male voyeur, the main plot tension turns out to be a lesbian romance between Amy, one of the D.E.B.S., and not-terribly-villainous supervillain Lucy Diamonds (played by the luminously beautiful Jordana Brewster). Some inspired montages and confidently snappy dialogue lift this from ethereally insubstantial fluff to delightful, enduring fluff.

Battlestar Galactica
I am talking here about the new, Sci-Fi channel remake (on DVD, as well, since I don’t really want to sit through half an hour of commercials for e-harmony.com). This is delightful middlebrow sci-fi at its absolute best, and the writers display a remarkably light, original touch. It’s more Larry Niven than Star Wars (although there are some messianic, mystical touches). The crew of the Galactica has to confront problems like water shortages and political maneuverings as often as they must fight the dastardly Cylons, and standard Star Trek deus ex machina weirdness is largely absent (no aliens or strange nebulae at all so far, in fact). The cast is large, capable and attractive (especially Starbuck, who is the kind of woman I find appealing but who invariably turns out to be gay), with Edward James Olmos standing out as Commander Adama. Unfortunately, the writers have blended in some extremely annoying elements: Ellen Tigh, the XO’s boozy wife (who would have worked much better as a solely comic note) and Doctor Baltar’s odious relationship with Cylon/neurotic figment Number Six. Baltar shows a frustratingly stymied gift for comic acting and I only hope that as the series progresses we will see more of him and less of Number Six, who is very pretty but also basically one-note, and it’s not a very interesting note at that. The pacing drags a little at times and they may be maintaining a few more plots than necessary (it certainly doesn’t compare to the blissful pacing and assurance of the multiple plots on Buffy). The Blade Runner-esque ongoing guessing game about who is or isn’t a Cylon is getting a little tedious, but all in all, it’s enjoyable to an almost obscene degree. Bully!

Dragon Quest VIII
A slime draws near! This game is very good, appallingly slow-moving, bright, thinly-plotted, and has few load times. The voiceovers are atypically good, and the game boasts a full orchestral soundtrack performed by the Tokyo symphony orchestra or something; I found, to my delight, that I could turn it off. When I want to listen to monstrously vulgar and pointless orchestral music, I will get some Mahler out of the public library. By around level 30 the battle system has become extremely tiring, yet I find myself yearning to keep playing. The highlight, for me, has been the taxing boss-battles, which actually force the player to make some tough decisions instead of sleepwalking through (kind of like every single battle in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, which is probably the best RPG ev-ar). There is also a current of peculiarly Japanese misogyny throughout (the one female playable character gets a bunny outfit as one of her best armors, and one of her unique powers is Sex Appeal). I found it embarrassing. The box proudly notes that it contains a playable demo of Final Fantasy XII. It was an unplayable mess, as far as I could tell, and although the opening movie was technically impressive, we REALLY don’t want another fucking story about Air Pirates and political tensions between two dumb kingdoms and giant robots and a female healer messiah figure, PLEASE.