Sunday, August 30, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

I’m a huge Tarantino fan. Been counting the days to Inglorious Basterds. Tarantino. A World War II Movie. Jews on the warpath. Nazis getting scalped. A plot to kill Hitler. All sounds good to me, especially given the recent slew of “Good German” movies. Interestingly, over the past month, I’ve run into a lot of Quentin backlash. A lot of conversations along the lines of, “He always just misses the mark,” or “Do you really think this is going to be good?” Huh? Whatever. Can’t concern myself with the thoughts of others. That said, finally got to see the film this weekend. Saturday night, 8 pm, nice size house and…wait for it…disappointment. I’ve got say, Basterds is a bit long in the tooth. Scenes that go on for way too long, conversations that lack tension, flabby editing. It’s a shame. The story itself is genius. The ending? Fantastic. Were there moments of brilliance? Absolutely. Tons of them scattered throughout. Acting? A-ok. But at the end of the day, any number of long-winded scenes going nowhere brought down the proceedings and derailed what could have and should have been an action-packed juggernaut. I don’t want to be too harsh, because I enjoyed a lot of the film, plus it was a pretty fun way to spend a Saturday night, and as I said, the film is filled with plenty of memorable bits. I’m not going to begrudge the guy too much. But unlike the Bear Jew, Quentin didn’t hit this one out of the park.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A New Golden Age of Sci-Fi?

A couple years back, there were a lot of think pieces on how we were entering a new golden age of television. That was fueled by a bumper crop of HBO programming (Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm), as well as some interesting strides on the network side of life. Just having watched District 9, which I loved, I’m wondering (and hoping) that we’re entering a new golden age of sci-fi. Two of my fave pics of the year would be the new Star Trek and District 9. Battlestar Galactica was the best show on tv over the past several years, and for all its cheeseball madness, I’m sucked into Lost. The 70s offered up some great sci-fi (Demon Seed, Andromeda Strain), but with a handful of exceptions, as the 80s and 90s wore on, I kind of felt that sci-fi devolved into nothing more than action films in space. The content was sucked dry and there was very little reflection on modern day problems as seen through the lens of the future. District 9 firmly has it foot planted on this latter path and it’s the number one picture in America. It’s a strange film to be in that spot. And that makes me happy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In The Style Of...

Several weeks back, I blogged about photographer Edward Burtynsky. This week, while vacationing in Northern California, I snapped several photos that, I daresay, seem inspired by his work. Here they are. Some silt floating on the waters of Lake Britton. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer On The Couch

First run movies, dvds, tv shows, oh my. It’s the vacation that keeps on giving.

Joan Rivers Comedy Roast. I don’t think I’ve watched any of these roasts on Comedy Central. I was actually looking forward to this one, being a fan of Joan Rivers. The weird thing is, if you didn’t know anything about Joan Rivers before the show, all you would know after the show is that she has had a lot of plastic surgery and that she has a dried out pussy. Honestly, it was 90 wall-to-wall minutes of plastic surgery and dried out pussy jokes. Were they funny jokes? Yes, but after 90 minutes, you want a little something more.

Funny People. Judd Apatow’s movie career has been a bit hit or miss for my likes. But I got to say I thought this movie was awesome. Funny, melancholy, crass, and dare I say it, mature. Adam Sandler plays the lonely famous guy with a life full of regrets and Seth Rogen is the up-and-coming sidekick filled with wonder and awe of the world opening up around him. Both are fantastic and Rogen, whose face and shtick I’m getting sick of, took his game up a notch and started to show some range.

G Force. Ok, let’s be frank. This wasn’t great. BUT, as far as kids movies go, it wasn’t a great action movie, as opposed to not being a great comedy. In other words, its transgressions were of a slightly different variety from the usual kid fare, which made it more tolerable than if it were a mediocre comedy. Does that make any sense? And I will say it was nice to take my son to a g-rated action movie. He dug the explosions and pyrotechnics. So that was cool.

Into Thin Air. Like I mentioned in my last post, I really dug this movie. Alexander Supertramp comes across much more sympathetic than in the book, his motivations firmly spurred on by his dysfunctional family. The film is beautifully shot and really captures Supertramp’s love of nature. Sean Penn gets big points for how well the film is adapted and structured. There are lots of stories in the book and Penn does a great job weaving them all together to make a cohesive, impactful film. It’s a great companion piece to the book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Reading

Don’t you love it when all the books you read are awesome? That’s the book-zone I’ve been in lately. Maybe it has something to do with being a teacher and being on summer vacation. As a teacher, this is the first year I’ve taken the entire summer off. I haven’t worked any odd-jobs and haven’t been embroiled in any personal projects (well a little of that, but not much). In other words, I’ve gone on vacation, slept late, ate well, and read. So here’s a brief round up. In keeping with a summer vacation state of mind, a couple of sentences at most. I mean why struggle over whole paragraphs when school’s not in session?

Queenpin by Megan Abbott. I was raving about her second novel, The Song Is You several weeks back. Her latest is Queenpin and it ups the ante in a huge way. Bristling with lust and crime, it’s the dirtiest, sexiest noir I've read since The Postman Always Rings Twice. Check it out immediately.

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. This was an impulse purchase in the airport in Sydney, found in the “Australiana” section. Read it on the plane ride home. Mysterious disappearances at a girls boarding school in the Outback. Formal, studied, creepy. Loved it. I’ve never seen the movie, but I hear it’s good.

Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen. Love Carl Hiaasen. Can’t believe I haven’t written about him yet on this blog. Former Miami crime reporter turned novelist. Biting social critiques of the Miami politico and real estate world. Forever bemoaning the loss of his beloved Everglades to ruthless real estate developers in bed with state and county politicians. In a sense all his books are kind of the same, but they all ring strong with grand satire. If you like Terry Southern, you have to read Hiaasen. Native Tongue involves a 70 year old grandma, extremist environmental activist, some bumbling, two-bit burglars and a corrupt theme park. Skink, the rogue former ex-governor living in the Glades surviving on road kill, gets involved as well.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. A great, if not creepy read. A young idealist tries to survive in the wild and things don’t work out to well. I loved the idealism but still found Alexander Supertramp unsympathetic and it all made me sad. The movie, which I just watched is great and makes Supertramp a lot more sympathetic than in the book. Though I imagine people’s reactions to Supertramp in the book really range. Curious as to what other’s thought.

Man In the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick. Got 20 PK Dick novels on the shelf, yet somehow have never read this one, considered one of his best. As always, he rules. What if the Nazis and Japanese won the war? Filled with sadness, longing, religion, spirituality, and the importance of artistic expression. Isn’t there a British film from the 60s with the same premise? I know there is. Name escapes me.