Wednesday, June 28, 2006

But I was there.

Remedial cooking tip: Butter and rice should never be mixed in excess. Villain and victim was I...

Here's a movie I saw:

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? (D: Pedro Almodovar, 1984; mit spoilers)
Woman leads miserable life, one which will only permit two modes of existence: labor within a domestic setting (populated by a loutish husband with pretensions towards sophistication, a mother-in-law both vaguely ethereal and axiomatically disapproving, and two sons - a drug dealer, age 14, and a student, age 12 or thereabouts, who already leads an active social life with various older men) and labor within a professional setting (cleaning lady - and, yes, within that role, we, impressionable audience members, are allowed a view of her primarily in a submissive state, i.e. on all fours, scrubbin' away). And really that's it - how will our charmingly amoral lower middle-class hausfrau find some contentment whilst evading such wacky slings and arrows as her own addiction to caffeine pills, the fact that she's sold her son to the dentist, the gas bill, etc.? Even so, the film still has room for various subplots, each involving a fairly improbable supporting cast (the scheming writer and his generally unpleasant wife; the all-around amiable prostitute who lives next door; the impotent detective who's less a character and more a running motif ), but, without fail, these narrative branches trail off into resolutions inconsequential and mild. The overall sense is of Almodovar spinning his wheels and giving all those presumed auteurist preoccupations a good airing out - target practice before a bigger, more "important" work; I'll need to see that wholly hypothetical movie too before I can imitate Andrew Sarris with some authority and think upon this ultimately delightful series of gestures in a movie's disguise as a "transitional work". Also, there's a telekinetic little girl for no real reason, which counts as a bit of goodwill I simply can't ignore.

ALSO: Christopher Butcher, who I'm guessing will soon merit a place on my side bar, really liked SUPERMAN RETURNS. Which means you very well could too.

ADDENDUM! (6/29/06):

Cuteness/kitsch in relation to mid-twentieth century fascism, contra and pro. Discuss.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The angels wanna wear my red shoes. Really, they do...

...if by angels, I mean the cashier at CD Exchange and another at Walgreen's.

Today I made what I consider to be my first completely successful foray into the culinary arts. Mind you, the meal was a minor dish - steak and fideo - which I imagine others would condescend toward, but every wee victory counts, no matter how mundane. But really - the fideo was properly burnt (people who play it safe with this pasta have no business dealing with it), the tomato sauce precisely measured, and the steak thoroughly brown but not overcooked. I'm genuinely enthused to say I can classify it as "edible", even without an excess of lemon pepper (which has covered my ass on so many occasions...). And now, I offer some

Notes Of Interest:

-Carl Orff's Gassenhauer, which you may recognize as a good luck charm heard in the first feature films of various directors (see BADLANDS (D: Terence Malick), RATCATCHER (D: Lynne Ramsey; notably used in a scene where a wee mouse named Snowball makes a voyage to the moon) and ME, YOU, AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (D: Miranda July; a film I've yet to see - sorry Becca!), has been made downloadable by the good people at Aurgasm. I'm fairly certain it resides within the hallowed halls of public domain, so no guilt allowed.

- As Ninth Art makes its abrupt transition from lively weekly webzine to moribund archive, Paul O'Brien offers, with his final Article 10 essay, a note on the future of superheroes: "Doom!" Of course he does it with less melodrama and more trademark dry exasperation, but I imagine you knew that...

-The new Haruki Murakami book, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (I think I've seen this movie - it was a 1948 Kenji Mizoguchi melodrama, wasn't it?), will hit foreign, yet Americanage-speaking, shores early next month. Predictably, it's already racked up its first hossanah, with perhaps more soon to follow. We Americans, perhaps due to our legendary ugliness, must wait till the end of August before we're exposed to Murakami's metaphoric glosses on wells and the inevitable scene where someone finds him or herself within another person's dream.

All-Star Superman #4 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely - Jimmy Olsen gets a psychedelic coat! I want a psychedelic coat too! But more like Shade, the Changing Man!
Astonishing X-Men #15 by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday - Where Cassandra Nova makes fun of Beast for still being blue. But, hey screw you, Cassandra, he hasn't yet devolved into a worm!
52 #7 by Oh Dear Lord I'm Not Typing In All Those Names and probably Joe Bennett - Which promises to mix storytelling audacity with characters who'll probably frown the entire time while wearing, in hi-larious contrast, gaudy outfits! Oh, and maybe Booster Gold'll die.
Casanova #1 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba - Which may also involve a psychedelic coat!
Can't Get No by Rich Veitch - Even though it doesn't involve Swamp Thing meeting Jesus Christ, I might get this!

-Reviews of FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (wherein Joel McCrea goes and shows a Europe In Crisis how real reportin's done) and Scott Pilgrim And The Infinite Sadness (wherein the eponymous figure deals with infinite sadness, maybe?) await future readers of this site. As for when, I dunno - soon probably....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Because, clearly, there is no such thing as overexposure when it comes to the Dave McKean design aesthetic.

See here. Will it collapse under it's own mannerisms? Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

“Living dead are in the place! And they’re completely amazed! By the sound and the flashlights!”


DARK PASSAGE (D: Delmer Daves, 1947) – (Spoilers, probably) Wherein Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall get involved in CONFLICT whilst engaging each other in chemistry honed by Howard Hawks and trademarked by Jack Warner. Or, more specifically (plot-wise), the film concerns an escaped convict (Bogie), sentenced (presumably for life) to San Quentin on a bum rap, who finds himself aided and abetted by a creature of compassion (Miss Bacall), with various hi-jinx ensuing from there (some of which involve Agnes Moorehead).

The film can probably be divided into three sections, the first of which might be termed identification (“bravura” (and, yes, it is) sequence where the misc en scene is dictated almost entirely by Bogart’s physical POV (as seen less successfully executed in LADY IN THE LAKE, SUZHOU RIVER and in Earth 2’s HEART OF DARKNESS (D: ORSON WELLES, 1939)). Here we follow Bogie and his very visible hands from prison sewer pipe to car to luxury apartment, et al. The most salient pleasure of this sequence (outside of the “launch-a-thousand-ships” image of Bacall) is the rogue’s gallery of character actors who show up as support – the lonesome cabbie, the vulnerable and likable pal, the backdoor plastic surgeon (check out that face!) – each delivering in such a way as to turn their respective scenes into set pieces worthy of study in fine acting schools across the land.

After about 40 minutes of not seeing Bogart’s face, we move onto the next section – immobilization – where the direction abruptly changes to the more comfortable realm of proscenium arch and the camera is relegated to the third person. And still, not a glimpse of Bogart’s face, his visage now covered in bandages as he recovers from having his face remodeled; the only thing we are allowed are the eyes, which portray an emotion somewhat foreign to his established persona – vulnerability (bit player Bogie, though…check out THE ROARING TWENTIES and watch’im squirm) - which becomes the dominant key he’ll play throughout the rest of the movie. Midway through this sequence we’re confronted by the appearance of Agnes Moorehead (her performance pretty much one long essay on “the banality of evil” – emphasis on “banality”) and a blandly handsome block of wood who goes by the name “Bob” (the status quo flipside to the workaday figures seen in the first sequence – upper middle-class fellow with virtually no presence or particular business being in a movie; the audience’s eyes can’t help but slide off him).

And finally- resolution; Bogart exposed (hey, he looks like a movie star!) and reborn in a suitably Campbellian “rebirth of the hero” fashion. A series of plot mechanisms set into place throughout the film each performs their coglike function and we reach the climax – as my own preoccupations lie far away from the concerns of actual story, I feel I can elide this section. Feel free to read this as a cop-out. The one particularly unique aspect of the final act is Moorehead’s performance as the heavy – she’s pretty much a less grandiose Iago, just as pitiful but more instinctive, Her shrill villainy is the product of someone who knows she’s ended up a supporting character in her own life story. It can be read as ironic that the one thing she may get genuine credit for is her own end – and thus she achieves a ridiculous yet honest victory.

TOP 10: THE FORTY-NINERS by Alan Moore and Gene Ha – Alan Moore’s tale of one city during a transitional period (a phrase which could easily be interpreted as “the best of times…the worst of times”) illustrated with a meticulous amount of pseudo-accuracy by Gene Ha. THE HOOK (IN MY OWN WORDS): “Let’s imagine a metropolis whose citizens comprise figures borne from the fringes of popular culture – pulp and superheros, dastardly villains, figures from comic strips and folklore…. How delightful it would be to see how these hitherto foreign concepts would ping-pong off each other and the wonderful plots that may arise!” THE CONTENT (IN MY OWN WORDS): “It’s 1949 and America, having weathered the tempests that defined the previous two decades, has finally found its identity. But what of the extraordinary figures who arose when needed and put themselves on the forefront of those conflicts? Where are they to go when they have been made redundant – the men and women of (and occasionally from) tomorrow who find that the abstract ideal toward which they strove is now concrete and, what more, has no need for them? Thus, the setting of our tale – Neopolis. Watch the newly born community as it attempts to set down the foundation stone upon which it may one day thrive; follow the day-to-day dramas – the travails and the victories - of the altogether uncommon figures, doomed to become the subject of myth, who make it their home.” IDEA BORNE FROM THE EXECUTION: Seeing Gene Ha’s art, which manages the extraordinary feat of shifting between photorealistic intimacy and McKay-esque whimsical distance, often within a single frame, I had a spark - Alan Moore should conduct a grand experimental narrative with Ha. My “grand experimental narrative” would basically be Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME in comic-book form – one long, silent, narrative which consists of various smaller diverse narratives intersecting throughout his tale. Every panel would consist of at least two (out of perhaps a half-dozen) stories told simultaneously* - WATCHMEN, with the scores of recurring characters, was already half-way there (if we continue our film parallel we’d say it stands as more akin to Altman than Tati) but this would basically be character-driven and intimate, with less emphasis on sprawl. If Moore needs a direct purpose and a message to deliver (which I suspect is the case), let us state is as a “...showcase for a god's eye view of the world, where every gesture, from the lifting of a suitcase to the wiping of a tear from a newly bloodshot eye, is rendered equal.” Or something.

THE MAGICIAN’S DOUBTS: NABOKOV AND THE RISKS OF FICTION by Michael Wood – Which I’ve been infatuated with for a few years now and scored at an Half-Price Books for five bucks earlier this week. I’ve yet to read the entire book, but I do feel compelled to advertise my ownership. Wood is a joy to read, tossing off little epiphanies within an elliptical prose style – he’s not too far from the epic critical essays/prose poems of Geoffrey O’Brien or Roberto Calasso. I haven’t the time to explicate the whole of Wood’s keen observations, but one that sticks in memory is his dissection of the scene, late in BEND SINISTER, where Krug awaits the arrival of his son. It may be one of the greatest scenes that Nabokov has written (Wood can’t help but imply that the majority of the book is simply a well-written, yet minor, preamble for this scene) and Wood delivers a fantastic analysis of how Nabokov pulls it off.

WONDER WOMAN #1 by Allan Heinberg, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson – Which is good. Trad superheroics played out w/ grace (including what would seem to be a nod (subconscious or no) to Morrison’s stunderful opening to ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #1, but with dialogue, alas) and sans any of the stumbling blocks that one would expect from a title that resulted from DC’s earth-shattering (literally, so I hear) hullabaloo of the last year or so. In lieu of a plot summarization, I’ll provide a few enticing and enigmatic details: three Wonder Women? multiple identities? cheetah people?

AND I THINK I’LL END THIS POST WITH A BIT OF INDULGENCE: Gosh, the latest DAT Politics album, “Wow Twist,” is neat. Last I heard (Tracto Flirt) they were an 8-bit Autechre and since then seem to be have come under the influence of the gospel of Devolution. And The Plastics. And helium (lowercase). A free and legit download can be found in Perpetua’s AP column for the next few days. And maybe you should check their Myspace page – further amusement may lurk there.

* I doubt this idea is original with me, but regardless - Ha’s art could serve as a platform for so many possibilities within such a format.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Doesn't bode well for further original content, does it?

The estimable Fluxblog has posted an interview with Bryan Lee O'Malley, author of the superb comic series Scott Pilgrim (the third volume of which will soon be reviewed on this site - feel free to percieve the enthusiasm of this post as extending to said review). An added bonus to the interview is the selection of downloads included within (as is routine on Fluxblog), including the long out of print "Scott Pilgrim" by Plumtree, the wellspring from which O'Malley's bread and butter, um, sprung. It's an ebullient piece of pop which, unsurprisingly, matches the overall tone of the series - a sugar rush that, brilliantly and illogically, manages to constitute a full meal. I'm certain I've used up my credit with regard to both parentheses and metaphors with this post.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Me = geeky. Expect more of this in future posts.

Oh Darn

Sunday, June 04, 2006

This really happened

EXT. - SUNSET: Reasonably upscale neighborhood, shopping district.

A YOUNG MAN, mid-twenties, walks down a sidewalk; his dress is modest, his manner unassuming, and his gait swift and homeward bound. Outside of both his visual and auditory focus, there is a shout.


The YOUNG MAN takes no heed - a course of action that's proven wise w/r/t similar situations in the past - typically these involve the shouter's dislike of homosexuals and a mistaken presumption of the YOUNG MAN's sexuality.

And once more -


And thus, perhaps irrationally, his head is turned - in his sight are TWO WOMEN in a gray truck at a stoplight. Both seem to be physically appealling from a vantage point of twenty to thirty feet - one, the shouter and driver, has short hair and appears to be of Anglo descent; the other has significantly longer hair and is likely, judging from his POV, Hispanic. They are both a few years older than our fellow; from his sight he'd judge them to be between the ages of 30 and 35. Our fellow responds, his tone hesitant.

YOUNG MAN: Uh...yeah?



YOUNG MAN (thrown for a loop -wouldn't you?): What?


YOUNG MAN: thank you! I'm fine!


YOUNG MAN: Good night!

The stoplight, signalling the end of this vignette, turns green. The gray truck WOMEN drive off, as expected, and our YOUNG MAN is left perplexed. If we are allowed to guess at his further actions, we'd say he will walk home and ponder this odd encounter for the next few hours. However, regardless of our ruminations, the scene will still FADE TO BLACK after the truck has left our sight and the camera has given us a brief glimpse of the YOUNG MAN's face as it registers confusion - his eyes a bit wider and mouth just slightly agape.