Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good and Bad Yinzers

State of Play opened this weekend, and since there isn't too much else out there I went to see it. It was okay, I liked it. I would recommend others see it, but I wouldn't tell someone to rush out to see it. The cast was great in some respects, just okay in others. The storyline was fun, but I kept waiting for Jack Bauer to rush out and shoot someone. Ben Affleck was okay. Rachel McAdams okay. Russell Crowe better. Helen Mirren... always love her, she is great. 

As a side note and as someone who grew up in Pennsylvania, I liked that they made the friendship from PA days...Crowe is the "Yinzer" is someone from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has this weird vernacular where folks say "yinz" instead of "y'all" or some other form of that like maybe..."yous guys"? So, when you say, "What are yinz up to this weekend"...it is like asking "What are you guys doing this weekend?" Since it is pretty much the only place that they say it in the U.S., a Yinzer is someone from Pittsburgh. Also Crowe calls Ben Afleck's character  "Liberty" the whole time, which is a small town outside of Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County. Even better? Crowe has Steelers gear all over the place. I know this is based on a British TV show, so I'd like to figure out where the relationship is from from that show. I wonder if it is comparable.

Monday, April 20, 2009

L-O-S-T, Season 5, Episode 13 ("Some Like it Hoth")

Doc Jensen's teaser article is here; his review is here; and Totally Lost is here.


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I started the discussion on Friday 4/17:

I can't believe we didn't talk about this, this week! What did you guys think? So one of the new guys who landed nabbed Miles earlier. What lies in the shadow of the statue? Doesn't that sound like some bad line from a Chevy Chase movie gone awry?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Signs Meets Some Numbers

Knowing could have been so much better. My friend Jay says that it is Christian allegory, but I don't see that side of it. I really don't. I think that there is nothing allegorical about it. It is straight-on, a question of faith from what I saw. My brother said it sucked. I was just annoyed by the ending, really but didn't mind most of the rest of the flick. First of all, Ebert gave this four stars and seems to be truly impacted by the roll of the dice vs determinism question. Ebert also gave Signs four stars but seemed to revel more in the idea of the fear being built at that time, along with the anti-payoff, than he did in the issue of faith that the movie brought out for me. To me these are the same movie really with different endings. 

To me, Signs is a much better film. While the Aliens come and there are crop circles (let's face it, that part is a little ludicrous), we see how the faith of one man becomes restored based on a prognostication by his dying wife that the former Preacher has to recognize, thereby getting his life back. Here, with Knowing, we have a Minister's son who after his wife dies, thinks that "Shit Happens" and there is no pre-ordained determination of how things happen and comes to believe only through some preprinted numbers on a sheet of paper that indicate to him that God has a very specific plan. Oh yeah, and there are Aliens who just happend to have gotten God's memo and nab some kids to prepopulate another world with Earth's children. We didn't see any pre-existing colonies like we did at the season finale of Battlestar Gallactica though. (I'm just saying.) 

So the payoff for Mel Gibson's character is that he gets his mind and his family back and get's to see the world through eyes of faith. The payoff for Cage's character is that his kid survives, he hopes, and then he burns to a crisp. And Ebert says that Signs didn't pay off? 

Lastly, I'm not buying that you either A) think that there is determinism or B) think that things are accidental. I lie somewhere in the middle, personally. Just because I might believe in God, doesn't mean I think that fate and plan are tied irrevocably to that belief in God. But, that is another story. 

Empathy is Universal

Tom and I went to see Good Bye Solo this weekend, a film by Ramin Bahrani. Roger Ebert gave it four stars and calls Bahrani the "new Great American director."Red West and Souleymane Sy Savane play the two title characters. I didn't know it at the time but Red West was a longtime Elvis bodyguard, apparently, who fell out of favor when he busted up a drug dealer's visit to The King. I'm just going to talk about what happens in the movie so don't read unless you want to know what happens. If you're planning to see it and don't want any spoilers, don't read on.

The story centers around two unlikely friends. The first is a Winston-Salem taxi driver, nicknamed Solo who is one of those guys who has a million friends (suprisingly to me as it is set in Winston-Salem, from all different cultures) and a bunch of sidelines he dabbles in. Solo picks up character #2, William, a depressed older man who enjoys going to the movies but who we find out in the first scene who wants to go to the mountains, offering to pay $1000 and have the cab drop him off on October 20th, and just leave him there.

The unspoken (throughout the whole movie) suicide plan of a passenger he doesn't know prompts Solo, the Sengalese taxi driver, to try to give William a glimpse of his own life, thereby giving William a sense of hope. He takes him out drinking trying to remind William of comraderie and talks to him of women. He takes William home to his own house to meet his wife and Stepdaughter, Alex, who plays a pivotal role in highlighting the role of parenthood in each man's life. Solo is devoted to his stepdaughter and his unborn baby with his Mexican wife Qiera. Whereas, we find out William has a daughter somewhere who he fell out of contact with and spends his nights going to the movies to see his grandson who sells tickets at the ticketcounter to see, the relationship unknown to the teen. 

Much of William's character is deeper than we see-he is a closed book. We don't see what has lead him to this point, we only see the man who has determined his own fate and the anger he feels toward Solo for trying to bring him back to the land of the living by connecting their lives. Solo is an open, and friendly book, finding empathy for the man who wants to end his own life and trying to figure out the reason so he can help fix whatever problem Williams has. At the same time, we see Solo pursuing his own life and dreams... in his search to become a flight attendant, in his relationship with his wife and stepdaughter. In his friendships, with people all around the city from the janitor at the hotel where William stays to the friends of all ethnicities he plays soccer with he is contrasted with William who is seemingly alone and with no one.

Yet at the end of the movie, Solo seems to accept that William is going to do what he wants to do and in friendship decides to be there for him til the end. At the same time, he somehow resolves to not end up like William and insists on his stepdaughter accompanying him to take William to the mountains.

It is a beautifully film, not necessarily cinematically, though each shot has its purpose, but in that  it leaves you thinking and caring about the characters...Roger Ebert, in his review, says:

A film like this makes me wonder if we are coming to the end of the facile, snarky indie films. We live in desperate times. We are ready to respond to films that ask that question. How do you live in this world?

But I disagree. I think that everyone has a point of view. Just because your point of view is snarky doesn't mean it is any less relevant and most of the so-called "snarky" films I see often have a deeper underlayer that seek to find a "how do you live in this world?" kind of qustion though often in an agreed-snarky way that make them good. I did like this but walking out, when my friend says "What was the point?" just makes me like it more.  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

L-O-S-T, Season 5, Episode 12 ("Dead is Dead")

EW stuff is up: Teaser (here); Review (here); Totally Lost (here).
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NIEL started us off this week:

John Locke: So how did it go down there?
Ben: It let me live, I have a small favor to ask of you exalted one. Could we stop by my old house, I need a change of pants.

WOW, that was the best episode of the season last night, but it went by so fast. So what happened to the whole "If I take him he will not remember anything" or is it he just will not remember being shot by the crazy Iraqi terrorist in the jungle? And we see Ben shows his soft side, he won't kill Danille, the baby or Penny. But Caesar, yeah he had it coming acting all big and bad and he is the leader, blah blah. The smoke monster and the Anubis the four toed statue, Widmore was banished for sneaking off and having a child off island. And finally Locke is old Locke again and not a sniveling pansy.

Oh yeah, "what lies in the shadow of the statue" ?

Great episode.
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KELLY responded with some good tidbits she found on Lostpedia:

....interesting translations of the hieroglyphics
Ben's secret door

Roughly translated, then, they appear to read "to summon protection...".

AND

The boarding pass featured on ajirairways.com has hieroglyphs in semi-transparency in the corners and along the top and bottom which producer Damon Lindelof translated to mean "underworld".

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wheel of Time! Final Trilogy Announced

So, TOR has announced that the final trilogy is going to be released for the Wheel of Time Series. The first of the final trilogy and the 12th book in the Wheel of Time is called The Gathering Storm and will be released November 3rd, 2009. Amazon has the audio release listed but not the book yet that I can find... I'm sure it will be up there soon.

Brandon Sanderson is doing the final series after the passing of Robert Jordan. He has been working with the family who took notes on Robert Jordan's vision for the finale of the book.

Crossing my fingers that Brandon and a view of the end of the series will breath life into it.

French Class

So, I saw this movie this morning at Talk Cinema by Olivier Assayas called The Summer Hours or en francais, L'Heure d'Ete, starring Juliette Binoche among others.  Apparently, IMDB says that the French Press calls her "La Binoche" affectionately. I've been a fan of hers since The Horseman on the Roof. I liked it. It wasn't great and probably won't win any awards but it was a nice film. Anyway, a family meeting for their mother's 75th birthday are the heirs of a former French painter who had a great impact on all their lives though the 3 kids (including Binoche) barely remember him. When their mother dies, they are tasked to decide what to do with the legacy their mother has maintained of her uncle's art collection. Much of the collection ends at the Musee D'Orsay (which is an amazing museum and if you haven't been in Paris, I just love--built in an old Train Station.) 

There are some weird family secrets and some problems that they have but the artistic aristrocracy is closing its doors for practical matters (at least partially for this family)... presumably Binoche's character still uses her artistic side to move in those circles. It is a touching look at the way practical objects affect the past and present for families and a nice honest look at the characters. The eldest brother who sort of is the "boring" one (and economist) who has remained behind in Paris while his sibs have moved on to China and America, is the one who really carries this movie though. His sentimental side balanced with his practical side make him the silent hero in the family even though the art of his great Uncle are what his mother held up as heroic. Also, with the end of the Artistic Aristocracy, there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle) tie-ins to Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. You'd see them if you know the play.

The cinematography was great though, and after the movie, Michael Phillips commented that it was done by Eric Gautier, who also was the director of photography on Into the Wild and it shows. Just a nice movie, a little serious so don't see if you're looking for a romp.

Great Soundtrack, Fun Flick

Saw Adventureland on Saturday starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart. Fun movie, captures that indecisive angst about what to do when you grow up when you're just finishing college. Do you go to grad school? Do you try to get a job in corporate America? Do you get a crappy job in your hometown and work until the next step starts. Jesse Eisenberg's character, James, just happens to do the in-between thing and gets a "Games" job at the local amusement park, presumably Kennywood but there are Adventurelands all around the country so really could have been anywhere. I really like the character played by Martin Starr, Joel- the Russian literature fan who embraces his geekiness with gusto but is probably the coolest person in the movie. I've liked that kid since he was Bill Haverchuck in Freaks and Geeks as a friend of the little brother.

The soundtrack to this movie was EXCELLENT... Yo La Tengo did the music and did a nice job with it. I'm really looking forward to seeing them at Pitchfork this summer.

As a sidenote, I'm personally partial to Knoebel's Grove... if you're ever caught in Central PA in the summer... it comes highly recommended.

Friday, April 3, 2009

L-O-S-T, Season 5, Episode 11 ("Whatever Happened, Happened")

There are Doc Jensen's Teaser Article (here), his Review (here) and Totally Lost (here).

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I started out this week's discussion:

So, what did you y'all think?

I thought it didn't advance us too much, but I liked the episode. I loved the Hurley/Milo Banter. Loved Jack acting like a spoiled brat... in effect taking his ball and leaving the game because he doesn't get to be captain. Loved Sawyer when he was hearing about Clementine.

Kate, who typically annoys the bejesus out of me was good last night. I liked seeing the maternal side... she stopped being selfish and let Aaron go. She took care of Ben even though he was psycho. I like that it is Sawyer's ex who talks sense into her.

Best of all... Richard Alpert taking Ben into the Temple. I can't wait to find out what's in there... Queen of the Damned? (sorry for those of you who haven't read Anne Rice)...

Best comment? From Roger "That guy doesn't ever ask a question he doesn't already know the answer to." (Sawyer goes from dimwit/hot con man to being THE Man)