December 6, 2011

on crying at the multiplex & apes destroying shit

I don't go to the multiplex as much as I once did, which is why I think I often end up crying when I do. My tolerance is low. I get played like a violin, manipulated with each third reel soundtrack swell until, for some reason, there's a tear on my cheek. And sometimes before. I'm not opposed to loss of physical control in popular entertainment, generally speaking, but even disregarding 3D or Smellovision or whatever, Hollywood--at some point--figured out how to trigger some reaction in my brain to actually cause my nervous system and body to generate the occasional real, literal tear. Maybe I'm too sensitive, or just that I'm in my 30s, and ready for the tar pits. My friends report the same thing happening to them. One, an early adopter, stopped going to the movies altogether around 10 years ago, maybe longer. (We're talking new Hollywood fare, rarely art-house or old stuff or documentaries.)

Which is why the absolute hands-down best Hollywood movie I've seen in the past year and possibly the second best movie ever by these standards is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There was maybe a taste too much dialogue, but on the whole it struck a perfect balance of exposition and apes destroying shit. Namely the trappings of modern society. They didn't make me try to cry once. (Well, now that I think back, they probably did, but the destruction or imminence of more destruction outweighed it easily.)

Since then, it's become a barometer. We've made it out to the big city for movies a few times this season and, by contrast, J. Edgar was all exposition and no ape destruction. Meh. The Muppets? No literal apes (though very close) and lots of tear-jerks, but enough joyful and triumphant chaos to move things along nicely.

The bigger societal lesson might be that joyful, triumphant chaos is what we all really want, at least those of us who cry involuntarily at movies. It's escapism in neurological reaction only, that moment of high giddiness. There are probably lots of movies that play with that rhythm of exposition and chaos, but those are textures, not genres, and it's maybe a bit hard to decode in advance what movies will satisfy the urge for that particular rush.

The purest form of this that I've ever seen, I think, far pre-dates Hollywood's current tear squadrons: the first installment in the Rambo movies, First Blood. I'd managed to avoid seeing it until one night after a George W. Bush State of the Union address, and--on that particular evening--it seemed like the greatest piece of cinema ever conceived. I haven't watched it since, but--by those standards--it's probably still true.

July 7, 2008

running at the sunshine

Running at the Sunshine is a 2002-2003 collaboration between composer Matthew Van Brink, choreographer Judith Chaffee, and myself. It's based on the Sunshine Motel, the last remaining flophouse on the Bowery. I'd often walk by en route from the Bowery Ballroom to San Loco and imagine life within. (Recently a cube of white light was built on the formerly vacant lot next door.)

Matt posted a video of Sunshine's debut performance at the Huntington Theater at Boston University on February 20, 2003:

Running at the Sunshine from matt van brink on Vimeo.

(Audio recordings available here.)

June 2, 2008

moving entertainments

New Music Tapes video:

Well, here's a hearty WTF?:

The Day There Was No News:

Whoa, there was a Z-Rock Hawaii video (Ween + Eye from the Boredoms):

Wait for it...:

David Lynch makes a 55-second short with an original Lumiere camera:

April 29, 2008

moving entertainments

Charlie Rose interviews Charlie Rose:

Dude plays pretty music on glasses:

Yo La Tengo give M. Ward & Zooey Deschanel a little bit of that YLT feeling:

Snoop & Willie:

Not only do I think that it's okay that Joe Smith talked back at heckling fans in Chicago, I think it's kinda awesome. What's the matter with ballplayers breaking the fourth wall (give or take, oh, jumping into the stands and beating up a handicapped guy, as Ty Cobb once did)?

Yes, Billy, this is a goddamn:

You watched Prince cover "Creep" when Pitchfork posted it, now watch it again:

April 1, 2008

moving entertainments

Trippy '60s filmmaking #1, Arthur Lipsett, via Digaman:

A Goofy Music reedited into David Lynchisms, via SoS:

Near-psychedelic bluegrass, via Deadwood:

Ween jam (a little bit of) "Dark Star":

'cause it's still funny:

March 10, 2008

chop shop

Every Mets fan should see Chop Shop, which is at the Film Forum until Tuesday, and hopefully other art houses in other cities at other times. Though leads Alejandro Polanco and Isamar Gonzales are a bit melodramatic in places as adolescent brother and 16-year old sister Ale and Isamar, it's still a valuable evocation of life in Willets Point, the scrapyard neighborhood bordering Shea Stadium. New Yorkers are long used to seeing movies set in the boroughs, but Willets Point -- whose streets aren't paved -- might as well be another planet, even compared to projects and tenements and other slums.

Chop Shop has most often been compared to City of God, and that's probably fair, both plots grown wholly from geographic/economic circumstances -- in this case, Ale's dream to open a food cart. There is little interaction between the neighborhood and the ballpark, but the economic chasm is constantly on display, the stadium lights sometimes seeming like alien backdrops. There is also, of course, quiet transcendence and something like authentic human life. With the construction of CitiField comes a looming threat of gentrification and Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to have the area leveled/redeveloped. Chop Shop is a world that might soon be destroyed.

March 3, 2008

elephant parts parts

Five segments from Michael Nesmith's Elephant Parts that particularly hold up. (Sadly, neither "Name That Drug" nor "Tragically Hip" seem to be on YouTube.)

(It's funny 'cause they never actually do "R.")

February 19, 2008

two upcoming tech docs

BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET trailer from 2 Player Productions on Vimeo.

February 5, 2008

vote hard.

Even as I plan to vote for Barack Obama tomorrow,'s "Yes.We.Can." video kinda scares the shit out me, because it lays Obama bare. I am frightened by how easily the Senator's cadences transform into music, how easily the simple harmonies pull melodies from his speech. And all, more or less, without content. When it boils down to it, I like Barack Obama because he's got a good beat and I can dance to it. It won't be the first time I've put my money where the music is.

February 4, 2008


Thanks to MITU for turning me onto Dutch filmmaker/graphic artist Roel Wouters (aka Xelor), whose one-take Gondry-like shorts are immaculately conceived and executed. I love the human progress bar in "Grip." Not so much into the tunes, but dizzamn.

November 13, 2007

raiders' raiders

Download torrent. (File expires November 20th.)

- There is a suspension of disbelief in watching Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb's shot-for-shot adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which (beginning when they were 12) took them seven years to complete. Obviously, the cast isn't digging in the desert near Cairo. There are just too many trees. There is little believability to the firefight in the Nepal bar. But, so what? There's a suspension of disbelief in watching the original Raiders, too. It's just something one deals with when watching movies.

- In Raiders, though, the disbelief is smoothed over by big budget special effects and Harrison Ford's charisma. In the Adaptation, it is the opposite, coming via the sheer low fidelity of the project: the analog video blur that coats the actors' mid-scene age changes, or the distortion that occasionally permeates the soundtrack, a tape warble transforming a melodramatic string swell into something like a theremin moan. It intensifies the disbelief until the movie becomes about something else entirely.

- With a plane replaced by a boat, a monkey by a puppy, dramatically speaking, the big tension isn't what's going to happen, but how it's going to be executed. How are they going to shoot lightning ghosts from the Ark? Or make that dude's face melt?

- What is the "correct" order in which to screen the films in a double feature? Does one show the Adaptation first, to let the audience members' memories guide their viewing, and then show the original, to see how it matches up? On one hand, that's probably more satisfying from a traditionally dramatic point of view, but why should Spielberg have primacy over the marquee?

November 8, 2007

a star wars thought appropos of almost nothing

The concept of Raiders of the Lost Ark - The Adaptation got me thinking: Just as George Lucas remade the original Star Wars movies to look as of he'd had all the money he'd wanted to make them, wouldn't it be cool if he redid the second trilogy as if he'd had none of the money he wanted?

November 6, 2007

moving entertainments

Old news in many cases, but all great:

Priceless straight-facin' via The Onion (NSFW):

Use Of 'N-Word' May End Porn Star's Career

A preview for a shot-by-shot recreation of Raiders of the Lost Ark made by 12-year olds. Anybody have a working torrent for the full deal?

Storytime, Terry Gilliam's first movie, circa 1968:

Leave Kang alone:

As Sancho sez: "Nature is awesome."

Footage of a legendary "Dark Star" from the Fillmore East, 2/14/70:

November 2, 2007

no country for old men

In 89 words, Cormac McCarthy zooms from the broadest setting of a scene down to specific detail, nails a mood, sets up a relationship between two new characters, exercises his own typographical and rhythmic voice with the smallest tweakings of grammar and syntax, and creates a momentum that leads irresistibly into the chapter that follows.

The office was on the seventeenth floor with a view over the skyline of Houston and the open lowlands to the ship channel and the bayou beyond. Colonies of silver tanks. Gas flares, pale in the day. When Wells showed up the man told him to come in and told him to shut the door. He didnt even turn around. He could see Wells in the glass. Wells shut the door and stood with his hands crossed before him at the wrist. The way a funeral director might stand.

October 12, 2007

los angeles plays itself

Coming nowhere near a Netflix queue near you is Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen's three-hour docu-ode to the City of Angels. Made entirely from footage from other movies and narrated with omniscient nonchalance by Encke King, the film is a veritable geography of Los Angeles real, Los Angeles imagined, and -- most intriguingly -- the Los Angeles created between the two. Given the copyrights on the footage (which probably comes from at least 100 pictures, if not far more), there is no way this film will ever see widespread commercial release. So -- both because it's great & 'cause the Mang doesn't want you to have it -- here is a torrent of it.

August 3, 2007

our stories fit into phones.

In two recent movies I've seen for review -- Jeffrey Blitz's just-about-to-be-out Rocket Science and John Turturro's forthcoming Romance and Cigarettes -- the telephone plays a typically minor role as a plot device/prop, in much the same way it has for decades. That is, some element of the story is forwarded/revealed by a third party picking up a shared landline. Though plenty of people still have landlines, of course, the sight of them on screen becomes increasingly anachronistic with each usage. To be sure, cell phone use in movies is way up, too, perhaps the single most convenient prop ever invented, but such is the power of the landline, which won't easily surrender itself to the present.