Thursday, 30 August 2007

Roundup

In other gym-related news, there is this dude who I’ve seen at the gym since I started going there that never lifts weights. He dicks around the entire time, almost always looking at himself in the mirror and going through the motions of lifting weights, setting up the bar, adjusting seat heights, switching out handles and weights, cleaning the bench, sitting down and getting “in the zone”, but never actually doing a set or even a rep. He spends something like an hour in the locker room, grooming and combing his hair and shit too. I once showed up and he was in the locker room combing his hair, did my approximately one-hour workout, and when I went to the locker room he was still combing his hair. Weird thing is, the guy is frigging ripped, so he must actually lift sometime.

Saloio bread is gross. I picked up a loaf from Dave’s because it seemed to be the closest bakery approximation to whole wheat, since they were out of the latter. It is salty as hell, crumbly, dense, and chewy. It tastes worse than the homemade hosts that Fr. Stan makes back at St. Gabriel’s in Connersville. Never again.

I get so much weird junk mail about mortgages now that I’m a homeowner. A lot of it is obvious scam stuff about PMI and refinancing, but some of it is not so obvious scam stuff that looks like official documentation from Fifth Third. Today however, I received a scratch off ticket. It says on the ticket that all tickets are winners for stuff like an xBox or iPod Video, the only obligation is to sit through a demonstration of some home care products. Fat chance.

I also both like and have a crush on someone. 🙂

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Impromptu

Lou shot me an email today to help him restore his WordPress after his site was hacked, he came over right after I got home and we fixed it fairly quickly. Then he and I met up with Shawn at the Lincoln Park Pub for Taco Tuesday and I ran into my old boss. Found out she reads this and has been keeping tabs. Hi boss. Had some tacos, met some new folks, shot the shit and had a nice relaxing time for a couple of hours. That’s the kind of society I dig. Spontaneous, chill, hilarious, food.

Married women have been hitting on me the last few days. I was at my friend Sandy’s birthday party on Saturday and Amy and I both got the vibe that this runway catalog modelish woman was flirting with me. Then, at the gym today, this other lady kept moving to work out in front of me and checking to see if I was looking at her and asked me if I was getting a good workout. Wedding ring on the finger. Maybe they aren’t hitting on me [postulate] and I’ve an enormous ego [fact] or they feel like I’m safe to flirt at [postulate] when the hubs isn’t around. This is just as strange as getting hit on by gay guys while running was a year ago; but not as funny. My current boss says that being married doesn’t mean what it used to, and that expectation that married folks are going to cheat troubles me.

M

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #30: Fritz Lang’s M.

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Fritz Lang always blows my mind. The precise craftmanship in all of his films, the exactly correct framing for a shot, the inspired, slight, understated camera movements, the chiaroscuro and beauty of the black and white would be worth watching in a film without anything resembling a plot. But Lang is not merely good at one or two aspects of filmmaking. He is good at making films, complete worlds unto themselves. M is a world of suspicion, where neighbors are encouraged in paranoia and tale-bearing, where the innocuous becomes sinister, and a budding fascist government controls the public through its efforts to find and stop a faceless enemy. It was made in 1931, anticipating the Third Reich by a few years. That’s just the macro level. On the micro level, the psychological portrait of a child-killer is immediately abhorrent and understandable, and the steps into Hans Beckert’s [played wonderfully by Peter Lorre] mind are so well-written, portrayed, apt and surprisingly potent that the film, which is largely run-of-the-mill police procedural for the most part, culminates in an unexpected explosion of emotion that a viewer is left with something approximating a thousand-yard stare.

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If we have to pick one word for this film to be about, it is likely repression. The reason Beckert acts as he does, even though he knows he is mad and should not, is because he has no option in his society but to repress his reprehensible desires. Even a verbal expression of his desire to have sex with little girls and then murder them is so outside the norm that it would likely cost him his life or at least a few teeth. Stuck as he was, forced to internalize and cocoon himself from the everyday of everyone else, it is unsurprising that he would essentially disappear, so innocuous that no clues appear apart from his habit of whistling Peer Gynt as he seeks new prey. Similarly, his writing of a letter to the police, and then the papers attests to his desire, no matter how now malformed, to have communication with society at large. This is all possible to learn without actually seeing his face, or hearing him speak. Sound was a relatively new feature in film at this time, and its ambient use by Lang, its appropriate and heightening omissions, and its laconic dialogue make the final soliloquy by Beckert all the more effective.

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The fact that even the criminals, societal edge-cases themselves, want to destroy Beckert with no qualms is telling to his extreme deviance. Yet, when he explains the motivations and guilt that drive and torment him, heads nod even among the kangaroo court. These are people who know what it is to sin, though for the most part they can control it. The coda is so terse that it was either meant to be that way or some of the missing footage belongs at the end of the film, but no matter the reason, it attests simultaneously to the paradoxical ethical and reasoning satisfaction of the rule of law and the passionate, emotional dissatisfaction of justice not being served. The tale of serial killer becomes analogous to the life of every person, only taken to an extreme; and the character sketch of a doubly fear-driven society adds another facet to Lang’s idea that vice and viciousness are all too easily encouraged with any person.

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Time Bandits

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #37: Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits.

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Woops. This movie totally didn’t do a damn thing for me. And usually I really like Terry Gilliam. I would have preferred something like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen as the Criterion pick, if they were going to go with a Gilliam kid’s movie, since that film is both entertaining, wonderful and well made. Time Bandits doesn’t seem like any of those to me, but I’m hoping that it was necessary practice for Gilliam in order for him to produce Munchausen. It is a pretty good children’s film, although the characteristic Gilliam darkness might focus the demographic on older children. A younger one might not understand the whimsical Napoleon, the technocratic declamations of Evil or cope with the explosive ending of the parents. The film certainly doesn’t strike me as something funny. Silly, definitely, children will laugh at the dancing dwarves, but actual humor is rarely to be found. It is Monty Python without the punch.

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The filmmaking is Gilliam™; a sort of steampunkesque magical realism, where things like knights breaking through wardrobes in 20th century Britain seem plausible mainly because the sets are as banal as real life and the future already appears obsolete. What I mean is that a viewer doesn’t have to suspend disbelief to see and enter into a room that looks like what any boy’s room looked like in 1981, and when the magic occurs, it is the type of magic that a boy would imagine happening in his room. Gilliam never dives too deeply into the rich territory he presents. Instead the constant flitting about allows him to keep the film at a level that children can understand and that also appears to be a bit dreamlike; setting up the “it was only a dream, or was it?” cliché ending.

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It often seem like Gilliam keeps making movies in attempts to either elucidate a complicated thought or pin down a specific worldview that is his Truth. He’s ambitious, in the respect that his goal appears to be a unified theory, whereas other directors are content with the explication of a small piece of truth. Gilliam is a philosopher who accidentally became a filmmaker and uses that medium as his thesis vehicle. He certainly seems to express a Camusian existentialist absurdity, focused less on the absurdity of existence period, and instead on the absurdity of existence now. And while this idea that humans waste their lives convincing and dreaming about better things provides frustration, the fact that these fantasy escapes are often better than actual life, and the fact that Gilliam is a creator and purveyor of such fancifuls is an irony that I am certain Gilliam is aware of.

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Saturday, 25 August 2007

Lord of the Flies

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #43: Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies.

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It is tough getting children to act well; just ask anyone who’s ever had to get children to act well. A vast majority of the cast in Lord of the Flies couldn’t act their way out of a wet paper bag, but thanks to Peter Brook’s careful planning and choreographing of key scenes, and relaxed improvisational allowance in others, the awkward acting ability morphs into an appropriate skittishness for adolescent maroons. This adaptation is well on the mark of the book, with an added intensity of visceral imagery and psychological warfare that only film can provide so effectively. The main strength of the film is that it was shot entirely on location, apart from the opening montage, and the reality of the island setting feeds into the reality of the characters’ development. Without the imposing hand of civilization, regressing to a wild and savage state becomes easy.

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Lord of the Flies is not only a tract about the importance of civilization, but also an interesting thought-experiment on the emergence of new cultural forms. In the film, this is noticeable fairly soon, as the political rifts between the two leading boys, Jack and Ralph, are a microcosm of international political strife. Similarly, the creation of ritual chants and activities to ward off the beastie, and Jack’s clever manipulation of their fear to maintain control have contemporary parallels in our own country. This is no new trick, but its efficacy ensures its continued use. The cognitive dissonance and linguistic lacunae in their vocabulary after the first murder takes place is also telling in terms of their fear. Similarly, the development of face-paint and little to no clothing are marked changes from their initial school-boy attire.

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Still, there are similarities between before and after. The choirboys become the hunters and their discipline, organization, and loyalty as the latter is due directly to their training in the former. They are also the ones who create and enforce the cultural progression of the tribe of boys, while Ralph and Piggy, who’ve maintained their reason to some extent, are increasingly ostracized. All of this terror comes through strongly through the use of liberal cutting and realignments in the editing room, and the sheer amount of footage Brook had on hand to pick and choose from. The final scene is so abhorrent , as Ralph flees the other youths on all fours, much like the pig they are convincing themselves he is, that the appearance of white socks and matching deck shoes of adult proportions, and the adult that is wearing them is a great relief. The monster we’ve only caught glimpses of, the monster that was about to appear in full and terrible force, especially because of its familiarity, is slain just like that.

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