Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jason goes to Docfest--day 2

5 movies on Saturday, no time to write, so let's just Rock these Docs!

First up was "American Scary", a loving tribute to the grand tradition of late night TV horror show hosts. Specifically focusing on the locally produced, low-to-no-budget shows that are nearly dead nowadays (killed off by network ownership/control of "local" stations. It's now much more cost-effective to run an infomercial at 1 am than produce even the lowest budget schlock). Occasionally the art form resurfaces--Joe Bob Briggs had a show on TNT a while back, and in 2004 Fox produced 13 nights of horror with Neil Gaiman (who used a coffin on his show that's exactly like mine! Which was awesome, when he asks "how often do you get a chance to climb out of a coffin?" I can answer "About a couple thousand times, so far!") Ultimately, it's a treasure of recovered footage, and filled me with a desire to see such shows resurrected.

Here's a pic of director John Hudgens:

And here are local hosts SF's John Stanley and Berkeley's Doktor Goulfinger (out of costume)

And here's a better pic of the good Doktor:

BTW, you can see John Stanley and Doktor Goulfinger at Shock it to Me! at the Castro next weekend.

Next up, we moved from schlock TV to political drama in "Orange Winter", documenting the people in Kiev who protested the fraudulent election, eventually overturned the results, and brought Victor Yushschenko to power. You may remember these events--opposition leader Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin just days before the election. Ironically, dioxin is commonly known as "Agent Orange", the color of the opposition. At the time, director Andrei Zagdansky was living in New York, but had family back in the Ukraine and was obviously very emotionally attached to the events. He put this film together from footage of the crowds as well as the Kiev opera house production of "Boris Gudenov" and classic Ukrainian silent film footage. Although his stance can superficially be seen as pro-Yushchenko, the movie is really more about the phenomenal power of the ordinary people who shut down Kiev until the Supreme Court declared a run-off election. It's fascinating to see the dedication and the impromptu city that sprung up (which reminded me of Burning Man in a way, but this city actually had a point) people met, became friends, fell in love, even got married in the crowd (don't know how well that lasted). The footage is narrated by the explicitly biased, but passionless and scholarly voice of Matthew Gurewitsch (in English, although the film takes place in the Ukraine, there are only about a dozen subtitled lines). Ultimately it's a fascinating look at people who are so hungry for true democracy that they'll camp out for months to be sure to get it. Here, we'll only camp out for video game consoles or Harry Potter books. I can't help but thinking (or remembering?) that if the same thing happened here, the protests would be a few thousand people at best and everyone else would view them as crazy or an annoyance.

Next up was a Vietnam war story with some amazing footage, "Shakey's Hill". But first, the short "When the Light's Red". Filmmaker Keith Wilson recently moved to Austin, TX where he was surprised by the number of homeless panhandlers (or, as they call themselves, "flyers") at the intersections. Of course, we have these in San Francisco, too, but he started questioning what he should do about them. Ignoring them made him feel bad, giving them money made him believe that they'd just buy booze with it (and he followed one to confirm it). Well, he explores the question and admittedly doesn't come up with an answer. But I liked the idea of keeping a fresh apple in your car to give to them. Here's a pic of Keith Wilson:

"Shakey's Hill" is a movie that at its simplest is a non-political story about war and experiences of being a soldier. In 1970 Norman Lloyd, CBS combat cameraman, joined the 5th batallion of the 7th Cavalry on their search and destroy mission into Cambodia. He was paid $50 if CBS chose to use his footage (talking to him afterwards, he dismissed it by saying he "only got that crazy every 6 months or so"). As a result, he got the most impressive up-close battle footage I've ever seen, and more importantly made life-long friends of the men in the unit. Over 30 years later, he interviewed the survivors about the mission and their experiences and edited it together with his footage (bought back from CBS for many times the cost) to make this movie. "Shakey" of the title was the nickname for the youngest member of the unit, who shook from fright and was killed finding the first munitions cache on the hill which came to be named for him. The hill turned out to house an enormous amount of munitions and capturing it effectively shut down the North Vietnamese army in that region. But I digress, because the movie is not really about their exploits or heroism (although there's plenty of that in the story), it's about the difficult job of being a professional soldier. I've come to understand something--I will never truly understand what it's like to be a soldier. As best I can wrap my head around it, it goes like this--it's a job. It's not a job they enjoy, they're not in it to get their jollies. It's just a job, but the main part of the job description is "you will make the closest friends you will ever have, and then you will watch them die." They deserve my understanding, but sadly since I've never been a soldier I don't think that's something I can give. Instead, they can have my respect, my admiration, and my thanks. And if they find me in the bar, they can have a drink on me. Here's a pic of director Norman Lloyd (some of the soldiers were also there, but they didn't come up front for the Q&A):

Next up was an example of an Indiefest staple--a documentary about relatively obscure musicians. "Golden Days" is the story of The Damnwells, a Brooklyn indie rock band with a bright looking future. Founded in 2001, in 2004 they signed a major deal with Epic records and went into the studio to make their 3rd album (and first on a major label). However the recording sessions drag on, the release date it pushed back, and in January of 2005 Epic drops them. So quickly this looks like it will be an "unmaking of the band" movie. Fortunately leader Alex Dezen and the rest of the band keep a mostly grounded outlook with a healthy dose of humor (some of my favorite moments are them just clowning around backstage or between recording sessions). After a year of being jerked around by Epic, they're basically right back where they started--a struggling mostly unknown band from Brooklyn with a small but devoted cult following. They don't bear any ill will towards Epic (or if they do, they don't say so on camera). They're a little more cynical, but they have a good enough time hanging out and playing music together that they're still giving it a shot. And, their music is pretty good.

And finally, we keep on the music theme as Indiefest teams up with SF Bluesfest for a couple of different jazz doc programs. First up was the short "The Blues According to Lightning Hopkins", a rambling but hilarious first person look at Lighning Hopkins. I didn't know anything about him before (sorry, I'm not a blues man), but this movie (made in 1969 by Bay Area filmmaker Les Blank) at least gave me a little of his flavor and especially his sense of humor.

And then the (nearly finished) work in progress "Every Beat of My Heart: the Johnny Otis Story". The name, of course, was familiar but I knew embarrassingly little about him. For example, I didn't even know he was (arguably) white. The son of Greek immigrants growing up in Berkeley, all his friends were black and he argues that culturally and by choice he is black. I knew he was a band leader and is credited with finding some of the great voice talents in R&B. But I didn't know he ran for city council in LA, or that until recently he hosted a radio show from Sebastapol (health reasons have kept him off the air. Which reminds me--I didn't even know he was still alive). So I guess I'm saying that I'm probably the wrong person to review this film. But I still found it (and him) engaging, and the music, of course, was cool as hell.

And that's last Saturday at Docfest. I saw 5 more movies on Sunday, and I'll see two more tonight.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jason goes to Docfest--opening night

All right, let's jump right in to it, since I have just an hour or so until I have to hop on the BART for today's movies.

Docfest (for me at least) opened with a nearly-packed-house screening of the Reverend Billy movie, "What Would Jesus Buy?" That's Rev. Billy, of Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. I've seen a short movie about him before, and I've seen him at Burning Man (Chicken John and Larry Harvey were at the screening, as was Joan Baez, making it quite an illustrious crowd). The Reverend Billy and his gospel choir use street preacher theatrics to attack consumerist culture (especially Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Disney, to name a few) in a hilarious manner but with absolutely serious intentions. In this movie, he aims his "activtainment" (I'm still working on the right word for activism + entertainment) at the hyper-consumerism that surrounds Christmas--the spirit that's turning it into a season of dread and debt rather than peace and joy for far too many Americans. He calls this evil the "Shopacalypse" and performs public sermons and cash register exorcisms to fight it. As I've said, I've seen him before and honestly although I've always enjoyed his performances I figured he's really just preaching to the converted. This movie is the most polished, best presented take on his message (credit director Rob VanAlkemade and producer Morgan "Supersize Me" Spurlock). In the first five minutes, when they juxtapose Rev. Billy's peaceful performance with footage of people literally trampling each other (to the point where victims are hauled off in ambulances) trying to get the latest "whatever is hot", you realize where the insane joke really is. That image stuck with me through the movie and informed everything else. So when he's harassed by security at Mall of America, or when he's arrested on Christmas Day (Christmas of 2005, if you're interested), you realize that the police and security are there to protect the dangerous stampeding horde from the peaceful protest. And that, dear readers, ought to be able to convert someone to Stop-Shoppingism.

On a personal note, I come from a fairly large family (I'm the second of six kids), so Christmakkuh (half-Jewish, y'all!) had become a pretty big gift-buying and gift-giving production. My big brother Eric had tried to curtail it, suggesting we put price limits or just give one gift to the whole family or draw names and give gifts to just one person (what we did when we were poor kids growing up). I confess I was actually against it, but last year I (and the rest) gave in. So now for Christmakkuh we each give one gift that requires the family to spend more time together. It could be taking everyone to dinner, or cooking a dinner at home for everyone, or taking everyone to the zoo (BTW, the Anchorage Zoo in winter is actually pretty neat!). For me, I've started the Wiener Family Film Festival, where I bring a sampling of the best obscure movies from my collection and force my family to watch them (now I have a great time not just watching movies, but picking out which ones I'll inflict on my family). Anyway, I just wanted to say it worked out great and thank you Eric for twisting our arms!

And, as a final question, if I can't wait for this to come out on DVD so I can buy it and give it as a Christmas present, did I completely miss the point? Anyway, here's a pic of the good Reverend at the Q&A afterwards:

But that's not all! I saw a second movie last night, "El Mechanico Loco", the story of race car mechanic/owner Jeff Milburn. A crazy, manic, tattooed punk/geek who idolizes Patton and drinks Kool-Aid instead of beer. He used to race motocross until he broke his back. He was gonna be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life until he decided to get up and start walking again. And he builds his own formula racecars from spare parts at the junk yard. He doesn't win races, but for a tiny fraction of the price his team has finished as high as 10th (out of ~30). Now he's trying to break into NASCAR. The film mostly follows him through the last two races in the Formula Ford season where he's entering two cars--the black car which he's built and raced all season, and a red car which he got from a swamp in Florida and has less than a week to A) get into racing condition, and B) find a driver for. However, director Chad Jackson eschews a traditional linear narrative to jump back and forth in time with quick edits that enhance the manic nature of the the character. He'll jump from the tattoo parlor to motocross footage to a windstorm at the racetrack in a matter of seconds, and although it can be hard to keep up, the important (or just plain cool) elements are repeated and it's exhilarating to watch it. Of course, this is a documentary not a Hollywood sports movie, so there are no miracle wins. Just finishing at all--much less in the middle of the pack and moving up several places--is a victory. And Jeff is proud and happy enough in his modest victories that you go along for the ride. As a side note, he makes a lot of his money either doing spot welding for people at the race track (he's very proud of his welding, at one point comparing it to Michelangelo's painting) or building hot rods for friends--including Jim 'The Reverend Horton Heat' Heath. I mention that for two reasons--first the rockabilly soundtrack carried the movie along perfectly, and second because both movies so far have featured a fictitious Reverend. Do I detect a theme?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jason previews more upcoming events

So Docfest starts tomorrow, but as I look beyond to what else is coming up, I realize I forgot to mention many things. Turns out October is chock full of movie madness, and there's no way I'll be able to see it all, but here's a look at some other events:

First up, on Saturday night/Sunday morning October 6/7th starting at midnight at the Del Mar theater in Santa Cruz, there's a 5 movie secret film fest. The Del Mar actually has my favorite midnight series in the area, but it's a bit far from me so I don't go as often as I wish. This is also right in the middle of Docfest. So my plan is too see Docfest movies all day on Saturday, go to Santa Cruz for 10 hours of midnight movies, then come back up for Docfest on Sunday. It'll be 14 movies in a 36-hour period with no sleep--awesome! Of course, I might turn sane before then and decide to rest instead, but that seems pretty unlikely. By the way, last year I used this to set a new personal record of 9 movies in one day--pretty easy when you start with 5 movies by 10 am. This year I plan to break that with 10 movies on Sunday, October 7th.

Also coming up, not quite movies but absolute awesomeness is the Thrillpeddlers Shocktoberfest program! Running Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting on October 4th and currently scheduled until November 17th. This is guaranteed to be awesome, at least based on my past experiences there. Tickets are available here. There's also, of course, a special Halloween show. Perhaps I'll treat myself for my birthday.

On the Halloween/horror movie scene, Screamfest is happening. This is actually in LA, and might be tough for me to make with everything else happening. On the other hand, I hopefully have a free pass to it, so I'll try to check it out.

And finally, "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" are trying to reinvigorate the Western. Well, the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley are doing a retrospective of the man who invigorated Westerns like no one before or since--Sergio Leone! It's from October 12 to the 28th, and sadly there's almost no chance I can make it, but my local readers should totally check it out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jason watches "Resident Evil: Extinction"

Because it was playing right after "Eastern Promises". I didn't have high hopes for the third movie in a series based on a video game, but I figures what the hell. The first two were pretty dumb, and this one isn't any smarter. But I was flabbergasted with how many product placements they could put into a post-apocalyptic world. I mean, it's post-apocalyptic...there are no more products to place, and yet they did it! They even named a character freakin' "K-Mart"! I'm at a loss for words.

Oh yeah, and it's another movie that proposes running off to Alaska as a solution to your problems. This is just setting me up for "30 Days of Night", isn't it?

Oh yeah, and this was my 338th movie of the year. That might not seem like an important milestone, but it's a new record for me. And I still have another 3+ months left.

Jason watches "Eastern Promises"

And with this and "History of Violence" David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen might be the most intriguing director/actor pair out there. Suck it Soderbergh/Clooney!

Also, add Cronenberg to the list of directors who are doing some of their most interesting work late in their career. Cronenberg's always written his stories on the flesh of his characters, it's just taken him about 40 years to do it with any hint of subtlety (not that I don't love his early non-subtle work, I just think it kinda petered out with "eXistenZ"). Here, the story is literally written on the character's flesh, as tattoos tell the life stories of Russian gangsters in London.

I could go into detail and praise the acting of not just Mortensen but Naomi Watts and especially the villainous Vincent Cassel, but I'd rather just say that the 89% tomatometer rating is completely deserved, and leave you with two thoughts. First, the fleshy (a)moral obsessions of Cronenberg are so pervasive and yet so understated that just attaching Cronenberg's name to this movie automatically changes my reading--if this were exactly the same frame by frame but not a Cronenberg movie, I'd read it very differently. Second, the audience at the Toronto Film Festival who voted this their favorite movie have quite a taste for blood.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jason previews upcoming events--Docfest, MVFF, and more

I've had a bit of a lull in movie-watching, but that's going to end pretty soon.

First up, next Friday Docfest begins at both screens at the Roxie. Presented by the good people who brought you Indiefest, this is two full weeks of documentaries. In the past, circumstances have forced me to miss at least part of this festival, but this year might be the first time I see absolutely everything presented by Indiefest. For the most part, you can see everything by just staying in the Big Roxie, but the "Blues Fest Films" program only plays at the Little Roxie. Right now my plan is to see that Monday, Oct 1.

I also want to mention one film in the program. Since I can see everything, I just looked at the calendar and figured out the schedule. I didn't read the film descriptions, but there was one title that jumped out at me--"Wiener Takes All". I'm sure it's actually about wiener dogs or something like that, but as a Wiener myself, and one who sees all, I'll labor under the delusion that it's about me.

It actually should be pretty easy to see everything at Docfest, if I so choose, but it overlaps with the Mill Valley Film Festival, starting October 4. Mill Valley is a little far away from me, so I've only ever been to the weekend programs. Still, I haven't been back in a couple of years, and I miss it. So I'll have some hard decisions to make the first two weekends of October. There's also a movie that features the great Parkway Speakeasy Theater, "Go Together", so if nothing else I'll try to make it up there on Saturday, October 13 (which fortunately doesn't conflict with Docfest).

The Weekend of October 5 is actually an embarrassment of riches, as the Castro Theater hosts a weekend of classic horror movies called Shock It To Me! Again, it's unlikely I'll make it since it conflicts with Docfest, but I figure plenty of my readers will be interested, and depending on how much energy I have, I could check out the midnight movies Friday and Saturday night ("Killer Klowns From Outer Space" and "Re-Animator").

It would normally be an easy decision to go to Mill Valley at least the second weekend on Oct 13 and 14, but Oct 14 is the opening of the San Jose Jewish Film Festival. This is kind of a different type of festival, playing every Sunday and Wednesday for a week. And that opening Sunday includes an afternoon with Judd Hirsch! Other programs that excite me: The Israeli Oscar winner "Sweet Mud" which I missed at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and "The Discovery of Heaven", which was one of my favorites at their festival a few years back (they've recently started to revivals of their most popular past movies). Also, it ends with another chance to see "Black Book", one of the best movies of the year and Paul Verhoeven's best movie in...I don't know how long.

And finally, concurrent with the SJJFF, the Arab American Film Festival runs from Oct. 18-28 in the SF Bay Area (and this year they've added a Los Angeles leg of the festival. Or maybe it's been there before and I haven't noticed). So I'll do my part to promote Mideast peace--in San Francisco.

And that's it for now. If we look forward to November, there's the Latino Film Festival and the American Indian Film Festival--two festivals I've been interested in but never been to. But their schedules aren't even announced yet, so I'm not thinking about them yet.

Jason wishes you all a peaceful and introspective Yom Kippur

Or at least to all my Jewish readers.

It's the Jewish Day of Atonement, so instead of going to the movies, I'm staying home, fasting, and reflecting on the past year. Allow me to take this opportunity, if I've offended you in any way, to beg for your forgiveness. I don't know how I offended you, perhaps I said bad things about your movie. Perhaps you're the maker of "Balls of Fury" (in which case you should also apologize to me). Perhaps I used a dirty word in this blog. Whatever it is, I ask your forgiveness.

But I'd also like to point out one thing that has always amused me about Yom Kippur. I should preface this by saying that I'm not religious, I'm not going to temple today (nor have I in I guess about a decade), but I do take this fast seriously. No food, no water, no sex, no bathing (normally if it's a work day I do shower just for the courtesy of my co-workers. But since that's not the case this year I guess it's more holy for me to wallow in my filth instead.)

We Jews fast for one day in order to wipe clean our souls and be written into the Book of Life. But we also define a "day" as starting at sundown, not midnight. So our fast is from sundown last night to sundown tonight. We also have this fast in the middle of the fall, when the sundown-to-sundown period is the shortest. Here in the SF Bay Area, the sun set last night at 7:07 and sets tonight at 7:05 (according to the Old Farmer's Almanac). So my day-long fast isn't 24 hours, it's 23 hours, 58 minutes. If I lived in (just to choose a random city) Anchorage, AK, my fast would only have to be 23 hours, 57.

So you see, even when we're dealing with G-d, we still get the best price possible!

I guess I have one more thing to apologize for now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jason watches "Balls of Fury"

And it suuuuuuuuuuucks!

So I had no intention of seeing it, but a friend assured me it's funny. He also compared it to "Dodgeball", which I've never seen but apparently lots of people thought were funny. I've now resolved to A) never trust his movie opinions again, and B) never see "Dodgeball".

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jason watches "The Brave One"

And it's remarkable how great acting can transform a competent but mostly unremarkable thriller into something greater. I can't imagine what this movie would look like with anyone but Jodie Foster (possibly America's greatest actress?) in the lead role, and her uneasy chemistry with co-star Terrence Howard really works--in fact, as the sane anchor, I could see the movie failing with a bad performance in his role easier than in her role.

Foster plays a radio show host (an excuse for a little too much lazy pseudo-interior monologue) who is attacked in Central Park at night. Her fiancee is murdered and she's in a coma for three weeks. Trying to re-establish her life, she finds she's afraid of everything, until she buys a gun and becomes an (at first) accidental vigilante. But under the thriller surface, there's an interesting study in how a traumatic event can change you, and specifically the changes that come from the unfeared becoming feared and vice-versa. Pretty interesting, but again it wouldn't work with any lesser actors.

Jason watches "Superbad"

Against the advice of numerous friends, who saw it and had reactions ranging from "not all that" to "suuuuuucks!" But it has an 87% fresh tomatometer rating, and I often find myself liking movies that my friends don't.

I have to say, this was the worst horror movie I've ever seen. It had a pretty good, if standard, setup--a bunch of thoroughly unlikable sex-crazed teens go to a party. But there was no masked psycho jumping out to slash them all to bits. It's like they played it as a teen sex comedy instead. I'm so confused.

And I'm so disappointed in Michael Cera, who I really liked in "Arrested Development". But playing basically the same character just older as if he hasn't matured at all through high school is pretty lame. There are a few laughs, the whole bit with McLovin and the cops made me laugh even as I noticed how contrived it was compared to the rest of the movie. The casual misogyny didn't work at all. Ultimately, I haven't been this disappointed in a highly regarded hit/cult movie since "Napoleon Dynamite".

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jason watches "Rescue Dawn"

And I have a new rule. From now on, whenever anyone talks about how filmmakers (or artists in general) do their best work early in their careers and run out of ideas/passion/talent later, I must mention Werner Herzog as the best counter-example ever. After 45 years of making great films, Mr. Herzog is doing some of his best work. Even his failures ("Wild Blue Yonder") are at least interesting experiments.

"Rescue Dawn" is a dramatization of events described first-person by Dieter Dengler in Herzog's excellent documentary "Little Dieter Needs To Fly". 10 years later, Herzog revisits the story of Dengler getting shot down in Laos in the early part of the Vietnam War and his harrowing captivity and amazing escape. Astonishingly, even in a movie that is literally derived from his earlier work, the story doesn't feel at all derivative. Each movie could and does stand on its own, and together they reinforce and inform each other. Christian Bale stars (and reprises his skeletal frame from "The Machinist") as Dengler, a German born American Navy pilot who fell in love with aviation when he saw the American planes bombing his hometown as a child. If you've seen "Little Dieter Needs To Fly", you know his story, but somehow even knowing how it'll all turn out there's a real sense of tension, reality, and suspense in "Rescue Dawn". Shooting in the jungles of Thailand certainly had a lot to do with it, but Bale's performance also carries it, along with his fellow captors Jeremy Davies and Steve Zahn (by the way, it's great to see him in a good movie again after quite a string of crap).

I don't really know how to end this review or continue heaping praise on this movie. I'm only disappointed that it's last showing in the bay area is tonight (9:40 at the Elmwood in Berkeley), because I'd love to see it again. This is quite possibly my favorite movie of the year (and for those keeping score, that's out of 333 feature-length programs, with just a handful of repeats).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jason watches "Stardust"

Yeah, I know it's supposed to be a kid's movie, but it was playing right after "3:10 to Yuma", so I hopped. It's actually an entertaining fantasy flick that's surprisingly racy, despite being ostensibly for kids (it's actually rated PG-13). It's almost a fantasy for adults--specifically, adults who want to see Robert De Niro as a gay pirate dancing around in women's undergarments. Ummmmm... end of review.

Jason watches "3:10 to Yuma"

Which I'm told is a remake of a movie I'm too young to know, so I should be ranting about unnecessary remakes. Instead I'll just say it's a pretty good western, but westerns aren't really my genre and apparently aren't the general public's genre and haven't been for decades. Anyway, it is a good, but not really remarkable movie. The best thing I can say is Russell Crowe and Christian Bale give typically great performances, and it's nice watching them play off each other. But really, they're both iconic enough that I see them as the actors rather than their characters.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Jason watches "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

I know, I should've watched it a month ago when it was still an event. But I wanted to see it in IMAX 3-D, so I eschewed my local cineplex and waited for a convenient time to drive to Dublin/Pleasanton.

Yeah, Harry Potter's getting darker. Yeah, it's a fine movie. IMAX is always cool, and the 3-D fight sequence at the end was...well, it probably works better if you sit further back than I do. Anyway, I'm coming to the conclusion that having not read the books I just don't care enough to remember all the supporting characters in the movie. Perhaps I should read them all before the next movie comes out. But believe it or not, my reading list is just as insurmountable as my movie list.

Jason watches "Shoot 'em Up"

I just wanted to see a brainless all-action-no-plot movie, inspired by this cartoon.

And yes, this was dumb, brainless, all-action very little talking. Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Monica Bellucci are totally slumming here, but they bring more than enough talent to lift this movie waaaay above the quality it deserves. And they look like they're having great fun doing it.

Still, I think "Crank" comes closer to all-action-no-plot perfection. And now I really wanna see "River Tam Beat Up Everyone".

Jason watches Rob Zombie's "Halloween"

And I should've gone to the Castro for the William Friedkin series instead. But I'm still a little tired from Burning Man and just wanted to go to something local.

Okay, new rule, there shouldn't be any more remakes of movies that are perfect to begin with. In fact, if anyone wants to remake a movie, the only acceptable option is to remake "Teenage Hooker Became a Killing Machine in Daehakroh". I wanna see the $100M version of that.

As for Rob Zombie's "Halloween", well, it isn't John Carpenter's "Halloween" and it sure as shit isn't my "Halloween". I'm so disappointed in Rob Zombie. I enjoyed "House of 1000 Corpses" for the silly rock-video fun it was. I thought "The Devil's Rejects" was great and represented a real step forward for Mr. Zombie. And I didn't go into "Halloween" thinking it'd suck this much. I knew it'd be different, but I thought I could judge it on its own merits and not hold it up against the classic 1978 version. Problem is, the difference in quality is so pronounced that it felt like the 1978 version was reality and this was the cheesy insta-movie made to cash in on it. Other than the tits, it felt straight-to-late-night-TV bad. I don't know anyone who's ever said, "Ya know what 'Halloween' needs? It needs a bunch of gratuitous titties and it needs Michael Myers to take off his mask!"

I'm totally puzzled. Rob Zombie obviously knows horror movies, and he obviously knows "Halloween", so why doesn't he get Michael Myers. It's simple--Michael Myers doesn't need motivation, he doesn't need to be humanized, he's just fucking evil and he will kill you. Michael Myers doesn't cock his head quizzically to get a better look at you, by the time you see him he's already looking exactly where he needs to be. Seriously, in even the crappiest "Halloween" sequels, Michael Myers still has a menacing presence, all the worse because you can't understand him. It might be a minute out of a 90 minute shit-fest, but there will be a moment where I'm afraid of Michael Myers. This was the first time I was never afraid of him, and that's just sad.

If this movie ends the Michael Myers saga, and stops people from making more crappy sequels, then some good came of it. If anyone makes a sequel based on this movie, I'm going to cry.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jason goes to Burning Man

Whatever you want to call it--the world's shittiest gated community, the Black Rock City crappy poetry convention, theater in a crowded fire, or (my favorite) fire retarded. Anyway, I survived, I'm back, and will be watching movies soon (still have a balcony full of dusty crap to clean and store for next year).

So apparently the premature burn made quite a lot of news in the outside world. Oddly, outsiders often know more about it than I do, because I mostly heard weird playa rumors (my favorite--by the end of the week he'd posted bail, was back in camp, and signing autographs. I have no idea if it's true. And, for the record, if it were true I'd rather punch him in the face than get his autograph). But it got me thinking, people have been talking about burning the Man early for at least ten years--this guy just attempted (and failed) to do something that's been sort of a cliche. He's not original or creative. So here are my thoughts of things to do to fuck up Burning Man that are more creative than just burning the Man on Monday night:
  1. Burn down the porta-potties on Monday night
  2. Knock the man off his fucking pedestal and stand him up on the ground (old school, like he used to).
  3. Create a playa art project of an exact life-size replica Man. Put it beyond the temple so people won't know which way is which. Burn it Saturday night, same time as the Man.
  4. Better yet, build 5 replica Men. Burn a different one each night, Mon-Fri.
  5. On Saturday night, when everyone's crowded around the Man, light the temple on fire (note, I thought of this time based on the premise that it would be the only time when the temple is unoccupied--no innocent bystanders put in danger).
  6. On Tuesday morning, at 8:46:30 am, crash a model airplane into the Man. Crash a second one at 9:02:59.

Okay, that's it. Anyone else have other ideas?