Paranoia will destroy ya.

During the '50s, Hollywood spent considerable time and effort producing these strange corruption dramas about little cities across America gripped by crime syndicates and commies. They tended to have stalwart protagonists on a solitary mission to rid Anytown U.S.A. of the nefarious hoodlums who had secretly and insidiously taken over. I watched one of these tonight - The Captive City directed by Robert Wise and starring John Forsythe and Joan Camden – and was struck by how odd these morality tales play out 50 years later. It isn't a great film but it does represent something of the mindset of the day, making it worthwhile if only to glimpse into the lives of a previous generation.

In 1952 the paranoia of the cold war was in full bloom, the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) blacklisting of the famous Hollywood Ten had occurred a few years earlier, WW2 had been over for 7 years and Canfield would be born 7 years later. Anxiety ruled Hollywood. One of the offshoots from all this mass psychosis was a tendency for studios to green light scripts with a puritan bent and crime-does-not-pay message. It was a kind of defacto self-censorship and propaganda exercise meant to cleanse the movies of their apparent commie overtones. The corruption drama was born.

I won't dwell on the plot of The Captive City, except to say that Forsythe plays a newspaper editor investigating the syndicate, who are running the bookie operations in town. The more interesting elements are the film are a completely unusual cinematography style that has the entire depth of field in perfect focus throughout giving the film a weird “everyone is watching” feel and a strange little moral message from some senator who was leading a municipal corruption investigation tacked on to the ending. I was reminded of another (and notably superior) film from 1955 called The Phenix City Story directed by the ever-excellent Phil Karlson which has the strangest openings of the era, a 15 minute documentary about the Alabaman Sin City on which the movie is based. The doc is awful but the film is great.

These dated be-a-good-citizen, crime-is-a-slippery-slope morality plays are fun to watch all these years later and help explain our grandfathers a bit better. They're perfect little time capsules and make one consider what films produced today might look like to people 50 years hence. I wonder if they'll seem as alien and quaint as the '50s corruption drama does to us?



The best Van Damme movies I've seen in a while.

Every now and then, cinema's endless fascination with itself produces a few poignant and soulful works that serve to ground it in the mundane and make it seem relevant and accessible to us mere mortals. Under normal circumstances, the players in this endless glittering-dream-factory extend the illusion to their off-screen persona's, projecting a variation of the product itself – a living 24/7 fantasy life commercial if you will - designed to sell the “idea” of celebrity, keep the audience filling the seats and by extension, signing their next paycheck. The fans have developed an insatiable appetite for the veneer of celebrity, gobble it all up and ask for more – oblivious to the fact that it is all a manufactured facade.

On occasion, a film maker will choose to alter the tried-and-true film making formula, turn the camera around and shoot themselves...ah... shooting themselves. It often makes for great cinema – creating an illusion of the illusion itself. Two films recently released to DVD, The Wrestler and JCVD are variations on this theme and they both work exceptionally well, particularly as companion pieces.

The Wrestler, from an excellent script by Robert Siegel is directed with polished style and great craft by Darren Aronofsky. That said, it's difficult to see it as anything other than Mickey Rourke's movie. It's also hard to imagine anyone else in the role, giving one pause to consider it that might have written specifically for him. I don't know if that really is the case, but Rourke's casting is note-perfect partly because the character, in many ways, IS Mickey Rourke. I don't think that this movie is particularly about professional wrestling, but is instead a reflection on the personal price paid by the marginally famous to get (and stay) there. The plot makes clear comparisons between pro-wrestling and stripping, both micro-subculture worlds with stars and has-beens, the Wrestler being about the later.

I think by making this correlation, Siegel and Aronofsky might be asking us to extrapolate and expand the conceit further and apply it to idea of fame and success in other walks of life too. Specifically, Rourke's rise and fall (and rise again) as an actor is both well-documented and makes for a good story. The professional actor/wrestler/stripper/athlete/entertainment world is full of these human train wrecks and The Wrestler explores these personalities with honesty and a grudging respect for the singular focus necessary to pursue fame (and the price paid by those who do). The film is ultimately a lonely and melancholy reflection on the empty existence of those trapped between the need to experience normal human connections and the seductive allure of starring in the big show.

JCVD is the more cavalier of the two films, playing with and praying upon the action star banality of everyone's favourite crap actor, the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Where The Wrestler might be seen as metaphor - it keeps the illusion firmly in place while it tells the story - JCVD is something different, and maybe a more interesting something. The most concise plot synopsis I can muster up is Dog Day Afternoon re-imagined by Charlie Kaufman, but that doesn't do justice to the self-referential mental circle jerk they manage to pull off here. It becomes evident very quickly that the Jean-Claude we see on the screen is a fictional representation of the real – if such a person exists – Jean-Claude. The great part about JCVD is this fictional character could in fact be the real Van Damme. Nothing he says or does seems remotely implausible and a film about an aging action star reflecting upon his own mortality is entirely conceivable.

There are two interesting moments in the film that are completely underplayed and a virtuoso, slightly mad, 7 minute soliloquy that isn't. JVCD riffs for about an hour on what it would happen if somebody like Van Damme lost it and took a bunch of hostages at a post office. It could easily have descended into pop-culture parody, but they manage to balance the story between the absurd and the plausible and make it all seem rather documentary-like. The film then veers off into the existential when the floor lifts Van Damme up into a separate set and he delivers a jaw-dropping and 7 minute heartfelt reflection on his life directly to the camera. WTF? Where did that come from? Brilliant! I could imagine pitching the idea for this film to financiers.

“OK, Jean-Claude is a hostage but everyone on the outside thinks he's the one holding everyone on the inside at gunpoint. He delivers his soliloquy and then the SWAT team attacks the Post Office....”

“Hold it.... Can you go back a bit? …. Did you say Jean-Claude delivers a soliloquy?”

“Ya...it's about 7 minutes of him speaking directly to the camera about his life. Ahhhh.... pages... Ummm.... here they are - 56 through 63.”

Can you imagine?

The two underplayed bits that caught my attention were these; at one point during the hostage crisis, we become aware that the ONLY person in the whole world that understands what's really going on is Jean-Claude Van Damme. I tip my hat to anyone who can write that moment into a story and make it seem real. It makes a wonderful point about our celebrity-mad world and the fucking drooling idiots (Susan Boyle anyone?) we have become. The second is a throw-away line uttered by a bored, young Asian director in the opening film within a film within a film. “We're not shooting Citizen Kane here”. I disagree. I think JCVD is a little more like Kane than you might think at first glance. Both are about barely altered versions of famous people mulling over their life's work and wondering what it was all for. That's the best compliment I can give this playful and insightful little film. It may rely on the presumptions we have about a minor B-action film star but it also has much to say about the world we live in, just like Kane did.

I've seen 4 brilliant films so far this year; Let the Right One In, Radio On and now The Wrestler and JCVD. Not bad at all.

Sporgey out.


[Rec] (2007)

As in [Record]. Another film that mines the increasingly common gimmick (in horror) of the first-person shaky-cam narrative. Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, etc, have all used this conceit - that what we are watching is actually happening, or the faux-documentary. And now (or, at least, 2 years ago) along comes this little Spanish horror flick doing the same dance. Thing is, this one's good. Really good. This is what Romero's Diary of the Dead coulda and shoulda been.

We start with Angela, a news reporter, doing a kinda fluff-piece on the lives and habits of firemen. After a bit of familiarising us with both herself and a couple firemen, an alarm comes in, beckoning the firemen to an unknown crisis at a Barcelona apartment building, Angela and cameraman in tow. What begins as a fairly routine call turns into a very confusing and frightening descent into harnessed chaos. While ostensibly a zombie film, [Rec] is more about the interrelationships of people kept against their will in close quarters, and how bonds are formed and emotions are frayed when people are forced to act without a safety net.

The filmmakers cleverly play with the viewers' senses and sound and lighting are used to expert effect, showing just enough, but not too much. The film takes a bizarre turn in the final 10 minutes, but if you can go along for the ride after what seemed to me like a bit of a stretch plot-wise - and one that admittedly comes out of left-field - then the final scenes are incredibly frightening.

Yes, some think it's silly or peurile to revel in films categorised as "horror", especially with the world's economies crumbling before our eyes and truly terrifying environmental threats that dwarf any cinematic ones, but I think what the genre can offer at its best is a mirror of the pressing issues of today, without having to conform to any kind of constraints of traditional dramatic cinema. [Rec] is kind of a frenzied hybrid of Night of the Living Dead and Cloverfield, and if you dug either of those, you'll probably find something very intriguing and surprising in [Rec], which touches on strained relationships, bio-horror (think The Host), and religious obsession all in an economical 76 minutes (even though the box claims the running time is 89 minutes. Extra long credits?).

Be forewarned - the R1 Seville DVD has a default English-language audio track (a la Let the Right One In). Be sure to change the settings to the original Spanish with English subtitles for maximum enjoyment. Also, avoid the American remake Quarantine, which stumbles badly out of the gates by foresaking subtlety of character for blunt-object head trauma.



Time obsessed

Chris Marker’s sci-fi masterpiece La Jetée (1962) is best viewed with the kind of red wine that cleverly dissociates you from the memory of a viewing. In piecing together the puzzle, some interesting discoveries are made. "Human consciousness or mind is produced in the delay or interval between being affected by an image and acting". Thank you Gilles Deleuze for your contribution to the philosophy of the hangover. I love the French and their habit of... trying to figure out what is going on around them? Post-WW II modernism, leaps of scientific innovation, and an apocalyptic hangover is Marker's recipe for enlightenment. La Jetée belongs to a somewhat ambiguous genre of filmmaking, known as the essay film.
In the “1st experiment” (running time 13:10) scene, the man first meets with his vague past on the thirtieth day. He catches glimpses of a beautiful woman, who is fleeting and as Baudelaire would describe, she is his “invitation to happiness”. However anticlimactic, the man is distracted from her image, and by nothing more than what the poetic narrator describes as “glass, plastic, terry cloth”. But why is this poetic, and why are these objects in his memory so distracting that he should lose sight of the woman he has obsessed over since childhood?
These materials can no longer be found in the apocalyptic present. In his memory, and arguably his subconscious, the woman’s beauty and that of the materials are for a time equal. He has found the woman from his past, and because this is the only thing he is sure of, his ego relaxes and enjoys the world she inhabits. She moves forward in time, and although his fear of losing her in memory/history is beautifully fleeting, materials in their stillness distract him. “Once he gets out of this fascination” with materials, “the woman is gone”.
Why are the materials so compelling? The still materials are accurate depictions of their moment in time. The materials, like the latest ipod, are uninhibited by his memory and consciousness. These materials are very attractive to the individual who can believe that by obtaining these objects, they too will truthfully depict themselves in their time. This is the world of fashion and fetishism.
The individual is disillusioned because as soon as the object is obtained it becomes chained to history, obtaining a past in the memory of the individual.
This is what the scientists in the story, the directors of the individual, do not want. They don’t want him to confuse beauty (the woman) with objects, for as he travels through memory, any previously unrecorded experience would have to be invented. This process could have the effect of replacing and confusing memories with objects other than the woman of his obsession, who exists from a previous experience of the real and not of predication. When he loses her to distraction in the market they pull the plug to focus the man on the future. The distraction dissatisfies the directors of the experiment because they believe he must subjugate his past. Therefore, to live wholly in the present of his memory or dream requires of him the ability to capture and control the fleeting moments of modern time.
Photography has the capacity to capture a single moment, and isolate it from the past and future. Chris Marker chooses photographs and not film for this reason. The man is not freely moving through memory, as he would be if he were moving through real time. Stanely Cavell offers in his cinema book that, “the depth of the automatism of photography is to be read not alone in its mechanical reproduction of an image of reality, but in its mechanical defeat of our presence to that reality”. The man is, after all, at the mercy of a Dr. Frankenstein. He is frozen in what Cavell describes as an “isolation and estrangement from the present and the foreignness of the past”. Marker portrays the experience of memory/dream without the satisfaction of the “specific simultaneity of presence and absence” in motion pictures. He is juxtaposing poetic narrative with a constrictive form. Unlike other conventional motion pictures of the time, Marker is posing both an aesthetic question, and the resulting philosophic question to his audience, as in an essay.
Like a computer, the scientists restart the web of his history in time, and he returns to her. In the median present, neither truly past nor future, they stroll through the park observing a fleeting society. He is unimpeded to witness, but is forced to remain passive as he approaches the future, for fear of losing her again if the scientists were to pull the plug. However, there comes a time when an object which represents its time so very specifically is called into question. He abstracts and lies about his combat necklace when she takes it in her hand. In order to continue with this woman into his memory’s future, he must become active and lie. Deleuze reminds us that, "if this contraction of memory becomes habitual, requiring less and less effort, we also find that the mind comes closer to matter, beccoming extended or relaxed to the point of inertia." For her sake, he takes the risk of being ruined. If for too long he invents, he could become dislodged from her moment in time, but he must save her the pain of knowing the WW III in her future, and he does so through invention and creativity. To abstract, to lie, is then to change time, and prevent the ruin of her consciousness, as is to be the case of the physical world, previously illustrated in the historical photographs of Paris in ruins post WW II.
Chris Marker joined the Maquis of the French Resistance in WWII, and experienced the horrors of war. Many found it difficult to tell their stories after the war. Marker, however, challenged the subject with a critique of modern disconnectedness. He does this by imagining a post-apocalyptic dystopia, partly as a reaction to the fear of communism. Marker uses the images from the past to tell us a story of the future. Like the work of a modern painter, he’s making a deliberate choice to reduce form to its essential elements, and question the intelligibility of their structure in isolation. Thank you red wine.
Unlike the Man of the World (who lives for the present), the scientists cannot escape their past. Radiation still prevents them from living on the surface, in the real world. However, the image that is the man’s obsession is one of his childhood and such images are immediately intelligible. He is transported into the nostalgia of his past, where he is forced to perceive the world in the discontinuous moments of fleeting memory, so that when he arrives back at the present the scientists better understand the limits in controlling the future. He doesn’t know it yet in the film, but he witnesses himself dying. Borrowed from the literary aesthetic, Marker shows us that “the ‘meaning’ of his life”, the obsessive memory he is chasing, “is revealed only in his death.” Existing in the present can be a time of invention, creativity and of clarity. The man and woman wish to stay there, “without memories or plans”. However, it’s when the man rejects the future that the fear of it traps him. In other words, he senses having it manipulated by the scientists, and “he feels – ahead of them – a barrier”. The interesting paradox is that the scientists must give him a delicately balanced chemical intoxication to slow and delay the possibility of him transgressing. In the fleeting moments spent with his obsession, a slow or delayed perception is necessary to achieve consciousness with her. If Deleuze is right that consciousness is a slowing down or delay that renders us different from matter, than to think is to place oneself outside of time as a construct of objects moving in space, and the lurking tragedy of La Jetee is that we are just bodies. We may be "bodies without organs" while alive, but death is a certainty for the main character.
To remain with his obsession he must reduce himself and this is contradictory to our understanding of love, where we desire all of ourselves and another. His continuous contractions, dramaticized in a poetic reluctance in which the viewer craves action, is what allows him to stay with her. "This slowing down or duration of mind is enabled by contraction - which allows the past to be carried into the present."
We actively engage with the images, because like the man and the materials, they are attractive as a representation of a future that we relate to because it doesn’t appear to have any major differences to our own present. The images can have more than one meaning. They have immediately intelligible meanings for the viewer, but also the meaning given through the storyteller, and finally a meaning that may arise as a result of the intersections between the two previous. “The implied presence of the rest of the world, and its explicit rejection, are as essential in the experience of a photograph as what it explicitly represents.” Theoretically speaking, each image holds an infinite number of associations. We are allowed to invent the past and future of these moments, and create meanings, filling empty sections in the puzzle of our past. The camera has been praised for extending the senses; it may, as the world goes, deserve more praise for confining them, leaving room for thought.
Later in the film, when the man’s lover awakes in motion pictures, we discover that her time becomes ours, and the meaning of the present is inexpressible. This is because the experience of film is so very similar to the most fundamental existential experience we all have, which is to meditate on the reality of our past. As Cavell writes, "that the projected world does not exist (now) is its only difference from reality”. Like the man in La Jetée, we are all often time-travelers in the present, revisiting someone we loved or even materialistic goods we obsessed over. Time, like in the novel, is primary. Just as arguably any great storyteller is rooted in the people, primarily in a milieu of craftsmen, so is Marker interested in the craft of film. In La Jetee, Marker has designed a modern experience of images, full of paradox and poetically philosophizing on our desire for romantic authenticity contrary to fetish. In her book on Deleuze, Claire Colebrook explains that "cinematic forces, or the power for a machine to connect and redistribute images, are not representations of life; they allow a power of life to become evident to the human brain." With a philosophy similar to that of Deleuze, Marker's film asks an audience to see the disconnect between seemingly appropriate relations, subverting the idea that the world can be reduced to a singular universal mechanism. Interestingly, Marker does this using a singular mechanism of capturing images (photography) irrespective of time past and present.

A bit long, but it's been a while. Thanks for reading.

Unser täglich Brot (2005)

Our daily bread is an Austrian doc about the food production industry. Far from being the type of liberal preachy pot shot doc I thought it might be, this is a bit of a gem worth mentioning. It's totally elemental in terms of production, no narrator, no music and no real agenda. We are just an observer. Honestly, much like it was when I saw No country for old men, it is such a refreshing change to have no score insulting my intelligence and signposting the way to my own emotional responses. The film serves simply to reveal what happens to the food on our plate before it arrives. The cinematography is bold and uses symmetry to emphasise the scale of the factories, greenhouses and abatoirs along the way. All sound is purely ambient and I found my ears and eyes naturally drawn in, that's quite rare these days. Who would've thought that all you had to do to reinvent the wheel was dust off the cobwebs of convention. I wasn't really surprised by any of the shots of animal farming and slaughter, I'm fairly aware of this sort of thing and this had led me to not eat meat for the last 3 years. The things which really enlightened me were the scenes of basic farming, large scale harvest and pesticide spraying. My favourite scenes were two thirty second segments showing workers on lunch. Having just slaughtered 50 pigs that morning or having spent the last 4 hours seperating the kidneys from a cows severed digestinal tract, they just sit with their thoughts and enjoy their sandwich. This film doesn't exploit the shock and gore value of it's subjects or make questionable claims based on spurious evidence or doctored statistics. It just lets you see.


"You can't judge a book by it's cover"... If I have to hear that one more time, I may vomit directly into my mouth.

I apologize in advance, this post doesn't have a whole lot to do with film, but it will address the latest phenomenon that's sweeping Youtube, and capturing the hearts of virtually every person all over the nation:

Now, I'm not denying that Susan Boyle DOES in fact have talent. What bothers me is not the fact that a forty-something, unemployed woman from a small Scottish village, gets to have a stab at fame, and the opportunity to inspire millions of people all over the globe. What I find so unfortunate about the whole situation, is the very fact that she actually HAS talent is such a shock to her viewers. When I first watched the video, what struck me the most was that, I was watching a woman full of confidence and personality; not that I was watching an unattractive person who strangely enough possessed the ability to sing beautifully. Truthfully, I don't find Susan Boyle as terribly unattractive as the rest of the world obviously does. Her circumstances are certainly unfortunate, but despite those circumstances, she seems like a genuinely jovial and kind-hearted person. The thing that I find most detestable is that we've become a society that's so quick to embrace mediocrity, that a woman who doesn't look like no-talent Britney Spears, or the Pussycat Dolls, can ACTUALLY sing. When did looks become of prime importance over talent in North America, and globally, and why are the masses so shocked that a woman who looks like Susan Boyle does, can actually exhibit singing talent of any kind?

Perhaps if the ranks of the truly stupid people in the world tried to challenge themselves with anything beyond top 40 listening, they would see that looks don't necessarily translate into talent. Just look at the example of Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons. Now, I'm not saying he's unattractive, but he certainly doesn't possess the kind of attractiveness that the Justin Timberlakes or Brad Pitts of the world possess. With regards to talent and singing ability however, he's certainly not lacking there. He has one of the most unique voices I've heard in a long time, but would the world be shocked to find out upon looking at him that he has singing talent as well? The answer is likely yes.



I went to see this Nicholas Cage driven Sci-Fi at the theatre last week. The poster looked cool and I read it was some sort of end of the world thing and Alex Proyas the director was responsible for The Crow back in the day.

The film reads like a compilation of those perversely fascinating accidents and disasters clips you can find on youtube. Some of the scenes are quite spectacular and worth the ticket price alone but the truth is that all of this amounts to nothing when in the end after repeated nighttime sightings of albino model types in trench coats Cage follows a trail of strange pebbles and uncovers a plan for aliens to rescue children from the impending apocalyptic solar flare doom. Just imagine that movie pitch! The aliens are taking them away to colonise new planets. All of this is presented with patronizing religious undertones regarding angels and Adam and Eve etc. It basically builds up, entertains and then deflates entirely much in the same way as the Kubrick/Spielberg brain fart 'A.I'. did. A sinful waste of something that could have been a future classic if not for the awfully misjudged ending. Fail!

3 films.

Life is not perfect and sometimes it is important to acknowledge those things in life that we don't like. Of course when I say 'life' I actually mean 'film' and when I say 'acknowledge' I actually mean 'watch'. Now read that again and keep up.
Recently, In an effort to be less dismissive whilst also coming under pressure from certain unnamed coercive forces with tits, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and seen some films without guns, spaceships or cars and I can honestly say it wasn't all that bad. It really didn't change my opinion a lot but it did however give me things to recommend to soppy yuppie couples with dogs and old dears who just fancy a good old tearjerker (that's 87% of our customer base covered).

Also, it is worth noting I watched these films so it means that YOU don't have to. I dived onto the landmine.

The Notebook has a sleeve which is physically repellent to me, it is a photo of a couple gloriously embracing in the rain. I hate what is generally considered 'romance' in movies and so should you. It turns out it's a good movie with a fairly classy love story at the centre of it and it's all good looking too. If that's what does it for you or even if not, you could do worse. Yes it's fairly predictable and sickly at times but it is bareable and even rewarding in some ways. Still. Load of shit. Recommend it to people you don't like, they will love it.

Marley and Me came in on DVD a week or so ago and I acquired a digital copy from the garbage (it says 'NOT FOR RENTAL' on it and yes I am making excuses for owning a copy of this). I actually thought this was going to be some sort of Babe the pig travesty but it was more of a Turner and Hooch buddy movie kind of thing with a Jennifer Aniston sweetener. Not all bad but kind of redundant, a good family movie for dog lovers. Fetch bitches.

Finally I watched Ghost Town which stars Ricky Gervais as a grumpy anti-social dentist who has a near death experience (well, he dies for seven minutes) during a routine colonoscopy, afterwards he finds he can see ghosts. Once you get over the hard to swallow set up, this film gets quite playful and has some really funny scenes. I'm a huge Gervais fan and he's getting a bit better at serious acting aswell as simply being the funniest conversationalist speaker since Steve Coogan. It's basically pretty good, I'm spent.

On another note I just watched The Wrestler and it serves to demonstrate the real provocative power of film. Given this perspective all of the above is just fluff, entertainment. But sometimes that's all we want and for some people that's all they ever want. Try remember that next time someone asks for a romantic comedy and you give them Irreversible.


Hmmm...It seems YouTube is useless after all

“YouTube's recent decision to court producers of professional longform content, including movie studios and TV networks, may be driven at least in part by the fact that the short videos that presently dominate the site not only don't cover its expenses but actually contribute to its losses as more and more of them are posted. A new study concludes that YouTube spends $2.64 million a day -- or $753 million a year -- in order to serve its 75 billion video streams to 375 million unique visitors annually. The study, by Internet Evolution, which cited cost estimates from Bear Stearns, comScore, Credit Suisse, and YouTube owner Google, observed that YouTube's annual revenue was estimated to be $90 million by Bear Stearns and $240 million by Credit Suisse. "Depending on whose version of revenues you accept, Google is losing anywhere from $513 million to $663 million annually on YouTube," Internet Evolution's David Silversmith wrote. Put another way, he noted, Google loses more than a dollar a year for each YouTube visitor.”

It endlessly fascinates me when the final acknowledgement that free things don't make anyone any money is announced. I picture a room full of hipster web media experts, all high-fiving each other in celebration of their billionth site visit when a lone accounting dude pouring over the annual report appendices raises his hand as says …..Ahhhh, fellas..... We, ahhh... don't actually make any money.

What?!?.... What do you mean? We've had a BILLION visitors last year! Our stock has tripled in less than 2 years. What the hell are you talking about?

Yes... but it ahhhh, says here that...we ummm, well, lost $600M in the last quarter. Our... product doesn't generate any...like... money....ummmm “revenue” I think they call it.

Two guys in the middle of an impromptu Segway polo match swerve and crash into each other. Another skitters out of control and flies through a plate glass window and ends up draped across a $3500 bonsai shrub outside.

The room is now eerily quiet. Nervous glances are exchanged. The last Segway wheel slows and finally stops turning. From the back of the party room a little voice squeaks out “Will that effect our bonuses this year?”

So once again, another viral web application concedes that the only business model that really works on the Internet is pay-per-view porn. I mean, Good Lord, how many more “Aha” moments will it take to cement the concept that a broke, 17-year-old with the mind of pea surfing the web for the next bit of free content isn't a sustainable business demographic. What is it about this kid that makes him everyone's customer bullseye?

It doesn't take a business genius to figure this stuff out. A business built on nothing, generates nothing. If it doesn't make financial sense at some basic level, it will not succeed. It's just a matter of time. We keep buying into this bullshit Web 2.0 philosophy only to discover that sooner or later the fact that no one pays for anything makes every single one of these powerhouse apps fundamentally unsound and illogical from a business perspective.

Wow....what a surprise! Let's all Twitter one another about this shocker. Who knew?


If you haven't already seen Newswipe, you should watch this now:

Brilliantly funny!
I think you will especially dig this La Sporgie...


I finally got around to seeing Oliver Stone's W. last night. With some exceptions, I tend to like Stone's movies - particularly the political ones - but W. didn't resonate the way Nixon and JFK did. The subject matter seemed too recent and the cast of characters too familiar to warrant a 2 hour rehashing of a decade that isn't over yet. As the film wore on, I began to wonder if bio-pics need some sort of distance from their subject matter to find their bearings. The analysis of influential modern figures has tended to be documented, distilled and molded over time (mostly as written biography) with film dramatizations coming a decade or two later. The essence and public perception of the figure is therefore shaped and contextualized by the combined analysis of multiple viewpoints and with the benefit of hindsight.

It would be impossible to completely satisfy the audience of a film about such a polarizing figure as George W. Bush. By definition, it will be too sympathetic for half of them (or 90% in this case) and too critical for the other. Stone therefore struck a careful middle territory that unfortunately makes the whole exercise seem a little pointless. The film tries to keep a foot in both camps and ends up at times feeling a bit too much like a painfully unfunny two hour SNL skit. That being said, there are some interesting standouts amongst the caricatures presented here. Richard Dreyfess is strangely subdued (but effective) as Dick Cheney, capturing his creepy persona with a sufficiently evil stillness that gave me the willies. Brolin is good as Dubya and the James Cromwell as George Senior probably gives the most nuanced performance. In retrospect, I wondered if Stone hadn't picked the wrong Bush to do a picture about.

It will be interesting to see how this film ages and if it has an impact on the legacy of a President whom many consider to be the worst in U.S. history. Less than 20 years after Reagan left office, his rise to quasi-sainthood is nearly universal among Americans, so it's entirely possible that the excesses and mind-boggling missteps of Bush Jr.'s administration might wane as time marches on. It seems doubtful that Mount Rushmore will ever sport the 42nd President's likeness but stranger things have happened.

I'm guessing Ollie's already got a rough draft of The Obama Story worked out and a call into Will Smith's agent.


Substitutiary Locomotion

Perhaps you've already seen this game, but I just got turned on to it today, and it's extremely fun and slightly challenging. Do it!


The empty clothes-people look like the bewitched army Angela Lansbury conjurs up in Bedknobs & Broomsticks. (I always knew Jessica Fletcher was an evil witch. Her face miraculously never shows any signs of aging).



East End don't play around... not in the slightest

I was surprised to close up shoppe today to find that my ipod, which is used to play ambient sounds for which customers to browse through our various films, was stolen from behind the counter by some customer it would seem.

Let me be frank, I love my job. I really do but at the end of the day it's a customer service gig. One that i hope i can stay with for a long time. However, on the day to day it's easy for one to become annoyed with the general public. I feel that annoyance from one human to another especially when one of those humans is working for the other is a natural occurrence.
What makes a good day out of the grind is those really great interactions with a customer, where you may help them with picking out a film and they come back and thank you. Or when you just end up gabbing about the intricacies of Lynch for too long with someone. These interactions can make your work week and the East End has more than enough friendly enough customers to see these happen as a natural reoccurring phenomenon.

But now i feel alot has changed.
Instead of entering a situation with a customer with annoyance it will come coupled with distrust. It only takes one person to ruin it for everybody and tonight a customer ruined it.
It makes me want to draw a line from my side of the counter to the patrons. To not cross it easily and to not smile when not needed. To not go out of my way to help someone out. It makes me angry, it makes me upset, it makes me feel like an idiot.

I swallowed those feelings on the subway home and thought it better to not let it come over me. That tomorrow, although it will be quieter in the store than usual, i will smile and ask if there's anything else i can help with. That way if this customer, who found it in them self to take from me and a store that was open for them on Good Friday, is to return they'll see me smiling. My breath still smelling from when they made me eat crow. They'll know that i'm here for them, and of course a regular paycheck. They'll know if there's anything else i could get for them i will, gladly.

I love the East End. It's started to feel like home lately, one that was broken into unjustly tonight.
But it isn't a home, it isn't "my store". it's just a place i like to work at.
and if there's anything else i could get anyone while i'm working... just let me know

Miller Sucks The Spirit Dry

Frank Miller is a sham. He is to film making what black velvet Elvis paintings are to art, the unfortunate intersection of two things that shouldn't be allowed in the same hemisphere. The Spirit, his latest comic book adaptation and first complete directorial credit (this time of Will Eisner's iconic '40s character) is a green screen fiasco, so ham-fisted it makes the '60s Adam West Batman TV series seem positively Shakespearian by comparison.

I'm also tired of hearing terms like “hardboiled” and “Film Noir” bandied about in reference to Miller's work. They are obviously meant to describe the hyper-stylized, CGI-augmented tones of Miller's graphic-novel-meets-cinema motif, but the “look” of Film Noir was only one component in what was arguably the most highly complex and deeply existential movement in cinema's short history. Miller isn't doing Film Noir homages, he's doing live action graphic novels that drew their visual inspiration in part from the cinematography of the classic Noir period. What these films looked like was only small part of what they were – a point missed nearly entirely by the vast majority of film critics who have seen The Maltese Falcon and Sunset Boulevard and now claim expertise over the entire Noir canon.

Let's be straight here. Beyond the high contrast visual distortions of Miller's The Spirit (and for that matter, Sin City before it), nothing about these works is particularly comparable to Film Noir. The Noir movement was an extension of (and reflection on) the alienation and angst experienced as a result of the Second World War. The existential meaninglessness of life, honour and ethics in the face of the recent horrors faced by that generation manifested itself on the silver screen as disconnected heroes wandering a desolate urban landscape, numbed by years of continual death and destruction. The essence of Film Noir can be traced to the walking wounded and the emotionally scarred survivors of the time. It's true that the Noir movement morphed over time into many variations on this central theme, but at its core it remained a window on the fractured psyche of society. The crime underpinnings of the typical Noir plot convention provided the means and context to explore the effect this tragic war had on the common man. These films found their source in '20s and '30s pulp fiction but were framed by the post-war social conditions experienced by soldiers returning to a changed land.

At the risk of breaking into a 12 page dissertation on Film Noir, my point in a nutshell is this; the classic Film Noir period has influenced many subsequent films and likely represents the quintessential high water mark of American film making. Frank Miller (and to be fair, a great number of other modern film makers) does little more than dabble around in the fringes of the Noir motif and yet somehow garners endless comparisons to the originals. They are not in the same league and it's high time somebody said so. It's as silly as comparing paint-by-numbers landscapes to the works of the Grand Masters.

Dead men don't wear plaid.


A slightly dazed, rail-thin 13-yr. old girl just came into the FBE and ordered a cappuccino with cream. That's a cappuccino made with cream, instead of milk... East end don't play, son...


"Love me till I'm dead"...

Hey pals, hope all is well in Film Buff land. I miss you all terribly of course...
I promise I'll write something more detailed in the future, but to start off, I'll just share this:


Cassavetes' forray into musical drama?
Nope, just a heartbreaking dream sequence...

Does anyone know where can I get my hands on this movie besides Amazon France?!
I must see it in its entirety.
That is all.

<3 jenny g.


Don't trust the government.

I.O.U.S.A. (2008)
America Betrayed (2008)

I seem to be watching movies in sets of two these days, the latest being a couple of America Sucks documentaries that produced vastly different responses from me. Last week I threw in I.O.U.S.A., a sort of doomsday debt version of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Despite its good intentions, I.O.U.S.A. got me thinking about how the the popular documentary format has morphed into a standard rhetorical form, with repetitive tropes, gestures and pretty graphics. Shockingly, the endless charts and projections of unfunded debt obligations just didn't leap off the screen as I had hoped they would and I was left hoping that this inevitable financial sinkhole would at least suck the funding out of long winded and dull documentaries. There's a reason accountants don't do movies.

Against my better judgment, I slipped another America Blows Big Ones documentary, America Betrayed in the old Oppo tonight expecting more of the same. I couldn't have been more wrong. It would seem that actually being under water is far more compelling than being so metaphorically (as in "in debt"). America Betrayed centres on the systemic failure of the U.S. Federal Government, it's agencies and corporate bum boys in preparing for and responding to the New Orleans Katrina disaster. This film (by news personality Leslie Carde), is a terrific expose about the level of corruption that riddles the U.S. - and it's massive – and how it played out both before and after Katrina. It raises countless charges against the Bush regime and serves as a real eye-opener for political neophytes on just how fundamentally fucked America has become.

This film places the spotlight front and center on the specific ways in which the U.S. government contributes to, and profits from disasters both here and abroad. From the way it shields itself from blame when all roads point to their culpability, to the friends in high places who continue to benefit from the very disasters that leave the population reeling. From 9/11 to the war in Iraq, to the worst disaster in U.S. history, the levee failures in Hurricane Katrina, America Betrayed follows the money, and the path leads straight back to the hallowed halls of Congress... the profits straight into the pockets of those with ties to the Executive Branch. America Betrayed is the story of waste, fraud, and abuse at the very highest echelons of the U.S. federal government.

So there you have it; two docs with similar styles and in a way about similar issues with two completely different results.