Monthly Archives: December 2008

do you wanna serve tea at the BBC?

So Elana said to me, “I’m trying to watch this highly-praised BBC miniseries State of Play. But I don’t seem to be able to stay awake for more than the first 15 minutes.” And I said, “Ha-ha, silly rabbit, you’re … Continue reading

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the future sound of television

Alex Epstein complains that TNT’s web viewing capabilities are frustrating, cumbersome, and really not worth the bother. This reminds me that I’ve been wanting to write about how I watch TV now — which is, entirely digitally — and examine … Continue reading

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i’m not an american — i’m a nymphomaniac

Not quite a fiction film, certainly not a documentary, My Winnipeg operates in the strange twilight realm in between, a realm still not satisfactorily mapped for us despite forays by Chris Marker (Sans Soleil) and Orson Welles (F for Fake). Maddin’s approach is part re-enactment, part gleeful native’s travelogue, and part poetic reflection. Sometimes actors play out purported scenes from Maddin’s life — in one especially harrowing and yet tender scene, his mother brutally interrogates his sister about where she’s been all night. This is a scene we’ve seen a million times, but the oddity of the girl’s excuse (she hit a deer — and can produce blood, fur, and dents to prove it) and the relentless cruelty and crudity of the mother make the situation seem new and dangerous.

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how to watch brakhage

Are you three minutes into a feature-length film about a guy and his dog climbing a hill? You might want to pop open the laptop and see what awards this thing’s won. Also check the running time. A hundred more minutes to go, eh? Well, now might be a good time to read about how this film fits into Brakhage’s first mature period.

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boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart

I think it’s the “rotisserie-&-bidet” type of imagery that makes Ellison’s essay so much more memorable and likely to become a holiday classic than the Hitchens bellyache. (The original essay was, in fact, printed two years in a row in the L.A. Free Press — the anniversary edition, if memory serves, included some bonus griping.) Other highlights include the opening line, in which Ellison says he has nothing against “the Prince of Peace, upon whom has been laid more superhero tripe than any social malcontent should have to deal with,” or his assertion that Scrooge was the only decent character in A Christmas Carol and that Tiny Tim was a treacle-mouthed little twerp (“Not even on Christmas would I God bless Nixon.”) It’s a beautifully written piece, a .50-cal barrage of fully justified invective against a hollow, bullying, inescapable set of traditions, and it’s one of dozens of reasons I recommend The Harlan Ellison Hornbook, the collection in which the infamous essay appears. (It’s out of print now, but you can find it through dealers.)

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protec’ yo neck

In light of the Lori Drew conviction and its bizarre assertion that Terms of Service agreements carry the power of law and that failing to abide by them can mean a conviction for hacking, we at The Handsome Camel have … Continue reading

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milk-eyed mender

I have generally hated van Sant’s previous mainstream efforts (really, dude, you wanna remake Psycho?), but this is his most exuberant and passionate work since My Own Private Idaho. Not coincidentally, it’s also his gayest. In fact, the two form a pair of sexually explicit bookends — Idaho tells the story of sad young hustlers, but Milk celebrates the love and sexual confidence that can come later in life. The two kinds of life are linked in the opening scene, where Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk impetuously hits on James Franco’s Scott Smith in the subway, a creepy moment filled with danger that underlines the strangeness of being a closeted gay who can only meet lovers in absolute anonymity. Yet it also turns out to lead to the most important relationship of Milk’s life. I’m not sure how historically accurate this is; it’s possible, I suppose, that van Sant wants to make a point about the possibilities of gay monogamy, though he’s honest about it — in practice the characters seem as emotionally stupid as their straight contemporaries. In a devastating scene later in the film, Scott threatens to leave if Harvey runs for office again, and Harvey calmly eats a chip and says nothing.

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blame it on the falun gong

I’m not saying Rose doesn’t actually nurse racist and homophobic feelings in his heart. Maybe he does. But I think on “One In A Million” the viciousness of the sentiment was an artistic strategy. Rose was adopting an ugly persona and giving full voice to that ugliness, blowing the doors off the vault that the white middle class had locked all its fears and resentments in. Spike Lee used to have an unfortunate habit of arranging for his white characters to get frustrated and shout “nigger!” at the climax of his films, suggesting that the word was always lurking right beneath the surface whenever whites had to deal with blacks. Axl volleyed the idea back, adding, “Yeah, and we don’t care much for homos or camel jockeys, either.” He wrote from the perspective of a frightened, harassed midwestern kid overwhelmed by both the seediness of an L.A. bus terminal and the encroachment of Others on a sovereignty white people still feel entitled to. If a poet or songwriter of color had adopted this persona, we would all have recognized it as such. But because Rose actually was a midwestern redneck, we confused author with art.

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a whole sort of general mish-mash

For a couple of weeks I’ve wanted to write something about Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Like his Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, Slumdog is all about movement — dizzying, breathtaking, rocketing movement through the slums of Mumbai. Boyle’s is a spoiled, childish camera; it craves novelty and excitement, and it’s attracted to extremes. But as soon as it finds one startling image, it gets bored and looks for another one. So we’re shoved like the blade of a plow through torture, riots, children covered in shit, children dressed up like avatars of the gods, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, a British company’s call center where Indian street urchins fake Scottish accents, the view of Mumbai from a half-completed skyscraper, a death scene that seems like it dropped in accidentally on its way to a John Woo movie, and, finally, one of those awesome Bollywood musical numbers that makes everything all right.

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Posted in adventure, America, filmmaking, linguistics | 2 Comments