Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's almost Halloween!

I'm dressing as Professor Plum for a life-size game of Clue. It'll be Professor Plum in the study with a dagger. Or something along those lines.

I watched a few great films this week (none of them Criterion, sadly) but thought I'd use this pre-Halloween Friday to drop a few gems of Halloween goodness for you to peruse.

Keep it safe boys and girls. Keep it safe.

Check out this amazing list of Criterion Halloween favs from some of the great writers right HERE.

Aint-It-Cool's Harry Knowle's has gathered a list of new H'o-ween films he's excited about HERE.

Drew McWeeney of HitFix fame is doing his monthly Halloween HorrorFest marathon HERE.

Learn how to make a sweet Where The Wild Things Are costume HERE.

And that's just the tip of the fucking iceberg.

Keep it real Halloweiners, keep it real.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Smart people love Criterion.

I know, one of these days I'll actually get back to watching Criterion films.

Until then, check out this winning entry in to the recent Jeanne Dielman–Criterion Collection Cooking Video Contest.

Just your average Criterion fan, making an amazing movie.

Enjoy all of the honorable mentions right HERE.

Who ever thought the sound of making meatloaf could be so damn disturbing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What the fuck and CLUE.

I went to the symphony today for an early morning pre-show rehearsal. It was quite symphonic and though I fell asleep for a brief bit of each and every song, they were some of the most tuneful naps I've ever taken.

Then I walked outside and my bike, the appropriately named Mrs. and Ms. Cheesepiener was gone.

I'm sitting here in sort of baffled bit of confounded anger and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts:

1. This makes me the most angry not because of the actual bike being gone (though that makes me angry as well) but more so because of the huge inconvenience of it all. Not only do I now have to go through the pains of purchasing a new bike (without the convenience of bike transportation) but for the next indefinite period of time I have to get around with out my semi-beloved bike. This means a step sideways in to the wide world of public transportation. A wide world I was happily no longer a part of.

2. I'm also sad. It's like losing a pet or a friend - I didn't get to say goodbye or get a last ride. Some jerk just thought to himself, "I like that poorly locked bike, I'll take it." And that's it. Mr. and Mrs. Cheese Peiner, I hope whomever has you is taking care of you. Sadly you're probably just getting stripped in an Oakland chop-shop.

3. The hilarious part of this story is that JM, my roommate and symphony impetus, had his bike literally locked to mine. They cut this lock and then took my bike, leaving his behind. I mean, my bike was a shiny goldenrod and had stupid TREK emblazoned across it, but there has to be humor in the fact that one bike was just left. C'mon thief, it's a recession, you've got to get every last pennies worth.

4. Part of me wants to skulk about the city, looking for Mr. and Mrs. Cheese Peiner and the culprit who swiped him/her and then jump out from behind a wall and spear-tackle the shit out of them. The other, more dominant side, just wants to sit on my bed and stew, as I've been doing for the last hour. I'm better at stewing than spear-tackling. No joke.

5. Keep Mr. and Mrs. Cheese Peiner in your thoughts. Sure, he/she had a shoddy chain, no derailer tag, and a tendency to not work at the most inopportune moments, but sweet Jesus he/she was my first and I'll always look back fondly on him/her.

The Movie: Clue (1985)
The Director: Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny, The Whole Nine Yards, etc.)

Something Interesting: This film was written by John Landis, one-time hero of comedy. He fell out of favor years later, and perhaps this aborted fetus was a tingling premonition of that.

Something Else Interesting: The three-ending gimmick I bitch about later in this column was actually only included on the video version. Every theatre got one distinct ending. I don't know how this makes me feel. Probably angry, but I blame my loss for that.

My Thoughts:

I'm glad I'm writing about Clue today, as I thought it was a steaming pile, and I'm in just the mood to write absolutely nothing nice.

Alex and I threw on Clue two weeks ago to get a few ideas for what ended up being pretty stunning Clue-oriented Halloween costumes. No ideas were gleaned, but a lot of vitriol was spilled on this messy 80s remake of a, sigh, board game.

1. A lesson never learned.

There's a lot of talk about upcoming board game adaptations in Hollywood right now, and please, Mr. Hollywood and all your big-suited lawyer friends, take a look at Clue and see where you're headed. This is a shoddily thrown together murder mystery that tosses in a few lead pipes a noose and a character named "Mr. Body" and calls it an adaptation. Board games are meant to be played, not to be seen on screen, and this is why. You're just pulling together loose threads hoping that a film comes out. How come you can't just make a murder mystery set in a mansion instead of Clue: The Movie? Instead of the upcoming Battleship: The Movie, why doesn't Peter Berg just make a new naval action movie? 'Cause Hollywood is full of lazy people who love money and that sort of thing is just run-of-the-mill these days.

2. Is this a cult film?

People love this movie. Seriously, love it. Which makes me think that the definition of "cult film" has to have the phrases "seriously unlovable film" and "doddering morons" included within. As this is a terrible movie and the idea of seeing it over and over again honestly makes my skin crawl a bit. I might actually stray away from "cult films" from now on, just in fear that I'll stumble across a film like this again.

3. Why is it so bad?

When the best parts of your film are Tim Curry stepping in dog-poo and Christopher Lloyd - something is very, very wrong. Nearly everything about this film falls short of watchable, let alone good. The costume designs are dated to the point you think you're watching bad, gay, opera. The acting is arch in the gag-reflexing way, not the fun campy way. And the plot, a mish-mash of every stupid murder mystery ever to grace the screen does nothing, even failing to have a proper ending, instead relying on the three-ending trick.

I'm sorry I watched this film. At least my costume is good.

Mr. and Mrs. Cheese Peiner, 2009-2009.

Thursday: Vengeance.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's quick again.

Because my life is strange, it's nine 'o' clock in the morning and I'm frantically pounding out a blog post before I head off to a four year old's birthday party in an ill-fitting suit coat (which I love).

Thus, you get this bizarre, sort of amazing short film by the late great Jim Henson.

Three things about this short film:

1. It debuted on The Late Show with Johnny Carson. Yup, this bit of personal insanity was shown on national TV. It doesn't have hot, scantily clad teens or cougars or Keifer Sutherland exploding the Chinese - it's art, and it's on national television. Be ashamed television, be ashamed of what you've come.

2. I found it on We Love You So, the amazing website of Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Where The Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich, etc.) and friends. I highly recommend a perusal.

3. This is the man who created ... The Muppets. I love when artists, particular those who found fame entertaining for kids, open themselves up like this. There's always more going on.


Thursday, October 22, 2009


My brain is a bit blank this morning. No witty asides or exciting commentary at the world at large

Thus it's a good day to write up one of my least enjoyable experiences of a well put together film.

The Movie: A Serious Man
The Director(s): Joel & Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men, Raising Arizona, etc.)

Somethin' Interesting: Never before in my entire life have I left a film so wracked by anxiety. Sure, it might just be that I'm an Anxious Alan these days, but lordy, lordy was a crackling ball of nervous energy.

Somethin' Else Interesting: As we rode out of the theatre, the final apocalyptic scenes ringing in our heads, the city of San Francisco was almost deadly quiet. Every car was stopped and all that could be heard was some lunkhead screaming and The Blue Angels careening overhead. I believe the word is, "eerie".

Quick Notes:

1. One strange cast.

The Coen's made two movies packed with stars in the last year or so (the amazing No Country and the hilarious Burn After Reading) and then, well, they made this. A film about Jews in Minneapolis that stars no one bigger than Richard Kind, the mensch from Michael Fox's Spin City. I appreciate no director on the planet more than these two, true artists that take their gained clout and make daring and original movies that no one else can.

2. Do Jews like this better?

There's been a lot of talk about A Serious Man and the fact that critics have been describing it as "too Jewish". Sure, it sounds like an awful description, but honestly this film is set amongst the deeply Jewish community of, uh, someplace in Minneapolis in the 1960s. The themes and plot of the story are rooted heavily in Jewish culture, as are the characters and even the language. Is it a terrible thing to refer to the film as "Jewish" when the plot follows that of Job, a main character in The Torah? Maybe. My question actually is as a Jewish person, that I am not, is more enjoyment gleaned from this film? Do the Jewish themes and phrases resonate more? Being a Gentile am I missing out?

3. Anxiety.

I said this up top, but oh my, oh miso, did this film get my gall up. At the moment, one wracked by anxiety, I couldn't say I enjoyed the film, but as I've pulled farther away from it this anxiety was wrought from me by the sheer genius filmmaking of two of the best working in the business. Every scene, every shot, every moment, every musical cue is perfect in this film, and that perfection is aimed at notching up the level of anxiety for the main character, and the audience, as much as possible. You feel it building and building and building and you hope for a pressure release, which comes, but in the last moments The Coens, those geniuses of cinema, seal the cap again. I left nearly breathless with nerves. As did my roommate Lindzilla. We both just sat at home and stewed in anxiety, barely able to muster a "good" or "bad" about A Serious Man.

4. Just like a Lebowski

Give this film a chance. Let it sit in your brain for a few days. Let the Roger Deakin cinematography and the character and world building of The Coens settle in. You'll love this film, perhaps even brave the wilds of anxiety to view it again.

Final Thoughts: Another near perfect entry in to the shockingly good filmography of the brother's Coen. I can't recommend those with anxiety issues the experience of watching this film, but a weekend of near throw-ups is worth it, to me, when a film is this good.

Friday: Clue

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I've been realizing as of late, in a way that I often do, that there's a lot of films and a lot of books and a lot of shit I need to read. Just piles of movies and literature stacked in the limbo of things unread/unwatched, that I need to dig in to. Criterion, the films of Woody Allen, every Coen Brother's film, Richard Price's book Lush Life, and the list just goes on and on.

Usually the realization that my life goal of reading and watching everything interesting ever conceived gets the bile in my throat up a bit, as the knobby hand of Death seems mighty close when a project of that size exists. But this go-around, I'm just sort of excited. There is so much amazing shit out there and I, being a sane twenty-seven year old with the majority of my wits about me, has a fair amount of time to try and knock out a solid wedge of said amazing things.

This might seem simple and already realized by you, the unobsessed film and book enjoyers of the world, but to me, a man who might just think too much, this is like someone removing a four hundred pound albino monkey sloth from my shoulders.

This realization will be forgotten, and then returned to, many many times over the course of this blog.

THE FUTURE! That's what I'm calling my semi-new column on Criterion Quest. I imagine the future to be full of seventeen armed tentacle-bots and cyber-'tutes being emailed to our front doors. Well that a whole slew of Criterion films that I may or may not ever get to (but I'm okay with that). The good folk of Criterion World continue to send me emails, well me and the rest of the folk obsessed with this rightly obsessible collection, about what's coming out. And I, being the chronicler of many things Criterion, will spread this word to you.

The Film: Monsoon Wedding (489)
The Director: Mira Nair (The Namesake, Vanity Fair)

What Is It: One of the highest grossing foreign films of all time. An explosion of color and emotion striking out from the middle of a traditional Indian wedding.

Why Is Criterion Releasing?: There's always words like "sumptuous" and "juicy" bandied around when it comes to this film. Nair's become quite a famous director in the wake of this film, and the chance to release a director-approved version of it must've had the cloak and dagger folk over at Crit-Col slathering like cheetahs. Also, Nair has a huge collection of shorts and documentaries that this little film gives Crit-Col the chance to release.

My Thoughts On It: I've wanted to see this film for, well, most of my life since it's release, but it's just one of those gentle giants you never get around to. I thought Nair's The Namesake was emotional and epic in a way few American films are, so I'm more than excited that in ten or so years I might be able to upload this film in to my brain stem's Netflix queue.

Wednesday: A Serious Man

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I'm on a film watching bender right now.

I've got a Netflix queue stacked to the brim and a bag full of films that I've just started to dig in to.

What am I watching right now? Here, let me tell you.

1. Clue

I'm halfway through this film and I'm struggling. It's a sort of badly shot, cheeky take on a, sigh, board game. Tim Curry is in it, Christopher Lloyd is in it (whatever happened to him?), and a host of other slightly famous people of the 1980s, but it just doesn't click. It's too stupidly campy. But as I am unable to not finish watching a movie, I will plow through this flick and then lambaste it with aplomb.

2. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (102)

One of my favorite Criterion films of all time (meaning one of the ten or twenty that I'd seen prior to starting my quest). Weird and French and surreal and full of attractive Franchies and boggling ideas. Luis Bunuel you are my French Surrealist hero.

3. The Short Films of Grant Munroe

Canadians are strange and odd characters. Garbed in denim and chock full of accent. Strangely enough, I've never really thought about what was going in Canadian film (hell Canadian anything) in the 1940s - 1970s, and damn it, I'm sad I haven't. Grant Munroe was a short animator who made a ton of films for the National Board of Canada. Their short and animated and usually have some sort of subversive message, and they're pretty amazing. His Christmas bit is one of the sweetest least aggravating bits of holiday sentiment I've ever seen.

4. Vernon, Florida

Errol Morris, this is the last film of yours I've seen. I'm almost sad to choke it down with unrestrained glee. But I'll be okay.

5. Road House

The Days of Swayze will grace this website soon. Your mind it will be blown.

Seriously I have FIVE movies in my greasy hands right now, plus Netflix Instant, plus online television shows, plus the lingering need for a, sigh, social life.


The Movie:
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
The Director: Jeff Feuerzeig (Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King)

Something Interestin': Daniel Johnston's, er, mental issues, were a lot greater than a lot thought. Crashin' planes, screamin' about Jesus - this guy is as nuts as he was talented.

Quick Notes:

1. Who is this director?

This is really one of the best documentaries on music, or anything, that I've ever seen. It's a delicious blend of animation, music, reenactments, film, and interviews that, as far as I can tell, accurately portrays the life and times of the musical genius that is Daniel Johnston. And my question is: who the fuck is the man behind the camera? Seriously, this is some real gifted filmmaking, and all I can find that he's worked on is another documentary about the band Half Japanese. It's shocking, but Jeff Feezelbub, or whatever, is a name I'll be looking out for.

2. Daniel Johnston's still got it.

You see Daniel Johnston at the end of the film, living in a tiny town with his quickly aging parents, playing in a punk rock band with a bunch of semi-trashy locals. I at least worried, immensely that maybe this large, slow-speaking version of the Daniel Johnston I'd come to know and love might not be able to eek out those heart felt bits of emotionally lyricism he was so well known for. Don't you worry folk, I heard a live recording of his from SXSW last year and nearly cried. Just as beautiful, just as heartfelt. I thank Daniel Johnston's army of Devil-hating ducks for keeping him safe.

3. A vast amount of source material.

As amazing as the direction of this film is, it couldn't have been possible if the decidedly nutty Daniel Johnston hadn't recorded literally his entire life. There's pictures and cuts of film and audio recordings that seriously expose not only every part of every bit of his life, but the deep set emotions he was feeling at the time. It's a little eerie, as if Daniel Johnston was setting the groundwork for an amazing film about his life.

Final Thoughts: I'd never heard Daniel Johnston before this film. You don't need too. He himself, from birth to present, is a fascinating subject, and this film an amazing portrayal of the talent and madness that defines him.

Friday: A Serious Man

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A brief encounter and QUICK NOTES: ZOMBIELAND

This happened to me yesterday:

I work in a coffee shop that has two windows that each and every morning I open. Since my coffee shop is in a part of town that could be considered "sketchy" by rich, white people, we have grates over our window.

Yesterday, 'round 9:30, a man approached the open window, carrying one presumably half full large can of 211 Steel Reserve, and a brown bag, where an un-opened 211 Steel Reserve can awaited him.

Our conversation:

Man: Am I a good person?
Me: Uh, sure, you're a good person.
Man: Tell me I'm a good person.
Me: You're a good person.
Man: Say it louder!

He then proceeded to stagger across the street and get arrested. I only wished I had yelled, "You are not truly a good person, you have befuddled me!"

Alas, I did not.

The Movie: Zombieland
The Director: Ruben Fleischer

Something Interestin': The Swayz himself was originally signed to star in this film. The cancer that got him in the end, also forced him out of shooting.

Something Else Interestin': Not only was Woody Harrelson arrested for possession of weed on this film, it was also his biggest grossing of all time. One of these things is surprising.

Quick Notes:

1. The Wonder Years: Zombie Edition

I read on IMDB that this film was originally imagined as a TV show, and I'm glad it didn't ever take that route as it's pretty much just a quirky, new-age Wonder Years with zombies instead of cheeky older brothers. The voiceovers, the nebbish high schooler, the long lusting over girls obviously too attractive for our main character - Fred Savage I believe you have a law suit.

2. Jesse Eisenstein

Like Michael Cera but prickly. I want to hug Michael Cera in all his awkward geekiness. But Jesse Eisenstein? Yikes, at best I want him to stay away from my imaginary children. At worst, he might get a shank in the knee for his smugness. I mean I don't want to kill him, just ruin his sports career.

3. Slo-Mo Liquid

There is more liquid spattered about screen in super slo-mo in the first two and half minutes of this film than possibly any other in film history. Blood, coke, milk, water - if it's liquid, it's getting a slo-mo shower. I can only hope it was intentional. If not, Mr. Fleischer you need to see someone about a dangerous obsession.

4. Emma Stone, comic?

I sort of love how Emma Stone (Superbad) is hurtling herself down the path of comedy. I feel as if there's this tendency today for young, attractive Hollywood actors (of the female persuasion) to jump in to period dramas and edgy thrillers. Which is sad, as we're lacking in the future generations of funny ladies. If Emma Stone is the start of a new generation though, hell, I think we're okay.

5. Woody Harrelson, big timer.

My friend Hyok once smoked weed with Woody Harrelson at a frat house in Seattle, Washington. Afterwards they went to play basketball (Hyok was a magic man) but stoned Woody got spoked by an angry weed-hater and had to bail. I still think he should be famous.

Final Thoughts: This is a good, not great movie. Zombies have been stuffed down our throats lately, and it's nice to see a gore-fest that wears it's influences (Shaun of the Dead) and good intentions on its sleeve. Harrelson steals the show, but cold-as-ice Eisenberg and warm-as-puppies Emma Stone have some moments too. I don't know who invited that Breslin lass from Little Ms. Sunshine, she's topping 14 and that awkward stage isn't doing much for her. I recommend it for a matinee show, a drive-in, something that gives you the chance to imbibe a six-pack with a good chum first.

Thursday: The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Monday, October 12, 2009


The Film: Cries & Whispers

The Director:
Ingmar Bergman

Spine #:

What Is It:
Bergman's absolutely brutal family drama set around the reunion of three estranged sisters. This was a film Bergman insisted be in color, stating that the ever present red of the manor represented "the soul". It was fantastically received by the critics and was one of only eight foreign films to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Quick Notes:

1. The sound, lip smacking.

The film starts with a close-up of a face and the sound of lips smacking. But the smacking of lips sounds more like flesh being slowly pulled apart than anything else. And this sound design continues, with each sound effect being given an air of creepiness more often associated with horror films than savagely depressing family films.

2. The set design, the inside of a body.

The red that permeates this film literally makes it feel like the entire series of events takes place inside the human body (or perhaps the mind). There's a bloody aspect to the red of the walls inside the family manor, and with everything awful taking place, you can't help but attribute evil, murderous thoughts to them. Absofuckinglutely perfect choice.

3. Ghosts of the past. A horror movie in the creepiest way.

This has to be the first non-thriller, non-horror, non-gorefest film that had me holding my breath for nearly the entire film. This is a horror film, but without severed heads, or ghosts or rubber-masked monsters, just the horrors of the human soul writ large on the big screen. The actions that each of the main females in this film take are terrifying, and interspersed with the pained howls of the cancer-riddled oldest sister, this is a film to make you cringe, to make you hold your sides and wish you could turn it off. But you won't, it's just too damn good.

4. Nudity.

Every main character in this film gets naked (lucky for us, only one takes a piece of glass to her own vagina) and for good reason. There is a sense of intimacy the shedding of clothes adds, and I imagine Bergman was attempting to expose both the bodies and minds of these, at times, truly horrible characters. I think with the dropping of their clothes, we the audience are given a chance to see past their expensive clothes and cold exteriors, to, ever briefly, connect with them as fellow human beings. When their truly inhuman natures rise to the surface, it creates a breathtaking contrast.

Final Thoughts: This is one gut punch of a film. I found myself watching it in a crowded coffee shop, trying not to gasp out loud as it continued to unfurl. One of the most beautifully constructed pieces of depressing cinema I've ever had the pleasure of watching. I sat in stunned silence through the last forty minutes of this film, hoping it would end, only so the heaviness that weighed me down could be alleviated.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday trailers and the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

It's Friday, late on a Friday at that, but I wanted to get a quick blog out to sate the masses of adoring fans that will attempt to tear my arms off if I do not.

I love you guys to death, but Jesus, I need these things for so many reasons.

A couple trailers I saw and was slightly curious about:

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Looks pretty decent. A bit like one of those Kings Quest games I used to get so angry at ... so angry that I'd call their tip lines on my parents credit cards. That always made me less angry. My parents on the other hand ...

Does anyone else feel like Johnny Depp only became an actor 'cause he was pissed he wasn't born a Brit? He feels like my friend Graham Benjamin who'd always get rip-roaring high and talk in a British accent. It was funny, for a while.

Me and Orson Welles

Good God, could we have at least got a properly grammaticized title? Richard Linklater ... I'm so confused. I mean I understand, you need money, but there has to be something better than this. If I looked up "Hit 'n' Miss" in the dictionary, your gleaming mug would be settled right next to it.

Law Abiding Citizen

Hmmmm ... it has potential. Heavy-handed, major explosions and over-acting potential but I'm sure that JM (my stupid movie cohort) and I will find ourselves within the spaceship like Metreon chortling at its dumbness. I just know us.

Finally, that above picture, taken from the very first LIFE Magazine ever published. How might I have purloined such a shot? Well, the copyright for the amazingly designed magazine dissolved so Google Books has every single, brilliant issue, on the net for your perusal/scavenging. I leafed through one and nearly had to clean my pants afterwards.

Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fucking 10 year reunion and QUICK NOTES: SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

Let me confess something: nearly ten years ago, in my senior year of high school, I was, sigh, the Senior Class President. It didn't mean much then (nor does it mean anything now), I was just a figurehead for the class, that sometimes awkwardly spoke in front of the school and spent half an hour a week on television reporting what sport teams had won and so on and so forth. It was a good time, and I thought when I tossed my pointy hat in to the air come graduation time, that my responsibilities were over.

I was wrong. Rumors that I was supposed to organize our ten year reunion had floated about when I was in office, but I was 18 and imagined these to be ramblings of over-eager high school kids.

I was wrong. In the last month I've received exactly three emails from said over-eager, now grown up high school kids, inquiring as to what I have planned for the, sigh, ten year reunion. In high school when my friends would joke about it, I'd tell them that I'd fake my death, or pick one of the over eager kids to take my place. Now, with emails piling up around my shoulders, demanding me to "pick a theme" and informing me that "places are filling up" and "2010 isn't that far away" I'm literally ready to pen my fake death letter.

Seriously, maybe I'm shirking responsibility (seemingly most people know about this Senior Class President runs-the-reunion responsibility), but c'mon, when I was 18 I was more excited about losing my virginity then thinking about the fact that I was signing up to orchestrate the ten year. All of sudden all of the social responsibility I'd so happily jettisoned in the years following high school is resting on my shoulders once again, and I'm nothing more than angered.

I'm already penning the letter, "Dear Shorewood High School, this is the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and I'm sorry to inform you that Noah Sanders disappeared in to a puddle of quicksand late last night. He will no longer be able to fulfill his role as 10 Year Reunion Coordinator. So sorry."

Sounds good right?

Alex and I watched Shaun of the Dead for the nth time while I was wiling away my days in Seattle. And I thought you might like to hear my opinions on it.

1. This is a great zombie film, and a great debut film all its on. Lets break the number one down in two a's and b's.

a. It's a great film because it's edited sharply, is immaculately written, and plays within the confines of geeky cinema, but isn't afraid to poke fun or venture outside of it to really gouge out some nice emotional performances. It's also paced in a sort of slow, wonderful way that coincides nicely with the speed that the zombies are moving at. As if the "arghing" trudge of the living dead is the same speed at which Shaun (Simon Pegg) is learning to emote and be a grown up man. I also love the way the film uses the idea of "zombie" to sort of peg culture down. We're all zombies in some way, and though it make take a cataclysmic world disaster to shake us out of it, we need to be shaken.

b. It's a great zombie film. This is classic zombie cinema. Slow moving creatures that love brains and die only with the removal of their brains trudging about eating stupid Brits - brilliant. Even more brilliant because of the way director Edgar Wright builds up to it. He uses these long shots of Shaun on his way to work that change just a bit each time. As the zombie attack grows in size, the streets become emptier, and our befuddled, aloof protagonist can't recognize until it's actually in his backyard clawing at his face. The way the zombie attack creeps in to the film, through half seen newscasts and disappearing citizens gets me every time.

2. The film could use a little trimming at the end, but I think this might be just be my fascination with the build-up in films like this. I love seeing the zombies slowly appear at the edges of the frame, just as I love seeing the superhero learn about his powers. Sure, it's great to see the climax and the finish and the hero finally overcoming his fears, but I'm a build-up man, and the final moments of this film seem a little long to me.

Great film though, can't wait to watch Hot Fuzz again, and can barely contain my excitement in seeing Scott Pilgrim Saves The World.

Drooling, you might say.

Thursday: The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nick Hornby is screwing me and QUICK NOTES: UP THE YANGTZE

Nick Hornby, as much as I love this foul-mouthed Brit, is fucking me. And I'm not particularly happy about it.

The story so far:

I bought a collection of Nick Hornby's The Believer columns in a hard back selection titled The Polysyllabic Spree. It was a wonderful book that followed Hornsby has he bought and read a shocking number of books each week. The collection was about the love of reading, and why we read, and what we find interesting as people. I was stunned by how good it was and wrote many letters proclaiming Nick Hornby as my new deity. None were answered.

Two weeks ago I was in that gem you N'orwesterners call Seattle, trolling the 826 Store (a space theme! I highly recommend a spin in the "teleportation room" with a special someone) for laser guns, when I stumbled upon two other collections of Nick Hornsby's amazing column. One, Housekeeping vs. The Dirt and another who's name I cannot remember. I was excited and even though I've set boundaries for my purchasing of books (boundaries that are slowly wearing away) I purchased Housekeeping and, jauntily, raced home to read it.

My problem: I'm pretty sure I already own this book. I'm almost positive that the sheisters at The Believer have simply taken the first half of The Polysyllabic Spree placed it in to an adorable, thin paper back and sold it, without warning as a completely different book. Thus, screwing me out of another fourteen dollars. And as I've continued to read the book (hey it's a good read, and even on a second venture I'm still enjoying the heck out of it) I keep hitting bits that just seem a wee too familiar. A chunk of book about a hooker and a blowjob, pretty sure I've read it. The animated slice from Marjane Sartrapi's Persepoli, certainly seen it somewhere.

I'll be honest, I haven't dug in to the collection to check on this swindle, one, because I'm lazy, and two, because I'm sad that this is certainly the case and that yet again I've thrown a heap of money down a hole. That said, be warned readers, The Believer, magic as they seem, are cheap, snake-oil salesman and if you've already read The Polysyllabic Spree you've already read this.

I'm hoping that, as in the past, my rant against The Believer will somehow end up on Dave Eggers front desk, and he'll arrive at my house with an armful of amazing books for me to devour. C'mon Dave, you take my 14 bones without even a grimace of remorse, a life long subscription to The Believer would do wonders to ease my aching fiscal bones.

Just saying.

We watch a lot of documentaries in this house. Alex is obsessed, and I'm perfectly happy to indulge her love as I've been hoovering these bits of informative glee for years. I snatched Up The Yangtze as I was bit obsessed with China late last year, and I'd been curious as to just what was happening with the damming of the Three Gorges and so on and so forth. I wanted to feel educated and perhaps shed a tear over some human interest.

Instead, I made these quick notes:

1. China, lively and crowded as it is, seems a deeply depressing place. Smoggy, amoral, on the verge of Westernization in a way that only seems ready to damage the individuals of this massive country. The characters in this film, residents of various social classes in a tiny, bizarrely lit town on the Yangtze river, seem vacant in a way I've never seen before. The little girl, who lives in a shack on the river, wants nothing more than to be on a cruise boat, washing dishes for some of the most atrocious white people you've ever seen. The older boy, a rich kid from the city, sees the cruise boat as his first step to international stardom. That's the future kids look forward to when you live in a river town. China, I blame you.

2. Up The Yangtze was a little too much narrative and not enough documentary. It's bookended as some sort of journey for the director (a sniveling voice we only hear) to rediscover his heritage, but his voice disappears and instead we're joined up with these two new members of this strange cruise phenomenon. But every shot is just a little too perfect. Every emotional moment just a bit too on the nose. It seems as if the director, Yung Chang, wanted a certain story and did a bit of shaping to get his footage there. Sketchy if you ask me.

3. This is a depressing story, and thus the film is almost too depressing. It seems as if Yang Chung is trying to show that the Three Gorge's Dam project is hurting everyone, but I feel like everybody already knows that this environmental travesty is destroying, well, most things. Thus, we have a film that showcases two lives sucked in to the Dam's wake, but we don't see a solution to prevent this in the future. The film ends, and all we can think is "China is fucked" and I'm not particularly excited to be reminded of that.

4. I wouldn't call this a great film. It has beautiful shots, especially the opening sequence in the shipyard, but Chung doesn't have enough of a big idea, and what we get is just a reminder that China does a lot of bad things, all the time. And, hell, who doesn't already know that?

Wednesday: Shaun of the Dead

Friday, October 2, 2009

A short one for Friday.

I'm knee deep in Cries and Whispers (101) right now, and it's a tear-soaked murk I'm enjoyably slogging through. It will take many hankies and hours of Dutch therapy to wring out even the smallest of thoughts. Be prepared dear readers with sun lamps and mind-altering drugs.

Thought people might be interested in some of my other writing for the day. I've been doing this little film preview column over at my good friend John Laird's website, Side One: Track One for a few whiles now. I've tended, for various reasons over the last few postings to be a bit, well, shit-housed while writing them and I thought you, you poofy haired knuckleheads you, might get a kick out of them.