Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toying with Your Emotions

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I am always impressed by a body of storytelling (usually TV or movies) that succeeds in getting the audience to root for the "bad guy", often without even realizing that they're doing so. This is something that was definitely not always present in television and film, partly because of old Hollywood's own self-policing production code, part of which read, "The sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin." I'm sure this is not the earliest incident of the director manipulating the audience into rooting for the bad guy, but the earliest that always pops into my mind is the scene in Psycho where Norman Bates is trying to get rid of Marion's body (for his mother, of course). Hitchcock saw the audience as his playthings, whose emotions were his to manipulate.

Having the audience cheering on murderers is still pretty rare (guess we can add in Dial M, The Perfect Murder, and The Sopranos), but the number of heroes, or at least anti-heroes, we see on the wrong side of the law (even if the system is corrupt) is practically endless; Han Solo, the crew of Serenity, Robin Hood, arguably Batman, The Score, Heist, The Usual Suspects, Ocean's 11 (12, 13), Three Kings, Out of Sight (what the heck, Clooney? 5 heist movies?), The Thomas Crown Affair, The Italian Job, Rififi, La Trou, A Simple Plan, maybe Fargo, the list just goes on and on, including Season 2, Episode "?" of LOST, which is what brought about this post.

Apparently stealing things is also popular for remakes, looking back at the list (Rififi is set for a 2009 remake).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Does Not Compute

Honestly, I think if my computer gets any slower, it's going to start asking me for help processing binary. This computer used to run at a decent speed. Now, 1 gig of RAM is standard, and 2 is good, which means I need to at least double the memory.

(Also, is there a way to block myself from looking at ebay? That place is worse than QVC, because there's always something on there you want.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Once, Again

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I went downtown last night and saw Once.

Thematically the movie is very similar to Brief Encounter (which I haven't watched for more than a year precisely because of the plot), or Lost in Translation. This movie could easily have turned out to be some clichéd student film if not for the music. But ultimately that doesn't matter, because this film wouldn't exist without the music, just like Moulin Rouge without music, or Lost in Translation without Tokyo. It's impossible to seperate music from the film, seeing as how much of the movie is based around the writing, performing, and recording of these very songs. The acting is very naturalistic (having musicians instead of actors in the roles), which helps create the illusion that we're actually watching a documentary, and the relationship between "Guy" and "Girl" is believable, despite the fact the Glen is about 18 years older than Markéta. It's an intense 1-week relationship. The kind that doesn't happen in real life, but neither do people dress up like bats to fight crime. That doesn't stop us from enjoying the story. I don't usually mind R-rated language, but someone it just felt wrong in this film. It felt forced, and out of place, and is really the only criticism I can make (perhaps because I know I'd like to show the movie to people when I buy that DVD who I know would be offended by it.) Everything else about the film, especially the music, was perfection.

As I mentioned, one of the biggest draws for me was the music. (The album is currenty 88 on Billboard, having peaked at 71.) The songs have already been in constant rotation for me since I first saw the movie trailer. If anything, this just made my first viewing of the film that much better. The films leads have been been playing a few dates around the U.S. under the name they first used to record, The Swell Season. If this movie and its soundtrack don't make stars out of these two, then we might as well give up on music altogether and all listen to "new country" and rap.

Not only am I now a fan of the music of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, but Hansard's band The Frames. To paraphrase a line from Serenity, "How is it there's a whole band called The Frames and ain't none of us ever heard of them?" Well, I've never heard of them anyway, but it seems most of their fans will quickly proclaim that they're the best Irish band out there. Not U2 or the Cranberries...The Frames. They are known for their incredible live shows, and a quick YouTube search will show that fans at the shows are more than just fans. They're fanatics. (There are also 3 live shows hosted at archive.org, which I haven't had a chance to listen to just yet.) Here's hoping The Frames can crack the U.S., musically, and bring their live shows with them to more than just a few cities.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eskimo Sandunes, Terminators

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Observant readers may have noted that the name of this blog page is Digital Mirrors and Eskimo Sandunes, and then immediately thought, "What the...?"

An explanation, a reflection on tragedy, a plea for help, a preview, and a rant.

In the summer of 1995 there was a song getting pretty heavy rotation on the alt. rock stations. It was titled Mighty K.C., and it was said to be about the suicide of Kurt Cobain. I thought it was a pretty good song, and I still own the CD because of the rest of the songs on the album. But I think most people have forgotten about the band and don't know the story of what happened between the recording of the album and its release. I recall hearing the song being performed live in the studio by the band that fall, but the guy singing it wasn't the same person. This couldn't have been long after the bus crash that killed the lead singer, bassist, and tour manager of the group, yet the other members tried to forge on. The last song on the album is called Eskimo Sandune. As far as digital mirrors are concerned, that's a dream I had once, and just you wait. They're going to outsell analog mirrors 2:1 before it's all said and done.

Many years ago I read about a music album by a band a can't recall with a title I don't remember. It consisted of 4 records, and the idea was that the listener could play any one of the 4 records on it's own, but if you started any 2, 3, or all 4 of the records simultaneously, the music would sync up and a whole new listening experience could be had. Does anyone know what band or album this is? I haven't been able to figure it out on my own.

Last night I watched the pilot for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I've been really excited about this TV show for quite some time. I liked the pilot, but I'm not convinced that the direction it took at the end is consistent with Terminator canon. I'm suspicious that some of the score used in the episode is recycled Bourne movie music. Anyway, the pilot episode is "out there". I won't tell you how to get it, but it you really want to see it you won't need me to.

What's the deal with billion dollar companies hijacking perfectly good pop songs and brainwashing us so that we can't listen to All Around the World on an Oasis CD without almost literally hearing a voice in our head saying, "Cingular is now the new AT&T"?! And now Luvs is changing a track from Magical Mystery Tour to "All You Need is Luvs"! Enough already.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Movie Theater Etiquette

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My first mistake is that I went to the cheap theater at all. I know better. The sound is sub-par, and too quiet. The screen image isn't as sharp as it should be, although sometimes it's in one part of the frame. I'm pretty sure the projectors need some work, and the lenses are probably dusty, and they probably never clean the projection booth window. So why even bother? Because it's $1.75.

I'm aware of the theater rules, both spoken and unspoken. Turn off your cell phone. No talking. No kicking the backs of seats. Don't sit right next to someone if a theater isn't full. However, in all my movie-going experiences, I've never run into the one where you apparently can't sit in front of someone. I like to be as close to the middle of the theater as possible (which was an issue for me at Batman Begins IMAX when I had to sit all the way to the left in a full house.) When I walk into a theater that only has one aisle right down the middle, and I'm alone, I'm only looking at the aisle seats.

There's a guy sitting 6 rows back on the aisle. I take row 4 aisle, but it's too close to the screen. So I move back to row 5 aisle. The old man in row 6 huffs, grabs his popcorn, stands up, walks to row 4, stares me down, and sits down in row 4 about 5 seats in. I know I'm tall, but it's a theater. It's not like he can't see over me. So I figure, great, even better. Now I get to sit in row 6 aisle, and I take his previous seat. So I enjoy my muffled, not-quite-focused movie.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

787 rollout

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Allegedly this is the first time Boeing has had all their 7-series models lined up like this. They landed one every 10 minutes starting at 7:07. The 787 of course is not flying yet, so it's not included (looks like a modified cargo plane on the ramp, the 787 only has 2 engines.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The War

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It feels like I don't use this blog remotely the way I started out meaning to, and that I, instead, waste way too much bandwidth reposting things I've found and am excited about. Well, I won't apologize for it (okay, maybe for the headless girlfriend pillow, but that got more comments than any other blog I've done.) But this is something I'm really excited about. The top image pretty much says it all (except for the fact that it's partially narrated by Tom Hanks). Ken Burn, PBS, and 14+ hours of WWII. And not romanticized notions of war as portrayed by Stephen Spielberg, either, but the real stories told by the people who lived them.

(Saving Private Ryan was realis-tic, gritty, and in-your-face, but romanticized just the same. For the record, I happen to love that movie, as well as Band of Brothers, and I'm very much looking forward to its HBO companion piece, The Pacific.)

Back on track, the mini-series starts September 23, and the companion book will be released September 11. The DVDs are even available for pre-order from Amazon ($90 for 14 hours?! LOST will be 23 hours for less than $40).

Monday, July 9, 2007

"Introducing the new girlfriend"

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How awkward would this be--
"Mom, Dad, I'd like you to meet Headless Torso"

Back to the (35mm) Future

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It wasn't a new print, but Back to the Future has never looked...well, bigger. The scratches on the print were barely noticeable. What was noticeable were things I could never see on my small TV watching the movie on DVD. Like the fact that when Crispin Glover slammed down his chocolate milk on the counter, some of it actually splashed up onto the actor playing Lou. But he managed stayed in character with brown specs on his white frock, allowing Zemeckis to use Glover's best take.

All I want for Christmas is a movie theater. Maybe if George Lucas was my uncle...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Let absurdity reign

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I found more, and couldn't help myself:

(Is that Chris Farley?)

Jane Austen and Transformers

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You might think Jane Austen and Transformers have nothing in common...and as far as I can tell, you'd be correct. I just figured instead of two short posts, I'd put random stuff together into one.

Let's start with Transformers. I can pretty much guarantee I won't be paying to see this one, since there are about a dozen others I'd rather see first. But other than lackluster reviews, my beef is about how unrealistic the characters seem. I don't mean that I don't believe automobiles can "transform" into self-aware robots intent on destroying or saving Earth. That's all perfectly logical, but when they transform from a vehicle to a robot, it stands to reason that the robot has the same mass as the vehicle. From my rough, eyeballed estimates, the robots are twice as large as they should be, and have at least twice the mass as the vehicles they allegedly once were. For the space taken up by a vehicle in its "normal" configuration, 60-70% of that volume has to be air. Yet when these vehicles transform, they get larger and seemingly heavier (more massive.)

Whatever. Anyway, despite the fact that I rather like the following, I think that calling them action figures (as indicated on the package) is ridiculous. Aren't action figures supposed to do something? Shouldn't they be called inaction figures? Or static figures? Still, the fact that Jane Austen has been immortalized in polyvinyl is amusing to me. (I confess, I ordered Jane Austen off Ebay. Don't judge me! The woman could write. I'll probably end up with Beethoven eventually too.)