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Archive for the ‘Moving Pictures’ Category

Harry S. Plinkett

Harry S. Plinkett

Have you seen Harry S. Plinkett reviewing the Star Wars prequels trilogy?

All three movies are reviewed in excrutiating detail in three videos (70, 90 and 110 minutes long, respectively) and the reviews are devastating. Plinkett shows how Lucas himself destroyed the whole amazing mythology he gave birth to decades earlier, thus proving that he apparently never truly understood it. But what I love the most in them is how thoroughly Plinkett dissects Lucas’ movies and gives an analysis of what is awesome in the original Star Wars trilogy, and, by extension, what sucks in the prequels. He gives numerous examples of what went wrong and why, and believe me, there’s many more reasons they suck than Jar Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd and horrible dialogue – Plinkett doesn’t even spend that much time on these, probably because everyone else in the world already did. No, he notices myriads of stuff more subtle and better hidden that those evident ones, things that we never noticed – but our brains did.

Especially funny parts of the reviews include Plinkett proving the blandness of characters of Episode I using a clever experiment that included characters from the original trilogy and some of reviewer’s friends, listing things Anakin did well and wrong when courting Padme, and comparing the trilogy as an attempt to create a character story around Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader with another famous character story in film, “Citizen Kane”. But the most valuable point he makes is how ironically the rise and fall of Anakin (as well as the rise and fall of William Randolph Hearst, the real-life prototype of Charles Foster Kane character from Welles’ film) mirrors the change that occured in George Lucas himself, “going from an idealistic young filmmaker wanting to rebel against the system to becoming the system” – the same point is also made in the 2010 documentary “The People vs. George Lucas”, which I also saw recently (and recommend).

Before you go and see them, be warned though! The videos are quite disturbing in places – the first 20 seconds of first review set the tone of his type of humour, and if you have problems with them, you may not like the rest. The Plinkett persona (actually a character created by Internet reviewer Mike Stoklasa) is presented as a borderline senile psychopath who kidnaps and murders women (prostitutes mostly), butchers animals and does many other, horrific things. This is done so well that sometime during watching “The Phantom Menace” review I actually thought that maybe he really is a psycho, and I’m just indulging his sick mind by watching his videos on YouTube. I turned them off at that point and refused to continue until I saw the outtakes of the reviews, in which I saw that it was all staged – I saw the make up, the actors, and the props. Now I can watch his reviews (and he made some more, aside from the Star Wars prequels, including “Avatar”).

And in the end Harry S. Plinkett – the same psychotic sadist – makes a beautiful and very true point, that “in the end all the computers in the world can’t generate the most basic thing that a movie needs – an emotional connection with the audience.”

Highly recommended! (if only for people with hard stomachs and distance to what they see)

http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/

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"Pina"

"Pina"

I saw “Avatar” and “Megamind” and the fourth “Pirates…” and each time I said: “OK, so this 3D thing is kinda neat and everything, now, can I please see a good movie using it?”

Now I finally did.

Aside from “Pina” being, well, perfect, it is the first picture I saw where the third dimension feels really necessary. Watching all those more or less CGI sets and objects in aforementioned movies (and many others) I couldn’t resist thinking that the depth only adds to the feel of their falsehood. “Pina” shows me that using 3D cameras only really makes sense if they’re pointed at a theater stage. Why? When you sit in an actual theater (not cinema) and watch a play, you actually watch in 3D, obviously, right? You yourself can choose which part of the stage you want to focus on, and everything is equally shown. If you would watch a play on a regular, 2D screen, big chunk of that would be taken from you, since you’d be shown only what the cameraman or editor picked to show or focus on at that moment. And here’s where 3D picture works – it brings back that theater feel to the silver screen. Now you can again choose what to look at! I’d love to see some famous plays, musicals or operas shot in 3D and projected on a cinema screen…

“Pina” gives you even more, as it creatively marries two media – it gives you the benefit of a theater, as you watch actors on stages (even if not all are actual theater stages, as we often see dancers in different buildings, along with streets or parks), but also brings into equations elements of film language, such as editing (obviously not possible in theater) or camera wandering around actors on the stage (whereas in real theater you, as a spectator, are always pinned to your seat).

That’s about form, and as for the content – I haven’t seen a movie I’d call a High Art in a cinema for a long time now. For some reason, while watching it, I felt an urge to watch Wim Wenders movies (“Paris, Texas” and “Buena Vista Social Club”, especially), and it wasn’t until I left the cinema and learned that it was actually Wenders who made this movie! I didn’t know that.

Also, it made me want to dance.

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“Black Swan”

"Black Swan" poster

"Black Swan"

So, “Black Swan”, right?

I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. I hate horror movies. I’m so easily scared by them (or any movie, actually), and yet time and time again I go and watch some scary flick. There was spanish “El Orfanado”, there was “The Happening” (to all who want to say “‘Happening’ was scary?” I have an unpolite retort prepared, so better not), I even have some movies based on King’s novels and stories (“1408”, “Needful Things” or “The Mist”) and I keep convincing myself that one (sunny and bright) day I’ll watch them, but who are we kidding? I won’t gather the courage to do that… until one day I will and put them on, and then curse myself from behind the cushion throughout the whole movie. And, of course, promise myself I’ll never watch any horror. Until the next time.

My fiancee says I’m a masochist. She may be right. (more…)

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New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

The year 2010 has great in many aspects – all the Toastmasters conferences in many interesting places, all the great people I met on those occasions, the Szlachetna Paczka charity action – a lot to do, and all very satisfying.

Last year was also great culturally – I finally gave a proper listen to Mike Oldfield’s works other than “Tubular Bells” and in last weeks I fell in love with Radiohead (thus becoming “thomosexual“). Also, all those movies and books…

Wait. What movies? What books?
(more…)

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Lost

Lost

“Lost” is over. The series finale aired on May 23rd, I finally watched it last Sunday, and I feel… empty.

But no need to feel sorry for me – this is the good kind of “empy”. The kind you feel after finishing a long, great novel, where you had time to get to know and love the characters. The kind of “empty” many people felt when they finished reading “Lord of the Rings”, and I myself felt it when I was done with “Watership Down” or “Deus eX”. I guess the word “empty” is not really accurate here, then. I think from now on I’ll go with “fulfilled”. (more…)

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I heard recently that Disney is working on a 3-D animated movie “King of the Elves”, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. I loved that story – one of the very few Fantasy stories by this author – and always thought it would make a great movie, but not an animated one. I rather thought it to be an actor movie with very frugal visual effects, a story about an old man who encounters the race of faeries in his garden, becomes their king and helps them in their struggle against the trolls. A story similar in tone to “La soupe aux choux” (“Cabbage Soup”), one of the greates Louis de Funes’ movies – about an old man who may have met someone out of this world, but at the same time it all could just be figments of his imagination, induced by age and loneliness. Imagine how powerful would that be if Terry Gilliam got to make it…

But it’s not the Only American Python working on it, but Disney – and not even Pixar Studios, but the same Disney who gave us “Dinosaur” and “Chicken Little”. I’m a little frightened by what will come of it, especially that Philip K. Dick was really unlucky when it came to movies based on his works.

Dick's Adaptations on Chart

Dick's Adaptations on Chart

“Blade Runner” (Ridley Scott, 1982), based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” – masterpiece, “Citizen Kane” of Sci-Fi movies, the greatest film ever made… but as far from Dick’s novel as possible. The time, the place, the characters are all different, not much is saved from the book. Granted, the story is better than that of Dick – let’s face it, “Do Androids…” is pretty mediocre work of his – and the setting, the costumes, the music by Vangelis all add up to the unforgettable atmosphere, but again – it’s a great Ridley Scott movie, but not much of a Dick adaptation.

“Total Recall” (Paul Verhoeven, 1990), based on the short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” – a good Schwarzenegger action movie, with lots of shooting, running, bleeding and eyes-popping in the non-atmosphere of Mars, but again – the story was just the first 10 minutes of the movie, or so. Not much of Dick is left – only at the very end there is a sentence added seemingly just to invoke this “or is it a dream?” Dickish feeling.

“Screamers” (Christian Duguay, 1995), based on the short story “Second Variety” – a solid action movie with Peter Weller of “Robocop” fame. Not too far from the story this time, but forsaking the twist ending for a more positive one… or is it? The fatalistic mood of Dick’s work is well preserved.

“Impostor” (Gary Fleder, 2002), based on a short story of the same name – the greates example of a perfect Dick adaptation – 10-pages long story expanded to a solid feature action film, perfectly preserving the its apocalyptic mood, and modyfying the twist ending to be even more twisted and awesome. Unfortunately, the movies premiere was overshadowed by a much bigger Dick adaptation of the same year, namely…

“Minority Report” (Steven Spielberg, 2002), based on a short story of the same name – a Tom Cruise vehicle widely appreciated, but mostly by the people who never read the story. There nothing left of Dick in it, save for the idea of three precogs reporting crimes before they happen. Everything else, sadly, is not Dick, but Spielberg in the worst sense – political thriller is turned into a family drama. Not good. Not good!

“Paycheck” (John Woo, 2003), based on a short story of the same name – say what you want about John Woo, Ben Affleck or Uma Thurman, I loved this movie. It’s exciting, thrilling, and it takes the brilliant idea of the story and turns it even better – at the same time more believable (of two fantastic contraptions from the story the movie uses only one, with better effect) and more exciting (from six items in the story to twenty in the film). Another good example of good Dick adaptation.

“A Scanner Darkly” (Richard Linklater, 2006), based on the novel of the same name – beautifully rotoscoped and very, very faithful to the novel, this is the case of a movie even slightly too faithful – “A Scanner Darkly” is a novel that needs a little more rearrangement when adapted to silver screen than Linklater gave it. I read an alternate, Charlie Kaufman’s (of “Being John Malkovitch” and “Adaptation” fame) script based on the book and it would be better if Linklater went with that one.

“Next” (Lee Tamahori, 2007), based on the short story “the Golden Man” – never seen it, never will. The trailer is enough to convince me that it’s as far from Dick in terms of both story and quality, as humanly possible. Plus, Lee Tamahori is the guy who killed James Bond in “Die Another Day”, so thank you very much, I’ll pass.

Aside from “King of the Elves”, other upcoming adaptations of Dick’s works are “Radio Free Albemuth” (where Philip Dick is one of the characters), “The Adjustment Bureau” (based on “Adjustment Team”, one of Dick’s best short stories), “Total Recall” remake (why???) and, further down the road – grab onto your seats, everybody – adaptations of “Ubik” and “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said”, two of the best novels by this greatest Sci-Fi writer of all time. Those last two are being coproduced by Halcyon company and Isa Dick, the author’s daughter herself! Ain’t that just shiny?

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"Up in the Air"

"Up in the Air"

Last Friday we went to see the new Jason Reitman (of “Juno” fame, son of Ivan of “Ghostbusters” fame) movie, “Up In The Air”, starring George Clooney as a renowned specialist in the area of firing people, who spends only about 40 days a year in his apartment – a blank space, lacking any indications of a real person living there – and the rest travelling around the States, doing his most hated (by others – he himself loves it) job, or, as the title indicates – up in the air, collecting miles travelled on board of various planes.

My Better Half hated the movie, while I quite liked it – it showed exactly the side of corporate America that will definitely come to Poland in some 10-20 years (as everything else did), but which I already have a chance to taste in the company I work in. Several hours before the movie I had a chance to read Javier’s blog post about corporate language (we work in the same company), and how, for example, they don’t ever use the word “problem”. They even avoid using the word “issue”, when something unexpected happens. No. In corporate language something like this is called “opportunity for improvement”.

And that’s exactly what “Up In The Air” is about – George Clooney’s character travels around the US and tells people, who worked ten-twenty-thirty years for a company, have spouses and children to feed and mortgages to pay off, that they’re not losing the job, they’re not fired, no – they are given the fantastic opportunity to chase their long-forsaken dreams! How great is that?

Watching movies like this makes me glad that Poland is still quite far away from Fabulous America. And maybe that’s the reason why we argued so much about it – me with my fiancee, that is – because while I work in a real, american corporation, Ania is working very deep in typical, Polish school teaching environment, and for her it’s very hard to believe she can give negative grades to their students and tell them with a wide smile that it’s a “great opportunity for improvement” for them. “Hey! You failed the test! Look how much there is for you to learn! Isn’t that just wonderful?”

Of course, american middle class movies and shows (like “Desperate Housewives”, for example) show that american education system uses the same corporate approach to show every failure in bright colors and never ever let the students feel bad about their lack of knowledge, skills or just plain laziness. It’s all a great field to improve for them, isn’t it?

In my opinion, the world would be a better place if people were more able to just face the facts. But if they’re not taught to do that as children, they won’t be able to do that as adults. They are just hanging up in the air, with false views on their abilities or knowledge, and when the reality hits, it hits with the force of the ground when you fall from ten thousand feet…

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