Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Knocked for a Loop

I wish that all science fiction films were as packed with ideas as Looper (2012, directed by Rian Johnson). I wish Looper was more rigorous in its construction, but I won't fault it too much for that. Lots of filmmakers get lost in time travel plots. Looper is sloppier than most, though, maybe because it doesn't really care about it. That's fair, I guess. Looper is one of those New Wave-y science fictions that are descended from Philip K. Dick, and he didn't care too much about the mechanisms of his plots, either. It's the ideas that are important. The ideas here aren't derived specifically from the time travel premise, though I doubt they could be examined without the instrument of genre.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Flash in the Pan

Parker (2012, directed by Taylor Hackford) is the seventh or eighth film based on Richard Stark's laconic master thief. It's the first film in which the character bears the name "Parker." During his lifetime, the late Donald Westlake (for whom, Stark was a pseudonymous secret sharer) denied the name to all cinematic interpreters. I like to think that he would have denied it to the makers of this film, too, because whatever similarities this film might bear to the character or to the novel, Flashfire, upon which it's is based, it ain't Parker. Not even close. Ordinarily, I wouldn't care. I mean, I dig previous stabs at the character in Point Blank and Payback and The Outfit. But none of those films were titled "Parker." If this was titled "Flashfire" or something else entirely, then I wouldn't hold it to the standard of giving me the merciless badass one finds in the books. Unfortunately, the title of this film invites the comparison. It doesn't help that I'm a huge fangirl, or that I read Flashfire early last year so it's fresh in my mind.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Law is An Ass

I don't envy casting directors charged with making movie musicals. There's a balance to be struck: good actor or good singer? On stage, the choice is easy: go with the singer. The movie camera, unfortunately, is merciless. It will showcase every poor acting choice because it can get so close to the actor that you can pick out their individual pores. Obviously, you want both an actor and a singer, but sometimes, the imperatives of commercial filmmaking work against you. You can see this dilemma all over the film version of Les Misérables (2012, directed by Tom Hooper). None of names above the marquee are particularly strong singers, but this is a story that may not necessarily require it. The filmmakers have leaned toward actors for Les Miz, and that's the right choice. This is a film that ebbs and flows on tragedy and emotion, and the movies are better at doing that with images than they are with song. Given the choices this film makes along those lines, I found myself suggesting to my companion that this is a film that might actually work as a silent film. Not that anyone would stand for that. The stage play's mammoth fan base would certainly riot.

Note: I haven't seen the stage play, though I've seen previous screen versions and I tried reading the book when I was younger. I think I got 120 pages in before I gave up--the younger me was sometimes impatient with classics, particularly fifteen hundred page classics.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Games, Must We?

One of the first movies my partner and I ever went to as a couple was Rear Window, which was playing as a fundraiser for our local art house. This was shown at the historic Missouri Theater in Columbia, Missouri, and its ostensible purpose was to buy the Ragtag Film people a 35mm film projector. This was fourteen years ago. Things come full circle. Last Friday night, fourteen years to the very day, the Ragtag bid a fond farewell to 35mm as their primary means of projection in that self-same Missouri Theater, which has since been wonderfully restored thanks to a central role in the cultural life of the city (and, not coincidentally, the True/False film festival). The film with which they chose to send 35mm into its great hereafter was, fittingly, another Hitchcock film. It was North by Northwest (1959), one of the movie-est movies ever made.

North by Northwest is, I think, the eighth Hitchock film I've seen in a theater. I never pass up the chance to see Hitchcock with an audience. There's an ineffable something about seeing a film with an audience that changes the way I perceive film. Hitchcock, for his part, was a master manipulator of crowds. Some of the director's films that lay flat on a TV screen come to miraculous life when you see them in a communal setting. If other people are having fun, you'll likely have fun, too. It's infectious. North by Northwest is one of the best crowd-pleasers ever made, stocked with just about everything that people go to movies for: action, romance, suspense, movie stars, sex.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Black, White, and Red

As I was making my way out of the theater after seeing Django Unchained (2012, directed by Quentin Tarantino), I overheard a woman ask her companion: "Why did he shoot the sister?" Clearly, this was beyond the pale of chivalry in her mind, a gratuitous act of violence, perhaps even "reverse racism." I don't think I could have explained to her why Django might want to kill that character, why it might even be appropriate in context. I doubt she would understand me.

Django Unchained is a film I'm uncomfortable with. I don't know that I can write about it without stumbling over my own biases and privileges and cinematic appetites. I'll try, but I'm fallible and I'm probably going to screw it up. My apologies for this in advance.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Help Keep Krelllabs on the Web

Update: While I'll still happily take donations (in exchange for art--I guess that's not really donation, but whatever), my immediate need has been met. Thank you, everyone who donated).

It's no secret that the economy has been shit for everyone. It's been shit for me, that's for sure. I lost my longtime graphic design gig at the end of 2011 and I've been subsisting on unemployment and the stray freelance gig for the past year. While the debate in congress was raging over the so-called "fiscal cliff", I started hording money in order to pay my mortgage on the very real chance that my UI benefits would expire at the end of the year. Fortunately, they were renewed, but unfortunately for me, I had to make a hard choice: mortgage or car payment. I chose my mortgage. My car was reposessed this morning. Now, I have the money to get it out once Toyota sends me a bill. But I don't have the repo fees, which will run to about $400. So I'm going to try to crowd source this. I'm soliciting donations.

Wait, you may be asking: how will this keep Krell Labs on the web? Two ways: first, it will let me pay the bill without having to short something else -- like my internet bill. Second: I rely on my vehicle to get to and from movies. The nearest movie house is 20 miles from my house and there's not public transportation between my flyspeck of a town and the larger city to the south.

So if you can and are willing to help, I've put a donation button below. Thank you in advance for your support.

As a bonus, anyone who donates will get a drawing or other piece of art from me.