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Monthly Archives: April 2007

Mercy is for whimps. The tough guys go for the big tasks, and how big as
mankind’s extinction can it get? So show no mercy and engage in the bloody
battle between humans and cylons, jump on the train headed towards the 13th
colony, Earth, believe in the schoolteacher and her well-balanced humanity
(“throw them out of the airlock”), believe in Starbucks’ immortality until
she show she knows better, cry with Adama over an expensive ship model, see
the figure of survivors drop every episode. Issues about BSG, as we pros call it:
* there are surely elements in it, and the main A story line (couple of
genocide survivors searching a new home, supposedly to be found at a planet
called Earth) belongs to it, which belong to the best-written tv show
material I have ever seen. This material is up to the standard of the X
Files core drama, but mostly produced on a higher level and better played.
It’s an often rough and dirty show, with a lot of funnily disguised
swearing, with a considerable amount of sex, with killing and getting killed
aplenty. The ship doctor is a chain smoker, the female hero is (or was at
least, the habit gor somehow lost on the way) in cigars and wants to get
laid now and again – sometimes even by her husband. A promiscuous supermodel
shows her gorgeous back regularly, while the XO’s wife fucks for freedom.
* there are some superb actors involved, namely Michael Hogan and Dean
Stockwell, but most of the others, too (honorary mention for “Chief”).
I don’t like “episodic” tv shows, stories unrelated to the overall plot. I
don’t like shows were you can jump in for just one episode, get the idea,
and never come back. I hate tv serials, I want big stories, narrated in one
piece, with only technical interruptions for toilet, sex, and work, in that
order. I love “24”, I despise stuff like “Sex and the City”, because it is
as boring as the world is. On the other hand, I would never watch a tv shows
that stretches over months with one storyline (the way I would not walk out
of a movie halfway through, having a ticket for next week’s screening in my
pocket, when I will be watching the rest of the film). If it’s one story, I
need to watch it in as close as I get to one go. I love DVD box-sets and I
also love broadcasters offering their shows online.
* over time, new cast members come in that are rather arbitrary and would
not be missed: Sam, as one example, also Helo, actually, are among the
weaker characters (even though well-played). Fortunately this also happened
on the Cylon side – and the writers punished D’Anna for annoying too many
people, I guess, by wrapping her up quickly.
* from season 3 on, there are a lot of episodes that are completely
dispensable: Union strikes, divorces of 40 years ago, racism and xenophobia,
. blablabla. It’s not only that they start interrupting the core drame –
they also indicate a frightening development, which is: you need this kind
of episodes to make a show infinite. They did that with X Files, and killed
it by doing so. I hear they are starting similar things on Lost, and
audiences get nervous about it. I hope they will regain focus on BSG, and I
think they might: in one of the highly recommendable audio commentaries by
the creator, he voices his own dissatisfaction with some of these arbitrary
episodes, and states, on another occasion, that the “Maelstrom” episode to
him clearly opens the 3rd act of the overall show, not just this season.
At the moment (end of Season 3) the creators manage to keep up some
credibility on their overall mission, which is to find that planet where
milk and honey (probably also some Cylon blood) flows and where everyone
will be able to live happy everafter. I hope they are aware that many
audience members do not think this can be extended and streched eternally.
As soon as the hope for or the believe in this final moment of relief is
gone, I am sure manymany peopple will lose interest in the story and the
characters. If they manage to wrap up the whole thing in Season 4, end it
with a blast, and say goodbye my friends, was a pleasure – then it will have
been a truly great reinvention of an already pretty entertaining tv show.
Again, judging from Ron Moore’s commenatry, I am optimistic. He stresses
this dedication to the search for Earth, and I have the impression he would
himself not be satisfied with giving away this powerful force for the sake
of just another season full of more or less arbitrary plot disctractions.

Let’s do away with our little backlist of the 2006 curriculum. Rocky is a nice and entertaining film, but with little that will make it an evergreen. One reason is that every element is some kind of mirror image of earlier Rocky ventures and adventures: the fight he cannot win but that he thinks he needs to take on, the girl with which he develops some form of clumsy relationship, the atmosphere of run-down Philadelphia… all of it. I really liked the way Rocky is so very inarticulate, not just trying to be, but actually being a real boxing-man’s philosopher. Short sentences, easy messages, no pretention to be and know anything beyond that. But in the first Rocky film he was even more clumsy and more inartuclate, and the girl was even uglier, and the training area messier. The fight is ok, of course again massively overvdone and unrealistic in every detail, but that’s, I guess, the fun about it. And this lack of technique, and this ability to walk away after massive punches, is what he did in every single film before, too. Whether he loses the fight or not is equally irrelevant as it was in the first film – and the fact that the DVD includes both final votes by the ring judges, and that it does not really matter for the overall impression and quality, shows that the film is really more about the rather melacholic atmosphere, and not so much about whether or not Rocky is still able to beat a guy who needs to fight with a broken hand. What is spectacular (and maybe more so than in part 4, with Stallone at the height of his physical spectacularity) is that man’s body, like a dark mountain resting between layers of fog and clouds. And the the mountain starts punching the shit out of the young guy. Now I cannot get the title music out of my ears.

It is … hmmm… probably the best way to describe it is to compare it with the book: equally boring. That is just the thing: it is boring. There are no thrills, no surprises, not even decent gore. The script-writer Harris is even more out of touch with his perceived talent than the novelist Harris (more because in a film, you can always go for the quick kill by "going Hostel" – which at least makes the audience cringe with something else but outrage over money uselessly spent at the box office). The back story of Lecter is not interesting, it is not colourful, it is not anything that you do not experience while brushing your teeth in the morning. You need to get it over and done with, because otherwise you may have the feeling that you are missing something, but let’s face it, you do not enjoy it. We have now had all the Harris books and movies, and if fate is generous in giving out favours, we will not have to do it again. Gong Li does not propoerly show her breasts, either.

There is not a chance in hell that Mel Gibson will ever get a fair treatment again. After all his strange ventures involving Jesus The Lord and Mr Gibson Senior, after giving evidence to the old Latin saying of "In Vino Veritas", he will just remain to be a very highly contextualised Hollywood player. You can see that clearly in how "Apocalypso" was being treated by the reviews: a lot of introduction was given on the fact that the film was extremely violent, much talk was about Jews and policewomen, many rambled on about alcoholism and weird family. And some (and they were not few) stressed that despite this backstory, Apocalypto turned out to be a "surprisingly good film" (it’s not a real quote, it is the sum of all quotes, so to say). And actually: this is complete rubbish. Apocalypto’s strengths are exclusively formal: the language (robustly handled and well-established after the "Passion"-experience), the violence (he had a lot of time to learn that since Mad Max – but I did not find too shocking examples, anyway), the natives’ look and feel and behaviour (some good scenes – even though hardly credible – on their humour, too). The plot is of the lowest conceivable drama. Bad guys chase a good guy after killing or arresting his tribe (and himself). Then a bit of a chase (a "kinetic film", as a journalist chose to phrase it) and a serial killing of the enemy. All this without wit or dramatic skill or unexpected twists or spectacular looks. It is disappointing especially on the latter, because Maya America has surely some interesting shots to offer. But Gibson is not one of artistic mastery, he is sometimes good at passion and pathos, hardly ever at finding the right structure or pace or picture in that huge pile on offer at any given moment of film-making. Never mind. Warning: Includes some naked butts. Lots, actually.

Sometimes technology gets in the way of narration – always, actually, when a new tenchological leap is being experimented with. Painting on 35 mm real-life footage is not really new, but basing a whole serious feature film in modern times on the magic of optical effect has not been done often before. So it is a bit hard to take the film as what it is: another Philip K. Dick-based film on some form of future located relatively near to Katheryn Bigelow’s earlier creations, not so near – but still in looking distance – to David Cronenberg.

On the positive side, there are Robert Downey and Woody Harelson (whose name I remember well, for some reason, but not whether I have seen another film with him after NBK – in the case of Downey, I remember the face well, but after checking IMDB must stress that I do not remember a single film with him), on the negative almost all the other actors and the script. There are some fun segnments (all involving the two named staff members) and some extremely annoying rubbish (all involving Winona Ryder, of course). Nothing I would remember in half a year, though, which is another good reason for maintaining this online diary to remind me of it should I come to face the opportunity to watch the film again. To remind me not to, I mean. Linklater must be forgiven, of course. Not because the film has any redeemable value, but because he made "Before Sunset". That credit is not yet used up. cine

Soemtimes it’s nice to enter a movie theater with a really bad opinion about what’s going to be screened. "Babel" may be the Oscar candidate with the worst reviews ever, and the points made by the reviewers sounded rather convinving, pointing at the arbitrariness with which the plot lines are linked, at the all too suffering presence of some of the ill-fated characters in the various components. It is easy to imagine a suffering-looking Cate Blanchett in the arms of suffering and grey-haired Brad Pitt, with a very suffering Mexican hardass getting on the nerves of his family (and just about killing them) in the parallel plot. Veritable Oscar material, filmed in hectic and semi-dogma camera movements. Not really much happening at the end of the day, so a car chase needs to be included to keep things going after more than 2 hours. And the reason why I so far forgot to mention the Japanese girl is because she has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Ah, formally, yes, but noone cares, and if this had just been the short film to open the main feature, everyone would have said "the short was great, the feature a bit tenecious.

That said, I need to mention that – I liked Babel. I did not like the pace and the rather ill-timed editing, the uneccesary length that owes a lot to the lack of a decent script-writer, I suppose. But still, the events and the characters little adventures or states of mind caused by the events are powerful (actually, in Japan there is not even an event, there is just a pile of desperation). Innaritu knows how to get people into trouble, and – as in 21 Grams – he is generous in allocating ill fate. All the actors are rather credible in showing their temporary or permanent lack of positive spirit – and maye the boredom that creeps into the film’s last 20 minutes has to do with the realisation that other people’s suffering, while torturing for them, can be perfectly well endured when you yourself are not affected. So with a positive attitude to this exercise in negativism: well messed-up!

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