July 5th, 2006

pod

Well, at least he never paid taxes

So Ken Lay is apparently dead. I do not cheer the death of any other human being, no matter how nefarious he may be. On the other hand, is it just me or could this smack of conspiracy? I mean if someone had suggested that scenario a few years ago "They'll let him live for a few years, put him on trial, and then off him before anything truly damaging comes out." it would have been fully believable, right? I'm not saying that Ken Lay WAS murdered to protect the vast right wing conspiracy. I have no proof.

I'm just saying it's awfully convenient. The Enron "problem" is now wrapped up with a nice little bow and why probe deeper into the fact that one of our president's best friends intentionally and openly defrauded the state of California and its customers out of greed and then 'allowed' his company to be looted down to the pension plan under his watch? America's Got Talent is on tonight!

P.S.

Imagine being the priest at Ken Lay's funeral. "He was a loving husband. A good father. He built a company out of nothing to be one of the most powerful in the world. And then...*awkward pause* He's with God now."

P.P.S.

God hates Aunt Millie as much as Lay's Enron lackies did?
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A wonderful miscalculation

I did not expect to enjoy the film Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events. It is, after all, aimed at children, and I find most children's entertainment to be heinously boring. I also disliked City Of Angels, the only other movie I've seen by the same director, and I'd read bad reviews.

It was a pleasant surprise.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events has a rather boring and somewhat laborious plot. It features a very uneven performance by Jim Carrey, some not-great CG, and a fair share of lame dialogue. What it does have, however, are some good performances, a wonderfully dark worldview (that is unfortunately compromised on several occasions) and, most importantly, a tremendous visual flair. The film cost $140 million to make, but oh can you see it up on the screen. The buildings are all perfectly Burtonian, with eaves upon eaves and gorgeous textures of crumbling brick and warped wood. The characters are all spectacularly costumed and designed, beautiful gothic drawing brought to life with facial prosthetics and great makeup. And best of all the cinematography allows the viewer to actually SEE all of this. The film has actual long-shots and in times of peril pulls back the camera to allow us to watch the characters, rather than zooming in tightly and cutting frantically in an attempt to disorient and confuse.

It was a pleasure to watch a movie with a real aesthetic sense and consistency to it, but $140 million? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? This is a film with dark subject matter aimed at children. That SEVERELY limits the marketability. Crazy ass bible belt parents aren't going to go, because they're scared of anything that's not sunshine and lollipops for their fucked up kids. Overprotective liberals aren't going to go, for basically the same reason. Teenagers won't go because it's not "Cool." Adults won't go on their own because even with a film like this, which has depth and value, you feel creepy saying "2 for a film about pre-teens, please!" The audience is limited to smart with it parents and cineastes who don't care about how their tastes are perceived. Not great.

Of course it WAS based on a fabulously successful series of books, and people did go...but not enough to make money. I'm all for making good exciting outside the box films. But when you're spending $140 million you NEED mainstream success, and a kids film with dark subject matter just isn't going to be a runaway hit like Finding Nemo. So while I'm glad they made it, because I really liked it, I don't know what they were thinking.

It's funny. I'm an independent film fan type of person and you'd think I'd be thrilled to see a big budget blockbuster stay true to a real artistic vision...and I am aesthetically...but the truth is that it doesn't make business sense. If you need a mainstream megahit just to break even, I'd go with the safer bet, Dave.
pod

(no subject)

Sideways is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love it. Intensely. Every time it's on TV I have to flip it on for just a few scenes, at least, and every time I'm sucked in. It's an example of a movie where everything works, there are no dull spots or clunking lines. All the performances are strong, the film is beautifully shot, the story is strong and sad and true. It's a minor masterpiece, in that while it doesn't reinvent the wheel or have anything splashy about it, it inhabits what it is PERFECTLY and if you asked me to improve on it I don't know how I could.

A lot of people see films like Sideways as slow and self-indulgent, full of prissy upper-class whining. But it's not. It's about true existential crisis. I identify so strongly with Miles, trapped in a gray little world on the cusp of so much more. Sad about his gray little life. I sympathize with his addictions, admire his peculiar morality, and find myself smiling at his obstinacies. When he throws a tantrum over the Merlot it's not about Merlot, it's about social phobias and elitism and the need to have SOME sort of control over your life.

People who don't like Sideways aren't necessarily shallow, but they lack a certain something. A sad romantic view of the world that I find endlessly appealing and often quite true. They are frequently optimists or hedonists. It's one of those movies where you know something about a person based on their thoughts on it.

I feel like I spend a lot of time whining and complaining about movies and how they could be better and how they irritate me, and Sideways is why. Because when a movie is perfect...it's fucking art. It's transcendent. It's wonderful and touching and something that I can treasure for the rest of my life. And every lazy Batman Begins script insults that. And degrades it. When you don't reach for the brass ring you waste a rare opportunity (And directing a full-blown big-budget feature is a rare opportunity indeed) and that matters to me.

I love movies. Intensely. I just have the kind of love that wants them to be the best they can be, not the kind that accepts them for what they are, especially when they're lazy.