Sunday, August 29, 2010

Helly's Video View- Elizabethtown

I found that this movie had a lot of charming quirks and was set to a great sound track but failed to resonate with me on a deeper level. I think that this film pulled out all the stops in trying to pluck at my heart strings but I was left emotionally unaffected.

On a positive note some of the dialogue is really intriguing and Mr Crowe certainly knows how to wield a phrase (after all he was the man who coined 'you had me at hello'). The specific examples I can think of are all said by Kirsten Dunst's character Claire. In the beginning conversation on the plane that she has with Drew regarding names, he tells her that her father's name is Mitch, she replies cheekily 'so you're a son of a Mitch?' just a simple, clever word play which makes for a flirtatious moment. Later Claire describes herself as an 'ice cream cone' and elaborates this by saying 'I'm a sweet treat that will make you happy and melts in five minutes.' This is such a perfectly succinct way to sum up her character and I suspect is true of their relationship, as I get the impression that they wouldn't last long after the credits roll. I also like some of the subtle character traits like Claire's imaginary photo taking and Drew's collection of last looks.

One of the major reasons that this movie didn't move me the way it was intended to is because the story revolves around the death of Drew's father Mitch and I never got a clear idea of who Mitch was and also of the kind of relationship they had as father and son. The other contributing factor is that I didn't buy the connection between Drew and Claire and why they would be attracted to each other. Or rather why SHE would be attracted to HIM as he has to be one of the most boring protagonist's to ever have appeared on screen, while she conversely is an effervescent breath of fresh air. Even in their first initial phone call they don't seem to be making a real connection, I couldn't hear a conversation going on, all I heard was each character spouting their life philosophies. I don't think that the actors had very great chemistry and subsequently I didn't really care if they ended up together or not, in fact I think it could have been more interesting if they DIDN'T end up together and the gesture of her making the map was just a romantic memory that he would always have. After all she is a fantasy dream girl, so this ending would make sense.

There were some very peculiar scenes which didn't seem to work. There is a scene in the beginning where Orlando Bloom's character is contemplating suicide, but is interrupted by a phone call in his sister and he says (with his voice cracking) 'Could you call back later?!' I think they should have decided if that scene was intended to be either dramatic or comedic as trying to combine both styles with such a heavy subject matter didn't really work. Later in the movie Drew puts on a video to calm the kids down and there's no other way of saying this, what the hell was it? Did he have this video made specially? How did he know there would be a gang of kids misbehaving? Why would a guy blowing up a house enthrall those kids so much? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Susan Sarandon's one woman show routine at the end is another bizarre touch.

A word on the performances. I have never been a big fan of Kirsten Dunst ( the only thing I have liked her in previously has been The Virgin Suicides) but I have to concede that she was the saving grace of the film, even if her southern accent is as inconsistent as Sydney weather. Orlando Bloom on the other hand had absolutely no charisma and I think that having to do an American accent was just to big of an obstacle for him to overcome. I think that he was simply mis-cast and I think an actor like Joseph Gordon Levitt would have been able to do more with the role (although he doesn't have the pretty boy looks which it seems they wanted for this character.)

Overall this film has a certain endearing quality but failed in producing something captivating.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Top 10 Films (Part II: 5-1)

To read Part I, click here.

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

From the opening scene of this film, in which FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is jogging through the Virginian woods, I was hooked. The camera follows as she is pulled aside by two agents, and asked to accompany them to meet with her superior. Clarice has the job of interviewing the spine-chillingly intelligent Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a former psychiatrist and cannibal - hoping that he can provide an insight into the FBI's number one wanted serial-killer: "Buffalo Bill". The film won the top 5 academy awards, best picture, director (Jonathan Demme), actor, actress, and screenplay. The mixing of crime and horror genres is probably not something new, but Demme pulls it off with such ease, leaving you hanging on the edge of your seat throughout the entire picture. Hopkins delivers his masterpiece performance, whilst only being on screen for something like 16 minutes (according to wikipedia). Ultimately it is a classic tale of hero vs villain - except in this film, you want the baddy to win.

4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

SPOILER ALERT
For those who know me well, they know that I love this movie - and how could you not! Personally, it is the greatest action film ever made; as it has some of the most mind-blowing special effects for its time, epic explosions, on top of a story that left me crying in my mothers arms when Arnie was lowered into the steel at the end. James Cameron has got to be one of Hollywood's great directors - a true auteur, Cameron wrote the story of the first two Terminator films and brought them to life. In my eyes, T2 is just a continuation of the story that Cameron showed us in the awesome The Terminator (1984) - featuring my favourite line in cinema history. It is when Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) first meets Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as she is being confronted by death robot T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) - lying on the ground of the 80s disco hall 'Tech Noir', she looks up to the charming saviour as he lends her his hand as he offers, "Come with me if you want to live". That line is so poetic it makes me shiver. T2 in many ways copies a lot of the gimmicks from the first film, but most of these are what the terminators do - such as when Arnie says the aforementioned line. In saying that, T2 goes beyond what was possible in The Terminator, introducing a superior killing machine, T-1000 (Robert Patrick), sent back in time to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong) before he can lead the human resistance against the machines. The T-800 was also sent back, after future John reprogrammed it to protect he and his mother from the slick newer model. Basically, this movie fucking rules, and if you haven't seen it - shame on you.

Bond leaning on his Aston Martin DB5
3. Goldfinger (1964)

Ah James Bond, I love you. There is no other character as cool and collected as Bond - to read about my love for him, click here. When I first saw this I was probably about 8 years old, and as a child didn't understand everything that was happening. I re-watched it a couple of weeks ago with my dad (another member of the Bond fan-club), and I realised that this film is so well written, with such a complex plot that I wondered how I ever enjoyed it as youngster. So to have a film that is just as enjoyable, whether you're 8, 24 or 54, is a testament to the power of Goldfinger.  I won't give too much of the plot away, but it tells the typical Bond story of a villain, in this case Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) trying to employ some ridiculous scheme to become extremely powerful and rich. There are also of course bond girls, with Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) being one of the more memorable notches on Bond's belt. And then there's Sean Connery, who is by far the actor (out of those to play Bond - 6 to be precise) that is able to achieve a level of suaveness that the others lack.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

SPOILER ALERT
In an essay by film critic Roger Ebert, he postulated that 2001 could very well be a silent film, as it only uses dialogue (the first piece coming at the 25 minute mark) as plot cues for the viewer to follow the story - I couldn't agree with him more. Visuals and music are the true heroes of this film, the other being us. We are the ones that are watching the movie, and partaking in this evolutionary journey that Stanley Kubrick takes us on. From the opening scene in which we hear classical music from Richard Strauss's Thus Spake Zarathustra, showing the Earth, Moon and Sun in perfect alignment - to the Star Child looking over the Earth with the same tune, we are transfixed on the the events that are unfolding before us. The film opens with the 'Dawn of Man', showing apes sitting around a water hole drinking. A leopard kills one of them. The next day a black monolith appears, with perfect edges and a shiny surface, obviously not from nature. The apes go ape over it, creeping up to touch it and quickly backing away. The next day we see an ape sitting next to some bones, looking at them, thinking, learning. It picks one of them up and starts to move it from side-to-side, increasing the force of the movements, and eventually bashing it into the ground with great power; these scenes being inter-spliced with animals falling dead - they had learned to kill. Cut to the year 2001 and we see a space craft moving through the universe. The majority of the film takes place on the spaceship Discovery, as Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) along with one awake crew member, 3 in hibernation, and one on-board computer (HAL 9000), are on a mission to Jupiter. Even though there's not much dialogue, I think the best is between HAL and Dave; from playing chess to discussing a broken(?) part of the ship. We learn along with Dave that HAL is not to be trusted from a human point of view, and therefore must be disconnected. As Dave is disconnecting HAL, a pre-recorded video is played explaining that 18 months earlier another black monolith was found on the surface of the moon (which we saw), that was 'unexplainable' except for a beam of radiation directed towards Jupiter. The film ends with the memorable 'star gate' sequence in which Dave is taken through a wormhole somewhere beyond Jupiter, and ending up in an antique room only to watch himself decay into an old man. The last scene shows a third monolith, this time in Dave's bedroom, and as he reaches for it Kubrick cuts to the famous Star Child in a bubble. But what does it all mean??? I think when people say, "Did you get it?", in regards to a film, there are two ways you can take it. The first is understanding the plot, which is one thing; the second is to understand the themes and to interpret them however you wish. I do understand the plot, as I've seen 2001 a few times. As far as the themes go; evolution, time travel, aliens - a discussion of those goes beyond this top 10 list. In saying that, next time you see me, mention this film, and I can talk for hours.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Yolanda: [about to rob a diner] I love you, Pumpkin. 
Ringo: I love you, Honey Bunny. 
Ringo: [Standing up with a gun] All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery! 
Yolanda: Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya! 


I would have to say that whenever I quote a movie, 85% of the time it is from this one. The reason is that this film is just so damn quotable! Quentin Tarantino has a knack for witty and catchy dialogue in his repertoire of films, and his talents are on perfect display in his 1994 Palme d'Or winning masterpiece Pulp Fiction. Tarantino defined his own genre in this film, it combines elements of comedy, drama, noir,  action - all intertwined into a beautiful movie massage. John Travolta made his comeback into "good" films (after a string of camp Look Who's Talking flops), as the gangster Vincent Vega, gaining him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Samuel L. Jackson plays Vega's crime equivalent, Jules Winnfield, in a role that pretty much typecast Jackson from that moment on (a typecast he seems to have embraced!). The plot is presented out of chronological sequence, disorientating the viewer whilst drawing them in. When I think about Pulp Fiction it's hard to define why exactly I love it so much, but I guess that's where my love comes from, it is so different to anything I've ever seen. There can be no prequel, no sequel - it is every bit an independent film as it is a Hollywood blockbuster. It is loved by many for being so true to itself and not being in the slightest bit pretentious. Film buffs and occasional movie-watchers fall in love with it's charm for different reasons, meaning that it appeals to the masses whilst still has a cult following. Thank you, Quentin.

- Russell

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Merci El Ino

Hi BOTM, Russell here. The following is a letter written by my girlfriend, Lorraine, addressed to El Ino - because if it were not for him, we would not be together. The night I met Lorraine at Cargo she was with her roommate, Gloria. Naturally, El Ino being an Eyetalian himself, went for the lady of his origins, pairing me with the beautiful Lorraine from France. The letter is as Lorraine wrote it; because to edit it for her would steal away the poetry of the Frenglish that she speaks with. 


I never said thank you. I don’t mean I never said it, because I love to say it. But I mean that sometimes you got the feeling that you have to do something and then you just lost or forget it. That was my case. I don’t know how to create suspense or even if what I’m writing right now going to be meaningful, but at least I try. When you’re young you think you own the future. With all your discoveries (about yourself & the world with travelling, reading or doing something you really enjoy) you find a way. Sometimes a good one, sometimes a bad one. But we all know that we learn from life and also from mistakes. Even though I try to take good care of the people I love and share with others because it makes me happy, I am a human being so sometimes I don’t act perfectly. Nobody’s perfect I know - but damn feels so good to think you are ! Consequently, I am writing to apologize to the person who bring me so much since the last month. I said hundred time “thanks” to the wrong one, but now I think it’s time to fix the undo stuff and cross that on the list of unaccomplished tasks. Here I come, Thank El Ino for introducing me the special one I already know now. This one that I love from all my heart.

- Lorraine

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Darren

Darren was fed up. He had spent his whole life suffering under the banner of modesty. Alone in his room as he perfected his craft, he tried in vain to continue to quell his growing frustration, but as it was borne out of an unquenchable jealousy he was no longer capable to refrain. He penned another line of his poem but as he searched for the perfect ending he faltered, unable to avoid the memory of the day’s events.

Earlier that day Cindy had been sitting next to him in math class and to his unbelievable good fortune she was in need of a spare pen!

“Do you have a spare pen?” she drawled with exquisite lack of interest and a touch of uninflected irony.

“Sorry?” Darren replied, annoyed that he had overdone his politeness tenfold, but happy his voice hadn’t cracked.

“Do you have a spare pen?” She redrawled, notable agitation replacing the disguised irony. Darren had heard perfectly what she had said but was wont to hear it again; this could be the last time they speak for the rest of the semester.

“Umm, yea-ah“ there was the undesired fault he had predicted. He cleared his throat for round two. “Yeah I do” he said deeply, so deep in fact one could suspect that he had just endured his final testie pop. He may have dreamt it, but he could have sworn he saw her eyebrow rise just a little. Perhaps an animalistic response to his new found manly tone.

“Thanks hun,” she smiled (she hadn’t smile but her beautiful irony, or was it sarcasm? – her beautiful sarcastic irony had returned and smiled for her).

Darren nodded idiotically, eyes wide and bewildered, and had to use all his might to stop himself from getting whiplash from excessive inclination. Cindy rolled her deep brown eyes, shifting their attention back to the page of math problems in front of her as she tongued the 4 hour old chewing gum in her mouth, moving it gracefully from the left molars to the right. She held his pen - that lucky tool of inscription which had ventured into fields Darren could only fantasize about - and twirled it in her delicate hand, flawlessly avoiding the jumper sleeve she had pulled long in response to the winter chill.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Helly's Video View- Brothers

I'd seen the trailer for this movie a thousand times as it's on the promotional dvd we play on a continuos loop at work. From the trailer, I thought I knew exactly what this movie was going to be and how everything would play out but because of the actors and Jim Sheridan as director, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. This movie is further proof that trailers should be ignored as it definitely wasn't the predictable melodrama that the trailer would have you believe, In actuality it is more of an intimate, kitchen sink drama.

I would compare this film to another Natalie Portman film Closer in as much as it's a film which is made for actors and the acting is what takes centre stage over the other filmic elements. And the acting is extraordinary, even if some of the casting seems a little odd. I thought that I would struggle to believe Natalie Portman as a mother as she's so young and pixie-like, but she exudes maternal warmth in this film and she won me over by the end. She should also be commended for a beautifully restrained performance, as there were plenty of opportunities where she could have easily fallen into the trap of playing the hysterical grieving widow. Similarly, Toby Maguire is not the most obvious choice to play a marine (mainly because of his small stature and baby face) but the relentlessness he demonstrates as a soldier lead you to believe that this is a character who is equipped in overcoming huge obstacles and therefore his small frame seems to suit the character. Jake Gyllenhal is the stand out performance for me as the outcast yet charismatic brother. (Spoiler alert) When the children say that they would rather spend time with their Uncle Tommy than their father you can clearly understand why they would say that as his character has an appealing magnetism. The only performance which didn't quite work for me was Sam Sheppard as the father. I think this may have to do with the writing of his character and less to do with his performance. We've seen that bitter war veteran character who's tough on his kids before and I just felt that his character was two dimensional and lacked complexity.

A word about child actors- Even though I am a fan of Anna Paquin's work as an adult, I still can't believe that she won the oscar at nine years old for her role in The Piano. That role didn't require her to act at all, what we saw on screen was just a child, playing a child, she just happened to have a Scottish accent. That is definitely not the case with the two young child actors in this film. In particular, the older daughter needed some serious acting chops to pull of some of the scenes in this movie and I honestly don't know where she pulled it out from! She's so uninhibited and powerful, you would swear that this kid as a wealth of experience behind her. Maybe this also speaks volumes about Jim Sheridan's directing talent as he seems to be able to extract amazing performances out of child actors (I'm referring also to one of his other films In America

There is a dinner table scene in this movie where the tension is palpable and every actor is acutely aware and reacting in the moment. This film is worth watching for this scene alone.

This film is not overladen with story and it's not without it's faults, but if you enjoy watching powerful yet subtle acting than I would recommend you watch this film.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vienna Circus

Couple videos from the best band in the all the land





Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This

"it's not what is, but what is not that is what it is not. And that isn't what it is, that does is what its not being." - El Ino posing as Eden

The other day this happened. I was doing this and that and a guy did this. At first I was thinking this, but then I thought I shouldn’t think like that and thought this. By the time I had done this, the guy had done this and I was feeling a lot like this. The next time we were doing this it was a bit like that, but I decided instead to do this and make this a more this-ish this. It resulted in this and now whenever we do this we are like this.

Him: Hey man is this it?
Me: No
Him: Is that it?
Me: No
Him: Then what is it?
Me: This 
Us: hahahahahahahahha

It made me think about how many times this happens; during this, or this or that. It isn’t always exactly like this though. Not long ago I was like this whenever I did this. I guess it’s also kinda like this or even this - well maybe not that but it’s a little similar. Even last year when this was happening I was feeling very unthislike. But I thised and thated until this became the this that I always knew this could be.

I guess we can all relate to this (maybe not this this, but thises like this). On my trip to this I had every opportunity to ‘this’ my way out of this or that but I thought of how rewarding this feels after thising and thised til my heart couldn’t this anymore, and as usual I was this and this.

In conclusion this.

- Eden (while listening to this)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Helly's Film Take- Scott Pilgrim VS The World

This film starts of firing on all cylinders and continues at this rip roaring pace until the bitter end. We are sucked into a hipster, video game fantasy land complete with evil villains who must be defeated, dream girls to be won over and a bass playing hero at it's centre.

I love the whole visual style of this film and the quick cuts between scenes which writer/director Edgar Wright seems very fond of (judging by his two previous films Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.) It definitely makes for a more heightened reality and therefore it creates endless possibilities for the characters inside this world. I even like the subtle visual touches for example whenever the phone rings a comic book font saying 'ringgggg' comes across the screen.

The dialogue is razor sharp and the performances, finely tuned. A lot of the characters seem to be lifted straight out of the pages of a comic book, they are not ultra realistic but then this not a realistic movie. Every character is very clearly defined, even smaller characters like Envy Adams who appears to be the femme fatale of the film, and Scott's sister Stacey seems to be a clear antagonist. I should also state the obvious here and say that the film is incredibly funny and endlessly quotable, but the jokes are so jam packed into this film, that you could easily miss a few of them so you have to stay on guard.

For me, one of the only flaws with this film is that upon it's end it almost feels like a sensory overload and I feel that it would have packed more of a punch if it had been shorter. While the battle scenes are all expertly choreographed, I grew tired of them after a while and actually prefer the scenes surrounding the battles. However I do like the little twist thrown in for the final battle where Scott must face himself and felt it was a high point in the movie. I also would have liked to hear just a little bit more of the music created by sex bo-bomb (side note- how great is that name?!) as the small amount that we did hear, sounded pretty rad.

The other thing about this film is that even though I loved it, I can easily see how anyone over thirty would hate it. It's definitely made for a certain demographic but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. In similar vain, a film like It's Complicated is probably not going to receive as warm a reception from people our age, as it's aimed at people over forty. I haven't checked out any reviews of Scott Pilgrim... but I would be willing to bet that Margaret and David from At the movies wouldn't have been too rapturous about it.

This film was a fantastically fun piece of film making and I was happy to go along for the ride!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Top 10 Films (Part I: 10-6)

10. Days of Heaven (1978)


Terrence Malick is a visual master. He may as well be a painter, because the cinematography of his films are the most beautiful I've ever seen; Days of Heaven won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and it couldn't have gone to a better made picture. The story of the film is simple, a steelworker (Richard Gere) from Chicago gets involved in a murder and flees to a farm in Texas with his girlfriend and sister. There they work for a rich farm owner during a seasonal harvest. The backdrop of the Texas plains is a perfect canvas for the story to unfold, allowing the actors to be like Malick's paintbrush, moving so purposefully across the screen as he so wishes. The ending of this movie is one of the best I've ever seen.

9. Wings of Desire (1987) 

I only saw this movie about a month ago, but it had such an impact on me I knew there would be a re-shuffle of my beloved top 10. The only foreign film in my 10, it is a masterpiece. Three languages are spoken throughout the film, German, French and English - however the film is German. The film begins with a black screen; a child recites poetry in German: "When the child was a child...", reads the subtitles. Wings of Desire is about angels who live in West Berlin (since the beginning of Earth apparently), looking over the world but with no power to interfere, only observe (akin to meditation). The films protagonist, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), falls in love with a French circus performer and desires to become mortal in order to have his turn at seducing her. Throughout the film Damiel and another angel have long scenes together, partaking in philosophical discussions - perfect dialogue. Another cool thing about this movie is the mixing of black and white with colour, showing the balance between life and death, mortal and immortal, human and angel. The 1998 film City of Angels is the remake, and after seeing the original, I don't really want to watch Nicolas Cage (as cool as he is) as Damiel; because if it aint broke, don't fix it.

8. Magnolia (1999)


SPOILER ALERT
Magnolia is my favourite P.T. Anderson film, however that doesn't make his others any less, this one is just my favourite. It features without a doubt the best performance I have ever seen by Tom Cruise, as the son of dying television producer, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) - who lies at the centre of the film. Anderson is well known for his ensemble casts, and for using the same group of actors pretty consistently throughout his films. Regulars such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and John C. Reilly are all fantastic. The film begins with three coincidences all ending in death. Throughout the film the cast cross paths in coincidences of their own, and ultimately leading to the death of Earl. The voice-over explains at the end of the film that perhaps these events (deaths) were not coincidences, but just "a thing that happens" - as Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) says somewhere in the movie. One of my favourite characters is Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall) as the host of a TV show called "What do kids know?", who is, like Earl, dying of cancer. The film is long and complex, but ultimately comes together perfectly, in a nice little bundle.

7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)


The first time I saw this movie I had two conflicting reports. First was from Lee, always a trust-worthy source for film recommendations and hasn't let me down yet; second was from my Mum and Sister - two people who know a good movie when they see it. I later found out that they actually hadn't seen it, but rather turned it off after 15 minutes because it was "boring" and "nothing was happening". After seeing the film I realised that that's the point! The film begins with Joel (Jim Carrey) waiting for a train on a frosty New York morning, supposedly going to work, and quickly (at the last minute) runs across to the other platform to catch a train that is going to the beach. On this train ride he meets (for the first time?) Clementine (Kate Winslet), and it is obviously love at first (or second?, third?) sight. The film brings together two outstanding artists, director Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (he won an Oscar for the script). The mixture of Kaufman's mind-bending story with the trippy visuals of Gondry make for a film delight. Elements of science fiction and non-linear narration are used to tell ultimately a story about true love. Some of my favourite actors also appear with 10/10 performances, notably Tom Wilkinson and Mark Ruffalo. Oh, and to top it all off, the movie has David Cross in it, and he gets high, what more could you ask for!

6. Adaptation (2002)


Charlie Kaufman is a genius, period. No other screenwriter has written such thought provoking films in such a short amount of time as this man. Adaptation is the "true" story of Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicolas Cage) trying to adapt the novel, The Orchid Thief, by real life author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). In real life, Kaufman was asked to write a screenplay on the novel, however he experienced writers block, so decided to write a screenplay about him adapting the novel into a film. I didn't know that when I first saw it, so it made the film that much more confusing - but that doesn't matter, Spike Jonze is such a good director that you don't need to know anything going in to enjoy it (which is what all movies should strive to achieve). Adaptation features Charlie's non-existent twin brother, Donald (also played by Cage). Donald is an aspiring screenwriter himself, admiring as he is of Charlie, Donald writes a successful slasher film called The Thr3e, which gets picked up by a production company. A side story of the film is about New York Time's writer Orlean, and her meeting with the charismatic John Laroche (Chris Cooper) and her subsequent relationship with him. The novel The Orchid Thief is based on Laroche's character. I love this movie because it has an outstanding script, directed to perfection by Jonze; the acting is superb (Cooper won Best Supporting Actor); and the very fact that it dances with reality so closely that you are not sure whether you are watching a Documentary, Mockumentary, Drama, Comedy or some fusion of all four. The film builds to the third act which explodes in drugs, action and violence - three things that Kaufman/Cage say that you shouldn't do to get cheap thrills - but by putting them in his movie you're not sure whether he just ran out of ideas or he is a genius; I'll go with the latter.


Note: This list is a constant work-in-progress, if I see the greatest movie of all time tomorrow, it can very well go to number 1. That being said, my top 5 hasn't changed in around 5 years - so stay tuned for the next instalment!

To go to Part II, click here.


- Russell

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why Pig Destroyer Is Awesome

The beauty of Pig Destroyer lies in their simplicity. 1 Singer, 1 Guitarist, 1 Drummer. From that you get a wall of sound more "brutal" than what most metal bands who have twice the instrumental power can come up with.

Pig Destroyer's 2007 album, 'Phantom Limb' is the album I'm most familiar with and was the first one I heard. It's a delightful mix of death metal, grindcore (often call deathgrind) and I think I can feel a thrash influence in there somewhere (I've never been good at/big on defining metal beyond one sub genre to be honest).

From Phantom Limb, Thought Crime Spree:



That song is doesn't have a what I'd consider a blast-beat it's just very heavy on the double-bass drumming. This uncharacteristic of grindcore (perhaps why I chose it as an example), but does exemplify the incredible sound that Pig Destroyer produce with only 2 (or 3 including vokills) instruments.

I regressed through their discography, hearing 2004s 'Terrifyer' only once or twice and then settling on 2001s 'Prowler in the Yard'. The difference in production is noticeable, 'Prowler in the Yard' sounds quite unpolished. The songs are also a lot shorter and sharper, this is the grindcore sound that we're all a lot more familiar with. Here is the beginning of this album, one of my favourite album openings of all (read along with the lyrics).

From Prowler in the Yard, tracks 1 and 2, Jennifer/Cheerleader Corpses:



Jennifer wrestled her friend playfully to the ground infront of the snowcone stand and began licking at the girls eyeballs, as if they were sugar cubes. Their bodies convulsed and flailed with an almost seizure like intensity. At times their pale limbs seeming to shift back and forth from one torso to the other. A crowd gathered almost immediately to watch these two girls tie and untie their bodies like a pair of pit-vipers. They were confused, or concerned, or shocked, or aroused, or all of the above. But no-one dared interfere with the performance. Jennifer's long ashen hair hung down concealing the girls face like a curtain around a hospital bed. No one had any idea that the girls eyes were revolving under her ruby tongue. "This is disgusting, it's pornography" exclaimed a pasty slut white woman in a fur coat, vanilla ice-cream smeared across her double chin like a money shot. Counting a balding professor type in his mid-forties, his left hand stuffed crassly down the front of his pants "No, no, no. This is beautiful, this is art."

I can't help but think that opening is analogous to metal in general. To some it is a grotesque evolution of music, to others it is art. I was going to say that PD may not have evolved, but merely refined. After listening to a few of the tracks from the earlier album - 'Prowler in the Yard' and comparing it to later tracks, I can say that they have evolved in every sense. The music is more mature, it interacts with the lyrics (from Phantom Limb - "Mood swings like an axe, into those around me" and bang the music shifts), the album art work is incredible rather than somewhat predictable.

Pig Destroyer is on of my favourite bands. The only person who has read this that may have a chance of liking them will be Dean.

- Dogman

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eden Recommends

We saw three movies in the time we were away and they have all been pretty sweet. The one common theme was that each movie had to be seen without any prior knowledge to get the best impression, so only read the after discussion after you see it.

Also, I think this should be called Eden, Luke and Jay recommend cos we all liked the movies, but I wrote it, so it’s just me.

Inception:


Before you see it: An epic cinematic experience that plays with the unknown concept of dreams and the power and freedom that remains floating in the infinite expanse of our unconscious.

After you see it: This might sound cheesy but the whole viewing experience of Inception for me was like a dream in itself. I knew very little going in, bar the fact that I love the work of Christopher Nolan and Leonardo Dicaprio, and I came out of the cinemas blown away. I was and still am, however, finding it hard to know what to say about it, and harder still to truly piece together what took place –much like a dream ey? I guess if you surrender to the fictional elements of the story then it is very difficult to find fault in the movie. It may be long but, like The Dark Knight, it keeps the viewer engrossed throughout with exceptional pacing. I guess the only complaint could be that it doesn’t seem to address any issues, but then again it is an extremely well made thriller based on an extremely difficult and interesting concept – pure entertainment - so I can’t really complain.

N.B. I have only watched this once and hope to see it again soon...maybe I’ll have a different outlook

Cyrus


Before you see it: A fun and emotional character based indie flick that sticks with you despite a few flaws.

After you see it: I knew even less about this film than Inception, a random stab at an indie film with a cool cast was all it took for us to spend a chilly San Fran night at the cinema. The first fifteen minutes of this movie leads you on to thinking John (John C reilly) and his journey out of a depressive existence will be the focal point of the story. But then you are introduced to Cyrus (Jonah Hill). This is a little off putting but it pays off as he turns out to be another very interesting character. Supported by the forever hot Marissa Tomei the trio have some great chemistry that really clicks on screen. I really enjoyed the way the film spread the funny moments and the dramatic moments, which often catches you off guard but gives the scenes a stronger impact. The most refreshing aspect of the film is the openness of each character. The dialogue helps prevent it from trailing down too many clich├ęd story arcs, though in the end it does end a little abruptly. Also, at times I found the camera work to be a little odd (I’m no film expert so I don’t really know how to describe it) but it made it hard to believe the illusion of the story telling. This isn’t really a big deal and all in all this is a great little film with great characters, solid script and great acting (especially if you like the actors).

Mr Nobody


Before you see it: A mind bending exploration of the impact of choices, whether our own or others’, that ultimately defines our fate.

After you see it: I had no idea at all what this film was about before seeing it; we saw it on a last minute impulse to find something other than Sorcerer’s Apprentice to watch. This film had an idea it wanted to present and definitely gets the message across. It relates to everyone by dealing with the inevitable occurrence of life altering choices by presented one to a nine year old boy who refuses to make it. A quote perfectly sums up the movie “I couldn’t make a decision without knowing what would happen and after finding out what would happen I still can’t make the decision.” I guess in a way that is why we can’t know the future, because it really wouldn’t help us decide on anything. It was this kind of philosophy in the film that I found most intriguing. It finds a clever way, without seeming forced, to provide interesting information on the nature of space time over the course of the universe and relates that to the much smaller scale of one boy’s life. There are also some cool existential elements dealing with false realities and wondering whether anything really exists. However, the coolest aspect of the movie (a close second place being the soundtrack of original music and remixed old tunes) is the shots and scenes imagined by the director. Some tricky dick film techniques create very impressive visuals and it is easy to feel each emotion that Nemo feels throughout. The only complaints would be that the story is a bit of a mess by the end (although the point is made by that time), and although a very original film in essence it did borrow a little from The Butterfly Effect in my mind.

Anyways as you can see these are all movies that I recommend you see before finding anything out about them. Once you see them come back and discuss.

- Eden

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Helly's Video View- Shop Girl


Okay, sorry for the delay but here's the deal- I was half way through writing a blog about a great little movie called Humpday, when I realised that the less you know about that movie going into it, the better. So  my one sentence review of it is that it's an unexpected delight,which pushes boundaries and you should definitely check it out! The other reason I chose not to review it, is that the other night Lee and I sat down with anticipation to watch the Steve Martin penned film Shop Girl and could not have been more disappointed with what ensued. I am yet to write a really scathing review and so I thought it might be fun to give it a go!

On paper everything about Shop Girl sounds enticing, written by and starring comedic legend Steve Martin, likable cast including Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman, and the plot outline makes it seem like we're in for an endearing little indie movie, akin to Lost in Translation. But somewhere along the line things went horribly wrong.

The core problem with this movie lies with it's characters, especially the central character Mirabelle (played by Claire Danes.) The film needs us to love her for the plot to work, yet this is impossible as we know absolutely nothing about her other than she works behind the glove counter at a department store and that she's quite pretty.  Steve Martin is not at all convincing as the materialistic sugar daddy he's supposed to be portraying, mainly because Steve Martin as a person is just too likable and exudes a fatherly (or grandfatherly) vibe. Jason Schwartzman probably does the best job in playing the terrible hand he's been dealt and does manage to pull off a few comedic moments. But some of his character's actions and behaviour seem so artificial and not something that a real person would say or do, however eccentric they may be.

The other glaring flaw with this movie is it's (sorry Steve) horrendous script. Some of the dialogue is laughably bad and you can almost see the words typed on the page as it plays out on screen.  There is one moment in particular which is in the climactic scene of the movie, there has been a big build up and there is a close up of Steve Martin and you are expecting something really profound to come from his lips and what he actually says is so mediocre that it's unfathomable. To quote Lee 'Does he not realise that it's a movie?! He can literally say WHATEVER he wants and he chose that?!!' The scenes and some of the 'meet cutes' also seem very poorly constructed and not at all realistic. In particular the scenes involving only women do not ring true at all and only illustrate the fact that Martin clearly does not how how to write female characters and also how women actually interact with one another. Another scene which involves the two main characters both re-telling their interpretation of a conversation is supposed to be comedic and I presume the intention was to be a 'hilarious' example of the many differences between men and women. The end result is neither funny or insightful. There are also some rather clumsy plot devices thrown in to account for some of the character's actions. For example there has been no mention of Claire Danes being bi-polar, but suddenly in one scene we see her throwing away her anti-depressants just to account for her having a break down in the following scene.

There are also some rather cheesey slow motion shots which are utilised throughout the film which are intended to be moving but the film hasn't earned these moments that it's trying so desperately trying to capture. Again Lee said it perfectly 'This movie isn't as beautiful as it thinks it is.'

Rarely do I walk away from a movie thinking 'that's two hours of my life I'm never getting back' but that was exactly the reaction I had with this movie. Seriously, if you pick this up in your local video store and think it looks promising, put it down and keep on looking...trust me!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gig Review: Band Of Horses (Enmore Theatre - 29.07.10)

Frontman Ben Bridwell rockin out.
Back in June 2006, Lee told me about an American band called Band Of Horses. They had just released their debut album, Everything All the Time, conveniently in time for my departure to the US. That album was like a soundtrack of sorts for my 6 month trip, (along with Arcade Fire's Funeral), getting plenty of air time on my ipod whilst travelling across the Midwest on Amtrak trains.

Lorraine and I walked in to find a typical indie crowd, chilling out with the opening act, lounging on the floor sipping their beverages. Band Of Horses came on stage to a raucous applause. They seemed extremely casual, not rushing into anything, but not taking too long either. Ben waltzed up to the mic and announced, "Hey Sydney, we're Band Of Horses, we're here to play some songs, and here's one of 'em". They opened with one of my favourites, The Great Salt Lake from their debut record. I had been dreaming of hearing that song live, and it didn't disappoint. Is There A Ghost? was next up, from their 2007 album Cease to Begin - another fav of mine.

Throughout their set they spread out the set-list across all three albums nicely, with a few covers in there as well. One notable cover was Chest Fever by 'The Band' (I only knew that by looking it up), but after hearing both versions they did it real justice. A special mention should go to Ryan Monroe, their keyboard-guitarist and backup vocalist. He wrote and performed Older from their new album, Infinite Arms, and they played it at the gig. Boy that guy can play piano!

It was their last club show on their tour down under, and you could tell they appreciated having a packed Enmore Theatre to be the venue for it. Band Of Horses are one of those bands that are so easy to listen to, and their albums get richer with each spin. And after waiting 4 years to see them live, I wasn't let down.

- Russell

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Music – part 1 of ?

"Music sweet music, I wish I could caress" - Jimi Hendrix

Do you ever get that thing happen to you where you feel totally inspired to do something awesome, artistically or whatever and you start or are about to start and then you realise that you are undertaking something quite epic, at least on a personal scale, and you fear that you won’t do it justice so you just give up and leave it unfinished? Or worse still you just don’t do anything...you don’t even start it? Sucks ey? I get it plenty, I write a 15 page short story and then ditch it cos it isn’t perfect. I avoid writing about Arrested development cos I want to do a 3 part epic on how much I love it. With that in mind I present Music – Part one of question mark...exclamation mark

So yeah the other day I was cruising Venice Beach with Luke and Jay, lapping up the Sun and the cool vibe of this alternative beach strip. Early on Jay and I walk and this black guy stops us and shoves his CD in our face. The guerrilla sales tactics pays off, leaving us ambushed and bewildered and slow to react. Before we know it Jay has headphones on and I am putting on a set from some other rapper. I listen along and find that the music isn’t so bad. The guy talks to me and says he is touring with Big Day Out later this year and he turns out to be genuinely interesting. I figure I will buy his CD for a few bucks to help support fellow a aspiring musician. He asks my name and signs the CD. As he does so, he explains he works on donations, the CD is free. Jay’s rapper, however, is about 30 seconds ahead with the scam than me and my rapper. He is at the point where he explains that he “usually gets around $15-20.” Jay politely offers $5, it’s all he can spare, and he’s gotta get lunch and catch the bus back. “Yeah like I said I usually get around fifteen to twenty dollars,” he says a tad more forcefully. So the veil is lifted from my innocent head as I turn back to my guy who is frowning at the $5 bill in my hand. We offer to return the Cds, but then they are already signed with our names, like their sigbature suddenly makes this 50c disc a vintage piece of music history.

It’s hard to describe the disappointment that swept over me as I accepted that I had been hustled out of what turned out to be $15 (standard price), but i think my rapper could tell. Our conversation which included me congratulating him on his success and wishing him well for his tour down under dissolved into to me nodding and just wanting to get away from these guys as he pocketed my dough.

In the end it wasn’t that bad as we left feeling impressed by their scamming abilities and with a solid quote for the rest of our holiday but I guess the ultimate disappointment for me is that these guys are artists and musicians. I was into the music and, more importantly, the feeling of comradery of a musician struggling to make it. His success and his story were interesting and I’m glad we got the chance to share it, but it all became a hoax when his true motive showed through. It should be the love for music and expression and creativity and a strong desire to share those things with people that drives a musician. Like Jay pointed out, instead of inspiring and finding new listeners they are just pissing off potential fans. Compare what they do to a story Lee told me about giving some random guys a lift home and bypassing $10 for a promise that they visit the Vienna Circus facebook page. I know which musician has a clearer idea of the power and importance of music.
- Eden (while listening to Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd)

PS. We listened to the CD and it sucked balls

Monday, August 2, 2010

Buzz Words

All of us BOTMer's (the wonderful small group that we are) have passions and things that we love that are unique to us. And I have found over the years that through the things I love, have come buzz words. These are words or names that when said by a stranger on a bus, at the gym etc, we turn our heads and react. These words aren't exclusively our passions though, they could be a word that our grandpa used to utter or an old teacher used to always say that has stuck with us.

There are times when something you love is not a buzz word. For example, I am a pretty big Howard Stern fan but when I think about it, if someone were to say either 'Howard' or 'Stern', I wouldn't react because these words/names are very common. The exception to this rule is when I was at the height of my Ben Folds Five listening, and if someone said the words 'underground' or 'army', two fairly common words, my ears would perk up. Alright, I know what you guys are thinking, 'we get the point man, lets just hear your buzzy words or whatever', but I feel bad for not blogging in a while so I'm trying to make up for it. I guess you're right though, and as Helly tells me, it's quality not quantity. But I think I was making valid points, so I don't know why you were being a dick about it.

So in my experience, I have found my buzz words are:

Wrestling - being a fan and historian of something that nobody likes (or admits to liking) means that this has become a big buzz word over the years for me.

Karate - I have been involved with karate my whole life and it is kind of rare to hear someone talk about it. 

Vienna - one of the words in the name of a band I love. Rarely uttered by humans.

Eden - my close friend and a cool name and word. So rare you can see the blood seeping from it.



- Lee (while listening to Off Course)



What are your buzz words?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Helly's Film Take- Greenberg

Ever since The squid and the whale was released, I have been curious to check out whatever project Noah Bambauch releases. I find the uncomfortableness he evokes on the screen to be oddly intriguing, it's like watching an episode of Curb your enthusiasm except darker and with not quite so many laughs. Even the horrendous disappointment that was Margo at the Wedding wasn't enough to deter me from seeing this movie. So on friday, seeing that there was only one showing left at the cinema, I embarked on my own to catch Greenberg before it stopped showing. There were only about five other people in the cinema (all of which were over sixty) and at times I felt the Noah Bambauch sting of uncomfortableness as I seemed to be the only person laughing. Not that there a a whole lot of laughs in this movie, but I tend to laugh out of appreciation of good writing and often when I recognise a truthful moment being played out on screen (after all don't they say that the best laughs come from recognition?)

Bambauch seems to be intent on exploring neurotic, narcissistic and often repellent characters and Greenberg is no exception. Greenberg is a character who seems like he never fully evolved from adolescence. He is driven purely on impulse and is often contradicting himself. He keeps insisting that 'he doesn't need anyone' yet he has to be driven everywhere and anytime he's left alone he calls someone. Whenever he is in a scene with another character, you ask yourself why they put up with him and don't just walk out. But by the end of the film you can empathise with those characters, as everything about his character should make the audience inherently dislike him, but his wit and vulnerability make this an impossible task.

There are a few great, pithy lines of dialogue which have stayed with me from this film. The one which overscores the whole film seems to be 'hurt people, hurt people.' It seems like this idea has been at the core of all of Bambauch's films, he has now just found a succinct way to phrase it. On reflection, it really seems like they built the entire film around this concept which definitely makes for an interesting character study but lacks in plot. A common criticism of indie movies is that 'nothing happens!', this film could certainly fall prey to that critique, but I guess that just depends on how interested you are in exploring the psyche of such an eccentric character.

This film also captures probably the most awkward romance to ever play out on screen. There is one 'sex scene' in particular which will definitely make you cringe! As I'd mentioned earlier, at first it may seem difficult for the audience to understand what Florence sees in Greenberg, he has just recently come out of a mental institution after all. But even if Florence has not been clinically diagnosed with something, she's definitely an odd ball and you can see that she's just as lonely as he is.

In terms of performances both Ben Stiller and relative newcomer Greta Gerwig are outstanding as the two leads. Ben Stiller utilises his comedic timing perfectly and in the dramatic moments doesn't fall victim to what some other comedic actors do when forced to play serious and that is to underplay everything. I think that those other actors do it because they think they are 'being real' but real people are often big and expressive when they are distressed and Stiller portrays that perfectly. Greta Gerwig's character Florence is one of those people that you want to know more of and find out what makes her tick. Is she unbalanced? Is she drunk? Or is she just plain awkward? She definitely kept me guessing throughout the film.

Weirdly enough, I left the cinema feeling kind of ho-hum about this movie but as I've been thinking about it and analysing it over the last few days, I'm realising that I actually really like it! It's a combination of the fully realised characters, intriguing dialogue, the unconventional romance and truthful scenes which make for a fascinating film overall.