May 16, 2008

Pygar, RIP

John Phillip Law, the actor who played the well-tanned angel Pygar in one of the most absurd movies ever made, has died. Read the L.A. Times obituary.

Oh, and if you haven't seen Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy, you should. Have you ever wanted to see a sci-fi movie about the sexual adventures of a hot chick who travels the galaxy in a spaceship with brown shag carpet that actually covers the walls? I thought so.

August 01, 2007

All caught up now

I'm finally caught up on my Harry Potter -- all the books and all the movies. The Dumbledore - Voldemort duel is a highlight of Harry 5.

Oh, by the way: this winter fans of Iorek Byrnison will finally be able to see the Armored Bear on the big screen.

May 25, 2007

Mark Helprin: Seventy years after I'm dead is not enough

If I were still in law school (and not post-call on the trauma service), this article from the novelist and occasional current-affairs commentator Mark Helprin would have provoked a long post many days ago: A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Its Copyright?

Helprin makes the provocative, because so seldom-heard, argument that copyright terms extending to 70 years after the death of the author just aren't long enough:

Congress is free to extend at will the term of copyright. It last did so in 1998, and should do so again, as far as it can throw. Would it not be just and fair for those who try to extract a living from the uncertain arts of writing and composing to be freed from a form of confiscation not visited upon anyone else? The answer is obvious, and transcends even justice. No good case exists for the inequality of real and intellectual property, because no good case can exist for treating with special disfavor the work of the spirit and the mind.
This argument deserves a reasoned refutation instead of (in addition to?) a dismissive guffaw. Helprin has wandered off into cuckoo-land here, and if I weren't so sleep-deprived, I'd tell you now why I think so.

But alas, wisdom demands that I grab a beer, curl up in bed with my book for half an hour, and go to sleep. I'm back in the hospital again tomorrow....

My apartment, the movie set

In 2009, assuming the producers don't run out of money, you'll be able to see my apartment building in the movies.

Cars and buses from the 1950s have been lined up along the street where the FedEx guys usually park, in order to transform my building into someplace in Dallas called the Aristocrat Hotel. Those of us who live here can't get in the front door today because we'd have to push through a crowd of extras in old-time suits and hats. Our running clothes and U of C t-shirts and iPods wouldn't quite fit in with the period ambience, I'm guessing.

The movie is going to be called The Express, and it's about the first black Heisman Trophy winner and #1 draft pick in the NFL, Ernie Davis. Davis died of leukemia at age 23 before playing a single professional football game -- I'm surprised it took so long to make a movie about him. Dennis Quaid is starring as Davis' college football coach, and he's the only star or crew member that I recognize by name. I'm not sure if he's going to be in any of the scenes filmed at my apartment building or not, but anyone who knows me won't be surprised to find out that I won't be hovering around hoping to get an autograph. I've never really been much of the type for that sort of thing. (There's probably only two or three people I'd try to wheedle an autograph out of, and none of them are involved with this project.)

One thing I'm always impressed by is how much organization it takes to produce a movie. Just for the scenes that are shooting at my building, they've had to close down two streets, arrange for fifteen to twenty vehicles from the 1950s including one car that says "Dallas Police," hire off-duty Chicago police officers to keep the riff-raff out from in front of the cameras, rent a vacant apartment here to hold crowds of extras in between takes, and bring in several truckfuls of lights, props, camera equipment, and canvas-backed directors' chairs. They've had to get permits to do all this from the state and the city, and they've had to pay the owners of my building an undisclosed amount of money that we've been assured will be donated to the public elementary school down the block. And I wouldn't be surprised if all of this effort turns into less than five minutes of screen-time in the finished movie.

I suppose that's why I'd love to be a movie director. All that infrastructure is set up around you, and then you get to sit in the center of it all and bend it to your will and vision. Ok, maybe that's only true for the auteur directors, and even then only part of the time, but still. It can't be a bad thing to have a job where you're basically the guy that gets to literally run the show.

May 03, 2007

After this review, how can I *not* see Hot Fuzz?

From a review on Rotten Tomatoes:

Less than a week after I called Grindhouse the best movie ever made, I saw a movie I may like even more... The best made movie since Lord of the Rings.

April 20, 2007

Rodriguez, Tarantino, Lynch. Nothing could be better

I want to tell you about two (three?) of the best movies I've seen in years. Grindhouse is the most fun I've had in the theater since... since... well, I can't remember that I've ever had as much fun watching a movie. Inland Empire wasn't exactly fun -- it was entrancing, mesmorizing, and scary, enough so that the hair on the back of my neck stands up just thinking about it.

Grindhouse is a double feature made up of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. And don't forget the juicy "previews" that separate the two, for movies like "machete" and "thanksgiving" that I wish would get made, because the previews were so good. So where do I start my praise? For one thing, both movies are strong enough to stand up to the other. I've read some critics who can't wait to tell us which one was better (they seem even split between the two), but these critics are full of shit. Rodriguez's zombie movie demonstrates why so many people love zombie movies, and Tarantino makes the audience break into applause at the end of his chase movie that's at least the equal of the best chase movie ever made, Spielberg's Duel.

Death Proof is so great because even if you disagree with me about Duel, Tarantino's film will remind you of your own favorite chase movie. And Planet Terror will remind you of your own favorite zombie movie. Or in my case, my favorite vampire movie -- Rodriguez's own From Dusk Till Dawn.

Finally, Grindhouse is great because of the actors. Some people say that Rose McGowan can't act -- I say bullshit. She acts plenty well enough in this picture, even if all she's asked to do is point her machine gun leg and kill zombies. She does that just fine. Besides, if what you really want is big stars, you've got Kurt Russell in Death Proof and Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu? Yeah, yeah, just go see Grindhouse and you'll figure it out.

When I was in high school, I made a film with a bear in it: a guy with a blue beadspread thrown over him and a sign labeled "bear" taped to his side. It worked, sort of, but not like David Lynch could have made it work. His latest movie, Inland Empire, has scenes with people wearing big rabbit-head costumes and watching a sitcom on TV, and by the end of the film they will make you shiver in your seat. You thought Blair Witch Project was spooky? Well, no one does spooky better than David Lynch, and this film is his spookiest yet.

I won't say that this movie is scary because you never see the monster. For the most part that's right, but Lynch isn't above resorting to a few classic tricks at just the right time, when you least suspect them, in order to make you shit your pants. So don't think you're safe because this film relies mainly on ambiance to freak you out -- a dark, snowy street in Poland, a film-set house with narrow hallways painted dark green and lit by a single bare bulb. It has all that shit, but that's not all.

What's it about? The subtitle is "a woman in trouble," and that's about as much as you know when the film ends. Laura Dern's character is in trouble, but you just don't know exactly how. Is it all psychological, as if she's suffering from schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder? Or is it supernatural, because she's haunted by ghosts? See, my hair's standing on end again. Gotta love David Lynch.

So what do Grindhouse and Inland Empire have in common? Here's one thing: go to the official Grindhouse website. The spooky ambience there doesn't fit that film well, but it almost perfectly captures the mood of Inland Empire. Go figure.

March 11, 2007

glorfindel's movie reviews: 300

This movie is bad ass. See it.