Saturday, August 22, 2009

Surprisingly great...

Vincent Price as Prince Prospero in Roger Corman's "The Masque of the Red Death" (1964)


Nora video chatting from Hong Kong


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Some thoughts while steeling myself for Avatar

Thompson on Hollywood links to the Avatar trailer, which certainly looks impressive, while exhibiting a certain amount of "Monster Chiller Horror Theatre" 3D cheesiness. (Who could forget "Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Stewardesses"?)

I'm going to have to come up with way of thinking about "Avatar" that will keep me from dying of crankiness over the next three or four months as the beast lumbers toward us. Cameron strikes me as a bit of a dope, and his ten years of world building promises what could be the worst sort of hermetic trainspotting. Adam Roberts, Brit SF writer and critic, offers these thoughts about "Blade Runner" that may help:

(After remarking that the movie doesn't entirely make sense) But I love what the film's mechanical eye lets me see.

In fact, this is what links all the films I love most: they manifest what I take to be a new cultural logic in SF. The genre has shifted from being a literature of ideas (books are good at ideas) to a literature of enduring, powerful, and haunting visual images (films are poor at ideas, but very good at the poetry of beautiful images). This is what La Jetee, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stalker, Alien, and The Matrix have in common -- their gobsmacking visual aesthetic. Blade Runner beats all of these.....

If I can just hang on to that, even a movie about blue fauns romping might be enjoyable.


Friday, August 14, 2009

From off the streets of Koreatown

I wonder if our genial host has ever tried this place, reviewed this week by Jonathan Gold, in a column entitled "Of Cumin Bondage" Har.

For a couple of bucks, you can even experience what must be the winciest dish in town: a sharp, glistening steel skewer stabbed through thin coins of meat sliced from a bull penis, which bubble and hiss when they encounter the heat of the fire, sizzling from proud quarters to wizened, chewy dimes. It doesn’t taste like much, this bull penis, pretty much just cartilage and char, but the spectacle is as emasculating as a Jonas Brothers CD.

This place also has fake dog (the canine equivalent of krab, I guess)

it’s basically braised pork seasoned with vinegar, chile and cumin in what one is led to believe mimics the treatment given to the flesh of the unspeakable; you’ll find a warm, dryish version just ambiguous enough to put you off the dish for life. This may be the point.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Figli d'Argento

Interesting article in the WSJ about the new wave in European horror movies. A few things for further exploration:

Mr. Argento's example has become a touchstone for a new generation of European horror filmmakers -- weaned on independent genre movies of the 1960s and 1970s -- who prize their creative independence above all else and are fully prepared to spurn advances by Hollywood.

The majority of these directors, who are mostly in their 30s, come from countries like France and Spain, which until recently have had no discernible tradition of making horror films. These new horror auteurs have gained praise for their artisanal approach, which favors old-school latex special effects over CGI, and for their ability to work within tight budgets, a perfect fit for these economically straightened times.

Mr. Argento hails the new generation of European horror filmmakers "for respecting the horror genre and making highly personal films." This new wave includes horror auteurs like Spain's Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage," 2007), Sweden's Tomas Alfredson ("Let the Right One In," 2008), France's Pascal Laugier ("Martyrs," 2008), and Belgium's Fabrice Du Welz ("Vinyan," 2008), all of whom make use of frightening images and gore, but also tell stories that contain subtle political or social messages.

"European production companies have noticed that a huge generation gap has sprung up between younger and older audiences and have begun to target younger audiences with horror and fantasy films," says Jean-François Rauger, head programmer at the Cinémathèque Française and a critic at Le Monde newspaper, who traces the current trend for French horror back to Alexandre Aja's mould-breaking, violent debut "High Tension," which came out in 2003.


The ex argues convincingly...

...that all right-thinking humans should support Distict 9.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pynchon gets frisky

Who combines grandeur, complexity, and high seriousness with vulgar demotic buffoonery? Pynchon and Melville, Twain I suppose, Faulkner sometimes, Walt Whitman. The best of America's writers and part of what makes me glad I grew up here and not someplace else.

In his latest book, Pynchon emphasizes the demotic buffoon and even more so in the promotional clip, below, that he narrates and in the soundtrack selections posted on Amazon, many of which appear to be fictional -- either that or I missed "Soul Gidget" by Meatball Flag during my own journey through 1970.

(Update: Pynchon completely pwns me here... A quick Google reveals that a 'meatball flag' is a warning flag in Formula 1 racing telling "a particular driver to get off the track due to a mechanical problem or other internal hazard in his or her vehicle." Clearly my epicene life has been wasted.)


Monday, August 10, 2009

Beyond taste

An article in this morning's New York Times about Mexican literary provocateur Mario Bellatin. Sounds somewhat unpromising -- he just made a deal with Gallimard to publish his future books in French, which he will hire someone else to translate back into Spanish; he writes biographies of fake Japanese writers, that sort of thing...

But check out his right hand, missing since birth.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

If not "Mad Men" then "Everett True"

Many additional examples here.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Mad Men" will save us

Tulkinghorn directed our attention to, but for some reason did not want to post himself, this excellent Vanity Fair piece by Bruce Handy about the best show on television, perhaps ever. Herewith, a key passage, upon the merits of which Tulk and I whole-heartedly agree.

The thumbnail history of Hollywood goes something like this: Once upon a time, the studios reigned supreme. They bulldozed geniuses and turned out dreck, but in applying Henry Ford discipline and efficiencies to filmmaking they also gave us The Lady Eve, Casablanca, and Singin’ in the Rain. By the 1960s, however, the factory system began to give way, power shifted to directors and stars, and a new generation of independent-minded auteurs crafted sometimes indulgent but often original and even brilliant films such as Bonnie and Clyde, Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, and Apocalypse Now. Then, another turn: studios got the upper hand back, or learned to share it grudgingly with a handful of superstars and A-list directors. But without the old assembly-line rigor the result has too often been big, bloated dreck, like the films of Michael Bay, or the gaseous Oscar bait that bubbles up every fall—the worst of all movie worlds.

But, ah, television. Its great accomplishment over the past decade has been to give us the best of all movie worlds, to meld personal filmmaking, or series-making, with something like the craft and discipline, the crank-’em-out urgency, of the old studio system. I’m thinking first and foremost of The Sopranos, which debuted in 1999 and sadly departed in 2007. This strange and entertaining series, as individual a work as anything by Hitchcock or Scorsese, was the creation of David Chase, and it paved the way for The Wire, Deadwood, Rescue Me, Damages, and its successor as the best drama on television, the equally strange and entertaining Mad Men, which will launch its third season on AMC August 16.


...each episode of Mad Men, with its scrupulous period detail, is shot in just seven days on a budget that, at an average $2.8 million an episode this season, even a lot of indie-film producers would scoff at. But who knows? Going back to my original point, if Heaven’s Gate had been a 13-episode series with a hard-and-fast airdate, the last 30 years of Hollywood history might have been different, and Michael Cimino something other than the butt of a cautionary tale.

Meditate on that.

Or on this.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

As others see us

What does it say about my family Netflix habit that they urge us to check out the following categories?

Suspenseful Japanese revenge movies
Dark thrillers
Violent crime movies

If you are ever invited chez Tulkinghorn for an evening at the movies, better come packing heat...


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

There's a hell of a good universe next door

In contrast to reading this weekend's papers here, which as I've pointed out requires a deft eye to avoid the numerous articles about Julie/Julia, you can read an appreciation of Ross McDonald, a review of the sequel to Tokyo, Year Zero , and an article about the Jack Reacher scholarship fund in the Guardian/Observer.


Part 2: Why I have an aching adolescent hatred of almost everything

A quick search of the New York Times indicates thirteen articles or blog postings about "Julie/Julia" in the last three days., one of which is an interview with Nora Ephron by Maureen Dowd, which engenders a kind of perfect storm of alienation.

There was a time when I was a part of our culture.....