Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rant-dom thoughts on a Sunday


Accidental Advertising: This arty shot, resulting from almost dropping my camera as I chased down a customer on her bike, resulted in a very nice little plug for clothing manufacturer Peal Izumi.

I've just spent a week riding my bike 80-100 miles a day with 2000 customers and other folks on Cycle Oregon. I was looking forward to impressively blogging from the saddle, except my supposed all-singing-all-dancing iPhone turned out to be a bit of club-footed wallflower, as I ranted on Fastcompany.com.

So I'm glad to have my clunky, predicatable but lightening fast old Blackberry back. it does what I want and fast.

A friend is reading Terry Pratchett. I'd never heard of this English author at all, but he's prolific, having written a ton of books. The friend keeps sharing snippets aloud. Last one offered: if you steal a sock from a vampire, it will throw him off completely, because vampires are such neat freaks. Now just pause for a moment and savor the absurdity: a vampire wearing socks ... brilliant. People can feed me Reader's Digest Ultra Condensed snippets like this all day and I'd be happy, so little time do I have to read books. I wonder if that's how book reviews are done? Perhaps that's a new idea for a book - 'The Best Bits.' Of course this would lead to 'The Naughty Bits.' 'The Scary Bits'. 'The Romantic Bits' (a poor seller to 'The Naughty Bits'). 'The Technologically Impressive Bits.' 'The Gory Bits' 'The Sad Bits'. 'The Inspiring Bits'.

So for my 45th birthday, I decided to take myself to the movies. Although I despise multiplex cinemas, there's something about plunging yourself into darkness with nothing but a giant bright rectangle unfolding before you. Like being on the deck of a spaceship approaching Saturn.

I'd heard so much about the Bourne Ultimatum, and was so thoroughly sucked in by the full page advertising, I decided to go. In actual fact, I didn't ride my bike fast enough to make the opening, so at the last minute I bought a ticket to see a movie called Startdust instead, recommended by someone I consider has good taste.

There seems to be a tsunami of Harry Potterish/Lord of the Ringsish formula fantasy flicks happening right now. Trailer after trailer featuring wizened warriors in medieval dress, fantastical computer generated worlds, violent explosions, scrolly books and chandeliers falling on nasty characters. Stardust was one of these movies.

I confess Harry Potter leaves me cold, and I desperately want it to set me on fire. I applaud its success, but perhaps I've been alive too long, it just doesn't come close to the magic of C.S. Lewis' classic The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe series. In Lewis' books the magic is fantastic but plausible, the illogic, logical. It's not fantasy for the sake of being fantasy, like these formula fantasy movies. It seems you're either smitten by fantasy or you're not.

So bored was I, that 1/3 of the way through Startdust that I snuck out and bolted across the corridor into the Bourne Ultimatum. Not sure if you're allowed to do that but I figure 2 half movies has the same monetary value as 1 whole one.

I saw a chase movie filmed with about the same skill as my yanking my digital camera around and making people queasy watching it. I have not seen the earlier two, but for a movie about being brainwashed to kill for the State – nothing tops the original Nikita.

Maybe I'm just jaded. I need to swallow a selective amnesia pill and wipe out every movie and CD I've ingested from the past 40 years.

For what it's worth, I am going to list the movies that stand out if I don't think too hard or long. Then you can feel free to comment with your list of what I should see next. Save me 1 hour loitering among the shelves in the video store!

2001: A Space Odyssey - for depicting the fathomless loneliness of space as futurist Josh Calder so perfectly put it: silent, immense, difficult.

A Clockwork Orange - the original surrealist trip. What was Kubrick on?

One Hour Photo – for its minimalist and razor sharp portrait of Wal*Mart and its genre. Robin Williams makes a better creep than a comic.


Bound
(Wachowski Bros) – real cower-behind-your-hands gangsta stuff, amazing plotting, acting, and out-there lesbian scenes so steamy it had me flinching and looking at the floor.


Glen Garry Glen Ross
– stellar cast, acting and script. In the Bike Friday salesroom we hear 'ABC – Always Be Closing!' 'Put the coffee down! Coffee's for closers!'

You Can Count On Me – totally engaging. Laura Linney is great. A feel good brother sister tale with real edge.

Crimes of Passion - Kathleen Turner seems to keep this one a secret. It's a hoot. 'Coffee, tea, or TWA - tea?' Directed by Richard Longcraine is a Bike Friday customer!

Darkman
- Liam Neeson is great in this colorful comic book adventure about a scientist who is disfigured by an explosion and in getting revenge, invents skin that lasts only 90 minutes before it bubbles away ...

Brimstone and Treacle
- Sting is really convincingly creepy in this thriller, with fantastic acting all round.

The Wicker Man - incredibly tragic ending, don't show it to me again.

Eye of the Needle - Donald Sutherlin is one scary dude.

Casino - Joe Pesci is one scary dude. I watched this movie in Ireland in 2001 as an pre-cursor to coming to America ... and nearly changed my ticket.

Sky Captain - a technical masterpiece and gorgeous to watch.

Robots - see comments for Sky Captain

Goodfellas - surreal and fresh mafioso flick.


Excalibur
- a golden oldie and still sucks you in if you happen to be passing by the telly and it's on.


Eyes Wide Shut
, just the the Mansion Scene, a truly kinky and compelling romp that must make me a repressed pervert.

And yes, I so detest multiplex cinemas. The Astor cinema in Melbourne, Australia, is a grand old kitschy dame, with a giant plum velvet curtain and ornate, gilt balconies, mirrored ceilings and chandeliers. An old man in a top hat and red tails introduces each movie. Someone comes round with ice cream choc tops on a tray.

Let's lobby against Multiplex cinemas. They're part of the genericisation of the world that keeps us contained and just a little bit sad ... and a little too busy, so we don't have to think about it.

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