quick bit

On my way out, but just quickly:

“INTERMISSION” is now up, this one is about Ignmar Bergman:

Also, if you get the chance – DON’T skip “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Ignore the underwhelming, slapstick-heavy trailers. It’s a beautiful little romp of a thing, possibly the best thing Anderson has been involved with since “Rushmore.” The notion that Anderson directed this “hands-off” by email is baffling once you see it – it looks so completely and utterly “him” from the titles to the colors to the staging… even the tiny little costumes on the animals. And there’s a random exchange about songwriting that I know I’ll be quoting for the rest of the year.

The main thing I was unsure about was the risky decision to use deliberately fake-looking puppets an animation. The “sets” all look exactly like sets, with visible joints and brush-strokes, you can see the “fingerprints” of the animators in the real-fur animal characters (when a pregnant Mrs. Fox is said to be “glowing,” the next cut replaces her with an internally-lit double clearly made from painted plastic) effects are accomplished using cotton for smoke, cellophane for water and the barest hint of rotoscoping… even the cinematography is stage as though shot by a camera that can only move in 2 directions – in, out, back, forth – at any given time. Topping it all off, the animation itself avoids smoothness at all costs – it looks as though the puppets were moved only ever-OTHER-frame.

But the ultimate effect is really hypnotic. The “trick” is that it’s all about the details. The puppets are astoundingly detailed – the animals have tailored clothes, real fur, rows of realistic teeth, expressive faces and eyes that not only have pupils but irises – and intricately animated: Lips curl back over teeth, tongues move to enunciate and whiskers twitch in-sync. A minute or two in, it clicked for me: Anderson has always been fixated on cinematic artiface – look at the lovingly-obvious water-tank shots in “Life Aquatic,” or the unmistakably-unreal animated fish in the same. An amazing amount of work went into “Mr. Fox,” and he wants you to SEE that work happening.

Gvie it a look.

His blood runs through my instrument

The real brilliance of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s “Robot Chicken” is that it may be the first sketch comedy series to fully grasp the concept that, while blasphemy is funny, blasphemy against “official” religions is pretty hard to do these days: It’s played out, for one thing, and the ever-decreasing irrelevance of organized faith in much of the modern world means that there aren’t as many people who’ll actually be offended.

SECULAR “religions,” on the other hand, are much more a part of our lives now, and the jokesters who “get” that tend to be the ones who’re on the real cutting-edge now – think Stewart/Colbert’s open mockery of journalistic gravitas, South Park’s constant assault on politically-correct piety, “Borat’s” goosing of the politeness-instinct, that sort of thing. Or recall that in it’s early prime “The Simpsons” drew gasps for it’s evisceration of the sitcom nuclear-family ideal.

“Robot Chicken’s” idol-to-be-shattered of choice is the religion of Nostalgia: Their main recurring them is taking the movies, TV shows, cartoons and – especially – playthings that my generation (which is, of course, also Green & Senreich’s generation) tends to hold sacrosanct because of the impression they made on us at certain ages. And they’re damn good at it – I’ve seen an aquaintance who regarded themself a casual student of the “nothing can offend me” school of psuedo-nihilism respond with bug-eyed shock at RC’s re-fitting of “The Neverending Story’s” famous “SAY MY NAME!!!” exchange into an (innevitable, in retrospect) sexual context; and I have an aunt whom I’m fairly certain would burst into tears if someone showed her the “Wizard of Oz alternate-ending” sketch.

With that in mind, my favorite RC sketch of all time is probably the short bit goofing on Dan Fogleberg’s song “Leader of The Band.” If you’re not familiar, here’s the song:

So… yes, one of those sappy/sentimental ballads; but if you knew of it beforehand you probably also know it’s up there with “The Cowboys” or “Brian’s Song” in the “stuff guys are allowed to cry during” pantheon. People play this song at their father’s/grandfather’s funerals. There’s a pretty good chance that at some point, somewhere in the English-speaking world, someone is fighting back manly tears while quoting from this in the vicinity of a casket and/or headstone.

So, here’s what “Robot Chicken” did with it…


When I saw that the first time, I remember thinking “That’s WRONG!!!” and THEN realizing that this was the first time I actually MEANT it in a long time. Brilliant stuff.


hat tip: Chud:

Well, doesn’t THIS have “this year’s March of The Penguins” written all over it…


Can’t lie, looks cute, kinda surprised nobody thought of “find an excuse to run video of babies for 90 minutes” until now. There’s actually a HUGE, more-than-a-little creepy market out there for what amounts to “infants-as-art-objects”… In fact, I’m just gonna go ahead and blame this movie NOW for the fucking Anne Geddes movie we’ll probably get about a year later.

Precious: Based On the Watching of the Movie "Precious: Based On the Novel "Push" by Sapphire" by MovieBob

So I finally saw “Precious: Based On the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” which has become this year’s movie that people judge you as a person based on your opinion of it (see also: “Life is Beautiful.”) You’re either moved-to-life-altering-tears by director Lee Daniels’ presentation of an illiterate, morbidly-obese teenager (Gabourey Sidibe) gradually dragging herself out of a nightmarishly-abusive home life with help from friends, teachers and social-workers in 1987 Harlem; or you’re a heartless bastard who’s either “trying” to dislike it or you just can’t take the heat.

Honestly? I’m torn: What you’ve heard about the acting is true – Sidibe is a revelation, Mo’nique comes close to very nearly eradicating bad memories of… well, pretty much everythign she’s ever done anywhere ever (seriously.. was she EVER good in ANYTHING before this?) and somehow Daniels defies all known laws of nature and wrenches a great turn out of Mariah Carey. Maybe Daniels in the wrong profession: He should be an acting coach, exclusively assigned to actresses who’ve previously failed to demonstrate anything resembling ability (he also produced the Halle Berry Oscar-victory piece “Monster’s Ball.)

What he probably SHOULDN’T be doing is directing entire films, because everything in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” ranges from uninspiring to laughably bad. Problem numero-uno is the actual story – once you get past the sheer SCALE of the abuses heaped on Precious (you can practically hear the carnival barker: “Incest! Force-feeding! Baby tossing!”) it’s difficult to ignore that it’s not much more than a grimier, nastier Lifetime movie; right down to Paula Patton’s (to be fair, very well-acted) walking-cliche role as the saintly Alternative School teacher who takes it upon herself to rescue Precious.

More problematically, Daniels injects some fantasy/dream sequences, ostensibly representing Precious introverted escape whenever things get too intense, that play-out like bad comedy. He also indulges in ham-fisted irony, as when Precious looks at herself in a mirror and sees a blonde caucasian model instead (gee, do you think that reflection will look different by Act 3??) and a shockingly trite bit where the world-opening effects of education on Precious are visualized by spinning the camera around her and projecting a “great moments of the 20th Century” news-clip assembly onto the walls – an easy contender opposite “New Moon’s” seasonal-transition bit as the year’s worst use of montage. And don’t get me started on the film-school-look-at-me moment where Precious imagines herself and her mother inhabiting a scene from Vittorio De Sica’s “Two Women.” The hell!?

There’s also a few bits where the film seems (perhaps inadvertently, so just be clear I’m suggesting incompetence and not malice) to join it’s villains in making fun of Precious: Moments of condescension like Precious’ voice-over opining of “they talk like people on TV shows I don’t watch” while sitting-in on political chatter between Patton and her partner (why does she know what it sounds like, then?) and did it really require the scene where Precious steals a bucket of fried chicken and devours it while sprinting down the street?

It’s impossible not to be effected by the level of squalor on display or the tremendous performances (honestly, the actors yank the film from bad to pretty-good more or less by themselves), but as a functioning film it’s DEEPLY flawed. Shower the cast with praise and statues, fine… but the placement of the film itself on any kind of “year’s best” list is – at best – charity and at worst self-deception.

WATCH/READ THIS: "Ode to Minions"

I dunno how many people remember to check it out here and there, but Matthew Taranto and Chris Seward’s “Brawl in The Family” is consistently one of the better webcomics out there; especially considering it’s working from a premise – goofing mainly on Super Smash Bros.-related franchises – that you’d think wouldn’t have much room for growth.

To celebrate “strip #200,” they’ve pulled out the stops for a musical episode. It’s pretty damn great (the last three panels just SLAY ME), you can check it out HERE (make sure you enable the music): http://www.brawlinthefamily.com/?p=938

And, since this is the Internet, here’s a youtube of the panels “cut” to the song:

I wholeheartedly support this unlikely and possibly baselass rumor

Heading out to a “Ninja Assassin” screening and a midnight of “New Moon” – since my press-invite seems to have gotten lost in the mail or whatever – but this was a little too on-topic to pass up.

The big “geek rumor” of the last few weeks has been that Sam Raimi and the “Spider-Man 4” production have been casting around for actresses to play Felicia Hardy, aka “The Black Cat.” Fans of breasts and those with financial stake in any manufacturer of Adult Female Halloween costumes, rejoice.

Character is a professional thief, sometimes equipped with magical “bad luck powers,” with the uncanny ability to creep about unnoticed in spite of a physique and costuming preferences that insure she enters a room about thirty full seconds before she enters a room, if you take my meaning. Mainly started out as a shameless “Catwoman” knockoff, but became a mainstay once artists’ enthusiam for drawing her (and fans’ enthusiasm for buying products bearing her… let’s say “face”) somewhat cornered writers’ into doing something interesting with her; in this case making her (pyschologically) into a female role-reversal on her own male fans: She’s obsessed with Spider-Man, but strictly as an object of fetish – standard-characterization is she’s got it bad for Spidey as-in “the guy in the red/blue costume,” and has an almost-violent lack of interest in who he actually is without it. For those playing at home, THIS is why Peter Paker’s life always has to be stacked to suck so much – so that we can still feel bad for him even with stuff like “consequence-free no-strings on-call copulation with stunning blonde sex-addict” also hanging around his background. (Speaking of writers, it took approximately 2 1/2 pages under Kevin Smith’s pen for Cat to “come out” as bisexual, right at the point when that was still somewhat novel for female superheroes. That’s a record, even for Smith.)

As is common with these things, even though NO ONE from the production has confirmed that this is even remotely true, “anonymous sources” (read: people’s agents) have been leaking rumors of pretty-much every age-appropriate female actress working as being “considered for the role.” Julia Stiles, Rachel McAdams and others got name-dropped right away, with Anne Hathaway (dear god, do I even dare DREAM!?) being the most-recent. The only reason you’re not hearing Scarlett Johansson’s name is that she’s already “Black Widow” in “Iron Man 2” and “Avengers.”

Left unsaid is how pissed Warner Bros. will be if this is true and they’re now “prevented” by not wanting to look dopey from the otherwise-obvious inclusion of Catwoman in the next “Batman.”