Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Movies that, so far as I can tell, simulate an Acid Trip.

A Scanner Darkly
This movie was actually made to simulate the experience. The whole thing is rotoscoped, and done on a much grander scale than any other project I can think of. It centers around the near future where a new hallucinogenic drug has swept rampant over the US population. The novel it's based on was written by Philip K. Dick, a cult sci-fi figure who knew firsthand what a trip was like.
As an aside I tried to watch a "documentary" about him today. It was awful, any clever kid with a camera and a computer could have done a better job.
A Scanner Darkly was directed by Richard Linklater, made famous by none other than the quintessential drug movie, Dazed and Confused. This is territory one has to assume he is familiar with.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Anything Terry Gilliam directs is a little like a drug experience, but this one was also deliberate. Haven't seen it myself, but like A Scanner Darkly, the whole story hinges around drug use. May be the most effective example of "druggies-eye-view".

Spirited Away
I was talking to somebody when I was on my mission, and one of their kids was watching this in the background. I could not focus. Not for anything in the world. It was sooo bizarre, and I've seen more than my fair share of weird movies. I couldn't get over it. How is this conceived of, outside of mind altering chemicals? It probably makes more sense from a Japanese perspective, being familiar with the lore and all. But as an American kid, I pretty readily see drugs.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
I know it's a kids movie, but have you watched it since you were a kid? It is very strange. And exceptionally long. Bright colors and nonsense throughout. Did you know it was written by Roald Dahl? Think about James and the Giant Peach for a second. A little boy with a terrible life is offered by a stranger a sack of strange green crystals that will take his worries away? He then sees giant bugs and people in the clouds who paint rainbows? Same kind of thing with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A land of candy and fun hidden in the industrial center of the city, managed by a mysterious and eccentric man, whose past we know little about. Not to mention the painted little men. And, if the candy and fun are the euphoria of drugs, the tunnel they float through must be a bad trip.
This is again probably something that has a lot to do with your perspective. But as a twenty first century college kid, again, I see drugs.

Alice in Wonderland
I had a friend freshman year who said that the original Lewis Carrol story was about mathematics and how counterintuitive the world of math could be at times. I'm not much of a mathematician, so I don't really see it. HOWEVER, I can see how the drug culture has latched on to this as one of their own. They wouldn't let us do an "Alice in Wonderland" themed float at my high school due to the potential drug overtones. Alice even ingests some strange stuff in the story, with strange results.
And, of course, I'm looking at this through the lens of a post drug culture kid. Hard not to see it when you're taught from a young age to avoid it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

With nothing consistent through them all.

I hate that this happened in America, though I don't know where else it could have happened.

This is funny, if you, like me, are a nerd.

What went wrong with the 70's?
Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Though I'm sure with the right examples, the same thing could be said of every decade since the inception of mass media.

And my suspicions about Michael Bay were confirmed today, when somebody I work with said that the guy is a constant joke in the film biz. All he cares about in his movies are the cars, the explosions, and the women. He's even been accused of murder, in that he demanded a stunt in a commercial he directed that the stunt coordinator initially refused, then caved. He was told that the stunt was too dangerous, he did it anyway, a chopper went down and killed the copilot.
I don't want to be that guy, even if I get all the money in Hollywood.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Tribute

This must be something that is becoming more common. I'm seeing more and more bands that pay tribute to, not other, older bands, but other pop-culture references. Example.

Pam Pong: Compliments of Rogeber
This post was originally just a link to Rogeber's post, till I decided this was not an isolated incident, and that the matter deserved further investigation.

Cho Chang, What Have I Done
: Compliments of Emily
Emily is the one who originally got me into blogging, and now look where I am. Writing on four blogs, that's where. I think we all owe her big time for that.

Return of the Jedi Braid: Compliments of Mere
Mere, are you a part of this emerging force of Tribute (not to a band) bands? You know you're on the cusp, right, the bleeding edge of the new thing?

New Rave

I can't stop listening to some music Dave Smith knew I'd love.

by Justice is perfectly addictive (though the video is a bit....shall we say...risque). They dedicated the song to one of their favorite artists, Michael Jackson, presumably while he was still black.

Also, Crystal Castles really makes me feel like I'm dreaming, like I fell asleep watching "The NeverEnding Story" or playing Atari.
My favorites: Magic Spells and Air War.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Review(s): In Theaters Everywhere

I see a lot of movies. Probably too many. Here are a few I've seen lately.

Transformers: See previous entry.

Take: Ultimately, though it had a redemptive message, and was very well made, it was too little, too late, to bring you back from the cold, dark place that film put you in.

Live Free or Die Hard: Quit possibly the BEST action flick of all time.

That's just in the last week. I've also seen...

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: Potentially the most WORTHLESS movie of all time. Okay, I exaggerate, but an enormous production value can't make up for awful story telling. They are just desperately trying to tie up all the loose ends from the second one (also worthless).

Paris, Je T’Aime: Not mainstream, and that's because it's daring enough to break the conventional mold of what a movie should be. And you know what? It pulls it off superbly. Excellent movie.

Spiderman III: Over the top, even more than the first couple. The romance angle of the story was overplayed, I just didn't care after a while. And Peter Parker, when he bonds with the symbiote and becomes "Bad Spiderman", he mostly just becomes an emo kid. It's funny, but then it just keeps happening, and a joke overplayed is a joke nobody wants to hear anymore.

Ocean's Thirteen: It was great. Read an article where they said it was the movie they should have made last time (instead of Ocean's Twelve). I really liked Ocean's Twelve, but hey, it wasn't my movie. Thirteen takes a different angle on a couple things, in that in the first one, you don't really know how they pulled off the heist till after the thing is done, putting the viewer in the seat of an outsider, i.e. not part of the gang. You're just an admirer in fairly close proximity. Twelve was even more that way, but it was less noticeable because they were just having so much fun, that whole crew messing around in Europe. Thirteen, however, let's you in on the secret. It plays out pretty much like you're expecting. Not a lot of curve-balls. But people go see these movies for their unparalleled style, and this one isn't lacking one bit in that department.
P.S. My roommates and I dressed up for the premier.

Movies I still want to see this summer:
Rescue Dawn: Werner Herzog is nuts, and always delivers something interesting. This is a dramatization of a story he's already covered.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Always fun movies, and I've read the books up to this one.
The Simpsons Movie: This had better be funny.
The Flying Scotsman: Not going to be anything groundbreaking, but it looks good.
Ratatouille: I always love Pixar movies, they're everything a family film should be.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: I don't even expect this to be good, but I'll probably see it anyway. Don't ask why.
Eagle vs. Shark: Stars one of the guys from Flight of the Conchords, an HYSTERICAL duo out of New Zealand.
1408: Some sick part of me wants to see this psychological thriller. I'm sure it's terrifying, and I don't know why I want to see it.
Bourne Ultimatum: I don't even really want to see this, I didn't like the first two. I know this is exactly what they are going for, but I feel like they are too gritty, they are too realistic. I can't root for an assassin, especially if he is believable. Even a reluctant one. But all my friends will see it, and I'll probably come along.
Stardust: Don't know anything about it, but it looks like fun.
Hot Rod: Andy Samberg is an HYSTERICAL man.
Hot Fuzz: I do and don't want to see this. Shawn of the Dead (cleanflicked) was one of the funniest and best written movies I've ever seen. However, this one is supposed to be even gorier than the zombie movie. Wow. I can't make any guarantees here, people.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Transformers: A Review

Went and saw Transformers last night. Here is what I thought.

I was excited to see the movie, I'd heard nothing but positive reviews from everybody I'd talked to. It was a thing of nostalgia from my youth, so I figured this should be fun.

It started off well enough. The characters were introduced well, the main character especially so. Our protagonist is an average teenager, ogling the school beauty, dreaming of his first car, trying to manage his life under the constraints of his parents. So far, we're pretty grounded in reality. That is, before the introduction of the Giant Space Alien Robots.

From that point on, the fundamental premise of the story is so far out, I think Michael Bay just abandoned any real attempt to suspend your disbelief. In every regard.

There is a scene where the heroine, Mikaela Banes (played by Megan Fox {fitting name}) asks the main character if he thinks she is shallow. He says no. I say shallow doesn't really describe it. More like two-dimensional (which is okay, because if he is that in to her, then he must be too). I say this because she is just as difficult to believe as the Giant Space Alien Robots. There are as many shots of her perfect stomach as her inexpressive face, and she is supposed to be this bad girl with a perfect knowledge of mechanical inner workings of high end hot rods. Nobody like this exists in reality. There is no human female like that on earth. So far as performance is concerned, they could have gotten a blow up doll to fill the role nicely. But it wouldn't have had the perfect stomach.

In addition to the male teenage dream played out on screen, the racial stereotypes are pretty glaring. There is a black kid in it whose only purpose I can see is to pull in the (now defunct) UPN crowd. He doesn't really do anything special in the movie other than act as the minstrelshow's main attraction. There is even an Autobot named "Jazz" who is clearly the Black Transformer. That must have been a popular motif of 80's cartoons.

I couldn't get over how perfectly choreographed this movie was made to make money. It was a product placement dream. Some of the primary characters in the film are automobiles, for crying out loud. Everything was branded. The characters were, all of them, caricatures. The awkward backward hero as the proxy of every awkward backward kid lacking in heroism, the unbelievably alluring female thing, the red-blooded soldier unafraid of anything, the Secretary of State in his unquestioned authority, the secret government agency, and, of course, the Giant Space Alien Robots, come to conquer/defend the world (depending on which one we're talking about). None of the characters you really care about die (people don't like dying).

It's my understanding that Michael Bay recycled footage for the movie. He even used some of the same camera tricks as he did in Bad Boys.

The whole thing was absurdly over the top, with non-stop action, the world ultimately saved, the guy getting the girl, and we are left with the likelihood of a sequel.

Now, with all the criticism in mind, I have to admit something. It was fun. I enjoyed it. True, sometimes I was enjoying how ludicrous it was, but i enjoyed it all the same.

So don't expect storytelling magic. This isn't an M. Night Shyamalan flick with some deeper meaning (despite the vague attempt to make Optimus Prime a Messianic figure) or any twist ending. It all plays out exactly as you might expect. So even though you know exactly where you're going, sit back and enjoy the ride.

P.S. What do modern auteur's think of somebody like Michael Bay, whose every film follows the proven formula for financial success as to make him more a businessman than a director? Is he the Thomas Kinkaid of the popular film world?

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Long story short, I took Meredith's advice and decided to join the blogging ranks, and wrote an epic, heavily linked, well thought out blog entry. It took me several hours. But at some point during this, a roommate of mine used my computer to sign into his gmail, thusly signing me out of mine. He did this with my stupid permission. So, oblivious to the course of action that I'd set into play, I continued to blog on a window that was still open but not logged in. And after the hours were through, and I hit the "publish button, it disappeared forever.
How did I feel?
A lot, lot angrier than I have been in a long time.