Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I've already mentioned this once, but it's just so awesome, can't wait to get this on my own devices.
I'll never buy Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I might buy this.
I hope this takes off (figuratively and literally). Maybe some day.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
It's nice to have my consumer choices backed up by a source I trust, and even nicer when I make the decision first, then find out I'm backed. I bought this Olympus WS-110 digital voice recorder a while back, and have really enjoyed it. Yesterday I stumbled on this review on BoingBoing.net. They like it too.
You know what that says to me?
"Good Call, Austin!"
This is the pilot for their new show. Enjoy.
P.S. Them being LDS, it begs the question: Was the phrase (about 3 min. in) "This is the Place" a deliberate reference to LDS history?
I don’t know what to contribute to the dialogue. I feel like it’s all been said, and it’s all true.
I shouldn't be speechless. I’m opinionated, verbose, and prone to speak my mind. I’ve taken college courses specifically studying (among other subjects) comic books and the aesthetics of crime in film. I’ve read everything I can about this movie. If anybody should have an opinion, I should.
If you read here often, you know that I’ve been anticipating this for a long time. I was told it was unbelievable, fantastic, a masterpiece, the finest of it’s genre. Big hype to live up to.
And with so much hype, it’s hard not to walk into the theater with grand expectations. I did, and they were all met.
Enough has been said of what happens on the screen, in the movie. I’ll only give a brief overview.
Batman isn’t a novelty to Gotham anymore. He is a fixture with mixed reception. His permanency has become complicated, with the various reactions people have to a caped crusader flitting through the shadows. Some want him gone. Some want to be him. Some want him to simply take off the mask.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a macabre nihilist prophet emerges, with the uncanny ability to turn order into anarchy. As in Batman Begins, Batman’s greatest enemies aren’t intent on controlling Gotham (he hasn’t much trouble with organized crime). His greatest foes are the forces of chaos. And what a force the Joker is.
Suffice it to say that the ensuing story has enough intrigue, moral dilemma, and sharp dialogue to easily cover four full length films, each of them a blockbuster. Same goes for the cinematography and acting. So much happened so fast, yet it never seemed rushed or undeveloped. There wasn’t a wasted line in the film.
After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I simply didn’t have anything to say (hence no review here). After the Dark Knight, I was speechless. Polar opposites.
Instead of going on about the film itself, I’ll tell you what happened in my seat in the theater. I’ll tell you my experience with it.
I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time. My fists and jaw were clenched through most of it. The uneasy tension Ledger’s Joker provides is pervasive, and like the inhabitants of Gotham find, inescapable.
Surprises are often defused by the foreknowledge of a surprise coming. Remember the third M. Night Shyamalan movie you saw. But I was told I’d be surprised in the Dark Knight, and I genuinely, truly was. The surprises struck with full, un-dampened force. That was surprising.
Often when somebody exclaims, “Awesome!” what they mean is Big and Entertaining, even Extravagant. Think about this summer’s first big super-hero release, Iron Man. Very rarely is the word used after actual awe, after silencing grandeur. So I want to be clear when I say the Dark Knight was awesome. In every way.
I’ve seen dark movies before. The quality has it’s own genre, noir. But I wasn’t fully prepared for how Dark this Knight would be. While the collateral damage is high, it’s no higher than any James Bond movie. The difference is the Joker’s means and reasons. He lets people destroy each other, simply for the sake of destruction, simply so he can watch. You never see much of anything, but the Joker’s propositions are haunting enough. It’s a well deserved PG-13. Don’t bring the kids.
I was caught by the symmetry of the story. With so much happening, this could easily have turned out a frenetic mess. It didn’t. Nolan tells a careful narrative, bringing you along at a pace you manage to keep up with.
A friend of mine says she doesn’t like movies because she becomes too involved emotionally, she is too affected. This film isn’t for everybody. When I got back, my roommate asked me if I loved it. I don’t know if I can love something so dark. Love isn’t the right word. I left the theater a bit stunned. Speechless, like I said. But what else should I expect from a movie everybody called stunning? It was incredible.
That being said, I’m going back on Tuesday. Already have my tickets. This time at the IMAX.
UPDATE: Saw it again. Stunning in IMAX.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I don't know why I'm compelled to go to thrift stores. I'm not compelled to buy things necessarily, I frequently walk out empty handed. Unless I think I find something worth the deal. Like these for instance.
I looked them up on eBay via my phone while I was still there. What do you know, these things go for more than what Value Village had them for sale for. Only if they are new, unopened, in the original packaging, though. Four of them were. Time for a Resale.
This isn't the first time I've done the buy and resell deal. I did it with an old CB microphone. Thought I'd make money, but only made my money back. I did it with an old Barco CRT Projector. Bought it for $36. Used it for several months. Then sold it on eBay for $270 ($200 of that was shipping).
Hopefully, I'm getting better at this. The reel-to-reels weren't very much, and from what I can tell, they sell on eBay at ten times what I paid for mine. Wish me luck.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Rush plays "Tom Saywer" on Rock Band, at Expert level, no less.
Not unlike the video Michel Gondry did for Be Kind Rewind.
Does this qualify as post-modern?
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I recently came across a blog when this started playing, and I couldn't bring myself to close it. I like the song, as much as I didn't want to.
"Kids" by MGMT on Cantora Records.
This is from an unofficial music video for the song. From what I understand, the band liked it.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Turns out my impatience won out. IMAX was sold out Monday, Tuesday,
Wenesday, and all evening showings for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
That, coupled with a SiteDev team outing to the Cinerama downtown, means
I am seeing The Dark Knight in 20 minutes.
-Sent from Austin's phone.
Golden Shellback Waterproof Coating from gCaptain.com on Vimeo.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
This may seem silly to you, but I'm intent on seeing it the way the Director intended.
Click here to find out why.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
It's a testament to their rising popularity that a year ago, I couldn't find any pictures of them online, at least none that showed their faces (the duo deliberately obscured their faces in most press photos). Now, it's only a google search away.
Look at them. They're the picture of "Cool, I don't care though". Somehow, apathy can equate cool in pop-culture.
All the big bloggers have guest posts. I decided now was a perfect time to start here, with Roger having just seen The Dark Knight at an advance screening at the Universal Studios Hollywood IMAX theater last night (major portions were filmed specially for the IMAX). Ya, believe it, that happened. Lucky guy, seeing as it's sold out at almost 1000 theaters nationwide, not to mention the IMAX and Universal Studios part of this all.
People love this movie. I think Roger does too. I'll post my review as soon as I see it. For now, I'm at a family reunion.
So ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, I give you, Roger's Review: The Dark Knight.
"I’m big on superhero movies.
I saw an advance screening of The Dark Knight yesterday, on the IMAX screen at Universal Studios in Hollywood. And the primary question, in my mind, is if there’s any way it’s not the greatest superhero movie of all time.
If the answer lies in the strength of the villain, then nothing can touch this movie. There’s been a lot of hype about Heath Ledger’s performance, including Oscar talk, and I can tell you that it’s pretty well justified.
The precedent for the Joker is Jack Nicholson’s performance from the 1989 Batman. Nicholson took a comic book character off of paper and put a comic book character on the screen. His cartoony movements and speech were wrapped in that bright purple suit, and it totally worked. Ledger’s Joker goes the other direction, however – the genius is in the subtlety, the details of the performance. What makes it extreme is not his clowny movements, but rather the fact that you can hear him lick his misshapen, scarred lips.
Heath Ledger does for the Joker what Johnny Depp did for Willy Wonka.
If the most important part is the director, then this movie delivers. Christopher Nolan directed one of my favorite movies – Memento – as well as some other shining stars, including The Prestige and, for that matter, Batman Begins. And The Dark Knight is at least as strong a directing performance as those two.
Superhero movies tend to err on the side of being too light – throw in more action, more special effects, and perhaps following the comic storyline. Nolan isn’t afraid of going beneath the surface, though. He raises legitimate, make-you-think questions about our definition of a hero, and about where we draw limits in defense of our lifestyle… and he puts those questions front and center. Usually that kind of quasi-deep thinking only comes out in reviews by self-important reviewers, like myself, but Nolan takes it head on. It adds a cerebral layer to an action movie, and it definitely works.
Now, let me be clear. Spider-Man, one of the best of the superhero genre, goes gung-ho with its moral of “with great power comes great responsibility.” But that’s a moral. The Dark Knight doesn’t have a moral. In no case does it tell you how things should be – it suggests how things are, and leaves it up to you to decide which way is right. But at the same time, there’s no quiz at the end. It’s still an action movie, and it still wraps up nicely without demanding too much of you if you don’t want to get into it.
There’s plenty of buildings blowing up, cool Bat-contraptions, and over-the-top weird-motorcycle-thing riding. But, refreshingly, there’s that extra layer.
I’ve already referenced the old Batman movie, and I’m going to make another comparison here. In the 1989 Batman, we see how the Joker becomes the Joker – he falls into a vat of chemicals. What comes out is a twisted, crazy man who wreaks havoc on Gotham. We know his origin, we know how he came to be. Nolan decidedly skips over the Joker’s origin, and that definitely adds a layer of creepy mystery to the Joker character. Here’s how.
When the Joker drops in, you don’t have any idea where he came from, or why he does what he does (or, for that matter, why he enjoys it). He’s not the mangled result of a chemical accident, he’s actually a crazed criminal wearing makeup – and even the makeup doesn’t get explained. As far as you can tell, he’s actually insane, and on a gigantic scale. He has no limits, he has resources to strike big, and he’s crazy.
He may not have super powers, but he’s still the consummate supervillain.
If you’ve seen Batman Begins, then I have no need to discuss Christian Bale here. He does a great job in this movie, as he did with the previous. Maggie Gyllenhall picks up where Katie Holmes left off as Rachel Dawes, Gary Oldman does a great Lieutenant/Commissioner Gordon when he’s not busy being Sirius Black, and I always love Morgan Freeman. The cast is great.
The last thing I want to throw in is the visual style of this movie. Nolan tried to do it with as few special effects as possible, and the end result is pretty darn special. What really stood out, at least on the giganto IMAX screen, were the city shots – huge, sweeping shots of the city from the top of a skyscraper, that pull in all the tiny details of the city and strip away the shiny, comic book glamour that we’ve become familiar with from Spider-Man and Iron Man. This is a real city – no makeup, no computers, and it feels very, very real. When the camera pointed down from the top of a 40-story building, my stomach turned with fear of heights.
The best special effect in this movie is the lack of them. Super cool.
My job here isn’t really to decide whether or not The Dark Knight is the greatest of all the superhero movies, so I won’t – but I think it deserves to be in the conversation. Batman has been done very well (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Begins) and very poorly (Batman and Robin), and to me The Dark Knight is Best in Show. Heath Ledger will get under your skin, Christopher Nolan will enthrall you. And you’ll dig this movie, like I did."
Interesting Note: Aaron Eckhart is a BYU grad, along with his ol' college buddy, Neil LeBute.
UPDATE: Jake Black has something to add to the conversation, and you should listen. He is a comic book writer, after all.
Jake, Roger, and I were lucky enough to sit next to each other in Dr. Frank Fox's last class taught at BYU, History of American Popular Culture. We discussed comic books at length, as well as popular film (among other things). It was fascinating, and one of the finest pieces of my formal education.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
"My analogy [of 24/7 news] is it's rather like standing 2 feet away from a railroad track and watching the trains go by. And, boy, you're close and it's exciting and there's a lot of energy and you really feel as though you're on top of it, but you can't for the life of you see what's going on. And if you really want to know what's going on, you've got to step back 10 feet, 20 feet, 50 feet, sometimes half a mile, so that you can see the locomotive and the caboose and everything that is in between."
I plan on watching Koppel's The People's Republic of Capitalism tonight.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Don't waste your time.
I had wanted to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (how have I not seen that one yet?) but it's been long enough for that to be rare in theaters. So we saw Get Smart.
It started out well enough. Steve Carrell plays Maxwell Smart, though only barely. He really just seems a deadpan Michael Scott. I can hardly criticize him for that, everybody loves the Michael Scott act. But he's no Don Adams, and makes no attempt to be.
Anne Hathaway is Agent 99. Again, she does a fine enough job, I guess. Nothing special.
I watched Get Smart and wondered, who are they trying to sell this to? It's too vulgar, violent, and laden with sexual inuendo to be a family film/kids' film. It's too juvenile to play to a fully grown-up audience. Are they trying to reach people who are nostalgic about he original series? If so, their source material is the only way they've reached out to that demographic, everything else is muddled. The plot was pitifully predictable. Every character was a characature, to the point of ethnic stereotype, but wasn't slapstick enough to be a clear parody or lampoon on decades past spy stories. It just came off as insulting and offensive.
In the end, I concluded the group they must be trying to reach is dumb adults, who only need a pretty girl, a dumb guy, and minimal action to keep them entertained/sedated for 110 minutes.
If you really liked Get Smart, I'm sorry, this isn't meant personally.
The final straw was this: there wasn't one ounce of creativity expended in the creation of this film. Every move, every scene, every line, everything in Get Smart, is a pale imitation of every other action spy story.
There were some funny lines, don't get me wrong. They had a great cast and some great cameos. But in the end, you'll need more than starpower and an aged pre-canned script if you plan on making anything worth seeing.
And can somebody clue me in to their advertising campaign? What's with the obscured faces? I don't get it.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
It was very I Am Legend. An infection or a cocktail of infections had
swept accross the world, leaving what had been civilization crippled and
ugly. There were still people about, though. People still trying to make
a life amidst the mess. There were even the infected, too. They were
among the crowd, but didn't look the same, didn't look well. They looked
more animal than man, more wild. They behaved just fine, though. I got
the feeling they were lycanthrope. The disease wasn't airborn, so nobody
was (very) afraid of getting it. During the day, at least.
When night fell, I figured out in the commotion that the general
procedure was get inside and lock up fast. I ran to a flower shop (still
in business) and took cover. The owners were afraid because they didn't
know me, and didn't know what I'd do.
Lucky for them, all I did was wake up.
I looked at the headlines when I woke (news alerts on my phone, I love
it). U.S. employers cut 62,000 more jobs in June. That's after 62,000
lost jobs in May and 67,000 in April.
Maybe the world is ending. At least I got the memo.
-Sent from Austin's phone.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
environmental damage from burning excessive fossil fuel. It's not the
squandered opportunity to walk, and rather burn excess calories. No,
it's the chance, and for the more absent-minded among us, the
probability, that we will embark from our destination and walk straight
home, leaving the car behind.
I've done this many more times than I'd like to admit.
I'm in scholarly company, though. I heard Hugh Nibley did this all the
time. We've probably made the same mistake from the same campus parking
lots at BYU.
-Sent from Austin's phone.
We went Friday night to Lincoln Square Cinemas. I hardly knew the group we were with. That's fine, I was there to see the movie, and would likely have gone by myself had it come to that. I've been looking forward to to WALL·E for over a year now. It's a combination of so many things I love; sci-fi, space travel, Pixar animation, and did I mention ROBOTS!? This is all pretty childish, I know, but maybe I maintain some childish sensibilities.
The reviews were positive, with interspersed nay-saying. So given my history with Pixar (I've loved everything they've put out) and the general box-office success they've had, I had high expectations. They were pleasantly met.
WALL·E follows a diminutive unlikely hero (with a familiar form factor). Our little robot is the last remaining worker left to clean up the planet after it became so cluttered and polluted that nothing could live here. Man, heavy, right? Pixar manages to present the grim setting with a light touch. We watch our little guy scurry about his business, the only thing to move in the midst of towering cities of garbage.
His centuries long solitude (not complete solitude, he does have the companionship of a resilient cockroach) is interrupted when one day amidst his routine of collecting, compacting, and dealing with the detritus, a ship lands and leaves an explorer, EVE.
WALL·E, quite smitten, tries to impress the newcomer with little success.
Suffice it to say that the rest of the story takes them through space, to the new home of mankind, to countless other robots, and back home again.
There was some speculation that WALL·E might not pull the audience through, with virtually no dialogue for huge portions of the film. Will the hero-bot keep our attention? Or the attention of children, for that matter? I'm glad to say unequivocally that yes, he can and does. As great as Andrew Stanton's script is, it's not the dialogue that carries this film along. It doesn't need to, though I found myself laughing at some lines well after I left the theater. The stunning animation does the job, and I don't mean the scenery, though the backdrop is amazing. I mean the performance of WALL·E and the other robots.
Alvy Ray Smith, Pixar co-founder, visited the Microsoft campus a few weeks ago, and mentioned that the job of the animator isn't all that different from that of an actor. They're both called upon to convince you that one thing is really another thing entirely. The actor convinces you that his person is the person of somebody else, while the animator convinces you that this 2-d computer rendering is, in fact, a living thing. The animators here manage flawlessly, and the bips and whirs and movement of WALL·E are more endearing than R2-D2 could ever hope to be.
Peppered throughout are references to pieces of consumer culture. Aside from Buy 'n' Large as a clear parody of Wal-Mart, we notice the remnants of Microsoft, Apple, and Hostess amidst the rubble (among others). The general issue of global pollution is apparent, but there are even jabs at the Bush administration.
The only detraction I have isn't the minimal dialogue, but the repetition. The robots have a limited vocabulary, and rely heavily on the few words they do use. It gets to be a bit much by the end. But from such a huge undertaking as this film, considering how many things can go wrong, that's a pretty minor detail.
I've heard opinions all over the board, but the vast majority of the bell-curve is in the "very positive" spectrum. People love WALL·E, and I'm betting you and your kids will to.