Monday, October 23, 2017

Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread trailer

In the same vein,

---my notes on Anderson's Inherent Vice (2014)

---my review of There Will Be Blood (2007)

---my notes on The Master (2012)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Michael Clayton's Toxicology Report (2008)

From "How Michael Clayton Presaged 2017" by James Parker:

"It taxes my reviewerly brain to try to synopsize this movie, because the real mysteries, it turns out, are not the ones you don’t or can’t understand, but the ones that endlessly, bottomlessly disclose meaning. They increase in relevance. And Michael Clayton is mysterious like that: better today than it was in 2007. Writer-director Tony Gilroy is a Hollywood paradox: a visionary journeyman, a machinist-poet who churned through many entertainments, including the original Jason Bourne trilogy, on his way to Michael Clayton. The earlier work holds hints and presagings. In The Devil’s Advocate, Satan (Al Pacino) runs a great big Manhattan law firm, sucking nice young attorneys skyward on backdrafts of temptation, up into the infernal spires and the penthouses of Tartarus. And Jason Bourne, amnesiac hit man, is a very pure existential cipher—a man on the run, profoundly alone, surveilled by demons, desperate to discover who he is and how he was made. But there’s no lively, twinkling Satan/Pacino in Michael Clayton, no CIA master villain. Evil is not an active principle in this universe; it is a sluggish compound of evasion, appetite, and self-interest. It gathers around your ankles." 

From my review:

"Michael Clayton is too labyrinthine to explain very easily, but I thoroughly enjoyed its ice cold vision. Corporations continue to master the art of public relations, but when their wholesome image masks cancerous business practices, you can find utterly fake people like Karen Crowder practicing their lines in front of a mirror before the cameras roll. Tilda Swinton played the evil ice queen in The Chronicles of Narnia, and she continues to play one here. With her pale skin and business formal outfits, she shows how despair and ambition can coil behind a chilling facade.Repeatedly in the film, U/North’s televised ads proclaim that “We plant the seed,” and “We grow your world together,” but underneath all of the glowing pictures of smiling children and wheat fields blowing in the breeze, Michael Clayton delivers a toxicology report of corporate and legal depravity that appears all too real."

Black Panther trailer

Here's the trailer for Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler, which looks excellent--via

In the same vein, my review of Fruitvale Station.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Incompetent projection and the time when Dennis Cozzalio tried to go see mother!

I'm getting increasingly fed up with the Regal Cinema near my house. Now, at least two of its screens are inadequately lit, and after watching a very dim version of Blade Runner 2049 the other Saturday afternoon, I'm thinking of boycotting the place entirely. Here's the ever-excellent Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule on a similar experience at an AMC theater:

"I paid around $48 for the privilege of escaping the crowds at the central AMC Burbank multiplex hub, heading instead to the AMC in the adjacent mall where mother! was playing at a schedule-friendly 6:45 p.m. This theater has never boasted the finest all-around experience to be had, but with their digital projectors always reliably bright, and with the addition of now-apparently-de-rigueur reserved (and reclining) seats, I figured it was a safe bet. After sitting through 20 minutes of barely visible trailers, thanks (I assumed) to the fact that the house lights were at full brightness throughout, some underpaid kid flipped a switch and the searing lamps embedded in the ceiling threw the tiny auditorium into a more acceptable level of darkness.

Unfortunately, the projected image was still dim-- Jennifer Lawrence’s dream house looked as if it was being viewed through a glass opaquely. Maybe someone (in the house? at the theater?) forgot to pay the electricity bill? The smudgy dimness extended to exterior shots in ostensible bright sunlight too, and the movie’s occasional transitional fades to bright white looked tobacco-stained and in need of a healthy shot of Wisk Detergent, with Bleach. The faces of every actor in the movie—Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer—were rendered unreadable by the level of murky shadow they were left to fight their way through, the daring work being unfurled before the audience sullied, bastardized, visually diluted to a literal shadow play.

After about 10 minutes of this, long enough to determine that the canaries-in-a-coalmine lighting scheme was not one imposed upon the drama by the Our Grand Puppeteer, I walked down to the snack bar to ask the manager, who I’d earlier overheard recommending the movie to a patron while I stood in line for my Diet Coke, if something could be done. I described to him what was happening, and he kindly accompanied me back to the #6 cracker box so I could show him myself. We walked in, stood at the back and watched for a few seconds. He admitted that, yeah, the image looked a little dark. 'Maybe a bad bulb or something,' he offered."

In my case, it's happened to me twice, once with Kong: Skull Island and then last weekend. Given that Blade Runner 2049 is a noir science fiction film anyway, at one point, a character said "It's too dark in here" and I whispered "That's what I said" to my companion. Given that the Regal Entertainment Group corporation has show so little interest in my welfare beyond treating me as a ready receptacle for ads, and more ads, and more ads out in the lobby, and buckets of obscenely overpriced soda, and more loud ads when I'm trying to just sit and rest before a movie, why shouldn't I devote this blog to chipping away at their profits over time? In Charleston, one can go to the excellent Terrace Theatre, and in Columbia, SC, the Nickelodeon provides customers with a considerate brightly-lit and excellent cultural experience, but out here in the sad more exploited boonies, we live under the corporate thumb of the indifferent Regal Entertainment Group CEOs who clearly don't care if customers wince under their propagandized perpetual lying distraction machines in the interest of eventually viewing the actual film (which still could, perhaps, be pretty good, if one could see it). Must they monetize every second in which I pay to be aware in their endlessly compromised environment? Why suffer this overly dark projection and a thousand evil fattening Coca-Cola ads for 12 dollars plus for a matinee ticket anymore? In the future, as in right now, the screen will be too dim and the ads too omnipresent to watch the next post-apocalyptic movie. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

From "The Clickbait Candidate" by James Williams

From "The Clickbait Candidate" by James Williams:

A better name for ‘social media’ would be ‘impulsive media.’ The unprecedented abundance and instantaneity of information in the digital era has turned our world into a never-ending flow of novel attentional rewards. Yet transcending these limits of space and time — moving from information scarcity to abundance — does not mean our informational world has become limitless: it is still limited by our capacity to navigate it. Thus, we have now become the main limits; the constraints of our psychology now play the defining roles. A major implication of this is that we now spend much more of our finite willpower to maintain our previous levels of self-regulation. Too often, though, we find that we don’t have enough willpower saved up to spend to avoid distraction.

In the brave new cognitive world that results, then, innumerable packets of information come screaming across the sky (to remix Pynchon’s phrase) — all our candidates, comedians, memes, meeting notes, native advertisements, love letters, likes, posts, product placements, poems, exhortations, titillations, and cats — all competing on the same instant playing field, whose center is everywhere and boundary is nowhere, for the grand prize of our attention. And whichever one is best at pushing our buttons will win. We have many buttons."

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold trailer

--via the ever-excellent @CriterionDaily