You Basterds!!

I had the misfortune of going to film school after Quentin Tarantino burst onto the film scene. Needless to say, by the end of my run, I was sick to death of every cinematic trope he made “cool”. I’d had it up to HERE with lengthy dialogue about some small piece of pop culture, references to film eras I was not privy to, and badass violence for the sake of pure, badass violence.

I’d been hearing about his latest, Inglourious Basterds, for a long, long time. There had been rumors of Tarantino making a WWII-era film for the last 10 years or so. Was I excited to learn that it would finally see the light of day? Not even close. I was ready for that guy to disappear forever, especially after the ultimate self-indulgent flick Death Proof. Goodbye Tarantino, you had your fun.

Yet, I started hearing more and more positive buzz about Inglourious Basterds, and I was hearing it from people who shared the same anti-Tarantino sentiment as me. Needless to say, after absorbing enough of this hype, I marched in to see exactly what they were talking about…

And I really liked it! My life wasn’t changed, but I think that expectation is just a smidge unrealistic for his movies. All of his tropes were there, but they actually served the story very well. And any moments that seemed cool for the sake of being cool actually served the story. See, that’s where I come away with the most respect for this film: It was self-contained. His other films feel like elements of cinema from many different eras all mushed together. Yet, you can tell that this new concoction is made up of tiny little pieces. This flick, however, really blended all the inspirational elements (and there are many) to form something entirely his own. For once he seemed to really use his influences to take this film to a level all its own.

So please do check this one out if you’re at all curious, if not only for its (truly) unforgettable climax. My mind ain’t totally changed on this Tarantino fella, but as an independent work it’s something I can really respect. Looks like the guy finally found a story that suits him just perfectly.

Fictionalized History

Made it a point to stay up late and Finish “Frost/Nixon” the other night. Why did I do this? Well calm the hell down, I’m gonna tell ya…

I was extremely invested in the story, mainly because it extracted legitimate drama from real-world people and the situations they found themselves in. The real icing on the cake, however, was that it was all BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Oh, what a fun blanket statement. Hollywood can ride for miles and miles on that sentence.

I really enjoyed the movie overall, but I was hesitant to look up any info about the film afterwords (as I’m prone to doing) in fear of having the drama become undermined. I wanted to remain just a little naive and assume that whole thing was strongly rooted in reality. I mean, it was Richard Nixon after all. That guy could stir up some pretty dramatic shite. But, of course, curiosity got the best of me, and I looked it up. Go figure, a lot of it was altered for the purposes of drama. Should’ve expected this from the team that brought you “A Beautiful Mind”. Ech.

I just wonder how much further films could ride on their drama if they didn’t cling so tightly to the “based on a true story” angle. I’m guessing most people take that phrase with a grain of salt. And since the filmmakers never claim WHICH PART of the film comes from the real story, we’re left to optimistically assume that all of this happens in the real world. Would it perhaps be easier to downplay the fact that these have their roots in true stories? An innumerable amount of films are based on true events, even if those events are just small moments of inspiration. Think about how many horror movies ride the hype of “based on a true story”. Now think about how ridiculous it is to claim that a movie about ghosts is trying  to recreate something that actually happened. OOhhhhh.

Maybe the most compelling angle you could hype is to keep the “true” parts to yourself. Compelling stories will sell regardless of their source material, and rigidly pairing a Hollywood film with reality can only harm its credibility.

Oh, and here’s a funny article to support my argument.

Digital Film for The Depression Era

Biograph

The year is 1933: Gangsters run amok, robbing banks in downtown Chicago. The great depression has the United States in dire straits. All of this is captured with…handheld digital cameras?

So I saw Michael Mann’s ‘Public Enemies’ last night. Overall I enjoyed the flick quite a bit, but there was something that kept tearing my attention away from the story: They shot a good chunk of this film on handheld digital cameras. This was a big surprise to me, since none of that style really came through in the trailers. But I want to establish that I’m all for advances in film tech and directors experimenting to get the best possible shots for their films. But handheld digital cameras emulate such a modern style and atmosphere; I’m not sure how appropriate they were in a 1933 gangster movie. The way digital cameras pick up light or sound is so inherent to a post-millennial, ’28 Days Later’-style of filmmaking. It just comes across as very “unnatural” for a strong period piece. It’s odd to see that shaky-cam style with all the little dancing pixels picking up G-Men firing tommy guns out of a Ford Model-T.

Maybe I’m too accustomed to seeing epic period pieces shot like epic old-school Hollywood films. There was a great sense of realism that Mann brought to the events depicted in the film. But overall, it was a very strange thing to witness, to say the least. It was almost as if I was watching footage of rehearsals on set, shot by a PA. Which, considering how it all plays out, wouldn’t be the worst thing to watch.

That Transformers Movie

Hey folks, just got back from watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Here’s my thoughts on the flick:

It was fun.

There’s really not that much more to say on the matter. There were explosions, Megan Fox’s bosoms, and a crotchety old Decepticon with a badass beard made of shredded metal. If you were expecting anything more than that, something along the calibre of Star Trek or Dark Knight even, that’s your problem. Truth of the matter is, this film did what it set out to do and it was entertaining. Who cares if it was dumb? If you jump into your nearby time machine and check out the old cartoon, you’ll notice that the plots aren’t much different and the characters aren’t that much more fleshed out.

I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that a lot of people expect way too much from these movies and all I really have to say to that is that this movie is based off of a set of action figures that spawned a cheesy cartoon series. Just sit back and be entertained. It’s not going to be an oscar contender or on any top 10 lists, but it’s a good way to spend the afternoon!

That Star Trek Movie

I’ve never been a huge trekkie growing up, preferring that OTHER franchise and it’s more fantastical elements to the exploration of space and that whole “boldly going where no man has gone before” thing. Never really got into the original Star Trek series either, and was only marginally interested in The Next Generation (we have Patrick Stewart to thank for THAT). Voyager and Deep Space Nine never even registered on my radar. However, I think I may just have to go back and revisit the franchise, and it’s all thanks to the new film..

Yes, J.J. Abram’s Star Trek IS that good, and there’s one major reason for this: it’s fun. The casting is superb, and the pace is brisk. I never once felt that things were dragging, something I can’t say about Insurrection or much of the other TNG films. Even the original Star Trek film pales in comparison.

It’s been said that because J.J. Abrams was an outsider, he was able to inject more life into the limping franchise and I agree. I never once felt punished for not being a Trekkie. What homages I DID catch were great, but I never felt excluded from the experience because I didn’t know a damn thing about the Kobiashi-Maru test or Scotty’s original backstory in the original timeline beyond coming up with a kick-ass formula. Point is, I knew enough and wasn’t penalized for it, and I think it’s that fact that’s going to bring in a lot of new people and make Star Trek a viable franchise in the future.

Now, the real test will be to see if they can pull off a sequel..

(I hear Jon is a good screenwriter..)

Watchmen Review (The Tolerant One)

Is it obligatory to begin a Watchmen review with my personal connection to the story? Let’s err on the side of safety: All I’ve ever learned about Watchmen has been within the past year. I’d heard grumblings from the hyped-up film world (negative ones, to be sure) and the very first trailer preceding The Dark Knight. I’ll be honest and say I picked up the book a few months before the film was released, but only to educate myself so I wouldn’t be lost during the film (but I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who can say the same). I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and really tried to immerse myself in the little details. All the while, however, I was thinking about how certain scenes were going to play out in the movie. The book for me was, above all else, a primer.

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Watchmen Review (The Outsider One)

I saw the Watchmen movie a week ago and was for the most part unimpressed. But let’s take a few steps back and gets some backstory, shall we? Truth be told, I’ve never read the graphic novel. I’ve leafed through it a few times in the bookstores and read up on it on wikipedia, but that’s basically the extent of my immersion in the universe created by Alan Moore. I just never had all that much interest in reading the book, which was expounded by the fact that V for Vendetta was kind of a dud for me. And then the film itself came out and was even more of a dud. So, when I heard that Zack “slo-mo-but-speed-up” Snyder was directing the new film, I wrote the whole thing off. End of flashback.

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Watchmen Review (The Bitter One)

OK, so let me just start by saying, yes, I am a hypocrite. I said I was never going to see this film, I said it was going to suck, I said it was just Hollywood BS. I read the comic, loved it, and caved in. I saw the movie. Was I right? Kind of. Let’s discuss. Or rather, I’ll tell you my thoughts, and you can read them. Or not. We can still be friends.

So, let’s talk about the good first. The movie is very faithful to the source material. Sure, there are a few changes, but for the most part, we get much of what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had put together way back in the 80s. We get spot on origin stories. We get a nearly exact plot. We get dialog and compositions straight out of the comics.

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