Reprise, Happy-Go-Lucky, Speed Racer & Wall•E

Grandma’s favorite overprivileged nihilist.


I feel ambivalent about the Oscars, I just don’t feel ambivalent enough.
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Reported on 22nd of February, 2009

I feel ambivalent about the Oscars, I just don’t feel ambivalent enough. What I really want is to feel nothing, and instead, I hate them and love them, which is coincidentally how I feel about articles about the Oscars. They are a collosal con, and I want my cut. When I made a film years back, I confess to a practice Oscar speech or two, even though it was a film that wouldn’t be even be seen, let alone awarded. I believe it went something along the lines of: “Ladies and Gentlemen. Collected before me are all the worst type of hypocritical sycophantic liars, and now I’m finally one of you! Stop looking at me! I love you all! This award is meaningless, to myself and anyone in the world, and I’m keeping it! Thank you, and get out of my way!”

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re: Reprise, Happy-Go-Lucky, Speed Racer & Wall•E
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Wanting an award you detest is bad enough, but entertaining the notion of a best anything is just plain odd. Even if we could agree to that an Aristotelian material cause of beauty could lead to a formal cause of truth, Hume correctly points out that matters of fact, standing in opposition to relations of ideas, makes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just fucking impossible to sit through.

Yes, in alternate versions of this story, the West LA Landmark has a printer that actually works. Handwriting makes it more authorial.

But let’s say you’re Immanuel Kant, and you can somehow justify the ‘best’ moniker. Where this really falls apart is the technical awards. Carter Burwell, the composer of the soundtracks for Fargo, Gods and Monsters, and The Hudsucker Proxy, and the main reason that the Coen brothers’ films have any emotional component whatsoever, has never, that’s correct, never been nominated. I can live with the fact that Howard Shore was ignored The Fly and Naked Lunch, but for Silence of the Lambs, which swept in every other category? Not even nominated. Darius Khondji’s cinematography for Se7en? Not even nominated. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s costumes for The Fifth Element, designed down to the last extra? Not even nominated.

These last two baffling omissions are clues to what ‘best’ in this case means. Cinematography and Costume Award inevitably go to films set in the past, because this is what Grandma and Grandpa like. The awards, as you are no doubt aware, are in this case in determined by vote (and we all know how well that whole democracy thing turned out), specifically AMPAS members, who tend to be, well, old. Got a fanatical adherence to the 1943 Sears catalog? That statuette is practically sitting in your bathroom with guests surreptitiously closing the door, wondering if they have time to see exactly how big around it really is.

That’s right. Two tickets. I did it for Nathan. Since I haven’t seen it since, my assessment below has the rigid scientific accuracy that you have come to expect from me.

This demographic is all perfectly fine and good, but in addition to this, Grandma and Grandpa are going to pick the movies that ‘mean something’ over ones they actually like. While it’s a given that this is a group that will chose Driving Miss Daisy way before their going to pick Lethal Weapon 2, or American Beauty over the The Matrix, it’s furthermore the kind of democracy that chooses How Green Was My Valley (blecch) over Citizen Kane or The Life of Emile Zola over any movie ever made before or since.

Add to this the fact that membership in AMPAS is usually a sign of considerable wealth, and you get not so much ‘best’ as very specific awards for very specific things. The aforementioned Benjamin Button would be up for, say, Best Representation That A Very Recent Realization Through Haze of Mini-Mansion Knick-Knacks That There’s A Possibility That I May Die At Some Point Means That I Have Achieved Depth. The odds-on winner Slumdog Millionaire would correctly be in the Best Visual Fetishization Of Poverty To Serve The Dual Purpose Of Experiencing Guilt Over Exploiting India, And Expatiating Said Guilt Through The Story Of One Person Not Being Poor For Five Seconds And Making It All Better For Everyone Forever. In A Musical Or Comedy.

And, along these lines, I will be giving my awards for the year 2008 in such a specific manner. 2008 wasn’t a watershed year to be sure, and it had the specific disadvantage that all the good films were at the beginning of the year. Grandma and Grandpa may like dwelling on the past, but they don’t remember that far back. To wit:

Reprise

18 May 2008 @ The West Los Angeles Landmark


$19.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Reprise, which came out here in the early part of the year, was a Norwegian film about two things that should not be interesting: authors, and coming of age. It’s a tribute to the energy of the cast and the filmmakers that it’s just a lot of fun to watch. It captures, exactly and deliberately, the feeling being young and having no idea what’s coming next, as it narrates in great detail what ‘would be’, leaving it a mystery as to what did or did not happen. It’s to the film’s credit that you don’t want to know. You didn’t see it, and you should.

The Take Reprise

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Profits!
What I don’t talk about enough: having a central idea, and going for it.
$5.00
Having a good central idea
$10.00
Yeah, I’m going to have to watch it again.
$5.00
Total Profits
$20.00
Losses!
But I’ve subtracted three bucks for random non-liking-it-ness. I’ve been burned by my historical self before.
$1.00
Total Losses
$1.00

$19.00

The Dark Knight

23 July 2008 @ The Universal Citywalk IMAX


$12.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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The Dark Knight was pretty good, certainly better than anything nominated for best picture this year (excepting the only film that would have won in a different time, Frost/Nixon). Not the greatest film ever made, or even in the top ten of the year, but better than Iron Man, worse than Tropic Thunder. Nevertheless these three films succeed, and I’m going to break with breaking with tradition and agree with AMPAS: Robert Downey Jr. and Heath Ledger, as with Johnny Depp in the Pirates movies (or anything good by Tim Burton, for that matter), are the reason, the only reasons these movies work.

Heath Ledger seems to be in way more of The Dark Knight than he actually is, and the film drags without him (think of the ‘action’ sequences, where the big finale is the batcycle turning around – oooh, a U-turn!) Robert Downey Jr., playing a black man impersonating a chinese guy, and pulling it off. The supporting actor (in this case literally)…it’s a category I would just prefer to leave to posterity. Please, don’t decide this award.

The Take: Dark Knight

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Profits!
It’s a pretty solid piece of narrative
$7.00
Embarrassed to say that I did see it twice, the second time for the IMAX, when I found it was actually shot in IMAX. Your utter ignorance of what that means will be the subject for an upcoming and very long article.
$8.00
Now that’s a character.
$5.00
Total Profits
$20.00
Losses!
‘That’s a character’ does not refer to Batman, who is not.
$2.00
Accept it. The action scenes are weak. Remember Talking Guy To Distract Us From Not Talking Guy Who Can Only Turn Out To Be…I don’t remember. I remember Talking Guy.
$3.00
Having actually seen it twice, I can say, with great accuracy, that it is worth seeing once, in IMAX. This costs extra, hence the deduction.
$3.00
Total Losses
$8.00

$12.00

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I'm still not seeing his other films.

I’m still not seeing his other films.

What if you were to put an indefatigably positive person in depressingly real circumstances? Take that a step further: what if you were to put that same person in a Mike Leigh film? With Happy-Go-Lucky, Mr. Leigh does what all filmmakers do when they make their best work: he makes a film he shouldn’t have.

Leigh, who’s been making the same slice-of-real-London movie for the last 30 years, accidentally gets in right by creating a character (with bafflingly snubbed actress Sally Hawkins) he has no business creating. I can’t explain the origins, but like Frost/Nixon, it’s a film where you only want to talk about what it means, rather than how it was made. At the end, you wouldn’t say: uhh, nice work, Mike. I…um…I really liked the light placement in the bedroom scene, but would want to know how one, how you, can live in the real, and sometimes deeply ugly, world and find a way to stand up. A film that is both genuinely inspirational, and curious about how to inspire.

The Take – Happy-Go-Lucky

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Profits!
A character who gets how I feel about bikes.
$2.00
It being the first time a film hasn’t been sensationalistic about child abuse.
$4.00
An indelible encounter between a bum and an optimist.
$6.00
The pleasant surprise of a movie-you-think-you’re-going-to-hate-multiplier (X2)
$12.00
Total Profits
$24.00
Losses!
Not being able to take a swipe at Mr. Mike Leigh.
$2.00
Total Losses
$2.00

$22.00

Speed Racer

28 May 2008 @ The Universal Citywalk IMAX


$28.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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I had not heard from my friend Dante in quite a while, when I received the following email: ‘See Speed Racer. I think it may be the greatest film ever made. I’ve seen it six times. Make sure you see it in IMAX.’ That was all.

I remember being blurry.

I remember being blurry.

I took him at his word, and he was correct. Don’t get me wrong. I can see why people don’t like it. It may even be a bad movie, with wooden and convenient characters and a nonsensical plot. But there is nothing, nothing, even remotely like it visually in the last ten years.

The amount, complexity and speed of the images is totally unprecedented. It’s not so much a movie as it is an experiment designed to test a hypothesis: can people die from watching a movie? It’s like being attacked by bunnies while having a heart attack on acid. After being what can only be called assaulted, we walked in the neon mess of Universal City and thought – this is a beige place. If you’ve ever been to Citywalk, you’ll understand.

The Take: Speed Racer

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Profits!
The number of colors (@$0.000033 per color)
$9.00
The number of shapes (@$0.000025 per shape)
$12.00
My brain’s continued ability to cognate would like to thank the historical coincidence that this film was made before 3D.
$4.00
This reflects the number of times I would gladly see it again, but there’s no reason to see it on tape. IMAX revival! You heard me Prince Charles Cinema! Which does not have IMAX capacity!
$4.00
Total Profits
$30.00
Losses!
If you’re expecting a narrative, then consensus floats purple lackey.
$2.00
Total Losses
$2.00

$28.00

Wall•E

28 June 2008 @ The Agoura Hills 8


$120.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Best Narrative:

As I’ve tried to explain to my friends who steadfastly refuse to see it, Wall•E, besides being just plain astonishing, makes the political aspirations of Idiocracy look like Fox News.

It’s as much pure cinema as Speed Racer, a film with no dialog for the first half, but with a brisk and specific plot and a one-sided character whose simple doggedness connects to you in a way that ‘complex’ characters fail. It’s the best movie Pixar has ever made, working on every level and then some. All these things make it sound like a chore to watch, and the fact that the movie is anything but is an achievement in itself. It’s out on DVD, Nathan, Bob, and Adrienne. See it!

The Take: Wall•E

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Profits!
The pure cinema of Speed Racer
$8.00
…with the narrative drive of Three Days of the Condor
$12.00
…and the damaged one-dimensional characters of Arrested Development.
$14.00
The Golden Age of Pixar, before we knew there was going to be an age afterwards that made it golden.
$4.00
The difference reflects the number of times I will probably see it plus the times I have seen it since (at @$10.00 per viewing). This is when $10.00 really is a bargain.
$82.00
Total Profits
$120.00
Losses!
There is nothing wrong with this film.
$0.00
Total Losses
$0.00

$120.00

Now I’m not going to watch tonight, partly out of protest, partly out of lack of invitations to any Oscars parties, and partly out of the fact that seeing the rerun of Law Order: Criminal Intent with Elizabeth Berkeley, one that I’ve just seen for the seventh time, is going be more interesting an eighth time than sitting through people sitting around and looking forward.

I'm just messing with you. I'm taking advantage of HBO's counterprogramming Flight of the Conchords tonight.

I’m just messing with you. I’m taking advantage of HBO’s counterprogramming Flight of the Conchords tonight.

I will acknowledge, however, that it doesn’t matter what I do because the Oscars have already won. The real purpose of awards shows can be found in the ‘list’ shows on any given night of the E! Channel. Whether it’s The 20 Homeliest Child Stars, or 50 Best Bikini Model Makeovers, awards shows are about creating the ‘no way’ response. They’re designed to make you protest, like you would if you ever found out that someone, somewhere in the world, once bought a Dave Matthews record. It’s supposed to make you anxious, and it does. The only thing that could free you from the cycle of despair would be, I don’t know, some external validation.

Maybe an award of some kind…

Thoughts on It's a list! Read it!

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  1. Nathan says:

    I am watching the awards now–they just gave the costume award to the Duchess–which I believe revolved around getting a fuckload of money from Paramount, sending an intern to tear 1790s bookplates from an English journal archived in Shrebbleyshire, and throwing two dollars an hour to a collection of Sri Lankan children who sew by candlelight. The candlelight is a nice touch, though, I have to admit. Am I blogging in real time?

    I guess I am. Here’s what’s happening now. Verne Troyer just announced that Uwe Bowel beat out Uwe Bowel (AMPAS being AMPAS loved In the Name of the King and didn’t understand Postal), and now Tom Putnam’s accepting for Paris, and now they’re just showing 88 Minutes. All of it.

    Also, I totally agree with everything you say (and am shocked that I, Bob, Adrienne and Jason have not seen Clone Wars). I had no use for Kantian maxims until I was sixteen, and ET beat out Blade Runner for effects. I mean, Blade Runner was, well, Blade Runner, and ET was a puppet. People get pissy that Gigi beat Vertigo but ET was a goddamn rubber doll with a glowy digit. So I typed out the Categorical Imperative, neatly, on 3×5 cards, and sent them to all the Academy members. Unfortunately, I sent them to all the members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences (what did I know of the difference?) and got back many letters from Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners, civic and corporate leaders, scientists and mathematicians, and they were all incredibly apologetic.

    Back to 88 Minutes. Leelee is also nominated to ITNOTK and I’m pretty sure she’s going to have to cut herself in half to win both, a la aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short, who won for that De Palma film, right? Wow, that’s complicated.

  2. Scott Scott King says:

    I am glad that the machine made of people behaved as it was programmed to do. I would be much happier if they just announced them with a press release at the bottom p. 6. You know, like the Grammys.

    I have seen Clone Wars.

    Don’t see Clone Wars.

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