Sunday, June 24, 2007

Just pay the man already: Rent

I tried to watch Rent the other day. I know I'm supposed to like it because it's about the freedom and struggle of the artistic life and blah blah blah, but I have to admit that...I hated it. I mean hated it so much I couldn't even finish watching it. I found myself sympathizing with the villain, who just wanted to clean up the neighborhood and build a nice studio. While all the main characters were whining about paying the rent, I was sitting there thinking "Well, if you can't afford to pay rent on your really shitty apartment, maybe you should stop strumming your guitar and go get a job at Kinko's or something!" I thought most of the characters (except for Angel and Tom Collins) were more annoying than charmingly bohemian. Seriously, Maureen and her "performance art"? Give me a break! And although I liked the music, a lot of the songs went on waaaaaaaaay too long. I mean, how many choruses of "No Day but Today" did we really need? I was really surprised, because I know a lot of people who swear by this show, but I was totally unimpressed. Maybe it would be better on the stage? Or maybe I'm getting old and my Republican side is showing.

Bonus: I also watched Howl's Moving Castle which was pretty good for a kids' movie. I think I may have read the book when I was a child, because it seemed very familiar. The voice acting was pretty good (I didn't even think TOO much about Christian Bale being the voice behind Howl...though his voice IS awfully sexy) although the actress who played the lead as a young girl could have been better. The animation and backgrounds were extremely well-done, as I've come to expect from Japanese anime-type movies. All in all, it was certainly a movie I'd recommend for children (not very young children, but maybe in the 8 - 11 range?), and it's not unpleasant to watch as an adult, either.

I have Mysterious Skin from Netflix right now. I just have to find a time when The Boyfriend isn't home to watch it, since crazy male street hustlers are not really his bag.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

OnDemand is not to be trusted: Mean Guns and R.S.V.P

So I watched two movies today. One was pretty good, and the other sucked ass.

We'll start with the one that sucked ass. It was called Mean Guns, and I'm not sure why I decided to watch it in the first place. I suppose because I saw that Ice-T was in it, and I like Ice-T. However, it turns out that Ice-T has made some poor movie choices and this was certainly one of them. Basically, the premise is that a mob boss has called together in an empty prison 100 criminals who have betrayed him. He hands out guns and bats, and says the last 3 survivors get $10 million. Therefore, the entire movie is mostly people shooting and beating each other to death. It's not a bad premise, but it was really REALLY badly written AND acted. I have seen two films with Christopher Lambert in them, and both made me wonder how he manages to stay employed as an actor. I've seen high school kids act better than that guy. Hell, there was an 8 year old in the movie who acted rings around him. Even Ice-T was bad, and as I said, I generally find him enjoyable. All in all, it was extremely terrible, and that is an hour and a half of my life I will never get back. I'm kind of bitter about it, actually.

The second movie, called R.S.V.P. was much better. It's not GREAT, but after Mean Guns it SEEMED Oscar-worthy. The premise of that one is that this guy invites all his friends over to a party they'll never forget. I don't think it would be as good if you haven't seen Hitchcock's Rope, which it references heavily (though since it actually mentions that film and stuff, it's not the rip-off I thought it would be.) The guy who played the lead (a no-name whom I've never heard of) was pretty good. It's Glenn Quinn's last film before he OD'd (he's best known for playing the Irish guy on Angel) and he also turned in a great performance. However, I was most excited to see Jason FUCKING Mewes! Yes, Jay has had other acting jobs! Admittedly, he pretty much plays Jay (a hardcore stoner dude) but I was still happy to see him employed. I can't really say much more, because I don't want to give away the plot, and to say much beyond what I already have would give it all away. I think a double-feature of Rope first and then R.S.V.P. would be an interesting evening. It's not exactly brain-food, but it's fun.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Bridge

The other day, I watched what has to be one of the most depressing documentaries of all time: The Bridge. Basically, this guy set up a bunch of cameras around the Golden Gate bridge, on which he caught footage of around 20 suicides. Most of the film is interviews with the family/friends of people who jumped from the bridge, people who witnessed the jumps, experts on both the bridge and mental health, a photographer who managed to wrestle a girl back over the railing and away from the edge, and one guy who jumped from the bridge and lived. I was pretty shocked, because I didn't think they'd show the actual footage of people jumping off the bridge, but they did. It's very bizarre, you see these people up there, walking around, talking on the phone, looking out at the water, and then suddenly they're plummetting down head first. A very surreal thing to watch. I don't think it's a documentary I'd recommend to anyone. In fact, I kind of wish I hadn't watched it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Struggles of the Artist: Festival Express & More Thoughts on Art School Confidential

Yesterday, I mentioned my feelings about Art School Confidential. In the comments section, the Lovely Artisan responded with this: "I really, really disliked Art School Confidential. I thought it was really muted in comparison with what I find hysterical and terrifyingly ironic about going to art school." I think she has pin-pointed one of the problems I had with the movie but could not exactly put my finger on--with all the actual drama that occurs naturally when you transplant a bunch of creative people into one place and force them to live and work together, who needs some lame-o, badly-written murder plot? I know that when I arrived at [Wild Liberal Art/Entertainment Industry College], I sure experienced a very severe culture shock. Having grown up in a small town, just being in Boston was nerve-wracking. I had to deal with suite-mates who were both nice and completely insane. And most of all, I had to deal with classes. The one thing I discovered that was more difficult to take than anything else was not the students who got praised for work I found to be appalling. The hardest thing was running up against people I considered to ACTUALLY be much more talented than me. It's going to come out sounding conceited, but in high school, I was kind of a big deal. Big fish in a small pond, of course, but I really can't think of anyone there who wrote better than I did (Nerd Queen was on my level, but we had very different concentrations) and I had the awards and accolades to prove it. I built my identity around being "The Writer Girl." Then I arrived at college to find classrooms FULL of people who had defined themselves that way--and some of them were a lot more talented. It's a shock to the system to have that doubt, that feeling that maybe you are not really as good as you thought. I guess that ties in to my problem with the main character of Art School Confidential--he takes way too much in stride. He is thrown off a little (in a mousey kind of way) but for the most part he takes the wacky behavior of those around him in stride. Frankly, I would say my own college experiences resembled more closely Dead Man on Campus (no, not with the whole "plotting to fake the roommate's suicide" thing and more with the trying to balance a social life and a heavy academic load, dealing with sharing living space with people who are not like you in any way, experiencing new thoughts, ideas, and substances while still staying grounded and focused) than this movie. Also, Lovely Artisan, I'm glad we agree that Jeff Goldbloom is the shizz.

2. Last night, I watched Festival Express which was pretty good. It's a documentary about how in 1970, this promoter gathered up a bunch of the biggest rock bands of the time, put them all on a train, and travelled across Canada for a week doing shows. When I say big, I mean Janis Joplin, The Band, the Greatful Dead, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Buddy Guy, etc. There is some great concert footage, but the best parts are definitely the times when they're filming the bands all just chilling on the train. There's random jams going on in almost every car--Janis, Jerry Garcia, and Rick Denko rocking out together on some old traditional song, or Buddy Guy singing while accompanied by Phil Lesh and Richard Manuel--unbelieveable combinations of musicians. Not to mention that all of them look like they are having a rocking good time. It's a fascinating film if you're into that kind of music, and as a documentary it's very well done--there is a lot of actual footage from the train and the concerts (including many full songs), plus interviews with some of the artists, promoters, and members of the audience. I definitely recommend it to any fan of 70s rock.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Don't have unrealistic expectations.": Art School Confidential

I watched Art School Confidential the other day and have mixed feelings about it. In some ways I thought it was hilarious, but it kind of failed overall. I'm not even sure everyone would find amusing the stuff I did, because my laughs had a lot to do with having gone to an "arty" school. There is a part in the beginning when one of the characters goes through and points out the stereotypes in the class, and I immediately was like "Yes! I remember those people! The blow-hard! Yes! That idiot who doesn't ever get it! The person whose work everyone else is cooing over and I'm sitting there like 'I don't understand why anyone would think this is good.' I remember all of this! The professor who doesn't really give a shit about teaching but needs to pay bills until his 'great work' gets picked up!" Atmospherically, it was very, very close to perfect--in my opinion. Ethan Suplee's filmmaker character in particular was dead-on. However, the problem I had with the film was...well, everything else. I found the main character dull, particularly when compared to all the side characters (disclosure: this is something I have been accused of in my own work--making the straight man so straight he fades into the background. See also: Pirates of the Caribbean.) The love interest also had all the charisma of a rotting corpse. The plot was ludicrous, and continued to get stupider as the movie went on. By the time the end of the picture rolled around, I was sitting on my couch yelling "Oh, for Chrissakes! Stupid, STUPID, STUPID!!!" and throwing Frosted Cheerios at the TV. In conclusion, if you're an art school person, you might want to check this out for nostalgia's sake. If you aren't, don't bother.

Today's iPod/uPod winner is: "Age Six Racer" by Dashboard Confessional

I think part of the reason I like this is because it's a bit more cheerful than most DC songs. It's about loss, but it's more a wistful longing for childhood times past. Not so much the "You left me, so I'm going to roll in broken glass until you come home, you whore" that they often seem fixated on. It's also got some really stunning harmonies, which are complimented (in my opinion) by the fact that the song is instrumentally so simple. The other reason I like this is because it takes me back to dorm life. Every time I hear it, I can imagine myself at my desk in 309D, facing the window, listening to this song and playing Snood. It's kind of funny how a certain song can slingshot you into a particular moment in the past. The only other sense that seems hooked up that way is smell (the only problem with scent-related memories is that sometimes I'll smell something and it's tied very strongly with a particular emotion, but I can't figure out WHY. Song-related memories can often be put into context by their artist or their era of popularity. Smells, it'll be like "Okay, the smell of this specific stairway causes me to feel really happy and hopeful, like something awesome is going on and I am part of it. Unfortunately, I have no idea why." [In that instance, it took me weeks to realize that for some reason the smell of that stairway--the combination of paint and rubber stair tops--reminded me of the first time I went to nerd camp and my class was held in a classroom in the college's gym.]) Also, the lyrics are so...sweet, but not exactly in a cheesy way. "It's cold where you're going, I hope that your heart's always warm" indeed.