WTF of the Day

January 20, 2010

By David Macdowell. Seen here.


Meet your *NEW* friendly neighborhood Spider-Man director

January 20, 2010

Kill the speculation and commence the puns.

Marc Webb, director and co-writer of last year’s (500) Days of Summer, has signed a three picture deal to direct a new ‘Spider-Man’ film series, Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today.

In the short while since it was reported Sam Raimi and company walked away from an intended 4th movie starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, Webb’s name quickly shot to the top of the pile of filmmakers Sony was allegedly targeting to take the reins of a franchise reboot, utilizing a two-part script from James Vanderbilt (long in place as a contingency plan for the studio).

Vanderbilt’s story is said to reintroduce audiences to the world of Peter Parker, emphasizing the character’s roots as a high school student and maintaining an authentic, real-world “grittiness” akin to other recent comic book properties.

For your consideration…

January 14, 2010

Sony Classics are a bunch of douches. Easily could get nominations in each of the above categories. Like David wished, the Academy will never have relevance.

AK—Film #1—Rashomon (1950)

January 13, 2010

It seems the two times I’ve watched Rashomon I was sleepy and not entirely alert. Likewise, the film has felt almost dreamlike in my mind (just watched it within the hour). Rashomon is about truth—or rather the subjectivity of —as well as the inherent good/evil of man. Much like a dream, it is difficult to make out what really happens. The same story is told several times from differing perspectives. Simiar Obi-Wan telling luke that Vader killed Anikan, the stories all contain a bit of truth in them, albeit from different points of view.

Much could and has been said about Rashomon. Symbolism, camera techniques, storytelling: Rashomon breaks ground in these areas and more.

Both the music and the camera shots are dreamlike at times—not a criticism at all. The pulse of the drums, the shadows of the leaves—everything plays on the senses.

Aside from Kurosawa’s greatness, Toshiro Mifune (above) really shows his acting talent here. Very charismatic and energetic. He holds a screen presence much like a Brando—suspending our disbelief and captivating the audience without encroaching on the film. Mifune gives exactly what the story needs: no more, no less.

Rashomon is probably the best starting point for Kurosawa and maybe early foreign cinema. Some have criticized it for being too western and not Japanese enough. I say Rashomon transcends cultural boundaries, establishing itself as world cinema. It takes the best of film everywhere, and innovates just enough. Most importantly, Rashomon ultimately leaves the story up to the viewer to decide. What do you take from it?

Much like my viewing, this post feels dreamlike. I do hope coherence made its way into the post somehow…

That concludes part one. In case you missed it, here is the rest of the viewing schedule:

  1. High and Low (1963)
  2. Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
  3. Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945)
  4. Seven Samurai (1954)
  5. Throne of Blood (1957)
  6. Ikiru (1952)
  7. The Most Beautiful (1944)
  8. Kagemusha (1980)
  9. The Men Who Tread on The Tiger’s Tail (1945)
  10. No Regrets for our Youth (1946)
  11. The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  12. One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
  13. Red Beard (1965)
  14. Drunken Angel (1948)
  15. Scandal (1950)
  16. The Idiot (1951)
  17. Stray Dog (1949)
  18. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
  19. I Live In Fear (1955)
  20. Dodes’ka-Den (1970)
  21. The Lower Depths (1957)
  22. Yojimbo (1961)
  23. Madadayo (1993)
  24. Sanjuro (1962)

My Picks for the 10’s

January 11, 2010
  1. A move away from “dark” films.
    • Last decade was by all accounts one of the worst the human race (America in particular) has experienced. From 9/11 to the wars, tsunamis and hurricanes, and finally economic woes; the 2000s sucked. This was frequently reflected in grim pessimistic films such as The Dark Knight, There Will Be Blood, and even the Star Wars prequels. The real nail in the coffin was the suggestion that the next Superman film would be darker. WTF!? Aside from the fact that Superman is not a dark character, we need to move away from the pessimism toward more optimistic storytelling. Give us good over evil. Make us feel good about the world again. Let us marvel at the images on the screen. Avatar seems like a step in the right direction, albeit a bit preachy on the fact. Let dark stories be dark stores, don’t purposefully make the tone of everything as such.
  2. No more remakes!
    • Ok. Already looking at 2010’s schedule I can see a bevy of remakes. A few are welcome and I think deserve to be remade, especially with contemporary CGI. Clash of the Titans comes to mind as deserving of such treatment. Others are just retellings that people expect to see every generation. The Wolfman is a prime example of this, much like King Kong was for last decade. However, there are some that should never be considered. The most egregious of such is “Let Me In,” a remake of “Let the Right One In.” First off, it is was too soon to be remaking a film released less than 2 years ago. Secondly, the original is a great on it’s own. If you can’t improve on the original, then don’t do it. Which brings me to my third point…
  3. World Market for Films
    • The human race is gradually becoming less of a collection of different peoples and more one homogenous race. Most foreign films that find critical success eventually get imported to Hollywood and effectively dumbed down. I’m not trying to argue for a worldwide studio system. I’m arguing for a world where foreign films don’t get imported to Hollywood: more of a worldwide market for films not centralized on individual countries. I want everyone to be aware of the Oldboys when they’re released, or the Let the Right One Ins or even Infernal Affairs before Hollywood imports them and markets the remake separate. I doubt many even realize what they’re watching is a remake of a foreign film most of the time, and that is just a shame.
  4. Star Wars Sequels
    • This is more of a wish, but a worthy one I think. Ever since I saw the original trilogy when I was young, I hoped to see a continuation of the story established there. Not something in the lame novels, but canon by Lucas himself. Most people think anything he touches will turn to crap, and some even doubt he ever was a great filmmaker. I still believe. This is the guy who gave us Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Sure the prequels sucked, but I think they were always doomed. With the success of Avatar and 3D technology, I’m sure Lucas wants to try his hand at something similar. Even if they were bad, they would make tons of money, and Lucas really needs a chance of redemption. George, make the sequels and cement your legacy of a filmmaker for the better.
  5. Sparing use of 3D/Improvement of the technology
    • I hate wearing those glasses the entire film. They are dark, uncomfortable, and sometimes distracting. Some films use them to much applause (Avatar), but others just throw them in unnecessarily (Up). I don’t feel 3D really adds anything to the experience. It all seems gimmicky to me. Aside from diminished use, I hope to see some improvement. Avatar paved the way for improved use of it, but I think much could be done. I doubt sans glasses viewing is possible, but if not, then why not? Less is more when it comes to 3D.
  6. Batman 3 and continued franchise
    • Holy crap! It has been a year and a half and no news yet??? If Nolan is coming back, then he should make an announcement and stop pussyfooting around it. If not, then WB needs to have a capable director lined up to continue the franchise (or finish the series). Afterwards the series can continue in the established realistic Nolanverse, or, after a hiatus, a new Batman film can be made. Whichever way the studio goes, we need a steady output of quality Batman films, not a repeat of the Batman & Robin fiasco.
  7. Digital looks as good as film
    • Film is still king, but digital is quickly catching up. Digital cameras will enable more small (I don’t want to say indie) films to be made for relatively cheaper budgets. Digital projectors could give a wider audience for these small films because of the smaller distribution costs associated with digital. Hopefully the art of using film will never leave, but for small stories to get their play, we need digital too.
  8. A step away from CGI/Blue Screen
    • The 00’s were the decade that saw filmmakers become infatuated with CGI. At times it was used to create worlds and creatures never before possible on film (Lord of the Rings). Other times it was chosen in lieu of practical stunts and special effects, most often to horribly fake looking results (Fast and Furious). The Dark Knight should set the trend for CGI use. Would the truck flip have been as awesome if it were computer generated? I think not. CGI is a nice tool, but should only be a resort when practical effects are not possible.
  9. Kubrick’s Napoleon biopic gets made by none other than Paul Thomas Anderson.
  10. Something completely unexpected happens
    • If I could think of something, it wouldn’t be unexpected. I’m thinking: Matrix 4, The Prestige 2: Tesla’s Last Laugh, Sean Connery comes back for one more film, Alan Moore approves of one of his adaptations, Star Wars remake, etc. etc. I just want to be surprised (and pleased) by something in film this decade.
  11. Honorary 11th Pick—Death of the Indie
    • I don’t mean the independent movie, I mean the ubiquitous stereotypic indie romantic comedy/dramedy that tries to be Garden State or Little Miss Sunshine or God help us Juno. Also, while I’m at it, no more pretentious films that are made simply for the minority of filmgoers to like in an attempt to make themselves feel more intelligent than the populace. Films like “Magnolia” come to mind, but I know there are plenty others. Bonus points shouldn’t be awarded just because the film is foreign, indie, or made/written by a Jarmusch, Gondry, or Lynch. God Bless America!

My Decade Wishlist (in Film)

January 9, 2010

Now that everyone’s exceedingly sick of recounting the odd events, great successes, glorious failures, and myriad other memorable moments of the last ten years, I think it’s time we make concrete our visions for the duration of this presently virginal decade of ours.

Below are ten things I’m hopeful will occur (or not occur…) these next ten years; none too terribly original, but things I still have my fingers crossed for nonetheless.

1) Christopher Doyle and Wong Kar-wai reunite, matching their 1st decade’s output.

2) Bill Murray writes his own feature, maybe directs a small indie.  He formerly wanted to be a playwright. I’d like to see what his imagination would conjure.

3) A comic book movie hiatus.  Realistically, this wouldn’t take effect until 2013 or 2014 with the current slate.  But point is most of them have been trash.  Maybe put an end date of 2020.  Let it sit dormant for 10 or so years.

4) Studios more supportive of concepts, wise spending, new talent, new ideas, promoting ‘smaller’ fare.   Tired of the 1-2-3 franchise glut.  Rural theaters should be aided in playing and nurturing foreign/indie works.

5) Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah’s Ark” movie.  Would be amazing.

6) Rangier animation, style-wise and content-wise.  Love Pixar, but it’s going to wear thin if Dreamworks remains its only “competition.”

7) A push for more experimental features.  40-minute shorts of acclaimed directors finding programming (television perhaps?).  More international casts, playing up international venues and international stars, and non-English languages.  Wes Anderson has the right idea, venturing into stop-motion.  Tired of trends.  Just because of Avatar, I don’t want to watch 3-D video games every summer for the next 15 years.

8) Let foreign directors shoot their scripts within our studio system.  Our resources.  Our budgets.  Send more of our writers, directors, actors overseas for collaborations.

9) The Academy Awards will never regain relevancy.  Awards coverage should move toward focusing on the world stage.  Domestic networks should air coverage from the Cannes film festival, allowing critics to do the reporting/interviewing instead of entertainment correspondents going on ad nauseam about fashion flubs and other shallow crap.

10) With the demise of print, many questions surround the future of film critics.  Unquestionably, they’re our connection to a world of lesser seen films that would otherwise never see the light of day.  We need to find a way to preserve and continue to support the work they do.

How about you, faithful readers?  What are some items on your own personal decade wishlists?

Upcoming Akira Kurosawa Series (of sorts)

January 8, 2010

So, I got this for Christmas.

If you can’t tell, it is the 25 films of Akira Kurosawa box set. Four films of his aren’t included (Dreams, Ran, Rhapsody in August, The Quiet Duel, Dersu Uzala), but as you can see: most of his work is amply represented here. As you can guess, I’m gonna begin going through these film by film—a sort of study if you will. I shall post my thoughts/musing/etc and perhaps a review on each film as a way to keep me up to the task and for both our reader’s enjoyment. I would love to do this weekly, but I’m sure i’ll get off track somewhere due to lawschool (especially near semester’s end). However, there are plenty of weeks in the year, and I’m sure to be done before next Christmas. For those playing along at home, I thought I would provide a list of planned viewing. I don’t wish to go through the set chronologically, as that might prove too stale and daunting (you wouldn’t start a study of Scorsese with “The Big Shave” or “Who’s that knocking at my door,” you would start with Taxi Driver or maybe Raging Bull). As follows is my planned watch-list. This is subject to change aside from the first few films (I think).

  1. Rashomon (1950)
  2. High and Low (1963)
  3. Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
  4. Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945)
  5. Seven Samurai (1954)
  6. Throne of Blood (1957)
  7. Ikiru (1952)
  8. The Most Beautiful (1944)
  9. Kagemusha (1980)
  10. The Men Who Tread on The Tiger’s Tail (1945)
  11. No Regrets for our Youth (1946)
  12. The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  13. One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
  14. Red Beard (1965)
  15. Drunken Angel (1948)
  16. Scandal (1950)
  17. The Idiot (1951)
  18. Stray Dog (1949)
  19. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
  20. I Live In Fear (1955)
  21. Dodes’ka-Den (1970)
  22. The Lower Depths (1957)
  23. Yojimbo (1961)
  24. Madadayo (1993)
  25. Sanjuro (1962)

And there you have it. Quite a long list now that I’ve typed it all out. They’re arranged mostly based on runtime and sometimes date of release. I didn’t want to be watching 3 hour epics in a row, so they’re split up as well as possible. Hope you can join me on what should be an education and entertaining foray into the films of Akira Kurosawa.

P.S. First post probably this weekend or by next (don’t hold me to it!)