mackknopf: (Movies)

I avoid giving away the plot twists as much as possible, but I do discuss anything shown in the preview, and I do tell what the basic premise is.  If spoilers show up, I'll use a "cut" so you have to deliberately click to see more.  Now allow me to preface with a quote from Chuang Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher and Taoist:  "I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke.  Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?"

If this mystery interests you, then you will probably like Christopher Nolan's movie "Inception".  For my part, I was mostly bored and waiting for it to end.  Movies, in my opinion, should not go on for three hours unless they are (say) on par with "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Lord of the Rings".  What we have here is ostensibly a treatise on dreams, and your tolerance for that will depend on how much you are fascinated by them.  I take that back.  While I loved Neil Gaiman's work on "The Sandman" comic, and symbols and meanings of dreams always interest me, this movie is just not bizarre enough to feel like it truly is about dreams.

Possible spoilers this way )


mackknopf: (Movies)

I just watched "Something Left, Something Taken," a piece of short animation.  Click here to see it yourself.  This is a ten minute comedy, somewhat dark, about a couple on vacation who take a ride from the airport that may be going where they don't want to go.  It is written and designed by Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata.  The film is set in San Francisco, so I had to watch!  I still miss that city, as well as Berkeley (but not Oakland).

Roger Ebert recommended it on his Ebert Club Newsletter.  The newsletter is for paying members only, though it's a mere ten dollars per year.  I'm reposting the video because it had options to do so, and it's not proprietary to the club letter, which assembles links and footage of interesting previews, shows, shorts, and old movies.   I really enjoyed this video.  People who watch crime scene investigation shows like Bones or the CSI series may find an additional chuckle here.

mackknopf: (Movies)
Chris Jones wrote a profile of film critic Roger Ebert in a recent Esquire magazine article.  It's not a hatchet job or a fanboy ovation.  It's a sincere, honest look at a man who has had suffering, but found his peace of mind.  For those who don't know, operations to save Ebert from cancer almost four years ago lost him his ability to eat solid food and to talk.  His lower jaw had to be removed.  With the faculty of speech lost, Ebert turned to writing to express himself, churning out prolific amounts of words both in his reviews and in his online journal.  For people who appreciate the writing or the man, the two of which are increasingly harder to separate these days, I recommend the article.   

In recent good news, Ebert is now able to somewhat speak with the aid of a computer that has had his recorded voice programmed into it.  It's a triumph of technology, and he made a public appearance using it on the Oprah Winfrey show.  It's not like having his true voice again, that can never be replaced, but it's a solid positive in his life, and he appears delighted about it.

"With all the publicity about me 'getting my voice back,' some people have the idea that a computer program has magically allowed me to speak again. That will never happen. I type, and the words come out. No one can type fast enough for conversational repartee. With the new software from Edinburgh the words will come out sounding like me. That's huge."

He's also planning to produce a new movie review show, with the occasional guest appearance.  I follow Ebert's work regularly and occasionally read his blog, but before the article, I had no idea of the strain he was under.  He's bearing up well, but as Ebert says, he's not surprised the profiler took an elegaic tone with the story.  I don't honestly know if I could find such peace if I believed there was nothing after death.  Sometimes I believe, sometimes I don't.  Most of the time I try not to think about it, to be stoically indifferent to the prospect.  But Roger Ebert hasn't found God, yet he's not afraid.

Below are excerpts from Chris Jones' article.  I know I was moved.

Read more... )


mackknopf: (Movies)

"Up in the Air", starring George Clooney, is the parable of a man who builds walls around him and who divests himself of anything he can't conveniently fit in a backpack or piece of luggage, like relationships.  The question the movie asks is whether he'll change and if he can, and what his choices teach the rest of us.  Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, works for a company whose sole purpose is to be hired by other businesses to go around and fire people, because the owners of said businesses don't have the guts to do it. I assume the company is entirely made-up, because I hope there are no real-life services like that. You might find it traumatic or prophetic, depending on how you feel about the economy, and whether you're in danger of being laid off (or actually have been).  The screenplay is based on a book by Walter Kirn.  Many or most of the actors who are fired are people who had actually been laid off in real life, and who answered a casting call for a documentary.  They could either respond to the firing procedure as they actually did, or as they wished they had done.

The axe-men company temporarily grounds its employees under a new business model of firing through online real-time video chat. You put a laptop with Skype (or whatever) in the other company's office, and the axe-men company will fire them long-distance. Bingham says that this lacks humanity and the personal touch, and so is given a few weeks of travel back on the road to compare his approach with that of the inventor of the online method.  One of my friends said Clooney is a bloodless actor, but I disagree.  He gives a good performance in "Up in the Air" as a man who has built an emotional wall around himself, free of most relationships other than the very casual. The breaking and cracking of his fortress, however, and whether or not he rebuilds it, is what is so interesting about the movie. It's a story about modern human relationships more than anything else.

Clooney also comes across as a suave lady's man. The women here are devastating in their roles, though, and quite strong characters.  When he meets someone (Alex, played by Vera Farmiga) who describes herself as a counterpart of him, only with a vagina, the romantic interaction becomes fascinating.  The other, non-romantic, foil for Clooney is the younger woman, Natalie Keener as played by Anna Kendrick, who wants to fire people online.  She wants to be the new version of Ryan Bingham, only she has second thoughts over the course of the movie.

"Up in the Air" isn't quite a drama, satire, or comedy, though it partakes of all of those.  I highly recommend it. 


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March 2012

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