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trailers! trailers! trailers!

Several people, my wife most importantly, have told me they rely on Roused to Mediocrity for trailers. This makes it sad that I’ve been so terrible at sharing good trailers for quite a while.

I’m not going to dip to deep into the past trailers I’ve missed, but here are three from the last week or so that have me wanting to head to the cinema regularly this year.

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Spectre

Casino Royale was awesome. Quantum of Solace was not. Skyfall was awesome. Time to see if it’s going to be an every other movie pattern. Hopefully Quantum was an aberration. So far so good with the trailer, and we do have Bond basically dressed as Archer in the first poster, so we will always have that, at least.

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Slow West

A boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) comes from Scotland to American old west in search of his lost love. Michael Fassbender is the badass who takes it on himself to keep the kid alive.

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Dope

A movie about LA kids appropriately obsessed with 90’s Hip Hop culture.

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throne of blood.

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Before Akira Kurosawa did Hamlet and King Lear, he adapted Shakespeare’s Macbeth in 1957’s Throne of Blood. 

In addition to moving the setting to feudal Japan, Kurosawa also uses original dialogue in the story. He replaces the flowery language of Shakespeare with the stylized, exaggerated gestures of Japanese Noh theater. It’s a device that can be seen in much of Kurosawa’s work, especially the samurai films, but is perhaps at its best in this instance. As we watch the tragedy unfold, with characters manipulated by demonic forces with unknowable motivations, the embellished movement reinforces the eerie wrongness of all that takes place.

The philosophical pondering of Kurosawa is there as always. In Throne of Blood he is illustrating how we are often deluded into destroying ourselves and the people we love because of our own greed and paranoia. The violence and destruction that comes from the self-interested warring between individuals, factions and clans is a common theme for Kurosawa. It’s no mistake that the three Shakespeare plays Kurosawa interpreted are full of this sort of drama and tragedy. By translating the setting, twice to feudal Japan and once to post-WWII Japan, we see Kurosawa’s point that this pointless destruction of peace is timeless. And Kurosawa was always asking if, in addition to its timelessness, is it also unavoidable?

As is so often the case, Toshiro Mifune is amazing. I will always want to be him when I grow up.

Bonus: Tony Zhou did a new Every Frame a Painting installment all about how Kurosawa used movement in his films. I absolutely love the way Zhou teaches us about the art of film, as well as the fact that he is often championing my favorite filmmakers. I have some gripes about the way he frames the negative sides of his argument each time, but that would take too long to explain right now. Feel free to ask me about it, though.

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the one i love.

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This is one of those movies that I really can’t say anything about without ruining everything. All I can say is that Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass were both great, I loved the concept, and the execution was fantastic! The metaphors at play remind me of an excerpt I heard once from Dan Savage at a lecture where he was answering questions from the audience about relationships, but I can’t say which one or it could spoil stuff.

This is worth checking out, available streaming on Netflix.

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pixar is actually the spiritual parent of these new shared movie universes.

First, a big thanks to the stupendous Wes for getting Roused the paid version of this theme. It’s finally mobile-ready, baby!

Second, I’m writing a bit now for a fun writing community called Sidelines. My first post went up the other day, and since I had more to say than would fit in a Sidelines post I decided to share the extra part here with a link to the rest of the story on Sidelines. It’s about the rise, temporary or long-term, of shared movie universes. And away we go! 

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Tentpole films are a necessary part of the current film economy. Expensive movies that potentially deliver huge returns while also increasing the status of your brand is huge. The newest strategy for delivering some of those tentpoles is the shared movie universe,which offers a variety of unique perks and perfectly suited to our current multi-platform media world. 

I’d argue the current trend actually started with Pixar, even though it wasn’t necessarily a shared universe. Like Disney once did decades earlier, Pixar built a model in which a carefully crafted storytelling voice carried across multiple films, each featuring remarkably high quality. The execution of this strategy played a large part in making each year’s newest Pixar installment one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Sadly, they are far less consistent than they once were. Thanks to this approach to unified storytelling collaboration, with centralized oversight, we knew what it meant when someone said “Pixar movie” far beyond merely understanding it was going to be computer animated. We knew we’d laugh, and cry, and smile, and that the storytelling would be rich, fresh, and satisfying. It resulted in a brand loyalty to a particular studio that is nearly impossible to come by, with perhaps Pixar’s parent company being the only other company to share that sort of reflexive loyalty.     

Marvel Studios did something bold by taking that model and going even farther. They took Pixar’s lead in creating a central storytelling tone, maintained throughout the entire studio output and overseen by a central content-runner, but took that to a new level by actually having the events of their stories impact each other. This culminated in the massive success of The Avengers. It was so natural, because the comic source material had been doing that all along. It was also risky, and required the creation of multiple films with quality content that audiences responded to.

 

See more here at Sidelines, as I ponder which new shared universes spawned in response to Marvel’s success might fail or succeed. 

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the history of future folk.

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Quirky, super low budget winner about Future Folk, the Brooklyn-based folk outfit  comprised of two aliens from the planet Hondo.

They’re like Flight of the Conchords, but they exclusively play folk and are from much, much farther away than New Zealand.

The History of Future Folk catalogues their origin story, as they come earth to wipe out humanity in order to save their own planet, but fall in love with earth music and realize they need to find a way to save both worlds.

This movie is as sweet as it is unique, and as full of heart as it is unselfconscious. As the trailer says, this is the greatest alien folk-due, sci-fi, action, romance, comedy movie ever made.

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‘the crane wife’ by patrick ness

The story of the crane wife is a Japanese folk tale, “Tsuru Nyōbō,” a variant of Tsuru no Ongaeshi (Crane’s return of a favor). I learned it because of The Decemberists album based on the tale. It is story of a crane, helped by a man, who then disguises herself in human form to aid her rescuer, practicing great self-sacrifice to do so. Eventually she is discovered to be a crane and must leave, much to the despair of the man who has fallen in love with her.

Patrick Ness has written a beautiful novel rooted in that story. He transcends the potentially dangerous gender lines of the folk tale by instead revealing the fear, courage, cruelty, and kindness in all of us. Writing a story about how much we need other people, even if only two or three. Barebones summary: The story begins as a man hears a keening outside his London window in the small hours of the morning. He goes outside to find a crane with an arrow in its wing. He helps the crane, and the next day a mysterious woman comes into his print shop and everything changes.

My first experience with Ness was with his Chaos Walking series, which is great, and I was excited to read something so different from him. With The Crane Wife he tells a story that is simple and grounded, which is impressive since the story is rooted in myth and magic. He always presents that myth and magic in ordinary ways, simply allowing his metaphors to take flesh within the pages.

Ness delivers a moving illustration of the way each of us is afraid, each of us capable of destruction and creation, and each of us needs someone to see us for who we really are and offer us forgiveness for all those small and large things we are secretly ashamed of.

It is also a story about story. My favorite passage to that end feels like it is lifted right out of my master’s thesis: “No, a story is not an explanation, it is a net, a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us … as it surely, surely would.”

You should think about spending some time with this lovely little book.

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