Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hall of Strangeness Part IV

Battle Royale – (Kenji Fukasaku) In the not too distant future the worst high school class of the year in Japan is forced on a deadly fieldtrip. The students receive a map, some food and a random weapon and have three days to kill everyone else on the island or have the collar attached to their necks explode. Battle Royale manages trenchant commentary about delinquency, high school politics and cliques but succeeds best when aiming for campy, pitch-black comedy.
Artistry: ** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ***

Being John Malkovich – (Spike Jonze) Behind a cabinet in an office on the 7.5th story of an office building is a small passage that temporarily leads into the consciousness of actor John Malkovich. After assuming partial control of the celebrity, the usurper is expelled at a nearby turnpike. Puppeteer Craig Schwartz and his less than ethical friends quickly learn to exploit the possibilities of the unexplained phenomenon.
Artistry: **** Fun: **** Strangeness: *****

Big Trouble in Little China – (John Carpenter) Kurt Russel plays a truck-driver turned hero, after his friend’s fiancé is kidnapped by a 3000 year old Chinese sorcerer. Terrible special effects and an ancient-tome-load of witty one-liners make this outrageous film a cult classic.
Artistry: * Fun: ***** Strangeness: ***

Blood and Black Lace – (Mario Bava) Unavailable for 40 years, the Italian horror film that started it all is finally back in circulation. Models at a baroque fashion mansion are getting gruesomely murdered at a rate even beyond the norm and everybody’s a suspect. This stylish, colorful (we’re talking ample use of pink and purple) horror film deserves credit for starting the giallo, slasher and body count horror subgenres in one gruesome swoop.
Artistry: *** Fun: *** Strangeness: **

A Boy and His Dog – (L. Q. Jones) Harlan Ellison’s unlikely short story makes it to the big screen in this oft-overlooked 70’s cult film. Don Johnson (of Miami Vice fame) plays a roguish wanderer in the post-apocalyptic future who telepathically communicates with his wisecracking dog to smell out women to ravage. He finds himself falling in love with one of his victims and follows her into an underground colony of radiation survivors. Like all good sci-fi utopias, this one has a heavy price that must be paid and an evil robot. Hilarious ending ranks with the best of all time.
Artistry: * Fun: **** Strangeness: ****

Monday, February 26, 2007

Review of Ju Dou

Watching Ju Dou after reading Rey Chow’s theories about Zhang Yimou’s films, I feel as if I can see where her arguments and the negative critiques of other critics come from. The gender politics are not very progressive, the cinematography is a bit fetishistic especially with regard to color and the smooth tragic arc has a vaguely superficial quality. Despite this, I can’t help but think the film comes together effectively and entertainingly.

The story is simple: Tian-qing, an orphan working for Jin-shan, a cruel silk dyer, falls in love with his master’s beautiful wife, Ju Dou. They have a child, Tian-bai, but can’t acknowledge it as their own due to the traditions of the time even after Jin-shan is paralyzed and then dies. Tragedy ensues.

The performances are excellent. Tian-qing teeters between cowardice and kindness and I’m never quite sure whether his inability to kill Jin-shan makes his character more or less sympathetic. Does it say something about me that I cheer for him to bloody his hands? Gong Li is well-suited as Ju Dou and her characterization of a woman hungry for lasting happiness and burned when it remaining ever outside her grasp is too complicated to be swept under the “female object to-be-looked-at” carpet without further thought. Tian-bai, while hardly developed conventionally due to sparse dialogue and little screen time, serves as a creepy symbol of karmic revenge. His jerky, succinct movements give him an almost inhuman menace without resorting to evil laughs or brooding music over slow zooms.

As with just about every Yimou film, the cinematography is excellent. I think that even if you feel he panders to Western sensibilities (which I find skeptical and which Yimou dismisses handily in interviews) or wallows in hallow superficialities, one must acknowledge that his visual flair succeeds in capturing the attention and sustaining the seductive tone. Even while one part of my mind acknowledges the syrupy waterfall of crimson silk that pours down during two scenes (a passionate sex scene and a harsh death) as cheesy, I also can’t help but find it to be, respectively, sexy and unsettling. If a reviewer can’t enjoy Yimou’s cinematography then I can’t imagine they ever enjoy movies at all.

Walrus Rating: 8

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hall of Strangeness Part III

Alphaville – (Jean-Luc Godard) The grandfather of tech noir and anime, Alphaville still stands as one of the great early achievements of science-fiction cinema. Narrated by supercomputer Alpha 60, the story follows super agent Lemmy Caution as he infiltrates a mysterious land known only as Alphaville (actually Paris in 1965 with no special effects but a lot of mod era lighting) to find exiled scientist Leonard Nosferatu.
Artistry: *** Fun: ** Strangeness: ****

American Astronaut – (Cory McAbee) Despite the bland name, American Astronaut, is one of the most creative and wildly idiosyncratic cult films ever made. A hybrid noirish space-age western musical, the film joins astronaut Samuel Curtis as he arrives at the asteroid saloon Ceres. He’s there to give a cat to the Blueberry Pirate in exchange for a music box suitcase that contains the fetus of “a real life girl.” The item will serve as a handy bargaining chip in a series of bizarre trades that might make him rich… if obsessive birthday boy, Professor Hess, doesn’t vaporize him first.
Artistry: *** Fun: **** Strangeness: *****

Ashes of Time – (Wong Kar-Wai) An impossibly fast-pace collage of interwoven samurai stories about memory, love and identity. Various warriors and mercenaries cross path in a landscape riddled with unrequited love and sworn vengeance.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: **

Bad Blood (1986) – (Leos Carax) Stylized noir and poetic romanticism spin circles around each other in this French, oddball mix of genres. Alex is a bright young punk split between two girls (played by Julie Delpy and Juliette Binoche) and hired to steal a top-secret corporate drug that may cure STBO, an STD lethal to couples that have loveless sex. Makes interesting use of music and primary hues.
Artistry: **** Fun: ** Strangeness: ****

Barbarella – (Roger Vadim) Probably the best known of the 60’s kitsch adventures (see also Danger: Diabolik, Modesty Blaise and Starcrash), Barbarella stars Jane Fonda as a scantily clad astronaut on a mission to find professor Duran Duran. She encounters a non-stop barrage of psychedelic characters ranging from gnashing robotic dolls to gay angels. To almost all Barbarella’s problems, such as torture in the orgasmotron, sex turns out to be the answer. Consistently trippy to the very backdrops, which include shag-carpeted wallpaper and projected lava lamps.
Artistry: ** Fun: ***** Strangeness: *****

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Urban Blight Videogame

A couple weekends ago I abandoned my homework and social life and dedicated several consecutive days to a flurry of programming. The result is Urban Blight, an urban planning and development videogame in the vein of classics like SimCity and Civilization.

I am attempting my first online distribution of game and so the zip file is available by clicking the link below.

Urban Blight

The game is a turn-based overhead strategy game on a grid that can be played multi-player or single (you'll have to keep track of records yourself for now). My hope is that players can figure out the gameplay by left-clicking and right-clicking around and experimenting. The tab control in the bottom right will help a lot. If you need more help go to the "Game" tab and press the "Hint" button. A random gameplay hint is generated each time. Contact me or leave a comment if further or specific help is needed.

Please keep in mind that this is version 1.0 and that there may be bugs and typos. Currently there is a problem with my visual themes so the interface is a bit ugly. I hope the game will be enjoyed anyway. Please email me or post a comment if you find any bugs are have any suggestions.

Hall of Strangeness Part II

The Adjuster – (Atom Egoyan) Unsettling depiction of the world’s most sympathetic insurance claims adjuster and his wife, who classifies and rates hardcore pornography. In a tangential story, a rich woman molds a hobo into her plaything and uses him to infiltrate the adjuster’s home under the guise of scouting a film location. The often inscrutable motivations of the characters lead to a chilling and shocking, but satisfying, conclusion.
Artistry: **** Fun: *** Strangeness: ****

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – (Terry Gilliam) The fanciful stories of the 18th century soldier Baron Munchausen are brought to life in one of Gilliam greatest masterpieces. An aging Munchausen discovers his stories being poorly plagiarized on the eve of a Turkish invasion and is convinced by a young girl to relive his glories by reassembling his eccentric band of friends from places as varied as a volcano, a whale’s belly and the moon.
Artistry: **** Fun: **** Strangeness: *****

The Adventures of Priscella: Queen of the Desert – (Stephan Elliott) Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce play a trio of disco-lip-synching drag-queens who set out in a pink bus for a gig on the opposite end of the Australian outback. As they stylishly overcome a variety of obstacles they become closer friends and more flamboyant performers.
Artistry: *** Fun: **** Strangeness: ***

Aelita: The Queen of Mars – (Yakov Protazanov) Aelita is an ahead-of-its-time Soviet sci-fi from 1924 about a scientist who murders his wife and flees to mars in a spaceship he builds. While there he is caught between his love of the queen and the rebelling proletariats who are tired of living in caves and being "refrigerated." Flaws include the incredibly long exposition (about an hour) and the structurally unsound ending but the highlights (some outrageously awesome costumes and sets along with laughable attempts at propaganda) tend to outweigh the problems.
Artistry: *** Fun: *** Strangeness: ***

Alice – (Jan Svankmajer) This Czech stop-start animation version of Alice in Wonderland only loosely follows the plot of the Lewis Carroll books but captures the spirit more than any other adaptation. Alternatively surreal, awe-inspiring and nightmarish, Alice packs more fresh imagery into its short running time than any randomly selected dozen Hollywood films.
Artistry: ***** Fun: *** Strangeness: *****

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hall of Strangeness Part 1

For several years I've written short capsule reviews for unusual or underappreciated films that I'm likely to recommend to friends or rewatch at some unspecified date. I rated each on artistry, fun and strangeness. I came to call the project "The Hall of Strangeness," though not all of the films are all that strange. I've been adding films to it continually since its inception.

I've decided to post the reviews I've written up until now in batches of five, going alphabetically. After all those are up, I'll post a new Hall of Strangeness after every fresh set of five. I they will be useful and enjoyable. I've also reprinted the original introduction and warning.

Hall of Strangeness:
The best of unconventional, cult, low-budget or underrated gems from around the globe.

Warning: This list is arbitrary. Not all of these films are outright strange and many strange films have been excluded simply because I did not like them or would not recommend them. Nevertheless, if a strange film is missing from the list it is probably because I haven’t yet seen it, so please feel free to recommend it. Arbitrary limits have been placed on directors whose entire oeuvre would otherwise qualify.

3-Iron – (Kim Ki-Duk) A modern day South Korean love story, only without dialogue. The two main characters remain mute by choice. Tae-suk vents his emotions with a golf club while Sun-hwa tries to escape her oppressive husband. They must learn to tread lightly through a modern world empty of humanity.
Artistry: **** Fun: *** Strangeness: ***

3 Women – (Robert Altman) Three women who are strangely connected to each other find themselves swapping personalities in this surreal film concerning feminism and identity crisis. Careful use of color and eerie images of a pool-bottom mosaic create a beautiful atmosphere. Compellingly psychological plot.
Artistry: **** Fun: *** Strangeness: ****

The 5000 Fingers of Dr T – (Roy Rowland) A children’s cult classic musical from 1953 that was written, designed and scored by the great Dr Suess. In the movie, Bart enters into a fantasy world where his evil piano teacher, Dr Terwilliker, is planning to marry his mother and force 500 children to play simultaneously on a single enormous twisting piano. All non-piano musical instruments and their players are sentenced to the dungeon. Can Bart and his plumber friend save the day, even with roller-skating Siamese twins (connected by the beard) opposing him? Consistently good musical numbers.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ****

8 Women – (Francois Ozon) Featuring an women-only cast, this musical murder mystery hinges on the murder of a French patriarch in which all eight of his female relatives, acquaintances and servants are suspect. Each character is color coded and gets a uniquely styled musical number. The satisfying twist ending brilliantly upsets the predominant mood.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: **

Adaptation – (Spike Jonze) Hot off the success of Being John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman is looking to adapt a book about orchid thieves for his next film. While researching the author and the book’s subject, he realizes he doesn’t have a story by conventional Hollywood standards (epitomized by his incompetent identical twin). Eventually his life begins to take on the cinematic clichés he was trying to avoid.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ***

Obligatory Oscar Post

Every Oscar season I feel strangely compelled to make predictions about which nominee will win any given prize. It ends up being fairly masochistic since many of the best films don’t even get nominated and the winner usually goes to the best combination of overly earnest and commercially viable. My predictions tend to be most accurate when I put on my cynicism cap (I have one) and pick the nominee that was the least inspired.

That being said, I must applaud the academy for finally coughing up a lifetime achievement Oscar for composer Ennio Morricone. Much has been said already about Morricone’s excellent spaghetti western soundtracks but to my mind his greatest contribution has been to the Italian giallo genre. With more than 300 scores to his credit, it is hardly surprising that Morricone can’t even remember them all.

Anyway, back to my Oscar picks. This year I’m doing something a lot more fun than trying to predict the actual outcome. I’m going to choose my own categories (borrowing the worthwhile ones from the academy) and choose who I think should win regardless of nomination and based only on the films I’ve actually seen.

Best Picture: (1) The Lives of Others, (2) Pan’s Labyrinth, (3) The Prestige
Best Comedy: Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Best Horror Film: (1) The Descent, (2) Severance, (3) The Host
Best Animated Feature: A Scanner Darkly [baffling that it didn't get even a nod on such a slow year]
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth [although Wordplay was better made]
Best Unnecessary Remake: The Departed
Best Theatrical Re-release: Army of Shadows (1969)

Best Director: (1) Guillermo del Toro Pan’s Labyrinth, (2) Cristi Puiu The Death of Mr Lazarescu, (3) Christopher Nolan The Prestige [Seeing as I’m not the academy I don’t owe Scorsese anything. I would have given him his Oscars back when he made original films.]
Best New Director: (1) Rian Johnson Brick, (2) Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck The Lives of Others [say that three times fast]

Best Performance, Male: (1) Ion Fiscuteanu The Death of Mr Lazarescu, (2) Matt Dillon Factotum [Neither nominated]
Best Performance, Female: (1) Ebru Ceylan Climates, (2) Penelope Cruz Volver [although it’s the ensemble that makes it work], (3) Lee Yeong-ae Lady Vengeance
Best Performance, Child: Ivana Baquero Pan’s Labyrinth [strides ahead of Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine]
Best Performance, Animal: Dogs 4
Best Performance, Inanimate: Meat Lunacy

Best Cinematography: Children of Men [The easiest decision on here]
Best Editing: Children of Men
Best Music/Theme/Song: Brick
Best Art Design: (1) The Science of Sleep, (2) Lunacy [Neither nominated]
Best Visual Effects: Pan’s Labyrinth

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Prestige
Best Original Screenplay: (1) The Lives of Others, (2) Pan’s Labyrinth, (3) Volver
Best Improvised Screenplay: Bubble
Best Premise: (1) Children of Men, (2) The Descent, (3) Tristam Shandy

Best Shot: war-zone finale, Children of Men
Best Action Sequence: (1) foot-chase through construction yard, Casino Royale, (2) four-story climb The Protector
Best Opening: 4
Best Twist: (1) The Prestige, (2) Brick, (3) Lunacy
As I side note, I’m amused that we have a best foreign film category as if a foreign film couldn’t possibly win an award unless the academy gave them their own category.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


For about a year and a half I've run Splice, a film club at Washington University in St Louis. Splice existed for several years before I became president and is dedicated to championing the lesser-seen films in life: cult classics, foreign films, indies, B-movies, under-rated picks and nostalgic viewing.

We take a different tactic than WU's other film club, Film Board, which gets a multi-thousand dollar budget and blows it all two or three events such as on-campus screenings of "college classics" like "Old School" and free tickets to the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Splice takes it for granted that students are regularly exposed to, marketed at and saturated with, exactly this type of cinema already and tries to display material that is more interesting, rarer and just plain better. Needless to say we have almost no budget and rather small attendance. Those who come, however, are dedicated, open-minded and hopefully enjoy the experience.

This semester I decided to change our previous method of last-minute selection and made a loose schedule (changes have already been made) which I'm presenting below. I think it will be a good year.

All screenings are on Saturdays, at 2pm in Liggett Lower Basement

Jan 27: Wild Zero
-Ace and Guitar Wolf team up to fight zombies in a Japanese rock & roll epic
Feb 3: Family Viewing
-Warning: Do not view this movie with your family
Feb 10: The 5000 Fingers of Dr T
-The only musical co-directed and scene-designed by Dr Seuss
Feb 17: Dead Alive
-After 15 years, still a top contender for goriest movie of all time
Feb 24: Night and the City (1950)
-Forgotten, but excellent dark and brooding film noir from the UK
Mar 3: Save the Green Planet!
-Korean comedy/sci-fi/mystery about kidnapping and insanity
Mar 10: (Spring Break)
Mar 17: American Astronaut
-Sci-fi western musical involving characters like “The Blueberry Pirate”
Mar 24: Even Dwarfs Started Small
-German art-film about escaped inmates featuring an all-midget cast
Mar 31: Master of the Flying Guillotine
-Blind assassin hunts one-armed exiled kickboxing ninja
Apr 7: Diva
-Clever French thriller involving opera and gangsters
Apr 14: Danger: Diabolik!
-Ultra-kitsch 1960’s Italian cult-classic about the ultimate jewel thief
Apr 21: Spider Baby
-Cult horror B-movie with ultra-low budget
Apr 28: The Element of Crime
-Arty Danish existential murder mystery shot in only orange-and-blue

Other Options:
Barton Fink – Coen brothers modern noir about writers block and murder
Cannibal, The Musical – Debut film by the directors of South Park
Charisma - Japanese existential eco-thriller about an evil tree
Dead Man – Existential western featuring Johnny Depp
Faust (1994) – Extremely loose Czech stop-motion retelling of the Faust story
Fiend without a Face – Poetic French horror movie from 1960
Irma Vep – Failed attempt to remake a 10-hour silent lesbian vampire jewel-thief series
Punishment Park – “Documentary” about the conservative government putting hippies into death camps
Sonatine – Deadpan Japanese yakuza comedy
Star Crash – Cheap Italian knock-off of Star Wars
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders – Surreal Czech vampire fable!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Review of El Topo

Last Friday I made the traditional pilgrimage of the film geek to another city (in this case Chicago) to see a midnight screening of “El Topo” (1971). Katie and I had time to briefly enjoy the parts of Chicago that were very near our hotel such as Millennium park with its ice sculptures and giant reflective bean. The Cloud Gate looked particularly suave with snow on the top where the reflection of clouds should be. We also caught the Chicago Art Institute for free and saw many of the works in my Modern Art course.

The highlight, needless to say, was “El Topo,” easily defeating the comparatively dull and uninspired sum of Western painting and sculpture from the past 150 years. With directing, writing and star performance by Chilean surrealist and former-mime Alejandro Jodorowsky, “El Topo” is a cult masterpiece.

Some background: When Jodorowsky made his film in 1970 there was no precedent for his brand of vivid insanity. His funding was difficult and he was unable to gain distribution until John Lennon declared it as his favorite movie after a private screening. Theater owners were convinced to show the film at midnight, so as not to interfere with their mainstream lineup, and thus the “midnight movie” was born. Rights issues tied up the 35mm print for 35 years making screenings rare and preventing a DVD release. In 2003 5-Minutes-to-Live ranked “El Topo” as the greatest cult film, above such classics as “Eraserhead” and “Spider Baby.” Newly restored for the current circuit, “El Topo” will probably make it to DVD in the near future.

Watch clips from Jodowsky’s movies at http://www.abkcofilms.com/. Do so now.

Plot summary with some spoilers below.

The title character, after forcing his nude real-life son to bury his teddy bear and a picture of his mother in the desert, returns to his village to find the denizens slaughtered. Sadistic, fetish-ridden banditos are the obvious cause and El Topo dispatches them with violent aplomb. Afterwards, at a Franciscan monastery, El Topo exchanges his son for a woman.

In the second part of the film, the woman convinces El Topo to wander the desert in search of the four “gun masters” and duel them. The quest takes many years and reaches new heights of bizarreness. Some of the amazing imagery includes a burning pyre made of rabbit corpses. In the end, the disenchanted and demoralized El Topo is betrayed and apparently killed.

In the film’s final part, El Topo awakens in a mountain after several decades of slumbering. He has become a part of the local messiah mythology for the band of deformed outcasts who dwell in the mountain. He climbs to freedom and vows to rescue his friends by earning money in the city, a den of outrageous corruption run by the disturbing Women’s Decency League. El Topo questions whether freedom is worth it if it means life in such a wretched world. After a series of revelations, tragedy befalls.

Walrus Rating: 9.5

Monday, February 12, 2007

Review of Farewell, My Concubine

I have a tendency to regard grand, sweeping, biographical epics with a fair deal of skepticism, since they often turn out to be filled with self-indulgent grandiosity and long-winded rise-and-fall clichés. However, Farewell, My Concubine (1993), which precisely fits the subgenre in outline, was quite a pleasant surprise. Weaving a genuinely complex love triangle (without doing the “love” or the “triangle” parts in a conventional sense) into the turbulent history of China was a brilliant and entertaining combination.

Outside of political history and personal relationships, the plot also balanced a third element; the Beijing opera/theater that stays noticeably constant even as everything else changes. This curious preoccupation with a cultural craft obsessively preserved by a determined few in the face of modernization reminded me of the treatment of P’ansori in Sopyonje. Also similarly, I found it occasionally repetitive and alienating as an outsider unable to understand the nuances of the language and performance, but I did really enjoy the elaborate costumes, makeup and acrobatics. On the flipside, the early offstage segments with the physical training and continuous beatings was all too familiar and initially had me thinking that the film was going to walk down the typical Hollywood path.

Of the two films, I think Farewell, My Concubine is the more intriguing, especially because of the ambiguous relationship between the two lead actors and of Dieyi with his role. That Dieyi should identify so strongly with his character, most conspicuously the gender of the character, manages to be bizarre and irrational while still be captured with perfect sensitivity and touching realism. I loved the way that the leads cycled between hurting/betraying and rescuing/reconciling although I thought the pattern might have been edited down by an iteration or two.

Overall, a highly entertaining, informative and ambitious film, if not particularly revolutionary in terms of style.

Walrus Rating: 8

Monday, February 5, 2007

Review of Good Men, Good Women

I am tempted to call Hou Hsiao-Hsien's style minimalist (a frequent label of most Taiwanese New Wave cinema), except that he doesn't so much strip down his images as much as he chooses not to distract the audience unnecessarily. This isn't always to focus just on the plot, but often to give us time to digest the image as a whole: the framing, composition, lighting and the posture or position of the actors. He compliments this nicely with gentle, steady camera movements which reframe the image and follow the action without the impression of an intrusive force. The use of long takes for almost every shot fits into the structure well and didn’t drag down the pacing for me possibly because the cuts that did exist were so high contrast (both visually and narratively), always setting down and picking up the multiple story threads with a regularity and naturalness that weaves them thoughtfully.

I particularly like Hsaio-Hsien's compositions, which are artful while feeling believable. The lighting is perhaps the element stressed most conspicuously. I liked his playful use of light's many possibilities including warped glass, lamp beads, disco balls, neon signs and colored club-lighting. His repeated method of lighting indoor scenes from a single soft source in the background (often outside, similar to films by Ozu, who is notably references in the second shot) or from overhead is unusual in the way it keeps most of what we can see in darkness. Often facial expressions or even the identity of characters are difficult to distinguish. Overall the lighting is what seems to lend the film a consistent visual feel, rather in past or present, B&W or color.

The blending of narratives worked especially well, drawing me in fairly equally to the contemporary “modern malaise” atmosphere of an actress (reminding me of Millennium Mambo) and the more overtly political-historical tale of her role. The characters stay fairly detached from the viewer due to the camera distance, ambiguity and episodic structure but one can feel the aura of the emotions onscreen even when not experiencing the emotions directly. I liked that the ending moves from the historical trauma of the past into the steady progress of the present (There is even a trace of redemption in Liang Ching's breakdown over the silent phone; at least verbalizing the sadness and confusion she has contained.) where Hou Hsaio-Hsien explicitly fixes his own film, and by extension our viewing of it, into a continuum of history both personal and political.

Walrus Rating: 9

Friday, February 2, 2007

100 Favorites

My Top 100 Favorite Movies
Warnings: Personal Choice, Roughly Ordered, No Criteria, Subject to Change
Last Updated 1/27/08 (now with links to reviews!)

Apocalypse Now
A Zed and Two Noughts
The Godfather Trilogy
Royal Tennenbaums
Citizen Kane
The Conformist
2001: A Space Odyssey
Possession (1981)
Blade Runner
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Matrix
Spirited Away
Pulp Fiction
Silence of the Lambs
The Sting
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Saddest Music in the World
Dark City
Run Lola Run
Barton Fink
Saving Private Ryan
City of Lost Children
?Bridge Over the River Kwai
Once Upon a Time in the West
Deep Red
Blood Simple
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Kill Bill I/II
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Element of Crime
El Topo
Olivier, Olivier
Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen
Dr. Strangelove
Out of the Past
Harold and Maude
Miller’s Crossing
LA Confidential
The Saragossa Manuscript
?Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Raging Bull
Chungking Express
No Country for Old Men
Aguirre: The Wrath of God
The Big Sleep
?The Prestige
Fight Club
Nightmare Before Christmas
Dog Day Afternoon
Mulholland Drive
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Pan's Labyrinth
Touch of Evil
Millennium Actress
Night and the City
Last Year in Marienbad
Indiana Jones Trilogy
City of God
Memories of Murder
Donnie Darko
Quiz Show
?Picnic at Hanging Rock
?Woman in the Dunes
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
?12 Angry Men
Moulin Rouge
Star Wars Trilogy (IV-VI)
A Very Long Engagement
River’s Edge
Yi Yi
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Death Race 2000
Talking Head
*Chan-wook's Revenge Trilogy
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
*Rear Window
The Usual Suspects
Yellow Submarine
*Branded to Kill
*Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Sixth Sense
The Long Good Friday
The Apartment

? Needs Rewatch
* Borderline case

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Romance of Many Dimensions

I discovered that Edwin Abbott Abbott's (yes, his middle name and last name are the same) 1884 novel "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" will be released as a feature length film (available only on DVD) this month.

"Flatland" tells the tale of a square (named A. Square) living in a two-dimensional world. In dreams he observes a 1D line-world and a 0D point-world where the native entities refuse to believe that the universe holds more dimensions than they know. He meets a 3D sphere (although he can only see a cross-section at an given time) and, despite his initial reluctance, learns to accept that his own world view is indeed limited. But can his society accept this truth? And can the sphere learn his own lesson and acknowledge that a 4th dimension might exist?

Packed with Victorian wit and satire, "Flatland" is a classic amongst math nerds throughout the Western world. Several short film adaptation have been made before, but this animated educational feature is the first with real star power. Martin Sheen ("Apocalypse Now"), Kirstin Bell ("Veronica Mars") and Tony Hale (Buster from "Arrested Development") provide voice talent.