Monday, November 07, 2011

Seen in October

Submarine, like a Welsh Juno and/or Rushmore, image via Mubi

The best films I saw thus month were on a plane. Most everything else I watched were television streamed from online sources (Parks & Recreation, Modern Family, Community, Prime Suspect etc). A sign of the times perhaps. TV is dead — long live TV.

Transcendent Man
A documentary about inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil is no crackpot. Amongst some of the technology he's created are the first text-to-speech reader to assist the blind, the first flatbed scanner and the Kurzweil musical synthesizer (one of the first electronic keyboards). We see him expound on ideas from his book, The Singularity is Near. The Singularity in technology terms is that point when the development of technology will increase at such a rate as to surpass us (basically the top part of the hockey stick curve on a chart of human development). Some have interpreted this as the point when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware and when all hell breaks lose. Yet Kurzweil is more optimistic, maybe too optimistic. As he assumes exponential development will continue unabated he just simply extrapolates that we will eventually live forever — or some very long time. If like me you've ever used a computer that wouldn't start or a car that died unexpectedly or a drill that stripped a screw etc. then you won't exactly be looking forward to The Singularity and our machine overlords. Kurzweil, a man who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the arrival of the Internet guesses The Singularity should arrive around 2029. Last week, Apple's new iPhone was announced and said to use Artificial Intelligent software. Yay.

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times
I think if you can really enjoy a film while on a plane, it says two things. 1) Any diversion from the fact you are 20-30,000 ft above the Earth is appreciated and 2) it was a pretty good movie. That's how I enjoyed watching the likes of David Carr lead us through the journalistic temple known as the New York Times. Many questions of the business and ethical dilemmas of the modern newspaper are embodied in The Times' struggle to survive in a world where people seem to expect quality news reportage for free. You'll almost want to subscribe to the Times online after this. Almost. At $16 a month that is twice what I pay for Netflix or a Rdio music subscription , 8 times what I pay for Flickr and 1-1/2 times what I pay for a year's worth of Web & e-mail and 100 GB of storage space.

Do you like Welsh people, the early eighties and coming-of-age Wes Anderson indie-style comedy-dramas? Then this film is for you. I'm taking the piss a bit. It's funny, sad in bits, painfully awkward in others and hopeful in the end.

The ladies can be grossly funny too. Is Kristen Wig the new Tina Fey? Probably not but if you've enjoyed her on Saturday Night Live you'll like this. Jon Hamm has a deliciously douchey turn as Wig's dismissive booty call.

The Trip
I thought I'd check out the film version of what was originally a six-part series on BBC. Unfortunately, much of the nuance, pathos and beauty is diminished. That's the importance of pace and editing that draws you in and makes you care.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation
Is there a movie Quentin Tarantino hasn't seen. The American director is one of many film makers who wax poetic about Australia's many, many, many exploitation/cult/genre movies. I've never been a fan of those kind of films — I guess the pastiche of over-the-top blood, guts and gore destroys cinema's "suspension of disbelief". My belief is no longer suspended thus boredom ensues. But it's easy to see how such gonzo, almost guerrilla style filmmaking would eventually evolve into a mature industry with all manner of movies being possible. I guess that is Canada's problem. We never had a genre film industry; we just had David Cronenberg.

What starts as an apparently satirical zero budget genre flick about a car tire come to life as a serial killer morphs into a self-aware post modern examination of the movies. Then it changes back to a satirical zero budget genre film. The surreality of the premise is things happen in all great films for "no reason". Well, it's the lack of a reason that makes this movie about a killer car tire kind of boring. I mean, who cares.

Black Snake Moan
You'd think a film in which Christna Ricci spends 90% dressed only in a tiny top, tiny panties and a chain would be more interesting. You'd be wrong. Samuel L. Jackson finds Ricci's sex-crazed character beaten and bloodied and upon discovering her affliction sets out to cure her of it. Too bad no one sets out to find who abused, assaulted and raped her, never mind her forceable confinement. I know it's the "deep South" but c'mon! Needless to say I wouldn't recommend this.


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