I can remember being a wee tot and watching Tom Baker era Who on PBS. I don’t remember many details about it, other than the ridiculously long scarf. Years later, I remember watching the painful American television attempt to bring Who onto primetime. And it seemed that the entire Who franchise was a thing of the past until 2005 when Russell T. Davies revitalized the franchise. I saw Series 1 of the Davies run back in 2007, but circumstances prevented me from keeping up with it until now. In the last month I have ravenously torn through three seasons and four specials. Here are some of the reasons why Doctor Who, out of all the many sci-fi franchises, stands as my favorite.
The Fighter (2010, dir. David O. Russell)
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams
What is interesting about David O. Russell’s current film, The Fighter, is how the way the story is told parallels the situation our lead, Micky Ward (Wahlberg) finds himself in. He is the younger half-brother of Dicky Eklund (Bale), a former big time boxer whose career fell apart after he became addicted to heroin. The opening scene of the film is about Dicky’s pomposity and grandiose nature overshining Micky. This is the situation Micky finds himself in consistently. Despite Dicky’s failings as a son and a father, everyone seems to love him and give him an infinite number of chances. Even Micky’s boxing career seems to be one big stepping stone in Dicky’s comeback. While The Fighter treads into dark territory it still comes off as the feel good movie of the year, in an honest way with its audience.
127 Hours (2010, dir. Danny Boyle)
Starring James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams, Clemence Posey, Lizzy Caplan
Aron Ralston couldn’t be contained and he wasn’t going to let anyone hold him back from exploring deep canyons or scaling perilous cliffs. That rush of adrenalin as he tackled the impossible was everything, and like most addicts, he damaged a lot of relationships for the sake of his rush. Director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire) takes Aron’s story of survival and will and transforms it into something transcendent that becomes incredibly philosophic. The film succeeds based on two factors; the acting of James Franco and what is essentially a masterclass in film editing as storytelling.
Continue reading “Film Review – 127 Hours”
Here’s a digital music mix for Winter 2011, songs to fit snowy days shut in.
1. We Are the Sleepyheads – Belle & Sebastian
2. Fallen Snow – Au Revoire Simone
3. Union Hall – Foreign Born
4. Cold World – The Electric Soft Parade
5. Kids – MGMT
6. Til Dreams Come True – PG Six
7. Nomenclature – Andrew Bird
8. Empty Room – Arcade Fire
9. Big Louise – Scott Walker
10. Terrible Love – The National
11. Too Dramatic – Ra Ra Riot
12. There Are Many Of Us – Aska Matsumiya
13. Hold It In – Jukebox the Ghost
14. When They Fight, They Fight – Generationals
15. Day Is Done – Nick Drake
The Bad Seed (1956, dir. Mervyn LeRoy)
Starring Patty McCormack, Nancy Kelly, Eileen Heckart, Evelyn Varden, Henry Jones
Contemporary audiences would probably be bored and not find this film scary. Contemporary audiences are dopes on the whole, though. This piece of pernicious, regressive cinema is one of the tightest horror pics I’ve seen. What makes it such a juicy little piece of evil is the context. Its the repressive Red Scare 1950s where wholesomeness and purity is slathered on suburban streets like whitewash. Children especially are angelic and your neighbors can pop in when ever they choose. This is also the height of psycho-analysis, where Freud’s phallic fantasies are holy and it becomes acceptable, and encouraged to visit the shrink. Into this tense situation, we’re given Rhoda Penmark (McCormack), the sweetest little blonde in pigtails you ever did see. Rhoda is absolutely perfect, her parents and teacher agree. But Rhoda doesn’t like having what she wants withheld and she will take it, no matter the cost.
I vividly remember the first time I became aware of the Kids in the Hall was through a blip in the 1992 Fall Preview issue of TV Guide. The minuscule paragraph mentioned their involvement with Lorne Michaels (whom I knew as the guy behind SNL) at the time. I never managed to stay up and watch their run on CBS, but about four years later as a college student I finally saw the series on Comedy Central. I was not disappointed. My first reaction was at how strange the cast was. I’m not sure if it was because of these five gentlemen’s roots as exotic Canadians or at how well they passed for women in many skits, but I was hooked. This is the first time (thank you Netflix) that I have sat down and begun to work my way through the five seasons of KITH from the beginning. Watching on Comedy Central I had no framework in my head of how the show developed.
Some background on the Kids: For those of you unfamiliar the five members of the comedy troupe are Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson. The group formed in 1984, but like most comedy collectives, worked as duos or solo performers for many years before. There are also many behind the scenes players, particularly the infamous Paul Bellini who made a series of notable appearances in relation to a viewer contest the show held.
Though there are inevitable comparisons to Saturday Night Live, due the Lorne Michaels connection, the closest kin would be Monty Python. You have a fixed cast and skits that don’t rely on pop culture references for their humor. The laughs come from the absurdity of characters or situations. There is over the top violence and even skits that work to deconstruct comedy down to its raw nature. Because of the consistency in cast, you have a style of humor that is incredibly strong, the kind of thing that develops when people have organic relationships and aren’t simply cast by a showrunner.