Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Optimism of Zero

Synthesizers buzz and hum as she puts on her makeup and zips up her PVC outfit. She runs her hand down her bangs and grabs her leather jacket. Her initials are on the back and she slides it on. She stands behind a curtain waiting to show herself to the world. This is her look and she's proud. She has one final unsure look on her face and then pulls the curtain back to rapturous applause and she struts down the empty street evolving into dance. The song soars in praise with her. It's her life and her self-expression and she is showing it to everyone. All she can do in response is dance while others look on. They look a little surprised by her outfit and her attitude but they see that she's happy and eventually she runs into people who smile upon seeing her.

In these four minutes The Yeah Yeah Yeah's Zero directed by Barney Clay is deeply humanistic in a completely optimistic and joyful way. In this world, self-expression equals true joy, and the only responsible way to act on joy is through dance as Karen O suggests here when she seems so happy that she dances on top of cars. We live in a cinematic world where the most prized stories are about tragedy and the films that make the most money, and therefore control the Hollywood system, are about the end of the world or general destruction with no consequences. Even in television the narratives are controlled by serial killers, cops, and bad men. The musical, screwball comedy, and romantic comedy are nearly all dead so where did good feelings go? We live in a scary enough world that we don't always need it reflected back at us on screen but our avenues for escapism are dour. Zero was made a few years ago, but I think its joyfulness is still relevant today. It's self-empowerment of expression through choice is vastly important and in a time where things like selfies are constantly criticized as being vain and narcissistic Zero presents a different idea. It's happiness within self so much so that you just have to dance, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being happy. That's what we all want. Isn't it?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Reunion: The Veronica Mars Movie

Originally posted on Letterboxd
I feel like I should state right now that I'm a big Veronica Mars fan. However, unlike most of the fans I didn't want more. The conclusion of season 3 ends on a near perfect note for everyone involved in the series. The show solidified it's modern noir elements in a final moment between father and daughter. It was really the perfect ending. Cult Television audiences tend to be a little greedy though and everything must always continue even when something ends strongly, and there lies the problem with having a Veronica Mars movie. It's completely unnecessary and in some ways damages a really good ending to a short, but accomplished television series that already said everything it ever wanted to say. This wouldn't be an issue if the movie was fantastic, but ultimately it's a nice but forgettable experience.

Veronica Mars was always a television show that worked best in a long form narrative. It gave the show the room to breathe, develop characters and go into themes of class, gender, race, and gendered violence. The show was never great at handling stand alone cases and the problem with now having a movie is delivering a great standalone case in 100 minutes and they fail. The mystery here just isn't interesting and there's no time to work this case the way writer/director Rob Thomas is used to handling things. Saying this case is rushed would be an understatement. This brings up questions for me as to why viewers feel the need to resurrect television shows to bring them into cinemas. As much as critics these days want to make comparisons between the two filmed mediums there are differences that make translation extremely difficult. Veronica Mars is one show that just doesn't work well in the realm of cinema. Rob Thomas doesn't have an eye for visual language for one and the already mentioned issues of adapting a story that used longform narrative for it's entire lifespan can't do the same in cinema so it was obviously going to feel different. What I'm left with is feeling this is neither good cinema or television. There's fun to be had in the rhythms of the dialogue and Kristen Bell's performance but those things were always going to translate. I can't say the same for the rest.

There's also the problem of pandering which makes the entire experience feel plotted by fans. This leads to a kind of toxicity within the narrative where relationships point more towards bad fan fiction than character truths, and that's really frustrating considering the voices feel right but their decision making a little off. Every character also has to show up long enough for audiences to see everyone. It's almost clever Rob Thomas wraps all of this around the theme of high school never ending, but in reality it's more about catching up with everyone because that's what the audience wants to see, but I guess that's what you get with a crowdsourced picture. I don't want to come off like I hate this or even dislike it though, because that isn't necessarily the case. I'm a longtime Veronica Mars fan so it's nearly impossible for me to toss this aside without being happy at hearing the fucking theme song again or Kristen Bell talking circles around everyone else (what a shame it is that screwball comedies are mostly dead and she can't star in one of those). It's just not much more than a television movie, and I can't imagine non fans are going to like this or even get it.

Veronica Mars feels like you're favourite band in the world reuniting to record an album. You're obviously excited and you never thought you'd get to hear these people working together again. You turn on the album and that all familiar feeling of knowing these people comes back, and you're happy for a few moments, but then that feeling starts to slip away and you know the fire is gone. Then the album ends and you're grateful you have more new music from a band you loved, but it's just extra songs.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February 2014: Cinema

February was admittedly another slow month and I didn't even come close to hitting my normal goal of one movie a day, but luckily the films that I did end up watching proved to be almost constantly great. The only real dud this month was the Sara Michelle Gellar starring horror film, The Return, that I watched on HBO on a whim (never watch random movies on HBO, they are always bad). I finally got around to watching 2 John Waters classics after falling in love with Hairspray last year. Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble proved to be among the very best films I watched in the shortest month of the year. Female Trouble specifically is going to have me talking about eye liner for the rest of my life. I also watched Ms. 45 which proved to be the finest film I've watched so far this year, and if I don't fall into the trap of watching Antonio Cesaro swing every last man on earth into oblivion on the WWE I may have something more substantial to say about that film other than it's awesome at some point in the future. Yes, I'm still currently obsessive in my wrestling viewing, and I guess this is just going to have to be a thing I learn how to balance. Finally, I closed out the month on a string of 2013 films that all proved worth my time, the improved sequel in the Hunger Games franchse, Catching Fire, Lukas Moodysson's humanistic ode to punk rock and girlhood We are the Best, Spike Lee's unfairly maligned remake of Oldboy, the direct to video picture The Package, and Ridley Scott's modern noir The Counselor. March is young, but I'm already off to a good start after having just finished Ernst Lubitsch's The Doll. Here is to hoping I can keep that consistency and figure out how to get to 31 films, and if I don't then quality matters more than quantity right? Hope everyone else had a great February.

Best of the Month 
Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrara, 1981)
Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974)
Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
The Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
 High School (Frederick Wiseman, 1968)
Oldboy (Spike Lee, 2013)
We are the Best (Lukas Moodysson, 2013)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013)
The Counselor (Ridley Scott, 2013)
The Package (Jesse V. Johnson, 2013)

Best Rewatches
Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
Synecdoche New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)

Worst of the Month
The Return (Asif Kapadia, 2006)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Chris Columbus, 2002)- rewatch