Category Archives: movies

A glorious week in and around LA

There are two parties on the block tonight, so I’m hunkering down with some wine and my headphones…it’s been an amazing week really, I should blog more maybe…

Tuesday I went down to San Diego, and headed over to Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore with China Mieville. I hadn’t seen him do a book reading…I think I’ve said everyone should read The City and The City before, it is spectacular. He was funny and humble, incredibly intelligent and articulate and everyone there loved him. And you could see how much he respected and liked them right back (that’s character for you) and everyone lined up so he could sign the 3 or more books they were buying and I was amazed (that doesn’t happen at our book signings I’m afraid…), and he chatted with all of them and enjoyed it and they left beaming. And I loved him for that. I have been to many book readings in my time, and this was among the best. But who else can combine my love of monsters and politics and sense of fun? Not many.

I also learned something that has been puzzling me for some time, and that is that while I have incredibly geeky tendencies, I am not in fact a geek. Though I sometimes aspire. And I realized that is because I am not OCD, and therefore not worthy. Or perhaps I’m just geeky in an extraordinarily broad sort of way that would elevate me to a true geek after about 200 years (If I planned to be cryogenically frozen, would that qualify me? But then I couldn’t keep reading). Because I am fascinated by everything, and therefore cannot concentrate or be overly obsessive about any one thing. I almost never read anything twice for example, from my Tuesday conversations it appears that this does not at all conform to the sense of what is normal. Of course, I have been keeping a list of books I want to read since I was 20. It has now reached epic proportions, and I never delete anything off this list but steadily mark things off as I read them. How on earth could I find time to read anything twice? Nor does the fact that I like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mean that I have read everything the man has ever written…and so, I feel I must bow from my pretensions and remain unaffiliated to any tribe. Except in solidarity.

Anyway, that was a night of pure unadulterated magic, and I shall never more be tempted to say it doesn’t exist.

Wednesday, my friend woke me up from my nap and I headed out for drinks and dinner with three of my favourite girls in the world. We’re all ex-organizers, and life is so good when ex-warriors get together. Not that we talk about the glory days, what a waste of time that would be. Instead I got all of the juiciest gossip on the latest union drama, HERE and SEIU and UNITE and it was actually incredibly horrible and infuriating and I would like to give Andy Stern a bloody nose. At the least. It’s too juicy to repeat in a blog for damn sure, but apalling. Still, I feel I’ve been through worse and what can you do? And the drinks were good and strong. And then we talked about life and love and laughed and laughed some more and I went to bed happy to have such friends.

Thursday now…went to the Getty to see Alain de Botton talk about his new book. And I felt bad for both Alain and Beverley. It was a place and a crowd expressly designed to bring out the hater in me, and oh, but it did. To be in a place like that where everyone is white and wealthy in this city makes my skin crawl. I always wonder where that immense reservoir of rage comes from…I am not as a rule an angry person, being too caught up in enjoying the world. But it makes me physically uncomfortable, and it is only slightly better for me than others of my friends, if only because I look like I might belong there. And the talk was on the joys and sorrows of work, and I did appreciate the intellectual curiosity and questions. But I must confess that given I believe labour is the crux of the world’s problems, to talk about the curious aspects of how people end up being accountants is vaguely interesting. Yet infuriating if it does not do so within a context of structural inequality. Or mention the fact that only a tiny percentage of the world’s population has the luxury of choosing their occupation…or worrying about that choice and thinking about what they’d rather do instead. So I was steaming at the end.

And tonight? Bev and I went to see Food, Inc. And I cannot recommend it highly enough, it was fantastic. And I’m winding down…but it looks at how food is produced and how it comes to us. And it has the shots of cows with holes in their sides from eating only corn, the chickens who can’t walk, the screaming pigs headed to slaughter. And I am a vegetarian because of those things…and the hormones, the antibiotics, the disease (e-coli will break your heart in this movie). Not because I think killing animals is intrinsically wrong, but because how we do it is so unutterably horrible. And there are so few alternative sources of meat, and at a cost most of the population cannot afford. And, well, I do like animals. Let those who want to eat meat eat meat, but I don’t want to anymore. Though bacon remains a severe temptation.

Of course it also looks at corn. And a little at soy. Given corporate practice and cash crops and the evils of monoculture, being a vegetarian really isn’t that much better for the planet of course, I wish most vegetarians would click on that. But what I LOVED about this movie was that it actually looked at structure, corporate power and government, and labor…it actually talked about the exploitation of the workers, and how companies work hand in hand with ICE. It talked about how many of the immigrants working in meat packing plants were actually displaced corn farmers from mexico, put out of business by NAFTA.

And the farmers who spoke were incredibly courageous and smart. And they had all been sued and been forced to settle and that hit me hardest of all, next to the workers being chained up by Ice. It’s how my family lost our home after all, and I cried. I don’t know how this illusion that courts disperse anything resembling justice can hold up. Courts are about protecting private property of course, and whoever has the most money and can afford the experts, the lawyers, the interminable process before a case even gets to court…well, they always win. Oprah made a comment about how she’d never eat another hamburger after mad cow, and spent 6 years and $1 million in litigation, it took that much to defend herself. Regular folks can’t do that. Mo settled with Monsanto and lost his business, just getting sued lost him that, and the tears were pouring down my cheeks. They are winning and I am so angry and I feel like breaking things again. I guess I know where the rage comes from.

But it was brilliant, go see it…

And maybe in your movie theatre, if you’re lucky enough to live in a big city where it is playing, you’ll also be lucky enough to have a woman wearing a purple turban…

Clint Eastwood as a noun and a verb

I love few actors as much as I love Clint Eastwood. Sergio Leone might have had something to do with that originally, but he really is…iconic I suppose. I was going to go into why he is so great, but upon reflection realized that would probably reveal a great deal about myself and much less of Mr. Eastwood. And honestly there’s no need for that. All I’ll say is that I do sometimes have a hard time being analytical about the movies and separating actors from their parts, I admit it. So had Eastwood been consistently cast into the same roles as, say, Matthew McConaughey, would I still like him? Doubtful. Though does my mild feeling of derision for McConaughey come solely from his roles? It’s a layered question that one. But no, no, I don’t think so. After all, I like John Cusack too, though he’s been in plenty of bad romantic comedies. Eastwood just has a certain, special something.

And I’m doubtful that many could have carried off the role in Gran Torino. Eastwood is truly a brilliantly crochety and obnoxious old man…a brilliance definitely needed, as this was a movie with an enormous potential to turn into nothing beyond tired old cliches. I’m happy to say I think it escaped most of them. At least they didn’t club me over the head while I was watching it, they have a tendency to do that in many a Hollywood flic. And I am so glad, I was a bit skeptical going in since the trailers made it seem another simplistic tale of the old vigilante with the heart of gold taking on the hood. I suppose that’s how they have to sell movies in this country. But it had complexity the way all of Eastwood’s movies seem to, I think that’s why I love them so much. There is always such a distance between the mixed-up reality and the clear-cut myth. The story was compelling, all of the characters and the actors were good, I loved the old Hmong grandmother who was as crochety and nasty as Walt Kowalski! And it made me laugh in the most obscenely non-pc way. Which I enjoyed immensely. And then it made me cry. And we sat there for the credits as the tears poured down my cheeks and you know, almost everyone stayed until the very end.

I’m glad I enjoyed the movie, because the previews had me raging…I had to sit through an entire recruitment video done by Kid Rock and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the National Guard. I couldn’t quite believe it as it went on and on, imagine a lot of flags, nascar, and soldiers doing heroic things. I respect people’s love of their country and their wish to defend it. It just makes me shake with fury to see the government using such American icons so shamelessly to propogate the lie that the wars abroad have anything to do with protecting freedom. Or that any GI in his right mind would stop his tank and rescue a kid’s soccerball anywhere in a war zone. Or that arguing about right and wrong is un-American. Or that the right thing to do isn’t bringing all of our soldiers straight home and giving them a good education and a union job. And repealing the goddamn Patriot Act. I’d like to sing this bloody song right back at the FBI.

It made me feel like going all Clint Eastwood on their ass. And then painting their headquarters red.

So don’t tell me who’s wrong and right
When liberty starts slipping away
And if you ain’t gonna fight
Get out of the way

‘Cause freedom ain’t so free
When you breathe red, white and blue
I’m giving all of myself
How ’bout you?

And they call me warrior
They call me loyalty
And they call me ready to provide relief and help, I’m
Wherever you need me to be

I’m an American warrior
Oh I’m an American warrior
Citizen Soldier

Ahhhhh Yeahhhhh!

Yeah yeah, they call me warrior too. And just for the record, these are my most star-studded blog tags EVER. Though it’s not something I’m particularly proud of.


Just saw Metropolis…I’ve been on a bit of a Fritz Lang kick. He wore a monocle after all. I’ve been watching a lot of noir actually, and thought I’d go back to the beginnings and so watched M, and god damn, what an amazing movie. And Peter Lorre was incredible, as was Inspector Lohmann, so I watched The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, and loved it too…and so, once again I returned to the beginnings to see more of where Lang began, and, well…the cinematography is great but I have to say  (and in disagreement with a lot of critics I spose) I’m glad he moved on.

Of course I loved the machines. The machines are extraordinary. Apparently in the book they are alive. And they are impressively bizarre. And the new “machine-man” is also cool (though it is patently a machine-woman), along with its creator, Rotwang the mad inventor. Apparently he sacrificed a hand to create his metal creature, I have no idea how that worked. He’s got both crazy eyes and crazy hair, a brilliant tiny medieval looking house in the middle of modernity with his own private entrance to the city’s 2000 year old catacombs…that could lead to so many interesting possibilities. A hint of the satanic in the pentegrams on the walls and doors, the house’s peculiar powers. And Metropolis, the capitalist city-state run by dictatorship with power concentrated in one man due to his control over its technology and structure…it’s an interesting idea. And how much did it influence Blade Runner? all of the workers live deep under the city. The visuals of the city itself are stunning, you see echos of it in future sci fi stuff. So what in this, I ask, is not to love?

And of course this was a groundbreaking film, the cinematography already shows some of the brilliance in M, scenes cutting back and forth linked one to the other by doors, by actions, by objects. The scene where Rotwang is chasing Maria with the lamp is genious, even if she’s rubbish at actually making any attempt to save herself. The water of the flood as it first comes down, the beating of the gong in time to the music…so many individual scenes. The music is great, I forgot to say that it’s a silent movie I think, filmed in 1928, and I loved how the dialogue screens are dynamic as the movie is dynamic, a part of its ebb and flow.

It’s ridiculously overacted by today’s standards of course, and with the heavy makeup. The cinematography is almost enough to make up for that, but the story itself, I’m afraid, is rather ridiculous, apart from the politics that turn my stomach. Thea von Harbou and I would not have got along, and I blame her for everything I didn’t like about M as well because now I understand her crazy ideas better. It looked at first that it was going to be a sort of gothic all power to the workers tale, and that would have been quite all right. But turns out it’s a rather bizarre mix of Christianity, a man who is in search of the virgin Mary and his mother combined in one perfect woman, and at best “compassionate conservatism,” but I’m not at all surprised that Thea and the Nazis rubbed along really well.

It pissed me off so much I’m writing this in fact…the machine woman is given Maria’s face, becomes an erotic dancer, embraces what a woman is beyond the virgin and the mother and of course it’s all death and destruction after that! Though the vision of what was once erotic dancing is rather amusing, and astonishingly racy. And then dressed as the virgin she riles up the masses (part of the capitalist plot to have an excuse to use force to repress the workers because we all know praying is the way, the marseilleise is in the background), and leads them all in a howling mob to destroy the heart of the machine. Though they know it will flood the worker’s city below, they forget the flooding will drown all of the children they’ve just abandoned. They’re not so bright, but don’t worry, Feder and the real Maria (well, Maria’s actually pretty soft and useless and tends to slow things down as a good woman should) save the kids and the day. While the workers dance joyfully in circles, freak out when they realize their kids are probably dead, and then in vengeance burn the machine Mary as a witch. I do like her, she laughs maniacally as she burns. But back to the maker’s moral, it is incredibly clear why the workers are the hands, and the capitalist is the head…so in this natural order of things we just need a little improvement for the workers as their conditions are a bit grim and they deserve something a bit better…what can bring them together? The moral of all this is that a mediator is needed, the heart. He descends from the upper levels, works one ten-hour shift in the factory, and then fixes everything. Makes me want to spit.

And I can’t even begin to describe some of the corniness of some of the dialogue and action. And why is the thin man not thin? That bothered me, it could have been sarcasm had he been fat, but instead he was just mildly goonish. And what is the significance of worker 11811?

The alternate title could have been run, Feder, run.