Angry Robot

what should I write about?

Should I write about my rockstar life? The oysters, the comped martinis, are those interesting? Should I write about films? Hey mama, I’ve done that plenty and I can’t even keep up (ten films this past week, something like that). Music? There’s more to be said, that’s for definite, but I like to keep the experience a few steps ahead of the commentary sometimes. The web? if I had the time, maybe I’d get my surf on. I hear there’s a world out there, and some kinda war thing, what’s up with that? Work? I like it, thanks. Love life? Shucks, now I’m blushing.

Hmm. Maybe I’ll write about not writing, that’s it. That’ll keep ‘em coming back for more. — Or maybe I’ll just make some shit up.

Tanganyikan Laugh Contagion

For something non-film-related, something one apparently can’t get here, go read ÿ‘s thing about a little-known laughing epidemic.

spirited away, grave of fireflies, anime

On sunday there was Spirited Away, Miyazake’s latest (the top-grossingest film in Japan!), and it was a thing of beauty. Flux and transformation everywhere, framed through the experience of a young girl, to whom everything indeed is going to change. Of course it’s fantastical – there are giant babies and radish spirits and dragons and eight-legged old men – but it’s great to see a film where the fantasy has a heart, and avoids typical pop sentiment, pap treacle, and all the usual cliches. Last night, then, there was Graveyard of the Fireflies (good article here). No giant babies, just bombs and hardship and hunger and pain, pain, pain. Quite an astounding film, really, and based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka.

The question of the moment, then: when will anime break through to the North American audience? I think it has already (Pokemon). Teens these days, I tells ya, watch a whole boatload of anime, whereas in my day we didn’t watch jack. But the real issue isn’t anime, it’s Asian culture, and its ascendance on these shores has only just begun. I’d love to see a stat regarding the percentage of videogame content consumed in North America that is of Japanese origin – 90%, maybe? And let us not forget Pocky, and bubble tea, and Hello Kitty, and the beautiful beautiful cars.

coercive inspections in Iraq

seem like a good idea. (via sassafras)

Shaolin Snow White

Holy living fuck, this must be a pack of lies. If not, aw shit, my life will be complete. I! love! Yuen Woo-Ping! (thanks, Mark)

adaptation trailer

The trailer for Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman‘s new film Adaptation is out. Let’s just hope lip-biting suckmaster Nick Cage doesn’t wreck it. (via kottke)

repurposed vagrancy narrative

Okay, consider this my weblog entry for the day. Er, for the last few days.

TIFF: Ken Park

Hot buttered Christ, Larry Clark has really kicked it up a notch. Ken Park powers past artsploitation into the realm of art porn.

We’ve discussed Clark here before, and in many ways he’s continuing his life’s work: showing teens fucking. I enjoyed Kids, although the ‘message’ was hammered home a touch hard; I disliked Bully because it didn’t seem to have a message, or any real reason for being. Ken Park may not have a message, but it asks questions. I prefer that anyway.

Ken Park follows four kids: Peaches (Tiffany Limos), Tate (James Ransone), Claude (Stephen Jasso) and Shawn (James Bullard). The focus this time around is on the kids’ relationship with the older generation. Peaches’ dad is a religious nut who can’t get over the death of his wife, who looked exactly like Peaches; Tate is an unsettled lad who lives with and terrorizes his grandparents; Claude gets smacked around by his weightlifting pappy; and Shawn is sleeping with his girlfriend’s mother. A love scene between Shawn and the mom comes early on and demonstrates that in this film, actors will actually be having sex with each other. Not until Tate practices auto-erotic self-asphyxiation, however, and erect cock and cumshot are presented full on, do we realize that in this film, anything can happen. This lends a great deal of weight to the otherwise traditional religious-daddy’s-coming-home-and-daughter’s-having-rough-sex scene, or the violent-daddy’s-coming-home-raging-drunk-and-son’s-dead-asleep scene.

Although this film counts as exploitation, and porn even, it probably also counts as art. The parental characters may sound like stereotypes, but they are humanized in various ways: Peaches’ dad is mostly gentle, and is clearly deeply in love with his dead wife. Claude’s dad has his tender moments, too. Tate is the villain in the relationship with his grandparents. And Shawn’s intergenerational love triangle is handled maturely and believably.

Ultimately, the film has more similarities to Happiness than to Kids. Clark explained after the screening that Korine wrote Ken Park shortly after he wrote Kids, and before Gummo, which would probably mean 1993 or 1994. Presumably it took them a while to find backers for their shockfest. I’m wondering whether the inclusion of a staged cumshot or two in Happiness (1998) made Clark opt for almost gratuitous realism in his own scene, thereby putting him out front in the jism race. But as much as I’d love to continue making light of it, we need people pushing the envelope in the arena of human sexuality on film. What’s wrong with a few cocks here and there, after all? I’m sure Russ Meyer would be pleased with the oneUp!manship, and maybe the Tom Cruise-alike of 2020 will routinely take his johnson out and slap it around in between action scenes. Or maybe he’ll partake in a threesome as explicit and beautiful as that in Ken Park, a scene which rivals Cherry, Harry & Racquel for simultaneous representation of love and sex.

But what does it all mean? Ken Park is the kids’ friend who shot himself. He’s a framing device, he appears at the beginning, not at all in the middle, and pops up again at the end, when the film’s central question is posed, literally and succinctly. Here’s hoping the scandal-seekers who rent the film (it would get an X rating if released) can see past the sex and marinate on that question for a while.

go sell

Go sell mournful somewhere else.

There’s a strong wind to-day. Even without the metaphor, it’s still there.

TIFF: Spider

In the first shot of Spider, Cronenberg’s latest, a train pulls up, and as the passengers detrain and hurry up-platform in a long line, the camera moves forward past them until it reaches Dennis ‘Spider’ Cleg (Ralph Fiennes), the last one off the train and the slowest moving by far. It’s a sign that this man moves at a different pace than everyone else. The film, likewise. It crawls and stalls for the first twenty minutes or so, lingering on Spider as he settles in to his new life in a halfway home and performs the arcane little rituals of the schizophrenic.

So twenty minutes in, the viewers are passing out in their seats, breathing noisily through their mouths. Twenty minutes in, I’m wondering what were those crazy French thinking? this is an unmitigated disaster, this is shot after shot of a guy sitting around smoking and muttering to himself. Twenty minutes in, however, Spider begins to reminisce.

[Spoilers ahead, now.]

He’s writing it all down in his carefully hidden little notebook, in his crunched-up scrawl. At first you think he’s turned stalker as he shuffles up to a kitchen window and stares in at a domestic scene. Before you know it, he’s right in there with them – eek! But of course it’s they who are right in there with him, in his jumbled-up web of a mind (excuse the Rick Groenism). The domestic scene is his own: loving mother (Miranda Richardson), boozer father (Gabriel Byrne) who ignores the good mom and takes up with a whore. But wait – the whore is also Miranda Richardson. Nothing is clear from the point of view of a schizophrenic, of course.

In the end, though, everything is clear. Every last detail is warranted. It’s a tangle, to be sure, a puzzle (another recurring image), but in the end the pieces fall into place. So much so that you blame yourself for not paying enough attention during the slow scenes. But not before a film packed with wizardly storytelling and powerhouse acting has run its course. And there’s one particular bit of magical crash-bang old-school cinematics that had us all jumping in our seats and tweaking our necks. It even woke up the mouth-breathers.

In the end, this picture has a very specific focus. It has no broad argument about technology, like eXistenZ or Videodrome or Crash. But what it sets out to do, it does ingeniously. And isn’t that what it’s all about, man?

TIFF: The Four Feathers

Middlebrow historical tripe. Good acting, with the exception of Wes Bentley, and a scattering of good scenes; but in general this is Hollywood Oscar-wannabe pap frontin’ on Merchant-Ivory and/or David Lean. I suspect the source material is pretty feeble to begin with (and dated? written in 1902), but it also feels like Kapur turned in a four hour opus and Harvey & Bob slashed it down to two. A lot more time needed to be spent explaining certain parts – not that the plot was unclear, more that the Heath Ledger character’s motivation was very unclear, to put it mildly. To put it properly, his character was an idiot. Disgraced because you don’t want to go to war? Why not go down to the battlefield and ass around like a total nitwit and do things that, by virtue of their stupidity, are waaay more dangerous than war itself? Moreover, if you want to get all revisionist, pick a better story. And steer away from the cliches of historical epicity. Kapur may have had some interesting points about colonialism, but they are buried beneath the Oscar-moment speechifying and the cursory soldierly fellowship and the tedious slow-motion emo-photography.

wolf's new vid

Anger Management spokesman Wolf Hardeyk has a brand new video available on his site.

TIFF: Bubba Ho-Tep

That’s what I’m talkin’ aboot: Don Coscarelli directs Bruce Campbell as old man Elvis. Plot: Elvis didn’t die, he got sick of his life and traded places with an Elvis impersonator – who then crapped out on the toilet, while the real Elvis lived on, eventually breaking a hip on stage and landing himself in a nursing home. When an ancient mummy begins sucking the souls of the old folks, Elvis teams up with fellow retiree John F. Kennedy (Ozzie Davis) and has a chance to become the hero he’d always meant to be.

This is a great film, no question. Campbell makes a bang-up Elvis, Davis a top-class JFK, and as a crime-fighting team, they’re unsurpassed. Who’s kidding who, you can’t beat Elvis and his walker matched with black JFK in a wheelchair. As good as those cats are, the tone of the film is what sets it apart – the script is inventive and routinely hilarious, yet filled with genuine emotion, and gracefully renders the concerns of aging, life ambition, and self-respect. It stops short of getting into the titular mummy’s head – the ancient undead villian to our old dying heroes – but there’s some fanciful speculation about what you shit out if all you eat is souls, and hey, that’s good enough for me.

So, to sum up, if this flick finds a distributor, go see it, babe. Here’s the official site, and the good ol’ IMDb page. Here’s Joe R. Lansdale’s homepage – he wrote the short story on which Coscarelli based the film, and as an added bonus it looks like he teaches martial arts.

TIFF: Spun

It’s a cliché that music video directors can’t carry a story for more than five minutes, and Jonas Akerlund proves it true, unfortunately. Spun feels like the same ten minute film played nine times over. The plot goes something like this: white trash shitbags take crystal meth; cue Cra-Z visual technique and wacky druggie antics, play it for broad comedy; then, two-minute Billy Corgan song over wistful montage, a repeatedly failed attempt to generate sympathy for the poor little meth heads, since the script itself was unable to, and frankly, never even tries.

There are a few nice things, of course. Mickey Rourke does a great job as a trashed-out cowboy drug scientist, and there are a number of funny parts. But the techniques – although flashy as all get out and nice to look at – get stale the third time they are reused (hey, if we want to make these cats look really high, let’s do a quick psychedelic animation scene, that always looks crazy! Hey, let’s do that again! And again! And again!)

The event itself was a blast. The line wrapped around the block: we went to the Uptown proper and then walked for ten minutes to find the end of the line. The T-dot film geeks were out in full force, Colin did a nice intro and then hauled Ackerlund and his cast out to say a quick word. A great event, a shit film.

film fest

The Toronto International Film Festival‘s about to kick into high gear, and lucky D’s sitting on a stack of tix. First off we’ll hit up Spun, then on saturday it’s Elvis and JFK vs. the mummy. Sunday rears its ugly head, and with it comes The Four Feathers, “helmed” by Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur. Monday’s a double-bill: Cronenberg’s Spider, then The Eye, by the beautifully named Danny and Oxide Pang. At that point, unless I get comped again, I sit out until friday’s Volcano High, a South Korean teen kung-fu picture I’m quite excited about (and it’s probably more exciting to call it Whasango!) So, that being that, I’ll write about films extensively over the next week, at the expense of everything else. But isn’t that really what it’s all about, here, now?

jazz cigarettes

Finally, those unelected bastards do something right. Go Canada!

UPDATE: I’ve been thinking about this.One of the report’s recommendations: “introducing legislation to stipulate conditions for obtaining licences for producing and selling cannabis.”

So who would be qualified for this plum job? Will higher-ups in the grass industry be presenting their resumes: 1974-present: self-employed weed distribution agent; oversaw millions in sales to the neighbourhood’s indolent? Does it mean The Weed Store will open up next to The Beer Store? Will the Americans invade, Columbia-style?

Aw man… it’s all happening, man!? Those hippies in the Senate have really pulled one over, man!!


My new demonchild computer came in. I’m tricking it out as we speak. As I speak, rather. Or, rather, as I blah blah blah… and now back to the out-tricking.

display issues

Let me geek out for a sec: I’ve reinserted the correct doctypes and appear to have a display problem on at least some browsers (IE6/Win2000, but not on Mozilla 1.0/Mac). Basically, the “main” div that holds all the entries is showing up south of the right-hand column. Get back up there, bastard! Of course, I’m a long, long way from XHTML validation, but I think TrackBack may be causing a problem somewhere in there. If anyone has any ideas about what’s wrong, let me know.

shift, bay

There was the shift party (thanks, marijke!), then Georgian Bay (thanks, Ms. L & LES!). Noted, for whatever reason:

  1. Webloggers sure like to talk about their traffic. Shut up, all of us! We’re boring.
  2. Bedewed guitars. The rim gleams when struck by a flashlight’s beam, whereas starlight leaves it alone.
  3. If there’s wind enough, it blows on the mouths of beer bottles like a phantom rummy.