Does Vol. 1 stand on its own as a good film? Hell no. It’s entertaining, mostly, but ultimately this film (these films) will live or die by the split: the decision to make one 300-minute film into two theatrical releases. Volume One comes to a partial conclusion but lacks many things. Who was Uma marrying? Why did her co-workers turn on her? Why have an entertaining but pointless 20-minute sword-buying scene? What’s the significance of the film, what’s it trying to say? Maybe all of these absences will be filled in the second half, but even if so, one huge question remains: would this film, a three hour and twenty minute revenge drama, work on its own? If not, there ya go. If so, why was it released as two films?
Obviously ‘Harvey Scissorhands’ would be the apt response to that last rhetorical question. As much as exhibitors hate them, there have been plenty of financially successful three-hour-plus films: Gone With the Wind, Titanic, Godfather II, JFK, Schindler’s List, Seven Samurai, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, to name a few. But Cap’n Miramax is notorious for his aversion to long runtimes and a 300-minute genre film must make him break out in a rash. But if we have a look at that list again, there’s a certain heft to the pictures. These are epics. Kill Bill, so far as anyone can tell from the halfway point, has nothing on any of them in terms of scope. The only comparison would be to the last two, for by the sheer ponderousness of its pacing, Kill Bill disqualifies itself from the kung fu genre. It’s really a spaghetti western with fights by Yuen Woo-Ping.
Now plenty of people love the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But ultimately it’s the same dirty genre showdown as happened in A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, except stretched across the fascinating historical backdrop of the US Civil War. For heft, scope, epicity (yeah like that’s a word) and all the rest, Leone’s masterpiece is Once Upon a Time in the West, which contains as much revisionism, formal advancement and raw emotion as the rest of his films put together. And not to fetishize runtimes or anything, but that flick weighs in at a slim 165 minutes. Kill Bill has interesting formal elements to be sure, but ‘innovative’ no longer applies to what is basically the same bag of narrative tricks as seen in Pulp Fiction, with a few stolen from De Palma and Stone for good measure. And emotion is almost completely absent. Sure, he starts the film with the quote “Revenge is a dish best served cold”, but film is a dish best served hot. If he had opened with “Revenge is a dish best served boring,” we wouldn’t look the other way, would we?
As if sampling Ennio Morricone numbers wasn’t enough, Tarrantino earns even more Leone comparisons by severely limiting the amount of dialogue. When you consider the breakthrough excellence of the dialogue in his first two films, this choice smacks of the self-imposed challenge, like Hitchcock’s Rope and Lifeboat (and to a lesser extent Fincher’s Panic Room). But unlike Leone’s, Tarrantino’s visual language falls short of expressing his characters’ inner worlds. Thurman’s nameless character remains inscrutable, other than crying when she wakes to discover her baby is gone. She even wails “my baby”, which is pretty close to a cliche. And many other bits of dialogue are purposefully wooden, a fitting tribute to kung fu, but useless for exploring character or intentionality.
But Tarrantino – or Yuen Woo-Ping, depending on the nature of their collaboration – has certainly mastered the rhetoric of the action scene. Not by technical trickery alone is this the best martial arts film by non-practicioners yet; the pseudo-climactic Lucy Liu scene is characterized by a relentless increase and variation in violence that works as an argument for – and demonstration of – the protagonist’s skill and will. Beyond that, it’s difficult to find a scene in this picture that doesn’t work, and indeed most are injected with something inventive that makes them more than memorable: the father and son cowboy detective team, Darryl Hannah whistling in the hallway, the tooth-crunchingly beautiful anime.
Frustratingly enough, a collection of excellent scenes doesn’t necessarily add up to a good film. Half of one? I guess so; we’ll see: half of a good film, or half of a bad one. For all the violence in Kill Bill, the most brutal of all was Weinstein cutting it in half. What we have just watched was the lower part of the body, with the rest missing and presumed to be released in February. With the upper part missing, we can’t identify the body for what it is, we can merely predict. I would predict as follows: bloated, swollen. I’d love to be wrong.
Shit is this the greatest web site or what.
Who the hell is Bionicle? A few weeks ago there was a rather broad ad buy for a DVD entitled something like Bionicle: Mask of Light: The Movie. It was sheer excellence for a few reasons. 1. I have no idea who or what Bionicle is; 2. The ad presumed I was indeed familiar with Bionicle and made no attempt to explain Bionicle to me; and 3. The film’s title had two (implied) colons, and of course 4. the superfantastic and catchy mystery name, Bionicle. My roommate and I figured Bionicle must be a hard-headed downtown cop who doesn’t care for following the rules – “Bionicle! Did you have to blow up city hall? I’ve got the mayor on my ass!” Now I’m wondering if Bionicle is traveling across the States to get an explicit cock-suck from an actress who should know better (oh wait). Or is Bionicle is an ingenious kid from the projects who needs the help of Sean Connery and Gus van Sant to break through the wall of ignorance – “you da man now, Bionicle”? Obviously a quick web search would answer these questions, but the mysterious Bionicle has now acheived archetypal status in my little world and I dare not burst my own bubble of fabulous ignorance. Bionicle is a man, a child, a woman, a myth, he lives in each of us. In every good deed, in every smile, in every hand held out to your common man, there’s a little Bionicle. Bionicle, I dream of you, Bionicle I sing to you, Bionicle I have a unicorn in my pocket for you. Bionicle. whispers Bionicle!
So Schwarzenegger has won, and with him, comedy. Let’s just hope he’s not recalled after a year in office, as a four-year stint of Arnold will be the greatest reality programming our world has yet seen. Let’s hope for more egg-related comedy and “pumping” cracks (staged or not – just like on Survivor, who cares?). And “he had to split” caliber taglines at every TV opportunity – but one question for Arnie et al.: when you say “I’ll be back” or stuff like “terminating the deficit,” do you have to pay royalties to the screenwriters who made that shit up? Why can’t you hire those dudes on again to come up with new material?
“I don’t know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand.” That’s the leader of our government talking. Hooray for Canada! (via leuschke)
Odd article that seems to condescend to “minority” culture in an attempt to celebrate it: “A generation in search of morality was clearly unprepared to grasp the ideological subtleties of an aesthete like De Palma and a preening moralist like Stone who was not yet in full command of his agit-prop.” Props for calling Ollie Stone a “preening moralist”, though, and for reminding me to make yet another impulse buy at the dodgy DVD store down the street. (via GreenCine Daily)
This rocks. (via gizmodo)
Great article by Choire Sicha about the New Yorker Festival, whatever that is, featuring a surreal appearance by Paul Wolfowitz, aka Wolfowitz of Arabia.
<a title=”Philly.com – “The Region’s Home Page”” href=”http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/special_packages/iraq/6918170.htm”>Check it out yo yo yo. 67% of Fox News viewers think Saddam Hussein was working closely with al-Qaida, as opposed to 16% of NPR or PBS fans. Nice!
For those few Canucks who may not realize the depth of the Plame / Wilson / Rove scandal happening south of the border, see here for starters, read the original Novak column and then follow Josh Marshall and Atrios for updates. See this Rove profile for background. Brad DeLong has a great post about it, too.
The Bush Regime Card Deck: French wackos strike back. I’m glad to see our friend Richard B. Cheney is an ace.
Yup, that’s how George Bush Sr., Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft referred to Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney, according to two retired CIA agents, one of whom briefed Sr. every day: “the crazies”. Plenty more delicious stuff in that interview.
The leading US voting machine supplier, Diebold, makes touch-screen systems so insecure that “a 10-year-old can rig an election”. That, and the company’s CEO is a major Bush fundraiser. (get the Salon day pass, and then you may need to re-enter the link, or re-click it here)
Aqua Teen Hunger Force is apparently a high point in the “anthropomorphic food” genre. The creators have also discovered that you can avoid complicated back story by making a character just come from space, which is a good point. (via greencine daily)
Nice T-dot based site: abrasion magazine. (via new Toronto convert leuschke.org)
I took a recent jaunt down the T-dot’s Graffiti Alley, and left with bucketloads of enthusiasm, and some photos. All of the pieces I got shots of are from one block that runs west from Augusta to Portland, between Queen and Richmond, and were created with community approval during the recent Style in Progress event. Since they weren’t worried about persecution at the hands of The Man, the writers were able to take their time and create careful, diverse and truly stunning pieces. It’s basically a free outdoor art gallery. If you’re in Toronto, go check it out, and if you’re not, stay tuned here, as I’ll be uploading more pics throughout the week.
UPDATE: A good site about NYC graffiti, and a good tour of said site, via Boing Boing.
Interesting NYT op-ed argues that suicide terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.
salary cap for CEOs. Arr arr etc.
How ‘bout that dogging thing?
So Cheney came out of his lair to speak to the nation on Meet the Press. He hasn’t been seen in public for six months – unless you count $2,000-a-plate Republican fundraising dinners as “public.” Surprise, surprise: he lied lied lied! Apparently Iraq did purchase uranium in Nigeria, and Iraq was tight with the 9-11 hijackers, despite what the FBI and CIA say. In other news, Sir Ian McKellen was seen in this very building wearing a Dick Cheney T-shirt. Was it this one, King? As Dick says, this war is not without sacrifice, and if by sacrifice you mean “billions of dollars in war profiteering”, then Cheney’s right there on the front lines.
Wow! From the sound of these customer reviews, David Hassentaub’s new album sure takes the prize! “a testament to the very soul of man.” “Many relevant lessons can be learned from listening to this wise teacher.” “Jesus himself never made a CD as good as this.” “The vocal power of a wookie during auto-erotic asphyxiation.” I hear The song “Hot Shot City” is particularly good. (thanks Adina)
Fans of Amazon review comedy should also have a look at Henry Raddick’s excellent work, and look! two new reviews of this unparalleled piece of offal genius have followed mine.
Quite obviously the California recall is the most colourful election campaign happening at the moment, but the runner-up is Ontario’s provincial election, which took a turn for the weird this past friday when defending Premier Ernie Eves’ camapign office released a statement that called Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty “an evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet”. While I love a good crack and possibly a Buffy reference, it fueled a huge surge for the Liberals in the polls, and marked the conservatives’ brutally negative campaign as an abject failure. And they will veer even further to the right (although I can’t find the supporting article now), with promises to basically arrest everyone, in an effort to secure their “core” and place as the opposition with a solid number of seats. Some good news for the Tories, however: “They are tied with the Liberals in rural Ontario and in Eastern Ontario; they lead among voters aged 66 and older, and among those with a high-school education or less.” Good for them. Odd thing is, Eves himself has a reptilian sort of voice. I’d like to get me some books-on-tape of him reading children’s stories so that he could lull me to sleep with his slithery croak.
Revolve: “a product that places small pink boxes proclaiming “Beauty Secrets” in curvy writing right next to Mark 11:15 or Romans 14:12.” From the makers of the Extreme Teen Bible. (via the spear carrier)
Good article about the mystery of Toynbee Tiles, of which there are more than 130 across the US and which bear messages such as “Toynbee ideas in Kubrick’s 2001 resurrect dead on planet Jupiter” and “Murder all journalists, I beg you!” (via slashdot)
UPDATE: Mamet is in on the action – and there are new and old MeFi threads. Good posts here and here from the old thread shed some light on the connecting strain between Kubrick and Toynbee: Zoroastrianism.