Archive for the movie Category

Man on Wire

Posted in art, culture, film, movie with tags , , on August 7, 2008 by Philonous

Le Fox and I on Monday went to see Man on Wire, the story of Phillipe Petit who today in 1974 walked a tightrope strung between the then newly built World Trade Center towers. The film tells the story of the meticulous planning involved, the setbacks, the triumphs. It is a sort of documentary mixed with an action adventure movie with some original footage and other parts acted out with interviews with the main protagonists in the background.

Petit is a French nutcase of the highest order, endowed with the classic one-slice-short-of-a-loaf eyes and the odd maniacal twitch. The footage of him on the wire is truly breathtaking and incredibly beautiful. He even comes across as rather eloquently poetic, if a little bat-shit crazy. Tying the whole thing together are his partners in crime; it was after all illegal as is made clear at every possible opportunity. Ever present is his long suffering and slightly obsessed lover who he seems to have plucked from a life more ordinary aided by his incurable zaniness. With Alistair Darling like hair/eyebrow colour disparity is his rather more sensible friend whose role it was to provide the sanity, though I would argue he fell somewhat short.

It promised to be a gripping and breathtaking thrill ride. It wasn’t. The film felt bloated, self obsessed, melodramatic and completely overdone with a ridiculous soundtrack of pretentious semi-ethereal music for which Michael Neimann presumably went to the considerable effort of taping Smooth Classics at Seven. Rather than wasting the cartilage in my fingers, I think I’ll leave it to the following scathing review posted on IMDB.

Utterly Pathetic, 3 August 2008,

Author: nickclarkel99 from Ireland

I went into this movie with an open mind but fascinated to find a character who so completely encapsulated everything that i hate. Phillipe Petite and sycophantic friends disgorged their version of events as if they had discovered a cure for aids/cancer/death. I found their admiration of this glorified clown confusing in the extreme, only surpassed in intensity by Phillipe’s admiration for himself. Petite manages not only to blow his own trumpet but also the horn, tuba and saxophone. This event seemed primarily concerned in stroking the ego of Phillipe and his desperate aching and repulsive need for approval, probably motivated by a childhood lack from his military father. I eventually felt sorry for Phillipe, though he seemed perfectly happy continuing on, riding even now the wave on his perceived greatness. Though this is like pity for a dog one thinks has a boring life – pointless, Petite is bizarrely fulfilled and to reveal to him the irrelevance of his deed would surely crush his fragile and childlike mind. 1/10

Philonous’ verdict: Man on Wire = Crap on Film

Check out the following links if you must:

Note: This post may or may not have been deliberately provocative. Let’s just say that Le Fox seems to enjoy this movie.

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Ghost in the Shell

Posted in movie on June 11, 2008 by Philonous

Over the weekend, Le Fox and I, beckonned on by the Manga exhibition at Urbis (which led to the Guerilla Gardening post) decided to watch the first two Ghost in the Shell films. They’re Japanese animated films with the usual futuristic distopia filled with crazed cyborgs and corrupt corporations. Widely cited as major inspiration for The Matrix, it tells the story of two crime fighting cyborgs in a bionic society infused with chips and circuits as they try to track down the mysterious Puppet Master who constantly hacks into things. Surfing the internet is plugging your brain directly into the system – vulgar interfaces are rarely used. I must admit to cringing from time to time however at the pseudo-philosophical pronouncements about being and self. There were certainly times when dialogue gave way to a long and drawn out soliloquy tossed from character to character…

Puppet Master: It can also be argued that DNA is nothing more than a program designed to preserve itself. Life has become more complex in the overwhelming sea of information. And life, when organized into species, relies upon genes to be its memory system. So man is an individual only because of his intentional memory. But memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind. he advent of computers and the subsequent accumulation of uncalculable data has given rise to a new system of memory and thought, parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated the consequences of computerization.
Nakamura: Nonsense! This is no proof at all that you’re a living, thinking life form.
Puppet Master: And can you offer me proof of your existence? How can you? When neither modern science nor philosophy can explain what life is.

All of this said, I did actually quite enjoy it. One of the marvels of this film is that it is based on a 1989 Manga: it really is incredibly forward thinking in terms of its predictions for technology in society. Alas, the copy of the first film we had was dubbed into a collection of terrible American accents which seemed to jar significantly with the Japanese aesthetic (which was magnificient). Having slated dubbing, Archie pointed out that perhaps I was suffering from what his hero Edward Said would have called Orientophilia. Indeed, perhaps the dialogue in Japanese was just as stilted, and intentionally so – the eyes of all the cyborgs in the film are intentionally unblinking.

Our copy of the second film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence was nicely subtitled which certainly added to the experience. This time, the cyborg police investigate a series of murders perpetrated by a new line of sexually enabled robots.
Made in 2004, the visual effects were an age ahead of those in the first Ghost in the Shell. Clearly conscious of its legacy in The Matrix, this film seemed much more overtly philosophical quoting Confuscious every other sentence with some scenes made up entirely of one character sending forth a line from Paradise Lost, the other promptly riposting with Psalm 113. Again, toward the end dialogue gave way to a game of ‘catch the bludgeoning moral soliloquy’. By far the most interesting parts of the film were the aesthetic mastery – there is an astounding parade at one point which took my breath away, the music – which was specially composed and based on Hungarian chant, and the creators’ vision for the integration of technology into every day life.

Both of these films are definitely worth watching – perhaps you are less cynical than me and can rise above the cringeworthy moments. Here are a couple of particularly visually stunning scenes, one from the first and one from the second (I know, youtube hardly does them justice):

Are you people or sheeple?!

Posted in Activism, movie on April 19, 2008 by Philonous

Yesterday, I watched the “What would Jesus Buy?”, a documentary following the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on its tour around the USA.


The centre of the film is the charismatic Reverend Billy who urges devotees to stop shopping and turn around the consumer culture which they see as a marketing-driven addiction. He and his gospel choir preach and sing their message to various people around the USA in a protest against gentrification and large corporations.

I found the film entertaining enough, but was never totally sure whether there was a religious aspect to Rev. Billy or whether this was all a humorous package for a serious message. Check out the trailer:

Also check out the Church of Stop Shopping’s website.

Wings of Desire

Posted in movie on April 9, 2008 by Philonous

On Sunday, I went with a few other folk to see Wings of Desire (Der Himmel ├╝ber Berlin), Wim Wenders’ 1987 moody film which inspired the apparently insipid Hollywood remake – City of Angels.

The basic story is about a couple of angels who live in Berlin in the late eighties. They seem to exist to quietly observe the human condition from afar and perhaps to console. Having observed the human race for a while, one decides to descend, no doubt inspired by his trapeze-artist love interest whose loneliness fuelled predilection for Nick Cave sees them united at a gig.

I have to say, I don’t know if I really got it in any deep sense of the word. There were certain moments where the characters seem to disconnect from the real world to spout some sort of existential poetic soliloquy which I don’t think had the desired effect on me. They smacked of Alexander Nevsky’s looking into the corner of the room before delivering some pro-Russian Stalinist agenda in Eisenstein’s film of the same name. But then, I really liked that film. At least half of the film is shot in black and white.

If nothing else, it’s worth watching just for the amazing framing of the shots and the graniness of the film. There’s a great moment where the camera moves slowly backward from a view out of a window to a mother and son in a room; at each moment the shot could have been taken as a perfectly composed photograph.
All in all – I really liked it but was left wondering if there was any more to it than I’d taken away. Here are the first five minutes to give you some idea of the atmosphere – though a tiny youtube window hardly does it justice.

300

Posted in movie on September 12, 2007 by Philonous

Good God. Sorry in advance for the rant that is about to take place.

For those who have had the good fortune to have been spared the torment of this film, it is about the invasion of Greece by Xerxes and the Persians and their repulsion at the battle of Thermopylae. The film 300 takes the historical events of Thermopylae and twists them into a hideous battle between the democratic and brave abdominal muscles of the Spartan few against the towel headed slavery loving antics of the Persians. The massive innumerable hordes of Persians attempt to subjugate what will become the cradle of “Western Civilisation” with overwhelming numbers of slave-soldiers… Can the Spartans save the possibility of freedom and democracy in the 21st Century?

Only… This isn’t what happened at all. Ironically, after the battle of Thermopylae, the Peloponnesian War almost saw Sparta destroying the cradle of civilisation that was the Athenian empire. Most people do not seem to be aware of this period of ancient history and so it seems to me that this sort of skewed and biased portrayal is genuinely damaging in the context of the so called ‘war on terror’. The portrayal of an entire nation of Persians (Iranians) as barbaric and brutal is a dangerous oversimplification which simply exacerbates Occident vs. Orient cultural misunderstanding.

Ghost Dog, Said and induction

Posted in culture, movie, philosophy with tags , on November 24, 2006 by Philonous

I suppose this might turn into a bit of a rant blog about films that perhaps I’m not qualified to judge. Then again, maybe having seen them and having fingers and a keyboard is all the criteria requred by that sublime medium, the mother of procrastination, free speech and the banal. In any case. I watched Ghost Dog last night. Most interesting movie. In case you are a philistine, having neither heard of nor seen Ghost Dog (I counted myself among that unhappy gathering but a day ago), I ought to explain. The story is that of a hired gun used by the mafia for hits. He sees himself as bound to his master, the mafioso who calls the hits, by an honour code which he derives from that of the samurai. Various things begin to go wrong and essentially, the whole thing turns into a thriller. The interesting part of it is that every one of the characters in the film has a different background. Ghost Dog himself is black and American, the mafiosi are obviously Italian American, the ice-cream guy is Haitian. I think the point is to highlight to some extent how little it really matters what you look like rather emphasising the importance of what goes on inside. Ghost Dog himself is a Samurai in the present day and in the hood.

In the last day, this seems to be a recurring theme in much that I have seen. I was listening to one of those heavenly podcasts, this time about Edward Said. He and Chomsky were apparently proponents of what I thought was a rather lovely sentiment. They asserted that the concept of nationality or perhaps cultural heritage should be seen, rather than as some label or definition with which people are to be branded, as an invitation for the possibility of entering into that culture. Living in Manchester certainly fills many people with a feeling of a Manchesterness inside them (or perhaps it’s just me). Ghost Dog follows a similar line. He is not really a black guy who lives in the hood. He really is a samurai. These distinctions of race, physical attributes and even something so fundamental as language are really independent of the essence of the human being. It seems to me that this is somewhat similar to Locke’s criticism of the principle of induction justified by his ideas of architypes. What I’m trying to say is really nothing more profound than “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I apologise to anyone who actually reads this – many of the things written herein are simply the half-baked mental meanderings of someone who is exposed to a cacophony of culture on a daily basis, and distinguishes a few ideas from the din without necessarily understanding anything.

Fanny and Alexander and insomnia

Posted in movie on November 16, 2006 by Philonous

For some reason, I’ve not been able to sleep so much lately. It must be the weather. In any case, I had to find something to do other than maths and leafing through the Argos catalogue so I took a few movies out. Tonight I watched Fanny and Alexander. Goodness. It left me not really knowing what to think. It was one of those movies where you are totally absorbed in the plot, but at the same time, it’s rather difficult to know if anything has really happened. I suppose it reminds me a little bit of An Inspector Calls in that respect. Essentially, the movie is about taking the lid off a relatively affluent Swedish family at the end of the 19th century. Hmm… most curious.

Oh, and I’ve discovered the wonder that are podcasts. What a Godsend! There are so many on just about anything you could imagine. I’ve been listening to a slightly odd one on French verbs. Or so I thought… It turns out it was actually Relaxation and French Verbs. No sooner had I pressed play and I was transported to a world of deep breathing and Scottish accents. I tried, I really did. I just couldn’t keep a straight face when told to imagine I was on a beach in southern France, the waves lapping up against my feet, the tide going in and out, in…. and out… Check it out at http://pienews.blogs.com/verbcast/