Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekend Box Office

This week in Noir-o-Vision! Thanks to the stand-up guys at Box Office Mojo for figures.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekend Box Office Report

Thanks to Box Office Mojo for the numbers, and the El Gringo Laundromat parking lot for local color

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Inherent Vice: Pynchon 101

This poster, aside from tweaking Leonardo DaVinci, gives an idea
of the many wonderful cameos in Inherent Vice. Martin Short
(far right) is particularly funny and strange.
After dinner last Friday, the wife and I stopped by the Redwood City 20 to see what was playing. We spontaneously decided to see Inherent Vice. I love that sort of thing-- we went in unprepared for Paul Thomas Anderson's newest film-- and it ended up being a total delight.

It's the story of "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) a hippie P.I. who is hired to find a missing girl who also happens to be his ex. thus begins Doc's strange journey through 1970 Los Angeles-- both helped and hindered by Detective "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a flat-topped, hippie-hating, brutal/delusional LA cop who also carries a SAG card (we see him as an extra in "Adam-12," in fact). On the long, winding path of investigation Doc encounters all sorts of odd and historically appropriate types: Nazi bikers, cultists, a Laurel Canyon mansion full of hippies, a hidden cabal of dentists and drugs. Lots and lots and lots of drugs. River Phoenix does an amazing job, in fact, of conveying an amazing range of stoned: mellow high, totally baked, buzzed, flying' and everything in-between.

"Doc" Sportello (River Phoenix), doing what he does
dozens of times in the film.
Compared to any other sort of film, I'd say it was not unlike The Big Lebowski- but it's a LOT more like Kiss Me Deadly, a film noir saturated in the light of Los Angeles and the darkness cast by the greedy and evil.

This is the first Thomas Pynchon book ever committed to film, and the script was apparently personally approved by Pynchon as well. Thomas Pynchon and Paul Thomas Anderson were made for each other-- their mutual approach to storytelling is spacey and convoluted yet brimming with insight. Inherent Vice perfectly embodies a lot of Pynchon's favorite motifs: Los Angeles, complex whodunits, subtle mysticism and conspiracies by shadowy, powerful organizations. The 2009 book was considered considered "Pynchon Lite," one of his most accessible novels. If this is so, than the movie version is an even better introduction to his distinctive literary style. Pynchon 101.

Thomas Pynchon, as seen on "The Simpsons." According
to Josh Brolin, the reclusive author has a cameo in
Inherent Vice. Forget it: we'll never figure it out.
Paul Thomas Anderson has developed an elliptical and indirect narrative style, especially in his later films: Inherent Vice could be described as being comprised of a series of close-ups and medium shots of Joaquin Phoenix interacting and reacting. He is an example of a filmmaker whose core relationship with cinematic storytelling has clearly evolved: his beginnings as a teller of Tarantino-like multiple-storyline widescreen films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia to a focus on nuance and dialog, as in The Master and Inherent Vice. This refocusing gives these later films a rambling feel as the plot slowly snakes from one scene to another. It take a little getting used to, but when it all clicks together it's exhilarating.

Inherent Vice is also very funny-- which is sort of unusual. P.T. Anderson doesn't really do funny: There was some situational comedy in Boogie Nights, and Punch Drunk Love was supposed to be funny (it wasn't), but this is the first time he stretches out for some Coen Brothers-style sardonic humor.

Check it out, you'll enjoy it. See it high, and you might enjoy it even more.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekend Box Office

Thanks to Box Office Mojo for the figures, thanks to up and coming intern Nassou Camera for... uh, camera work.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


My descent into the desert of 70's televised sci-fi continues. When last I wrote, I had just discovered Canadian apprenticepiece THE STARLOST, isolated onto its own Roku channel to keep it from infecting other shows. I have made it through the whole 16 episodes, a journey as aimless as the voyage of the misbegotten Ark itself. Counted two attempts at spinoff series among them, by the way, both featuring interesting protagonists! A strategy they should have gone for up front, if you ask me.

But a few years before that, the folks pulling the strings behind THUNDERBIRDS and SUPERCAR took the plunge into "live action" with a show called UFO. It's streaming on Hulu and I advise a look. Seriously, look. Just turn down the sound, because it ruins everything.

UFO is about the efforts of a top secret international organization called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) to protect us from the surprisingly frequent attacks of alien craft on Earth. It takes place in 1980, which the show's futurists envision as a golden age of hair color choices. For reasons best left unexplained (and they certainly are) Shado's headquarters are hidden a mile below a British film studio. Both are run by Commander Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), an unnaturally blond American.

Straker coordinates the efforts of a base on the Moon, a battle submarine with a detachable flying nose, and a tank and... honestly, who cares? It's just like Thunderbirds only when you aren't looking at great model vehicles you're looking a puppets, only in this case they happen to be actors.

The show took a lot of flack at the time for the expressionless acting style, but I think I'll be generous and just say that they were encouraged to underplay a little.

Anyway, it hardly matters what the people are doing here, because it's uncompelling nonsense. The reason to watch the show is it's a visual assault. The art direction, considering the whole thing only took place ten years later, assumed an awful lot. It assumed computers wouldn't change so very much but military spacewear would.

On the other hand, navel outfits would go more for a netting theme:

(That picture is entitled "sub crew" and it's hard to not imagine that there must be a Dom crew nearby)

Anyway, you get the idea - the future was going to be improbably sexy. Oh and the aliens look like us, only greyed.

I only have seen the pilot so far but it looks like fun, if exhausting, viewing. Maybe it gets better, but that's not what I've heard. You read stories about this show but I don't think it played in my area, probably because it was hard to convince American TV buyers to field the angry letters about men's nipples.

Eventually Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, producers, calmed down a little and brought us Space: 1999, which assumed we'd have a little functioning city on the Moon by the end of the century. Wrong again you guys! I don't even have a Supercar yet! The Andersons have a lot to answer for.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekend Box Office Report

Now on Monday! Same numbers, slightly more relevent!