Friday, May 23, 2008

Paid For By Stark Enterprises

Iron Man(2008) Directed by John Favrea

Entertaining, but not nearly as good as advertised. Robert Downey Jr. is more fun to watch as Tony Stark than Peter Paker in Spider-Man, or Batman for that matter, if only because he's not the tormented hero struggling with his conscious, he's a billionaire playboy who even when escaping with his life is enjoying building himself a high tech cyborg armor. Pathos is replaced with onscreen charisma and witty snappy dialogue, and all actors play there parts well here.My only problem was that while Stark get's plenty of screen time. I feel like Iron Man only showed up for the last half hour of the film, which I guess is common enough in this origin stories, but still made the whole thing feel kind of uneven to me. I get the impression if the director, actors, writers stay together for the next film they might have ironed out the bugs.The next film could be the super-hero jamboree "The Avengers", as indicated by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, at the end of the credits. And this character might do better in a cross over. Like Spider Man and Batman this film is pretty close to how I always envisioned the character, there's just not enough action and hero screen time here. Still it's a super-hero movie for people who don't necessarily care for them, and that's saying allot. Also an interesting beginning for director John Favrae of "Swingers", "Elf", and "Zathura" fame to step into the realm of big budget Hollywood blockbusters.He's attached to "The Avengers" or so the rumors say.Anyway, it was enjoyable, not great, but good.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Best Novel Of 2007

"Want to know what an X-Man feels like? Just try being a smart, bookish boy of color in the contemporary US ghetto."
-The Brief And Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

One of those miraculous reads that just clicks, and one of my favorite novels as soon as I finished reading it. Diaz combines cultures and languages the way only those in cross ethnic, cultural, and national lines can. Those who can't speak Spanish might not understand certain portions and passages of the book, just as those not well versed in all manner of 20th century nerdom (comics, movies, anime, tv shows, sci-fi novels, card games, etc), might be just as lost in the endless wave of pop culture references. If that's not enough Diaz captures modern slang vernacular just as expertly as all the other dialects floating through this book, which is at once a modern tale about genre obsessed and alienated youth, one families struggles through curses, totalitarian regimes, and history repeating itself, as well as a general history of the modern Dominican Republic. It sounds like a mouthful and it is, but it is also a humane, funny, perfectly structured and manged, amazing read, that's as good on a literary level as it is a pure delight to read. Best book of the decade as far as I'm concerned, hands down.

(Junot Diaz)


  • "Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody's always going on about - he wasn't no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock.
And except for one period early in his life, dude never had much luck with the females (how very un-Dominican of him).

He was seven then.

In those blessed days of his youth, Oscar was something of a Casanova. One of those preschool loverboys who was always trying to kiss the girls, always coming up behind them during a merengue and giving them the pelvic pump, the first nigger to learn the perrito and the one who danced it any chance he got. Because in those days he was (still) a "normal" Dominican boy raised in a "typical" Dominican family, his nascent pimp-liness was encouraged by blood and friends alike. During parties - and there were many parties in those long-ago seventies days, before Washington Heights was Washington Heights, before the Bergenline became a straight shot of Spanish for almost a hundred blocks - some drunk relative inevitably pushed Oscar onto some little girl and then everyone would howl as boy and girl approximated the hip-motism of the adults."

  • "Homeboy dominated Santo Domingo like it was his own private Mordor; not only did he lock the country away from the rest of the world, isolate it behind behind the plátano curtain, he acted like it was his very own plantation, acted like he owned everything and everyone, killed whomever he wanted to kill, sons, brothers, fathers, mothers, took women away from their husbands on their wedding nights and then would brag publicly about “the great honeymoon” he’d had the night before. His Eye was everywhere; he had a secret police that out-Stasi’ed the Stas..."

  • "What had hurt, however, was when Maritza dumped [Oscar]. Monday after he’d fed Olga to the dogs he arrived at the bus stop with his beloved Planet of the Apes lunch box only to discover beautiful Maritza holding hands with butt-ugly Nelson Pardo. Nelson Pardo who looked like Chaka from Land of the Lost! Nelson Pardo who was so stupid he thought the moon was a stain that God had forgotten to clean. (He’ll get to it soon, he assured his whole class.) Nelson Pardo who would become the neighborhood B&E expert before joining the Marines and losing eight toes in the First Gulf War. At first Oscar thought it a mistake; the sun was in his eyes, he’d not slept enough the night before. He stood next to them and admired his lunch box, how realistic and diabolical Dr. Zaius looked. But Maritza wouldn’t even smile at him! Pretended he wasn’t there. We should get married, she said to Nelson, and Nelson grinned moronically, turning up the street to look for the bus. Oscar had been too hurt to speak; he sat down on the curb and felt something overwhelming surge up from his chest, scared the shit out of him, and before he knew it he was crying; when his sister, Lola, walked over and asked him what was the matter he’d shaken his head. Look at the mariconcito, somebody snickered. Somebody else kicked his beloved lunch box and scratched it right across General Urko’s face. When he got on the bus, still crying, the driver, a famously reformed PCP addict, had said, Christ, don’t be a fucking baby."

The Damaged Artifact

Na srebrnym globie "On The Silver Globe"(1987)
Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
It's difficult to judge this film accurately because it is a fragmented damaged piece of an artifact, but like Michelangelo's armless David or the defaced Sphinx, the crack in the Liberty Bell, etc, broken things can still hold a remarkable power, perhaps more so than if they had remained intact. Polish authorities halted production of this film, confiscated and burned props, setts, costumes, and footage, leaving about 25 percent of the remaining film, instead of making a documentary about the horrors that befell him ala "Lost In La Mancha" (though Zulawski did have significantly more footage Gilliam), he includes the destruction of the film as part of the narrative.Those scenes which aren't intact are summarized through voice over from the director himself as hand-held cam(still dizzying Zulawski) tours an unmanned Polish city.

The story of "On The Silver Globe" is an adaptation of "The Lunar Trilogy" written by the directors Uncle Jerry Zulawski between 1901 and 1911 (never published in English but popular in Europe), about a Space Crew landed on a distant moon inhabited by primitive humanoid creatures, who find a device which shows them the voyage of an earlier space flight to the planet made by pilgrims who crash or are seeking a new life (it's never clear at least in the film).

After the crash landing the crew begin their struggle to survive on the alien moon. Well one thing leads to another and the process of procreation begins, except the children born on the planet grow at an extremely accelerated rate generations passing in less than decades. The first hour or so of the film is all p.o.v. handicam shots ala "Cloverfield", "The Blair Witch Project", "Diary Of The Dead", etc, we see only what the astronaut's see as they begin rebuilding civilization.We observe the culture, customs, architecture, and even fashions of the newly developing humans over generations which seem to pass in the time it takes the original astronauts to grow facial hair.Because the astronauts age at a much slower rate, they become Godlike elders of the newly emerging (from incest) humans. The anthropological goings on in the background, are more interesting by far than the dialog which I can understand why other's might say sound like the ramblings of mental patients obsessed with meaning, feeling, and Godliness. At first I thought the dialog was the result of hallucination and the stress of surviving in a new completely isolated environment, then as the astronauts die off, I thought again, this is is the result of this last man's increasing isolation. Unable to communicate with his offspring who are in fear/awe of his existence, asking,"Why don't you die?", as he wanders the village despondent. Then later I considered it was an affect of the planet, maybe even the Shern projecting some kind of madness (will address get to this later), and inevitably considered there was no reason for the obtuse dialog which does sound, more often then not, dubiously sane, as well as the possibility that their madness is somehow supposed to be a reflection of our own.Native and Earth-born alike all seem equally psychotic, in exploring the extremities of their environments; the former in collective ways like war, torture, orgies, and the latter in personal ways drugs, dementia, delusions of grandeur, but I digress.The second half of the film shows us one of the astronauts who discovered the origins of the planet in the recording device, being selected as the messiah, by the natives who we come to realize are the descendants of the first mission.Think of Earth as Heaven and you get the Biblical allusion to The Resurrection.The new Messiah indulges in his Godking status, and deals with the threat posed by winged telepathic creatures called Sherns who kidnap and mate with native women to produce...lizard men? What follows is espionage, decadence, war, and delirious parade of fantastic and occasionally grotesque images.Like p.o.v. shots of men impaled rectally on 100ft stakes with their intestines hanging out, crucifictions, etc.) All and all On "The Silver Globe" is a messy movie, brilliant visual poetry and an interesting anthropological concept somewhere between Ursula K Lu Guine and Alejandro Jodorowsky but predating them both by almost fifty years(date of the original story).Factor in that this film wasn't completed for political reasons, which Zulawaski does, each time he shows us real people walking around as he describes what the astronaut's did next, and you've got an interesting if imperfect jewel of a film. If completed in full it probably would not have been a masterpiece, though the first hour are some of the most naturalistic and oddly surreal images of coming to a new planet that I have ever seen in any SF film, however it would definitely have a loyal place as a cult classic snugly on DVD shelves somewhere between "The Holy Mountain", and "Dune". For adventurous literate film seekers, this is a fragmented modern story of the cyclical nature of time, the destructive nature of hero/God worship and deification, and human cultural anthropology. Like the film found by the astronauts "On The Silver Globe" is a damaged and incomplete artifact, sacrificed and crucified before it's time like it's protagonist.While warning of the abuses of power and ideologies we accept and propagate which allow them to flourish, and which inevitably lead to this films own cancellation and attempted destruction.