Obviously Losing

Location: Los Angeles, California

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Simpsons

"It's not only a worthy continuation of the series, it's in some ways the sum total of the experience of watching the series over 18 seasons. Seeing it with a packed crowd was one of the most satisfying moviegoing experiences of my life -- one of the rare instances I can recall where an entire auditorium of maybe 500 people, a cross-section of the vast and diverse audience that enjoys the show, really did respond as a collective organism, anticipating certain bits of business and then recoiling in delight and surprise when the gag paid off differently than they suspected."

-- Matt Zoller Seitz (the excellent critic at The House Next Door)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

To paraphrase Brian Lowry's Variety review, "The Simpsons Movie" is everything I wanted it to be. It transports us back to the glory days of "The Simpsons" (Seasons 1-7), when almost every joke worked, and when its depiction of the archetypal American family was ironic, critical, and yet so true.

The result is 87 minutes of laugh-out-loud entertainment. The ratio of successful jokes to misfires is impressive, and spread throughout the picture are tiny visual gags that fans of the show will appreciate (after Homer and Bart jump Springfield Gorge, a certain vehicle is exactly where I remember it being).

Certain scenes are pure brilliance. I don't want to spoil any, but suffice to say that a lengthy reference to Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Bambi" had me in stitches.

And most surprising of all, the movie reminds us of how much we actually love these characters. There's a heartfelt moment, when all seems lost, that we find ourselves caring more about these crudely-drawn people than, heck, almost anyone else.

And, thank God, the movie doesn't overstay its welcome (which was my one complaint for "Knocked Up"). "The Simpsons Movie" is brisk, filled with way more jokes than is probably medically recommended, and well, I loved it.

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Simpsons Anticipation

I'm getting pumped for "The Simpsons Movie."

Here is perhaps the best line ever from the show, spoken by none other than Leonard Nimoy (and written by Conan O'Brien):

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nintendo 64 - The Remix

Friday, July 20, 2007

The New World - Ending

I forgot how extraordinarily beautiful the ending to Terrence Malick's "The New World" is. It sends shivers down my spine.

And if you haven't seen "The New World," while this clip spoils what happens to Pocahontas (although you probably should have already known that from a grade school history lesson), it's worth watching just to experience the delight of pure cinematic divinity.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dead Bird in Cereal

Disturbing, mean, nasty ... and hilarious.

Legends of the Hidden Temple

Brings back some childhood memories...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rodrigo y Gabriela - For Diablo Rojo

A rather virtuoso music video, especially considering that it's just two people playing guitars.

iPhone: Will it Blend?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I'll say this quickly (and expand on it later): "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" may be the best film of the series. It's definitely on par with my previous favorite, "The Prisoner of Azkaban."

In a summer where most films are content to blow shit up, how lovely it is to see a movie with deep characters, a building darkness, and a (heavily-shrouded) sense of hope.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Killing Michael Bay

This was made a few years ago, but it seems rather relevant at the moment.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mid-Year Report

The first half of 2007 zipped by with unprecedented speed (although I bet that's something I'll say every year from now on).

Looking back, it's been an above-average year for films, that is, if you knew where to look. The big three summer sequels all disappointed, but several smaller films sneaked into the blockbuster season and thoroughly surprised me.

Far and away, the best film I've seen so far is Sarah Polley's "Away From Her," and I'm pretty confident it'll remain in my top 3 by the year's end. Runner-up status goes to four films: "Hot Fuzz," "Once," "Ratatouille," and "The Wind That Shakes the Barely."

Granted, I failed to catch some movies that are supposed to be wonderful, namely "Zodiac," "The Namesake," and "The Lives of Others." I'll catch them on DVD.

The worst film I've seen is the Australian comedy, "Introducing the Dwights," which I only saw because I had to cover its premiere for Variety. Next up would be a trio of bloated action flicks: "Pirates 3," "Spider-Man 3," and "Transformers." I cringe at the thought of one day having to discuss a "Transformers 3."

As for music, I don't feel knowledgeable enough to claim whether it has been a good or poor year. For me, there has been three standouts: Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible," Loney Dear's "Loney Noir," and the Motion Picture Soundtrack to "Once."

I'm looking forward to upcoming albums by Animal Collective, Beirut, M.I.A., and The New Pornographers.

And to the fall movie season, of course.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

John McClane vs. Optimus Prime

Saw a double-feature of "Live Free or Die Hard" and "Transformers" today. Needless to say, I'm all actioned-out now.

It's interesting to compare the two movies. Even though they exist in entirely the same genre, their approaches couldn't be more different. One movie was surprisingly entertaining, witty, and relevant, while the other was relentlessly loud, dumb, and headache-inducing.

One relied on human stunts. It seemed grounded in some sort of actual reality, with a plot that seemed believable and threatening enough to sustain its kick-ass action adrenaline. It had a central character who was repeatedly surprised by his own ability to survive one ridiculous situation after another - an "analog" man who manages to grunt his way through an overwhelmingly digital world.

The other movie was all digital, zilch human. It couldn't care less about its human characters, and neither could we. Yet, its expensive CGI creations, while initially nifty in their shiny appearance, grew tiresome. It doesn't help that these machines, while representing an advanced civilization beyond mankind's wildest dreams, are saddled with a vernacular as cliched as a Saturday morning cartoon (did one of them really start monologuing about the virtues and weaknesses of the human race?).

Yes, Optimus Prime wasn't kidding when he said that at the end of the day, one shall stand and one shall fall.

"Live Free or Die Hard" - *** (out of ****)
"Transformers" - *1/2 (out of ****)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ratatouille Redux

Saw "Ratatouille" a second time, and my first judgment pretty much holds up. Brad Bird's second Pixar feature is a lovely picture - beautifully animated with a sweet and meaningful story.

Yet, it fails to reach the realm of "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo." Part of the problem has to be that this originally wasn't Bird's film; he took over for Jan Pinkava, who was struggling to bring in a quality script. You can definitely sense Bird's touch in the film, especially in some of the comic touches (perhaps the best joke comes early on... we see a French couple fighting, the woman pulls out a gun, accidentally shoots the ceiling, and then the couple makes up the only way the French know how). But, Bird is still left with a story that's doesn't reach for the stars.

The middle act lags. Since Remy (the rat) and Linguini (the human) cannot really talk to one another, the narrative becomes fractured. While this movie is definitely Remy's story, we are left with long stretches when he doesn't really contribute. The transitions between "rat world" and "human world" aren't fluid; it feels like two separate movies trying very hard to coexist, but it's not a perfect fit. And the relationship between Remy and Linguini, while touching, never connects in the way Marlin and Dory or Woody and Buzz did.

But it's still a visual treat. Bird loves CGI's ability to free the camera, and his virtual cinematography swoops, pivots, and dives with effortless grace and agility. The scene when Remy tries to escape from the kitchen is a roller-coaster tour de force; it's a scene that's only possible when using zeroes and ones.

It'll be interesting to see how Bird handles the jump to live-action with his next project, "1906."

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)

My Blog's MPAA Rating

I was quite surprised...