Sunday, November 21, 2004

Godard speaks...Spongebob squeaks

The New York Times features a brief interview with Jean-Luc Godard about his new film Notre Musique.

I'll be posting a review soon, but in the meantime, here's one of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Don't let a word of this slip out to the advertising business! has launched a something called Amazon Theatre, with the assistance of director Tony Scott (though if you look at the list of filmmakers, it may that the whole thing is just a way for Scott to get his kids out of the house....). Apprently, they've come up with a novel idea of using short films to sell things. Isn't that clever?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

This just in... Special Sunday Times edition:

A long time ago my Sunday morning ritual was the same as that of many others: spending hours going over the New York Times. Then I moved to a different neighborhood and when I asked about changing my subscription, the good folks at the NYT acted like I was crazy. "You don't think we deliver there, do you?" "Besides", they pointed out, "you can subscribe to our on-line edition." Well, yes, but I can also read it for free. Yeah, I know it's not quite the same as having the real, 17-pound thing on the table but it still brings us news like this:

Pee-Wee strikes back!! (...and while you're at it, check out Pee-Wee's own website...)

DVD killed the straight-to-video star...
Will Dolph Lundgren have to return to his real love, the theatre?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Polar Express: The Last Temptation of Santa?
Near the end of The Polar Express, when the film is starting to get dangerously close to the sentimentality and false nostalgia that inevitably enters even the best Christmastime movies, the young hero finally sees Santa Claus. (Yes, when he gets to the North Pole he meets Santa Claus; if you are shocked by this or consider it a "spoiler", deal with it.) Having already made much of the need to "believe", director Robert Zemeckis seems to be pushing the religious allusions a bit heavily by making a glowing bearded Santa who almost resembles Max Von Sydow's Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told. As the hero looks up in awe, the screen turned white...What the hey? An animated Christmas dropping a nod to The Last Temptation of Christ?
As it turned out, the film really had broken, not from the mystical force of Santa's appearance but from an overloaded platter in the projection booth. That amazingly coincidental interruption aside, The Polar Express is a fast-moving and frequently amazing film, perhaps the most ambitious CGI feature to date. I was skeptical that Chris Van Allsburg's slim book (32 pages, half of which are illustrations) could be turned into a feature-length film without a lot of unnecessary dead weight added but Zemeckis major invention, turning the train voyage into a series of action-filled setpieces, makes sense. The quasi-realistic style, is a little unsettling at first, but corresponds to the rich texture of Van Allsburgs' own excellent artwork and eventually gives the characters more human-like dimensions than usual for an animated film. Another addition, a hobo who dispatches advice from above the train, is equally well-placed.
So despite getting a bit carried away with Christmas nostalgia (Why does this holiday make filmmakers think that the entire world is a suburban village landscaped by Norman Rockwell? And what is it about Christmas that makes the hero of almost every seasonal movie or tv special worry that he's celebrating it incorrectly?) The Polar Express is an impressive visual adventure, modeled,like many other fantasies, on a theme park ride but also giving the non-stop ride a sense of spiritual meaning. (There are many moments that recall the consderably slower but no less loaded ride of a floating feather in an earlier Zemeckis film...)
Fans of Van Allburg's book will be relieved: The Polar Express complements its source beautifully, (and considerably more gracefully than an earlier Van Allsburg adaptation Jumanji)but won't displace it on the shelves of childrens literature. But if there are any producers out there holding on to options on Goodnight Moon or Pat the Bunny, don't expect to be so lucky.
Weekend roundup: Borges, Pullman, Rivette, Antonioni

"The root of the that theocracies don't know how to read, and democracies do." Philip Pullman writes about The War on Words (will it ever end?) in the Guardian. It's an extract from the current issue of Index on Censorship.

The latest issue of Rouge is online with articles about Hitchcock, Antonioni, Rivette, Bob Dylan and the other John Hughes.

David Foster Wallace reviews a new biography of Borges, and doesn't like the idea of using speculation about an author's personal life to interpret his works. Or maybe it's the other way around. Anyway, he also wants you to see that he's persuaded the New York Times to allow footnotes.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Duck! Cover! Rinse! Repeat!
Conelrad, comic strips and Henry James...

This is only a test: In one of those how-did-I-end-up-at-this-site moments, I ran across Conelrad, a great tribute to the wonderful world of nuclear hysteria and the Emergency Broadcast System. You could spend hours here. Check out the sound clips and the revelation of Mia Farrow's past as a "Duck and Cover" child.

Meanwhile, if you can get over the annoyance of its name, something called Indy Magazine has prepared a special issue on comics and politics. I'll forgive the (tr)indy name as long as they continue to publish stuff like this:

Art Spiegelman on his Towers !

an interview with Jules Feiffer !

Henry James on Honore Daumier !

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Incredibles:Living up to its name...
With all of the disgust and loathing dredged up by this week's political events, I forgot about reviewing The Incredibles. The memory of Monday night's screening had been almost completely wiped out by Tuesday night's disaster. Which is a shame, since The Incredibles is a witty, imaginative film. It's not as gag-loaded as Shrek or Shark Tale, as ready to wink at the audience for getting it. It's not sentimental like Monsters, Inc. And all of these things work to its advantage, even though at times the reworked evil-villain-with-jungle-island-hideout plot of its final actlooked so familiar that I though someone must have stolen storyboards for Thunderbirds. In spite of it all, The Incredibles makes a relatively familiar idea (superheroes who live mundane lives) actually work as both an action movie and a character piece.
It certainly helps that it's the work of a single writer and director, Brad Bird (who also directed The Iron Giant). While the Dreamworks animated features often seem like the work of a committee - and a committee that's more concerned poking the audience in the ribs while slipping in as much product placement as possible, The Incredibles, like Bird's previous feature, sticks to a strong narrative path, filmed in a style that toys with an ersatz nostalgic style (50s/60s suburbia) without deriding it. Yes, it's colorful and fun to watch, but the heart of the premise - that a superhero forced into retirement simply loves his job saving the world too much to ever really give it up -is brought to life more by Bird's writing and the fine vocal performances of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson. Sure, it's stunning (this is a Pixar film, after all, ) but it's also smart and believable.
The Incredibles isn't a masterpiece on the level of the Toy Story films, but it's a strong piece of animated work from a filmmaker with a distinctive voice. I won't go so far as to say that it offers an escape from the ghastly political news - or even suggest that we need a hero in this ugly time. See it for its own merits and let your judgment remain unsullied by the current political state.