Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie Watch

I caught a little bit of Days of Wine and Roses last night, a film that stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as an average sliced-white-bread American married couple slowly succumbing to horrific alcoholism. Of particular note is Lemmon's relapses, which are both built up and led into in a way such that you know they're going to occur, and yet they are no easier to watch. Lemmon is at his absolute best. He is unafraid to depict an alcoholic at his most desperate, portraying him as a creature who's lost all their humanity and truly lives for one thing - more booze. He pleads, rages, crawls, bawls, has a temper-tantrum, and utterly debases himself - it's truly more horrifying than most scary movies, and is a testament to the great actor's skill. The glimpse I saw of the movie reveals one that is not enjoyable to watch, but should be watched - because in the end, the purpose of some cinema is not to entertain. Lemmon claws at us, challenging us, and tearing apart the complacent and zombie-like attitude that we all too often adopt when we sit down to watch movies.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Meaning of Life (2005)

Some movies leave little explanation and cry out for interpretation. The Meaning of Life, a 35 mm animated short film both directed and written by Don Hertzfeldt is one of those. The plot, if you could call it a plot, is quite simple.

We begin with grey and white abstract forms that immediately call to mind chaos, in the Genesis sense: 'tohu vavohu." The world begins. A stick figure of a supine man comes into the scene, bathed in white. He gently falls down to the bottom of the scene as his body withers and decays - life, into death, we are too think. The title of the film comes to mind - what is the meaning of life? All we are, after all, will simply rot and fester into nothing.

Meaning cannot be found in the nothingness that is death, so Hertzfeldt shows us life - perhaps we may find our answer here. But life, according to Hertzfeldt, is apparently empty, at least superficially. He depicts life in a magnificent way. Stick figures pace back and forth, muttering to themselves and each other the same phrases over and over again. A woman walks by, vapidly repeating, "I want it. I want it." People get in fights. People worry. People fret, people smile. Most people are distraught in some way. The ones that aren't seem to be either faking their joy or are too foolish to know differently. And recall - these are complicated emotions being portrayed magnificently with scribbles and stick figures.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shout out, Yo.

Our little blog got mentioned by a larger, more successful blog - and best of all, our name was properly translated in the comments (apparently, we mean "The Crazy Ones of Film." And I'm ok with that.).

So, in a little gesture of our appreciation, we're gonna give a shout out, yo, to the blog of Emily L. Hauser, who writes quite well on a large array of topics, her Middle East/Israel ones being quite passionate, illuminating, and interesting. Go on over, check her stuff out. It will not disappoint.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Une Femme est une femme (1961)

Whenever I begin watching a previously unseen Jean-Luc Godard movie, I always need a minute to adjust to Godard's unique style. In this, A Woman is a Woman is no exception. The movie begins jarringly, a quick flash of brightly colored title cards that fill the screen one word at a time, and from which we are supposed to deduce the nature of this particular movie, which is an homage to theatrical musical comedy. When character appears on screen, we're not really sure who's who, what they're doing, etc. The music stops and starts, as if to deliberately make us uncomfortable, but perhaps, seeing as how this is a Godardian take on musical comedy, it is just his version of the orchestra warming up.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Not Knowing When to Say When

Sometimes, we like to aphorize.

Don’t mess with a good thing, because you’ll probably fuck it up.

For god’s sake, don’t make simple successful things more complicated.

If it isn’t broke, then leave well the fuck alone.

The case that proves these points: The upcoming (already arrived?) Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has had some most heinous acts of content-vandalism committed on its plot. Now, a disclosure: I have not seen the movie. I have read a (one!) review on it, but that’s enough – it told me all I need to know. I don’t really intend to see the film until it pops up on television. Even then, I probably won’t go out of my way to see it – more likely, I’ll be flipping channels and see it on, and then go to see what else is on, but since there is nothing more interesting on I’ll check it out – and then, I fear, I’ll inevitably abandon it swiftly. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Where Do the Delicious Flavors of the World Come From? Do You Even Have to Ask?

The answer, as all our savvy readers know, is that all amazing things, including deliciousness, come from New Jersey. Here's the trailer of what will be an awesome documentary on those flavors (the documentary is a bit less fawning over the flavors and presumably a bit more tongue in cheek):

The Spice Trade Expedition from anfw on Vimeo.

If you want to find out more, go here. The documentary (documentary? No. 'Tis a quest) is still in progress, but check out their websites for updates. It should be excellent insofar as it will provide a unique behind-the-scenes look at the flavor industry. To give you some idea as to the dogma the movie is trying to propagate, their ideals and motivations seem to be in line with Michael Pollan's, but perhaps not (my vote is that they are).

The flavor industry is one of the more ubiquitously experienced industries - but one of the most secretive and unknown. Manufacturers guard their recipes jealously, as they should, because they truly develop amazing things. I drive by a factory that produces, depending on the day, strawberries and cream flavors, maple syrup flavors, chocolate, etc. Most processed foods contain them. Check out Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser - he discusses them a little, visits a factory, and samples some flavors. As proof of how awesome and specific the flavorings can be, he relates smelling one that is identical in essence to a grilled hamburger. Crazy.

We can have any range of opinions on natural and artificial flavorings. As a cook, I am torn. For one, I understand the criticism - they are generally symptomatic and emblematic of America's over-processed and poor food habits. They exist, mostly, to make extremely, hyper-processed foods taste better, because the processing has killed all flavor. They make the unpalatable super palatable. And, they generally taste...cheap. Take fake maple syrup v. real maple syrup.

On the other hand, I have two things to say in favor of them. A) Beverages - while sugary beverages are clearly unhealthy, I have trouble seeing anything philosophically troubling with adding concentrated essences to water to make a drink - isn't this similar to the bitters that I use for cocktails? B) While some of these flavoring are made using chemistry and scientific processes...when I make a concentrated, delicious veal stock, what am I doing but using chemistry and heat to make veal flavoring?

These are not airtight arguments for or against. Personally, I think if we are to improve our food system, there are much more egregiously bad things to worry about than flavorings. But I hope I've provided...food for thought. Perhaps added some flavor to your opinions. Or at least...spiced up the arguments. 

So, check this flick out, and stay tuned for the completed product. It will be...delicious?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No More Projectionists

Slate has an interesting article on the dying art of the projectionist, what used to be a skilled, technical position.

"Before, you used to have to take a 100-question exam to become a licensed projectionist," Ramos says. "And you had to know electricity, you had to know your currents and your storage and so forth, and you also took a practical exam. But they dumbed it down to a 40-question exam, and the department of consumer affairs took over testing rather than the bureau of gas and electricity. So managers were able to get their license and run the theater, run the box office, run everything, for ten bucks an hour."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Weekend Cinema: Mondo Cane (1962) and Vivre Sa Vie: Film en Douze Tableaux (1962)

Somehow, I ended up watching two interesting, yet slightly off putting movies from 1962: Mondo Cane (A Dog's Life), an Italian movie that apparently spawned the 'shockumentary' genre and Vivre Sa Vie: Film en Douze Tableaux (My Life to Live: A Film in 12 Tableau), a Godard flick starring Anna Karina as a woman who turns to whoring.