Monday, January 28, 2008


Type. Type design. It’s everywhere around us each day if you live in a city. It could be business fronts, billboards, advertisements, graphic design, computer applications and on and on. If you are alive in the modern world you see a type face every single day of your life.

When it comes to types—Helvetica is the king of all types. Born in late 1950s Switzerland as an attempt to be the perfect typeface for the design world and all walks of life. Helvetica is a very interesting documentary that tells the history, influence, the cultural and artistic impact of the type through the decades since it was created.

Helvetica is right up my alley. I’ve long been interested in typography and think it would be a really cool job to design new types. A few years ago I was at a Bruce Goff exhibit and became enthralled by the way his architectural drawings were identified. I took out a notebook and copied the letters of the alphabet so I could then teach myself how to write like Goff. So, any documentary about type is going to be highly interesting to me.

I’ve never been a fan of the Helvetica type. I’ve always avoided it—the ubiquitous writing application font in all computer programs. Helvetica has always struck me as rather dull and plain. This documentary, filled with a lot of designer types extolling (with a few railing against it) the sheer perfection of the simplicity that is Helvetica, has made me rethink my stance on it. Helvetica type is a wonderfully simple design with flawless attention to the curves and straight lines that make a good type. Looking closely at Helvetica, it’s hard to find fault with the way the letters are weighted as individual letters that merge into the group. It is simple but simplicity is often the pinnacle of good design.

Helvetica is one of my favorite documentaries released in 2007. I liked it enough that I’ve done something I’ve not done in a long time with my choice of hundreds of fonts on my iMac—I selected it as my font to use when I write. I wrote these words with Helvetica.

Helvetica clip

Here's a couple of minutes from Helvetica while filming in Berlin.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Road Warrior

This weekend was midnight movie weekend at Circle Cinema. I usually watch the film one time but I love the Road Warrior so much on Friday night, I decided to double up and watch it Saturday too. What can I say: I am a robot. Check out the special poster that was done by Dan and put up around Tulsa to promote the screening.

Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) is just a lean, mean and gritty story from director George Miller. The film, which has the low-budget feel of a western from the future, is set in an Australian wasteland, where gas is the most precious commodity of all. Its scarcity makes people desperate to protect it and murderous to attain it. A crazed group of killers in various vehicles with a fondness for mohawks, leather, raping and killing begin to siege a small band of holdouts at a frontier oil refinery.

Enter Max. Damaged loner in a hopped up V8 and trusty Australian Shepherd sidekick. Max of the few words (a young Mel Gibson channeling Clint Eastwood); Max of great driving skills on the empty roads. Max makes an agreement with the holdouts to help get them out of the area by taking on the over the top gang of bad-asses.

A few things really hit me as I watched this on successive nights. The first was the complete lack of CGI, and wow, was that refreshing. Made in 1981, the film was on the cusp of the over saturation of cheap looking CGI that may have looked good in 1987 but looks embarrassing now. Road Warrior has real cars ramming into one another on desolate highways, real stuntmen flying through the air or jumping from car to car, real explosions when the vehicles go careening off the edges of the road—I love it! Even today when the CGI looks much better than those early years, I’d still rather see “real” instead of “fake.”

Another thing that captivated me in the story was the head villain for the rogue gang that was terrorizing the refinery and anyone caught alone in the area. Known as “Lord Humungous,” he’s a massively built, barely clothed, bullet hording, hockey masked wearing villain shrouded in mystery. As I watched the film on Saturday all I wanted to know was, “Who is Lord Humungous?”

This much we know about Lord Humungous: he’s the survivor of some kind of face/skull damaging event because he wears a mask and his head, partly free of hair with long stringy bits, seems to throb when riled; he loves to rant over the loudspeaker to the holdouts, cajoling, threatening and offering promises the gang is unlikely to keep in a raspy, guttural voice; he also enjoys ranting at the campground during rainstorms while flexing the bulging biceps—the combination of bellowing and flexing seems to fire up the gang as they are always in a bloodthirsty rage when it comes to jumping in a car or on a motorcycle to take someone out on the highway; we know he’s very strong and intimidating within the gang as he’s the only one who can contain the mohawked Wez and that’s saying something as Wez is a complete psycho. I want to know more about Lord Humungous like what happened to him to make him into this damaged, muscle-bound, charismatic leader of this group of out of control killers? It will forever be a mystery I guess.

There are so many things to love about Road Warrior from the Feral Kid and his growling and boomerang; the desolate setting; the dark comedy between the car chases and crashes; the lack of CGI shite that would have surely ruined the film and its neo-western feel with cars instead of horses—Road Warrior is a bonafide classic and I’m tempted to go screen it by myself tonight and watch it three nights in a row.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Margot at the Wedding

I saw Margot at the Wedding at the late show on a Saturday night. There were three of us in the theatre. Two older people sat in the back of the room. I heard them muttering off and on during the film. When it was over and we were leaving, the male says to me: “Did you like that?” I respond that I happen to enjoy films about neurotics and dysfunctional types. “My wife said that was a comedy but I just didn’t get it I guess. That was terrible!”

Some things to know and think about before seeing Margot at the Wedding that may have helped the husband and wife: the film was written by Noah Baumbach, the same Baumbach who wrote/directed the highly dysfunctional family tale The Squid and the Whale. Baumbach can write some of the most acerbic, cutting dialogue in film and loves to really flaunt family trauma, family relationships and how they are flawed and messed up. Baumbach can’t get enough of messed up families based on these two recent films of his so if you aren’t into those kinds of things…you should possibly avoid Margot at the Wedding.

Me, on the other hand, I like watching people like this. Maybe I relate to them? The dysfunctional rings true to me, not the “Disneyfied” families of the Tim Allen (etc etc, Allen’s name just popped into my head) vehicle. I’ll take my family dramas with some bite to them and Baumbach can deliver plenty of that.

Not that I’d like to go hang out with these screwed up, self-absorbed group of people who get together for a wedding and attempt to repair old family wounds. The wounds are sutured and then torn open in new ways repeatedly. It’s not a pretty sight. Words are said, words are screamed, tears fall, hugs occur, more harsh words, tears and names called, the new bruises may last a long time.

The absolute best thing about Margot at the Wedding is the reemergence of one of my all-time favorites: Jennifer Jason Leigh. She’s at a weird age for an actress in Hollywood (45) when the roles dry up and a lot of women drift away into TV obscurity or plastic surgery nightmares (Meg Ryan anyone?). Leigh has done a lucky thing career wise: married a writer/director (in this case Noah Baumbach) who can put her in a key role in his film. Leigh is just wonderful in this. She’s vulnerable and strong and smart and mean and fearless (Leigh is always fearless, that’s her trademark).

The not so great thing about the cast is Jack Black. I just felt he was miscast in this. The more I see him in dramas the more I see how limited he is as an actor. Comedies—love him; serious films—not so much. He can’t really grow a mustache either but as its said in the film about the ‘stache—it’s meant to be funny.

Margot at the Wedding is a bleak family drama (not as comedic as the trailer makes it seem) with a lot of messy family stuff stirred up. It’s got very smart dialogue, good acting (mostly) and might make you cringe or chuckle. It will leave you relieved you don’t have a family this screwed up or thinking how alike you might be. What it is no matter your stance on any of that: an intelligent film that looks unflinchingly at one family’s relationship with another and just how awful the people close to you treat you. If that sounds like your cup of tea, it’s recommended.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

There Will Be Blood this weekend?

It's always kind of a mystery what will come out film wise here in T-Town. Will There Will Be Blood be one of the small group of films to open? I'm getting sick of waiting for it but until it opens--here's another photo of Daniel Day-Lewis from the film.

Monday, January 07, 2008

2007 stats

Well here it is, the "statistics" from 2007 that is hardcore proof that I am a CineRobot (otherwise known as a film geek).

Films seen in 2007: 208
Avg. films seen per month: 17.33
Avg. films seen per week: 4
Most films seen in a month: 25, December
Least films seen in a month: 11, February
Films watched in a theatre: 77
Documentaries watched: 16
Black and white films watched: 14
Midnight movies watched: 7
Movies watched at Circle Cinema: 26
Films I rated 5 stars: 9 (I saw No Country For Old Men twice)
Films that made me cry: 14 (I am a big softy!)

By decade: 140 (2000 +), 19 (1980-89), 15 (1960-69), 13 (1990-99), 7 (1970-79), 6 (1950-59), 3 (1940-49), 2 (1930-39)

Where I saw 'em: 179 (Tulsa, Okla.), 8 (Helsinki, Finland), 7 (Seattle, Wash. + whilst on various jets), 3 (Jenks, Okla.), 2 (Tallinn, Estonia), 1 (Pryor Creek, Okla. + Turku, Finland)

Who I saw 'em with: 153 (alone), 20 (Brandi), 9 (Sara), 8 (Fitzhume), 7 (Lillian), 3 (Nancy, Robert), 2 (Larry, Sacha), 1 ( Amy, Donnie, Greg, Jeff, Nicole, Polly, Rosemary, Tim, Trevor)

Country of origin of films watched: 134 (US and A!), 15 (England), 13 (France), 6 (Italy), 5 (Japan), 4 (Germany, Spain), 3 (Ireland), 2 (Canada, China, Czech Republic, Scotland, South Korea), 1 (Algeria, Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Taiwan)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

David Lynch rants!

Although I'm pondering getting an iphone--I'm with Lynch 100% on this rant of his.

Friday, January 04, 2008

#1 Living director--Martin Scorsese

It was a tough choice between Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese (some might say that PTA is a Scorsese clone), I had to choose the one who has been making gripping cinema for well over 30+ years. That would be Scorsese.

I saw Taxi Driver when I was too young to probably watch it, when I was 10 or 11 and it blew my mind. My dad took me to see Raging Bull when it came out in theatres soon after I’d seen Taxi Driver and me and Scorsese have been close ever since. Scorsese has made many of my favorite films beside those two—Good Fellas is my favorite mob film for example, something I could watch every year and never tire of it.

At 65, he is not slowing down either as last year’s The Departed was a throwback Scorsese film, brimming with energy, violence and attitude. Until someone can knock the master off his throne, Scorsese will continue to be the greatest living director in my eyes.

Martin Scorsese's mom Catherine makes pizza

Rather than a clip from a film, here's Scorsese's mom making pizza on a 1991 episode of Letterman. Wait til the end and a surprise guest shows up for a slice.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

December movies

I saw 25 films in December. I was trying to make it to 200 for the year (accomplished) and had some time off work, which means I can lay around all day reading and watching movies. It's rough. Plus, we had a major ice storm that hit town, knocked power out everywhere but a local multiplex had theirs so I hung out there a lot.

I watched Blow Up for the first time and didn't like it at all! Wow, is that film dated and overrated. I didn't like the much lauded I'm Not There either. I rewatched No Country for Old Men (perfect!) and really loved the very dark Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

La Jetee--1962--france *****!
Dan In Real Life--2007--usa ***1/2
Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project--2007--usa ***1/2
Enchanted--2007--usa ***
Blow Up--1966--italy **
Gone, Baby Gone--2007--usa ***1/2
The Horse Whisperer--1994--usa ***
Red Dawn--1984--usa ****
Chalk--2007--usa ***1/2
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead--2007--usa ****
Lars and the Real Girl--2007--usa **
The Vikings--199?--usa **1/2
The Football Factory--2004--england **1/2
Disapearing Acts--2000--usa ***
Tin Man--2007--usa ***
Kill, Baby...Kill!--1966--italy ***1/2
Charlie Wilson's War--2007--usa ***1/2
Gridiron Gang--2006--usa *1/2
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story--2007--usa ***1/2
I'm Not There--2007--usa **1/2
Lonesome Jim--2006--usa ***
No Country For Old Men--2007--usa *****!
Catch and Release--2006--usa **
Freedom Writers--2007--usa **
10 Things I Hate About You--1999--usa ***1/2