Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi + Klown

Film: Jiro Dreams of Sushi [2011, japan]
Where: Los Angeles @ Nuart
Who with: SJ
Ratings: ***; SJ: ***1/2

I don't like sushi. I've never liked the idea of eating something raw as a lot of traditional sushi is served. The element of "rawness" combined with the texture of uncooked fish creates one of the only food-related topics I'm leery of becoming a convert to. Strange textured foods have a hard time with me. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a celebration of the utter simplicity of sushi and master chef Jiro Ono. Based out of a small, famous, three Michelin Star restaurant, Ono discusses many reasons why his sushi is deemed better than all others. It takes fanatical attention to repetitive details, the use of the best ingredients and the never ending pursuit of culinary perfection. Ono has been trying to maintain a level of perfection for many, many decades. He's in his 80s now, but is still working long hours every single day and expects everyone else at the restaurant to do the same.

I admire the relentless, unwavering dedication of Ono and there are lessons to be drawn from him in whatever field a person might find themselves. Most people won't be able to come close to approaching his single-minded determination though. I even liked seeing the sushi prepared and placed on the small, black square plate. It often resembles a small piece of edible art. The problem with the documentary is that it gets monotonous with too much sushi being put onto plates. When the film veers into topics connected to Ono's restaurant--the fish market, the relationship between father and son, the apprentices, the customers--Ono becomes an even more interesting character. When we watch scene after scene of Ono dispensing sushi, he becomes less interesting, as it's only so captivating to see a guy plate sushi so many times. I was really into seeing how Ono's commitment to austerity translated into other areas of his life and the people who work for him. We get a little bit, but not enough, there were the never-ending shots of other kinds of sushi instead. Sushi restaurants should link up with screenings of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, people are going to want to eat it after seeing the mouthwatering, loving way the filmmakers portray sushi.

Film: Klown: The Movie [2011, denmark]
Where: Los Angeles @ Cinefamily
Who with: SJ
Ratings: ****; SJ: ***

Klown is a Danish film that is being touted as a wildly politically incorrect comedy that channels Curb Your Enthusiasm. Obviously, I liked the sound of that description enough that I found myself at one of only two Los Angeles screenings. Is it an accurate description? Yes! Sort of. It's got the politically incorrect, say whatever you feel vibe, but without the latent neurosis that is ever present on Curb. You judge a film like Klown on laughs and I laughed hard and often during the screening at the outlandish antics of the two lead dimwits.

Klown is based on an TV show that I'd really like to see after watching the film. Produced by Lars von Trier's Zentropa, the film plays like a Dogme 95 production stuffed with filthy set-ups and inappropriate hi-jinks as two buddies go on a canoe trip they've dubbed "Tour de P*ssy" that pretty much sums up their main goal. Canoeing and fornicating have never really mixed in film [not counting the forced fornication that takes place in something like Deliverence] before, but these two have arranged it in such a way that the two pursuits are combined. Must be a Danish thing. The tour is given a challenge when an awkward, chubby, teenage boy is brought along to make one of the guys seem more fatherly. Obviously, this isn't a good idea and leads to all kinds of trouble and mayhem as the tour unfolds.

There are some genuinely dirty situations, sight gags and moments in Klown. As the pair become further embroiled in one awkward mess, they extricate themselves and then get thrown into another embarrassing scene. What makes Klown much more than just a filthy comedy though is the absolute dead-pan quality of the film. The film has the usual low-budget, shot on DV style of many of von Trier's Zentropa productions and this adds to the feeling of intimacy between these two nut jobs and the trip into lunacy that we are witnessing. A film like Klown has a better chance of success if you watch it with an audience as the shared community of laughing at something that pushes the boundaries of taste is infectious. You know it's wrong, yet it is still so funny and Klown is the funniest film I've seen in a long, long time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2003 statistics!

2003 saw me living in Seattle and travelling home to Oklahoma on multiple occasions. I almost made 200 films for the year [195]. This was my last full year I lived in Seattle, as I moved back to Norman in 2004 and then to Tulsa in 2005. I had six+ years in Tulsa--a long stretch of not moving for me that was recently broken-up by the move to Los Angeles. Here's my 2003 in statistics!

Movies in a theatre: 96
Documentaries: 26

Where I saw 'em:

127--Seattle, Washington
36--Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
14--Tulsa, Oklahoma
11--New York, New York
4--Rogers, Arkansas
2--Dallas, texas; Norman, Oklahoma; Washington, D.C.
1--on a jet; on a train

By country

129--US and A!
10--France; Japan
5--South Korea
3--Hong Kong; Spain
2--Canada; Czech Republic; Iceland; Ireland; Scotland
1--Algeria; Australia; China; Cuba; Finland; Holland; India; Iran; Italy; New Zealand; Poland; Sweden

Who I was with

124--Loner style
18--Lillian Blevins
17--Nancy [The Hidden Staircase] Churillo
10--Michael Ninburg
7--Trevor Koop
5--Shane Davis
4--Robert Schrader
3--Betty Gore
2--Phil Hollins; Sveta Mendyuk; Lily Yuan
1--Nicole Agostonelli; Scott Booker; Jack Buchans; Sandy Buchans; Momeko Han; Kelly Healy; Clay Korthalls; Janet Moody; Billy Morgan; Bruce Painter; Trevor Painter; Leah Vu;

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dead Cinema: Esquire

Here's another three outtakes from my Dead Cinema photographic project. This time it is The Esquire in Hobart, Oklahoma. Built in the 1930s and known as the Kiowa, it saw a name change in the 1950s to Esquire. It closed in the late 1980s and has not been used for movies [or anything else] since.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sound of Noise audio review

As I mentioned recently, I'm planning on posting some audio related content on CineRobot. Here is the first, a review of the Swedish musical comedy Sound of Noise. This is a dual threat technology post as the trailer is below the audio review. Enjoy!

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video/audio in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view the video.***

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Movie tickets #30

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coming soon to CineRobot: audio!

That's right, like the title of this post says, coming very soon to CineRobot will be the sound of my voice discussing all kinds of topics related to film. I recently purchased one of these retro [and kind of large] Blue Yeti microphones with the intention of using it for CineRobot audio among other things. I don't think I will be attempting a full-blown podcast, as I don't have the time to do that [or do I?], but it will be reviews, rants and other things that I want to talk about in audio form. I might even do an interview here and there.

One of the things I'm opening up for topic of discussion will be question [from you dear readers] and answers [from me]. If you want to ask me anything about certain movies, directors, actors, film genres, movie theatres, films I loved as a kid, test my memory in any way [you get the idea], send me questions in the comment box and I will address them at some point in time [maybe]. That is if I can figure out the technology to record and then link the posts to CineRobot for you to listen to. Come on--send me some questions or any other ideas in ways I can use audio on CineRobot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nello Ferraro 1919-2012

I'm guessing you might be asking yourself--Nello Ferraro? Who is that? Well, let me answer that for you. Nello Ferraro was the creator of some of the greatest candies known to taste-buds around the world. He was a candy genius who recently passed away at the age of 93 [proof that eating candy is good for longevity!]. When I was told of his demise a few nights ago by a female hipster as I purchased a giant box of Lemonheads to snack on before SJ and I caught a late-night performance at Upright Citizens Brigade, I informed the clerk that the world had lost a great man and that flags should be lowered to half-mast to pay tribute to Mr. Ferraro. The hipster just stared at me blank-faced, unable to crack a smile as hipsters are sometimes prohibited from doing.

You might not know his name, but I'm betting you know some of his candies: the aforementioned Lemonhead, Atomic Fire Ball, Boston Baked Beans, Jawbreakers, Red Hots, Cherryhead, Grapehead, Orangehead. All of his candies came in kitschy, well-designed boxes with the recognizable Ferraro Pan in a script across the top. I've been a candy fiend since I was a kid and Ferraro Pan has always been near the top of my list on what I like to munch on at a movie. I even take my enjoyment of Ferraro Pan to a higher level by creating my own flavors by combining different candies. I know it's kind of dangerous to be an alchemist this way, but sometimes I feel like tossing in a couple of Red Hots to a Lemonhead to create a completely new flavor profile. I recommend going 2/3 part Red Hot to a single Lemonhead for maximum pleasure. Through experimentation, I've perfected this ratio that might look like this in mathematical formula: 3 [R] x 1 [L] = GOOD!

Ferraro seems to have gotten the idea of the name "Lemonhead" due to his difficult child birth and being told by his dad that his head was shaped like a "lemon" when he was born. The name of Atomic Fire Ball comes from an equally surprising place. Ferraro was stationed in Japan during WWII and coined his delicious little hot candies after the atomic blasts that devastated two Japanese cities and ended the war. The logo for the Atomic Fire Ball has changed, but the original logo, with mushroom cloud and desolate landscape is about as awesome a candy logo that I've ever seen. I'm going to go right out and by a bunch of 25 cent boxes of Ferrara Pan candies and go crazy at the next movie I see. I might even experiment with some new ratios of candy mixing in hopes of discovering a new great formula.

Mr. Nello Ferraro, rest in peace.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Island redux

Here's another re-post from the early days of CineRobot. This review of The Island originally was posted on July 26, 2005. Any chance I can get to stick the knife into Michael Bay, I'm going to jump at it. The post was titled: Michael Bay is a talentless hack. I don't think his film after 2005 will change that--Transformers anyone? 

An interesting thing happens about an hour into director Michael Bay’s latest film The Island, he remembers that he is Michael Bay. At this point of recognition, he reverts to his usual strategies that largely involve wrecking or blowing up anything that moves. It’s a shame, as The Island could have been his best film, but it ends up being just another massive waste of time that degenerates into a 90-minute orgy of explosions.

The film starts out promising as Bay is obviously channeling George Lucas’ icy 1971 bleak science fiction film THX 1138, as the look of The Island is a virtual copy—no colors as everything is white or black, the future is a cold place with nothing but concrete, glass, steel and our society is rigidly controlled with few personal freedoms.

Ewan McGregor plays "Lincoln Six Echo," a man in this sterile future world who begins to question all around him, including a contest known as "The Lottery", that will decide who gets to go to an island paradise and escape the confines of the city. The dream of winning the lottery to get out of this place and onto the utopian island is the driving force of people’s existence.

The moment "Lincoln Six Echo" escapes the control of this world, and takes "Jordan Two Delta" [Scarlett Johansson] with him, the film becomes a kind of a Logan’s Run dosed up on massive amounts of steroids. It’s at this point to the stops being about an idea and just becomes a silly prolonged chase scene that Bay is infamous for.

Quick history lesson on Bay: he is the man who has given us crimes against cinema such as Bad Boys,  The Rock and that embarrassingly bad Pearl Harbor. To think that Bay could make a film about ideas rather than about explosions, I guess I was kidding myself. Bay just has to be himself. And showing us sweeping helicopter zooms, cheesy slow motions of explosions, cars flipping over again and again, machine-guns and rockets blowing even more stuff up is just Bay letting us see how macho he can be. Bay is as subtle as a jackhammer to the skull and it’s dull, soulless and insulting cinema to anyone who loves movies.

The true star of a Michael Bay film isn’t the actors or script—it’s the person who sets up all the various explosions or destruction that is going to ensue. That person needs a vacation after working on a movie like The Island because they will have pushed the “explode” button so much their finger will be sprained. I’m not kidding. Bay will blow or shoot anything up—cars, buildings, helicopters, more cars, train-stations, streets. Anything. It becomes exhausting at a certain point and not at all thrilling or exciting, as Bay believes it might.

The Island is just further proof that Michael Bay is a hack director. He takes an interesting idea about a utopian future world and ruins it by making it a cliché ridden exercise in excess with him just blowing things up. Any ideas that the movie tries to develop is lost by the end of the film, just one more thing Bay blows to bits.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012

Life Itself by Roger Ebert

One of the neat things about having a two hour daily commute in Los Angeles [hey, I'm trying to stay positive about my commute; I've also started a photography project called Traffic that taps into the ugly/beautiful conundrum that is Los Angeles traffic] is the fact I can devote a lot of time to reading. Well, not the usual book-in-my-hands traditional reading since I'm vacillating between 80mph or a traffic jam. I'm talking about books-on-CD. I've listened to six of them in the six weeks I've been commuting. I might crack 100 books read in 2012 due to this recent audio binge. Recently, I listened to film critic Roger Ebert's memoir Life Itself and while it passed twelve hours of driving time, I have mixed feelings about it.

I'm not naturally a fan of memoirs, I prefer biographies due to the distance a good biographer has in telling a person's life. Autobiography tends to be more self-absorbed [obviously] and I can never quite trust what the author is saying about the life they've lived. Early on in Life Itself, Ebert talks about how his recent foray into blogging had inspired him to delve into the quagmire of personal memory. The result is Life Itself, a stuffed with details history of Ebert's life that has far too much focus on the small details rather than getting to the things about his life that I find most interesting.

I wanted to read about Ebert's life as a critic and his relationship with directors, actors, Gene Siskel and other film related topics. You have to wait an awful long time in Life Itself before those topics finally come up. Instead, there's chapter after chapter of the minutia of Ebert's memory related to his childhood and young adult life. I was close to quitting when Ebert finally got around to talking about Lee Marvin, Russ Meyer, Werner Herzog, Robert Mitchum, Martin Scorsese, Siskel and other people in the film industry. And, the chapter about his sex life? That's a topic I didn't think I would ever know anything on.

It's Ebert's story to tell because it's his life he's writing about in Life Itself, I just wish he'd concentrated more on things connected to film. Maybe he's written so much about movies that he was trying to write about other topics? Fine. But, you are Roger Ebert, arguably the most well-known film critic of all-time. Film has to be THE major element of your memoir, right? Don't get me wrong, there's a fair amount of attention to cinema, just not enough compared to the endless chapters about his youth. Life Itself ends up being a hit-and-miss affair for me regarding Ebert.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

February movies

Kind of a light month total wise, high scores though. Quality over quantity is always a good thing. I joined Cinefamily in February and went to at least three non-film events there that I didn't count as "films" despite the fact that film was involved. Other quick thoughts for the month that didn't make it into a post: Cape Fear looks very good on blu-ray, watching the intense Incendies on back-to-back nights can put you in a dark mood and These Amazing Shadows is a recommended documentary about the film preservation world.

Margaret---2006---usa   ***
Kill List---2011---england   ***1/2
Minnie and Moskowitz---1971---usa   ***1/2
These Amazing Shadows---2011---usa   ***1/2
Incendies---2010---canada   ****
Incendies---2010---canada   ****
Undefeated---2011---usa   ****
Bullhead---2011---belgium   ***1/2
Cape Fear---1991---usa    ****
The Forgiveness of Blood---2011---albania  ***1/2

Thursday, March 01, 2012