What Did Jung Say About Glow Sticks?

6 02 2012

Josh Trank and Max Landis Pen Gnarliest of Chronicles

Chronicle opened at number one this weekend, and domestic receipts have already surpassed production costs. There’s been a lot of talk about Chronicle being an Akira for the found-footage generation. And yeah, I guess they both feature a heavily-bandaged whipping boy who breaks out of a hospital facility and goes on an ESP rampage, if that’s what people are getting at. Personally, I see a greater resemblance to Clamp’s X/1999. But whatever. Regardless of its J-Pop antecedents, Chronicle is a concise science fiction tale that culminates in a bus-tossing battle to the death in a metropolitan area with a prominent landmark. So we’re already off on the right foot.

But Chronicle is also a study in fraternity. Three characters—Andrew, the put-upon;  Matt, the ex-chasing big brother figure; and Steve, the prototypical prom king—form an unlikely bond so strong that it makes their noses bleed. The conspiratorial intimacy that is a product of this bond is of such a caliber that it’s characterized by cruising-altitude group flight. It’s really touching to watch, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see it all annihilated when Andrew, a truly broken person, fails to harness his all-consuming rage as expertly as he harnesses his new-found power.

Above (from left): the scion, the bitch, and the wardrobe.

Russ Fischer at /Film says some interesting things about the film’s approach to friendship here. I especially appreciated Fischer’s analysis of Steve as “the exact opposite of Andrew”.  Socially, emotionally, and behaviorally, they totally are mirror opposites who suddenly find themselves with one enormous thing in common, and this specularity is succinctly conveyed through camera work and dialogue. Their specularity also makes Andrew’s eventual sense of betrayal all the more eviscerating.

Fraternity. Belonging. Documentation. Chronicle is not nearly as “subtext-free” as The A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias seems to think it is. Here’s how I see it. One of the first (and only) things that the character of Andrew volunteers about himself is that he’s shy. He lives behind the lens; for the longest time, we hear his voice more than we see his face, and when we do see his face, it’s only in the mirror, or when things outside his control (always aspiring alpha males) forcibly separate him from his camera. After forming his accidental bond with Matt and Steve, he steps out from behind the camera—but only within the confines of his small and private fraternity.

The trio repeatedly defy the laws of nature without the slightest repercussion, but the very moment that they upset the social order, all hell breaks loose.  When Steve orchestrates a talent show triumph for Andrew, going so far as to play a very self-deprecating straight man to his introverted friend, Andrew finds himself in public view. And while there, a brief triumph is followed by immediate public humiliation that involves both sex and shame.

The soft sciences call this aversion therapy.

Albeit with the best of intentions, Steve has deliberately upset the viewer/viewed dynamic. The closeness that Andrew and Steve had enjoyed—at one point, Steve even calls Andrew his “best friend”—is spoiled, replaced in Andrew with distrust of Steve and his motives. And suddenly, CCTV footage starts getting woven into the fabric of a narrative that has so far been propelled only by handheld footage. For all of his ever-growing control over people and objects, Andrew has lost control of the camera. A convenience store camera views Andrew now. So does a hospital room camera, and a camera in the lobby of an office building. Surveillance footage starts to tell his story without his consent. And indeed, at one point during the final battle, Andrew is floating outside the observation deck of the Space Needle, surrounded by digital cameras, iPads, and camera phones, all sucked away from onlookers. It’s only a matter of time before you cross the Rubicon with this sort of instability, and then of course things can only end badly.

No good can come out of upsetting the viewer/viewed dynamic. Which is what this film is about.

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Begin Countdown to “Battle: Los Angeles”

18 02 2010

Next Alien Film By A South African Director Scheduled to Premiere in Exactly One Year

The alien invasion film Battle: Los Angeles (nice colon) is scheduled to hit theaters on 17 February 2011. Which doesn’t even sound like a real year. Regardless, ima be following this like a gay dude on Gαgα. Directed by Johnathan Liebesman, it’s being pitched alternately as “a West Coast Cloverfield“, “Black Hawk Down meets Alien”, or “Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day”. Your blogger meets anticipation.

Here’s something weird: a lot of it was shot in Shreveport, Louisiana, because it was cheaper. I mean, I get that a lot of films get shot in, like South Carolina, or whatnot, for that very reason. But I still think it’s weird when a film that takes place in the world capital of the film industry (well, technically Santa Monica) is filmed elsewhere. The NYT thought it was weird, too. So get bent.

It wasn’t just about the money, though. No, seriously. The script called for some significant action sequences on California’s I-405, and of course shooting practical effects on that major artery was never going to happen. Shutting down a section of Louisiana’s I-49 for three weeks, though, was doable. And so they did. Here are a couple of freeway interchange pics I lifted from movie-trailer.com:

Interstate 49 = Interstate 405

Palm trees means it’s LA. They’re idiobotanical cues.

These are the kind of pics that get me all hot-and-bothered. By the time I actually see this bitch I’ll have these images so burnt into my skull that, unless the entire scene’s been cut, I’ll be able to recognize bits and pieces of scenery from a single shot—even an insert shot—like some sort of fanboy idiot savant.  But as cool as these freeway shots are (and there are several more out there), I can trump them. Or, rather, some Shreveport townie on YouTube can:

How awesome is that dude with the camera. And how awesome is the fact that the movie crew members who are blithely enjoying another one of my dream careers were taking their sweet time removing all of the set dressing. I screen-capped a couple of the set pieces that I expect might be recognizable in the final product, even if shot at night, out-of-focus and a block away:

Make it easy with product placement.

Do you reckon this storefront was actually a parking lot?

If this kinda thing isn’t your kinda thing, then stay away from this blog for the next twelve months. You were warned.





Someone at Sony Pictures Has Snapped

5 10 2009

Fall Blockbuster Clip of Only Part Anyone Is Interested in Seeing Allowed to Circulate Unchecked; Need to Sit Through 110 Minutes of Cumbersome Exposition and Character Development Eliminated

Somebody thought it was a good idea to compress the entire California megaquake sequence down to one 5-minute edit and let it get around like your sister. I’m certainly not complaining; I’ve already watched it, like, fifty times. I just can’t fathom how this makes sense from a box office perspective. Everyone’s gonna see this clip, which means no one’s gonna bother going to a theater to pay for a smelly seat in a smelly room full of smelly strangers, since we all know that these are surely the film’s best bits:

And they just did some sort of Northern Hemisphere media blitz!

I’m not going to cry too much about all the goofy nonsense that distracts from the CGI—I don’t know what I was expecting—but I will cite a few examples. There is an audible “oh sh– [sic]” in the limo as it’s doused by raw sewage from a ruptured pipe. Get it? Lame. And a shotgun-shout of “doughnut”, which compounds the folly of an already-unfortunate sight gag, is reminiscent of Helen Hunt calling cow in Twister. Oh, and 2012’s protagonist also drives a car through a building:

We're going in!

It’s been done.

And no surprises on what sounds like a relatively set-in-stone score. I’m all for the jungle beats during the low fly over an uplift- and subsidence-ravaged main drag (which, I’m pleased to report, looks very much like those sepia photographs you always see of San Francisco streets after the 1906 earthquake), but all opposed to the chirpy woodwind flourishes—there’s never an excuse for the piccolo, as far as I’m concerned, and it strikes me as wildly inappropriate here, given that it occurs as the plane flies past a freeway span laden with people plummeting to their collective grisly demise. Speaking of which, this bitch totally needs more screams of abject terror from the people scurrying around on foot. I think we’re good on the horns and car alarms, but we need more screams. There’re a few good ones, but some of them sound more like people on a roller coaster, and the overall effect suffers where they do. Hopefully the post-production people are on that. Although they’re probably not.

mixer 1

These minor shortcomings

mixer 2

are excusable

mixer 3because

mixer 4

the cement mixer that

mixer 5

careens off the freeway

mixer 6

and crashes into the gas station

mixer 7

triggers a Milton hose

mixer 8

before exploding.

So, yeah. A+++ on the ear for detail. Also, I love how it happens on an otherwise beautiful morning. Blue sky, I mean, and all. Slick.





CGI More Polished in 2012 Japanese Trailer

28 08 2009

Trailer Contains Morsels Not Featured in Teaser Trailer, Feature Trailer or International Trailer

The Japanese trailer for 2012 just dropped. I think eager YouTube viewer “2001wazevedo” puts it best:

absolutamente

The SFX are inferior to previous trailer versions, but that’s a small price to pay for a 2012 trailer largely unburdened by melodramatic Carmina Burana-like warblings.

2012 new obelisk shot

Here’s an angle we hadn’t seen yet; note St. Peter’s obelisk going down in courtyard.

You can tell they’re still in post on this thing; for example, in the Japanese trailer, the layer timing is totally different for that already-iconic shot of the plane zooming away as California’s tectonic plate crumbs slide into the sea (somebody likes Titanic).

2012 new plate drop plane swoop

New carnage shot. I can’t get enough of those oscillating palm trees.

Speaking of which, I think that all the gaping-wounds-in-the-surface-of-the-earth stuff is going to be the hardest sell here. Somebody should tell the CGI team that cracks, crags and crevasses don’t look the way they think we think they look. At all. It’s tons of rock and earth, dudes. It’s not an eggshell. That supermarket sequence they keep showing us, where the wall and ceiling open up in a clean, amusement park-ride gash, looks particularly Humpty Dumpty ridiculous. I mean, I get that there’s no precedent to work from, no reference shots. But if you’ve ever seen the cartoonish and piss-poor ice shelf CGI work in The Day After Tomorrow, then you know that whoever’s signing off on this stuff has the sensibilities of a preschooler—which does not bode well. However, from what I can glean on IMDb, it looks like Digital Domain worked with different partners for 2012 (I may be misinterpreting the listings; I don’t know the first thing about this stuff). So who knows. I just hope they don’t harsh my mellow when they marsh California’s mallow.





G.I. Joe A Must-See for People (Such as Myself) Who Enjoy Watching Cars Get Tossed Around Like Toys

8 08 2009

Airborne Cars Galore For, Like, Fifteen Minutes Straight

Well, I saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra last night, and I am still high from it, so here’s a new post. I guess I should issue a spoiler alert just in case I give something away; consider yourself warned. Okay, so the action is straight-up non-stop, which is really rare, but the highlight for me was a protracted car chase scene situated squarely in the middle of the film. I actually believed it, even though it was centered around an outlandish plot for world domination. During this soon-to-be legendary Paris sequence, director Stephen Sommers pulverizes more sedans in fifteen minutes than Michael Bay has managed over the course of his entire filmography. And this is a fan of the highway chase scene from Bay’s The Island talking.

Anyway, the Baroness jumps into her getaway car, which is an utterly sick humvee (Storm Shadow gets shotgun), and “the Joes” (this term gets bandied about quite a bit, unfortunately) are in close pursuit. Almost at the onset of the chase, and long before she resorts to using the guided missiles and other weaponry with which the humvee is equipped (naturally),  the Baroness presses a button and a cowcatcher-like pilot sort of constructs itself (think CGI) at the front of the humvee.  As she literally plows through traffic at obscene speeds, you can only imagine the carnage. Well, no, wait, you don’t have to imagine it; look:

Yup.

We’re talking from intersection to intersection. For blocks. Almost uninterrupted.

Now I’m not sure that I qualify as a nerd, so I can’t speak for the person going into this thing with Simpsons-comic-book-store-guy evaluation criteria, but I was a nerdy kid who played with the action figures (a.k.a. “my G.I. Joe guys”) and watched the cartoon—even though after a point this conflicted with my paper route. So I was psyched to see many of the bigger code names as well as some of the more soap opera-esque back-stories and origin stories. Also, remember how, even as a kid, the G.I. Joe cartoon was “so fake” because nobody ever died? Both sides had at their disposal state-of-the-art laser pistols, which were 100% accurate when it came to inanimate objects, yet both sides somehow always seemed to just miss human targets. Well, thanks to the miracle of the PG-13 rating category, in the live-action version of this saga I lost track of the body count by the fourth or fifth extended sequence. Actually, I didn’t lose track so much as lost interest in keeping track, since the Cobra “guys” were so awesomely interpreted that I was paying more attention to their evildoing. Suffice it to say, in the film people never miss their targets. Be it by hand-to-hand combat, exotic throwing weapon (yes, Storm Shadow has and uses his “Chinese star”, the one you lost within five minutes of unwrapping him at your birthday party), or ambiguous but punch-packing “pulse” ray, people drop like flies here–sometimes gruesomely and almost always lethally. So that was refreshing.

This blockbuster, coupled with District 9, should totally tide me over until 2012.

I guess in closing I have to “add a layer”, or connect all of this to something else, in order for it to be relevant to this blog. Here’s a drawing from David Macaulay’s 1978 collection Great Moments in Architecture that should make sense to you even if you’ve only seen the trailer for this film.

Nice and Neat

I also recommend Macaulay’s Motel of the Mysteries. It’s even weirder.

P.S.: Storm Shadow so totally could’ve survived that fall.