Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last Lost: "The Package"

by Ryland Walker Knight

[As I said, I'm not going to write anything this week.]
[But my buddy Ali Arikan will over at The House.]

[Bonus: I didn't write anything, but I did drink a Dharma beer or two.]

Dharma Beer

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #35

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Missed you, babe

Viewing Log #39: Factors in the masquerade [3/22/10 - 3/28/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Triangle waves.

  • La Cienega [Lucrecia Martel, 2001] Way jumpier than either of the features that follow, though there are hints at the oblique framings and unique off-screen spaces that follow. (The final five minutes are quite a calm harbinger.) Always interesting, too, to see how smart ladies figure desire in their films. Here, there's all kinds of confusions like incestuous temptations and teenage infatuation (along an LGBT line) that fudge relationships typical to a swamp: it's a muddy pool.

  • Oddsac [Danny Perez, 2010] I'm starting to believe that some of my will to dancing and late night envelope opening is a form of psychedelia. That is, though my only fun with hallucinogens (so far?) was a mild mushroom munch in the Grand Canyon, the kind of shared experience of mass dancing (and movies, hell) is a plight to find some transcendence amidst muck. Oddsac is full of muck, and easily "darker" than the most recent Animal Collective music, but it does end with a lyric-chant of "I'm happy" over and after a food fight all flashbulbed and flour-covered. And there is some structure to all this silly play. However, it's hard to shake the idea that these are just some dudes having a goof (a blast) and calling it art. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but sometimes the mood feels thin. Thin or fat, though, all that "avant-garde" imagery—optical printing and computer-generated phosphenes—is truly affective. Everything in the video operates on affect. There's no real pathetic appeal. And I dig that. But, given its picture of some emotional underbelly, it's not exactly a vibe I want to sit with, whiskey or weed or whatever else's around, for 52 minutes in the dark. I'd much rather have it on at home while I imbibed and inhaled and ingested to my heart/stomach's content. Still fun to see big, and from the front row, sipping and smiling.

  • Holy Girl [Lucrecia Martel, 2004] # How do you get a diagonal to feel so weighted and weightless? Sacred and profane, indeed.

  • Lost "Ab Aeterno" [S6E9, Tucker Gates, 2010] A really fun episode full of mythology we could have predicted, or that I did. Just didn't add up to much. Slightly more back here.

  • Robocop [Paul Verhoeven, 1987] # Smart and funny and brutal, like all great satire. It's even rousing, but I guess that shouldn't be a surprise since it's a "classic" now and still watched for its violent thrills more than its comedy. Or so it seems? I can't speak for anybody but me, duh, and it's just my sense that Verhoeven's Hollywood films live on, when they do, simply because, nevermind the smarts it takes, he likes pumping movies full of pulp and gore and sex.

—Across the water, the sky

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't get too greedy

by Ryland Walker Knight


I did my best to resist the evaluative while comparing how Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox address their audiences. I don't know how well I succeeded on either of those fronts. I know I let my distaste for the Jonze picture creep in as much as my enthusiasm for the Anderson picture shines through what little I had to say. It's a pretty simple argument, really, that I might be able to boil down to: if you're going to go the sadness route, you ought to make me feel something besides annoyance at the tedium of hurt. I know that part of life all too well already. I enjoy Fox and other Wes Anderson pictures precisely because they're adventures, and comedies, and about exploring the world with some imagination and wit. But I'll have more to say about that at a not-much-later date for a different outlet. So, until then, read this and that and the other thing I threw together (threw up?) in The Notebook. If you want to read something smarter, and more cohesive, and maybe even more honest, read Sicinski's piece in Cinema-Scope. If I'd had the gumption, I'd've talked in public about how much of me I saw or didn't see and how that swayed me. But I'll save that for my face-to-face friends.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Last Lost: "Ab Aeterno"

by Ryland Walker Knight

Easily the most "stylish" episode of the season, what with its longish takes and lowish angles, this Richard mythology is also not too great a reveal. How could Richard's "this is hell" thing be true? How could it not be misdirection? How come I kinda bought it at first, for a blip of a second, and then a few segments later almost bought it again? Must be because I've given up hope to a certain degree, and also because I've given up trying to outguess this shit. Must be because I was having fun with the mythology. After all, despite confirming my suspicions about what's really went down in that little love triangle, it was certainly entertaining to see Nestor Carbonell cry and squirm and play pawn.

Really, the only thing to talk about with this episode is the dynamic between Jacob and the Man in Black, as played by Titus Welliver. Because, I mean it, what are you going to say about Richard's little crisis? It wasn't exactly a flipped script, or a mirror of the earlier events, but it plainly cancelled itself. That's what's so frustrating about the emerging end game: it's a leveling. Jacob's gloating, as it's called by the Man in Black, is about keeping things even, keeping a balance. They are free to confront one another because of this balance. (And we get scenes like the final one from time to time.) Jacob's death seemed to tilt things, but it isn't exactly so lopsided yet. And I don't think it will be, given the morality of the show, which is oddly might-makes-right in a lot of spots. Unless, of course, evil is defeated. But I just don't know how that can happen at the end of this season. It'll take some serious ingenuity, and a lot of dead bodies.

So, while we're here, lemme turn on the gas and get a little loopy: nobody comes in peace, ever, even the peaceful. In this arena, no ambition is pure. Even Jack's just a selfish dude prone to working out and shouting when he's not crying. Jacob, it would appear, isn't just trying to keep the darkness at bay with a wine-jug stopper for anti-apocalyptic reasons; his hold on his antipode seems personal. But I don't think the show will go and get all Hancock on us in the final act, proving these dudes are Zeus and Hades or some amalgam of Egyptian dieties, as the statue and the hieroglyphs and the cave writing all suggest. If the title means anything, it could point to some continuum or another that these sandbox idiots keep perpetuating.

So, flying in the face of what I said above, I'll try to guess at where these figures come from: maybe we're in for a religious reading of morals after all. Some new agey bullcrap no doubt. Or, maybe they "expose" religion as no different from the fantastic, to say an interpretation of the real and its consequences in a realm of near-limitless possibility. Of course, either of these is not all that plausible since one of the real pleasures of the scenes between Pellegrino and Welliver is that these seem like real humans with real human hearts and hurts that had to spring from somewhere. (Psychological reading alert! Ack!) In any event, if each episode is as goofy as this one—which included a couple of vintage Hurley-sees-dead-people scenes and a galloping horse and a surfside proof of life and a final shot designed to awe that only came crashing down with a hoot—then I think we're in good shape.

[Here's a hardliner, to go with Titus above: if this week's recap didn't satisfy you, don't hold your breath for next week. I'm not gonna do one. Just gonna put up an image, maybe, during a week off, away from my daily life by a good stretch of space and time.]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #34

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Follow flowers with prints

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Viewing Log #38: Kangaroo cowbell [3/15/10 - 3/21/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Burn after use 1
—Yes, that.

  • Burn After Reading [Coens, 2008] # So funny, so angry. So undervalued. So perfect for a Sunday night

  • The Holy Girl [Lucrecia Martel, 2004] # Trying to find something. Think I found it. More later, elsewhere.

  • Lost, "Recon" [S6E8, Jack Bender, 2010] Pretty fun episode with a few expected turns of plot. More here.

  • Heaven Can Wait [Ernst Lubitsch, 1943] # I wish Pedro Costa was all the way correct, but idiot me has a rather obvious hurdle with this movie making everything right. However, without that distraction, or trying to ignore it, of course this movie feels amazing. Lubitsch, of course, truly got it, and without cynicism. Comedy doesn't need to spring from disgust; comedy can spring from anywhere, including love.
  • The Ghost Writer [Roman Polanski, 2010] A cynic's film, no doubt, all held together by the clamped Polanski camera. Was great to see something so accomplished, so tight, so much fun.

—You don't fall, or fade; it does

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last Lost: "Recon"

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Don't be fooled; not a dungeon

Sawyer episodes are usually a lot of fun because he usually gets into a lot of mischief. This one proved no different. And, for once, I was totally into the sideways story where Sawyer's Jim, an LAPD detective working with Miles, for the simple fact that it played like a parody of the buddy cop genre. Sure, it was kind of cool to see Charlotte show up undamaged, and the final chase to throw Kate against a fence was lively, but mostly it was hilarious to see these two dudes play these roles. Only problem with it is that is that Ken Leung is a better actor than Josh Holloway and seems in on the joke a bit more. Not to say Holloway's no good, but he mostly scowls through the episode.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about acting on this show and we agreed that it's probably one of the easiest jobs around because the writers set you up with a certain trait or tic or single motivation and then all you have to do is make that believable; or, as was said, "do that shit to death." Holloway's been doing the charming thing for so long that his darker moments never seem quite that dark. (However, when he bust out of the temple and cried on the pier with Kate, he was pretty good.) Even in that mischief, he's seductive. He plays all angles to win over whomever happens to be his interlocutor, such as Dark Locke or Charles Widmore (or even Charlotte in 2004'). After all, Dark Locke said, Sawyer's the best liar he ever met.

Part of what makes him a good liar in this episode, on the island at least, is that he's largely telling the truth. Somehow, the truth about actions masks his motivations. Like a lot of the "Losties" of old, Sawyer's reverted to looking out for number one only. In a way, his aims echo Michael's in that they're of a single purpose (to leave) except Sawyer plays the game better. Which is to say that Sawyer is a better actor than Michael (though not necessarily Holloway over Harold Perrineau) because he (Sawyer) doesn't make the interactions about him or his motivations; these encounters are all about placating, or seducing, the mark Sawyer's made. So Sawyer tells Widmore he'll help him kill Dark Locke, and he tells Dark Locke what he told Widmore to help Dark Locke think he's helping Dark Locke kill Widmore. Then Sawyer tells Kate what he's done as a way to set up a clusterfuck he hopes to duck out of, and onto the sub. Makes sense to me.

Apart from the Sawyer stuff, there was a bit more on the Kate versus Claire front, including the risible rag doll moment when Dark Locke tore Claire off Kate and threw her aside. Dark Locke, then, seems to smooth things over by copping to the truth about where Aaron is and why Kate did what she did. Or, he got them both calm enough to tell Kate to kill Claire—because Claire's now a crazy mother, just like the one that gave this evil incarnate his "growing pains" as he says. Kate seems like she could do it, too, but I think we're lead to believe she won't after Claire apologizes with all kinds of tears, and a hug, later.

So if Sawyer's our bird on a wire, what does that make Kate? She's the one, after all, always aching to get free. Or maybe this means they'll really wind up together. In any case, there wasn't any Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack of the episode, or in the promos for next week. But the promo does have me excited to see more of Richard's story, and more of the things he's seen on the island. I'm sure there's other places on the internet full of theories about what he meant in the promo by "all of this isn't what you think it is" but I'm guessing that misdirection, a snippet in regards to something other than the broad topic of the island. I just hope they'll quit this back and forth thing soon where one episode we spend with Dark Locke and the next with the Ilana-led troupe of misfits. Seems like stalling. Also, I hope Sayid makes a few more bad choices. His little bit of screen time this week was the most mysterious, and compelling, and not just because it was opposite Kate. Because it seems like he's really on a slippery slope back towards dead.

[Please excuse the quick gloss of this recap; I'm sick and tired. Doin my best to follow Michael Landon's advice and live but one day at a time.]

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #33

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Can't compete

Viewing Log #37: Overload detours string gully yawns [3/8/10 - 3/14/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

A utopic sky
Sundazed Kim Chi Fried Rice

  • The Small Black Room [Powell & Pressburger, 1949] The snide thing to say would be to label this "the real Hurt Locker" but, of course, that doesn't really do either film justice. Both are about addiction, and pain, but one's an action film and the other's a love story, sort of, set in a war; one's frantic and the other's equable. The Archers' "return" to black and white doesn't yield the same unsettled vibe of, say, I Know Where I'm Going! but it's got all kinds of lurid expressionism (and plenty of self-loathing). Should probably watch it again.
  • The Housemaid [Kim Ki-young, 1960] I've got nothing good to say about this. But Brian does. I did everything I could the rest of the day to get that convoluted, over-wrought, interminable headache out of my head. That is, I ate food and drank beer in the sun in the park (see above).

  • Trypps 1-6 [Ben Russell, 2005-2009] 1 is nice and pretty but not much; 2 is similar, but prettier; 3 is the best, probably, with its searchlight-spotlight shining a way towards or maybe just on physical illumination through faces (ie, it's all affect sweating all over the screen); 4 is, as Russell says, a do-over for 1+2 with more puns than anything else, and you gotta love Pryor in any iteration; 5 flickers in a fun way, with framing a joke in and of itself as we only get a few letters of "Happy" (we're never fully happy? Dubai's never happy?); 6 is the most "ostentatious" of the shots from the feature, and really vibrant, a funny counterpoint to 3 in that there are no faces like the white and yellow faces of the earlier one since there are masks and costumes and it's a ritual, primarily, and a party second (that is, it's 3 inverted); we'll see what 7 is like later in 2010 apparently.
  • Insiang [Lino Brocka, 1976] Rotten viewing experience only made the melodrama feel cheap despite the motifs at work (they felt leaden); not a day for a miserable "wringer" by any stretch. That is, its twists of the knife didn't show me anything, or convince me of much. The visual strategies were mostly predicated on bars and different forms of claustrophobia and I didn't need this movie to know that the world of poverty is a prison.

  • Let Each One Go Where He May [Ben Russell, 2009] Quite an experience, no doubt, completed at least in part by having Russell present. He's an intelligent guy and he said a lot of words I like (like "phenomenology" and "particularity," say) that help get at what I dug so much about this film. I love how the structural conceit takes it out of strict ethnography, though the duration of the shots lends the image an undeniable documentary vibe. However, it's more about materialism, not humanism, and that's something I'm always for in cinema (in any art) as it gets you to acknowledge your separateness and your particularity in real time relation to those bodies onscreen. When they walk, you walk. Or so somebody might say. Also beautiful to see those trees topple together, and to have the sound drown out on the river at the close. (Finally, somewhat related: this really made it apparent how much I want to make movies, but not just "features" or even anything necessarily "long" so much as full of light, angles, real matter, and some jokes. I'm working on this aim in 2010 a lot more pointedly than in 2009. To that end, here's a reminder link to my vimeo page.)
  • Agrarian Utopia [Uruphong Raksasad, 2009] Short version: very gorgeous, often poignant, but quite a maximal cinema for something so marginal and granular. More coming. See what I saw walking out above; too bad a cell phone can't capture the richness of an amber wash at sunset after rain.

  • Hot Tub Time Machine [Steve Pink, 2010] Everything I expected it to be. Funny, too.

  • Lost "Dr. Linus" [S6,E7, Marvin Van Peoples, 2010] A decent episode, with good acting, but not really much to it beyond Ben's confession and the Widmore surfacing. Didn't see much auteurist stamp, for the record/for what it's worth. More here.
  • The Good Shepherd [Robert DeNiro, 2006] # A few scenes, here and there, while prepping my SFIAAFF post. Mostly I was surprised at how much I wanted some of Damon's glasses, but I also just like Matt Damon a lot so I don't know if that's fashion inspiration or just plain fandom.

  • Enemy of the State [Tony Scott, 1998] # One of the ultimate "brah" casts, complete with awful hair and all kinds of meathead "joshing," this movie's probably best looked at as one hell of a time capsule. That odd late 1990s window when the internet wasn't quite as prevalent, cell phones were still pretty big, mobsters had VCRs, and Will Smith was still kinda skinny. There's also Gene Hackman, largely acting a goof, and a few nods to some "classics," but he's barely sweating. It's quite the paycheck movie. And Tony Scott's not doing too much beyond his 90s usual: canted angles, a few flares, some shoot out jitters.
  • I am a fugitive from a chain gang [Mervyn LeRoy, 1932] Paul Muni had a face for forever, and the movie's full of it. But the movie's pretty rough when you're deadbeat tired and at a pity party for one. Still, some striking shots, including that long dolly across the inmates that ends on a fade away from the last man lashed before Muni. And Muni underwater, breathing through a reed, while the bull wades in front of him. To say nothing of the final fade during Muni's final response (to "How do you live?"), a whisper, "I steal..."


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Last Lost: "Dr. Linus"

by Ryland Walker Knight

This week's episode would be nothing but cheese were it not for Michael Emerson as Ben, or Dr. Linus, and his skills to invest every little gesture with character. I'm sure our history with the character plays a part in his performance (we know how his face has changed, or what happens when we watch it change), but there's a lot going on in Ben in this episode. Emerson gets to flex all kinds of adjectives: plain sad, indignant, obsequious, desperate, dismay, righteous, sorrowful, ashamed, and sheepish. It's just the right amount of showy to get all kinds of attention. And it's deserved. After all, it's a redemption episode that hinges on a confession.

Again, you couldn't believe the promos' hint that Ben would actually meet his demise. Or did they say face his demise? Either way, it didn't shock me that he got his redemption both on the island and off. In fact, it pleased me. Aside from Locke, Ben's the most interesting character on the show by far. A lot of it is due to Emerson, yes, but it's also because he's one of the few whose trajectory has been yanked around in compelling ways. Not all signs pointed to an episode like this one, though, again, it doesn't surprise me. Ben's gone from plain evil to halfway sympathetic to full on audience surrogate at different moments. In this episode, though he tries to lie as is his wont, he's mostly on the right side of things.

What's troubling about all this, and the overall tone of this episode, is just how sweet the show can get. I don't want everything to turn out okay. That's why last week's mayhem was so exhilarating. Lindelof and Cuse seem to really believe in evil as much as in goodness. The stakes, here, really do matter. Which is why Charles Widmore appearing in a submarine off the coast is so cool. (Also, hilarious. The music underneath that periscope's surfacing was great.) Now we'll see if Widmore really is on the side of evil, or if he only saw the evil in Ben that Jacob had hoped would abate, or prove wrong. There are plenty of reasons why Widmore would side with The Man In Black (such as the interest in Locke, among others, as the perfect surrogate) but, as far as I remember, it has yet to be made explicit.

So I'm hoping, given the tone of the promos this week and that this episode was more ground work than actual plot, things get sadder before they get sweeter. It'll be refreshing, almost, to see what this band of Dark Locke followers will do, or be bullied/inspired to do. For that matter, it'll be interesting to see just how Claire versus Kate plays out given that Kate's not a candidate and Claire's clearly off the dark deep end of things. (Does the show have the balls to kill of Kate? Or, if not now, ever?) But back in the camp we were just in, it'll also be interesting to see if they all embrace this new, humble Ben—if he's let into the circle or not. Because he was certainly left out of the requisite slow motion hug and hand shake festival. (Which also gave us the biggest laugh of the season: seeing Hurley and Sun run at one another.) In fact, it was nice to see Jack size up Ben from a distance. Perhaps there will be a few more bad choices between them. And who in the hell knows what's up with Richard at this point. Did Jack make a new believer of him? I kind of hope so, and I hope to see more of his story aboard the Black Rock.

The point is, as with all the set-up episodes (funny that this is reflected in the beach camp setting up camp, starting over again), I'm left with more speculation than concrete evidence. Which is why we keep watching, of course: the beyond brilliant baiting that these dudes have devised.

Here's a few other talking points:
  • Tania Raymonde is beautiful and I'm sad we likely won't see her as Alex again.
  • Ken Leung has been underutilized until this episode, in which he had two great moments. The first being his vision of Jacob's death; the second his confrontation of Ben under Ilana's eye. He's a prime target to get offed but I'm pulling for him to stick it out, to not Faraday his way out of things and stick to Hugo like glue.
  • Cuz Hurley can't die, can he?
  • Sawyer's talking to Kate in the promo, right? Do you think they're gonna wind up together after all? I'd prefer that to her standing by Jack, but I still want her to die most of all. And I sure as shit don't want Sawyer to stay on the island any longer.
  • Touching. I think Jacob physically touched all the Oceanic Six, but maybe he didn't touch Kate? Does this mean they're all immortal like Richard? Didn't Jacob touch Ben right before Ben stabbed him?
  • All this and more, ahead. Adios.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

SFIAAFF 2010: Preview, Like You Know It All

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Nothing mundane

For whatever reason, be it school or myopia or plain ignorance, I've not attended any of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festivals prior to this year. However, now that I'm here, and was kindly invited, and now that I'm more "knowledgeable," or appropriately curious, I'm greatly looking forward to next week's run of films. Actually, it starts this week, this Thursday, at the Castro as always, with a film starring Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi called Today's Special.

But for me the festival starts Friday. I'll be seeing the Thai film, Agrarian Utopia, which festival director Chi-Hui Yang spotlit as one not to miss. Its title says a lot, I worry, but I'm told it lives past that pegging through a unique visual style attuned to mud and snakes as much as trees and humans. Chi-Hui even called it part of the Apitchatpong school as a way of short hand. Also under that umbrella is Mundane History, which I plan to see Sunday night. It's too bad both of these films have such jejune titles. Hopefully I can talk about more than that when I see them.

Yet more exciting is the minor Lino Brocka retrospective. Four films will be shown, starting with Insiang, which Noel Vera claims is a masterpiece, an inversion of what we ought to teach our children; that is, a survival guide premised on moral wrongs not rights. Part of my interest, no doubt, is pure cinephilia, but I will cop to also wanting, plainly, to see what the Philippines looked liked in 1976. That's always an interest in foreign cinema, but rare artifacts like these seem to push that interest to the fore. (This is also true of stuff like the Thai films mentioned above.) I know this borders on exoticism, and tourism, but I'm okay with that; it's not, after all, anything but curiosity. So I hope to learn some other things about that world when I see You Have Been Weighed and Found Wanting (1974, a broad-canvas melodrama; perhaps an opposite to Insiang), Bayan Ko: My Own Country (1985, the film that prompted the Marcos regime to revoke Brocka's citizenship) and Manila in the Claws of Neon (1975, a defining Filipino neo-noir) through the week.

The final curiosities I've earmarked are a pair of shorts programs. The first I'll get to see is called Memory Vessels and Phantom Traces, which pulls together a video about a boat, a little film that reappropriates propaganda films from the Vietnam war to talk history and historicity, and a little five minute landscape film about an Indian salt flat. Should be pretty, and quiet. The other program, called What We Talk About When We... is kind of a who's who of the festival circuit's Asian contingent: Joe's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (which I wrote about here), Tsai Ming-Liang's Madame Butterfly (which Danny saw at Rotterdam), Jia's Cry Me A River (which I've been wanting to see since it debuted at Cannes) and Hong Sang-soo's Lost in the Mountains (which I'm sure will be funny and deadpan and bifurcated, even if smaller than normal).

—You don't know nothing

As it happens, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the festival's other films by Hong, his newest feature, Like You Know It All, on a screener. It's just the third Hong feature I've seen (or maybe second and change), after Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (2000; thanks to Brian) and the first half of the first half of Woman is the Future of Man (2004; which I've reacquired for reacquaintance). And it made me think like it was actually the first one I've seen. In fact, I barely remember Virgin, and Woman is the Future is hazy at best. What I can say is that this new one feels wildly different despite obvious consistencies such as the doubling/mirroring and the surrogate/stand-in protagonist.

Like You Know It All isn't a knee-slapper by any stretch, but it seems funnier than those other two I've seen (if equally deadpan), and some of the jokes come from the style. He's using a zoom now, not just a tripod, and many scenes are bookended by not-quite pillow shots where the image jerks from its putative subject to reorient and reframe the surroundings. Sometimes this is just a simple whip-pan to a window. Others, it's like he's trying to find a postcard image. I'd call it sloppy if it weren't so intentional. It makes the film more buoyant, for sure, and helps skip over that ugly rape narrative in troubling ways (you're laughing to not look back), and it sets up the final scene on the beach, with its wayward idiots going in opposite directions, to show just how fickle people (and the world) can be. Which is all to say go see it; it plays three times at the festival.

There's not much more to say, I don't think, but there is a movie there—a real film—complete with a dream sequence worthy of late Buñuel and all kinds of self-flagellation. I can say that: Hong never lets himself off the hook. Like any good, suffering type he knows his own hypocrisy and how to poke at it while simultaneously inflating himself. I'm guessing this is consistent based on everything I've heard or read so I'm curious to see one that people think is a masterpiece to suss out why. Case in point: 2008's Night and Day, which Danny says is pretty close to perfect. I'll have to report back on that, but maybe it has something to do with the move outside of Korea? Unsure, but okay—and piqued, of course.

Lastly, there's three other "banner" inclusions. The most famous and controversial (maybe of the festival?) is City of Life and Death, which will have a rare US screening, and is sure to make me cringe, or so I've been lead to believe. Less famous, I guess, is Raya Martin's Independencia, which actually played at Cannes last year, and which looks beautiful. Unfortunately it only plays twice and I'm going to miss the first showing this Friday (because I'll be at Ben Russell's film at YBCA), so I hope to squeeze it in between a showing of The Housemaid (1960, Korean, free to see on The Auteurs if you want to deny yourself a theatrical screening) at the Castro and Mundane History back up at the Kabuki on what's stacking up as a packed Sunday this weekend. For that matter, it'll be a packed week. Should be fun. Stay tuned.

Convergence for your freeze outs (3/9/10)

by Ryland Walker Knight

Monday, March 08, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #32

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Get this goon git gone already

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Viewing Log #36: Another orange hour [3/1/10 - 3/7/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Red Shoes 4

  • Like You Know It All [Hong Sang-soo, 2009] # Picked up more of the Buñuel vibe this time, looking at select scenes, which of course made it more enjoyable. That is, the line of reality is perforated, kinda, and things don't abut so much as move between planes. Guess that's what being drunk is like, too, so that works since the movie is, like all the Hong I've seen, so full of drinking and drunk idiot antics. Though, to be fair, there's less here of that mess.
  • You Don't Mess With the Zohan [Dennis Dugan, 2008] The first half hour or so. So ludicrous that it makes sense, is fine. Also, call me stupid but I laughed. Sometimes those so-low lowbrow things really tickle me.

  • The Red Shoes [Powell and Pressburger, 1948] # Beautiful, of course, in this restoration-iteration. Sitting close helped. Would say more but it was a late show, and I mostly had energy for color and performance. There's way more going on there. Another day. For now I'm content with this, with, simply, as one might put it, the pleasure of the text.

  • Like You Know It All [Hong Sang-soo, 2009] As I tweeted, it's not quite "my thing" but I also think it's kinda great. Still figuring out who this Hong dude is; will need to watch more. If anything, it felt light years from Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors. Mostly because of those hilarious zooms and reframings to bookend scenes. More shortly as SFIAAFF approaches.

  • Lost "Sundown" [S6E6, , 2010] Lots of fun; things are starting; more here.

Red Shoes 2

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Last Lost: "Sundown"

by Ryland Walker Knight

Well, cool. There were some risks taken, some serious crazy, and some killings. Brutal fucking murders, even. A ruthless episode that started slow and crescendoed somewhere beyond Apocalypse Now with this new Kurtz I'm calling Dark Locke not a raving nobody stuck in his temple of doom but heading out into the jungle, ready, smiling at his good fortune to gather a crowd and, it seems, pull the wool a little over a lot of eyes. That is, this week was a big step forward towards real consequence and conclusion. Not only that, we got to see the end of that goofy odd couple, Dogen and Lennon, and we didn't have to really deal with Jack. Bonus: Kate's looking a fool, and useless, a sheep forever and hardly clothed wolf-like.

But Locke's that reversed, and easy, or more: not just a wolf wrapped in a smile but a smoke monster aching to wreak havoc. And, like a good chess player, he parried and fell back and then struck from a new angle to topple the other side. Of course he chose the arrival of darkness as his deadline.

This was the first week since the opener that the sideways, 2004-prime story-line held much interest for me, even if it was later in the episode as things lead to a different (and decidedly smaller) execution. Sayid's new story seems the most like his old one, which sets him apart again, though to be fair we haven't had much of Jin and Sun in 2004 yet—and you just know they'll play a major role in the pathetic appeal of the finale. (A finale, the promos remind us, only 10 episodes away. Time flies indeed. Not that I'm really counting down things.) After all, when Sun appeared by surprise late in the episode, it was easy to get a jolt of "almost!" when she asked Kate if Jin was present at the temple. I'm ready for this reunion to be cornball but I also wouldn't be surprised if, like with Sayid, it to turn on dark histories.

Most of the show was about Sayid trying and failing to prove his worth as "good" in situations set up by "evil" men. His whole storyline hinges on that declaration to his lost love, who is now his brother's wife, that he spends his days trying to wash his hands of his past actions. Of course, when he's asked to forget some wrong doing, he answers, "But I can't," and kills the man who asked. (Funny to see the tables turned on that smarmy Martin Keamy who, in his time before on the show, was just as ruthless.) On the island, Sayid flips his relationship with Dogen around, no longer at his mercy; after allowing Hiroyuki Sanada a monologue about his not-fateful arrival on the island (Jacob beckoned him, too, after a tragedy he caused), Sayid says he elects to stay in the temple, which we clearly see wasn't in Dogen's mind. Further, it suggests all good is gone, as predicted, and Dark Locke has recruited another all-too-willing bruised soul.

Lost has always loved its dichotomies. But what's fun is that the show always fudges those lines. Nothing's so arbitrary as a strict either/or on the show. Somebody's transgressing something, making "sides" look closer (or more mirrored) than they appear. Also, it's clearer all the time just how little agency's afforded in this show. Most people are manipulable; especially our "Losties." In fact, when was there a time when one of these dudes acted completely on his or her own? Has it happened? Or was Dark Locke right in that cave? Has everything been orchestrated until now? Was Charlie supposed to die by making that choice? His hand sure seemed forced if he was to protect the girl and the baby he loved. And look where that got them. The baby's an orphan, practically, though he's living with some relative, and the girl (the mom) is a lunatic hell bent on killing anybody who may or may not have had a hand in disappearing her baby boy.

I'll say this: Emilie de Ravin was much better this episode. She ate the walls around her, but at least she looked like she was having fun hamming it up as Cooky Claire. Maybe acting opposite Terry O'Quinn opened her up a bit. She's only got about one move, or maybe two, but she really went for the one note of nutso this week. The way she looks up at Kate says "calculation" as much as "sheer enmity." And that was followed up by "cookoo" when she beckoned Kate with a promise of safety away from the onrush of the smoke monster's hurtling trail of electric clicks and, well, slaughter.

It's amazing how much of the show has been setting up massacres, building an association only to rob you of it so you leave it, lost. (Yep.) Everybody's blanched now. I dig it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #31

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Kill its secrets, kill it safe