Saturday, December 8, 2012

Site Address Moved!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dustin starts A Bridge Too Far around Thanksgiving and doesn't finish until December.

I watched this movie in about 12 parts, but still really enjoyed it. Every time I started it up again, it seemed like I knew exactly where I left off. Very much like reading a novel, I guess.

There were lots of famous actors involved in this film, but I think my favorite was Anthony Hopkins, and my least was Gene Hackman. Ever since I read (or maybe saw in a making-of) that Sam Raimi had a hard time working with Hackman on the set of The Quick and the Dead because Hackman was a jerk, I really haven't liked him in anything since. In this movie, he played a Polish major (or general, perhaps) with a horrible accent.

Overall, though, this movie was great. The story came from (besides the actual event during the war) a non-fiction book by the same guy who wrote The Longest Day, Corneleus Ryan, which is a great book, and the screenplay was written by the writer of The Princess Bride, William Goldman. So, definitely some big names working on this film, and it paid off, I think. It's a good story, too, if you're interested on knowing what the allies did right after the success of D-Day. I also loved the very ending. The whole operation was a failure, so the ending really reflected that, and I love how the credits just roll without any music, just letting you be able to soak-in the fact that the whole ordeal was such a downer. This would be a great triple feature sandwiched in between The Longest Day and The Battle of the Bulge for a good European-Theatre education.

What's your favorite European WWII combat movie?

Local Movie, Local Theater

I'm on the Lyric's mailing list, and I saw that they're playing the movie The Aviation Cocktail. I noticed that it was directed by "David R. Higgins," who I'm about 92% sure was in my graduating class (but he's gotten all beardy, so I can't completely confirm that). In any case, it looks like it'll only be at the Lyric till Friday, so if any of you guys in the Fort were looking for something to do, it could be a way to support a local filmmaker. Here's the trailer:

And here's a bit more information about the movie:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I get a lot of movies recommended to me, but it's extremely rare that I ever watch any of them. Even more so when they've been recommended by more than one person. I don't know what it is. I like movies, and it's not that I don't trust the recommendations, it might just be that by the time I've heard about it for the second or third time, I feel like I've already seen it. Let me give you a little bit:

Guy: Have you seen this movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi?
Me: No.
Guy: It's about this guy...
Me: I'm guessing his name is Jiro.
Guy: Yeah.
Me: And he dreams of sushi.
Guy: Shut the hell up, douche.... Yeah... it's about this guy Jiro, who, like, owns a sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station, but he's pretty much the best sushi chef in the world. He's worked just about every day for the last 75 years, just making this badass sushi.

At this point in the conversation, pretty much everything about this movie has been revealed. I would have called it a spoiler alert, but it's all in the logline of the movie, which is what makes it pretty damn charming. Like the little old man behind the counter making the sushi, the beauty of this movie is in its simplicity.

As you might have overheard when my friend and I were talking before, Jiro is 85 years old and has been making sushi since he was 10.  You could say he's a perfectionist of the highest order. And this is all that drives the story. The search for perfection. Isn't that enough? Or is it not perfection that will make us happy, but merely the search?

This is the main point which I began to think about while watching this film. It's been said many times before in one way or another: "It's not the destination, but the journey," but it's as true now as it's ever been. And what this film brings to light, and why so many people seem to have taken to it as a sort of new-age guru is precisely because it shows a man who has committed himself to the journey towards perfection and has never wavered. Although Jiro often finds fault in his work, it just gives him another reason to come to work tomorrow and try it again a different way, to constantly evolve and improve. But in the end, even though he has reached for perfection his entire life, he seems to be a man who realizes that perfection doesn't really exist, which means that there is no stopping point.

Pride is one major ingredient that's missing from America today, and it might be in this: we only take pride in the things that we've fully accomplished, not always in the things which we strive for.* We're proud of ourselves when we get a raise, but not always in the work that we've done to earn it. We're proud of ourselves when we cross the finish line, but we often consider every mile leading up to it as a little piece of hell. Something that we relish only because we look forward to the final result. This is why we all have something to learn from Jiro. 

Much like "The Art of War" isn't really about war, Jiro isn't really about sushi. In fact, for someone that loves sushi and would like to learn more, I learned very little about sushi in this movie, besides how incredibly pretty it can look in slo-mo. But there's plenty more to learn here, and that's why if you have need a minute away from everything to unwind and recharge for your next day at work, I suggest you watch this movie.

Like I said, a lot of businessmen have attached themselves to this movie for motivation, thus it's only appropriate that some of the best words I've read about this movie have come from a business site:

How you choose to share your gift is your choice.  However, choosing perfection is its own isolation.  There is a huge price to ignore all things beyond the craft, to consciously look away from the opportunity that might await when amazing (not perfect) is good enough.  Perfection does not scale, creation does. You can find your glory, your love, your satisfaction in either place, but never both. 

* My other theory about pride in American came about just this last week when I was touring Colorado with a band of Hickenlooper's cronies, talking to Coloradans about what their thoughts and concerns were about the past, present and future of Colorado. When we were talking to the owner of The Sentinel, the oldest newspaper in Colorado, he said the main reason the country is going down the drain is because kids (or anyone for that matter) don't take pride in what they do anymore. While he mentioned that it was most prevalent with people taking handouts from the government through entitlement programs, I thought about this more later and came to the conclusion that kids have learned to not take pride in their own work through the school system's insistence on group learning. They say that group learning more accurately portrays the work force of today, which is true, but at the high school level, it really just makes kids lazy as fuck because they know the odds of at least one smart kid being in the group has to be at least 1 out of 4, and mostly because they know they can't get fired.

Monday, December 3, 2012

48 FPS: 2x The Suck

First off, thanks to the good folks at Cinematic Attic for allowing me to post here. I'm sure it will be the beginning of a long and fruitful, er... should be fun... well, um... discussions will be had, I'm sure.

I had two movie reviews sitting in my back pocket, which I'll write up in the next few days, but something just came to me which is seemingly much more pressing. Hopefully everyone here has heard that Peter Jackson filmed The Hobbit not only in 3D, but also at 48 Frames Per Second. No doubt, 3D is a plague on our society and should have been eradicated at the start, but 48 FPS is something much worse. It devalues cinema. Never before has someone spent so much money in order to make something look cheap.

If you're asking a lot of questions that begin with "Why" right now, let me run you through the basics of 48 FPS. Since the beginning of time (or at least since the beginning of geared film cameras), movies have been filmed at 24 FPS. The reason this was chosen is because it's the slowest frame rate at which a moving image can be viewed by the human eye without it noticing the actual skips in time as each frame is illuminated by the projector. By finding the slowest possible frame rate, this means that the fewest number of frames are exposed, which helps keep the cost of film down, since it's so damned expensive.

Then, one other phenomenon which greatly plays into this equation is something called "persistence of vision". The easiest way to demonstrate P.O.V.? Look at a light source. Now close your eyes. You should still be able to see a ghost image of the light source. That's persistence of vision, and it's what allows our brains to fill in the blanks between each frame of film while the gate is closed.

Fast forward to today, when this comes out. Peter Jackson (and it looks like his good friends Bryan Singer and James Cameron) are messing with the tried and tested formula, trying to amp up the frame rate in order to create a more realistic experience. Their thought process is that by filling in the gaps between frames with MORE frames, our persistence of vision won't need to take over... the information will already be there for our brains to process. This reduces motion blur, so it must be "real", right? It's not like we see motion blur in our everyday lives, right?

Oh, but we do. Wave your hand in front of your face. Is it smooth or blurry? Mine looks pretty damn blurry, and yes, I did just wave my hand in front of my face one more time to make sure I couldn't be called out. This is the same phenomenon which newer TVs tried to correct by adding "Motion-Flow", a higher refresh rate, which also reduced motion blur. 

I guess this all sounds pretty great. So what's the problem? The problem is that it looks like shit. And apparently it's making people sick. Higher frame rates don't make things look more realistic by making them smoother, it makes them look cheap. In fact, I'd say that it makes video look more than twice as cheap. It makes it look like it was filmed on a freaking etch-a-sketch cheap. The number one complaint from viewers is that it looks like "BBC on Crack" or that it makes "costumes look like costumes". That's the thing. Costumes aren't supposed to look like costumes, they're supposed to look like 10,000 year old Orc clothes or gigantic gorilla suits (oh wait, Peter Jackson, that was CG, huh?), but when the filming techniques become so "real", that it can't cloud the area which lets our imagination take over in the necessary places, the illusion of film is ruined.

First, the invention of HDTV destroyed our taste for film grain, then 3D redefined our perception of movement in space. Now, 48FPS is looking to take away one of the last real bits of true cinema which we have left. What's next? Hyper-saturation? This is one trend which can't possibly catch on. Not only will it ruin the movies themselves, but it will also ruin the way we go to see movies, giving us 6 (six!) different options of screening to go to: 2D 24FPS, 3D 24FPS, 3D IMAX 24FPS, 2D 48 FPS, 3D 48FPS, 3D IMAX 48FPS. It gives me a head ache just trying to write it all down on the page. Imagine reading it in a ticket booth. God forbid if someone chooses to show 2D IMAX movies. The main thing is that it doesn't give you more variety, it gives you fewer opportunities to see a movie the way you want it, because it will have to compete with itself. Not to mention that it's costing theaters thousands of dollars to update their equipment in order to follow the trend, giving smaller independent theaters just another reason to go out of business from competition.

I can't think of an industry which is more desperate for a change that they're screwing up everything that ever made them great. And the American people will probably eat it up.

Sitzman: Book Vs. Movie: "Casino Royale"

(She's not really purple, though. This isn't Star Wars.)

I'll try to write a short, fast review for this, but that's what I say every time.

OK, I just recently read Casino Royale by Ian Fleming for Sitzbook. It was OK; not that great, but also somehow addicting. It was published in 1953, and the (2nd) movie version came out in 2006, so there are obviously going to be some differences, especially in things like technology. But the movie was very different.

The main characters are the same, at least in name. You've got James Bond, Vesper Lynd, Le Chiffre, M, and Mathis. And there is a high stakes card game at a casino where Bond is trying to defeat Le Chiffre. That part of the movie starts about 1 hour into the movie, but what comes before that is absolutely different from the book. In fact, it's not in the book at all. Bond fights a guy on a skyscraper in Madagascar. Bond goes to the Bahamas to seduce some lady to get closer to her terrorist husband. Bond foils a terrorist plot to blow up a prototype airliner in Miami. 

All that is the first hour of the movie, and it's completely unnecessary. It's supposedly a set-up to help us understand the background of Le Chiffre and the type of people he runs with, but still, Fleming was able to establish all that in about two paragraphs. That's not to say it's not fun, since it is, but then after all that you still have a 1.5 hour movie to get through. The people who made the movie should have just stuck with the Casino Royale story, which is followed fairly closely after that point. There are some differences like location (book is France, movie is Montenegro), and the ending is completely different, but I also understand they needed to make it look cool and sexy, and it's a lot easier to watch an action scene than to read one.

Eva Green (center) and Daniel Craig (right) with a dog (front). I don't remember the dog in the movie, but he could have been the guy helping out the croupier.
So, which is better, the book or the movie? I'd say the movie, but only if you start at about 55 minutes in. They should have just used those 55 minutes and added them to the next Bond movie, because the rest of the story is well done. Daniel Craig is a great James Bond, although I must admit I've only seen a few Bond movies and don't really care that much about the Bond character. So, I'll correct that: Daniel Craig is a cool actor and I like how he plays Bond. I also like how Eva Green plays Vesper. Much stronger and confident, much less stupid and useless than in the book (again, it was written in 1953, so I realize times have changed).

I'd give the book 10 stars out of 17. I'd give the first 55 minutes of the movie 7 stars out of 17, and the second part 12 stars out of 17. 

Yeah, yeah, I know I should see the 1960s movie version, too, if I really want to compare these. But one thing at a time, guys. 

Have a good week, everyone!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dustin doesn't get dressed for two days and watches more animated holiday shorts.

Evelyn and I haven't gotten dressed this whole weekend. We put up the Christmas tree downstairs and we've been listening to Christmas music (She & Him Holiday station on Pandora is pretty good) and playing with all the Christmas toys and decorations. It's been a good weekend, actually.

When Evelyn woke up from her nap today, I didn't feel like watching another episode of Dora the Explorer, so I compromised: Kung Fu Panda Holiday. This is now the third holiday short I've watched in the last week on Netflix. It was okay. I'm glad it was only 26 minutes long. I remember being a bit dissapointed when I watched the original Kung Fu Panda. I think there's some more holiday animated shorts that I'll check out with Evelyn this month, she seems to like them.

Do any of you like the Kung Fu Panda movies? Is the 2nd one worth seeing?

Lincoln, or How Spielberg Ruined A Perfectly Good Movie By Turning It Into A PolySci Lecture

Lincoln could've been the best movie of the year. How can a movie directed by the greatest director alive with the greatest actor of his time playing the greatest president in US history be bad? Well... it can and it can't. I need to begin this review by saying that I, A.) enjoyed the movie (I gave it a 14 out of 17 on the Sitzman scale) and, B.) know nothing about politics, US Government or the House of Representatives. But, I do have A LOT of problems with this movie.

First of all, the movie is boring. I think this might be the first time I've been bored during a Spielberg movie since Amistad (the movie that Lincoln most reminds me of). It's not that the story's necessarily boring, it's the fact that Spielberg is so keen on making every detail and fact correct that he forgets he's telling a story. The film is bogged down with loads of political speak like "we need a 2/3rds majority" and "a concurrent resolution of amendment" and "where does poop drop". Most of the film is spent with politicians being told how to vote or arguing why they vote. And other times "lobbyists" I guess they are called, run amok getting shot at by "renegade Democrats" and argue amongst themselves who they will turn. I may be in the minority, but most of the time I had no idea why any of this was happening. It made me feel like a moron.

Every character talks in speeches. It made me wonder if Lincoln ever had a normal conversation with someone without resorting to a story ending in a lesson or moral. Every piece of dialogue in the film feels like it was worked over to sound as important and flowery as possible. I recently watched Schindler's List again and noticed that Spielberg spends more time than needed mentioning EVERY name on the list. Any time someone reads the list, they say 30 names before it cuts. I know he is trying to pay respect to those who actually lived during the Holocaust, but the IDEA could have been understood with only a few names read. The same thing happens in Lincoln when the vote finally occurs, every House member's name is read along with their vote. It became monotonous.

Not everything is bad. Day-Lewis gives another amazing performance, one that is more subtle than his last few roles. Sally Field is fantastic and feels like the only "real" character in the whole movie. She stole every scene she was in, which is hard working with classic scene-chewers like Tommy Lee Jones or Day-Lewis. The cinematography was also very beautiful, but that again is expected coming from Janusz Kaminski (aka one of 3 greatest living cinematographers).

I don't really know what I was expecting from this film. Maybe more heart? Spielberg haters always claim his films have TOO much heart and emotion. Maybe he was trying to go against what people expected of him. I'm not sure.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sitz's Review of "The Fighter," Along With Thoughts About Marky Mark "Wahlberg"

What the hell, movie poster??
"Duhrr, I wonder if he wins??"
Last night I watched The Fighter. I had actually seen about 10 minutes of it in Colorado a while back, but I never got to finish it for some reason. I thought I'd see what it was all about, although I admit I went into the experience with some trepidation, seeing as I knew the movie had three things I try to actively avoid, both in real life and in film: 1) Boxing; 2) Amy Adams; and 3) New England accents. I'm (un?)-pleased to say that I liked the movie despite these three aspects. In fact, I've not been this disappointed at myself for liking a movie since I saw Men In Black 3.

Ugh, I feel so dirty.
I think I was able to get past those three deal-breakers because of the presence of Marky Mark "Wahlberg." If I had told the early-90s incarnation of me that I'd grow to like Marky Mark as an actor 15 or 20 years in the future, I'd tell myself that I didn't know what I was talking about, since I didn't know who Marky Mark was, let alone who the Funky Bunch were. I was 11 when "Good Vibrations" came out, and I guess I wasn't into that kind of music. I'd probably have more easily identified the Beach Boys' song by the same name. 

But then the 2012 version of me would show the 1991 Sitzman this video:

(Sorry, but I've just got to say it: the Funky Bunch's version sounds nothing like the Beach Boys' original version; this must be one of the worst covers in the history of music.) Anyhow, 1991 Sitzman would say, "He's so stupid," since 1991 Sitzman had a less-developed vocabulary. But what he'd mean would be this: "There's no way in hell that meat head will ever become a popular actor." But he would become very popular indeed, and I'd be proven wrong. The whole time traveling thing would also unravel part of the space-time continuum, but there'd be no way my 11-year-old self would be able to understand the implications of that (but I would be impressed with the explanation "It's sort of like Back to the Future").

Where was I going with this? Oh yes. Marky Mark "Wahlberg" is by far the actor that I've been most disappointed with myself for liking. Even more so than his fellow rapper Will Smith (since he's good in some movies) and Leonardo DiCaprio (since I still don't like him). But Marky delivers another fine performance in this movie, and Amy Adams even managed to be unobjectionable. Christian Bale was also very good, but almost too good, where you get to the point of wondering if he gets so much into character that he'll eventually lose his mind. Same thing happens when I see Daniel Day-Lewis and, to a lesser extent, Val Kilmer.

Still, the most stirring and disturbing performances in the movie were by the fighters' mom and two or three dozen sisters. All of them were completely insane from hair spray poisoning, and every time they were onscreen it made me want to cover my eyes and watch the movie through a crack in my fingers. I almost can't believe that those women were acting, and if they weren't, well... that's even scarier.

So yep, I liked the movie well enough. I'm glad I saw it, and I'm even gladder that it didn't have much boxing, especially considering it was a movie called "The Fighter." The New England accents weren't as grating as I had thought, and for at least half of Amy Adams' screen time, she was either in underwear or shirts that accentuated her cleavage. By no means am I down with the objectification of women, of course, but apparently director David O. Russell is down with it. So as most people were thinking, "Hey, I think you can see her nipples through that semi-transparent bra," I was patiently recalling the words of several prominent literary theory authors about the degrading nature of women's roles in modern movies. It was a nice mental exercise to keep my mind fresh.

I give the movie 12 stars (out of 17).