632 – White Smoke Mountain • 01

The Friday Blog

Lena and I had some friends over last night for dinner and movies. I made a new kind of chili that I tried out on them because I enjoy turning house guests into guinea pigs, and I rented a flick on the Apple TV. On the dual strength of the Oscars last Sunday and the compelling trailer I got The Hurt Locker. I agree that it was a good movie… probably the equivalent of Sherlock Holmes or maybe Where the Wild Things Are. One movie it was not as good as was Avatar.

Now I’m not going to sit here and argue artistic merit vs. high-minded philosophy, monster blockbusters vs. indie film making, psychological depth vs. digital flash. All I’m gonna say is that Avatar kept me thoroughly engrossed and completely invested for it’s entire three plus hour length… while I could have turned off Hurt Locker three-quarters of the way through and not looked back. I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because the end was a nice pay-off for the movie, I’m just saying it was a bit of a slog getting there. (Yes, I fell asleep during Sherlock Holmes too.)

The Oscars has always suffered under the weight of it’s own image. While they do everything they can to make the ceremony appear fun, light, and happy, the effort is mostly the result of the voters being so completely out of step with the movie-consuming public. I would argue that a movie that is incredibly popular is by definition a great movie, since it does what it sets out to do, which is to entertain. I would further say that the Academy probably needs to create a new category called “Movies We Vote For So Everyone Will Take Us Seriously, Even Though They’re Not That Great”, just so they can get it out of their collective system and award Best Picture to the actual best picture.

BTW, I also saw Inglourious Basterds recently. Funnily enough, this movie was really not about what I thought it was going to be about. It was bigger, tighter, more complex, and a lot better than I was thinking it would be. While it’s still obviously a Tarantino flick from start to finish, it’s fascinating to see how he’s improved his craft throughout the years, and to see the reach of his new abilities. I would definitely recommend it.

Seen any good movies lately?

27 Responses to 632 – White Smoke Mountain • 01

  1. Well, if you can put up with a movie starring a gay dude and a little gay sex, I recommend Cthulhu. Or as I call it, Gaythulhu. It’s by some company that makes gay indie films, and they decided to make a Lovecraft pic that is surprisingly good. Tori Spelling is in it. But be warned: Cthulhu is never shown. For me that was a bit of a let-down… If you want something less gay, more gory, and still faithful to Lovecraft, try Dagon. Oh, and of course, The Call of Cthulhu, which is a modern film in the style of the old silent 20’s films and is also awesome.

    • The gay doesn’t even ping on my radar anymore. It’s just sex these days. (Though apparently Bunker feels differently…) I had heard about Cthulhu, but then it seemed to fall off the radar. I’ll look around for it again.

      I enjoyed both Dagon and Call of Cthulhu… the latter of which is freaking AMAZING… especially when you take their budget into account. Thanks for the picks.

  2. A good movie? Sherlock Holmes 😛
    I enjoyed it immensely more than Avatar (Yes, Avatar made me laugh at times, and not because it was supposed to be fun).

    Otherwise? Daybreakers was a good surprise.

    • I liked Sherlock, it was just a bit too actiony for me I think. I like violence to be short and brutal, and extended fight scenes quickly tire me out.

      I am definitely looking forward to seeing Daybreakers though!

      • I’d go with Avatar myself, even with the “oh look, the civilized people are taking advantage of the backward natives” theme that I have seen done better in other movies. The world was beautiful, Sigourney rough and kick ass in her signature way and the story was fairly interesting (if a little preachy). Two of the best movies I’ve ever seen with that theme are Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman and Jerimiah Johnson with Robert Redford. I’d recommend both but Little Big Man is a great movie that makes the same point without the preachyness. Remember that this is coming from a sci-fi, animation and fantasy fan who finds dusters rather boring for the most part.

  3. I got a good laugh out of this line-“I would further say that the Academy probably needs to create a new category called “Movies We Vote For So Everyone Will Take Us Seriously, Even Though They’re Not That Great”…..”. Honestly that’s all I thought any of those were for and for years have used the fact a show won awards as an indication of how BAD a movie was and if I needed to avoid it.

  4. Watched Donnie Darko last night. Also, have you seen The Mothman Prophecies, a rather older movie but damn good.

  5. I don’t think I’ve seen any really good movies in years, (possibly since the first matrix movie.) A few have been close like avatar, but they all feel too holywood. Avatar for example… the hero should have lost. [spoiler alert] I loved it up till they had bow and arrow toting savages beat back a race that should have been able to nuke them from orbit, (possibly literally.) [/end spoiler] Hollywood seems to have lost track of the stories they are trying to tell and hide behind special effects to make up for poor storytelling.

    Every movie out there feels like a recycled trope I’ve seen 50 times already, and I can tell you 5 minutes in what the ending will be.

    • I used to be that way. Then I decided that I was putting way too much effort into NOT enjoying myself.

      I have relaxed a lot since those days, and I have a lot more fun now when I go out to be entertained… which is, of course, the whole point of going to the movies.

      • I try to be entertained at the movies but you hit on an important point in your reply to TSED a bit lower down: “I would opine that in order NOT to become immersed in it and truly enjoy the story, your friends would have to be actively resisting the experience.” A good movie has this quality. There is a suspension of disbelief that lets you accept spaceships, or magic or whatever else to movie throws at you as part of it’s world.

        Avatar had this going VERY well for me for the first half, but it broke the rules of it’s own universe when it came to the battle scene. The universe it is set in allowed for a alien races, and superior technology to ours, but otherwise it followed the laws of our universe. Having the natives win broke the suspension of disbelief for me because it is inconsistent within the universe setup by the first half of the movie. If the universe this movie was set in was the one Firefly/Serenity used then having bow and arrows beating guns might work because there is a wide range of technological advancement working side by side throughout that universe.

        For the duration of a movie I can forget the laws of our universe and accept fantastical things… but I get jarred back to reality when the movie isn’t true to itself, and most movies these days keep their settings too close to reality for the typical hollywood ending to fit.

  6. Ghostbusters! I’ve loved it since I was six and it’s still good to this day. And on a D&D related note, have you ever seen The Gamers? I never caught the first one but I saw the second one, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. Laughed so hard it hurt. It’s about a group of gamers playing through a Mod that one of them is writing and it goes in game with their characters. Too damn funny.

    • Ghostbusters stands out as being a movie thats continues to hold up wonderfully in the years since it was made.

      I have seen both Gamers movies, and enjoyed them very much. (Yay Netflix!)

    • I first saw The Forbidden Zone years and years ago on a sick day when I found it stocking up at Blockbusters. I think I picked it out just because it had Danny Elfman actually IN it instead of just recording the soundtrack. You’re right though, I’ve always loved it. In so many ways it’s a perfectly awful, unwatchable movie, but in so many more it’s just perfect.

      I saw zero connection between Transformers and Avatar. The whole point of Transformers was selling toys and making pre- and early teen boys go “Wow, that’s so cool”. Telling a story seemed to be a necessary evil to achieve that end. Avatar, by contrast, was a story that had to wait fifteen years for the tech to be there to tell it. Visually, the point was to draw you in completely and make you forget that you were watching effects… something the movie did a great job at. I would opine that in order NOT to become immersed in it and truly enjoy the story, your friends would have to be actively resisting the experience. In which my question would be… why did they bother?

      • They found it the same in the “this is awful WHY HAS IT MADE SO MUCH MONEY” way. I can’t say anything because, you know, I haven’t seen it, but I will point out that my friends have much higher than average standards for artistic endeavours due to their backgrounds: my friends are all in the arts. Actors, theater techs, writers, musicians, deconstructionist visual artists, etc. etc. Special effects only really impress the theater techs, who have seen so many productions that they merely respect the tech for the tech and not for the movie.

        The musicians are probably the easiest to impress, but I haven’t really talked to any of them about it.

  7. Well, coincidentally enough, I just saw Avatar tonight(yes, I know I’m late to the party). Beutifully crafted graphics, but the story was too clichéic, if not stupid. It seems a lot of the elements of the story and world were just there to showcase new technology. I have also seen inglorious bastards, and it was thoroughly funny, and obviously Tarantino(which is good).

    Your idea of a category for films that were popular however seems redundant. I mean, they already have the recognition of the masses in the form of their money, and also a place in the HoF most attended movies(or whatever it’s called). Do we really need to acknowledge them further, especially if they were not made with integrity, but rather with profit in mind. Peter Jacson expected to lose money on LotR, but he wanted to do the books justice. Avatar did get awards in exactly the categories it deserved.

    Now for some new movies that are actually good. Stieg Larsons posthumously published trilogy about the duo journalist Karl Blomquist and delinquent Lisbeth Salander has just been put into movie form, with the last one in theatres now, Luftslottet som sprängdes(literally, “the skycastle(or fantasycastle) that exploded”). You are not going to find them in America, a deal has been made with Hollywood to remake the movies, which promises they are going to be boiled down and run through an americanized-version-of-sweden filter. One reason I can promise Hollywood won’t make them as well as the originals is because much of the subjects covered are taboo in America. But however you can get the originals, do it. They are seriously good. Serious without being boring, and great to watch.