The Anti-Cinema Of GEMINI MAN’s High Frame Rate

Cinema is not immersive. Cinema is voyeuristic, not participatory, and that’s part of what defines it. We are looking in through a window at a story, but we are not in the story, we’re not in the room, we don’t feel the heat of the explosion. We can imagine these things – great filmmakers will invoke sensations in us, will make us imagine smells or textures – but we don’t experience them. 

Cinema happens at a remove, and that remove is what allows us to be even more immersed in the storytelling than if it was actually immersive. The gap between what we experience and what we imagine is where magic happens, it’s what makes the moviegoing experience so special. It’s the same kind of magic you get reading a book; there are small places where your mind gets to create connections and those are the alchemical spots, the places where the lead of 24 still images a second is transformed into the gold of a truly moving, life-changing artistic experience.

It’s more real than reality.

Continue reading “The Anti-Cinema Of GEMINI MAN’s High Frame Rate”

What THE EXORCIST Taught Me About The Trump Administration

I don’t believe in Hell anymore.

Supposedly I didn’t believe in it for decades; I’ve been an atheist and an agnostic since I was a teenager, so you’d think there would be no room for Hell in that worldview. But when you’re raised Catholic – even as lightly Catholic as I was – Hell and Satan are overwhelming concepts that become the cornerstones of your cosmology. It wasn’t that I intellectually believed in Hell but rather that I had an emotional fear about what might happen after I die. 

Continue reading “What THE EXORCIST Taught Me About The Trump Administration”

Why I’ve Come to Hate HAROLD AND MAUDE’s Harold

Did you know I have a Patreon that helps support me and my writing? Patrons at the $10 and above levels get exclusive writing. This week they got this look at Hal Ashby’s classic Harold and Maude,which I’ve excerpted below. If you want to read the whole thing, become a patron at www.patreon.com/cinemasangha!

Maude dies badly, and I hate Harold for it.

Continue reading “Why I’ve Come to Hate HAROLD AND MAUDE’s Harold”

Tammy, the T-Rex, and the Question of What Is a Bad Movie

You probably never saw Tammy and the T-Rex. The 1994 film stars an infant Denise Richards and a fetal Paul Walker as high school star-crossed sweethearts; he loves her, she loves him, but her psychotic ex-boyfriend refuses to let anyone get close to her. The ex beats up Paul Walker and dumps him in a wild animal park, where he gets mauled by a lion. While recovering in the hospital, Walker catches the eye of a mad scientist who has a scheme to achieve immortality by putting human brains in robots. His test case, of course: a giant animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. Poor Paul Walker gets his brain cut out and put into the T-Rex and from there things get even weirder.

If you did see Tammy and the T-Rex you likely saw the PG-13 version, but director Stewart Rafill (of the classic The Ice Pirates) actually shot a hard R movie, which was unseen by American audiences until recently. It has been playing fests and midnight screenings, and it played in Los Angeles at Beyond Fest last night. Having heard much buzz about this super gory version of what was released as a twee PG-13 teen comedy, I had to go check it out. 

Continue reading “Tammy, the T-Rex, and the Question of What Is a Bad Movie”

AD ASTRA: God Is Dead

This contains spoilers for Ad Astra

Near the end of Ad Astra the camera pans over screens showing exoplanets, captured for the first time in some kind of detail. The images are the kind we’re familiar with when it comes to our own outer planets – fuzzy, distant, with indistinct geographical features that require the interpretation of scientists to look like anything other than squiggly lines and discoloration. And yet over this is a Brad Pitt narration – the continuation of a film’s worth of droning Brad Pitt narration – that informs us how beautiful and amazing these images are. 

This, I think, sums up a lot of what I don’t like about Ad Astra, a movie whose title is To the Stars, but which is pretty intent on telling us there’s no good reason to ever go there. It’s not that images of exoplanets are boring, it’s that the film’s imagination is limited to indistinct pictures of them on screens. Cinema can take us anywhere, and yet Ad Astra takes us to an underground Martian base that looks a lot like the service corridors beneath a football stadium. And movies can make us believe in anything, but Ad Astra asks us to believe there’s nothing. 

Continue reading “AD ASTRA: God Is Dead”

PTSDeep Space Nine (Ode to Aron Eisenberg)

Earlier this year I went to see a screening of What We Left Behind, a documentary about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The crowd was what you would expect – dorks, geeks, nerds, freaks. You know, Trekkies. I was at home. Waiting in the long line to get into the movie I heard a commotion up ahead, felt ripples of excitement echoing down the line.

It turned out that Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Deep Space Nine, was working the line. A little guy in a knit cap, Eisenberg bounded up and down the line of expectant Trekkies with a big smile on his face, laughing and joking with just about everybody. But what was most amazing was seeing Eisenberg recognize fans he had met at conventions, hearing him ask follow-up questions about things they had discussed at Star Trek Las Vegas or some other meet n’ greet. 

Eisenberg was in his element, truly vibing with the people, feeding on their excitement and love and reflecting it back tenfold. The people in that line felt included and appreciated in the way that fans hope to feel included and appreciated, the way they hope to be acknowledged and warmly welcomes by their favorite stars. It was really something else, and after the screening Eisenberg hung around (with some of his co-stars) and did a Q&A that went on so long that I bounced after an hour. His energy, at the time, seemed endless.

Continue reading “PTSDeep Space Nine (Ode to Aron Eisenberg)”

Is JJ Abrams Coming to Rescue the DC Movieverse?

Today’s big news is that JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot will be leaving Paramount to set up shop at Warner Media in a very lucrative deal that will see JJ producing movies, TV and games for WB. It’s a big move, and it’s part of WB’s recent signings intended to try and safeguard some talent from being tied up at Disney forever and ever.

The word is that Warner Bros wants JJ to create original, new franchises, and that’s admirable, but I’m not sure he’s the guy. Let’s put it this way: he’s never done that. He’s created/produced some successful TV series, and I think he’ll probably do more of that with Warner, but he’s not launched a new movie franchise yet.

Continue reading “Is JJ Abrams Coming to Rescue the DC Movieverse?”

IT CHAPTER TWO: The Only Thing Scary Is The Broken Tone

This contains some spoilers for IT Chapter Two.

It’s not that IT Chapter Two isn’t scary, it’s that IT Chapter Two doesn’t even seem interested in being scary. It’s as though the filmmakers decided that the tone of the first movie was a little too dark, a little too tense, and decided to lighten it up… and they lightened it all the way up. There are a couple of moments that are intense – the opening hate crime, for instance – but almost every single scare in IT Chapter Two is either immediately undercut by a joke or is interrupted by a joke at its heaviest moment

Somehow, Andy Muschietti turned IT Chapter Two into a comedy.

Continue reading “IT CHAPTER TWO: The Only Thing Scary Is The Broken Tone”

The Radical Optimism Of Richard Linklater’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

James Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965. He spent seven and a half years in the hellish Hỏa Lò Prison (aka the Hanoi Hilton), where he was tortured and abused. Stockdale made it out – you might remember him from the 1992 Vice Presidential debates, where he infamously began with “Who am I? Why am I here?,” reinforcing his image as a doddering, confused old man – but many other men didn’t. Years later, when asked what kind of man didn’t survive the Hanoi Hilton, Stockdale said:

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

Continue reading “The Radical Optimism Of Richard Linklater’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG”

Somebody Stole My Tips

I work at a drive-thru coffee shop, a national chain. I would say it’s a living, but it isn’t, since I just make minimum wage, but that’s supplemented some by the tips (and honestly the benefits are the real reason to work there). I used to work at a cafe and the tips there were good, but the drive thru tips sort of stink. I’m not sure why – I think some of it is that the speed of drive thru makes the kinds of customer connections that lead to tips hard to create, and because people aren’t trained to tip at other drive thru establishments – but since I started working at drive thru my weekly tips have really nose dived. 

The way it works at my coffee shop is that everybody shares tips, and all the tips of the week are pooled and parceled out by hours; ie they count all the tips, divide that amount by the number of hours worked total, and that gives an hourly tip rate. Then you get that rate times your worked hours; ie, if the tips are worth $1 an hour and you worked 20 hours, you get 20 bucks. 

It’s not a lot, but it’s spending money. I saved up about six months worth of tips and used it to finance a trip to Las Vegas for the big Star Trek convention this summer, and it was a delight. Sometimes I use the tip money to buy food, or to get a record. It’s a small sum that feels extra and brightens the week.

Continue reading “Somebody Stole My Tips”