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Strong recommendation for a documentary entitled “Protagonist.” On instant Netflix.
It’s about the lives of four men: a German radical terrorist who worked with Carlos the Jackal, A former Kung Foo fanatic (the director’s husband who inspired the theme), A bank robber turned journalist, and a gay cure specialist fundamentalist minister turned transvestite entertainer. All four had rough childhoods and wrestled with their dark side and the overwhelming drive for a feeling of certainty – something I’m very familiar with. It plays with comparisons between Euripides themes and the real lives of these very dynamic men. The director is Jessica Yu, who’s done some other excellent documentaries. Nothing like Arguing the World. Well, maybe a little in that the film addresses major changes in life philosophy and outlook, but not dry at all. Each chapter begins with a puppet rendition of a Euripides play, including the gory scenes of The Bacchae.
And just for fun, she also did this short film Sour Death Balls, which I recognized as soon as it came up on Youtube along with the Protagonist trailer. It plays at the Exploratorium in the section about the mind.
Strongly recommended is this amateur documentary my wife just happened to find on the Netflix instant viewing. Amy Ferraris does a gentle version of Michael Moore in this no-frills but deep substance film which explores the pleasures and histories of espresso as well as the politics of coffee, much of the film revolving around a conflict between the Starbucks Corporation and a coffee house owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a master at his craft and yet an inadvertent adversary to a large corporation perhaps too protective of a trademark.
Ferraris has some definite opinions, but laces them in beautiful narrative prose with refreshing balance, even managing to humanize the faceless in Starbucks as they refuse her interviews and clearly play the role of bully. She deals with a depressing subject of the corporatization of coffee and homogenization of culture, but leaves you with hope in the “third wave” coffee movement.
And now I’m in search of the perfect cappuccino in Humboldt County, by her criteria.
Some excerpts from a little known soft-sell film which deserves a lot of attention. To paraphrase the last lines of the movie, it’s great to have a little taste from someone who will serve you a cup with “knowledge, passion, and integrity – it was delicious.”
Her website, which includes some of her favorite coffee spots in the Bay Area where she lives.
I think I had read somewhere that Joss Whedon had written and directed the new uber-geek movie in a long line of monotonous comic book superhero movies, but I had forgotten that until just before agreeing to bring my kid and his friend to see The Avengers (no, it doesn’t violate the copyright for the TV series with Diana Rigg with lame remake with Uma Thurmond). It’s the one that geeks everywhere have been waiting for. Action movies actually tend to bore me. I don’t think there’s an extended fight in any movie I’ve seen where the outcome isn’t easily predictable based upon conventional plot lines, when it takes place in the movie (good guys lose the first fight and win the last), and the relative mood of the antagonists. The longer the fight scenes get drawn out the more I start rolling my eyes. And I’m really not impressed with 3D technology. It gives me a headache. But when the sequences are funny, they’re fun. And these were funny.
But with Whedon, at least you know it’s going to be funny. If there was too much CGI; too much of the movie was taken up by tedious and predictable “suspense;” and too much deference to the mass market (and there was on all three counts, but Whedon has learned his lesson and probably wants to make some money – and he made it as the opening weekend broke all records); it was going to be funny. And it’s hilarious. From the first moment to the two epilogues, one following the animated credits and another following the overly detailed credits – the first being a gift only the uber-geeks (like me) will get, and the second worth waiting for if you have a sense of humor.
John Bennett of the NCJ wrote a great review. I agree about Ruffalo being the most compelling of the heroes. I disagree that Loki wasn’t menacing or compelling – I thought, oh, whoever it is who played him, actually did the most real acting in the film. Johannasen isn’t very convincing as an ex-Russian spy turned good, but her character is probably the most fun to watch. Some geeks have complained about her lack of accent, but as she is a super-spy, I would expect her accent to be perfectly American. She does cry out in Russian at one point of stress, but I don’t know if her accent would be convincing to anyone who speaks the language. One of the more hilarious moments of the film (which is saying something) is her early “interrogation” scene (of questionable appropriateness for kids considering the prurient imaging, but nothing to throw a tizzy over).
The premise of the Avengers was originally conceived by Marvel Comics as the anti-Justice League. Where all of DC’s pantheon of heroes were basically morally perfect at the time (with some exception for early writings of Batman), the Avengers was a dysfunctional team of social misfits, egomaniacs, and sociopaths with superpowers kind of thrown together by circumstances – a perfect setting for Whedon to weave his magic. There’s a great scene where the heroes are all arguing over stupid crap while the evil Loki’s machinations come to fruition. Anyone with half a brain can see it coming, but that doesn’t detract from the effectiveness of the delivery. It’s fun.
And with all the big names in the film, I have to wonder if there were ego fights on the set that played into the storyline. Somehow, Whedon managed them well.
Anyway, there’s absolutely nothing deep about the film at all. It’s pure fun. But how many action movies are this well written? The last one I can remember is Die Hard. And this script is actually better.
Here’s the trailer. It doesn’t do the movie justice. But I’m sure it sold plenty of tickets.
Posted by request:
Free Movie Screening!
A Map for Saturday is a documentary that tracks the emotional arc of extreme long-term travelers; teenagers and senior citizens who wondered, “What would it be like to travel the world?” Then did it.
This was the winner of the Best Documentary at the Memphis International Film Festival
Humboldt State University’s Siemens Hall, Room 128 at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday May 3rd
US Servas is a non-profit membership organization that fosters understanding of cultural diversity through a global, person-to-person network promoting a more just and peaceful world. They are screening this film to raise awareness about the importance of travel and to encourage potential travelers to join their network and experience the world in a unique way, as a Servas traveler.
For more information please contact
Amy Scolari at (707) 825-1714 M-F 8am-4pm or firstname.lastname@example.org
There have been movies about Che Guevara, including a very bad right wing hit movie entitled “Che” in which Omar Sharif played Castro and was contractually forced to utter lines like “the revolutionary and the peasant are like the flower and the bee – neither can propogate without the other.”
There was a movie about Rosa Luxembourg. One about John Reed. Lenin has been depicted, including a very nuanced depiction in the old BBC series The Life of Reilly (the real life character upon which James Bond is loosely based). There was a sympathetic depiction of Trostky in Frida. But nothing, positive or negative, about Marx – not even by CP/fellow travellor movie makers cranking out agit prop films like Salt of the Earth or Burn!.
There have been plenty of depiction of Hitler. I can only think of one depiction of Stalin in Children of the Revolution. Oh, actually there was a depiction in The Life of Reilly – not so nuanced, but then he wasn’t very nuanced in real life.
Wikipedia has an entry re Marx in film, but it’s mostly documentary, though there’s apparently something which may be in the works - Haitian director Raoul Peck has apparently been working on a bio-film since 2007.
But whatever your views on the person, he is a fascinating character – much drama in his life – and for better or worse has had a profound impact on the whole planet and its course of history. Why the absence of treatment?
The drawing is of the young Karl Marx, snatched from Google Photos.
I’ve never been big on romance stories, not just because I’m a guy, but because the plot lines and resolutions are fairly limited (Couple lives happily ever after, couple breaks up, one partner dies in tragedy, etc.). But there are some stories which have been classified as “romance” with a backdrop which carries enough interest to dilute the more predictable plot line.
1. Gone with the Wind
2. West Side Story
3. The Way We Were
5. Bull Durham
6. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Taiwanese)
7. Harold and Maude
8. Bonnie and Clyde
9. Romeo and Juliette (the one with Michael York as Tybalt)
10. Wings of Desire (German)
Okay, this list has changed dramatically in the 5 minutes I took to type it up. I guess the question to be answered is, “what is a romance?” Is Kiss of the Spiderwoman a romance? Is Bonnie and Clyde? Obviously most movies involve some sort of love interest, but I assume that we agree that the romance – the coupling, or the frustration of potential coupling, must be at the core of the plot.
The end of the week is near, and I have a slow moment. Time for another top 10 movie list.
Each film need not be about cooks or cooking per se. Food simply must be integral to the central theme, and make you hungry watching it.
1. Babette’s Feast (also one of my favorite religious movies)
2. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
3. Like Water for Chocolate
4. Mostly Martha
5. Big Night
8. Fried Green Tomatoes
9. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
10. Tortilla Soup
Haven’t seen Tampopo, God of Cookery, or Kitchen Stories, so they’re not on the list.
I recently watched John Carpenter’s Vampires. It was okay. I’ve seen a number of vampire movies over the years. They don’t scare me. Zombies scare me. Vampires? All of them lame.
I’m on the quest for a scary vampire movie. The creepiest one was The Hunger, but it was the concept and plot which creeped me out. Catherine DeNeuve and Susan Sarandon weren’t scary. In fact, the sex/bite scene between them is probably one of the most erotic moments in film – until Sarandon ended up bleeding.
I watched the whole Buffy series and the Angel spin-off. None of the vampires scared me, although those creepy floating skull creatures in Victorian garb which thrived on silence scared the bajeezus out of me. Probably the lamest vampires ever were those in the original Buffy movie. Did they really expect Pee Wee to impress as a vampire?
Bela Lugosi was a self-parody even before he set the standard.
I think the closest to scary any vampire has reached were the Lost Boys, but I think that film creeped me out because I was living in Santa Cruz at the time it was filmed there. The sites were familiar, and twisted, like a dream. But Kiefer Sutherland is scary anyway, whether he’s a vampire or just a teenage punk.
So, have any vampire movies scared you? Maybe these vampires aren’t lame. Maybe vampires just don’t scare me.
I’m trying to collect clips from all the movie scenes in which the Golden Gate Bridge is destroyed. The first is from the Japanese film of 1957 entitled “Battle in Outer Space,” released in the US in 1959, in which the evil Natalians destroy the bridge with a “space torpedo.” It’s a few seconds into the trailer.
And this is a colorized version of the famous scene in It Came from Beneath the sea.
And in this more recent clip from X-Men Last Stand, Magneto rips the bridge from its foundations and levitates it over to Alcatraz.
Can anybody think of any others? How many times must we rebuild the thing?
Addendum: Some additions based upon your suggestions.
Megashark vs. Giant Octopus
More below the fold.