Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Great Gatsby Trailer: 3D Art Deco Explosion Bootlegger Orgy!


Whew. Now that that's out of my system (NO IT'S NOT - SQUEEEEE), let's take a look at it. I know the Jay-Z and Kanye West music in the opening is already controversial, with some finding it fresh and perfect for the happenin' New York setting (apparently it was important during filming) and some finding it indicative of a forthcoming trainwreck of a movie. I think it was risky, but does a good job getting the tone in the trailer. However, I hope the actual movie will have an equally striking but less gimmicky soundtrack. But while the music is an unusual choice for 1920s New York, the visuals - of opulence and too-cool art deco everything - are perfect. Gorgeous, gorgeous.

Scattered thoughts & notes, trailer below:

-The insanely opulent party at Gatsby's house is exactly how you'd imagine Baz Luhrmann imagining the insanely opulent party at Gatsby's house.

-I hate it when Luhrmann's party people look me in the eye, though. They do this in Moulin Rogue, too. I don't want to party with you; I'm very shy!

-LOL, Jordan. Barking up the wrong tree, girl.

-Meyer Wolfsheim is played by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, and this cameo is his first Hollywood appearance.

-Leo! You look so pretty! Good job, hair & make-up team.

-Yes, everyone laughed at the tossing silk shirts scene + 3D technology implications, and guess what? We are going to have 3D silk shirts tossed in our faces.

-Still feeling Carey Mulligan's Daisy is a bit young.

-How Tom Buchanan is Tom Buchanan? So Tom Buchanan.

-Aw, yeah, check out that moral decay symbolized by that disgusting road!

-DOCTOR TJ ECKLEBURG! You look perfect.

-Nooooo, Myrtle. Just no. Text him later.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hi, My Name Is Satan 4

Hey, it's the 4th installment of looking at the prince of darkness and his many guises in pop culture and culture culture. What does humanity think of the concept of "the devil," how do artists and writers use Satan as a character, and what does that say about us? Last time we looked at four versions of Beelzebub. This time we're back to good ol' Satan, with interpretations from Dante to Tenacious D. 

Hi, My Name Is Satan 1
Hi, My Name Is Satan 2

Hi, My Name is Satan 3


"Beelzeboss" - Tenacious D

Just like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," this song (from the Tenacious D movie The Pick of Destiny) features a musical contest between humankind and the devil. But there are no genteel fiddles here - just rock, profanity, and rape jokes. This is an amped-up battle with Dave Grohl belting out "I'm the devil! I love metal!" as he dominates a demonic set of drums. Unlike fiddler champion Johnny, protagonists Jabels (Jack Black) and Kage (Kyle Gass) don't win as much as get lucky, 'cause, you know, it's Dave fucking Grohl they're up against. Like South Park's Satan, Grohl's devil bears the popular red skin and satyr-like horns and goat legs that have become Satan signifiers. It's thought the goat horns and hindlegs were adapted as characteristics of Satan as a Christian reaction against pagan emphasis on Pan. He also has an upside-down pentagram, a symbol of Satanism, carved on his chest, making him everything early freaker-outers about rock-n-roll worried about. The song's title shows the Satan/Beelzebub conflation. The name "beelzebub" (looked at as his own character here), came from Ba'al Zebub, a Semitic/Philistine god. 

The Temptation of Christ - Ary Scheffer

Oh, Ary Scheffer, hipster, using light and dark skin to represent goodness and badness is so mainstream. Try to subvert a little, bro. 1854's The Temptation of Christ is one of the better known works of this Dutch-born, French-trained painter. The painting illustrates the story in the Bible where Jesus, at the end of  his 40-day/40-night fast, is tempted by Satan with stuff like snacks and real estate to no avail (paraphrased from Matthew 4.1-11, Mark 1.12-13, and Luke 4.1-13). This non-horned, non-hoofed Satan is a different classic take on the figure: Satan as fallen angel. Although not disfigured, Scheffer's Satan is dull and dim, devoid of any of his former Lucifer luminescence, and while his angel wings are still there, they're gray and bat-like.

"Turn these stones into bread." "No." "I've got Nutella." "..."

The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri 

Like Hieronymus Bosch, Dante does away with any charisma when it comes to imagining Satan in his 1308-1321 epic poem. Shown briefly at the end of the Inferno section (a.k.a. the only section anyone cares about), Dante's Satan is as ugly as he was beautiful before the Fall ("Were he as fair once, as he now is foul"). His depiction is in stark contrast to the later Miltonic Lucifer, who keeps soldiering on and never runs out of inspirational speeches. This Lucifer, on the other hand, has three heads, is trapped in the very center of the 9th circle of Hell, is half-frozen in a lake, and is forever eating Brutus and Cassius (Caesar's betrayers - I guess Dante's a Caesar stan), and Judas. Dante writes, “He wept with all six eyes, and the tears fell over his three chins mingled with bloody foam. The teeth of each mouth held a sinner, kept as by a flax rake: thus he held three of them in agony." So this Satan is a gross crybaby who needs a napkin.

William Blake's illustration of Mr. Pouty Face(s).

Reaper - Ray Wise

As a grieving father dealing with a literal demon, Ray Wise was one of the awesome aspects of awesome Twin Peaks. In the CW's series Reaper, he completely stole the show as the demon of all demons. You can watch the pilot (directed by Kevin Smith) here. Wise plays Satan as a modern evil - the slick businessman who's so charming you forget he's screwing you over. The show focuses on Sam, a young hardware store clerk who finds out his parents sold the soul of their firstborn - him - to the Devil (who had gotten their doctor to tell them they were infertile). Now that he's an adult, Sam is put to work by his new master, who has him rounding up evil souls that have escaped from Hell. Wise does a fantastic job exemplifying how dangerous charm and deceit are when combined. With wit and tough love, his Devil provides his slacker protege with direction and character-building, and you start to think maybe he's not so bad. Then Wise unleashes the malice, you remember this is goddamn Satan. 

Even in a cheap plastic chair, Ray Wise is a fucking boss.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Tale of Three Skyping Cats

I am a crazy cat lady (alas, sans cats), and hardly miss a post on Love Meow, which has introduced me to the concept of cat-Skyping. I had already gathered from Youtube videos that cats are quite the pros at iPad and smartphone games (as are frogs), but didn't realize they'd mastered this technology as well. I don't know what feline neurologists would say cats' level of understanding about webcams is, but Skype certainly seems to inspire a gamut of emotions in kitties, from love to hatred.

This kitty 1) seems to recognize his owner from the webcam, and 2) has just had his mind blown.

"That's no random collection of pixels...that's my daddy!"

Moving from shock to aw, we have this sweet ginger kitty gazing adoringly at his human daddy, who is deployed overseas. Take that, dog people with your joyous dog/soldier reunion videos!

"I wuv you, daddy."

And then there's this cat, who is offended and frankly angry that you would subject her to your stupid whims and impose on her valuable time like this.

"Good day, sir!" *turns back*

Monday, May 14, 2012

Django Unchained and the Art of Kara Walker

Synopses of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, and Kerry Washington's scenes in particular, make it sound like a Kara Walker piece come to life. Which could mean a visually compelling film that reminds modern audiences of the true horror of slavery while taking on the exploitation genre, or a sexist, racist wank-fest hiding under the old "but it's critique" guise. The story: former slave Django (Jamie Foxx) teams up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). And this isn't just any plantation owner (or is he?) - this plantation owner revels in baroque opulence and violence for the sake of violence, using rape and a hammer as his weapons and forcing his slaves to fight to the death.

Kara Walker, Cut

News broke this weekend of multiple actors dropping out of the project (and late in the game - the film is being released this December), and there's speculation that the film's controversy - and not "schedule conflicts" - are to blame. This includes Sacha Baron Cohen, and if a movie's too controversial for him...

Foreboding or cheesy? Both?

And there is a lot of controversy, especially regarding the portrayal of Broomhilda, who is the subject of sexual violence throughout the movie (at least based on early versions of the script). In showing the exploitation of this woman, will the film become exploitative as well? Will it make sure the viewers get as many shots of the distressed, humiliated Broomhilda's breasts as possible? These concerns are well analyzed here.

What's interesting is that these concerns also apply to Kara Walker's art. Walker is (in)famous for her black paper silhouettes of scenes from the antebellum South. The figures undergo and perform all means of torture and sexual degradation. In "Endless Conundrum: An African Anonymous Adventuress," Walker's naked subject is hammered with nails. Whether Walker's work is crass and titillating or shattering and courageous is a matter of debate. Toni Morrison's Beloved and Gayl Jones's Corregidora show similar scenes of extreme perversion and brutality within the master/slave relationship, but in words. By taking the outdated racial caricatures used to support the idea that blacks weren't quite human and putting them in scenes representing the most dehumanizing aspects of slavery, Walker creates a powerful visceral response. They're the same awful scenes Morrison and Jones rendered, but from a different angle.

Kara Walker, The Means to an End

But how will Tarantino go about this? And how will audiences react? Anticipated movies are always analyzed before they come out, and movies/TV shows showcasing a group that's not white males tend to be unfairly burdened with being the standard bearer for that group (see: Girls), but it's understandable why many are nervous about this one.

Image info:
Kara Walker, Cut
Movie Still: Entertainment Weekly
Kara Walker, The Means to an End, Honolulu Museum of Art

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Douchey Fangirl Whining: The Dark Knight Rises Trailer

So the new The Dark Knight Rises trailer was posted a few hours ago, and I am being a whiny fangirl douche about it.

First of all, Bruce Wayne is looking very Christian Baleful.

Wait, is this a trailer for The Fighter 2?

And then there's Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. We only get a few clips of her, but it looks like she gets Alicia-Silverstone-as-Batgirl cheesy attempted bon mots instead of an actual aura of badassery. While watching, I kept thinking, "Gurl, Selina would cut you." Hathaway's fine, but I don't feel her in this role. I could maybe see her as Barbara Gordon - noble but slightly bookish with a can-do attitude and a hint of smug righteousness - but not Catwoman.

She's no theatre kitten.

Plus, there are so many people in this movie, and it looks a bit all over the place. You've got the main characters, Catwoman and Bane as villains, and then Juno Temple as Catwoman's friend Holly Robinson, and Ra's Al Ghul, and Talia's there as a little girl (I hope in flashbacks?), and then the entire cast of Inception being more cops and more love interests and what-not.

Will they try to cram too much of Batman's mythology into this final segment? It's clear Nolan wanted a firm ending to the trilogy, and there's been rumors that Bruce Wayne's Batman bites the dust, possibly replaced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character.

Gordon-Levitt's character in Brick is the hero Gotham needs.

Which explains why they decided to set this movie so far after the last one (eight years, I think?). It looks like Bruce hasn't fared well in that time, wallowing in martyrdom and unfortunate facial hair. And what about the Joker? I'll admit I'm one of these fans, and wondered if when Gordon-Levitt was cast he would be taking up the role for a cameo. But what will they do? Considering the importance Joker has on Bruce Wayne's life, no mention at all would be conspicuous. Will there be some "Hey, remember when you accidentally killed the Joker a few years ago and started drinking and doing terrible things with your hair?" comment? Will he have just been in Arkham this whole time, "dating" his psychiatrist Dr. Quinzel, playing cards with Jonathan Crane, laughing at Bruce's overwrought life?

Arkham's kinda fun, anyways.

Okay, now I'm just delving into questions that will be answered in July. But, to not be a total Debbie Downer, here are the things that give me hope:

-Bane looks awesome. Rick Perry, that is how you rock a Brokeback Mountain coat.
-One of my husbands (Gordon-Levitt) is in it.
-The special effects are amazing.

At least if the movie's not good, they can cut it down to just the collapsing football field scene with Bane being a boss and Joseph Gordon-Levitt posing off to the side in a tailored suit. Short Film Live Action Oscar right there.

You can do this, boys.

Oh, man, that's right. Both Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are in this. Never mind, this movie will be great. Okay, I should both go to bed now and just wait until July 20. The Dark Knight and its exemplary cast - especially Heath Ledger - is hard to follow, but maybe Nolan will surprise us all.