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Defending The Mockingjay · I saw Mock­ing­jay  —  Part 1 yes­ter­day and, hav­ing care­ful­ly avoid­ed re­views, poked around af­ter­ward to see what oth­er peo­ple thought. I was shocked to find them run­ning more or less 50% neg­a­tive. So here’s why you should ig­nore the bad re­views and go see it ...
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風立ちぬ — The Wind Rises · Miyazaki’s lat­est is big and messy and dis­turb­ing and sad and very beau­ti­ful. We took two seven-year-old girls to see it be­cause, well, Miyaza­k­i; a mis­take, this is for grown-ups ...
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Punishing Peter Jackson · On a re­cent 10½-hour flight I watched The Deso­la­tion of Smaug. Now we have to work out how to pun­ish Peter Jack­son for this trav­es­ty ...
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Pacific Rim · Hadn’t ac­tu­al­ly gone out to a movie in a the­ater for a long time. Then I kept hear­ing kind words on this one from smart peo­ple with good taste. We sat a lit­tle too close to the really-big really-loud screen and still walked away smil­ing, al­beit with mild headaches ...
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New Tintin Movie · On Thurs­day night in Bel­gium I watched The Ad­ven­tures of Tintin: Se­cret of the Uni­corn. Tintin was im­por­tant to my younger self and is Bel­gian, so this was a can’t-miss. I en­joyed it a whole lot, but I wor­ry that some Tin­tin­istas will see a be­tray­al of the fran­chise ...
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Axe Generations · I rent­ed It Might Get Loud, a 2009 mu­sic doc­u­men­tary fea­tur­ing Jim­my Page (born 1944), The Edge (1961), and Jack White (1975). If you know who these peo­ple are and think you might like it, you al­most cer­tain­ly will. I have one re­al­ly im­por­tant piece of ad­vice for those who are go­ing to watch it ...
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Koyaanisqatsi · From time to time, Phil Glass goes out on tour with his en­sem­ble, play­ing the Koy­aanisqat­si sound­track live in front of the movie. We went to the show this evening and re­al­ly en­joyed it. The movie ages rea­son­ably well (although the ac­tu­al phys­i­cal print was a lit­tle tired), with the ex­cep­tion of the over-long, over-excited, un-subtle The Grid seg­ment in the mid­dle. I find I can route around the ham-handed industrial-civilization-sucks mes­sage and en­joy the el­e­gant very slow cuts—yes, look at this moun­tain (or ma­chine, or cloud­scape, or unglam­orous middle-aged face) for much longer than you thought you want­ed to and re­alise that there’s more there to see than you thought. And there’s a mes­sage in that too, about time and at­ten­tion, that seems more im­por­tant to me than the oth­er. As for the mu­sic, Philip Glass may not be ex­act­ly main­stream, but he’s not con­tro­ver­sial any more. I have a bunch of his al­bums and think that both Glass­works and Mishi­ma have some 5-✭ track­s. The band plays beau­ti­ful­ly (5 key­board­s, 3 wood­wind­s, one so­pra­no and some of the in­stru­men­tal­ists sing too); Phil doesn’t con­duct but gets to play the juicy low slow at­mo­spher­ic­s. The sound was clean and pure and solid, too. I re­al­ly en­joyed the crowd, the last cou­ple of times we’d been at that venue it was for the op­er­a, and the Phil Glass crowd was funkier, bet­ter dressed (not more ex­pen­sive­ly, bet­ter), and (dare I say it) looked more in­tel­li­gen­t.
 
The Grim High-Def Future · This en­gad­get piece is hor­ri­fy­ing; it says Blu-Ray and HD-DVD play­ers will re­port any “hack” and are ca­pa­ble of be­ing dis­abled re­mote­ly. You re­al­ize what this mean­s? That’s right, when­ev­er you want to watch a movie, you’re go­ing to have to sit through as many min­utes of pre­views and ads as the ven­dor wants you to; no es­cape. Our won­der­ful lit­tle region-free uni­ver­sal play­er from Nin­taus, well that kind of thing just won’t be tol­er­at­ed any more. So I guess that in the world of high-def, you just won’t be able to buy disks for your kids from over­seas... wouldn’t want them to learn any of those nasty for­eign lan­guages, would you? There’s an ex­plo­sion com­ing, and it ain’t gonna be pret­ty.
 
“An Art of Flawless and Unredeemable Vulgarity” · For those of us in­clined to read­ing, there are few plea­sures sweet­er than an un­al­loyed, un­sug­ared, un­mer­ci­ful polemic, de­liv­ered with style and vig­or and aimed at a thor­ough­ly de­serv­ing tar­get. Which is to say, An­tho­ny Lane’s tri­umphant trash­ing of Re­venge of the Sith is a mas­ter­piece, and we are all in Ge­orge Lucas’ debt for giv­ing Lane such a mon­u­men­tal and soft tar­get. Lane is pure­ly and un­apolo­get­i­cal­ly mean-spirited, punch­ing glee­ful­ly well be­low the belt and con­nect­ing with ev­ery blow. I am no more than a grasshop­per in the pres­ence of a mas­ter, but am still moved to re­mark that Lu­cas is a pasty-faced over­grown ado­les­cent with a re­al­ly dumb hair­cut, and that his tal­ent for the oc­ca­sion­al re­al­ly great spe­cial ef­fect in no way makes up for his lame plot de­vices, preschooler-cartoon char­ac­ter­s, and pro­found lack of good taste.
 
Surprise! · Just got back from see­ing Master and Com­man­der. The the­atre was jam-packed; mind you it was Satur­day night, but stil­l, the movie’s been out for ages. I’m pleased it’s do­ing well be­cause it’s very good in­deed. Here­with a few notes on the movie, and more on the books be­hind it; if there are any book-lovers read­ing this who haven’t yet dis­cov­ered Pa­trick O’Brian, do your­self a big fa­vor and read on. Plus I close with the oblig­a­tory geek-interest side-notes. [Up­date: The Gun­room lives!] ...
 
RotK, Bah · Put me in with the 3% of the pop­u­la­tion who didn’t like it. There is just no ex­cuse for the agonizingly-slow open­ing or the agonizingly-slow end­ing. For ex­am­ple: the book’s last para­graph is He drew a deep breath. “Well, I’m back,” he said. Cut to black, dammit! What could be more cin­e­mat­ic? The movie is good where it stays close to the book: the ride of the Ro­hirrim; Eowyn and the Nazgul; Fro­do and Gol­lum at the Cracks of Doom. The fur­ther it strays, the cheesi­er it get­s, and it strays pret­ty far. Why lose the scene where Grond strikes down the gates of Mi­nas Tirith and the witch-king rides in to con­front Gan­dalf? To buy time for end­less te­dious min­utes of Fro­do and Sam climb­ing the side of Morgul Vale? Why the stupid by-play with Gol­lum un­der­min­ing Sam, cheap­en­ing the main Frodo-vs-the-Ring sto­ry? And one more gripe, not just with this third ei­ther: Jack­son loves this dis­gust­ing shot where Frodo’s on his back par­a­lyzed with fear crawl­ing back­ward away from a mon­ster of one sort or an­oth­er, which is nei­ther re­al­is­tic nor very flat­ter­ing to Mr. Bag­gin­s. I think this cheesy special-effects ve­hi­cle is ben­e­fit­ting big-time from everyone’s ex­pec­ta­tions of Hol­ly­wood be­ing so low that it gets raves just for not be­ing egre­gious­ly bad.
 
Norman McLaren · I was read­ing Der­vala, elo­quent as al­ways on the sub­ject of an evening spent with the NFB. That’s Canada’s Na­tion­al Film Board, a gov­ern­ment de­part­ment whose busi­ness is mak­ing movies, an idea sure to cause right-wingers ev­ery­where to bleed from the eye­ball­s. The NFB was an im­por­tant part of my growing-up; this note dips in­to some nos­tal­gia and plugs one of its lead­ing light­s, Nor­man McLaren ...
 
Appalling Debauchery · What hap­pened was, I went to Black Dog, our lo­cal (very good) video join­t, for a Saturday-night flick for a tired fam­i­ly, and picked up Princess Mononoke, we hav­ing re­cent­ly be­come Miyaza­ki fans (it’s good, but not up there with Chi­hi­ro). As I was walk­ing out of Black Dog the new Led Zep­pelin DVD jumped out in front of me. Lau­ren gave me an un­der­stand­ing look af­ter Mononoke ran down and shuf­fled off to bed, so I Zepped out till late. Here­with some notes on the DVD and band, for which the au­di­ence will self-select, a high pro­por­tion shuf­fling off like Lau­ren to more wor­thy di­ver­sion­s ...
 
Still Life, Big Numbers · To­day I was read­ing the won­der­ful Con­ver­sa­tion Between Dave Pat­ter­son and Jim Gray over at the ACM site. Pat­ter­son and Gray are both pret­ty fa­mous in our pro­fes­sion, but nei­ther is as fa­mous as he de­serves to be. In­struc­tion­s: If you care at all about any­thing to do with da­ta and where it lives, skip over and read Pat­ter­son and Gray. Then, if your in­fras­truc­ture is up to a (quite pret­ty) 4.4MB Quick­time movie, pro­ceed. (World’s first videoblog! Be an ear­ly adopter!) Other­wise, see ya lat­er ...
 
Show Biz Kids · On Thurs­day a strange­ly sur­re­al evening; the kid had his first-ever pub­lic per­for­mance; a thou­sand peo­ple came, ter­abytes were burn­t, and the evening pro­gressed through sushi to Stephen King in the twi­light, and now I can't get this Steely Dan tune out of my head ...
 
Chihiro · I'm a com­put­er geek, and ev­ery­one knows com­put­er geeks love An­ime. It says so at least three times a week over on Slash­dot. I'd giv­en it a cou­ple of tries but gen­er­al­ly failed to get it (for ex­am­ple, we turned off Aki­ra halfway through). Then last week­end we rent­ed Spir­it­ed Away, and I don’t know if I’m ready to sign up as an An­ime lover, but that is a fine movie ...
 
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