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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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