Spiked

Film, music, books, culture, youth and pornography in a country of prudes.

“Inspired By Einstein.”

leave a comment »

For sheer comic value, you can’t beat your local newspaper’s bling section. You know, the one where the pages are mostly filled with celebrities and their all-important opinions and quotes.

One of today’s headlines goes, “I was inspired by Einstein.” By one (I was a Black Eyed Pea!) William (with periods and random capitalizations in there somewhere). Regarding his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Now, you and I both know this is all manufactured, but you’d think whoever was getting paid for this would come up with something better. It’s a minor role in a summer blockbuster spin-off of a moderately enjoyable franchise that might, at best, be a good couple of wasted hours. Not the second coming of Kafka.

All William did was be famous and get cast for it, then show up on set and pretend he knew what this acting thing was all about. Einstein, he’d punch the writer of this sorry sop in the face and call it a relative improvement.

Advertisements

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 18, 2009 at 9:50 am

Collateral

with 3 comments

Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

It still holds up. I’m not a very big fan of Michael Mann’s Heat. It’s an okay movie in my book; perhaps suffering from genre fatigue and good old star hype (Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro together again! Movie orgasm! And so on). But here Mann won me over.  Don’t get me wrong, Collateral is a genre movie, and can’t escape a few narrative clichés as a result, but like the very best of genre movies, it comes loaded with something that’s very much its own: personality.

While lacking in obvious one liners like movies before it (“I’ll be back.”) and any real originality anywhere, the movie gets away with it because Mann knows what he’s doing. Every single shot – including the streets of LA in all their glory – is a ticker-tape running to the (somewhat disappointing, but aren’t most of them?) conclusion.

The story is, let’s say, Terminator without the science fiction. Vincent (Tom Cruise) is an assassin. Only, that’s understating it. Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances (and you can yap about his Oprah freak show all you want; the man can act) in recent years, which is necessary, because without it, this would be an empty shell of a movie. You buy it. This man, Vincent, can do anything. The other guy in this buddy flick (it’s an uneasy friendship, but it is a friendship) is Max (Jamie Foxx), who (reluctantly) drives Vincent around to his targets. The Pop Psych 101 back and forth between them while traveling to those targets is cliché, sure, but it’s smart, too; because this is a genre film, you can’t hold those clichés against it for the cheese. Would you want a Death Wish without the political agenda?

Collateral, on the other, seems to have no agenda at all, except being a tense ride from the moment Vincent takes a seat in Max’s cab (which almost doesn’t happen because Max is busy flustering over getting his last fare’s number). Vincent has no “reason” to kill except being contracted to. He’s killing bad guys, he tells Max, to pacify him, but they both know that’s a lie. How do we know this? The camera focuses on Jamie Foxx during that shot throughout, and he channels that going-through-your-parents’-closet look very well.

In an O-story style, Vincent repeats one of the first things he tells Max at the end (you can see said end coming a mile away, of course), and, while the movie could certainly have ended on a meatier note, it ends precisely where it should. On a road.

Complaints? I wondered if David Mamet was going to ghost direct after Vincent decides to go see Max’s mother. In a hospital.

Thankfully, that scene, while among the movie’s worst, isn’t nearly bad enough to detract from the whole experience.

I’m tempted to reveal more, but this is one of those films which you see once just for the ride. And then, if you’re like me, a second time – when it’s on TV, perhaps – to study it. It’s not Mann’s best (that’d be The Insider), but as far as such movies go, without all the spit shine of special effects and flying robots, they don’t come better than this.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Content Overload

leave a comment »

One of the privileges of modern computing is nearly unlimited space. Where once you’d meticulously delete things, now you can afford to let it stay there. Where once watching a DVDRip meant either burning it to a CD right after (if it was good) or clicking it, pressing SHIFT+DEL and hitting ENTER (if it sucked or was just not worth the cost of the burning media), now it gets lumped into a folder called Seen and promptly forgotten.

Unless it’s good. In which case the folder is called Good Movies, and is eventually burnt to DVD along with five others.

Having access to all this content is wonderful; especially in this country of poverty – the internet as a great unifier, hail Web 2.0. But the flip side is, a lot of this content loses its worth.

There’s just so much to see! We simply don’t have time to watch every movie the way it deserves to be seen (whether it’s good or bad): from the beginning to the end without any other distractions.

So these days there’s a movie playing nearly everyday in the background while I do other work. Like writing blog posts. Most of these movies are the ones you’d never want to watch again, of course, but you gotta wonder: what if you miss out on that rare supposed B-grader that’s actually worth its footprint because you’re too distracted with the latest dose of science fiction nostalgia?

Basic Instinct 2‘s playing in the background now, and you and I both know that all the t-n-a won’t save this ship (neither can the gorgeous Charlotte Rampling). But there was a time where I’d deconstruct a movie as shallow as this one too. Where this would be film school. Every scene would be analyzed for shot selection, music, length, and so on. If the film failed at that level, then of course there was the old doo-hickey: make up your own dialog.

More and more often, I reserve my proper movie watching time for movies I know achieve greatness. This Sunday, for example, is Kurosawa day.

But what about the next generation’s Kurosawa? If all content is merely background noise now except the renowned greats, how will the new visionaries get noticed amid all the ruckus?

“I’m bored,” a Youtube surfer says. Once upon a time having so much choice at your fingertips was unheard of. Once upon a time all I got here were two channels with half an hour every Sunday morning reserved for Walt Disney cartoons. It was all good. Every single cricket match was a family event. Who watches TV anymore? We’ll just read the results on the RSS feed, they say. But that’s for another post.

My excuse is that I simply wouldn’t have seen Basic Instinct 2 if it intruded into my proper movie watching time. Who’d sink this stinker between Herzog and Egoyan?

And yet, once upon a time the sheen and gloss (it’s not a bad looking film, even if Sharon Stone is plastic) on display alone might have been enough.

Infinite choice only seems like Utopia. But I’m not complaining. Gift horse, and so on.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 11, 2009 at 1:19 pm

RIP 3D Realms

leave a comment »

Main story over at Shacknews (new window). Going through the comments on that page is like going through an old photo album.

Computers — real ones, as opposed to clunky machines that could just barely run MS-DOS — came late to the country. I remember playing Dangerous Dave (in lush black and white!) the first time. I remember playing Pac Man (in glorious color!) too. But none of them really left as much of an impression on me as the first three proper computer games I played.

I got my first computer (technically, it was the “family” computer, but Yours Truly marked it as his territory from day one) sometime in 2000. Right after the Y2K scare. I remember, one of the first things I asked the assembler was whether it was Y2K compliant or not. Man, I feel stupid now.

It came loaded with Windows 98SE, which, for all intents and purposes, was the best thing. It had a 33.6 kbps modem and oh dear, let’s save the internet story for another time. The assembler loaded it up with a few game demos.

One of those was Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith. Not a bad one for a first. I was hooked, boy, was I. But let’s save the computer game story for another time too.

Because in a few months I downloaded the shareware version of Duke Nukem 3D (5 MB downloaded off a metered phone line internet, sorry for the bills, folks) and things, as they say, changed. Muchachos muchachas.

The first time Duke dropped one of his trademark lines (I think it was, “Your face, your ass, what’s the difference?” but I can’t be sure), I had the computer speakers cranked up high. Dad heard it. Not my finest hour. But I was hooked.

While others were spouting Bollywood dialog, I was busy mouthing Dukeisms.

So, when I went shopping for games a few months later and found a — check this — Premier edition of Duke Nukem 3D, I grabbed it like you’d grab a naked chick. I kid you not. There it was: this thick, black box. Beautiful like you wouldn’t believe. I still have it, along with the Half Life box (but that’s for later). I devoured the game. No other word for it.

When it was over, I went through it again. Then I found the map editor and, for the next month I was the nerd cliche. Dreaming of making games for a living. But I liked playing the damn game more than making my own levels (come on, confess it, I’m not the only one who shoved a truckload of belly dancers in a room with no doors and basically leaned back to watch ’em. Confess!), and thank Christ for that.

I tried running through Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem 2 (which were on the Premier CD-ROM), but I think I just went back to DN3D again halfway through (DN2 was riddled with bugs, anyway). I’m gonna rip off your head and shit down your neck. If only all protagonists were so eloquent.

Duke Nukem Forever, ever since its announcement, has been like retirement for most of us who played the original as kids. Something that will come by when you can enjoy it to its fullest. So, reading through the comments at Shacknews is no surprise. There’s a broken nerd gamer heart for every murdered alien scum today.

Me, I’ll be dusting that beautiful black box, and perhaps giving the CD a try. Witness the old magic in this age of intellectual bankruptcy. Hear that outstanding title song at the very least. They did with MIDI what Metallica couldn’t do with twenty years of technology: explode.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 7, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Blogger vs WordPress.com

with 2 comments

Once I decided it was time to get back to blogging, I did some research to find a convenient free blogging host. Things have changed in the past four years. Back then it was Blogger vs Typepad (which wasn’t free), pretty much. (Livejournal seemed a lot more like a private diary back then; and it doesn’t seem all that different now.)

These days there’s a host of sites available. I cut it down to three after giving Terapad a spin. Terapad is great, and if you’re looking for a place to host more than just a blog, you should try it out. But it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Which left Vox, along with Blogger and WordPress.com. Vox gets a lot of things right, but I didn’t find a single theme there I’d want to use. It felt like I was on Myspace again. If they could open up their themes to the public and allow custom themes, they’d cause a pretty big dent in the blogger share.

But they don’t. Which leaves Blogger and WordPress.com. It seems seventy percent of the results on a “Blogger vs WordPress” search talk about the WordPress software (available at WordPress.org) and make it sound like it crushes Blogger in terms of features. A few that do compare WordPress.com to Blogger are nearly a year old (if not older) and talk about things that don’t apply anymore (like Blogger’s lack of categories back then).

So let’s get this straight. May 2009: WordPress.com doesn’t allow custom themes unless you pay them to edit your css. Blogger, on the other hand, allows you to edit all you want. Not just css, but your html code too. As far as features go, that’s basically it.

Here, once again:

WordPress.com doesn’t allow custom themes for free. Blogger does.

I thought it’d be the deal breaker for me. I like tinkering with code and customizing things. But still, I made an account at WordPress.com. Just to check it out. What the hell, just a few kilobytes of wasted space, right? I’m glad I did. The back end beats Blogger out of the water. By far. Seriously. Posting with the WordPress back end is refreshing. Compared to this, making a post at Blogger feels like farting around with code in Notepad. It gets the job done, and it shouldn’t really matter, but I prefer Notepad++, thank you very much.

Don’t get me wrong, Blogger allows you loads of freedom, and WordPress.com’s widgets aren’t even in the same league as Blogger’s, but if all you want to do is, y’know, write, then it’s a pretty close call.

Finding a decent theme among the ones WordPress offers doesn’t hurt either. (I’d have said the same thing about Vox if they had the sort of themes I like. Probably.)

But the control freak won’t be so easily pacified, even if the writer thinks he has the tools to do the job. So, for a while, I’m gonna blog at both WordPress.com and Blogger. It takes fifteen seconds to copy-paste the post in html into Blogger, anyway.

Ain’t it nice, freedom?

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 5, 2009 at 10:33 pm

One

leave a comment »

Right off the bat, let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not a popularity race. If it were, you’d find a (fake) woman blogging about her (fictional) sexual exploits here instead. Easiest way to fame, brothers and sisters. Want proof? Search for sex blog on Google.

I got out of the popularity blog wars quite early. Used to have a decent blog on blogger for ages. Back when social networking wasn’t the stinking pile of shit it is now. Now, now, don’t defend Myspace or Orkut or Facebook or all the other wannabes. You know you’re wasting your time there.

Disagree? Prove me wrong.

I’m severely opinionated, which hasn’t changed from those old days.

I learned early on that I demand this from any book I pick up: tell me interesting things in interesting ways. Don’t waste my time. I’m no hypocrite; I won’t waste yours.

No bullshit in this house.

If you expect me to watch my language or my thoughts, kindly sod off.

By which I mean to say, in my own rude way, to everyone else, welcome. Welcome. Kick ass, take down names.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 3, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Blogging

Tagged with ,