Closer.

Break out of loops.

from here.

Almost over, almost finished. There will be just this post, this one right here that you’re reading, and then one two more tomorrow (I believe) in 2013, and then I think Counterforce will be finished…

WordPress put together a nice little package of the year 2012 in review for the blog, which didn’t contain a lot because we didn’t do a lot with the blog in 2012. Hence, I’m afraid, it’s coming to a close.

I’m not going to make it public, though it gives you the option to do so, but I will give you two highlights from it which I think are funny…

Attractions.

I do like WordPress in general. I know there are a lot of other blogging platforms out there that people like better, and I don’t doubt that they’re better, but WordPress has always pleased me with its simplicity and being relatively easy to use.

Lost and found.

Anyway, I would like to do more and say more, but there’s no time. I would like to end the blog right now, today, have it close its doors for the last time in 2012, but again, no time. I have other plans, other things to accomplish, a life that exists only part of the time on the internet, and that’s a small part of why the blog is ending. Plus, it’s funny to me to see it last just a little bit longer, to dip over just a little into the next year. If the world had ended last week as we were promised, then it wouldn’t be an issue, but oh well. One down, two to go.

So, that said, have a nice New Year’s Eve, you perverts, and have fun. And we’ll make our final goodbyes tomorrow in

And here we go...

“For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.”

Like my previous post, this will be just a few things, some half way there thoughts…

One: The sky is still falling, and this blog is still coming to an end. We’re getting there, but slowly.

After this: 89 posts to go.

Have you listened to our podcast? You’ll notice that a majority of the posts now are just tools for you to download each new episode (but we’ll be on itunes soon). Not every post from now til the end – from this time to the end of time – will be solely about episodes of the podcast, but a good chunk of the rest of this blog will be eaten up by the creature that is consuming it and evolving out of it.

Evolution imagery is gruesome and interesting.

Two: It’s probably been a hundred years since I saw the Star Trek episode from this post borrow its title.

I vaguely remember it had a premise that sounded less interestingly like a very interesting (at least in its promise and potential) show that Harlan Ellison created way back, called The Starlost.

I won’t rehash the show’s plot, especially since you can just read about it on the Wikipedia link, but from what I gathered the show was terrible. But in reading what’s there, to me, I see the potential for something amazing, something that could be brilliant with a little bit of re-conceptualizing and competent execution.

Brilliant and intriguing puzzle/mystery box shoes still seem to be highly lusted after by network TV execs in these post-Lost wilderness years, but it seems like no one has the time to invest in competent conceptualization and execution. So it goes. Instead of our altars, we’re building our own coffins.

Three: Speaking of The Starlost, also read up on the idea of generation ships, and holodecks, and the Danger Room from X-men comics, the Dreamatorium from Community, and Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series.

And see also: the “Mystery In Space” and “Rendezvous” issues of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary comic series, which was one of the best pieces of storytelling that I’ve had the pleasure to read in the last ten or so years. On its surface, it’s about mystery archaeologists, but in reality its a love letter to certain kinds of storytelling from the previous fifty years of our culture.

Four: We eat our young. Only those lucky or tough enough to crawl away are potentially worthy of living to tell the tale.

Five: This is the new decade. There’s bigger and better thinkers who are more capable of this, better suited to the task, but I wonder what this new decade will look like. What innovations and disasters and pop confectioneries will define this new unit of measuring time.

And from that, I say… Does this decade, still in its relative infancy, still feel remarkably similar to the latter days of the previous decade? Isn’t that how it goes? Did the initial years of the 80s feel similar to waning years of the70s? Did the first few years of the 90s look anything like the middle years of the 90s?

Six: I’ve never seen Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World On A Wire, but I’ve always wanted to. I guess that, amongst other things, what’s been holding me up is that it’s a piece of old 3 1/2 German sci fi. That and it wasn’t readily available until the it was released not too long ago as part of the Criterion Collection.

The Criterion Collection. Of course.

The movie is based on an old novel, Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye, and I have seen the American movie adaptation of that book…

Seven: When something is said, or when art is created, mixed with business and pleasure, how often does it come from a real, authentic place, answering questions or curiosities that are out there amongst the community? Or, especially when you lean more towards business rather than pleasure, or the pleasure of business, does it come from the perception of an interest within the larger community, the popular imagination, or a desire to create and inspire that perception and then make money off of it?

Eight: In the 90s, especially towards the beginning of the 90s, but a little at the end of it, it seemed like we didn’t know what we had on our hands. Not yet anyway.

It’s like Murphy Brown’s baby, that was born amidst a certain level of generated/unnecessary controversy. It was raised by the guy who was painting the house for years and years and wouldn’t be named until it could be deciphered, or understood. I know that kid eventually got a name, but wasn’t he, like, twenty at that point?

In Sci Fi trends in the 90s it seemed like they were mixing the 70s paranoia rehash that was being re-conceptualized in The X-Files with this desire to pursue the new, the fringes of oncoming technology and the things that we assumed would be important.

Spoiler alert: I’m going to start talking about virtual reality in a moment.

On top of that, you had boy bands and you “alternative rock” and I remember going to high school and hearing bullshit arguments about who was or what constituted being a “poser.” I heard some kids of being accused of being “wiggers.” On one hand we were growing up to want to start living lives out of the movies that had raised us when our parents were busy, and on the other hand we were accused of appropriating lives and roles that it was felt we had no right to. In music and society and goofy cultural matters there was this question of authenticity.

Perhaps you’re not real. Perhaps you only existence in the simulacra of someone else. And perhaps because you think, therefore you are…

Unless you’re just programmed to have thoughts, or to think you’re having thoughts. Who is telling this story? And to whom?

Anyway.

The American movie that came out of Simulacron-3 in the 90s was The Thirteenth Floor, starring Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Dennis Haysbert. It’s a murder mystery set within a company that’s created a new simulated reality, and there’s a twist. The twist is not hard to guess.

from here.

The tagline for the movie was “Question Reality.” I find that interesting since the tagline for American Beauty, which came out int he same year, was “Look Closer.”

Is it possible that we’re missing something?

The Thirteenth Floor was/is not a bad movie, just a movie that wasn’t thought out far enough to its natural conclusion. It reminds me in some regards of a movie that would come today in that it seems like it’s two drafts of a script away from being much, much better. It’s a very American movie that’s concerned with the nature of our reality, with existential paranoia, mashed up with echoes of a film noir feeling.

But then again, a lot of its problems can be summed up with two words: Craig Bierko. Another bizarre, failed experiment in creating a leading man out of literally nothing.

Nine: Granted, The Thirteenth Floor was not a movie from the early 90s, and in fact came out in 1999, around the same time as The Matrix, a movie with an arguably incredibly similar premise, especially concerning how many elements it ripped off from Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles.

Also, there was David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and Alex Proyas’ Dark City (which I never saw cause it looks stupid), and The Truman Show, which had similar heavy overtones. But earlier in the decade you had the short lived Fox TV show VR.5 which, if I were to watch it now, I’m sure I’d more than cringe at, but at the time, I thought was incredibly intriguing. That show starred Lori Singer, Anthony Stewart Head, Will Patton, and David McCallum.

Ten: At the start of this I talked haphazardly about the idea of a newborn decade dreaming of the past, but really it’s a matter of the new decade dreaming of the future, of what is to come? I should be talking about Christopher Nolan’s  Inception here probably. Something something something THIS DREAM IS COLLAPSING.

Eleven: From Borges to Pynchon to Phillip K. Dick, so much of our fiction comes back to questioning the layers of reality and how we perceive it. What is real? What is really happening? And what is the reality of what is happening, real or otherwise?

Reality may be real, or it might not be, at least not real in the sense that we think of, but we share it, and we create it together, don’t we?

from here.

Twelve: Personally I would state that the experience of an event is the reality of it, at least in the moment. Reflection is easy, but it only casts a shadow over reaction in retrospect.

Thirteen: For now, this blog is moving forward, but it’s marching onward to its eventual demise, of sorts. Even on the internet, matter can only change forms, not be fully destroyed (I hope). Soon, what is currently thought of as Your Friendly Neighborhood Counterforce will become a time capsule, once it’s fallen completely out of this virtual sky that we’re all looking at together.

Haecceity.

Maybe this is not for you. Maybe it’s just not the time for this kind of thing?

Continue reading

Closer.

The day before it was 23 things about Lost, and yesterday it was five things about men and women, Don Draper and Liz Lemon and Meg Ryan and Nic Cage. And today it’s just three things. It’s almost as if time is speeding up as we get closer and closer to something, right? But today… three songs:

1. Blonde Redhead “Silently”

For starters, Benjamin Light: I’m not going to say it. I want to. You know I want to. But I won’t.

Secondly, Conrad Noir: Yes. It sounds like cunnilingus to me. Sweet, seductive cunnilingus… Only instead of legs spread and a tongue moving over the the wetness between, it’s your ears that are spreading and a mouth upon what’s between them…

This is one of my favorite songs. Perhaps ever, actually. It’s from their last album, the lovely 23. (The title track is also fantastic.) Don’t just listen to this song. HEAR it. Put on headphones, turn up the volume, and prepare to go somewhere as you hear it, prepare to smile, prepare to kind of sway a little. Contains the lyric that I find terrifically appropriate far too often: “I realize now that you’re not to be blamed, my love. You didn’t choose your name, my love. You never crossed the seven seas!” But when you listen to this song, you’ll feel like you had, and that you came home from that sexy journey.

2. Architecture In Helsinki “It’5!”

There’s no denying it, this song is fucking ridiculous.

But at the time, which was years and years ago, I desperately needed something ridiculous and catchy to find me and this song did. Caught me when I was falling and I fell in love with it’s cheesiness. And then I grew to love the band, which was the original psuedointellectual tweecore, even before Los Campesinos came along to do it just as well, but with more point and bite perhaps. This song contains and both asks the eternal question: “Have I failed to impress you?” And it also reminds you the inherent dangers of strangers as well? Maybe. I’d also recommend the incredibly sexy “Maybe You Can Owe Me” by the same band. You don’t have to thank me for the recommendation, but maybe you can owe me. :)

3. Well…

Today I had to go on a trip with a co-worker. About two hours one way, for a meeting, then two hours back. She drove, I rode shotgun. On the way back to work, we made small talk for a bit and then I retired to my headphones and Pandora radio and let her sing along to the country music station I could tell she was desperate to put on. As we drove, the weather here got more and more severe. The skies were darkening quickly and before long everything was gray, the color of life desaturated and soaked with impending doom. Wind was blowing songs, turning the hard rain sideways. The man on the radio was saying that quarter sized hail was to be expected, then hail the size of ping pong balls, then hail the size of a baseball. She and I half joked that we were expecting him to come back with a warning about basketball sized hail, but that was our way of joking about how terrifying the sky was getting.

We still had a ways to go and in the direction we were heading: Lightning. And lightning is scary the longer it lasts. A quick flash is worrisome, foreshadowing. But this wasn’t a quick flash, these were big, thick bursts of electricity puncturing the landscape ahead of us and it was lasting 1 second, then 2, then 3, then 4, then…

“It’s so close,” she whispered and without saying anything, without looking at me, she moved her hand closer. I could tell she was scared and honestly, so was I. I held her hand and let myself get worried.

The whole time I kept one ear bud in my ear. I need something loud to distract me. At one point on my Pandora station, it was Death From Above 1979 but part of me felt that just wasn’t going to work. Then some Ratatat (by the way, their new album is good), then Crystal Castles at one point. I kept cycling through vaguely techno songs, needing something to take me out of this moment as she and I were flinging ourselves headlong into it. And then it happened, this song:

M83 “We Own The Sky”

…and I just knew it was going to be okay. This is as close as I get to a spiritual experience at times, as empty as it may seem to you, but everything about me that was concerned was gone. I turned the volume up, squeezed her hand gently, and said, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine.”

“Really?” she asked me. This was the first time she looked at me. She was looking to see me flinch, or hesitate, watching for the slightest sign that I might just be saying something to make her feel better. There was none of these signs.

“Really,” I said, and then turned the volume up higher.

Identity crisis.

“You have one identity. The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly. Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

-Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, quoted in an interview in David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect.

It’s an interesting thing to see Zuckerberg’s thoughts on this issue laid out so clearly, but in such a cardboard way. I get the feeling that he feels this is right and ethical and moral and is willing to stand by it and I wonder how much of an effect this will have on people’s already natural inclination to slide away from certain models of social networking for a certain period of time. Plus, it kind of ignores the point, I think, that “secret identities” is natural for people (not just super heroes) in a lot of cases. The person you are with your family at Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the same person you are with your boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other, and neither of those is necessarily the same person you are with your friends or within different groups of friends.

It’s natural for you to be different in different situations and amongst different groups. And not just natural, it’s nice. “Always be yourself” is perhaps not the greatest advice to give to someone who sucks, or who hates who they are. There’s times where, either out of stress or just because you can, it’s nice to say, “I’m going to be somebody else right now.”

I mean, in this day and age, who wouldn’t want to be their own evil twin if they could?

And, of course, nothing in our life is as private as we think it is or would like to think it is. That’s something you just have to accept. Though it’s not something you have to be happy with. But you still have to live your own life, and hopefully one you’re happy with.

Plus, it seems like move in certain patterns… At times, we strive towards authenticity, and then conversely, we seem to be running away from it.

Then again, I’ll admit a certain bias towards Facebook: I’ve never been all that impressed with it.

As something that seemed primarily started originally as a way to alert your buddies at college when the next party was going to be, I never quite understood the mass migration of people into it’s borders and I’ve never understood the way it’s continued to grow, or why features like Farmville have caught on. I guessed they’ve just never SuperPoked me in the right way. Also, I won’t lie, I originally joined to get “closer” to a girl I liked way back when, which is… stupid, but stupid in that way that you can really only appreciate in hindsight, sadly. I don’t know which was briefer and more fleeting, my interest in the girl or my “excitement” about using Facebook.

…which, that kind of thing, the article I linked to above goes into a little bit, that people love invading the privacy of others but hate it when their own is invaded, of course. So whenever Facebook reorganizes and becomes more open and transparent, then the complaints and protests grow, but so does the usage…

I get that when someone has an “online persona,” then those who try to get to know that person in some kind of “real way,” something at least seeming to appear authentic, can feel hurt or cheated in a way. That makes sense. Most of your magnetic, fascinating online people are probably quite boring in real life. That’s two different versions of them, and honestly, it has to do with which one is their medium, which arena they can thrive in. But the same thing can happen in life: You think you know something, then you learn new aspects about who they are, and you feel betrayed in a way. But really, that has more to do with you in some cases than them.

Mostly I’m just talking here, all of this fast and loose. It all has to do with the wildly contradictory aspects of human nature. Knowing everything there is about a person’s one true identity isn’t in the actualization of that notion, but in the approach, much like happiness is in the doing.

Just remember this: Everything is connected, and so is everyone, even if you don’t see all the links and the fibers and the knots. If you don’t, that’s okay. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t either (nor his wacky sister, I’m guessing). You don’t need to see them all. After I finish typing this, I’m going to hit the “publish” button and go be somebody else for a while. I’ll go for a jog, then maybe read a book, watch a movie (today’s is Michael Clayton), and probably watch Doctor Who later. After you finish reading this, you’ll close your internet browser and you’ll go be somebody else for a while too.

Counterforce at the movies: Best of the decade.

Or…

TEN! TEN! YEAARRSS!”

50 films we won’t forget:

by Benjamin Light and Marco Sparks

In no particular order…

Let me repeat that, since there’s always some asshole who doesn’t read it the first time and whines about movie x over movie z: these are in no particular order.

◊ ◊ ◊

High Fidelity

Benjamin: A movie about guys who love making top 5 lists, in a big top 50 list. How meta. The opening lines sum it up:

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

◊ ◊ ◊

The Departed

Benjamin: My favorite thing about this film is the way it’s edited together almost as one long montage rather than a simple scene-to-scene cut. Mark Wahlberg is stunningly good. He and the other young actors were so good that Jack Nicholson actually got kind of ignored by the critics. Which is amazing. My favorite lines: “Just fucking kill me.” “I am killing you.”

Marco: Great film, great direction, great acting, just something fantastic and raw. I feel like a more talented person than I could make a serious gender studies write up with this movie because you literally have every kind of man in it.

◊ ◊ ◊

Children Of Men

Benjamin: Makes the list for the two tracking shots alone. Managed to capture the post 9/11 zeitgeist without pandering to it.

Y’know that ringing in your ears? That ‘eeeeeeeeee’? That’s the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song. Once it’s gone you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

◊ ◊ ◊

Donnie Darko

Benjamin: Richard Kelly did everything he could to make me want to strike this from the list, but the original theatrical cut still works. Just because the hot topic kids jumped all over this and the director re-cut it in the most obvious and hackish way possible doesn’t make my old first run DVD any less good. And as a bonus, it’s got Maggie Gyllenhaal before she hit menopause.

◊ ◊ ◊

Once

Benjamin: I’ll be honest, I tried watching this once (sic) for five minutes and found I would need subtitles to continue. Marco?

Marco: The sum is more than the whole and it’s a slow build up, but before you know it, you’re immersed in the gradual easy attraction of this busker and the immigrant and their mutual love of music. Their real life story is a bit weirder, but not scandalous, and hey, whatever. Life is weirder, and this movie feels more realistic as if you there in the grime and poverty and creative joy with them.

◊ ◊ ◊

Cache

Marco: What you take out of life is about how you perceive it and even scarier than that, the the thing we never ask ourselves is: What do others see when they see us. Haneke, who’s no stranger to strong, controversial filmmaking, gives us a very raw, paranoid movie here about a French couple who start receiving video tapes of themselves. There’s much you could say about this film and I feel it’s one that people will come back to more and more in the years to come. It feels like the kind of cinema I’d like to see Hitchcock making if he was alive today.

◊ ◊ ◊

Traffic

Benjamin: I think we all remember the same thing from this film: the Erika Christiansen “gettin fucked” POV cam. Also, it nicely exposed the general pop to the harsh realities of the war on drugs. Then we all watched for a whole decade while the reality got worse.

◊ ◊ ◊

Mulholland Drive

Marco: This is a film you watch once, enjoy it or not, but after that, it’s no longer a film. It lives inside you, hovering just over you, out of the corner of your eye, always just out of sight. It’ll influence your dreams and always feel like the cold fingers of a dead man crawling up your spine for a gentle caress. And it’s beautiful and perfect, too.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Prestige

Benjamin: The Plot, the Turn, and the Prestige. It’s hard not to like the clockwork structure of this film. Plus, it has Tesla in it, and Tesla invented half the new technology in the 2000s.

Marco: I think it was actually Benjamin Light who saw this before me and convinced me to see it (not that I needed much convincing). “How was it?” I asked. “Not bad at all,” he said. “It’s got magicians trying to fuck each other over and a mad scientist and-” “I’m sold,” I said. Easily one of the strongest, smartest movies of the decade. And secretly one of the most fun.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Dark Knight

Marco: “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Benjamin: Probably the most important film of the decade. No, seriously. The Dark Knight took the soul of America to the brink of post-9/11 despair, and then pulled us back a few feet and let us stare out into the abyss. Anarchy has never seemed so terrifyingly seductive. There’s a reason this film made shitloads of money, and it’s got nothing to do with bat-arrangs and secret identities. This was America’s acceptance stage.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Others

Benjamin: My favorite horror film of the decade, and so much more worthy of praise than the Sixth Sense.

Marco: We’ve talked about how few filmmakers can really produce actual, real dread in their movies, the kind you can feel floating around in your blood with you, or a that constant presence out of the corner of your eye. This had that, plus that feeling of gripping your knees or fingernails digging into your armrests and your teeth grinding. And I’d hate to ever review based on its twist, but this movie’s? Perfect.

◊ ◊ ◊

There Will Be Blood

Marco: The perfect horror movie to precede a recession.

Benjamin: Perhaps the only way to show the sociopathic urges of unchecked capitalism is to embody it in a man.

You’re not my son. You’re just a little piece of competition.

◊ ◊ ◊

Lost In Translation

Marco: Too often are own lives drift towards being half asleep, confused, and having a shoegaze soundtrack. Bill Murray and ScarJo do this one easily, with charm and grace. Some movies need helicopter chases and explosions and lots of shouting to be something, and then there’s movies like this: It starts with a plane landing and ends with a plane taking off and in between it’s just two people.

Benjamin: Just like honey. Watched this at 3am drinking zima. Hit me like a cement truck and I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore. I would go so far as to throw the adjective ‘timeless’ at this film.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Royal Tenenbaums

Benjamin: A nice little gift to Salinger fans. It can’t be easy to pastiche the aesthetic of J.D. while still maintaining your own style, but Wes Anderson did it.

◊ ◊ ◊

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Benjamin: True story: I once set up my roommate with a girl I used to live with in college. They broke up half a year later. The day they broke up, me and the girl and a few other guys went to see this film. I asked the girl: are you sure you feel like seeing this? And she said no, it’s ok, I’m fine. So we saw it, then went to IHOP afterwards for some dinner. A couple minutes after we sit down in our booth, the girl just totally breaks down, completely devastated. That’s the kind of film this is.

◊ ◊ ◊

Before Sunset

Benjamin: As much as I dislike Richard Linklater, I really do like this film and its predecessor. Would these movies be 10 times better with a different male lead actor? I think so.

Marco: Yeah, I think you can see so very much of Ethan Hawke’s own personal story within the film, especially when his character talks about his off screen wife. But that’s art. There’s something wonderful about the world of Jesse and Celine, something that’s perfect to watch as they reconnect and get past themselves to each other. I wouldn’t mind a return visit to their world.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Hurt Locker

Marco: One of the most tense movies that I’ve seen in a while, and one of the most effortlessly strong ones as well. Kathryn Bigelow knows how to make intellectually muscular movies that don’t shy away from action in the slightest. Compare this to Peter Berg’s The Kingdom for poof that Bigelow shouldn’t wait another 8 years to make another movie and that Berg should.

◊ ◊ ◊

WALL-E

Benjamin: Only Pixar could make a CGI movie about robots with more heart and soul than nearly every live-action film of the year. Wall-E and E-va’s “dance” through space was the work of true artists. Also, E-va always reminds me of Peanut St. Cosmo.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Lives Of Others

Marco: I wonder now if this movie would make a good double bill with Cache… Hmm. Regardless, this is an interesting movie, so very quiet but heavy, about how Big Brother really is watching you. They know everything about you, all of your plots, your secret desires, and soon your privacy will become theirs.

◊ ◊ ◊

V For Vendetta

Benjamin: In retrospect, it’s amazing this movie ever got made during the Bush years, even if it is set in England. The whole film is just a complete rebuke of post 9/11 America.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

◊ ◊ ◊

Synechdoche, New York

Marco: One of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. Charlie Kaufman tackles life and getting old and dealing with your mistakes through an abstract eye, bulky with dream logic, but you can’t help but embody the Phillip Seymour Hoffman character’s sadness. And through the characters, your own. This one stuck with me for a while and, honestly, I think I’m glad it’s so misunderstood and underrated. It feels like my pain and I’m glad I can hold onto it just a little bit longer, just for me.

◊ ◊ ◊

Let The Right One In

Benjamin: It seems like you can never go wrong with a snowy setting, cinematically speaking. This film reminded me in some ways of “The Shining.” Mostly in how there are long stretches of antiseptic dread between moments of shocking gore. and I always appreciate a film that portrays children as the soulless sociopaths that they are.

Marco: Seriously. And this film is just gorgeous, and slick as any Hollywood remake could hope to be (but more on that later). There’s warmth in the cold here, nuance in the horror, and amazingly, I find myself still debating aspects of the ending with people.

◊ ◊ ◊

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Benjamin: There were a ton of Crouching Tiger knock-offs after Ang Lee’s film won the Foreign Film Oscar, but none could touch the real thing. There is a fierceness to Zhang Ziyi’s performance that takes what was already an excellent adventure drama to the next level. And it wasn’t the wire-work and martial arts that made this film special, it was the way Lee used them to tell a somewhat timeless story.

◊ ◊ ◊

Munich

Benjamin: The scene that always stuck with me from this film was the hit on the female assassin. Her sadness in  knowing she’s about to die, that nothing she can say or do will save her. And then, after being shot, walking all the way to her chair to sit down before taking a breath and bleeding out. When Spielberg wants to, nobody puts a more haunting portrayal of realistic violence on the screen than him. And he might be the only man alive with the clout and stature to make this film without getting savaged on all sides.

◊ ◊ ◊

Brick

Marco: This film should not work nearly as well as it does, but it does. A lot of wild elements combine wonderfully, glued in by strong vision and good actors. Every time I watch this, I find myself intoxicated by the language.

Benjamin: Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes from being the kid from 3rd Rock to the next great hope of American acting. Film Noir in High School; perhaps a precursor to Veronica Mars. Gordon-Levitt’s nervy performance makes eyeglass cases and library research seem totally bad-ass. And the noir dialog is killer.

Brendan Frye: All right, you got me. I’m a scout for the Gophers. Been watching your game for a month, but that story right there just clenched it. You got heart kid. How soon can you be in Minneapolis?

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Cold winters, but they got a great transit system.

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Yeah.

Brad Bramish: Oh, yeah?

Brendan Frye: There’s a thesaurus in the library. Yeah is under “Y”. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

◊ ◊ ◊

Serenity

Benjamin: A movie that should have been about 5 times more popular than it was. There’s really not much not to like. Just an excellent, original sci-fi adventure film with engaging characters, fun action scenes and an intelligent message at its core. “I’m a leaf on the wind.” Poor Wash.

◊ ◊ ◊

Gosford Park

Benjamin: A “classic British murder mystery” that’s much more concerned with the crumbling traditions of Class in England. The dry English wit is razor sharp without ever calling attention to itself.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Ring

Benjamin: The first, and perhaps only, successful American translation of the J-Horror movement. I thought the atmosphere and all the cold blue hues of the pacific northwest really made the movie. Like “The Others,” this film was genuinely creepy and unnerving to watch. A taut little thriller of slowly-building dread.

◊ ◊ ◊

(500) Days Of Summer

Marco: A mature look at an immature ideal of love. This is a slick film, ideal viewing for anyone who’s ever been in love, thought they were in love, washed out of a relationship that still keeps them guessing, or just likes well produced, well acted movies. There’s an awesome top ten list of films for romantics out there and this is on it.

Benjamin: I’ve already reviewed this elsewhere, so I’ll just say that I really liked this film and look forward to the director’s next project.

Marco: Which may or may not be a reboot of the Spiderman franchise? Benjie and I have suggesting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as worthy of taking of Heath Ledger’s Joker mantle for a while now, but JGL as Peter Parker? I’d more than buy that.

◊ ◊ ◊

In The Mood For Love

Marco: One of the most visually beautiful and emotionally resonant movies I’ve ever been lucky enough to see. Calls back to an era of filmmaking that is not only romantic and sweeping, but in which characters had integrity.

◊ ◊ ◊

Bad Santa

Benjamin: Would I like this movie less if I hadn’t seen it opening day in a crowded theater half-full of middle-aged patrons who had no idea what it was actually about? Maybe, but this was one of my most enjoyable movie-going experiences ever. “I’m really sorry Grandma, I didn’t know it was going to be like this.” The scene where everyone is punching each other in the balls made us all laugh way too hard.

Marco: This movie will ensure that “you don’t shit right for a week.” But only the “January 2003 Pasadena test screening cut.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Mean Girls

Benjamin: Yay Tina Fey! Once upon a time, speaking Fey’s dialog, Lindsay Lohan looked like she was going to be the can’t miss superstar actress of her generation. There’s kind of an amazing collection of young talent in this quirky little film about Girls. Who would have predicted that Lizzy Caplan would grow up to be the hottest of them all? I once made a comment that 10 Things I Hate About You was the last honest teen movie, but then Mean Girls came along and gave the decade at least one shining example of the genre.

◊ ◊ ◊

Pirates of the Caribbean

Benjamin: Forget the over-stuffed, unessential, paycheck-cashing sequels. Before parts two and three made a muddle of everything, the first Pirates movie was shockingly entertaining. Due in no small part, I think, to Geoffrey Rush’s bravado performance. When he actually yells “ARRRRGGGHHH!!” at Keira Knightly, it’s so genuine that you can’t help but smile. “Bring me that Horizon.”

Sidebar — Gore Verbinski is on this list twice for two entirely different movies. Isn’t it about time a studio let him make a vanity project instead of just throwing franchises at him?

◊ ◊ ◊

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Benjamin: A lot of people didn’t like the “happy” ending to this movie when it came out. Never mind how bleak the ending really is. Gigalo Joe: “I am. …I was.”

Marco: This movie and Munich are really the most mature movies that Spielberg has ever made and, to me, they’re perfect. Do they have flaws here and there? Yeah, sure. But they’re perfect because of them, speaking to my nerdy, pulpy heart.

◊ ◊ ◊

Memento

Benjamin: Memento came out right at the start of the decade when there was a little quicksilver running in the veins of so many promising young directors. A tight, clockwork little story that turns the simple tactic of a reverse edit into a brilliant exposition on memory and identity.

◊ ◊ ◊

Closer

Benjamin: Peanut loves this movie. It’s hard to top Clive Owen growling, “Because I’m a fucking caveman!” followed by “Like you, but sweeter.”

Marco: “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, WRAPPED IN BLOOD! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!”

Benjamin: Fuck yeah!

◊ ◊ ◊

X2: X-Men United

Benjamin: A thoroughly enjoyable comic book film that works on many levels. Finally a film that didn’t seem afraid of its characters’ super-powers.

Marco: Bryan Singer was on to something here, definitely, the idea that a comic book or genre movie can be fun and true to it’s source material, though not a slave to it, but more importantly, can treat it seriously, let it be complicated, and very human. And then Christopher Nolan took those notions and dragged them into the gritty real world.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Benjamin: Saw this with Peanut and August on Christmas day. Thought it was “just decent” at the time and I like it more every time I’ve watched it since. “I wonder if it remembers me?” is a fantastic line, but I think my favorite moment in this movie is right after Steve meets Ned the first time. He makes some small talk and then excuses himself and runs to the bow of the ship to have a minor freak out. Such a true to life moment.

Marco: “OK, man.”

◊ ◊ ◊

I Heart Huckabees

Benjamin: Jude Law plays an American Asshole disturbingly well. The Mayo Story is one of those painful, can’t look away, show-stoppers.

Marco: The kind of smart, “quirky” cinema that I feel like mainstream audiences should have more exposure to. Also, “how am I not myself?”

◊ ◊ ◊

The Fountain

Benjamin: The “present day” search for cancer cure parts stick with me the most.

Marco: There’s something so beautiful about the tragedy in this movie, and I think the splintered storytelling reflects that, how in these situations where life seems to be ripping apart in front of us, we’re stuck in the past, we’re stuck in the present, and we’re dreaming of a future where we’re not so damn helpless. I don’t think this movie has it all figured out, kind of like life, and I like to hear people’s theories about, espeically since this isn’t for everyone. As for me, the future stuff? Clearly that’s the last chapter of the book, right?

◊ ◊ ◊

Juno

Benjamin: Ellen Page FTW! It’s hard to fully put into words why I enjoyed this movie so much, but thought “Knocked Up” was shit. Diablo Cody’s script is over-written, but Jason Reitman managed to breath tons of humanity into a relatively standard story-line. I suppose it works because it’s ultimately not a story about pregnancy, but a story about growing up.

◊ ◊ ◊

Sideways

Benjamin: A depressing, yet hopeful little story about coming to terms with having your dreams crushed.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Incredibles

Benjamin: Pixar does comic book meta-jokes and puts most other comic-to-film adaptations to shame.

◊ ◊ ◊

Cloverfield

Marco: Again, another movie that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it did (for me, anyway). This is part innovative monster flick, and, to me, part new way of exposing the mass audience to an arthouse flick. The new wave turned into a monster crushing the happy little lives of a bunch of well to do twentysomethings in New York. And all of it dripping out of the magic mystery box that is J. J. Abram’s brain.

Benjamin: A brisk, fun little monster movie that never runs out of clever ways to exploit it’s first-person POV format. After a decade of almost all remakes, sequels or adaptations, it was nice to see something new and creative on the screen.

◊ ◊ ◊

Inside Man

Benjamin: Warner Bros.’ formula of star actors and high concepts works perfectly here. Spike Lee shows us with this and the 25th hour that he works better when he’s only got one foot on the soapbox. This is the kind of taught little thriller that you can recommend to nearly anyone. And if they don’t like it, they must have no taste at all.

Marco: People who tell me that they didn’t get this movie make me laugh a little. Everyone brings their A game to this sleek beast, and there’s enough fascinating stuff going on here to fill up at least a season or two of quality television.

◊ ◊ ◊

Star Trek

Benjamin: An all-around enjoyable movie that stands out for an excellent opening sequence and the fact that it was surrounded by total dogshit competition in the summer of 09.

Marco: You may definitely have to turn your brain off for parts of it, but it won’t disappoint in that regard, though I feel like it’s almost like watching the cast of Cloverfield (you could make the argument that every J.J. Abrams joint, aside from Lost, features “the cast of Cloverfield” in form or shape) taking on Romulans, time and space, copious amounts of lens flares, and one of the oldest American sci fi franchises out there. You’re right, Commander Light, last year really was the year of time travel.

◊ ◊ ◊

American Psycho

Benjamin: Makes the list for its first half; act 3 gets a little shaggy. But meeting Patrick Bateman and seeing him go about his lifestyle is required viewing.

Marco: I feel like there’s a whole generation who watched this film and realized that there was really something sick out there in the world, and that if you were to take a step or two back from it and appreciate it for what it was worth, the sickness was also hilarious. The beginning of Christian Bale’s understanding and assault on the satire and attire of the young, rich, professional American male.

◊ ◊ ◊

Atonement

Benjamin: It’s Ian McEwan, but it reminded me in a lot of ways of a Margaret Atwood story. For people who like to write, the ending may hit you harder than others.

Marco: Writers love to fall back on the idea of a writer character, someone to massage out all of your flaws and let you hide from your sins in a perfect world of your own devising, and I love that aspect of this, amongst many other things. Words and stories can damn us or save us, and I love that the sounds of a typewriter are even used as percussion and soundtrack here.

◊ ◊ ◊

Brokeback Mountain

Benjamin: An Asian guy makes an American film about gay cowboys. And it works, seriously. I think Ang Lee was successful because he told a story about characters who happened to be gay instead of camping it up and trying to force the audience into a queer viewing experience like some hack film school grad would try to do.

◊ ◊ ◊

Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith

Benjamin: Fuck the haters, I’d still rather watch the final duel set-pieces in this than the action scenes in any other big-budget effects movie made this decade.

And the honorable mentions:

Half Nelson

Quantum Of Solace

The Contender

Primer

Morvern Callar

Wet Hot American Summer

28 Weeks Later

Up in the Air

Eastern Promises

Mission Impossible 3

Gangs of New York

Up

The 25th Hour

Syriana

Hard Candy

Idiocracy

Michael Clayton

Ghost World

No Country For Old Men

The past ten years have been an interesting one in film. We’ve had to sit through a lot of really stupid shit, but with it has come some truly excellent cinema. Most likely a lot of the trends we’ve hated will continue in the next ten years, but let’s hope they’re tempered with the same level of quality we’ve seen here.

The 13th.

Wait, is it - gasp! - the 13th?

It’s not that I’m an idiot (although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I sometimes am), it’s that I’m sometimes clueless. Or, forgetful. Or, mentally misplaced. You see, there’s a lot of shit floating around in my cranium. Some numbers, some interesting data, some bullshit ephemera about what episode of what season in what obscure TV show a character walked down the wrong hallway to go to the bathroom, tons of music, a few memorized beautiful things I’ve seen in my days, some horrors I’ve always memorized, and a collection of all the breasts I’ve come across and been mesmerized. Yeah, there’s a pun there. A bad one, at that.

This morning, I woke up and smiled that kind of smile that only happens on a day off. I got up, stretched, did the various things I do when I wake up alone, the scratching of places and releasing of certain human fluids, then went to the internet and began absorbing facts. A typical day. There’s “significant amounts” of water on the mother fucking moon!

Houston, we have enough water here to go skinny dipping!from here.

And I was reading some stuff about the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which I knew I was a few days late to, but it’s still fascinating, right?

Fuck this wall, yo

I even put on some music as I did this. Made myself a little playlist in my music player and put it on random/shuffle, and you know what song came on several times? My favorite song by the Cure, that’s what. This one:

That’s “The 13th,” and I just adore it. Not the video so much, but the song, definitely.

TGIF!

There was a commercial on TV for a Friday The 13th marathon. And I thought, “Huh, that’s interesting.” Thought about 2012, the batshit crazy stupid but fun looking Roland Emmerich movie that came on today that I’ll probably see tomorrow with Conrad Noir, who tells me he’s not all that interested because he was let down by The Day After Tomorrow. Well, no shit you were let down by The Day After Tomorrow, right? Anyway, that’s most likely on tomorrow’s agenda.

This guy is going to save the world from environmental catastrophe? Bullshit.

Long story short, it took me until like noon or later to actually fucking realize that it was Friday the 13th. I probably shouldn’t be bragging about that.

Silly superstitions will fuck you up, man.It happened at some local coffee shop that I went to, and, well, it was embarassing, but interesting. I live in a small town, the kind where it’s hard to not get to know everyone and their quaint little stories. And all the Southern gothic ghost stories that goes along with it. So I do my best to avoid people as best I can, but today I felt like getting out of the domecile for a bit and going for a run and experimenting with various Pandora stations on my smart brilliant phone.

Pandora, you bring me closer to God. And I want to fuck you like an animal.

The search for the perfect Pandora station is man’s constant crawl towards enlightenment, nirvana, and the fingerbanging of God. The pleasure is in the quest, not the capturing because the goal is unreachable, but we still try. That’s the beauty of the humans, or something. Regardless, I’ve been bouncing back and forth, trying to find a good station while running/walking, and I took a chance on an 80s station.

Not bad, but you know what? As great as they can be, Duran Duran and Frankie Goes To Hollywood and “The Safety Dance” just felt a little too gay for this job. I needed something less festive, so I figured I’d shift a decade forward and did a search for an appropriate 90s station. Came up mostly zero, no joke, except for a fascinating station that played 80s music stars trying to make a comeback in the 90s:

Okay, that’s the lovely Bryan Adams song from the Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves soundtrack, which is fantastic all on it’s own (except when it’s used for a Dawson’s Creek fanvid, sorry), but in actuality, the first song that came on that station was Adams’ “Run To You,” which isn’t bad. And following that was some Tom Petty, which is always good in my book, and some Bon Jovi, which is atrocious (though old Bon Jobi works appropiately in some bar settings, I’m loathe to admit), and a whole fucking lot of Guns N’ Roses. It was weird, but I guess it did the trick, workout-wise.

Then I got to the coffee shop, got something to eat, something to drink, and meant to hide myself in the corner with some headphones and devour my meal and some more internet on my phone. Also with me were some printouts of various things I needed to revise and a copy of Warren Ellis’ new POD book, Shivering Sands, which had just come in the mail today. I feel like I’ve read most of it previously (it’s a collection of various writings of his from the internet of the past few years), but still, I was excited.

How creepy is this picture, right?

But as it sometimes can be when interesting people are in the vicinity, and frightfully true when there’s less than interesting people buzzing around you, I got sucked into some conversation. Found out it was 13th day of the month coinciding with the fact that it was also a Friday. Also absorbed some recent gossip. And, because of the recent anniversary, got involved with a conversation about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

Sledgehammer.

You see, the conversation got even more interesting when it turned out that one of the women there was German, a former resident of East Berlin, who had been 18 when the wall came down, and moved to America shortly after. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with Germans in the past (and no, I’m not referring to World War II, though that was no picnic either, ha ha!), but every once in a while, I have a good experience with their women. :)

The woman and I talked for some time about the Berlin Wall, and primarily what it was like for her growing up in East Berlin. Essentially, it was bleak, but fascinating. And we had one of those conversations that always pop where she mentions that she was feeling uneasy today because she had left her cell phone at home and she just feels like she’s naked and out of touch, but growing up poor in Germany, they didn’t even have a phone in their house til she was 16. “How did we live in that ancient, strange world?” she asked with a laugh.

The Lives Of Others

She had just seen The Lives Of Others a few weeks ago, she told me, and we talked about the movie, which is really quite good if you haven’t seen it yet, and about the Stasi in general. She told me that the movie scares her because back then, when she was growing up, you just always knew you were being watched, being monitored. You always suspected who was a Stasi man, but you never really knew for sure. And it didn’t hit you until later that it wasn’t so much agents of the Stasi you had to worry about, but those around you because everyone was informing on each other to get ahead.

Relations between Germany and America got a little weird after this.Could’ve been worse. He could’ve thrown up in her lap.

From there we went into little aspects of German history, talking about “The Iron Chancellor” and how the Prussians united the country a hundred years before the Wall fell, and we even talked a little about Merkel, or “Angie,” as she called her, and told me what a fan she is, being that they’re both East German girls. She told me how it was so weird for her to come to America in her twenties and get a more full view of her own little world up til then and to compare it to growing up in communist Germany, where history was repainted with a propaganda slant. She mentioned that as a teen they were never allowed to refer to the Wall as just “the Wall,” it was always as the “tool for anti-fascist defense” or something like that.

The children.

She told me how when she was in school, it was a mandatory field trip for the kids to be taken to the concentration camps and shown all the gross details, the rooms with human remains permanently staining the walls, with the empty shoes of little babies that were turned to dust, the lampshades made out of flayed skin featuring Jewish tattoos. She told me how the physical evidence of the darkest corners of history would never leave her mind and part of her was glad that she was forced to see that shameful part of her country’s past, but that it’s something she knows kids don’t go to see anymore.

The bodies.

I don’t want to use the word “fascinating” again in this post, but that’s what it was. A fascinating conversation, and a fantastic one, informative and insightful. I thanked her for her time and being so patient with my curiousity, and of course for letting me know that it was actually Friday the 13th. Then I left, since I had been there for quite some time and it was starting to look like it might rain. I wasn’t interesting in listening to sad old men with hair plugs crooning bar anthems into my ear, so I just walked in silence, my head heavy with thoughts about everything we discussed.

Come over!Komm rüber!” Hans Conrad Schumann defects, from here.

It did start raining before I got back to my front door, of course, but my mind was elsewhere and I didn’t actually realize it until I was pulling my key out to let myself back in and realized I was shivering there as the water dripped off of me.

Watching and listening.

And how did you spend your Friday the 13th?

Contradictions and cosmic loneliness.

“Too shallow to be truly lonely,” Pauline Kael wrote in her review of L’Avventura, “they are people trying to escape their boredom by reaching out to one another and finding only boredom again.”

“Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I’m told.”

-Haruki Murakami, defying protests to accept the Jerusalem Prize.

“People don’t turn to self-help books to be reminded of the complexity of life or human relationships, they want an Oprah-esque ‘a-ha!’ moment that allows them to take charge and move on with their lives. (See: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.) So, I get it. The only thing I don’t get about HJNTIY is why, after a guy promises he’ll call and then doesn’t, plans a date and then ditches, the response should be ‘he’s just not that into me’ instead of ‘he’s an inconsiderate asshole, and I shouldn’t be that into him’?”

-Tracy Clark-Flory in Broadsheet.

“When so many are lonely… as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.”

-Tennessee Williams.

from here.

The above is from a letter written by Zelda to F. Scott, May, 1919.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

-Walt Whitman.

Do gravity holes harbour planetary assassins?

from here. (Thanks, Elvira!)

“The whole world is you. Yet you keep thinking there is something else.”

-Hsue-Feng.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: If there is any reaction, both are changed.”

-Carl Jung.