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Thursday, May 15, 2008

"But I don't want to go on vacation, I want to be a citizen"

Federation - Okay, so after writing about it the other day, I went home and watched Starship Troopers just to remind myself a) how terrible it is and b) how much I love it. Now, in the movie, there is one global government (an inevitability if you think about it). Now in the "federation" people aren't born citizens, they can apply for citizen and it's granted to those with the most civic responsibility...basically, serving in the military guarantees citizenship and that's the end of it. You know, upon further inspection it seems that the movie is based on a book of the same name, but apparently the book is actually good. Who would have known? Anyways - I'm going to read that and continue this topic later.

Taxes - so I was thinking more about taxes, what they pay for and how to improve the situation...because our government is broke and it's isn't our fault (us, being the civilians - it is the politicians' fault). So before we were talking about privatizing everything to make more money and do things more efficiently and plan and simple - this is the best way to do anything, but it's also somewhat impractical for certain things, but we have other choices too. Some countries pay upwards of 50% to taxes and everything is taken care of...medical, roads, schools...everything good. However, what I'd be interested to see is a completely independent nation where everyone is free to choose what they want to pay for. Let me try to explain - you pay no taxes...okay, you pay some taxes, but minimal - pay government salaries and probably the police and fire departments as well. Anyways, you drive on a road - you pay a toll. Your kid goes to school - you pay for it yourself. Everything is paid for voluntarily, so if you don't use it - you don't pay for it. Free to choose what you pay for. Would it be complex? You betcha! Would it be expensive to set up? Unfortunately. Would it be preferred? Hard to say - what do you think?

I've wasted too much time on my blogs today...I'm getting back to work now. Ta.

Monday, May 12, 2008

B-movies and the movies that honor them...

B-Movies - if you try to make a bad movie, and succeed, did you make a good movie? Further more, if a movie is funny - intentionally, or not - does that deem is worthy of viewing? Generally speaking, I'm going to talk about horror or science fiction movies simply because those are the most likely to jump off the deep end as far as plot and characters.

Let's start with the 1989 classic, Tremors. You know...Kevin Bacon, Reba McEntire, graboids? Now, to be honest, I have no idea if this movie was intentionally bad or if it just turned out that way, but it's hilarious! The movie itself isn't that bad, just preposterous and provided no explanations for most of what was happening on screen, plus I think we've all seen Kevin Bacon is worse roles. This brings up, what I think is an important point - does the audience have to be in on the joke for it to work?

A lot of comedies these day are self-referential in that they are movies and we are the audience - they refer to us as characters enjoying a comedy instead of staying in character in this alternative universe. Obviously, this is a very hit or miss technique...usually miss. That being said, this is an important element in these homages to B-movies, as they give the viewer that inside look into the joke, saying - yes, we know it's bad but it's intentional so you can laugh.

Of course, when I'm referring to homages to B-movies, I'm moving beyond Tremors into more recent endeavors like Grindhouse and Mars Attacks! Now these two (okay, three movies) took very different strategies to paying homage to the movies the directors loved in their youth. Let's start with Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! This is obviously a direct nod to the shitty alien/monster movies of...well, every generation up until late and Burton follows every whim he can think of while producing this faux blockbuster. He pulled in the stars (Tom Jones? Yes. Jim Brown? You betcha! A young Jack Black? Oh yeah! Natalie Portman? We got her before she was famous! Oh yeah, then there's Glenn Close, Jack Nicholson in a double (or is it triple?) role, Danny Devito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, etc...) Next, he took the story of the most recent big blockbuster of the time - Independence Day...basically, aliens invade Earth and attack the planet's most populated areas, starting with D.C., L.A. and NYC. The shit hits the fan, Las Vegas becomes a last refuge and a farm kid from...I want to say Oklahoma...saves the day by playing his Grandmother's polka music. Wait...what? The aliens are laughable in most scenes, and purposely hilarious in others ("we come in peace, we won't hurt you..." while shooting wildly into crowds). So the question remains - is this a bad movie? Burton and company set out to make a bad alien movie and they succeeded beyond anyone's possible expectations. Is it an enjoyable watch? Depends on who you ask - I find the movie fun and funny, while others are disappointed because the filmmakers clearly didn't take the story seriously. Here's where things get tricky - I'm in on the joke, I know the filmmakers intentions...does this make the movie better? It's hard to say because I enjoy it and whether or not me knowing that it was a parody to begin with affected that opinion is impossible to say. I have a friend who hates the movie because it's a bad movie...his logic - a bad movie is a bad movie whether intentional or not. I see his point, but if it's intentionally funny, we can laugh and enjoy the film for what it is, correct? I'm sure a similar argument could be made for Snakes on a Plane, but I never saw it so I won't bother.

Next we have the Grindhouse films - for Robert Rodriguez's entry, Planet Terror, it is a clear nod and smile to the cheaply made exploitation films of early Hollywood. From the missing reels, the over-exposed look to most of the scenes, the bad special effects, the wickedly taboo topics, the grainy film and color, to the terrible, terrible story with horrible dialog...but again, we knew about it going in. We knew this was a nod to the bad movies of the past and therefore, would be purposely bad and therefore...good, right? Maybe it's just my taste in movies that allows me to freely enjoy things like this, but I thought it was damn good.

I think it's worth mentioning Taratino's Death Proof only because instead of paying a straight homage, Quentin continued his own personal style of borrowing elements from various other genres and combining them with strong dialog and a stressed storyline that could go over the top at any point in time. This is almost the exception to the rule - if his aim was to make a bad movie, like the movies he saw growing up, then he failed...none of those film makers had his wit or ear for characters like Taratino, none of those films managed a chase scene nearly as exhilarating (nor could they likely afford to stage one), and none of those films were held together with such a solid storyline. Plan and simple, Taratino started out aiming to make a bad film and instead made a classic Taratino. He technically failed, but it's still a good movie.

Along those same lines, I think I'll mention Scream because it was originally intended to be a spoof, but instead Wes Craven ended up with a decent slasher flick.

Now, I think I'll bring up the movies that failed under their original intentions, but could be seen as successes under this B-movie light. The first is Dario Argento's Opera. I've decided here and now while typing this up that I want to remake this film as a horror, as it was intended. The problems bogging down this film are...well, it could take me all day. Argento has always had off the wall stories and had it been executed correctly, this film might have had the most cohesive - but seeing as it took me three or four views to actually figure out what was going on, and it was still disappointing once it all clicked...this movie needs a remake. The first thing wrong with the movie is the soundtrack - why? Because they criminally under use opera itself (or any classical in general) and when it would be most effective - namely in the killing scenes, they switch to this horribly obnoxious metal that doesn't fit anywhere in with what's going's just there! I can see some ELO or something like that in the background during other scenes...but the murder scenes practically require opera during these scenes. The soundtrack is laughable, it's terrible. Next - we have the time line which bounces seamlessly from childhood to adulthood, to dreams and memories...all without bringing the viewer along for the ride. Finally, and probably the worst part, is that they don't utilize the creepiest character (the little neighbor girl who lives in the air vents) as they should. I have a scene in my mind specifically for her. It will go in my remake.

The next movie is Starship Troopers. Okay - some may argue that this is actually a good movie, and I'll agree with's a fun, thrilling and exciting movie about bugs in space. It has practically everything I'd want from a science fiction movie - bugs, guns and boobs. It's got all the classic characters, the stereotypes and archetypes co-mingle seamlessly as the chauvinist and the sensitive smart guy battle it out over the 'has it all' girl while the outspoken tomboy attempts frivolously for the man of her dreams, and she obviously dies right after he realizes this. The movie even has Earth getting attacked! Come on? What's not to love? Okay - so the plot is pretty much pointless, the dialog goes no where and the characters couldn't pass a personality's also very hard to figure out if the filmmakers were taking this seriously or not. Hell, it's impossible to tell what their intent was to be honest...there doesn't seem to be a moral or anything, it just is. But I love it because of what it is - meaningless special effects. It's funny and fun to watch, and sometimes that makes the perfect movie.

So what do you think? B-movies A okay by you? Gotta run - ta.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Time after time

Time Travel - As anyone could probably tell, I've really been contemplating the concept of time as of late, although for no particular reason so don't try to read into it. So the other night I watched Bender's Big Score (you know, the Futurama movie), again. I had seen it a couple of times before, seeing as I own it and all, but this time I really put some long thought into some of the time travel concepts proposed. So I will try to examine the scenes and paradoxes held within - now, of course I realize that not only is it a cartoon and entirely fictional, but I know that when they originally conceived the show they made it a point to not limit themselves to reality.

Scene #1 - the scammers reveal the time code on Fry's butt which opens a time portal. To test it, the head scammer, who we'll call todayScammer (a little variable dictation there) goes to yesterday. A few moments later, todayScammer walks into the room with yesterdayScammer. Okay - when todayScammer first goes back to the yesterday and finds yesterdayScammer, wouldn't he have to explain the time code to yesterdayScammer and hence, the time code would be discovered sooner than originally implied? Second, why did yesterdayScammer walk into the room with todayScammer - shouldn't he have already been in the room?

Scene #2 - obviously, all of these issues are paradoxes, how can we travel back in time without altering the past in a way that would prevent the creation of time travel or somehow changing the future? If we could go back in time, we'd know we could go back in time already because we already would have met someone from the future, if that makes sense. So the Harlem Globetrotters help the professor figure out how paradox-free time travel is possible, although it leaves the duplicate bodies to be inevitably doomed.

Scene #3 - this is where the time travel gets confusing...1) the time code is on Fry's butt, therefore after Bender is finished stealing everything valuable from the past, he is ordered to kill Fry. 2) Fry escapes to the year 2000 and Bender follows. 3) Fry duplicates himself in order to get warm pizza and Bender duplicates himself to go to the bathroom. 4) The first Fry (not the duplicate), freezes himself with the original Fry. 5) The duplicate Fry pushes the duplicate Bender who is about to self-destruct into another cryogenics case and freezes him. 6) The original Bender chases the Fry duplicate for the next 12 years. 7) Bender blows up Fry's apartment above the pizza place where he worked, but the explosion doesn't kill Fry, but merely singes off his hair and the smoke damages his larynx. 8) After the explosion, Fry realizes he is Leela's new boyfriend, Lars, by way of a picture he brought back with him from the future so he freezes himself. 9) Bender returns to the future by way of the cave beneath the Planet Express with all of the other waiting Bender's with invaluable artifacts and announces that he killed Fry. 10) At the funeral, Fry shows up and explains the duplicate story, so Bender merely killed the duplicate. 11) The crew decides to remove the time code from Fry's butt. 12) Lars leaves Leela at the alter after realizing that he, himself, is a duplicate and therefore doomed. 13) In an act of courage, Lars sacrifices himself by defrosting the frozen Bender duplicate who is about to self-destruct. 14) This explosion singes Lars' clothes revealing another time code. 15) The original Bender removes this tattoo from Lars and uses it to travel back in time and put it on the original Fry's butt.

So here's the question - where did they get the tattoo from in the first place?

That took a lot of typing, so I'll probably continue this topic tomorrow - but what are your thoughts on Time Travel? Possible? How? We could also discuss Donnie Darko if we were ambitious. More tomorrow - ta.