Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise once said: "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." And I think that's a rather apt description of my blog over the years, and perhaps the most perfect description of me in general that I've ever read. So that's what this blog is, a collection of the falling stars that are beckoning me at any time.
29 June 2006
Superman Returns isn't really an action film, which is kind of odd considering that it's Superman. Whether you'll find it successful or a failure depends largely on whether you want it to be an action movie or whether you're more interested in Superman gaining some actual dimensionality. Either way the film never quite delivers on its potential, but it's not a dud.
I'll be honest, I've never liked Superman, he bores me. Superman has always been this one-dimensional American icon to me. He's got super powers, he's pretty much invincible, he's good and he lives in a world where good and evil aren't really complicated. Superman is good, Lex Luthor is bad. Where's the attraction in that? I like Spiderman, he's got the super powers, but he's also caught up in the messy complications of real life. He struggles with the weight of his responsibilities. His villains are often also friends and their motivations are more complicated than being greedy and wanting to rule the world. Batman, even better, not only does he have to wrestle with all the extremely dark and damaged emotions that come along with being human, but he doesn't even have super powers, just super wealth and a Sharper Image platinum catalogue.
I'm not a comic book fangirl, so I'll never be able to approach any of these franchises whilst thumbing through a back catalog trying to decide if some film decision is supposed to be sacrilege or not. I don't think I've watched any of the previous Superman films more than once and since I was about 10 years-old. I don't watch Smallville and I don't care. I will, however, be going to see the sequel whenever the decide to make it. Because despite the movies flaw (and there are several) Bryan Singer et al have finally delivered a Superman who's more than a caricature.
I've read a few reviews and found a pretty bizarre set of complaints people have had. My favourite has to be the guy complaining that Superman's super powers aren't realistic enough. He wanted to know how Superman could lift a giant rock out of the ocean and toss it into space, but he could barely stop the falling 777 from crashing into the ground. (personally, if you ask me, the answer is clearly that while he could just stop the falling plane on a dime if he wanted to, doing so probably would have crushed the plane and killed everyone on board. Obviously it takes a lot longer to stop a plane safely with minimal damage when you're dealing with velocity, structural details of the plane itself and the fact that the force of the reverse velocity is concentrated on only the small surface area of his two hands, but I'm not a scientist, what do I know?) If you're going to sit around and discuss scientific plausibilities in a Superhero movie a.) you probably need to look into some better hobbies and b.) shouldn't you be more concerned with the fact that a 777 goes all the way up into the upper atmosphere or possibly all the way into outer space and comes back down through it without exploding, burning up, being crushed by the pressure differences, or being detrimental to anyone on board and not only that, but Lois Lane doesn't have an oxygen mask on for at least 5 minutes whilst being thrown back and forth around the cabin but doesn't suffer from lack of oxygen nor does she lose consciousness at any time? Also no one vomits. (I'm pretty sure they call the plane that goes up high enough that people on board achieve anti-gravity is called the Vomit Comet for a reason) See I'm one of those people who can suspend disbelief for the big things; like guy who can fly, shoot laser beams and stop bullets with his eyes, but you have to keep the small details legitimate.
The movies big failure is its complete lack of inertia. Nothing ever gets rolling and instead of an engrossing movie we get a series of scenes that work all right as scenes, but never gel together into a single unit and thus the final product is kind of boring. There are either too many action scenes breaking into the engaging story of Superman coming back after just flying off on a whim to his destroyed homeworld for years to find that everyone has moved on, or is at least trying to; or too much Superman pining because his love was practical enough to build a new life for herself instead of just moping around waiting for him as he clearly thought she was going to taking screen time away from day saving and cgi flying sequences.
Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor was rather disappointing to be honest. He kind of seemed like he didn't want to break out in that stereotypical Spacey quiet to psychotic anger mode, but couldn't quite decide what to do instead. Parker Posey was funny in that twitchy Parker Posey way, though her character is little more than the typical bad guy bimbo role (why can't writers, either screen or comic book, ever seem to write an interesting villain's girlfriend? There are sometimes interesting female villains but not real Lady MacBeth style bad guy girlfriends.) Kate Bosworth was fine as Lane, though all it really requires is having a halfway decent screen presence and not completely sucking as there isn't much written for her to actually have to act. In fact for a movie over 2 hours long, there didn't seem to be much dialogue at all. The only time a character spoke in an entire paragraph seems to be when Lex Luthor was summing up his nefarious plan. As for my opinion of Routh? I liked him. His take on Kent was more realistic, choosing to make him more the real life guy that no one really notices rather than a clumsy bumbling putz. (I've always thought that if Kent were such a klutz you'd notice he wasn't around.) His Superman is subtle.
So all in all a decent movie, not as good as the other franchise restoration film, Batman Begins, but nothing to shake a stick at. (and thankfully this one didn't start over at the beginning but just picked a point after the two ok films to move forward from. Personally I don't know hat I'm very happy about the decision to remake the first 2 Batman movies as the next films in the series. I liked the prequel, but there's nothing wrong with Batman, and it's going to be really hard, I think, to get a Joker who's as good as Nicholson.)
27 June 2006
You'd think I'd learn my lesson for unbridled enthusiasm of writers whose first novels explode with unique content and form, after all I've already suffered painful disillusionments with Irvine Welsh and Chuck Palahniuk, but old habits die hard and now I can add Douglas Coupland to the list of writers whose exciting, original voices have become tired and boring because their catalog becomes essentially just one novel over and over in an ever diminishing level of quality.
Perhaps I'm too hard on the dramatically different, holding it up to a standard that the conventional never has to achieve because it all sounded the same to begin with. I understand that originality of voice and vision doesn't mean a writer will be original from himself novel after novel, at least not in terms of style, but really, is it too much to ask for something new in terms of character? I think not.
Coupland's new novel, JPod, is essentially just Microserfs without the heart, originality or plausibility. Set in the world of videogame design instead of Microsoft and full of ridiculously stupid subplots, Jpod mistakes self-conscious farce for cleverness and self-referential arrogant twaddle for slyly acknowledging his own place in the culture he satirises.
The main character, his fellow programmers and other work related characters are well drawn and believable, but, then, he's been writing the same characters since Generation X hasn't he? A mildly eccentric, pop culture obsessed bunch of 20-somethings you wish here your friends with their oh-so-irreverent hijinx and culture dropping, but here these characters aren't authentic, they're the ones who've read every Coupland novel and wanted to be friends with those characters so badly, you're pretty sure that all of their wacky hijinx comes from a conscious decision to act like Coupland characters and he makes sure they mention him and his previous books so many times you can't forget. It's like a 400 page advertisement for his older, better novels. He even goes so far as to make himself a character in the novel.
It's not that the book is unreadable, quite the opposite, despite every scene and plot point seeming conspicuously written only to set up Coupland making fun of a buzzword or cultural phenomena (a trip to China seems to exist only so we could read that the original strain of SARS is now called SARS Classic and that China puts human rights victims who've made it big on CNN to work in sweat shops so they can charge Americans exorbitant prices on goods because they've been assembled by the Tiananmen Square tank guy)
The read is quick and you laugh along the way, but at the end you can't help but feel cheated. After all, you already own Microserfs did you really need another book about tech geeks in crap jobs they eventually quit to be mega-successful in the end, have dysfunctional families and quirky lives, especially one that's not remotely as well-written?
It all seems spelled out for you in the final chapter; this is just a contractual obligation and it's easier to write a pale imitation of a well-liked novel than it is to come up with something better or different. Like the abysmally awful pop albums made yearly to get musicians out of contracts, Jpod will be snapped up eagerly by legions of Coupland fans and, except for the few who have to have every novel for their collection, will grace the shelves of your local used book shop as quickly as Mariah Carey albums hit the overstock dollar bins at CD TradingPost.
Maybe for his next novel, Coupland can fictionalise Welsh and Palahniuk and skewer the publishing world where cult novelists puke out subpar novels and laugh off literary backlash at the ATM where they check their balances.
25 June 2006
The first gallery houses installations. Video interacts with objects and even the viewer as in the case of Gary Day, Russ Nordman and Anthony Trecek-King’s “The Book of Light and Dark,” a careful integration of print, animation and projection where the video projections are controlled by the page a book of prints is open to as the viewer looks through it.
David Zimmer’s brilliant LCD constructions feature videos of birds and bees in apothecary jars and odd scientific scopes, providing a creepy Victorian feel and a modern alternative to those dusty taxidermy animals in your grandfather’s attic. Zimmer’s best piece is the eerie and haunting “Sleeping Inside,” an antique wooden workbox from which Pascal Humbert’s melancholy music emanates whilst the LCD on top shows the fitful sleep of a man.
Phyllis Baldino’s “Cheeseboard/Not Cheeseboard” offers a witty exploration of form and function in everyday objects.
The back gallery featured mainly digital computer animation works including “Happenstance (part one of many parts)” by Gary Hill, but the room’s standout offering is Peter Campus’ analog “Edge of the Ocean.”
In Gallery Two, over ten TVs and two projectors provide a good mix of humorous and serious works from the psychedelic animation and horror film collage of Peter Burr and Christopher Doulgeris’ “Hooliganship: Go” to Mathieu Borysevicz’s funny meditations on media and social buzzwords.
Former Bemis resident Songyi Kim continues to demonstrate exceptional talent with “Polaroids.” Like Kim’s past works, “Polaroids” utilizes daily self portraits videotaped and edited to investigate identity and human experience in a visually poetic way, but here she uses the unique visual properties of the developing Polaroid print to introduce a ghostly and fragile quality.
One of the most shocking, but also the most diverse and enjoyable artists featured is Torsten Zenas Burns. Brilliantly bizarre and comical, spattered with rampant nudity and sometimes fake blood and looking like Stanislaw Lem on acid; Burns’ works, about an hour’s worth in all, revolve around the human experience: birth, death, our interactions with each other and our ever changing environments (also Zombies) set on a sci-fi space station. A naked Zombie soft shoes in the hygiene center and explains how he overcame his baser undead instinct to eat the crew and their families by munching on his own arm and deciding it wasn’t for him, crew members on ropes dance along the ceiling and manipulated footage culled from science programs set to Sarah McLachlan‘s “I Won’t Fear Love” all present a visually arresting look at the space-world his work exists in.
The monitor seemed neglected opening night, probably due to the substantial full frontal nudity and sexual connotations in some pieces, which is a shame because it’s definitely one of the most complex and satisfying works at the exhibition.
Also featured are two hours of work from William Wegman (better known for his portraits of his dogs, Man Ray and Fay Ray) and “The Order” from the third instalment of Matthew Barney’s seminal video series “The Cremaster Cycle.”
An impressive array of well-curated works, with something to offer the neophyte to video art and the well-versed alike, Signal Channel runs until August 12th and is one of this Summer’s must see exhibitions.
With their Bemis Underground show, Fragments and Details, Matt Walker and Matt Orand have solved the major failing that haunted their respective BFA Thesis showings last year—the interaction of art with the space around it and how the lack of consideration for that relationship can cripple an otherwise compelling work. Walker’s installations suffered from a lack of breathing room crowded into the available space in the UNO Gallery and while Orand’s Target Market had a solid concept and the decision to drag it out of UNO and exhibit it at Crossroads was fitting, but the result was dwarfed by the mall and looked less than impressive as a result.
The current show was built directly into the Underground and their consideration of the gallery space as an organic extension of the works not only shows, but ultimately makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It also doesn’t hurt that the Bemis Underground’s layout and construction perfectly compliment the air of abandonment and age the artists were working to create.
From the minute you enter the gallery door you are drawn into a relationship with the show and its pieces. As you descend the stairs you are surrounded by the jarring, mournful wail of a pipe organ’s lone chord while a stark white floodlight illuminates the pale branches of a tree suspended from the ceiling over the rusting skeleton of a wrought-iron crib and its love-eaten stuffed bear occupant.
The crib, and many of the pieces further in replicate the accidental art found in roadside dumpsites and like the myriad of questions and imagined explanations we ponder stumbling over an old pair of dentures on a deserted railroad track, the carefully arranged objects in Fragments & Details hint at the personal histories of their former owners and probe the viewer to consider how their own personal effects become imbued with their own stories.
Walker and Orand have constructed an environment where abandonment, decay and the gleam of nostalgia wander like ghosts in the shadows, created by exposed incandescent bulbs and a swirling collection of discarded spoons; the whispering of fan-blown leaves of old textbooks; the howl of the organ; the soft, musty smells of fresh-dug earth and rotting leaves. It’s this permeating mood, this created atmosphere that lifts the show as a whole above the successes or failures of its individual pieces; muting the heavy-handed contrivance of some arrangements like an enormous piles of clothes heaped on an old TV in front of which is the fishbowl and pennies that earlier featured in one of Walker’s thesis works and a junked car with a women’s nightgown strung up on its frame; strengthening the sense of quiet discovery in others like the window with a heavy muslin curtain that must be peered through to see the worn carousel horse hidden within.
Some of the stronger pieces include a worn mid-century parlor chair in front of a television with a silhouette scene of cowboys and Indians inside and a tree sitting inside an old deep freezer in an alcove made of candle-lit stained glass windows, which recall’s Yoko Ono’s trees growing from wooden caskets.
The most powerful piece is a carefully constructed broken-down porch with a ruined wicker loveseat and a battered, rusted screen door onto and through which is projected a photograph of a man at a front door. The piece is evocative, emotional, heavy with a life story and hauntingly beautiful.
Fragments & Details is one of the better shows to be housed at the Bemis Underground in its short history and is well worth making a point to check out. Should any of the donated abandoned items that make up the show’s raw materials speak to you, you could even bid on them at the auction scheduled as the closing event.
14 June 2006
If you're wondering, I'm refering to the Germany-Poland football match. I was, I confess, sort of rooting for Poland, at least to keep it a scoreless tie, and it was because the goaltending was so good. I have a soft spot for good goaltending. I think it's part of the international brotherhood of goaltenders, it doesn't matter which sport it is, we can all appreciate the position since we understand all that goes with it and that's why I think it's reprehensible in post game analysis for the commentators (OK so ESPN never has anything but shite commentary regardless of the sport involved, so one shouldn't expect less, I guess) to say that Boruc allowed the goal, as opposed to something that better reflected the fact that the goal was the result of a defensive lapse right in front of him and he didn't have much of a chance on. If it were a hockey game, my D would be getting some very black looks from me over letting a pretty fresh substitute set up mostly unguarded like that right in front.
Ah well, it's not like Germany didn't deserve to win the match, they spent almost the entire game in Poland's end, missed 2 empty nets in the first and not all that long before they finally scored in stoppage time were robbed by the crossbar twice in a row in rather amazing fashion.
The Stanley Cup finals are on tonight. I'm not sure who I'm rooting for though. I feel awfully at Edmonton's woes because it's a shame their loss of their go to goalie means that the finals haven't anywhere near the good fight they would otherwise have been, and it would be nice for a Canadian team to get the cup for once, though I don't particularly like the Oilers at least they aren't Toronto. On the other hand, I've always been a big fan of Mark Recchi and so even though I have a snobbish opinion of hockey in such tropical climates as Carolina I'd like to see him win the cup. It always seems like the cup finals end up being anti-climactic and nowhere near as good a battle as the previous rounds usually becuase of injury or because one conference is far stronger than the other. Or maybe it's because the biggest rivalries are always between teams within the conference and therefore the teams and everyone else cares more about winning the conference final than they do about the actual final.
It's that way in other sports too. I mean take a look at the (ironically named) World Series, the whole thing was about the Red Sox beating the Yankees, no one really cared so much about them winning the championship. The riots were for the defeat of New York. (Though of course the Subway Series should have been great if the Mets hadn't sunk into their usual under-achieving right at the wrong moment, but I'm a Mets fan, I'm used to the losing.) Maybe the major leagues should revamp the playoff set ups so that the two best teams have a chance to play for the championship rather than the 'best' from each conference, so there'd be a chance for those epic Detroit-Colorado series of the 90s to have been for the cup rather than just the conference championships. I mean everyone remembers those games, but who remembers Colorado-Florida in the finals? Exactly. (it's true I am so wildly eclectic as to love sports as much as artsy cultural things :) )
Edit: So, I was quite wrong about the Finals not being as exciting and hard-fought as they could be. In fact, they turned out to be one of the best Cup finals I've seen in over a decade. I was still glad Carolina won, but I'll concede that Edmonton probably deserved to win more and if it weren't for the fact that I really wanted Brindamour and Wesley and Dougie Weight to finally win a Cup, I would have been rooting for the Oilers.
07 June 2006
Speaking of books, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with mine. I've already faced up to the fact that there is no way I can take my ever growing library with me when I move. It's just not practical, both in terms of shipping costs and space. CDs aren't such a problem because I can just convert the ones I don't want to leave behind to MP3 and burn them to dvds as data files. My art stuff is going to be a painful process, I don't really want to face up to that yet (and I've still got months so I don't think I shall) I've already figured out that I'm going to sparate my books into the categories of essential, would like, and can get rid of. I'm definitely going to have to hit that task when I'm in a purging mood :) What I can't decide is how I want to go about getting rid of the ones that are going. I'd like to sell them and get at least a little cash if I could do it without a lot of hassle, but I have a feeling I'll end up donating them somewhere, and if I do I want them to go to the most good use.