Tuesday, March 02, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 21 February 2010 to 28 February 2010

Before getting to last week's tickets, a quick look at this upcoming weekend's:

* Not actually at the movies, but the Oscars are Sunday. I haven't sent my RSVP in for the Brattle's Oscar party, so I'll either just stay up late with pizza and a 2-liter bottle of Cherry Crush, fighting the urge to live-blog/tweet in a way that makes me look like one of those annoying, reflexively negative people. Or see what my brother and his fiancée are up to, which would entail either a second pizza and 2-liter or hanging around with a bunch of their friends and feeling old.

* Speaking of the Oscars, the Academy-nominated short films (animated and live-action) appear to be moving from the Coolidge to the ICA this weekend. I failed at seeing the animated ones a week and a half ago, so I'll probably hit the Friday night shows. I'm almost feeling lucky, because while the Coolidge's screening room is rather far from my favorite place to see a movie, the ICA's auditorium is easily one of the coolest in the Boston area.

* It will have to be Friday, as Saturday night is a rare chance to see Bong Joon-ho's first film, Barking Dogs Never Bite, at the Harvard Film Archive. It's the 9:30 show, with The Host at 7pm.

* As expected, the opening of Alice in Wonderland at the two Jordan's Furniture IMAX screens heralds Avatar moving over to the New England Aquarium on the 5th. If you live in Boston and weren't willing to take two or three different public transportation lines to see it in beautiful, full-sized IMAX 3-D, it's now a lot easier. As of right now, the Aquarium's IMAX site is only showing a schedule through the 18th, hopefully because they'll be picking up Hubble 3-D on the 19th.

Also worth noting: Unless the Aquarium raises prices, it will actually cost you $1.05 less to see it in genuine reels-of-film-that-require-a-forklift-to-move-with-single-frames-the-size-of-your-fist-projected-with-a-bulb-that-doubles-as-a-death-ray-onto-a-screen-the-size-of-a-medium-sized-office-building IMAX there than the digital 3-D at the nearby AMC Boston Common theater at the same time. It's better and cheaper!

This Week In Tickets!

Not a lot of movie-going in terms of bulk, but they were mostly cool experiences: I'd never been to the Regent Theater before, and it's a pretty not-bad spot to see a movie, for a spot that is mostly a performance space. Seeing projected video wasn't ideal, but it was also a fairly laid-back experience. I don't think they checked my ticket once, but I suspect that's because the number of staff and patrons was small enough that night that they could keep an eye on us without manning checkpoints. Also, I don't think anyone would want to throw us out into the nasty wind and rain.

Both Formosa Betrayed and Mother were interesting/instructive screenings, from certain points of view. Mother was also good and sold out. Hopefully that indicates a good run ahead for Mother in Boston.

Shutter Island

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 February 2010 at the Coolidge Corner #1 (first-run)

By now everybody's read the bit from a Philly film critic who, unable to get to a screening of Shutter Island in time to make deadline, just printed gossip about how Leonardo DiCaprio was copping an attitude, going in the back way at a theater that Scorcese had rented for his cast and crew while Mark Ruffalo hung out and tipped big at the popcorn stand? That was at the Coolidge, so seeing the movie there was kind of cool.

The movie itself is pretty spiffy, too. As much as the trailers had hinted about this being a less contemplative, more pulpy Scorcese, the extent isn't quite clear until the movie starts up, hitting the ground running with a score that is as aggressive as anything Bernard Hermann ever came up with. Then it keeps going, building a story filled with fun twists and nifty performances for close to two hours.

It's a little longer than two hours, though, and during the last act, things tend to drag a bit. Just a little, although I do think that the editing and script could have been tightened up a bit, although that's a tough call: Ideally, in a thriller like Shutter Island, you want the audience and the characters on-screen to hit the climax at exactly the same point, and I can't imagine that very many people won't get there well ahead of DiCaprio's character, and then Scorcese spends a bit too long explaining and reacting to it. Fortunately, he and writer Laeta Kalogridis (working from a Dennis Lehane novel) do have a little something more up their sleeves, a second little body blow to hit the audience with after it seems like they've messed up by not ending the movie quickly after the big one.

(Minor rant that may be considered a spoiler: I guess Shutter Island can be forgiven for this because it was adapted from a novel, but the anagram thing is not a cool thing to use in a movie. Aside from doubting that many real people have done that sort of wordplay in a premeditated fashion, let alone subconsciously, how is it supposed to be a real hint if you don't know how the anagram is spelled? It's something you may catch in a book, but just after-the-fact trickery on film! No more spoilers)

Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation: The New Generation

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 24 February 2010 at the Regent Theatre (Special Presentation; video projection, maybe HD)

It's been years since I've seen a Spike & Mike show - as I mentioned last week, I thought that the Herzfeldt/Judge "Animation Show" was created in part as a reaction to their disappearance - but when I did, it was generally the "Classic" fest that I went to. Some of the shorts included may have been hanging around to be in the last Classic package - "Ghost of Stephen Foster" had a late-90s copyright on it, and I saw "Crab Revolution" and PES's "Western Spaghetti" some time ago - but there is a whole bunch of good stuff included in this package. I'll probably do another post running the whole show down in a day or two, but here's some worth mentioning:

* "Lapsus", directed by Juan Zaramella, a very clever combination of character animation and playing with abstract shapes.

* "Santa: The Fascist Year", directed by Bill Plympton. It's the new Bill Plympton, it's flat-out crazy, and just dementedly brilliant.

* "The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl", directed by Mike Roush, is gorgeous, dark, and funny, and combines cel-looking animation with real envrionments in a way that is smoother than I can recall seeing in the past.

* "For Sock's Sake", directed by Carlos Vegele, is a clever bit of stop-motion involving ambulatory clothing, that I loved for how Vegele managed to give his characters forms of articulation that reminded us of human characters but really was also unique.

* "A Town Called Panic: Cake", directed by Vincent Patar and Stephane Aubier, is maybe not quite as brilliant as the feature - it confirms my suspicion that Horse just sounds better in French - but is still hilarious.

* "Ghost of Stephen Foster", directed by Raymond Persi, is a music video for the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It was tough to catch the lyrics or how they related to the story (maybe that was just the theater), but visually, it's a dead-on homage to Bosko/Betty Boop-era animation.

* "Oktapadi", directed by Julien Bocabeille, was nominated for an Oscar last year and is a brilliant little CGI cartoon featuring an octopus trying to rescue its mate who has been purchased by a chef. I love the adventurous, upbeat note it ends on.

Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation: Sick & Twisted '09

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 February 2010 at the Regent Theatre (Special Presentation; video projection, maybe HD)

There wasn't nearly as much good stuff in this one, which turned out to be a replacement for the announced program, which was about one-quarter repeats from the New Generation package. This one, which I assume is last year's grouping, only repeats "Lapsus" and "Stillwaters". Though there is some pretty darn good stuff - I loved this video for The Willowz' "We Live on Your Street", for instance; there's something awesomely punk about destroying animation as you make it - let's face it, going for "sick & twisted" often means easy jokes. Anthropomorphized food doesn't like being eaten. Taking something cute and making it mean. Penises. Now, I'm not above finding any of those things funny, but when the show starts off with "Dupain" and "A Peach for Teach" back to back... It's hard not to react with "is that all you've got?"

The Man with the Movie Camera

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 27 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (World Music/Crash Arts presents the Alloy Orchestra)

I reviewed this for EFC four years ago, and looking back on that review after seeing it again this past Saturday with the Alloy Orchestra accompanying it, I'm struck by a couple things:

* Don't pay attention to star-ratings. I disagree with nothing I wrote then, but I'm rating it higher today.

* I spend one out of the three "body" paragraphs in the review talking about a sequence in which Vertov and company build a theater in which to display the film. That sequence - not in the cut that the Alloy Orchestra accompanied. That's not unusual when dealing with silent films; there's all sorts of different cuts floating around of just about every silent. Maybe the HFA was just showing an unusually long cut.

It's an interesting difference, because one of the things I thought while watching it was that it is a fantastic way to learn about filmmaking; it shows you everything you need to know both by demonstration and example, so I always thought it was cool that it went all the way to the end.

Very cool seeing it with the Alloy Orchestra, though, despite the shorter cut. It was one of the most enjoyable scores I've heard them perform in a while, since Phantom of the Opera at least. Don't get me wrong, they've done several fine scores in the interim, but for the most part, they've been more restrained. Not quite conventional, but not as percussive. This, though, reminded me a lot of their score for The General, in a very good way; it really adds to the sense of speed and motion that this movie already has in abundance.

There's word going around that Alloy is going to be premiering a score for the new cut of Metropolis in San Francisco this April. Here's hoping that they play it for the local crowd sometime in the next few months. Or at Fantasia. But hopefully not in Boston while I'm in Montreal.
Shutter IslandSpike & Mike: The New GenerationSpike & Mike: Sick & TwistedFormosa BetrayedThe Man with the Movie CameraMother

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