essentialsaltes: (wotan)
Saramago won the Nobel Prize for literature a couple years after Blindness was published. A mysterious infectious ailment causes people to go blind. The book focuses on this first group of afflicted people, who are first interned in an asylum, as more and more blind people join them in their new community. Saramago considers himself a pessimist, so things go south pretty rapidly. The strong prey on the weak, the men on the women, and so on and so forth. A few glimpses of human beings behaving humanely glimmer here and there to relieve the awfulness.

Saramago is also something a verbal sadist: none of the characters is named, he eschews quotation marks, and tends to go on long comma splices of dialogue that can be hard to follow. Not too fond of paragraph breaks either -- many's the time you face two unbroken columns of text on the pages. This is particularly bad because I tend to have a mental memory of where on the page I left off -- but not if there are no little typographical details for memory to seize on. These idiosyncrasies may be literary, or they may just be irritating. I tend toward the latter. I didn't care for the ending, and the whole is kind of like a gruesome novelization of a Twilight Zone episode. I don't mean this to demean a Nobel laureate, but to raise up Twilight Zone as also shining a light on ugly aspects of humanity through speculative fiction.

Saw Blow-Up recently. Certainly a great time capsule of authentic Austin Powers-y swinging 1960s London, but I'm not sure I liked it. I guess Antonioni was doing something right if I can't tell for certain whether I was bored or not. It helps that models take off their clothes from time to time. But the most interesting detail was seeing the cameo by the Yardbirds, filmed during the brief period when both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were part of the lineup.
essentialsaltes: (pWNED!!! by Science)
Was considering Mexican places for lunch today. Discovered that Margaritas on Crenshaw wouldn't open until 2pm. [Ended up at the El Cholo on Western]

KCET showed a nice documentary [interspersed with begging for money] about Endeavour's trip down the streets of LA. As it trundles down Crenshaw, there's a nice shot of it through the archway at Margaritas.

ThisTV was (well, still is) having a Bond film marathon. ThisTV has an interesting assortment of advertising, including one for a little hand-operated food processor thing that has a pull cord that moves the blades. I was a bit shocked that the smiling loud man chopped some vegetables, dropped them into his stir-fry, looked into the camera, and said "Me so Hungry" as though he had done nothing wrong.

Then when the credits of A View to a Kill came on [I said it was a marathon of Bond films, not a marathon of good Bond films. Only watchable for Grace Jones and the fact that the ridiculous plot involving injecting water into oilwells to cause earthquakes has turned out to not be so ridiculous.] and it was hard to let a name like Papillon Soo Soo go by without further investigation.

"Papillon Soo Soo appeared as Pan Ho in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, the first of three films that she appeared in.

She is also well known for playing the role of the Da Nang hooker who uttered the famous "Hey baby, you got girlfriend Vietnam? Me so horny. Me love you long time," and "Me sucky sucky" lines in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, which continues to be referenced in popular culture..." such as advertising on This TV.

[Since things come in threes, we can further connect synchronicities #1 and #2 via Moonraker, which is just as bad as I remember it.]
essentialsaltes: (cartouche)
Ancient Images starts off promisingly: A film editor tracking down a lost film with Karloff and Lugosi winds up dying mysteriously, and his colleague takes up the charge to find the film and silence the critics who say it never existed. Details emerge... a troubled set... a dead director... powerful figures try to suppress the film both when it was made, and now that new efforts are being made to uncover it. Then it veers off into 'Wicker Man'-esque territory, along with an additional quasi-Irish Traveller or Romany caravan element. The main spooks are seen-out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye types that seem to be endlessly dogging the steps of our main characters, but don't do anything other than make tiny noises and appear in the corners of people's eyes, at least until we get deep into the not very climactic climax.

I was surprised to see that Wiki page for Ramsey lists it as winning the Bram Stoker. So much so that I checked the listing for the Bram Stokers and didn't see it there. Left a note on the Wiki talk.

Skin Job collects a couple dozen poems that riff off films and film-making, or delve into anatomical and medical fixations. Some good stuff here: curious turns of phrase and trails of thought. To tie my two tales together:

Bad timing runs in the family. Karloff
does his best with rotten lines.

From "Made for T.V." (anent Frankenstein 1970, which might be better lost than found.)
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
All the photos (and a couple videos)

I flew up Thursday to Portland for the 20th anniversary fest. Got set up in my hotel, and then ventured out for food and haircare products. I was happily surprised to find that you can still buy brilliantine. The Thursday night VIP party was held at a speakeasy, Circa 33, and we were encouraged to dress Thirties' style. I didn't really go for period authentic, but tuxedos are pretty timeless, and the brilliantined hair added some vintage flair. Great venue & good drinks. I spent some effort flipping the dipswitch from introvert to extrovert, and managed fairly well at mingling with people I knew and people I didn't. A sazerac and some ciders also helps to lower the shields, so that pretty soon, I'm embracing Charlie Stross and Jeff Combs.


Met lots of other good people there. Dick Lupoff and his wife -- discovered we were both Raiders fans. Leeman Kessler, [ profile] princeofcairo, a gaggle of other attendees. And plenty of friends that I generally only get to see at the fest: Glancy, Gwen, Andrew, Andrew & Linda, Gwen & Brian (who had some particularly kind things to say), and ...

The party was really a high point. It was a great venue, and everyone was relaxed -- just a bunch of fascinating people with a common interest being people together.

... )
essentialsaltes: (Titan)
LACMA has a fine exhibit on German Expressionist film, with lots of behind the scenes production art, stills, posters, and other material. Loops of several films also play in inviting walkthrough areas of the exhibit. You don't feel like you have to stay for the whole show, or that you will annoy anyone by staying a moment and passing on.

Lots of good material on the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Concept Art, Cabinet of Caligari

Die Nibelungen

Dragon from Lang's Die Nibelungen


Trial Scene from M



The Golem, The Blue Angel, Faust, Waxworks, the Testament of Dr. Mabuse...

After the art, a fine meal at Ray's, although the server and the chef paid a lot more attention to a few wealthy donor types. I'm sure it's wishful thinking that the chef would deign to speak with the likes of us, but at least I know what 'sous-vide' means, unlike the wealthy twat you're fawning over. They had a nice menu of drinks inspired by (not German expressionist) films. My Evil Flying Monkey was based on an aviation, natch. The charcuterie plate is just as good as I remember it. And the lamb sausage pizza was fantastic stuff.
essentialsaltes: (Eye)
Yeah, we moved. I may get around to journaling about it the whole thing, but it's too big a topic, and I'm too tired.

But more importantly, the digital antenna seems to really work like a charm. I was so happy the setup was so easy, and the results so good. I know we're probably weirdos for only having basic cable before, but we've stopped paying Time Warner a buttload, and we get more channels. Sure, half of them are foreign language (including like a dozen in Armenian), but my mind boggled when the initial scan dredged up like 158 channels. OK, some turned out to be just beyond the antenna's range, but still.

So if you only want basic channels, and you don't need cable for internet, and you have a line of sight to Mt. Wilson, ditch your cable.

[The internet thing may be a bigger pain point; we've yet to get U-verse set up for internet, but I wasn't encouraged by the CAPTCHA when I tried to check on the order:

I'm worried AT&T may be no better than Time Warner.]

For the interested, the antenna is a Mohu Curve. Since our TV is older, we also needed a digital tuner, so I just picked a top seller on amazon, which can also function as a DVR if you plug in a USB hard drive or even a flash drive. Total cost = less than 1 month of our Time Warner bill (for TV & internet).

Plug antenna into tuner, plug HDMI from tuner to TV, turn it all on, and then the tuner was raring to go scan for channels. After that, I cruised through Armenian, Vietnamese, Khmer, Spanish, Chinese, and a dozen variations on the Home Shopping Network (including several in those preceding languages) and stopped on some random channel (Get TV) showing the Caine Mutiny. Jackpot.

ETA: LA TV Stations.
essentialsaltes: (City Hall)
It was a really great show. I only wish it hadn't been a long show after a long Friday after a long week, but I still had such a great time.

My flickr set

Can't argue with the Wiltern as a venue. The place is gorgeous. It looked a little different this time, with a half dozen minibars throughout the various lobbies selling Caucasians. Lots of people milling about. Fewer costumes than at the bowling night we went to last time, but still quite a few. We got ourselves a couple oat sodas and found a nice spot in the mezzanine. A bit before showtime, Peter Exline came out and told his story.

The Kyle Gass Band opened up the official festivities, dropping in to see what condition their condition was in. They had to work at it, and they definitely stepped over the line by trying out an Eagles tune, but they soon had the crowd whipped up and plenty of people on their feet at the foot of the stage. Some impressive rock flute.

While they changed gear, a few more of the actors said hello. Coffeeshop lady had just turned 80, and the fest crowd filled that room with "Happy Birthday". Ralphs checker girl. My pic of irate Corvette owner was blurrier than most, but he was there. Liam. And Jeff Dowd, who was the Seattle Seven (with six other guys). He rambled a bit, and perhaps had been less (more?) strict than usual with his drug regimen.

And then it was Jeff Bridges and the Abiders. I found it hard to believe this was actually happening. Hey, there's Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges playing a song from Crazy Heart. Hey, there's the Dude playing the opening and closing songs of the Big Lebowski. Hey, there's the Oscar-duding Crazy Bridges playing Creedence.

Bridges came back to introduce the film, and Duded himself up with sweater and glasses. The crowd went apeshit. This is a terrible picture of a perfect little moment:

Glasses on, introducing the film

My favorite part of watching the movie was seeing that everyone else (at least in LA) recognizes that LA is also a star of this film. When you first see the lights of the city, that got as much applause as most of the other characters when they appeared. Philip Seymour Hoffman was sent off with the longest applause.

It was a given that people were going to shout out lines, but it was all good fun (except that one drunk guy). Another given is that whenever the Dude lit a J, the audience was going to do likewise. You wouldn't think you could make that huge space reek, but you can. If I have a least favorite part, it's that too many guys seem to think that Walter is the hero of this film. He's not wrong; he's just an asshole.
essentialsaltes: (spockmonkey)
The original rejected Star Trek pilot with Captain Christopher Pike (later edited into "The Menagerie")

and an episode of Columbo.

Both directed by Robert Butler, who will be there in person.

January 24, 2014 - 7:30 pm
Free Admission


Also of note on the schedule, the restored Pre-Code film The Bitter Tea of General Yen. Yes, General Yen is played in yellowface, but how can you not love a film in which Christian missionary Barbara Stanwyck has an erotic dream about a Chinese general?

January 12, 2014 - 7:00 pm
essentialsaltes: (spockmonkey)
McKellen played Salieri in the first Broadway production of Amadeus (replacing Paul "A Man for All Seasons" Scofield from the British run).

With Tim Curry as Mozart. And Jane Seymour as Constanze.
essentialsaltes: (Laika)
Raise your hand if you knew that Jodie Foster voiced Pugsley Addams in the 1973 animated series.

And while I'm on the subject...
(Skip to 0:50 for the impatient.)
essentialsaltes: (Nowtheysmell)
Just saw Lonely are the Brave. Gena Rowlands briefly steals the film ("Believe you me, if it didn't take men to make babies I wouldn't have anything to do with any of you!") but the true standout performance is...
Read more... )
essentialsaltes: (Dancing legs)
Vile Bodies is a savage indictment of modernity and the 'Bright Young Things' [Waugh's original title, discarded because it had already become cliché by 1930] that populate it. Of course, being English, savage means that it's slightly more scathing than PG Wodehouse at lampooning the characters, most of whom come from a world just next door to Bertie Wooster's, albeit a sadder and seamier one. There are some hilarious bits here and there, but overall not fantastic. Skip the book and check out Steven Fry's film adaptation, under the original title. It's also hilarious in bits, and overall not fantastic, but it will save you some time.
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
CA court rules that yoga (as practiced in this public school district) is not religious.

In other yoga-related news, we saw Kumaré last night (streaming on Netflix, get it while it's hot) and enjoyed it quite a bit, even if the star/filmmaker is a bit of a jerk.

Joisey-raised Indian American is disenchanted with his religious heritage, and annoyed by the proliferation of yoga in modern America, and the skeevy culture-appropriating fake fakirs and gurus. Travels to India, and concludes that the authentic fakirs, gurus, and sadhus are all fake too.

Comes up with the idea of becoming a fake guru, documenting it, and seeing how easy it is to get people to swallow his empty baloney, so he can end up with a huge Nelson Muntz laugh at the end.

Succeeds all too well. People start confiding their marital problems, past history of sexual abuse, and other problems to him. He gets a bit weirded out. Hot young women in yoga pants make adoring googoo eyes at him. So it ain't all bad.

Slowly, his mission transforms into getting his devoted core of followers to rely on themselves. The insincere fake guru has become a sincere fake guru, or maybe not even fake any more. It's just that his main message is, "I'm not special. You can give yourself this life advice. There are no gurus, or everyone is a guru." Several scenes are virtually identical to this:

My main beef with the filmmaker is that by the end he seems to have convinced himself that this was his mission all along, when the earlier scenes make it clear he wanted to trick people and lay that Muntz-laugh on them.

Anyway, he works himself up to 'The Unveiling', in which he will reveal the truth to his disciples. He chickens out, but manages to do it after he's gone back to his regular life for a time (maybe because the docu would suck without a proper ending). A few of the disciples flee and never speak to him again, but the majority still appreciate what they'd learned, and some, in true When Prophecy Fails-mode continue to believe that he has psychic powers.
essentialsaltes: (Nowtheysmell)
Argo last night. Cloud Atlas tonight.

Both excellent.

Since I have it on the brain... Argo is more like The Last of Us. Doesn't break any new ground. The story is... well, history (accentuated). But it does it all very very well, and compellingly.

Cloud Atlas is... I dunno, LA Noire? Trying to do something different... out of the box... possibly not entirely successfully. Sure it's based on a novel. And believe me, I was glad I had read it, though Dr. Pookie seemed to get along fine without a several hundred page cheat sheet.

As with the novel, I still think the separate stories don't really add up to anything much greater, though I think the screenplay actually makes some of the thematic connections in the novel stronger, primarily because of the different way the chronology is interleaved. The film tends to cycle through them all, allowing it to have the thematic and dramatic twists and conclusions of different stories side by side, accentuating their similarities.

I think my favorite section of the sextet in the novel is "An Orison of Sonmi~451", but the film version, though entertaining in exactly the right way to get Hollywood producers' coffers open, is a poor substitute. Then again, it might be hard to accurately film a 22nd century Bildungsroman written in the form of an interrogation.

The film has been criticized for its use of yellowface, but given all the whiteface, brownface, penisface and vaginaface in the film, not to mention the peculiar nature of the story, I can't find too much fault in it. So sue me.

Which is all to say that I think conversation about Argo (last week or ten years from now) will be "Great film!" "Great film!" and no more (and kudos to all). But conversations about Cloud Atlas may be longer and more full of meat.

Even if the whole goddamn thing doesn't mean anything much more than...

Don't be schmucks to each other!


May. 27th, 2013 03:50 pm
essentialsaltes: (Nowtheysmell)
Twas Maxicon and the slithy toves did gyre and role-play in Santa Clarita.

I showed up for just Sunday, and despite aggravation on the 405 (incidentally, it was only recently I learned that people in other benighted regions of the world look askance at the local usage of 'the' 405 or 5 or what have you.) I made it there with time enough to fret fitfully until my game was up: Movie Mashup. I promised that characters from various movies I liked would interact in situations drawn from other movies. I had some grand idea, but in the full light of day I later discovered that it just didn't work, but I managed to put together something that at least provided some light amusement.

Starting in the cantina in Mos Eisley, our six protagonists turned out to be Jake and Elwood Blues, Willy Wonka, Tank Girl, The Dude, and Dante Hicks. They were approached by some farmers in black & white outfits... er, rather, they were entirely in B&W (as was Dante). Their village was under attack by bandits, and they were in search of Seven Samurai to protect them. They agree and join the fourth Samurai, who, being a droid, had to wait outside the cantina.

On their way to the Maltese Falcon, they were accosted by a bounty hunter in robes and a mask with a phased plasma rifle in a 40 watt range. It turned out to be Princess Leia, who had a few words for Jake: "You contemptible pig! I remained celibate for you. I stood at the back of a cathedral, waiting, in celibacy, for you, with three hundred friends and relatives in attendance. My uncle hired the best Corellian caterers in the state. To obtain the seven limousines for the wedding party, my father used up his last favor with Mad Pete Trullo. So for me, for my mother, my grandmother, my father, my uncle, and for the common good, I must now kill you, and your brother."

While Captain Sam Spade and Navigator Joel Cairo got the Maltese Falcon off the planet, they soon ran into problems since the planet they were approaching was "an ugly planet; a Bug planet! A planet hostile to life as we know it!"

Shot down by bug butt cannons, our heroes tried to get into the escape pod. Except Willy Wonka, who figured with fizzy lifting drink he could just evacuate himself into space and come to no harm. The rest had some problems opening the escape pod door when HAL decided, "I'm afraid I can't do that, Jake." But fortunately, Tank Girl was around to draw an ass on the door and kick that ass.

On the planet, the were saved by Rico's Roughnecks and finally made it to the village, where some piss-poor plans were made for defense, while Tank Girl and Jake Blues had a threesome with one of the local Japanese maidens washing clothes at the riverbank.

Eventually sleep came, but they woke up in color in a Mexican village that had gotten its seven gunslingers to protect it against bandits. Tank Girl takes out most of Calvera's bandits. But that's not the only threat. A new army was brewing to wipe out the town with a whoopin' and a hollerin'. But The Blues Brothers (accompanied by somewhat less expert musicians) put on a pretty good show that soften the hearts of the Klansmen, cholos, and other reprobates waiting to be inducted into the army by Hedley Lamarr. Tank Girl succeeded in stealing Hedley's froggy.

A bit later, Mongo is foiled, not initiallu by Willy Wonka's candygram, but digging deep Mr. Wonka emerged victorious.

Then Governor Vizzini appeared. 'You have defeated Hedley Lamarr, so you must have studied. You have defeated my giant, so you must be very strong. Now you must beat me in a battle of wits....'

Tank Girl challenged him to a game of Battleship, which she managed to win. Rather than pushing them all through the Matrix or Toontown, I decided this was a good place to stop. It was a short game, but I think it was good light entertainment. Brian was good enough to run a mini game based on some of the remaining characters I had, and then we wandered away to have some time to mingle and schmooz with folks.

Got to sneak in some Rock Band, and then it was time for Aaron's run of Dockside Dogs, a Cthulhu adventure that riffs off of Reservoir Dogs, written by the same bloke who wrote Gatsby and the Great Race. I can't say much without spoilers, but it was entertaining that basically the other characters were the most dangerous things on the scene.

After that broke up, I said my goodbyes and made a rapid return home.
essentialsaltes: (Nowtheysmell)
OK, having done what I can to replace my tapes or send them into oblivion, I offer the following tapes up for grabs to a loving home (preferably a nearby home whose occupant can obtain said tape in an orderly fashion at some point in the not too distant future, or arrange for some other means of hand-offage). I will entertain more distant offers, especially if postage bribes are offered.

Comment to claim your dibs. For timestamp purposes, LJ comments have priority over other modes of contact, even though this is simulcast in a couple places. I'll do my best to order the times fairly if there are conflicts.

-Little Women (version with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, and Christian Bale) - this one actually has a modest amount of sentimental attachment, as Dr. Pookie won this VHS from the Daily Bruin in a contest. IIRC, she created sortofa pop-up book Winona Ryder who tore her bodice off when you pulled a tab in kindofa Little Women/Bram Stoker's Dracula cross-over.
-The Hunger, with quite a bit more of Susan Sarandon, as well as David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve.
-The Tale of a Vampire w/ Julian Sands
-Interview with the Vampire w/ Tom Cruise
-Mission Impossible w/ Tom Cruise
-Evil Dead
-Nat Lamp's Christmas Vacation
-Who Am I? w/Jackie Chan
-The Doors w/Val Kilmer
-Pulp Fiction
-Treasure of Sierra Madre
-Lone Star
-Demolition Man

-Betty Boop (60 minuts - 9 cartoons)
-Betty Boop: The Definitive Collection Vol. 2 - Pre-Code (108 minutes - 14 cartoons, and the closest you'll ever get to seeing Betty's tits. If it wasn't for that damned lei! Mustabeen toupee glue.)

-The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
-The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
-The Phantom of the Opera (1925 with Chaney Sr.)
-Nosferatu (1922)

-Victor Borge Great Comedy Performances
-New Yoga w/ Kathy Smith
-Molly Fox's Yoga

-Real Genius w/Val Kilmer - alex victory
essentialsaltes: (Nowtheysmell)
Wandering through the public domain, overly digitally compressed, 5 DVD set of 50 Mystery Classics that I got for $0.50 at a garage sale... to identify the worst yellowface, in my opinion.

Bad: Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto in Mr. Moto's Last Warning. As a film, the best of the three (ok, the only one I watched to the end) but still, it's... Peter Lorre being Peter Lorre with glasses and partially blacked out teeth. Possibly worse was George Sanders pretending to be French, or maybe Italian... I'm still not sure which.
Worse: Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong in Mr. Wong: Detective. It's... Boris Karloff.
Worst: Bela Lugosi as the bad guy in The Mysterious Mr. Wong. It's... Bela Lugosi. Y'know... Hungarian is barely related to other European languages, much less any Asian ones. I dare you to summon the suspension of disbelief required to make this less than hideously jarring.
(Not in the running, but still the all-time worst: Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's.)

In my mind (if nowhere else) there's some sort of sliding scale of year vs. caricature that regulates my opinion of these things. Peter Sellers as Charlie Chan Sidney Wang in Murder by Death may be later than Breakfast at Tiffany's, but it's still not as bad. I mean, Yunioshi (Rooney's role) is a minor part in the film. Even in these low-budget low-brow films from the 30's & 40's, bit parts could be played by actual Asian people. Speaking of which... hello, Lotus Long:

Milo Perrier: What do you make of all of this, Wang?
Sidney Wang: Is confusing.
Lionel Twain: [from moose head] IT! IT is confusing! Say your goddamn pronouns!
Sidney Wang: Oh, there, voice come from cow on wall...
Lionel Twain: Moose, moose you imbecile!

The Hobbit

Dec. 15th, 2012 09:50 am
essentialsaltes: (Nazgul)
Due to smaug's great generosity, I played hooky from work and went to see The Hobbit with some friends. It strays more from the story than even the LotR films, but since I love the source material less, I was filled with less outrage. It's long, but I didn't find that it dragged at all. However, some of the interpolations of backstory and sidestory definitely detract from the flow of telling the story of our title character.

Things to like:
#1) The riddle scene. Well executed, and a good integration of Serkis' Gollum schtick from LotR into the scene. Glad they kept most of the riddles, but my favorite was evidently left on the cutting room floor:

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking

#2) The songs. Many (maybe all) of the songs are retained. They never sound like they do in my imagination, but I'll forgive them (this time) since I could not imagine something as interesting as the film's dwarven barbershop duodecet.

#3) The beautiful look of gold coins spilling about in Smaug's hoard. The hoard is impossibly big, but it glows and clinks and pours loverly.

Things to dislike:
#1) The uneven tone. The book is a much lighter adventure than LotR, and the fusion that they've done veers erraticly from intense to the very threshold (if not beyond) of camp. The horrifyingly comical Radagast has no point being in the same movie as the Witch King of Angmar, much less the same scene. [Incidentally, parents should note the PG-13 rating, and stick with the Rankin/Bass Hobbit until their kids are ready for beheadings galore.]

#2) This one goes to eleven. The faint allusion to mountain giants in the book is expanded into something ridiculous. My mind just refuses to accept it. As with a scene where the party is hurtling down into the caverns on a wooden platform -- my brain looks at the speed of their descent and told me, "They're all dead." Also, the episode when the party is treed has been ramped up. Etc. Etc. If you thought the collapsing staircase scene in Moria was gratuitous and unbelievable (and it is), The Hobbit has at least three scenes that are worse on that score.


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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