also…

A new Guy Ritchie directed Sherlock Holmes film has me suspecting we’ll see more than a little (more) Holmes/Watson slash.
sh.jpg It’ll star Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law (Law = Watson, Downey Jnr = Holmes), two blokes who’re kind of made for slash. Dunno about Ritchie’s involvement, but I quite like watching those two blokes on screen (read more here).
Also, phwoar.

why didn’t anyone tell me?

bkr.jpg that Be Kind, Rewind is, essentially, an homage to Fats Waller?
I’m a big fan of Michel Gondry’s films, and knew I’d like this one, but I’ve only just had a chance to chase it down on DVD. First, Mos Def + Jack Black = yes! But then, BKR is far more than just a dumb film about videos: it’s a film about Fats Waller!
Also, it’s a story about the way people tell each other stories. I really liked the emphasis on people enjoying telling each other stories – made up or not – to which everyone can contribute.
And, then, even more awesomely, the characters make a fan-fic film about Fats Waller’s life. It’s fully awesome.
My other favourite bit was the montage filmed in ‘real time’ – omg.
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I recommend watching the extras on the DVD – they have a full version of the Fats film.
Also: the Fats film references real archival footage of Fats – little soundies he made. And that is absolutely fully sick, because of course, the BKR is all about a couple of blokes (and then more people) who ‘remake’ famous films from memory and on a tight budget – so the film is all about ‘remaking’ found footage.
It’s all so close to my stuff on what swing dancers do with archival footage, it just about made me swoon.
Sigh.
…also, I’m sorry this post is only semi-coherent. It seems today is not a day for words. It is a day for action.

i like it

Even though it’s some sort of stereotype, I like it that both In and Out and Saving Face end with dancing scenes. Kissing and dancing. Really, what could be nicer than kissing someone you love while you’re dancing?
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I’m just a big old nanna.

jazz on a winter’s day

1. I am full of snot because I forgot to take my antihistamine yesterday and our house is full of moving dust.
2. I got up late because we went dancing at the Roxbury. Yes, we had a night at the Roxbury. It was wicked fun – a crowded, pumping room with lots of dancers and lots of fun. There’s a lot of dancing in Sydney, and a lot of dancers. So far we have been out dancing four times (in two weeks!), and had to beg off a fifth because we were wrecked from house hunting. It wasn’t just a heap of fun because there were so many dancers there, it was also a heap of fun because there’s such a range of dancing styles on the floor. There’re two major schools in Sydney, one which is an off-shoot of a Melbourne school, another which also has an interstate presence and which teaches ‘Hollywood’ style. I have to say that there were some leads there last night that blew my brain – they were so good I just thought ‘just follow, just follow – don’t muck this up with any fancy business’.
They weren’t just technically good dancers, they were also socially ‘good’ – they’d smile and respond and interact with their partners and did nice things like say “thanks for that dance!” and ask for another with enthusiasm. They were also more musically interesting – not just dancing the same old boring steps in the same old combinations, regardless of phrasing or energy or the structure of the song generally. And then they were great because they did things like include interesting jazz steps, experiment with the connection and really make me pay attention.
First night in town dancing I was suddenly struck by how obstructive my own bad habits are to my following. And when I danced with someone who ‘felt’ like a Melbourne dancer (yanking me in on one, rather than using a more mellow lead in), I suddenly thought ‘oh, this is why I have this bad habit of running in one, rather than waiting to be led – I’m trying to protect myself and avoid yank’. But that same protective rush is also impeding my following – it’s like I’m interrupting and yapping on without listening to their idea; I’m finishing their sentences. And in turn this makes it difficult for us to actually have a proper conversation where we’re both contributing equally.
A nice thing about dancing in a really diverse scene with lots of leads who take very different approaches is that I have to pick up my game and I feel inspired and really interested in actually dancing. Another nice thing is that it’s really nice to watch the floor. In fact, it feels like we’re at an exchange – even The Squeeze is dancing a lot. We’re possibly going dancing again tonight (a big band squeezed into the Unity Hall pub in Balmain this afternoon) and while I’m a bit hesitant as we have more house stuff to do, he’s all “yep, we’ll be there!”
There’re actually quite a few live bands to see in Sydney. In fact, there’s not much of a DJing culture at all here, and most people are into live music for their dancing. This is really very nice – we’ve only seen one band so far, but it’s always exciting to see new musicians. The year we went to SLX (the Sydney Lindy Exchange) the exchange coincided with the Manly Jazz Festival – now that was special.
jsd.jpg 3. Which is a nice segue to my next point. Right now I’m watching Jazz on a Summer’s Day, a 1960 film made about the Newport Jazz Festival. FXH recommended it in his comment to this post, but I’d mistaken it for another film. Any how, I ordered it on our Quickflix account and I’m watching it right now, while I wipe my nose and The Squeeze has a long, deliciously decadent lie-in (the first he’s had in about a month). It’s a great film, the music is really fabulous and the visuals are really neat – lots of crowd footage, scenes from the yacht race and of course, really, really amazing footage of musicians. anita1.jpg
Newport looms large in my mind for a number of reasons. Firstly, because there are so many freakin’ amazing albums featuring performances from the festival.
mj.jpg My most recent purchase in this series was the Mahalia Jackson live in 1958, and that really is fully sick. Beyond that, there’s the Count Basie at Newport album, and of course, the Ellington at Newport in ’56. Both of these are really neat. What makes them so neat is the fact that these were really big stars live in front of a massive crowd at an outdoor festival.
hs.jpgBeyond these, Newport is also an important character in a film I’ve always loved, High Society. Louis Armstrong stars in High Society, and the protagonist Dexter is played by Bing Crosby. Dexter is set up as a patron/organiser? (I can’t remember which) of the Newport Jazz Festival, and the entire film is set in Newport. There’re some interesting class things going on in the film, the one that always catches my interest being the way Armstrong is set up as the ‘narrative’ of the film in the opening scene as he and his band arrive in town in a coach (a nice contrast with Samantha’s sports car). Armstrong also sings the really great song ‘Now You Has Jazz’ with Bing Crosby, a song which is popular with dancers (and good fun for dancing). There’s a sweet scene where Armstrong and the band introduce the very straight, very white crowd of Newport socialites to jazz. They play the one song then it’s back to straighty-one-eighty unswing, unjazz for the rest of the party. I really like the idea of a black man (and such an important man in the history of jazz) introducing a bunch of straights to jazz at a Newport society house party. The crowd are apparently completely unaware of the festival and its significance – oblivious to the world beyond their high society manners and conflicts. Crosby’s role is kind of problematic, set up as he is, as the ‘patron’ for the festival.
It’s interesting to watch High Society in reference to Jazz on a Summer’s Day, and in the light of the festival’s history more generally. And I’m very grateful to FXH for getting me onto this film in the first place.

jumper

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I love superhero films. I love sci-fi. I will see anything on these themes, anything at all, so long as it doesn’t star Tom Hanks (whom I abhor and avoid at all costs).
So I went to see Jumper the other afternoon on my own (couldn’t imagine anyone else who’d go see it with me and understand how I wanted to watch it). I was expecting B, and B I got. But it was fun*. Until just now, when I started thinking about it.
Here’s a quick overview of the story (look out for spoilers):
A boy is bullied at school. He has an abusive, alcoholic father.
He learns to ‘jump’ between physical locations. There’s talk of worm holes and so on, but it’s mostly a matter of willing yourself to a new location. You must, though, have a picture or visual image of your destination – your jump point (this is interesting because it leads to obsessive, massive collections of photos of exotic places).
He grows up, and has a flash apartment. He jumps all over the world, stealing money from banks.
He’s chased by nasty ‘paladins’, who’re some sort of ancient religious order committed to wiping out jumpers.
He revisits his high school sweetheart and shows off. This ends in trouble.
He learns he’s not the only ‘jumper’.
He joins forces with another jumper (just for a very short time, it’s agreed) to kill a particularly nasty paladin, Samuel L. Jackson.
He discovers the mother who abandoned him is a paladin.
She saves him in Rome.
There’s a lot of fighting, the girl gets beat up a bit and involved in the violence.
The paladin gets killed (I think – I can’t remember).
He (and the girl) visit his mother. We’re left with a ‘there will be a sequel’ scene.
Basically, it was like watching The O.C. with special effects. The characters were physically quite beautiful (in a very conventional, O.C. way). There were petulant teenagers of both genders (I think the protagonist was meant to be in his 20s, but he read teenager to me), there were silly car chases (yay!), there were silly story lines… no, wait. I don’t think there was actually a story line.
Overall, it was fun. So long as you didn’t notice:

  • The way the protagonist (whose name I just can’t remember) treated women: find ’em, fuck ’em, jump out of their town and go surfing/leave them stranded in a foreign country. This wasn’t a feminist-friendly film. There were at least two female characters, but they didn’t really speak at all, let alone speak to each other
  • Paladins. Why do people call characters ‘paladins’? Especially if they’re baddies? It doesn’t really work, even if it’s meant to make you think about knights or swords or whatever.
  • Ethics. Well, you wouldn’t have to ignore them, because there didn’t seem to be any. It’s made quite clear that this a fairly selfish teenager, who could seriously do with a telling off. At one point he’s watching telly in his luxury flat and we see a news story about people stuck in flood water. The voice over on the news report is something like ‘how could anyone possibly get there to save them?’ and the protagonist looks away, bored. Needless to say, though he has the technology, he won’t be doing any saving. Or walking to the fridge. Or using doors.
  • The muscles-without-cause. The protagonist is seriously buff. Buff like Clark from Smalls – he’s seriously built, and yet his lifestyle doesn’t seem to leave room for working out, getting exercise, lifting weights, etc. So the Jumper guy is seriously musclebound, and yet he’s so lazy he’s suprised when the other Jumper guy (that young kid from Billy Elliot, all growed up) walks around cities instead of jumping from place to place. How, I ask you, could he have developed that body – hell, how could he not be seriously obese with that type of lifestyle? Clark has a slightly different problem – he’s simply so strong he’d find it very difficult to get any sort of resistance training happening. So how come he’s so buff and built?
  • The costumes. Oh, golly, there was bad teenage fashion in this film. Where was the big name French designer to save the costumes? Even the stupid Matrix managed to put together some decent costumes for the characters.
  • The camera work. Oh man, I freakin’ hate this director (Doug Liman), especially the Bourne films. The latest Bourne film was particularly painful – nasty cuts, editing jumping all over the place, horrible hand held camera. In most cases all this busy technical stuff managed to distract from the excitement and tension of the actual events on the screen – we’re so busy noticing the editing or camera work, we forget to pay attention to what the protagonist is doing. I dunno, perhaps it ‘looks’ like first-person real time games or something (hence marking its territory as ‘young adolescent males’ with this and the persistent misogyny in the narrative), but I just find it annoying. Jumper was at times really difficult to physically watch – the camera would move too quickly for your eyes to focus (including a couple of really, really lame pans across the desert – they were meant to show us how alone and isolated the character/lair was, but moved so quickly we didn’t have time to see that there was nothing to see). There were some poorly composed shots – nasty framing that left you thinking ‘perhaps this film’s artier than I th… no. It’s just crappy.’
  • The extras. Looking. At. The. Camera. Yes, wonderfully profesionally work there, Young Woman In Bar 2.
  • The bullshit sound in the bar scene. So the protagonist is in a bar, talking to his high school sweetheart. It’s crowded. Said crowd is watching a sports game (dunno what type), so they alternately cheer loudly, hush expectantly and mouth conversations silently in the middle of the shot while the leads talk about… what? I was distracted there. That was some really bad action. So we heard the leads talking quietly, with almost no ambient noise, and then all of a sudden the crowd starts cheering. We see people, right in the middle of shots, talking, but we can’t hear them. It’s really, really terrible, amateur stuff.

But, on the other hand, we can read this film as a story about an abused child suddenly granted unbelievable superhero powers.
Interestingly, the film is based on a young adult fiction novel by Steven Gould. I haven’t read it, but on wikipedia is notes that the protagonist is escaping from an “abusive home”. If you keep that in mind, it’s not really all that surprising that he ends up obsessed with money and a ‘safe’ home, hidden away from the rest of the world. It’s also not surprising that he’s crappy with relationships.
In that light Samuel L. Jackson’s obsessed hunting of the jumpers becomes quite distressing. If the protagonist is a damaged boy who’s not really living socially, then a vicious, religious fanatic hunting him fanatically because he knows he’s innately ‘evil’ serves as the scary fulfillment of an abused child’s sense of self:
Dad hurts me because I’m bad and I deserve it. The paladins are hunting (and hurting) me because I’m evil and I deserve it.
This becomes even more concerning if we keep in mind the fact that we only ever see male jumpers, thus conflating all jumpers with this one protagonist – his experience becomes the experience of all jumpers. This idea is born up by the (unheard) confession by the Griffin (Billy Elliot) jumper that his parents were killed by paladins when he was a child. And the fact that Griffin had a nasty childhood (a point the protagonist responds to with his first moment of ‘real’ (?) emotion. So either all jumpers are echoes of this one protagonist, or all jumpers are abused boys who’ve managed to ‘escape’. Either way, it’s unhappy stuff.
We also see the protagonist’s mother (who abandoned he and his father years ago) turn up on the paladin’s team, later explaining that it was actually the son’s fault that she left in the first place (and her leaving is presented as the reason for the father’s alcoholism and violence)… Well, it’s not a happy story.
Again, if we read this as a story of a lonely, abused child, it’s not surprising that the boy’s chained bedroom door (chained on the inside to protect himself) is replaced by an apartment which apparently has no working doors, and includes a ‘panic room’ (with no doors at all) filled with money and gear. Hoarding food is a marker of a pretty unhappy, frightened child, and hoarding currency/jewels/gear in obsessive tidiness becomes the marker of a damaged young adult who never feels safe.
So, there are lots of things to ignore in this film, and lots of things which are really quite sad on second glance. But if you just think ‘woo-hoo! Special effects!’ it’s all cool. Particularly if you like the O.C. (which is also a story about an unhappy boy-man whisked off to sudden and startling wealth, if I remember properly).
*I’ve blogged the preview here.

phew

That horrible program is over and we’ve just watched our way through the lovely Billy Elliot (not Billy Holliday) and are now beginning with the divine Staying Alive. Directed by Sylvester Stallone, no less. And starring John Travolta. “Do you dance?”
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go media convergence, go

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I’m not sure if anyone’s seen this, but it’s an amazing idea.
Basically, the Met transmits their operas live to cinemas in Australia (and elsewhere, I guess). So you’re sitting in a cinema watching a high definition, live performance of some pretty high grade high art opera on a cinema screen. They don’t go everywhere, but they do go to some regional centres.
Am I the only one who thinks that’s a pretty interesting and quite amazing concept? I don’t much care for opera, but I’m fascinated by the technology and marketing and cross-media/media convergence action here. Just imagine how popular these would be if it was something with mass, popular appeal…. or would it be popular?
Anyone been?