Radio Silence

The extended silence you may have noticed at this site was me spending time in Hollywood and in Colorado. I answered some email and at least toyed with the idea of posting some Weblog entries, but wound up not having enough free time to think straight. I considered going to see Simone (or is that more properly spelled S1m0ne?) at some point, but didn’t get to that, either. I don’t much like this writer/director Andrew Niccol’s work, see, but I am interested in keeping track of what he’s up to. But, geez, did anybody like his new one?

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I was amused to learn that Spider-Man was the feature on my westward flight from New York to California. I didn’t plug into the audio, but instead took in the visuals while I listened to assorted MP3s. I was pleased to note that, yep, the A- I gave it seems to hold up under scrutiny. This is a goofy, giddy superhero movie, and the purest embodiment of exactly what I hope to see in a summer blockbuster. The trick in this case is, I think, that the film was storyboarded extensively, with the result that the images play out in distinctly comic-book fashion. My main cavil is still the too-frequent replacement of Tobey Maguire by obnoxious CGI, but even some of the whiz-bang graphics have an exuberant appeal this time around, in a bet-you-didn’t-think-we’d-ever-be-able-to-show-you-that way. I did notice that, while the film’s frequent bursts of violence — including a final-reel impalement! — seem to have been left more or less alone by the airline censors, Kirsten Dunst’s naked-beneath-her-clothes nipples had been digitally removed from the scene where Spidey rescues her from a group of thugs. Good lord, the lengths to which people go to strip even the hint of sexuality from anything that they might have to watch with their children. (Ever wonder if the folks who run sites like Screenit.com get any particular jollies from their exhaustive cataloguing of explicit content? Here’s how they describe the scene in question: “Mary Jane shows some cleavage in various outfits in various scenes. In one scene, she’s caught in the rain and her wet top reveals that she’s not wearing a bra (the shape of her nipples can be seen).” Sounds pretty hot to me.) Makes me long for the good old days of PG-rated Swamp Thing and topless Adrienne Barbeau.

Since getting home, I have taken the time to check out the new Kino DVD of Code Unknown. I didn’t exactly avoid this one when it was playing in New York, but I didn’t make any effort to put myself in proximity to a theater showing it, either. This was due, I think, to my deep-seated irritation with Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, a film I felt was trying to hector me, start to finish. All that makes me a chump because, boy howdy, is this a terrific movie. I hope to write something about it. For now, I’ll just say it’s a shame Kino couldn’t do better than this version of the film. I suspect that the DVD is transcoded from a PAL master, partly because the details are kind of fuzzy and also because the frames flicker in weird ways when I try to step through them. In one scene that Juliette Binoche plays in long shot, her face is just a big pink spot at the center of the screen. I wondered if she was wearing a stocking mask, for all the detail I could(n’t) make out. At the very least, this should have been anamorphic widescreen instead of plain letterbox. But if you turn up the volume (a six-channel sound system will definitely help) and turn out all the lights, I suspect that even this version of Code Unknown works the way it’s supposed to.

6 Replies to “Radio Silence”

  1. Hey Bryant,

    After another wasted night of a dodgy late night Korean horror movie (Nightmare, sometimes called Nine Lives), I want a _really_ scary movie. And I want atmosphere over violence and supernatural over psychos. Ring could have been okay, but that traditional Japanese flexibilty re: plot sunk it for me. Help me out here, Bryant, does such a film exist?

    Cheers,

    Patrick.

  2. Boy, this is tougher than I thought it would be. Here are a few thoughts.

    1. The two (obvious) Asian films not yet mentioned are AUDITION and CURE. Of the two, I found AUDITION to be “scarier” — in particular one scene in the middle that involves little more than a burlap sack and a telephone (which was used in its entirety as the film’s trailer). This scene generated the second loudest scream I have heard during a movie, followed by the longest post-scream reaction (the women rocked back and forth and moaned for a good ten seconds). Both films are very good, but are often hard to take, so be warned.

    2. Most critics hated JEEPERS CREEPERS, but I thought it wasn’t half bad. The begnning is much stronger than the ending, but the ending does include a quick shot that generated the loudest scream I have heard during a movie. Overall, a flawed-but-worthwhile monster movie methinks.

    3. EXCORCIST III is another flawed film that I think is underrated. The first half is again much stronger than the second (horror film endings are tough to pull off – another reason I love the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), but again the second half includes a great scene that Scott Renshaw included in his Best Scenes of the 90’s list. It’s why I rented the movie, and I wasn’t disappointed.

    Beyond that, I’m having a hard time coming up with anything that you probably haven’t already seen, or rejecetd without seeing (i.e., BWP). Stephen King’s STORM OF THE CENTURY mini-series actually has a nice, low-key, creepy atmosphere (well, for King anyway) and a kicker of an ending.

  3. I’d have to say that the movie that scared me the most was David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”

    This is a movie that really messes with your head. I don’t know if it was marketed as a horror movie, but I actually had to shut it off when the The Mystery Man’s silhouette moves through Bill Pullman’s empty house.

  4. I personally loved the surprisingly unpredictable and even funny at times thriller Joy Ride. That movie kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and especailly loved the ending.

  5. Stephen, Joy Ride didn’t do it for me, but I can see how it might work for someone else. (You just have to imagine yourself being dumb enough to behave the way the kids in that movie behaved, and then the big bad trucker can be pretty scary.)

    I’ll tell you what I found scary as a little kid — and they still give me a little shiver when I see them as a grownup thanks to the miracle of laserdisc and DVD — were TV commercials for horror movies in the late 1970s. Check out the incredibly loud floating-egg TV commercial for Alien sometime. Scared the crap out of me when I was 9 years old. I also remember the s-l-o-w-l-y rotating baby carriage with the deformed hand hanging out of it that was used to promote Larry Cohen’s mutant-infant movie It’s Alive, and that creepy commercial for Magic with the talking ventriloquist’s dummy sent me running for my bedroom every time I saw it. Everyone else in the third grade thought that ad was the coolest thing, but it made me want to wet myself. Also the Zuni fetish doll from the final story in the made-for-TV Trilogy of Terror haunted my dreams for months. (Yes! A TV movie! What kind of pussy does that make me?)

    I’m also a sucker for movies that trade on religious iconography, which tends to creep me the fuck out (although I’m not religious at all). The Omen trilogy got lots of mileage out of me, even though I only saw it on TV. And I already mentioned The Exorcist, which scares me to this day although I know that many people consider it high comedy. I so did not want to see what was going to be happening behind that door into little Regan’s room. (The “version you’ve never seen,” which I watched in the great-for-a-horror-movie Astor Plaza cavern below Times Square, is so much less effective I considered it near criminal.)

    -bf-

  6. Bryant, I can’t believe it. You picked the three TV commercials that absolutely sent me from the room every time: Alien, It’s Alive and Magic. Especially It’s Alive. For an entire summer (and the ad budget on that movie must have been huge) I knew that at any moment during Little Rascals or Gilligan’s Island it could strike. When it did, I changed the channel, counted to thirty -adding a few seconds just to be sure – and changed back, safe for awhile. Later, the radio commercials started. Needless to say, I never saw any of these movies – except once when you, Mr. Frazer, talked me into seeing the newly released laserdisc of Alien. Thanks!

    Oh – and I just remembered the commercial for Phantasm, where something jumps out from under a bed and attacks the person laying on top. Great.

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