Okay, Catherine, you win. I will dare call your work shock value crap. Now you can call me a boorish slob who can’t recognize art, or can’t relate to the feelings of young women, or whatever you like. I’ve stood up for you twice before (I defended Romance and actually rather liked 36 Filette) but this time I must shoot you down. It’s not that I am shocked by the content of your film (although vomit, urine, vaginal secretions, more urine, chicken blood, semen, chopped up earthworms on pubic hair, even more urine and ear wax aren’t exactly my favorite things to see. . .) but I reject the concept that just showing these things (in close up) blesses your film with the cure-all of brave realism. You are not granted a free pass over things like acting, dialogue, pacing or camerawork just because you dare smack the audience with a big fat glove stating “this is the way adolesence is!!!” Teenage girls masturbating? What a concept! With no story or arstisty (imagine Eric Rohmer devoid of any narrative elegance), even 90 minutes of that gets dull.
Fun to revisit the characters and general gestalt of “Tanner ‘88.” It lacks the urgency the original had, this seems much more slapped together. There are some long stretches where you just know they were running around the convention with video cameras, trying to get whatever footage they could — much like Alex Tanner is doing herself. The layers upon layers of reflexivity is kinda exhausting, too — I feel like we’ve been told that we live in a media echo chamber before. Still, the scenes that are prepared are top notch. Garry Trudeau’s observational wit is very sharp and all the performances (particularly Cynthia Nixon, whose Alex Tanner is more the star here than the first time) are dynamite. Wouldn’t recommend it without seeing “Tanner ‘88,” but if you do you are sure to like this.
This is another perfect episode. A rare space contaminant is making everybody drunk! A lot of exciting firsts here. First use of the Vulcan Neck Pinch, first time explicit reference is made to Mr. Spock being half human, also the first time we see Mr. Spock (who is never supposed to be emotional) get all emotional. I betcha when the series was all said and done Mr. Spock probably had more emotional breakdowns due to unforseen space viruses/probes/possessions than any other member of the crew. Also: Mr. Sulu greased down in Vaseline and swinging a sword around! Rrrreaorw! Nurse Chapel makes her first appearance and she has the hots for Mr. Spock. I guess Lt. Uhura’s crush has ended — she’s a tough cookie in this episode, shouting “Sorry, neither!” to Mr. Sulu as he puts his arms around her, also pushing back to Captain Kirk “Don’t you think I would shut it down if I could!!!” Another big first: Scotty needing more time, yet still managing to do what he needed to do in time. Best part is Lt. Reilly making dopey faces and waving his arms around to open the sensor-doors. One of the few examples in all of Trek where people get playfull with the technology. From a design perspective, when will it ever get better than Spock in his environmental suit that was, in fact, a refigured red shower curtain.
Of the four episodes I’ve seen so far, none end with the typical TOS ending — which is Kirk, Spock and McCoy going over the day’s events and someone making a dopey joke and the music going “doo-doo-doo.” I wonder when the first of these will start. So far, they’ve all been pretty dark endings, except for this episode which ends rather oddly — with the “discovery” of Time Warp. I question if this is actually the first time in the Star Trek Universe a ship has entered time warp (and I don’t have the energy to check the websites for this info) but they kinda act all shocked when they go into it. But then things quickly get back to normal and Kirk says something to the effect of “we haven’t seen the last of that!” Quick research tells me “The Naked Time” was originally slated to be a two-parter. . . .
The first Kirk episode shot (the second pilot. . .we’ll get to “The Cage” later) and it is great fun to see the differences. Spock is much more alien-like and the uniforms are different. The bridge is different, too (especially the viewscreen) as are the gadgets. Kirk makes an “intership announcement” and in a big echo-y voice prepares everyone for “leaving the galaxy.” And much of the premise is based on “the phenomenon of ESP,” which, I dunno, just feels like a precursor to Leonard Nimoy’s later career “In Search Of…” Don’t know why they didn’t use this briefing room again, it kinda looks like the one they use on TNG. And McCoy isn’t McCoy — he’s some old man. Also — the only (I think) time we’ll see a phaser rifle. Storywise, similar to Charlie X there is someone on the loose with unstoppable powers. This time it is Helmsman Mitchell, Kirk’s old drinking buddy from the Academy. There is a lot of that not-so-science-minded talk you’ll find in the early episodes (eg Little Blonde Lab Technician) — sexism had yet to be eradicated from the 23rd Century. The main question with this episode: how did they get Hot Lips Houlihan and the dude from 2001’s eyes to be all shiny like that????
Oh, it is tough to be a teenager. Poor Charlie X, sole survivor of a remote colony, brought up by hyperintelligent amorphous beings (the Thasians, if you must know) and blessed with unstoppable powers. He could have anything, but all he wants is Yeoman Rand. Watch Charlie cross his eyes and melt Spock’s 3-D Chess pieces. Watch him make Uhura lose her voice. (Can’t blame him on that one — Uhura can sing, but could there be a more atonal song than her love ode to Spock? I’ve seen this episode 900 times and I still can’t pick out a melody!) Watch him vaporize Kirk’s “workout partner” in the tight red dance pants for “not being very nice.” It’s funny, ’cause the chick Yeoman Rand tries to hook him up with is actually a much hotter core of dilithium crystals than she is. But Charlie doesn’t go for it. Even in space, love is blind. . .
The fifth episode shot but the first ever aired. And wisely so. A tremendous amount of fun — a shapeshifting monster is on the loose and searching for salt! Wearing its 60s liberalism on its sleeve the show asks that we not hate the monster for killing us — it’s just his way! (And allusions to the extinct buffalo and by extension the American Indian genocide are peppered in for good measure, too.) But never mind that. There’s a salt vampire on the loose! And McCoy is blinded by his past lust and is powerless to stop it!
What I love so much about the early episodes is how the Star Trek world hadn’t yet been scrubbed of its inelegant earthly elements. (Read: Crewman Darnell’s reference to “Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet.”) Also: character arcs that never really went anywhere. Sulu is a botanist here and Uhura has the hots for Spock. Also, the sound effects aren’t quite all there yet. I love the dopey echo when they first get to the Professor’s dwelling.
Anyway, this is a top notch episode. Highly recommended. And not just cause the Professor’s wife licks her salty fingers after she touches Kirk’s sweaty head.
Red Alert! This is a major new announcement. Longtime associates know that a few years back I made a New Year’s Resolution to read 52 books in a year. And I did it. (Starting with “Gravity’s Rainbow” made this a particularly remarkable feat, if I do say so myself.) The following year I pledged to see 365 movies. Doing so is what probably nabbed me the $5000 from IFC’s “Ultimate Film Fanatic.” Now — a new vow. I will watch, in the order they were presented to the viewing public (as best as I can ascertain) every single Star Trek episode. That is — every single episode of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise and, yes, the seldom seen Animated Adventures Series (they’re being released on DVD in November.) It is a bold step. One that puts me, I admit it, in an extreme category with people I may not otherwise wish to associate. But I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to do it. And then I’ll really be one of them.
I’m not waiting til New Year’s because, frankly, there is no way I could do it one year. It will take longer. (It better take longer. I plan to do other things with my time than watch Star Trek!) Like Picard says, “A continuining mission. . .”
So this blog will have a new category — The Star Trek Project.
I will review each episode on a 5 Enterprise Insignia system. means bloody awful (Data running around with Sherlock Holmes on the Holodeck) means bloody awesome (Evil Spock has a beard or 7 of 9 is photographed from the rear.)
For record keeping I will list by episode name, series name (TOS, ANI, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT) and Season Number. I may go back to the films again in between. (I’d like to see them with commentary track anyway.)
I will also let readers know when it is the first time I am seeing an episode. I’ve seen all of TOS (I think), most of TNG, much of VOY but hardly any DS9 or ENT. And no ANI.
I’ve been a Star Trek fan since middle school. I’ve written in the past how it comforts me. Just the sound effects have a calming effect (you can click here to read what the hell I am talking about.) When we were shooting Body/Antibody, I would sometimes come home a giant wired ball of stress and slapping a Trek DVD in the machine would lull me to sleep in 30 seconds. So I am not going to deny my fandom anymore. Let’s see where this experiment takes me.
When I am done with this, will I then go on and start reading those “expanded universe” books? Will I teach myself Klingon? Will I go (shudder) to conventions? Only time (or a wormhole) will tell. . .
Or, as I call it, “The B-Sides of Grey Gardens.” I can’t think of any other situation like this — a full feature film, appearing 30 years after the original, made up simply of outtakes from the original. There was a video released in the late 80s of outtakes from “Woodstock,” but that was just musical performances. Well, there’s a lot of muscial performances in this, too. The picture opens with Little Edie singing “You Ought To Be In Pictures” on the front porch. Her dramatic entrance was met with applause from the appreciative audience at last night’s midnight screening at the IFC Center, especially from the handfull of folks in the back who came dressed up. I wouldn’t recommend “The Beales of Grey Gardens” to those who haven’t seen “Grey Gardens” — it would make absolutely no sense. Unlike the original, which at least has a tiny narrative thread, this has none whatsoever. Also, you can kinda see why most of this ended up cut out — for the most part the original release got all the really good stuff. But as Ann said when the lights came up, “that will never be not fascinating!” The highlights include a musical montage of Little Edie in more of her revolutionary costumes (most not seen in the original) and Big Edie reciting tragic poetry. Also: lots more Jerry! And Lois, who seems kinda sane in the original, is actually a friggin’ nut (and possibly the worst painter in history.) Little Edie’s accusation of Big Edie having a crush on Jerry, which sounded like paranoia in the first one, is actually revealed to be quite well founded. Similarly, Little Edie confesses to a Design For Living-type fantasy with Albert and David Maysles. Ann & I will be buying this on DVD as soon as it is available. This first time I just needed it to wash over me — I’ll have a further opinion upon later scrutiny.
Very entertaining. Garry Trudeau’s only crack at TV/film is a minor masterpiece of satire. Much like Soderbergh’s “K-Street,” “Tanner” was shot in real time, weekly, as events were unfolding in the election cycle. And while some of the Lloyd Bentsen jokes have grown a little stale, the mishmash of reality and fiction was pretty much unheard of in 1988. Ann walked in midway through one episode and asked “is this a documentary?” And, in a way, it kinda is — a time capsule of the news from the period, but also what cutting edge comedy/filmmaking was like, too. Altman’s use of overlapping dialogue has never been put to better use. Question: Why isn’t Pamela Reed a household name? She was (is) a brilliant actress and had quite a look, too.
An absolute marvel of a motion picture. It has everything: it’s a time travel mindfuck, it’s a zombie picture, action-adventure, comedy and a great Star Trek yarn. Like Star Trek IV, one can come to this movie knowing nothing about Trek and still love this film. Alas, it is the only Picard film that really works (to my recollection), so here is an opportunity to bring up a topic that, you’d think, I’d only talk about ironically. Who is the better Captain, Picard or Kirk? Now, obviously Kirk kicks more ass. And, obviously, Shatner is King. Let’s get that out of the way. But I do think that Picard has better management skills. And I think he may be smarter. And, when push comes to shove, he can kick ass and make out with alien hotties, too. This conversation embarrasses all of us, yes I know, but I think the kneejerk reaction to yell at anyone who dare think Picard is better than Kirk ought to be reassessed. (Picard has the better catch phrase with “Make it so” also.)
One of the most criminally overlooked movies of the 1990s. I don’t know why no one gives this film the time of day — people got hung up on Kenneth Branagh “doing Woody Allen” (which he kinda is, but so what) and ignored the film. Or maybe people complain that it is desultory — but it is about about an unhappy man who doesn’t know what he wants and at the end still doesn’t know what he wants. It begins with “HELP” and ends with “HELP.” It is a very dark movie, but funny, and one of the better films expressing the particular New York ennui that only really exists in the films of Woody Allen. I think the movie is terrific, even if it doesn’t have a snappy hook — unless that hook is “Deconstructing Harry with fewer jokes and more misery and in Black & White.” Works for me.
Leigh’s first film. Not worth your time. (DVD transfer is a mess, too, and in dire need of subtitles with the thick working class accents.)
If you are going to steal, steal from the best. Inspired by Terrence Malick nearly to tbe point of litigation, “George Washington” has tone out the ying-yang. Unlike Malick, there are occasional attempts at hardcore realism thrown in. Then there are some quirky dialogue moments reminiscent of Hal Hartley. To quote the Emporer, “Too many notes.” Overall, though, quite good — very unique movie with good performances and some very nice scenes. I did have that little taste in my mouth at the end — the one that goes, “Yeah? So? Your point being?” But I am going to overlook that. There’s enough that’s truly wonderful to give this a hardy “A-.”
Ann picked this up for a few bucks at Best Buy, mostly for the John Waters commentary track. And while she knows every line by heart, I must say that while I do find it entertaining, I’m not enamoured of it in the way I am some of the other great cult classics out there. Maybe my opinion will change if I see it again or if I watch more YouTube video tributes like “Abba vs. Mommie Dearest” (I mean, hell, any movie that can inspire that HAS to be worth something.) It’s funny, when this movie came out, I remember people taking it seriously. I remember my Great Aunt Bert going on and on about how devastating this movie was to watch. And Ann and I were howling with laughter. Go know. Overall, very entertaining. Come to our house if you want to see it — Ann is always up for another viewing.
Or, as I like to call it “The Devil Wears Product Placement.” Theoretically, I should have some sort of bone to pick with this movie. But I don’t. It is very entertaining. Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci rule and Anne Whatsername looks good running around Midtown, Tribeca and Paris in expensive boots. What can I say?
This movie had the potential to be bloody awful. While it remains 100% predictable and, frankly, something you’ve seen ten times before (think The Last Metro meets The Full Monty with a sprinkling of vague Channel 13 Evelyn Waugh dust on top) I can’t deny that it is entertaining. This is due to Judi Dench, a wonderful performer, who is loving every minute of this movie. Christopher Guest is entertaining in his bad guy role (basically the William Atherton in Ghostbusters role), but I’ve had enough of Bob Hoskins. And the more I think about this movie, I’m reminded of the embarrassing ending when Judi actually stands up on a soapbox and then speaks all of the thoughts her character has had the last 90 minutes. I better stop writing before I give this movie a lower grade.
Ann and I were power refugees the past few days in New Jersey. We split Thurs night and just came back, hearing conflicting reports concerning Astoria’s situation. Our house seems fine and Goober got to spend a couple days on the Upper East Side (he’s acting a little snooty now, but what can you do?) Whilst in New Jersey we hit all the hot spots: Federici’s Pizza, Sorrento’s Subs and Jersey Freeze ice cream. Longtime readers of this blog have heard me wax poetic about this Monmouth County holy trinity before, so I’ll leave it alone for now.
Also: Ann picked up a great digital camera — so photos may be of better quality ’round here (under the theory that I will be able to borrow it.)
Been in brownout since late Tuesday. Computer works, 1.5 ACs work. That’s about it. Forcing me to be proactive on the many, many little tasks I have in wrapping production. (Mostly, calling Kerry and whining about how poor I am.) Going to NJ for a few days. Need time in a swimming pool.