Wednesday, March 24, 2010

dammit dammit dammit

A fond goodnight to the late Robert Culp, who died at his Hollywood home earlier today.

Everyone is justly lauding his work on the groundbreaking TV series I Spy - Culp and co-lead Bill Cosby struck numerous blows on and off-camera for America's civil rights movement during the making of the show.

But your proprietor's fondness for Culp extends to many roles, chiefly that of amnesiac/would-be savior Trent in the Harlan Ellison-penned "Demon With A Glass Hand" episode of The Outer Limits. Last time I was in Los Angeles I was honored to stand upon the stairway from which Culp/Trent leaped in the story's climactic chase scene.

Thank you, Robert. Good night.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The long-running Gundam franchise begets yet another iteration. Spun from a light novel set in the franchise's original timeline, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn contains many of the metaseries' most beloved tropes: a reluctant young hero who grows to accept a destiny he can powerfully sense but barely define; intricate politics and protracted debate; and of course all manner of high-flying, devastatingly-equipped, and painstakingly-designed military mecha.

Though it is no less dense than previous Gundam stories, "Day of the Unicorn", the first episode of a planned six, offers enough grounding in the story to give newcomers at least a basic grasp of the world at hand. Banagher Links is a compelling young hero, given solid voice by Steve Staley, who articulates Links' innocence and faith beautifully. The scene in which Links is confronted with the full story of his destiny, and given the keys to the truly spiffy titular weapon, is offered both a mythic weight and human emotion that the franchise has rarely (in your proprietor's admittedly non-encyclopaedic experience) attained.

The friend I took to the screening, a neophyte to anime and Gundam, leaned into me during the credits and simply said, "More, please." Your proprietor could hardly agree more, and eagerly awaits the remaining five installments.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

a slew, a slew, of mini reviews

Taking a cue from Arbogast, here we go...

There are a few intriguing ideas in Soopum Sohn's debut feature Fetish, aka Make Yourself At Home - the awkwardness of its Korean heroine's attempts to adjust to her new life with a Korean-American husband (and his draconianly old school mother) offers a powerful setting for an outsider story. But as the film lapses into thriller territory, it maintains a too-quiet pace, with its barely-present characters not seeming to really grasp their situation. One is reminded of ORPHAN, which registered its threat's motivations much more clearly and played more knowingly on its audience's fears. Sohn's film fails to build empathy for its characters or any kind of suspense. Which for a thriller are, you know, kind of necessary.

Unsurprisingly, an atmosphere of intensifying paranoia is much more expertly maintained in The Ghost Writer. A suspenseful mise-en-scene is Roman Polanski's natural habitat, after all, and the film is filled with any number of eerie scenes confronting its own outsider protagonist (Ewan McGregor) with quietly bizarre characters, settings, and schemes. Though its plot is diminished by its too conventional climax (with a superb performance by Pierce Brosnan sacrificed to score points with Tony Blair parallels), the images of the title character groping through a fog-shrouded nightmare are what linger.

Drawing inspiration from Ozu's Late Spring, Claire Denis in 35 Shots of Rum crafts a moving portrait of a father and daughter who can't quite let one another go. Where Ozu's evolving family dynamics spoke to tectonic shifts in Japanese society, Denis takes a more interioristic approach to her characters, letting their tiniest nuances speak volumes to their relationships with one another. The major events that would serve as climaxes in other films barely register here; Denis finds the real roots of the drama in the quiet moments where our emotions ultimately manifest, specifcally an after-midnight bar scene, where our heroes' hearts, hopes and fears rise, fall, and dance to the Commodores' "Night Shift" (a track your proprietor has been waiting decades to see deployed as powerfully as it is here). And the final shot is a heartbreaker.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

her other car is an OSCAR

Your proprietor is pleased to join the celebration of Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar win. Though I merely really, really liked THE HURT LOCKER (as opposed to the LOVE with which others regarded it), I can not WAIT to see where Bigelow goes next (which I imagine'll be anywhere she wants).