Monthly Archives: September 2012

Link Dump: #79

More from People Holding Cats: this time it’s a scruffy Anthony Hopkins cuddling the world’s smallest, fluffiest kitty. And just like that, any Hopkins-related fears you may have from watching Silence of the Lambs melt away. Look at him with that kitty! No way he’s a cannibal who makes creepy noises with his tongue. And now, lotsa links:

A few hilarious/pornographic search terms over the past couple weeks: “royal_princess_pussy@yahoo.com,” “стерильная лаборатория” (apparently Russian for “sterile laboratory”?), “mmm que vagina,” and finally, “fuck like thunder womens.” Indeed.

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Spaced Out

Not every movie can be great (or good). Most, in fact, end up in a long line of generic mediocrities, playing on cable for years with built-in lowered expectations. Movies like Space Jail (2012)—whose title is actually Lockout, but come on—which is coded as “standard genre fare” so bluntly it’s almost endearing. It stars Guy Pearce (mmm Guy Pearce) as Snow, an ex-CIA operative trying to clear his own name, and it takes place in a dingy, corrupt future that seems to exist solely as a backdrop for misadventures like these. The kind of future where no one seems to have a house or a 9-to-5 job, but the government can invest zillions of dollars in a supermax prison orbiting the earth.

The president’s daughter, of course, is drawn to said space jail like a moth to the flame, making a humanitarian visit that goes horribly awry. Next thing you know, she’s trapped among hundreds of rioting space-prisoners, the cynical Snow is sent in to rescue her, and Space Jail is well on its way toward following Escape from New York’s blueprints beat for beat. But to my surprise, the film has a single twist in store: once Snow and the first daughter cross paths, it becomes less a John Carpenter rip-off and more a remake of It Happened One Night… in space. Same opposites-attract story of sheltered rich girl vs. seen-it-all roughneck, same on-the-run banter, even near-identical gender politics despite being made eight decades apart.

So Space Jail’s syntax is that of the “fugitive lovers” romcom, overlaid with every visual cliché an action movie can sport. Claustrophobic ventilation shafts! Chasms inexplicably built into the jail! Dim blue lighting and orange explosions! It’s all exactly as ridiculous as you’d expect from the words “space jail,” right down to a fun but credibility-straining climax. Nothing new or remotely intelligent on display here, but I like it. Maybe it’s Pearce’s gruff wisecracking. Or maybe it’s the “get in, get out, get it over with” mentality of the filmmaking: this is self-evidently a factory product, 90 minutes of set pieces and MacGuffins not intended to outlast April 2012, yet here I am months later chuckling at its absurdities.

Despite the hugeness of its spectacle, Space Jail feels small and grungy. It’s the first feature for either of its directors, James Mather and Stephen St. Leger; it was shot in Belgrade; and its digital effects are shoddy at best. It feels made to slip through the cracks, and I appreciate that, as well as its tone—the casual bleakness of its future, the use of violence as a tool to skip past obstacles and toward objectives. Space Jail’s mediocre through and through, but I can’t help thinking it’s the kind of movie Snake Plissken would make.

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Link Dump: #78

This week’s kitty is from the People Holding Cats tumblr, and is being held by Jean-Paul Sartre, who’s deep in his work. Maybe hugging a kitty helps you concentrate on philosophy? Anyway, here are some links:

For search terms, we have the usual: “funny feminist view of sociology,” “greta garboe pussy,” and “hot girls goes grrrrr,” the latter of which sounds like an idea for a Pussy Goes Grrr spin-off blog.

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Ozu/Hopper

I’ve been glancing over images from Yasujiro Ozu’s final film, An Autumn Afternoon (1962). His compositions tell all these terse, self-contained stories through line, color, and lighting—stories about middle-class life in postwar Japan, about all the pain (and incidental comedy) inherent in the very concept of “family.” Stories about disappointment, and the impossibility of happiness without first some compromise and heartbreak.

Between the placidity of Ozu’s frames and the frustrations of his characters, An Autumn Afternoon started reminding me of American painter Edward Hopper. As with Ozu, much of Hopper’s work consists of understated tragedy. Both men situate their characters in low-key milieux: modest rooms, taverns, street corners. And despite their gloomy implications, both Ozu’s swan song and Hopper’s paintings (like Chop Suey, above) abound with visual playfulness, never giving in entirely to misery.

“In the end, we spend our lives alone,” opines this drunken old man, a former schoolteacher from An Autumn Afternoon. “All alone.” Both of these artists, separated by decades and the Pacific Ocean, single out solitude as a constant of the human condition. Their figures are enshrouded by darkness, and that darkness is offset by harsh lighting elsewhere in these frames. This old man—in the twilight of his life, left with nothing but a noodle shop and a resentful daughter—is downcast, wistful, at rest. Same goes for this lonely woman in cloche and coat, pausing over a cup of coffee in Hopper’s Automat. They’ve turned their emotions inward and resigned themselves to loneliness.

Each of these shots is a study of body language, of the gestures and poses through which melancholy manifests itself. Poor Michiko (Shima Iwashita), informed that her would-be beau is already engaged, slouches silently just like the half-dressed traveler in Hopper’s Hotel Room. Their contexts are totally different: Michiko’s suppressing a wave of emotions in front of her father and brother, whereas Hopper’s subject is in the thrall of a more abstract lethargy. But they share the same hands-down, head-down posture and inscrutably blank face. Both Ozu and Hopper integrate these physical expressions of sadness into the mise-en-scène, letting the disappointment of their characters ripple out across the frame.

[Hopper paintings courtesy of “Bert Christensen’s Cyberspace Gallery.”]

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