Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scott's Pick - Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounter of the Third Kind: A UFO encounter in which occupants of the UFO have made some form of contact with the witness.

This method of classification was developed by astronomer and famed ufologist Dr. Josef Allen Hynek. Hynek, for the uninitiated, was a researcher with the United States Air Force’s UFO debunking project, Project Blue Book. After working for decades in this field, Dr. Hynek began to oscillate away from the official stance on UFOs, citing a plethora of credible testimony and disagreeing publicly with the Air Force’s conclusions. He became a champion for the cause of ufology, eventually forming the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) in his home city of Chicago, Illinois.

Why is this important?

The film Close Encounters of the Third Kind takes its name from Hynek’s classification system. The esteemed doctor also served as a consultant on the film, even making a cameo, albeit briefly, near the film’s conclusion at Devil’s Tower. This cameo can be seen after the craft has landed and its inhabitants revealed. As the humans stare in wonder, there’s a close-up of an older man with glasses and a beard, resting a pipe upon his lips. This man with the pipe would be Hynek.   

What this connection really does, however, is add legitimacy to this film. It tethers credibility to a phenomena presented to mainstream audiences in a time when this field was soaring off the ground, a decade when famed researchers like nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman were digging deep into research and presenting their findings to the public. This film, especially in the 1970s, was the only rallying voice to take seriously a subject matter often met with cynicism, ridicule, and flat-out denial. It was the cry and cinematic experience intended to present an alternative reality to the public, to beckon us forth onto a new level of thought.

Indeed, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a passion project of Steven Spielberg’s, one he desired to make for many years, but it’s more than just a movie about aliens. It’s a dissertation on the nature of man and a call to action to enter a new state of consciousness.

“Well, they’re not moon burns, Goddamnit!”

While the film itself is fictional, the character of Roy Neary is an every man that embodies the confusion, frustration, and emotional throes of those who have made contact with something outside what they can clearly define as reality. His plight and his dissolution with his family are representative of what some contactees endure, and they’re also representative of something more than that. Though Roy is the engine speaking towards those in society who have confronted something extraordinarily bizarre, he’s also symbolic of what happens when one’s reality, molded and solidified for decades to think along one tunnel of perception, is forcibly broken.

This is to say that the half-burnt flesh adorning his face is no mere accident. It’s the mark left by his experience, marring the skin of who he is, who he once was. This burning is our visual cue of the road he’s about to embark on, as it’s disfigured the portrait of the seemingly stereotypical working stiff we knew him to be. And as he begins to gather clues and obsess over the faint image scorching into the back of his brain, this desecration of his person reminds us that who he was has been ruined and altered, physically, until he can piece himself back together and solve this puzzle that’s broken the stereotype of his middle class existence. And his skin, indeed, heals at the end of Roy’s adventure. What it posits, though, is will we heal?

Roy’s personal voyage is the metaphorical voyage through life we all face, sooner or later, as we age and come to terms with that which dares to intrude on what we understand as reality. How it affects us, however, is optional. With regard to the other characters in the film, we don’t have to be physically marred. It’s one of the choices Spielberg seems to outline, offering us an alternative to the jarring encroachment of a new experience.

“You can come and play now.”

One of the most awe-inspiring shots of Close Encounters of the Third Kind arrives when these extraterrestrial visitors knock on the door of the Guilers, summoning the enchanted Barry Guiler to come out and play. As Barry’s toys begin to dance and jump around, the mechanical monkey pounding the cymbals as the children’s record player blares a happy little tune, we switch perspectives to the eyes of a child, relaying the same reality-shattering experience with Roy through someone whose mind hasn’t been permanently molded and defined. It is here, when Barry is summoned downstairs and sees the gaping fridge with all the food spilled out, we’re given one of the most glorious shots of this film. It’s a close-up of the boy’s face – a steady focus on his eyes and his mouth as he looks onward. At first, he’s bewildered. His mouth is frozen open as those illuminated eyes of his gaze forward. The audience is shown a few seconds of this before, within the same shot, that mouth begins to smile, and Barry’s bewilderment morphs into a playful grin open to this bizarre phenomenon.

With energetic gusto, Barry bolts out of the house, running off into the forest in search of those lights that stirred up the order of his and his mother’s domain.  As any loving parent would do, Barry’s mother chases after him, plucking him from harm’s way, burning herself in the process, and thus serving as yet another dissertation of Spielberg’s on the nature of humans. While Barry embraces this altered reality, his mother shies from it, burying herself in her duties as a parent. Yet, she is not immune to this wonder.

Before the aliens visit Barry for a second time, Jillian Guiler is shown drawing sketches of that image that haunts Roy Neary – Devil’s Tower. She tears these off her canvas paper, stuffing away the bug that’s eating at the back of her brain as she returns to her chores. But this new universe is there, calling to her, beckoning her to explore – just like it did with Roy. It’s inescapable, and as the disappearance of her child serves as the catalyst to seek out this unknown, she begins to embrace it, pairing up with Mr. Neary along the way.

“You have no right to make people crazy!”

These character archetypes prove interesting to analyze, but the truly fascinating characters didn’t make any of the three edits of the film. I’m talking, of course, of the audience, those who paid to sit down in a chair and gaze at this construction Spielberg put together. Watching the film is a journey in itself, a wondrous adventure uniquely its own within the genre of science fiction.

Ensnared by a spectacle of glowing lights we can’t explain, we’re led along a narrative that works to legitimize itself. Whether it’s the doggedness of the government researchers in pursuit of the answer to these mysteries or the element of the unknown that defies the demands to define the extraterrestrials as friends or foes, there’s a strong attempt to coerce a change in us. Spielberg has crafted a cinematic mystery that ends not in violence or betrayal or bloodshed or love or lust or any other cliché trope in cinema. He uses the magic of film to dazzle us with light, with color, and with sound. We’re called to the edge of the unknown with our leads. We’re summoned to the base of Devil’s Tower to awe at a light show set to playful music.

In the course of reaching this arrival point, we’re shown races interacting with this mystery together. Indians are seen chanting to the sky. They teach Lacombe, a French investigator, this chant to share with his colleagues within the U.N. and the U.S. military. When the UFOs cross the skies along a hilltop in Munsie, Indiana, all sorts of people are gathered together, gazing at the stars. There’s a togetherness in this adventure, a uniting that, even when the government steps in to block civilians from gathering at Devil’s Tower, cannot be stopped. People find a way, and when the inhabitants of the lights finally unveil themselves, it doesn’t matter who’s a civilian and who’s an authorized personnel.

And when we finally reach that arrival point? When we awe at the extraterrestrials and listen to the magic of the music that served as a communication point – what happens? The doorway opens, and the credits roll. Spielberg brought us here, and it’s up to us to react. To choose.

[In 1990, on a Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert segment about the “Future of the Movies”, Steven Spielberg was asked by Siskel, “I started throwing out all your films, and you say, ‘Give me this one negative. Let me hold this one.’ What occurs to you?” The director answered with:

“I think, maybe, the one image for me - you’re asking the question, I feel obligated to give you an answer, so let me give you an answer even if I take it back in my sleep tonight. Okay? I think it’s the little boy in Close Encounters opening the door and standing in the beautiful, yet awful, light, just like fire coming through the doorway.”

When pressed on what that scene meant to him, Spielberg responded with:

“We don’t know what’s out there. And yet, we should discover what’s out there. We should be afraid of not knowing, and we should take a step toward what we don’t understand.”]


Despite this film being considered a classic, a genre staple, and a personal favorite of one of America’s more prolific directors, I have never seen it, nor have I ever engaged in the enthusiastic discourse that surrounds the film. So I have fresh eyes and no expectations.

The first thing that struck me is that I’ve seen this film a thousand times before. While Spielberg’s pacing is from an older era of film where attention to detail on the part of the viewer is required, the basic structure has shown up in nearly every disaster and alien-contact film shot since. Unlike its children, however, Close Encounters does not feel rote or cookie-cutter in its form. We are introduced to all the information and characters we need to know in an unfettered manner, and we are not shown more than we need to see. What’s even better, we are not held hostage by Sci-Fi’s greatest flaw as a genre, the Information Dump.
In fact, Close Encounters is barely a Sci-Fi film, as it instead chooses to focus on the drama generated by a good family man whose entire world has shifted beneath his feet after encountering a UFO. His obsession with the unknown begins to poison every aspect of his life, costing him his job, his respectability, as well as his marriage. Once the bottom of that bag falls out, he throws everything he has left into solving the mystery of the nagging image that’s been lodged in his brain since his extraterrestrial contact. Parallel to Roy’s story is Jillian’s, a single mother whose child is abducted by the aliens. The tertiary yarn stars various government officials (Lance Henriksen cameo!) attempting to solve the mystery of just what the hell is going on, in between being baffled by the sudden appearance of a Soviet ship in the Gobi desert and US planes missing since WWII materializing in Mexico. 

If I have one gripe about this film, it is Roy’s decision to leave his family behind at the end for the aliens. His quest may have dissolved his marriage, but he is still beholden to the children he sired. They still love and need him, but are written out of the film as soon as it’s time for Roy to go on his quest. This sours the ending and Roy’s arc for me, turning a no-doubt home run into a screaming triple off the wall. Knowing what a sap Spielberg is for his own family, I can only assume his children were born after this film was made.

What stands out most about the film, for me, is the conflict between mounting tension and ramrod optimism. Roy’s obsession with the shape and his unshakable urges are reminiscent of the maddening effect Lovecraft’s Cthulu has on the dreams of people, and until the end of the film, we really have no idea what kind of aliens we are dealing with, or what they want. We know they take children and random artifacts, and dump them in absurdly inappropriate places when they are finished with them. But for all the portentous pressure-cooking that goes on, the film really isn’t all that dark, and utterly lacking in cynicism. The government is being secretive and disingenuous, but they are truly trying to solve the mystery while preventing mass panic, from the very top down to that black man at the radar terminal who looks and sounds alarmingly like Morgan Freeman. When Roy and the other vision-touched folk run afoul of the military, they get sleeping gas dropped on them, not shot. And what happens when the government’s Top Men* finally come face to face with the aliens? They reach out peacefully, and are met with equally friendly gestures, replete with a return of scientific hostages.

Citizens of the world often roll their eyes at the simplistic optimism that can be present in American creativity. And while too much Americanism might be bad for your teeth, notions such as new, wondrous things being discovered for the benefit of everyone, risk being rewarded, and endings coming up happy are comforting to me. This was a great film. A.
*Secret Raiders of the Lost Ark Reference!


When I was a child, I never committed to watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind because it looked dull for an alien movie. I craved danger, excitement and terror in the movies I consumed, all of which this appeared to lack. Now that I’m (technically) an adult, I am proud to announce that I finally sat down and watched this movie from start to finish. However, I’m not sure whether I should be worried or impressed that my instincts as a kid were correct.

Man, is this movie boring. I won’t come out and say Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a bad film, but there’s an almost inexcusable lack dramatic tension. The plot, which concerns some civilians who begin having subliminal visions after their various encounters with alien spaceships, barely goes anywhere over the course of the film’s two-plus hour running time, and the protagonists aren’t meaty enough for this to qualify as a character study.

It doesn’t help that there are no stakes in this story. Nothing is at risk. The aliens appear benign from the outset, and the film fails to truly make the audience question their motives, making it hard to worry about the outcome. Worse, the ending, despite being drawn-out, is anticlimactic. The assembled humans meet some aliens, they bond, and the protagonist flies away with them, abandoning his family while a peppy John Williams score celebrates his adventurous decision. Without established stakes, though, there is no sense of relief or catharsis or victory. The spaceship merely departs, leaving emptiness in its wake.

Now, I concede that this movie is less about plot and more about a concept—that concept being the experience of having one’s worldview shattered—but therein lies its biggest flaw: my mind, as the viewer, was not shattered by what I saw. Yes, I observed Richard Dreyfuss have a close encounter with fictional aliens, but my brain did not make the necessary leap from my reality to his. For this movie to work, you have to accept its characters’ revelations as your own, which is difficult since I’ve seen movies with fictional aliens before. This disconnect between what the characters feel and what I felt ultimately crippled the film for me.

I don’t mean to imply that this film is devoid of value, and I certainly don’t mean to detract from those whom this film moved. I think my colleagues’ reactions to and analyses of this film are totally valid. Scott's analysis suggests that this movie may have been groundbreaking at the time of its release, and I can respect that, even if I can’t say that it comes across as a groundbreaking film in the era in which I watched it. There are also other dimensions of this film to consider, and I’m not blind to them. To its credit, the film does a decent job, especially in its first half, of conveying just how earth-shattering this experience would be for its characters; having definitive proof of alien life might make us rethink our entire paradigm. The film captures a sense of wonder and majesty in its first act; one scene in particular, in which an assembly of monks chants a five-note sequence in unison, gave me chills.

Ultimately, though, the film seems blissfully unaware of how unremarkable its story is. It concludes this adventure by serenading the audience with a dull finale in which humans and aliens play musical notes at each other for what feels like an eternity while glowing spaceships twirl in the air. My mind was still not blown. Instead, I kept wondering when this self-indulgent cacophony of sound and color would end and let me get back to living my life, with its universal paradigm still firmly in place. 

Next: Year of the Dragon. Get Psyched!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Evan's Pick: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I strive to not take the subjective opinions of other people personally, but for some reason, when it comes to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I find myself thinking that people who hate this movie should be shot in the face.  I’m not proud of this, and this isn’t behavior I would normally condone. However, this movie just feels so personal to me that when people start trashing it, I feel like they’re trampling over my heart (the same can be said for Edgar Wright’s idiosyncratic directorial debut, Shaun of the Dead; as I said when I first saw that movie, Wright makes the movies I would make if I had ambition and talent and friends). Part of this is due to the fact that the film revels in franchises that evoke pangs of nostalgia from my childhood (and, if I’m to be completely honest, my adult life as well), such as Final Fantasy, Zelda, and the X-Men. Most importantly, though, is that it’s an earnest tale about love and self-respect that’s backed by mind-blowing audio-visual storytelling.

For the uninitiated, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is adapted from the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. At the outset of the film, 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is dating 17-year-old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), but when he meets the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he brushes the high school girlfriend aside and pursues Ramona. However, there’s a catch: she has seven evil exes he must defeat in battle if he wants to date her. As the premise implies, the film draws heavily from video game mechanics to tell its story, with each of the battles depicted as a mini-boss fight of sorts, complete with Scott receiving coins and extra lives at the end.

I fell in love with this movie at the title screen. The sound effects and superimposed character captions in the first scene piqued my interest, but the moment Scott and his band, the brilliantly named Sex Bob-Ombs, began performing for Knives, I was hooked. As Knives’s mind is blown, the dirty living room elongates into a lengthy hallway, visual symbols for percussion appear on the screen in sync with the music, and the opening credits begin to roll. The transition is seamless; a perfect synthesis of music, sound, surrealistic special effects and visual storytelling begins here that continues until the final frame of the movie. It’s kinetic, it’s energetic, it’s funny, and most importantly, it’s just alive in a way few films are.

Now, I’m aware of some of the criticisms that are leveled at this movie, so I’ll address the big ones in advance:
  1. Ramona Flowers. Ramona, the Helen figure in Scott’s war, is not a compelling character. She comes across as disinterested in her surroundings and uninteresting, period. However, I think this serves a purpose, though. Ramona embodies a concept—the girl (or boy) of one’s dreams. As such, she’s a blank slate onto which viewers can project their preferred characteristics. In a way, she’s like a concept Scott McCloud discusses in his masterwork, Understanding Comics, and one that Japanese comics and videogames often employ to endear you to their protagonists. They make their main characters bland, because you, the player and/or viewer, are supposed to see yourself in that character. However, the more pre-existing definition they have, the harder it is for you to project yourself into them. That’s the way it is with Ramona; she’s not a true character, per se, but a concept, and as a concept, she works best if you can fill her with your own personal details.
  2. The girl Scott chooses at the end. Although he doesn’t end up with the girl I wanted him to, I don’t think we’re supposed to look to Scott Pilgrim as a role model for how shall we then live. The guy’s somewhat of a selfish jerk, something the movie repeatedly points out. He could’ve just as easily ended up with the other one, and the larger than life point about love and self-respect the movie is making would still stand. 
  3. Michael Cera’s performance. Cera rankles a lot of people, but I freely admit that I like his comedic timing and delivery style. Scott Pilgrim in the comics is a bit more of a pompous jerk than he is, but Cera’s awkward, boyish and often callous affect works with the largely unsympathetic role he’s given to play in this film. Anyway, since this is mostly a matter of personal preference, I’ll just say I’m glad I was inoculated with Cera’s charm earlier in my life so that it didn’t spoil this experience for me.
Regardless, this isn’t a movie you would see for the lead performances. That’s not to say all the performances are bad; many of the supporting performers almost make this worth your time on their own. Anna Kendrick is hilarious as his gossipy sister, Aubrey Plaza plays the super-bitch well, Chris Evans is perfect as a pompous douchebag villain, Jason Schwartzmann is even more perfect as the pompous douchebag final boss, but best of all is Kieran Culkin as Scott’s awesome, gay, alcoholic, “man”-izing roommate Wallace Wells. The sardonic Wells serves as the voice of reason in the movie, bluntly reminding both Scott Pilgrim and the viewer how much of a piece of shit Scott is. Culkin nails this role with his dry but charming delivery.

Anyway, instead of nitpicking what this movie does wrong (which is very little), it’s more rewarding to discuss what it achieves, like creating a wholly original universe and somehow keeping things interesting while Scott fights his way through all seven bosses. Seriously, when I’m watching a movie and know there’s a checklist of events to get through, I invariably find myself counting them down and wishing I could leave. Not so with Scott Pilgrim; each fight was such a fun and unique experience to behold, that I felt something more akin to dread knowing they would eventually end.

In short, Scott Pilgrim is a cinematic marvel, a masterwork in sound editing, choreography, visual effects, and film editing. It flows seamlessly from scene to scene, taking a long, sprawling story and shuffling things along at a brisk pace. The magical, surrealistic world it depicts—rife with extra lives, victory coins, flexible laws of physics and neural superhighways—serves as a testament to how limitlessness the world of film can be as long as there’s an imagination to fuel it. There’s nothing quite like this movie or the world it depicts. I AM sorry that I take it so personally when people dislike this film, and I’ll continue to do my best to keep those feelings in check. Perhaps that’s my own personal quest for self-respect I need to overcome.

I'm glad I didn't pay to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World during its theatrical release because I'm certain I would have walked out after the first thirty minutes due to the mumbly, fast-paced dialogue, tornado of onomatopoeias, and my general inability to identify with any of the characters. As someone who hasn't played video games on a regular basis since the Clinton Administration, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to hate Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Problem is, I didn't.

This highly stylized graphic novel adaptation centers around a 22 year-old bass player from Toronto who must defeat a girl's seven evil exes in order to win her heart. Basically, the whole thing is a clumsy metaphor for the excess baggage we bring with us into a new relationship and how we have to fight through it and become a stronger person if we're to commit ourselves to something more meaningful. Clumsy metaphor or not, this movie defies conventional filmmaking with its sublime action sequences and refusal to adhere to one specific genre.

If there is any fault to be had with Scott Pilgrim, it lies solely with Universal Pictures' casting department. Michael Cera has the gravitas of a pre-pubescent boy flipping through his first nudie magazine, so it's hard for us to become emotionally invested in a film that asks us not only to believe he's capable of winning the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but that she'd give him the time of day in the first place.

What Scott Pilgrim lacks in believability, it more than makes up for in originality with it's Kill Bill-style fight sequences, cartoony split screens, 8-bit weaponry, and awe-inspiring visuals birthed in comic books and weaned on video games. The caveat to all this is that you've got to endure the first 30 minutes of this film to get the good stuff. 30 minutes may not seem like a long time, but it's an eternity in an unrealistic world revolving around Michael Cera's ability not to trip over his own awkwardness. If apathy were currency, Michael Cera would be king, but it's not, and is therefore unappealing when surrounded by so much energy.

Though it tested my patience, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World started to win me over once Michael Cera stopped stammering and started battling. Not only are the fight sequences obscenely entertaining, they force Michael Cera's character to do some serious soul-searching. Scott Pilgrim's problems may seem silly and juvenile to most adults, but I'm sure they're very relatable to the adolescent mind for which this movie was clearly made.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
isn't a film I would recommend to anyone with whom I associate, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film (far from it, actually). It's frustrating because this movie could have truly been as epic as its' original tagline boasted. There are a lot of reasons to mentally head for the exits, but trust me when I say the visuals alone are worth the price of admission. The last two acts are an ocular reward for having to sit through the first one. Definitely worth it, in this humble movie reviewer's opinion.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World falls short of being a great film. Now that I’ve deflated any anticipation on your part, I will say that it is a very good film, albeit not problem-free. I have not yet familiarized myself with the original source material, so I have no medium-transference biases. When considering the style, tone, and pace of this film, it plays as the glossy, sexually ambiguous younger cousin to Big Trouble in Little China and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, screened through a filter of Coen Brothers-brand surrealism. There are quite a bit of abrupt and sudden incongruities of content in this film, and much like the aforementioned 80’s cult classics, it uses the contratempo of madness to great effect. Case in point: At the core of this film, we have a young, directionless idiot who takes his first step into a more grown-up state of being for the sake of a woman. This is the same film that features the Vegan Police (Thomas Jane cameo!) arraigning Brandon Routh for violating his animal product-abstaining (and apparently super power-inducing) diet.

As fun as the off-kilter madness is, it can be overbearing due to the injudicious manner in which it is applied. The film goes back to the haircut/hat gag well too many times, and the charming allusions to video games spiral out of control by the final act, derailing the entire film into a pastiche of SNK arcade classics. I would also normally call a film out for having zero chemistry between the two romantic leads, but I’m not sure who WOULD have chemistry with the eternal obtuseness that is Michael Cera. In this cinematic endeavor he proves once again that yes, he can only do one thing in front of a camera. While this lack of variance in his performances can grow wearisome, he really is the best there is at what he does.* Kieran Culkin is amusing enough, and all of the women in the cast are distractingly beautiful, especially when in various states of undress. Unfortunately, I can’t speak much more on the women in the film aside from their deliciousness, as their arcs are all rather snubbed. Ramona is Too Cool for School, Knives is a stock shoujo manga character, and Allison Pill is given exactly nothing to do. Yawn.

I often joke that the British don’t know how to direct good comedic films, because there’s always 30 minutes of crap that waters down the rest of the experience. Edgar Wright is the perfect example of this phenomenon, as evidenced by the rather dour pathos he needlessly injected into the otherwise effervescent films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Unlike Shaun, which features a man sobbingly blowing his own mother’s head off with a rifle only moments after a dance-fight montage set to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, it’s harder to pin down exactly where the fat crying out to be trimmed in this film is. Yet it still exists, and had me checking my watch several times. Despite the flaws, this film will be entering my collection. I’d give it a B+.

*Secret Wolverine Reference!

Were one thing changed about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, were the movie simply imagined as a silent film, it would have been one of the most creative, innovative blending of media audiences have seen in years, something noteworthy and glorious in its undertaking. This is to say the visuals for Scott Pilgrim are top-notch. The film’s a vivid, beautiful array of colors, thoughtful editing, clever transitions and fast-paced composition that keeps the eyes glued to the screen, leading the viewers with playful direction by a director with a penchant for thinking far beyond standard cinematic convention. Director Edgar Wright took the source material and re-imagined it for the screen, craftily immersing video game tropes, cues and designs in a way that was engaging and fun. However, where the camera sprouted an artful floral arrangement, the writing and characterization unleashed a toxic contamination on the landscape.

To say this movie, as some wolves in sheep’s clothing may claim, is a laugh-out-loud riot is a stretch. The jokes, if one can call them jokes, are delivered with the near-deadpan, apathetic sigh of a cast seemingly tired and bored with existence. Whether it’s Ramona Flowers and her humdrum lack of enthusiasm or Scott Pilgrim and the gang with their sleepy, passionless yawn through this epic, the real failing comes from this aspect of the film, this lack of heart juxtaposed to a direction style teeming with energy. Aside from the cleverly sardonic Kieran Culkin, corpses litter the screen, and a relationship between two people with zero chemistry is forced upon the audience as Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers casually smirk and shrug their way through a supposedly endearing adventure. They trudged, not ran, stumbling over wit that wishfully could be misconstrued as the joke it was intended to be.

And that’s the real tragedy with this otherwise masterpiece. Vampires haunt it. Soul devourers feed off the energy, and we, as an audience, are asked to relate to a lead meandering through a life removed from any dangerous attachment to existence. Sure, he falls in love, but his love is the calm half-smile we’d expect from stereotypical proper English gentlemen of the Victorian Era—absolutely boring. How are we supposed to relate? Why are we supposed to care?

When I do recommend this flick, and I have on occasion, I try and convince people to watch it on mute. Sure, a few wonderful video game musical riffs will be missed, but the high energy is unabated this way. Its hearts are filled across the screen, and its energy is pulse pounding. On mute, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the Holy Grail, rejuvenating in its cinematic fervor and hopeful to the art of film. 

Next: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Get psyched!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Salutations, jerks.


This blog exists to provide multiple (although sometimes synoptic) points of view on films. What kinds of films do we review? Anything not in theaters. Mostly because I'm too poor to fork out $10 a week on a movie I can't take home with me. Each installment features a film selected by a different reviewer. Our inaugural post will be covering Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Since there are four of us, I figure it would be best to introduce everyone. Some of the following information may or may not be comprised of lies.

Brighid: I am the head honcho and author of this blog's maiden post. I'm probably the least qualified of the lot to opine over films, so I tend to compensate with a blitzkrieg of forceful opinions and strong language. There are large gaps in my film knowledge, but once I get a hankering for something, I make it my mission to acquire encyclopedic knowledge of the topic in question. Packing the smallest bag of credentials amongst those assembled, I have of course taken it upon myself to be the de facto first among equals, in true managerial tradition. I am full of vaulting ambition, and dare to be all that may become a person, which apparently includes blogging about talkies.

Evan, a.k.a Sixhoursoflucy: Whereas the rest of us are scattered like weeds just outside the Chicagoland area, Evan resides in the Pacific Northwest (This will undoubtedly be a crutch for him to justify turning reviews in late). Of the four of us, he is the most accomplished movie reviewer, having hosted the popular Moviefraud podcast in the past, as well as engaging in professional film reviews for Broadsheet360. He lends an air of legitimacy and refinement to what would otherwise be an undisciplined and piratical operation.

Scott, a.k.a Doktor nOnsensical: Scott is also a published professional, serving as Managing Editor on  Literary Orphans Press, a digital publication from the heart of Chicago, as well as having published a novel, China Town Warrior, currently available on Amazon.com. He can wheel and deal with actual academic perspectives on film having studied them a bit in college, and along with Evan possesses encyclopedic knowledge of the Horror genre. He is the closest thing to an optimist we can muster at this juncture.

Charlie: Charlie, much like his Always Sunny partner-in-nomenclature, is our wild card. He is not published or formally schooled in the arts of cinema, but his kung fu is deep, having trained alone in the wilderness honing his opinions like a celluloid-wielding Miyamoto Musashi. He is a veritable jack of all trades, and brings a genuine love of the medium with him. He can also make you his bitch in the low post, slamming an' jamming on yo ass, putting up 20 and 10 without a single jump shot. WHAT.

Next: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Get psyched!