Sunday, September 07, 2003

posting blind

...and not loving life.

Blogger is giving me the shits right now. Its EFF (Equine Fellatio Factor) has shot into the stratosphere. I haven't been able to access Blogger (that's where I go to post these entries)... and Blogspot (the site on which my blog appears) hasn't been responsive in the hours I've been in this PC-bahng. Blogger only just became available, so I'm posting blind.

Some notes...

Salon's got a very good article about Bjork, a singer/songwriter/all-around creative screaming pixie adored by my brother Sean. Sean's got a pretty deep background in music theory and is fascinated with Bjork's music (and life history, I think) on multiple levels. Although I'm not quite as entranced by Bjork as Sean is (I find she appeals more to my intellectual faculties; my emotional faculties remain in thrall to sweeping orchestral music), Sean's theory-laced explanations of where Bjork is coming from have increased her appeal to me. Plus, she's kinda cute. I've told Sean I'd like to visit Iceland. We haven't seriously planned a trip yet, but I do hope to get out there at some point, maybe even visit Bjork's island (given to her by Iceland's government in recognition of her achievements, since she's Iceland's only real export).


Blogger's once again proving antsy, so I can't provide you any links right now (and in the case of Salon, where they make you pay or watch long ads to view core content, I'm never going to link, ever). This stinks because I was hoping, when I got to this PC-bahng a couple hours ago, to write my big-ass essay on gay marriage. Hoping against hope that Blogger and Blogspot would come out of their cyberfunk, I've been puttering about in cyberspace, watching movie previews, biding my time. But my brain lost its stiffie, so now you're left with these flaccid, fumbling, blindworm ruminations.

Two previews that caught my eye during my desultory surfing: "The Matrix Revolutions" and "Kill Bill." Wachowskis and Tarantino. Tarantino's advertising this as "Quentin Tarantino's Fourth Film." It's self-aggrandizing; he's saying, "Hey, man-- I revolutionized a fucking decade and I'm only on FILM NUMBER FOUR!" Well, he's entitled. I would kill to have written "Pulp Fiction." That was one amazing, amazing screenplay, and I thoroughly enjoyed that movie.

"The Matrix" was revolutionary in its own way, too, not in terms of story and dialogue so much as in terms of visuals. It was, to my mind, one of the only truly successful attempts at transferring the wacky world of comics and graphic novels to the screen. Then it got copycatted to death, then along came "The Matrix Reloaded," which definitely suffered from its predecessor's success, as well as its own pretentiousness. All the same: I think the Wachowskis are this generation's George Lucas, and the "Matrix" series is the new "Star Wars." Lucas himself seems to have suffered major dick-shrivel. Meantime, I plan to be first in line for "The Matrix Revolutions." The preview doesn't give any clues as to my "metaphysical bet" (see link on the margin, near the bottom) that the world of Zion is a meta-Matrix, but the conclusion looks like it'll be sweet, all the same. Gloria Foster died before shooting began for "Revolutions"; the preview contains an Oracle voiceover, and you can hear that it's not Foster's throaty, soulful smoker's voice. A shame.

Tarantino's "Kill Bill" appears, in some ways, to be riding the "Matrix" coattails: it'll be heavy on martial arts, and the fight choreographer is once again Yuen Wo-ping ("Matrix," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), a man who will never run out of work in the United States. But "Kill Bill" promises to be a lot bloodier than anything Yuen has previously worked on; I found this out from reading some spoiler sites. Bloodier-- as in the MPAA may have to ask for some serious reediting, from what I read. "Kill Bill" has already debuted at some film festivals.

For those not into the Hong Kong action genre (and I'm at best a dabbler, I admit), you might not have understood what I meant by the above. This genre is no stranger to spurting/flowing blood, amputations, and gunshot wounds. For example, "Hard Boiled," which starred Chow Yun-fat, culminates in the bad guy getting shot through the eye, with a closeup of the bullet entering the guy's head, and there's plenty of bloodletting before we reach that moment of orbital penetration. But Hong Kong films generally subscribe to a comic-book ethic. They're rarely visceral. They're rarely mean.

Tarantino, on the other hand, is all over viscerality, though not necessarily in the physical sense. When he's at his best, he artfully combines the prurient, the morbid, and the suspenseful, and this is why I'll always watch his films (even the plodding "Jackie Brown"). I was introduced to "Reservoir Dogs" by a friend of mine (Dr. Stephen doCarmo, to whom I've given a couple links on the left margin-- go! Go!), and for me, that is still the most disturbing movie I've ever seen. It's a testament to Tarantino's skill in "Dogs" that I end up, even years later, counting it as more compelling than such works as "Schindler's List" and "The Killing Fields," which both showcase human evil on a horrific scale. Tarantino's dramatic genius in "Dogs" was to make evil quite intimate, and you know exactly which scene I'm talking about, don't you.

Yes. The ear-removal scene.

The whole movie is amazing, but that particular scene (incredibly acted, by the way) remains imprinted in my consciousness in a way no other movie scene ever has been. "Reservoir Dogs" is an artistic argument for the existence of evil. Maybe others don't view it this way, but few movies rival the inhumanity compacted in that one scene, and because this was compounded by the rest of "Reservoir Dogs"'s general meanness, I was left with a feeling I'd never felt before, one I can't describe.

So I think it's important that Tarantino is now staking territory in the Hong Kong genre. Future Hong Kong films may prove to be a lot grittier than what the current market offers. Even if they aren't, I think Tarantino can still be seen as throwing down the gauntlet before the Hong Kong bigwigs and boasting, "Yeah, fine, but do you have any balls?"

The other reason I'm looking forward to "Kill Bill" is David Carradine.

I have no idea why I like this guy, but I always liked the first "Kung Fu" series, which was one of the best of the "powerful, wandering do-gooder" genre, head and shoulders above shows like "The Incredible Hulk" and "Highway to Heaven." Carradine really isn't much of a martial artist; he's routinely described as "adept in the martial arts," but in his book Spirit of Shaolin he admits he's a dancer by training, and began serious work in Chinese martial arts, especially mantis style kung fu, only after the first year of "Kung Fu" (I think I'm remembering this correctly; someone correct me if they've got his book handy). Carradine was fast in the 1980s, but I've never been convinced that his moves had any real power. He's more martial actor than martial artist, and as a dramatic actor, he's not much better than Keanu Reeves.

So-- what's to like?

I don't know. Maybe it's that Carradine's actually not bad when viewed within his narrow range and strictly in a B-movie context-- in other words, not to be compared with other narrow-rangers like the iconic Clint Eastwood, the gruff Gene Hackman, or the operatic Al Pacino. So long as Carradine's waxing faux-Buddhist (and damn, if his sleepy delivery hasn't influenced a slew of Western "Buddhist" poseurs), he's on solid ground. "Circle of Iron" features Carradine as a sort of wandering sage who delivers Zen lessons to his disciple, Cord (the nose-breaking scene is priceless). The movie could have been great in the hands of someone like Steven Spielberg. As it stands, the movie was only "good" in a B-movie sense... but much of that goodness radiated from Carradine's self-assured, I-really-am-a-sage performance.

So, yes: having read Spirit of Shaolin, I think Carradine sincerely believes in his own Zen-ness. Perhaps this absurd conviction, this completely un-Shatnerish lack of a sense of self-parody, is what makes his on-screen posing so entertaining, so fascinating for B-movie lovers. And I think it makes him the perfect choice for a Tarantino genre experiment.

I'm curious to see in what manner he'll be killed. Carradine, you see, plays the title role of "Bill" in "Kill Bill," an assassin ringleader who has shot Uma Thurman in the head on her wedding day and left her for dead. Uma, who used to work for Bill, revives from a five-year coma and goes on a rampage, tracking down her former teammates and saving Bill for last. Simple plot, yes? And unfortunately, it's going to take two movies to tell it. I think "Kill Bill, Volume One" comes out in October; am not sure if there's a release date yet for Volume Two.

This, finally, is where "Bill" will differ utterly from the "Matrix" films. From what I've read, the plot and dialogue are deliberately minimalist; it's all about the Ultra-violence. I don't think Tarantino has ever been interested in a "message" or in exploring epistemological or religious issues, at least not in as grand a manner as the Wachowksis seem to be doing. For Tarantino, it really is more about art, emotion, bringing it home to you. When Tarantino fails, and I think he failed on several levels with "Jackie Brown," you can tell it's a Tarantino failure, not a Hollywood studio failure. This isn't so clear with the "Matrix" movies, if "Reloaded" was any guide. The Wachowskis appear ready to take certain artistic risks, as they did in "Reloaded," but the movie also suffered from a good deal of Hollywood-style bloat. All the same, I'm eager to see both "Kill Bill" and "The Matrix Revolutions."

And on that note, I do believe I'll let you get on with whatever you're getting on with. Meditate on whether a Wachowski-Tarantino collaboration might produce a "Kill Bill and Ted" with a Keanu-versus-Carradine matchup.

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