Meanwhile, this op-ed piece by Jamie O'Neill could have been written by a member of my family about my own sister, who has just recently resigned as middle school teacher after many years of indentured, undervalued (except by her students) service, due in large part by stress caused by the standardized testing fad and the general cluelessness of her local school board. I hope people will read this when considering the ramifcations of the Guvernator's proposal about teachers:
I just finished editing Liz Cole's fun Slasher film primer for GreenCine. Worth checking out if you want to know more about that bloody ouevre. Liz may do a zombie primer for us next, another horror subgenre as popular now as ever.
Meanwhile, I'm watching We Jam Econo tonight to prepare for an interview with its makers. Can't wait - loved the Minutemen when I was a punkish youngster in SoCal. RIP D. Boon.
Meanwhilex2, speaking of film genres, I started a (low-budget sorta) time travel screenplay this past week and am busy reading all the related short stories and physics books I can get my paws on. If any time travel aficianados out there would care to read the treatment, when finished, to offer up suggestions, I'm game.
Finally got to see Kontroll, which is now playing in what must be San Francisco's tiniest film screen - not just at the Opera Plaza but in the OP's smallest "screening room" (but, as my friend remarked, hey, it's still several times larger than my TV screen). Nimrod Antal's first makes for an impressive debut. The Hungarian film is set among hapless subway fare inspectors of Budapest (one of the world's oldest subway systems, which contributes to the film's haunting atmosphere), and fairly effortlessly shifts from dark comedy to mystery and, in the film's last section, pretty near horror. By mixing genres, the film teeters precariously on the verge of disjointedness, but is so consistent and strong on atmosphere and pacing that it scarcely matters.
There are some terrific set pieces and scenes, incuding several of the obligatory but still exciting subway tunnel chases, but what makes the film special is the cast of characters, very distinctly Hungarian in outlook and face - from Bela the alcoholic but sweet conductor (who has a great moment when dining by himself in an out of service rail car) to the whipped cream stalker to the narcoleptic inspector to the main character, Bulcsu, who is afraid of or avoiding the above ground world, for reasons never really explained. Then there's the adorable Eszter Balla, dressed in a fuzzy bear costume (presumably from whatever job she'd just been laid off from, though the details are never given, nor should they) - though it's a bit of a fantasy leap to accept that she'd be attracted to the bloodied, unwashed hulk that is Bulcsu by the end.
Another memorable sequence is the montage of inspectors unburdening their deflated consciousness at the psychologist's office, a bit of comedy relief before the film gets nerve-jangling again.
On a few occasions Antal seems to be channeling (Trainspotting / and other stylized "young" European films) in editing matched with pulsating music, and in one slightly cheesy slo-mo shot of the main characters walking towards us, but overall the film's style/cinematography is consistently inspired throughout - the confined setting, as it's done with quite a few other films, manages to beget more creativity. I did find myself wishing to see above ground Budapest, a city I'm not at all familiar with, but that, apparently, is not this film. Kontroll is purely subterranean from start to finish.
Ultimately, the film's raggedness suits it, and it is the hangdog cast of characters who will remain in my memory.
Plus, it was unsettling enough to make me wary of taking the subway home afterwards, to the point of being creeped out while waiting that someone could come behind me and push me into the path of a speeding train. The film may work best as a black comedy, but obviously something of the horror element works, too.
For me, I think I'd be mostly embarrassed about what I was reading in the fifth grade (movie novelizations anyone?) but do recall liking The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Runaway Ralph, and Ray Bradbury.
Or was it Island of the Blue Dolphins? ... Or probably some stupid sports biography.
In the midst of the (this time it's not a drill) threatened PBS budget cuts, in which the only home media options left to educate our chilluns could be the vast and often forbidding world of cable television, here are some random thoughts about cable (also spawned by the fact that I've had full-on digital cable access for the past month+):
- Thank you to the Hallmark Channel for re-running M*A*S*H*; now if you'd only refrain from completely butchering it as aired on your channel. Scenes end abruptly, often well before the punchline or connecting line or action, rendering the proceeding scene's beginning a little off. All so they can cram in a few more commercials for garbage bags and the Latter Day Saints.
- Thanks to ESPNnews for giving us up to the minute sports reports; but I have to wonder aloud how many people really crave those endless post-game press conferences? (Though I did find Mike Tyson's umpeenth "I'm really retiring this time" post-bout/collapse press conference a few days ago kind of fascinating.)
- Excited to have: TCM, IFC, Sundance (though I've hardly found something of interest so far, on the latter), Cartoon Net, the random Asian networks in the middle, soccer channels, and HBO
- Less excited to have: Lifetime, Fox News (if I need to even mention that), frankly, all cable news, and bottom of the barrel, E!, which is utter nonsense 24/7.
- Used to be good, now mostly crap: A&E, Bravo (I appreciate the West Wing reruns, but Inside the Actor's Studio has gone downhill, and they're too caught up in reality TV overload), TLC (ditto), Discovery Channel (though I do still love the locally filmed Mythbusters - but the rest of that channel has gone rapidly down the tubes), and most of the other stations.
- The American version of Who's Line is it Anyway? (on ABCFamily), originally a British improv show, would be every bit as good as the original, were it not for two words: Drew Carey. Unlike in the British version, where the droll Clive Anderson knew his place was behind the host desk and not on stage, Carey still is under the mistaken impression that he's funny and that we watch the show to see him, so, while for most of the program he stays put, at the end he insists on inserting himself into a closing skit, usually to awkward results. You can tell the other, seasoned improvisers are less than thrilled. I wish they'd rerun the Brit version here again - which often featured some of the same North Americans, but was slightly more... intelligent.
- Good, not bad, sometimes ugly: Henry Rollins' engaging show on IFC, Henry's Film Corner. I was initially skeptical but find him quite entertaining and a good "voice" in the indie film corner, and I admire his passion for things. Even when I find him a bit... much, I appreciate that he's on.
- Some of the best shows on TV are on cable: Deadwood, The Wire, Entourage (even though I can't watch that show except in small pieces because I lived in LA for awhile and knew those people and don't really want to spend 30 minutes a week with them), Dave Chappelle (if he comes back), Reno911 (sorry, but it's freaking funny), off and on Six Feet Under, and, well, god bless South Park, which I have a love/hate relationship with.
- The History Channel sort of scares me, even though I've gotten much value out of it, too - especially when I was researching WWII. But if it isn't quite fair to call it "The Hitler Channel," as some do, it sure seems to lean towards all war, all the time. That plus what seems to me a slight but detectable bias towards the right (maybe it's just the commercials - quite a few for the Reagan coin and for GW during the last presidential campaign - which is their right, but makes me wonder...) And then their Shroud of Turin doc made them appear to have a bias towards fringe elements of Christianity. And then there's the "Outdoor Life" channel which seems to be mostly about killing animals, I mean, hunting.
Again, I worry about where we, where our children will get their news, their history, and their facts - their education - when left with cable TV.
And if I wasn't getting a free ride with this package (from my landlord), I wouldn't be seeing any of these channels and probably getting more work done.
Still... I get to see Animal Cops San Francisco, which is mostly about pit bulls, and isn't that what it's all about?
Turn the TV off, 'rents, and crack open the books.