Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Netflix News #1 - JVCD, Wendy and Lucy, The Sky Crawlers

The Netflix News keeps you informed on what you should and shouldn't move to the top of your queue. Or at least that's the idea. (really it's just a different way to bundle all the reviews I do on this blog-to try to be a bit more organized)

JVCD The Muscles from Brussels has seen some lean years. I think one can mark the downtrend in Jean Claude's career with his co-starring roll in Doubleteam, alongside Dennis Rodman. Or maybe it was Timecop. Or who knows. Maybe we all just grew up. And by "we all", I just mean all us young boys who grew up on Bloodsport, Kickoxer, Universal Soldier, etc etc...JVCD was a delight to my adolescent dreams of doing the splits while kicking ass, and then doing the splits while dancing (Kickboxer, really). So here's the Belgium star, now 47, broke, losing his family, losing his career, and making a "serious" film about these matters, in his native tongue. And it's great! He reminds me of a washed-up version of Vincent Gallo in this movie. Will you get it if you weren't a fan of his growing up? Doubt it. But you know what, give it a shot anyway. The very Dog Day Afternoon-ish story about an action star on his last legs trying to salvage his life and career but getting caught up in a fame can be horrible-doused hostage robbery plot will resonate with all. Long live Jean Claude! 3.5 Molos

And for something completely different, rent Wendy and Lucy. Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt as part of her movies about her dog series...okay not really, but it kind of feels that way-because one of the 2 main characters in this film is Lucy, Kelly's dog. Just like one of the main characters in her acclaimed last feature, Old Joy, was also her dog Lucy. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, in Old Joy Lucy plays a very much tiny role in that quiet, strong little film. In Wendy and Lucy, though, Lucy gets her chance at co-starring. Or so it seems, until Lucy gets lost and Wendy (Michelle Williams) spends most of the film looking for her and assessing her life in the process. That's a pretty boring sounding synopsis, although accurate. But the film has a lot of life and subtlety in this little tale of a lost dog. It sticks with you long after you wonder what exactly you were watching. 3.5 Molos

The Sky Crawlers, on the other hand, is just plain old boring. Jesus what a snoozer. I love a good anime but this movie was so utterly concerned with looking cool it forgot to wake us up. It comes from the team that did Ghost in the Shell a few years back-which was awesome, if incomprehensible. The Sky Crawlers is neither. It's just pointless. 1.5 Molos

Monday, June 22, 2009

Art Quickie #3 - Inside Out at the Moore

above-the line to get in

What can you say about the craziness that took place at the Moore Saturday night other than: "Bravo!" D.K. Pan and NKO of Free Sheep Foundation curated a massive performance/installation throughout the entire Moore theater (including the basement). There were dozens of artists and performers involved and it was a blast. Balkan brass band music, Goddesses, painted dancers, murals, a huge pile of watermelon-which we missed seeing in person,but it was delightful to see folks walking around with watermelons downtown all evening-and all kinds of other things. There was work by Susan Robb, Lead Pencil Studios, Gretchen Bennett, Jason Puccineli,Megan Mertaugh, Stefan Gruber, Joshua Lindenmayer (nice posters Lil' Curly!) and a host of others.

This was an amazing people-watching event and generally a spectacularly fun evening. I can't say that the art blew me away, but really I don't think that anything was supposed to be more than an entertaining romp! And it felt like the entire Seattle Art scene came out. Big thanks to everyone involved with this undertaking. Seattle needs more of these type of events.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Art Quickie #2 Greg Boudreau

As promised here's #2: Greg at Grey Gallery and Lounge:

Grey gallery typially does 2 shows, one in the "gallery space" and one in the "lounge space". I suppose that the gallery space is more prestigious but right now you best bet is checking out Greg Boudreau's work in the lounge. Greg is a stencil master. It's hard to see from his tight, glossy end product all the intricate, layered exacto blade cut stencil work that is involved. It's a shit-ton, believe you me. Having known and followed Greg's work I have the benefit of knowing much about it, and I'm afraid this Quickie will reflect this knowledge.

So, let me just address the artist directly here>

Greg! Hi how is it going? Good to see you the other night back in has living in SoCal been? Fucked any actresses yet? (see I can ask him that cause we are buddies-it's a guy thing, okay maybe not really) I like the new work, seems like you are building on what you started over the last year or so...poppy colors, run-down buildings that kind of act like exposed ribs of the city....another strong, pretty showing of work. But my friend, I thing that you need to stay large with these works. The small one's aren't doing it. Someting about all the detail that goes into the stencils just gets toned down too much with all the smaller works. They are good images and I think they would be 50x better if they were 5x larger. I realize that you had to transport these works up from SoCal, so it makes sense that you embarked on a small series. But the big work is where it is at for your stuff. However, I do like the change to not strictly using found palatte wood. This is a good choice. I suggest bigger, solid panels. But what do I know?

The piece, "LA River", would be kicking if it were wall-sized.

Let's get a beer.

Art Quickie #1

"Art Quickies" is the name I'm giving this series of arts review in which I will rather hastily respond to recent shows and/or art works around town.

Let's start the series off with a show from the newly and horribly named "Blitz" aka Capitol Hill Art Walk (2nd Thursdays)

Art Quickie #1 Noah Grussgott's Caution Kid at Grey Gallery and Lounge:

Oh the perils of life! Oh disenchanted youth! Oh the garbage the city leaves in it's wake! Combine these 3 well-traveled ideas and you have essentially Noah's show. Noah Grussgott is the kind of artist that seems to look around the city, sees discarded material and uses this material to play with. It feels a bit like, Hey I bet I can turn that old pile of stuff into something interesting. Is it important? Is it visually engrossing? Or new? Maybe if you haven't picked up a copy of Art Forum in the last 10 years it might be. But I've seen this thing a lot. Don't get me wrong, I think a lot of interesting work can be done with found materials, but this isn't it. I soured on the the whole show when I saw the piece, a almost entirely blank piece of paper with one sentence written in the middle "I can't be what you want me to be". The only response to that is "sigh".

Concrete shapes intended to look remind us of children, sitting a bench covered in caution tape, and other city debris? Looking at a rectangle-in-rectangle wall sculpture made of foam core? Yes these are the materials we build with, and yes these are materials used to caution us, kid, but no, I have nothing to really say about any of these ideas. Except that I like to make things. Well you can't get away with that if you have works like that aforementioned drawing. The only delight I had in the entire show was that one "kid" in the middle of the bench-the concrete covered entirely in Band-Aides.

Try covering that whole world in Band-Aides and you might have something.

Okay, I'll leave Noah alone now. Also, that wasn't much of a Quickie, was it? I'll try to do better next time. I must be grumpy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Style vs Style

2 movie reviews for you today, one of which is in theaters now, but you should rent, the other one is on DVD now, and you should have seen it in the theater (me too).

The Brothers Bloom is currently showing. The second feature by writer/director Rian Johnson (he of the great movie, Brick) is a letdown. The movie works so hard at trying to keep us guessing as to who is playing with who's strings in this brotherly grifter tale that it forgets to actually develop the characters it's so brazenly showcasing. Fun, quirky, and highly stylized for the first 30 minutes or so...but then it just starts to peter out. The strong work by the 3 main actors creates a few nice moments, but essentially they are weighed down by the simplicity of their characters- Adrian Brody's Bloom is mentioned more than once for being frozen and unable to break out of character-well that's exactly how all the characters feel in this movie.

Nice try Rian, better luck next time. Hopefully Hollywood will give you another shot, and more time to develop a story with your 3rd feature. 2.5 Molos

Pictured above is a still from the greatest pool/death scene ever filmed. (the image quality is not so good, but trust me) It's from the amazing Swedish vampire movie that everyone saw in theaters but me last year, Let the Right One In. What a stellar movie. Sure it's working with a the old vampire story, not exactly fresh ground, but oh how smart and serene this film is. Every character's actions, no matter how small, are important. Every event and every bit of dialog propels the action forward, albeit in a slow, Scandinavian way. And, there is a great cat attack scene to boot! 4.5 Molos.

Monday, June 1, 2009

prison to prison


In Film:

I netflixed (isn't it great when your company can turn into a verb? You know you have a good one when that happens)a movie called The Visitor (2007) directed/written by Thomas McCarthy and I have to say it was very very good. This guy is on a roll. Well, that is, if a roll can be as small as 2. If so then he is on a good one. His last movie, The Station Agent, was a quiet, powerful little movie that was just handled so well. The Visitor is much the same. McCarthy uses a similar lead character-a man at a crossroads in his life, very much thick in a rut, and like in the Station Agent, he gets mixed up in circumstances that he did not forsee. The Visitor finds the man getting wrapped up in the lives of 2 "illegials", one of which ends up in a detention center. It's a very well acted and often lively drama about some pretty serious, topical issues. Check it out. 4 Molos

In Arts:

Caught the latest show at Crawl Space the other day, drawings by Buddy Bunting in a show entitled High Living. Buddy's work (I figure I can call him Buddy, because after all, if your name is Buddy then you are already everyone's friend) is strong stuff, if somewhat thin on substance. Start, minimal landscapes in pencil and ink. His long drawing (33') of Two Rivers Prison is very very well done. It's worth going to the show just to take a look at it. An impressive perspective. The rest of the show is more hit-and-miss. There are well drawn but unintersting car emblems plus a full size el dorado. At least I think it was an el dorado, I can't quite remember (I dont know my cars very well). A couple light landscapes which are very reminiscent of recent b/w work by Zhi Lin.

There has been a lot, stark drawing happening in the art world over the last 10 years or so. At times it feels to me like a bunch of illustrators decided that the wanted to be "high artists" and so created work on white paper, with a heightened sense of formalism, little-to-no surprizes, and framed them in white wood behind glass, thus bringing them into contemporary art context by virtue of style alone. I can't really buy it. I do enjoy strong drawing in general, but what happened to substance, either in subject or in process?

Buddy's work is strong,and it's easy to talk about his choice of a prison as subject matter, or to look at the clever drawing of the back of a semi-truck in an empty lot with the lettering "No Hiring" on the side and make whatever illusions you want to, but I'd like to see more here with his work, and with work of this nature in general.

The shadow of Warhol hangs over us but when can we move back to substance over style in image making?

3 Molos

In Defense of Christian Bale

He didn't have much to work with. I'm referring to Terminator Salvation of course. What a lousy movie. It's hard to say really where they went wrong with the picture, there are so many things to choose from, but let's start with the director, someone who calls himself "McG". I think that says it all right there...if you can't even bother to have a real name, how seriously can you take yourself and your work? Not very, after all this is the director of both Charlies Angels movies. In that silly franchise, a goofy, choppy, corn ball action movie was exactly what was called for. Unfortunately, McG's experience directing such films didn't prepare him for creating a movie like what Terminator Salvation should have been, namely along the lines of the first two Terminator films. Dark, good characters, well paced tension and stellar action/thriller scenes. Where is James Cameron when you need him?

I'm not going to bother nit picking the rest of the film (horrible editing, terrible story, confusing, lousy dialog and uninspired acting). Let's give it 2 Molos. Probably better than Wolverine, but eh...

One thing though, I think it's time to give Christian Bale a break. I mean if you had found yourself involved with this project, with his resume of excellent and challenging performances (The Machinist, The Prestigue, American Psycho) I'm sure you would have flipped out once or twice on set.