Sunday, February 27, 2011

my favorite danny boyle movies

dammit it all to hell. i did watch the last half hour of the academy awards last night. i probably would've watched the whole of the telecast but i was out shopping with nick and by the time i got around to glancing at the tv it was already nearly 8:00 pm. i didn't see but one of the movies nominated for best picture. the one i flick i did catch this year toy story 3 [2010] didn't win best movie. i was suprised to see this pixar pic nominated at all. i thought it was a wonderful coda to the franchise with some moving moments. it might've been killer to see it win too but alas no. big deal. there are only three movies on tonight's best movie list that i do want to see, eventually. one of those movies is 127 hours [2010] directed by danny boyle. boyle's production is scheduled for release on dvd this tuesday.

which got me to thinking of my favorite danny boyle pics. i'm a big fan of boyle but i've not seen every movie he's directed. i've yet to see boyle's last oscar winner slumdog millionaire [2008]. but boyle made two movies that have obsessed me this past decade along with one in the 1990s. these are my favorite boyle films.

shallow grave [1994]

anna and i rented the vhs tape from tower video back in the day and at the time i had no idea who boyle was as a director. this blackest of black comedy is frightening and hilarious. three awful people are flatmates who take in a fourth boarder only to find him dead shortly after he moves in. along with the body they also discover a satchel of cash that can make all them rich. the dilemma is whether to go to the police or keep the money for themselves. this is a film about what happens when you quite literally sell your soul to the devil. from the first frame to the last image of ewan mcgregor's smiling mug boyle crafted a brilliant debut feature film that strongly displays his talents as a filmmaker.

28 days later [2002]

god i love this movie. i must've watched at least 10 times straight when it was released to dvd. timely and harrowing this story about our hubris to control nature, whether it be with good intentions with the animal rights activists who unwittingly unleashes the virus that soon decimates our civilization to the people who created the virus, is spot on. boyle and his cinematrogphers decided to use digital cameras rather than traditional film. the result is a grainier, documentary-style visualization of a depleted and ruined u.k. the smallest details are stunning from the message board with desperately scrawled notes to missing loved ones to the piece of graffiti found within a church that reads REPENT THE END IS FUCKING WELL NIGH had me use my remote to slow down, pause and rewind sections of the film and study them like a lit student poring over the notes to the riverside edition of the canterbury tales. boyle revisioned the zombie film for our early century and ideas and even scenes have been used as either homage or outright lifted from in later zombie films such as the remake of dawn of the dead [2004] to the tv series the walking dead. these latter filmmakers all have boyle to thank.

sunshine [2007]

this movie may be the most flawed on this list. it certainly isn't a perfect film but it is an utterly fascinating and absorbing pic, for me at any rate. this movie didn't have a theatrical run here in sac, not even in the arthouses, but i did manage to get a couple of preview tix for it's one of two screenings at a suburban multiplex. i was mesmerized. this is less a sci-fi film than it is a metaphysical study of life. where this movie trips up is the introduction of a bad guy in the last few reels that creates a sort of action film when boyle might've done better to keep it straight as a story of a group of astronauts trying to reignite a dying sun. still, with a haunting score by john murphy [boyle used murphy's music for 28 days later] that's later been recycled for, again, the walking dead and last year's action flick kick-ass [2010] along with a grainy visual field and special fx that look both contemporary and ahead of our time boyle created an eminently watchable movie that is worthy of any one's list of thoughtful sci-fi films.

so no there wasn't a tear in my beer when boyle didn't win best film tonight. i thought the oscars were entertaining viewing but i really don't care what movie wins or loses. such best of lists do not influence what i watch. clearly this is evident of my favorite boyle movies. these are flix that may or may not be his best efforts. again, i still haven't seen boyle's oscar contenders. some movies speak to you and some don't. doesn't take a statue for a film to speak to you. or even obsess you. or not. awards are not why i love movies. i love cinema because movies are, to put it quite plainly, awesome.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

writing engage

the past couple of nights i fired up the laptop wanting to say something, anything, about the fucked-up-edness state of the world we live in. the horror of a massive earthquake in christchurch, a psycho in libya hell-bent on spraying as many bullets as he can to retain power, union-busting in the midwest. each time i turn on the news, pick up the paper, and turn on the radio i became more and more angry.

but when i wanted to say something meaningful, i can't. words fail me. and not for the first time. then i went to mccrary's blog and see the 'no response' response poems he published in an anthology of writing saying goodbye to the 20th century. that's his poems in the pic. fucking kicked my ass, and had me fall out of my chair. that's it! that's the shit. and that is a kind of engaged writing that meets it's task head on.

that's totally fucking punk rock. which made me think of an article i read yesterday at we who are about to die where the author praises radiohead for foregoing the traditional channels of distribution for their new album and releases it without fanfare online, and for a little while free of charge. the author argues here that publishing can learn much from radiohead's methods. the world is digital now and the best way to get the work out is online. i agree. that's why i advocate diy publishing, self-publishing, and blogs. mccrary beat us all to it by several years. he's been doing his diy self-publishing in paper form for a long, long time, and now the lawrence, ks poet is doing it via blog. publishing, and writers, i think, can learn a lot from jim mccrary.

but that's not all. i've been reading the punk zine maximum rock&roll after picking up a copy last week at the newsbeat. i was surprised to see the zine on the shelf. this punk rag's been going at it for nearly 30 years. it was one of my two, the second is flipside, favorite punk publications back in my screaming hardcore days. mrr hasn't changed very much. the hardcore punk look is gone, no black leather jackets, spikes, biker boots or mohawks. but the diy attitude is potent as ever. and i think poetry, poets and publishing can take a few cues from this diy attitude. no c.v. no careerism. no professionalism. no profession. just the desire to read and write and create more.

what more does poetry need. but that's not all. as for my frustrations and anger of the state of our fucked up world i insist i declare our rights of creating decent, loving lives full of pleasure. and pain. i'll write what i can. and if i can't engage the state with my writing i can do so by pointing out writers who do engage the world beautifully. therefore, i'll conclude this ramble by pointing out one of our best, most thoughtful poets, john bloomberg-rissman, who publishes his political, philosophical, moral, metaphysical writing, esp. his most recent series in the house of the hangman at his blog zeitgeist spam. bloomberg-rissman's provocative texts are a medicine for my melancholy.

with the works of mccrary and bloomberg-rissman texts become action and they both achieve a level of do-it-yourselfness that makes this old punk pretty damn happy to be alive. what more does poetry need.

Monday, February 21, 2011

monsters [2010]

if mumblecore went horror this might be what the film woud look like. this flick got mixed reviews from horror journalists because it really is not about monsters at all. instead the story focuses on a couple, played by the sprightly named actors scooter mcnairy and whitney able, as the travel thru the mexican infected zone to get back home to the u.s.

the monsters of the title live in the infected zone. we are told in a prologue that what happened six years earlier nasa found evidence of alien life within our solar systems and promptly sent a probe to collect samples. the probe broke up upon reentry over mexico and shortly these creatures began to dominate the landscape decimating people and structures.

scooter is a photojournalist there to document the creatures and whitney happens to be in-country wounded in some accident. she also is the daughter of scooter's boss. scooter is then urged by his boss to escort his daughter out of mexico before the yearly migration of the creatures seals the border between mexico and the u.s.

the pace of this movie is languid and i understand the filmmaker, gareth edwards, did it on a budget close to next-to-nothing. you wouldn't know it. i found this movie magical and the photography, editing, score, and acting on a par with the best indie filmmakers working today. the plot is fairly boilerplate boy-meets-girl variety, but there seems to be authentic chemistry between the principals. and that's the reason why the horror community is on the fence with this pic. the monsters are present but they are the backdrop to the budding romance between scooter and whitney.

the fx are astonishing too for a movie of such limited funds and resources. i read that edwards pretty much did this flick on the fly and employed guerrilla tactics that werner herzog would approve of. most of the extras are not actors but people edwards, scooter, whitney and their tiny crew encountered in the course of shooting in mexico and costa rica. another thing that increases the movie's verisimilitude is that the people, the pace of life in mexico and costa rica, the corruption of the officials and so forth, seem to me so authentic. scooter and whitney are never in any danger if they can't bribe officials but they are also shit-out-fof-luck if they don't have the money to do so. there is also real kindness and generosity often from the same people and officials too which strike me as hitting the mark as life lived in mexico.

i'm not going to end this review with spoilers. however, the movie starts with the ending and dovetails quite nicely with the arc of the narrative. you can also guess at the 10 minute mark why these creatures migrate every year. one criticism i have with edwards and his scriptwriters is why they chose only to depict the u.s. and mexican military to eliminate these creatures, the people forced to live within and right outside the infected zone, but not say one biologist there to study these creatures. i'd think that the infected zone would be crawling with scientists. not in this flick. rather edwards chose to populate his story with a couple who grow together and perhaps even grow up as they navigate their way thru some extraordinary country and creatures.

this is a road movie with a unique bent. it is also a love story that breaks into horror. i heard quentin tarantino say that he'd like to make a godzilla movie but one where it's about the people who live in a city that was built with and around godzilla. the monster's influence would be everywhere but you'd never see it except in the atmosphere of the city and perhaps a distant roar or a found footprint. if tarantino does make that movie he'd do well to study this film by gareth edwards.

quote unquote

crosses the border
at will
why not labor

--steve malmude

Friday, February 18, 2011

eaten by the monster of love

shit. fer sure. like totally. anna and i started talking about the differences between guy flix, you know shoot-them-up blowing-shit-up action pics, and what are popularly known as chick flix, romantic comedies. i said, guys do like rom-coms and women like action movies. then we started listing our favorite romantic films. below is one of the most romantic scenes in one of our favorite movies.

there are classic romantic films like casablanca and gone with the wind, of course. and there are a very many others. but this flick is very specific to our generation and thus it hits the mark for us.

valley girl [1983]

this scene never fails to move me. the chemistry between deborah foreman and nicolas cage is electric. what i especially admire is how the director martha coolidge and her screenwriters made the awkwardness of first love so authentic. the mumbling and trips of the tongue make this scene incredibly alive and sincere. plus the plimsouls are performing onstage and when cage and foreman lean in for their first kiss the soundtrack cues up and weighs the scene with such import that when foreman's character says that she feels like she's somehow linked with cage i believe every word. it's an absolutely brilliant moment and so very romantic.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

happy happy

i remember this scene from a bio of hemingway where the author of the biography met senor papa when he was living in cuba. i can't recall the name of the biographer or the book, i'm sure i checked it out of either the public or university library way back when. hemingway's macho persona bugged the crap out of me. still does. it put me off heminway for a long time. but one summer when i was 24 or 25 i read the main novels, a shitload of short stories, and some of his non-fiction. i also read a couple or three bios too.

i found that i liked hemingway's prose. quite a stylist and he possesses an earthiness that i found appealing. when heminway writes about food i'm like pavlov's dogs. i drool with a desire and hunger for a kind of eating that marries taste, texture and soul. also hemingway had this quality that is hard to put a finger on. a quality of life, of a particular sensibility that is recorded and made manifest in a book like a moveable feast. life with a capital l.

back to the scene in the bio. the author was waiting for hemingway in some club/restaurant. he was waiting for some time. there were diners, a bar and a band onstage. then the author spies hemingway across the room and watched senor papa as he stops to gab with a bandmember, a few couples at a table and finally over to the bar where he gets a drink. the author is puzzling over hemingway's demeanor. something about him that he can't quite. . .then it clicks. he sees hemingway is enjoying himself with great good pleasure. the novelist beholds the pleasures of living a particular life.

that is the quality i find in some of hemingway's writings. it's a physical pleasure of food, drink, friends and language. to be sure there is a lot of pain in his work and we all know that hemingway suffered tremendously so that the only way to end it was to put a shotgun shell thru his skull. yet the pleasures are there and there to be had.

i don't know why i'm thinking about hemingway like this. perhaps because i get an email from a poet friend who mentions that he's been following my blog and it seems i am taking pleasure from living. i hope i am. sometimes i don't. other times i think i do. i'm not the kind of poet who holds his head in his hands and simply despairs. one of the things i admire in samuel beckett is his sense of the absurd. beckett's comedy is the accumalation of a lifetime of pain but by making laughs means one does derive pleasure.

recently i was reading an article online about seamus heaney written by an experimental poet i hold in high regard. it's a very good article and the poet partly defended heaney's poetics because of the irish bard's ability to despair and question his own calling. all fine and good. but why must there be despair at all, especially in regards to one's poetry and role as poet. in other words, from my reading at least, why must this particular poet, seamus heaney, be validated as a writer only if he should question himself as he tries to hold steady his own shaky ground. if you noticed i did not link to the article nor named the poet who wrote it not out of a sense of decorum but simply because i'm using it as an example of my own ruminations of happiness. does happiness need to be qualified period?

i don't think so and i hope not. one of the reasons why i admire thom gunn is because of his tendency to let joy whelm his texts. gunn wasn't afraid of good news and regarded pleasure as its own reward. not everyone thinks this way. one thing that used to bug me about contemporary french poetry is how it despairs so lovingly. but only in the half-light and only if meaning is just out of reach of the sign. now i'm not bugged so much by it. because there's a lot of good french writing. but for christ's sakes at least have a sense of humor about it all.

in the end would you rather laugh in the face of adversity or do you want to crumble because of it. we could do both you know. often we do do both. sometimes life just sucks and there's nothing funny about it. however, pleasure is a good. reading/writing poetry is for me a great good pleasure. knowing poets, reading poets, googling poets makes me happy. even in bad times i know it and i know when i die i'll die a happy man. i read recently in a kit robinson poem this description ECSTATIC SKEPTIC. put that on my tombstone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

soundtrack looped in the brainpan

'vietnam' by crystal castles
'desire lines' by deerhunter
'thriller' by the cast of glee

'fuck you' by cee lo

Monday, February 14, 2011

the grammys and me

i did it. i sat thru the whole three hours of the awards show. i don't know why really since i'm neither a fan of awards shows, or awards even, and know very few of the bands nominated for the awards. but we watched 60 minutes and anderson cooper interviewed lady gaga. one thing led to another and the grammys were on next. we didn't watch 60 minutes because of the lady gaga interview. i mention it because lady gaga came across as a genuinely sincere entertainer with a big sense of humor. i liked her immediately. i like her sense of theater. her music is another matter. i won't be buying any of her albums soon. but what does that matter since i'm not her intended audience.

no, the real reason we watched the grammys is because the arcade fire was up for album of the year and they were performing. we sat thru one spectacle after another, like gaga's egg -- which reminded me of that scene in spinal tap where the bass player gets stuck in an egg -- and the posed agitprop of the glam band muse. there was one heretofore unknown to me band that i thought quite good, mumford & sons, who performed with bob dylan who i thought again was quite good. eminem ain't my cup of tea. neither is dr dre. the less said about lady antebellum the better.

after the three hour ordeal the arcade fire performs one of their weaker songs, 'month of may', from the otherwise stunning album the suburbs. there is a bit of critical backlash from the hipsterdom regarding arcade fire lately but that matters not to me. they are, to this older rock&roller, one of the best bands to emerge in the past 10 plus years. their songs are for the most part epic and their live performances are transcendent experiences. then they won best album. win butler's stunned what the hell?!. . .as he accepted the award was priceless. the band leaped back onto the stage and ripped into the glorious 'ready to start' but was cut off in midsong as the credits rolled for the telecast.

one more thing. we noticed that the broadcast was tape-delayed to censor any outrageous behavior or cuss words. i find that odd because if rappers like eminem and dr dre who are well-known for their raw language, and cee lo's song 'fuck you', are nominated for grammy awards, doesn't that make a phrase like 'fuck you' part of the accepted norm of the culture.

here's to cee lo's marvelous song. 'ain't that some shit'.

Friday, February 11, 2011

the view from up there

the elevators were stuck somehow
so i had to use the express elevators to get out of the building
but to use the express elevators you have to go up
so i did that i went up
all the way to the 16th fl
and stepped onto the observation deck
the whole city laid out before me
dusk and the sky was deepening pink
the streets opening like a pinata
i am almost always afraid of heights
and will sometimes dare myself
to step onto the observation deck
this time no fear
just simple amazement
that every now and again
it seems the stars align just so
perhaps it's because i'm buoyant
from the news in egypt
things seem to be all alright

Thursday, February 10, 2011

in the immortal words of douglas adams from the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

did ya see

ryan scott reviewed ernest priego's new collection the present day right here

what's that? where do you get a copy? by going to the leafe press website and clicking right here

go on now get clicking

Monday, February 07, 2011

quote unquote

i realized today walking down market street that i have the world's largest tablet/ipad. and with the most high dimension. it's called the big picture i see with my own two eyes.

--jonathan hayes

Sunday, February 06, 2011

great day

because it was superbowl sunday, almost a national holiday, we decided to get out of town and head up the hill. we stopped at the local target to buy nick new snow boots, get some snacks and water, then with our own snow gear in stow we went out to look for snow.

problem is that it hasn't rained or snowed for what three or four weeks? to top it all today and yesterday the weather is [i'm singing now in a joyful falsetto] gorgeous! very like spring with the temperature hovering in the mid '70s. days like these and most people get sick, struck with spring fever. there was, i swear, dancing in the streets. maybe it was because of the football game, i don't know, but i say its because of the weather.

it was bone dry, warm, and clear all the way up toward tahoe. a few light patches of dirty snow littered the shoulders of the road. we persevered because we knew in the higher elevations there had to be snow. lo! we found some at a place called strawberry lodge, a little hotel and restaurant located in kyburz just about 20 miles from lake tahoe. there were patches of cleaner snow and just across the street from the lodge was a sign that read, park and play. pay 10 bucks you can park your car and sled down a pretty steep hill.

that's what we did. the snow was pretty icy, hard and very fast because the area hadn't had any precipitation in a few weeks. and because it is superbowl sunday the slope was lightly packed. there were people just not that many. it was a blast. we let our hair down and slid like kids on a snow day. our good friends b., s. and their son j. joined us too. damn, that was the most fun i had in some time. nick was addicted to the sled and wanted to go higher on the slope to go down faster.

problem being was that our sleds are these relative cheapy things made by a company that calls itself body glove. these sleds are fast but impossible to control. fucking things but i couldn't help it. using these sleds is like eating a bag of chips. you can't not do it only once. you get addicted. so i slid with nick and fell as many times as i went. tossed off really. there were also a lot of mounds on the slope that acted like ramps. going over and getting air backward is the biggest rush this old dude could handle.

now i'm aching, my butt is sore and my knees feel like they've pounded thru the boston marathon. my leg muscles feel like they've been kneaded into doughballs. oh, and i have a sunburn on my cheeks. i forgot about that one, that you can get sunburned easily in the snow. in short it was not a good day. it was a great day. i think nick and anna thinks so too. we were almost the last to leave the slope. when we left we dropped back into the valley tired and happy and entered into the last of this spring-like day. and there was still dancing in the streets, but this time i think it was because of the football game. who won? i don't know and couldn't care less. what matters to me was that for this day there was genuine joy to be had all around.

Friday, February 04, 2011

no desk top

apropos eileen tabios' blog moi desk where the st helena poet catalogues all the items on her desk, i can say that i don't have a desk. i use a laptop and sit in a recliner in what we've dubbed, the back room, an addition to the house that has become my, and nick's, own little room. this is the place with almost all the bookshelves. i sit surrounded by books and dvds. i can't tell you how much pleasure i get from just looking at the packed shelves. there's a small tv/dvd combo where nick now mostly watches his movies. i've taken to watching my own flix using the laptop. i read scads online now. what book or print zine i'm reading sits on top of a chest to my right. quoting from print to use on the blog or poem is a bit of a pain since there really is no place to prop the book open. so i type with one hand while holding open the spine of the book or zine as i read the print text. that's quite a juggling act. it's a pretty spare affair here. i used to have a desk. i might get one in the future but i'm more comfortable in my recliner with my laptop and books and discs. oh, i do have a pair of headphones because i like listening to internet radio as i read and write. and i pop into youtube for a live music fix. that's what youtube is good for, i think, watching movie trailers and live music. i remember a blog where various people posted what was on their nightstands. the desk is more interesting, i think, at least to me. because the nightstand is the piece of furniture we use to hold the things we use before and after we dream. the desk is the site where we work to make the materials of those dreams happen.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

quote unquote

there is no such thing as english poetry, only poetry in english.

--bill griffiths

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

easy come easy go

this morning nick lost a thing he's grown attached to. he calls it a clicker. i've no idea where it comes from or what it once was. it looks like a yellow plastic belt buckle with a black button in the center. you can click it, that center, hence the name.

as i said, nick lost it even tho i spent a goodly amount of time last night retrieving the thing from the car because it fell between the seat and the center console, and he later slept with it. nick almost went into meltdown mode until i reminded him about patrick star.

who? don't you watch spongebob squarepants? of course you do. then you know patrick star is spongebob's best friend. a very sweet starfish but dumb as a rock. star also possesses an almost zen-like detachment which i find admirable. in one episode, i told nick this morning, spongebob and patrick find a magic pencil that makes whatever they draw come to life. patrick shouts, now what would make life perfect is a magic moustache. that then there spongebob happily draws a moustache on patrick. to wit, patrick exclaims, life is good!!! then the moustache flaps off and into the distance, where patrick says, easy come easy go.

that is a great attitude i told nick. the boy repeats the phrase and thus a meltdown is avoided.

okay but then tonight me, b. and s. were gonna see our favorite band, social distortion, perform at the freeborn hall at u.c. davis. i'd been looking forward to this show for a couple months now. social d is my favorite band, period. in fact i want it etched on my tombstone:





or a variation of the same. whatever, the point is i was soooo looking forward to the show. the quote in the previous post is a lyric by mike ness from the song 'telling them'.

and but okay s. calls anna and anna calls me around 2:30 this afternoon. the show is cancelled. one of the band members is down with the flu. wtf?! a quick google search and sure enough, no show tonight. disappointed, you ask? does a lycanthrope get hairy in the moonlight? pissed off? i have to back off a bit. i relayed my little nick story about patrick star's good nature today a couple of times. i had to say it myself. easy come easy go. i don't have any control in the matter anyway. i'm just going to have to drown my sorrows with a few social d vids at youtube. because how it plays out in the end i'll always be under social d's thumb.

quote unquote

i can't wait for the show tonight
when i'm with my friends every thing's alright

--mike ness