Against Me! – The Eternal Cowboy

December 10, 2007

I was talking to a friend about how I needed to get back into the music scene. We discovered we had similar tastes so I asked him:

“Has anything good happened to ska since Streetlight Manifesto?”
“Nope.”
“Has anything good happened to punk since Against Me! ?”
“Nope.”

See, Against Me! was the darling of the punk world back in 2k. Punk had become pop punk, thrown on MTV for everyone and commercialism and the real punk fans missed the harsh distortion and incomprehensible lyrics of real punk, not this Blink-182/Good Charlotte bulllll-shit. then word got out about this little Florida group called Against Me!. They were good, man, they were heavy and fast and energetic and intensely political but had a great sense of humor about it (See “Baby I’m an Anarchist”, a song about an impossible love between an anarchist and a “spineless liberal – we marched together through the 8 hour day but when it came time to throw bricks through the Starbucks windows you left me all alone”).  And their songs weren’t just about national politics, but about the politics of being a band that had to make a living but fuck if they were going to compromise themselves to sell  few more t-shirts. Everyone latched on to them and said they were the next big thing and they would bring punk back and their first album was huge.

Their second album was controversial because it really wasn’t traditional punk. It was like… punk-country. A lot of people hated it but it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. It has a beautiful structure and coherence, I don’t know if it’s intentional or not but it’s totally amazing.

The first track is the regular ol’ “party like a punk star” track, all about get up and dance we came to tear this place apart song. Real accessible, real fun, basically the “I’m the illest rapper” of the punk world. That is okay, the song has some great drums and kind of wistful lyrics. Good start.

The next track ups the intensity a little bit – the content doesn’t even matter, the song fucking drives. Great harmonies, furious bassline, and leads in great to the next song which keeps the intensity but brings down the tempo a bit.  It ends with a sustained chord – “No, I dunno what to say”.

And the next song starts up almost instantly – “Not one more word tonight”. What? Lyrical and thematic leadin between songs on a punk rock album?! Holy shit. And the song is slow and beautiful and at the end one guy whispers “that sounded pretty good to me. sound pretty good to you?” and the next song starts up and all the beauty and slowness of that song is converted into another heavy hitting guitar riff that kicks you in the gut and gets you started up again as the singer gets hoarse and bellows a little bit. What a great contrast! And the song builds up and builds up and finally it climaxes and releases its hold. The next song starts up quietly, and then a solid guitar riff hits you – it releases, there’s a vocal verse, then they kick it up a notch as it were. Screaming and shouting harmonies and “oi”s pepper the background. Then the intense guitar riff releases from minor key into major and for a second the listener is freed of all this intensity and the song ends and goes into “A Brief Yet Triumphant Intermission” – a punk rock instrumental. Which keeps that same major feel in an album that hasn’t had this kind of triumphance since the first track. We relax.

Then it ends and you hear someone mutter “Just gettin’ warm” and this snappy undistorted guitar riff starts up and the singer starts accusing us of fucking up everything with our good intentions. There is no distortion here. There is no shouting. There is a little bit of hoarseness, but there is nothing here to tell us this is punk rock. This is why people fucking hated this album and I completely love it. There’s a totally new sound here and it builds up this huge tension – where did my punk go? What is the acoustic stuff? It ends after a minute and change – short! – very suddenly. The next track picks up the same rhythm, but distorted. It pauses and the bass kicks in and the drums kick in and all of a sudden the lyrics start machinegunning at us and holy crap did someone just die in the lyrics? And this is very quickly the most intense fucking song ever sung. Anarchy in the UK or killing cops or your fucked up shows or skateboarding suddenly seem tame.

The next song is calm.  The singer is calm and the riff is slow, but there is still that tension. And suddenly the riff powerchords out at us and the singer is still completely calm, but his tone is accusatory and we know that even though the drums aren’t being pounded here this song is just as intense as the last one was in a completely different way. And even though he’s shouting now that “everything’s gonna be alright”, this is just completely arresting and now the drums are being pounded and it’s completely intense. And finally it ends

And we get a light-hearted acoustic love song whose chorus is “girl, I’m sorry but I’m leaving, it wasn’t the other men because there were other women”. what a perfect god damn ending.

And then Against Me!’s next album sucked terribly (it was on MTV and it was all about “MY FRIENDS ARE STUPID FOR LIKING THE WAR GUYS”) and the one after that was barely acceptable. Punk is dead.

Gorillaz – Demon Days

December 10, 2007

I would love to do a movie-length animation for the album Demon Days by the Gorillaz. The album has a crapload of coherence, this great gritty soundscape, and (some claim) a hidden message about the environment’s destruction. Of course, some of the songs are really long and wouldn’t translate well to animation without introducing new characters and a story, which I would hate to do because I’m a literalist and I think the only story should come directly from the lyrics of the song. This is why I don’t like the video for “None Shall Pass” by Aesop Rock – he speaks so quickly that there’s no time for the animation to keep pace with him so the video is completely unrelated. Cool looking, but unrelated.

30 Rock

December 10, 2007

One of the latest episodes of 30 Rock has this great exchange where the slobby, nerdy, comic-book loving misogynist hipster falls in love with a cute little thing called Jamie. Jamie is a dude.

“Haha, are you gay or something Frank?”
“Maybe I am!”
“Yeah? You want to kiss Jamie?”
“Yeah! I want to kiss him on the mouth. And hold him.”

“Frank, knock it off. You’re not gay. You read BOOBS Magazine.”
“No I’m definately gay for Jamie”
“You can’t be gay for just one person, Frank! That’s not a thing! …Unless you’re a lady and you meet Ellen.”

And finally, Frank confronts Jamie, who says

“Frank, I’m not gay. I’m straight”
“That’s great! I’m straight, and you’re straight, and so we’re just two straight dudes! Who want to enjoy each other’s bodies!”

I watched this with my friends and we all think it’s the most hilarious thing. Ironic-gay is now totally acceptable.

Empire Records

December 10, 2007

Empire Records is probably the best teen-comedy-romance movie in existence. This is because it starts off very light, very mystical (Lucas winning the slots and the first round of craps) and very funny, has constant cuts and a lot of great energy in the music choices and kids fucking around at work. Then the movie gets completely serious and the cuts slow down and you’re treated to a 5 minute cut of a fake funeral for a friend and a kid comes in with a gun and AJ’s best friend rejects him and oh god so intense. And then by the end it’s just a gigantic fucking party and everyone is drinking and having fun and realizing their dreams.

Also the relationships seem much more real than most other teen movies because the kids are all in their element, their safe zone. Breakfast Club, these kids are forced to hang out and end up getting over their differences. Bring it On there is the single misfit who has to blend in. Can’t Hardly Wait is about gigantic awkward high school parties where nobody is really comfortable. But in Empire Records, everyone’s a loser and a reject hanging out in this place where they have a position of authority and everyone loves and respects them because they just have fun, man. So the kids are so totally relaxed and there’s no weird uncomfortable dramatic irony going on and these kids are nothing but true to themselves and each other.

Pushing Daisies

December 9, 2007

So the new hot “must-watch”, critic’s-darling TV show I guess is “Pushing Dasies”. The show’s billed as something that’s supposed to break all sorts of ground and be completely new and original and blah blah blah. A friend made me watch the pilot episode last night, and here’s what I think:

The narration is obnoxious and heavy-handed. It’s like someone read Douglas Adams, the definining snarky-British-commentator, and tried to make their narrator exactly like him. The out-of-place accent, the attention to insignificant detail, the stating of the obvious… These are all things that are almost, but not quite, exactly like DA’s style. The difference being that Adams was funny, and this commentator is trying very hard to be superior. The show very clearly takes place in America, there are no British characters, and yet we have a narrator who is British – why? For a show made in Britain, that’s one thing. For a show with a British author or character, that’s one thing. But this just seems like a strange appeal to the different – “See, we’re so original we got someone who speaks in a very recognizable foreign accent” for no purpose other than the sake of being different. And in fact the role of the narrator could be cut entirely – mostly he says what the characters are feeling, which violates that ancient rule of “show don’t tell”. Different-for-the-sake-of-different is a weird and pointless attitude to take towards things. Especially when your show’s visual style is a direct ripoff of Tim Burton (the fields of flowers from Big Fish, the kind of weird aunts from James and the Giant Peach, the unrealistically-styled Pie Hole, the over-saturated colors…)

On top of that, the main character is strangely unlikable. The other characters are good bordering on interesting (Token Black Guy is fun, and I do like the aunts), but the main character is just so bland and emotionless and …rehearsed. I understand his character is supposed to be kind of distant and detached, but he plays it way too stiffly and awkward for someone who seems like they should be charismatic and charming.

The cheesy romance-with-a-twist (Oh god they can never touch each other THE HORROR), like the entire premise, seems like a good idea that’s just been camped up. I like some subtlety in my television, but once again the producers seem to be terrified that no one will “get it” unless they beat their audience over the head with the “LOOK AT US WE’RE QUIRKY” stick.

Mega Man X and Nietzsche

December 6, 2007

Remember how I love talking about videogames? Well in a continuing struggle to make that relevant…       

        In this article I will attempt to draw connections between the popular “Mega Man X” videogame series and Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophies. Although the original Mega Man series was known for its gameplay, terrible box art, and TV spinoffs, the follow-up series “Mega Man X” was ultimately a more powerful gaming experience because of its characters.

The basic gameplay of the Mega Man series does not change drastically over its two decades of execution. In every iteration of the game, from the original Mega Man to the new ZX series, the player controls a robot set out to destroy other, evil robots by absorbing the powers of large boss robots in order to gain access to, and defeat, a mastermind villain. The plot is unremarkable until Mega Man 7, when the “good” robot Mega Man points his arm cannon directly towards the villainous Dr. Wily and threatens to end his plots once and for all. Wily reminds Mega Man that he is still bound to follow Asimov’s Rules of Robotics, and so Mega Man stands down. This event marks a turning point in the games; where previously, Dr. Wily had the mental fortitude of your average Batman arch-nemesis, suddenly we see issues of life, death and morality quickly appear. Mega Man 7’s sudden philosophical turnaround comes just before the beginning of a new series, Mega Man X.

This new series follows a Mega Man-like robot called “X” in the 2100’s.  The player is made aware that the world has changed drastically in a century – The intro stage is not a cheerful museum where the bumbling yet malicious Dr. Wily seeks  the power to take over a city, but a destroyed and barely functional highway with glimpses of a dark and smoky metropolis in the background.  The intro sequence gives us a glimpse of a new robot booting up its systems. The screen flashes and warns us that this robot is capable of deadly actions, and has been sealed in a capsule for 30 years to ensure it is safe for interaction with humans.

The manual explains that X was found by archeologist Dr. Cain, who studies X and begins replicating his design for the benefit of all mankind.  Factories are set up, as X helps Cain study and learn about the wonders robots can perform. But some of Cain’s reploids begin  acting strangely, maliciously: X sets out to exterminate them. He is helped by a girly-looking robot packing one hell of a punch: Zero.

                The background to this simple plot is that Wily and Light, Mega Man’s creator, are dead. X and Zero are the only remnants of the 200X civilization that so many gamers hold close to their hearts, more powerful iterations of the late Mega Man (And as we find, Zero is actually Wily’s creation).  Both X and Zero, although they are teammates, are loners; robot cowboys leading other Reploids against the Mavericks.

                Here is where the parallelism to Nietzsche begins. As in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, we have a lone figure coming out of exile when X is finally freed from the capsule that tested his systems for 30 years, which is the exact age at which Zarathustra begins his exile.  And when Zarathustra emerges, he declares that he may seem to be functionally the same, but he is a changed man. Indeed, where the Mega Man series left us with the servant-cum-fighter of Mega Man, we emerge from a 30-year exile to the very changed form of X. When X first encounters the upgrade capsules that Dr. Light has scattered across the land, he must come to the same realization that Zarathustra did: God is dead.

                Much evidence exists for making X into Nietzsche’s ubermensch. Nietzsche tells us: “That which does not kill you only serves to make you stronger”. Indeed, if the player allows X to survive his numerous battles with the Robot Masters, X does indeed grow stronger by stealing their essence to create new weapons.  And Zarathustra preaches to the townspeople: “Man something that shall be overcome”, just as we see the human world being controlled, over-run, and thrown into chaos by this new breed of mechanical men. Thus we must ask, is X the super-man, the next step in evolution who will lead humanity to salvation? Technically speaking, he is certainly a superman who can do what no other can. Zarathustra also says, “The Ubermensch is the meaning of the earth”, and it is undeniable that X is the reason this game world exists, both from a literal sense (He is the protagonist of the game!) as well as a metaphorical sense (Without X, the Reploids would never have been created). Yet this does not answer the question: Is X the meaning of the earth? Without him, the world would cease to exist, over-run by Maverick armies. And the player is not allowed to fail X’s missions; if he does, time resets so the salvation of the world can be completed. The next game in the series always assumes that the mission was, in fact, completed. Thus, working from Nietzsche’s definition, it is apparent that X is in fact the Ubermensch.

                The next game in the series poses an interesting conundrum, however. Titled “Mega Man Zero”, it takes place 100 years after the X series and follows its namesake: The reploid Zero. Like X so many years before him, Zero is awakened from a deep sleep in a cave. Ciel, a scientist, wakes him and pleads that he return to his former heroic status to save the world. He promptly pulls out his X-Buster and blasts apart several strangely familiar-looking blue robots. We find that the tyrannical human state of Neo-Arcadia is cracking down on innocent Reploids, as well as trying to murder the sweet Ciel. Then, the truth emerges: Ciel found X, resurrected him, and now he has gone on a murderous rampage in order to protect his human paradise. The player faces a long and arduous battle against X, only to find it’s not the real deal. The real X appears as a ghost to Zero, pleading with him to take X’s spot, because X is tired of fighting. The game ends with Zero throwing off a cloak and dismantling several of Copy X’s remaining cronies to his rousing theme song.

                What does this new development mean in terms of Nietzsche? Even the Ubermensch can get tired, even the most super of humans is still subject to human flaws. It’s like a giant practical joke on the player; the goody-goody X is tired of saving the worthless humans (Who, in Zero 4, are proven to be ungrateful and weak, although intelligent).  Zero, a creation of the evil Wily (who almost made the original Mega Man break his morality), ends up to be the true hero. It’s the only logical way to continue the series from a Nietzschean standpoint; morality is dead, and only through the complete destruction of everything we know can we find greater truths. Zero only learns about himself (exposed through gameplay mechanics not only by dialogue, but the actual increase in fighting capacity) through fighting, destruction. X is not what he seems to be, not only as an evil dictator, but as the most basic essence of himself: he is tired of fighting!

                The development of the Mega Man series tend to be executed simplistically, given a backseat to gameplay mechanics and creative content. Yet the undertone of the series has fascinated many; I think it has to do with the stark Nihilistic principles that pervade the games. Even when fighting for the salvation of all humanity, the player is given tastes of despair. This contrast is what makes the Mega Man series so compelling, and one of my all-time favorite games series.

Postmodernism in Video Games

December 6, 2007

Remember when I said talking about postmodernism is the single most alienating thing a dude my age could do? Well,

                Today, I’m looking at games from a postmodern perspective.  It’s not hard, really: The postmodern era is partially about exploring the barrier between a media and the viewer. Video games by nature must be post-modern; not just because we live in a post-modern society, but because the nature of video games demand a link between the player and the game.  A link between audience and media can be bridged in multiple ways, but videogames have three main ways to utilize a connection between player and game. Of these three main bridges, some are more suited to certain types of games than others, but ultimately only one creates a strong bridge that is beneficial to the player.

                The first type of bridge, which I’ll call “flat”, is so simple that it doesn’t warrant much explanation. This is the implicitly understood relation between the controller in your hand and the character on the screen. Picture playing an old-school Mario game for a second: You press left, Mario moves. You press jump, Mario jumps. You lead Mario through a series of levels, you win the game. The gamer is fully aware he is simply playing a game. The name “flat” conveys that there is no true postmodern dynamic going on here; you might as well read a newspaper. Coincidentally, “flat” also describes the look of most games that build this sort of bridge. Flat games tend to have two-dimensional worlds, simple characters, and very casual game play dynamics (but aren’t necessarily restricted to these conditions). Bridging of this nature is not necessarily negative; by preventing the gamer from becoming too absorbed, flat games are often easy to play in short bursts which is important for most casual gamers.

                The second type of bridge is much more common. Many games, particularly ones with a first or third person point of view, allow for the player to imagine that he is actually taking part in the game. He shares a similar viewpoint to his avatar, he experiences other characters talking to him as if he’s there. This type of bridge is “active”: If the gamer so chooses, he can put himself into the shoes of the protagonist with relatively little ease.  The controls of the game may be complex, but once learned allow the player to control his avatar with enough ease that instinctual reactions (Sound behind me!) are easily translated to the character (Spin the mouse to turn myself around).

                Most games fall into the “active bridge” category for effective story-telling purposes. Much like a good book, creating an atmosphere that the player can feel he is a part of is a wonderful technique, and always heightens suspense and the sense of accomplishment at the end. However, unlike a book, many games in this category often break the atmosphere with game play mechanics. It’s hard to swallow disbelief when your viewpoint is shuttled off screen to the exposition shot with the antagonist for dramatic irony. It’s hard to walk into a trap when you know it’s there. It’s oddly unsettling to read diaries of characters you’re supposed to be playing as, and saving and reloading your game will always break the bridge. My pet peeve, however, is when games break the atmosphere to explain the control system to you as illustrated in this screen shot from Grave Spirit, a beautifully moody (free! Download it!) adventure game where you wander alone through a mostly empty world. GS is a blend between flat and active bridges(1), where your character walks at a painfully slow pace, but the graphics, sound and dialogue try and convince the player that he’s the one walking through this haunting dimension. Thus, although the “active” bridge is a common and powerful approach to the game world,  common game play mechanics such as a quest log and saving make this approach difficult to homogenize through the entire experience.

                The third bridge is the most powerful. As oppose to the active bridge, where a player must project himself onto the avatar, the passive bridge(2) accepts the player into a new world. This concept is difficult to explain, so I will resort to using an example: DEFCON, a nuclear holocaust simulator. In DEFCON, the player’s only goal is to launch nuclear weapons at other countries. The graphics and mechanics are abstracted away such that the player innately understands “These are my cities, these are my silos, I need to launch them at my enemies”. Stark simplicity of presentation gives DEFCON great atmosphere through passive bridging. The passive bridge means the gamer does not need to project his psyche onto the atmosphere, because the atmosphere is projecting itself onto him. At no point (except for the title screen) does the player feel like he’s anything other than a general, analyzing information and preparing for inevitable nuclear war. Other titles by Introversion Software, the creators of DEFCON, also use the passive bridge. In Uplink, the player is prompted to create a new account at Uplink, Inc. so he can begin hacking other computers. In Darwinia, the player is accused of connecting into a prototype vandalized amusement park, and is aided by a scientist as he uses his computer to fix the damage done to it. Clearly, the passive bridge is the most post-modern of the three links between player and game: It makes the player unsure of his real surroundings, convinces the gamer that everything in this artificial world is real in ways that clunky save systems and loading screens do not.

                Passive bridging creates the strongest gaming experience in a way unmatched by any other form of media. However, other bridges have their uses as well. Passive bridging is quite difficult, and only succeeds for certain types of games. Active bridging is much more applicable for game design, and allows for the player to decide how involved he wishes to become with the game. Flat bridging, although simple, allows for great freedom on the part of the game designer, and although it is the least engaging flat games are often the most addictive.  Thus, it is evident that all forms of bridging are powerful tools for a game developer to use. Being aware of this post-modern gap between gamer and game is a strong way to build better stories or better game play dynamics.

                (1)These bridges can be mixed and matched, and often are in various proportions to varying degrees of effectiveness.

(2)The passive bridge’s name might be considered a misnomer, but I feel it is best to present the bridges from a gamer’s perspective. The active bridge is named because the gamer must actively put himself in the avatars shoes via projection, whereas the passive bridge simple assumes the gamer is already the avatar, and as such envelops him into the world. Although this action is active on the game’s part, it is ideally passive on the gamer’s part, hence the name.

 **Suzan Lorie Parks is so fukken postmodern that this is relevant always.

Video Games

December 6, 2007

So I like video games. A lot. Sometimes I like to think about video games. A lot. This is a dilemma, because a lot of people in the world think of video games as childish and dorky and unacceptable for a fine young man to consume himself with thoughts of.

 About a year ago, a huge rumble went through the writing-about-videogames-industry. It started when Chuck Klosterman, author of “Sex Drugs and Cuckoo Puffs” and other novels, told gamers that writing reviews isn’t enough to get people interested. He said that we needed to write critiques, like music writers do. In other words, don’t look at the game on the basis of “do people want to buy this”; look at it analytically for clues about our culture, about the game’s relevance, about things that matter. Certainly, if there’s one thing that is lacking in the games world it’s writing about games; games journalists are regularly ridiculed for writing simplistic reviews, taking bribes, and making up their mind if they’re bloggers or journalists [Joystiq is one such blog that falls victim to this].

                To be fair, most games are deserving of such shallow treatment. Many recent games are the equivalent of an action move summer blockbuster; those that stray from such simplicity are sometimes known for either their idiotic complexity [Metal Gear] or reliance on clichés [Final Fantasy] to create a story.  And those that manage to create deep, complex stories are often faced with poor game design, no publicity, no shelf space, or no sales. The question then becomes: Do we really want people to think about or write about this shit? After all, videogames face a lot of problems in modern culture. They’re branded as escapism (correct), needlessly violent (sometimes correct), and complete timewasters (correct). Such criticisms are common, but at some point in recent history can be found to be said about everything from movies to comic books.

                Writing critically about videogames helps put them in their place in culture, whether from a postmodern perspective or a nihilist one, or anything in between.  It’s important because critically thinking about videogames makes everyone else think critically about videogames;  it can turn a timewaster into a complex dissertation on the role of postmodernism (Aruging for the relevance of postmodernism as a 20-year-old male is the single most ostracizing activity I can engage in because it’s so. fucking. erudite.) in our life. Games, whether consciously or not, represent so much more than a 20 minute distraction from your chores. They reflect the view of the designers, the writers, the artists, the publisher, and the society from which this is all a product. Recognizing that makes us more literate, gives us more power, and makes videogames a cultural force that can’t be dismissed with insults. Read a New Yorker movie review sometime: They can critically analyze Mission Impossible 3 and create a worldview from it. Can’t we create worldviews with our games, which are starting to surpass movies in budget and profit?

                So yes, I do want to think about video games. As a nerd, I want to see what it says about us nerds and our culture, we want to make it relevant to our lives, we want to justify ourselves as a growing cultural force.  From our critiques, we can learn; it’s possible that learning about what a game says will propel us to greater heights of game design.

The 10

December 6, 2007

I really was looking forward to The Ten since last summer. David Wain of Stella doing a movie with a bunch of really prominent indie comedians? Consisting entirely of sketches based on the 10 Commandments? It was finally going to be a successor to Wet Hot American Summer, one of my favorite comedies (Also directed by David Wain).

Well, I finally got to watching it, and… It was good. I laughed a lot (but some of it was forced laughter because I wanted to like it so bad), but some of the jokes fell so flat.  The first skit in particular was just… bad. Premise: “Have no other gods before me”. Startup: A guy jumping off of an airplane forgets his parachute.

Let that complete disconnect of ideas set in for a second. Yes, the disconnect between the sketches and the commandments is part of the joke, but for an introduction it was just so jarring. The guy doesn’t die, but he’s stuck far into the ground and can’t be moved or else he’ll die. He becomes a celebrity, and people start WORSHIPPING HIM (In caps because the intentionally-heavy-handed editing reaches to illustrate idolatry) and he loses his celebrity status. I can’t get over how mediocre this sketch is – you can’t start a thematic series of sketch by completely ignoring the theme! I mean, yes, you can do that later, and it’s done to great effect later, but to start off with that is just a violation of the too-often-cited Rule of Three. I have a love-hate relationship with that rule, I think it’s kind of cliche, but I absolutely think it has a point: You can’t start a sequence by not-starting a sequence. In later sketches it’s made obvious that they’re reaching for the comparison with the commandments, and that’s a great joke (Andy Rudd breaking the 4th wall and looking directly into the camera as he confesses to adultery), but to start with it is really alienating.

Also, here’s the other thing: Stella is a show about dumb crazy people in a world full of sane people. Most of the sketches in The 10 are about either 1) the entire world being dumb or 2) dumb people in a world of sane people. This is fine. However, the first joke made in the first sketch is when a reporter asks the guy in the ground if he has any words of wisdom, and he responds “no not really”, and “no not really” becomes his words of wisdom. That joke is about a single sane person in a world of crazy people, and that’s elitist and alienating and unrelatable (unless you’re an egomaniac) and therefore unfunny. It just doesn’t work at all, and the sketch gradually brings this guy into the world of the dumb and crazy, but its terrible start really soured everything for me. I am a cranky old man in this regard.

Darjeeling Ltd

December 6, 2007

Finally got around to seeing Darjeeling Ltd, with Adrian Broody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson. I love those three guys (Especially Owen Wilson – it’s kind of a guilty pleasure ‘cuz he’s in so many crappy movies, but I think he’s great.) so when I saw they were all in a comedy movie together I was determined to catch it.

It starts off with a prelude (noted as such by a title card) that last about 10 minutes and has no discernible attachment to the actual movie at first.  It was weird, but I liked it: It kind of betrayed your expectations, but you ended up getting a nice little backstory about Jason’s character and his ex-girlfriend. They rolled complete credits after it, which was a nice little fakeout – I really enjoy fucking around with the audience when it’s subtle and done well.

My main problem with indie movies is silence. It seems like a lot of people go “Hey, you know, there’s so much filler in Hollywood movies, let’s fuck that aesthetic and shoot for as many silences as possible” and you end up with a movie with no action at all (There’s a Russian movie called Vodka Limon, it was supposed to be “great” – It’s about a small town in which nothing happens and there’s mostly silence and stark scenes of people walking in the snow. It was boring). This movie (now referred to as DT because I hate spelling the title) had those silences, yeah, but they seemed a lot more natural because all three guys were great actors who brought fantastic emotion to those silences.

there was one scene in particular where it looks like the brothers are finally going home together – they get to the plane and the sound of the engines overwhelms you and their voices cut out completely (Like in Wayne’s World!), and you see them discussing while the stewardess tries to take their tickets and they refuse to give them and finally they leave without getting on the plane. That’s a great use of silence – words would be so unnecessary there anyway.

The movie’s humor mostly came from Owen’s character’s strange, bossy- big-brother quirks and abrupt cuts. That worked for me; the movie wasn’t hilarious, but it was funny enough and the exploration aspect was compelling enough to make a really solid movie.


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