The Carl Online

The Armageddon/Deep Impact of Indie Quirk by Greg Hunter
March 6, 2009, 1:11 am
Filed under: movies | Tags: , , , ,

Is Zooey Deschanel’s life a vanity project?  It’s not really surprising that the future Mrs. Ben Gibbard would play a manic pixie dream girl, but in an audacious, self-imposed bit of type-casting, she’s apparently playing one in two different movies.  That are both quirky indie comedies.  That are both about Deschanel turning the lives of two relatable sensitive boys upside down.  That come out two months apart.  The difference, I guess, is that one panders directly to Pixies fans, and the other to those who prefer the Smiths.

The most disappointing part of this really is that Paul Dano has acted convincingly opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s perpetually in need of a movie that’ll make him huge, and both are playing ’89 John Cusack here.

– Greg Hunter

Review of Gomorrah by tatgers
December 28, 2008, 5:30 pm
Filed under: movies


boys and toys

boys and toys

I didn’t know anything about Gomorrah when I went to it, other than it won some big big awards in Europe and that it was on the cover of the most recent issue of the BFI’s Sight and Sound publication before I left campus. Boy am I glad that’s all I knew.  Had I seen one of the trailers, some of the most shocking moments of the film would have been spoiled.  Perhaps this is a fateful nudge for me to stop breaking down trailers and their edits.


Initially, the film is disorienting.  I spent the first hour wondering who all these people are and how do they fit into the the greater picture. Hierarchy is not immediately communicated, and viewers have to categorize characters of all ages and roles as we navigate their stories. My instinct to first identify the perimeter, where the mob begins and ends in relation to the rest of society, was disappointed. Unlike the The Godfather, Sopranos, Goodfellas, or The Departed there was is no seducing of innocent outsiders.  Parents aren’t encouraging their kids stay away from the big men in dark rooms and get a decent job because, well, the legitimate jobs in the fashion industry, waste removal, and who knows what else are part of the community. The system that houses the characters is so massive it can’t be seen in relation to a “non-mob” society, but as a primer on how an entirely different community from our own (or so we believe) operates. Perhaps this is one of the most unsettling, and pertinent, issues that the film points to, seemingly shrugging: we are implicitly involved with the sins of the system that we rely on survival. Yes, the film is explicitly about a mob community, but the complacency of the characters in a violent causes me to reflect on my own complacency when I hear about the bad things I think my society is responsible for. 

Like an immersive language classroom, the rules and relations of this society’s political and financial economy are slowly rendered, and every now and then, violence suddenly punctures the flow of the film. Sometimes it strikes when suspected, but more often we are reminded violence can occur at any time—suddenly and without foreboding to let us brace ourselves. On a few occasions killers and/or their victims are offscreen, and the camera whirs to capture moments just missed.  There is a heavy use of a handheld camera effect, but more than any other film I can think of, this is often has tactile effects besides “engaging the audience”**. The camera’s perspective in Gomorrah actively hides and reveals information.  I certainly don’t know all films, but I can’t think of another that uses style to embody thematic questions of violence’s “scope” in our society.

See this if you can.  IFC is distributing so it’ll be available in theatres the same time as in other formats.

**(which is what one producer in a Q&A session for another film said the intent was.  Honestly, I think an unspoken plus it that it might save time and be easier to shoot a tight shot not using a tripod or mount all the time). In general, the most common use of handheld camera shooting is to create a sense of authentic observation.  I am thinking of when conversations are shot, it is usually a series of steady shots edited together, “popping” from one perspective to the other (shot of person A from B’s side, shot of person B from A’s side).  You see this in TV talk shows as well as in fiction. It is debatably more authentic looking when the camera pans (but not quite perfectly) between two speaking characters, as though the camera is a third person’s eyeballs looking back and forth following characters to see what reactions occur, or following a character as they actively move a room.

Tokyo! film review by tatgers
December 14, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: movies

Whereas ParisJe t’aime keeps true to it’s title by presenting a collection of shorts about Paris and love, Tokyo!‘s does the same by first placing each story in Tokyo, and hugging the titular exclamation mark. But this ! does not reflect a cheerful enthusiasm.  All three films embody the ! through their  surprising eccentricity and magical realism. Even when caught in one of the films’ slow burns (Merde in particular), I couldn’t help having an appreciation for what I thought was the a new brand that I couldn’t easily judge.  You’ll have to forgive me for writing in generalities, but all three of these films benefit from their individual twists, so I won’t be going into much detail on scenes and developments.

The three films are directed :


1 Interior Design directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep).

Usually the most natural looking of the the films in its cinematography, though Gondry does find ways (boy does he) to use his characteristic warmth and whimsy. Origami gives him an excuse to revisit arts and crafts and one character’s art films allows him to play with low budget art films. But the story’s real world is where his sleight of hand and low-tech visual trickery shines. Unlike his recent films, or the other films in this collection, Interior Design is on the sweet end of bittersweet; certainly more satisfying than The Science of Sleep in letting the characters end in conditions that, while strange and not conventionally ideal, leave them content. The story is based on a short story that I have unfortunately forgotten the name of, but it’s along the lines of “BoyNamedX and GirlNamedY in/visit New York.” If that rings any bells, post a comment.  This was in some ways my favorite of the three (the playful soundtrack didn’t hurt).


2 Merde directed by Leos Carax (another French director, but one who’s other work I’m entirely unfamiliar with)

Oh, merde

Oh, merde

Merde was the most puzzling and unsettling. Consequently it is the one I’ve thought about the most. The concept of a creature from the sewers (Man? Beast? Something in-between?) coming to the surface to disrupt the everyday operations initially made me think of Jackass hijinks, partly because of the first scene’s being shot in a way that looks like it could either be planned or improvised with unsuspecting citizens. The absurdity of the dominant character is consistent, even as the film dips in and out of  issues including racism, celebrity, and repressed(or suppressed) history.  I find the last issue the most heavily weighted, and the signs are legible and evident, but unspoken.  This perspective may be skewed, however, because I was preoccupied by the distinct use of music from a film I am studying for my comps, Army of Shadows, which discusses the existential  rolls of those resisting and supporting the social fabric of Vichy France.  There are a few scenes that share the 1968 film’s stark grey–blue color palate, but aside from the recurring use of the colors and the  dark and dramatic musical theme (to open a Japanese news program, oddly enough [how appropriately kinky]), there were plenty of other familiar audio cues that I was unable to pinpoint, so the importance of Army of Shadows may be entirely aesthetic rather than thematic. More than the other two films, there were scenes that felt obnoxious and longer than required for the film to be conventionally effective, which I am certain is not an objective of this film. Even if it were, the film is unpredictable and weird enough that the (anti)hero is worth continued observation, even when destructive or annoying.

3 Shaking Tokyo directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Korean director of The Host)

Recluse protagonist

Recluse pro

The plot centers around a recluse, or hikikomori,  that hasn’t left his home in 10 years. This felt like the most tightly controlled and meticulous of the three films. The camera movement is steady and measured, without the unpredictable free wheeling Gondry or Carax’s films, and the cinematography looks unnaturally beautiful, reminding me of Chan-wook Park films (most famous in the US for Oldboy, though there seems to be a possible reference to Park’s I’m a Cyborg, but it’s OK), even though they have different cinematographers and production designers.  A some sequences of the protagonist by his front door (receiving pizza orders, debating whether to step outside) are edited witha warmth reminiscent of Amelie, aside from the lighting, that same warmth is otherwise often missing it in addressing isolation and escaping it.

Reporting from the Santa Fe Film Festival. by tatgers
December 7, 2008, 7:16 pm
Filed under: movies | Tags:

picture-1I’ve been at the Santa Fe Film Festival since Wednesday (the official opening night, though there were screenings as early as Monday) and it has been a hectic…5 days? I’ve spent a lot of time darting between venues for films and panels to the point where the my recollection of films approaches a the arrangement of a jigsaw puzzle. But that might be how memory works in the first place. I’ll leave that to the science majors (not that they care).

Picking out what films and panels to attend is a small ordeal. I’ve tried to balance and mix my attendance of independent films that are less likely to screen off the festival circuit (2:22, Poundcake, Speed of Life, Em, The Brothers Warner, A collection of Iranian shorts) with films that have won awards at other festivals and are bound hit art house cinemas around the country(Gomorra, Waltz With Bashir, Tokyo!). My middle class guilt kicks in every time I skip over a socially conscious film, but I managed to squeeze in Kassim the Dream, which I think will find some kind of distribution, if it hasn’t already, even if it doesn’t hit many theatres.In general, the festival has a very eclectic and balanced selection of big and small, regional and international features. Detracting from the number of films that I can review were the number of panels, which I’ll also do a post on. Consider this a forecast of posts to come…

In the meantime, I’d like to point you in the direction of 2008 alumnus Martha Polk who is the festival’s official blogger/reviewer.
Her blog is something top notch. The Santa Fe Film Festival blog has some more immediate reviews of her’s if you simply can’t wait for the copy paste, but you’ll need to wade through dozens of shameless self promotions (or simply pay attention posts written by Martha). I’m particularly anxious to get to her Synecdoche, New York discussion.  I suspect a number of you might be interested in her coverage of Soderbergh’s Che films, which I wasn’t able to get tickets to when the four hour, two screening beast  showed Wednesday and Thursday night.

-Andrew “Movie-Man” Tatge

Carl Christmas Present #1 by Greg Hunter

A few nights ago, I sat down to watch Santa’s Slay, a pirated DVD of my younger brother’s. The film, from 2005, stars former pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg as a murderous Santa Claus. Santa’s Slay belongs to the vast body of the direct-to-DVD horror-comedies that are neither scary nor funny, which manage to suggest self-awareness while basically lacking it. What distinguishes Slay from the rest is its baffling opening scene. There are few familiar faces throughout the movie (an unfortunate exception is SCTV alum Dave Thomas, who’s too talented to be in it). For the most part, they’re concentrated in the first three minutes, where Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan and James Caan are seated together at Christmas dinner, the most bizarre collection of cameos I’ve ever seen. Now Caan’s track record isn’t perfect, granted – for every Godfather, there are 88 episodes of Las Vegas – but hearing Sonny Corleone call Mango a “half-a-fag” is still something kind of incredible.

– Greg Hunter

Great Moments In DVD Pirating by Greg Hunter


The New Final Frontier by Greg Hunter
November 17, 2008, 5:53 pm
Filed under: movies | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The summer before sixth grade, I would turn on the TV at 9 o’clock most weeknights and watch syndicated episodes of the original Star Trek series.  I enjoyed the show immensely (especially McCoy’s blunt rebuttals to nearly anything anyone said to him), but didn’t devote much more time to Star Trek fanhood once school started again, that year or ever.  What’s so fortunate about all this now is that I’m approaching J.J. Abrams’ spring reboot of the franchise with a fondness for Star Trek but no real investment in it -as long as the movie manages to be imaginative popcorn fare, I’ll probably really enjoying it without sweating the details like a lot of hardcore trekkies probably will.  (Alternately, I think the Watchmen adaptation, which I’m decidely more invested in, might be a hyperstylized, slow-motion turd.)  I have no idea what I’d think of the first real trailer for the movie if I’d stuck with Trek, but Simon Pegg’s looks like he’s having the time of his life playing Scotty, McCoy’s characteristically sullen, and there are ‘splosions that you just don’t see on Star Trek episodes from 40 years ago.  It’s an undeserved treat for all us fairweather fans.

(Trailer available at

– Greg Hunter

Critics Kind of Dig the W. by daaaaaniel
October 12, 2008, 8:33 pm
Filed under: movies, Politics | Tags: , , ,

The latest Josh Brolin vehicle, W., is surprisingly getting uniformly decent reviews from critics. I definitely expected them to bring the hatchet down on it, but this is good news. Although I haven’t seen any of Oliver Stone’s past presidential flicks, I’m really stoked to see W. Stone calls it a story about how “[t]his guy who is basically a bum becomes president of the United States,” and from the trailer and reviews it seems to be a story about Bush the person much more than Bush the president, if that makes any sense. Today’s New York Times review has some nice quotes from Stone about his thinking going into it, and makes the case that his other political movies were so over-the-top biased that Stone mostly just stuck to the facts with this one.

Dan Sugarman