the ball whisk

December 18, 2009

You should be ready to do things like that…

Filed under: Film — dagabairtilo @ 10:00 am

Fascinating and nutty Werner Herzog. I’m skeptical about the choice of Nick Cage – anyone seen these movies?

April 29, 2009

hunt for gollum

Filed under: Film — quietglow @ 8:45 am

i know, i know — fan vid.

but the trailer is entertaining in and of itself.

January 25, 2009

Should’ve blogged this long ago

Filed under: Film — groenefee @ 3:00 pm

Hey family K. Add this film review (warning link to itunes) to your podcasts. We’ve been enjoying it for quite some time and I cannot imagine a better writer reviewing film.

September 18, 2008

9 Sometimes (Lost in translation)

Filed under: Film, Music — groenefee @ 7:45 am

Wow, was this ever a surprise when I was in the theater!

June 24, 2008

Music, Muffins, Cupcake

Filed under: Film, Music, Politics (sorry), VeloFietsen — groenefee @ 11:11 am

Well all it was fantastic to see you again! I hope to see you in a couple of weeks. I should say that A’s Muffins rock. That I’m very curious about cupcake! Send Pics soon! Send audio of her shifting at 120RPM!

And odd tidbit video from CB’s Blog:
Flobots No Handlebars

Not the best song, but a darn compelling video.

oh, and watched Cloverfield yesterday. Don’t bother, but if forced, don’t worry its not as bad as it could be. Why can’t we destroy Dallas instead of always taking out LA or NY?

April 17, 2008

Banff Film Fest

Filed under: Film, Politics (sorry) — groenefee @ 8:41 am

I do promise the final reviews of the WFF soon! But I wanted to blog out my last night. A. D. and I went to the Banff film fest world tour and had a wonderful time watching the shorts. Always love hanging with D. too.

Two things dominated the thinky portion of the evening.

1) few of these films would have been made without corporate sponsorship and/or trust fundy luxury. One amazingly stonerriffic line from the (very beautiful) first film, “you can always make a choice,” –cute from young white guys tooling around with enough film stock to feed a village, just to find the sublime in a remote location. (could anything have been as hard to engage as the 57 min film about the Austrian woman doing field work with wolves? we should all be so lucky.) At least those practitioners of the “silent sports” like free rock climbers seem to have a pleasure very much derived from eco-friendly activities. Kudos to the Kinglines film.

2) there was plenty of self congratulatory back patting from the REI sponsor and the workout smelling crowd about the valet bike parking. “60 bikes were valeted tonight!” “Thanks to our sponsors for donating the bike racks for your bikes!”. A couple of questions: When I and around 20 other souls in this city of 200,000 were bike commuting everyday this winter where were these intrepid eco-warriors? What fuckin’ good is one night when the bike racks are temporary and not a permanent part of the venue? Why were there so many paper handbills printed to advertise during this program? I do applaud those that biked there last night, and the fair weather bikers too, but if an educated, resource-filled, privileged crowd like that at the Barrymore last night can only muster 60 out of the hundreds of attendees on tweewielers, we are truly fucked. Anyone who meets me on the bike path on a -12 F winter morning is entitled to a free beer from me. Just smile, ‘cus its fuckin cold on them mornings.

Cheeers /pissy

See this man to redeem Beer
See this man to redeem free beer offer

April 9, 2008

My title was too long…I shan’t be truncated!

Filed under: Film, Linguist Musing, Politics (sorry), Scando, Uncategorized — Tags: — groenefee @ 8:08 am

On the subject of truth in documentary, words about words, Gitxsan myth, a dead man directs a funny tragedy: Saturday at the WFF.

So here we go Up the Yangtze. My God was I ever amazed by this film. Three dominant voices interweave to form a graceful narrative of the Yangtze and where it sits as of two years ago. We follow the story of a young peasant girl from the soon-to-be-flooded banks of the river, an ambitious young man from the nearby city and the disembodied voice of the director. Our young girl’s family moves their house away from the banks as the water rises, noting we never had to buy food before, now we do. She struggles but seems to prosper as a galley maid on a western targeted river tour boat. Our young man gets flush with cash and then summarily dismissed for being too ambitious. Our narrator wistfully invokes the songs and experiences of his grandfather.

There are so many directions to take this brief post; I’ll take two.

First, the young man’s dilemma: As relative prosperity and opportunity for social class climbing come before him he smells it and goes for it pursuing tips and favor at every turn. He feels the gap between his customers and his lack of cash (underscored by his insistence that his family has money-they don’t). He quickly becomes flush with tips and then is dismissed from his job for being too ambitious and not enough of a team player. Here’s a wonderful irony of social class climbing, the tools needed (outside of luck and others pity) for advancement are brash, Eieraufdiewand, get ahead at all costs ruthlessness. Along the way, the climber meets all sorts of failures-the midlevel functionaries that function as priests of the current order-who’s roles are that of stopper. Those failures who have been trusted by the oppressive system at hand to use every value and pressure possible to prohibit social advancement and retain the dominance of their masters. The saddest part of this whole situation is that the failurepriests honestly believe that they are preserving something when they bar the ambitious from rocking the boat; so, they always speak with an ernest voice full of conviction. In very real terms this dynamic plays out by having a mid-level manager guilt and shame our young ambitious man for trying to rise above the relative squalor, damning him as not a team player, as selfish. Instead of applauding the energy and desire of the youth and funneling it into something great, he stands on it and weighs it down dismissing the young man.

Less social theory oriented, #2: It is really unclear at what point narrative and documentary interact here. I’m not sure if I believe anything in this film because of the staged and scripted feeling of the the well composed narrative arc. Of course, the river did rise, people were relocated, living conditions are squalid, I assume the boy did work and lose his real job, the girl did work and grow aboard the ship and that there are legitimate protests hidden behind the paper thin state relocation tours. All these things feel so scripted and assembled and staged that I came away distanced from China and very much feeling like I just enjoyed a deeply moving feature film.

not to be lost in this blathering, one man really brings home the key to this film, (quote: a mangled reconstruction from a beer-addled memory) “the dam is good for the state, not good for the individuals.”

So damnabley awful. Beautiful film though.
4 of 5

Social commentary? From a scientist? Oh yes, enter The Linguists.

Watching this film with my own historical (not field) linguist, I had a dandy of a time essentially seeing a discovery channel program at a filmfeestje. That being said, it was a good discovery channel show.

I do always find the need to invoke the spirit of Truth and, also, powerlessness in the face of an unquestionable nobel enlightenment ritual by the donning the appellation “Scientist,” cute (here we find that need to be a functionary vouchsafed by accredidation bolstered by a freakin’ bewildering array of collegite sweatshirts. You would have thought that a Steve & Barry’s sweat shop vomited on the screen at times.). So here we have two “scientists” doing science’s bidding and attempting to preserve the world as much as possible. (Oh lovers of stasis how these two must make your heart sing! Oh supposed lovers of difference and variation how you must think that you aren’t masking a love for stasis!).

That all pontificated obliquely, I really enjoyed the film. As the blog Mr. Verb (was the name a reference to Mr. Plow?) points out, one needn’t sex up saving languages by running to the far corners of the world; there are perfectly fantastic languages dying within 50 miles of you. For me, the cultural voyeur that I am, most of my enjoyment of the film came from peering into the lives of the very other populations that they visited. Much to my discredit, being a non-linguist, I would have probably not enjoyed a film about preserving a swiss dialect spoken by 9 drunk ‘sconnies in New Glarus.

Back to the central rub I have of those professing to do the bidding of Science, the central virtue of attempted neutrality is galling. There were so many moments in the film that begged for commentary about the political context these languages die within. The film makes passing reference to languages tending to die in areas of colonization, that the collective boarding schools are efficient and that there is a fair amount of shame in used in the process of killing a language. Never is the responsibility for killing a culture directly addressed. When in the radio station the linguists are served up a wonderful opportunity to discuss in an aside on film the active suppression of native languages, our scientists nervously giggle at a young man’s freestyle. When a racist belligerent Mayor rants about the “drunken” Chulym speakers in the same vein as a “dirty injun” rant from the american southwest. Again, no comment (and much to my horror, much laughter in the WFF screening crowd…thats how Dejope and Ho Chunk stay in business.). When we see the Indian-izing of the youth in boarding schools, our fearless scientists actually discuss the merits of the cultural assassins’ education system. When the end result is a thin book or an archive, we should be honest and realize we’ve preserved nothing about the culture but its ashes.

A question at the Q&A following asked one of our Scientists to offer the value of these languages to us. A correct response would have been to point out that language as well as all human culture cannot and should not be totalized and made exchangeable by a reduction of a lived practice to its use-value. But, Awww fuck, this is America! Instead we see the logic of the cultural assassin adopted by his chief agent, the reductive scientist in his response. We were told of languages’ unique ways of packaging data, of the many different bits of knowledge that we (Western Encyclopedic Science) would lose were these languages to die. We were told essentially that unless we processed the languages or cultured the culture in a lab we would miss so much encoded in the taxonomic structures and relations “packaged” in these peoples. Ahh what of the age-old Kantian dictum, “…Man, and in general every rational being, exists as an end in himself, not merely as a means for arbitrary use by this or that will.” I call this the Medicine Man principle of cultural imperialism. Let’s be clear, few who destroy people and their ways of life do it in an emotional and intentional way. Cultural death happens because of the driver is intentionally napping at the wheel of a steamroller. Appropriations of marginalized peoples still function to reduce them to the same you-are-your-use-value crap soup we Americans live in, die under and export violently.

3.5 of 5

So sorry about the political stick i’m holding in this post…I’ll drop it to discuss a film short in the Gitxsan language, Darkness Calls.

In a fantastic native-speaker of both Manga and Gitxsan tribal myth collision, this short amazingly keeps a tradition fresh and meaningful. The above trailer should say everything that needs to be said about this short except that it is done wonderfully and powerfully. The writer brings his own feelings of living at a cultural border into his culture, owning it and tending to it. Fantastic.

4 of 5

Ahh to Europe. No, from Denmark to Prag.

More to follow on Prag when my eyes recover!


Filed under: Film — quietglow @ 5:31 am

In case you missed it S.

BTW, everyone diggin the awesome new admin side?

April 7, 2008

Einar’s ball shaving, a Huber nearly dies and other Friday Night Highlights

Filed under: Film, Music, Scando — Tags: — groenefee @ 7:54 am

Following a very disappointing Thursday (we will speak no more of Dutch film!), Friday redeemed the WFF for us.

die brüder HuberWe began the afternoon ( a wonderful sunny one too) by screening Am Limit, the hyperbolic Docu-Action pic for die brüder Huber. In short, the film followed the bothers for one year (two Yosemite seasons) as they attempted the speed climbing record on El Capitan’s Nose. The focus was on the inter-brother dynamics and as all films of the “extreme” sport genres go, an intro for we uninitiated.

Right, so given that your author, patient reader, is seriously afraid of heights and has only climbed one small face successfully (#2: fierce bout of scissor-leg as soon as I had my first bump to go over…scratch-it…bring the pastrami sandwich and beer!), Am Limit was hard to watch. The filming brought me close enough to the experience that i regularly felt the sever tightening of my goodies while these brothers climbed along cliff edges. I hate that feeling. But oh what views from those vertiginous edges!. I also happen to be a sucker for pretty expanses (yes I like Turner and Friedrich) and Am Limit certainly delivered on the pretty.

What Am Limit also delivered on was the all too common in Surfing, BASE jumping, Climbing, Ultra Marathon films, was a series of checked out, stoned-stupid people reflecting on the ineffable. My god! how tiresome to hear someone with no ability to communicate expound on what can be summed up as “we try and find something meaningful in limits.” You want Limit? Read de Sade, Nietzsche or Bataille. You want the interpersonal dynamics of amazing but selfish MEN (yes no room for a vagina in this film boys!) and amazing views, Am Limit delivers.

3.5 out of 5

We ran to our next theater to settle in for our Icelandic double feature Children and Parents. We always expect a lot from Danish and Icelandic films because they always amaze us. Both films interlock themes and characters into a wonderful mural of hard and loving life in urban Iceland.

Shot in Black and White (all the better to feel the blood!) these films are so evenly balanced that I went from laughing to tearing up to being horrified to laughing (I should note however, that through this whole film festival I’ve been perplexed at the audience’s laughter at extreme violence. Beating one’s spouse seems funny to these crowds, Stalking is funny, but Rape wasn’t…I don’t understand the logic, but hey ought there be a logic of laughter? I simply feel out of touch with the others in the theater.).

These films are dense, though they don’t feel weighty. Like some of the best of Bergman, (not as pretty sadly) they convey a notion that the lives being viewed aren’t being directed or compressed for the film. I rarely get the feeling that I’m looking at both a full person and that they aren’t being shoe-horned into the frame; Bragasson manages this in these films. Einar’s character acts in a loathsome manner, yet he really comes across as sympathetic and real. Gísli Örn Garðarsson’s portrayal of Gardar was nothing short of phenomenal. The weight of having to play a dramatic counterpart to Karítas, a character who carries so much of our natural sympathies, would have drawn more than a few actors into an over-the-top pantomime. Instead both Gardar and Karítas feel measured and real.

The only character that feels marginal and underdeveloped is that of the abusive lover in Parents. He seems to appear at the behest of the plot, not because we should be interested in him.

We cannot leave these films without a discussion of the amazing music that they pack along. As all things, we enjoyed the work on children more than parents. Please check out Pétur Ben, dear reader. Wow good stuff! A bit broad on the genre-hopping, but when he focuses on craft you hear Nick Drake drip through with noises that weren’t available to Drake. Really solid stuff. The sound textures in Börn especially as Marinó rides the bus were spot-on.

Outstanding films!
Börn 5 of 5 (best of the films we saw this weekend)
Foreldrar 4.5 of 5

April 4, 2008


Filed under: Film — Tags: — groenefee @ 8:32 am

Right, so as promised initial write-ups about the WFF offerings will commence!

We watched Ober last night at the Wisconsin Union Theater (a venue far too large for the small film that was shown). I should point out that the projection was horrible: shaky, cropped subtitles and, alternately heads, dim dim dim. The sound was muffled and hard to pick up. Technical shite aside then.

The movie followed the track of what so many films made by people with self-aggrandizing senses of their own importance tend to create: The initial spark and set-up is filmed and written with energy and vigor, but when the joy of establishing characters has run its course and the film is left to rely on writing and craft it finds itself suspended, without structure and substance. Ober did as other films do at this point: it collapsed into a boring mess.

For 30 minutes I was entertained. The lead character, our waiter, was a suitably acted role. His paramour, just cold and distant enough to provide unhealthy interest. The writer (presumably who we are supposed to finally be learning about with this particular trope) was hollow and vacant, but his wife was wonderful in many ways. She was sympathetic and intelligent and (thanks to Thekla Reuten’s wonderfully unique body) very easy to watch.

There the joy ends. As best as I can surmise, we were supposed to either identify with the extreme existential extension of a man living at the caprice of an existent but disinterested and incapable God (who wars with his feminine doublet) or the woes of the impotent author, unable to please himself or the forces surrounding his project.

In either case, Ober fails. We never much develop concern for the hapless waiter who is involved in multiple liaisons and unnecessary death plots. Nor does the struggle for the writer to create matter much when there is so little concern for anything at all (deplorable or laudable) in his character.

The one avenue that Ober could have taken to redeem itself would have been to have the focus of the piece follow its natural path: Hera revealing her brilliance remaking the world after trapping Zeus in the bathroom. The problem seemed to be this: one cannot show the genius of Hera’s writing if one isn’t a fine writer in one’s own right. Warmerdam was not up to the task and the demands issued from Olympus retain the same boring tone under her direction.

If Ober intended us to see a portrait of a failed writer, who fails because of a lack of talent and engagement, by walking us painfully through the process of failing. Fine, success. There is no compelling reason, however, why someone ought devote more energy and thought watching the film than the writer did crafting it.


2 out of 5 on my WFF ballot

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