Friday, September 25, 2009

The Man Who Knew Too Much 9/25

I Love the Chosen One

Merl = One heck of a guy

So after I posted my previous blog about the Arcata shout-out I wrote an email to Merl Reagle saying "Thanks" and all that. This morning, he replied:

dear grant,
yes, this is the right place to write! and since i'm a californian at heart i'm always happy to put california place names into puzzles to offset all those new york references by east coast puzzlemakers. i live in tampa, fla., now (don't ask) but i left my heart in ... well, you know how it goes!
all the best,

Thanks Merl.

Oh and check out this movie! (thanks Christina)

Thursday, September 24, 2009


A little hometown rep from the king of wordplay, Merl Reagle.

If you're still working on this, spoilers in picture # 2.

(I'm a little behind on my x-words, this is from the Sep. 6 SF Chronicle Datebook)



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

9....? Nein!

Shane Acker's first feature, '9', set expectations high. The trailer teased a dark and adult animated world. The cast was laudable and intriguing. And Tim Burton's name was plastered all over it... As you may have realized by now, I'm not a fan of producer credits being displayed so prominently in movie marketing. Not that it's a new practice. But Tim Burton must be the most egregiously over-credited filmmaker in Hollywood. And I'm sick of it. That's a whole other column though.

So does '9' live up to its premise? Unfortunately, no. For one, the voice talent is wasted. The film is light on dialogue, and it comes across as expository rather than illuminating. The actors don't have a chance to establish personalities for their characters and don't stand out, aside from Christopher Plummer as 1. (That was Martin Landau? Whaaa?!)

We're thrust into the story, awakening with the title character, 9, and the film sets out to unravel the mystery behind his creation and the destruction of the world as we know it. As a fan of post apocalyptic sci-fi, I was intrigued by the idea of a new perspective on The Wasteland. Quite literally, as our rag-doll protagonists stand no more than a foot high.

The creativity this promised was another aspect of '9' which fell flat. In this LA Times piece, you get a taste of Acker's vision:

The director... points out that the tiny burlap beings at the center of the action see their ravaged home as a place of infinite possibility. "For them, it's just a world of raw materials and they have a very positive experience," said Acker..."They're very creative and they're making contraptions and things to make a better life for themselves."

But it's a meretricious promise. This creativity was only fun for the production designers. The audience doesn't get to partake in the giant junkyard of a world that '9' is set in, nor do we get to witness any gratifying inventing from the heroes. Not even a 'suiting up' montage!

The animation was mostly great, but I couldn't help notice how flat the textures of the 'burlap' were in close-ups of the protagonists.

Design was largely uninspired- the villains felt patched together from various video games and the heroes fell along the typical group stereotypes: grumpy leader, enthusiastic newby, dopey-grunt-who-turns-out-to-be-okay, nerd, creepy twins, and the raggedy version of Alice from Resident Evil.

Ultimately, '9' felt like a video game. Action scene after action scene, boss fight after boss fight. Let me qualify that statement: I love video games. It's not meant to be an insult as it's often used. It's just that with its minimal storyline and emphasis on action, I wanted to be playing it, not watching it.

'9' avoids the recent trend to expand beyond its comfort zone, and runs a refreshing 80 minutes. It's worth note as a first effort. Keep an eye on Shane Acker. If '9' is a tease of his talent, there are improvements to come.

Also, you can watch the original short. It's 11 minutes and it actually captures more character and ingenuity than the feature. Unfortunately, it's in crappy, crappy, crappy youtube-definition video. When the hell are they gonna get better online video... ok that's another column too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

i dont want no part of your tight ass country club you freak bitch

(i dont want no part of your tight ass country club you freak bitch) is what I typed into the youtube search bar and it pulled up exactly what I wanted: This clip.

I love the Internet. Have you noticed that we capitalize the Internet? As though it were a deity. There's a reason for this. Please help the Internet any way you can.


Friday, September 11, 2009

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Here's the broadcast of my first show- unedited for your flub-listening pleasure. All in all it was pretty smooth and fun... until I realized that the clock in the booth is 10 minutes fast and I had Ten minutes still to go... so yeah. I ad-libbed a little at the end. Enjoy!

Ugh... also the first 5 minutes of music are pretty overmodulated so sorry bout that. It gets better, I promise.

And tune in next Friday (and every Friday) on!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Inglourious Basterds is not a glorious return to form, but it showcases some of Tarantino's talents, and has at least two spectacular scenes.

My biggest complaint about Tarantino is that he's a great dialogue writer. His early films showcase this so well, that he now has freedom to make his entire films long discussions, devoid of character development, story progression, or real meaning.

He avoids the smug referentiality that made Death Proof nearly unwatchable, but Inglourious Basterds still falls prey to some of Tarantino's writing hubris - namely- it's a good hour too long. He's proficient - Keith Phipps of the AV Club put it best: "Tarantino remains a master of creating tension from characters engaging in what only looks like polite conversation..." - but not self censoring enough these days.

I saw Tarantino speak after an advance screening of Kill Bill V.1 many years ago and he talked about the incredible relationship he had with his editor, Sally Menke. But it seems they have traded concise storytelling for long-winded homage.

There are some outright successes to Inglourious Basterds. The final sequence is amazing and succeeds as an alternate history wet dream. Christoph Waltz, an actor I'd never heard of, who has 89 credits on IMDB, is easily the best actor in the film. Brad Pitt's alright. Even Eli Roth was surprisingly palatable.

I'll recommend this film with a few caveats. Make sure you have the time. And bring plenty of wine.