You may have already seen this, as it’s (rightfully) the web’s favourite thing today.
Side note: it’d be cool to run a blog or Twitter feed called “The Web’s Favourite Thing” which posted once daily with the meme du jour. There are a lot of sites which broadcast a lot of popular webby stuff (I saw this video on Geekosystem), but few that curate very conservatively. Devour is one such site.
I was a little bummed to read that Cineplex Entertainment, the country’s largest cinema operator, has purchased Cinemark Tinseltown, the 10-theatre multiplex in the long-suffering International Village mall on the edge of Gastown.
Because of their moderately-edgy programming and light crowds (at least for matinees), they’ve been a favourite theatre of mine for years. Tom Charity (clearly a reviewer in need of his own web presence), quoted in the aforementioned Globe and Mail article, echoes my concerns:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think [TinseltownÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s] booking has been really quite courageous and very diverse. … TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve shown a much wider range of films than you see at the Scotiabank, for example. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been open to showing Canadian films and even subtitled films and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been very open to the community to renting the theatre out to local festivals. And that may or may not change. The proof will be in the pudding. But if we look at what happens at the Scotiabank, that type of thing doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen very much.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Over the years, I’ve seen a number of Canadian and foreign films (as well as a lot of mainstream crud) at Tinseltown. It’s also been home to a number of film festivals, including the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
The theatre has a special place in my heart because it’s the only one where, on two separate occasions, I was the only person in a cinema watching a movie (Boys Don’t Cry on Christmas eve, and a weekday matinee of the Irish film Intermission, in case you were wondering). I also stupidly almost got my man-purse stolen from one of their theatres, so there’s that.
Sadly, I expect that this acquisition will result in the mainstreaming of Tinseltown’s programming. That’d be too bad. I’ll drop Cineplex Entertainment a note asking them to keep the indie vibe in the movies they select.
Ever since Aliens 3–a strange, gothic sci-fi movie–I’ve admired David Fincher’s work. He directed Fight Club, Zodiac, The Panic Room, The Game and others–all visceral, inertial films about dysfunctional relationships among men. His movies are all damp ceilings and dark corners, seedy and stylish.
I was reading some slightly out-dated New Yorker magazines, and discovered this great piece on “The Social Network”. Writer David Denby really loved the film, but I moved enjoyed the section about David Fincher:
Despite the half-craziness of the themes, the early Fincher movies have a visual distinction that makes them galvanic, irresistible. Even Fincher’s patented junk and mess, first seen in “Alien “3 and then in the rubbishy, derelict rooms in “Se7en” and “Fight Club”, has a perversely attractive appeal, a glowing awfulness, as if it were lit from within. He doesn’t hide the disintegrating walls, the sordid beds; we are meant to see the ugly poetry in them. Whatever locations he uses, Fincher brings out their special character.
I see Fincher’s next movie is the American adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. While I’m not a huge fan or rapid Hollywood remakes of European movies, I suspect that Fincher is well-suited to adapting the moody novel.
The other day I saw this neat mapon Reddit. It’s supposed to show movies that best illustrate each of the fifty states.
I got to thinking about how many popular movies have been shot up in Canada. That inspired a map of my own. I tried to select the most culturally important movie for each province. Here’s what I came up with. Click to enlarge:
I tried to view things through the long lens of historical context. Yes, the Twilight movies are more popular than First Blood today. However, I think we’re likelier to have ‘John Rambo’ as a cultural touchstone in 50 years than Edward and Jacob.
Our culture really fetishizes the undead. Whether it’s Twilight, Left 4 Dead or World War Z, we’re really into vampires and zombies (is there no love left for ghouls, ghasts and liches?). There’s a kind of nerdy obsession, for example, with planning detailed zombie survival plans.
I was musing on the subject of zombies this morning, and found myself asking three basic questions. The first is “why do zombies actually attack humans?” Let’s assume for the moment that we’re talking about your traditional shambling undead, not the high-functioning ones in I am Legend or the sprinting, rabid humans in 28 Days Later). What is their instinctive, shambling purpose?
To convert their victims to zombies
To eat their victims’ brains
To eat their victims entirely
To kill their victims
I posed this question on Twitter, and received a variety of informed answers. A few favourites:
If Rosemary’s answer of “brains” is true, then that presents a problem. It’s kind of an anti-Darwinism in action. If a zombie eats a victim’s brain, then the victim does not become a zombie. Because, as many horror movies have taught us, you have to aim for the head to kill a zombie.
And why do zombies actually eat, anyway? Do their digestive systems work, even though their other organs do not? In a conversation on Facebook, somebody suggested that “zombies need live flesh because their own is dead”. That seems like a reasonable theory.
Counting the Converted
This led to the second question, “what percentage of humans gets turned in a zombie attack?” Presumably any human that’s bitten with an intact brain gets reanimated as a zombie. Assuming that most victims’ brains are eaten, then it might be a relatively small fraction of the population. Maybe, 20%?
Then there’s the ghoulish question of partially-eaten victims. As somebody wrote on Facebook (he can claim his quote if he likes, whatever happens on Facebook and so forth):
They may not have much of a body left, they may not be able to walk, stagger, shamble, crawl, etc. but they would still be a zombie. Please don’t discriminate against the living dead on the basis of their ability to move and/or infect others. Zombie heads are zombies too!
As a final data point, somebody sent me this quote from I am Legend:
Six billion people on Earth when the infection hit. KV had a ninety-percent kill rate, that’s five point four billion people dead. Crashed and bled out. Dead. Less than one-percent immunity. That left twelve million healthy people, like you, me, and Ethan. The other five hundred and eighty-eight million turned into your dark seekers, and then they got hungry and they killed and fed on everybody.
In short, the fraction of turned victims remains an open question. Of course, some think I shouldn’t be delving into these mysteries:
In a serious zombie invasion, surely whole cities get entirely stripped of humans. Having no more victims, what do the zombies actually do? Do they randomly wander around? Stand in one place? Gather in a kind of impotent swarm? Rot into nothingness?
If they’re more or less brainless, and do wander randomly, then surely many of them would walk into the ocean, off a bridge and so forth. There’d be a lot of stupid zombie attrition. What do you think happens to victimless zombies?
There’s a lot to like about the movie. Aaron Sorkin is a delightfully gifted writer, and he does an extraordinary job of turning a business story into gripping drama. The film opens with this deceptively-simple scene–director David Fincher frames it very formally–in which Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara, next year’s Lisbeth Salander). On another level, it’s a scene about talking, and a scene about words. Zuckerberg and Rooney constantly prod (or poke, even?) at each other by talking about how the other person talks, and the words they choose. It’s as if Sorkin is saying “this is going to be a talky film, so get settled in”. The scene apparently required 99 takes to shoot.
Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a kind of soulless schizoid , and he’s exceptional. He does understated work. So he’ll probably get overlooked for an Oscar, but he deserves consideration. It’s always harder, I think, to do less on-screen. This is why Meryl Streep, Claire Danes and Clint Eastwood are such fine actors, and why Gwyneth Paltrow is not. Eisenberg has been great in everything I’ve ever seen him in, and now should be able to write his own ticket in terms of his choice of roles.
Conversely, I didn’t much care for Andrew Garfield’s performance as Eduardo Saverin, the moral centre of the movie. Perhaps he was overshadowed by Eisenberg’s performance, but he felt miscast.
I’m a fan of David Fincher’s movies, and he did deft work in managing The Social Network’s fractured time line and multiple lawsuits. The movie did feel over-directed in places–there’s a tilt-shifted rowing sequence which feels dreadfully out of place–as if Fincher was concerned that the talky scenes couldn’t stand on their own.
Ultimately, The Social Network was an exceptional piece of movie craftsmanship, but I’m not quite sure why it’s getting such accolades. It isn’t, as some reviews suggest, the Citizen Kane for our time. In fact, a bit like Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg, it’s a bit hollow at its core. Fincher and Sorkin are brainy artists, and while The Social Network is incredibly smart, it felt a little cold, calculated and disaffected.
Could that title sound less enticing? A quick rundown of stuff I’ve seen, read, heard or otherwise ingested.
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter – I’m not an avid reader of high-brow game criticism, but Tom Bissell’s book is a thoughtful exploration of the philosophy, art and design of video games. It’s also one intellectual’s struggle to reconcile his love of the form with its many, er, infantile aspects. It’s full of insights, and if you live with a non-gamer, I’d offer it to them to explain your hobby.
Rework – A manifesto-style business book from the smart guys at 37Signals. It’s long on illustrations and pat advice, and short on evidence and style. I was familiar with the books’ lessons-stay small, eschew meetings, planning is guessing and so forth–because at Capulet we’ve reached the same conclusions. Others might realize more value from the book, but I was underwhelmed.
The Passage – A nearly-800 page dystopian vampire/zombie tale of adventure set in the future by Justin Cronin. I’d compare this book to early Stephen King–readable, entertaining, schlocky in places and some really terrible metaphors. There are some terrific set pieces in the book, which Ridley Scott may bring to life, as he owns the film rights.
The American – Don’t be deceived by the trailer. This is an austere movie, unencumbered by Hollywood pacing and utterly uncharmed by the Italian countryside where it’s set. In its plotting and slowness, it feels very like a movie from another era. But, thanks to George Clooney’s glowering presence, I really enjoyed it. When I left the busy cinema, however, I mostly heard complaints about the movie’s sedate pace.
A Life in the Theatre – I caught a preview of this Fringe-style production at the Vancouver Playhouse. It’s set in this charmingly weird room with a blue, peaked ceiling in the basement of the theatre. Which is appropriate, actually, as it’s David Mamet’s treatise on acting and the life of the actor. It’s essentially art about art, which never excites me, but if you have a love of the stage, then you could do worse than this show. Hurry, though, as it closes this Sunday.
Fan-boy quavering, activate! I’m a fan of Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series–seven huge books that are his Lord of the Rings. They’re sprawling, bizarre, sometimes terrific and sometimes awful, but totally absorbing.
I was excited to read that serious plans are afoot to produce three movies and a concurrent TV series based on King’s magnum opus. Ron Howard has committed to direct the first film, and Akiva Goldsman has signed on as writer and producer.
They’re probably not my first choice, but they’re both big Hollywood names with a good pedigree, do the series could do much worse. A lot of Stephen King adaptations suffer, I think, from a lack of creativity and budget.
The way they plan to produce the series is a reflection of how close the production and craftsmanship values of television have gotten to those of film:
The plan is to start with the feature film, and then create a bridge to the second feature with a season of TV episodes. That means the feature castÃ¢â‚¬â€and the big star whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll play DeschainÃ¢â‚¬â€also has to appear in the TV series before returning to the second film. After that sequel is done, the TV series picks up again, this time focusing on Deschain as a young gunslinger. Those storylines will be informed by a prequel comic book series that King was heavily involved in plotting. The third film would pick up the mature Deshain as he completes his journey. They will benefit from being able to use the same sets cast and crew for the movie and TV, which could help contain costs on what will be a financially ambitious undertaking.
Who will play the main characters? For those who have read the books, my all-star cast would feature Viggo Mortensen as Roland Deschain and Thandie Newton as Susanna. I don’t know about Eddie. Anyone?