...or the amazing chronicles of everything that I like and stuff.
I’m writing about Speed Racer, five years after its initial release, because one of my favorite guy-who-writes-about-movies (filmcritHulk) did it too earlier this week (read his piece over at badass digest) and it seemed like a good idea. I haven’t written about movies in a long time so I decided what the hell. Also: not nearly enough has been written about Speed Racer.
I saw Speed Racer opening weekend back in 2008. I was very excited about the movie even though I don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire episode of the cartoons. This was a Wachowski movie and as such it was an event. I’m a huge fan of theirs. They are filmmakers with guts. You can spit all you want on the Matrix sequels (I like them both a lot) but they are very courageous movies that make bold choices. Anyways, that’s another discussion. As soon as the trailers for Speed Racer were released I just lost it. I thought it looked AMAZING. I was sad that people weren’t talking about it more. Look at that shot above. It’s the anti-Matrix. Colourful, vibrant, playful. That shot was in the second trailer. It’s one of a dozen crammed into that minute and a half that promised an experience unlike any other that Summer.
So, opening weekend, I dragged a few friends and my sister to the movie theater. I could hardly contain my anticipation. The lights dimmed and the trailers came and went and soon enough the logos appeared. The logos. Holy shit. What have they done to the logos????!!!! The Warner Bros, Village Roadshow and Silver Pictures logos were all drenched in gloriously psychedelic, kaleidoscopic animation. It was beautiful and ballsy and it made a promise. Right there in the first seconds, literally, or the movie it made you a promise about what was to come. Buckle up.
The first twenty minutes of the movie set up the universe, the rules of this world and the - sometimes tragic - history of the Racer familly. It is perfect storytelling. We travel to and fro in time (sometimes without the camera even cutting), there is action and romance and drama and comedy, all overlapping and supported by Michael Giacchino’s truly fantastic score. In the openning of their movie, the Wachowski threw the gauntlet at every other movie coming in that Summer; Beat that. (btw: no one did).
Here is what happens every Summer (disclaimer: I LOVE Summer tentpoles. I love superhero movies and bigger than life movies. I love awe. Summer movies try to give me awe and whether they succeed or not, I love them for trying). Every Summer I am told “In our movie, you are going to see something you’ve never seen before!” And everytime they are, technically, right. The explosion is bigger than the last time. The superhero jumps higher, punches harder. The hero fight more adversaries. The car chase is longer and more stuff gets destroyed. An entire city is levelled, instead of just a neighborehood.
That’s fine. Cool. Thanks for the effort.
Then here comes Speed Racer. The movie shows me things that not only have I never seen, but things I have never even imagined. Seriously, I can imagine a lot. What the Wachowskis lovingly refer to as Car-Fu, where the cars are literally fighting eachother on the race tracks, is so visceral and imaginative it’s just beyond me. The way they play with light traces (the lines that lights leave behind when you take a picture with long exposure), the innovative cutting techniques they use, the way the lanscapes morph like waves in the background as the cars speed ever forward (see the desert race scene). In terms of filmmaking that movie was next level in 2008 and it’s still next level today.
And it could be just that: dazzling eye candy (I don’t think the term “eye candy” has ever been more on point than when describing the visuals of Speed Racer). But it isn’t.
Speed Racer is devoid of cynicism. It is an optimistic, loving, pure-hearted movie. In the age of Dark Knight gloom and Man Of Steel angst, it is unbelievably refreshing. It’s characters are not multi-dimentional and that’s okay. They are archetypes. They have very defined roles to play in the story and they don’t deviate from those roles. This is not a short-coming, it’s a prowess. It’s something to be admired. Clear simplicity is much harder to achieve than you might think. Deep and multi-arched characters can be great, but you don’t want Han Solo to have an extensial crisis or else the machine breaks down and your Starwars movie stops working. Han Solo is an archetype and that’s why he works so well (just like Luke, Lea, Yoda…)
The entrie movie is a love letter to the importance of the familly unit. And not just blood relatives. Trixie and and Sparky are not related to the Racer familly but they are very much a part of it. The movie asks to what lengths you would go in order to protect your familly, and some of the characters go very far (or fast - zing!) indeed.
In essence: it’s a very beautiful movie. It’s silly, funny, at times a little broad (monkey poo!), has ninjas and vikings and pinguins and wrestling and there is a law-inforcement character named Inspector Detector (that is the best name ever) and yet at the end of the day it manages to be heart-breakingly earnest.
I’ll do you one more: it has the most moving, gorgeous, tear-inducing action set-piece ever put to film. The last half of the balls-to-the-wall final race sequence of the movie never fails to make me tear up. It does everything right. It is stunning. Visually, emotionally, viscerally. It gives me the best gift that a movie can: awe. Lots and lots of awe.
It’s about time people discovered the insanity/joy/magic of the Wachowski’s SPEED RACER. Get to it.
(And next Summer let’s all get together and go see the Wachowski’s next scifi epic: Jupiter Ascending) (WOOOHOOO!)
Did you know?
It is, it’s unbelievable. This Friday sees a celebration of all the great things that cinema can do, so I’m going to briefly guide you through it. Click in the film title to see a trailer.
We have a beautiful little drama in the shape of Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 coming out. This is one I have not seen yet but word from SXSW was extremely positive and I will definitely see it.
We have Edgar Wright’s The world’s end for a good dose of comedy and sci-fi fisticuffs. everybody is raving about this one and, having seen it, I can say it deserves every praise.
We have a fantastic horror movie, too: Adam Wingard’s You’re next. This movie is an absolute blast. No horror fan should miss it.
Finally, how about a kick-ass, beautifully shot kung-fu film from master-filmmaker Wong Kar Wai? The Grandmaster comes out on limited release this Friday as well. I haven’t seen it so I can’t vouch for it, but it looks gorgeous and super bad ass.
August 23rd 2013: The best movie day of the year.
Everything is bad and wrong and terrible and I’m sad all the time. That’s the truth. But sometimes there’s a good movie that comes out and it makes me happy and it opens up in my head and it lets a world in, free to roam inside me, in my thoughts, and I think about it and get lost in it and there’s really nothing quite like it. Still, the world is the worst and people don’t think I’m pretty and also I’m old and always sad. But. But sometimes an artist I like will write a song I like or an album and I’ll fall in love with some melodies and yes it’s love it’s not something else. It’s not appreciation or admiration it’s love. And I’m in love with the song or the songs and it feels good but I’m still sad all the time. Because there’s every reason to be sad it seems. Because everything is terrible and why do I hate myself so much and why am I not doing more things to improve or better myself and everything is grey and cold and bleak and I’m depressed. But then I’m on the internet or flipping through an art magazine and I’ll discover an illustrator or painter or a sculptor, someone who just makes beautiful things or thought provoking things and I’ll be fascinated and awed because talent and cleverness and skill impress me so much and it makes me feel alive just to see what great artists can produce and it makes everything worthwhile doesn’t it. But no this place is the worst and I walk around feeling lonely and wrong about everything and I just want to punish myself for being only me and not something more and not something great, someone special. I’m a guy with hair on his back but not on his head and I can’t get rid of my belly even though I run 10K every two days because I eat like an asshole because eating well depresses me man I am so depressed. But then I get with my friends and they are an amazing bunch and they are flawed like me and they have moments of brilliance and they have moments of failures and they have weaknesses and I find them so powerful because no matter how difficult it gets here they are and I guess here we all are and we’re together and yes it’s tough and sometimes I cry and maybe you do too but you’re here and I’m here and it hasn’t stopped you and we haven’t quit yet and the small moments of illumination make it all worth while don’t they?
This fills me with awe. What a lovely montage…
Theatrical trailer for The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s new film! Too many great gags to count. Pegg seems in fine form!
Here is a fantastic trailer for Edgar Wright’s THE WORLD’S END. Personally I don’t need to see anything else in terms of trailers, just the whole damn thing please.
Not really posting movie stuff (or much else) around these parts anymore, but I thought I should tell you that Stephen Chow’s JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS is available, legally, to buy on bluray over at yesasia, right HERE (you should. Right now.) I just ordered it because it’s ridiculously awesome and super crazy. Special mention for Shu Qi’ slightly insane, super charming, undeniably badass performance. EDIT: Okay I feel a little bad: I can’t mention Shu Qi and not mention Zhang Wen, who carries the entire movie on his shoulders and does a truly admirable job. In a Stephen Chow movie where Stephen Chow is nowhere to be seen, it’s great to see that they picked a male lead who could make you root for him the entire running time. So, yeah, good casting.
There’s a lot of great looking movies that I missed in 2012, here’s a few of them: Miss Bala, Wanderlust, Sound of my voice, God bless America, 5 broken cameras, Your sister’s sister, Savages, Shut up and play the hits, Killer Joe, Klown, Twixt, Lawless, The Master, Dredd 3D, End of watch, The perks of being a wallflower, Seven psychopaths, Smashed, Flight, Silver lining playbook, Anna Karenina, Rise of the guardians, The central park five, Killing them softly, Hyde park on Hudson, Save the date, Zero Dark Thirty, and Not Fade Away. Clicking on any title will bring you to a trailer for the film. I’m not saying all these movies are classics in waiting, but I think they’re all worth a look, with some of them holding a promise of greatness, and others possibly just a really good time. I bring up these movies to make two points; first: my list of favorite movies of 2012 will clearly be incomplete, as it’s probably missing a few of the above titles. Second: contrary to what some people are saying, 2012 was an extraordinary year for cinema, for my money the best in over a decade. Look at the above list, that’s almost thirty movies that are interesting, on top of what has made it to my list below, and any other movies I might have forgotten. So yeah: 2012 will be remembered as important, as relevant. I will not write a big spread on each movie listed below, I wrote reviews for most of them earlier in the year, besides I’m not a particularly insightful writer when it comes to movies. You’ll find much better if you get your google on. But lists are fun, so here goes. By the way, this list is in no order, these are all films I wholeheartedly recommend.
Movies of 2012
The wolf children Rain and Snow (Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki), Mamoru Hosada
A beautiful and moving drama about a single mother raising two children with the ability to turn into wolves.
Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh
Yes, the male stripper movie. It’s actually a really, really good film.
The cabin in the woods, Drew Goddard
The best horror movie in years. A beautiful deconstruction of – and comment on – the genre. Is it scary? Not that much. Is it all about horror? Hell yes.
Beasts of the southern wild, Benh Zeitlin
Some of the best acting of the year can be found in this movie. Harrowing, haunting, beautiful.
The raid (Serbuan maut), Gareth Evans
One of the best action movies I have ever scene. Right up there with Die Hard. This movie will leave you bruised.
The Avengers, Joss Whedon
The most satisfying superhero movie based on existing property ever made. Even the much maligned first act is, in hindsight, pretty great, just not as good as all the awesomery that follows.
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson
The most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson movie ever, this gorgeous coming of age story has as much substance as it does charm, a rare thing indeed.
Looper, Rian Johnson
Visionary science fiction, daring direction, a perfect script and all around great performances make Looper an instant classic.
Holy motors, Léo Carax
A riveting fuck you to tired formulatic cinema, and containing one of the greatest performances by any actor in a film, ever. Hypnotic, insane, moving, funny. Holy Motors is important.
Lincoln, Steven Spielberg
The director’s most intimate and one of his best films to date,Lincolnboasts another of the year’s best performances in the titled character. A movie where every line of dialogue is calculated and feels precious, and a movie that celebrates politics while never falling into over-simplifications.
Cloud Atlas, Larry Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski
Time magazine’s worst movie of the year is possibly my very favorite. Six separate narratives woven together in movements, like a symphony. One of the many successes of Cloud Atlas is that they made it look easy. This movies flows, is never once confusing, and kicks classic narrative devices out the window within the first minutes. An absolute gem, not to be missed.
Skyfall, Sam Mendes
Saying it’s the best James Bond film ever is a disservice to this film, as most James Bond films are really not that great (though most are a lot of fun). Skyfall is one of the best movies this year, never mind the title character.
Life of Pi, Ang Lee
A visually stunning exploration of the meaning of faith.
Argo, Ben Affleck
Gripping period thriller based on real events. Tight directing, perfect pacing and flawless performances.
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Django and Dr Schultz are my favorite screen couple of the year. Their chemistry is insane. Of course Django Unchained has a lot more than that going for it. It’s funny and violent and emotional, one of Tarantino’s best and simply put: most-see cinema.
The Hobbit, Peter Jackson
Forget about the 48fps nonsense and if at all possible, skip the 3D. What you’re left with is a beautiful and really fun fantasy adventure with truly thrilling set pieces. I can’t wait for next Christmas to see where this one goes…
Jiro dreams of sushi, David Gelb
A documentary in which the best sushi chef in the world lets you into his kitchen. What more is there to say?
Safety not guaranteed, Colin Trevorrow
A beautiful little fable about regrets and friendship and lost love and time travel.
Paranorman, Chris Butler and Sam Fell
A lovely horror romp for kids. I had such a great time with this, and the stop motion animation is a marvel…
Jonathan Levine’s adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies looks really really fun! I’m frankly a little worn out by the zombie genre but I will definitely be seeing this one. The cast looks great and it just looks really fun… (Also: Rob Corddry!)
Got the embed from Badass Digest.
Michale Mohan’s SAVE THE DATE looks utterly lovely and is available today at the iTune store and various other On Demand outlets. It’ll be in theaters later this year. I’ll be watching it tonight. Please do things right and don’t download this small independent film illegally, because you’re not a complete douchebag.
The trailer for Wong Kar Wai’s five years in the making kung fu epic The Grandmasters delivers on it’s promise. This looks great!