Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nightcap 12/8/13 My take on Spike Lee's Oldboy and a zombie conversation

A blurry taped Josh Brolin and paper hammer intro the Oldboy panel at New York Comic Con

We're all over the board tonight---

I had Jury Duty Monday. When I was done I decided to skip over to the nearby cinema (well not so near by) and see Spike Lee's version of OLDBOY before it sinks totally from view. I say this because it was trending toward oblivion during it's first couple of days of release-and because it had really bad word of mouth.

For those who don't know, the plot has to do with a man who is locked away for 20 years in a "hotel" room who then is released and tries to track down who did it and why. The sting is in the tail and in the Korean film it was a sting in the heart. The new film references the earlier one frequently but never the manga upon which it's based which is bizarre.

The current film runs about 100 minutes, cut down from an original cut of 3 hours. Josh Brolin is unhappy about the cuts which can be seen all over the place in a story line that doesn't flow but lurches from place to place. My feeling is that had the film run 3 hours it would have been a respectable film instead of a mess. I'm told that the studio demanded cuts, which is odd since they knew what they were getting- I mean all they had to do was watch the original- and realize that you can't change things too much and still have Oldboy.

The laundry list of problems with the film begins with anachronisms wrong year cars, of the amount street vendors would be selling stuff for 20 years ago, and other background details. It continues on to the complete lack of characters other than Brolin (who comes off as such a huge dick that he makes it impossible to like him- and sinks the film at the get go) . No one has any sort of personality or character. Worse no one has any chemistry with each other which makes the Josh Brolin/Elizabeth Olsen relationship unbelievable. The violence is scattershot with the hammer attack being too cartoony and had the audience I saw this with laughing (even the old lady who was shrieking at some of the torture of Samuel L Jackson was laughing).  Worst of all is the tone of the film which vacillates between black humor and seriousness. Am I suppose to be laughing with the film or not? Mostly I was laughing at it.

I'm not going to say how it stands in Spike Lee's list of films. I want to see his preferred cut before I do that.

I will say that I'm guessing that the longer version would have been acceptable and could have survived on it's own and allowed us to accept the changes from the original.

As it stands now its a mess, not recommended except if you can see it for free.

Hopefully a directors cut will surface.

I recently started reading the Robert Kirkman Walking Dead comic. This prompted another round of discussion with my brother about zombies, mass media and why people love them. I like zombie films but the recent spate of them have left me bewildered.

Much of our discussions of late have to do with the science of zombies and the sociology of the apocalypse which no one seems to get  right (its another world's rules not this one.)

For no real reason I'm going to repost part of an email conversation I had with my brother a couple weeks back on Zombies:

Walking Dead was pretty good last night.

I have to try the comic and the TV show (again)- I have the omnibus’s which make up the first 96 issues…

The show is not bad. Could be great. Missing something.

There was a huge article in Rolling Stone on the show. Apparently the comic and hence the show, was designed to be a never ending zombie film because Kirkman never wanted the zombie movies to end. 

My problem with zombies right now is that the biology of them in films and current popular culture makes no sense. Somewhere the move away from the Romero – we don’t know whats happening or why – to supposed scientific explanations strains credibility. I have yet to see a cause that makes sense. The closest to sense is the 28 Days films since in reality that not zombies but a disease. If you are dead then the cells will decay- no one deals with that logically- except Romero. Probably the two best films from a logic and reasoned sense are the original Night(of the Living Dead) and Dawn (of the Dead) Outside of those the films things don’t make sense. Also the breakdown of society and the levels of infection ect don’t seem right- but too fantastical. The problem is things start in the middle of a plague not at the beginning.

In the Zombie Apocalypse books the closet they could figure was that it was a disease that killed the host and reanimated it because the disease needed protein to survive. It made some kind of sense. But also the books involve Vampires that took advantage of the disease to use the zombies. In Walking Dead everyone has the disease, that's why any one would reanimate when they died. How did everyone get the disease, how is there 100% infection? At least the remake of Dawn of the Dead alludes to disease and only if you are infected do you reanimate. Why does there have to be a reason? At least the Venus Probe radiation would explain why all dead reanimate but I never figured how it would explain the disease they carry. I still like the no reason, it just happened.

It would work in a world with vampires-then I wouldn’t blink, but in a scientific world it makes little sense. I agree with the 100% infection question. The real question is that the dead- as explained have no circulatory system so how does the nutrients- which in theory would keep the body from decaying going? I could accept spasmodic action of a reanimated corpse which would mean the cells are just firing off. And why don’t they decay- think about it- they should decay and putrefy- they should freeze in rigor giving time to kill. But they should eventually just decay away. Now I could accept muscle memory to allow movement- but any sort of rationed or reasoned thought would be out- you would also have a problem with tissue break down since if they are dead cells are not being replaced additionally the various secretions which help the body move are not being produced. I’m not saying zombies don’t work and aren’t scary- but efforts to make them scientific collapse.

(For the record- I'm not a fan of the Walking Dead comic which I find more soap opera than scary. It also has some weird internal twists that don't seem right to me- but that's my own problem.)


This week we'll be continuing with our month of Criterion. I also will have some reviews sprinkled in  of  a couple of film of new films coming out this week. I'm also seeing AMERICAN HUSTLE tomorrow at a taping of a critics discussion that will be running in some theaters Tuesday as part of a preview screening of the film.


I've started work on my year end lists. As in years past there will be four and they will not be like anyone else's lists. Look for them in the days before New Years with my best of the year list appearing on the 1st

And now some links ala Randi:

The Museum of Art and Design in NYC will be screening  the films of Godffrey Reggio in January.

5 Years of GKIDS releases are being Celebrated at the IFC Center in New York with a killer line up including Ernest and Celestine and Nocturna. Tickets here

The original cut of Dark Crystal (thank you Hubert)

Christopher Tucker on creating John Hurt's Elephant Man make-up

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