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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (2/20/06) 10:54am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  Jaws, Saved!
Books:  With a Little Help from My Friends:  The Recording of Sgt. Pepper's, The Last Man

I saw Jaws for the first time this week. 

Imagine if Jaws were made today.  Gah.  There'd be a romantic subplot shoehorned in.  There'd be a teen-beach-party musical number, so that Jah Rule could introduce his new single "Shark Booty Attack."  They'd spend a bazillion dollars on a cheesy CGI shark, and waste lots of screentime on needlessly-complicated, director-wank shots in, around, and through the shark.  (Presumably to ensure higher toy sales.) 

It would be effective as a multi-front marketing campaign, but unforgiveable as a movie.

I'm pleasantly surprised at how the script does all the old-school things right:  all the scenes have a point, and that point is to drive the basic story forward.  And Spielberg has an amazing sense of film grammar -- every shot gives you as much information as you need.  (When people try to imitate Spielberg, they never seem to catch that.)

By comparison, most screenplays these days are mush.  You'll watch a movie and realize that the screenplay doesn't really know what it's about, the plot is meandering and dilatory, the characters say things that don't need to be said, and the director's fancy techniques exude style even as they undermine the narrative.  ahemStarWarsahem.

Why, yes, I *do* enjoy being a grumpy old man!

Watching this was interesting -- or at least, it was interesting *after* Mandy Moore's execrable cover of "God Only Knows" ceased and I finally stopped twitching.[1]

It was interesting to me, because I grew up on the periphery of this sort of Christianity-with-an-event-horizon community, while I myself am almost relentlessly secular.  It wouldn't surprise me if this dissonance has shaped me more than I've realized -- or at least it explains some of my reticence, or my occasional shrugging indifference to other people's cherished beliefs.

The film itself comes across as a nice, solid, three-star movie.  Not terribly novel nor amazingly funny, but competently done and with moments of genuine charm.  I was surprised to see Macauley Culkin put in a halfway-likeable performance.[2]  And there were some very good soundtrack choices from Travis and the Replacements.[3]

LOST -- Season 1, Disc 6:
[the mildest of spoilers]
Good.  They did several things that made me happy.  The subtle changeup to the show structure in the two-part final episode was exactly what I was hoping for at that point, and the last flashback scene was just note perfect.  I love it when the end of something -- especially something as large-scale as a TV season -- fits like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  And what makes me happiest is that I can't say exactly *why* it feels right; I just know it does.

I also want to point out that, even though I've been nitpicking this show nonstop, obviously I've enjoyed it enough to watch it all the way through.  I can't think of other shows that have done this scale of narrative storytelling this well.  The X-Files tried it, but not nearly as assiduously, and their large arcs kind of turned to mush.

(... of course, I hear that that's what happens in season 2, more or less....)

LOST -- Season 1, Disc 7 (the extras)
I was intrigued to learn that they were in such a hurry to cast the piece that they had kind of an 'open casting' thing.  For most of the roles, they mainly found actors they liked and either created roles for them (Hurley, Sayid) or significantly rewrote existing roles for them (Charlie, Sawyer).  That's a good thing.  You usually don't get a character like Hurley by sitting around in the writers' room.  (Or G. O. B. on Arrested Development, which was radically changed for Will Arnett.  Or almost every character on Freaks and Geeks, which had similarly open casting.)

I also confirmed that the season's riveting opening scene was done with almost no CGI.  The bought a freakin' plane, they busted it up into pieces, and they put it on the freakin' beach.  Mainly, I'm glad that TV producers realize that CGI isn't quite there yet when it comes to making things look real, weighty, and like they're a physical part of the scene.  If that plane had been a bunch of weightless and detail-free CGI voxels, the sequence could have been cheesy as hell.

Also, many of the bonus materials are very very funny.  The Easter Egg variant of the deleted scene "The Climb" is especially worth watching.  But my favorite joke is from the Paley Festival's audience Q & A with the cast and showrunners:

"So, when all of *you* got on the plane here to LA... uh, how'd the other passengers react?"


With a Little Help from My Friends:  The Recording of Sgt. Pepper's by George Martin
Eh, a little anecdotal and desultory, and a little hagiographic (Mark Lewisohn's Revolution in the Head was much more levelheaded), but I'm a complete sucker for reading about how this album was put together.  I liked it for its little details, and for getting a sense of George Martin's warm, avuncular writing voice.

The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn
This is what the kids call "high-concept":  a nasty super-virus kills every male mammal in the world except for one guy and his pet monkey.  This sounds like the setup for lots of wearisome and sexist humor, but the story actually turns out pretty interesting.  On the one hand, one might wish his treatment of feminism were a little more sophisticated, but on the other, I don't see many mainstream comics that find such a clever way into addressing such thorny questions of gender.

... and the alphabetic music listening continues.  The Pernice Brothers are amazing.  (Up to this point, I'd only known Joe Pernice as 'the guy who wrote the 33 1/3 book about Meat is Murder.)

[1] "All of these albums are yours.  Except Pet Sounds.  Attempt no covers here."

[2] When I watched My Girl, I was one of several people chanting "Die, Mac, die!" throughout the first half of the film.

[3] When watching the credits, I noticed that Ray Davies co-wrote Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It".  Wha-huh?

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: Pernice Brothers - Shaken Baby
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[User Picture]
Date:Monday (2/20/06) 11:13am
Re: Jaws. So, I guess you didn't hear. (Look at interview question 8.)

I'll need to watch the seventh disc of LOST now.
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[User Picture]
Date:Monday (2/20/06) 11:16am
But Indiana Jones VI! That will be good! Please?
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[User Picture]
Date:Monday (2/20/06) 2:03pm
When watching the credits, I noticed that Ray Davies co-wrote Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It". Wha-huh?

"Push It" takes lyrics and a musical hook from the Kink's "Girl", hence the credit to Davies.

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