Thursday, August 14, 2008

"First we find her. Then, we sleep."

I was planning on seeing Tropic Thunder on its opening night. Didn’t happen. Ended up watching a 2006 film called “Renaissance.” Now, some context may be necessary. I’d heard about the movie back when it came out in limited release, and thought: “sounds cool, I should check it out” before it dropped under my radar. Fast forward to last year when I was looking for Christmas gifts for cinema-loving buddies at Target. On the shelf was Renaissance. Long, boring story short, I was at one of said buddies’ houses and we decided to crack that baby open and throw it in.

It’s a French film (dubbed into English quite well by noted actors like Daniel Craig and Ian Holm) and set in Paris in the year 2054 (sadly no flying cars and ray guns but there is a really cool Citroen). But that’s just the stage for the movie.

This movie is a hard-boiled detective Noir film about a cop trying to solve a kidnapping. In the future. That’s what it is, and my God does it work. The first thing you’ll notice about the film is that its in glorious Black & White. There are no grays. Its black and white. That’s the first thing. The second thing you notice is that its completely animated. Sure, all the movements are done in motion capture, but its 100% CG. This is not a bad thing. The stark and stylized nature of the film completely draws you in, covering up the computer generated nature of it. There’s only a few moments where the graphics seem off; hair doesn’t move quite right, the eyes look a little out of place occasionally. Those are entirely minor quibbles that don’t break the spell of the movie. It is a technical achievement.

Storywise, its Noir through and through. Captain Karas, the hero, is a badass cop with a dark past. There’s the usual seedy characters, the seemingly clean characters who are just as seedy, and the beautiful woman who gets involved with the hero. I don’t want to tell you much about it since the whole point of Noir is the twists that go along the way. Suffice it to say, if you know anything about characters like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, then you know that these stories always get messy.

I suppose the comparison to Sin City is in order. Yes, they’re both black & white. Yes they’re both soaked in a seedy underbelly. I’d venture to say that Sin City is more like a bullet and LSD soaked version of Dick Tracy. Everyone there’s a caricature, everything is over the top. It feels, despite using real actors in makeup, completely cartoony. Renaissance doesn’t let the bullets fly like snowflakes in a blizzard. Its got action and car chases, but at its root, it’s a thriller with small doses of philosophy thrown in. Its less cartoony despite being completely animated. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Sin City a lot, but it’s a big happy fun-time mindless action movie most of the time while Renaissance is just better movie with visuals and plot dancing merrily hand-in-hand down the gritty sewers of Paris. Ultimately I suppose it comes down to understanding the difference between a Bruce Willis movie (which Sin City is. I mean, he’s in it) and a Steve McQueen movie. Both action stars, but there’s a huge difference.

Penultimately, I think Renaissance shouldn’t be compared to Sin City. It seems to fit somewhere in between Blade Runner and the Ghost In The Shell series while resurrecting the spirit of old pulp cinema. That’s not a bad place to be. Ultimately, you should be there too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monsters are not there to scare us, but to remind us that they can be slain.

I may be paraphrasing largely neglected English Modernist author G.K. Chesterton, but the sentiment applies.

One of the few negatives of the house where I live is the fact that there is a large house centipede population that likes to make itself known on occasion. When they do, they require termination.

Tonight, after finishing watching “Spaced” on DVD (available now and recommended for those that liked “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” as well as for those people with at least half a brain), I retired to my room and found the largest centipede I’ve seen yet in the corner of my room, above my computer desk (a modest card table in lamentable disarray). I switched on the air conditioner and regarded the intruder with the same disgust that Dutch did when he finally saw the Predator.

Two Inch Centipede Small

Conferring with my roommate, we concluded the beastie was easily over two inches long, not counting the spindly alien-legs that gave it its unnatural mobility. In the unseen Darwinian wilderness of the house, this creature had risen to Alpha Predator-like status, and did not move away when the light came on. It had no reason to be afraid of anything.

It had to be dealt with. Its position could not go unchallenged.

But first I had to go to the loo. Grabbing a copy of W.B. Yeats’ poetry, I flew to the bathroom to, ahem, “publish my manuscript.” One flush later, I had a plan.

Downstairs to the kitchen to grab the large flyswatter. While there, I took a slug of Plymouth Gin (because any other gin is revolting). Armed with alcohol and an instrument of violence, I spied one of the Alpha’s smaller bretheren sitting on the moulding of the stairway. I took a practice swing with my left hand, but only succeeded in winging it before it found refuge in the shadows.

Back upstairs, the plan evolved. The Alpha was still in the corner, as if taunting me haughtily. It had the advantage of terrain. Being in the corner meant I had to climb onto my wheeled, swivel chair to get a decent shot at it, a largely unbalanced position. I would be fighting an uphill battle and I knew it.

A long sleeved shirt was added for fear that if I missed, it might end up on me. A full-face Halloween mask was added to that, like an executioner’s hood in case it got on my face. Thus armed, I took up my position and readied my strike. A deep breath. An unspoken prayer for swift victory. A swing.

Of course I missed and the monster dropped to the ground. I retreated off of the chair to get both feet on the ground. Thick shoes with 159 lbs of human above them could be brought into play now too.

The monster was in the lower corner behind the desk. Shoes wouldn’t reach. Another strike with the flyswatter, winging it. It began scuttling toward my bed. Two more missed strikes and it was under the bed. Iesu, it was fast, but I had injured the Alpha.

It won the first round.

Regrouping with the resolve that if this monster did not die immediately, it could wreak its bloody revenge while I slept, I pulled out the bed.

I found it, lying against the moulding. I lined up my strike, now sans mask to ensure accuracy, and struck.

I blinked in disbelief. The damn thing vanished. A closer look revealed some fluid against the wall and what appeared to be some legs mixed in with the dust bunnies. My aim had been true. The monster seemed to have exploded with a central hit. Expected more of a mess.

There should have been more of a mess. I moved the head of the bed to see if it ran behind it. Nothing. I looked under the head of the bed. Again nothing. I reexamined the floor. The fluid was still there.

Still, “no body, no death,” as they say. There’s a remote chance that the beast escaped death by my hands. A chance that it was still in the room somewhere, under the bed. A chance that it was watching me type this very sentence with its soulless, multifaceted eyes.