It becomes less random as the series goes on and sketches start calling back to each other or continuing from previous episodes. It is pretty random tho, also one of the most imaginative series I’ve ever seen. Seems like a high-budget Adult Swim thing, with sketches and animation and music and interviews – can’t believe it’s on HBO, or that creator Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty) landed a big-budget live-action cartoon on the heels of this.

Very many participants, including actress Dominique Fishback, the Ghanaian director of Afronauts, and Solange Knowles.

“People have become slaves to probability.”

Been waiting for this to come out in HD so I could watch it again, and didn’t have to wait long at all – because we live in the glorious future. Cool looking movie and Eddie, in his eighth film as Lemmy Caution, is a convincingly noir hero. But it’s got a strangely somnambulist atmosphere, and sometimes it feels like I’ve been given prank subtitles.

“The meaning of words and of expressions is no longer understood.”

Lemmy is visiting Alphaville from the outer countries, guided by the lovely Anna Karina, daughter of some important professor. I think Lemmy asks some questions, tells some lies, shoots some guys, then confounds the computer controlling the city (voiced by a mechanical voice-box) using poetry.

“No one has lived in the past and no one will live in the future … The present is terrifying because it is irreversible.”

Soundtrack features big dramatic music, shrill morse-code tones and a croaky Central Scrutinizer voice, each annoying in its own way. Welles regular Akim Tamiroff plays a short-lived ally, Howard Vernon (Dracula and Dr. Orloff in France and Spain) plays the professor, and Christa Lang (not yet married to Sam Fuller) plays a “seductress third-class”.

Lang and Tamiroff:

Vernon:

K. Phipps:

The supercomputers of the early and mid-1970s inevitably shared DNA with HAL, the murderous companion computer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose influence can be felt throughout the decade (and beyond). But HAL had his antecedents, too, and in many respects he and his brethren share much in common with an unlikely source: Alpha 60 of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 film Alphaville … To create the technocratic totalitarian state of Alphaville, Godard looked no further than the newest additions to Paris: buildings made of steel and glass controlled by pushbuttons and glowing under fluorescent lights. As Jacques Tati would a couple years later with Play Time, Godard considered the price of this progress and wondered where humanity could live in it, and what kind of life people might lead there.

Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz, not Michael Fassbender – I think of each as “the guy from Inglorious Basterds,” so get them confused) is a socially inept worker bee who doesn’t hate his video-game-reminiscent job, just hates having to come into work, so he gets permission to work from home on a special project from management (Matt Damon): proving “the zero theorem”. He’s aided/annoyed by Waltz’s direct supervisor David Thewlis, party-girl-for-hire Melanie Thierry (The Princess of Montpensier) and whiz-kid Bob (Lucas Hedges), who calls everyone else Bob so he doesn’t have to remember names. As Leth’s video therapist: Tilda Swinton – between this, Trainwreck, Snowpiercer and Moonrise Kingdom, she has really gotten into comedy lately.

Kinda about a search for the meaning of life (or a disproof of its meaning), with sort of a Dark City ending. Shot on the cheap in Romania.

Thierry at Leth’s glorious, delapidated-church home:

Sadly (so sadly) Mike D’Angelo might have put it best: “Like a relic from an alternate universe in which Brazil was made by an idiot.” Written by a creative writing teacher from Florida, it’s got its moments, but the story and characters and entire movie seem to add up to nothing (maybe the film proves its own theorem).

Leth and Bob at the park:

So, in the straightforward ending, pre-crime dept. head Max Von Sydow murdered precog Samantha Morton’s inconvenient mother and good cop Colin Farrell, while Cruise’s ex-wife springs him from The Attic to bring justice and a happy ending. But an article Katy found says the ending is too idyllic and perhaps Cruise never awoke from The Attic, but actually dreams the last half hour Brazil-style. I love that the movie works either way.

Highlights: creepy doctor Peter Stormare and the following scene with retina-scanning spiders invading his apartment complex, Cruise escaping via auto assembly line, Morton’s freaked-out performance, the still-exciting technology and how most of it is becoming real. Katy is hung up on the mismatched architecture/design styles of all the interiors.

“I know what people taste like. I know that babies taste best.”

My hopes were too high for Bong’s English-language debut – I found it talky and clunky and obvious. Good ending, though. Revolution within class-stratified humanity-protecting perpetual-motion train is led by Steve “Captain America” Rogers. He’s backed by wise old train architect John Hurt, loyal-to-the-death Jamie Bell, pissed-off mom Octavia Spencer and tech whiz Kang-ho Song. After dealing with company mouthpiece Tilda Swinton through various levels, final confrontation with engineer Ed Harris, who claims to have planned the revolution and wants the Captain to replace him at head of the train. Meanwhile it’s rumored that the frozen Earth has been warming, and might sustain human life again, which will be tested after Song’s daughter Ah-sung Ko (the monster-abducted girl of The Host) is the only one of these people who survives a train crash.

Things: the workers in back are fed “protein blocks” which turn out to be gelatinized cockroach. The two Koreans are addicted to a drug called chrono which doubles as an explosive. Harris claims John Hurt was secretly working with him (for the good of the train/humanity, of course). A cool bit near the end looks like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

M. Sicinski:

Snowpiercer’s mental motor, its driving intelligence, is its obviousness, which allows the film to be misperceived as something silly. .. Bong, however, seems to understand something many others don’t, both about broad entertainment and the state of successful political action. Big action demands broad strokes; nuances emerge later. In fact, this is to a large degree the political subtext of Snowpiercer itself. .. it doesn’t matter who’s running the train. Bong is not telling us anything we don’t already know, but Snowpiercer’s power is precisely in its capacity to boldly visualize this shared awareness: the futility of liberal revolt, the buffoonery of our betters, the hidden human kindling that is always the tiger in our tank. .. Bong shows us that there’s only one track, and so you can’t flip the switch. You can only light the fuse, and embrace the inevitable destruction as the last picture show.

I think if Cloud Atlas took itself and its themes and lessons super-seriously it could have been tragically awful. The nursing home segment, genre thrills and obviously silly makeup help keep things on the amusing side. Another way to make the movie awful would be to present it as an anthology, separating the stories and letting each play through, since the main interesting thing about the film is its cross-cutting and the tentative connections between segments, previous events echoing into later ones, sometimes misinterpreted.

Clown Atlas:

Movie is full of “oh who is that guy, I’ve seen him before” moments, but mostly it’s because the same actor played a different role in the previous scene. I kept getting Ben Whishaw (of Bright Star and I’m Not There, playing the young composer/amanuensis) mixed up with Jim Sturgess, and wrongly imagined one or both of them might be Benedict Cumberbatch.

Pacific Islands, 1849: Mad doctor Tom Hanks poisons Jim Sturgess for his money aboard a slave ship.

Cambridge, 1936: Two guys in love – Ben Whishaw goes to work for composer Jim Broadbent (the second movie I’ve seen with an amanuensis after Delius – suppose it’s a cinematic way of showing the artistic creation process) and later kills himself.

San Francisco, 1973: Halle Berry is a reporter onto a murderous secret over some nuclear files provided by the guy from 1936 who didn’t kill himself (a Ralph Fiennes-looking James D’Arcy).

London, 2012: Gangsta author Hanks kills a literary critic, story follows his agent Jim Broadbent to a prison-like old folks home (governed by evil nurse Hugo Weaving) from which he plots to escape.

Neo Seoul, 2144: Doona Bae is a “fabricant”, a robot slave, freed in mind and body by militant freedom fighter Jim Sturgess – very Matrix-meets-V-for-Vendetta.

Big Isle, 106 Winters After The Fall: Hanks is tribal type haunted by an evil clown, rescues space-travelin’ Berry from cannibal warriors led by Hugh Grant.

Susan Sarandon also appears, and Wachowski favorite Hugo Weaving is everywhere. I never recognized Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) as the poisoned lawyer on the ship and lead revolutionary of Neo Seoul, Doona Bae (sister/archer in The Host) as the escaped fabricant, nor Keith David (The Thing, They Live) as the cop who helps reporter Berry in the 70’s. Also lost track of what the comet birthmark shared by some characters signified.

“There’s nothing in the world that can’t be quantified.”

Hyped as a mindblowing modern Russian sci-fi story, but I found it overall disappointing – sleek and mildly weird, but not terribly interesting.

Boring mega-rich Viktor and youth-obsessed wife Zoya (Justine Waddell, lead nurse in The Fall) team up with her brother, totally awful TV announcer Mitya (or Dmitri?), and a jockey for some reason, flying to a tiny town around an abandoned science experiment in the middle of nowhere, where Dmitri falls for fellow tourist Anna. The five spend the night inside a giant cosmic-ray accumulator, and supposedly now they will never age.

“In nature there are no ethically neutral substances.” Viktor is obsessed with these blue-glowy glasses that can detect the amount of good and evil in anything. His wife Zoya runs off and has an affair with the jockey, who has killed some guys at work and needs to escape. Dmitri/Mitya starts making an on-air mockery of his job. A girl named Taya has come back with them from the Target, is going to meet her boyfriend in front of the ballet. Their affair had become too intense so they agreed to separate for 30 years. Same thing is happening to Dmitri and Anna, so they make the same agreement.

Dmitri and Anna:

Zoya and youth-mask:

At the end, Viktor is killed, then Zoya commits suicide as the jockey leaves town in hiding. It’s a pretty tightly paced movie for being three hours long, but the eternal youth aspect, the good/evil thing and the relationship weirdness never come together, so I didn’t see its point. I don’t mean to be obvious and compare every Russian movie to Tarkovsky, but you’ve got a movie about a few travelers who visit a mysterious, underpopulated area and are exposed to radiation that changes their physiology and behavior, which sounds like Stalker meets Solaris – just much less subtle and mysterious.

This seems like a good idea. Mr. Oizo (seriously, the guy with the sock puppet music video from like 1997) writes and directs a movie about two maladjusted nitwits in a wacky future, casting a comedy duo who have been in at least three movies together. A good idea, but an especially underwhelming movie. I mean, I’ve seen some underwhelming movies lately, like The GoodTimesKid, but at least that one featured the wacky kitchen dance scene as something memorable to hold onto. I watched Steak last night and it’s already starting to fade. And the trouble is I don’t think that was intentional, to make a lightweight wispy mumblecore film. It’s mostly set seven years in the future, but even its futuristic society details seem stolen from other movies. For instance, plastic surgery has run rampant (Brazil) and schoolkids form exclusive, violent clubs and drink only milk (A Clockwork Orange).

It’s not totally clear how much has changed in the future, since we mainly see one town’s high school, and still more specifically, a five-man gang called Chivers (urban dictionary: “group of people dedicated to alleviating the stress of an otherwise hectic day with daily afternoon randomness”). When Blaise gets out of psychiatric hospital for shooting up some bullies (a crime actually committed by his friend George), George wants nothing to do with him, finally beginning to fit in with the super-cool Chivers. Blaise adjusts to the new social life faster than his now-ex-friend and gets himself into Chivers just as George is kicked out for smoking (a no-no in the future). Then they kill a fellow gang member by sorta-accident and run off together. The whole thing is played for absurd comedy – few laughs, just a low-key sense of weirdness. Pleasant Oizo music runs throughout, naturally. Only technical detail I noticed was the camera’s very shallow depth of field – always some part of the shot that isn’t in focus. A nice enough waste of time, but doesn’t get me too anxious to see Oizo’s new killer-tire movie Rubber.

An entry for…

Initiated by Shadowplay

A true “late film,” Cold Lazarus was the final script completed by Dennis Potter just weeks before his (and his wife’s!) death from cancer. He wrote it after his diagnosis as a companion piece to Karaoke, which he didn’t feel should stand alone as his final work. I watched Karaoke a year before starting this memory-enhancing blog, and so don’t remember it perfectly, but enough to get the connections between the two stories.

C. Chapman on the general idea:
“A dying writer, haunted by his past creations and aware of how his legacy will be picked over by the media barons he so hates, writes about a dying writer, haunted by his past creations, and then how his legacy is picked over by the media barons.”

Potter on Potter:
“You don’t mind the frozen head in itself so much as you care about the stories it’s telling.”

Authority figures wear silly helmets in The Future:

Set in the year 2300, a lab run by Prof. Emma Polack (Frances de la Tour of Rising Damp, suddenly in a bunch of mega-budget Hollywood movies) has got the frozen head of Albert Finney’s character from Karaoke hooked up to machines and chemicals, with which the lab rats can visualize his memories. Unfortunately for them, Finney was a creative type whose thoughts don’t always reflect events as they actually occurred – a fun premise which I wish had been given more time. Had Potter lived long enough to workshop the script with actors/readers, assuming he ever did that sort of thing, he may have realized how much time was spent instead on typically tedious sci-fi blather, characters rattling off endless serial numbers (because in The Future, numbers replace names for everything) and silly futuristic words (the scientists didn’t go to college, but “cyber-college”). He also may have noticed how clueless these supposedly brilliant scientists seem when they ponder aloud the nature of subjective memory. I don’t mean to be hard on the guy, though – it’s an interesting story, and he was under the strictest writing deadline: to finish the story before his imminent death.

I’ll bet Finney’s frozen head would fetch good money on Ebay:

Frances de la Tour and Ganiat Kasumu, whose hilarious hairstyle you can’t make out properly from this screenshot:

So, Emma runs the lab along with shady Fyodor (Ciaran Hinds, a henchman in The Cook, The Thief, etc, and FBI in Miami Vice), straight-laced Tony (Grant Masters, whose previous claim to fame had been “man in laundry room” in a Mr. Bean episode), Luanda (Ganiat Kasumu of Nigeria), Kaya (Claudia “no relation” Malkovich) and Blinda (Carmen Ejogo, Maya Rudolph’s sister in Away We Go). They’re all under severe budget restrictions from artifically-young Cruella DeVillianous lab owner Martina (Diane Ladd: Laura Dern’s lipstick-smeared obsessive mother in Wild at Heart). But Martina’s buddy/rival Dave (Henry Goodman of Taking Woodstock), a benevolent television mogul, finds out about the lab’s research with the aid of Martina’s VR helmet (remember VR?) and his own network of robotic-bird spies, and secretly offers to buy them out, offering them an unlimited budget in exchange for the rights to broadcast Finney’s memories.

Evil Diane Ladd consorts with evil Henry Goodman:

Intrigue: Fyodor is secretly an agent of the underground RON (“Reality or Nothing”) organization, and when Kaya exhibits enough human compassion that he thinks she might be turned to their cause, he introduces her to a RON-affiliated coworker, to disastrous results. Blinda is found to be a spy for the owner, so Fyodor takes her out in the movie’s most Army of Shadows-worthy scene. And new boss Dave’s supposed benevolence turns quite unsurprisingly evil. The movie’s most interesting unanswered question is what will happen when Finney’s conscience is broadcast into every home. Dave is counting on an unprecedented ratings bonanza, people passively consuming a man’s psyche as entertainment, but Fyodor hopes that glimpses into a less-authoritarian past will make people realize their own lack of freedom and rise up, inspired by the RON slogan. Potter preferred not to allow us an answer, as Fyodor shoots first Dave then the head (which somehow provokes a lab-consuming, Fyodor-vaporizing explosion).

Ciaran Hinds, about to shoot either Goodman or Finney:

Of course since it’s Potter, there’s also rape and depression, torture and nihilism, and Finney sings Pennies From Heaven (probably a scene from Karaoke). Funny how his “memories” are edited rather to the rhythm of a 1990’s British TV miniseries, heh. The perverted sex-scientist whom Dave places on the team in the second half and Martina’s series of scantily-clad poolboys were a fun touch.

In the doc Dennis Potter: A Life in Television, someone says at least Potter was never boring – which is true of this. It’s not his very best writing (I’d even prefer the hardly-ever-discussed Lipstick On Your Collar) but it’s never boring. It’s a classy production too, with CGI effects that seem very good for mid-90’s television. The John Williamsy music is a bit loud, and the actors are more than a bit loud, everyone seeming drunkenly overenthusiastic.

Finney appears full-grown in his own childhood memories, an approach used before by Potter in Blue Remembered Hills:

Director Renny Rye (who also made Karaoke, Midnight Movie, Lipstick On Your Collar) was hand-picked by Potter for having no personality. Rye:

One of the reasons about Dennis wanting me to do it, was that he had this anxiety about directors wanting to impose their own stamp to such a degree that the writer’s original voice is masked or overcoloured. That distancing is one of the things he was dramatising. … Dennis loved the conceit of this group of scientists exploiting a writer’s brain after his death. ‘That’s what you’re going to be doing in a year’s time,’ he said: ‘exploiting my work.’