Ghostbusters and Gremlins at the Dryden

Ali, Christina, and I headed to Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave. to see the double-feature. Well, Christina and I committed to the long-haul while Ali only wanted to see Ghostbusters.  The first feature, as such, was just as good as I remember from the last time I saw it as well as times past.  The movie tends to hold together as a comedy and as a thriller … for instance, the apperarance of the final enemy was as disturbing and humorous as it was when I saw it in 1984.  Of course, the film is also pretty seriously flawed with continuity and special-effects problems (not so much the datedness of optical effects, but more the problem of concrete bouncing gently off wooden police barriers).

Ali smartly left because Gremlins was awful.  "Awful" like "one of the worst movies I've ever seen".  I remember seeing bits and pieces of the film in the past, and I apparently always turned away from it as it got boring.  I never did see it when I was young, and, admittedly, I probably would have been extremely entertained as a teenager.  But as an adult, it's just excruciating.  Christina noted that it was like an episode of Amazing Stories — something that could have been a clever tale at 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, the film was padded an additional 86 minutes (of which, the only redeeming moment was Phoebe Cates hilariously deadpan delivery explaining why her character hates Christmas).  The lesson is to have extremely low expectations if you're going to make an attempt — or better yet, if you liked it as a kid, don't even bother revisiting it.

Sherlock Holmes at Regal Theater

Ali and I decided to use some coupons from Christmas to see Sherlock Holmes at Regal Henrietta Stadium 18 (525 Marketplace Dr., formerly Regal Henrietta) I wasn't all that excited about going to the cineplex — especially since we could also have gone to The Little (240 East Ave.) — but we had the passes, and we hadn't been to a movie on Christmas before in decades. I was expecting a lot of splashy advertising before the film, but nothing as horrifying as I saw.

The pre-screening advertising blitz was structured like a cable-TV entertainment show. As such, there were ads for some dreadfully bad TV shows, like one about some kids in high school who have to deal with having a baby — as pretty as they are, young actors should never be allowed to cheerfully talk about how realistic this sensitive subject is portrayed. Then the Walmart ad threw in its hat. It wasn't at all about Walmart and how they drive down prices by busting unions and keeping their workers' weekly hours low enough to exempt them from any health insurance laws. Oh no. It was about how Walmart can help you feel good. But the most depressing of all was the ad for the National Guard, encouraging young people to get a real education and structure in their lives by pushing buttons to kill people — all in vibrant, Patriotic® tones.

These are all the kinds of things that feed my suicidal demons. After having just seen a screening of It's A Wonderful Life at the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) days prior, I realize that the reason it a movie with that much heart can't be made anymore is because America's heart is blackened and dying. Nobody cares about a home-cooked meal — it's the Wii and big-screen TV that broadcasts its message loud enough to drown out such a subtle voice. What's the point of going on, really? Our entire function as citizens is to buy more stuff to drive the economy that funds the wars that make the war profiteers rich enough to make the ads to sell the war to sell the products to distract the populace. There's no Clarence to save you, George Bailey: you're life ain't worth squat.

But as for the movie, it's a tale of a mystical society that runs the government, keeping the populace tricked and fearful. Pretty much just like we have now, only set in the 19th century. The only exception is that in that world, there is a man who fearlessly divines the logic of how it all works — and he does this with the aid of at least some authorities. December 2009 … not so much.

The Bogs Visionary Orchestra and Eric the Taylor at Boulder then Cuddle Magic at the Bug Jar

I braved the snow and headed to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) to catch Paul BurkeMySpace link's show there. Paul himself stopped by for a while, but he was performing with his other band, other/other/other at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) that same night (in a sadly under-advertised show). Starting out was The Bogs Visionary OrchestraMySpace link who played a rich tapestry of their modern Americana. Next was Eric the Taylor who I also liked: one guy playing ethereal, meditative, synthesized soundscapes. I'm really glad I stopped by.

Paul encouraged me to go to The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) as well so I went there and caught the tail-end of other/other/other. Next was Cuddle MagicMySpace link who I hadn't seen before. They are a large band with a variety of instruments. They play what I've come to call "motley folk" like Baby Shiver's BoutiqueMySpace link but with their own nearly orchestral arrangement. I was getting tired, and alas, couldn't stay for the rest of the night. I'll look forward to seeing them sometime soon, though.

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism with Gerald Peary at the Dryden

Ali and I headed to the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) for the discussion with Gerald Peary. It turned out he was screening a documentary he directed: For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism. The documentary was okay — it touched on the major "eras" of public film criticism, primarily in America. Motion picture making itself is barely 100 years old, and critical analysis necessarily followed. As documentaries of a history go, it was an imperfect, but generally pretty good essay on the topic.

As we stayed through the question-and-answer afterward, I kept revisiting a negative opinion: that the whole evening was packed with ignorance. It wasn't until later that I pinned it down: critics that made an impact were good writers who happened to critique motion pictures, but critics seem to co-opt the respect of being a good critic while ignoring the necessity of being a good writer first. This resonated with me strongest in the last segment that covered the Internet age. It seems that paid critics disliked the presence of Internet critics because they felt that the fact they were paid automatically made them superior. Rather, I think that the best critics — Internet or otherwise — are able to examine a film from a unique perspective that gives insight into that film.

Peary also insisted that a critic's role is to analyze a film within the context of film-as-art, not to identify whether you, as a reader, should see it. I think this is misguided. First, I agree that there is a majority of people who just want a movie review that tells them "good" or "bad" — they literally want to be told they will like a film (and further, I think their opinion is heavily swayed by what critics tell them). However, there is another group of people who read film criticism beforehand for its context in film-as-art so they can determine whether they want to see it. In some cases, it is to explain, "how can I enjoy this film?", or "why is this film important?" I've written in the past about how I use film criticism and synopses, noting that a review should bracket my experience and help me understand what to expect. For instance, I don't think a film like Vals Im Bashir (Waltz With Bashir) could be considered a movie that "people would like", but I'm glad I saw it and I think it was a great film. It was because I knew something of the film that I decided to see it — partly trailers, and partly through critical review. But I used those tools specifically to determine whether I should see it.

Old Boy and the New York Vaults at the Bug Jar

I went to The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) and caught up with Old BoyMySpace link who played great power acoustic like I expected. I can rely on these guys to really pound out some awesome music. They were followed by The New York VaultsMySpace link who played some excellent punk-rock. I didn't stay for long, though: I've been less of a party monster lately and headed home early.

House and Living Organics at the Dryden

I headed over to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to catch the films screened there. Starting out was a short film called Living Organics which was a series of animated, abstract vignettes depicting how modern culture works to remove humanity from the living world it is part of. It was fitting introductory piece to Hausu (House).

There really is no way to explain what happens in the movie. It's rooted in a nightmare horror scenario where members of a party disappear one at a time. Its execution … well, that's another story. My friend Albert commented afterward that it was very dreamlike — so perfectly so, in some ways, that we were having a hard time remembering the events that transpired. It's supremely bizarre narrative. I guess it makes a little more sense from a Japanese perspective, as there are some cultural references — but even then, it's dominated so much by this dreamy nightmare motif that it's really hard to explain.

BELBIVDEVOIVOD and Godlazer at Boulder

I headed out to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) where Paul BurkeMySpace link was hosting bands he liked. Tonight, he included his own production BELBIVDEVOIVODMySpace link which consisted of excellent electronic near-melodies with a bit of a dark edge. I like to listen to his work because it makes me look at everything in the world differently, and somehow intensifies a sense of serenity and inclusiveness, almost like a drug. Next up was Godlazer who DJ's and remixes, frequently heading into mashup and experimental territory. Not everything he played piqued my interest, but it mostly hit home.

Three Firsts

So here's three firsts [say that three times fast!]: first of December, first accumulating snowfall for Rochester, and first run in the snow barefoot.

Last night we got an inch or so of snow accumulation.  I was excited to try running in it.  After all, I've been practicing as the weather got colder.  But, as it turns out, snow — being largely frozen water — takes a lot of heat to melt, and in turn, it feels really really cold. And as a result, this run was spent most focused on running and on the condition of my body, particularly my feet.

It was kind of funny, actually, because I swear I could hear my cardiovascular system curse in surprise as it attempted to boost blood-flow to my extremities. My feet got much colder, much faster than they do even at colder temperatures, and I kept making sure they weren't losing sensation, feeling hot, nor appearing a color other than pink. I wasn't going to push things too far, so I decided to cut my run much shorter and barely covered more than a mile.

After an hour or so, everything was back to normal. Lucky? Not really. Just careful.