27 February 2012


Tech-films for me represent what sci-fi films or monster films or horror films or whatever else meant to past cinephiles. Tech-films films were where my fantasies merged with reality. Ones I remember fondly are Hackers, Antitrust, Johnny Mnemonic, Virtuosity, Electric Dreams, and all the rest. Love them.

Hackers is a personal favorite.

It has tech speak
a shirt with a cat
extreme-sport absurdity
attic-trunk fashions
colorized modernity
wtf-in-restrospect technology
and tons of urban coolness.
It begins in Seattle and ends in NYC.

You'd have to watch the movie to see if it's for you. I couldn't talk you into it. It is what it is.

Was PUMPED to see Andrzej Sekula (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, American Psycho, Cube²: Hypercube, Vacancy, Armored) in the credits, as director of photography. Bigger fan of Sekula than director Iain Softley. Softley directed five others movies, can't speak for a single one, never seen them. But. His name is important to me because he made Hackers.

It's super quick, fun, and modern pop art. The story isn't the best part of the movie. The story concerns things like the secret service, a virus, and Zero Cool (the best hacker almost ever at ten years old - except he's caught, arrested, and sentenced [banned from computers and touchtone phones!] and then there's a forward time jump [after which he's in high school and has the raddest friends and life, sweet parties, etc]).

The main badasses are played by Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) and Angelina Jolie. Matthew Lillard is a buddy hacker who wears rock and roll t-shirts, Wendell Pierce (The Wire) is secret service, Jesse Bradford is grounded by his mom for hacking, Fisher Stevens (he's in both Short Circuits) is computer security/movie's badguy, Laurence Mason is an l33t hacker with a photographic memory, and Renoly Santiago is a hacker so cool he wears cat t-shirts (pictured above).

Director Iain Softley is from London. Not joking when I say I think Softley was on the cutting-edge of cool. I think Hackers is visually layered in a prophetic way and tuned to the the speed of modernity. The soundtrack is mostly electronic, like The Prodigy and Orbital, and uses Underworld (who Boyle would use to greater effect for next year's Trainspotting).

I labeled Hackers crime cinema for blogging purposes, but I think it's much cooler than most crime movies. Wong Kar-wai is beyond Hackers, but I think Hackers is closer to a Wong Kar-wai movie than most other crime movies.

Note: Hackers was undoubtedly shot in widescreen, but formatted full-screen for Netflix.

25 February 2012

Gambit ('66)

Things I wrote before I watched Gambit:

My Twitter feed has been fist pumping this movie Gambit, more so in the last couple days, because it's about to expire from Netflix streaming. I'm going to watch it because of the recommendations, it's not the kind of movie I usually go out of my way to watch. This is the Netflix synopsis:
Harry is an elite but clumsy burglar. He meets the partner of his dreams in Nicole, a Eurasian dancer, and they team up for the perfect crime -- to steal a precious sculpture from a billionaire recluse. Unfortunately, nothing goes right.
Words and phrases like 'elite' 'burglar' 'partner' 'team up' 'perfect crime' 'precious sculpture' and 'nothing goes right' don't work for me like they work for other people. Typically they refer to forms of cleverness that I don't enjoy much, that to me feel purely cinematic and cheap, but others see them as richly layered and masterfully crafted or something, I dunno. I'm not being dismissive, I just don't get it - cleverness seems subjective, like beauty.

The movie is directed by British filmmaker Ronald Neame, who was the cinematographer for forty-five movies before directing his first movie. Haven't seen one movie he shot, but I suspect I'd like the following movies based on their titles: To Hell with Hitler, Return to Yesterday, Young Man's Fancy, Let's Be Famous, George Takes the Air (original title: It's in the Air), The Phantom Strikes. He worked with David Lean it appears. It appears he worked on the scripts for Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, and Blithe Spirit, and produced two of those plus Oliver Twist. Blithe Spirit is about to be released by Criterion, I think I'll like it, this is its synopsis from IMDb:
Adapted from a play by Noel Coward, Charles and his second wife Ruth, are haunted by the ghost of his first wife, Elvira. Medium Madame Arcati tries to help things out by contacting the ghost.
Words and phrases like 'Noel Coward' 'haunted' 'ghost of his first wife' 'Elvira' 'medium Madame Arcati' 'help things' and 'contacting the ghost' work for me like they don't work for other people.

Ronald Neame has twenty-six directoral credits, including a short and a movie he was fired from, according to IMDb parentheses. Three of them are on Criterion: Tunes of Glory, The Horse's Mouth, and Hopscotch. I've seen Hopscotch, it's fun and clever grandpa stuff. I think of Walter Matthau as grandpa. In Hopscotch grandpa is always one step ahead of the CIA, he wears disguises and stuff LOL. I'm teasing the movie but the disguises are actually my fav part. Neame also directed the famous Hollywood movie The Poseidon Adventure, which I'd like to watch, but I'm waiting until I go on a cruise.

It's cool that Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine are in Gambit. It's also Alvin Sargent's first movie credit on IMDb.

Things I wrote after I watched Gambit (but no spoilers):

Nicole: Why is it that people who follow people always end up fingering trinkets?

Gambit gave me a palpitating heart and uncontrollable sweats. All while I smiled.

After opening titles and an enjoyable opening song, the story begins with a car-sourced tracking shot, following Nicole (Shirley MacLaine). I suppose you could wonder, "Why is Nicole being followed?" But with her green dress and the way she's walking and the fact that it's Shirley MacLaine, you'd be an idiot.

She enters Cherry Bar.

On stage, Nicole dances. Our perspective has been Harry's (Michael Caine). He and his crime partner observe Nicole for a dance. Her routine finished, Harry walks to Nicole's table and drops some coins in her glass. She follows him to his table. He offers her, for purposes not yet divulged, $5K American. She smokes her cigarette and considers, without saying a word.

Cut to: A TWA plane lands, a curly-mustached man in a turban steps out of a luxury vehicle, and Nicole and Harry exit the plane:


And then it gets better.

Harry: Now will you stop asking questions?
Nicole: It's only human to be curious Harry.
Harry: Yes, well as far as I'm concerned you're far too human.

Loved the soundtrack, colors, art design, photography. And Gambit made me feel clever because its cleverness was transparent, discernible. Shared. Gambit reveals the plan to you and then executes the plan. It performs this writing maneuver intelligently, and gifts the audience with insight into its variations on a scheme. The crime elements are mostly backseat to character elements, although there are great moments of crime cinema. This film helped clarify for me that it's not the 'nothing goes right' scenario I dislike, it's that I don't like it when nothing goes right seemingly because the script was written that way. I prefer the influence of life's chaos and/or character trait interference.

What happens in Gambit I won't tell you.

But. Shirley MacLaine KILLS IT. She's really great. I'll say that plans involving humans shouldn't be made without considering human nature; I think bad movies execute their plans single-mindedly, warping their characters into the shape of their plans, and that Gambit knows this but is smarter. In this way it's like a Hitchcockian crime film, but I can't think of a female protagonist from a Hitchock film as likable and relatable as Nicole in Gambit. There are also some Melvillian/Dassinian elements (I invented words).