My car got towed the other day, but the situation is in hand. I should have everything worked out (and the car back in my possession) by Friday. It has been an extremely difficult set of events to work through, however, as the issues have become quite labyrinthine. Luckily, my friend Tim has been very helpful (as usual) in my getting things straightened out.
I have a friend, Raz, whose taste in movies is so incredibly uneven that he will swear up and down that the latest piece of shit that he saw was one of the best movies ever. While there are certain elements of film that I do trust his opinion on (special effects, mostly), in general, I have to take Raz's comments with a grain of salt. Of course, most of the movies I go to see are with Raz, so I get quite a lot of his opinions. I was hoping, at some point, that I could figure out a pattern to his likes and dislikes, but, unfortunately, it never happened, and I've been seeing movies with the guy for well over ten years.
On the other hand, it's pretty cool to know somebody who you don't have to be embarrassed about your guilty favorites with.
When I saw The Matrix Reloaded, I was confident that here was a film so shitty that even Raz would hate it. When I finally got to talk to him about it, it was while he was exiting his third viewing.
He is hopeless to figure out.
Well, needless to say, he liked the third Matrix, and I guess it is only par for the course.
Let's be serious about The Matrix for a moment. The Buddhism via California angle, while familiar from so many other films (Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian) is engaging enough as a background that, when injected with an interesting new dimension (in the case of The Matrix, it was kung-fu and the stunning portrayal of time slowing down), it can work. As my friend Dave pointed out, The Matrix has "Buddhism for Dummies" for the morons and kung fu for the smart people. When The Matrix won the Oscar for best visual effects in 1999, beating out The Phantom Menace, I felt it was justified; ILM didn't show us anything new, while John Gaeta and his crew turned time into something mutable.
And, to be frank, it doesn't take itself seriously. If you don't believe me, watch the film again. It slyly winks at those of us who know about the philosophies it references with the bald boy in the Oracle's apartment... and by making him bend spoons, it shows you at what level the viewer should take them. How's about the slow-motion shots of shells falling as Neo shoots the helicopter cannon. There's no way that is serious.
The movie also had a beginning, middle and an end. Yes, it had an end. The sequels reek of the George Lucas "well, I always had envisioned a trilogy" bullshit. The second film was episodic, with several sequences that seem like they were written by immature adolescent samuraii slugs (ten points to anyone who gets that reference) and quite a lot of moments that were obviously shoehorned into the film for reasons best known to the Wachowski brothers.
But the worst aspect of it all is not anything in the film itself, but the legions of fans who, intent on convincing themselves that they hadn't been totally duped, somehow decided that they understood the movie on a level that the rest of us didn't. Sorry, but I've been studying cinema all my life, and I have a working knowledge of the philosophies the film pretends to espouse... and if there's one thing I know how to do it is to read a film. Reloaded was empty, with the enigmatic elements of the first film abandoned in favor of people speaking in riddles to one another and a complete disengagement of any characterization at all.
So, along comes The Matrix Revolutions, and I somehow got ensnared into a viewing of this utter shitfest.
To be fair, there is a fifteen minute, edge of your seat sequence that is fantastic. It is the siege on Zion, and, like the motorcycle chase in Reloaded, it is better than anything in the movie has any right to be, and Hugo Weaving still makes a phenomenal heavy. Also, I have no idea what is inspiring Don Davis, but his postmodern and challenging music score, which is showcased in this film much more than in the previous two entries, rises far above the material it was composed for.
Other than that, and a few admittedly eye-popping special effects, the movie is utter crap. For one thing, while I can take Keanu Reeves in small doses when he's not Ted, every frame he is on screen in this film was completely interminable. In addition to his being totally blank, the dialogue is some of the worst writing I have ever heard (yes, worse than Lucas, but not quite as bad as Edward D. Wood, Jr.). In fact, if one other character said, ominously, "You know why," or "You know what," I would have projectile vomited across the theater. You know a film is really bad if the death of a major character in the trilogy (I wouldn't care about revealing spoilers in this because the film was so awful, but out of respect for those who still have faith, I won't say who it is) is accompanied in the theater by chuckles and cries of, "How long does it take for you to die?" Of course, the character in question takes - no joke - close to five minutes to kick the bucket. At the end, the viewer is relieved. That's bad storytelling.
The first film had a certain internal logic to it that was stretched by the second; the third film completely abandons any sense of logic whatsoever. In fact, most of the major conceits of the new film are so ridiculous, the character motivations in the film are totally illogical, that the horrific ending (which made many in the theater that I saw the movie in boo... I mean really boo), which is so incredibly sappy that it gave the diabetics in the audience severe sugar-level problems, is quite a "fuck you" to the audience.
Now, I know that the fans of this film will construct careful "Emperor's New Clothes" arguments to prove that not only was the film brilliant, but that they are somewhat superior to the rest of the world for getting it, just like what happened with Reloaded. I could care less. Dave commented that this film will now become a litmus test for people regarding their cinematic acumen. Makes sense.
Take them to be tortured and killed.
Okay, the one thing that I knew I could expect from Revolutions was astounding special effects, and for the most part, they truly were. However, there is an issue that, minor as it is, is something that they really should have noticed.
Yes, folks, lens flares.
You see, The Matrix movies are shot in the Super 35 format. The advantages of this format is that, even though the theatrical print is in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, there is more picture information available on the top and bottom of the screen for television transfers, and that the cinematographer can use normal lighting and lenses. The disadvantages of the format are that the theatrical prints will be somewhat grainier and color desaturated because of the fact that it is a blow-up of a much smaller space*, and that the additional image above and below the 2.35:1 frame often cause "dead space," the result being in video transfers that pan-and-scan just as much as if the film were shot anamorphically.
Lens flares are, quite simply, the reflection of light within the lens itself. These will often occur if there is a light source in a shot. A film photographed with standard (spherical) lenses will have round lens flares. A film photographed with anamorphic lenses will have elliptical lens flares.
I don't know why, but the CGI lens flares in The Matrix Revolutions were elliptical, not round. The live-action footage had plenty of round lens flares.
This is an incredibly minor thing, really, but I figure that nobody else will notice this discrepancy, and I figure if you're reading this, you should come away with something unique from my rambling...
Also, I apparently have differing pupil sizes. This has been unsettling Tim for some time...
I saw the trailer for Troy, and needless to say it was much more entertaining than the film that followed it.
This film ought to be good. It's got a great director, Wolfgang Petersen, an impressive cast including Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Peter O'Toole, Brian Cox, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeson and Saffron Burrows, and the special effects are so astounding that even the frickin' title card looked awesome.
The best part? The story has been field-tested for thousands of years.
*Apologists for this format often say that the grain and color issues can be compensated for in the printing process, often citing James Cameron's films as examples. While it is true that this can be minimized by watchdogging the labs, that would also be true of any film being printed. So, think about how beautiful an anamorphically photographed film will look if the printing process was watched so carefully. It would look like the theatrical prints of Apocalypse Now Redux and Alien: The Director's Cut. That is to say, outstanding. I hate Super 35, as I feel that it really does compromise framing, and most Super 35 theatrical prints look like gray sandpaper. This is not to say that I hate everything done in the format, only that I feel the format itself is one that tries to please two masters. If you want to shoot safe for television, shoot flat and unmatted. If you want to shoot for widescreen, shoot anamorphically (or in 70 millimeter).