clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, June 27, 2005
Well, I can't turn down a request like that.

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video.
See, here's where we start to get into trouble. I don't really buy films, because I tend not to rewatch movies; even if I do, I generally won't do it enough to make it more cost-efficient to buy than rent. What I do buy is TV shows, because those I can rewatch, they seem to be a better value ($30-$40 for 4-5 discs = me likee), and it's considerably less enjoyable to plow through those on a rental timeframe. So if we're onyl talking "films," probably about 30, and some of these are back from high school and I haven't watched them in years and should probably throw 'em out. The films I keep tend to be ones I'd want to show people randomly, like Bad Santa or Josie and the Pussycats.

2. Last film I bought.
Again, see above. Honestly, I don't really remember. If we're counting TV shows, it would be Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Season 1. If we're not, it would be the Motley Crue, Guns 'n' Roses, and Sonic Youth video collections. As for movies, again, just no idea.

3. Last film I watched.
Oddly enough, 3000 Miles to Graceland, which was on one of the broadcast stations Friday night while we were gearing up to get the apartment into shape. (Yes, I spent Friday night cleaning. It was that kind of weekend.) It was really enjoyable, even if they shouldn't have gone with the casting strategy of "if we can't get Nic Cage, we'll get Kevin Coster and tell him to do a Nic Cage imitation," because Kevin Costner does not play "dangerous" very convincingly. I mean, c'mon, dude danced with wolves. Just rewrite the part or get Nick Nolte. Anyway, yes, very good, in a self-conscious, excessive use of slo-mo, kitchy heist movie kinda way. I'm constantly surprised that I like movies with a generally negative critical consensus, and I should really keep this in mind while at the rental place, but instead I tend to get overwhelmed with anxiety and spend an hour picking something out. This is because I don't watch movies very regularly. I suspect if I did watch movies more regularly, I'd have a Hillary-esque critical tendency, but me and Miss Clap are TV people. Also, there's no rental place nearby.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order).
It would be very easy to make this teenagery (Clockwork Orange! The Crow! Trainspotting!), but let's try not to, because me, I'm sew-fist-ee-kated.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising. You may have gotten the impression from the version of this questionnaire I did with books that I underwent a bit of a post-collegiate shift in sensibility, and this would be accurate, although it was really more of a clarification of what I'd been tending to since junior year. Looking back, if there's a film that helped this along, it'd be this one. Sure, it was a condemnation of the Thatcherite 80s, but the satire was so gleeful and the comedy so sharp that the morality, as is appropriate for a comedy, began to slip. Contrast this with perhaps the best American equivalent, Wall Street, where the forces of evil are vast and tempting, and while eventually defeated, even the defeat comes at a terrible cost to the whistle-blower, whereas in Advertising, the forces of evil are irresistable--there's no tempting because there's no resisting--and, in the end, triumphant. I think I recognized the setup as similar to ones I would go with in my art, but whereas my treatment would be dour and elegaic, this was endlessly energetic and engaging, almost celebratory, of its sensibility if not (intentionally) its subjet, and by the finale, you begin to have a kind of weird affection for Richard Grant's character. Sure, the ending is sardonic, with its swelling strings and cliched shot of a man with fists on hips on a hilltop at sunset, but that final speech, which I replayed over and over again, is more effective at bringing a rueful tear to my eye than almost anything else. Certainly one of the best endings of all time, and the movie as a whole refuses to play it safe, either by going the agit-prop route or the affectionate satire of (the otherwise-enjoyable) Crazy People. Everybody is indicted, and no one is spared.

Duck Soup. I watched a lot of older movies in my youth, courtesy of my dad, and if I had the memory for it this morning, a lot of these would doubtless be included, especially Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy shorts. But this one has stuck with me. I love the Marx brothers; I love that they worked all the material out onstage, before a live audience, ratcheting up the pace and tightening the jokes as far as they'd go. (My dad's favorite story is how they realized in Monkey Business A Night at the Opera that the smaller the cabin got in the "I'll have another cup of coffee" sketch, the more laughs they got, so it just kept getting smaller and smaller.) This movie has three benefits over most Marx brothers movies, however: 1) No musical interludes, 2) No love interest, 3) It's a political comedy. Well, sorta. It's superficially similar to The Mouse That Roared, except that it doesn't call attention to its high-conceptness, and in a comedy, that's always welcome. It's the same madness as before, except applied to war: sure, in the concept of a Marx brothers movie, it makes sense that Groucho would declare war based on the other country's ambassador courting a woman he actively dislikes (although the fact that he's head of the country in the first place stretches credulity even for them), but what's fantastic is that most of the absurdity makes sense in a policy context, too. It cuts frighteningly close to the nub of politics, except with all the portentious self-seriousness removed; "Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can't make head or tail of it" runs through my head on a fairly regular basis these days. It's a series of yeses that add up to a malignant giggle. That the war ends by everyone pelting the opposing general with dinner rolls is just the icing on the cake; that Margaret Dumont then starts singing the national anthem, and they turn their dinner roll-based fury on her is even better.

Josie and the Pussycats. One of the earliest articulators of the ambiguous-but-generally-falling-positive attitude toward pop, presumably you're familiar with the story of how this was mis-marketed so everyone thought the product placement was sickening when it was, in fact, all unpaid and directly satirical; that this "b-but do you hate it or did you sell out?" critical attitude persists today is worrisome. But once you've got past that, you've got one of the bestest, shiniest movies of modern times, like a Matrix single that somehow works both as comment upon mass culture and genuine, effective embrace. Whoever decided to have the first Pussycats gig we see be in a bowling alley, with the girls mainly ignored, has listened to a decent bit of indie rock from Olympia, but whoever got Carson Daly to play himself is more of a fucking genius than any indie rocker I can think of. (Just kidding kids, I love you all, but c'mon, Cason Daly!) You get the sense that the parties involved genuinely enjoy boybands, but recognize that they're just too funny not to make fun of, especially when you can say things like "Du Jour means friendship!" (Plus, I think Babyface produced them.) Want any more evidence? Alan Cumming played basically the same role in this and the Spice Girls movie, which Josie is sort of equivalent to, except without all the sucky parts. Someday this will form a central part of someone's philosophy, and that will be a good day.

Uh, this is getting really long, so I'm just going to toss off two final names, somewhat at random: Happiness and A Hard Day's Night.

5. If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?
I don't know, but in my dreams, I am the main character from Spirited Away.