Category Archives: Articles by Steve

The Theory of Biopics

By Steven Moore

As part of our annual run up to the Academy Awards on the Buried Cinema podcast, we watch all the Best Picture nominees. This year the list is heavy with biopics. Audiences love stories of exceptional human beings who overcame insurmountable odds to do something special. These movies help remind us that there is something great about the little human animal, even as we are inundated with horrors such as ISIS and Ferguson.

Two of the biopics up for Best Picture are The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. Both are stories about brilliant British scientists who answered some of the biggest scientific questions of the 20th century. What’s so interesting about the lives of these men is not simply the questions they tackled (and answered), but how their dedication to science and understanding the universe gives a greater understanding of the human spirit.

The-Imitation-Game-Quad-poster-Benedict-Cumberbatch1

Alan Turing, often called the father of Computer Science, essentially invented the modern concept of an algorithm (the basis for today’s computers) and artificial intelligence. Despite creating the very concepts that will, of course, one day bring about the enslavement of humanity (I, for one, welcome our Robot Overlords), his story manages to show us the beautiful heights of the human mind side by side with the repulsive depths of human ignorance and prejudice.

Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, is another kind of triumph of the human spirit. He is a brilliant man who changed the way we think about time, space, and the very laws of the universe; however, his story is also a triumph of science just through his existence. Without great minds like Alan Turing and Charles Bell, we would not have the greater understanding of the universe that Hawking provided us. His very life is a testament to scientific progress and the human will. Because of the dedication to knowledge of those that came before him, he was able to progress that knowledge further.

poster_thetheoryofeverything

There have not been not many years when there is not at least one biopic among the nominees for Best Picture, and while I wouldn’t dismissively claim that it is easy to make an Oscar-worthy movie from the struggles of a real human being, I’m sure it makes the job easier. In the hands of skilled directors, careful screenwriters, and talented actors, biopics can help reminds us that we are special.

Despite a machine that can mimic every outward appearance of a human being, or a cosmos that seems to persistently remind us of how very small we are, there is a unique and wonderful spark that resides in the little human germ infecting a tiny blue planet on the dusty outer edge of an unremarkable spiral galaxy in a middle-aged universe that is, in all likelihood, one of an infinite number of universes popping in and out of existence for all eternity.

—–

About the Author:

Steve was just a hapless young kid who couldn’t get into Starfleet, but by sheer wit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, he was made full ensign of Starfleet’s flagship anyway, despite having never even attended the Academy. He told me I could write anything I wanted about him here, as long as I said that he was like Nate, but better. When he’s not brooding over the graves of dead Irish poets, he is our talented Webmaster. We also record our podcast in his barn, so we’d be doubly non-existent without his considerable talents. . . and barn. His favorite films include Chinatown, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything Brian hates.

Option C — Funny Games

By Steven Moore

This week was both my choice and my pairing on Buried Cinema. This has only happened once before, and it happened to be last week, with Tom pairing The Wolverine with Cop Land. Of course, I couldn’t bear to let Tom have the glory, so this week I took the Choice, the Pairing, and Option C. Take that, Tom.

I chose a movie we had previously attempted to discuss on the podcast, Stoker. We’ve covered director Chan-wook Park’s work on the podcast before, and we wanted to review his first English-language effort. Unfortunately, it was in limited release, and Nate lives in West Virginia, where movies made by a man who uses his last name as his first name ain’t ‘Merican.

Although I’d decided on the pick and pairing, Ruby Sparks, before watching either of the movies, after watching Stoker I knew the obvious pairing would have been Funny Games. I have only seen the 2007 American version of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, but it is a shot-for-shot remake of his original German film from 1997. That’s right, it’s a movie  he loved so much he made it twice, just with different actors and in a different language.

 

You know what would make this creepier? English.

You know what would make this creepier? English.

 

Honestly, the only reason I didn’t change my pairing to this movie was that I would have had to watch it again. I’ve never watched a movie that left me so angry and frustrated, so lost in helplessness. Watching Funny Games was traumatic, in the full clinical, psychological sense of the word. Something will remind me of the movie — a sailboat on a small lake, a TV remote control — and I still get those emotions of frustration and helplessness rising up. I’ve had many nightmares about this movie.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Funny Games is that the trauma it induces, the anger and frustration and disgust, is all completely intentional. This was Michael Haneke’s sole purpose. This is why he made the movie. If you don’t come away from this movie traumatized, he hasn’t accomplished his goal. (Mission accomplished, Mikey.) After watching his Oscar-winning Amour, I am convinced that he is a director who hates his audience. He is disgusted by the idea of people sitting back in a chair and expecting to be entertained. He seems to be making movies that punish the audience for liking movies.

Based on all I’ve said, you may think I didn’t like Funny Games, and you’d be partially right — but it is also brilliant. Every shot has purpose, every frame is beautifully composed, and he can pull some of the most heart-wrenching or terrifying performances out of his actors that I’ve ever seen. A movie can’t have the kind of impact on its audience that this movie had on me without a great director behind the scenes. Because of this, he may be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time who I never want to watch another movie by.

 

Michael Heneke hates you...and loves you.

Michael Haneke hates you… and loves you.

 

At this point, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed any of the plot or characters of the movie, and that’s mainly out of respect for the filmmaker. I feel that to experience this movie as the filmmaker wanted, you must go into it without any knowledge of what is going to happen. I don’t ever want to watch it again, but it is a movie worth watching, and I don’t want to take that experience away from anyone.

Of course, all of this is why I so desperately want to make the other guys on Buried Cinema watch the movie. More than any other movie, I want to discuss this one with them. I just have to build up the courage to watch it again.

—–

About the Author:

Steve was just a hapless young kid who couldn’t get into Starfleet, but by sheer wit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, he was made full ensign of Starfleet’s flagship anyway, despite having never even attended the Academy. He told me I could write anything I wanted about him here, as long as I said that he was like Nate, but better. When he’s not brooding over the graves of dead Irish poets, he is our talented Webmaster. We also record our podcast in his barn, so we’d be doubly non-existent without his considerable talents… and barn. His favorite films include Chinatown, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything Brian hates.

Option C — Edge of Darkness

By Steven Moore

I’ve notice that each of us on Buried Cinema chooses our pairings to the movie under review differently. Kevin often chooses a pairing that has the same actor, Tom by director, Nate by whatever Korean (or foreign, if he has to reach wider) film he can make fit. Oddly enough, Brian and I are the closest in how we pair movies, going for the thematic link. The difference is Brian often chooses movies he has already seen and wants to share with us, for good or bad. I, on the other hand, try to choose movies that most of us, if not all of us, haven’t seen (when I’m not staging a coup d’état on the choice entirely, of course).

One of the things I love about doing a weekly podcast with these guys is the process of discovering a movie together. There’s something about watching a movie for the first time, trying to process it, and coming to an understanding about what succeeds or fails that just can’t be replicated on a second or third viewing. Usually, I’ve already made my mind up at that point and am just trying to confirm my opinion. The discussion becomes more about proving my point of view than discovering what I think.

With that mindset, I chose Edge of Darkness  as my Option C pairing for 12, the Nikita Mikhalkov remake of 12 Angry Men. Edge of Darkness was Mel Gibson’s 2010 attempt to return to his action roots, not long after the various controversies he was involved in began to settle down. I chose this in part because IMDb suggested it, but also because I had heard it was an edgy (pun intended, sorry) revenge thriller that explored the consequences of finding the “truth.” This being the essential thematic idea behind 12, I figured it would make a good pairing. Although it turned out to be a surprisingly good action movie that kept my attention, I will ultimately only remember it for a few mind-blowing scenes.

 

edge of darkness

Mel Gibson, getting ready to blow somebody’s mind.

 

No matter what you think of Mel Gibson, he’s a great action star. In the same class as the Bruce Willis action hero, he’s not a muscled, invincible meathead or impossibly skilled martial artist. He gets by on luck and grit, and when he’s pissed, people better run. The man may be a terrible person (or not, who really knows?), but he is able to infuse what would normally be a mindless action character with a sense of pathos that few other actors can. Where Bruce Willis is a master at the nothing-left-to-lose persona, Gibson can convey a sense of desperation that drives him to forget not only the law, but also morality in his attempt to “set things right.”

This is exactly the character he portrays in Edge of Darkness, a man who is desperate for justice and the truth. He plays Thomas Craven, a respected Boston police officer who has lived his life for his daughter. While I’d like to go into more of a synopsis of the film, the surprises are so much a part of the experience of watching this movie, I hesitate to say more. There were several times when I said out loud, “Holy hell, did that just happen?” Although some of the characters are obviously not going to make it out of the movie alive, the suddenness or method in which they make their exit keeps surprising. The shock moments keep the movie propelling forward, at an admittedly herky-jerky pace.

What’s interesting about this revenge thriller is its pacing. There are many long series of scenes where not a lot happens. People talk, papers get exchanged, someone says something a little revealing, and Gibson looks defeated. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose, and I was left trying to reconstruct what just happened for the next 20-30 minutes while people continue to talk, papers continue to get exchanged, someone says something a little more revealing, and Gibson looks even more defeated. While the tropes of the revenge thriller are there, the characters, the ones that matter, are unexpected and surprisingly well written.

After watching the movie, I realized it would have been a perfect pairing for 16 Blocks, the movie Brian paired with 12. As it is, I’m sorry that we didn’t cover it on the podcast. It may not be one of Gibson’s best action movies, but it’s definitely worth talking about.

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About the Author:

Steve was just a hapless young kid who couldn’t get into Starfleet, but by sheer wit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, he was made full ensign of Starfleet’s flagship anyway, despite having never even attended the Academy. He told me I could write anything I wanted about him here, as long as I said that he was like Nate, but better. When he’s not brooding over the graves of dead Irish poets, he is our talented Webmaster. We also record our podcast in his barn, so we’d be doubly non-existent without his considerable talents… and barn. His favorite films include Chinatown, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything Brian hates.

Our Favorite Films of 2012 — Life of Pi

By Steven Moore

 

 

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, without question, should win the award for Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars. It probably won’t, but it should. Life of Pi is an adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel of the same name. Whether Martel intended to write a modern Jainist manifesto or not, he did. The Jainist philosophy is one of pluralism, in which there is one single truth, but all beliefs are an aspect of that truth. If one person says a lemon is sweet and another says a lemon is sour, both are true, and both are aspects of lemons. Similarly, Pi, the protagonist, cannot limit himself to a single religion or ideology. He embraces Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Scientific Skepticism equally, claiming, “Faith has many rooms, and all of them have doubt.” Like his namesake, he does not allow himself to be constrained by tradition, but continues on, always ready for something new.

The movie begins exploring its central question through the framework of a writer interviewing the adult Pi, who relates a story through flashback, telling of his youth when he tried to feed a tiger, Richard Parker, only to be admonished by his father, who warns him of the danger: “You only see yourself reflected in his eyes.” While Pi is certain that all living things contain a soul and some notion of compassion, faced with the tiger’s brutality toward a living goat, he must also face the ugliness of the survival instinct. His father’s statement becomes the overall question of the movie. Like Richard Parker, is Pi’s survival instinct as animalistic and barbarous? When stripped of society and faced with just survival, is he nothing more than an animal?

Although we don’t realize it until the end, Pi tells his story using symbolism and parables, fitting since much of the movie revolves around religion. One of the most blatantly symbolic moments of the film for which there is no explicit “factual” counterpart is a floating carnivorous island. The island parallels the island of the lotus eaters and serves a similar purpose. This carnivorous island, which resembles a sleeping Vishnu in a wide shot, offers a safe harbor when Pi most needs it.  Like the island of the lotus eaters, the danger of the island is apathy. The island has everything he needs to survive, but Pi must decide if survival is more important than anything else. It’s no coincidence that immediately after leaving the island, the next scene shows Pi arriving back in civilization and the departure of Richard Parker.

 

 

When Pi relates his story, and it is rejected by a couple of Japanese businessmen as too fantastical, he tells the “real” story. This is when you realize everything you’ve seen has been symbolic, that Richard Parker’s departure was the departure of Pi’s survival instinct; however, the Japanese businessmen ”didn’t like my second story, and left without saying anything else.” The movie begins by promising to make Pi’s interviewer believe in God. When he reads the report the Japanese businessman wrote down, it is the more fantastical version of the the story. Pi gives two stories in which the boat sinks, his family dies, and he survives, then asks,”Which do you prefer?” One is the ugly reality of human suffering, and the other gives that suffering meaning. The Japanese businessman, the writer, and the audience prefer the first story.

Through its pluralism, Life of Pi makes a case for a single, shared human experience, simultaneously barbaric, tragic, beautiful, and full of meaning.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

The Dark Knight: Gravel and Gadgets

By Steven Moore

[In trying to write an article on The Dark Knight and its flaws, I decided to write it in the form of an open letter to my fellow podcaster, and Rant Pad contributor, Nate Griffis, to finally put down his gleeful exuberance and appalling joy whenever this film is casually mentioned in conversation. It’s a flawed film, and here’s why:]

 

Dear Nate,

In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises, I’m going to try to explain why The Dark Knight isn’t the flawless masterpiece you think it is, in hopes of tempering some of your enthusiasm for the last installment (as well as my own). I have tried to make this case many times, but you are always too busy writing articles on obscure Korean cinema to listen. I realize that deep down, you probably avoid the obvious flaws in The Dark Knight because you feel guilty about your self-absorbed billionaire playboy lifestyle and 16-pack-a-day cigarette habit. There was also that incident where you accidentally picked me up from work, and your girlfriend got blown up. Whatever the actual reason, you and many other  misguided people seem to think that The Dark Knight is one of the greatest movies ever made.

I must admit up front, The Dark Knight is easily in the top five superhero movies. The problems I have with the film are small flaws that only become more glaring because they detract from Christopher Nolan’s otherwise immaculate look at the hero’s sacrifice in the face of pure evil. In fact, all my problems with the film are directed solely at Nolan’s portrayal of Batman, and Christian Bale’s execution of him as a character. I think we can both agree that Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is not just brilliant, but enlightening. No villain has ever encapsulated evil for evil’s sake like the Joker, and Heath Ledger embodied that sensibility. Often we uphold artists who have died young above their actual accomplishments. I don’t know that Ledger would have gone on to do anything as amazing as this role, but I cannot overstate the quality of his performance in this particular case.

Another admission in the spirit of full disclosure: I believe Michael Keaton to have been the best-cast Batman in the history of the character. If you need a moment to cool down, perhaps punch a pillow, I understand. One of the reasons Keaton was so great, and Christain Bale is not, is that Keaton never seemed at ease in the playboy role. He played Bruce Wayne as someone who doesn’t quite fit into the life he was handed. Keaton doesn’t quite look the part, and his attempts at nonchalance have a brusque edge. Bale is such an amazing actor that he forgets that Bruce Wayne is not also an actor. His switch from narcissistic philanderer to altruistic hero is too polished. It’s as though he has truly become a different person, something a trained actor is accustomed to, but not someone who has spent his life studying martial arts and technology.

 

Well, that's because... you know... I'm Batman.

 

The common complaint against the movie is Bale’s deep gravelly Batman voice. While I find it distracting, I understand the intention. Unfortunately, Nolan has set a high bar for himself, and if I am considering intent instead of story and character while watching the movie, that’s a flaw in the film. I understand how you, Nate, as someone who also uses technology to enhance your voice, might appreciate the time and energy Nolan took to convey an idea with Batman’s voice, but art should never come before entertainment. (Trivia: Nate actually sounds like a 87-year-old woman who has smoked cigars all her life. He alters his voice with filters for the podcast.)

My final complaint about the film is the sheer number of gadgets Batman has available to him at any given moment. Nolan is careful not to have the Deus Ex Machina utility belt, giving us a more gritty, vulnerable look at Batman and Gotham City. The gadget-laden Batman of previous films and television doesn’t fit the new vision of Gotham where the Joker is more than just a supervillian foil. Here he is the personification of a brilliant mind gone off the rails. The face of chaos attacked by a projectile shaped like a bat is weak, if only because it reminds me that this is a comic book movie where things are silly sometimes. Bat-zip lines and gliders feel out of place in this world. A Batman who relies instead on his training and perhaps a few select tools seems a more appropriate Batman for the tone of the world Nolan has built for us.

Again, The Dark Knight is an amazing film, and I’m sure Rises will be equally amazing. But I’m slightly nervous that the trailers seem to display more of the gadgety-ness and not one, but two over-wrought character voices. We’ll see if Nolan is able to make it less conspicuous in the context of this movie. I’m sure you’ll love every minute of it, and I will love about 89.5% of it, which incidentally is also roughly the score I would give X-Men: First Class.

The Dark Knight is an amazing supervillain movie, not an amazing superhero movie. It’s not me, it’s you. I hope we can still be friends.

–Steve

 

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

The Films That Made Us — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

By Steven Moore

 

 

In the spring of 2004 I was a college student having an existential crisis. I know it’s hard to find sympathy for a college student with first world problems, but the world had not turned out to be what I thought it was. I had been raised in a Southern Baptist home, not strict but strong in their beliefs. Every ethical and epistemological question I had was answered by this upbringing. Four years of  questioning, and reading philosophy texts, literary texts, critical texts, and any other text I could find, had brought me to a point where I wasn’t sure what or why I was. I’m sure Jim Carrey felt the same.

He had been having a good run. The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, The Majestic, and even Bruce Almighty were great films that tapped more into his sense of drama and the human condition than his comedy. He had to be questioning who he was as an actor and entertainer. Did he want to be important or just funny? That spring, amid all of the chaos of being a college student with a growing family, the questions about my future, and my questions about life, came this little movie about memories. When Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out in theaters, I only went to see it because the title was taken from an Alexander Pope poem. I didn’t even know Jim Carrey was in it.

I saw it three times in the theater. The only other movie I’ve seen more than twice in the theater is Titanic, and that’s because I was trying to get on the good side of my then-girlfriend, now wife. It turned out to be the exact kind of movie I love: small and quirky with a touch of magical realism. The message of the film is summed up in a simple exchange toward the end of the movie. The two main characters, Joel (Carrey) and Clementine (played by the most beautiful and talented actress alive, Kate Winslet), have been losing their memories through a procedure that erases bad memories from their brains. When Joel changes his mind about it mid-procedure and makes various attempts to stop it, he can’t. Eventually, the realization comes that he is slowing losing an entire part of his life, the woman that he loves, and that it’s inevitable. He can’t change it, can’t question it; it will simply be gone, and he’ll never know it was there. In defeat, Joel asks, “What do I do?” Clementine’s response: “Just enjoy it.”

What’s so incredible about this scene is that Joel is not asking what he should do to stop the inevitable process of loss; he is asking what he should do now that he has accepted its inevitability. How can he find purpose in something he has no control over, something that will vanish entirely without a thought. What do you do when nothingness is inevitable? The only thing Joel and Clementine can do is enjoy each other in the time they have. The subsequent scene of Joel and Clementine playing like children in an old beach house and reminiscing about things they should and shouldn’t have done is the most romantic scene in film history. It is pure longing and connection on an emotional level. They acknowledge the mistakes they made and love one another for those mistakes. Joel realizes that without Clementine he has to face the void alone, and his terror at the prospect eventually drives him back to her.

 

 

Throughout the film, Clementine helps Joel face the unfaceable. He is able to face loss, shame, and helplessness as long as she is with him. By the end of the movie you realize that she gives him purpose, and that should be enough. His crisis in the film is that he doesn’t realize that she holds him up, that his crisis is only a crisis without Clementine. She helps him make sense of the world just enough that he can enjoy it instead of critiquing it.

With my wife the world makes as much sense as it needs to, and that’s enough. I am able to just enjoy it.

Hulk mad at previous movies!

By Steven Moore

The Incredible Hulk has a long and sordid film history. From cheesy T.V. to summer blockbuster, no one can seem to get the Hulk to work on screen. Directors Ang Lee and Louis Leterrier have both tried to capture the Jekyll-and-Hyde story of a man at war with himself, but something is always missing.

Ang Lee’s Hulk explores the epistemological question of being the Hulk. How do social constraints placed upon Bruce Banner, a man of science and truth, make his devolution from the embodiment of logic and intellect into the embodiment of destructiveness and violence a necessity? By being boring, that’s how. Nobody cares that about the psychology behind something that can smash two tanks together. It’s like focusing on the psychology of a shark in a shark-versus-tiger fight. Who cares? It’s a shark versus a freaking tiger! Ang Lee, renowned for his deftness with action, delivered a nearly action-less Hulk film. It’s actually a brilliant look at the psychology of a man who is terrified by his desire and depravity, but who cares? It’s a freaking tiger versus a shark!

 

Hulk smash!

 

Marvel made a second big-screen attempt at the Hulk in 2008. However, in the Marvel film pantheon leading up the The Avengers, most people consider The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton to be the weakest film. The primary argument against The Incredible Hulk isn’t that it is a weak film, but that it lacks consequence. It isn’t a complete film, just a building block for a franchise and The Avengers. The film doesn’t explore an origin story (thank God) or a solution to the ultimate problem. Instead we just get Hulk vs. Something that can actually hurt the Hulk a little.

Leterrier learned a lesson from Lee, delivering action and destruction aplenty. There’s nothing really wrong with the movie (except one thing which I’ll talk about in a minute), but the film’s episodic nature limits it from being great Hulk film. The Incredible Hulk goes in the exact opposite direction of Ang Lee’s Hulk. It is an action flick that has no consequence, no sense of who Banner is as a man, that ends exactly where it started. It’s not, however, a bad film as many argue. Liv Tyler is a great Betsy Ross. William Hurt is a decent General Ross, despite the terrible make-up. The primary problem with the movie is that Edward Norton just doesn’t fit the role. He is a great actor who embodies his roles like few other actors can, but he just doesn’t seem like he’s barely in control, on the verge of rage at every moment. Norton is an actor who is always completely and totally in control, and he can’t help but convey that control on screen. Whoever made that casting choice should get a severe finger wagging.

 

Hulk smash!

 

The Incredible Hulk does seem to be a stepping stone to the Hulk in The Avengers, but it does it well. It shows who the Hulk is, not as a man, but as a monster. When Hulk and Betsy are in the cave after he has saved her from the fiery death her father had unleashed with his Nietzschean Moustache of Doom, the lightning cracks across the sky, and Hulk roars back, only capable of understanding danger and fear, not the rationality behind the danger. The scene reminded me that the Hulk has a sense of self and identity, which comes to fruition in The Avengers, but he is still an animal. He has nothing of the scientific understanding or logic of his “human” side. He’s pure emotion and instinct and rage.

Hulk should never be completely in control, even as Bruce Banner, and Mark Ruffalo conveys this better than anyone who has previously portrayed the Hulk. In The Avengers, his interactions with Thor and Loki, even after his transition to slight awareness during the final battle, reveal a toddler-like sense of the world and self. Ruffalo amazingly bridges that gap between the reluctant and terrified scientist with a sadistic edge, and the unstoppable raging id. Perhaps Ruffalo is personally angry because he cannot open his mouth very wide when he talks or because everybody slumped when he was announced as the new Hulk, but he is an actor who seems always to be seething in every role. I think back on his previous performances and realize he should have been the first, obvious choice. His natural awkwardness is transformed in The Avengers into a barely contained, trembling rage. He is able to bring a shaky control to the role that develops to fruition in the final scene of The Avengers.

 

HULK SMASH!!! (You never really need anything else as a caption for this guy.)

 

I can’t wait to see another Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo in the lead. I think he can make the Hulk movie we’ve all been waiting for. Norton provided a subtle depth to the Hulk, but I’m glad he has been replaced.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

Cube: Ripe for a remake

By Steven Moore

Cube came out in 1997, a time when the indie film moviement had started getting its sea legs. Successes like ClerksReservoir Dogs, and Slacker had shown that studios were required for distribution but not filmmaking. Cube, in my memory, was the first independent sci-fi film. With a budget of $250,000, it managed to create a sci-fi thriller unlike anything I had ever seen. I was astounded by it’s Kasfkaesque story, great special effects, and unique style.

After watching it again recently, I realized that I was very young when I watched this. The film has serious problems. The acting is almost uniformly painful, and none of the characters seem to fit their role. Maurice Went, playing Quentin, the alpha male who slowly devolves into a statutory rapist, overplays his part to the point of absurdity. Nicole Boer, playing the college mathematician, seems about as comfortable with math as a theater major can pretend to be. Acting aside, the camera work rarely uses a clean shot, instead preferring extreme angles and closeups. I can almost hear director Vincenzo Natali repeating to himself, “My Professor said to let the camera be the emotion.” The film generally feels like the work of a young filmmaker with inexperienced actors.

What is incredible here, though, is that the movie survives all the amateurish mistakes to deliver a great story that sticks with you long after the movie ends. The notion that at any moment, I could wake up inside this murderous government pork project is horrifying. That alone makes Cube an important entry into the sci-fi canon. In the hands of someone more skilled with a camera and less interested in rape scenes (avoid Natali’s Splice at all costs if inter-species rape isn’t your thing), this movie could have been amazing, without qualification. With today’s special effects, a director who isn’t still paying off his or her student loans, and actors who can carry their role, a Cube remake could be a beautiful thing. I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

The Hacker Under the Stairs: Enhance!

By Steven Moore

On the Buried Cinema podcast I’m sometimes referred to as the curmudgeon. Little things about a movie get to me, reducing my enjoyment of an otherwise perfectly good film. When I watch a movie, I want to inhabit a world. By now, most people are aware of the ridiculous “Enhance!” device in films: the magic phrase that allows an agent to look down your shirt from space.

While there has thankfully been more of an awareness of how ridiculous this notion is in the last few years, it hasn’t kept films and T.V. shows from abusing the general public’s magical thinking when it comes to computer imagery. The real problem is that this little device reminds me that I am watching a movie, that none of the action really matters, and everything is going to be fine. When I am watching protagonists try to escape whatever problems they have gotten themselves into, I must feel the hero’s desperation. I need to want to find the McGuffin as much as she does. Anything that reminds me that that desperation isn’t real puts a dent in the film-watching experience. Too many dents, and I just lose interest. Movies where the climax depends on some discovery made through enhancing an image to reveal a hidden truth, such as Blade Runner and Enemy of the State, can fall apart because no amount of technology, no matter how futuristic, can make something from nothing.

While past films, such as the aforementioned, can be excused because the general public misunderstood so much of computing, there is no longer any excuse. The next time you see an “enhance” moment in a film or T.V. show, don’t sit there and let the writers insult you. Perhaps some screenwriters do believe in the omniscient powers of the Google, but I don’t want to live in their world. Here’s a little video of their work for you:

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The Hacker Under the Stairs: Smarter than the CIA and living in mom’s basement

By Steven Moore

In this series of brief articles I’m going to take a look at technological clichés and plot holes in a variety of films. While some are pervasive clichés that illustrate a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of filmmakers in general, occasionally, I will look at specific films to point out plot holes that could have been avoided had the writers stopped to think for a few seconds. I’m a computer geek, and these are the things that annoy me when I watch movies.

The worst cliche that has somehow become a film institution is the plot point when the protagonists must seek out the most brilliant hacker in the world, and they find him still living in his mom’s basement. I say “his” because filmmakers can’t seem to accept women as computer scientists, so in their films girls rarely know how to operate a computer, despite the historical fact that the first computer programmer was a womanLive Free or Die Hard, Enemy of the State, even as far back as Hackers–writers seem to confuse an ability to operate the command line with brilliance. This unemployed, Cheetos-dusted typist who can change directories from the terminal is smarter than all of the CIA, FBI, and Cyber-Military combined. Yet, he or she can’t seem to find a job or even be bothered to bathe. The reality is that a 25-year-old kid still living in his mom’s basement actually spends 90% of his time arguing with 12-year-olds in Call of Duty, and if he is a decent programmer, he is making enough money with a spambot to afford his own place. Of course, the movies think they are modeling Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg types, but neither of these people were brilliant hackers. They were decent programmers with a nose for business. Rarely does brilliance coincide with a good business mind, which is why people like this are so successful, not because they kept their brilliant hacker mind out of the spotlight. What irritates me about this stereotype is that it completely undercuts all the hard work that it takes to do anything worthwhile with a computer.

I’ll leave you with XKCD’s summing up of the problem: