This Week You Will Get Hot and Bothered By:
- Summer movies
- Ray Liotta
- Resident Evil(s)
- Gay punk comedy
- Computer music!
Thanks to sexy, sexy Ruck Cohlchez for contributing this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
At Film Independent, Matt Warren provides recommendations for films about summer vacations ruined:
Sexy Beast: Before he handed an extraterrestrial Scarlett Johansson a fur coat and a MapQuest printout of directions to Glagsgow’s dampest, dreariest neighborhoods for Under the Skin, UK filmmaker Jonathan Glazer burst onto the film scene (following a successful music video career) with this Continental neo-noir, which finds ultratan mob retiree Gal (Ray Winstone) rudely yanked from his poolside reverie in the Spanish countryside to assist on one final heist, all at the behest of terrifying attack-dog enforcer Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, Oscar-nominated for the role). The caper scenes set in modern, hip London are fine, but what really intrigues is Gal’s sun-soaked embrace of leisure—the film’s most iconic image being that of a well-broiled Winstone sinking into the deck chair that Logan’s intrusion will force him to abandon.
As the death of Ray Liotta gives rise to tributes and retrospectives, C.M. Crockford reminds us of his most iconic role:
As one of the film’s leads, Liotta is surrounded by legends like Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, but he’s able to match their intensity while also emphasizing something trickier — namely, Hill’s increasing alienation from his more murderous friends. The actor was also going through a difficult time, as his mother was sick and died during production, and he ended up channeling all of his anger and emotion into the performance.
Bill Bria explains why the Resident Evil movies are the best melding of video game and film:
This aspect of the audience-as-player is key to Anderson and Resident Evil’s successful marriage of video game and cinema. The major innovation Anderson adds to the Resident mythos is the character of Alice, played in every film by Milla Jovovich. Although the character is a literary reference on the surface—to make the allusion to the works of Lewis Carroll even more explicit, Anderson calls the first film’s A.I. antagonist “The Red Queen”—her actual purpose is to function as a blank slate proxy character for the audience, a “player character” in essence. Sure, there are numerous examples of films featuring protagonists who are out of their depth and need the world around them to be explained as a way of easily solving the problem of exposition, but Alice isn’t just new to the outbreak of the T-Virus—she’s also an amnesiac. While her arc over the course of the first film concerns recovering some of her memories, they’re only a couple memories pertaining to the outbreak at hand. In other words, Alice is not a character with a richly detailed backstory, but rather someone whose history and knowledge is expressly on par with the audience’s.
At Polygon, Susana Polo argues that Star Wars needs to go back to its cheaper roots – and remember that now established lore once looked risky:
In its day, Empire was a controversial film. Some critics were outright dismayed by how far it veered from A New Hope’s simple, upbeat hero story. The reviews were middling, and many fans were put off by its far darker tone. Some disliked the reveal of Vader’s true identity and bristled at Leia’s burgeoning romance with Han Solo over the more heroic Luke. Today, Empire is considered among the best Star Wars movies ever made, if not the best. It’s an experiment that paid off in the long run, but to get there, director Irvin Kershner and the writing team had to take chances, make bold choices, and risk failure.
For Brooklyn, Scott Thompson and Paul Bellini talk about their favorite Kids in the Hall (not themselves), a new “documentary” about their far less famous punk band Mouth Congress, and being gay and punk then and now:
Thompson: We wrote a lot of bad songs. What happened was the Kids in the Hall took off, and that was the rocket, so that’s the one we clambered aboard. For me, personally, there was just no way that you could be an openly gay rock star in the 80s. That just wasn’t possible. People say, “What about Boy George and Elton John?” They weren’t openly gay. Nobody was. No matter how good we were, or how good we could have gotten, there was no chance. I knew for myself that the only way was the Kids in the Hall, where I could bury myself in the company of four other guys and I could create characters and wait out the storm. It was like a war that went on for quite a long time. But I knew eventually, there would have to be a truce called, and eventually, maybe even peace. But that was wartime. So we had to abide by the rules of war.
And finally, Pitchfork‘s Philip Sherburne goes long on the use of AI in music, present abilities and near-future possibilities:
The prospect of artificial intelligence has been with us for decades, but the speed with which it is advancing is enough to give anyone pause. In music, the stakes are not nearly as high as they are in the realm of international relations, where deepfakes of political leaders can spread dangerous disinformation. A neural net capable of mimicking Elvis Presley or Katy Perry, as OpenAI Jukebox can, is somewhere between a proof of concept and a nifty parlor trick. But just as the internet irreversibly changed the way people engage with music, AI is likely to change the way we both make and consume it. And as much machine learning is already purring away under the hood of so many of our digital tools—photo apps, voice assistants, late-night Shazams—it tends to go unnoticed and unremarked upon. Music and art offer a chance to shine a spotlight on the ghost in the machine.