Monday, October 30, 2006

On Film

A young filmmaker once told me that the most exciting thing about CGI is that for the first time in history a director can finally paint the sky whatever color he wants.

Of course he’s not saying that before computer graphics, we didn’t have the ability to manipulate the sky- it’s just that it was never cost effective. So unless the director really, really, really wanted his sky to be blood red – it just wasn’t done.

But those days are over. Now if a filmmaker wants skies swarming with the green threat of tropical storm- done.

If the shot calls for the heavens to hiss and crackle with fire and cinder- done.

And so on.

So the sky has finally become a canvas within the reach of any ground-bound director schmuck. How romantic. Why the hell should you care- and of vast more importance; why the hell would Elite Opinion think you should care?

Because when a man’s got a brush that can reach the clouds- imagine what else he can do.

For the first time since the dawn of film, a movie’s visuals are limited solely by the scope and vision of its creators.

The eventual movies should be the greatest filmmatic pieces ever crafted by man- but in the interim, expect to see some crazy shit.

Want to see what I mean?

300 Trailer (click to view)

Of course this movie almost undoubtedly makes for a better trailer than it will a full-length production and by all indications director Zach Snyder is a royal jackass- but still, look at it for Christ’s sake. LOOK AT IT.

Both 300 and Darren Arroanonoynossofkii's The Fountain are the forerunners of a new school of film that recklessly drives computer generated images to their limits, not just because CGI provides more efficient and contemporary solutions to logistical nightmares, but because CGI allows directors to return to a role that has long been absent in the industry: that of an Artist.

300 is due out on March 9th, 2007

The Fountain opens on November 22nd.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Elite Opinion gives an NBC show The Nod. The World Ends.

Heroes is a real paradox. The basic super-hero premise is a mammoth goldmine with unlimited potential. But on the flipside, making a sci-fi show work for the same people who can be entertained by American Idol, Deal or No Deal and a jingling set of car keys tends to limit what writers can do with a program.

And so Heroes is a balancing act perched high on a major network tightrope. And sometimes Heroes shows deft poise. Unfortunately, seconds later the entire program is waving its arms and threatening to plummet towards the campy abyss yawning below.

But somehow, it never does.

It’s as if Heroes’ creators have managed to find the Golden Balance. Because for every inevitable error, the show recoils brilliantly with consistent barrages of ingenuity and creativity. And yet the program has achieved more than just a balance; they’ve transcended their peers and predecessors and managed to capture a stunning ratio: For every one misstep and trip-up, the program rolls back onto its feet and launches itself sub-orbital- twice as high as it ever was before. In other words, every time the show takes one step backwards, it pauses and then takes 3 steps forwards.

Which tends to make for some damn entertaining TV.

No, it’s not always HBO-sleek or FX-hip. And it’s definitely not the most concise, clever or well crafted show on the air- but it is one of the most ambitious and colorful. And as the series is now entrenched on the front lines of the corpse-riddled network battleground, where the most powerful beings are cancerous reality-show abominations or manipulative, shallow faux-dramas, incredibly Heroes shines, proving its valor as an epic and honest approach to one of the most classic and sacred fantasies of the last century.

As the 90s came to a conclusion, so did final pages of the comic book era. But shows like this one simply prove what every nine-year-old kid already knows..

Real heroes never die.

Having said all of that- the chances of this show staying at this quality level are next to none.

In fact, there’s a better chance that tomorrow, I’ll wake up with the ability to shit plutonium and fart fireballs.

NBC will ruin this show.

You don’t need superpowers to see that.

So back to The Wire!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Elite Opinion 2006 Best Actor Update

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about the best actors of 2005-2006.

And when I say there’s been a lot of discussion, I mean I’ve been starting a lot of discussion. Of course as soon as I start one of these forays into idiocy I can’t end it fast enough, and usually end up pulling the plug with a personal insult and leaving with a headache for a parting gift.

It would seem a lot of you are confused about exactly which qualities separate an acting genius from an acting jackass. Thefollowing two lists outline firstly; the actors that most people think are fantastic and secondly, the reality of the situation. Let the re-education begin.

Actors You Think Are Awesome:

Johnny Depp

Because you think that acting is the ability to cry at will or dress up in elaborate costumes. Furthermore, you’re blown away by the talent required to play such a wide array of characters spanning both Edward Scissor-Hands, and a pirate in mascara.

Why You’re Wrong:
Because Scissor Hands was a fucking mute in mime pant and in real life, Depp really does dress and talk like a pirate in mascara. Seriously, the guy is nuts. He lives in France for Christ’s sake. Willingly.

Actual photograph of Mr. Depp picking up his kids from school, in 1998.

I know, he did do a great job in Fear and Loathing, but did you know that he spent months living with Hunter S. Thompson before shooting the role? Yeah, and I tell you what- you put the damn Pope in Hunter’s basement and after two weeks he’ll be stumbling, twitching and mumbling like a complete lunatic too.

Actually, bad example.

Don Cheadle

He’s the new Morgan Freeman, which makes him the best black actor in Hollywood.

Why You’re Wrong:
He did a terrible English accent in the Ocean’s Eleven flicks and Morgan Freeman isn’t a brilliant actor anyway. Both Don and Morgan play the wizened smarmy guy who knows just a bit more than you- and wants to hear you ask. No matter what character they play, when you see these two guys in a movie you know it’s only a matter of time before they get real damn serious and give some monologue that's supposed to be both sobering and chilling. Wah.

Russell Crowe:

He’s Russell Crowe and deep down, way deep, you’re afraid that if you don’t tell everyone he’s a great actor he’ll find out about it and then come and find you.

Why You’re Wrong:
You’re not. Who said you were wrong- Shhh-shut up, shut up… Did you hear something..

Kevin Spacey:

He’s been in a bunch of movies you like- and a lot more that you’re supposed to like. He can play a really big pussy, but when he yells- yowza! He’s got some power. And let us not forget the big twist from The Usual Suspects.

Why You’re Wrong:
He always plays the suburban, white, balding pussy that can, and will- at some point in the movie roar at some had-it-coming-antagonist and impress you with his vocal power. It’s all in the diaphragm kids, seriously. Sam Jackson does this too- only he never plays a pussy. Cause he’s Sam Jackson.

Jake Gyllenhaal:


“Oh and the gay cowboy flick, I mean I didn’t like it or nothing, but, I mean if that’s your thing that’s cool. I totally respect him as an actor. Cause I mean, it’s just acting. He was in that Marine movie too, with Ray, and he was straight in that, right?”

Why You’re Wrong:
God won’t cure cancer because of people like you. It’s just too much fun to watch you die slowly, from the inside out.

Donnie fucking Darko.

Actors Who Actually Are Awesome:

Ben Kingsley

He’s a goddamn knight.

It’s Sir Ben Kingsley. The British born actor was kneeling before the Queen right around the same time that Johnny Depp was dressing like a queen. And it’s easy to see how Kingsley earned the honor; he’s played The Vice President of America, a small handful of murderous, cold-blooded gangsters, a few unhinged psychopaths and um, Gandhi. How’s that diversity for you?

Why you don’t already know:
Because you were educated in the American school system and you think Gandhi is the guy who runs the Quickie-Mart on The Simpsons.

Sir Kingsley playing “Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi” in Gandhi.

Sir Kinglsey playing a Raptor in Jurassic Park.

Benicio del Toro

The man changes his appearance and voice more than you change your socks. For Beni no role is out of range and no character too far-flung. This guy takes his job more seriously than a neurosurgeon, and it shows.

Why you don’t already know:
Because half of the time you can’t understand anything coming out of his mouth. Whether it’s Spanish, baked-out drug babble or just unintelligible inflection, del Toro proves that a good actor doesn’t rely on lines- he relies on character.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman

His persona is unbelievable spastic. One film he’s a spineless punter and the next he’s a devious calculated bastard. Where most actors truly do play exaggerated or caricaturized versions of themselves, Phil plays a different human being entirely. I can guess what the Damons and Afflecks of the industry are like offset, but Hoffman- he could be anyone.

Why you don’t already know:
Far from Brad Pitt and far from giving a shit, he plays the odd roles and often the small ones. Of course with Capote and Mission Impossible: 3 he is finally getting real exposure- having said that, most people probably don’t realize it was the same guy in both flicks.

Haha, see.

Ralph Fiennes

Fiennes is another Brit whose skill is damn near shape shifting. Obviously Ray can cover the spread when it comes to playing an English Gent (ala Constant Gardner, English Patient etc.) but playing a monstrous serial killer (Red Dragon) or a literal out-and-out monster in the Potter flicks – well it takes something more than British teeth.

Why you don’t already know:
You don’t understand why Pearce Bronson isn’t getting these roles.

John Turturro

Are you serious? How about this:

She Hate Me (2004) .... Don Angelo Bonasera
2BPerfectlyHonest (2004) .... Sal/Roberto
Secret Window (2004) .... John Shooter
Secret Passage (2004) .... Paolo Zane
Opopomoz (2003) .... Voice
Ore 2: Calma piatta (2003) .... Andrea
Anger Management (2003) .... Chuck
Fear X (2003) .... Harry
Mr. Deeds (2002) .... Emilio Lopez
Collateral Damage (2002) .... Sean Armstrong
Monday Night Mayhem (2002) (TV) .... Howard Cosell
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001) .... Walker
Monkeybone (2001) (voice) .... Monkeybone
The Man Who Cried (2000) .... Dante Dominio
The Luzhin Defence (2000) .... Aleksandr Ivanovich 'Sascha' Luzhin
Two Thousand and None (2000) .... Benjamin Kasparian
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) .... Pete
Company Man (2000) .... Crocker Johns
Summer of Sam (1999) (voice) .... Harvey the Black Dog
Cradle Will Rock (1999) .... Aldo Silvano
Rounders (1998) .... Joey Knish
Illuminata (1998) .... Tuccio
He Got Game (1998) .... Coach Billy Sunday
O.K. Garage (1998) .... Johnny Candellano
The Big Lebowski (1998) .... Jesus Quintana
Animals and the Tollkeeper (1998) .... Tuxedo Man
Lesser Prophets (1997) .... Leon
Tregua, La (1997) .... Primo Levi
Grace of My Heart (1996) .... Joel Millner
Box of Moon Light (1996) .... Al Fountain
Girl 6 (1996) .... Murray the Agent
Sugartime (1995) (TV) .... Sam Giancana
Clockers (1995) .... Det. Larry Mazilli
Unstrung Heroes (1995) .... Sid Lidz
Search and Destroy (1995) .... Ron
The Search for One-eye Jimmy (1994) .... Disco Bean
Quiz Show (1994) .... Herbie Stempel
Fearless (1993) .... Dr. Bill Perlman
Being Human (1993) .... Lucinnius
Mac (1992) .... Niccolo (Mac) Vitelli
Brain Donors (1992) .... Roland T. Flakfizer
Jungle Fever (1991) .... Paulie Carbone
Barton Fink (1991) .... Barton Fink
Men of Respect (1991) .... Mike Battaglia
State of Grace (1990) .... Nick
Miller's Crossing (1990) .... Bernie Bernbaum
Mo' Better Blues (1990) .... Moe Flatbush
Catchfire (1990) .... Pinella

Oh and it goes on. I mean good god man. Let me put it this way: everytime you take a shit; John makes another movie. And a good one. And the character he played this time is nothing like the one he did last time.

Acting god.
Why you don’t already know:
Because you don’t think being a supporting actor qualifies you as a good actor.

I’ve got a headache.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Elite Opinion's Underground Hard-Music Cast

Because you don't need to waste your time listening to bullshit.

And there certainly is a lot of bullshit hittin the scene this year. Mounds of it, actually. In general this year has been a weak one for hard music, but there are a few glimmers in the gloom. The following is a quick pick of the major role players this year. Find out who's who, and why.

When it comes to dropping mountains of distortion in rhythms reminiscent of an artillery barrage, Norma Jean rarely disappoints. Of course on the flipside, they rarely innovate either. But that’s not the point. Big riffs, thunderous breakdowns and lyrics like a Pentecostal apocalyptically prophetic sermon. Norma Jean is old faithful, but metaler.

If Mastodon was a holy name in the Church of Metal before, now the band is nothing short of Christ on Earth. In a genre lacking in experiments and bold artistic strokes, Mastodon just bent the goddamn stage. Riffs, Runs and Southern growls- the usual sonic staples are all there, but they’ve never sounded this progressive before. Most kids are calling Blood Mountain the hard album of ’06, and for once, the majority might be right.

This album took a clean shot at being the best release of the year and missed the mark so widely that the Daughters may have put a hot round right through their own career. And while they certainly deserve considerable lauding for forging something new and different, the end product is more grating than gratifying. Where its creative merit should surge the album is mired in monotonous vocals and spazzy tech that do work stunningly in small helpings, but not en masse.

A one-time contender for the hardcore-golden-boy-crown that Every Time I Die seems so hell bent on breaking and burying, FBMF just fell off. And they fell off hard- hard enough to knock out their teeth leaving nothing but a mouth of soggy gums and a lot of thin blood. The vocals fail simultaneously as a compliment to their harder sound as well as an attempt at something more pop-appealing. In reality this album sounds quite like a confused version of Sum 41. The thing is, Sum 41 has always been a joke while FBMF is shaping up to be barely more than a sad punch line.

And of course...

Good news: Converge still sounds like two escaped mental patients jousting from the hoods of rampaging dumptrucks, armed with 10-foot long chainsaws.

Is ‘No Heroes’ on par with ‘Jane Doe’? Of course not-

It might be better.

You read right little boy.

Bigger, meaner and smarter than any other hard music band on the planet, the Mass boys have managed to craft an album even more cohesive, clever and murderous than their last. At times ‘No Heroes’ actually sounds Sabbathesque, of course at other times it sounds like an ocean liner cruising through downtown Boston at 80 knots.

Still brutal enough to pull the skin off your bones and wear it like a hoodie at your kid neighbor’s sixth grade soccer game, ladies and gentlemen: Converge.

It just doesn’t get better than this.





Monday, October 02, 2006

Elite Opinion Encourages Reading. Surprise.

For the handful of you who know how to read, and for the six out of that handful who’ve actually read something other than a Dan Brown novel since graduating high school, I’ve got a recommendation for you.

Yes, it is basically a sci-fi/fantasy type story and yes, if you read this someone will steal your lunch money between 2nd and 3rd period and yes, it’s possible you’ll never get laid again. But honestly you weren’t exactly scoring stellar numbers in the tail-department anyway.

And so I give you Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. In actuality it’s what smarmy lit journalists call a tetralogy, which is a dickhead way of saying it’s ‘four books.’ For those of you who thought the prefix for things that come in fours was ‘quad,’ you’re right.

The Book of the New Sun is comprised of four novels in which we are given the firsthand account of the adventures of Severian. Severian is a professional torturer which is a significant contrast to the traditional hero of this genre, who is normally a professional pussy, but happens to live in some far flung farm and is actually the lost prince of prophesy or some banal bull shit.

Thankfully Severian’s character is just one of a thousand departures Gene Wolfe makes from the usual fantasy/sci-fi clichés. For example, because Severian is giving a firsthand account, his point of view can be occasionally and subtly unreliable; he exaggerates, fools himself when overwhelmed by emotions and even lies. Now while this may not sound like a great narrator to you- it should sound like something more familiar: a human being. Severian’s journey is remarkable human which is significant because it stands heavily at odds with the darkly and mysteriously super and sub human cast that he interacts with. The planet he calls home (our earth) is known as Urth and exists so far in the future that the moon has been covered by forests hundreds (maybe thousands) of years in his past and the molten core of Urth is cooling and even the sun itself is dying and has turned a sickly shade of decaying red.

But Wolfe’s story is not only vastly interesting due to his character’s unique nature and backdrop- but because the author’s prose is flowing baroquesque poetry that reads like razor sharp lacework finished across a tapestry hopelessly layered with endless riddles and paradoxes. To say more would not only require me to ruin some of the surprises that wait for potential readers- but also force me to besmirch these books because I could hardly do justice to Wolfe’s ability with any crude synopsis or example.

Let me say simply that The Book of the New Sun is so complex and intricate it may be the most re-readable piece of literature that I have ever encountered.

Furthermore I will not try to summate the story-line of these books. Just believe me when I say that this series contains everything most modern readers require: action, suspense, horror, love, tragedy, sociology, philosophy etc, etc.

Finally I will quote another renowned writer to conclude my fervent recommendation of these books:

"Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today. Let me repeat that: Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today! I mean it. Shakespeare was a better stylist, Melville was more important to American letters, and Charles Dickens had a defter hand at creating characters. But among living writers, there is nobody who can even approach Gene Wolfe for brilliance of prose, clarity of thought, and depth in meaning."
-Michael Swanwick