Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall Pilot Hits and Misses

Shows I'll Be Watching
Journey Man
Lucy, Daughter of the Devil
Saving Grace (which really premiered in the Summer)
Dirty Sexy Money

And Maybe
Big Bang Theory

Shows I Won't Be Watching
Gossip Girl
Big Shots
Back to You

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Coffee, Sardines and Mango Juice

Movies have a fraction of the audience as television. So why are they culturally significant?

Maybe because they can introduce a small idea to a lot of people in the same way. The widely unregarded side effect, though, is that movies can change a small idea in one person in a way that I doubt it affects anyone else.

For example, there's a particular sequence in Capote where Capote goes to Spain to write In Cold Blood (I believe it was actually shot in Canada, but that's beside the point). He's living in a large villa with his partner and there's a moment where he looks out over the ocean.

Now, ever since I saw that sequence (which couldn't make up more than ten minutes of the movie), I've wanted to go to Spain, rent a villa by the coast and write a book. It's like when Roald Dahl saw an older boy riding a bicycle down a hill without using hands [page 28] and he decided that's all he ever wanted from his life - it's just a moment that stuck with me.

Of course, movies (and t.v.) also make me hungry. I've mentioned the great food movies before - for the record, they are Big Night, Spirited Away and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. These are movies that make the food in them look so good that it becomes another presence in the movie, like another character or a new, more viceral kind of scenery.

There's four scenes in other movies and T.V. shows that I have to mention, because they've given me three strange preferences.

I was wired for coffee from the beginning. On a recent visit, mom found out that I didn't drink coffee every day and asked "how do you wake up in the morning?!"

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am drinking coffee as I write these very words. I'm coming to you today from the recently-expanded Grounded, which, by way of an update, now has a bathroom that double locks.

We all know the late adopters, but the coffee scenes I remember most are from Twin Peaks and Wings of Desire.

In Wings of Desire, Bruno Ganz plays an angel who eventually gives up his angelic immortality to indulge in the exclusively human domains of pleasure - food, color, love and mortality. He meets another fallen angel, Peter Falk as himself, more or less, who introduces him to one of his first human pleasures - coffee and cigarettes.

It's a lovely, minimalist moment - outside of the movies, it's rare to see that type of pure pleasure at something so basic, wordly and human. It also plays in to a major theme of the movie - that what makes us human are these basic desires and small pleasures that it is perhaps part of the human experience to learn to ignore.

Significantly, in the terrible, terrible, very American remake, the fallen angel is a fat hedonist who eats everything.

There may be no director who has so completely dedicated a piece of media to a beverage as David Lynch [link via Rocket Boom] has to coffee in Twin Peaks.

Lynch has always made his art interminably personal, to the degree that it's hard now impossible to see vintage wallpaper without thinking of him. Coffee is a big thing for Lynch.

One of the episode directors tells a story in her commentary about someone handing Lynch a bran muffin on the way to a location. He looked at her and said "it's going to take a lot of coffee to get this down."

Whatever it was that Lynch was getting at, one theme was that everything was perfect in this small mountain town with the exception of whatever it was that was rotting it from the inside. In Lynch's perfect world, of course, all the food, and especially the coffee, was perfectly delicious [read and then click next, webcomic n00bs].

The specific moment I think of is when I think of coffee in media is when author's stand in Dale Cooper has his first breakfast in Twin Peaks. There's nothing more perfect than the pure, post-modern and abstracted pleasure Cooper takes in his first sip of his first cup of coffee.

Chronicles of Narnia wasn't a truly terrible movie, but it had a lot of wasted potential. I remember Full Stealth telling me at the time that if nothing else, the CGI battles could have been a lot cooler. "Let's see some centaur archers in there! Let's see some big, rampaging animals!"

Most of the child actors are really terrible in this waste of time movie, but the girl who plays Lucy is great. My favorite moment is when the fole Mr. Tumnus seduces her back to his hollowed-out tree hovel with promises of tea, biscuits and "maybe even a tin of sardines."

Since then, I almost always have a tin of sardines on hand for those moments when it feels like the ice queen is moving in on Prospect Park and there's nothing to do but to hole up and read up on the myth of man. Or, barring that, in case of a blitz.

You should watch Dogtown and Z-Boys if for no other reason than Sean Penn's narration and Peggy Oki's singularly underappreciated, almost Canadian hotness.

Should you do so, make sure to watch through the credits. One of the Z-Boys lays out the etymology of the titular movement, which I'll reproduce here, wrong, but from memory:

"Okay, real quick. It was Summer and I was real drunk - I was drinking vodka and mango juice - and I said to Mike, 'man, these are the dog days,' and Mike said 'yeah, these are the dog days.' And I said 'and this is Dog Town.' And Mike said, 'yeah, this is Dog Town.'"

End of movie.

Now, whenever I'm somewhere hot in the Summer, I'm drinking vodka and mango juice.