Friday, February 26, 2010

I said NO camels, that's FIVE camels!

Look, if I take anything seriously, it's Indiana Jones.  Therefore, because there's been some confusion related to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (see the last post and its comments), I was eager to correct any false assumptions.  With my friend Dave's (reluctant) permission, I'm publishing an excellent email from him re: the movies.  It's an informal first draft, but I still think it's one of the best holistic critiques of the "tetralogy" I've read.  You can tell how much Dave loves the movies, and you can appreciate that Dave is a much simpler, better writer than I am.  For those of you who are interested in reading more about Indy, there's more after the jump.

For those of you who are bigger "Lost" fans than Indy fans, here are some hot pictures of Sawyer and me hanging out.

May 24, 2008

"...Yes. Yes. I agree that Raiders kind of stands on its own. Actually, when I read that review (after you sent it to me), that idea stood out to me, too. Don't know if I agree that the final three are a trilogy of their own... I think they're like Monet's haystacks (to be obnoxious about it)* -- they're all about the same guy, but his world shifts a little bit between each adventure. I think it's like the films that follow Raiders make a path that leads steadily away from Raiders, but pretty linearly. Each blazes a new bit of a singular trail that leads to new territory:

The Raiders world is whimsical, but basically realistic, with some elements of the supernatural potentially explainable by our own experience or by means made available to us in the film. This with the possible exception of the actual effects of opening the Ark (what would "God's wrath" have done if the Nazis had shut their eyes tight?). And, Indy feels punches (and for that matter, bullets) soundly.

In Temple, whimsy and coincidence has a marginally larger role to play than it did in Raiders (How did Short Round know to bring the car to THAT window?... or to a window at all, actually... A kid in a car happening to find Indy falling out of a window in the middle of Shanghai is a bigger and more explicit stroke of luck than we've seen before-- Indy had to try twice to get the right size uniform off a guard in Raiders). And, many of the supernatural things we observe have no explicit explanation in our world or in the world of the film. We are asked to believe that a man can live without a heart and that voodoo works just because it's related to some kind of Black Magic going on and cultivated at the palace. Incidentally, Indy does get beat up, but he sustains blows in the final fight that I think may have toppled the Raiders Jones.

Certainly, the world in Last Crusade is a little sillier and a little less dangerous than the world in Raiders. Actually, its visceral impact is probably the least of the three first films, but its heart and charisma are strongest. Where Raiders legitimately sustains real, subtle interactions among captivating characters, its focus is not on the characters, but instead on maintaining the serial style that inspired the movies. Last Crusade departs from the serial style (notice how many fewer Venetian blinds exist in the film) a little, and perpetuates (if not elaborates) on the extreme level of whimsy and coincidence that Temple initiated (a la the return of his hat on the cliff); but, its great strength--and the thing that makes it wonderful despite its lacking the rich style of Raiders (unlike Temple, which doesn't successfully survive the abandoning of Raiders' stylistic or realistic integrity)-- is its admitting the fact, and placing its focus on character relationships instead.

Last Crusade is the first time that the relationships in an Indy film are its focus. And, the film benefits a great deal from it. Indy's relationship with Willie (Willy?) is a joke. And so is she. On purpose. Detrimental as it is. Indy's relationship with Marion was never a joke, but it was also incidental to the plot. In the Last Crusade, the Holy Grail turns out to be Indy's reconciliation with his father. The whole search has been to find his way back home. The lack of style, the special and unbelievable luck he has, his continued super-human strength in fights aren't ever a problem in Crusade, because they aren't the point of the film. He isn't looking for a cup, really (naturally). The style and conventions established with Raiders are largely (and largely successfully) abandoned.

And, now Skull…

I think that what we have are four movies out of what should have been six--we skipped over two in the nineties. Twenty years after Crusade, following the trajectory begun with Temple and continued with Last Crusade, we should be at Skull or beyond (we have simply missed the intermediate steps). In Skull, we're clearly no longer even within the farthest borders of 30's serial territory. But, I don't believe we're too far away from the world of Last Crusade. With Last Crusade we established what might have been the beginning of a major shift in the series... To a new style that doesn't quote 30's serials, but that is purely and uniquely of Indiana Jones.

When we saw Raiders, we all already knew Peter Lorre, and knew the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, or at least we knew that low brass music equals bad news in cinema. We knew the style, if not the particular films, that the first film evoked.

The territory blazed post-Raiders makes a new place for Indiana Jones. Originally, the films referenced earlier work. Now, the earlier work is much lesser known than Indy himself. Post-Crusade, Indiana Jones is as much a part of cinematic culture (if not more) than were the shows that inspired his creation.

Going into Crystal Skull, we all know Indiana Jones. And we know Marion. And, post-Temple and post-Crusade, we know to expect the unexpected in Indy films.

A viewer of Crystal Skull has to do a lot of work on his own to make the thing work. But, the previous films give him the tools he needs. Re-watching the new film in my head, I can excise the ants and the vine-swinging, because I know that Indiana Jones doesn’t need that kind of sensationalism; I can imagine the dialogue between Indy and Marion that we don’t get to see because I’ve seen it shipboard in Raiders; I can imagine the moment where Mutt and Indy come to terms with each other because I’ve seen it in Last Crusade. In other words, the elements are all there, but they exist in a kind of shorthand because familiarity with the character(s) is taken for granted… And, truthfully, though there can never be too much of what’s wonderful about the Indiana Jones characters, we have been given enough by the first three films.

My biggest problem with the new film is that, since it is the latest in a tradition begun post-Raiders, and since that tradition is a departure from the larger 30’s serial tradition out of which Indy grew in the first place, the new generation (the under-20 generation) might not know the Indiana Jones language well enough to appreciate this film as anything but superficial, reasonably well-put together action. For these kids, the short-hand references in the film to the earlier films might seem to be all there is. The things referenced might be lost on them entirely…

Good heavens, Alison. Look what I’ve done.

That’s all there is to that.

*my mentioning Monet’s haystacks as an analogy for the Indiana Jones tetralogy** grants you the right to never take me seriously ever again.

**same goes for the word “tetralogy”***

***and for taking the time to write a three-tiered footnote in a Facebook message

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Raiders of the LOST Ark

"Lost" is friggin' awesome.  Indiana Jones is really friggin' awesome.  And other writers have pointed out the similarities between the two.  But this week, I realized that "Lost" has somehow succeeded where Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull did not: the "Lost" writers managed to integrate science-fiction, time travel, ancient artifacts, and swashbuckling adventure where Hollywood's most beloved duo, Spielberg and Lucas, failed.  So in the words of Tim Gunn (to totally mix my television metaphors), how did "Lost" make it work?
Did you guys notice the total musical throwback to John Williams in last night's episode of Lost? Check it: 

February 27 episode of Lost, "The Lighthouse:"

The Map Room scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Following the failure of Crystal Skull, I maintained that the best Indy movies, Raiders and The Last Crusade, had an important thing in common: they were both rooted in stuff we knew, ie, Judeo-Christian mythology.  The Ark and the Grail were treasures that moviegoers were familiar with, the Sankara stones (Temple of Doom) and the crystal skulls (...Crystal Skull) were not.  I thought the problem was that we as an audience could inherently understand the value of the cup of Christ, but didn't care about a rock in some small Indian town in the same way.  The supernatural rules of those things were known and presumed: everyone knows you couldn't touch the Ark the Covenant, but no one knows what happened when you put a quartz skull in the bottom of a spaceship, à la Crystal Skull.  Temple of Doom was less successful by this theory, too, but was redeemed by the fact that it was a prequel, by having a young 1980s Indy, and by the subsequent success of Last Crusade.

But my theory doesn't hold up when you  consider the totally satisfying action-adventure concept of "Lost."  It may work to explain the Indy quadrilogy (tetralogy?), but the triumph of "Lost" explodes my idea that an adventure needs to be rooted in familiar (or even real) mythology to to be successful.  Instead, the explanation for Skull's failure might be closer to something my friend Dave Quay wrote to me.  He said, regarding Indy, that "what we have are four movies out of what should have been six -- we skipped over two in the 90s."  Because Temple and Last Crusade are increasingly sensational and less realistic than Raiders, he explained, it made sense the films would move in the direction of Skull -- they just moved too fast.  The 20 year passage of time (in the movies and in real life) couldn't adequately fill in the blanks between the last two films.

So maybe "Lost" benefits for the simple reason that a series has more leeway to be unexplainable.  It can leave more loose ends and take more logical leaps than a film can (how many of those loose ends will be tied by the end of the series remains to be seen...shortly).  "Lost," like Raiders, started out waaaay more realistically than it has ended. (Did anyone else think it was going to just be a scripted "Survivor" when you saw the first previews?)  It has only been over many, many episodes that Dharma and Faraday and shifting universes have become a part of the "Lost" world.  One-upping its crazy cliffhangers with even crazier ones has become what we love about "Lost," but it wouldn't have worked if it had been less gradual.  So, maybe  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is what "Lost" would have been if the characters had time-traveled in the first season: canceled.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

With Great Power Comes Great Satire

Everyone knows Sam Raimi directed the Spider-Man movies.  But what this video presupposes is...maybe he didn't?

If Spider-Man were a Wes Anderson film:

A little 6 degrees of blogging: Sam Raimi also directed "Army of Darkness," which featured the original "boomstick" and inspired the title of this blog

(Credit to Dave Quay for the video find.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Amanda" Is Not A Good Drag Name (say it slowly)

My parents are awesome, and they sent me the absolute best Valentine's Day card of all time. Beat this, anyone:

Why are the trannies in a grocery store? In evening clothes? Are those melons for their boobs? Then what are the bananas for? There are many unanswered questions about the card, but this isn't one of them: do my parents know me, or what?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Putting the "Reaction" in "Creationism"

I love Vanity Fair.  I once described it to my boyfriend as "a cerebral magazine about fashion, film, and politics" and he replied, sarcastically, "wow, sounds like nothing you'd be interested in." Duh.

It's not a publication for everyone's tastes, but it should be. Whatever your political leanings, tolerance for high art, or fascination with what Vanity Fair writers would probably call célébrité (there's a three accent minimum for most adjectives), Vanity Fair is the best written thing in the whole damn world.

Yeah, the writers are sometimes over my head, too, and they pack so many cultural allusions into one paragraph it makes you feel like Andy Warhol is reading you the Bible.  But every article is extraordinarily well composed.  It's writing that illustrates the craft of writing -- writing that makes you (forces you, sometimes, those words can be BIG!) to slow down and really digest the text.  It's like eating before swimming -- where "eating" is reading Vanity Fair and "swimming" is reading Dan Brown; after the former the latter makes you feel kinda queasy, and though it probably won't kill you, it's just not a good idea.

So when VF did an article about DINOSAURS, I  kind of freaked out.  (I know, I know, you all thought we'd gotten away from the dinosaurs. But we haven't. In fact, the theme of this blog may just be dinosaurs forever. Bruce Campbell fighting dinosaurs. So get over it.)   More specifically, writer A.A. Gill visited the hilariously backwards "Creationist Museum" in Petersburg, Kentucky.  This museum is devoted to a "literal interpretation of Genesis," which, yes, includes Adam and Eve fighting dinosaurs.  Gill's article was obviously brilliant and perfectly put together and utterly scathing. And I, an Anthropology major with a deep-rooted Darwin fetish, should have been absolutely knocked naked by his piece.

But I wasn't.  Something about Gill's article seemed too mean.  I know, I know, who doesn't want to mock Creationist hillbillies in rural Kentucky?  But maybe that was just it; it was like shooting prehistoric fish in Noah's barrel -- too easy.  To spend so much energy critiquing this museum, this temple of stupidity -- which is so obviously an object of disdain for anyone reading VF in the first place -- seems like a moot pursuit.  And, even worse, where there was plenty to attack about the ridiculousness of this fundamental concept (like Adam's suspicious belly button?) and the educational system that allows 21st century grown-ups to legitimately believe implausible myths and fairy tales, Gill's jabs were oddly personal:
"Science has it a whole lot easier [than Creationism]: It can change things. It can expand and hypothesize and tinker. Scientists have all this cool equipment and stuff. They’ve got all these “lenses” and things. They can see shit that’s invisible. And they stayed on at school past 14." 

"Here, it’s safe to say, no one is going to get flung into the fiery pit for overdosing on vanity, though they may get done in early for overdosing on carbs."

"A fossil with thorns is proof that it must have been made after the fall from Eden, because Genesis is quite specific about Eden’s being un-sharp and blunt, or, you might say, dull and pointless."

Look, these "literal Creationists" are undeniably under-educated and over-funded.  So make fun of them for that, Gill!  Use your awesome prose (doesn't he just make "shit" ring like an aria?) to call attention to their misapplied facts, not take pot shots at their carb intake. The oxymoron of a "Creationist museum" doesn't need your help to look stupid. To use a law term, it's res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself.

This whole thing reminded me of a little Aesop moment I had in college. A dude named Robert S. Root-Bernstein wrote an article called "Darwin's Rib" about being a young professor trying to teach an anatomy class.  He asked his students what the difference was between male and female skeletons and a girl answered, "men have one fewer rib than women."  The professor was shocked and dismayed and mildly horrified that this college student literally believed the Genesis rib story.  But if he'd admonished her or mocked her he would have just made her defensive and pushed her further from ever understanding Evolution.  So instead, he responded, "if you had an accident, and had your thumb amputated, would your children be born without a thumb?" The girl said of course not, and suddenly realized that Adam's missing rib would not have been inherited by his children any more than a missing toe or ear or foreskin (too bad on that one, right Jews?) would have.

I read this story in college, and, as someone who'd made some enemies defending Evolution, it really stuck out to me. Insults don't get you converts; Mr. Root-Bernstein taught a lesson without debunking all of that poor girl's Sunday School classes. And, unlike a fundamentalist who stumbles upon the Gill article, the girl walked away not totally hating science...and not totally doubting Darwin.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heads Will Roll

Once a year, Campus MovieFest (touted as "The World's Largest Student Film Festival") visits various college campuses.  They loan out cameras, microphones, and laptops with editing equipment to students who sign up. The students (and their hastily recruited friends) have one week to make a five minute movie.

This year our group made a movie based on a short play I wrote when I was in high school. We cut it down a lot to meet the five minute mark, but the basic story is the same. Bin directed and edited the whole thing, which was apparently a real pain (not to say anything about having to work with his lead actress - what a diva). The quality is not perfect - the movie-theater light levels were difficult to film - but it was still selected as one of the top 16 movies of the Festival and screened this week on a big screen.

So check out "Heads Will Roll" (which is just called "Heads" by whoever uploaded it on Youtube - it's like they know us).

P.S. A huge thank you to all of our attractive and committed extras.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I was curious to see what showed up under a Google search for my name: I wanted to know if potential blog-readers could find the blog and if potential employers could find anything disturbing (not that I do anything disturbing...ever). But I was naive to be worried about this little blog, because I've got bigger problems. This is what came up:

Sooo...I'm already screwed. While this (apparently unfindable) blog could only hurt my chances with homphobic, dinosaur-averse employers who love love love Catcher in the Rye, one Google search of my correctly-spelled name, and bam, I'm a porn store star.  No wonder I don't have a job!  This store may be "Good for Her," but it's terrible for me. (Do you think I at least get a doppelganger discount?)

P.S. Honestly, I think the part that bothers me most about this result is that people might think I "love cats." THAT'S disturbing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Zombiesaurus Rex

So my friend Allan recently (and validly) pointed out to me that there is, in fact, something more awesome than dinosaurs fighting: ZOMBIE DINOSAURS FIGHTING.  That is clearly the most awesome thing ever. And, as Allan also sagely noted, we even chose the name "Zombiesaurus Rex" for our group project team name in some law class. 

I couldn't find any super sweet pictures of zombie dinosaurs, fighting or not, so I made this:

Because that would be awesome.  If anyone has zombie dino pics, or especially zombie dinos fighting, or especially especially Jesus fighting zombie dinos (who may or may not be also fighting each other), PLEASE post them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

4 8 15 16 23 42

Stop reading my blog and go watch LOST