America est Omnia Divisa: One of the benefits of the mucky rush up to the election was the return of William Gibson’s blog, which had been in Sleep Mode since September of 2003. You may know Gibson best as one of the big and worthy names in cyberpunk science fiction. In the real as well as the future world he’s a restless and incisive thinker, and a writer of supple depth.
On November 3rd, following the election, Gibson posted this:
Virgil, as ever, has it down: “Dis aliter visum.”
Also, David Bowie: “Look at those cavemen go.”
Dis aliter visum = The gods decreed otherwise.
Shameless Commerce Division: I’m selling some DVD’s on eBay in addition to the books I listed here on Friday. The auction for these movies runs until Thursday; there are 12 up for sale, and I’ll try to post them all in the course of the next few days for your edification and examination. Please buy ‘em, I need to get them out of the house … and I promise to spend your bid-money on fine and useful things. Like, say, beer.
Ali - Will Smith soars in this film about the irrepressible political seeker and athlete Muhammad Ali (“an effective combination of impersonation and nuance” - All Movie Guide) — even if you have no interest in the material, which is deeply interesting, the movie is worth it just to see Smith strut his stuff in a role he devours from the bones out. He and director Michael Mann spent 2 years and $100 million delving deep into the heady sticky politics that converted young strong Cassius Clay into the irresistible Ali over the years from 1964 to 1974.
An all-star cast, featuring Jamie Foxx, John Voight, Mario Van Peebles (Malcolm X), LeVar Burton (Martin Luther King, Jr.), Joe Morton, Giancarlo Esposito, Ron Silver, and the ever-delightful Jada Pinkett-Smith, in a natural turn as Smith’s wife onscreen and off.
The Stickup - An odd little picture, featuring James Spader as the good cop and the bad cop in a small-town bank-robbery flick where all is not as it seems. This is a fun little low-sights faux-noir movie. It’s slightly overambitious for what it actually goes and does, which is pretty much a virtue in my book. A bit of water slops in on the deck at times — Spader knows the boat is sinking, but he bails with the best of ‘em, and most of the stock characters take on convincing small lives of their own. Nice twisty plotting at the end, which you’ll probably see coming if you like to see the end coming. Co-star Leslie Stefanson also acts opposite Spader in Alien Hunter, which I’m not selling today. I know you wanted to know that. Written and directed by Rowdy Herrington.
eXistenZ - David Cronenberg is an intricate, obsessive, intelligent, disturbed director, and eXistenZ is one of his finest pictures (he also wrote the screenplay, which is an original story idea). The movie spins in remarkable directions, imagining an overwhelming massively multiplayer online game that toys in a larger sense with film as a medium and play as a lifestyle. Sexy Geek Girl Jennifer Jason Leigh (a moment of silent appreciation for Sexy Geek Girls, please) enlists Jude Law, who is and isn’t as innocent a bystander as he seems depending on which buttons you push, for a flee-for-all plunge through artificial lands. Willem Dafoe and Ian Holm have terrific cameo appearances.
“Every bit as stimulating, absorbing, intelligent, and difficult to watch as his best genre films … All of Cronenberg’s trademarks are here: an overarching sense of doom, fiendishly gleeful gross-out gore, a healthy sense of humor about the proceedings, and serious questions about the nature of existence (hence the title). … eXistenZ is an aesthetically challenging work of art that is ripe for repeat viewing.” - All Movie Guide
Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy - I do love a bad monster movie, and director David DeCoteau is king of ‘em. This one is just terrible. Terrible, terrible, a waste of film, what were they thinking, yikes shouldn’t someone have smacked someone else along the way and improved this thing? Needless to say I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you like this sort of thing you might like this sort of thing, and if you don’t I seriously recommend that you do not buy this movie.
For some outlandish reason an Aztec mummy ends up in a “museum” (which looks suspiciously like a living room) at a private school for bored students whose lives exist in a maximum of two dimensions. Aztec mummy? Did they do that? Whatever. As it happens one of the students is — wait for it — an Aztec High Priest. Well, secretly, you know, and they’ve all been waiting for this moment. For generations. For thousands of years. I forgot to make popcorn, but I really should have. Did you know that Aztec Priests wear sequins? Whatever. You learn something new every day.
Anyway, the mummy, who comes with his own accessorized Mummy Knife, eventually wakes up, which is a big surprise, and starts slashing away at everything in sight. There’s some mumbo-jumbo about the end of the world and the sacrifice of a virgin, one of whom happens to be handy. DeCoteau is an oddly demure director, so the (potentially expensive) special FX take place off-screen and we just get to see spatters of blood, and as is often the case in his movies the nubile nudity that always seems about to happen never quite arrives. This isn’t DeCoteau’s best work, but really, what is? I mean that in a nice way.