Thursday, March 02, 2006

Movie: Night Watch (2004, U.S. 2006)

Installment one of this Russian trilogy packs in every conceivable fantasy/horror element. A battle between the forces of good and evil that has raged for millennia, check. Vampires, check. Owl women, double check.

Director Timur Bekmambetov is clearly in love with this mythos (based on a series of novels), and tells the story with potent images that slash through the complexity. It’s mainly a set-up for the other two movies, but what a set-up. It helps immeasurably that the film was shot on the grimy streets of Moscow instead of some artfully soiled back lot. For once, souls actually seem in jeopardy.

The movie’s best feature is its use of subtitles. They’re not just words on the screen but a part of the atmosphere. Swirling away like blood in water, changing color or size, being blown off the screen when supernatural badasses throw down.

Not every foreign film could benefit from this treatment, but something’s got to be done. At one point in Caché, the actors sit down on either side of a white table and the captions disappear almost completely. They could have been swapping croque monsieur recipes for all I knew.

TV: American Idol

Now that the audition phase and Hollywood Week are over, I treat the show as if it were a basketball game. By watching only the last ten minutes, I don’t have to suffer through any performance in its entirety or hear Randy Jackson repeat “Dawg Pound, we got a hot one tonight!” in the hopes of turning it into a catch phrase. Why is AI lifting this Dawg Pound shtick from Arsenio Hall’s old talk show? Magic like that can’t be recaptured.

Thanks to Matt Zoller Seitz, here’s the first of Dave White’s columns on the show for The Advocate. Legendary TV writer Ken Levine is also a fan. His explanation for why no 15-year-old can sing Sinatra should be handed out to every would-be crooner who auditions next year.

Miscellaneous: Links

The New York Times’ David Carr slays the demons of Oscar coverage. And writer John August on being a professional in a world of amateurs.