Idiot Savant Online

John Lichman's third attempt at a personal blog and online savanting idiotic.

Archive for May 2011

Lazy Announcement: The 2011 New York Asian Film Festival Line-Up

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NYAFF 2011 schedule is out.

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Written by john lichman

May 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

The Travel Experiment

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I’ve been in DC the last week working on a production gig, and still had articles due. So I figured I’d load up my iPad, rely on my phone and work remotely with the ease that one expects in a world filled with cat videos, streaming pornography and social media check-in coupons that have no monetary worth.

It worked as amazingly as it was terrible.

Technically, my iPad has everything I need to write:
-Browsers (three! RockMelt, Safari and Opera Lite)

Ditto for my phone. I used to be able to edit and work on stuff while I was on the bus in Los Angeles–routinely publishing and editing throughout the week when my connection wasn’t spotty as hell.

I like traveling light. I hate packing and routinely take week-long trips with just my messenger bag as sole carry-on. Hence the iPad/phone/bluetooth keyboard seemed the best choice for me, especially since that’s the entire point of their existence. And bleeding me dry for money. But that’s another story for another time.

Blunt point: they worked well. Blunter point: they worked well, but… it reminds me how much I multitask on my laptop. Working on the Pad/Phone forces you to focus on single tasks at a time, save and then move on. Likewise while searching for links and quoting material, I have to leave Evernote or WordPress to launch a browser and hope I remembered to save. One fun time, I lost 400 words because Evernote crashed after I switched to Opera.

It’s difficult to get used to, but I felt more productive after a while thanks to this single action system. But downside: I can’t use intricate online CMS like [Media Company] or even the extra pages on [Writing Site,] which is built on WordPress!

Just little things like that and you could forget ever needing a laptop to travel. I think of mine as being 4 more additions from never leaving my apartment and just being a desktop in the making.

But I’m thrilled to head back home tonight so I can open photoshop, VLC,iTunes and Microsoft Word.

Written by john lichman

May 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm

The Mechanic (2010)

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Dir. Simon West

Despite the promise of a long-haired Jan Michael Vincent, I opted to stick with Simon West’s remake of The Mechanic as my first foray into the world of a moralistic hitman whose sole regret is he doesn’t have a real friend. In fact, it did rather poorly in wide release. And yet, it does something impossible: it turns Ben Foster into a bad motherfucker.

This is much harder to accomplish when you’re paired up with Jason Statham, especially in a post-Crank/London world that has accomplished a dual goal: Jason Statham as immortal video game character and, to a noticeably different viewer, impotent drug addict so self-aware of his plight that he must engage in eternal violence. Let’s not overlook the other important point: Jason Statham looks cool shooting guns, taking down random Red Shirts and spouting off zen-like one-liners so casually that he already outshines his forefathers of Van Damme, Seagal and Norris. But it’s unfair to compare those to Statham, since he really does have a lot in common with the original lead, Charles Bronson.

Both Bronson and Statham have given the moral gunslinger a new definition in their definitive time periods. For Bronson, he was an impotent vigilante in a hyper-corrupt Manhattan, a fucked-up snow globe that begged for Giuliani. Statham? An amoral gun for hire that hints of past deeds being so evil that all he can do is kill worse people before he inevitably shacks up with someone’s daughter or a stripper…or a stripper’s daughter and learns to train her like a stripper to love her? Ok, this is getting too intertextual for its own good.

Which let’s us come back to The Mechanic. A remake of the 1972 film of the same exact plot (“mechanic” is slang for a hit man with a heart of gold, said mechanic is tricked into killing long-time friend/partner, long-time friend/partner’s scrappy son wants revenge and ironically goes to mechanic for a degree in the homicidal arts, friendship formed, but then…) so why bother recapping it?

Instead, the partner is by far the most fascinating part. Ben Foster has the type of quiet on-screen rage that he’s seldom allowed to let out. It goes from a type of infatuation (3:10 From Yuma) to devotion (30 Days of Night) and here it is this unsettling combination that forms a third role: the bad motherfucker. It could be argued lazy plotting by Simon West, but to allow Foster the chance to be “more brutal” than Statham is a fascinating choice. Here we have true rage, not even the quiet storm that Statham hides with a quip and blur of movement: for his first kill, Foster’s character chooses to brutalize a man he’s supposed to poison while posing as a vulnerable twink.

It’s rare to see someone hold a screen presence that actually rivals and threatens Statham’s own–i.e. War, which has the single lamest twist ever just to get him on a bus poster with Jet Li. And this remake of The Mechanic isn’t really horrendous, if anything West is keen with dispensing action and sex frequently enough that any PG-13 kid should be giddy looking back on the Tomb Raider films and recently with Human Target on Fox. But even the most oblivious fanboy probably would feel a twinge of confusion when they wonder why Foster isn’t the hero of this updated revenge/fuck fantasy.

Written by john lichman

May 26, 2011 at 12:48 am

An Appreciation of Takers on a Vanity Device

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I’d apologize for the previous image, but let’s face it–a test’s a test and when you’re exploring life on the go with nothing but a thin keyboard and a overpriced vanity gadget iPad, experimentation is the name of the game.

Well, “shit, I have no wireless” is the actual title. Followed by silent curses.

In any event, the image above is from Takers, which I don’t think I’ve ever really gone into with much depth. Which is surprising, since it’s one of the tighter heist/revenge films to be churned out for a B-audience last year. Even more surprising? Tons of silly interplay (the brothers’ surname? Attica) mixed with charmingly one-dimensional tropes that are figuratively led by their recently released ex-partner (T.I., excelling here leaps and bounds by what a lucky one could glimpse in Killa Season).

There’s also an entire sub-plot featuring Matt Dillon reprising his Factotum persona as a grizzled LAPD detective who knows there’s a secret group of professional thieves but has never proven it (spoiler: there are). He’s losing his daughter, he’s lost his wife and ultimately he acts as this albatross showcasing that a just life pales in comparison to smoking cigars, kicking ass and doing what you please. Ultimately it’s a forsaken parallel, but an interesting one since the cop character has no redemption, no morals and serves as nothing more than proof that this elite team of cocky young villains could get away with their grandiose plans.

That’s about it.

Written by john lichman

May 23, 2011 at 11:37 am

The Catch-Up Cataclysm

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Not that I wasn’t always the most mindful of catching up on my writing since that’s likely what I aspired to be doing in life, but the last few months have been rather hectic what with hoping for an actual job, trying out for jobs and then being informed there are no jobs except of the ‘freeing lancer’ variety.

Which, in hindsight, would be a lot more interesting if I wandered around offering my lance skills as if I were a knight.

In any event, there’s a few things I actually want to go back over that I didn’t bother to review or write on originally. So with that said:

The Adjustment Bureau: I was surprised as other folks that this wasn’t terrible. In fact, Damon and “God’s plan scrawled in Moleskin” were pretty damn snappy. It also treats New York iconography with the proper love that Madison Square Park and the ferries from Jersey City should always get.

Uncle Blowme Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Wives Lives: Baby’s first Apichatpong Weerasethakul! Still, my love of slow tracking shots and single takes comes ahead here. The family dynamic is another thing that Joe, as I’m learning, is constantly referencing through his work. But the cave sequence terrified and thrilled; likewise, I jumped at the first Ghost Monkey, despite the inherently non-threatening nature behind it.

I Saw The Devil: I doubt I’m original with the term “K-Revenge,” much like J-Pop and J-Horror were in the early aughts. But Kim Jae-woon’s take on the genre is extreme and wonderfully nihilistic, almost on par with the gurgling end of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. But there’s a sadistic anti-feminine tone under all of it that I assume has to be intentional.


The Battle of Los Angeles: Helped inspire this piece on UGO.

Paul: Normally the fanboy defense really is a fucking cop-out. But here, it rings true: this is a film for the nerd, not in the same vein of Patton Oswalt’s dystopiyan-utopian nerd-vana essay at Wired. UFOs and tri-tit jokes are gold currency, Jason Bateman plays to the masses that clamor for an Arrested Development film and Bill Hader makes an incredible about-face with a one-liner (“I’m on a mission from God!” “Well, TELL HIM YOU FAILED.”) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s rat-a-tat with each other brings so much weird joy to watch, even as C-3P0 and R2-D2, that Kristen Wiig is overshadowed–which takes a lot.

Certified Copy: A friend of mine brought his screener to me of Copy last November or so and I promised to watch it. I got roughly 10 minutes in, became annoyed at the exchange between Juliette Binoche and William Shimell and turned it off. Then I sent it off to Michigan. This is kind of my biggest regret, film wise, in the last few months since I never gave it a chance. Personally, seeing a love story and then a facsimile of a marriage that’s in fact a play on relationships also doesn’t go too hot for me. I can only meta so much! No one man can has all that meta!

Rubber: Speaking of meta–this was awesome and fun. That is all.

Written by john lichman

May 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm