Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Archive for January, 2010

WALL·E vs Spirit

January 29, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Link Roundups

In my WALL·E review, I noted this complaint:

Usually, Pixar wraps its keen observations of human foibles around the plight of their victims: neglected toys in Toy Story, unappreciated superheroes in The Incredibles, maltreated marine life in Finding Nemo, and so forth. But WALL·E’s own abandonment never grows into an issue against the humans here…

So what exactly was I expecting from Pixar? I wouldn’t have known, of all things, that the geek webcomic XKCD would provide the answer:

XKCD: Spirit

Randall Munroe, XKCD’s author, writes: “On January 26th, 2213 days into its mission, NASA declared Spirit a ‘stationary research station’, expected to stay operational for several more months until the dust buildup on its solar panels forces a final shutdown.”

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“Crying” in Mulholland Drive

January 22, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

I haven’t yet parsed (nor could I possibly) all of the mysteries and wonders of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive after my first enraptured viewing, but how hypnotic is that scene in Club Silencio where Rebekah Del Rio sings “Llorando”, her a capella Spanish cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”? Her clear and tremulous voice, that creased forehead and weathered face, captured close-up over a dark background, echo more powerfully as a naked embodiment of desire than almost any musical number across the cinematic decade that followed. (And what are musical numbers meant to be but embodiments of desire?) The scene is wondrous in its simplicity, cutting between close-ups of Del Rio, weeping for a lost love, and of Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, weeping for beauty.

Mulholland Drive sustains its mystery by baring its heart in scenes like this one or Watts’ fabled audition, even when it complicates them with the futile threat of being illusory. What illusion? When Del Rio collapses as her voice plays on, or onlookers clap to Watts’ tear-choked breaths, we aren’t disappointed that “it’s all a sham”—because we remember. And so the magic persists: beyond death, beyond reality.

Mulholland Drive | 2001 | USA | Director: David Lynch | Screenplay: David Lynch | Cast: Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, Rebekah Del Rio, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller

Tweeting the Movies

January 15, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

Here are my Twitter posts on some of the movies I caught in the past year:

District 9: Bracing as a quasi-documentary on alien immigrants, and as a horror film on unwanted transformations; opaque as an action flick.

Double Indemnity: I just don’t get classic actresses playing hysterics. c.f. Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, Hepburn in Long Day’s Journey into Night

Fighting: A formula film without the formula’s best parts: the sweat-soaked anticipation, the thrill of the win, or, y’know, the actual fighting.

Funny Girl: Nearly a revue meant to showcase Streisand’s talents at belting and rapid-fire line delivery; Streisand redefines stardom.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Potter fatigue has caught up to me; all of J.K. Rowling’s missed dramatic opportunities keep thwacking me in the face.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Sturdy pulp movie, with stars (Ford, Connery, Phoenix) that knew they were stars, and how to act as stars.

Katong Fugue: How is it that celluloid pianos so readily channel their player’s inner desires? (c.f. The Piano)

Moon: “Thoughtful scifi” for beginners: promising premise, predictable plotting.

Paper Heart: Shades of When Harry Met Sally, with clever, disciplined use of the handheld trope.

Paranormal Activity: Oscillates like Julie & Julia between its annoying and gratifying plots, but with demons (actual v boyfriend) not cooks

Public Enemies: Retreads Bonnie and Clyde, laced with the irony that even America’s Most Wanted doesn’t beat its citizens’ self-absorption.

Ratatouille: Anyone (who can reconstruct whole recipes from scratch with just a whiff) can cook.

Silkwood proves that horror movies are scarier when they feel like a part of life, especially one you haven’t the means to escape.

Taken: dooming teenagers worldwide to clampdowns on travel by their paranoid parents, who believe that kidnappers lie at every foreign turn.

There Will Be Blood score is such a keeper: each track is flavorful and distinctive! If it didn’t fit the images, that’s the movie’s fault.

Up: Apart from the vignettes of lifelong marriage… eurgh. Eurgh. Pixar at its most infantile.

The Wedding Banquet: Queer domesticity warms my soft heart.

West Side Story: (Romeo + Juliet’s plot) – (Shakespeare’s poetry) = Awful book scenes. Rita Moreno sets her scene ablaze; other songs nowhere as fiery.

You Can Count on Me: Exactly what the title says.


A Toast to!

January 06, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Announcements

I’ve moved! My old site name,, was a holdover from my younger days when I needed a general label to hold forth on anything I wanted. I’ve since learnt that my favourite writing for this site involves railing against the excessive hype plastered on nearly every awards contender nowadays, and leveling a more nuanced critique of its glories and missteps.

Hence: Against The Hype.

Please update your links and bookmarks to! For feed readers, please update your feed to Here’s to a great new year!