DVD Tales: Animatrix to Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

Following from American Splendor...

Animatrix (various, 2003)
I'll talk about what went wrong with the Matrix franchise when I get to "M", but there's actually a lot to like about Animatrix. Of the 8 anime-style stories by different writers and directors, the strongest to me was "Beyond" about a haunted house which, in Matrix terms, is simply "buggy". Beautifully inventive. "The Second Renaissance" tells the origin of the Matrix and is great to look at too. "Final Flight of Osiris shows how far CGI characters had gone since Final Fantasy. The rest are perhaps less "essential". I got the pricier DVD that included the show's soundrack because I didn't know there was a stand-alone one. Kicked myself for it at first because the CD was a little downbeat, but I've since come to enjoy it nonetheless.

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
Let me start by committing heresy and saying that Coppola is not my cup of tea. He's a rambler and his films tend to annoy me long before I can get through them. Apocalypse Now is the exception, though it still rambles quite a lot. I guess the set pieces work well enough to forgive the spawling plotlessness. Now when it came out on DVD as Apocalypse Now Redux, a longer cut of the movie with minimal extras, it was everything I didn't want for a Coppola film. Bided my time and am the owner of the current release, which has both cuts of the film and plenty of extras (though I'd have loved for the Hearts of Darkness documentary to be attached).

Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 1995)
Big space freak right here! I do admit that I didn't go see Apollo 13 at the movies because of Tom Hanks overload at the time, but after watching and becoming a huge fan of From the Earth to the Moon, I gave in and got this on video, and later on DVD. In short: a beautifully produced "scientific thriller" that has no less impact even if you know the outcome. Haven't watched the included IMAX version yet, but I just don't have the screen for it.

Apostrophe (') Over-Nite Sensation (Frank Zappa, 1979)
Just reviewed it this Sunday. My interest in Frank Zappa started like most people's: by contagion. Someone always seems responsible for turning you on to his music, and in my case, it was my good friend Mike (Doctor Mi on here). I, in turn, introduced Zappa to others and so it goes. It's like Amway without the selling. Of the 60+ records, my tastes tend to run towards the live performance end of the scale (You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore in particular a treasured part of my music library). Frank is just so good at improvising around random events, it's just too funny in addition to being impressively good music.

Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (Stephen Spielberg, 2001)
I'm a little surprised I have this. Directed by Spielberg based on prep work done by Stanley Kubrick, I have problems with both directors (despite the fact they've done stuff I admire). Kubrick's work is so intellectual as to be unaffecting, and I've gotten tired of his three-tonally unrelated-act structures. Spielberg, on the other hand, is an unashamed emotional manipulator, especially when it comes to children in his movies. So what happens when you throw them together? Three perfectly produced and intriguing acts, followed by a feelgood ending that RUINS THE WHOLE MOVIE. Shut the thing off when David gets frozen and leave the room. Another reason why I'm not sure why I have the DVD: Spielberg never graces his work with a commentary track. For one of the most important American directors of all time not to leave such a record of his work is irresponsible to me. He's probably way too busy to revisit old work. Alas.

But what did YOU think? Next: Babel to The Ballad of Cable Hogue.


rob! said...

i found AI to be a very odd film. i'm used to being emotionally detached when watching a Kubrick film, but of course thats just the opposite of everything Spielberg as a director is about, so I felt the combo just didnt work.

the world of AI is not a world i'd want to live in, futuristic space cars or no.

Siskoid said...

I imagine New Yorkers are with you on that count.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading old Disney books from the 70s and 80s to my kids every night. Those are the book-a-month titles that my wife's parents got through the mail.

Since watching A.I., I have trouble with the Blue Fairy in the Pinocchio books. I now perceive her as a symbol of things unachievable.

Speaking of things spread by contagion: I've got to get you to watch Firefly/Serenity, my friend.

Siskoid said...

I'll probably get to it eventually, considering what else I'm into.

Dan said...

My own heresy is that I find "Apocalypse Now" to be all but unwatchable. In the early '70s, Coppola was a filmmaking god - the first two "Godfathers" and "The Conversation" are pure gold. But "Apocalypse Now" is rambling and disjointed and the fact that, after all the buildup and mythology around him, Col. Kurtz turns out to be late-period Weirdo Brando mumbling and mugging and making no sense whatsoever just collapses the entire thing.

And I actually liked the Spielberg-meets-Kubrick weirdness of "AI." I thought it was entirely appropriate for the story.

FoldedSoup said...

I own A.I. as well, but I've only watched it once. Like many Spielberg movies, I have to be in the mood and prepared for the after-mood. Like you said, guy can emotionally manipulate you...

And, let me emphatically second the Firefly/Serenity recommendation. From reading your reviews on TV Sci-Fi stuff, I *Know* you'd love it. It'll probably take up your entire weekend sometime, non-stop.

(Oh, and watch Firefly in its entirety first. You're invested in Serenity that much more when you see it.)


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