Throbbing Skunk Ape Official Homepage

Welcome. I am Caley Middleton and this is a glimpse into my world. You'll see what I see, defile what I defile, eat who I eat. I really can't fathom why you'd stop by, but if you do please leave comments! I absolutely crave, attention.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I gotta say for me, the most exhilirating moment of music in 2004 so far is from Rilo Kiley's "Portions For Foxes."

Toward the end Jenny Lewis sings "You're bad news/ my friends tell me to leave you", and you can tell it's one of those things where your friends just don't get it, and when Jenny Lewis, sings "You're bad news, but I don't care cuz I like you...I like you!" it's all too much. Now, if only someone in town could sell it, I could truly enjoy it. *sigh*


Friday, August 20, 2004

"Pet what?....Her fuckin' kneecaps, Farrell."

I'd really intended to post on here more often, but between lounging in the sun, watching Fubar every single time it's on TV, and eating burritos, my time seems limited, maybe when Autum comes I'll be back more often, but today, at least I do have some content. Per a discussion on a message board, I've compiled a list of my favourite movies of the decade, so far.

B/c of my tendencies to overrate films I have just seen, I disqualified anything that came out this year (Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), or have North American release dates of this year (Hero, Zatoichi, Shaolin Soccer). Now, in the words of movie number 11, "So, here we go..."

20. Dolls (Dir. by Takeshi Kitano): Quite simply, visually, this is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. I don't quite have a handle on the plot, but am sure I can wrap my head around it with another viewing or two once it comes out of the new release section.
19. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Dir. by Alfonso Cuaron): The highest teen sex comedy on the list! Seriously, though, this is a fun, honest, surprisingly touching film, with some breathtaking cinematography. The Mexican scenery might be the most important character in the entire film.
18. Requiem For A Dream (Dir. By Darren Aronofsky): Although I've cooled on it somewhat in recent times, this is as jarring, shocking and visually intense film as you're going to see. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans (!) and, especially, Ellen Burstyn deliver some very memorable performances.
17. Unbreakable (Dir. By M.Night Shyalaman (sp?): Basically number 17 was designated as the M. Night spot, some days I am more excited about Signs and it's message of religious faith disguised as an alien film, but today, it's Unbreakable and it's philosophical meditation on heroes in society.
16. Donnie Darko (Dir. By Richard Kelly): I'm always in awe of this film, if not completely sure of the story. There are enough amazing visuals, creepy atmospherics, and hilarious bits that make it a wonderful film, even if the plot is a little convoluted for its own good.
15. Snatch (Dir. By Guy Ritchie): Sure, there are funnier action comedies, better action sequences, and more inventive camera work elsewhere, but I am hard-pressed to find a film as energetic and alive as this one is. I love the Mickey character (Brad Pitt) that is the perfect reply to critics of Guy Ritchie's first film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
14. Amores Perros (Dir. By Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu): So gritty you have to clean your fingernails afterwards, Inarritu's film is mesmerizing. It's a three-part tale that turns in on itself, much like the aforementioned Snatch. Hard to watch, but worth the effort.
13. Metropolis (Dir. By Taro Rin): This is one of the most emotional animated films I've ever seen, an epic anime that takes the issue of artificial intelligence and responsibility to a level that Steven Spielberg intended with A.I. (which contrary to popular opinions, I love). Like Y Tu Mama Tambien, it's hard to keep your eyes on the onscreen action with the amazing backgrounds.
12. Happy Times (Dir. By Zhang Yimou): I’m puzzled at the criticisms and general opinion on this one. I thought it was a brilliantly funny tale of a compulsive liar who creates the ultimate subterfuge in order to fool a blind girl in feeling wanted. The ending is so touching, sad and out of left field that it gets me every time. Benshan Zhao in the lead role is hilarious, but human.
11. Punch Drunk Love (Dir. By Paul Thomas Anderson): An oddball romantic comedy if there ever was one. Everyone plays their parts perfectly: Adam Sandler as a socially-challenged man hen-pecked by his many sisters, Emily Watson as the slightly off object of Sandler’s affections, and Philip Seymour Hoffman breaking away from his usually brittle characters to play a sleazeball with conviction. This is an amazing looking film, as well. The soundtrack is perfect, the humor is great, the romance is believable, I really can’t say enough good things about it.
10. George Washington (Dir. By David Gordon Green): I love this slow-moving story about kids growing up in a sleepy little Southern town. Green is happy to train the camera on his mostly new cast and just let them talk, eschewing the desire by new-school directors to play with camera tricks, Green is happy to make a spectacular film that echoes his hero Terrance Malick in its slow, meticulous style. This not a movie for those who love plots, but for someone craving characters, style, and, above all, mood and beauty, it’s absolutely perfect.
09. Lost in Translation (Dir. By Sofia Coppola): A beautiful, lyrical film about unexpected love in Tokyo. I am baffled at the complaints of racism leveled at this one, as no one is painted negatively, it’s the story of two people coming to Tokyo and being unable, or unwilling, to fit in and instead finding each other. I would say that it is the kind of movie you could put on and turn off the sound to enjoy the visuals, but then you would miss the amazing score, one of the best I’ve heard in years. Murray and Johansson are amazing, but Anna Faris is not to be ignored either in a role that would be easy to play unsympathetically, but she adds a touch of humanity to it.
08. Adaptation (Dir. By Spike Jonze): All of the praise for this one is always focused on writer Charlie Kaufman, and I can’t deny the skill he does in adapting Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief, but I think Jonze deserves more credit than he gets for keeping it all together. Of course, without Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper, the movie would be nowhere near as great. This is a fun story about orchid thieves, writing, and selling out or giving in.
07. The Royal Tenenbaums (Dir. By Wes Anderson): I used to be somewhat cold on this one, liking it, but rating it a distant third to Rushmore and Bottlerocket. I re-watched it this year and was amazed at how great it was. So many characters, and so much trademark Anderson whimsy, but everyone plays their roles honestly, sacrificing easy laughs for being real. The scene where Hackman’s estranged patriarch and Stiller’s neurotic son finally reconcile nearly brought a tear to my eye. Perhaps this is a film that needs a touch of maturity to fully reveal itself to you.
06. All the Real Girls (Dir. By David Gordon Green): Yes, the only man to put not only two films in the top 20 (Kitano was close, though, I should mention), but Green puts two films in the top 10. This would be your standard tale of blossoming love giving way to love gone wrong, if it weren’t some amazingly beautiful. Green is still content to watch his characters with an unblinking eye, but this time he combines it with some of the most amazing camerawork, to make the film into something transcendent. Paul Schneider is my breakout actor of 2003 with his honest performance and Zooey Deschanel, well, I already knew she was great. Oh, and Danny McBride as Bust-Ass could be the next Jack Black with the right combination of roles and characters.
05. Happiness of the Katakuris (Dir. By Takashi Miike): Amazing. Insane. Hilarious. Miike’s horror/horror sendup/musical/comedy is truly one of a kind. The songs are catchy, the horror pretty gory, the humor hilarious. I can watch and re-watch this, the first film I feel where Miike truly puts it all together and forms something of a coherent film that underneath all the silliness has something positive to say about the importance of family.
04. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Dir. By Ang Lee): This film, for me, is as important for its heart-breaking love story as it is for its action. The story of the hero Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and his true-love Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) who both love each other, but cannot act on it b/c of Shu Lien’s vow to her deceased intended, one of Mu Bai’s brothers in arms. Both actors hit levels not hinted at in either of their careers. This is not to discount the action, which is just as heart-stopping and beautiful.
03. In the Mood For Love (Dir. By Wong Kar Wai): The first time I saw this, I didn’t see the big deal. But, with each subsequent viewing, it’s like a love slowly revealing itself and all of its beauty. Every frame of the film is alive with visual beauty, which is not to discount its story of two people, unable to give themselves to love, b/c they are married to two people who are cheating on them with each other. They do not want to be like their significant others, but do they ultimately give in? Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung are such great actors, but they also bring a smoldering, sexy intensity to their relationship, yet there is no sex.
02. Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain (Dir. By Jean-Pierre Jeunet): I love how alive this movie is with hope, love, and just a general mood of feeling good. Audrey Tautou arrives as one of the best actresses of the millennium in a role that would be easy to over-do, but Tautou plays just right so that she is always sweet and a little bit silly, but never overly so. The tale of a girl who wants to do good for everyone’s life but is too shy to do anything for herself is just staggering with moments of such visual elegance as Amelie skipping stones directly at the camera. Every time I see it, I smile a little more.
01. Spirited Away (Dir. By Hayao Miyazaki): Visually and emotionally spectacular. This is a film that can be seen by most everyone, with not an act of physical violence, bad language, or sexual innuendo to be found. It’s the story of a young girl stumbling across a bathhouse for spirits, who is forced to work to save her parents. It’s also, at its heart, about re-discovering kindness, honesty, and respect. The world of the bathhouse is bizarre, breath-taking and full of wonder. One of the few films to make me feel like I was eight years old all over again.


Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Best Movies of 2003.
(Part 1)

The problem I find with Best of lists, is that they are always restricted to December/January. They're good informing you what's out there, but pretty impossible to compare with. Especially when you live in a town like Kelowna. I believe that something like 4 out of Ebert and Roeper's Top Ten of 2003, actually made it to theatres here before their list was announced. So, instead of restricting my list to the movies that just happened to make it to Kelowna before the end of 2003, I thought it best to hold off on my list until I had a chance to cover most of the films of 2003 that I'd wanted to see. Now, some movies I had to shoehorn into 2003. Whenever possible I went by release dates or else the date of Roger Ebert's reviews. Ultimately, though, I didn't want to slight any movies I felt were deserving of praise, just because they weren't available the previous years, so don't go all crazy and yell at me for picking movies that were "technically" released in 2002. I tried my best. Anyways, here are numbers 25 thru to 21.

25. 28 Days Later (Dir. By Danny Boyle). So, the apocalypse is brought on by hippies? I can dig it. Seriously, though, this one of the best horror/zombie movies I have ever seen. I’m not a big fan of the genre, but this was really good, with some really neat touches. The story goes that some environmentalists try to free some lab animals and unwittingly destroy all of the world in the process by unleashing a killer virus. Jim (played by Cillian Murphy), wakes up in a hospital, and finds no one left. He eventually gets attacked by some virus-sufferers (but for the purpose of the rest of this write-up they will be referred to as zombies from now on), and is saved by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley). Eventually, after hooking up with some other survivors, they follow a radio signal and hopefully toward more survivors, but more likely toward more trouble! Seriously, though, this is a very good film. In particular one scene toward the start where Jim walks though a deserted London as a song by Godspeed You Black Emperor swells to a mesmerizing crescendo. A very good soundtrack, some funny elements, but ultimately a disturbing, creepy horror film, that’s more than worth the viewing.

24. City of Ghosts (Dir. By Matt Dillon). Not so much a film as a travelogue of sunny Cambodia. Maybe, not a great one, as I can’t see what would motivate one to visit Cambodia after seeing this, what with the thugs, prostitutes, crooked French eatery owners, thieving monkeys, and bad hotels. But, I enjoyed this one. It has a great soundtrack, highlighted by a Cambodian rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides. This is the story of Jimmy (played by Dillon), a con man involved in an insurance scam with Marvin (the always fascinating James Caan), who has to flee to Cambodia in order to evade the authorities and get his share of the profits. Of course, everything goes wrong. The scenes of the captured prisoners begging for their life and being tortured has grown in creepy resonance in the wake of the videos we’ve seen as of late out of Iraq. But, the plot is really second rate compared with watching some very talented actors (the aforementioned Dillon and Caan, joined by Gerard Depardieu, Stellan Skarsgard, Natasha McElhone and newcomer Kem Sereyvuth) create some very intriguing characters, in particular Depardieu’s Emile who runs an eatery and tosses out bad seeds while carrying his children, and seeing a part of the world not often seen outside of war movies.

23. How to Deal (Dir. By Clare Kilner). I figured that the reason I enjoyed this was solely because Mandy Moore is pretty, and fun to watch as an actress. But, I now have to give some credit to Director Kilner, as well as the film, itself, after seeing the awful Chasing Liberty, which also starred Moore and had me praying for some of the neat touches or fun of this film. How To Deal tells the story of Halley (Moore) a high-schooler with divorced parents who has a rather, not entirely undeserving cynical view of love. Gradually, she’s worn down by free spirit Macon (Trent Ford), and finds herself falling for him...for a while. This is not a “G reat” film, but it is fun. Moore is her usual loveable self, but is supported by a fine cast that includes Allison Janney, Alexandra Holden, and Dylan Baker. The is also an amazing shot outside of funeral in the rain. The film is not without its flaws, especially the irritating Grandmother abusing her medicinal marijuana who embodies every terrible stoner stereotype perpetrated by Cheech and Chong, but is ultimately fun, surprisingly touching, and not a bad way to spend your time.

22. Elephant (Dir. By Gus Van Sant). Van Sant’s Elephant is a hard film to pin down. It’s a recreation of a day in a high school that ultimately erupts into a shooting, just like the Columbine murders. The best word to describe Elephant would be ‘sparse’, there is not an abundance of dialogue or music, the performances are solid but unspectacular, not surprising considering the parts are all played by non-actors that Van Sant cast, and the film is very careful not to offer up explanations, reasons, or answers. It does show the eventual killers playing violent video games, but does not make it clear whether the games motivate their violence, or their inclination toward violence motivates their interest in the games. It’s an abosluttely beautifully shot film with long tracking shots that make the school look like an absolute cavern, which is how it often feels for a number of these students. It is all at once, beautiful, amusing, but finally disturbing. Yet, I still remain on the fence about it. In an interview, Van Sant said that he didn’t know what motivated the killers in Columbine to do what they did, so how could he attribute motives to the killers in his movie. While I applaud his courage, I remain unsure of whether or not that was the right way to make a film about Columbine. When you don’t lay some blame or responsibility in a film of this nature, you run the risk of glorifying what happened. While I found Elephant to be disturbing, there remains the possibility that future school shooting perpetrators might find the film inspiring or the glorification that they themselves seek.

21. Bubba Ho-tep (Dir. By Don Coscarelli). Utterly ridiculous and weird, while at the same time quite funny, and, surprisingly touching. Bubba Ho-tep rests on the principle that Elvis (played here by the incomparable Bruce Campbell) never died, rather, he switched places with an Elvis impersonator because the fame became too much for him. With an agreement in place to switch back whenever he wanted, what the real Elvis didn’t know is that the impersonator had a bad heart. Now, Elvis spends his days in an old folks’ home, pining for his libido. That would be a hard enough plot pill for some to swallow, but when you add in that Elvis’ best friend is an aging black man (Ossie Davis) who claims to be John F. Kennedy, but they dyed him black, and that they do battle with a mummy who is terrorizing their rest home, it’s a challenge for anyone to take seriously. But, the movie isn’t simply about being absurd. Davis and Campbell play their characters as humans rather than caricatures. However, the biggest shock to me is that the mummy actually looks good! With a silly storyline, such as this, it would be easy to aim for cheesy, and put a guy in a campy, old-fashioned suit, but, instead, the movie provides a pretty scary-looking villain (even when his dialogue is not). So, yeah, this movie is not going to appeal to everyone, but if you chuckled once in reading this outline, than there is a pretty darn good chance you will enjoy the movie.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dude, where's my czar?
-Actualy category this week on Jeopardy
Inspired by Sean, here are some of my best-ofs, thus far, for this year.
Top 6 Albums
6. Piebald, All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time  {Not as good as 'We Are The Only Friends That We Have", but what is, really?  This album is still quite good, and will likely still squeak into my top ten at the end of the year, catchy, fun poppy punky}
5.  The Streets, A Grand Don't Come For Free  {This album flip flops for me.  Sometimes, I find it to be a pretty damned fun concept album, at other times I find it to be 60-70% unlistenable}
4. Various, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Soundtrack  {Normally, I don't include soundtracks in these things, and I probably won't by the end of the year, but I thought it deserved some recognition.  The very last song (called something like Elephant Parade or something) is probably the prettiest 26 seconds I will hear all year.}
3. Wilco, A Ghost Is Born {This makes it here largely on the heels of the opening song "At Least That's What You Said" which is just amazingly good.  Now, I haven't listened to this album since the week I bought it, but I'm sure I will revisit it soon.  It really is good, I think}
2. Kanye West, The College Dropout  {The first I heard of Kanye was "All Falls Down" which frankly, I found to be pretty dull.  Then, I heard "Jesus Walks" and became all turned around on the subject of Kanye.  This is probably my favourite hip hop album since Jay-Z's Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse, something which probably means nothing to you, but lots to me.  Don't be surprised to see this have risen to my favourite album of the year, by the end of this year.}
1. Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Like Bad News  {Modest Mouse always underwhelmed me in the past.  The Moon and Antarctica was a good album with a great song (The Stars Are Projectors), but I hardly ever revisit it, and it would be doubtful that it would sneak into my top 50 of all time.  Again, though, Modest Mouse have ridden the wave of a great song (Float On), but this time they surround it with a stellar album.  There are a couple tracks on here that I would probably, given the option, chuck by the wayside.  But so far, this year, no other album screams "Album of the Year" like this one.
There are a number of albums I'm looking forward to hearing, and could definitely take over this list.  Some are out already and I just can't find them here, others are supposedly to come.  Some of these include: Phoenix, Last Days of April, Interpol, Sigur Ros, The Album Leaf, Jimmy Eat World.
I should be back sooner rather than later, maybe even tonight if I get the chance. With a list of my top 5 movies of this year, and amended Top 10s from last year, and maybe even, fingers crossed, a top 50 album and top 50 movies of all time list.  Lists are fun.  Maybe this time I can offer a little better commentary on all of them.  Anyways, my dad wants me to go help him buy some cement, so I'm gonna make like a tree and get the hell out of here.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

"I smoke, I snort, I've killed and robbed, I'm a man."
-City of God

I'm sorry, I wish I could offer self-important reasons why I have been absent, but, alas, I cannot. I've just been outside enjoying the summer sunshine (37 today, that's 99 farenheit to the rest of you). And, this isn't going to be a terribly detailed post, today, either. But, anyways, here goes

First, you should go here and download the new For Stars, as it is really, really good.
Secondly, go to Largehearted Boy and find the live Jenny Lewis set from a couple days ago and download it. She even has a song called "You Are What You Love" with a chorus lifted from the brilliant [strong]Adaptation[/strong].
Thirdly, go rent (and if you have the money, buy) City Of God, as it is really good. Very intense, depressing, disturbing, but ultimately rewarding.
Fourthly, 50 First Datesis not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I love Adam Sandler movies (although the last two didn't really interest me), and I HATE Drew Barrymore, and the commercial didn't look at all interesting or funny to me, but it surprised me. My sister swears by this movie (I think she's seen it 4 times already), I'm not the rabid fan she is, but I can't say I don't recommend it.
Fifthly, another of my sister's recommmendations, which I cannot deny is Waking The Dead. I've only watched half of it, but it's really quite good.
Sixthly, Together. Rent it. Watch it with people you love. It's really emotional and touching. Yet, most surprisingly, it's funny, too.
And I am out of here, to go drink Ice Tea, read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and bask in the summer sun. Aloha.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

"You sad little man"
-The Office

I promise I'm not dead. And I haven't been busy, either. I will write sometime in the near future. Just not today.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"I’ve learned I was part of someone else’s happiness. What a wonderful discovery."
-After Life

After Life (dir. by Hirokazu Koreeda): I was reading reporst from the Cannes film festival, and came across the name Hirokazu Koreeda who is showing a film there, and remembered the movie After Life which is one of the few movies I have rented despite no build-up prior to watching it. I asked my brother if he would like to see it, as an excuse to rent it again at a time when I should be out looking for a job. It's such a beautiful movie. It's definitely not for everyone, though, as it moves very, very slowly. But, the shots of Shiori walking through the bamboo forest, the city streets at night, and kicking around snow on a rooftop or more than worth the price of a rental alone. The story of After Life is that, after you die, on a Monday, you are taken to this building, which looks a lot like a run-down hotel. There, you are instructed that on Wednesday, you will have to choose your favourite memory of all your life, and the people in charge will do their best to recreate it on film. Once you watch you memory, you will be take elsewhere, remembering nothing from your entire life save for the memory you just watched. One of the things I find most fascinating about After Life, is that for a movie about what happens after death, the movie does not dwell on death, but, instead, focusses on life. The characters don't lament their deaths, or even carry on about how it happened (the most information you ever learn about someone's death is that he died during the war). If the characters complain, it is about wasting their life, not the unfairness (and in some cases these are fairly young people) of their death. Another amazing aspect of the movie, is the prescence of Susumu Terajima. You should be able to recognize him from countless Takeshi Kitano movies, he's always there, and more often than not he's a tough as nails yakuza underling. In After Life he's a kind, caring, counsellor, and a despondent deceased father. It's really strange to see.

SPOILER: The unfulfilled love between Shiori and Mochizuki is among the most heart-breaking ever. Mochizuki decides that after some 40-50 years of working there, he has finally made up his mind about which memory he will choose. He chooses the memory, after finding out he is in someone else's memory: "I’ve learned I was part of someone else’s happiness. What a wonderful discovery." He assures Shiori that one day she will find that same happiness. But, she says she cannot. She says she can never choose a memory, b/c that will erase everyone and everything she has come to known in the after life. When they sit down to watch his final memory, and after the lights come up, and Mochizuki is no longer there, it just says more about life and death than words ever can. END OF SPOILER SECTION.

But, what this movie does best, is make you analyze your own life. There is no way you can watch it without thinking "What memory would I choose?" After doing much thinking on it, I think I would choose a day from September 2002. I went with a friend to visit a friend who'd moved to Washington state,and, on our last day there, we decided to see the ocean. And we went to Seaside, Oregon. We ended up at the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. I read somewhere that the beach is 15 miles, and I would believe it. Not only is it immense, but it is absolutely, positively rock-free. I don't remember a single rock on that beach. I almost fell asleep instantly once I layed down upon the sand. That night, we came back and watched the sun set over the ocean. Some people had set up bonfires on the beach. Everyone was so nice. A man in the background played a ukelele while another sang in some Island dialect. That beach, as of right now, would be the one memory I would have to take with me. If only there were some way to take memories of people who weren't there along.

ps: Everyone should go to this site right now and download Clive Holden's amazing CD. I first discovered it via Sean and every single song is amazing, just Holden reciting his poetry over some slight music by people whose names I can't remember save the two guys from the Weakerthans (Jason Tait and John K. Sampson).