Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

An audio program about movies. Listen with your iPod or computer.

Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

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Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.

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You know what would be great? To take Hitler down? And stop the gassing and the conquest and the thing and the guy? Would be an audacious hotshot with the guts to get in there and do it. A guy so good he could do it with one eye tied behind his back. A guy so good he counts his blown-off right-hand as an asset because he can "Heil Hitler" ironically and you can never really call him on it. And I know just the actor to play him.

Stauffenberg hatching his plan.
Stauffenberg selling his plan to Nazis who are starting to question this Third Reich thing, circa 1944.
Stauffenberg psyching himself up for the dangerous mission.
Stauffenberg expressing self-doubt. (deleted scene)
Stauffenberg expressing absolute confidence in the mission and himself.
Stauffenberg upon being told that his paperwork must be signed by the Führer.
Stauffenberg insisting that he blew Hitler up but only after the paperwork was signed.
Stauffenberg, God bless him, expressing outrage that Op Valk was not engaged as planned, wasting the three precious hours that he'd previously gained through ingenuity.
Stauffenberg taking even more charge than he'd taken previously. Must he do everything single-handedly? Time to school these chumps; the only problem is that he lacks a pupil.
Stauffenberg running the German government with an eye toward Berlin.
'Do you think he has a sense of humor?' 'I think his optometrist has a sense of humor.'
Stauffenberg inquiring after the safety of his wife, Frau Stauffenberg.
Stauffenberg coming to the conclusion that Hitler was not blown up and wondering if the mistake was due to faulty depth perception on the part of one of his peers.
Stauffenberg about to be executed but only after naming a name to clarify that the failure was not his but that of Shiva the God of the Wrong Person's Death.
Stauffenberg as remembered by the footnotes of history, steely.

Valkyrie is based on a true story, which I know because the screen says so at the beginning of the film in German. And I know that it says so at the beginning of the film in German because the letters morph into English before they go away. Then we hear the hotshot writing his diary in German, which eventually morphs (audibly) into the English words of Tom Cruise who seems almost frustrated by the cumbersome translation process, as if the hotshot can't be bothered to continue in German when something more serious is at stake. Also: we hear what he writes. Linguistic efficiencies could and will be made.

And the movie's off. A sequence in the middle of the film involves putting a bomb at the Führer's feet, and I quite liked the suspense, even though throughout that stretch I was thinking, "I wish Eddie Izzard were taking down the Führer instead of nervously making a phone call in the background." That's what's nice about this movie. It gives you time to think about what you're seeing. Like: Is Tom Wilkinson speaking only his dependent clauses with a British accent? Is that Peter Cushing back there? And, say, who do you think would win in a peaked-cap face-off between Grand Moff Tarkin, General Zod, and let's say Hitler? That kind of thing.

Then more morphing, this time in the face of the sometimes eye-patched, sometimes digitally walleyed Tom Cruise. It's his steely performance, his 1,000 faces that carry the film, each one revealing a facet of Hotshot Claus von Stauffenberg, each of them determined, each of them steely. If it weren't for that Germano-English text up front, I'd think this guy could probably pull it off. Ice the Führer, engage Operation Valkyrie to gain control of Berlin, gain control of Germany, gain control of Europe, and finally install Field Marshall Goose just in time to put the egg back on the mantel before the Allies arrive to say, "Yo, what the?"

Alas, he had no strafing partner, this hotshot. The rest is footnoted history and symphonic strings.

His wife lived and raised their kids without incident. Did I mention his wife? No matter.

Summit Entertainment

Bella is the new girl in town, and Twilight waits a full hour before revealing to her what the rest of us knew from the moment he strode pale-faced into the school cafeteria: the quiet, glowering boy in her grade is a vampire. It's the skin, it's the brooding look, it's the magnificently gelled hair, it's the slo-mo entrance. Dead giveaways. He doesn't talk to anybody, ever, but, alas, he locks into Bella's gaze, and she smolders for the rest of the film, usually in tight shots that alternate with close-ups of his burning unrest.

Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) sees the humor in the portrayal, and her whiffs of wit carry a long, slow setup. When the vampire, Edward, is seated in biology class -- still brooding, ever brooding -- Hardwicke positions a stuffed bird on the shelf behind him, spreading its wings so they seem to be attached to the scruff of his neck. In Magnolia, P.T. Anderson used a caduceus painted on a back wall to make the sad boy genius in the foreground even more angelic, even more Falconetti-esque, and in Twilight Hardwicke evokes genuine, giddy laughter with the shots of first one wing, then two, the pair growing in prominence as Edward senses Bella's approach through the bio-science doorway.

“It's a dangerous thing to confuse children with angels.”

But Edward is not, in fact, happy to see her. He holds his head low like the reluctant angel in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire. This blue-lipped, aggressively plucked boy is not a reluctant angel, of course, but a reluctant vampire smitten by the girl who should be his prey.

Therein lies his conflict, and therein lies hers, and from the two a familiar story emerges: love at first sight needs no justification; opposites attract; beautiful people attract; dangerous boys attract bold girls who, in time, will benefit from the protection provided by their speed, strength, mystique, and wisdom (or, here, telepathy). Protection from what? It matters not; girls need protecting. From reckless drivers. Rival vampires. What have you.

But -- here's the rub -- if the boy loses control of himself in the heat of passion he could destroy her. She has an intoxicating scent. She's filled with blood-red deliciousness. Perhaps he would not retract his teeth were they ever to take hold. It's the story of a thousand romances, of two thousand movie teens who struggle against chastity, and it's a story not altogether different from that of poor Peter Parker who cannot declare his love for whatshername because certain ne'er-do-wells would then use her as Spider-Man bait. In short, nothing attracts boys like somebody else's letter jacket. But in this case, the ne'er-do-well is Edward himself. Stuff that duality into your Spidey tights, Peter.

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Colin Powell Reacts to Obama Victory:

More video clips:


Listen, people. Can't Wellington the Wiggly Worm and Booker T. Bluebird live together in peace?

Google is constantly updating and tinkering with its search algorithms, and most of the time we never notice. The service is a black box, and what goes on inside is anybody's guess.

But I've noticed something in the last week that's going to affect the way I type queries. About a decade ago (cripes), I picked up the habit from Robot Wisdom, the granddaddy of all blogs, of searching for a phrase by typing periods between the words instead of the more common way of surrounding the phrase with quotation marks. It's much easier to touch-type


"three one two"

especially when you're searching for two phrases at once, which I sometimes do when I'm looking up lyrics, bits of dialogue, or something I remember from a news article. Typing quotation marks requires pressing shift and moving your hands, but periods are easy. And until very recently, the results were identical.

This no doubt exploited some quirk of Google's punctuation handling, and I can see that there aren't many people who do this, so the side effect was bound to disappear at some point. I'm just surprised it has lasted this long. I'm sure this latest change includes lots of invisible improvements that we'll all grow accustomed to without realizing it, so I won't complain that this now produces different results from this.

Time to retrain my fingers.

Some advice for people who talk to exit pollsters:

Little more than three years ago, the greatest engineering disaster since Chernobyl according to one expert occurred in the city of New Orleans, blamed by three different teams of investigators on misfeasance and malfeasance by an agency of the United States federal government. ["a system in name only" says the Corps' own report.]

Not a word about it in this presidential campaign. It didn't happen. We dreamed it. They must have dreamed it down there.

Not a word. Why? No, not evil. Not malice. Not any of that good stuff. You and I know the reason, ladies and gentlemen: it didn't show up in the polls.

The candidates decided what to talk about based on what people in the polls say they're concerned about, and it wasn't even in the top ten. So, you know, I don't care whether you vote or not. It's no skin off any part of my anatomy. But I will say this: if you are going to some place on Tuesday and you're going behind a little curtain and you're casting what you think will be a secret ballot. And you then decide, the minute you leave that private booth, to go out and talk to a total stranger and tell him how you voted, how much money you make, and what religion you are, just make sure when he asks what demographic group you belong to, you say "genius."

Harry Shearer

Does the Army Corps of Engineers have a project near you?

After a few days of being sick and then a few more days studying for and taking the Illinois drivers test and/or supporting a spouse doing the same, I managed to catch a handful of films at the Chicago International Film Festival, mostly movies that I'd missed at previous festivals. I'm sure I'll have more to say at some point about those films, but in the meantime you can monitor our quick reactions to recent screenings on our sidebar, Twitter, and -- for reactions to new films in theaters -- the grid.

Plus, we have a drift of interviews coming up here and on the podcast, with the likes of Claire Denis, Darren Aronofsky, Rian Johnson, Danny Boyle, and Arnaud Desplechin, each of them offering do-it-yourself instructions for performing some type of automotive repair, just in time for winter. Be there or be stranded. On yet another future episode, J. Robert Parks will go out of his way to try to convince me to watch a few classics that I've never seen, and vice-versa.

It's a pretty exciting queue of items, and I'm just glad we decided to call our site Occasional Plastic instead of one of the other, more demanding names we'd considered, which might have required us to type more consistently, read less exhaustively, and chew less safely. whew

Opening this weekend are three big movies that I'm not particularly interested in:

  • High School Musical 3
  • Saw V
  • Pride & Glory IV: Glory's Revenge Upon Pride

If you see them, please report back. We'll do the same if we get lost and stumble into the wrong darkened room and accidentally get a glimpse of one of them. Smaller releases include:

  • I've Loved You So Long, which I like less than others.
  • Changeling, the new Clint Eastwood film, which I'm afraid will remind me too much of that scene in Mystic River or that thing that happens in Million Dollar Baby. But maybe I'll check it out.

Far more interesting among the small releases are two imperfect but surprisingly fascinating films

  • Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Synecdoche, New York

The former is the new film by Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Topsy-Turvy) and the latter is the directorial debut of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. I skipped the Leigh film in Toronto, assuming that it would be ... fine. But it turns out to be quite a bit better than that, not only because the Amélie-like surface of the main character is covering something far more interesting but also because she comes into contact with other personalities who to tease it out instead of highlight it with sprinkles. In the theater, Kaufman's film feels familiar and unpleasant -- like rolling around in someone's laundry. But something about it is sitting well in the brain. More later.

Coming Soon

The early word from reliable sources on the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, is not encouraging. would be dissolved by now. If you took a Claritin RediTabs here...

I remember the day -- or at least the month -- when a single advertiser started buying every billable surface inside a subway station so as to deliver an overwhelming heap of Message to transit passengers. You'd step from the train on your way into work, and suddenly you were in a pharmaceutical ad or an iPod commercial. Or, rather, you were the bleary-eyed wallflower glaring at the party's colorful dancers, still going strong from the night before.

Once an advertiser could buy an entire subway station, the next thought, clearly, was to go beyond simply filling the spaces with existing ad units to designing ads that are meant to hang in sequence. Like frames of animation, a line of billboards can deliver a long sentence or a joke, one phrase at a time.

This strategy does, of course, require some cooperation from the installers, who need to hang the signs in the right order. Otherwise you send idiosyncratic, needlessly ontological messages when simple persuasion is the goal.

Take the two Claritin ads, shown above, hanging in a San Francisco metro station. They're two of many in this series, but they occupy a prime location at the end of a hallway, the perfect spot for a one-two punch that, when read left to right, seems to claim that Claritin works so well its effects can be felt even before the drug is taken, a remarkable trait engineered by chemists who have finally tapped into a little known corollary of the placebo effect to create a drug that piggybacks on the serotonin -- or whatever it is -- that's released by the mere thought of taking a RediTab, by the faintest feeling of the foil wrapper against the fingertips, and who more impressively have engineered a tab that can be taken even after it has dissolved. Into what, taken how, the ad doesn't say. Perhaps it was dissolved into a purse or a backpack. Dissolving substances into my backpack is no trick, but I've never figured out how to consume them after it happens.

Then again, I've never tried. And they say that genius is the guts to try what average people won't.

On second thought, maybe the ads are aimed at people who walk backward, or people who read clauses right-to-left but words left-to-right, prime candidates for an allergy medication, both of them.

Rose Serra / Wild Bunch

Abel Ferrara's film-before-last is getting a belated release in New York this weekend. You can read my review of Mary, starring Forest Whitaker, Matthew Modine, and Juliette Binoche, at the site-before-last.

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