If and Elephant
“If” and “Elephant” aired at TVO last Saturday midnight. Someone out there probably thinks both movies deserve a post of their own, but since the channel aired them back to back, I couldn’t write about one and not the other.
I just wanna first talk about the gay angle, since both movies present that theme, and that some gay characters bring out violent acts in both movies. Furthermore the gay thing is usually seen as a scapegoat – they’re gay and they’ll find the second most phallic thing to act out their repressed desires. I will say that causality between homosexuality and violence is blurrier in both movies, but both still show that homosexuality is the result of how the respective fictional societies molds these youths.
“If” has a more traditional view of homosexuality as it does in every relationship – one person is masculine than the other. There’s the senior boy and the junior boy, a relationship built on foundations of “smugging” or serving the older student, which is a part of the masculine patriarchy set in college culture. For example, the junior boy Bobby Phillips cooks for the senior boy and packs up Wallace’s things, while Wallace is desirable for being more athletic. Although the smugs are interchangeable, the Phillips still has loyalties to the one he is infatuated with, as expected. But Phillips gets points as well, being the first one in the relationship to use his gaze towards Wallace, as well as calling himself more goal-oriented.
“Elephant” is different when depicting homosexuality, specifically that the film denotes its elusiveness. We get a look inside a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting, where they try to list things that would make someone look gay. And they can’t because indicators like that are arbitrary. Van Sant also rotates the camera so we can see the group, again not being able to tell who’s gay.
There is also the case of Alex and Eric. I don’t fall for the apologetic “they’re not gay” argument because they do kiss. Yes, their homosexual act does not define them just like many boys who kiss other boys end up being with girls and they’re still underage so their sexuality’s not defined. That does not mean that we can invalidate their affection for each other. And unlike the prescribed roles in “If,” one plays the piano while the other one has blonde hair, but we can’t tell which one’s more masculine or feminine.
The movies are also an observation of schools as institutions where they try to give you everything like gymnasiums and microscopes yet they try to take your individuality away.
I like “Elephant” more than I like “If” since you can hear the screams in the former instead of the gunshots. But then again “Elephant” is part of my generation. Sure I wasn’t in high school yet when Columbine happened but the next two or three years after Columbine was the culmination of teen angst that has been hidden and ignored since Cobain died. Kids today are too busy looking at LOLCats to even muster up hatred against each other. And whoever made LOLCats should get a Nobel Prize, but in my time I felt angry and that there was so much violence around.
It’s really hard to talk about movies I love. Since I was under the academic wing, movie writing is especially difficult with examples that have a lot of comic relief. I would be talking about a pimp describing “a coked up whore (not Madeleine Stowe) and a fucking crazy dentist (not Bruce Willis)” instead of dystopia.
And dystopia’s pretty much what the movie’s about – the world is shit both in the 1990’s and in the mid 21st century. We see a grungy mental institution with overconfident psychiatrists and contrasted against a group of scientists who cannot even get the poor man to travel in time properly. The 1990’s attitude is when psychiatry and labeling people like James Cole as crazy is the norm instead of helping him as the prophet that he is. The 21st century, however, does not want to overdo themselves by changing the future but instead want to learn from it. The future scientists also get closer to their mark in all their attempts to solve their historical puzzle.
I also love how “Twelve Monkeys” is the closest well-resulting thing we can have of a Vertigo remake without it being too literal and therefore terrible. At one point, I even felt like this film is better than Vertigo. Like the Hitchcock film, one person contracts the crazy just as the other tries to wean himself off it. Both use insanity as a metaphor for love and vice versa, as the protagonists want to live in a perfect world and want to share that with someone. It’s this dream and mismatched love tragedy that makes us come back for more. And I’m not the biggest fan of Vertigo and writing that makes me wanna watch it again to see if I love the whole as much as I love the parts.
I also watched “If” and “Elephant,” and tried to put three movies in some umbrella post of violence, but it ain’t gonna work. I will talk about the two movies mentioned in this paragraph in a later post.
Through the Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival that wrapped up this past weekend, I finally saw the Oscar-winning “La Maison en Petit Cubes,” which is what I imagine what “Up” would be. Yes, I haven’t seen “Up.” It can wait when it premieres on Teletoon. Shoot me.
It’s about a self-sufficient old man who has outlived his adult children. It’s about seeing a man and as he scuba dives down to submerged foundations of his home, we come with him and see his lives the way he does and the way we never get to towards other people. He looks at the foundations of the homes around him and imagines them as the scattered farm houses of his youth. At first we ask why this fictional world exists in this state, but eventually we just go with the emotional ride. Screening this short after “Gaki” puts in context the Japanese skill in parchment, because stereotyping is faster. Or I could be an asshole and say that this movie is about global warming.
La Maison in Petit Cubes is part of a program in the festival I assume as the animated short category. Also in the program is the cute overload of “Komaneko -The Curious Cat- ‘The First Step’ ” and “Mitsuko’s Freedom,” which is by far the weirdest homoerotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
You may or may not have read every review of Floria Sigismondi’s “The Runaways,” but to summarize: shit script, gritty tone. NOW’s Susan G. Cole, however, said that Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett is better in the movie than Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie. Twilight zombie bitch out-acts the future Hollywood grand dame? That, my friends, sounds like a dare. And she’s kind of right by an inch. Again, I can’t believe I’m talking about Kristen Stewart like she’s a de Haviland sister, but the spark in her eyes, the boom in her voice when she tells Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) to shut the fuck up, how I have a suspicion that she knows Kim Fowley’s (Michael Shannon) lines as well as she knows hers. She’s a girl you hate to love.
And again, Michael Shannon gets paid to verbally abuse women. It’s pretty much the same character in Revolutionary Road, but this time a guy wearing lipstick, make-up and Ascot is telling teenage girls to think with their cocks. As other bloggers have noted, I’m not doubting that any of this movie ever happened, but why are five teen girls hanging out in a trailer with some guy in his 30’s. Despite of its writing, the movie also has a great supporting cast. I wanna be stubborn and say that Sandy West (Stella Maeve) is secretly the star of the show, but Riley Keough and Tatum O’Neal disappeared in their roles. I just wished Alia Shawkat had a line or two, as Sigismondi used her as decoration in the movie.
1970’s America was a country that made the Soviets feel good about themselves, and “The Runaways” makes no exception in proving that. I agree with every other reviewer who points out the grit in this movie. Most of the 70’s movies I’ve seen are about New York, while this one takes place in Los Angeles, where everything is more spread out. I’m not sure if the sparseness of LA watered down the movie, but if you want real grit, go see other movies actually made in the 70’s.
This biopic leads us to an expected end, Jett achieves ubiquity and role model status as singer of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” SPOILER, Currie looks virginal while working for some pink wedding bake shop, I don’t know. Jett goes on a radio show to promote her hit song and tells the listening public that “If it wasn’t for Rock and Roll, I’d be in jail or dead.” The DJ invites callers, which gives Currie the opportunity to say that she’s neither rocking nor jailed nor dead. The film presents it as a reconciliation but I see it more as a challenge to a woman who pursues her passion from another who has gone through a phase. Yes, Jett as the founder of the first female rock group is more of a renowned name, as any woman who became the first head of state or to push suffrage or climb a mountain. Curie in the movie ends up having a man telling her to chop-chop (If anyone ever tells me that, I will do the closest legal thing to killing them), but she’s alive and has a future and that counts for something.
In an interview, Kristen Stewart said she wants to play Kate in a new adaptation of East of Eden. Get an audition, a guy who’s old enough to play old but not old enough that it’s creepy, and best of all, bring it.