Inside Out: Is It Just Me?
(Fine. This picture made me want to watch the movie. ph. InsideOut)
Despite what the movie’s presenter said, yes you are. I’m protective of queer cinema. Director J.C. Calciano aims to set the movie’s protagonist Blaine (Nicholas) as a romantic in sex crazed Los Angeles, making both look like caricatures. Fine, the movie shows the internet as a locus where a gay man can find a kindred spirit as he does with Texan lonestarwhatever, or Xander (David Loren). It also shows Blaine adamantly refusing to play the hookup game and I guess that’s admirable. Can he at least lighten up while he’s in the bar setting? The movie comes off as slightly contemptuous of the gay scene, but I guess he’s allowed to do that. If the presentation wasn’t so clunky, the acting so perfunctory and the script written by a child, it wouldn’t take me four hours to concede that there is some good in this film.
Inside Out – All the Young Dykes: Lesbians…
This wasn’t a movie, it was more of a session about film by critic Ingrid Randoja. For half an hour, Randoja shattered my Catholic 90’s upbringing as I learned that “Fried Green Tomatoes” was a lesbian film although straight critics are helplessly oblivious to this knowledge, that Kate Winslet had a face of a 40-year-old at 18 and that’s a poorly worded compliment about maturity that showed within a teenager, that “Chasing Amy” sucks because it wanted Amy to be with the Ben Affleck character. The depiction of lesbians has a circular time line since it went from predatory to positive (“Fucking Amal”) and back to predatory (“Monster”). But there’s also linear progression, as the films go from showing young lesbians to lesbian mothers (the up and coming “The Kids are All Right”). And she talked about TV too (“Cagney and Lacey”).
Not mentioned was the Oscar nominated Mulholland Drive, a movie I’ll plug until my death. I mentioned this omission and Randoja assessed the David Lynch film as lesbianism under a straight male lens, and I guess she has a point. I guess I’ll do a second official entry for Mulholland Drive if it catches me again, but the movie, especially the sex scene, was more romantic than it was erotic. At least it wasn’t as erotic as the scene in “Bound.” However anyone interprets it, the relationship between Betty Elms and Rita is either a real thing in some alternate universe or an ideal. Yes, Rita is a bit leachy and Betty asserts herself as Rita’s saviour, but straight relationships are imperfect too. Would the film have been different if say, Lisa Chodolenko directed it?
Rumble in the Bronx
(too close ph. Miramax/New Line)
So I decided to mix things around by seeing a non-festival thing, although “Rumble in the Bronx was part of the opening weekend for the Underground.
I don’t know why I always compare martial arts movie stars to their earlier dancing counterparts. It’s been said before, and if anything Jackie Chan’s the danci-est, most flamboyant, boyish martial arts guy. The most fascinating parts of his performance in “Rumble in the Bronx,” just like any post-classical work of any genre, has the spirit of being showy and the performer’s ambition to outdo himself.
“Rumble”shows all of physical challenges the same way later Fred Astaire numbers would. There’s a constrained space between him and his opponents that Keung (Jackie Chan) has to work with, an aspect that will be diminished later on. In the first fight scene, he and the urban motorcycle gang hit each other while tugging at each other’s clothes and bags. Sometimes the enemy gets too close. It’s interesting to watch how he survives while being surrounded, and claustrophobic circumstances make way for really precise moves. There’s also the feeling like that of any first fight, when relative peace exists and the protagonist doesn’t wanna leave a mess yet.
(We’ve got to move these refrigerators/ We’ve got to move these color TV’s)
Later on he passes through small hallways and spaces between walls and trucks, little interludes between him leaping and flipping all over big parking lots where another fight happens. And of course, the playing field gets larger. I really like the detailed and mise-en-scene, with alleyways, random playground rails, refrigerators and even grocery carts. The whole movie is slightly reminiscent of the Technicolor faux urban stage of 1950’s musicals. Or, a comparison more fitting because of the claustrophobia in some scenes, a grungy, more colourful yet less trippy version of the Bruce Lee hall of mirrors. Every space and object is an opportunity to escape and attack.
This despite the super dated pop culture references. This came out in China in 1995 and it might as well have been out half a decade earlier. I’m a forgiving person.
Inside Out: Children of God
(The last waltz. ph. insideout)
“Children of God” is an island of clichés. The progressive white gay guy, the closet case Uncle Tom, the female preacher infected by her homophobic closeted husband. It’s also a cautionary tale for smarter young gays and gay filmmakers. If you’re gonna let a man inside your rented home after knowing them for a day, do not let them sleep over because he will steal from you or kill you (this doesn’t happen in the movie). Do not pretend ‘allergies’ is an excuse. Do not give bedroom eyes to another guy only to shut him down while your beard pours her drink at his face. Fight homophobia through activism instead of making some ’empowering’ speech only four people will hear.
Inside Out: I Am Love
(Just so you know, Jil Sander > Prada)
“I Am Love” has aspects of the perfect art-snob film: style, deconstructing the rich and a baffling ending. Set in Milan, the film profiles the Recchis. Edo invites to dinner his middle class girlfriend Eva. His sister Betta reveals her lesbianism to him and to their mother Emma (Tilda Swinton), who’s bound to show her wild side soon. The film has a sensory feel to it and is capable of tragedy – the latter making us wonder how the family’s rebels are going to carry on. The audience laughed at the ending. I liked the movie, but the worst thing I can say about it is that it’s partly a movie about food that’s never made me feel hungry. Who eats flowers? What is wrong with rich people?
Inside Out: Hogtown Homos 2010
Apparently, they do this series every year. Some of the shorts in 2010’s round of the “Hogtown Homos” program show queerness in its raw stages, experienced in an individual’s youth as he or she experiences confusion but more in a funny way and less distressing. Well if you count a spoiler accident witnessed by the three twinks in the Bunuel-inspired “After,” putting a damper on fantasizing about the young man playing football in front of them. Or Tony, Aaron’s missing playmate in “The Armoire,” the latter having an imagination he can’t yet articulate. There’s awkwardness and a bit of sadism in some of these shorts, but I left the theatre with a chuckle or eight.
Let’s talk about gay movie drama shall we?
Oh my God this blog is turning into a gossip site. I could have been either talking to you about “Undertow,” “Mid-August Lunch” or “Iron Man 2” but things didn’t go as planned. I already bought my ticket for “Hogtown Homos” and God forbid something stops me from going to that screening.
Anyway, there’s commotion in the gay community about Stephen Harper and Tony Clement withholding funds that annually go towards Gay Pride. I’ve been flip-flopping about this, pardon the double entendre.
First of all, we don’t need the money. The money really is an investment since the event and the business will gain it back, unlike the other events, as reported by Slap Upside the Head, that are getting the money. Giving the funds is also more like a gesture of the government’s support of gays in Canada.
But then I found out last Friday while watching “Poison” that Canadian Heritage and Canada Council for the Arts have given funds to the Inside Out Festival, and the government hasn’t turned its back on the gays. I don’t know if that money provided mere tables or the funds to get the new James Franco movie into this medium-sized festival.
But then the first words of an article of the Globe and Mail states that Harper is probably gonna spend A BILLION DOLLARS at the G20 summit. I understand that they need first class SWAT gear, but if a billion dollars is lying around the country’s treasury for emergency purposes, Stephen Harper can give the gays mop and bucket money.
(The G20 summit hilariously coincides with the Pride Parade. I’m gonna divide my time on both AND the World Cup then.)
Can we have a pedestrian discussion on Demi Moore please?
So I was watching Demi Moore on “The Marriage Ref” recently. We can’t criticize her for appearing there because everyone else has. although you can criticize me for tolerating that show.
What weirds me out is how she looks like the 40-year old version of that girl who twirls her hair a lot. A cool mom or aunt to Leighton Meester or Olivia Palermo, if you will. It’s just looks jolting, and it’s just how strange noticing how raspy yet girly her voice is. The Demi Moore I know and love is edgy and bald like “G.I. Jane.” It came as a shock watching that episode of Biography saying that edgy Demi alienated many people who knew her as the woman in “Ghost.” Also, she apparently helped Viggo Mortensen into a career.
There’s also the question of why she isn’t a contender in the race to become America’s Greatest Actress. She has a new gig in “Happy Tears,” but it’s still an uphill climb. She might wanna just be a mom while Ashton Kutcher makes salary movies. And God knows we have the careers of other actresses her generation to resuscitate, and she’ll have to take a number and get in line. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jodie Foster were born the same year as she was. All three women have different careers and celebrity images. Demi is now known as the woman who may or may not have been photoshopped to thinness. She can do whatever she wants, she comes and goes at her own volition, and no one’s seemed to quetsion that.
Inside Out: Bear Nation
“Bear Nation” is like climbing mountains and valleys with fatter, older, hairier bearded guys, such as the stereotype. The movie, however, doesn’t feel Sisyphean, the film’s subject knows how to laugh at itself and turn any sad or negative thought into a positive note. We see a pluralist portrait of a ‘splinter of a splinter’ of a movement, one bear’s account of bear history differing from another (Glenn Sumi has his own thoughts on how bears came into place). It also takes us distances from Toronto to London to show this urban movement recalling a pastoral ideal of erotic manhood. With an amazing Arts and Crafts soundtrack and appearances by Tracy Morgan and the very frank Kevin Smith, it’s a great documentary about self acceptance, as well as those who will accept each other for who they are.
Inside Out: Poison
“Poison” makes for a disjointed viewing experience, with three vignettes/plots about alternative sexuality. All three are a bit campy examples of real issues on homosexuality, but are too extreme to be considered a deterrent against queerness. The plots intertwine, surprisingly bringing the film’s audience smoothly to and from tones like absurdity, the sublime, and the erotic. Michael W. Philips suggests that the three vignettes won’t stand out on their own, and I agree with him for a bit. But then who wants to release three short films instead of just making a full length feature?
The French: Exit Through the Gift Shop
“Exit Through the Gift Shop” has two subjects. The first one is Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman who moved to Los Angeles into his adulthood so the accent is still there. He makes a living by buying warehouses full of crap clothes and turning them into hipster vintage that sell for hundreds of dollars a piece. He also videotapes everything that’s happening in his life. This obsession on documentation roots on missing his mother’s death, presented and effectively pulling on heartstrings.
Thierry’s cousin is graffiti artist Space Invader. For some reason he videopates the latter doing his so-called work, and eventually does this to other graffiti artists like Shepard Fairey, known for the Obama Hope poster.
Then Thierry finds his way to videotaping the second subject of the documentary, Banksy. Banksy’s career turns from art terrorist to the prized artist whose work completes art collectors. I swear I’ve met girls who will turn into the woman collecting ‘the Banksy.’ He wanted to make Thierry’s footage into film because he was probably tired of the stigma of being called a mere ‘tagger,’ nor did he wanna be a pawn in the game played by Sotheby’s and the champagne class.
In a way this film elevates Banksy into a legitimate, unique artist. I mean, he deserves it. The subjects of his work are original and witty. Banksy, without knowing the consequences, advised Thierry into art, having a hand in making the latter into a commodity machine of bad art by creating pedantic work.
This movie typically makes Banksy look good by making someone else look bad in comparison but then a) Banksy doesn’t seem mean but is actually protective of his genre, b) he calls Thierry a friend and sees sympathetic sides of the latter’s one-track but devoted mind, c) his once democratic ‘you can do it’ attitude is radically changed and now he knows only to encourage emerging artists to improve their form and method instead of encouraging them to just do whatever, and d) I have never cringed at artwork the way Thierry’s work has made me.
At the same time I don’t completely buy the argument that despite his lack of method Thierry’s work is is moronic. For argument’s sake, the artwork stands as its own text and a viewer’s interpretation might be more important than the author’s intention. Another version of this argument is that rubber was made by accident, but a good accident indeed. Thierry’s specific representation and repetition of the Marilyn hair pasted on other celebrities, suggests, with or without intention, that all celebrity is repetitive and wants to emulate ‘celebrity’s’ golden age. We see the emulation of Marilyn through Madonna, Chuck Klosterman’s awful assessment of her, notorious photo shoots of both celebrities and models posing as her, biopics both past and in development, etc. He’s just commenting on that.
Most art before late Rembrandt was repetition. Before him, everyone was making copies of what the classics made or what their fathers have handed down to them. They fuck it up all the time, which makes things more interesting, but we can’t call every era as one that radically pushes the border of art since most of what happened in a century is a baby step from what happened before them.
As mentioned in the beginning of this post, Thierry made a living turning shit into gold and is doing the same thing here. The film tells us that Thierry made a million bucks through his ambitious show. As Banksy admits, that must mean Thierry’s art works.
And you can say the same thing about Banksy. He turned what is still an illegal art form into something legitimate.
And now I kinda want Banksy to do a documentary on Thomas Kinkade.
The French: Gigi
(Oh no she’s one of them now. ph. MGM)
Honore Lachaille’s (Maurice Chevalier) songs were creepy, and the sprechgesang killed me during the movie. But by being pretty, this movie can get away with not aging well in content. Now that that’s out of the way, Lachaille’s first song, although it raises eyebrows today, is about the new generation. It’s up to personal interpretation whether it foreshadows what changes the new generation it might bring.
“Gigi,” set in the French Gilded Age, fits well in the 1950’s depiction of women as it turns her from whore into wife. In the centre of all this drama are two relatively young people, teenager Gigi (Leslie Caron) and Lachaille’s nephew Gaston (39-year-old Louis Jourdan). Both have complaints about the life they’re born into. Gigi feels tiresome of the ‘love’ everyone talks about, while Gaston sings about boredom, an audacious statement for someone of his stature living in that era. They fall in love, he asks for an arrangement for her because her family’s breeds courtesans, not wives.
The end of the movie obviously has its pivotal moments. It’s Gigi’s first time at the notorious Maxim’s but she talks as if she knows everybody’s business. She talks about dipped pearls, but pulls back into a mature version of a comment would have reminded him when she was young and innocent. But he’s still angry about this new Gigi, takes her home, but changes his mind, breaks her family tradition and asks for her hand in marriage. Anyone else can look at the situation as a man still having control of his woman. What I see is Gaston putting a stop to the condemnation of womanhood that his civilization is used to.
Gigi is also played by Audrey Hepburn in a 1952 stage play version. I like Leslie Caron better, incorporating exuberance, flexibility and self-doubt into the character. Hepburn’s played period princesses in the golden age of her career, but I always feel her performances are a bit flat. Someone prove me wrong, please.
Fighting words from possibly fictional Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage, looking like what Jonah Hill might look like in 20 years) to fictional Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) in “Adaptation.” Those words are more effective than anything Kevin Kline ever says “Sophie’s Choice,” because Charlie’s coming from pain, from a connection and a relationship finally consummated in its own strange way with a woman he’s never physically met until this time. In that scene, both lose important men in their lives. Charlie loses his fictional brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) in an out-of-nowhere car crash, while Susan loses John Laroche (Chris Cooper) to a croc. Their confrontation is both hilarious and sad. The two deceased characters have been Charlie and Susan’s crutches, alter egos, dumber, more oblivious versions of themselves with delusions of grandeur. Charlie unlearns the Susan who’s been both myth and sexual fantasy and sees her just like him, a writer stuck after letting go of an obsession. And now that that part of them is gone, they can fictionalize this part of their lives and move of to other projects.
(Fine, she does look a little pissed here)
I also think this is the first movie I’ve seen where Tilda Swinton looks normal. She’s always been a beauty from another world, but as Valerie Thomas in a light sweater she refreshingly looks more conventionally pretty. There’s also the warmth in her, that as much as Charlie’s repulsed by himself, beautiful women don’t just tolerate but actually accommodate him. Her ‘breathing down his agent’s neck’ only happens off screen.
I kinda wanna talk about Amelia (Cara Seymour) and Donald’s girlfriend Caroline (Maggie Gyllenhaal) too. These two women, as well as Valerie and her doppelganger Alice the Waitress (Judy Greer) don’t seem to be repulsed by Charlie, but that’s only because the romantic barrier hasn’t been broken. That only gets broken with Alice, who isn’t as accommodating by then.
(Miranda Priestly is calling you fat)
I’m not sure if I totally love the movie, but it’s not as jolting in its surrealism as “Eternal Sunshine” or “Synecdoche,” as much as I like those movies. A part of it is probably due to listening to the characters’ voices or seeing what cars they drive before actually seeing them. The characters here are humans instead of aesthetic elements filling up the mise-en-scene.
FACT! Meryl Streep’s other movie in 2002, “The Hours,” partners her with Alison Janney, the latter coincidentally plays Chris Cooper’s wife in “American Beauty” three years before. Sluts.
FACT! Meryl Streep stoned and her calling people fat are longer traditions than previously thought.
FACT! Nicholas Cage was once good.
(Make me wanna holler. ph. Paramount)
Maybe “Zodiac” is trying to show an alternative system in solving crime. There are always gonna be cold cases and the police cannot fully dedicate themselves to every unsolved crime. They’ll just find some seemingly altruistic nerd like Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) to ponder over dusty evidence. I was gonna call this transfer system perfect if it didn’t ruin families and if it didn’t end in a staring contest instead of an actual arrest and conviction.
The movie starts with a high angle wide shot of San Francisco in the Fourth of July while a croony male version “Easy To Be Hard,” a Broadway song about civil rights is playing, making the scene and the rest of the movie seem dangerous in a romantic way. We see the Transamerica Tower being built. “Zodiac” glides for a 160 minute movie about a serial killer, showing the passage of time with the same artistic hand used with depicting a man stuck in the past.
This is the best David Fincher movie I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t have the blatant dialogue about morality in “Se7en,” an element that can make a movie age like fish (but don’t mistake me, I like a lot of it). It doesn’t have the ‘shut up, Brad Pitt’ of “Fight Club,” although I like Brad Pitt everywhere else. “Zodiac” doesn’t declare itself as a great film like the other two, but watching this after two and a half or so years makes me feel like I found a hidden jewel.
(A better stalker than Edward Cullen)
Graysmith’s obsession is still seductive because it attempts to shatter impartiality, especially that of police work. He tries to get into police stations and detective’s homes and yes, that’s annoying. But the typical police officer isn’t sadistic enough to say no. In his last conversation with David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), he knows how to spin a tale and has done a lot of research on the suspect’s time line coinciding with the killings. Toschi tells him he can’t prove any of his speculations. He bravely replies that ‘Just because we can’t prove it doesn’t mean it’s not true.’
Lastly, why is John Carroll Lynch playing douche-y roles? He’s amazing here as Arthur Leigh Allen, and he’s serviceable as one of the guards in “Shutter Island.” I just miss the loveable husband from “Fargo.”
I Like Other Things: Banksy
If you vandalize my home, I will not paint over it. PEACE TO TUPAC! FUCK THE POLICE!
p.s. I wonder if Banksy’s work can actually be bought.
Bad Movie: Clue
(Sorry for not writing, by the way. I had two days of debauchery)
“Clue” is the first movie screened at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Tickets were free, crowd was amazing, puns are great. Wish you were there. The movie was fun. I guess the slow parts were there to pace the movie because I can’t be laughing the whole time. But it would have been more fun if I drank up while watching.
Just like these people.
NOW Magazine’s review of “Freddy vs. Jason,” where the unnamed staff member said that you could have watched that drunk because the script and the synopsis were pretty much the same. A chunk of “Clue” was like that too. Expect that the butler (the workaholic Tim Curry) rapidly doled out the series of events without breaking a sweat. As Miss Scarlet dressed in a green version of the infamous Scarlett O’Hara red dress, Leslie Ann Warren does her best Susan Sarandon. And the rest of the cast has impeccable comic timing. Good to know that it takes a lot of acting chops to make whatever this is.
Also, I love watching this chick die.
Also, the print that the cinema had is the one with ending A.
The movie was good enough to wear out my friends, and they were hungry, and I was gonna be late for a party, so we unfortunately skipped “Big Trouble in Little China.”
Seminal Television: We Can Be Heroes
Happy Birthday, Katharine Hepburn
I don’t know how to celebrate this. Say “Oh, Norman?” Hate Meryl Streep? Get drunk with Jimmy Stewart? Adopt a pet leopard? Get married on a boat before getting hanged? Tell my children creepy stories about me and my husband the king having sex? Use an elevator with a chair in it? Marry a poor composer? Wear slacks? It’s not gonna be as cool as when she did it, especially the slacks.
I’ll just end up looking like Justin Bieber.
I’ll also self-hack this by saying that just like Katharine Hepburn, every one of my female friends consider themselves a “Jo.” I’m more of an Amy. The end!
Far From Heaven
(some gay bars are still like this today ph. greencine)
Is it just me, or is everyone in “Far From Heaven” just a little creepy? Grown up version of a boy from “Children of the Corn” randomly showing up in Frank Whitaker’s (Dennis Quaid) hotel room door. Actual children of the corn chasing black girls and throwing stones in their heads. Frank’s wife Cathy (Julianne Moore) randomly showing up at Raymond’s (Dennis Haysbert) trailer-y looking home, with good intentions of course. Flash bulbs. Gossip. Mona Lotter (Celia Weston) spying. Spying! Spying! Spying! If I could give an advice to any civilization, I would tell them not to have too many social constraints, because everyone just ends up being creepy.
“Far From Heaven,” like many melodramas I’ve seen, is almost a masterpiece. The one thing I respect about the movie is that it’s a 2002 movie stuck in 1957 Connecticut, where everything is everyone’s business. The movie can therefore never be judged by any standard other than the latter.
(President Palmer’s on to something. ph. rankeverything)
Because it’s stuck in 1957 I’d understand if some people found this a little pessimistic, but that pessimism comes through the movie’s ending. It could have ended with Cathy’s phone call to the NAACP or another call between Cathy and Frank arranging a meeting. Instead it ends with Cathy and Raymond in the train station (Did he expect her to be there?), putting the other two actions or events on hold. We’ll never know if Cathy ends up volunteering for the NAACP or what’s gonna happen between Cathy and Frank.
Also, I saw this movie in entirety in some shitty pan and scan TV airing, and the lighting’s a bit dark. Again, noir elements in a romance-themed film, using colour filters more than neon lighting. I just hope the lighting and the colours are greater in a better quality version.
Another reason why I can’t fully dislike the movie is the cast, especially Julianne Moore, who deliver dated conversation with such straight faces. Dennis Quaid depicts Frank as a loose cannon, but that’s not too distracting.
p.s. Lars’s essay on the same movie compared to an actual Sirk.
Hot Docs Hangover – Gasland
You have to see this movie, and I hope this wins the Oscar.
I already told you guys about the reasons for my bias against the depressing documentary genre. The same reason applies here in “Gasland”, and water pollution innately elicits that kind of reaction. There are, however, silver linings in this dark cloud.
In director Josh Fox’s travels to the heartland of America to see about the damage caused by companies drilling for natural gas, he finds fun things and people like the most comfortable couch in America, a woman ironically freezing dead birds in Walmart bags, some guy who reminds me of Jeff Foxworthy (not pictured) successfully lighting up his water on fire, a healthy women with the worst smoker’s cough I’ve ever heard, Fox playing the banjo and him finding about the chemicals with long names that he can’t confidently pronounce them. His inclusion of reading out those words in that way is a brave choice.
Fox looks like a Williamsburg hipster and is kinda raised as one, but like his interviewees, he is, not to condescend, one of God’s children. The men and women in the heartland. American. Simple decent folk who’s had their roots in the rural regions.
But these people are deservedly shown as intelligent persons who know about their land and further educated themselves about it because of the changes in the past decade. Companies like Halliburton shamelessly drill for these natural gases in people’s front yards. Like one of the title cards in the movie, it doesn’t take a genius to find this stuff out. These people also tell him about their confrontations with the workers of those companies, showing how brave and resilient they could be when it comes to a hidden national crisis.
The movie does ask its American target to be patriotic but that call isn’t based on the more popular reasons for so called ‘patriotism’ today. His kind of real patriotism has a Walden-esque streak, a love for the nature he grew up with and can be irreversibly destroyed.
Also featured in the movie is a scene between congressmen and women and some of the leading officials of these companies. It’s so humiliating that it passes as torture. Did it work? I’ll say yes.
Hot Docs Hangover – The Fog of War
Originally released in2003, the seminal documentary “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the life of Robert Strange McNamara,” about the infamous war criminal is also an strong aesthetic display of archive footage, screen shots of data and numbers, dominoes falling down on top of maps, machinery, tape recorded conversations, skulls falling down stairwells, Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s pen wagging while he’s shot off centre on a canted angle and director Errol Morris’s slightly yell-y, smarmy voice. Apparently some of the objects, especially the dominoes, counterpoint McNamara’s self-denial, but most of what he says seem to match whatever metaphoric representation is on-screen.
War is never glamorized in this documentary. Its instruments are either numbers on paper or missiles, in one scene the former visually represented the latter. Both objects represent the beginning and end stages of what happens in wars in the twentieth century. Something so small and raw is quickly transformed into a leviathan that can destroy and kill. The imagery never gets empowering like your typical soldier with a rifle.
“The Fog of War” would be maligned if we called it an examination of evil, since evil depicted on film have certain visual or plot cues, and this documentary sort of disproves what we know about that. ‘Evil’ isn’t about piercing stares in the same way that ‘art’ isn’t about someone’s self-expression of suffering. McNamara, being interviewed about his life and Vietnam, isn’t unrepentant and he also doesn’t dissociate himself from his actions. If anything he’s very passionate and slightly jovial. But his actions can never make us fully sympathetic of him and is what makes him a war criminal, despite his personality. One of his ‘lessons’ include doubt, even contradicting a Sister Aloysius-esque lesson of having to do evil to do good.He even asks the camera how much evil has to be done to accomplish good.
And yes, destruction can occur partly because of intent. But his role in showing data and pushing buttons are just as instrumental in the hundreds of thousands of deaths that he helped bring in both in Japan and Vietnam. While confronting one person who has had so much power we do tend to throw around the word ‘evil,’ but instead we get the ‘horrific,’ the consequences bearing more impact than the cause.
McNamara reluctantly blames others like LBJ for Vietnam and denies his involvement in Agent Orange, but his job as a yes-man for calculating warmongers is still just as bad. Morris implicitly delivers this message and makes him tell little bursts of truths buried under careful wording. The director nonetheless finds a place for empathy, which is McNamara’s first life lesson. In a way, he is America, going through each war and its peaceful intervals the same way the country did. We still don’t want him prosecuted despite of what he did. As many have said, he compartmentalizes, but he shouldn’t let Vietnam define his life. In his time in Ford, he did help introduce the seat belt, after all.
(I also wanna say that my apprehensions towards the documentary as a genre is probably because of the depressing material. I actually cried at one point while looking at the missiles, and couldn’t look at McNamara’s face when he was welling up.)
2003 isn’t a typical banner year like the ‘better than you remember’ 2002 nor the achievements in 2006. But the year that George Bush began the misguided occupation of Iraq must have affected the West’s popular culture. The movies of 2003 still felt like it was under the beer goggles of the Academy, but they still had themes like anti-Republicanism, subversion, helplessness, violence, etc. With “The Fog of War” also came “Dogville,” “Cold Mountain,” “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” “City of God,” “Elephant,” “The Dreamers.” That and there were a hell of a lot of sequels too.
RIP Lena Horne
Hot Docs Hangover – Strange Powers
Now I know what to illegally download the next free time I get.
I doubt my positive feelings towards “Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields,” knowing that this is just the novelty of knowing someone so clever and so short. What I like about this movie is that it shows you the annoying side of the subject yet those things make you like the man. A linear presentation of the life of the indie musician, it doesn’t shy away from his lower moments. Like his unfriendliness towards music journalists – although I wanted to see more of that. And that time when the blogs accused him of being racist and thus called him ‘cracker,’ which isn’t a racist term at all. The movie also shows him going to gay bars and writing his non-house music. Doesn’t work for me at all.
Another positive element of the movie is Claudia Gonson, Merritt’s long time friend, collaborator, band mate and fruit fly. I’ve known too many girls like her – not the prettiest nor skinniest, alternative, very intelligent and very confident, that voice I’ve heard too many times, that youthful exuberance even at 40. But she never gets boring. The scenes with her involve their songwriting, revels on their use of words like ‘chord progression,’ and it shows how they’re all about the method and not the madness.
The movie is not about an icon but a refreshing portrayal of an evolving artist. It’s a good, thinking man’s laugh, and I hope it comes out in the theatres again.