…and the quest to see everything

Archive for October, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene


My review of the movie has been up at ANOMALOUS MATERIAL since yesterday. My little piece about the same movie will also be out in Yourkloset in a week’s time and I will include the link when the article goes live.

But really, what difference does Martha Marcy May Marlene – Courtney Stodden’s favourite movie – have from “Dynasty?” Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy are everyone else and Elizabeth Olsen is Joan Collins, coming back from a binge of something we don’t want to know, inflicting herself into her family, being crazy as hell! Best. Photo shoot. Ever. Of course it’s so obvious that I haven’t really seen Dynasty apart from the occasional YouTube clip.

‘Martha/ Marcy May/Marlene Lewis (Olsen) is an interesting character because I know why I’m not in a cult. I want to know why she is and we never really get a sense of how she gets pushed into that edge. Is this off-screen Aunt Dora who she has lived with that terrible? Did she not grow up without TV or news? Why is she so co-dependent? So many questions and yes it’s as scary as anything you’ve seen this past Halloween month.


Footloose and The Three Musketeers


I’ll just do this so we can have some catching up to do. Here’s Footloose for ANOMALOUS MATERIAL. Sam’s more sober review is first, scroll down aaand there’s mine. With hindsight, what I say about it might be what everyone says about the Halloween party before the hangover begins. Or in the case of this movie, when the drunk teenagers crash the car to their own deaths. Nonetheless, I stand by my old statement that I like trashy movies, I like movies about dancing, I like movies about the South. And I’m making the three prong hand gesture right now.

Then there’s Paul W.S. Anderson‘s The Three Musketeers, starring his wife Milla Jovovich, who tells you her favourite colour but not really. As I said in the comments section of another blog, if this movie had papier-mâché sets, I would have given this movie an A. I do like the blurry 3D as a way to show a visual point of view being dragged or woken up. And shiny objects!


Birthday Movie: 50/50


Most critics have acknowledged how 50/50, directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) finds borderline tasteful comedy in any grim situation like young Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose jogging back pains is  actually a malignant tumor with an unpronounceable scientific name. There’s also my search in something deeper than that, in how this movie shows these characters within boundaries set both by others and themselves and the crossing of boundaries, as  in ‘movie world set-ups’ with resolution to conflicts.

The first scenes competently set-up what the characters are like before the diagnosis wedges itself violently into their situations and these characters often fall within some spectrum between being the funny one and the depressing on, as they would in life. There’s Adam’s best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) who is intentionally funny, his mostly unintentionally funny novice counselor Katherine (Anna Kendrick), his mother Diane (Anjelica Huston) who is only funny from the fourth wall and through an imagined hindsight and his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is pretty dramatic and sees the illness as a negative thing she can’t fully endure that the thought of entering the hospital wing with him is unthinkable.

Adam at first is the Alan Ruck to Kyle’s Matthew Broderick, their opposites mixing because they work together in radio. The silver lining in his situation other than Kyle’s jokey optimism is how Adam can oscillate within the spectrum of emotion and, as circumstances would have it, move up a bit to see Kyle’s coarse yet optimistic side of things.

The only downside with Adam ‘hanging out with his bro’ is that the mother major characters, who are female, become ignored or occasionally turn into insufferable villains. It’s not hard to make that assumption because of the associations I have about Seth Rogen and the word I used earlier on Twitter. It’s hard for me to side with Adam as he’s cursing at Rachael, the latter crying on his porch.

He also walks out from Katherine’s office, a final symptom of his lack of respect for her, a young inexperienced doctor. Yes, I’m thankful that an exchange exists when Katherine calls Adam out.  But despite most of these actions being temporary and all the hurt forgiven, there’s something unapologetic and queasy about Adam and Kyle’s mistreatment and suspicion of women. And of course most of the cancer patients are male and most characters taking care of these men are female and the nurses are perfect lest Adam’s voice strikes with damnation and the script allows him meanness because he might die soon.

Before I get carried away with negativity, let me say that Levitt is more wan here than in any other role in his decade-long film career. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the lack of hair and make-up that comes across the screen but his performance proves that he’s one of the most versatile actors in his age. He’s even one guarded step behind in Adam’s scenes above, instead of acting on intention he behaves instinctively, performing in a naturalistic way. There’s also a scene when, As Adam has shunned everyone else, he and Kyle face each other’s issues, leading to Levitt’s haunting primal scream.

Most of the actors are equally toned down except for Rogen, who has the hard job of carrying the funny side, peppering Kyle’s dialogue with vulgarities. Kendrick tones down the watchable histrionics of her early roles to become the movie’s voice of sanity, Huston beings a hard exterior with softer inner qualities. And it kind of pisses me off that Bryce Dallas Howard can actually act.

Surely everyone diagnosed with cancer is new to it, even Adam’s older chemo buddies. But so is Katherine, admitting that Adam is her third patient. She tries a lot of methods like instrumental meditation music and the polite but tough love, making Adam feel out of the loop in his already precarious state. The one that she keeps returning to is the touching, an act of connection that she has probably seen others do that she feels the need to learn it. It might make sense if an expert psychiatrist pats expertly Adam in the arm three or so times and he accepts it during the last time. We’ll never know how the movie’s alchemy might change if his therapist was ‘some grandma.’ But it is more fitting that her patting is more awkward if she does it incorrectly, symbolic of the rough journey where both the sick and his doctor have to talk to each properly other to finally get it right.


“Houdini Magic Ticket” Blog-a-thon


I would like to begin this post by saying that today is my birthday! And thanks to Dan Stephens, not only do I get one wish but ten, being a part of this blogathon that asks its…members?… about the fictional movie worlds I would like to enter for specific reasons. This blogathon is inspired by his post on The Last Action Hero. I’ve only seen the trailer for this movie, even if there’s a local cinema that plays this move once in a while. Anyway, let’s begin!

What character would you most like to be sat next to on a plane?

That woman who is one of James Cole’s (Bruce Willis) boss from Twelve Monkeys. Or better yet, any character from Twelve Monkeys.

What character would you most want to enjoy a passionate romance with?

Dotorre Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintingnant) from The Conformist, although it wouldn’t end well.

If you were a cop who would you want as your partner?

In who could also be my answer for the passionate romance question, Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) from The Departed. Digression, but Leo should have been nominated for here Oscar here instead of Blood Diamond.

What animated feature would you love to walk around in?

 Fantasia, like are you kidding me? The first sequence is Abstract Expressionism avant la lettre! I’ve also drunkenly danced to the ballet dancing hippos, so I guess I have used my ticket for this already.

What adventure based on earth would you most like to go on / OR / What adventure based in an otherworldly, fantasy-based location would you most like to go on? I.e. Would you like to join the Goonies on their treasure-finding mission, or Luke Skywalker in his search for his family’s murderer?

For the earthly one, I’d choose whatever happens in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I know that I probably won’t survive but swordplay is an adventure.

When it comes to the fantasy-based place, I’d pick Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) trying not to erase Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) froom his memory in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because what could be more otherworldly than someone else’s changing brain?

What movie gadget would you love to try out (or steal)?

The Delorean in the Back to the Future films. Are we even allowed to talk about this magic transportation movie in a post about another magical way of transportation? Or can we talk about the art house version of those gadgets, specifically the movie screen in The Purple Rose of Cairo?

What film’s plot would you alter and how would you do it?

Atom Egoyan’s Chloë. I don’t know how and I don’t know if my presence and power would cure the plot from being ridiculous.

What one film would you most want to be transported into, simply to be a part of that world?

The 1860’s in The Leopard. I know it’s unsanitary and heteronormative and that period has religious hypocrisy, but it’s also like Gone with the Wind but in Italian. And the balls and the chance to dance with either Principe Felipe de Salina (Burt Lancaster) or his son’s fiancée (Claudia Cardinale)? Get me my Magic Houdini ticket now.


America: The Ides of March


“I’m YELLING because of a SCANDAL!”

“I’m yelling BACK because YOU are yelling and the scandal is BS!”

“I’m crying because everyone around me is yelling and the world that I know is deteriorating.”

That’s pretty much how the TV spots advertise George Clooney‘s new film The Ides of March, making it look like your yearly typical awards bait. It’s better than that.

Despite trying to resist temptation, assistant campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) takes a phone call from rival Democrat campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). This makes his supervisor Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) unmercifully fire him from the campaign of boss, Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Morris’ (Clooney).

Hoffman, by the way is an alumnus of this kind of movie and I would have it any other way. This, by the way, is based on the play “Farragut North.” The Ides of March is a more dramatic title but the original feels more right, showing that businessmen like Stephen and Paul control and groom the politicians who are supposedly running a country.

Clooney as a director always hints on style but never fully delivers mostly because they echo previous decades, this film particularly relying on political and urban paranoia from the sixties and seventies. Stephen’s silhouette stains a large, draped American flag, symbolic of him partially desecrating American politics. A scene when he makes a call through a pay phone, noticing a man taking a photograph in his direction. Or another when Paul enters Mike’s SUV and the camera stays outside for a minute or so. Other earlier and better films have tackled these images but they’re still competently unsettling today.

The film’s number of flaws seemingly grow when I think about them – the most minor and crass one being that night with Stephen is so sensual that his new lover, intern/daughter of the DNC Chairman/teenager Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) looks like she just got out of the salon the morning after. And that she as well as Mike are Catholics west of Boston, those characters by the way going against the doctrine more than twice. Anyway, it biggest yet easily refuted flaw is Stephen’s supposedly unshakable morality. Throughout the film, he says that he doesn’t have play dirty anymore because he has Morris or that he believes “in the cause.” He also boasts that at thirty years of age, he has worked more campaigns than anyone ten years his senior so why would he make such a rookie mistake? But then again, lesser scandals have disgraced older politicians.

Anyway, he recites his words about Morris like a mantra that’s learned as opposed to felt. And he’s not as much the idealist that he wishes. In the first scene, we get to know a bit about Stephen. He mockingly rehearses for his boss’ speech (‘Don’t vote for me if I’m not tall enough. Don’t vote for me.’) and refers to the latter as a hobbit – God forbid, he found a flaw within George Clooney! From then on, I can imagine the audience realizing that it would be a waste of emotion to sympathize with him. He does a lot of slimy things especially when his affair with Molly gets out of hand. His career in jeopardy, he does desperate things to keep his career afloat, in turn harming the people he’s supposed to worship or love.

His eyes look like an angered anime character in the film’s final scenes and I’m probably not alone in saying that his expressions are just like that of the Driver. Which means that yes, we can joke that the similarities between the two characters mean that Gosling’s comic turn in Crazy, Stupid Love is him stretching. The problem with ubiquity like Gosling’s is that we can see the same mannerisms in different films but at least his tics are less distracting than the actor who is supposed to play his role – Leonardo di Caprio. Gosling is the film’s pivot, capably bringing across the arc that his interesting character takes. 3.5/5


Overreading “The Thing” Prequel


Film versions of The Thing has graced our screens three times, seemingly coming in at the right decades when, as horror movies should, audiences see a physical manifestation of  their current fears. The monster in Hawks’ 1951 adaptation is supposedly about the communist threat while Carpenter’s 1982 remake is a metaphor for AIDS, so what about this year’s version?

There are multiple lines dividing the characters but the point is that they’re divided. This prequel tells us about the scientists who discover the alien before the Yankees in Carpenter’s film. Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) appoints paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as his right hand woman for the Norwegian base in Antarctica  to study a ‘secret case.’ Let’s be cynical about Kate’s recruitment, and her own crew, the film’s screenwriters thinking that their movie needs anglophone actors for North American audiences to buy their tickets. The latent purpose of the subtitled Norwegian characters, however, teach us how to curse in their mother tongue.

Nonetheless, Sander might as well not have assigned for her, as the two scientists don’t behave as friends  outside of their professional boundaries. He also vetoes her warnings about the proper ways to handle the alien within its new, above ground environment. He inadvertently awakens the alien, the latter killing off a few of the base’s crew members under the guise of its last victim. Still, some of the survivors, despite themselves, still do not believe her conclusions and methods and we can’t help but assume that her gender and age factors into their unspoken prejudices. Thankfully, Winstead confidently asserts her character despite these intimidating men.

We also have to take into account the different nationalities snowed into one roof. A subplot involves Kate’s crew members Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton) on a botched helicopter escape from the base and getting accused of being an alien when he takes the grueling walk back. One of the Norwegians who has stayed yells something like ‘The Americans are the enemy’ which is pretty subversive. Then we can go crazy with the over-interpretations, as circumstances pit Kate and Braxton against each other. Lloyd also believes that checking teeth fillings is the way to see which one of them are the aliens, showing class divisions within the crew. Maybe this movie isn’t confident enough to lift itself from Carpenter’s shadow but the ideas are there, especially in its chilling (ha, pun!) ending, where Kate and Braxton fall under their enemies’ hands. 3/5.


Seminal Television: MMC


This is what I do when I’m doing nothing, post short entries, sometimes with a video. The releases of two of his movies, the underwhelming Drive and the promising The Ides of March, feeds our continuing obsession with Ryan Gosling. I’ve seen the Frank McCullen sketches in the Mickey Mouse Club show, but let’s look at his stint as an R&B singer alongside Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez. via HuffPo.

Ah, he used to enunciate. I love how he sings using his hands and how everyone in the 90’s wore sixteen sizes larger than what they’re supposed to. Apparently he abstained from the dancing element in the MCC boot camp, which might go against him if he ever wanted to be in a musical. Gosling as Enjolras!