Nicolas Cage: And Laura Dern
Ugh I hate having to write about movies that I can’t prove with words but that’s David Lynch for you and besides, I’ve been procrastinating writing about Mulholland Drive ever since I saw it (and rewatched the ending after my ongoing depress-athon). Here’s what I have to say, as I have originally typed on Ryan McNeil‘s blog:
a) I told you this in person but I’ll do it again because I’ll probably never end up writing about it in my space. Despite the incoherent fuctory that is Wild At Heart it’s probably the only movie of his – or any movie ever – that simultaneously conveys all emotions of funnysexyscary, mostly thanks to Laura Dern’s performance. Even in his better work, he can only manage to convey one of those three tones, or compartmentalizes them from one scene to another.
Don’t worry, this post will get slightly smarter.
I feel it juvenile that I hate to compare Dern’s Lula Fortune to other actors with more well-known movie quotables, and nothing beats those originals but we have seen de Niro’s bravado or Judy’s childlike demeanour through multiple imitations. And I suppose Dern also gets it easy with some of the one liners that we first hear on the trailer, like ‘You make me hotter than Georgia asphalt.’ We can do that as an inside joke, add a head or shoulder roll or two, remembering Lynch’s innately referential nature as he pays perpetual homage to post-war camp Americana. Slick greaser hair and jackets and antisocial behaviour are particularly more present here than in Lynch’s other movies, given a contemporary flavour through Sailor’s affinity to epilepsy-inducing metal music. Her love-making non sequiturs and narratives astound – ‘And I swear, baby, you got the sweetest cock. It’s like it’s talking to me when you’re inside. ],’ ‘You [Nicolas Cage’s character Sailor] remind me of my daddy. (I shouldn’t judge),’ ‘One time, [my aunt] found [my uncle] Dell putting one big cockroach on his anus.’ She says those lines with the borderline childishness that some girls put on in front of their boyfriends. They say that the portrayal of gravitas lessens over time and yes we can laugh at these lines but there’s this timeless earnestness in Dern and Lynch’s delivery of lust that I simply cannot negate. Who knew that the gaunt actress only needed her blond locks and a silver tongue to be sexy? Can she do it again?
And as Lula and her Sailor elopement gets bumpier and more crime-ridden, Dern’s performance gets its equal rocky footing. There’s also a scene where she find herself alone with Willem Dafoe’s grilled character – that’s never turned well in 99% of that actor’s movies. He sexually intimidates her and tells her to tell him to to ‘Fuck me.’ At first she resists but she does it, putting fear into a mix that cannot be duplicated. She’s Lynch’s instrument for better or worse and I don’t even see anything wrong with her bravery and vulnerability, while most of the leading actresses Lynch hires only has either. I wonder how her dad was like as an actor, if he could produce such a great here.
There are also Wizard of Oz references for some reason, Lula’s mother (Diane Ladd), the venomous woman from whom they;re running away, conjured through hallucinations as the Wicked Witch. Lula clicks her heels like Dorothy but Sailor doesn’t seem like any of Dorothy’s companions. Scarecrow maybe, for participating in failed bank robberies? Anyway, both the stunted feminine and masculine body politic is within the escapist Lula and she solves it by…marrying a dude? This is a man’s perspective of a romanticized female pathos, after all. And I keep talking about this movie as if I’m bored with Cage’s histrionics but Sailor does have death threats to avoid. And I just don’t want to see him as sexy with all the implications of that title, which this movie insists and almost succeeds on doing.
Seminal Video: Vision of Love
Like any sane person infected with collective panicrity, I searched for Whitney Houston on Youtube. There’s a sobering quality to her mourning, actually. Some of us celebrated Michael Jackson’s with a morbid dance party, Amy Winehouse’s made us energetically growl.
I’m not saying there’s no energy in Houston’s songs – at her peak, her windpipe can power a small, hippie European country. Besides, during the night when the news spread of her death, the gay clubs reportedly only played “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and moved on because what other choice did they have? And she’s one of the cases where drug use or mental duress doesn’t cause productivity so her creative output and her troubles were separate. And in her early years she had the most amazing power ballads, making us react in different ways. We could be annoyed at their ubiquity and dated-ness, we could sing them off-key with a bit of humour. Her lyrics might have told us something about the loss of love but they equally celebrated it. And although I’m proud that I’m known as a sap within my new circle of friends, I could never cry to her songs because they weren’t downbeat enough. That’s also partly because “I Will Always Love You” came out when I was five which was too young for me to realize ‘influential’ and stuff like that.
One the latter sections of Houston’s page contained a link to another about ‘melisma.’ What is that, some sort of disease that afflicted her as a child/this year? No. According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession.’ Anyway, melisma – click, Mariah Carey’s Vision of Love and it’s apparently unfortunate influence on the vocal stylings of the American Idol generation – click, random girls covering the song and sounding so good it has to be auto tune, click – the official music video, click. Which made me think that was a Rene Magritte music video. The tan walls, the candelabra, the tree in the background that might as well be floating on air. Maybe it’s the spare quality of the visuals that make them seem like they don’t add up. That video is exactly why I need to sleep now.
Christmas: Home Alone
Macaulay Culkin’s acting chops at the time is him mugging for the camera, and is nothing compared to the ten-year old child actors we have today. Joe Pesci is delightfully not a ham, and whatever internet snark anyone may have for this being his Norbit is unfounded. Oh hai, John Candy! Why are there no black people in this movie? The guy playing Macaulay’s brother is not the most attractive child. The script isn’t pedophile proof, with mentions of his older brother ‘pounding’ him.
Also, that child is really immersed in American gun culture. Of course, I wonder how verbose the last 30 pages of the script are. the words ‘I’m gonna kill this kid’ is just as effective as the f-word. The film is an interesting perspective of how a child brushes off fear. Both children and the adults in the film expose their fears especially about families and homes. His family is terrible, using numbers instead of names for counting the children. Weak grocery bags suck.
This is my snappy write-up.
Blitz: Edward Scissorhands
I’ve seen the infamously hilarious water-bed scene in Edward Scissorhands in the 90’s, the rest of the film is just waiting. A decade later, the Box is showing Burton films. Yay!
Scissorhands. Willing suspension of disbelief. Opposites. Those two themes merging together. An old woman starts a fable about the origins of snow with Peg ‘Avon’ Boggs (Dianne Wiest), who gets turned away by all the housewives in her pastel painted 1950’s neighborhood. Remember when Burton films contained the vernacular? She turns to another house to for a prospective client, and I’m thinking, why would any real estate whatchamacallit build a suburban development at the foot of a haunted Gothic mansion? Not a hater here. I’m not sure how aware Burton and his team were of how implausible this is but Bo Welch’s set direction makes the juxtaposition of the old and the new jarring and noticeable.
Of course Burton makes sure that Peg’s just as weird as Edward (Johnny Depp), telling him that she can give him astringent for his scars. Now, we’re looking for Edward’s double, and Peg at this stage of the story is a decent candidate because she’s just as much of an outsider as he is, and inviting Edward home will highlight the tensions between her and the neighborhood. The rest of the film are comprised of either Edward being looked at or looking, but it’s more interesting is when both the observer and the subject are closer.
The rest of the film is the neighbors fawning over Edward and his talents that the audience knows and waits for him to do something and for the neighborhood to hate him, the characters thus bowing to the oldest story in the book. Instead of montage-y progression from love to hate, Burton lets Edward interact with the family and with the housewives, showing us humanity before and during hard times.
Let’s go back earlier where the camera moves through a miniature version of the neighborhood – I like it too, kids, don’t accuse me of snarking – at night, covered in snow to eventually show the mansion. Here the difference between the two areas are less striking. Edward has created something to remind himself and beloved Kim (Winona Ryder) that the two worlds can look the same, even if those two worlds, or the two of them, can’t be together.
Today is probably the last day to catch Edward Scissorhands at the Box at 4:15, 6:50 and 9:30.
Apparently this movie’s about guilt. The best thing I could come up with was that the characters weren’t as annoying as my first impression of them was and that it wasn’t really that feminist and that there’s so much. Food. In this movie.
P.s. Fuck it.
Half of Scorsese movies are a Sisyphean project towards empathy, but he strikes gold in analyzing Henry (Ray Liotta) and Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco). In a scene, Karen tells Henry that she flushed $50,000 worth of cocaine because of the police presence near their house, he is exasperated by knowing that their lavish lives become hollowed out. They repeat the same rationales for or against throwing out said cocaine for a few lines. At one point, I really thought this scene is gonna end like the last time. If I have to remind you, he hits her, she flails to the floor like a Guy Bourdin model (thus giving me ambiguous feelings about that, Marty), he storms out, the huge argument further fractures the relationship.
Now back to this scene. Instead of another assault, she apologizes, he doesn’t say but implies that she could have been right about making said cocaine disappear. Tour de force character writing/directing/acting come together as he goes into fetal position by instinct. He doesn’t have to think about being vulnerable, it’s surprisingly a part of his nature. She joins him, bellowing another “SORRY!” They become a lump of black and white bodies and as cheesy as it sounds, become one. Her lamentation articulates his the anguish that most Scorsese men can’t verbally produce.
This movie has a lot of flaws, specifically around Karen’s characterization. I can’t still understand how he attracted her. Passivity is under the guise of being observant and pragmatic, materialism under the guise of female desire. But there’s this appreciation or realization that gangsters will always have mistakes because they’re illegitimate by nature. And that the characters seem in a better light under a second view. And the food.