Super Size Me
I first watched Morgan Spurlock‘s Sundance hit Super Size Me some time within my last two years in high school, possibly during my Media Studies class where all we did was watch movies. Or maybe was it in Ethics class. The director has a weird reputation for me now, seeming like some attention-grabbing, condescending liberal to end all condescending liberals. The fact that fellow (and possible rival) liberal Michael Moore is no longer on the spotlight doesn’t help to take any heat off Spurlock. In the film, he goes on this thirty-day experiment of only consuming the foods and drinks is on the McDonalds’ menu, agreeing to be ‘Super Sized’ when asked. But at least, I suppose, he wasn’t drinking or smoking during those thirty days.
He points the camera mostly to himself, renting a car to cut his physical activity and exercise. Being ‘strung out on ham’ and complaining about the diet’s effects which I couldn’t really see. This ‘performance’ part of the movie sticks out in the eight years between the first and second time I’ve seen this, being one of three documentaries that occasionally lifts my willing suspension of disbelief. Super Size Me‘s popularity has also prompted him to do a cable series called “30 Days” where he convinces Americans to place themselves within different shoes for thirty days, like an Islamophobe to Muslim Michigan or himself to prison. I don’t remember anyone else watching this show.
But I can admit that I misread Spurlock as a filmmaker and person. He explains that he was raised in West Virginia and as a tall, athletic man with weird facial hair, he makes sense both as a New Yorker and as a middle American, just like the people he visits and interviews to get the McDonalds experience in different states like California, DC and the fattest state of Texas (I suppose that with the knowledge of the physical state of the latter state, if there was another Civil War the gun-less, pacifist Union might still win).
And it’s not all just him hogging the camera. Yes, the B-roll of ‘fat’ Americans both young and all makes me feel like I have to poke fun of someone as part of experiencing this movie. But as one of many ‘experts’ in this film says, it’s better to convince someone to stop smoking or drinking than to tell someone to go on a diet. A black lung or liver is a state that people get themselves into, as opposed to obesity that might be genetically inherited. But the States has become the world’s fattest country and the proves this by letting these experts speak, whether they be general practitioners (doctors), dietitians, civil litigators, ‘cooks’ in American public schools and surgeons. He also makes statistics about American obesity rates and the dynamics of the food market both fun and scary to look at between watching him get queasy after a Big Mac.
Let’s also look at how the film perceives women. Two thirds of the doctors he consults before and during his experiment are women. There’s also his girlfriend, whose complaints about his sexual worthlessness during those thirty days. She’s also an archetypal vegetarian, attempting to use the experiment as a way of convincing him that meat is hazardous to one’s health even if it’s within or outside the McMenu. She has also planned a detox diet for him after his McDonalds month and I’ll just be bitchy and say that he could have planned his own detox.
Spurlock narrates in the beginning that most of his memories of his mother was her cooking food except for those special occasions when his family would eat out. Which is no longer the case in most families in America and he shows a food court that replaces the dinner table. It’s almost as if there’s a warped mind somewhere thinking that the country’s obesity problem is rooted on mothers who no longer toil for their families’ dinners. That we can return to equilibrium again if we put women back in the kitchen. He thankfully never says that. Instead he goes on for five minutes about an overhaul and regulation of fast food ubiquity, getting rid of many cola vending machines, introducing real food that’s inaccessible to places in the States and cracking down on fast food corporations. Too bad he’s just preaching to the choir.
- Super Sell Me: Spurlock Keen To Expose Brands (news.sky.com)
In praise of Mirren and Coughlan
You might know her as The Queen or as Supt. Jane Tennison whoever but I will always remember Helen Mirren in the first movie I’ve seen her in, playing the title role in Teaching Mrs. Tingle. She’s the stereotypical teacher from hell, 90’s bowl cut, angry American accent and all.
Some film geeks might herald 1999 as a banner year but it was also a part of that decade, seeing the release of many teen movies. We have the headlining adult in this film but where do we get the young stars to get my attention? Why television, of course! At the time Katie Holmes, also coming out with Disturbing Behavior, was then one of successful “Dawson’s Creek” alums. There was also “7th Heaven’s” Barry Watson.
But let me present you Marisa Coughlan. While Leigh Ann Watson (Holmes) and Luke Churner (Watson) are ‘going to school or home so they won’t look suspicious,’ they assign Jo Lynn Jordan (Coughlan) to Tingle watch. So ‘aspiring actress’ Jo reenacts famous scenes from classic movies, passing the time. At one point she has to pretend to be Tingle when the married Coach Wenchell (Jeffrey Tambor) comes over, Jo sounding more like Isabella Rosselini instead of Mirren. She has to wear Tingle’s clothes and perfume, coming too vulnerable and close to the dark side.
I find one scene interesting, when Tingle finally makes Jo into believing that Leigh and Luke are having an affair behind her back and Jo readily believing anything she has to say. For argument’s purposes, Jo is being a bad actress in front of Tingle, saying the words ‘You’re lying’ so insipidly but the latter can’t see it. I don’t know how intentional this is on Coughlan’s part, or that writer-director Kevin Williamson can’t transition from one part of the scene to another, but I’ll call this subversion. Points for Miss Coughlan.
- Jarv’s Birthday Series: Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) (moonwolves.wordpress.com)
The Last Starfighter
The Last Starfighter was playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of their 80’s thingamajig every Saturday at 2. They’re also doing Gremlins today and Back to the Future, if they haven’t done it already. The looks of the star of The Last Starfighter reminds me of Armie Hammer, so if necking with Leonardo di Caprio in movies don’t work, he has a sci-fi reboot waiting for him! Oh wait, this guy plays twins too?
Let me explain. Alex Rogan lives in the 1980’s in some trailer park in California or the Southwest that isn’t as trashy as the one in “Trailer Park Boys,” there’s a video game outside the diner of that trailer park. He exceeds the top score, he gets sent in outer space because of this seemingly inconsequential achievement. A Beta version of him is sent down to take his place to keep the residents less suspicious, even if he mopes around and doesn’t like it when his girlfriend licks his ear.
He’s not the greatest actor. He doesn’t particularly sell me when he doesn’t want to be a starfighter. He has this wide-eyed inflection when he learns something new about outer space. But he does capable service to his double role, the original is sometimes angry both about his old and new predicament, Beta Alex takes the Earthlings with a humourous stride. And he has great timing when acting against himself too. I’ll also point out the deadpan ridiculous of Alex’s girlfriend and the rest of the trailer park residents, the most embarrassingly stereotypical acting from a black person in between Oscar Polk and the Wayans Brothers and the fake British inflection camp of the space villains because apparently there’s no other way to act out the latter. The enemy alien has a red space monocle snapping into place once in a while. The last time that happens, he says his last words “We die,” and he dies. It’s priceless.
As an 80’s sci-fi movie, the effects are pathetic compared to today’s standards. The space battles feel like the video game he plays back home, but with blocks and lasers. The good thing about the terrible, early stage CGI era is that the crew would actually make sets for the interior spaces outside Earth. The sets are well thought out and make sense for their contexts. Half of the film also takes place in and near the trailer park. The effects in this part economical like a shooting star, a sign that an enemy has landed. We see the tacky decorations of the kooky old trailer park residents, the truck with the token sexually rambunctious but not destructive cowboy friend and non-speaking token Asian friend and so forth.
There’s also something I like in the composition of this shot of Alex’s anguish, vegetation, sign, diner. There are a lot of contrasts that play well together, both earthly and magical. There’s also another shot where the good aliens parade Alex around the dark surrounding s suggest nighttime but actually mean the film can’t afford a night sky or special space traffic lights.
This film came out in 1984, a banner year not for the Academy but for genre films. The Terminator also came out this year.
So this guy Mark Hogencamp of Kingston, NY get ‘queer-bashed,’ leaving him brain-damaged, but comes out of it with the best revenge – better artistic skills and penmanship than me? I’m not saying with schadenfreude that his skills as an artist should be as stalled as mine, but not fair, world.
Hogencamp is as multifaceted as the aesthetic of the fictional town he has created with his two hands, Marwencol, a portmanteau of his name and the two most important women in her life, Mark, Wendy and Colleen. The film, as much as it is dedicated towards his fictional world, also focuses on the man who has created it. He talks normally except for stressing the words ‘angry’ and ‘drink,’ two of his past vices. He’s honest about the porno tape that an old VCR has eaten up or other revelations about his views and practices on sexuality as revealed through the real world and his fictional one. The film lets us watch the man evolve.
Significant portions of the film is devoted to showing storyboard stills of Mark’s stills of the WWII dolls placed in both the town he’s physically constructed, both within 1/6th scale, and seamlessly within natural settings. I’m gonna nitpick and say the the zippers seem larger than scale, but that’s about it. His friends say that he expresses his anger through the dolls, an admirable action because of how he does it. He carefully paints the scars and bullet holes into the body of these dolls instead of attacking them. At first this feels like he’s staining those dolls until we see the effect he successfully conveys, making the violence look like the dolls have inflicted them on each other, as certain plot points of Marwencol’s story go.
Those stills are more colorful than the less glamourous people like Mark and certain townspeople of Kingston, NY from whom some of the characters in Marwencol are based on. No human Barbie dolls and war hunks in Mark’s real world, which make them more special since the film lets us see the beauty that Mark sees in them. These people are interviewed one by one, their reactions to his art as unabashedly honest as the fiction Mark creates. His best friend says that he’s ‘partaken in battles and come out on top,’ Marwencol then becoming a balance between communal fantasy and a symbol for the wars Mark endures to be healed.
The news about Jonathan Franzen was picked up locally – he and his new novel “Freedom” had moved around for a book tour with a stop at Toronto two months earlier and meant everything to the city now – because of his appearances at the IFOA. According to very flattering reviews in the city’s alternative weeklies, Franzen made an epic splash tackling both the professional and private lives of the fictional Berglund family whose story spanned from St. Paul to Washington. While the blogger was wallowing with self-pity because of being unable to pay for tickets to see someone who was practically a living literary genius, the blogger contended with reading the 500 plus page tome by himself months later, and realized that the first thing he was thinking about was who would play the characters in a movie version which MAKES HIM A PRIME SUSPECT RIGHT? Then again, a film version would be in the spirit of the ambition in this book, and regardless the parts that were in Joey’s perspective, which is practically Franzen channeling Bret Easton Ellis, and even if certain plot points are revealed twice, the book can compel and break the hearts of the readers each time.
The blogger kept thinking about what it would have been like if this movie was set in the late 1980’s with a cast like Danner-Redford-Goldblum, or Kristine Sutherland (Buffy’s mom)-Kline-Goldblum, or a mid 1950’s cast consisting of Taylor-Hudson-Dean. But what is done is done. The blogger will give a set of names that also depends on which director the movie version would make the film, and how ambitious and cool-headed this director is.
JESSICA BERGLUND. Walter and Patty’s intelligent, ethically sound older daughter. She’s daddy’s girl but their relationship isn’t as poisonous as Patty and her brother Joey’s.
My choice. Emma Roberts. It’s weird casting a younger actor who’s only more than ten years younger than the actors playing his parents. The only thing I’ve seen her in is the trailer for It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Hope my instincts aren’t off.
CONNIE MONAGHAN. The girl next door to the Monaghans. She’s an outsider from the neighborhood and Joey’s girlfriend.
My choice. Kristen Stewart. This girl’s probably going to be too cool for school after On the Road is released or when, by lucky stars, she gets the role of Kate for the new East of Eden. But as much as I liked her in The Runaways, when you read about a character that’s feral and sexual and has no ideas of her own, who else could I have thought of?
LALITHA. The young woman of Indian descent who has two passions – anti-overpopulation and her boss, Walter Berglund.
My choice Freida Pinto. The book describes Lalitha as having round features like Aishwarya Rai, who isn’t on the age range as the character. There’s a calming sense to her performance in Slumdog Millionaire, and the sexual element is obviously in there as well.
JOEY BERGLUND. The wonder boy who’s rebelling from his parents through sexual relations with Connie Monaghan and through Republicanism.
My choice. Anton Yelchin. This’ll be a jump from Yelchin, whose foray into science fiction films make him seem benevolent and dorky. But young minds can absorb. Plus he can still pretend to be in high school, depending on what the film wants him to be. The only questions are how he’s going to look with blonde hair and a little beer weight?
RICHARD KATZ. Truncated from the hardcover’s leaflet thingy, he’s an outre rocker and Walter Berglund’s best friend and rival. But what is he still doing in the picture?
My choice: Unknown This is a cop-out, but every source material has a role that’s hard to cast. It’s better for a casting director to scour the earth and find someone out of a thousand people other than saying Depp or Bale or Leo. Colin Farrell might do if he looked the part.
WALTER BERGLUND. As a nature lover, working for Big Coal becomes the career move that gets him in the New York Times. Has Freudian rivalry issues with his best friend, his son, his father and brothers.
My choice: Paul Rudd. Ageless Paul Rudd. We need someone sincere to open up to Patty as he talks about how mean her best friend Eliza is Sure he hasn’t done drama since The Object of My Affection, but you can’t lose that kind of training. His comic side might help reduce tensions in many scenes while arguing with Joey or his wife Patty and will help him while thinking about overpopulation statistics and going ballistic on a pill-addled speech that goes viral, pre-Youtube days. Thinking about Paul Rudd made me realize what a funny character Walter is.
PATTY BERGLUND nee EMERSON. The basketball star turned perfect housewife to bored, drinking housewife who wallows in self-pity and writes her autobiography for therapy.
My choice: Michelle Monaghan. ‘I’m 34. I’m a baby,’ Monaghan says in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang five and a half years ago. Although she looks more mature in Somewhere, the blogger is sure she can still fit in as a young blonde girl in a college basketball team and eventually transform herself into an older Washington housewife. She has the hardness in her voice to nail ‘Did Walter ever tell you I slashed Blake’s snow tires?’ and humour and goodwill to bring Patty to our sympathies.
Neverending Christmas: Gremlins is Black
So watched this movie last week at the Underground, had some spiked apple cider, met Sasha, entered raffle, not win anything from raffle. Also, there were short theatrical and musical performances. The former from the Underground staff, the latter from a band with a front girl who sounds like Feist. Thanks girl, I was rooting for me being the hottest person in that room.
I remember the chair scene, I remember a mall instead of a department store. The sequel probably ends in a mall. I haven’t seen the sequel since my childhood.
Apparently the gremlins is black. Stripe with his mohawk doesn’t register as black to me. I guess their ‘blackness,’ in a ‘Renaissance’ perspective of the word, has something to do with the second rule, as light can be seen as whiteness, something that the gremlins can’t live under. The gremlins don’t even register as Chinese, since the parent gremlin does come from China. Ok, thinking about the raciality of the gremlins almost made my head explode. I was this close to comparing them to ‘Muslims,’ or at least how ‘red’ America perceives them.
Nonetheless, the racial reading of the film roots from that despite Christianity’s strength, there’s still an anxiety that Christmas, in its ever-evolving form, won’t be celebrated ‘traditionally,’ whatever our understanding of that is. On that note, maybe it’s not a racial but about generational differences, that the multiplication and transformation of the gremlins are the fault of a curious, young man.
Why is the school open on Christmas Eve? The science teacher wouldn’t have died if he didn’t work. I guess it builds on the childhood assumption that teachers line in school. For some reason, schools in Reagan-era America actually had enough funding to indulge their teachers to make their own research and the facilities that go with them. Also, ooh, black on black violence.
Also, the retired Phoebe Kline nee Cates. She made Jessica Alba seem like a Shakespearean actress.
Juno, its eponymous hero and the actress who plays her, Ellen Page, probably have slightly maligned reputations by now. The movie and character would be seen as aloof and jokey despite of her pregnancy, and the actress almost got typecast as the leading star of the indie pack. My ‘job’ is to tell you the readers that there’s much more to the film. I caught this movie four minutes in, and Juno’s in real distress, convincingly telling her best friend (Olivia Thirlby) on the other side of the hamburger phone that she’s a ‘suicide case,’ revealing her situation. But yes, she does deliver on the humour, so relax. It’s eight minutes in and she’s already covered pop culture references and ironic ebonics, and sells her lines efficiently. She understand exactly what she’s experiencing, by this part of the movie anyway. And there’s her and the movie’s conundrum during unexpected pregnancies – the slightly depoliticized choices of keep, adopt and abort. When she chooses to give up her child for adoption, she has to deal with the new characters as well as ones already in her life.
And no, the characters in Juno don’t all talk alike, with their different rages of old, conservative – both gentrified and not – Americana and new, snarky Americana. Even bit parts have their own ticks, just like every human being in a fictional universe like this one we live in. A lone pro-life protester who shouts that all babies want to get ‘bornd,’ or a goth, sexually active receptionist.
Speaking of quirky, there’s a bit of focus on the characters’ material possessions and moments of privacy. I already mentioned the hamburger phone. There’s the discarded living room set, the picture of prince Charles in Juno’s cheerleader best friend Leah’s room, love interest Paulie Bleeker’s (Michael Cera) maroon and yellow outfit combination while he’s putting deodorant between his thighs. While we’re at Paulie’s shorts, by the way, let me just say that yes, cinematographer Eric Steelberg isn’t Wally Pfister nor Roger Deakins, but correct me if I’m wrong, he did bring the most eye-popping movie in an otherwise sepia tone year. Brenda’s (Allison Janney) obsession with dogs, adopting prospective Mark Loring’s guitar. Again, my fascination with these objects root from my boring decor. Mark’s wife Vanessa’s (Jennifer Garner) contradiction of bourgeois chrysanthemums and Alice in Chains tee are given the same light of individuality as the possessions of the working class characters on the other exit on the highway.
Yes, Bleeker’s a nerdy jock anti-stereotype and Leah encourages her best friend’s new sexuality yet still cool enough to join a rock band. However, the movie has clichés. Product placements. Juno’s short body trying to walk opposite everyone else’s direction. Juno’s stepmom Brenda warning of something that’s gonna happen and being right. Speaking of which, I would like to congratulate the internet for not ruining the movie.
Despite her wit, thank God she isn’t always the smartest person in the film, where the adults also show her things that are as she says ‘beyond her maturity level.’ She has her flaws. She crosses the line with the people in her life, using the word ‘gay’ – Leah does too. Page is nonetheless amazing in this, giving more than expected for the role. There’s something even in the way Juno runs up the stairs to the bathroom that shows how inventive and physical she is in a role that’s more script-based. If there is a flaw to her performance, it’s her voice that usually isn’t this nasal. She also ends most of her snarky lines with a lower tone, reminding me of how a younger Jorja Fox would speak.
And who says the women’s picture is dead? Diablo Cody sprinkles her script with well-written female characters. As Leah, Thirlby supports her and moves furniture for her. She also does the best readings of the word ‘pants’ and ‘I know, right’ in the history of cinema. Vanessa’s slightly frosty demeanour ventures for need to have a child with sane amounts of caution. Janney plays Brenda as a sap with a Kristen Wiig outfit yet knows how to eviscerate anyone like she does in “The West Wing” in probably the film’s best scene. All three equally convince the audience that they’re the best parts of this movie in their moments onscreen.
The male supporting cast does wonders in this film too. J.K. Simmons as Juno’s dad Mac reinvents himself as the balanced, supportive parental cool from whom she gets her sense of humour from. Bateman as Mark Loring tries his best both to support his wife’s wishes to adopt while holding on to the youthfulness that Juno’s sparked within him. Cera knows how to convey anxiety only through his eyes – his face doesn’t move but it doesn’t need to. And despite seeing her at her worst, Cera’s Bleeker gives her the moment of tenderness when she needs it.
The trailers on the DVD include 27 Dresses who co-stars Jonathan from “30 Rock,” The Savages which I should have seen instead of Sweeney Todd and a digital copy promotion thing that ties-in with promoting Live Free and Die Hard.
I only watched this film is because of Abbie Cornish. Her most famous role yet is that of a romantic lead, but here she both plays lover and fighter. As Michelle, she’s known the boys in this film since third grade, and she won’t stop reminding Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Philippe) that when the both of them get in trouble. When Brandon tries to road trip to DC to petition his stop-loss, it’s her car he’s using and she’s on the driver’s seat. Some detractors might see her performance as a bit Aileen Wuornos, but she’s very convincing as a tequila drinking, pool playing tough girl, and I’m a sucker for characters like hers.
I guess I shouldn’t judge a movie that I’ve only seen in parts, but many clichés are scattered in this film. For example, a hoe-down scene when almost everything that happens seems like it’s part of a checklist of what Texan veterans do. I have to remember that these characters are based on living persons, so I don’t know how racist these real people really are. And God forbid one or these characters weren’t written as Sorkinian deus-ex-machinae. It’s better to leave characters to speak and acting in their own vernacular. However, there’s no consistent rawness in the script nor in the acting. The said scene, and others after that, portrays them as textbook racists and shooting, fighting drunks doesn’t work, and instead of making the audience pity or deride them, the film makes me feel like it’s questioning my intelligence. When Brandon makes his way to DC, everyone he meets and everyone who tries to call him back seem more like allegories instead of fully fleshed-out characters. Those characters’ terribly delivered speeches are accompanied by slow electric guitars I’ve heard in every Iraq war film. I reacted more ambivalently to the way the male characters have flashbacks of their tour in Iraq, which again are very clichéd but the actors unhesitatingly go to those dark places. By reenacting those traumatic moments in their home country, it kinda lessens the images of the atrocities these soldiers have done to the Iraqis. Because we needed more of those.
P.s. Lame actor trivia/shpiel: In the early 2000’s, I had this opinion that Philippe was gonna be the best actor of his generation, seeing his roles and performances were showy in the late 90’s and all. He still did a lot of interesting stuff after that time, but he’s two inches short of being an A-lister. Philippe was born in 1974, just like Christian Bale, Michael Shannon, Joaquin Phoenix and Leonardo di Caprio. All five have different career trajectories, only Christian and Leo went ‘big’ so far as well as competed for the same roles, and none of them look like they were born the same year.
Facebook Movie Preparation!
This wasn’t intentional, but on separate days before I watched a film where Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher teamed up, I watched two movies where both men create their own utopias.
My childhood memories of The American President and its run on late 90’s HBO Asia was that Annette Bening as Sydney Wade is the most beautiful woman on earth, her glow of sanity here is unforgettable. Crazier roles almost made me forget, but rewatching is remembering. She cuddles to President Andrew Shephard (Michael Douglas) in the couch, the country loves her, they get all the votes they need. The perfect couple. I honestly didn’t remember how hostile the movie was.
And I don’t remember Sorkin writing the typical second act of a romance movie where the lovers are driven apart. Their differences are more political, as Shepherd’s Crime Bill conflicts with Wade’s fossil fuel bill. Let me remind you guys that this is 1995, when people still cared about the environment. Then people stopped caring, then Al Gore made people care again. The film’s a product of its left-leaning time. Another conflict within the film is how the Republican men labels Wade a ‘whore.’ How dare they! And she had red hair? And everyone else in this film has red hair?
Michael J. Fox is awesome here too. I never thought he could play an adult, but there you go. Aaron Sorkin is a great but with his characters-as-symbolic ideologies method, he’s not the best writer of TV and film. He does, however, know how to write explosive, eloquent dialogue. His America sounds more true than we think, one that doesn’t pay attention to sexual gossip of the Clinton era nor the Tea Party insanity of today. I just hope my country catches up. Also, Samantha Mathis and Anne Hathaway’s stepmother in Rachel Getting Married is in this movie.
Also, I never watched “The West Wing“. I know Peggy’s in it, but I was 11. I liked stuff like Buffy and MTV. Give me a break.
Now to Fincher. I’m not the biggest fan of ubermasculinity and Fight Club is the cinematic version of a hockey bag. Yes, I’m turning down shirtless guys with that sentence. At the same time, I also resent that Project Mayhem promised so much but didn’t really happen, or that it kinda did but people turned away and instead defended the institutions that oppress them. But then again, if I ever joined a radical group like Project Mayhem, I’d cry if they took away my iPod. My whole life is in there!
I’ve had, however, fantasies about this scene, as an Asian who hates his job and secretly wants out.
Fight Club, not The Social Network, is Fincher’s most Wellesian film. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) inherits an empire and wants a newer, more radical, destructive, oppressive one of his own making. It’s liberating to blow up buildings of credit card companies, but a leader taking away individuality casts doubts. Yes, this movie was in my Imperialist Cinema class. This film also fits into my unorthodox education, corporate sculpture and bauhaus bourgeois being shoved away by performance art, performed by Project Mayhem.
And the shot composition, finding unconventional ways to light every shot, and often times there’s symmetry despite its baroque angles. And the colour, just like Se7en.
My mom has harped about how ugly Pitt is, an unfathomable concept to me until I rewatched this movie. As Tyler he’s both sexy and bruised, letting himself go as he sees fit. Speaking of Brad Pitt, this was a date movie. That’s as much as I’ll share.
Thinking this out, Fight Club might become my favourite Fincher instead of Zodiac all along. Also, I need to read Palahniuk’s book.
- Modern Maestros: David Fincher (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Save the Last Dance
I first saw this movie on a plane, and not just a plane but on my plane coming to Canada. Save the Last Dance helped shaped my young naive mythology and imagination of this continent and high school. I ate the movie up, I ate the soundtrack up (featuring Method Man and Redman, Fredro Starr, Pharoahe Monch, Pink). When the cool kids in Grade 9 were talking about when they were talking about fake ID’s, this is what they were talking about. But unlike the kids who went to my high school the cast of this film, mostly in their thirties, won’t have a hard time getting into some grubby club that don’t look like the Le Deux copycats in our entertainment districts here. Yes, Fredro Starr, if you threw me to the walls of my high school washroom, I’d just make fun of you for being in high school at 34. So I was a bit elated when this movie came on TV less than a week ago.
I’m trailing. As you know, this movie is about Sara (Shakespearean actor Julia Stiles), who has to move to Chicago and give up ballet because of her mother’s death, insipid enough to wear little hair clips, deny that she accidentally calls Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) an know-it-all asshole in front of his sister Chenille (Kerry Washington) and say ‘Noo’ when Chenille asks her if she likes him. She gets this sibling duo as her Uncle Toms, teaching her the ropes in a cutthroat urban high school milieu, that the correct word for ‘cool’ is ‘slammin,’ that dance is her passion and the way for a white girl in the country to connect with a predominantly black populous. What does she give them in return? She buys Kerry Washington‘s character a rum and coke, no ice, and she gives Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) her body. He’s thirty years old, Julia, don’t ‘git’ with him.
Hey look, it’s that guy from “Oz.” Everyone else from that show got another show, like “Dexter,” “30 Rock,” “The Wire” but nothing for him. Another casting note is Nikki (Bianca Lawson) who also plays Kendra the Vampayar Slayer, my favourite slayer. That girl fights like girls in my high school used to fight.
A little part of me wishes she was more famous, if her acting and everyone else’s acting for that matter weren’t so bad. There was also a DJ named Snooki, a male character. So I changed the channel.
- Take Three: Kerry Washington (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
ph. National Geographic Entertainment
Restrepo chronicles 15 months in the lives of soldiers deployed in outposts of the breathtaking, unassuming and dangerous Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. Journalist/ co-directors Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington capture it in a cellphone camera, shaky cam, non-shaky cam and post-interviews when we get too close into the soldier’s faces. In one of the documentary’s first scenes as the troops drive up to their outposts, the Taliban starts shooting at them. The directors didn’t have time to get sound equipment. It feels like the camera has luck instead of access to capture what they can, making the experience too raw and real. Yes, the first few scenes are jarring, but things eventually smooth out when the multicultural, heterosexual platoon create an outpost they call OP Restrepo.
In another earlier scene, Cortez uses updated Joseph Conrad language but we can’t spite him because he follows that with realizing the possibility of his death within the same sentence. He also talks about the effects he’s experienced of a certain mission in his tour of duty in the Korangal. The directors juxtapose the not-so-bad with the bad, duplicating the emotional whirlwind that the soldiers face daily. Pemble-Belkin has hippie parents, goes to war, draws the scenic valley that might kill him. His mother’s birthday follows a charismatic comrade’s death. A shot of another officer sun tanning gets me nervous because we saw his legs first. They’re told they’re coming home and later told that nine men from another platoon have died.
There are so many little details packed into this film, aided by the soldiers’ different personalities. These guys are knowledgeable in geography and strategy and try their hardest in public relations. That they’re silly enough to get into wrestling matches or make faint-praise gay jokes to each other, or drag each other into dancing to shitty 80’s remix music. That they’re allowed to bring their PS2 consoles. That they’re shirtless a lot, even in winter, which still makes me kinda jealous. That asking for unconditional love and cooperation after accidentally killing a few locals is a splendid way of apologizing, Kearney.
That reminds of the few ‘shuras’ or meetings with the elderly men with dyed red beards featured in the film show that the locals in the film might be nameless but aren’t entirely voiceless. Also, strangely, the few shots of local women and children whose costumes are still colourful despite the war, one girl shying away from the camera. Or birds circling the snowy peaks of the valley makes me think I’ve watched a muscular version of Black Narcissus.
Let me use this part of this post to kinda gripe about the conventions of war films, a genre I didn’t know I loved. Thankfully, this film doesn’t show nor push for war archetypes. Yes, the soldiers sometimes remind me that they’re still the frat boy meat heads of yore by shooting ammo and letting out a hoot. Or when they’re slightly amused by the Taliban running and their body parts dangling, but no more. There are no local bleeding hearts, just ones with grievances. There are blood-soaked uniforms instead of gratuitous death scenes, especially that of the youngest, innocentest one we see in war films. Coldly recounted events instead of soliloquies. Kearney makes passive-aggressive yet carefully constructed language about killing ‘individuals’ – delivered in a straightforward way – instead of being the groan-worthy token racist guy. And no close-ups of dead animals.
Lastly, there’s the other war archetype – Restrepo himself. The film and outpost get their names from PFC Juan C. Restrepo, the said charismatic soldier. The film’s references to him feel like laces, like a soldier gleefully remembering the drunken moments with him in Rome – and yes, I’m jealous because they’ve been to Rome. Or another impersonating his long fingernails and fantabulous flamenco guitar skills, giving us the impression that he may have talked funny. He seemed like a Cool Hand Luke figure, getting that nostalgic treatment because of his death. Nonetheless, this film isn’t about him, a story of a martyr but about the living and their everyday struggles and little acts of bravery.
Seminal Television: In Which I…
…predict what Don is actually gonna say for the first time.
“Yes?” Say thank you.
“Thank you.” Thank you. Maybe say that to Peggy next time you rip off one of her ideas, you douche.
Also, Sally looking like a little Drew Barrymore here. The best conversations happen with Don, on the phone, while the worst encounters happen in person, with people who have stunted family relationships. Not saying that Don and Betty don’t have that. Betty and Sally are lucky because can you imagine Henry allowing Sally to go to a rock concert?
McCarthyism has survived ten years after its peak. If I was Don, I would have ridden it out till they actually caught me, but he couldn’t take that risk just because G-Men wanted to know if he was a communist.
It’s funny seeing Don and Betty being a sort of ‘team’ again, looking out for each other 18 months after their divorce. I don’t necessarily think that they love each other with the same intensity as they used to. They have a secret code between two people – you don’t tell anyone what you’re told not to. Later on, she ironically asks Henry to not have secrets between them, hoping she won’t make the same mistake twice.
It’s surprising how that code worked on Betty and Pete, especially Pete since $4 million was at stake. I wish Don and Pete waited until the board meeting before they cut off ties with American Aviation to save Don’s neck. Burt also knows who he is. How will SCDP and Don survive after all of this?
Meryl Streep’s Tough Love
It’s Roberta Guaspari’s (Meryl Streep) second day at her new job at an East Harlem alternative elementary school teaching violin. Her class is half as large as it has been the first day. They’re still rambunctious with the exception of Naim, who actually pays attention to her. She notices her competition, DeSean, talking about basketball, when she asks him a question on that day’s lesson, about the parts of the violin’s bow. He feigns indifference in not knowing then she replies ‘Yes you were [here], buy you weren’t paying attention. Do you want people to think you’re stupid.’ She turns to her star student, saying ‘Tell him, Naim.’
As the expression goes, her words with the kids are like a confident tightrope walk, and as expected she doesn’t come off as any hurtful. Neither does she look like the naif who miraculously comes up with a quick rebuttal to hurl on the person she’s talking to. Well, she does raise a few alarms from a parent, but that gets ironed out by the urban ‘stop snitching’ code.
The movie also typically shows the difficulties in running and staying in a class related to the arts. The children have to be whipped out of their ADD, which all but one of them apparently have. They have to regard the class as if no other exists. And Roberta deals with her own marital issues and its effects on her own children, having to let them ride a plane on their own on Christmas.
Also cast and crew notes: Directed by horror director Wes Craven, trying something new. Aidan Quinn plays Roberta’s boyfriend. Gloria Estefan plays a teacher/parent who also sang the film’s theme song. The grown-up version of Roberta’s kids are Abe from Mad Men and Kieran Culkin. Don’t pretend you don’t know who that is.
TIFF: Passion Play
Ex-famous trumpeter Nate Poole’s (Mickey Rourke) the kind of guy who keeps his money with a clip, has a toothpick hanging from his mouth, and deals with an urban underbelly. His tanned-leather stripper blonde friend explains a part of the synopsis. He is almost killed by one of Happy’s (Bill Murray) hitman (Chuck Liddell) for having sex with the latter’s wife, he gets rescued by ninjas, walks into a traveling circus and meets a Bird Woman named Lily (Megan Fox) who rescues him.
There’s something weird continuity-wise that happens in this film. At night, Nate goes into an interior space to have a quick talk with a villain, both defending their stake on Lily. Glass gets broken, Nate escapes, it’s daytime when he comes out.
This movie also probably took me off the Megan Fox team, or her agent. She’s decent in comedy, a genre where she never gets cast. She’s decent here too, playing someone who thinks not getting fat or growing a beard are flaws. She moves her mouth too much I felt relieved that I wasn’t the only person who noticed it. Rourke infamously said in an interview that she can do so much more acting-wise than he’s seen with his former co-stars. Let me just say she’s not the greatest crier he’s ever worked with. Like the movie, the more it progresses, the more she and it fall apart.
In conclusion, needs more of Happy’s over the top line deliveries. I give this a 1/5.
TIFF: L.A. Zombie
A friend warned me against Bruce La Bruce and therefore warned me against the latter’s new movie at TIFF, L.A. Zombie, that he has no desire to watch because it would end up being like ‘pretentious hack poverty porn.’ But of course, I’m not a good friend.
An alien zombie emerges (Francois Sagat) in the form that whoever Supreme being created him, from the Pacific Ocean and walks his way to the beaches of L.A. There’s three versions of this monster. There’s the alien zombie version of him who penetrates dead men with the former’s whatever it is in the latter’s man-made orifices – I hope I’m understood. The homeless version of him, cured after intercourse with the dead men – he regresses into the first version although he eventually controls his transformation between these two stages. The third version looks like the first, but the latter watches the former have sex with dead sadomasochistic muscle heads (including Francesco D’Macho, Erik Rhodes, Matthew Rush) and this third version has bigger fangs. Portions of the film accompanied by Chopin’s violin concertos.
The two coexisting versions of the alien zombie are, according to him, open to interpretation. Every text is open to interpretation. There are many intentionally disappointing things about the film. That he can’t fully commitment to any message is my biggest disappointment. The film has its fashion connections, from Bernard Wilhelm’s deconstruction designs to a cameo by Santino Rice as a homeless drunk. I gave this movie a 1/5, and I felt good doing it.
- Australians won’t see zombies having sex (theglobeandmail.com)
TIFF: Meek’s Cutoff
Set in 1845 and based on a real man who helped people cross the Oregon trail, the images of Kelly Reichardt‘s new effort Meek’s Cutoff leaves its audiences breathless. Meek (Bruce Greenwood) and three families cross a river, where the blues and yellows of this riverside scene contrast so beautifully, the first of many visual contrasts within the film like as the bright costumes and the night and day scenes. Each actress, actor and prop is meticulously placed within the film’s full screen format. The 1.35:1 aspect ratio, an interesting choice for Reichardt, emphasize the vertical lines and shapes lost in most wide-screen films today, the latter only emphasizing the landscape and horizontal divisions within the picture plane.
We also have, in this first sequence, Thomas (Paul Dano) carving the word ‘lost’ on a rock, outlining the uncertainties of the frontier, the families becoming withered, pessimistic and doubtful of their guide. Then Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) finds an ‘Indian’ – she’s at first tries to shoot him but eventually becomes his ally and advocate in the group, thinking that the elegiac figure can help the group better than Meek can.
The movie sometimes doesn’t engage its audience, with its commitment to show the arid silences between wagon treks. However, the images and the subtle performances from a cast that includes Zoe Kazan, Will Patton and a firm Christian played by Shirley Henderson make watching this a memorable experience. 5/5, but I was balancing out the 2’s and 3’s I was seeing.
Before Iraq and the other countries before it, the Philippines was one of the first countries under the hand of the American colonial project, and John Sayles‘s new film Amigo tells a part of that story within the fictional, small Tagalog village of San Isidro.
As expected in good films, moral lessons aren’t traceable within the film, and it’s especially hard to find stable morality within wartime. The handful of American soldiers march into San Isidro with little incident. Col. Hardacre (Chris Cooper) follows in and tells his lieutenant (Garret Dillahunt) to work on ‘winning the natives’ hearts,’ eventually introducing them to puppet democracy that reelects the village’s jailed capitan, Rafael ‘Amigo’ Dacanay (Joel Torre). Asked about living with his brother-in-law Nenong, Rafael answers that ‘people have to tolerate living together with one eye always open.’ We can say the same about both Filipinos and American within the village’s new population, helping each other for the village’s infrastructure. We see a lot of little scenes among the villagers, indicating that most people in occupation pretend to set up order as a way of putting off battles between both sides.
There were a few ‘parallel’ scenes, the quasi-tribal music accompanying shots of guerillas is a bit insulting. With those flaws, we also get beautiful natural cinematography of the rain scenes and a villager’s great metaphor about the new telegram wires. Guest starring DJ Qualls, Dane DeHaan and Filipino screen veterans Rio Locsin and Bembol Roco, all parts of an impeccable cast. 4/5.
- John Sayles’ Next Film: ‘Amigo’ & Its Off-the-Radar Website (cinematical.com)
TIFF: The Whistleblower
The Whistleblower doesn’t start with our lead, police officer Kathryn (Rachel Weisz), but with Luba and Raya, two local girls in the Ukraine partying it up. Luba tells Raya that she can get out of the latter’s job at her mom’s photocopying place and join her to a hotel job in Central Europe. And you already know where this movie is going.
Based on a true story, in trying to earn money in a short time, Kathryn’s doing peacekeeping in Bosnia for a British contract company called Democra, her family’s in the States. Kathryn thus has a strained relationship with her children, the eldest of whom is as old as the girls being trafficked. She has to be reminded of how ‘not motherly’ she is. Apparently saving young girls from pimps isn’t motherly. The tribulations in Kathy’s Bosnia occupies her mind so much, she and the audience sometimes forget about home.
I’ll stop yelling at my iPod now, where I’m writing this section of the review. Yelling not because of the movie but because of the jerks stopping Kathryn from helping these girls. The peacekeeping forces are a man’s world, most of them are demons but it would seem fictional if they show a vulnerable side. Besides, she only has one female ally (Vanessa Redgrave) out of the handful of female characters in the film. Yes, we still are unaware of ever so prevalent human trafficking. The film tackles the material with impact-filled storytelling – that’s all we ask for. 4/5.
Ready For My Best Shot
As part of Nathaniel R’s Hit Me With Your Best shot series, this week features Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg‘s A Face in the Crowd.
Marcia (Patricia Neal) is all smiles in this dank jailhouse but for some reason, she looks at a drunk prisoner Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), both moved and saddened. I watched this movie cold and for the first time. This movie begins with bucolic acoustic guitar music, the first scene acted out in this room. Misinterpreting Elia Kazan’s reputation as a theatre director and ‘Budd Schulberg’ meaning this movie was probably based on a play. It would also be a challenge to the filmmakers to create cinema in such theatre-like spaces. Mix those Rube Goldberg tangents with how I liked the way these characters are in this scene, I was assuming that this movie’s gonna stay put in this room and in this small town. But nooooo…..
Kazan was the closest thing North America ever had to a Roberto Rossellini, or is he?
This is what I imagine every pre-1967 B-movie would feel like.
Then he became a sellout douche. The best comparison I can come up with for this director and movie is Richard Brooks’ Elmer Gantry. This movie’s also about the advent of television and celebrity politics, with the TV set within the frame.
But here is my best shot, even if it doesn’t encapsulate the film. None of my best shots yet are like that. It’s probably yours too, which makes it boring, but I hope my write-up seems more ‘original.’
I call this the Reverse Norma Desmond Shot. Marcia reminds me of Norma’s insane, destructive impulses. A member of Rhodes’ sound crew blurted out how he would like America to see what the real Lonesome Rhodes is really like, or more correctly, has become. This little wish turns into a sinister idea that possesses her, thus the obvious but probably one of the most effective noir-like close-ups ever put to film. There’s also a little of Joe Gillis in her in wanting to unmask the truth to and about a delusional person, yet what she does to him is more cruel that what Joe says to Norma in person. She destroys him, and in doing so has to both lament and defend that rash decision.
Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) has this doll-shaped, pristine face that makes her look like a model for a Renaissance painting – she’s not in the cover of the September issue of W for nothing. Yet she evokes a working class toughness through her looks and performance. The latter can also be said the population of this heroine’s small town setting in the Ozarks, most of whom like hey could be related to Charles Manson, most of whom are distantly related to Ree.
I haven’t seen everything under the American Neo Realist canon – does The Wrestler count? Nonetheless, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone shows what we can expect from the genre – messy living spaces, our heroine Ree who has to take care of children through tough love, the heroine who knows that opportunity is difficult to reach and tries anyway. Then there’s the dangerous hurdle in front of her – having to look for her father or else she’ll lose her house. Within that major plot point comes the portrayal of an honour code in her drug-ridden community that separates her from her elders – yes, elders.
Winter’s Bone is also one of the most climactic example within a genre that chooses minimal and super subtle emotions. Don’t mistake me, there’s economical dialogue here too, but every word in the script has a kick. There are also scenes like when her own uncle Teardrop threatens her. His hand comes from nowhere and that tense moment is captured through film that I’ve probably never seen before.
Supporting cast includes Garret Dillahunt, bit player in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Dale Dickey, the hooker/Betty White’s daughter in “My Name is Earl,” in a chilling performance.
Waitress shows pie maker Jenna’s (Keri Russell) unhappy, unique life and family through filters of both comedy and tragedy. I understand that the decision to portray such a life might repel some viewers, but both can coexist is life and it makes sense for both to harmoniously coexist within the same film. The kooky cast of characters entering and exiting Jenna’s hospital room, no matter how set-up it is, has the same emotional gravity as the scene when Jenna’s husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), hits her in his car, discovering her plan to run away from him.
The little sociologist within me has seen within this movie the trials of a woman in her situation. The long times in rural areas to wait for a bus to either get to or from work – in so-obvious studio set pieces, nonetheless – or to get away from an abusive husband. Possibilities that a double-income partnership may still be in danger of the man controlling the money and the woman having to hide money all over the house. Resenting her unborn child. Justifications in being disloyal in loveless marriages and having affairs clumsy guys like Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion). Too real for some people who will be watching this movie.
The film also shows the beginning of the cycle through Jenna’s coworker, Dawn (Adrienne Shelley) and the latter’s persistent admirer, Ogie. He courts her through phone calls and visits to the pie place where they work, and declares that he won’t stop until she says yes. I don’t know if I’m the only one who did a face-palm when she relents. Ogie’s presented in the movie as a gentle soul with his terrible poetry, and pardon the meanness, but he looks more like a beggar than a chooser, so we know he’ll be forever grateful. However, Jenna also talks about how Earl has changed, which makes Dawn and Ogie’s early stages of love seem more suspect.
Don’t, however, forget the comedy. This movie depicts people – as a T.S. Eliot expert on my iPod has said – who either don’t write or can’t write or won’t write. They deal with their neurotic doctors and business owners their own way. Not every abused wife lives like a LifeTime TV movie nor centres her life on her husband. Women like her may have other people in their lives. Adrienne Shelley, who also wrote and directed the film, must have dug into a nice place in conjuring these characters. Sadly, we’ll never know where.
Robin Wood: Rio Bravo
Sorry for the hiatus, 32 regular readers. I’ve been busy with the World Cup/ shenanigans.
The film’s focus is on maintaining order. John T. Chance (John Wayne) is middle management, the Sheriff of Presidio County, Texas. He arrests a murder suspect and does his best to keep the latter in a jail cell for six days when the Marhsall comes and takes the prisoner into a larger penitentiary. To have a John Wayne character have so much trust on slow government bureaucracy is a rare thing to watch. You’d just expect him to shoot the guy. But then again, he tries to convince the town that he can run the town by himself, so tough guy’s still there.
As Hawksian film go, the supporting characters do not believe that Chance can do it by himself. In an inspired human resources strategy, Chance reluctantly hires Dude (Dean Martin), a junior driven to alcoholism by a girl, Colorado Ryan, a young buck out to avenge his old master’s assassination and, unofficially, a histrionic ex-stripper named Feathers (Angie Dickinson). One of the main plots concern Chance’s relationship with Dude, the former not deriding the latter but actually hopes that Dude goes back to his old form. During the screening, I saw this team as the manifestation of old values, that it was easier to get a job or a second chance those days even for a drunk. Now I also realize that most of Chance’s associates asserted and fought for a place in his circle, definitely a capitalist move for those characters.
There’s a slight presence of music felt in “Rio Bravo” as in some classic Westerns. The characters in the sheriff’s office can hear the trumpets blaring the same tune played by the Mexicans who invaded the Alamo. Also and most importantly is Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson’s musical number. There are many readings of music sequences like this. To relieve tension before the final showdown. To show how civilized the sheriff/hero is. To show a growing culture in the early days of America. All of those apply to “Rio Bravo.”
This film might also be the gayest John Wayne will ever be in front of the camera. Howard Hawks is all about the bromance, after all, and John Wayne has that sense of humour about himself that nobody expects. Almost trying on red pantyhose while Feathers walks in. Kissing his crippled jail guard in the forehead. Dude being jealous, thinking Chance has replaced him with a younger gun. Making the most beautiful woman in the world wait for Chance while he’s ‘stuck at work.’ Gay. In a more serious note, Chance is a character with a homosocial bond with his fragile deputy, treating the latter like a son, which is exactly what both need and they won’t shy away from that.
There’s also Feathers as a character, who is superficially more of a whore than a mother, but she’s more complex than that. For contrast, a man in “Rio Bravo” are carte blanche. One man is wronged by a woman while another is somebody’s son, but there’s no real history of the man beyond that. They might as well be born in and by the desert. Feathers, on the other hand has traversed from city to city, from being a gambling accomplice to singing songs in her stockings. She came from somewhere, has a deeper past, the bearer and mother of old America’s past sins. Yet she came to Presidio to eventually settle down and fortunately found a man willing to overlook her past. She’s shocked and even mad at him for overlooking the fact that she’s ‘that kind of woman.’ He likes you for who you are, girl, just take him. And yes, the age difference is kinda unrealistically creepy, but they eventually find a compromise.
Rio Bravo is showing on AMC at July 1 and 2, but don’t worry, I’ll remind you again.
James Mason: Bigger than Life
I forgot to tell you that the TIFF Cinematheque is playing a retrospective of James Mason, for some reason. They’re sexing up their program this summer, calling their Pasolini retrospective “Summer of Sex, Swords and Seduction, while calling the Mason one “the original Smooth Talker,” which he is.
Mason in his movies is either having troubled relationships with people younger than him (“Age of Consent”), enduring physical pain (“Lolita”), getting mixed up with terrorist rhetoric (“Julius Caesar.”) or having an addiction that hurts his job (“A Star is Born”). Those are the best trademarks any actor could have, better trademarks than ‘pretty and crazy’ or ‘mostly does Westerns’ like those in his generation. ANYWAY, he uses two and two halves in Nicholas Ray’s “Bigger than Life.” Ed Avery (Mason) encounters anomalous pains that will kill him in a year. He thus has to take cortisone indefinitely to stay alive. He starts to abuse the drugs and says weird things towards the people in his professional and domestic life.
It’s a melodrama with a male in the centre, and there’s the duality of him feeling emasculated yet feeling the need to take on ‘female’ roles like raising his son. His jobs, teaching and answering phone calls for taxi services, are female dominated work – he’s surrounded by them while operating the switchboards. He eventually speaks out about those jobs and the threat of the pains makes him feel emasculated, while faced with the pride that he can’t ease the burden on himself and let his wife work. He can’t handle all of this and his family is what’s affected the most. He even treats his son with psychological abuse. In essence, Ed is putting too much on his plate. Or, a really early version of “Breaking Bad.”
Someone with a sense of humour would watch this film and wouldn’t understand why he’s such an upstanding citizen and then the drugs come and that audience will say ‘There you are James Mason, we’ve been waiting for you all along.’ An interesting reaction for what is arguably Mason’s best performance.
The movie’s an acquired taste. The melodrama goes hand in hand with the extremes of his reactions to the drugs that can put audiences off, no matter how realistic they could be. And there’s the ending. But unlike the juvenile tendencies in “Rebel Without a Cause” or the noir hopelessness of “In a Lonely Place” – which I do like better by the way – “Life” is Ray’s most socially conscious film.
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.