I pretty much agree with Ebert when he talks about the expressionist mise-en-scene of this 1930 Josef von Sternberg film, that Prof. Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) can do downward spiral in his sleep and that the movie is an interesting depiction of the vaudeville. I’d add this movie might as well be a handbook on cruelty, from the pre-Kubrickian beatings that the students gave to the nerd who ratted them out to Lola Lola’s (Marlene Dietrich) seemingly bipolar mistreatment of Rath. That I found it unbelievable that Rath couldn’t ee that this relationship is creepy. That Lola hasn’t earned it enough to ensnare Rath by a flash of underwear here and there. That Lola’s emotions are inconsistent throughout the film. As much as von Sternberg will always be the go to director for pre-code exoticism and amorality, I still find this with merit but dated.
First of all, I would like to say that “Ordinary People” won over “Raging Bull” in the Oscars. Suck it, juiceheads.
Most of what I’ve learned in “Ordinary People” is what I have already learned in “Cache.” White people like having champagne parties with other white people they dislike, they have childhood secrets that they yell out inside urban buildings, their kid’s in the swim team.
I’m gonna paraphrase Ebert that other films tackling the dysfunctional suburban family would have been more contemptuous of them, like Haneke was in “Cache.” The main characters in “Ordinary People,” however, have their flaws but the film shows theories about why these flaws exist instead of using those flaws to attack them. Watching the characters can make anyone feel like they’re watching a dry period piece. This film may have a certain effect on a some of the audience since it mixes bourgeois complicity with ‘golf course America’ inflections.
Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) adds to that effect by being closed off, sweaty and blaming himself for everything. Teenage alienation is intensified by watching his brother die. His psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch), however, helps him release from being a skinny boy with nervous ticks to someone who is rightfully mad at his situation and articulating what exactly is wrong. We feel relief when he cusses even at his own mother (Mary Tyler Moore) and father (Donald Sutherland), shattering their mannered sensibilities.
Fine, I will admit that it is not the ‘greatest’ movie but in the way that it does not really call attention into itself. It does not have a Paul Thomas Anderson effect. This is a movie about the suburbs, everything’s tailored. The golf courses, the lawned churches, the columned homes all have a groomed look without a hint of satire. If you can indulge me to stretch, this film is what Gainsborough or Brueghel would have captured with a camera depicting 1980’s America. This is what Kurbick would have shot if he was a sentimentalist.
This movie also stars hot piece of ass Adam Baldwin (not related to Alec) when he was 18 and cocky. You might know him as the wide-eyed young soldier in “Full Metal Jacket.” If you really want to get pissed about the Academy, get pissed that the Kubrickian masterpiece was only nominated for one Academy Award. He was also “Firefly” or apparently “Chuck.” I should watch that show, but not really.
Lastly, if “Ordinary People” teaches us certain truths, it is that drunk people flock to McDonald’s. The end.
I hate comparing one movie with another, but genre theory kind of makes it inevitable. A movie fits a certain canon and either adds to it or does nothing.
Take “Green Zone,” for instance. It’s Hollywood’s rendition of war realism with its share of above average acting and characters, especially with the Middle Eastern players. In other films they’re either raving, invisible, or emasculated. Here, they’re still yelling as loud as the American soldiers, but their anger’s is more intelligent and articulated. General Al-Rawi’s (Yigal Naor) scene with Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) especially powerful since it notes the miscommunication on both sides. The movie also introduces an Uncle Tom with a twist in Freddy, a man who ends up being Miller’s interpreter and has his own motivations. The movie also shows the cat and mouse game that’s perfect for urban areas like Baghdad.
The problem in this movie? The yelling. And the gunfire. And the explosion. And the loud score. We get it, invading a Middle Eastern city is loud and messy. But you gotta pace it. In a way, I understand what Iraqis went through just because of the use of sound in this movie. Roger Ebert was all for it and manages to make me feel old, thanks. It was like an hour of gunfire and loud vehicles before I got some rest out of this movie. John Powell should also calm down in the music department. I can already understand how tense the sites are in 2003 Baghdad through diagetic noise, we don’t need synthesized guitar to accentuate that. There’s also no need for the synthesized violins whenever somebody gets preachy. Another thing is the use of digital footage, making the night scenes grainy.
“The Hurt Locker,” on the other hand, is a better example of the Iraq war movie although the treatment of characters aren’t perfect. The Iraqis are always two arms length and aren’t the most verbose people. But then again the Americans aren’t either. The closest thing this movie ever gets to reciting three acts of Hamlet is Sgt. Sanborn (the snubbed Anthony Mackie).
Will James (Jeremy Renner) on the other hand, has this superhuman zen calmness while trying to diffuse a bomb. I guess I had to bring up “The Hurt Locker” because of the sound because it helps characterize James’ demeanor despite of the tense situation. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but the closest comparison I can come up with is “Jaws.” There were like these long, deep notes playing in the background in the bomb scenes. Without these I’d assume that I wouldn’t hear a pin drop in these scenes, especially since there’s so much cerebral musculature involved in James’ job. He would probably want to concentrate on as few things as possible.
Both movies use puzzles and mazes as metaphors to describe the invasion in Iraq. For “Green Zone,” it’s finding a general in the streets of Baghdad. For “The Hurt Locker,” clipping the right wire in a bomb. Both are easy to execute, but like they said in Serious Film, those missions don’t solve anything.
I am still on the fence about blogs in general. I started surfing the internet when blogs were more personal and less niched. Now, everyone (especially with an English degree like me) has a blog, the old guard established itself in the new media, and even the original bloggers are Gap-wearing versions of the old guard themselves. Everyone else’s voice seems drowned out.And one or two of my friends agree with this too.
And I’m also investing time on something I’m not getting paid for.
The I quit Facebook for Lent, but I still wanted to keep note of everything I’ve seen, so…blog it was.
And I ended up looking at Roger Ebert’s twitter and told this person to start a blog, which encourages me a little. Mr. Ebert, if you’re reading this, you are the best person to ever make fun of Justin Bieber.