Saturday, June 27, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2009
Dir: Michael Bay
June 27, 2009
Showcase Cinema Revere MA

Oh Michael Bay. How I hate your douchey guts. I read recently somewhere where he said he took it personally that his movies got shat on so much. In so many words he said that it was really hard to make a really "good" action movie, and that he could make an "arty" film, no sweat. I have no doubts that shooting an action film, like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, is hard work, but there are some other important things that go into it...ah.... like good writing and acting. What the fuck. How does this mongo work in Hollywood? Oh yeah, I just answered my own question.

You really have to know what your going in for, and I was. But considering all that, a man craves substance, not just empty explosions and terrible make-outs. Lame comedy (tons of dick/balls jokes: is there something you're not telling us, MB?) couldn't even save this disaster from an atrociously retarded plot which I'm not going to bother summarizing. Shia LaBeouf sucks man, and Megan Fox, the token eyecandy (very fine thought it may be), even insisted that you don't flex your acting chops in a movie like this. Oh shit, Michael Bay. Did you hear that? A glorified model just dumpstered your flick. John Turturro does his schtick well, I have to admit, but not even the Transformers, some of which were beyond anonymous, hammed it up well, except for the Twins, but their act got tired quickly.

The one interesting thing that you could say about the Transformers (the cartoon and here) is Optimus Prime. His whole Warrior-Philosopher persona is genuinely conceived, and his penchant for the poignant anecdote ("Fate rarely calls us at a time of our own choosing...") has it's own uplifting rewards. His being not in a lot of the movie (something happens, guess) kind mucks that up though.

So, I'd have to say that while the summer blockbuster spirit can be felt, the movie still blows ass. I'd write more about that, but I'm kinda depressed that I actually went to see it. Here's just a picture of Megan Fox, which I prefer:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Moon, 2009
Dir: Duncan Jones
June 24, 2009
AMC Lowes Cambridge MA

David Bowie's son made a film? Yup, Duncan "Zowie Bowie" Jones did and it's a cerebral sci-fi that starts promisingly and then sort of let's itself off the hook. There is plenty to think about by the end, about being alone and loneliness, and madness for that matter, but the ending left me a bit underwhelmed.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is an astronaut who works for a company called Lunar Industires that mines helium3 from the surface of the moon for clean energy used on earth. He has a three year contract that is two weeks away from being complete, and is looking forward to being reunited with his wife (Dominique McElligott). Strange things start to happen, or maybe to him, and on a routine round to the harvesters, he has an accident. He wakes up back at the SELENE base, weak and clumsy but seeming unhurt. Sam's only companion, a robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) tries to avoid questions, but eventually, he realizes that something isn't right. He is finally able to get back to the harvester where the accident happened, and in the rover he finds...himself.

Moon is a dying breed of film for sure, a "hard" sci-fi, one that requires some brain cells to watch, and which makes most of the film worth watching. Has Sam's isolation finally gotten to him? He is lonely, and despite the company of Gerty, often talks to himself and spends endless hours working on a model of his hometown, some of which he doesn't remember making. Three years, his wife says in a recorded video message, is "too long." Sam's confusion about "the other guy" in the base soon turns to dialogue between the two; some funny, some tense. But soon a realization comes about between them. Sam is not crazy, and the other guy in the base is not some hallucination brought about by extreme isolation. They are both clones, and neither of them is going to go home, at least not in any sense that they thought.

The look of the film works well with the tone; all of the white in the frame makes if hard to tell where rooms begin and end, and it cramps Sam a lot of time, giving it an appropriate claustrophobic feel. What I thought had been in exercise in loneliness and the dangers of extended space isolation (a-la Solaris) turned into Big Brother-ish paranoia about the greed of the corporate conglomerate. Maybe I was a bit underwhelmed because I thought the whole clone thing was a cop out to the mental aspects of the film that were being looked at in the beginning of the film. But what would we do if we are faced with our doppelgänger? When we are alone, who else is there left to face but ourselves?

In the end though, the film seems to try to be about the clones, and their grasp about who they really are and what they are going to do now that they know the truth about their situation. How real are they? How real is what they do? Someday they will die, and what would that mean? (The "older" Sam seems to be deteriorating as the film progress, maybe having something to do with the 3 year time limit of the contract, which might be the clone's life span. Video evidence that he finds seems to suggest this too.) Their memories seem to be uploaded from the original Sam, and are not what they seem. Who was this Sam, and what happened to his wife? Did it have something to do with giving his DNA for cloning?

By the end, the Sam that has been awake for three years realizes that he doesn't want to go back to earth if he has the chance, and let's the new Sam go in the plan that they come up with. So, my own expectations of the film were not met (clones was just not in my head going into it, and it was just thrown in so nonchalantly), but maybe just because I thought it would be a different type of film. Most sci-fi fans should approve, and it ask questions most films would rather not put in.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Blood Simple

Blood Simple, 1984
Dir: Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen)
June 20, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA

The Coen's first feature film is a perfect example how to do more with less, and how to jump out of the blocks in your film career with a blue ribbon, which the Coen's did of course. The neo-noir crime caper is certainly not the most heady film, but in the great tradition of independent cinema, it it shot great, the super-16mm film is used to great effect, and the acting is fantastic.

The Texas setting is a huge part of the film, and the restlessness of the Old West propels the characters to make decisions that spirals into chaos. Ray (John Getz) is a bar manager who has an affair with his boss' wife (Frances McDormand) and starts woefully misinterpreting his increasingly complex circumstances. The boss, America's hairiest man ever: Dan Hedaya, gets a private investigator (M. Emmet Walsh) to do a little extra dirty work. Unbeknownst to everyone, the PI has a plan of his own. Walsh pretty much steals the show in every scene he is in, and is pretty much the only one who knows the score the entire movie. By the end of the film, everyone is confused and completely wrong about what has happened, and Ray's decision to "cover" for his lover completely backfires.

You can tell that the budget on the film is small, and that it was definitely shot in the 80s, but it still sets up the Coen style and the great camera work that is synonymous with all their films. The last shot, of the underside of a sink, with all the complex piping running down from a simple drain, exemplifies this very well.

So it's a good film, noir-ish in it's way, that twists and turns and begins the Coens' lyrical flair that really hits its stride at Miller's Crossing. Big thumbs up for THE FOUR TOPS in the soundtrack for sure.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Les Carabiniers

Les Carabiniers, 1963
Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
June 18, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA

Looking at some newer reviews of Les Carabiniers (The Rifleman), it seems to have been given a more positive take with the time that has passed than it first did when it was released. While I did not hate the film, I'm pretty sure I know why people did not like it then, and it's message, while certainly worthwhile, seemed a bit...I don't know, obvious.

Godard's bleak and amateurish take on war, with a few silent film techniques, is intentional, and apparently had to be vehemently defended by Godard when the film was ripped apart by critics. War is alienating, he said, and that's what he wanted the audience to experience. I agree with this, and I like the fact that he overexposed all the film stocks to give it that grainy, almost ugly look that he felt was appropriate for the subject matter. Despite complaints from many critics, I did not find there to be any real technical errors, and it was shot with Godard's typical cinematic creativity.

The film follows two moronic brothers, ironically named Ulysses and Michaelangelo, as they go off to war for a fictitious king. They are lured to go in return for glorious loot and treasure, and have wonky adventures as torturers and mercenaries in the countryside.

They have a certain moronic charm about them, in that comedy of errors kind of way. And for unprofessional actors they do a decent job. In one scene where Michaelangelo goes to the cinema for the first time, a beautiful women undresses to take a bath and he does not understand that it's not real. He runs the length of the aisle over people trying to grab a peak of her as she leaves the screen and eventually knocks the screen down trying to get to her. The comedy is of course supposed to make you realize the outrageousness of the whole situation.

The one thing that really bugged me the most about the film was the use of text in intertitles throughout. Godard is known to use text in his films, and I'm not really a fan. Here he uses letters home from the two brothers to their girlfriends. Most of the things are just banal observations of living and soldiering through a war, and some things that might have been interesting to shoot I think, in that observational European fashion. The fact that there weren't any action scenes didn't bother me; you don't need that to show the atrocity of war. Godard's take is actually interesting, in it's way (of goofish peasants under false impressions carrying out the orders of an evil dictator), but those intertitles were just long winded and made me want to fast forward. I don't know. Maybe it was the language difference.

The film certainly works as a manifesto against war and genocide. The claims of being the "greatest anti-war film" ever made in these second takes kind of perked my eyebrows up though. The greatest anti-war film I have ever seem is Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, and the two movies are on opposites of the cinematic spectrum. Maybe I will like the film better on my second take, but it just didn't do that much for me. It's style just did not resonate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Susuz Yaz

Susuz Yaz, 1964
Dir: Metin Erksan
June 17, 2009
The Auteurs

So I found The Auteurs just cruisin' around the web, and it's a pretty awesome site. It seems to be up with the help of Martin Scorcese, and it's just seems like a cool place to go to talk about and watch films. Most of the films that they have uploaded you have to pay to watch (like $5), but there are some free ones too, like Susuz Yaz (Dry Summer), the film of the month (June).

Woah. I only watched this because I had nothing else to watch last night, and this film just blew my gaskets. It is a tightly directed, tightly acted and supremely disturbing Turkish tale of water; the way that people interact because of it and what it will drive some people to do. Two brothers, Osman and Hasan, own the land where a water source starts and it run down to let the rest of the village irragate from. Osman, the older bother, is miserly, and during a dry summer, decides to dam the water to keep it for themselves. Hasan has doubts about this, but defers to his older brother. This of course causes huge uproar in the village, and after multiple rulings, "justice" sides with Osman. One night, two villagers come and blow up the dam. Osman and Hasan chase them away, but Osman decides shooting at them it a good idea, and kills one of the men. At their trial, Osman gets Hasan to take the blame, telling him that he will be able to take care of their lands better because he is older and wiser. So Hasan goes to jail and Osman heads back to their land.

Not only is Osman niggardly, he is also one of the all time cinematic creepshows I have ever seen. Hasan gets married at the beginning of the film to the beautiful Bahar, and Osman frequently watches them make out/movie hump through a crack in the wall. He also stares at her constantly, even when Hasan is around, and is overtly sexual toward her all the time. After the jailing, things obviously get worse. If you thought the staring was bad, how about sucking on the utter of a cow while rubbing it's flank, all while staring at a horrified Bahar. What the fuuuuuuuuck! So this was supposed to turn her on, I guess? Osman is deviant central, that's for sure.

Osman hears in town one day that a Hasan has died in jail, and he decides to take that as his brother, not really caring if it is or not. He tells Bahar this, and she obviously takes it badly. Osman decides to make his move, but he still has doubts about his ability to win her. He practices his betrothal by putting a head scarf on a scarecrow, and wooing it. God damn. This guy is just the worst. He then goes on to forcibly make out with her. From there on she becomes much more vocal in her contempt of him, and even hides and throws fruit at him.

The Turkish government is however in a forgiving mood and decides to pardon some prisoners, Hasan being one of them. Word reaches him of what Osman has done and he makes his way back home. Osman prepares for the coming showdown by having target practice on the scarecrow. Osman, obviously gets his just desserts, and Hasan and Behar take over the land.

While the story of family betrayal and spousal lust drives the story forward, the backbone of the film is water and violence. And seriously, like Chinatown, I don't think you can make a film about water without it being weird as hell. The villagers are obviously pissed off about Osman's hoarding and the decision to let him keep the dam up. In retribution for this, one of the villagers kills his dog. You actually see this on film, and it fucked me up. They killed a fucking dog! It whimpers and shakes on the ground, and there is very little chance that it was not real. Jeebus Christ, I'm still thinking about it. The violence against Osman escalates to the point where a number of villagers come after him in his fields and beat him with sticks, a scene reminiscent of Chinatown when Jack Nicholson's character gets his ass kicked in the orchard by those redneck farmers. Water is a necessity of life, called "the earth's blood" in the film, and when there is very little of it around, people change. They will betray their neighbors for it. They will kill for it. Men become other things. Or is that simply the nature of man? All you know is that people need water.

The water tale mirrors the fractured family well, with an opportunistic and conniving Osman thinking to take for himself (a widower) what is his brother's. In the end, we only see the best in people (Hasan) after we see the very worst of everyone. After being killed, Osman's body floats down through the opened dam, finally flowing down with "his" water in death after he couldn't bring himself to do it (for free anyways) in life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Miller's Crossing

Miller's Crossing, 1990
Dir: Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen)
June 14, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA

Miller's Crossing is a really good film. The Coen's take on the 30's Gangster film is filled with a lot more pithy dialogue, along with their signature black humor, than most of these flicks (uhh, I'm looking at you Road to Perdition. The Untouchables?? Are you serious? We'll see how Public Enemies is later this summer) and is also, from what I've seen, just a better made film. The noir aspects aren't as heavy as they are in Barton Fink, but there are still enough to keep you thinking while also enjoying the zingers and the shoot-em-ups.

Tom (Gabriel Byrne) is an adviser for Leo (Albert Finney), a strong-armed Crime Boss who runs the city. Leo is clearly muscle who has bludgeoned his was to the top, and doesn't often see, as Tom puts it, "all the angles." Trouble starts when Italian rival Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito), a seriously conflicted gangster who has trouble wrestling with the ethics of the business ("You double-cross once - where's it all end? An interesting ethical question."), needs to bump Bernie (John Turturro), a bookie who's been giving out too much information on fixed fights. Leo's main squeeze, or gun moll, is Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), Bernie's sister, so Leo isn't going to let it go down. Tom thinks it's the wrong move, but Leo won't budge, and the power struggle ensues. Tom has to do a lot of juggling from then on to set things "right."

The strangest part of the film has to be the sexual undercurrent running between three men: Bernie, Mink (Steve Buscemi) another bookie, and The Dane (J.E. Freeman), Caspar's ferocious right hand man whose hatred of women is clear in the scene where he goes to confront Verna: "I'll kill all you whores!" While it's never explicitly said that these relationships are happening, it's pretty obvious what's going down. A nervous Mink talks to Tom at the beginning about the trouble brewing, and Tom quips that Mink has too many "amigos." Bernie, on the other hand, states that one can never have too many friends, and his relationship with Mink seems to be more about getting an "in" than anything else, which it turns out is the type of person Bernie is, or as Tom puts it, "a grifter." Verna merely says that he is "different," but that clearly translates as homosexual in the subtext. The Dane, who is clearly the "whacko-homo" in the triangle, defends Mink even when he can't be found for questioning, and seems to generally care for him. Johnny says that he knows that they are "boys," whatever that means. Johnny's insistence to kill Bernie might stem from a persistent Dane, who sniffs that something is up between Mink and Bernie. Overall it was a subtle and clever thing to throw into a gangster film which usually eschews that sort of thing.

The death of a low-level muscle man, who Leo sent to watch Verna, sets some things in motion that Tom really didn't want to happen. Who killed him? No one's quite sure, but fingers are pointed at Johnny in Leo's camp. Tom knows better, because Verna has been sleeping with him, so he thinks that Verna must have done it to keep the relationship a secret. Johnny's joints are raided. Johnny then calls for a hit on Leo in his Crime-Boss mansion, but it fails, and a quick-thinking Leo proves that he has more power with a tommy-gun in his hands than he is sitting behind a desk making decisions. It's one of the most awesome scenes in the movie. Then a whole gang-war erupts that sees power shift from Leo to Johnny, and forces Tom to pick a new team after he tells Leo about Verna, thinking that the jig must be up. The death of Rug, the tailer, was actually at the hands of Mink however, who thought that The Dane had "spies" tailing him. Bernie says later that Mink was terrified that The Dane would find out that they were "jungled up together." So the whole war pretty much stems from a minor character (Mink), who gets caught between two lovers, one who is using him and another who actually cares for him.

With great acting and directing, there's not a whole lot to find wrong about the film, though the 30's jargon and accents made me wish I had turned on the subtitles a few times. They way that Tom plays both sides off each other is pretty brilliant, and at the end, we find out that what Tom says a few times in the film rings true: "You never really know someone."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell, 2009
Dir: Sam Raimi
June 13, 2009
Showcase Cinema Revere MA

The whole horror genre is pretty easy to vault considering the manure that people have been putting into theaters recently, and Drag Me to Hell easily jumped them. Whether you're jumping or screaming or laughing, you're bound to have a good time. All of the bad reviews I've read are are the doucheiest drivel (Uh CG sucked...PLOT, where is it?!!...acting, are you serious?). I guess they have some points, but I'm sure they don't want to be told that they missed the point.

OK. Justin Long sucks. I agree. He didn't impress me in Dodgeball, Live Free or Die Hard, or this. Alison Lohman can also forget the Oscars, except for the raddest line in the whole movie: "Oh I'll give it to her! Bitch is gonna git some." Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Wrong envelope though, OOOPS! Where was Bruce though? I was a bit disappointed that he at least didn't have a minor role. Too busy with Burn Notice I guess.

The gypsy lady was awesome. The Indian guy was retardedly awesome. The directing and sound design ruled. The ending: classic. Justin Long's tears: GAY. I actually jumped a few times even though I knew what was coming (kinda), and that tells me that the director is doing a good job. Sure you can laugh at the acting and CGI at points, but in what Sam Raimi movie can't you? The movie is just one unabashed funfest. Stop being tools and try to enjoy something.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Hangover

The Hangover, 2009
Dir: Todd Phillips
June 11, 2009
Showcase Cinema Woburn MA

Ah, Lowbrow. I've missed you so. And you know it's a lowbrow film when in the end credits it literally looks like someone is getting there dick sucked (like for real real). I thought that it was pretty funny, but I generally like these comedies where very little brainpower is involved to watch it, which I'm sure is why America loves them so much as well.

There really isn't much to talk about. Three buddies, plus the brother of the bride-to-be (Zach Galifinakis, a not so biting but still weird-funny that he usually is), go to Vegas for a Bachelor Party. They have a toast before the night begins, and then it cuts to the next morning where no one can remember anything, and the groom-to-be is missing. Crazy hijinks ensue to find out where he is, involving Mike Tyson and babies in sunglasses.

So yeah, it's funny. That's all the analysis it really needs.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Le Petit Soldat

Le Petit Soldat, 1960
Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
June 10, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA

Godard's second feature is about an a disenchanted hitman, Bruno (Michel Subor), living in Geneva to avoid enlistment in the Algerian War. Working for French intelligence, he is ordered to kill a pro-Algerian to prove he is not a double agent. Meanwhile, he meets and falls in love with Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina), who has been helping the Algerians. Bruno plans to leave with her for Brazil, but before he can he is is captured and tortured by Algerian revolutionaries. He escapes, and agrees to kill the man he was supposed to in the first place in exchange for passage to Brazil for him and Veronica. However, the French discover Veronica's ties to the Algerians, and torture her to death. Before he realizes she is dead, Bruno kills the man.

Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier) caused a sensation when it was released for its realistic portrayal of torture. It was even banned in France until the war was over, which was three years later in 1963. In itself, it is pretty effective in the movie, though it isn't that gratuitous overall (only in comparison to what you can see today).

The film has the typical Godard style, which is nice for the most part, despite a few sloppy parts that were really jarring. The one thing about the film that I didn't like was the whole inner monologue thing that Bruno had going on. He'd say something like "I don't know why she turned away.", and then Veronica would turn away. I can see it for myself dingle. There's also the whole "I'm a hitman, but I'd rather think about art and classical music" stigma that must be really hard for Bruno to handle. It can be a bit overbearing at times, but that's just Godard speaking through the character obviously. What the style does establish is the something that Godard uses throughout his career, which Bruno verbalizes when he says: "Photography is truth, and cinema is truth 24 times per second." This is just another statement about the ruminations that Godard has about the nature of cinema.

The film overall is pretty interesting, though clearly not Godard's best. The Algerian War itself is something that I know little about, and it was nice to learn some stuff about it. About the DVD, there were a few parts, especially when Bruno isn't thinking or talking and just observing some people, where the subtitles fall off, so there were a few parts where I was guessing what was going on.

I think my overall feelings for Godard are starting to change to just that he has his place in the French New Wave revolution that changed cinema, but he really isn't one of my favorites. I'll just have to see how that progresses.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Barton Fink

Barton Fink, 1991
Dir: Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen)
June 7, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA

Writing, in itself, is never an easy thing, especially when you write for someone else. While this is not what Barton Fink is totally about, it is the main dilemma that the title character faces in the film. Barton's (John Turturro) "problem" with writing spirals until it's hard to tell if what is happening is real or not. The Coen Bros. tale of Hollywood script writing finds a man trying to make a difference with his writing, and coming to grips with the choices that people must make while working there and how it affects them.

Barton is a hot young playwright in New York when the film begins, getting lauded by the critics ans his fans alike for his portrayal of the "common man." One of his close associates convinces him to take a contract job at a film studio, despite his obvious doubts and his desire to write something better. His time in LA is lonely and isolated, as he tries to write a "B" movie wrestling flick that the studio wants but is suffering from a case of writer's block. From there, Barton's hold on reality seems to slip as things, literally, fall apart around him.

The hotel where Barton stays is the main focus of his isolation. He stays in a crappy hotel that has clearly seen better days, and never sees any of the other tenants, save one. Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) lives next to Barton and occasionally comes over after their first meeting where Charlie demands to know if it was Barton that had called to complain that he had been making too much noise (Charlie had been crying). Their conversations run from Charlie's work as an insurance salesman to the details on how to wrestle. The whole relationship is really buddy-buddy, but also displays Barton's main problem. While he is intent on creating this "new" theater for the "common man" about real people, he refuses to listen to Charlie, who is the definition of a common man, "who has stories to tell, believe you me." Barton's thoughts on "the life of the mind," that which he believes he lives and separates him from people like Charlie, comes back to haunt him as Charlie's character reveals itself to be not quite what Barton had assumed.

In seeking out help to write the film, Barton bumps into one of his literary heroes, W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney) and picks his brain for advice. The man turns out to be a drunk and completely spiteful of the whole Hollywood scene (allusions to William Faulkner), who may not have written all of his work anyways. He has a beautiful secretary, who is also his lover, who has ghost written many of Mayhew's script's while he has been too drunk to write. In a nervous moment, Barton calls this secretary to help him because his is coming up to a deadline. She comes over, and after confessing that he is having serious problem coming up a script, she tells him she will help him "relax." They have sex. When Barton wakes up, however, she is dead; butchered in his bed. Charlie helps him get rid of the body, but he soon has to leave for work, and cops (who are pretty hilarious) start sniffing around. Much to Barton's surprise, they are looking for Charlie, who is actually the serial killer "Madman Mundt" who decapitates his victims and keeps the heads. Before he left, Charlie had left a head sized package with Barton, and when they first said the things about decapitation, I was like, "Oh Shiyyyyyyyyyyyyt!" But it wasn't the half of it.

Barton's new experiences force out of him a script that he thinks is his best work yet. After coming back from a night of dancing, the cops are at his place, but Charlie comes back and the entire hotel erupts in flames. Running down the hallway blasting the cops with a shotgun, Charlie screams "LOOK UPON ME! I'LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!" With the fire raging all around and John Goodman barreling down the hallway, it is one of the most mesmerizing scenes I've ever watched. Soon after Barton and Charlie chat, and Charlie finally gets across that the pain and yearning felt by Barton, that which he tries to get across in his writing, is also felt by the common man, especially himself. The incendiary hotel is Charlie erupting, his pain and anger raging forth, and a fiery representation that his life may be in fact more complex and emotional that Barton's. His killings, even the one that he forced upon Barton (Audrey, the secretary), he explains are in fact a release: "Most guys I just feel sorry for. Yeah. It tears me up inside, to think about what they're going through. How trapped they are. I understand it. I feel for 'em. So I try to help them out." Maybe with this new understanding of the empathy needed to relate to the common man, Barton can create the thing he so desires.

But of course his script is dismissed by Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner), the movie studio head who's been singing Barton's praises the whole time, as a "fruity film about suffering." Lipnick is a composite of all the old Hollywood heads of ol', the blustering philistines who demand great art but know nothing about it and peddle formulaic entertainment for economic gain, and is the main representation of Barton's struggle of writing good material versus compromising for "the pictures."

I think I'll finish (though there is still plenty to talk about) with the picture in Barton's room and the final scene. Wandering onto the beach after being rebuffed by Lipnick, a beautiful girl comes out on the beach and sits down if front of him. The last shot mimics the picture where a girl sits on a beach looking out at the ocean. I've thought a lot about this, trying to put any kind of meaning behind it, and it seems to suggest the relationship between art and reality; what is in our heads and what we really see, and how art can mimic reality. This in turn puts doubts on what really happened in the film. Did it happen at all? Was this just a story made up in Barton's head that allowed him to mature as a writer? An extremely complex internal epiphany? In one scene where Barton is having trouble writing, he opens the Bible in his desk directly to Daniel, the passage where he is trying to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar's dreams. This seems to allude to some sort of unreal element about what is going on, and it only increases as the film builds to it's climax. The shots of slowly going down hallways and of going into things, as if you are going into someone's mind, might suggest this, and the entire nature of the hotel almost feels not real, so there is definitely a chance that the hotel induced some sort of frayed reality. The enigmatic last lines of the film also suggest something of this nature: Barton tells the girl that she is beautiful, and then asks, "Are you in pictures?" She blushed and replies, "Don't be silly." It is impossible to be certain because the film is purposefully enigmatic in this way, but they certainly want you to ponder certain things. All I know is that there are a lot of things to think about after watching this film, and it is probably the best Coen Bros. film I've seen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The X-Files: Fight the Future

The X-Files: Fight the Future, 1998
Dir: Rob Bowman
June 1, 2009
Netflix Wakefield MA

In my fervent attempt to fill in all the gaps of The X-Files (which is a great TV show), I have decided to watch the entire series from the beginning. I am now in between seasons 5 and 6, which is where this movie takes place in the chronology. I don't think that I will write a long review, but just say that if you like the X-Files, you are bound to like this. It's surely better than the mediocre "monster of the week" movie that recently came out.

The reason why the film works is because it sticks with the main aliens mythology, and Mulder is back to being a believer instead of a whiny sulk, like he was for most of season 5. Also, Scully is back to being a hot cynic instead of some bible beating faithfart. Granted, it is kind of a glorified television episode, and the camera moves to make it seem more like a film were a little ridiculous (sweet crane shot bros), but it has all the government conspiracy/paranoia/suspense to at least keep you interested. Fake Ebert gives this a fat thumbs up (which counts for, like, one and a half).