From Star Wars Episode VII until Logan, I had determined, for spiritual reasons, to not watch any movies. That’s fourteen months of no movies. While I do confess that several times during those months, I told folks, “If it gets solid reviews, I’ll go see it,” no solid reviews came in for those films. Finally, my childhood hero, Wolverine, seemed to rise to the occasion. Rated-R Adamantium claws and solid reviews? How could I resist?
Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to fully “escape” anymore–darn you, books!
By my thinking Logan normalized the act of harpooning little girls through the chest on screen and also advocated lying to children if it keeps them hopeful while the world falls to shit. No thank you, Hollywood. As Colonel Nathan R. Jessup once said, “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to (censored) extend me some courtesy.” Do we really need to see a bloody (red-not-British) harpoon point sticking out of a little girl’s chest to be entertained? Fool-ish-ness.
Then, as if I needed another reason to not visit the cineplex again, I resumed reading some Tolstoy short fiction and came across a story called, “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” It’s a brief account of a wrongfully convicted man spending his adult life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And while in prison he finally meets the real killer, who proceeds to try to escape by digging out, little by little, and dumping the sand from his pockets onto the prison yard. Upon light investigation, sho’ ’nuff the internet tells me I’m not the first to notice that Shawshank Redemption totally ripped off Tolstoy.
So I’m back on the movie fast. Twenty-eight plus years of staring at screens. And for what? What a waste.
These two movies had piqued my interest when I first heard of them, but the mainstream critical reception was off-putting enough that I hadn’t take the time to view them. Finally I had a minute. The critics are wrong.
If you liked Miami Vice and Zero Dark Thirty, then Sicario is for you. My only real problem with Sicario is that it would be ruined if the cartel horrors it depicts were not based in the historical record, but I am too afraid to confirm that they are to do any fact checking. Depressing stuff.
If you have read Moby Dick, then The Heart of the Sea is for you. This one’s reception is especially baffling. Critics can’t say anything good about it, but as far as ocean voyage movies go it is much better than Master and Commander, which wasn’t bad. I loved Moby Dick and so I can’t say how much of that influences my enjoyment of The Heart of the Sea. What I can say is that if you know that Moby Dick is not about a whale, then you’ll like this movie. Conversely, if you are asking yourself, “Moby Dick isn’t about whale?” right now, skip the movie.
From his dissection of the card player’s hands in Rounders, to his dissertation on clubbing baby seals in Good Will Hunting, to his explanation that he knows which vehicle in the parking lot is most likely to have a gun in it in Bourne Identity and more, in just about all of his films Mr. Damon has proven he can memorize and deliver long, dry, and yet convincing speeches that seem like they might trip up other acting professionals. And that’s fine and dandy. I like those movies and I like his characters in those movies. But I don’t know if anyone likes to hear what he has to say after he clocks out, and it seems like the two are beginning to merge. Recently, he’s starred in films that sacrifice entertainment value in favor of agendas, films like the one about fracking. Soooo dramatic. And they’re probably filled with science. Again, whatever.
A year or so ago a couple handed me the book The Martian because they knew I had applied to be an emigrant to Mars. I read it and reviewed it here. This book is now a major motion picture. And all of this is very interesting to me and probably every other independent author, as its author published the book by his own self years before it got picked up by a major publisher and now Hollywood. It looks like Mr. Weir self-published it in 2011, three years before the big boys picked it up in 2014. So it seems that five years after self-publishing a quality book any one of us could watch A-listers act out our story on the big screen. That’s neat. Anyhow, back to the point. The book has nothing to do with making a statement about “every culture” of humans. Anyone that disagrees with this is flat out wrong and I would argue hasn’t read the book. And yet somehow (I picture a lot of whining and temper tantrums and threats to walk out of the room) Matt Damon opens the preview to what looks like a fantastic new space movie with this bogus notion that every culture has a basic instinct to help each other out. I can buy every human does on an individual level. There’s books about that. But the simple fact is there are plenty of cultures who don’t rescue people who find themselves stranded on Mars or mountain tops or the side of the highway. What’s worse is there are plenty of cultures who actively believe in kidnapping people for money or political statements. These cultures are generally those not labeled The West.
I buy and promote the truth that if we’re talking about the level of the soul, then we’re all just people making our way through this world and will more times than not help each other when able. But it is not true that in groups (cultures) we’re all the same and without quantifiable, measurable differences that can be labeled “better” or “worse”–no matter how hard we wish for it.
Click here if you need your memory jogged.
Or read these two snippets.
“You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that’s when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side, from the other two ‘raptors you didn’t even know were there.”
“The point is… you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know… try to show a little respect.”
Do you remember how surprised you were to learn that the ever mysterious and enchanting king of the dinosaurs T-Rex’s visual acuity was based on movement, as “Oh Alan” describes? What an intriguing revelation that was. And then in the time it took for Sam Neill’s index fingers to swing from his side to his front, within that instant, a previously unknown dinosaur severed any remaining connection our minds had with any reality outside the film. From that moment, unlike the annoying kid who has had enough velociraptor for a lifetime, we found ourselves thirsting for them. Like Dana Delany’s head-straightening declaration “I want one” after hearing Billy Zane’s thespianic description of a quintessential cowboy while marveling at a distant, lean-silhouetted Wyatt Earp upon arriving in Tombstone, we wanted velociraptors. And Jurassic Park gave them to us. And to prove how much we wanted them, we set the Memorial Day weekend box office record as we paid to to see the sequel, The Lost World, way back then. Remember that? It’s true.
But the filmmakers failed us in the sequel. They had a little girl gymnastic-kick our beloved.
And then in number three, a velociraptor spoke English.
Last weekend, however, Sam Neill’s speech was back in the forefront as a new box-office record was set by the head-bobbing six-foot turkeys. Why? Why did we rush to see it? Because the previews and movie posters teased us with the idea that we’d get to see what it would be like to have our very own velociraptors. Velociraptors as pets. Awesome.
All because of Sam Neill. Nice work, Sam.
I don’t care if any of you watch Whiplash—I care if filmmakers do.
Sure, it could’ve been better. I have no context for jazz music. I want to like it and know why I like it, but I don’t. Adding a few scenes which dropped subtle hints that answered “why jazz?” would’ve only made it better. But when I grin like a fool, shake my head in disbelief, write when it is past my bedtime, and what’s more, when I only gave half my attention to the film’s last forty minutes because the other half was busy re-budgeting my time and money towards future music instruction, I know someone just made an effing fantastic movie.
I feel equal parts bad and excited for the Justice League movie scheduled for release in 2017. I feel bad because with two Avengers films, three Expendables, and seven Fast and Furious’ the hero-team formula is growing wearisome. I feel excited because by 2017 the filmmakers might be even more motivated to actually make a good team action movie.
My beef with these three film series is that they no longer flow. The respective films aren’t films. They’re like seven or eight, twelve minute scenes glued together and then labeled “movie.” Each character gets a cameo, they have one on screen moment fighting back to back and then the credits roll.
My excitement for the future of team movies–and Justice League in particular–comes from the success of the movie Legends of the Fall. Remember that one? I can still hear my brother’s excited hope-whisper during the final scene. I see no difference between that team-of-heroes movie and these recent ones. There’s Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel, and the dad, Susannah, and One Stab round out the good guys. That’s six essentially main character’s in my book. Obviously Brad Pitt was “the rock they broke themselves against”, but that’s exactly my point. In the three series I’ve mentioned, it was exciting to see the first of each of these movies the because they were new. But on the whole, teams aren’t what movies or, as I’ll argue in a minute, any art is even about.
Avengers One worked decently because it was essentially Ironman on steroids. Number two was not about Ironman. That’s why it isn’t as good. (Not to mention that the “age” of Ultron was hardly long enough to be a “week” let alone an “age” which means that the team behind the movie didn’t even know what their movie was about–fail.) Expendables One was about Stallone. Two and three were not as focused–therefore not as good–as they tried to spread the wealth. And then with the Furious movies, Vin Diesel is cool as shyat, but honestly the Rock can’t stop cookin’ when he’s in a movie. It’s either main good guy or main bad guy for that Übermensch.
This brings us to all art. I like to think about all art the same way. Take Beethoven’s ninth. Everyone knows the simple motif that doesn’t appear until the fourth movement. It is eight notes. The symphony is over an hour long, but boils down to only eight notes. I’d call that motif the “main character”. All the other music makes it seem like there’s a team thing, but there isn’t.
Another example would be Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. For all of the many scenes, the main character is the “divine spark” taking place between God and Adam. (No, it is not an accident that these two masterpieces have the moment of creation at their core.)
Which leads to the only thing there is left to say on the subject. In the forthcoming Justice League movie, there must be a main character. And the main character must be Batman.
Are you doing what they tell you? Or are you doing what you want?
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the takeaway. That’s Miller’s point. That’s the lesson learned.
In a word, “Don’t do what they tell you.”
Why not? Because if you’re doing what they tell you before the world goes mad, then you will definitely do what they tell you after the world goes mad. Make no mistake, though, the world will go mad. And we won’t all get to be Max or Furiosa.
So in Mad Max: Fury Road there’s an enormous skull thing carved out of a rock face. We’re shown this shrine in the first few minutes of the film. As awesome as the rest of the movie was, and it was awesome, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the megalomaniacs in charge of the barbarian hordes convinced anyone to create that sculpture. I mean the world’s gone to shit already. Why keep up the symbols? Who would even possess the skill and dexterity to create such a large piece of pseudo-art?
But then I think of my time in the service and also in the oil fields. Men are capable of wondrous deeds. Moreover, people love when those in power direct their attention on them. Even I have fallen prey to basking in the limelight of a boss’s approval despite knowing it was unwarranted or wholly irrelevant. And in those moments I can see Mr. Bossman saying, “I want a skull thing,” and men answering, “Where?”
No more, I say.
The more I write, the more conversations I have with close friends and family about things that were previously hidden. Maybe it’s just my family and friends, but if this blog’s content and conversations have taught me any overarching lesson that I would take to the streets Malcolm X-style, it’s that there is no reason–not-a-one–to work a crummy job. If you’re in debt, get your finances in order, stay until you can quit, then quit. If you’re not in debt, quit today. Forty hours a week–wait, who we kiddin’?–fifty hours a week is too many hours each week to spend doing anything other than what you want to do.
Or you can carve the skull thing.
In the end, Mad Max: Fury Road is great fun for adults. Watch it and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
I wanted to be really edgy with this review of Keaton’s Best Picture-winning Birdman and use “circle-jerk” in the opening sentence. Then something told me that I might not be the first wannabe movie critic to use this adolescently pejorative gimmick to describe this film. Googling “birdman circle-jerk”, I confirmed my suspicions. Oh well. As another similarly themed saying goes, if you wait, you masturbate.
My new co-workers are one of the least movie-watching crowds I’ve ever labored alongside. There are moments, you can imagine, when this circumstance causes me to question my love of movies. I’ll ask myself, “Have I been wasting my time?” and “Is there more to life?” However, as time goes on, the moments shorten and the doubts disappear.
After watching Birdman, though, ironically my questioning clamored to deafening levels.
Forget that a movie about a movie star won best picture. The only question that ran through my head for the duration was whether or not an expertly made film depicting the ups and downs experienced by the people behind the stage and screen has any inherent metaphorical value for me. Put another way, “Are celebrity’s problems really the same as my problems, only amplified by fame and fortune?” Or yet another, “Does every human being live on a ledge from which they jump, sometimes falling, sometimes flying?” To all these questions I answer, “No.” I say, just like with the quickly-fading-from-view 50 Shades phenomenon, the difficulty with this movie is remembering that I don’t have to let these people frame the discussion. Despite every effort on all our parts to turn celebrities into gods, they are not gods. But remembering this is admittedly challenging because they are rich. And that means they must know something I don’t, right?
Prelude to this review’s conclusion: Today I can’t recall what BDSM stands for. And while right now I feel like I may be able to identify with the major motif of Birdman, even admiring all of its on-point updates to the reigning annal of contemporary social history Forrest Gump, I know that tomorrow I will look forward to the new Mad Max.
Conclusion: As always Hollywood, less talk, more work.
“Good will overcome. Trust in that.”
Lord Locksley is right yet again.
I hated Liam Neeson’s blockbuster Taken. Hated it. I hated it despite finding myself in a pool of people who loved it, people who adored it, people who worshiped it. It came out while I was still serving and both the men and women serving beside me couldn’t get enough of it. They also couldn’t keep their enthusiasm to themselves. A happy soul would volunteer they watched it on a long flight, and at least one listener would perk up with, “You saw Taken? What’d you think of it? Awesome, right? I loved it.”
I instinctively hated Taken because it is too easy. Is there any thing Neeson can’t do? No. He’s the most highly skilled and trained operative the world has ever seen. And he’s a dad. Then his virgin daughter gets kidnapped. Yes, I said virgin. His daughter is a virgin, and the whole movie rests on this one simple fact. Like a Fifty Shades of Grey for men, Taken is nothing more than fantasy of the basest kind. What wouldn’t a father with Neeson’s skills do to get his virgin daughter back? American macho men itch for a predicament like this, for a hero to cheer on, for a scenario that they can dream about happening to them. Wouldn’t it be nice if perfect, beautiful, innocent girls were being harmed? Then we could go torture and kill some people without losing sleep at night. Give me a break. Don’t believe my little theory? Ask yourself if you would’ve enjoyed the movie if the daughter had a reputation of being sexually active? Ask yourself how you would’ve felt if when given the horse for her birthday, the daughter had responded, “Aww, you shouldn’t have. I appreciate the effort, but I wanted something ‘hung like a horse’, not an actual horse.”
Yeah, yeah. I get it. I’m alone in my criticism. What else is new? I’m alone, but never without hope. For a long time I’ve waited for someone–anyone–to tell a good father-daughter story. You can imagine my excitement when, yesterday, I stumbled upon Arnold’s newest flick Maggie.
The premise? Zombies. The location? Rural Kansas. The conflict? Arnold’s late teenage daughter is infected with the dealio that turns people into zombies. But Arnold promised her mom, before she died (the mom, not the daughter) that he’d keep her (the daughter) safe.
That’s a remarkable story. The kiddo is going to become a flesh-eating zombie, and you have to kill it or it will kill you. What do you do? What will audiences cheer for? Who wins? Is it believable?
In this simple story, Arnold, the man who single-handedly inspired me and countless millions of others to exercise, essentially standing chest kicks Liam and his Taken nonsense 300-style into the pit. In effect, Arnold says, “You think traipsing around the globe killing people over your virgin daughter is love? Ha. You don’t know what love is, buddy.”
Kansans know what love is though. And I’d like to take a moment to personally thank Arnold for demonstrating this. “Thank you.”
Even before Maggie, Man of Steel did Kansans right with an amazing, old t-shirted (seriously, how do they make a t-shirt look so perfectly old?) Kevin Costner and his confident-yet-never-certain wisdom that goes against seemingly common sense which molded Clark into, well, Superman. Yahoo for Kansas.
You know that I grew up in Kansas. Kansas, which is beside Missouri–the Show Me state–must be the place then where I picked up my anti-authority, anti-utilitarianism attitude. The same attitude that Arnold and the other Kansans have in Maggie. The attitude that says, “So what if the government has mandated that infected folks have to be quarantined until they’re killed, so what if I might not be able to do what needs to be done before it’s too late and consequently the larger group is put at even more risk. So what? Who are you to tell me what to do? I only have one daughter, and I made a promise to her dead mother. There is more going on here than you and your rules.”
In the end, of course, Arnold kicks Liam’s ass. The movie is fantastic. There is actually another father-daughter sub-plot that takes the cake, but you have to see it to believe it. No spoilers here. If you secretly or overtly laughed at Taken, watch Maggie.
“What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?”
“No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.”
Seemingly new, fresh, sleek, palatable, and a ton of fun, The Matrix might be the second most pivotal movie in my movie-watching career. (Easy, TC, I said second most.) Two and Three aren’t bad either if you can get over yourself. It’s difficult to comprehend that the same two minds that created that trilogy unleashed Jupiter Ascending on us.
So groundbreaking were those three films that it’s troublesome to attempt to recall what popular opinion held regarding Keanu Reeves before Neo. He was laughable in an unforgettable kind of way in Bill and Ted’s. Eighteen movies later takes us to The Devil’s Advocate, (his last role before Neo) which is very watchable. I guess where I’m going is I heard once that Forrest Gump was cast as the lead astronaut in Apollo 13 precisely because the team behind that film knew that they needed an actor whom, once stranded in space, moviegoers would unanimously desire to bring back to Earth.
My question to the Wachowskis is, “What the heck?” Channing Tatum? Is there any moviegoer who wants to credit a victory on any level, much less the cosmic level, to Magic Mike?
I matter. Think of me. I, just for myself, purchased at least eight theater tickets for the Matrix films. I owned the VHS of the first one and then still went ahead and later bought the collector’s edition DVDs of the entire trilogy in the neat holographic packaging. I have also raved about V for Vendetta countless times. Are you telling me that you think I ever want to see Channing Tatum in a movie? Let some lesser filmmakers get him to blossom. You two are too good to be guessing.
Lastly, I feel like I was lied to. And that makes me sad. We all know that movie trailers are supposed to entice us to see a movie by telling us a compelling story that isn’t what the actual movie is really about. But nowhere, NOWHERE, in the trailers did your team indicate that Mila Kunis’ character was an immigrant housemaid before she got caught up in the whole “your majesty” bit. What are we doing here? Teaching impoverished little girls that aren’t in the theater with me to never stop dreaming? The reason I feel lied to is that you spent all that effort on the film and yet left the one reason no adult man would pay to see the movie out of the preview. Tisk Tisk.
Neo, awesome. Trinity, even awesomer. V and Evie, amazing. Jupiter? Trust is broken. But don’t worry. I’m easy. You can make it up to me next time. Just please, make it up to me.