Directed by: David Russell (who also did The Fighter, dispiriting flick about one of Nature’s lesser creatures who manages at length—great length—to stand on his hind legs and beard his tormentors; then Silver Linings Playbook, dispiriting flick about one of Nature’s lesser creatures who manages at length—great length—to stand on his hind legs and beard his tormentors… annnnnnnnd evidently co-written by him, the which make him, in the French, a co-auteur not to say co-hauteur… urf! urf!). Starring: Whoa! The lot…Christian Bale (who’s made a fetish of dropping weight till he’s positively cadaverous, then regaining, then dropping, then morphing back up to beer-bellitude, then… Hey! Worked for Tom Hanks). Anyhow; Bradley Cooper, making some weird choices of script lately and this won’t end well for him, mark my words; Jeremy Renner, ditto and who’d better get back to action flicks right quick; Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in dueling décolletés as lovely but unlovable fee-males; Michael Pena, a Peruvian I think, as an Ay-rab; Louis C.K. (no, I don’t know why he does that) fresh from comic relief as comic relief (You think he was gonna play Hamlet?).
Dispiriting flick about one of Nature’s lesser creatures who manages at length—great length—to stand on his hind legs and beard his tormentors, which is not to say this director (co-auteur) has only a single note to sound though he does seem to dispose of a single instrument. Seem to me here that we have the Madame Bovary question writ Cineplex large: Do twelve pages of arsenic poisoning (Oh, man… sorry to ruin it for you. Well, at least I didn’t reveal who dies of arsenic poisoning, so there’s a little suspense left. Anyhow, you woulda guessed from the title. Oh, man… did it again. Okay, try Anna Karenina. You’ll never guess who throws herself under a train in that one.) wash away 384 pages of fornication, self-delusion, fornication, self-indulgence, fornication? Does a two-minute coda of virtue triumphant blot out 105 minutes of syrupy wallow in vice, duplicity, mendacity, venality, ennu-y? Does permitting these denizens of the demi-monde a flash of attenuated accomplishment compensate the hour(s) of humiliation, frustration, bondage to which they’re subjected and we treated? Low mimetic mode… yeah, low all right… low enough to crawl under a snake with an eighty-pound rucksack on (Okay, okay… silly image. Why’d a snake have an eighty-pound rucksack on?).
Directed by: Peter Berg, who also wrote the scenario, “based”evidently on the book of the same name (sorta) written by the SEAL who survived this action, Marcus Luttrell (he had a ghost… actually, twenty-some ghosts if you count his buddies lost in the fight and whose memory hangs over the thing like the fuzzy photos that serve as epilogue, the which bring us to an old question about fidelity to horror and the means by which to retrieve lived experience. Basil Liddel Hart—variously pronounced—for instance thought that “immediate experience” of combat had the effect of “fossilizing” perception, rendering it unreliable. The novelist Céline fancied that you have to “distort” reality to capture it for an audience of outsiders, offering the image of a stick thrust into water and bent by refraction; if you bend the stick first, the medium rights it. Yeah, well… ultimately, you have to ask if this is what happened in Lone Survivor though we’re assured that Luttrell himself oversaw the making of the flick. What are we spared in this version? What is Luttrell spared? Not a question of duplicity but of the effects of trauma even on the bravest of men). Starring (if you can tell the difference among the figurants on account of they all have scruffy beards and all wear the same panoply and for combat no rank): Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Christian Bale, Taylor Kitsch (candidate for a Hollywood name-switsch), Ben Foster… annnnnnnd guess who Yousuf Azami plays?
Well, it’s a lousy movie even as war flicks go. Sorry. But I’m on record elsewhere as affirming that even a lousy movie about SEALs is worth the watch since the life and service of these guys remains a mystery (as does their motivation) to most (ptui!) civilians. Oddly, some of the corniest stuff seems to me (25-year Special Forces operator and veteran of close-quarters mountainside scraps not unlike the one here depicted) the most faithful. These ain’t not warrior-poets, alas: just tough guys sent by boneheads into a doomed fight, stuck with a collapsing situation from which there appears no exit yet refusing to acknowledge that fact (what good would it do?) or to consider capitulation (those ginks don’t take prisoners, anyhow). Sooooo… whaddaya do? You back up against your buddy’s back, stack your magazines, say good-bye to Mom and Suzie back home, and do what you’re paid to do, what Aaron sent that scapegoat out into the desert to do.
Gravity: Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón (who also wrote the screenplay with someone suspiciously also named Cuaron, no relation since the acute accent on the ultima of Curarón reveals the one as obviously from Argentina while the want of an accent on the other name changes the whole picture and brands the guy—oddly enough named Jonás—as Ecuadoran. Sooooo…). Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney… and that’s it. And if you believe, as do I, that the two of them can sustain an hour and half of flick all by themselves and therefore cough up thirteen bucks for the ticket and three-D goggles, you may discover yourself halfway cheated somewhere around the middle of the flick but you didn’t hear it from me.
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and written by him, too, also himself). Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson (and a serious bee-sting lips, beachball hips woof), Glenn Headly, Tony Danza, Marianne Moore (the butt naked in Big Lebowski Marianne Moore… no, wait a minute, that’s the poetess Marianne Moore of fee-male poet fame like name two of her poems, yeah, that’s what I thought… This is Julianne Moore… ah, same thin except Marianne Moore didn’t show her but in The Big Lebowski, far as I know). Set Design: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Production Values: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. New Jersey Accents: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Screenplay Adaptation from the Short Story by Leo (“The Situation”) Tolstoy: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Hey. I’m dozing through a Faculty meeting when briefly the fog dissipates long enough for me to hear an outraged fee-male professor inveigh against the vestigial presence of the syllable “man” in “emancipate: “Lincoln freed men and women,” she declares. As the Classics professor rolls his eyes and gurgles of despair rise from his gorge, the Chaplain piously offers in consolation that “not all instances of the syllable ‘man’ derive from the male… for instance “chairman,” where the ‘man’ is from ‘manus, ‘hand’ in Latin.” Beati pauperes spiritu.
And that brings us to “masturbate” (Latin “mastus,” “poultry”; Latin “turbare,” “strangle”). And that brings us, by commodious vicus, to Don Jon. Critics debate whether the “Don” refers to the Don Juan of operatic fame (oh, yeah… name two arias from it, yeah, that’s what I thought) or the other “Don,” of Don Corleone “sei un uomo” fame. Don’t matter much. Both of them happening in New Jersey, the freshly refound Eden of teevee and cineemah: Jersey Girl, Garden State, Jersey Shore, Gigli (I think… if it’s not set in New Jersey, should be). Teasers already alerted us to the dubious premise, that the eponymous protagonist of the same name, him too, suffers from an addiction to what everyone seems determined to call ”porn” these days and this primarily over his laptop (so to speak… lap top? Laptop? Whap! Sorry I hadda do that, but you fotched up with the look again). The HTRL (or whatever the flock it is) is pornhub.com in case you’re looking (and be careful on account of it’s an actual site/sight… or so I heard).
We’re reliably informed that “all guys do it” though whether “it” is scanning pornography or strangling the above poultry or both remain unspecified elements of the indictment. The implicit “addiction,” anything but subtle and the refuge of any weak-willed simpleton these days (“I’m an addict… whatcha gonna do?”) becomes even less subtle in the proposed alternate title to the film, Don Jon’s Addiction, in case you missed it, you dummy, though it eventuates that there’s another and possibly more tragic addiction here, that of the breathtaking Barbara (thank God it’s not Barbra) Sugarman (Zuckermann) for romance and the fluffy trappings of the ewige Weibliche (German for “butt that would stop a clock”). Curiously, the second specification seems to be the more serious with opprobrium appearing, best I can figure at any rate, falling rather on Sugarman for her naiveté and disposition to idyll (or idle or idol, all of them pronounced the same and mean essentially same thing).
Story is that Don Jon Martello (“hammer” in Italian, if you catch my drift), a transparent egoist (and onanist) lives for himself: his family, his church (he’s an RC and piously declares his sins at Confession, racking up the Hail Marys and Our Fathers then knocking them out as he does reps in his gym. He’s got a guy car and a guy pad and snags the hottest fee-males at his guy bar, identifying prospectives by their umph or their umph umphs (either of which could stop a clock), the very aptest of whom rate a “dime,” in his lingo. Sadly, once back at his place and after what for anyone else would be satisfying sex, Don Jon sneaks out of bed to pop open his lap (top) and engage in what we’ll call for a better word: ipsism (Latin “ipse,” “carrot”). Finally he hauls in the diadem of the crown, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), whom his lout of an Old Man spots as Jewish right off though Mom (Glenn Headly) appreciates her manifest domesticity). Don Jon duly seduces (or is it t’other way around) and then relinquishes her afterward to gratify his lap (top).
She’s the one, he decides. Things go along well enough till she catches him at it. Outraged, she gives him one chance to reform (didn’t do much good when Father Murphy tried, but…). Don Jon can’t seem to shake it, though, (urf urf!), and tumbles into recidivism (Latin “reciduus,” “donkey,” and “vitiare,” “flagellate”). Caught in flog-rante (urf urf!), he watches her depart his life forever, merciless fidelity to a dream of human relation. As this drama plays out, howsomever, another character enters the arena, Esther, a burnt-out, pot-sucking, still-comely (niche pretty much staked out by Julianne Moore) older woman, classmate of Jon’s in the night classes he’s agreed to take for Barabara’s sake, part of her dream, not his. Esther spots Jon’s lap (top) in action and offers him erotica in place of “porn,” becoming a whore-goddess-bunkbuddy and ultimately initiating him to a different kind of sex where—wait for it—“you lose yourself,” in the “other.”
Don Jon (us, of course) learns something. You’re free to figure out what: You might think the tsk-tsking should direct itself at the self-absorbed Jon though it’s the remorseless Barbara whom we seem invited to take in execration, the both of them, I guess, in thrall to unreal expectations of human communion, she more deluded than he? “She has an agenda,” announces the voice of objectivity unexpectedly. The horror, the horror. Well, hell… that Johansson girl certainly does have an agenda, and one would stop a clock, too. I like Gordon-Levitt and highly recommend his films Brick and Premium Rush, both excellent and little noticed since his breakout in Ten Things I Hate About You (you can keep Blooper). Don Jon, though, just doesn’t make it in this reviewer’s um, er… view. Just too, um, er… heavy-handed, one might say.
Directed by: Andre Ovredahl (also written by him, too, the which make him an auteur, concept requiring some transduction, I’m thinking, into Skandanavian ethos/culture, explicable perhaps by that “Andre” of obvious Mediterranean extraction coupled with the more manly and Norse “Ovredahl” (“oaf valley” in Norwegian… or Finnish …or Swedish… like there’s a difference). Starring: Otto Jespersen, Johanna Morck, Tomas Larsson, Erland Tosterud, Hans Hansen (no kidding), and Kristin Kristinstotter as the Little Mermaid. Subbed in English: from the original Norwegian… or Swedish …or Danish … like there’s a difference.
This little sleeper from 2011 follows in the wake of Blair Witch (might call it Blair Which), features hand held, shaky-frame photography, unappetizing “normal” people (ugh…them!), vaguely impelled by extra-normal curiosity toward the para-normal with abnormal vigor and supra-normal resilience. And they’re Swedes… or Norwegians …or Finns (like there’s a difference), socialized Nordics all of a late evincing a profoundly uncurious outlook upon the world where Stuff Happens. Well, anyhow… when it does, who you gonna call? Gonna call Johanna, Kalle, and Tomas, three film class students from the University and Uppsala (or sommeres in Finland… or Denmark… or Finland) determined to latch onto the spectral Hans (oddly, though Johanna plays Johanna, Hans does not play Hans nor Tomas Tomas), whose comings and goings in a beaten-up Land Rover (or perhaps Range Rover… like there’s a difference) sliced by cryptic slashes along the ribcage (the Rover, not Hans) just beg for exposure. Hans is after something, up to something. Johanna, Kalle, and Tomas aim to discover what.
The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by: Derek Cianfrance (pronounced chamfer) and written by his own self, he, too. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva (woof!) Mendes, Ray Liotta, Mahershala Ali (Who?), Ben Mendelsohn (Who?), coupla sulky adolescent ac-toors, vulpine and sinuous-lipped, registering (Hollywood-grade) sulky adolescence. Remember what Dr. Spock said: "If you get your idiot kid a flockin' haircut, he's got a better chance of not grow up to be a bonehead." You can look that up. Proof positive: One of these teens gets tonsured and strides smiling into sunlit asphodel while t'other slinks shaggy off into shadow and bitterness.
There needs be a special ring of Inferno for whosomever take first-class movie idols, especially more than one at a time, and turn an execrable, precious, overwrought fil-um out of their collaboration, ring whose population would swell likewise also too by the number of bleating, sanctimonious critics who find something heavy out of incomprehensibility, opacity, fog, sophistry, pretentiousness. The director of the recent film RED (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich) is currently, for instance, warming up a bench Down There for this guy Cianfrance who twice now has launched Ryan Gosling as a wordless marginal into failed domesticity (Blue Valentine, now Pines). Evidence, by the bye, that Gosling is a capable wordless marginal you can find in Drive, sequel and epigone to a number of "driven" flicks, notably Drive (Ryan O'Neal in a rare virtuosity piece), The Last Run (George C. Scott, when he was, playing--oddly enough--when he was), and lately, infused with adrenaline, the Transporter triptych (Jason Statham). Likewise Bradley Cooper has embarked on a couple of play-against-type ac-toor roles, for which he draws moos of admiration and Oscar (Tm) nominations: crazy and retarded always crowd-pleasers (one recalls Downey Jr's riff in Tropical Thunder on ac-toors who snag critical reviews for playing variously partial or "full ree-tards," in the phrase of art, though you risk the enmity of the anti-defamation league in either case). This flick, if I have it right, might be the first one in which he plays shaven.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight;
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Some are born to sweet delight;
Some are born to endless night.
(Urf! Urf!) In proto-societies, I understand, it is tradition to leave the old to wander off into the forest to expire when they can no longer hold up their end of the log. Perhaps even give them a little shove when they get to drooling and gumming and carrying on about the prom and their first puppy. I can't imagine pushing Sylvester Stallone or Arnold or Bruce Willis out among the ferns and berries... not while they can still deliver a left that would drop a buffalo or snatch up any old automatic weapon to hand (apparently enjoy infinite magazine capacity if not any particular degree of accuracy) and waste a dozen or so T(wo)third(s) World ginks then inspire that look--we know which look though few enough of us may glimpse it in face-to-face communion nowadays, it being reserved almost exclusively for sinuous-lipped, three-day bearded, vaguely Baltic (Two)third(s) World ginks in rumpled blouses and lugging man purses--in the dilated pupils of nubile fee-males of the tight jeans, high-cheekbones, pouty lips persuasion. Stallone comes off the best of the bunch, the rest of whom if they still do their own stunts and still burst through the picture windows in slo-mo, remain a little leery these days about that shirtless moment. Likewise, if they do allow themselves to have seconded to them one of the above tight-jeans, high-cheekbones, pouty-lips sirens, they have the good taste to let someone younger (more sinuous and three-day-beardeder, rumple-blouseder and man-purseder) do the rubbing and settle for the above dilated, belated regard, unspoken wish they'd known one another twenty years ago (when Tiffany was an embryo and Arnold Number One Box Office in the Nation).
Well, okay. We've got a spate of flicks starring venerable icons of malehood, routinely panned by "critics," whoever they are, bouded by the Academy, and lately even dodged by audiences, testimony, I suppose, that an age of guyness passes tragically if irresistibly into mush: "Wherefore men fight not as they fought in the brave days of old..." as Macauley or one of them had it. The premise remains eternal: a wordless marginal, who harbors dark thoughts and the black-and-white moral conviction of primal oral cultures, gets provoked by some outrage to his person or his entourage/family, stews, steams, percolates, then explodes to exact protracted and disproportionate revenge from the malefactors in a ritual sequence working its way up through the ranks of miscreants to the Head Honcho, to whom a savage comeuppance gets administered gruesomely with a stake or a band saw or a tub of lye or a meal sodden with transfatty acids washed down with 16-ounce sugary beverage (yeeee-uw). Hubris, atê, nemesis, or as the Krau Germans put it: Fahrvergnugen, Schadenfreude, Umlaut. Monomyth. Economyth. Ironomyth. Iconomyth.
Zero Dark Thirty. Directed by: Katherine Bigelow. Written by: Mark Boal (who?). Starring: Jessica Chastain... and that's about it. Anybody recognize these guys: Joseph Bradley, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Callan Mulvey? Anybody guess who these guys play: Tushar Mehra, Reda Kateb, Fares Fares?
Couple of principles worth mentioning up front in the face of critical mooing about this film: 1) It's a flockin' movie, not history nor historical record nor documentary despite the dubious attribution of its script to "journalist" Boal who, like all non-combatants, bought every ticket the real guys had to sell during his "research"; 2) The operative word is "move," and if it do not, it is not, endless shots of perplexed or tormented or reflective faces notwithstanding, Hollywood shorthand for inner life unfolding as we watch that bead of perspiration, that tremulous tear, that blood droplet droozle its way down the cheek of this troubled young woman or that refractory T(wo) Third(s) World gink or that croaked martyr.
Bigelow, who's done some good stuff (the first-rate--though challenged by professional EOD guys--Hurt Locker; the cultic Point Break with its surfer-koans and adrenaline-junkies; the techno-thriller K-19 featuring Harrison Ford doing a Rooshan accent by way of Boris and Natasha), apparently began to believe her own press (plausibly confirmed in this--I don't say no-- by her Oscar (Tm) for Best Picture and Best First Fee-male Directrix) about her own genius and figured she'd take on what Kurt Vonnegut called (when he was among us) in another connection the "national ball of string," the emotico-socio-politico-mili-psycho-macho foofarah surrounding Nine-Eleven and the Ten-Year Manhunt (all caps on account of, like, special) for its purported perfervid perpetrator, B'n L'd'n (no vowels in Arabic but you can buy one from Vanna, who will not likely be ministering to the martyred suiciders, and I think you know why...).
Kurt Vonnegut -- Corporal Vonnegut -- famously told an assembly like this one that his wife had begged him to "bring light into their tunnels" that night. "Can't do that," said Vonnegut, since, according to him, the audience would at once sense his duplicity, his mendacity, his insincerity... and have yet another reason for despair. I'll not likely have much light to bring into any tunnels this night, either.
The remarks I'm about to make to you I've made before... in essence at least. I dare to make them again because other veterans seem to approve. I speak mostly to veterans. I don't have much to say to them, the others, civilians, real people. These remarks, I offer you for the reaction I got from one of them, though, a prison shrink. I speak in prisons a lot. Because some of our buddies wind up in there. Because their service was a Golden Moment in a life gone sour. Because... because no one else will.
Looper. Directed by: Rian Johnson
(and anybody spell his name thataway alert you immediately to be on guard and I
don't care if Mom did give it to you, you coulda fixed it soon as you
became an adult and realized what it said about you for six generations
back). Starring: Bruce Willis (and Bruce Willis, actually,
as Bruce Willis but not, if you catch my drift, the actual Bruce Willis);
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (same same); Emily Blunt; Paul Dano; Jeff Daniels.
Aw, man. I couldn't make squat out of Inception. Nor
doodle from The Adjustment Bureau. Nor bupkis out of Immortality.
Nor nada on Shutter Island. And what the hell was Minority
Report all about? Can't ever seem to figure out these Back-to-the-Future
things (or why box-office idols lend themselves to this kind of dreck since the
odds are so mortifyingly against you...not to mention against us poor schlubs
who fork over ten bucks to watch them). I got four-count-'em-four college
degrees, for Pete's sake. What the silly hell can Joe Lunchbox be
deciphering from this gibberish? It's as though Donald Duck wrote Being and
Nothingness (which Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski has on his
nightstand, by the bye... I rest my case) , then some fee-male graduate student
turnt in a doctoral dissertation on it. I topped out with Doc Brown and
Marty my own self. Lessee... when the photograph fades, it means you
never existed except you did until you went back and changed a cat-whisker some
prior event so even though it was you who changed it, still there is (yet
perhaps never was) a you but possibly not the same you as the you that is (or
was) you and there's why you get all those Boston Proper catalogues in
the mail addressed to "Resident." Want me go over that again
real slow? My head hurts.
The primary draw for this lunker of a flick is that they
made the Gordon-Levitt kid up to look like Bruce Willis as a young man though
we have movies made by Bruce Willis as an actual young man to which this
rejiggered ac-toor bears virtually no resemblance. Go figure.
Gordon-Levitt is great, by the way, a capable screen presence though mostly from
comedy, perhaps encouraged by the warm reception he's had for films like Ten
Things I Hate About You (excellent) and Fifty-Fifty (solid) and 500
Days of Summer (well, if you like that kind of thing... and are a
fee-male woman of the feminine persuasion... and lonely... and beautiful... and
crazy, in case anyone's encountered that particular communion of attributes,
like at the prom, say...) to embark upon an unhappy venture into over-seriosity
or chivvied by an over-aggressive agent to demonstrate his ac-toorship. Don't
misread me: He does a creditable job here. Only question is why?
Well, pack for a trip to Dystopia... again. At least
they're not all wearing leather suits, though that Blunt girl might do justice
to one. It's years from now (2040-something) though a tenuous
thoroughfare connects this time with that, later, in which time travel is (or
has been... or not) invented and then outlawed so that only outlaws can time
travel (or not). Actually it's not outlaws who time travel but the victims of
outlaws, strapped into a sort of canvas L.L. Bean field coat stuffed with
silver (or gold... the difference is significant) and launched back onto a
Twister (tm) mat where they're promptly assassinated by one of a horde of
"loopers," professional assassins from the past of the future who
deliver past services to future mobsters by deleting the future from the past.
Got it? Bad news is that eventually the looper becomes compromised and
has in fact to be assassinated from the future but in the present ("closing
the loop," as it's called, hence the eponomynomic). Alert comes in
the form of a golden shower, so to speak, instead of silver stuffed into the
travel garment of the target. If I have it right, that entitles the
looper to thirty years of the good life till his future self be shot back into
the past for a future looper to blow away back then (now). Still with
me? Who wrote this?
Anyhow. Our attention focuses on current Joe, a more
or less capable looper but one afflicted--wordless scenes reveal evident ennui
(French for "eye charged with an inexplicable tear," according to
Baudelaire at any event who invented the stuff, and apt here on account of the
New Way is to drop some sort of narcotic into the eyeball, phenomenon--as a
Bonus Question--prefigured by what cult flick, by the bye?)--with that
againbite of inwit we've heard of and who one day discovers his own self on the
mat next up on the elimination roster. What to do? In former Joe's
second of hesitation the later Joe punches his lights out, then lights out for
his part he, too. We're off. How to catch the intruder into the
past from the future before in the future he can wreak irremediable harm on the
past (or future) but while still safely in the past? How, you may ask, do
we work in the high cheekbones, tight jeans, pouty lips floozy? You may
ask. Answer: Sarah Conner! And that, Grasshopper, tell you all you need
Dunno how incomprehensible came to stand in for heavy.
Perhaps when Oprah became the arbiter of reading. When Wal-Mart opened a book
section. When Hemingway snagged that Nobel. Here's a guy loves
Bruce Willis, who admires Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and who, without having any
particular sentiment toward Emily Blunt, is always in the market for tight
jeans (on fee-males, mostly), but who cannot find in this flick anything to
praise. At the least, wait for video.
Answer to Bonus Question: Harley Davidson and the
Marlboro Man with Mickey Rourke (before the Fall) and Don Johnson (after
Melanie) where street thugs drop "crystal dream" into their eyeballs.
Ted. Directed by: Seth MacFarlane, who got that Boston accent from the Mother Ship for sure... and that potty mouth. Just like being there... Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi (unbelievably, seem to me, the medic from Saving Private Ryan, now transmogrificated to character roles, oh how are Thy fallen mighty!), Mila Kunis (about whom, woof!), the actual Sam Jones (one of the several Flash Gordons, hair still parted in the middle, as embourgeoisement--variously pronounced-- sets in), the voice of Patrick Stewart (Captain flockin' Picard), the voice of Seth MacFarlane (Boston mick if ever there were and Lord love him), Thomas Matthew Walsh (the chief of staff from Veep, the doctor from The Hangover, the maintenance man from Community: if it's hilarious and require a clean-up hitter, he's in it), Tom Skerritt (either clever as a rat or sunken into hard times and bellying up to that Soda Cracker of dubious fame: the one on which he looks like Death on...which...on). Hey. There are nevertheless rules to expletive infixation ("out-f#*#*$*ckin'-standing," "unner-f#*$*%ckin'-stand," "Viet-f@#*#*%*%ckin'-Cong," and on and on). Have to do with the stress accent. Some anal-neurotic out there in Blogland will remember the rules if I can't seem to. It's therefore "Teddy-f#*#*$*%ckin'-Ruxpin" and not "Teddy Rux-f#*$#*%ckin'-pin." But that's the only imperfection in this otherwise perfect little throw-away movie.
Trouble with the Curve. Directed by: For some reason Oscar (Tm)-winning director Eastwood dropped this one in the lap of Robert Lorenz (too much pressure?), primarily a producer (whatever it is they do) on Clint's flicks like Million-dollar, Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers, but if was for a fresh directorial viewpoint and a suppression of the occasional ham-handedness of the master, alas, disappointment beckons on account of one inhales the ripe scent of the aforesaid ham and the indelicate caress of the aforesaid hand. Starring: Clint Eastwood (looking, Lord love him, like Death Eating a Sammich--or vice-versa--and Jeeeee-zus, time to soft-peddle those close-ups! Yeeeee-uw! A zoom-in on one of those formerly-taut biceps now flaccid and pendulous puts you off breakfast and befogs memory of a formerly-vigorous idol. The erosion of old-age remains sufficiently insistent out here; doesn't really require an underscore on screen... and for ten bucks at that); Justin Timberlake (who can sing though does and yet doesn't, stuck inside a silly-ass beard for that same "some reason" adverted to above); Amy Adams (Dresden-china doll from whom we mighta got some skin but don't on account of there's no skin in baseball); John Goodman (settling for bulky-guy bonhomie--variously pronounced--cameos these days but at least fat again after a brief flirtation with wraithitude); Bob Gunton, poor guy, stuck in these preposterous bespoked Pharisee roles (check him out in Greg the Bunny for happier days) but always up to it.
V for Vendetta. Directed by James McTeague. Written by the Wachovia Brothers (or something, same guys who did all the Matrices, so get ready for heavy—read incomprehensible—indictment of modernity, governmentitude, authoritariness. “Based,” as they say in the movies, on a comic book by the same guy who did The League of Metrosexual Gentlemen, where Oscar Wilde is an action hero, Captain Nemo a fop, Tom Sawyer a gun-slinger, and Harriet Beecher Stowe (or one of them) a décolleté down to here vampiress… so you know we’re talking high art. Starring Natalie Portman, who’s lucky to got pouty enough lips to make up for not having any hair most of the flick … annnnnnnd for not having any umph umphs, neither …nor an umphety umph, poor thing, so if you were hoping for, like, spandex catsuit or shiny latex britches or at least a laced up to here leather jerkin, save your eight bucks; Hugo Weaving, who(m) you never see but who purrs sinisterly out from behind a Phantom-of-the-Opera mask; John Hurt, who hammers just a whisssssssssker too heavily on the Big Brother bit but who’s fetched up with an appropriately virulent (like “serious,” only seriouser) case of the uglies; Stephen Rea, who(m) you never heard of but who’s about the only likeable presence in this joyless, humorless, and mostly senseless “animation” of a “graphic novel” (kinda like a comic book, except, you know, can leave it on the coffee table).
John Carter (of Mars). Directed by: Andrew Stanton. Starring: Taylor Kitsch (who?) as John Carter; Lynn Collins (who? ...but woof!) as Princess Dejah Vue; Willem Dafoe (if you can find him, bettern me); Thomas Haden Church (same same); Ciaran Hinds (poor guy perpetually draw the short one on account of the bad guy just about everywhere) here the expediency-crippled Jeddak of Helium); Dominic West the bad guy animated by mysterious images/impulses from Deep Space; bazillion Quarks, Throngs, Gumgwoks, and Blivits, all computer generated and evidently immune to how hot the Princess of Mars is in her slit skirt, midriff-revealing décolleté down to here outfit ("phainomerides" were the Spartan women allegedly on account of "flashers of thigh." Think Angelina Jolie on the Red Carpet... or Bambi Scheisswitz at the prom). Dunno where they filmed but appropriately depressing... oh, yeah, and by the bye, they gots water and air on Mars (or did then).
Ladder 49. Directed by Jay Russell. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta… and then you drop your voice.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Gardens of Stone begins—and ends—with a soldier’s funeral where the whole world shows up, teary and pious, to hear the report of one dead man’s volley echo across those acres of dead men. Ron Howard’s Backdraft ends with a fireman’s funeral where the whole city of Chicago turns out, including the high cheekbones, pouty lips wife who dumped the guy, to hear the bagpipes wail into the ether. Guy Hamilton’s Remo Williams opens with a cop’s funeral where the whole Department stands to, bows heads to hear the encomium—of a guy apparently nobody could abide when he was on the job—ring out across the clipped lawns. So Jay Russell’s post-9/11 tribute Ladder 49 ends in a fireman’s funeral (won’t tell you whose…) with the whole town (Baltimore, I think it is…) bleary eyed and solemn to hear the same bagpipes and listen as those same shots reverberate across the asphalt meadows. It doesn’t happen thataway. Spent my whole life around brave men (didn’t say I was one, now…). Those guys die a lot. And I’ve stood with two-three G.I.s around a bloody poncho on the ground, with a half-dozen buddies at Arlington beside a caisson, with Mom and Dad in the rain next to a pile of dirt in some small town cemetery while a coupla ill-bred kids stared at the backhoe operator waiting silently for us to depart. So it goes. All this by way of saying that Ladder 49 is a lousy movie… but that you should watch it. A lousy movie about firemen is still a good movie and a good thing.
Act of Valor. Directed by: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh (who for some reason refer to themselves as the "Bandito Brothers," howsomever only during séances of butt-slapping and drinking beer right outten the bottle on account of you ain't not getting near the SEALs unless you can walk the walk). Starring: Dunno. It's a secret, so we don't get the names beyond Master Chief Bob (not his real name) and Lieutenant Senior Grade Bob (not his real name) only it's his real face, up there ten foot tall for whole world including terrorists and foreign agents to see so not sure how clever this whole secret squirrel premise is, but hey... Rest of the cast, it is alleged, all active duty service members, at least all of them who can't act. CIA agent billed as Roselyn Sanchez (perhaps her real name, perhaps not... but mostly not her real face since largest part her time on screen we only see that face all swolled up on account of beat to pulp by evil Philippine cum Guatemalan cum Baluchistani narco-atomo-islamo-barbo-terrorists, who, if they'd stay off the cell phone, would probably still be at it).
Whoa! Lousy movie! Ouch! I have said previously and of the film Ladder 49 (review attached, maybe) that a lousy movie about firemen is still a good movie. Civilians need to see it between excursions to the Galleria if for no other reason to get an idea of the life of those who protect them and of the sacrifice that such a life entails. I'm tempted to say the same thing regarding a lousy movie about SEALs: still a good thing, whether it's Steven Segal on a battleship, Charlie Sheen in Q'bqkkqb, Bruce Willis in Zimbabwaziland, Demi Moore in Q'bqkkqb, or, as in this case Master Chief Bob and his Ell Tee (secret squirrel Navy talk for Lieutenant, often abbreviated LT), Lieutenant Senior Grade Bob in Mexico? Mexico? Wait a minnit. We run black ops in Mexico? Jeez... we better hope they don't watch Gringo movies and find out, hunh? In fact, it's surprising how many sovereign countries we do violate in this movie. I for one do not necessarily object, just not sure how smart we are to tell whole flockin' world about it and validate that asservation by the presence of actual operators in the documentary (no Mexicans were harmed during the filming this um, er... documentary, story is: documentary that went wildly, comically wrong).
The Girl with the Hornet’s Nest on Fire Tattoo. Directed by: David Fincher. Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer, Stellaan Skaarsgaard (onliest practicing Squareh that is Scandinavian ac-toor in the business and go-to guy for Norsitude… also evilosity so be warned), cameo by Barbra Streisand (as the fjord).
So… this is what comes of Socialism! The Swedes call their particular brand “erection to resurrection”: cradle to grave. The State assures you a good life by denying you the opportunity for any other kind… and assigns you a name at birth by the way ( it’s “Lars” if you’re a male) or cheekbones that’ll stop a clock (if you’re fee-male). Howsomever, it does lead in the end to fat cat corporate Trimalchios who fancy themselves privileged, ill-bred young women insistent upon illicit sex and pierced flesh, sanctimonious journalists with the time on their hands to poke into other people’s affairs… oh… oh… we already gots that right here in the U.S. and A.? Well, okay. Looks as if the trains run on time, though, so there’s evidently an upside (and we ain’t not got that). Snow-swaddled landscapes, sunless vistas, faceless urbanity, soulless shadows prowling the oh-so-clean streets, industrial detritus testimony to… oh… oh… we gots that, too? Well, hell. How about islands where purring, gouty, avuncular plutocrats keep family secrets locked up along with generations of folly and fascism and intemperate dreams? Manhattan, you say? Well, jeeez, then… why don’t we just go ahead, make our own depressing and tedious chiaroscuro (variously pronounced and just as variously spelt) flicks instead of steal them from the Squareheads? Might check out the remake of Insomnia with Al Pacino (attached, maybe) or the remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal with Steven Segal [S(t)even Se(g)al… think about it!] as Death Walking on the Beach, Angelina Jolie (in leather catsuit unzipped down to here) as the Crusader, and Barbra Streisand as the plague for a better shot at this kind of cinéma dérivé (French for “piracy”).
Insomnia. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan.
We'd be tempted to call this flick "film noir" if it weren't for the waves of light that flood both landscape and dreamscape in the Land of Midnight Sun where hotshot Los Angeles detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino, looking like death on a soda cracker, world-weary and saggy-jowled) washes up pending an investigation of his irregular investigative procedures. Dormer, renowned for sniffing out killers and miscreants, appears to have cut corners to put the bad guys away, a dereliction for which he may have to pay not only by watching his career and reputation dissolve in disgrace but also by watching those very truants walk since his methods will have compromised their convictions. All this ferment weighs on Dormer as he and his low key dumbo of a partner (Martin Donovan) disembark in Nowhere, Alaska, visiting specialists called in to help a retired buddy take on the grizzly murder of a young woman. Sharp local cop Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank, trying to hold in her elegant cheekbones and look appropriately mousy for the role) worships the famous Dormer, has followed all his cases, cites him from his own voluminous writings, and tails him--a little too near--as he shambles halfheartedly through this investigation, his mind clearly on his own troubles back home.
The Guard. Directed by John McDonough (Written by him, too. See also In Bruges, review attached… maybe). Starring: Brendan Gleeson (who’s pretty much established himself as the only Irish actor these days and go-to guy for Irishitude), Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham (Guess where he’s from?), Rory Keenan (Same), Fionnula Flannagan (C’mon!), Dominique McElligott (Well, hell… Mom was French), Katarina Cas (Can you figure out who plays the Romanian visa-vixen or maybe Croatian… oh, sure, like there’s a difference).
Oirish as Paddy’s pig.
Sideways. Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring… ooopsy daisy… who? Well, Thomas Hayden Church is the dumb guy from Wings; the rest of them you’ve never heard of : Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Paul Giamatti, and some reeeeeeeally unlucky big fat guy who gets paid scale to run down the street naked, screen debut not sure just where I’d wanna list on that ac-toor resume (“Wagged my wahwah at world—a closeup, too—in fleeting moments of Sideways”?).
One of those films (Woody Allen’s made some) that turn on how funny you think it is to be a loser and to what extent you entertain the delusion that self-abasement will take you to Oz.
This guy Payne did Schmidt, that critically-praised sleepwalk by Jack Nicholson, whose somnambulism routinely snags him Oscar ™ bids. This film is hauling in three and a half and four stars out there from the heavy hitters for a sleepwalk by two guys (on account of two times zero is…). Brilliant, they’re calling it. Satirical, they’re saying. Satire, it turns out, of the life us soulless washouts lead, sunken in boredom and failure, consigned to solitude; still dreaming of joy but daren’t risk lunging for it when by chance it breezes by (usually packed in a pair of tight jeans, be it noted): satura, oddly enough, is Latin for “I’m brilliant; you’re a soulless washout.” We stumble into a kind of Waiting for Pinot here, where two lemons embark on a soiled and silly odyssey (Greek for “It ain’t here” and what one guy has translated “Odd, I see…”) before the one of them shuts down his life (and hope, evidently) through a half-hearted marriage to a young woman clearly bent on unriddling him. Unlikely buddies since college, Miles (Giamatti, as a mousy little man, pudgy, balding, riddled with neuroses, haunted with doubts, from which the recent abandonment by his way-too-uptown wife does nothing to detract) and Jack (Church, who plays a fading hustler and used up pretty boy, down on his luck—and down on his talent—ac-toor, who’s fallen from bit parts in the real cinee-mah to soaps to advertisements to—evidently the last stop on this line—those “paid programming” spots you see at 0200 while surfing satellite, yet still a wiseapple and still charming enough to snag the odd waitress). And that’s his plan: accede to Miles’ bachelor scheme to visit the California wine country for a few days together before that long desert of marriage but contrive at the same time one last sexual adventure for himself (though we have the impression his grip on conventional morality is such that marriage ain’t long gonna deter his self-validation through nookie, as Freud—or one of them—used to call adultery) annnnnnd get Miles’ recalcitrant and unappetizing ashes hauled at the same time, magnanimous gesture toward the lesser of the species, namely a guy with no clue how to talk Tiffany out of a bar. So, with this premise, we’re off…
About Schmidt. Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring Jack Nicholson, Dermot Mulroney, June Squibb, Kathy Bates, Howard Hessman, Hope Davis.
Films in which somebody showed us something we really didn’t want to see. Basic Instinct: Michael Douglas’ sagging butt; Space Cowboys: James Garner’s wattled butt; The Bad Lieutenant: Harvey Keitel’s flaccid wahwah; Roger Rabbit: Bo Hoskins’ hairy back; Working Girl: Melanie Griffith’s gelatinous belly oozing over black undies; Heat: that thingie on Val Kilmer’s arm, whatever it was.
Now, I’m a vulgar man, as may be evident enough from these brief and overwritten reviews. A vulgar man. Yet even I wasn’t prepared for the sight of Kathy Bates (50 years old, 5’5”, 250 lbs) stark necked and worse yet: wet. I invite you to a moment of quiet reflection upon it. Done? All right then, if you’re not prepared to see on the screen for real that to which your imagination just treated you in fantasy, stay away from Schmidt. God grant us all to know when it’s time to stop wearing those tight jeans and midriff-revealing tops (hint: when you’ve got more midriff than top), when it’s time to sun-bathe in privacy on the back porch and not at the beach, when it’s time to shed that pony-tail (man or woman), when it’s time to hit that hot-tub alone, annnnnnnnd… just what even a jaded conception of art authorizes. Woof! I thought my heart was gonna stop. Usher had to administer a gummi bear I.V. before my vision cleared and I could breathe again. Fair warning!
The Descendants (or The Descendents… or The Descandonts… spell it as you like. It’s the New Way, World Without End.) Directed by Alexander Payne (Who? Guy who did About Schmidt—awful, see accompanying review—and Sideways—palatable if cloying over a whisper of oakum, see accompanying review). Turns out he also wrote it… as he did I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, the title of which should tell you all you need to know). Starring: George Clooney; Shailene (no, I dunno what kind of name that is) Woodley; Amara (no, I dunno what kind of name that is) Miller; and—unbelievably—Beau Bridges (Woof! Somebody left the phonebook out in the rain… time for a haircut and that Stairmaster ™ ).
Directed by Edward Zwick. Starring… You’re kidding? You don’t know? Well, everybody else does! …along with Ken Watanabe (See if you can guess who’s he playing), Billy Connolly (See if you can guess who’s he playing), and a bunch of Japanese guys with funny hairdos but whose names you can’t hope to pronounce.
Movies with “Last” in the title: Last Man Standing; Last of the Red Hot Lovers; Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The Last Picture Show (By the bye, what was “the last picture show”?* ); Last of the Mohicans (By the way, who was “the last of the Mohicans”?**); About Last Night; The Last Mile; The Last Tango in Paris; The Last Temptation of Christ; The Last Time I Saw Paris; Save the Last Dance for Me; The Last Train from Gun Hill (By the bye, when was “the last train from Gun Hill”?***); L’année dernière à Marienbad (variously pronounced); Clash of the Titans; Class of ’44 (Forty-Four); Blast from the Past; LA Story.
Dances with Samurai. See if this sounds familiar: scruffy guy, weary of war—the Civil War specifically—and who’s seen too much, stumbles out West (waaaaaaaay the heck out West), meets up with some roughies, whom he takes to heart, and decides upon a last stand in their company amid hopeless odds against ironically… the forces of order! Dances with Wolves? Open Range? Butch and Sundance? Tootsie?
At risk of overloading the circuit and in view of looming Veterans' Day (that apostrophe variously disposed), probably should add this review to polish off (in the various senses that expression) the Asia/Pacific/World War theme:
Flags of Our Fathers. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Produced—it’s worth noting—by Steven Spielberg, who’s appointed himself Custodian of World War II (and Moral Tutor to the Planet: Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Schindler) and written by William Broyles (go-to guy for Rhodes Scholar, former Marine cachet on this kinda thing: to his credit and to our relief, he does not put words—read: hamfisted Hollywood kerygma—on the lips of his dying Marines, a small dignity but significant). Starring Ryan Philippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Barry Pepper.
Two heraldic American icons: the flag on Iwo Jima and the crag on Clint Eastwood. This flick is like Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ: wouldn’t have to be much of a movie for its sacral nature to override cavilling objections of pusillanimous critics. It’s more a visualization than a movie, though, but workmanlike and worth the watch …one time, taken the above caveat (Latin for “No, squirrel, watching Platoon is not the same as being in Vietnam, Republic of”).
Pursuant my Asian motif, third film about unpleasantness in the Far East (oh, and the war, too...):
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Ken Watanabe… yeah, and then? Go ahead: name two Japanese movie actors. That’s what I thought (I was gonna say Omar Sharif and Chow Yun Fat, but I think they’re Chinese… or worse).
Clint got away with this because he’s Clint. Expiating the Dirty Harry pentalogy (which is, like, five pictures of the same thing… only different), he’s definitively migrated to the (Two) Third(s) World; where once he played the quintessential dumb, violent, but ultimately decent gringo, now he flays him. Somewhere in the evolution, though, he did pick up some notions of technique if not of narrative. This picture isn’t a bad war movie. Nor unworthy spectacle. It has a beginning, a middle, an end; a couple of followable characters; a ticket to sell. It’s that ticket, though, a feller may find hard to swallow (to mix metaphors).
Directed by Kon Ichikawa (variously pronounced). Starring… yeah, right, like you’d know.
This is an old flick (1959 or so) but just now out on video and a worthy watch (to borrow the current usage by which a book is a good “read”). It’s made by the same guy who did The Burmese Harp (which see, by the bye), about a Japanese infantryman shuffling through, well… Burma (which is now Kampuchea or Burkina Faso or Botswana, depending on what you can’t pronounce, at any rate the [Two] Third[s] World cesspool currently butchering its mountain tribes… Oh. Oh. They all are? Well…) disguised as a bonze (which is, like, a priest except not) and registering for us the face of war and desolation. Message (in case you miss it, you dummy): “War is bad” …so bad, in fact, that it doesn’t matter who starts one or why or how it’s executed or toward what end or against whom on account of there’s no Right or Wrong and the Japanese soldier with the baby skewered on his bayonet in the ruins of Nanking and the Marine sharing his K’s with the little girl on Saipan rate the same in the Grand Scheme of Things. Hug me. Write that down, will you? ‘Cause I’m getting the flock tired of having it poked up my nose in war flicks and maybe we can turn some movies where the guys who do not bayonet babies wind up better than the guys who do. A thought. Harp has long been a staple of movie festivals and, like, sensitive war-is-bad art film groupies; Fires is less well known. Like Letters from Iwo Jima, it’s apparently based on first-hand accounts and, like Letters, owes its scenario to a fee-male scriptwriter: a woman’s view of what a man sees, for what that’s worth.
Directed by: Le Chuan (evidently written by him, too). Starring: Yeah, right… like you ever heard of two Chinese actors. Well, okay, Jackie Chan (think that’s the other China). Oh, and Chow Yun Fat… and Jet Li …none of whom, turns out, could save Nanking.
The dark waters that separate Japan from mainland Asia have seen their share of malevolent passages from West to East (Kubla Khan), then again from East to West (Hideki Tojo)… and, know what? …if the Japanese do not watch out, next trip may be a return visit from West to East and won’t no Divine Wind intervene this time around. Payback is a bitc an annoying supposition. Anyhow. This film, retrieving the horrific events to surround the 1937 Japanese invasion of what we used to call Nanking (now for some reason—I darkly suspect the Yale Department of Asian Studies—and world without end called Nanjing or in the transliteration I’ve seen Nanjing! Nanjing!, more perhaps a wail of despair even at this remove than a constatation), manages somehow to subdue what might seem a comprehensible, a justifiable instinct to focus on atrocity (does that sufficiently but not obsessively) in favor of a depiction solely of… what? …a …a puzzlement, let’s say, at what could inspire inhumanity (and what inhumanity could inspire) on such a scale among human beings, an approach which has netted the film good reviews as film, not just indictment. In somber black and white (actually, it’s mostly gray, a wash of colorless tableaux appropriate to the benumbed stoicism of the Chinese victims of the Japanese investment—infestment might be the better word—of their city), City of Life and Death wants to know (viewers will decide the answer to this question) how the terror visited upon the city has touched the agents of that terror.
Starring Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci (spelt different and no relation), Malick Bowens.
Heart of Darkness again. Gringos fumbling around (Two) Third(s) World. Been there. Done that. In Dark of the Sun, Rod Taylor and Alain Delon (an actual French paratrooper, by the way) snatch Yvette Mimieux (variously pronounced) out from under the Mau-Maus. In The Wild Geese a paunchy Richard Burton and his burnout buddy Richard Harris (who recently burned out, more’s the pity) rescue a statesman from the Simbas. In Claude-Bertrand Audibert’s Charlie Bravo we even have a French commando team (and yeah, one of them is a chef) hustling a nurse out from captivity with the Viets. Now it’s Tears of the Sun (which I think is what the Aztecs—or the Incas, one of them—called gold, but, hey…) and Bruce Willis, bald and painted green (like you-know-which overweight icon from you-know-which Vietnam flick except mercifully he ain’t quoting Thomas Stearns Eliot and they appear to have left poor old Conrad to his rest this time), fetches up with the mission to spirit some whites out of Nigeria (still called Nigeria I think and not to be confused with Niger nor Congo still called Congo nor… ooopsy daisy: think that might be the last country still called what it used to be called) in the path of ferocious rebels as terror threatens to engulf the Gringos (and Gringas) of a jungle dispensary.
Beaufort (variously pronounced). 2007. Directed by (also written by): Joseph Cedar (set in Lebanon, too… get it? cedars? Lebanon? Lebanon? Cedar? Sorry to do that, but you had that look again, dummy). Starring: Alon Abutbul (who played the bandito in the Magnificent Seven); Daniel Brook (the evil Chinese guy in Year of the Dragon); Oshri Cohen (Red Will Danaher in the Quiet Man); Nevo Kimchi (Saito in Bridge On the River Kwai); Ohad Knoller (voice of Oscar the Grouch); Arthur… wait a minute! What the silly hell have those guys got on their heads? What is that thing? Look like the bag the U.N. building came in. Some kinda voluminous, flaccid, sacklike, elasticized something-or-other, I’d say a helmet cover if it weren’t the size of Dee-troit and what they need cover for in urban enviro, anyhow? Whaaa…? Most of us have come to respect the equipment Israel has forged out of necessity and whole-cloth for her soldiers (Uzi, Galil, Desert Eagle, Merkava…), but Jeeeeezus, what is that thing? A bridge too far. Sheeesh! Make the guys look like they’ve got head stuck in a condor’s nest (or kite, or whatever flockin’ bird they got in Middle East…).
Lebanon. Directed by: Maoz Schmulik (or Schmulik Maoz, he signs it both ways) and Samuel Maoz (see?). Written by: Maoz Schmulik. Starring: Oh, yeah… right. Name two Israeli actors. Barbra Streisand in a cameo as the Merkava Mark II tank.
Bittersweet it is, I suspect, when any number of us think back to when Esther Schlumberger turned us down for a date, she of the eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, of the hair like the goats on Mount Horeb, of the breasts (only guessing on this one in view of above) like twin roes (whatever a roe is, but better be round and hard and the moonlight glint off of)… annnnnnd these days forty-some years later the hips like the broad, flat veranda of the First Temple (and probably just as chalky white). That said and notwithstanding whatever animus may persist from that primal denial, most of us admire the feisty, desperate, professional combat waged by the Jews of Israel against any number of intruders, antagonists, adversaries. A “Defence Force” (I think they spell it with a –c, perhaps in memory of the sainted Orde Wingate, Lawrence of Palestine, early Brit advisor), they nonetheless seem to have ample capability of reaching out beyond purely defen(c)ive posture to beard wannabe foes in their sancta and little enough compunction against doing just that.
Valhalla Rising. Directed by Nicholas Winding Renf (who cites his middle name to distinguish from Nicholas Rodham Renf or Sarah Jessica Renf, the other Danish directors). Starring Maarten Steeveensoon, Goordoon Broown, Maads Mikkeellsseen (the evil Le Chiffre—variously pronounced and French for “Indic-cum-Arabic concept of the zero,” perhaps referring to the humor coefficient of that film… or the joy content of this one—from the latest Casino Royale and whose otherwise squinty eye has transmummified into a welded-shut eye…He’s called “One-Eye, but there may actually be one in there, just inaccessible).
Thor. Directed by Kenneth Braanaaugh. Staarring Naataalie Portmaan (getting raather overexposed these daays aafter Blaack Swaan aand No Strings Aattaached aand yet still underexposed on aaccount of shows no skin in this flick and furthermore, there’s none at all unless you count Thor’s… which I for one do not. Note: When you choose the Norwegiaan paantheon, don’t be looking for skin but raather fur and armor up to here… be aadvised: evidently nobody heaard of baar saark); Chris Hemsworth (could be the next Hugh Jaackmaan); Aanthony Hopkins (mercifully swaaddled in fur up to here… aa blessing aafter his baare-butt shot in Beowulf); Stellaaaan Skaaaarsgaaaard (onliest aauthentic squaareheaad in the bunch, bless him, aand the perenniaal troubled science guy: Deep Blue Seaa, Good Will Hunting).
Animated Triptych (kinda like a picture in three parts, only--you know--classy): Persepolis; Renaissance; Waltz with Bashir.
The French call it B.D. (pronounced “boo-yah-bayss”) for bande dessinée, that is, not “comic strip” but “drawn strip.” These days it’s anything but comic. The Spanish for their part say “Cimoc,” that is “comic” backwards or stood upon its head, not funny at any rate. The Boc I mean Germans prefer their collocation Bildgeschichte (“picturestoryshamepleasureworldvisiondevelopmentnovel”). Then of course we gots animé, expropriated by the Japanese (translation: “little girls with big gringo eyes and big gringo umph umphs in little gringo Catholic school skirts and maryjanes,” everybody’s dream). Cartouche, carton ( > cartoon). All the familiar mechanics of the comic as we know: the standard box within which the action takes place (case), the thought or speech balloon (bulle), the strip or string of boxes (planche) in linear disposition (left to right, up to down), the movement lines, the tortured perspective, the onomatopoeia (pan! plouf! flatch! baf! vlan! and on and on). All this we take for granted when we see drawn images leap from a page, drawn images flash across a screen. We used to could identify the quality of animation by the number of cels (individual images) per minute and thus distinguish between the glorious Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and the ugly, assembly-line Hanna-Barbera or stiff, bird-like Rankin-Bass stuff of later vintage.
Correction to Prisoner: A sharp-eyed commentor advises me that the principals (if not principles) in this film are Georgian, not Afghan(stani), the war the Chechen not Afghan(stani). Grateful to be set straight, apparently through Wiki-Whatzis, who knew all along. You might be tempted, now, to say “Chechen, Afghan(stani). Yeah, like there’s a difference…” Sadly, they seem to be butchering each other over there on account of just that difference in particularly unfunny fashion. To this dumbo viewer at any rate, who did not spot the authentic history, the altered setting actually adds yet another asset to the film’s considerable charm: it leaves the issues of war, occupation, race, otherness abstract and divorced from time and place (at least for those ignorant of the precise cultural discriminators) and a yet broader comment on those same issues. A very nearly perfect little movie if not a very nearly perfect little review of it. In a related matter, a correction to my review of Citizen Kane: Marilyn Monroe did not discover radium. Alan Farrell
Suckerpunch. Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring (maybe featuring better): Emily Browning (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit) ; Abbie Cornish (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit); Vanessa Hudgens (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit); Jenna Malone (the one with the bee-sting lips stuffed into the crevasse-seeking spandex outfit); Oscar Isaac ( I think he actually paid them for a part in this one); Carla Gugino (putting up a good fight at 40-something I’m guessing and not to be forgotten for her stark naked walk-on in Sin City, which Snyder did not do but if he didn’t, should have… though based on subsequent would not have altered much); Jon Hamm (over-exposed these days in a spate of second-banana parts); Scott Glenn (Ouch! Somebody left the phonebook out in the rain).
The Black Swan. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Natalie Portman (degrees of separation: Natalie stars with Jean Reno in The Professional; Jean Reno stars with Vincent Cassell in Crimson Rivers; Vincent Cassell stars with Natalie Portman in The Black Swan); Vincent Cassell; Mila Kunis (the only skin in the thing); Wynona Rider (or Winona Ryder, she spells it both ways… and whoa! …someone left the cake out in the rain); Barbara Hershey (come full circuit from her days as “Barbara Seagull” nursing her son, Free, on the set of Boxcar Bertha); Barbra Streisand as the Nutcracker (or is that a different ballet? …yeah, like they’re different!).
The Beast. Directed by Kevin Reynolds (who directed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld, both with Kevin (!) Costner ...annnnnnd who wrote Red Dawn along with John Milius, from whom he doubtless soaked up the obsession with Satellite ordnance, Rooshan nastiness, and guyness). Starring George Dzundza (whose family was doubtless happy to see him playing a Rooshan), Jason Patric (now where’d I put that -k?), Stephen (the other one) Baldwin, and (unbelievably) Steven Bauer as the Afghan. Based on a play, Nanawatai, allegedly the Afghan word for the “guest-friend” hospitality obligation to which even the barbarous must cede.
9th Company. Directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk (son, you’ll be happy to learn, of “renowned director” Sergei Bondarchuk… yeah, sure: name two of his films …ready, go!). Starring: Bunch of Rooshans, apparently drawn from whole spectrum of Asian racial palette much like the World War II squad of undying fame: Zingari, Sacco, Vanzetti, Prinzip, Van Der Lube, Barrow, Parker, Gacy, Dahmer, Berkowitz, Dillinger, Sheen.
We’ve grown weary—some of us, at least—of the appeal by blow-dried journalists on the teevee comparing our morass (they actually found another word for “quagmire”) in Afghanistan, Cesspool of to our morass in Vietnam, Republic of. Seems among the lessons we did not learn is that other people watch our teevee, too. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has resurrected the French morass (“merdier,” in the original) in Algeria as the model for counterinsurgency, COIN in Pentagonspeak, though COIT(us) might be better acro, and taken to showing Gillo Pontecorvo’s Bataille d’Alger (frequently mistranslated as “The Battle of Algiers”) to deploying officers… or thinkers …sometimes both (urf! urf!). Anyhow. Whether the morass in Vietnam or the morass in Algeria turn out to be the most appropriate paradigm (kinda like an example but next-level cooler) remains a question for the over-the-horizon guys. Still, this unregenerate SP/4 wonders if maybe the morass in Afghanistan might not be a more plausible metaphor for the morass in Afghanistan. Just a thought.
General Farrell sent me a few things, kind of an early Christmas present. So, In the spirit of sharing....
"Best in Show" was my favorite among these films, but the triumph of a Norwich Terrier might have something to do with that. pl
Eva Green? Aahh... Sybilla, Sybilla. pl