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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

The briefcase is unimportant, like Pulp Fiction
And all the king's knights couldn't put him back together. Falling Down is about a man who's life has got to the point that climbing up the stairs is simply not worth it anymore. It is also a film about dream-fulfillment, a fantasy lived out by the main character, who deals with all the annoyances of modern day life with a great deal of violence that we as people in a normal society never do because of the consequences. It's also a film about a cop who is one day from retirement, and everyone tells him that he should go home, because you know what happens to cops one day from retirement. Surprisingly he lives. Also this is directed by Joel Schumacher, the guy who did Batman Forever, and Batman and Robin, amazingly this film is actually good.

The film begins with a traffic jam, and the traditional frustration that occurs from it. Much horn honking and angry words exchanged but all to no avail. At a certain point our protagonist, Bill, decides that enough is enough, and leaves his car with nothing but his briefcase, which he guards religiously for the first half of the film. This is a problem for our other protagonist who comes in the form of a cop on the cusp of retirement, who just wants a quite day in his office. What actually happened was probably the most interesting day in both of their lives. This abandoning of the traffic jam is just the first in a number of incidents about wish fulfillment, I'm sure anyone who has waited in traffic for any significant amount of time has wanted to just walk away.

I'm not actually sure where  he was going at the beginning of the film, given that he had lost his job a month previous. I guess he was going elsewhere, as you sometimes need to do, but he got fed up with life. The first target of violence is when he goes to a store and discovers a coke costs 85 cents. That is far too much, so he takes a baseball bat to all the 'expensive' products in the store including aspirin which costs $4! Oh no, far too much. After his little attempt at anarchy he pays 50 cents for his soda and leaves to go use a payphone. First he decides to take a rest on some stairs. Unfortunately these stairs are in a gang's territory, and he is accosted by two Mexicans, who he subsequently beats with his bat, and steals their butterfly knife.

I think Bill's last line is perhaps his most telling, "I'm the bad guy?"  All he wanted to was to go home and see his family, unfortunately his ex-wife has a restraining order against him. He's not okay with this though, and seeks out some sort of solace in the casual destruction he creates. Throughout the film he shoots up a phone booth because someone complained about him taking too long, almost shoots up a fast food joint because they stopped serving breakfast, kills a racist homophobic sexist Nazi, and finally gives a heart attack to a rich golfer. He tries so hard to right the wrongs of the world in his own unique way, but does nothing but create needless destruction. The best intentions eh?

So is the ending happy? No, our protagonist dies and is not redeemed, even in death. No matter what he would be branded the bad guy, though he never meant to kill anybody, he just wanted to go home to his family. I suppose the question one must ask is is it a good film? Yes, I suppose it is. It's shot well, has some decent characters and you root for the protagonist in his desperate quest, and it's a decent fantasy film, imagining all the daily annoyances can just be blown away. Alas at the end all that happens is death, but that's alright, because though his life has fallen down (and that is what happens in his death) he still lives as he wanted, if only for a brief period of time.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eyes Wide Shut

Some of Cruise's best acting lies in that mask
Often we miss what is right in front of us, can't see what is right in front of us, or just plain don't want to. The world outside is scary, we prefer to stay inside away from the strange and terrifying. Yet, that curiosity, you know, the one that killed the cat, it gets the best of us and we seek to know that which they say we shouldn't. That is not what this film is about, at least not at its heart, and it is a very heartfelt film. Like all of Kubrick's films there is an almost psychotic attention to detail, but it is shown differently in this film. This film is rough, in much the same was Chainsaw Massacre is, it does not have the perfectly manicured shots of 2001, or the slow deliberate horror that was the Shining, it has its own identity, and seeks to define that thoroughly from everything to the lead actors to the music to the colors. At the very core of its being, it's about fucking.

That's not entirely fair, nor descriptive, but sums up many of the scenes, in its rudeness and abruptness, and strips it down bare, to what is left when you film people like he did. The last scene is succinct but also incredibly long-winded, and then it ends. The film, the mystery, all of it ends in such an abrupt way the audience is left with mouths open-mouthed at the sheer audacity of it, and it could be compared to the Sopranos in terms of resolving what happens. We're left with an obscene term, with the rhetorical question, "Well you know what we have to do now. Fuck." That's it, roll end titles. The ending is not the only ploy that Kubrick plays however, only one of many in his masterful manipulation. Let's go back to the beginning, it is always best to start there.

First. Quick. Reverse text title, director, actors. Done. Nicole Kidman's naked back. Done. That is the end of the eroticism in the film, none of the nudity is portrayed as such, and given the circumstances it is often simply revealing of the characters, bared naked not simply nude. I'll compare it to the Dreamers for simplicity, since both featured nudity fairly heavily, but neither was anywhere near pornography, no matter what detractors may say, because the sex or nudity is far beyond the point, and is only used as a tool, not an end. Next the film shows Tom Cruise and Kidman going about their daily lives, dressing up for a fancy party, they engage in what is routine, the first sign that something is not quite right.

I don't want to reference the title but...
I should note the setting now, it's Christmas time. Boy do directors love using Christmas for the irony they can get out of it, and also as a comment on the culture. Other notable films set at Christmas: Brazil, Die Hard, Batman Returns. Cruise is given a number of gifts throughout the film, though I don't think any were really selflessly given, or true gifts. He however sheds money like there is no tomorrow, and at a point he thought that was possible. It's an interesting note about gifts as a whole, one which is not really looked at a lot, in that people who think they have nothing left are willing to give everything.

Back to the plot, the young couple go to a big extravagant proper party, a contrast to the depraved orgy that goes on later, and both flirt with affair, but neither really looks like they might go through with it, because no matter what their marriage is, it is stable, and something they want to keep alive. Unfortunately when drunk Kidman reveals that she imagined having an affair while they had sex, this infuriates Cruise and he leaves to wander the streets. This is where he eventually discovers the masked party the film is famous for, and realizes just how fucked up the city can be. In many ways his character reminds me of the eponymous character from American Psycho, but he never goes crazy, something I was actually looking forward to but oh well.

He is well dressed, and presents himself well, as well as dealing with some of the seedy underbelly, prostitutes and orgies, but I suppose the real difference is control. The character from American Psycho is totally in control of his life/fantasy, and lives it with this in mind, Cruise's character, really isn't. When he seeks explanation he finds only confusion, when he tries to understand he comes close to getting his family hurt. He has no control, and seeks to reconcile this throughout the entire film, and is actually unsuccessful. In the end he is simply a cog in the machine, a doctor who determines how people live and die everyday, but who has no real control over the events that happen around him, one of those ironies that live simply loves to deal out. Though they are so rarely appreciated.

Irony thy name is Dream
I suppose the film is a romance, if one wants to go strictly by genres, but the female lead has some important scenes for the first half hour, then maybe the last 15 minutes, leaving her absent for about 2/3 of the film, and the romance is pretty crappy if that is what you're looking for, a sappy love story. It also fails if you're looking for sophomoric porn, but I doubt many people go into a Kubrick film looking for that. It's a noir film where nothing is revealed, and the mystery may not even be real. Wikipedia goes with drama, the archetypical genre, though going by archaic definitions we could call it a comedy, based off the sort of happy ending. Hell out of all the films I've seen recently it has the happiest ending, one where no one important died, just a lone druggy that no one cared about but who was the only character who cared about the protagonist. Now I'm sad.

The film looks at all the evils in society, and it scoffs. It looks at the elites with their strange doings and politely asks not to question, because there is no question worth asking. It looks at the nature of economy and the way humans contribute to it, and says do whatever, because the world will not change by your will. It takes a definite stance on society, one neither inherently pessimistic nor optimistic, it simply is. The film is about life, which simply is, it begins and ends when it does, and there is no point questioning it when it does. That's not to say that questioning shouldn't be done, it just rarely helps to ask the world why, because any answer you get will be wholly unsatisfactory, and likely from  a crazy person walking past. The world is full of crazies who demand things from the air, or the sky, but doesn't that make the crazies normal?

Anyway like all of Kubrick's it is masterfully directed with a unique tone and message, and a unique way of showing it off, showing all the ruins of society at odds with the posh parties and elements of the elite which stay with that 1%. I suppose it might be more relevant now with the occupy movement, and it has been looked upon in a more positive light lately, as it should be. Fucking brilliant is the final conclusion, with the added note that for some strange reason the mask the Cruise wears terrifies me more than anything from the Exorcist. Just look into its soulless eyes and say you are not staring into the depths of Satan's Soul.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dreamers

An important scene about love
The Dreamers is a strange film about revolutions, both sexual and political, and one could say it is a bildungsroman, though in a very non-traditional sense. It follows the story of a teenage American boy who has recently moved to Paris who is attempting to fit in amongst some fellow cinephiles and ends up moving in with a brother in a sister, who have an incestuous relationship, this is incredibly awkward until he directly addresses it, then has a passionate love with the sister, though becomes embroiled in something much bigger than himself, the revolution talked about throughout the entire film, both metaphorically and literally. It is set in 1968, which really is the perfect time for the piece, and it is very much a period piece.

First a historical note. The film is set during the beginnings of one of the biggest protests ever. Over 11 million french people were on protest at one point, almost one quarter of the country. These riots involved peaceful demonstrations but quite quickly evolved into direct violence, and almost a sort of anarchy. It ended the contemporary government's reign, so it was effective in that sense, and also prefixed a lot of social changes that were so prevalent during the 60's. The most important for this film was the sexual revolution, as an era of freedom and expression began, and created the culture that is so relevant today.

The film begins with a fairly catchy tune, evocative of much of the soundtrack. The soundtrack is actually concurrent with the era, so it is all 1968 or before, which creates a very unique feel to the film, which is further evoked by the cars and technology of the era. The opening credits are set to a background image of the Eiffel Tower, which is inherently a symbol of change. We're then introduced to our protagonist and narrator, who is fairly likable even if I don't remember his name. He walks to a cinema built in a metaphorical palace, which looks like a truly magical place, fairy-tale like, which is what the film tries to evoke through much of the second and third acts.

Not my style, but still damn pretty
So at this he meets the initially domineering and dangerous Isabel in a beret, like Che Guevara, and then we see her in chains protesting the shutting down of the cinema. It is there that she invites him home, and we begin the journey down the rabbit hole, but we don't really see how deep it goes until the parents leave. But the film is not strictly about revolution against the parents, merely how without parents/authorities revolution is inevitable. When Isabel contemplates suicide at the end because her parents have found out about her relationship with her brother we realize how powerful this parental relationship can be, and what it can do to people to have their parents realize who they truly are, again a metaphor for government. The film is also about film.

When I say that I mean it is a tribute to an era of film-making, and music, and philosophy. It knows the time better than many pieces from the same time. In a way it can be compared to Tarantino's films, in that he knows the period he is referencing, and with his encyclopedic knowledge of films it shows. The difference here is Tarantino's references are implicit, and the Dreamers are explicit. The Dreamers shows the films it is referencing, names them, shows how the characters know them, and though more appreciation is gained for having watched the films a casual viewer, not that there really are any with this film, still can understand them. Tarantino's are more take it or leave it, if you get it good, if you don't well it's brief and unimportant. Different style of film-making, neither implicitly better or worse.

When I say it's a tribute to the philosophy of the time I mean it's about the revolutionaries that became so popular in the 60's, due in part to the Vietnam war and disillusionment and also because of the media which influenced people so. Films like Psycho that sought to break the social norms, and acknowledge the madness that lies outside, and others like To Kill a Mockingbird showing the racial injustices prevalent at the time and how god damn ubiquitous they were. These films revolted in small ways, and the riots in Paris at the time were simply a microcosm of what was happening around the world. The film shows this perfectly through its explicit imagery, through its dream-like state and the refusal to acknowledge the outside world, the issues of appearance versus reality and all that jazz.

No penises here
Now to talk about why the film got an NC-17 rating. It has full frontal nudity, like a lot. If you're offended by that, well this is not the film for you. It also has explicit masturbation by a male, incest in everything but the most technical sense, and several sex scenes, including one which is about five minutes long. There are a number of reasons for this, notably with sexual revolution as a predominant theme it had to include some nudity, because otherwise the point would be neutered, it helps to define the characters more than without it, and it's just the director's way. Just as Tarantino uses excessive violence, Bertolucci uses excessive sex. Both uses of the word excessive here are simply compared to the norm, and they really are not excessive to me, but simply to the censors.

The director, Betolucci, clearly loves the subject matter, and it is evident in all the choices made about the film. The philosophy in the film, evidenced by several different characters in different ways seems like it was someone's personal philosophy, about how every element of the universe works together to form a wholly together whole. A nice optimistic idea in a sense. Interestingly the film ends on quite a sorrow note, or even no note at all given how open the ending is. The brother and sister go off together, ignoring the protagonist's cry to break apart and to live their own lives. The film actually ends on a small fire burning, with police vans in the back after all the riot cops have run forward to intercept the virtual army of protestors.
On the whole I'm not sure if it is a comedy or a tragedy, using the classical terms. The ending is not wholly ambiguous, but leaves enough up to question, about the fates of the main characters as well as that of Paris as a whole. It is a lot like reality in that way, but only really the ending and beginning are. The rest of the film is so unreal, that it is less realistic than the likes of Star Wars, or for something more grounded in reality Donnie Darko. Films which thrive on their fictitious nature are more real than a film rooted so firmly in reality in terms of setting, but is so far apart in terms of characters and style. As I said, I don't know what to think, I'd say give it a watch if you're fine with explicit sex scenes, but be ready for something very unique, an entity unto itself.

I'm actually not sure if I'm done with this one, I feel like there is more to say on that theme of appearance versus reality, so stay tuned for a second part, maybe.

To add some class

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Exorcist

Seeing as I've reviewed a lot of horror classics this was one of the next ones on the list. Now the advertising claims this is the scariest film ever made, and people have fainted or been ill because of it, which says something about the effect it has on people, but I'll be honest here, I wasn't scared by it. Maybe I've just been desensitized, and maybe I just went in with the wrong mindset, but I didn't find it scary. It had frightening images, had some good tension, and dealt with some big issues well, but on the whole it is just not scary to me, well with that it's still a great movie, so on to the beginning.

Interestingly the first maybe 15 minutes are not set in the main local, but feature an archeological dig in Iraq. This kind of fake out is interesting, but it doesn't add that much to the story or even the characters. The protagonist for this little bit does come into play later, but on the whole I feel it just didn't suit the film. Maybe if it was compressed more, but as it stands I felt it was too long, and didn't really build up any tension, because at that point nothing was going on, I guess there was some fear of the unknown at that point, but with no immediate threat and for that length of time, it simply felt unneeded.

Hell, for the first 45 minutes or so there is nothing strictly supernatural, just a girl acting strange. It is also the tale of a single mother and her child which has some potential, but they actually have quite a loving, happy relationship and even though the mother is out for a lot of the day the child doesn't seem neglected. Then some things go funny, little things like different behavior and the bed moving around, but it indicates something is not quite right, so she goes to some specialists, doctors, and they try to explain what is happening. Unfortunately they also run some tests on her, and when the mother winces when they say they have to run tests the audience winces as well, because the imagery is just so unpleasant, especially because it's happening to a little girl.
Actually one of the more pleasant parts shown
The whole film is full of this unpleasant imagery, but in a different way than something like A Clockwork Orange, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Because it takes the time at the beginning to establish the character's regular lives the events that happen to them matter so much more. That is what makes it more horrible, because we understand the girl is just a regular kid, the things that happen to her are beyond terrible, and at the end when she screams for her mom, over and over, we feel for her because of all that she's been through and all the pain that her mom has been through. I not only feel sorry for the kid but also the actor, who had to perform some of these terrible things. The demon masturbates with a crucifix until blood comes out. It is not a pleasant film.

But onto other elements of the film there is the priest character, a member of the faith who is losing his own. He is actually quite unwilling to perform an exorcism at first, because he believes they are an outdated practice from the "16th century" which is mostly true. He's a psychiatrist priest and tries to find rational explanations for many things, having lost his faith because of his mom's sickness, and been driven very low after she dies. Really by the end of the film he has little left, then he dies. At least he dies a hero of sorts, and that is quite probably enough for him, because he saved a girls life, someone with a future ahead of her, unlike him who regretted his decision not to become a wealthy doctor all his life, and was even chastised about it by his mother and uncle. I suppose there's some irony in it, he can't pay for his mother's treatment because he chose the godly path. Or maybe it just sucks a lot, either way.

So with these tragic characters who wins in this film? Well the mother and daughter make it out okay, though no one else does, and while they don't really come out of the situation better, with the mother emotionally scarred and in all likelihood the daughter suppressing her emotions immensely so she doesn't just crack, at least they're alive. It's a happier ending than Chinatown. So I'll spoil the ending, the two priests who go to exorcise the girl both die, with one killed by the girl and the other absorbing the demon before throwing himself out the window to commit suicide. And everyone lived happily ever after. Until the sequels. But fuck them.
Fuck 'em.
One interesting thing about the film is all the rumors and incidents abounding around it. First there were a few issues on set, with some of the wires actually injuring both the daughter and the mother, the mother with some major spinal damage which has plagued her for her whole life, and the daughter just a minor injury. Actually the mother's screams of pain when thrown against the wall? Real. Kind of a scary thought. A number of people related to the film also died soon after or during the filming of it, so there's that, but honestly on any big production stuff like that is bound to happen, though a number I heard, 9, is certainly more than the average. There's also the fact that they brought in priests to bless the set periodically, and even asked for an exorcism on the set because of some of the crew's fears, but were not granted one.

Overall I guess it is a well put together film that strings along the horror really well, especially some of the earlier twinges of it. The much smaller incidents were actually more effective, I felt, than the climax because the hints still allowed that unknown factor which drives so much of the base fear. It was just a flash here and there of a scary face or whatever that foreshadowed what was to come. They weren't jump scares either, not like those screamer email things, more just subliminal messaging type stuff, blink and you miss it. These instances really early on, as well as some stuff right around the hour mark, including brief flashes of the demon before revolving back to Linda Blair work really well, and are actually some of the more horrific parts of the film, as opposed to the vomiting bile and floating in mid air.

The film is worth a watch, but don't expect to be terrified, or even that scared, just maybe a bit uncomfortable with some of the scenes, which I guess is what they were going for somewhat. Enjoy it for what it is, and enjoy the effects, they were really well done. Also don't make the same mistake I did and watch the extended edition, it came out around 2000 and adds an extra couple minutes onto the ending which really lessen the impact. I wondered why the end felt so bloated, and that was the reason, director's cuts are not always better guys, editors are there for a reason. Also when I said there was nothing in the film that scared me I lied. The face of of evil below is genuinely scary.
This but fucking everywhere

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Forget it , Jake. It's Chinatown.

Don't expect a happy ending
From films like A Clockwork Orange and Brazil we have a film so grounded in reality it shows detectives doing what they actually do, trying to sort out messy divorce cases. It bills itself as a neo-noir film, and I suppose that assertion is right, but again it is such a real film that noir seems the wrong term, because nothing in it is quite so outrageous as the typical situations involved in the genre.  So one of the classics of an era filled with great movies, from the Godfather duology ( When you have such great films as those you ignore any others) to the great bond films of the era, featuring Connery at his best. What makes this unique though, what makes it stand out from the rest?

Well first of all it has Jack Nicholson, a very young Jack Nicholson but still the same damn good actor. Then the supporting cast is great as well, but what really stands out is the script, which according to some sources is "the best ever written." That's fucking high praise. Another thing that the film has going for it is that it knows the genre, the screenwriter, director, and actors all know what kind of movie they're making and seek to subvert it whenever possible, leading to disastrous consequences.  The final thing the film has going for is the ending, but I'll get to that later.

For now we'll look at the opening credits, which are fairly generic in terms of presentation, just overlaid on a bland background, disappointing but what can you do. The film begins with our protagonist, Nicholson, doing what he does best, proving a wife is cheating on a husband, and he is then tasked by another woman to investigate a cheating husband. A surprisingly accurate portrayal of what detectives do. He does this in his signature style, and sure enough before the film is over all hell has broken loose and a conspiracy on a fairly grand scale has been revealed. One of my favorite moments in the early film is when the chief water inspector is revealed to have drowned during a drought.

Appropriate for much foolishness
The irony of it had me laughing at least, and that kept me from too much sadness over the rest of the plot, because the irony of it is just so grand. Now the plot gets quite convoluted after this brief introduction, and there are many twists and turns, and eventually Nicholson decides that calling the police to a woman's house is the best idea, even though he knows it'll probably get him arrested, and it does. On the scale of irony the film rates pretty high, with the detective actually being an incredibly emotional and sociable guy, not the cold as ice badass typically shown in these kinds of films. I'll admit I prefer the Dude as the protagonist for a neo-noir, but Nicholson does it very well, especially in the more serious context.

And the film is very serious, deadly serious as it may be, and makes not real attempts at humor, at least not more than the extremely black kind. So the protagonist is a guy who just can't seem to get a break, but is at least trying to do the right thing, and even doesn't seem to care that much about the money, so we have a good guy at least. The cops seem to be incompetent at best, and actively detrimental at worst, leading directly to the end, and the end result due to their choices, which while somewhat sensible just leave the viewer wondering why. The villain is darkly evil, not of the Snidely Whiplash kind but more of the Ozymandias variety, he wants to leave the world a better place but his methods are worse than some mass murderers.

Now the ending, the most emotional part of most films, and this film is no exception, with nothing after the climax really, just cut to credits. No reassurance, no what happened next, just fade on one of the darker downer endings in cinema at the time. The protagonist accomplishes nothing, the woman he was trying to save dies, the fate of her daughter/sister is unknown, but probably bad, and the villain gets away scot free, and even profited somewhat from the whole encounter. Well Jesus can we get something positive in there? I guess Nicholson got payed a bit, and, um he got laid as well, I guess that's good. Honestly with the ending, there's nothing good, nothing positive, it's just an end, and like all ends if you let them go on for too long, it ends in death.
Here's some puppies
So the ending is depressing, it's a downer, and at that point there's no real recovering, after the ending in all likelihood Jack probably shot himself, but damn it that's why it ends, regardless of now non-ending like the finish is. What's weird about the entire film is it seems like it is a sequel to a previous film with the same name, because it seems like every character refers to Jack's previous experience in Chinatown, and what happened in Chinatown, and how badly it ended in Chinatown. So it honestly seems like this film is discussing events that already happened in a prequel, but the prequel doesn't, and will never, exist. It's a weird feeling for a film like this, but stunningly appropriate to the message.

Life goes on, that's the way it always is and always has been, things happened before but right now, this is what's happening, deal with the present not the past. A fine message I suppose. The way its presented lends to some questioning about how positive it's supposed to be, because honestly with the film's ending you wonder just what it is all supposed to mean, on a cosmic scale. Some of this is due to the director's miserable life, having his pregnant wife killed and he was a Holocaus survivor, that's a hell of a life. Literal Hell there, depending on your view of the underworld.

One final note is that the music is surprisingly sparse, punctuating a few moments with a few chords, or maybe the beginning of a song, but no full pieces, and no vocal songs either. I suppose that's just normal for the genre, but for me at least it's an interesting change of pace. See the film, but expect nothing good in the end, because that's the way it is. Nothing good ever really comes in the final end, but that's okay. Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Not in right mind nor in Right Spirits

For now I will simply post this, anyone reading, however few, should not support neither the SOPA act, which did not pass in the senate, nor the Protect IP act which has not yet passed in the house of representatives. Both acts seek to endanger the internet, and theoretically even posting copyrighted images from movies, which includes every image from movies, could get a site banned. Now I fairly consistently use images from films and such that may or may not have been illegally downloaded, though some are legally obtained, and believe that the act infringes upon the first amendment to the constitution, in the bill of rights, something that guarantees, and I must repeat guarantees, certain freedoms to the peoples of America. These acts seek to get rid of those, and to impose essential a partial authority to the internet, and this authority would comprise of all the companies of the world, including companies that I trust like Nintendo some sort of egalitarian regime allowing any company to take down any site they feel disrespects their beliefs.

This viewpoint is against not only what the internet stands for, but also what America stands fro, and I personally believe that if this does pass at either version of what accounts for the American government system it should be vetoed by either the president, who in all likelihood knows of these matters, or the Supreme Court who has the power to completely dismantle the bill by declaring it unconstitutional. This would silence the bill effectively forever, however more bills like it may surface, and lead to further debates on what the freedom of the internet has done to copyright laws as well as any number of other things.

Now I would argue this is the point of the internet, especially sites like /b/ which basically encourage this kind of behavior, the kind that creates its own law, and establishes it firmly, with one of the only rules being no child pornography and damn it they stick to it, they agree to something and let the laws and sanctions and all that just wash over the random board, the board that can do anything they damn well please because fuck it it's the internet, and grammar and sense and all else be damned let the people roam free as they once did in the land, but in a much more digital, non real environment.

Now it's true that the digital environment has become just as real, and in some frightening cases more real than the so called 'real' world bu that is not of consequence. No one suffers because someone on /b/ posted some disturbing pornography, a few have to reach for the brain bleach but so what, it's just what you expect with a site like that. That is the beauty and terror of the internet, the inherent freedom in it. The freedom terrifies the governments who think it may rule the world but it already does so what does it matter what it does in the future. The internet goes down the world goes down that is the way it is and the older generation needs to except it.

By excepting it they will get rid of these constant attempts to regulate what can not and should not be regulated, the internet. It can be a terrifying thing to some of us, and often is but the simple fact is that it is what it always will be, the internet. A place of freedom and expression and downloading things that no single person, company, or organization has to keep for themselves, interesting, entertaining, intellectual property. The ideas and presentation belong to no one, and the large record and DVD companies have to realize this. People simply no longer pay for the content, they expect it for free with piracy on a huge rise, I don't want to say especially in New Zealand because occurs everywhere. Some people are simply used to getting things for free, and that's the way it is. Embrace it, don't attempt to destroy it because those attempts hurt the industry more than it has already been.

On a final note because fuck it I'm tired please don't support any act censoring the internet. It won't end well, the regulation simply leads to more workarounds like prohibition, and the simple fact is that the internet is the last truly free place, a place for expression of whatever the fuck you want it to be. Whether drugs, sex, and illegal pornography or whatever the internet doesn't care, it does its business and excepts it, and everyone else should to, they don't have to like it but acceptances is the first step to admission. Now the screens moving so time to sleep, but damn it accept the internet as it is, and believe in everyone and the goodness within the internet, no matter how deep it may be buried.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What does a clockwork orange really look like?

A Clockwork Orange is one of those unique films that is often very polarizing, though more in that a select group of people hate it instead of the traditional 50-50 split. I can see the reasons for hating it, some simply don't like Kubrick's style of film-making, which is certainly unique to him and different than any other director really, some believe the ultra-violence is simply too gratuitous, and it caused quite a stir when first released, and others believe it simply attempts beyond its scope, deals with issues in passing which need entire films dedicated to them. While I agree on most points I believe that A Clockwork Orange is one of the defining films of the 70's, and the best damn interpretation that Burgess could hope to get.

Onto the film. It begins incredibly aggressively, with an intensely red film proclaiming the title and the director and shouting at the audience that this is not a passive film, not a subtle film, and not a pleasant film, a real good opener strengthened by the lack of opening credits, just a straight open onto the Kubrick stare of the protagonist who I'm sure most people have seen, as it is one of the most parodied scenes from the film, possibly because it is the least lude. The end is the same thing, with shocking almost blood red immediately after the end line. This establishes the tone and sets the pace and is really beautiful in its simplicity.

Moving on we see the droogs, one of the many made up terms used throughout the film, up to a good bit of ultra-violence, as they beat and nearly kill a drunk homeless man, following up this wondrous event they have a good old scrap with another gang, leaving their opponents nearly dead from blood loss. This is of course followed up by the good old rape and cripple, as they enter a house dressed in strange masks and Alex, our 'protagonist' for lack of a better word hums to singing in the rain during his rape. Now the only reason he did hum this, was because it was the only thing that actor knew, though it does lend some irony and additional grimness to the scene.

Quite a Contrast
This doesn't go unnoticed by everyone however, and Alex's activities eventually lead to him betrayed by his droogs as well as his parents somewhat, and the system as a whole. There are a number of reasons for this but I believe the scene that truly exemplifies it the best is when Alex goes home and opens a drawer fill of wallets and jewelry and money, and throws in the days takings. He doesn't do it because he needs the money, or because he wants it, he does it because he enjoys it to a sexual level, as demonstrated by the last scene, but we'll come to that when we get to it.

Now how he is betrayed by the system is interesting, because of the way it is presented. Society wants him to be good, that is what the social worker and his parents and the prison system all seek, but there are some, like the lead guard in the film who believe otherwise, and the message of the film  relates to this. Alex's reform is the crux of the second act of the film, and the event that drives the third act. Alex is reformed through the use of subliminal messaging to tell him that violence and sex are bad, repeated through incredibly aggressive imagery to Beethoven's 9th, a beautiful piece of music.

The film delights in the irony of it and the fact that by depriving this villain Alex of all violence they have made him as innocent and defenseless as a lamb unknowingly drifting off to the slaughter. Everything that he had done to the people before is revisited upon him, and eventually it becomes too much. He is tortured by his previous lover, the music of Beethoven, quite possibly the only thing he ever loved as well given his attraction to sex but not to a relationship.

The infamous device
The film ends on a significantly darker note than the original novel, one that could be argued is for stylistic reasons, as well as due to the fact that the copy of the novel that Kubrick read was actually missing the final chapter. Many copies of the novel actually left out the final chapter, as it ended with Alex realizing violence just wasn't as fun as it used to be, and going off to start a family, so a fairly positive note. The film ends with Alex realizing that he has found his love again, and that it actually gives him sexual pleasure to hear the 9th. And on that menacing note, he claims "I was cured all right" and the audience realizes that nothing has really changed.

The theme of powerlessness is always an interesting one in fiction, and dealt with fairly thoroughly in this, though it deals more with power than the lack of it. His droogs become policemen and thus have corrupting power and the ability to control him in his weakened state. His control over them previously was through the threat of violence and actually carrying it out when he believed they needed to be kept in line. Given that is dystopian fiction the overall rulers are also important and corrupt, caring more about winning the next election than anything else, which drives the events with Alex. They believe that an untested treatment may give them an advantage on crime, so immediately use it, and when it fails use it again for the PR boost. It's no different than what most politicians do nowadays however, so carries that perpetual message.

What makes it so effective is the ugliness of the film. Much in the same way as Chainsaw Massacre, the film is not pretty, all nudity is uncomfortable and ugly, and even the theoretically perfect society deals with criminals in a grotesque way, altering their minds to try to prevent crime, maybe even thought-crime going to everyone's favorite dystopian novel. I will say now that it is an effective film in what it seeks to do, to unnerve and to show a terrifying direction the future may go in, just like all dystopian fiction. Give it a watch, but be prepared for the ugliness inherent in the story, and a view on the darker side of humanity.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin is quite a grand adventure film with emphasis on the grand. While not quite as hyperbolic as a film like the Blues Brothers, nor nearly so comedic it still has a sense of enormity and exaggeration demonstrated best by the climactic scene where two of the characters duel with cranes, that is duel with giant construction cranes meant from moving literal tons of shipping containers. It does work well for the aesthetic though, which sits at a comfortable spot between cartoons and real life, which the immense nature serves to compliment.

I should qualify this by saying that I'm not too familiar with the comic, so any information regarding it may be hearsay. The film begins with a stunning animated credits sequence, something which is often overlooked especially in recent films. I wish we could have more films like this and Psycho which place importance on the opening credits, and try to set a tone and style before the actual film has even started. The sequence features a number of panels from the comics, as well as a few shout-outs to other films, and on a whole the team behind it deserve some applause.

Then we have a nice introductory scene showcasing the fairly impressive computer graphics, with the slightly weird juxtaposition of cartoony faces on realistic bodies. The art style really is photo-realistic at times, but at others strives away from realism, almost confused about what exactly it wants to be. The one thing that is fairly consistently done well however is the eyes, finally going beyond the uncanny valley, something that rarely anyone but Pixar has done well. It also shows an important side character, a pickpocket, and demonstrates Snowy the dog's intelligence.

The plot itself is fairly standard adventure fair, and would not be totally out of place in an Indiana Jones film, if the artifact they were pursuing was religious. I realize that the plot is from the 30's, but because of Speilberg's influence there are some scenes very obviously inspired by Indy, from the cinematography to the action itself. However it is played very well, every scene has a purpose in terms of characterization or plot, and the film is packed with scenes. At times it does feel the plot is simply to bring the characters from one set-piece to another, but it works well, so who's to complain.

So the plot is not that great, and too be fair neither are the characters. Tintin is just not that exciting, he's a journalist and has a desire for adventure, and that's pretty much it. Captain Haddock is a drunk captain with the same desire, they team up to fight crime, but neither of them is Harrison Ford, so it just isn't quite as good. Oh another thing this film is missing that was in Raiders, the film most similar to it, is a decent lead female. There are little to no females in the film, like an opera singer is the only named female, and she has one scene. I understand that is always the way Tintin has been, and likely with Hollywoodization he'll have a love interest before the end of the trilogy but still, a little diversity might have been nice.

So what made the movie worthwhile? The production values mostly. The visuals were amazing as mentioned above, even with the slightly odd style it still stands out as one of the premier 3-D movies in terms of looks, bested only by Pixar at its best. Though the 3-D itself is not really noticeable, and like all flicks distracts just that little bit. The other notable element of the production is the sound, which is really top notch. I rarely notice them, but the sound effects in the film were some of the best, they were what made the film work so well, and added enormously to both the aesthetic and the tone of the film. The music as well was quite good, so just general sound design was amazing.

On a whole a fairly decent adventure flick, with some incredibly bloodless violence in a film that is jam-packed with adventure, perhaps a little too much for some, but definitely worth a watch if you can.