Archive for November, 2007

“August Rush”: The best comedy of the year..what? It’s not a comedy…oh…

November 30, 2007

August Rush

Before I begin, I want to give a warning to parents who intend on taking there children to see August Rush, especially if that child is a daughter. Make sure you explain to them that if you meet a young man, whose perhaps handsome, on a rooftop some starry night and one of the first things he tells you is he talks to the moon, to run the other way. The guy is probably crazy. And certainly don’t have what could be a one night stand on said rooftop for the sake of romanticism. Some moments are probably not worth getting caught up in, and there in lies the flaw of this goofy, senseless movie. It’s goofy…and senseless. If your kid is a boy, tell him to give it a try, tell him to say that he talks to toilet bowls, it would make just as much sense, and might actually work. As far as this movie is concerned.

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“No Country for Old Men”: Anton Chigurh the Wolf

November 30, 2007

No Country for Old Men

More SPOILERS!!!

Since writing my last post, A Critical Response, I’ve made a correction to it, though now I wonder if it was needed. I used the confrontation between Moss and the Mexican who is asking for water as an example of Moss’ denial of the existence of the devil, i.e. Chigurh. Moss actually answers in return, “There ain’t no wolves,” and not, “There ain’t no devil.” The problem is that I don’t speak a lick of Spanish and he says “lobos”.

But a response to my post, that pointed out this error, on Emerson’s Scanners from someone named Dane Walker got me thinking. There is a lot of talk about wolves not having come to the site of the drug deal, or having come to the drug deal. I wonder if there’s something written somewhere about wolves’ relationship with death…ah, the joy of internet…

“The word “wolf” itself has a very negative meaning: The Swedish and Norwegian term for wolf is varg, in Icelandic vargr, which not only means wolf but also is used for a wicked person. The Gothic word vargs (warg in Old High German, warc in Middle High German, verag in Anglo-Saxon) stands for murderer, strangler, outlaw, and evil spirit. The verdict “thou art a warg” declared the culprit an outlaw. Those people were banished forever from human society and were forced to live in the wild. “

The wolf it seems has a very negative standing in mythology from blowing down the three pig’s houses to having demonic origins. The whole write up I ran across about the mythology of wolves can be found here… It would seem that when Moss says “There ain’t no wolves”, he very easily could have in an ominous way and in a way he didn’t realize he was doing, talking about Chigurh, or in a stretch…the devil. Ed Tom and his deputy take note that wolves haven’t come, but perhaps it did, in a stretch, in the form of Chigurh. But maybe it isn’t so much a stretch. Emerson speaks of Chigurh working on a mythological level, something I whole heartedly agree with. So maybe it’s not so much of a stretch.

Jim Emerson has replied to my post on his own site.

No Country for Old Men: A critical response

November 30, 2007

No Country for Old Men a critical response

There are SPOILERS here! 

I find that sometimes to further infiltrate the skin of a movie one must read other’s interpretations to help resolve ones own thoughts, and then to create a dialogue. Jim Emerson at Scanners has recently put forth many posts about the Coen Brother’s latest film No Country for Old Men, and I’ll let him say many of the things I could say, as I agree with most of what he puts forth, which can be read in its entirety here. He states with eloquence some of the ideas that permeate the film and some of the problems he sees in other critics interpretations of the film. He begins with this assesment before moving into the film itself.

“No Country for Old Men” has been called a “perfect” film by those who love it and those who were left cold by it. Joel and Ethan Coen have been praised and condemned for their expert “craftsmanship” and their “technical” skills — as if those skills had nothing to do with filmmaking style, or artistry; as if they existed apart from the movie itself. Oh, but the film is an example of “impeccable technique” — you know, for “formalists.” And the cinematography is “beautiful.” Heck, it’s even “gorgeous.” …

But what do those terms mean if they are plucked out of the movie like pickles from a cheeseburger? How is something “beautiful” apart from what it does in the film? (See uncomprehending original-release reviews of “Barry Lyndon” and “Days of Heaven,” for example, in which the “beautiful” was treated as something discrete from the movie itself.) When somebody claims that a movie overemphasizes the “visual” — whether they’re talking about Stanley Kubrick or Terence Malick or the Coens — it’s a sure sign that they’re not talking about cinema, but approaching film as an elementary school audio-visual aid. When critics (and viewers) refer to the filmmakers’ application of “craft,” “technique,” and “style” (can these things be applied, casually or relentlessly, with a spatula?) without consideration of how these expressions function in the movie, we’re all in trouble. A composition, a cut, a dissolve, a movement — they’re all manifestations of craft (or skill), technique (the systematic use of skill), style (artistic expression).

 Great points before he goes further into the themes of the film.

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No Country for Old Men: The Review

November 29, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Over the years I’ve learned that safety is relative, unfortunately through no experience of my own. Instead I’ve watched some of my closest friends deal with some of the worst incidents that many times occurred in broad day light. Anywhere, any place, any time, anything can happen, and it feels like while this is happening, God or whatever being you believe in, the one being that can perhaps keeps you safe, is always a step behind. But those things that happen, those horrible things, don’t they feel like they’re getting worse. That the evil in the world is becoming braver and using more extreme methods to produce the carnage they want to produce? Where does that leave the people who came from a simpler time?

That is the basic, blanketing idea behind the title of No Country for Old Men, but as far as ideas in the movie goes, you’ll find yourself chasing each line, looking desperately for meaning in every word uttered and image seen. That’s how well crafted the Coen Brother’s newest crime film outing is. Like Fargo they take advantage of there setting, this time Texas, and create a mood with their characters unparralelled by other filmmakers. They’re fluency in film language has been perfected to the point over the years that even in shots that other directors would find a waste of effort, there’s a stark realism, sometimes those things are so realistic they come off as surrealistic. In every shot a story is being told, or an emotion is being conveyed, or an idea is being sought after.

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“Stephen King’s The Mist”

November 29, 2007

The Mist

One of the big things that CGI has never been able to quite get right are tentacles. They always look less flesh like and more like stretchy rubbery tings. The tentacles in Stephen King’s The Mist, lovingly adapted and directed by Frank Darabont from the Steven King novella, still don’t make the grade, but it’s not the monsters we’re wait for to attack in this keen study of human behavior under great amounts of stress – the stress being the end of mankind coming in the form of a mist. So it doesn’t matter that at times we have a quick flash back to a 1950′s monster movie. That isn’t to say that some of the monsters won’t creep the heck out of you, there’s a moment that reminded me of the stomach bursting scene in Alien and Aliens, where a man is hung against a wall, only an alien doesn’t burst out of him. Truly gooey creepy fun that still makes my spine tingle. Darabont finds the balance between human fighting and monster attacks, allowing for the monster attacks to amp up the tension in the general store that these civilians find themselves unlucky enough to be trapped in until things almost explode – at least they have food, right?

A couple years ago Steven Spielberg and David Koepp tried to capture the small regular man story amidst an alien invasion in War of the Worlds. The idea was to see this terrible event through the eyes of a regular man and not from the perspective of the military or the scientists. It was not supposed to be an event movie they proclaimed. Can you hear me guffawing. It didn’t really work all that well. The spectacle was too big, too much, the human story was clunky and Spielberg was falling back on old tricks (the aliens in the basement scene could easily have been raptors – yawn!). The best scene in that film occurred when mobs of people bum rushed Cruise’s minivan with his daughter still inside. It was frightening watching humans react in such a way, willing to hurt whatever is in their way to save themselves. Well, The Mist captures that feeling throughout pretty much the whole film.

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Southland Tales: A Case of Intriguing Befuddlement

November 29, 2007

Southland Tales

Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales is not a great movie. Too much time is spent following characters that have little to do with the emotional center of the film – it almost feels as if Kelly didn’t trust the core of his story and so brought all of the subplots to the forefront (though that isn’t the truth and I’ll get back to that.) We follow all of these tangential storylines that one after the other fade away leaving us with an accomplished final twenty minutes of film, one that has baffled many viewers, but I found to be powerful enough and understandable enough to have stood alone as a movie. Of course, we all know, or maybe not, the story of how Southland Tales came to be.

An unfinished cut premiered at Cannes and was booed by the audience…those French are apparently difficult to please. The studio said they wouldn’t release it unless the film was cut down… and now the studios are listening to the French? The first studio said by an hour, the second studio only twenty minutes. So Kelly recut, keeping the “sellable” stars in the foreground, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and keeping in the background the central theme of the film represented by Sean William Scott and Justin Timberlake. Both now seem less important than all of the other minor characters of the film. It’s truly frustrating to feel like a chunk of the film was missing as I watched. It almost feels like watching the cut the studio put together for television of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

Even though it feels like a mess, it is a well thought out mess with a lot of ideas; an influx of ideas that I feel comes closer to representing our post 9-11 hysteria and uprooted sense of safety and perception in the years following the collapse of the twin towers than any other film has done. How Kelly achieves this is by multiplying the devastating attacks by a thousand. We’re greeted in the first 5 minutes of the film by a nuclear explosion on US soil followed by a blanket of information age updates that follows uniformly with the neurotic news broadcasts that throw so much information at us in boxes and scrolling text and announcements that it’s hard to tell what’s important and what’s not. Familiar words and phrases keep us grounded in reality: “This is the worst attack on US soil,” one news reporter proclaims and talk of a heightened Patriot Act is equated with an image of an elephant mounting another. Ah, so it’s satire that Kelly has in mind. A news broadcast with a porn star Krysta Now played by Sarah Michelle Gellar that deals with everything from politics to teen horniness being okay only cements this idea. And that’s where the biggest problem of the film rests. None of the satire is really that funny. Sure it makes a point but everything is directed, edited and scored with a distant coldness that keeps the comedy at arm’s length. This has nothing to do with the studios, but everything to do with Kelly’s choices as a creator. Relying on easy jabs at the porn industry is not the ultimate joke in a world close to apocalyptic meltdown. But the idea is interesting when you reflect upon how the citizens of the US view a shallow porn star’s ideas as something to be seriously thought about. The idea is interesting, because whether Kelly means to infer it or not, it’s our idea and not one he deals with, because before we know it his ADD induced world has moved on to other territory. He goes as far as casting comedians in roles that require no comedic skills, or gives comedians very few funny situations to deal with. It’s a strange middle ground that tells me Kelly didn’t quite know what he wanted the tone of his film to be, but somewhere strongly in the middle. A faux murder that goes wrong is the funniest moment of this middling film. Back to the story: (more…)


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