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Thursday, August 05, 2004

Donnie Darko/2001/U.S.A./113min. 

Death from an alternate timeline crashes into us all…distant thunder…where do you go at night?…‘wake up’ to a man-sized rabbit…28 days…16 hours…42 minutes…12 seconds…that is when the world will end…Donnie Darko is advised by Frank, in an echoed hush…his sister gets home after a date…jet engine from a Tangent Universe lands in his bedroom…waking up on a golf course, Donnie becomes the Living Receiver…he smiles…they don’t know where it came from or what happened to the plane?…destruction as a form of creation…new girl sits next to Donnie…dream of a school with water floors and sky ceiling…‘wake up, Donnie’ to see Manipulated Dead Frank the bunny-man…there is a solid water barrier between him and Frank…’I can do anything I want, and so can you’…he smiles…flooding his school, sleep golfing, burning down a house…he begins the most beautiful tenuous relationship…his sleepwalking, his hallucinations, his arson in his past, pills and therapy for his general "detachment from reality", with something frightening and unknown in his future…‘the Philosophy of Time Travel’…a book written by Grandma Death aka Roberta Sparrow continuously checking her mailbox…using the Fourth Dimensional Construct of water, Manipulated Dead Frank manipulates the Living Receiver Donnie…up the stairs to his parents’ closet…he opens a box and finds a handgun wrapped in cloth…what if you could go back in time and take all those hours of pain and darkness, and replace them with something better…right now there’s some fat guy over there staring at us…hacking at the wall of water between them…light beams from Frank’s eye…under the mask is a guy with long hair and a bleeding eye… the sky’s gonna open up…the party suddenly, in a work of timeline manipulating, can happen…we should totally throw a party…‘anybody seen Frank?’…there’s a car coming…Deus ex Machina…you killed her Frank…the sky is getting dark…Donnie guides the artifact back to the Primary Universe…see the whole film in reverse…back to Donnie laughing in his room when the engine hits…now enlightened he anticipates the ‘something better’…Frank feeling his eye… Gretchen and his mom wave with uncertainty…remembering the future that won’t happen…first film from director Richard Kelly…full of great references and appropriate music (ie. Echo and the Bunnymen)…similar, though not as scary as the rabbit in Sexy Beast…Drew Barrymore, as producer, was apparently a major factor in getting this film made

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Nomads/1986/U.S.A./91min. 

faceless shot of a hooded ‘Eskimo’ person - dark van overlooking L.A. – trying to catch some sleep on her break, Dr. Eileen Flax wakes up to the sound of a phone ringing - calling Dr. Benway - cops picked up a guy on the beach- handcuffed to the bed - the last few screaming words - sudden violent whisper transfers memories via her ear - he ends up dying of past calamity - last thing a man says is supposed to be significant - “N'y sont pas; sont des Innuat” - dreams of some graffiti - a woman - French anthropologist Jean-Claude Pommier - his wife, Veronique - on duty Eileen collapses and has a series of visions - black van roars by - bottle falls in slow motion, consciousness smashing away - ‘sex death pigs kill’ painted on his garage door - punks hanging around a black van - a roll of bloodied carpet with newspaper articles - realizes he has to check them out - gas stations, diners - Eileen at the beach - messed hair and a distant look - literally seeing through his eyes - hostile spirits capable of hanging out at some picnic tables - Southern California, where rootlessness is in – rhythmic African drums - they bash a guy’s head in and toss him in a dumpster - Pommier returns to the garbage bin finding no sign of a body - following his instincts, hearing tribal drums mixed with guitar noise, he finds the gang in front of an abandoned looking building – taking their picture, Mary Woronov’s character does a lewd dance on top of a car for his camera - explaining to his angry wife, “I wanted to know what kind of people could think of a murder as some sort of shrine - people who do not live anyplace, do not work anyplace, I called the government and their vehicle isn’t registered - don’t you understand? They’re Nomads – yes - yes, Nomads -like all of them - like everyplace we’ve lived for the last 10 years – yes - here, now - in this city - in the middle of a modern city - they go from one party to the next, one restaurant, one gas station - these people live in parking lots - in thirty hours they did not stop moving - don’t you understand? - outside any structure - they do not participate - no exchanges - no constraints - they resort to violence at no provocation - and they get away with it” - “des Innuat” - some sort of nomad myth - wandering in the desert, whether of ice or sand - hostile spirits capable of assuming human form - thought to inhabit places of past calamity - they brought disaster and madness to any humans who fell in with them – photos develop without subjects – running from the black van, he enters the abandoned building the gang was in front of - a nun with a flashlight - dusty old rooms - she knows his name - some tea? – she warns him, but we know its too late - a hanging nun - flashing her breasts in the shadows - faces without flesh - he jolts into consciousness smashing his face into the windshield - murders Adam Ant’s character with a tire iron – but in the morning the body has disappeared – Eileen shows up at Pommier’s house – Veronique wonders how she knows so much about Jean - nomads surround the house - cut the phone line - break through the door - the roof - the windows - they climb into the attic and Eileen experiences the severe beating Pommier took from the nomads - screaming suddenly stops and the nomads leave - after dark Eileen and Veronique find the house trashed - graffiti on every wall – get in their car and drive away – followed by a nomad on a motorcycle who turns back at the California state line - Pommier is played horribly by Pierce Brosnan with a fake French accent – early attempt at an experimental movie by John McTiernan, director of ‘Die Hard’, ‘Predator’, and the terrible remake of ‘Rollerball.’

Monday, January 26, 2004

Last Exit to Brooklyn/1989/U.S.A./102min. 

Directed by Uli Edel, previously known for Christiane F., this film is an adaptation of Hubert Selby’s novel - not giving you an answer, but here is the darkness - It’s set in Brooklyn, 1952 - brutal beating of a soldier by local yankee thugs - neighborhood torn by a bitter strike - Harry, union guy with an expense account, and Georgette, effeminate man in women’s clothes, meet in the alley - the homosexual desire provoked - Harry also has a little baby at home and a wife he does not love or understand - line between making love and a beating is thin - major sexual frustration - Joe, union guy with a family, pisses out his apartment window - his daughter Donna is pregnant - is it Tommy on the bike? - Joe’s boy has dreams of buying a motorbike and winning prostitute/hustler Tralala for himself - Tralala has a routine where she drags the occasional soldier out into vacant industrial garbage dump harbour and her gang knocks him out - they split up the cash - Harry likes Georgette who likes Vinny, the leader of Tralala’s thug buddies - Harry watches Vinny and his boys take turns whipping a knife at Georgette and eventually get a knife in the leg - once at home, bleeding badly, Georgette’s brother removes his pants and finds him in women’s panties - his brother tears up his drawer of lady-clothes and freaks on Georgette, the homosexual desire cradled in mom’s arms - Joe and his wife are fighting when Donna’s water breaks - Tralala takes out another sailor for a hustle, but her guys don’t jump him this time – instead they watch and laugh while the sailor forces her into a blowjob - picks up another soldier that offers to take her out to Manhattan – flippin’ off the thugs on the way out – determined to have a good time, the guys go to a drag party - Harry buys booze on the expense account - he lets one guy drop a pill into his drink - smokes a joint - put it in your mouth and suck - Tralala drinks her soldier under the table at the Manhattan bar and meets a 2nd Lieutenant – takes her back to his hotel and offers to hang out for the next few days and buy her a dress - drag party escalates from violence to sex - escape routes are cut off for these frustrated characters – rock and roll hasn’t even hit yet - Georgette does some heroin and misses his chance, while Vinny fucks some other guy in drag - the occasional release of oblivion – wakes up to find the party over, runs out into the street and gets hit high in the air by a car - Selby makes his appearance as the driver of the car - union strike has been on for 6 months - members want to get back to work, but their orders are to keep blocking the gate by picketing - scab routes are cut off but trucks rush the gates early in the morning after the party - Harry slept at the guy’s house and wasn’t at the office when he should have been - his back to his work - relieved of duty and his expense account – after her 2nd Lieutenant’s departure, Tralala brags to the guys about her officer - angry, striking workers, scab truckers, depressing tear-gas-toting urban mockery of real policemen and the usual collection of sleazy company officials pick up anything - rocks, bricks, sticks - clear them out with high pressure water hoses and tear gas to make way for the trucks – depressed and confused, Harry gets a brutal beating for trying to suck off Joe’s boy in an abandoned lot – left hanging arms outstretched on a wooden cross – Tralala, shocked by a romantic letter from her 2nd Lieutenant she cannot comprehend, sinks into a rampage of self destruction - her own body a thing apart, fucks a mob of men – Joe’s boy finally gets his motorbike running – finds Tralala limp on a dirty mattress thrown down on the harbour refuse – she finally realizes what the letter meant and cradles the crying boy in her arms

Friday, January 09, 2004

Seconds/1966/U.S.A./107min. 

A middle aged business man, contacted by a secret corporation gets a second chance at life. Softly discomforting, distorted photography, sweaty paranoid repression. When desires become manifest, dissatisfaction in business, identity swinging, only for the rich. After a successful operation and psychoadjustment, dimly shrieking through transplanted vocal chords, emerges a groovy artist. Freedom is a dodgy life. Dissatisfied with the California coast, grape orgy, cocktail party, 'greener on the other side of the fence' mortality/morality; purposeless swinging artist life is not always greener. So he goes back for thirds... waiting for another chance, haunted by his past...but you can't let the mistakes jeopardize the dream.

Friday, November 07, 2003

The Burmese Harp(a.k.a. Biruma no Tategoto)/1956/Japan/116min. 

Putting history and politics aside, I found this film confronted some very human emotions involving war. No matter if this were a Japanese company of soldiers, or a British company, most war movies don’t touch on ideas like you’ll find here. The film follows a company of Japanese soldiers, with little or no supplies, attempting to reach the border of Thailand. The men enjoy singing wherever they go, and are quite proud of their abilities. It makes them think of their loved ones back home and gives them a sense of unity and hope…even as war pulls region, country, and people apart, music psychologically develops as a bringing together as one…One of the men, Mizushima, plays the harp with natural talent, having never studied music before joining the army…story centers on his spiritual captivity…The Japanese see British troops hiding in the forest, so they start to sing, tricking the British into thinking they are oblivious to their presence. When the British then start singing back, and both sides are singing together…the beauty of their singing provides the haunting solemn melody of an urgent personal indefinite journey…The British notify the Japanese men that the war ended three days earlier, when Japan surrendered. They are placed in a P.O.W. camp until it is possible to send them all home. The Japanese commander attempts to fill his men’s hearts with hope and pride, telling them that together they will rebuild Japan. Once told that nearby, a company of Japanese troops is in an ongoing skirmish with the British, unreachable and unaware of the war’s end, Mizushima demands permission to go and try to explain that Japan has surrendered, promising his company that he’ll catch up in Mudon…given permission to go about putting your life on the line… brief pause, they realize the chaotic, harsh fighting…This turns out to be a difficult job, as the commanding officer is into the whole “I’m not giving up until I die,” philosophy. Getting nowhere, Mizushima questions their logic, trying to persuade them their lives are worth saving…he sees no reason for the death of surrender and to a passive and spiritual lifestyle…The British only agreed to a 30 minute cease fire, and when that time is up, all the Japanese men are killed. Only Mizushima crawls out alive and is found by a Buddhist monk…arriving at a calling that leads him for isolation and the peasant village, further away from his suffering of the soul…While he is cared for by the monk, his company is miserable and anxious for his return. Once healed, his intention is to walk to Mudon and surprise all the men, so he sets out in Buddhist costume across Burma…witnessing the tragic unburied bodies in heaps and piles of rotting dead Japanese soldiers…and he feels it important to give them a proper burial…war movies don’t touch on ideas like live a simple life, honoring the dead… At first dealing with war and all those barbed-wire fences, he hides his eyes from its senseless tragedy…the functional purpose…putting your life on the line…becomes aware of the point in doing anything…notion of war as a waste of life…He is accepted by the Buddhist church and decides to stay and live a simple life, honoring the dead through prayer and burial…transcendence beyond spiritual crisis…His men try to persuade him using a talking parrot switcheroo, teaching a parrot to say “come home to Japan, Mizushima” and giving it to him. He, in reply, sends back his parrot, which he taught to say “no, I am staying here.” It is an anti-war film, a spiritual path through purposelessness framed behind a certain pacifist sentimentality.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Miami Blues/1990/U.S.A./97min. 

Before GTA: Vice City was ever around, this movie filled that gap in my life where I need to see someone destroying and stealing everything in sight...starts off on the wrong Krishna's foot...gun, badge with independent thought...stealing genre, and identities, staging impromptu heists and stealing like in Miami holdups...my problem is that I care about dying...Alec Baldwin is great as Fred Frenger...stab, shoot, a new identity.
Just out of prison, he goes on a crime spree in Miami, stealing luggage, killing a Hari Krishna...the airport crime wave giddily blithe.
He exploits all the dreams of a young hooker/student, having her cook and clean, feeding her bullshit left and right, effectively getting a free lay every day...cheap happy legitimate life wanting to commit to him...live out life as a cop AND a kid...she's so slow to matter anyway.
When he beats the crap out of the dim-witted cop who is on to him, he takes the badge, gun, and even the guy's false teeth...pretending to be a cop...fresh out of teeth...bust legitimate life...he exploits all the dreams about dying.
His mind is seemingly incapable of fathoming why a person would want to commit to a job or a legitimate life.
Of course, there is the cheesy happy ending...incapable of even I don't know what Miami crazy klepto cruelty, his teeth-life...he doesn't care about dying...and you have to look past all the really bad Miami Vice-like moments...but it's violently indulgent, almost pornographic...there is even some comedy amongst it all.
Best line: 'My problem is that I can have everything and anything that I want, but I don't know what I want.'...existence accidentally kills my life where I spree like an overgrown identity...

Monday, November 03, 2003

Fear, Anxiety and Depression/1989/U.S.A/85min. 

Todd Solondz’ first big movie...some scenes I’m laughing when I know I shouldn’t be...some scenes are so much like Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” it is unmistakable...Solondz himself plays the main character, Ira...a fearful, nervous playwright...whiny young dramatist writes a hopeful letter to Samuel Beckett...afraid of being considered a bad writer...his friends are afraid of being honest with him...“Life, Death, Eternity,” are the only words in his play...he considers Jack, a crappy NY artist, his best friend...“solid piece of work,” he tells Ira...people falling into input clinging...Jack uses words to take the easy way out, pretending his life isn’t what it really is...thinking he is the next Matisse...on good advice from Sheila, an art critic...on a visit to see Jack’s new work, Sheila tells him, “I hate to have to be honest with you, but your art is so cliché.”...he sleeps with her hoping she’ll help him to get in the upcoming Whitney Biennial...cheat on your girlfriend to get a chance to impress your girlfriend?...Ira meets Sharon, style and clothes from the 50’s and 60’s...a needy, ex-pill popper who becomes his girlfriend...wild-haired, whiny chubby mass of absence...feeling sorry for her, but annoyed by her constant clinging, Ira dumps her...the easy way out...while she is losing her apartment, her job, her mom...chases after Junk, a freaked out performance artist...Sharon starts popping pills again in her “I LOVE NY” t-shirt chugging back Jack Daniel’s...Ira finds her and drives her to the hospital...“Life, Death, climb high enough realizing she’s not really Eternity,”...having swallowed the actual bottle her pills were in...obvious cry for attention shocks Ira into writing a love letter for her...but he goes back to chasing Junk...the bullshit artist speaks this woman’s language better than stuttering Ira...Junk and Jack end up ditching him for a pretentious art discussion...Ira goes after Janice, Jack’s ex-girlfriend...start of a sexual relationship based on Ira reassuring her she’s pretty, only comforting her in Jack’s absence...turns out Janice thinks Jack is incapable of lying so when he comes back she forgets about Ira...Sharon has become a mime and is totally into Donnie, that kind of guy from your high school that always succeeds, who has everything, when you know he’s not a cool guy and he doesn’t deserve it...Ira realizes he let the girl slip through his fingers...it’s a fearful, nervous funny movie...explorations of the boundaries of honesty...more honest and dark than Woody Allen ever achieved on film.

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