21 November 2006

borat, iowa, lol, what is it?, altman

short cuts:

borat. you've seen it, right? there's nothing i can add to the discussion, save that i think the movie has been analyzed a little bit too much in all the hoopla. yes, it is meant to be satirical, and much has been made of sasha baron cohen's devote judism. so he meant to make us squirm and make us uncomfortable, but moreso, we are meant to laugh. that's the key, no matter how much cohen tries to shoehorn a message on us. he is very good at provoking reactions out of his unwitting interviewees, but just because there are americans who (drunk or just stupid) let their guard down and their racist, sexist or jingoistic view be known, it doesn't condemn the entirety of american society. i like the movie, and its fucking funny, but i think cohen's methods are shady and the conclusion he wants us to draw is erroneous in certain ways.

iowa. i saw this as part of the "midwest independent film festival", which was a whole big event of q&a, panel discussion, meet-and-greet, etc. that was all good. then the movie started. in the q&a, the filmmaker, matthew farnsworth, made it clear to the audience that he did LOTS of research and was an authority on this film's subject: the rural meth trade, and, more importantly, meth addiction. and while there are some things that seemed to ring true, most of the movie felt exploitive.
rosanna arquette was completely wasted, and i'm curious as to why she would want to be in the movie at all. her character is the mother of the main character, and she is shown as nothing more than a whore and a money-grubber. the villian was also over-the-top in the worst way, and seemingly without any motivation to be that way. he is unrelentingly misogynistic, a sadist, and a rapist. how? why?
and finally, the movie is supposed to be a quentin tarantino-style tragic love story, lovers on the lam, blah blah blah. but why should we care? we are given no reason to identify with esper or his girlfriend, and so we are left with the rest of the unpleasantness shown: prison rape, sadism, hallucinations, murders, suicide by kitchen knife. this is not a good movie, but good to see what you can do by yourself on a relatively low-budget. inspiring in that way, depressing in most other ways.

lol. joe swanberg is on to something. witness this: he shows us his themes in small, minute actions that accumulate like lawyers' evidence and damn the defendants. watch joe's character, looking at his computer instead of his half-naked girfriend trying on bikinis for him. or when he talks on his cell phone instead of to her at the beach. or when he fucks her, his eyes still on his screen. or, most maddeningly, when he chats with his friend about her and his friend is sitting right next to him. not good enough? check out alex, with a chick who clearly is crushing on him, but he's in a fantasy world of porn. see alex subtly chastise a girl for not checking her email everyday. see him use her to meet up with another girl who he's only met on the internet. see him stay up all night trying to get a computer working to meet with her, when a girl is in her pajamas in the other room. these characters know not what they do, and all are judged in the end in little ways, mostly by being alone. how is this movie so well-written when it was completely improvised?

what is it? crispin glover set out to push buttons. based on his q&a, you can tell he's extraordinarily intelligent, and thus must know that the content of the film would repel people. but he did it to explore both the boundries of cinema, how the audience would react to almost exclusively taboo subjects, and his own psyche. that doesn't make it a compelling film, per se, but i'm glad i saw it. and i'm glad that later that night i could describe it to friends as such: "well, its sort of about a dude with down's syndrome who has a preoccupation with snails and spends a lot of time talking to them, pouring salt on them, and then cutting their heads off. at the same time, there's a very deliberate looking set where crispin glover, in a fur coat, is pitted against a guy with celebral palsy with spends a majority of the movie getting jacked off by a woman in a monkey mask while he lays in a giant clamshell. eventually crispin glover is choked to death by the guy with palsy and he takes the throne, covered in pictures of shirley temple saluting a swastika, while a song called 'some niggers never die, they just smell that way' plays on into the credits." that sounds about right, doesn't it?

finally, the news came in today that robert altman died. he was one of the great ones.

19 November 2006

94. patton

its called "patton" for a reason, and that reason is because this movie focuses solely on one man. its not like "the big red one" or "saving private ryan" or any other film about a collection of troops. this movie is about a particular man who finally found his calling, finally found an occupation -- a calling -- that fit with his penchant for speeches, for costumes, for lecturing, for his sense of dignity and the warrior spirit. this movie is unusual in that its a portrait of a man in his element.

the opening is fantastic. 70mm of an american flag and a profane man telling you and them how he feels. it sets up everything.

and then we move into the movie. it starts on a battlefield of course, then switches to the inner chambers -- the back rooms of war that we don't usually see. and we see patton in public as well as private, but he never acts differently. even stieger and the germans are interested in him (in unfortunately heavy-handed sequences in the nazi war rooms): he writes poetry, he believes in reincarnation, he is rebellious towards his superiors, "he prays on his knees but curses like a stable boy."

but mostly, he seems like a man who lives life as though he's always imagining what it will look like posthumously. he's a man who is constantly surrounded by subordinates, and is conscious of how he acts and comes across. he is deliberate. he believes in pagentry: parades, costumes, appearances, badges and stripes. they satisfy his vanity, which is legendary, but they also serve a different and more practical purpose as well: conformity in uniforms, cleanliness, and schedules breeds order in soldiers. and he is a true soldier, nothing else, so he holds that which makes a good soldier above anything else.

you can see coppola's hand in this script in his correct insistence on patton's affection for ritual. religious ritual, sure, but also the deliberate way he visits troops in the hospital, the way he gives a speech in corsica -- in french! -- from a balcony, the way he takes a private moment in front of the mirror, crowned with a battle helmet, binoculars like amulets, before he goes to battle.
for others these things might be an obligation, but for patton they are part of a role he has studied and rehearsed and is extraordinarily self-conscious about playing in the right way. the tragedy is that his vanity breeds temper and outburst and that's his achilles' heel, marginalizing a man who was, in his mind, born to do this work, and was doing in it obligation in this life and many previous ones.

on a personal note, it was interesting and illuminating to see a 3-hour movie with an intermission that focuses almost exclusively on one flamboyant man and his downfall. that's a loose description of my script "the stick-up kid", news about which i will reveal soon...