Pain and Gain (2013)
No film which can at all remind you from where Ronald Regan-era began to about the termination of the first incarnation of Tiger Woods -- all muscle, arrogance, and domination -- is going to really seem a Depression-era film, where stupid willfulness is going to be showcased simply as a sort of madness the hopeless adopt to believe they've got a chance in the world. In this film you've got Michael Bay as director, a bunch of body-builders as the main protagonists, and as well a very A-team-reminiscent van as home-base, so you basically get what you'd expect out of an 80's/90's film -- if you can amass a signfiicant amount of stupid wilfulness, you'll be treated as a meteor that's got to be allowed to destroy it's loaded-up fuel content of others' carefully procured affairs. If you show enough of yourself while daring to equivocate with them, it's "dispatch" for you -- as appropriately happens to the Miami porn-king, who tends to the gang's leader -- Mark Wahlberg -- the fact that a lot of what he says makes no sense at all. Neither did anything about Reagan or Tiger or Mr. T or Thatcher really make sense, but when society's obliging them big-time, your reality-checks will go unappreciated, thank you very much! Quite frankly, this film was delightful nostalgia -- the lady a few seats behind me laughed numerous huge-heartly laughs, and I chuckled along with her. The 80s, after all, as stupid as they were, were paradise to our current time when the only ones who can prosper are those who aren't will and muscle but just cany -- doing nothing but what the times allow, without even a fiber of muscle daring the alacrity of showcasing itself.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Place Beyond the Pines
One might be tempted to say that after seeing this film what you’ll want to be is a good parent – being there for you child, so he doesn’t go astray – but this isn’t really foremost what this film communicates. Instead, it is really more about automatizing, exerting yourself against the pull of others, and experiencing how your self-assertion forces others to adjust to your insistent sense of purpose.
We encounter Ryan Gosling’s Luke as he is about to take part in a circus act, where he spins about in a circle cage, intertwining his motorbike with two others in angry-bee-but-still-beautiful kaleidoscope patterns. The camera doesn’t enter the cage with him; we stop short outside – but however fantastic an ability he has as a performer we get that this is a skill one can acquire eventually, if bike-riding is your natural bent. In short, there’s no adventure in it for him, however much it does require a moment of “steadying” before going on. There is no real adventure to any part of his life – until he learns he has a child, and the fuzzy outlines of a new and exciting acquisition and self-narrative – being a parent and exploring life with a child; being the parent he ought to have had – tease into view. He becomes the willful child who won’t oblige what others expect of him – he quits his job, despite contract obligations, his boss telling him he can’t quit – and is beginning to intrude himself into the life of the mother of his child regardless of how obviously strongly paired she is with her new lover, who’s not charisma, but a dependable provider and a dependable partner in this landscape of frightful people-indifference, poverty and uncertainty. His end-goal really is impossible regardless, it turns out, but he can’t quite know it at the time, as it still is just maybe something accomplishable if he begins the adventure of acquiring an even more risky skill – bank-robbing – which could also involve his own death if he failed even just once, but which opens up otherwise unavailable wealth--“magic” to acquire what is otherwise beyond him. The rush he gets from actually carrying out successful heists lends him the brass authority to put together a crib he purchased for his child in his rival’s home, however certain this moment of macho-assertion would lead him out of his family’s life. But before he’s firmly out of her life, he does winnow a family together for a short while, earns himself a proprietorial sense of family – which a photo, which, appropriately, lasts and lasts, captures.
We are supposed to believe that when police officer Avery (Bradley Cooper) shoots and kills Luke, he ended the life of someone else’s father. But this truth is undermined because we know Luke was pretty much played out anyhow – there was no future for him; he was someone who lived a lot in his short time, owing to his balls. So really the effect of all Avery’s muddling over the moment plays out more as him pausing on exactly how self-determining he is at this point in his life. He became a police officer, it is made to seem, owing in part as a passive-resistant way of telling his father to fuck the hell off and let him lead his own life. His assessment of his police work, of his fellow officers, seems in good part determined by who they must be to make himself seem part of a different – more pure, simple and less compromised – world than the one his father belongs to. This illusion can’t hold up; and very soon it becomes apparent that this new world he’s lent himself to is just as ready to make use of him for its compromised purposes. There is a moment of self-actualization, of conviction, when he spins his car around and balks his police officer “buddies” to engage with his father once again. In teeth of other’s willful expectations, he does what he wants to do, and the film makes it seem as if everything else is presumable after that: he’ll be someone who upsets others expectations (Just as Luke was on the right path when before his boss he essentially spits in his face and quits, here Avery is on the right path when he forces the attorney general to accept his terms, regardless of how much this pisses him off), but who successfully accomplishes his goals and has others adjust to him. He decision to rat out a corrupt police force is shown to mean depriving sons the company of fathers they need, as they are jailed, longterm, and therefore out of their sons’ lives for the their whole teenage lives, but there’s more a sense here of the thrill of how one person’s decision, of how possibly “your” decisions, can create a wake around you and force others to change their life courses, even drastically, regardless of their curses and vituperate anger, their insistence that you are the one who is going to have to bend, not them.
Luke’s son actually does seem to have a good father. He’s shown to be a regular family presence, and there for his son in times of stress. But the film, rather than show the importance of this, shows it as meaning little but a challenge. How do you tell two reasonably good parents that they aren’t going to get to affect how you choose your life? That his mother lied to him about Luke comes across as an excuse for the boy to use to commit an act of matricide – the letter to “mom” which informs her he knows she lied. And I guess his father actually not being a Darth Vader – he at one point encourages his son to see him as his true father by saying, “Luke, I am your father!” – but rather more like the dependable, non-descript uncle in Star Wars who gets burned to death without anyone much caring, is hardly shown to require any refuting at all – there’s no authority there to balk, just a perpetually standing place-holder. The son steals, does drugs, and nearly kills two people, but all this is shown as the sort of wild acting out that might be required for him to shake off other’s expectations and ready assessments of him, so at the finish he could plausibly be a fully self-automatizing individual, heading off fully free into his own future.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
How many films exist where there are two worlds a protagonist will exist in—the first, ostensibly superior, almost always cleaner, but really corrupt, and the second, more raw – if not also dingier – but really the last remaining refuge of humane community? Lots and lots, of course, and Oblivion is another, and belongs with probably the whole host of those which don’t really convince that the hero doesn’t actually forego the more appealing world. The two worlds in this film are the first one, where he’s essentially living in a Tony Stark pad, with his very pretty Pepper, who, we note – just as we note with Pepper – comes close-enough to being his age-equivalent. Good for the Tom Cruise in this world, for conquering his fear of intimacy of older women for the pleasure in mature company! He has a hankering for old ways of the past, which makes him not so much sentimental as cherishing, but which could look to become obsessive: witness his whole lake-cabin thing. And she has, or refuses to acknowledge, not a wit of it, which can make her seem a bit clinical, anesthetic, but also maturely distancing – they are going to have to leave all this behind – as well as a useful counter to her husband. They work together as a team, and they have the daily pleasure in knowing that what they are doing assists the other enormously. But they also have distance, so that every day when he arrives back they have the pleasure in taking in one another, maybe not so much anew, but with what each of them accrued in their time spent apart. We have here, or what we see and feel of them here, is an adult couple.
The second world is essentially a tenement world. Lots of dingy people, closing huddled together. It’s a world of a “wife,” his actual legally married wife, that is, but which has throughout really the feel of a siren lover who has enraptured him – they talk about how they would grow old and argue with one another, but all we ever see speaks of new romance not of how couples relate past this, try to romance past this (his “false” wife in the first world, did a good job previously showing how this gets done). He gets to be a savior of this world, which makes him a bit epic, mythic – what an adolescent dreams of being before learning what it is to function proprietarily in a world of adults. He gets to kill off Mother for belonging to this world, but in the previous one She didn’t require killing because She had already been managed into the delimited role of a boss – someone who is ultimately just as much just doing her job, as accountable and non god-like, as “you” are. Yes, I’m stretching a bit here, but there is a sense that She, the god, really is just mission control.
The first world wife judges Cruise tainted, and won’t let him into their domicile after seeing him devolve with his floozy. He is. He’s entered the adolescent imagination this SciFi film, of all places, had built a world against – in its first world. She’s a Ripley without the credit.
Essays on the Lord of the Rings Draining the Amazon's Swamp Wendy and Lucy, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings (and free at scribd...