Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Conjuring

The Conjuring

I don't know if contemporary filmmakers are aware of it, but if they decide to set their films in the '70s, some of the affordments of that time are going to make them have to work harder to simply get a good scare from us. Who would you expect to have a more tenacious hold on that house, for example? The ghosts from Salem, or us from 2013, who've just been shown a New England home just a notch or two downscaled from being a Jeffersonian estate, that a single-income truck driver with some savings can afford? Seriously, though it's easy to credit that the fatherRoger Perron—would get his family out of that house as fast as he could when trouble really stirs, we'd be more apt to still be wagering our losses—one dead dog, a wife accumulating bruises, some good scares to our kids—against what we might yet have full claim to. The losses will get their nursing—even the heavy traumas, maybe—if out of this we've still got a house—really, a kingdom—multimillionaires might blanche at trying to acquire, while at a time when even those a scale up from truck-drivers probably can't even afford a runt house and are surely just renting, like runt peasants of old.

Normally, I think it's likely that if everyday sort of people are presented to us in film, we're more likely to identify with them, and wish ourselves more akin to whatever more possessed—cooler—characters are also about. Not so true with this film, though, as Ed and Lorraine Warren—the paranormal experts—are about as chastised and wary as we tend to be. They are the type who when they describe their wedding night sex, sound like those who if they added a few extra raisons in with their porridge would feel like they've made a guilty trespass, with pleasure beyond that, something they're now permanently apart from. They are the type who can make their basement into a hold for a Dante's Inferno worth of evil-possessed artifacts, each one a trauma of a whole family (at least) being slaughtered, and have it not feel like they have too much to be concerned about. There's a kind of immunity to further harm, it would seem, if you go about like as if you've already ingested your life's portioned quantity of it before you've even seen much grey hair reflected back at you in the mirror. If life has poisoned you near mortally when you're still at the point where you should still resonate optimism and promise, all the demonic uglies will part around you in thorough disinterest and seek preferable preysomething that will empower you as if a pillar they've got to nonetheless still recognize and be inconvenienced by in their having to go around, and a lesson which also felt right in if-you-ingest-yourself-with-malaria-it's-likely-you're-going-to-be-okay World War Z. The Devil is interested in those who affront by being ripe with life—not, that is, with you.

The Perron family is that, however. With their large brood, pet dog, ambitious home, and pretentions to being entirely self-sufficient and nuclear, they're the post-war American dream. And so they're exactly the sort the Devil would chase down even if they didn't set up shop in one of his Earthly abodes. This is effectively what happens in the film, by the way—someone's being chased down. Only in this film it's after what one person in particular has achieved for herself: the mother, Carolyn. She has achieved a glorious family, with her favorite life moment being a time with them at the beach, with it already clear to her that with them she had everything she'd ever wanted. This moment is used to lend strength to her when it looked like she was going to go all witch, but it is also the one that ensured her a regressed, beauty-shunted, generation-older woman would afflict her by trying to undo it as well. The great beast in this film is simply a mother's mother. We don't traffic in psychology which once had the momentum and the guts to face it, but when pretty much every mother has a child, she has simultaneously something all her own as well as a cruel visit by someone—her mother—telling her to dispatch it, slit its throat or beat it senseless, and come back fully to her. It's near every woman's experience, as she desists against her mother's need to continue lifelong supplying her her own unmet needs for attention and love, and instead presumptively chases down her own; and it's something science and-so-not-just-folklore has fortunately pinned down as an actual existing thing we all have to reckon withspecifically, the postpartum. 

Few women talk about it, but it's something nearly all women near at conscious level come to know. And which their guys will no doubt remain oblivious to, as women decide sharing would show themselves devils to faces that will never, ever, understand, and remove them from life anchors needed to compact the great acquisition of their own family down. So couples go about their child-blessed, married lives, never shorn of near-justified mockery, represented by what lies beneath. She's out there, though. Your spurned mother is out there. And from unaddressed quarters in places you have the good sense to be wary of, she's hoping still to hatch her requisition for your love and the full loss of everything you preferred to have lent your love to. 

P.S. One of the comforts in the film is in its instructing us on how much better it is to desist in anything hubris, and instead join convention. We've got two paranormal researchers ... who bow completely to Catholic tradition. It's like they're not so much aberrant as they are representative, of what a church has taken seriously for centuries before the modern fuck-you. They're all fidelity, that is. And in this film, along with being—tenement-like—amongst a crowd of other people, an extended family rather than selfishly nuclear, doesn't this feel like the safe place to be? That is, when the Catholic church agrees with the researchers—seems of the same base perspective and wave-lengthdon't we feel sorry for those who were never baptized and have now got to depend on leniency to not be left to being tortured and soul-fucked by a scary-as-shit assassin, in complete sadistic control?

I'm not a Catholic, and in fact on my own time read the presumptuous, self-satisfying John Updike, who would seem to support every self-pleasure, every I-love-you-honey-but-your-concerns-and-needs-are-not-exactly-being-factored-here orgasm, that would make a Catholic fret and recoil from upon witnessing, but this film will move me to cross myself a bit more in public, I suspect. I think I'm going to need to have some of the demon-possessed—even if only the dumber ones—presume me one of their own. I'm just one brick amongst a heraldic company of others. Don’t tell me all alone I might be sandstone serendipitous sculpture!  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Wolverine

The Wolverine

It may be that what Wolverine would need to recover from dealing with foes on the scale of a Magneto or a Dark Phoenix, is find himself amidst an environment where no one he comes across looks like he or she’d present much of a problem to that great big bear we encounter at the beginning. It’s a pisser that that venom woman can spit into him a spider that cancels his healing, because otherwise the movie looked like one for Wolverine to remind himself he could reasonably just vacation himself through an onslaught of angry swords, guns, and knives. Truly, other than this one deadly ability from the venom woman, mutants here seem so downscaled—any ordinary guy, good with a sword, would seem just as much a problem. So if all he needed to get past Jean, was to get some soothing attention from a humbled, lovely girl, who you know is incapable of even making a loud gesture let alone bursting into a fiery, taunting, red-headed demon-woman, then this trip to Japan was just what he needed. Only, this environment was one that could infest him with a parasitic tick—the spider—he couldn’t possibly have worried about incurring while living cave-man in Alaskan woods (btw, when he removed it, were you too thinking of the slicing open of a salmon and the removal of guts? … Maybe I did so out of fidelity to that great bear.). And because of it, while Japan might requit him back to women—near literally through baby steps—it still reminds him of how badly human beings can suck. 

Think on what he had invited upon himself here. He had once saved the life of a man—Yashida—from nuclear explosion. After this, he had the presence of mind to realize that this man’s honor might still be vulnerable—his fellow officers had hari-karied themselves, in ritual recognition of their end—and manages to refute his offering up of his family heirloom sword in a sublimely honor-salvaging, appropriate way: he makes it seem that his keeping it is just his taking care of it for awhile until he comes back—after his eventual death—to reclaim it, a plausible enough scenario. What a sublime offering he gives this young officer, and Yashida makes use of the rest of his life to become a great industrial leader and the father of a great clan. What he does to Wolverine in recompense is beyond the pale. He lures Wolverine to his home in Japan, tugging once more on how brilliantly being from a honorable culture can be used to inconvenience anyone with a sense of decency. Then when Wolverine gets there, he tugs once more: not so much by security reacting to him like he might be a threat—though this was a way of soiling someone you are supposed to venerate—but by ensuring he gets a monstrously-thorough scrub-down before meeting him, which can play as just Japanese custom but also as someone using excusable means to show you through your constant honoring of expectation, that your proper role is as a supplicant: with your suffering yet one more inconvenience, how sure are you that your most profound instinct is actually not to submit? His piece de resistance is of course to instruct Wolverine that his curse is to be a warrior without a lord … and so ostensibly that what he was waiting for was not just to be sundered of his perpetual youth and healing abilities but to be essentially bidden to do so by a lord he had surely been lost without.

We wouldn’t much admire Wolverine if he didn't finally put up road-blocks to this manipulative idiot exactly then and there. The whole thing plays a bit like someone taunting someone out of envy whom he knows he’s going to have to play underhanded in order to actually get to “submit.” We can imagine ourselves personally tripping up our well-earned defenses against people in his situation, and are in fact fully bonded to Wolverine when he knows he’s going to have to rip apart a good chunk of Japan to achieve some self-esteem-salvaging, fuck-you-for-that push-backbut now without this being at all an easy thing to achieve ... Fuck! how did we get ourselves in this situation? It must have been stupid, stupid, stupid me! (fists slammed repeatedly against our heads.)

The revenge motive does work in this film, and we cheer his getting his healing powers back like we would a recovery of our own after a masterful, humiliating play on our own openness and gullibility. And we’re angry that the film connives yet some other thing that can best his healing power—the poison-cauldroned arrows. Really, we just wanted him to flip all those arrowed to him, to him, so he could mince them like fan blades; and for the rest in the film, melt through any foe presented to him as quickly and easily as through butter. 

Those who made the film seem stunningly unaware of it, but the idea that anyone should buy into pressing arguments that it is time for them to die, is given pretty powerful refutation by the setting of the film. In a flashback, we saw a good part of a Japanese city destroyed at a time when aggressive nations were taking their defeat as a sign that their cultural history was overthat it was time for them to die (indeed, during WW2 Germany's last days tens of thousands committed suicidethe largest mass suicide in history). Yet the movie is mostly set at a time when the city has long past taking even this in stride. Sometimes the harridon that is preying on you finally desists, not for your finally confronting it, ripping its influence away from your heart, but for its having finally had its fill, and falling off, satiated. If this is what happened with him and Jean, maybe he should desist being the warrioras as admirable a course as this seemed for himand head back to better know his young new Japanese girlfriend. He might go through a long lovely spell with her, and be totally demon free.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

The movie Amadeus argued that when a protective, tolerant environment is nurtured, genius that otherwise might have been cowed from developing, can gain the confidence it needs to come to life. Pacific Rim argues the same. If Earth is up against an alien force that'll crush it unless it reaches the pinnacle of the one thing that has been instrumental in blocking it—the drift between two well-matched individuals—then relationships, deep bonds, are going to need to be given the allowance needed to develop and ripen.

If it wants to die, that is, it would replace the one program that got humanity excited in its ability to match the adapting alien invaders—the Jaeger program—with one that feels anti-innovative rather than innovative, one that substitutes a you're-lucky-to-have-this-job environment for one where all humanity felt part of a team. You'd build a wall, that is, where people dying while working on it is both bad and good news (someone died—but left an opening!). And which when busted through by an alien in one hour, simultaneously both dispirits and gives a lift: One looks at the alien's physical resemblance to the Sydney Opera House it incurs immediately after breaking through, and you think not just of its mockery of it but of how great if would be if conjured now was something on our side which more aptly responded to it.

It is met by just that Jaeger. And what begins a sequence where the rulers-in-charge start scrambling, revealing themselves as self-concerned elites and no longer being listened to, is for sure some sense that its young pilot—Chuck Hansen—makes such quick work of it, and conveys authoritatively that all we needed were better pilots: alone he makes whatever people-abating arrogance the wall-idea still possessed, wilt even further. While the film errs, in my judgment, in not quite giving this thoroughly arrogant Chuck Hansen his due, it remains true that it is in good part his rightful arrogance here which shoulders out of the way any further contesting that the remaining Jaeger program is really all that humanity has got left. They were quit by the same kind of arrogance they were trying to abrogate to themselves, a deadly "Et tu, Brute." But as perfect as it was to have this vital young bull-dog beset upon these decrepid autocrats, who maybe all along have coveted the idea of being left alone in luxurious bunkers while the rest of humanity got crushed, it is precisely this—bullying, intimidation—which is antithetical to the Hong Kong Jaeger abode he is due to inhabit.

He's the best pilot, but there's a sense immediately upon encountering the environment that presumes in Hong Kong that his less pleasant aspects more make him rather than Raleigh, the exposed artifact the place near wishes it could rebury. What Admiral Stacker Pentecost is presiding over, is a base where you respect whatever leads to accomplishments; and especially as he patrols down the line of the four remaining Jaegers, slowing people down to individually consider the crafts themselves and the crews commandeering them, he makes clear that this can come from phenomenon that might require a bit of work to see as exceptional. The sense you have is that even if the Chinese crew had relationships with the basketballs they always carried around that seemed grossly fetishistic, that even if the Russians never relaxed out of their stern intensity—like, ever—the respect you'd have for them would envelope everything they presented to you in the most appreciative manner. Pentecost doesn't direct Raleigh to attend carefully to the genius of his scientists—in fact when Raleigh to some extent dismisses them by saying "this is your research division," his response isn't to defend them but to acknowledge that "things have changed." But implicitly he does, by how his being around them doesn't do anything to force them to quail any of their very loud peculiarities (it's funny how even their individual attempts to show themselves likewise finding the other scientist's mannerisms and arguments bonkers, very much work counter to purpose). It's not that he's vested in seeing them as mad scientists, himself the calm commander acknowledging the mad idiosyncrasies at work in the labs, but that he knows that these are men who have had to have had enormous fight in them to have remained, despite the abuse they've certainly had to shoulder, so still confident in themselves and fresh to life (they love having people share in their cool adventures—it seems to trump every other consideration). And from these types, even from just a couple of them, he knows you can get giant results.

Their greatest result comes mostly from Pentecost's not cowing one of them from doing something "rock star" on his own, which he saw no possibilities in. He's permissive, and an adroit protector of anyone who has demonstrated his or her wortheven if this meant disobeying orders—but still of limited vision—the father who can't quite see what his kids are capable of until in fidelity to their own growing confidence and sense of what they actually need, they disobey and show him. And he's not quite in fidelity to something the film is quite explicit in trying to communicate: his singular leadership, his understanding of himself as a fixed point, his tendency to encourage one person while discouraging the other, doesn't lend to the kind of powerful dynamism you'll find with a pairing, and in fact partakes of the bluntness of a wall. It's as if unlike Raleigh, who one never really understands why he could go solo (something to do with him having such an enlarged feminine as well as a masculine half?) or what was really so distinguishing about his ability to do so (do most Jaegers lose a pilot in a fight?—it wouldn’t seem so), the reason he could commander a Jaeger solo was surely because he was never really built to be on the same standing as other human beings in the first place. The only way he could ride with another, it would seem, is if the other knows he’s mastered—which doesn't really equate to the cooperative and equal, two-hemisphere brain analogy, and more like ego making quick work of id. But he's still effectively protection for individuals to eventually reach the sort of deep bonding you sense they would be happiest and most fruitful effecting. Something akin to very well-matched marriages between remarkable individuals, in fact, and a giant evolution from the pairings we'd heretofore seen, which would work more because of what they already share with one another passively from DNA or shared childhoods rather than what they might eventually learn as adults to contribute to each other.

The scientists—the mathematician, Gottlieb, and the biologist, Dr. Newton Geizsler—know each other's tendencies so well, not just because of their close proximity and because they're otherwise likely friendless, but because each of them has with integrity taken the subject matter they are most interested in to similar climactic heights. When they come together in a mind-bond, you know it’ll be a good one that’ll produce very important results because they’re not just inherently simple people who can come together as readily but by-itself as uselessly as two simple molecules or lego bricks, but very complex but diverse, spirited matter that once finally paired might take on a load beyond what other minds could handle and beget a miraculous breakthrough. You might say that if all the other sorts of pairings were type one to three, theirs was type four—which would of course make what happens between Raleigh and Mako Mori humanity’s type five: our endgame Exterminator.

Previous to Mako’s pairing with Raleigh, memories are shown as if they are all laid together in a neat sequence: all settled, and a bit bland for it—a newsreel you’ve seen a million times that you spin through to get on with fresh material. This is even true with what incurs between the scientists. But it isn’t true with Mako, who interjects into Raleigh a memory sequence where a specific memory resists any such pressing-down, arrogantly piercing any tendency to make a settled story of it with its assertive cry for further attendance. It isn’t at first supposed to be true with any pilot—as Raleigh says, first bonds are rough. It’s a sign of inexperience that a pilot “chases the rabbit”—that is, unruly undealt with memories that draw you to them. But still the film suggests that usually the way towards control is not so much to deal with these memories, tend to them, but rather to as quickly as possible learn to subjugate them—as if the best bonds the program had known had come from people who could be dissuaded from thinking much about what had constituted them. Though he seems to appreciate that something better could be forged, Pentecost fears taking it on, believing there simply isn’t time for it. He is moved ultimately to give her a chance mostly in fidelity to a promise he once made to her, but he should have recognized that he had someone on hand who could finally make it less of an issue. That is, though it turns out that Pentecost sought Raleigh out because he could commandeer a Jaeger solo, the film makes clear that he should have been staking him out for the magic he could forge with another person.

When Raleigh first meets her, we get a quick but clear offering of what will make them develop into such a great team. They’re not afraid to test and challenge: she assesses him immediately as not what she had imagined, and he responds just as quick … in Japanese, as a nod to how the fault, the aberrance, might actually be in her. But there’s humor—agreeability—in the situation, the earned touché, and Raleigh rests with that to make sure the encounter becomes mostly a friendly, even charming, well met. She doesn’t fall back from her assessment that he isn’t really right to pilot the Jaeger, but when, after he requests it, she admirably forthrightly tells him so, he makes sure it doesn’t lead to grievance but for grounds for subsequent consideration on her part. Importantly, when he says she might be right—he means it, and is visibly affected, even hurt, by it, before he regroups, which shows his respect for her ability to assess him and the importance that he let it in. But at the same time he has strong faith in himself, in all the conclusions come from constant testing he’s been through, and begins the very important process for her to think that if you’re too much perfect pattern it’s a perfection that comes from being denied your rightful due acquaintance with life.

If he touches her here, it’s going to cause quite the stir. And with her becoming obsessed with him, with her challenging of him taking on some of the tone of someone who’s lashing out at everybody else is really just an expression of her increased dissatisfaction with herself, and of Pentecost of someone who is quickly sliding away from well-earned love into precarious disrespect, he has unwound her from her over-attachment to what had been virtuous in her long spell of respectful abeyance. Pentecost decides to make her Raleigh’s partner, but his consideration was concurrent with her beginning to insist this must be her role as convincingly as a great daemon new through the rift. It turns out she isn’t ready to be quickly processed into a Jaeger pilot, but also that what Pentecost could only see as a disaster—her early trauma truncating the influence of her bond partner and dominating her while in control of a deadly giant—is viewed by someone she has the capacity to form the deepest bond with, if he can be made to part of even this. Having scared everyone to death, everyone in the base parts from her, but isolation from them but guides the creation of a quiet cocoon where she and Raleigh can reconnect after each one has witnessed and experienced what has mostly constituted their current identities. This disaster developed into a miracle you’ll hardly ever see in crisis times—a profound improvement in understanding and earned trust. And one senses in exultation after a hard-won victory, that here between Raleigh and Mako you’ve got a development, a creation of a mature bond, you’d stake against any engineer’s “fifty diesel muscles per muscle strand” to show that humanity’s fate ultimately lies in its capacity to take on the hardest assignment, even in pressing times. Humanity wasn't ready to take it to the aliens, until all prudence had been shed. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This is the End, and Summer Self-Surrender

This is the End, and Summer Self-Surrender

I saw This is the End again, and the thing I noticed more this time is how scary the film ends up becoming. The lady beside me twitched as if herself hit, when a car crashes through a guy on the street, flipping him rapidly upwards and away to pavement as but a smashed-up carapace due to be crunched into even more ignominious road splatter. The film picks up again into something really disturbing, when a devil with a massive spearing penis subjugates Jonah Hill into a rape victim. And afterwards it gets worse, when Seth Rogan and Jay Baruchel find themselves without it realistically seems, any means to innocently show the kind of self-sacrifice and not-self love that would get them by surprise into heaven: Craig Robinson had seemingly claimed all possible avenue to demonstrate yourself sincerely repentant after knowing that this is the avenue to abscond yourself indulgently into heaven, with his amazing "take your panties off!" charge on the Lord of the Rings Balrog thing. This means that while they see many others taken safely away to a further lifetime of new experiences and shedding of all that lied past, they'll be left alone, with unloved destitutes without any fate, denied even the pleasure of knowing someone intended this barren fate for them: they were just passed completely by as a narcissistic self-loving judge sought out his same amongst the innumerable chastising ponderous before him.  

What happens to Rogen and Jay at this point of the film is pathetic, though not with this saying anything undue about either of them. It's a hard thing to be a self-possessed, self-respecting individual, someone who doesn't just give in when someone powerful draws down on them; and it comes close to impossible when someone forces you back into the experiential state of an infant about to be abandoned for good by his parent. Rogen and Jay will clearly do anything now to still have a chance at being picked--there are no limits, and you can tell. And this has nothing really to do with their belief that God can be trusted, but owing to the intolerable fear of being left to rot, while so many others are drawn off to God and a halo of eternal happiness. I know they ostensibly are those who finally learned to be true friends to one another, but, really, who they are at the end of the film is the guy who poked his head into Franco's house earlier, willing to titty-fuck or be titty-fucked, if only they'd let him in. If they were self-possessed, they would have remained in many ways who they were earlier. Both of them, we note, are at heart natural skeptics, questioners, doubters, who serve as constant reality-checks for friends who might be becoming lost to themselves. Even with the Devil clearly possessing Hill, Rogen is still calling out his friends on their arrogant presumption of the Trinity; and his inability not to show when he thinks someone is sounding crazy even when it compromises a moment when it would feel good to be completely agreeable to a bro, comes clearly through when Franco delineates his absurd plotting for the finish of a proposed Pineapple Express 2.

Rogen is reluctant to agree with Jay that Franco's party is full of assholes and that his house "is a bit much," but it certainly isn't clear that this is just his deluding himself while the "hipster" outsider Jay has here kept his cool. At the finish, Jay admits he was afraid to join Rogen in LA, and it is possible that what this party is is just an LA that would have brought a wrath upon itself for too closely arrogating the assurance and confident self-regard that a jealous Athenian god would have assumed for herself. Or himself ... one wonders if the reason we are shown so much of the various demons' gigantic phalluses owes as some kind of quitting response to Franco's own sculpture one. In retrospect we realize that not one of the partygoers was chosen into heaven--it's the only way they wouldn't have credited Jay's accounting of what had just happened to them. And for a moment Franco, nestled in his cozy "throne" chair, with his whole company of grateful, happy, beautiful friends by his side, for good reason draws Rogen to doubt what he might have seen or even turn his back knowingly on Jay: two presentations of considerable power have just been handed him, and considering the former involved people dying horribly and a night sky filled with pockets of beaming "spaceship" lights, it's to the massive credit of what this LA has going for it that when it is feeling at its most self-assured, there is genuine reason for a momentary re-think of who best to ally oneself with. God, from whatever pantheon s/he belongs, is, quite incredibly, going to have to amp things up a bit to close the deal.  

This, s/he certainly does, and the Seth and Jay we encounter at the end might wish for themselves each day a plate of their favorite cookies and a date with their favorite band, but one thing they won't do is be meaningfully distinguishable from any of the other heaven drones impossibly happy to yet be alive, ready to do as bidden, and willing to see Master in any which way s/he pleases. As Tony Stark remarks in the Avengers, "historically, not awesome." And so in good faith to what Rogen normally offers, I offer my own amendment to the film where rather than Franco at first being drawn to heaven but losing this prize for being a poor winner, Seth loses it for considering that as grateful as he now is, that God as much as Jay should probably still have tried harder to get to like the people at the party ... Michael Cera's butthole indeed was as adorable as we all imagined, and the rest just seemed to be having a good time.

I originally thought to write this second take on the film as a preamble to a discussion on the Internment, another film from the summer where we're supposed to just be happy for two guys making it into some utopian space, considering the hellish wraths they'd be exposed to if they didn't make it in. The hells are about the same, actually. Owen Wilson's life as a mattress salesman, where if he isn't perennially sharp and obedient he'll be outside in a clown suit in forty degree weather, would have drawn him for sure into alcoholism and very likely at some point, suicide. He for sure, never, would go out on a date, as befouled for being a loser as the plague-ridden were in hence-times. But I think you can pretty much transplant my thoughts on This is the End onto this film. For my purposes what it still serves is to show how humiliating it is that the god in This is the End is never really questioned, for just like the Google one all he really does to convince others' eager acquiescence and surrender of self-pride, is show himself the only safe-house available while the world underneath pretty much everyone, crumbles away. Then he counts on you dressing him so He's The Great Human Benefactor; and you do. 

It's certainly a trend this summer to have Utopia offered to people, but it isn't always allowed to stay in a light favorable to its own preferred self-regard. Oblivion, for example, ends up showing its own up. Yet even though it surely wasn't its purpose, Oblivion still suggested how much we'll hide in the safe abode, regardless of how much integrity we'd assume for ourselves if we braved living on the more tenuous outside. I know, for example, that Tom Cruise's initial digs were certainly something I am longing for. So too his sense the perimeters of what each day might expect, and the portioned human bounty--his adult friendship and love affair with his wife--that awaited him at the end of each day. How sure am I that I would be able to addle on over to the outside, if each day there meant being bludgeoned by something sizeable you might have to account into your awareness of things? As an attempt at recompense, I might dream of being absolved into known grids.

Given our current clinging inclinations and fear that risk might mean abandonment, Wall-E's efforts to nudge us outside of pattern and safety seems lovely therapy that we should be glad to have incurred into our constitution. Jerry McGuire's bold sinking us into someone's failure and outside status for most if its film, however, has become something way too undistilled for our rattled tempers to handle ... I wouldn't look for it any longer on subsequent top one-hundred AFI lists--unless of course that and Forrest Gump turn out to be two of God's favorites.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This is the End

This is the End

Emma Watson makes an appearance in This is the End, and it's to scold Jay Baruchel on his better-than-thouness, and subsequently later to axe off the top of a giant scrotum statue that camps mock-proudly in James Franco's fortress dwelling, as she goes raving femme-fatal on these jumpy boys. She isn't meant to come off badly; in fact the film wants to make it seem like it's deferring to her. But basically she's one who can't be included within the boys' play; and it can, and sorta is, a way of revenging yourself on someone. Like Kate Middleton, she's become too high stature to be other than someone you part your way around, like a school of small fish around a shark, when she's predated herself upon your premises. This film's reminder of this status was probably invisible to her; in fact I think she thought she was including herself in with those expected to bear some of the ribbing, and therefore also part of the fun. But if she wanted the film to force people to make more of an effort to treat her as someone worthy of engaging in some truly respectful, that is, not beyond genuine critiquing and in a less stand-offish way, to have cooperated it wouldn't have used the film's "rapey vibe" joke as a plant to really just set her off and jet her out of the film.

Rather, rather than the safe humor enabled by keeping it to Tatum Channing alone, it would have challenged us to think on why we were so disquieted by how they were willing to show themselves depicted when she ended up following Tatum out on a leash as one of cannibal-leader McBride's zipped-up gimp bitches. Think on it. We wouldn't have fretted because we would have found ourselves thinking – "this could end your film career”; we would have done so because since there is absolutely no way we're ever going to not want to see Watson as film royalty since she's one of those serving as a god-type starlett fully immune to disposal that keeps us feeling small, temporary, and therefore unpretentious, somehow we're going to have to live with an image so much more impossible to chase out of our heads than Middleton's caught-unaware boob shots. How many in the film audience would have thought that if she let herself be shown in this position she's dumbly submitted herself to a further collective pile on? That is, to what happened to actresses caught out in the films before, notably with Elisabeth Berkeley, and as was at issue and palpably for a moment at hand in Seth Macfarlane's assaulting query at the Oscars to all of still-acting Hollywood's accomplished actresses who'd ever for continued relevance bared a boob? And yet regardless we're still keeping you in place, even in a position where hereto cognitive dissonance and upset would meant our immediately needing to chase anyone like you out, is what we could not at some level be aware of. For some of us it'd be a spark to reflect bravely on – why. And from this, some subsequent work toward counting her just as much worth dignity but on the same human level as ourselves.

The film is ostensibly about the end of life, but to me it's about how to best spend time while in an ostensible sort of purgatory. Kind of like Casablanca is ostensibly about that, when in reality they're both about how to spend time in a place that you'd want no way out of. New life comes to James Franco's castle home and ongoing party, just like all newcomers find their way to Sam's suave long-standing cafe, from a world that has become increasingly hostile: Germany has crashed through Paris's gates in Casablanca, but here still, with people taking swipes at Rogen’s film career while greeting Jay at the airport, and with the "mean shopkeeper lady" scaring him from even attempting to buy a chocolate bar while sojourning to a grocery store, things on the outside are making doing anything while exposed to it other than full-immersion buffering it, an increasingly unlikely thing as well. Hosting is left to someone who knows to let everyone come in and find their place and do their business, while never leaving people without someone who still will conduct affairs. There's some underhanded dealings on the outskirts of the place, and, we can assume, some rowdier characters, but the center is the confident host and his robust rotund piano-playing entertainer, keeping things humming, pleasingly tipsy and teased. 

When hell descends, it's rather as if the boys had retreated back to Seth Rogan's place, home for xboxing fun and a lower scale sort of ribaldry – boys wrestling and "I drank my pee" jokes –  in a noticeably confined space. No longer is it so much a place to spend much time in, and the outside world of flames and awful happenings seems to not have much of a fortress wall to give backtalk and bulwark to: the sense you have when one of them steps out, is of someone leaving their pitched tent into a ranging tempest forest fire ... it does feel brave as shit when Craig Robinson ascents to entering it. And so there is a sense that the rest of the film is about dogging towards a mechanism by which a space sort of akin to the lost safe James Franco party-world can be unlocked, while meanwhile entertaining us with the full possible supply of fun and jokes that can be squeezed out by a bunch of quick-witted guys caught in some place quickly being besieged by their own excretions. At the end, when they all ultimately leave it, it feels like they were forced to ...  the “outhouse” had packed brown and was pushing them out.

The relief from leaving it, almost makes once again meeting Danny McBride a thrill, even as we're understanding him as a pack-leader cannibal. And so too even James Franco's being eaten, as after-all this links us back to the party where he actually suggested this happening to him in a sequel to Pineapple Express. Mind you, we were already primed to like McBride. In a movie world ultimately built of people taking pleasure in refuge, he actually exults into a status of someone who isn’t going to let anything from the outside cage him. When he greets his former friends, it feels appropriate that he seems almost to have forgotten them – "You guys are still alive?" He can do the shocking thing of cutting ties when appropriate and moving on, which is a miracle in a world designed to make people want to cling to the familiar. No wonder his peers were shocked that he’d leave them so totally, and no wonder even after trying to shoot them they let him go untouched. However much we get a spell of a great purgatory in this film there's of course no Divine or Fiend, but this was unanticipated and unfamiliar enough to for a moment seem an outerworldly visitation. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring

"Bling Ring" ends focusing mostly on Emma Watson's character, Nicki. When the enjoyable world she had participated in ends, she gets sucked back into her mother's embrace, her cult, that heretofore she had found successful means to quarantine as something only to be endured while at home. Her own escapades have ended with her mother having her back entire, and even if she talks back to her, gets angry at her for repeatedly insisting on inserting herself into her interview with the Vanity Fair reporter, we see she's due to become as much the harmless clown as her mother is. Harmless, because however much she might climb in this world -- her family is by no means poor or without resources -- they are made to seem so much trapped in a disassociated mindset, poor things petting their preciouses, they're more like pilgrims caught enspelled that the more sane world pilgrims may have to temporarily reckon in but mostly will shake their heads at and step by, as they interact with adult matter that still undergirds world affairs. There's also Marc, who we also focus on, and are made to understand as someone who was grabbed into a situation there's no way he could resist, and will now have to spend having his temporary bling-ring enrapture cleansed by four very brutal years in prison, hopefully keeping himself together so that when he's free he's thoroughly sobered but not spiritually snuffed out.

The film turns a cold shoulder, that is, to the actual ringleader of the Bling Ring, Rebecca. When Marc gives a look to her in the court room, knowing she'll be remote from him but hoping she might just not be, it's like she's been revealed as an alien slitherer deposited amongst teenage life, blithely unconcerned if what she made of her surroundings interjected a poison into the community that stalled the social fabric. She's just a few steps away from being someone a TMZ or even a Vanity Fair reporter might turtle before if s/he had to make light of: Do you yet remain someone who's propriety keeps from considering things I could engage that could upend your positioning in a conversation and make you my plaything? The film lets her seem someone so cold she would draw people to her to fulfill her own ends, all the while intending to leave them as scapegoats while she scoots off to a foreign locale. Someone almost unfathomably awful, who is incapable of remorse and immune to any impulse to oblige us by compromising herself so we can imagine her as either chastened or harmless, and thereby laugh at or maybe sympathize with but otherwise quickly regroup from and head on with our regular life. Someone who demonstrates that some children deserve to be tried as adults: no one is left feeling sorry for her four years in prison. And indeed her four-year term might not be enough: we may need eight to fortify ourselves to her next invasion.  

It can indeed be difficult to reveal who she is in this film to show she does deserve to be taken in almost near opposite. I am drawn to think of her as a conquistador who's come upon the Aztecs, or any European who found themselves on an island of dodo birds, in the way she shows this whole rich land of Hollywood homes is ripe for the taking. Like only one hundred conquistadors were required to claim a whole civilization, like dodos were almost like walking already-cooked turkeys to their European discoverers, Rebecca shows that five kids are sufficient to make it seem as if all Hollywood has been used as somebody else's boarding house. But the fact that Hollywood has become a place where cars and homes are so unprotected that their plundering comes across as innocence for the first time plucked, should ground the more mature amongst us to realize Rebecca in a more fair light. The sense you have is that somehow all of American's sense of vulnerability and fear and violence – that we know is everywhere – has been quarantined away from these affluent quarters into the world of Middle America. Mid-America has been left a stronghold suffering from torments from within and from without, which explains why when at the finish we see signs of people who actually populate it (in the courthouse guards, mostly), there's not an ounce of rosy life in any grim one of them. (And pity Marc, who when he is shown in the bus with fellow prisoners, comes across as a last sad twilight of still-cheery rosé before a remorseless term of sole stone-grey.) It’s been going on for enough time, we suddenly realize, that Hollywood could learn to assert as a reasonably confident norm something which had been unthinkable: there is no need to lock your doors, for we know we have no reason to fear intrusion. And so this shocking innocence comes across as the grossest vulgarity; another status symbol to show that being rich means being in a literally different universe from the poor.

Rebecca is portrayed as mostly someone who has evolved to the point that attitudes built around older realities have slipped away from her first, and so in this deliberately wrought out world of unchastened innocence she indeed understands it as a world of accessibility. She isn’t, that is, afloat in some realm of unreality, but understanding it straight. (Showing Marc this, by the way, is one of the ways she’s generous to him – a true best friend, with the first of course being that she immediately apprehended insecure him as someone fun to know.) She’s the first into this land of open resources, and knows to make full use of it, so her story isn’t about how she robbed celebrities’ homes but how she co-habited them, fit their world onto hers, and long enough so that it could be integrated near as blasé hers. I think we sense that we have a lesson to learn from her; and maybe for some of the time in their readily and intelligently discerning particular items amongst all the wealth of stuff (they're familiar with all the items, or at least the clothing and jewelry, and with plausible justice believe they know how to better ensemble it than their "owners" do), we take advantage of their being so engaged to maybe imagine ourselves along with them, plucking an item we see that they may not yet have claimed, and delighting in it. I’m not saying that we ever find ourselves as confident as Rebecca, but when Marc slips off being so apprehensive and learns to chill, I think we’re wondering if we somehow have been taught a lesson we needed to learn as well; and this is disorienting.

And when Rebecca sees nothing amiss in taking Paris Hilton’s dog, I don’t think we so much awaken from an evil spell that might have been partially cast upon us and see her as the foul snake she surely all the while has been, but take advantage of a trespass we can trap as surely irredeemably foul, to cooperate with an evil we may temporarily been loosened from. That is, I think what makes this rich landscape so plausibly innocent of the trauma affecting the rest of the nation is a collective agreement on our part to defer to the rich and powerful, to enable them with privileges appropriate to emperors from four centuries ago. When we walk amongst their paradise, we find sign to be angry at them but realize we can’t be drawneven in these conditions – to see them downed; a realization which would force us to realize how much of our awful world is really of our own sad, sick, surely masochistic, wanting. So us, actually the ones still caught in a kind of spell, decide at this point in the film to view the kids as having temporarily been caught in one. They just went on a wild ride which disjoined them from reality that they would have to sober up from. I think with enfranchising ourselves at their expense, we’re in the mood to make allowances, and I think especially with Nicky and Marc, we make them – however much Nicky is a made a subject of ongoing laughter as she and her family become a bundle of idiocy.  

We know that we were actually taken inside Paris Hilton’s own home in this movie, and that what we saw up close were her clothes closets and designated party rooms. I hope that some of us feel sick that thereby there’s a paul cast over all this film where the rich can draw as close as they want to us, let us feel their presence, if this is what they’re in the mood for, but it ever goes the other way it has to be managed so that the rightful norm that ascent is only by permission of the powerful, is confidently reasserted. 


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