Monday, August 26, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2

When Roger Ebert reviewed the original Kick-Ass, he wasn't primarily taken aback by any one single incident—Hit Girl's being shot, with the audience having to take a moment to remind themselves about her bullet-proof vest, for instance—but by the fact that people behind the movie were so comfortable exploring a whole terrain of something which had pretty much taken him off stride upon first occurrence. He couldn't believe that a movie primarily involving kids could be so comfortable with people dying, being butchered, all over the place, coldly, bloodily, humiliatingly, with this not counting it as beyond fun and games. "This isn't comic violence," he writes, "These men, and many others in the film, really are stone-cold dead. And the 11-year-old apparently experiences no emotions about this. Many children would be, I dunno, affected somehow, don't you think, after killing eight or 12 men who were trying to kill her?" Ebert worried about what would happen to the 6-year-olds who wanted to see the film, and, despite his proclaiming himself not so worried about them, evidently also about the sheer fact of the older ones who'd already been ruined to become of the internet. Specifically he writes, "The movie's rated R, which means in this case that it's doubly attractive to anyone under 17. I'm not too worried about 16-year-olds here. I'm thinking of 6-year-olds. There are characters here with walls covered in carefully mounted firearms, ranging from handguns through automatic weapons to bazookas. At the end, when the villain deliciously anticipates blowing a bullet hole in the child's head, he is prevented only because her friend, in the nick of time, shoots him with bazooka shell at 10-foot range and blows him through a skyscraper window and across several city blocks of sky in a projectile of blood, flame and smoke. As I often read on the Internet: Hahahahaha.”

Ebert pretty much assumes that if you liked Kick-Ass, you've got to be pretty much lost to the human. Zombies might have great sport figuring out what to do with the various body parts that remained after they've gorged themselves full, perhaps bowling human heads through assembled foot-and-ankle "pins," or making rib-cages and thigh bones into cunning hefty decorative wear, but anyone still human isn't going to be in mind to demarcate their creativity here, but just drain it of distinction so that the sheer fact of its blunt awfulness, not its variegatedness, holds your attention. If in real life a mob is ripping apart its victim, do you describe particulars involved so the act looks to possess a distinguishable aesthetic, a uniqueness—worth? Would irony save it from now possessing validity? Or do you eclipse it, deny it, and just hold it as not worth describing? Ebert does, or shows, both—we already have the description, and he ends his piece with, "then the movie moved into dark, dark territory, and I grew sad." But since his description is compelling enough to have you think that Ebert was aware that his foremost problem is not with the film but with a world that gets sufficient kicks from energies he finds repellent that it gives latitude to art that partake of them, he mostly sounds as if with this essay he knows he's successfully enunciated his own demise. The foremost thing he did by setting out as a critic to analyze the film, was welcome himself innocently but conclusively to how little this changed world is going to factor him in. It's not true that this was the last essay of Ebert's I ever read, but it's the last one of significance he ever did: it's tough to admire the work of someone who's crawled into his own dark corner, out of realizing that as considerable as he is, he hasn't the momentum to take on a world when it isn't dialing down its emerging preferences. 

I liked Kick-Ass, just like I also liked (or rather, loved) Refn's Drive—a movie Richard Brody accused as being inhuman, of being in love with the idea of "the poker face as the key to success"—and as well Game of Thrones, a show Maris Kreizman argues with genuine case is for "Star Wars fans who thought Princess Leia should have been raped." For both bad and good reasons. The bad, or at least, the regrettable reason, is because I'm not so different from those 1930s artists who were daunted by their predecessors—those 1920s greats who hung out at the Parisian cafes, like Fitzgerald, Joyce, Hemingway, and the rest of those populating Midnight to Paris—but grew wings when a Depression climate frowned on those who arrogantly showed how ripe human life can be. You watch Kick-Ass or Drive, and you know that completely non-misanthropic critics like Ebert and Brody—both the highest class of loving people—are going to find reprehensible anyone who'd take much pleasure from them (Brody would give you the okay, only if you liked Brooks' gangster, and not, that is, for Ryan Gosling, the film's style, and the 95 percent of the rest of the film). Being someone who is bit daunted by how personality rich these two men are, who is fascinated at what kind of early experience enabled them to bring so much presence to the world (it's more than their being surely first-borns), and whose inclination is to quieten myself to take in more and more from them and maybe locate the maybe-still-tapable source, I like films which break this spell, which give you a sense that somehow the world has incrementally changed, accrued, layered, so that things that wouldn't have had much chance to distract the attention of men like these, can find themselves irritating them for their requiting them to swat at them or tear through them before lunging awesomely at what they're actually in mind to take on. It's easy to imagine them eventually willy-nilly pinned or hopelessly entangled as these accumulations bear down—like the great uber-man in Prometheus stunningly blocked and enveloped by the-even-greater, great python-muscled tentacle horror that barged in his path—if they don't find some place of refuge, and you can kind of factor them out and see the world—however Depression grey and stilled—as your own grounds now to range over. 

Also bad, is the fact that I like the fact that films which I know to be, maybe not precisely misanthropic, but endorsing orientations towards the world which are reroutes away from approaches which'd have one face one's personal scourges and actually, like, grow, appeal to me for the fact that they favor reroutes I know I also need to have championed to appear ideal. They convince me that I don't stand out too much as a self-realized, self-satisfied douche, a bitchy demon presiding over our age would feel the need to sweep down upon and teach a swift scolding lesson to. She could read deep into my thoughts, recognize that I know everything that is going on in an age which inverts what is good—self-realization—for the bad—self-sacrifice/diminution—know that I ultimately want Her gone for inhibiting something as precious as a human life, and at such an awesome scale, but still pat me on the head as no threat—even give me a lift, if I needed one, and smile genuinely to me—because She knows I'm still broken sufficiently that I'll need her "fix" like all the rest of them. This means that when someone like Brody chastises a film like Skyfall for something that may well be regrettable, and that I should want to be the kind person who like him had instantly noticed, I'm actually glad that at the moment it hadn't occurred to me. 

Specifically, when he writes, 

The colossal chase scene through Istanbul at the beginning of Skyfall recalls the escape through Shanghai, early in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with pushcarts overturned, merchandise scattered, terrified bystanders diving for safety. Spielberg offensively turned ordinary people going about their business into just so much confetti for his spectacle—exactly the sort of cavalier colonial-era bravado that might have repelled a filmmaker who started his career in the late sixties. Plus ça change: Skyfall, too, scatters Istanbul’s residents and their goods like bowling pins. From the start, Sam Mendes, the director of the latest installment of 007, proves faithful to tradition, yet not always the best of that tradition.

I realized him to be like the sober peasants in Monty Python's Holy Grail, who made clear King Arthur's requisiting them not just for directions but for confirmation of his own grandiose status, or like the whole feel of the Lancelot bit in the film, where Lancelot's a crazed loon with a sword, hacking away at an innocent assembly of peacefully gathered people, for a point he'd actually end up staunching himself in retreat from. But the point is that I evidently enough relate to the fantasy of being someone inflated that when you see the like in a film, you're too much enjoying and partaking in his paving through swaths of less-mattering people to be instantly critical or self-reflective of what he'd just done to the actually probably quite fulsome people around him.

Same thing applies, especially, with Brody's superb criticism of Drive, where he argued that "Refn doesn’t seem interested in pain but in its infliction—specifically, how blank-faced, soft-spoken people manage to commit mayhem and, at the moment of violent outburst, stay fixed on their plan and maintain a fearsome calm in the face of disgusting gore." Yes, absolutely true: Refn clearly enjoys that Ryan Gosling's ostensibly accommodating, becalming, boyish manner, can be exploded so conclusively that anyone who might privilege their own interests through it find themselves unable to handle whom he has revealed to them as a good part of his core, and he's got them now in a position where they'll never be quite sure about him; always a bit fretful and fearful, prepared to disengage and let "you" be free, so you can decompress and relax in your own space, the moment you show any hint of being tweaked from normal. He enjoys creating protagonists who experience other people's startled pulling back, like as if it's at this point where you can begin to form a friendship with them, if it would still take, and they remain interested, because you now know them well enough from what they have revealed to you—you've had that advantage—before you revealed the dragon-self they've actually also to tangle with (something akin to Black Widow's technique in the Avengers). And I know what that is about. One of my favorite characters from fiction was once Severian, from Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer, and this was him to a T. Just as soon as you think you've got him pegged, and are moving on with your further plans, he shows what he's been hiding, and does the like of surprising you by punching your nose-bone into your brain. And though I'm aware enough of it's immaturity, or rather, its origins as a defense mechanism against abuse, like the "ignoring of emotions of others and the crawling inside boxes and clinging to hard surfaces and mechanical devices in place of relating to caretakers" (deMause, "Why males are more violent") that autists do, I can't quite stand outside a film like Drive and find it hard to slip Gosling's character on. Rather, it is a bit more the character Brody actually likes in this film, Albert Brooks' gangster, whom I am prone to engage with rather secondarily.

Brody makes the gangster out to be a horror, "[some]one whose professional identity emerges, tantalizingly, only by degrees," but he isn't, like Gosling, the guy who disengages and puts the cold-face on, but rather the saddened older guy who realizes there's really no other option for him, and so does what he has to, still himself the whole while. Indeed, when he forks and knives a guy repeatedly to death, in a scene of massive violence and emotional heat, it's as if it's more his way of displacing his anger at his partner, who caused the problem but who just can't any longer suffer himself the gore, like a husband requited to killing the pest in the tub or who was eating away at the yew bush, that he had no real truck with—that is, more a manner of communicating, to someone else, like a hard-slammed door, than it is your spelling a hard lesson to whom you're directly accosting. Gosling, on the other hand, when he kicks and crashes in the skull of the assassin fallen before him, has entered some other kind of state, separated from emotions, with even his nearby beloved completely momentarily out of the picture; and it is only afterwards that he can regroup himself to something human like earnest communication—even though you've surely fallen back by then, probably concussed into pitiful trembles and nervous quivering, and on your way to actually running away.

How the hell could I orient more towards Gosling than Brooks in this film, you ask? Because Gosling in this picture is more drawn from wounding than Brooks is, and I relate, and whatever love I've gathered since then hasn't quite become sufficient that I tilt more the other way. This means that I expect a good portion of my life has still been too much about a re-route than about a healthy full-on engagement with a logical path, and this means any god on the lookout for anyone treading disallowed hallowed grounds and heaping and integrating life riches found there-on into his life drawers, might temporarily fix on me—or even quite a bit—but ultimately desist, contented in my non-threat, like the momentarily confused military drone in Oblivion. This isn't exactly the right comparison, but I won't be due to be a Bradley Manning; which is the way I need to have it.

And now to the good.  To the good reason that is, for liking or loving films that enormously astute and psychologically healthy critics like Ebert and Brody are bound to find offensive and largely unenjoyable. There are some periods of human existence, where, as I mentioned concerning the 1930s, all the great artists sound about opposite the great artists who thrived just before, when humanity was involved in some kind of true renaissance period. These types—the actual lessers—do in this instance have the advantage—the times are behind them, for them, and it means for them they see, they experience, a landscape of fresh things they might explore, rather than blockages, howling spirits instructing them on how despite their whatever genius, they're not wanted, they don't matter, and they're no good—now try to do your best work with this holy hell of shit on your tail! So artists like Walker Evans, who thought humanity so spoiled it needed to be taught the Depression lesson, thrived, and artists like Fitzgerald, whose blood was Jazz-Age, began to wilt. If you look at 30s films from the perspective Ebert and Brody show towards Kick-Ass and Drive (or that Maris Kreizman  shows towards Game of Thrones), as you show up every director for their potential amorality, their dispirit, their exploitation, their dehumanization, you'll be showing up a lot of what turned out to be the best films of the era. 42nd Street made people into "cogs in a wheel" (Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark), it took away their worth as individuals, favoring only what they counted for as part of a collective—it kind of was a Nazi film: and Busby Berkeley was great 30s innovation, for example. And critics who could only point out the bad and not recognize that increasingly it is from sour motives that real art is increasingly to be found, have surely come to their terminus: If it's not humans but oily kaiju masters who are making the better 'bots, no matter how much you hate them, you've got to be at least be able to recognize this. Brody thought Drive a poor movie, with only one thing going for it; Ebert showed no sense of how exciting and out-of-the-blue Kick-Ass was; and years later you go about and talk to bank-tellers, retail workers, average joes—movie goers—you watch how they light up when you talk about these movies: they were favorites of the year, for many. So, concerning Ebert (I know, I know—rest in peace) and Brody, and their likewise actually wonderful ilk  ... do we keep them? One begins to think—no, lest we come across something awful they spelled out about friggin' Game of Thrones, a world-wide beloved phenomenon, for Heaven's sakes, and feel compelled to seek them out and torture them out of their eyes and ears to demonstrate our point that clearly for them, their owning them no longer much matters.

I don't remember a single particular moment of Kick-Ass I especially enjoyed; it was more how surprised I was, how excited I was, to see a film-maker just truck on through a landscape of horror like it was all just so what? Yeah, a pre-teen is carving up bodies and having a heap of fun—if this sounds like something you've got to work yourself up for an entire movie to be ready for, you're dark ages, because this director instructed us to the fact that a whole bunch of talent is about to take it as nothing really special. So, if in good times, when artists do this, make inroads into taboo turf, this means they're exploring hush-hush topics like racism or adult sexual relations, then in the bad—times of purgatory—it's going to mean going the distance with things likely to wound more evolved predecessors. So if you're looking for people making inroads, then these days when artists put butterfly-knives into the hands of children and explore what they do with them, or not pull away when the barbarian horde does its pillaging and raping, but instead lets the cameras role on and even go for grim close-ups, here perhaps most especially is where you're going to find it. The reasons they're being explored are surely sordid, but you couldn't work with this material before—for reasons that were never truly convincing—so you should be able to find some way, through watching their explorations of it, how it might someday be made to work in a humanist sense.

Kick-Ass 2 doesn't provide that same sense of a taboo territory confidently being repossessed for public use, though from what it does in the beginning, I was actually a bit surprised at this. The movie begins with the villain accidently-on-purpose killing his mother, and donning her clothing for his next super-villain persona. Any time a villain does this, adopts a mother-persona, it usually means that this character is going to be given greater latitudes than you'd normally expect. This will be true for a 1960's film like Psycho, but especially true for any film emerging out of a Depression period. Depressions are all about a population punishing itself for having taken too many cookies from the cookie-jar previously, and it's pretty much lived as if there isn't anything you do that your righteous mother with her tightly gripped rolling-pin isn't felt to be watching over. The last thing you're in the mind to do, that is, is say anything derisive about her, no matter what the hell she might be up to, and you're not about to take advantage of her likeness in film to overtly show what you really think of her abuses. Instead, you'll see the likeness, and immediately take advantage of this opportunity to manifest a repentant attitude, and not say a word no matter how many how many transgressions she pulls, no matter how many cookies disallowed to you, she swallows down herself. Brody could watch a film like Skyfall and point out M's rather arrogant "clinging to her position," which actually made things worse, but the rest of humanity, be sure, stayed mum. Yes, the rest of humanity was also secretly joyous when she gets disposed of at the finish, and that, thank god, an affect-dialed-down male lead is left in charge of operations, while Brody was free of any such malice, but Brody was casually telling the emperor off to her face, with his not even being aware he'd done anything especially inopportune: which you just don’t do.

The boy arch-villain, Motherfucker, isn't actually the one given any latitude; he aims at one point to rape someone, Night Bitch, who'd been set up as if already abused—with her perpetual nervous trepidation—and as akin to the girl in a horror movie who's doomed to be slain for her being sexually active, and thus part of the cohort that are usually not in geek films spared humiliations but rather made to feel susceptible to being bitch-slapped consummated into fully ravaged victims. But his penis fails him, and she ends up being denied her ill-fate by the someone present who probably could have been shown raping her, with a strap-on, and with the camera not feeling the need to fret and pull-away, as if it's got sure protection for its plainly powerful-indulging, evil-purposed scrutiny. Specifically, Mother Russia, the gargantuan villain recruited into Motherfucker's service, who's not like a brute in a Bond film in service to the mastermind—clearly a number two—but rather more like Kraken to Poseidon, a vastly dwarfing entity, who's show is now its own once released into the film. It felt strange that the movie handed the mother's mana all to her, after it had just set up Motherfucker as the mother-visaged psycho due surely for a number of personally inflicted massacres—though I got the point behind this afterwards—but regardless, Mother Russia is the bad bully mother in this film, whom geeks fear so much you should explore their decision to converge in basement-caves at the onset of real world-beckoning adolescence, as owing to it. She's Iron Man inflated to 400 percent power, she's the adrenaline hit that Hit Girl takes later, to enable drama to potentially take place that without her it wouldn't dare. 

The key scene in the film, the only one maybe worth re-watching on Youtube, is when the gang of villain elites marches into the suburbs, each one an arrogant sure shell of ego for essentially standing behind the power of their way highest paid, Mother Russia. She's going to get to do anything she wants, is what you feel, and it may be the movie's encouraging you to feel this way, to be reminded that moods can take over people where trespasses can be effected, and the world thereafter just can't placidly reset, is what it deserves credit for, and not really with what it shows done within this protective cloud of latitude. She launches a lawn-mower into the face of a police-officer, and gives you the same sense that the first Kick-Ass at times did with Hit Girl and Big Daddy, that this just happened: in real life, someone like her, a real human being, could have come out of the blue, and done this. They're ridiculously costumed, and they’re striding into the suburbs as if conquerors of Rome, but it's not, it's not, simply funny. You can’t quite comic book them, which makes the scene feel kind of awesome. 

Mother Russia is ostensibly in the film to be an appropriate foe for Hit Girl, but she's really in it for this. This said, the fact that Mother Russia dwarfs everyone else who is also part of the elite club of villains, helps make another of the film's points. What Kick-Ass suggested … has been already terminated: we're not in the mood to inflate geeks so they might pass as true super-heroes, but for splitting them off into the sliver few—the 1%—who are undeniably awesome, and the rest, who even with costumes on and trained, look like they're just waiting for someone truly skilled to take them down for their silly pretense, á la what you felt was partly at work when Night Bitch gets paid that grim visit at the hospital, and what was behind even mafia-trained Colonel Stars and Stripes surprisingly quick exit from the film. To me, it's amazing the movie would want to go this way, but it did—and with confidence. It gets right that what we wanted was for Hit Girl to receive what looked like her due in the original Kick-Ass, to not properly belong in any movie too much owned wholly by geeks. When she rides off alone at the finish, she's the 18-year-old with the physical capacity now, to fit right into the Avengers without blinking, with a big-league foe played by a big-league actor, taunting her, rather than essentially unadulterated nobodies and Hollywood castaways. And if she surprised us in Avengers 2 by serving as Black Widow's replacement, we'd calculate the actresses' already-stardom, as well as what she's surely due; consider her character's superlative killing out of Kick-Ass; and actually probably let her do the unthinkable and be the only one you're ever likely to see in a Depression period, rise from the slums and get to keep their stay.

Be warned, however, that though it looks like she's off to the big time, it's not quite true to say she's leaving everyone else behind. All the other heroes drop their super-hero garb and personas, but they don't sulk back into the individually bullied. Rather, they take the other empowered end of the super-hero stick that the last Depression period—the one that gave birth to superheroes in the first place—enabled. Specifically, like the last Depression gave us Captain America and Superman, it also ended up giving us the people as folk, or in Germany, as volk. That is, the people ended up being the depersonalized "cogs in a wheel" that Dickstein rightly laments, but these same cogs ended up feeling that as an anonymous legion they were empowered together as something all-pure, all-powerful, and all-virtuous—look into the New Deal era, or, sorry, the Nazi vision of "people's community," to get some sense of this. Every one of the heroes are shown indistinguishably back in their street clothes, amongst the mass, but one feels that when "filth" passes by them, they're going to be at liberties to disassemble them that you just couldn't imagine. Here's where an awful lot of latitude is going to fall over the next number of years, and I think we feel this at the end of the film—how Dr. Gravity, surrendered of his "Superman" and contented in his "Clark Kent, " almost eclipses Hit Girl's racing off to her own individual future in Manhattan, when he smiles to participate in a righteous lynching. If his skills were a bit better, he'd fit in with Coulson's crew of black-garbed, non-glam agents, which as we know, no one's passing over for its possessing serious, serious legs. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine

One thing I was not really fair to, to my experience of Elysium, is how impressed I was by how it accurately conveyed, that if you're not amongst those essentially expected to live as if there is no constraint upon them—all smiles, celebrations, new restaurants, and "isn't life the greatest!"—are outside the fortuned 1%, if you ever dared offering up any sass, any reflection about how you truly feel, you'll follow it with a thousand embarrassing surrenders to whatever authorities might expect of you, hoping that way to abet an executioner's suddenly raised strike from tilting to ultimately fall down on you, and cast you out from a life that still has the bearing of relevance, however spit upon and dim a one. There's a worse fate than being a factory worker at a job-place that truly believes not a one of them is particularly valuable in what he does, each one to be replaced by another, if need be, as can any newly purchased tool be schlepped in to replace a lost one. If you somehow still seem part of a story, can count yourself part of something, inclusion and purpose can keep you sane. If you're outside of one, with the world around you moving with purpose, there's no socially acceptable narrative for you to count as your own in which to unconsciously share and funnel your perplexing life afflictions into, and they just keep popping up, your insufficiently addressed life afflictions, all the time, at scary conscious level, and are alone to you. And if your being in sync to no one means the like of you suddenly rehearsing something you said, or something someone else said, out loud, you're going to tether out pretty close to crazy-town for most people, which in today's world will bring not empathy but shock "therapy," to kill that strange buzzing aberration dead that appeared rather startlingly out there on the street to affront us.

The tragedy of Jasmine, is that she has acuity, some potential to articulate precisely how things are, which with the help of her summoned kindness can take other people out of life patterns that are "solutions" which enable them to live, but which themselves cry out to be solved as well. Almost as soon as she lands on her sister's doorstep, she knows her sister's life, her friends, her community, fully rightly. She's stumbled into a morass, but one that if she hangs on tight and bears it to the best of her ability, will bear her enough so she can evolve the extenuations required to finally once again get some full bracing against the world. She might try applying herself to her surroundings, but since up close they're befudging nullity, which brings to the person who is able to summon considerable momentum to understanding them the feeling of having summoned a great wave that'll break its barrier with so little resistance it now requires its own taxing down, the solution is better to drink when she has to, Xanex herself when she has to, and just gain the proclivity necessary to downscale the nerve-stressing constant attenuations of a help center-type job, so she can build up the protein-juice resources inside herself from which promising extenuations might eventually sprout.

She has terrible luck. The one thing that could still get her once she has recuperated sufficiently from her past’s great heave of traumas and developed the ability to work as a receptionist--and so survive regardless if her sister stopped hosting her--was if something arrived that looked to instantly take her away from this life—make it all seem like some extra-long but still now forever gone nightmare, into which she was insanely transported but now from which she has neatly danced her way out. And with her meeting Peter Saarsgard's Dwight, she goes all-in with this perfect way out. When she accidently meets her sister's former husband on the street, we see what this way out would have cost her. Caught out, she can in instant defense show how alive she can be to other people's motivations, and seem instantly adult. But since this means having to reckon with things she did—horrible things, like losing a deserving hard-working man’s very realistic opportunity for a more enfranchised life; like in a moment of venom alerting authorities about something she was always at some level aware of but hadn’t blown the whistle on until it seemed perfect spite, which killed her husband, spiraled her son into thinking a forgotten cave is better than spending one moment further outside, and undid her whole life—she can't help but take the bait to be as if still ordained by a rigid law of the universe to recover to be the Blue-Jasmine, perfect-princess again.

At the end she's on the street, dead eyes, and babbling. Somewhere on the horizon a crew will soon appear to diagnose her as needing to have her head shocked from one planet to the next, leaving her in a permanent daze, puddling drool down the front of her cream blouse and Chanel jacket. But it's appropriate she just gives up. The universe clearly has it in for her. She was right that her sister would find for herself a better mate once she judged herself worth a bit better, but her first magical try with this ended so traumatizingly she ensconced herself even harder with what—thank god!—was still available to her. This meant Jasmine's presence would be thereafter a reminder of a conscious decision on her part to force herself to believe this was whom she was naturally right for. This meant Jasmine—who reflects back at her now, clearly justified mockery—would have to be out of her life hard. Jasmine couldn't pick herself up from this, and go back to the certainly plausible and now already partly traveled path of becoming a decorator, because sometimes you're just handed too many blows, and you've got to just sit down, give up, and let yourself be broken down by the universe to be reconstituted into something which actually has purpose. (The only salve temporarily available to you is that you might humorously blow at the ants taking bits of you away, like Ron Perlman's puffing at the legion of flames already up the wood-ladder and eating at him in Name of the Rose, so a clearly humorless God has the humiliation of having to chow down on some farce before he takes you.) We felt for her when she—so long a time a natural denizen of the most sophisticated rich—was brought down to being a sales clerk serving her former friends, which is like becoming a maid-servant after having once been a duchess—is usually a kind of humiliation you're made to suffer just before being executed, like being raped. Truly, it’s amazing she managed. We certainly knew what she meant when, after being accosted and groped by her dentist boss, someone she had expended every frenzied effort to communicate was not someone she wanted to get intimate with, she just couldn't bear to take to court. We knew how she felt when she requested more silence and solitude in her sister's home, with her really, truly, having expended every effort to make this a last-ditch recourse—her ability to neuter down her own proclivity to just arrogantly own whatever space around her, had been commendable: her sister needed to speak up then, and the guys needed to go to the bar instead—any recourse away from that would have been universal indignity. 

The universe moves on, and eventually society recovers its poise and actually cares about people again. This becomes a time for true therapy, where if you babble to yourself so you are aware of the specific instances which afflict you, this is actually an asset therapists would use to make sure they zero in on you more precisely—it’s like being able to describe your dreams with precision. This becomes a time that the story to be told when someone like Jasmine falls into your life, is how she, despite her flaws, improved you for the better, before she hefted herself off to a world she after all was more natural to: more Mary Poppins—or better, Cold Comfort Farm. The problem with purges of the kind we’re experiencing now, is that it’s going to leave us with fewer Jasmines when we’re actually in mind to appreciate them. Seriously, a good number of our babblers are actually going to be amongst our best, but just tragically untethered from madnesses we use with proficiency to assure ourselves sane--like what happened to Fitzgerald in the '30s, when a world thought things like fascism sane.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013



When Matt Damon's Max encounters the kids who surround him hoping for money, there's a tiny bit of tension in the moment, like what we've got is a wildlife encounter between a mature bear and a curious pack of wolves, which should end with maybe one nip or a loud roar, or maybe some mutual entertainment, but could potentially go horribly wrong. But as soon as Max drops them a bit of money, we understand that in this movie, if you're of the dispossessed kids, are elderly, or a woman, you'll understandably do what you can for a bit to eat, but you're all earnest and good, even if choked down some for being so always scared. Guys can get rangier, but are not more interesting for it: unless of course that they'd get a kick out of an exoskeleton being drilled and bolted into you is going to make you look even uglier and cause you a great deal of pain, is for you a show that they're "complicated." So there really is nothing about the people left behind on this overcrowded, desert planet, that is interesting, and there's not much to our hero: who serves up samples of guesstimated-minimal-necessary shows of the abeyance and cowering and obliging that he has to do, lest he lose the one thing that gives him some satisfying edge over everyone else on the planet—his having a job—and just seems to add more and more puss-filled wounds to his large, fatigued mass, as he goes about the movie. He has sufficient pulling strength to ensure the narrative moves and so we don't feel permanently caught in this awful place, and that's really about it. 

He says he wants to live, and that's why he wants to get to Elysium—to have his radiated, disintegrating organs, all in a magical moment, repaired. And of course this means he'll end up sacrificing his life and not living, even if he can't say, like Robert Kazinksy's also-ultimately-self-sacrificing Chuck Hansen plausibly does in Pacific Rim, that he rather enjoys living his life. But the character who really shows the kind of exhilarating heft that comes from not passively letting a world turn ill-fortune toward you, is of course evil-agent Kruger, who takes upon his taking over the space-station command with the same persuasive suavity as his swaggering a three-shooting missile-launcher into launching position, to down three ships that would have been traumatized a space station as if befelled by an insect invasion, if he didn't stop them short before arrival. 

It's not really Jodie Foster's Delacourt, that is. There's something about these overt mother-types in current movies, that whatever their momentary grandiosity, makes them feel from the start horribly doomed. Like M in Skyfall and Crystal in Only God Forgives, who also looked to possess the acumen to persist and thrive in their positions, they're hit with some kind of wounding accusation that's set them up for some kind of justified, necessary, coup-de-grace by the end of the film. They’ve leveraged themselves in an un-allowed way so profoundly, that even if most men still part around them or out of fear pretend to keep faith with them—only offering up at-best glancing blows so that only other empowered women might hit them by mid-point with something more solid—an executioner has been let loose in the world that's going to get them, even if not themselves left in the end to be an ongoing hero. They can dwarf whole male hierarchies for awhile, but something about their being all alone while a whole world waits to get behind a single moment of seeming narrative necessity, makes it feel like they can for sure be taken out. 

Once she’s out in this film, Kruger soon goes too. And so we have a bunch of androids bringing medicine down to huge hoards of dispossessed people, who of course oblige their weakest to get their remedies first. Somewhere some village boy shows appreciation, but kind of preferred when the space ships aired but got blown up in space—that was cool, mom! And the other villagers gather around and stone him, and not a spark of interesting doubt ever showed itself in this universe for a millennium of years. The men are dumb while the women are smart--but since this just means they go nurse rather than ambition doctor, male anxieties remain soothed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives

If you've suffered from being used incestuously by your mother as you became a young man, Ryan Gosling's character Julian shows what you might do in recompense. One, get away from your mother, like a long way away—Thailand's good. Two, find yourself in structures that seem as if a bunker and are labyrinthine, and where the wall patterns are like compact shelves of ancestors, or warding glyphs, scary to those who aren't used to them, and maybe even partially in your favor, so you couldn't possibly be unwillingly dragged away, and where any intimacies you might entertain within have the protection of carapace around yolk—they will have their time. Three, have boys around you about the same age you were when you were abused, and instead give them encouraging pats of support—from this, some good to others, as well as some assuagement of your own hurts. Four, re-explore relationships with women, but where if you're the one submitting, it's done very gently; and where for the most part you're just getting used to the idea that women, that sex, can be something under your control. Five, exist at a time when if your canny, resourceful, you-dwarfing and daunting, war-ready mother arrives back into your presence, masters you in your own den, your still-existing pliancy to her means you're the paltriest obstruction to a crusader supped on resources of a vast conservative landscape that has once again begun to stir: bent inwards to her, you hardly require scything, and can pretty much be just walked through as a righteous kill is staked. 

You'll have to have something that would yoke her back to you, though. Her out of the picture altogether, means no chance for rapprochement, for adjusting or in some limited fashion mastering her, so you might know for a moment the self-assurance that would come from knowing you had it in you to finally insist on borders, as well as brokering for yourself a new kind of space you might use with other people. And possibly out of structures put in place to keep her more under your terms, sneak in for yourself a bit of the whole scale intimacy that boys hunt for from their mothers like dwarves through staunches of ore to gold. And Julian has this something with his older brother, Billy, the mother's favorite for being the eldest, the strongest, and for possessing a penis so large it draws awe, who for being the favorite when this means the inverse of what it normally does, seems incapable of immunizing himself to her ingrained influence to try something like genuine intimacy on, and is seemingly susceptible every night to having his need to dispense his sense of being a child-victim scale over into his becoming a perpetrator of butchery—inevitably involving someone young and hopeful, like his once-self was, attacked so thoroughly to form her own gross pond of parts and blood. 

His succumbing to his drive to kill someone young and vulnerable, draws his mother, Crystal, back to Thailand, and when she arrives she stakes her claim on long-assumed territory, and garners her penthouse roof suite away from whatever hotel-precedent that would dissuade her temporarily from it. The flowers in the background are pink, and so too the limited, nervous, would-be-scene-abating receptionist's garb, but the place never really knew the color until she came in and showed them what it can do worn, when affixed to even a very tired, great lady. We have a sense that in each place she’s in subsequently, she feels so presumptive, so masterly, she might boast that she’s no longer sure she dressed to match the décor (which, you note, she always does) or whether it had taken antecedent notice of what she was in the mood for and made adjustments. Still, even with her feeling that her claim on this section of Thailand is broad and meaningfully unchallenged, Julian gets some of what he would hope to acquire from her. He’s had enough time with his girlfriend, the proud prostitute Mia, to feel he can square it against whatever mockery his mother might present against it, and gain the foothold of a mother having to realize her claim on her son is itself going to have to be adjusted—even, potentially, subjected to the harrowing sidelining of becoming secondary. This is all he could possibly get from her, though, as when Mia challenges him on why he lets himself be ridiculed by his mother, his response to her is simply fervor: staking any more than some presupposition against his mother requites him back into simply being her hardest defender.

But even as Crystal fits back into her Thailand operation, exhaling smoke as casually and confidently in her spacious hotel room as a dragon nestled in its adopted den, or admiring young men’s muscles like chops served before her, she has made a miss-step: as warned, the Thai climate is no longer one where cops can be killed, and the best move from her would have been to have spent less time repossessing and luxuriating, and more time reconciling and preparing. What has changed is ancestors and ancestral traditions, represent not so much something that is being dissipated as a country sways urban, but being recovered, having strength lent to it, as people once again are finding something most true about themselves as a race, in customs ostensibly unchanged for generations. The movie paints this as sanity, a slow return to decency—the ways of villages and country life are beginning to speak again. But it admires that what it at least as much is, is about a capacity for righteous revenge that whatever milieu it is slowly preparing itself to replace, would be stopped short by. You for sure like the cop in this film, Chang, the representative and embodiment of this renewed spirit, when he asks his daughter’s baby-sitter about what she prepared his daughter for dinner—he respects the sweet sitter, and he means his payment to feel well-earned, a tribute to her (it’s the movie that would have us contrast this payment with the exchange of money made at the beginning of the film, which was for drugs). But your admiration for his penchant to respect the often-overlooked but valuable is more than curbed, when proper payment for not seeing becomes the loss of your eyeballs, and for stubbornness, the loss of your life. For sure around him if we were comporting a colorful scarf, sunglasses, and carrying ’tude, we’d lose all such in a hurry: there are two that do this in this film, and neither ends up doing very well. Otherwise he’d grab whatever conventional tool in his near vicinity, and use it to instruct us on some respect—no doubt involving some permanent maiming. And as for his second in command, there’s lust in his eyes, craving: we feel it, and it’s repellent.

Chang slays Crystal for her egregious presumptions on an intrinsically modest people, and here is as sure in what he does as many Russians are becoming in their attitudes towards homosexuals, or British are becoming in their hard-line intolerance of porn, or Americans are becoming in their universal cheering-on of athletes having their careers cut off brutally for being exposed as cheaters. If he’s a god, I insist he’s a god to fear, not one to welcome into our lives as someone doing necessary cleansing, however sometimes hard to watch, as his executions are often performed before us, demanding our assent. But at least for Julian, his killing stroke to her neck stills her so he can do something indecent but which makes sense—putting his hand inside her womb, as the child in him nestles along maternal warmth, freed from complications, like incest, or envelopment. This is what he needed from his mother—close proximity, warmth, safety—and his cunning, intuitive, brash act here might even helped service a huge wound of his own. And it is true to what I think Chang actually represents that these hands which were ineffectual as weapons but effectual in obtaining compensation for a parent’s abandonment, may in the end have been severed from him. What really gets Chang’s goat, is what is at issue with any parent who would spank a child senseless: a child presumes.

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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...