Archive for April, 2012

by Andrew Mooney

My Winnipeg (2007) – Guy Maddin (Dir.), Anne Savage

First, before you do anything, watch this:

You might be asking yourself, “What just happened?” You might be asking yourself, “Wait, seriously, what the fuck just happened?” You might also be asking yourself, “Wait, guys, stop, stop…wait…WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” And you would be right.

Winnipeg, Land of Dead Dreams

Guy Maddin is a Director (with a capital ‘D’). It’s not that he’s pretentious. It’s not that his films are almost impenetrable on a level of perplexing lunacy that’s positively Lynch-ian . It’s not that he’s a bad person. It’s that he is fucking crazy. When you watch other films by ‘Directors’ (looking at you, Von Trier) you sit back and just accept that these guys know what they’re doing and that they’re smarter than you and that there is no way you will get it so shut up and watch, you uneducated, whorish heathen. But that isn’t true with Mr. Maddin. His films are so blissfully bat-shit that one cannot help but fall into the oceanic quagmire of his rattled psyche. You hit the waters with a crash, your every inch soaking in nonsensical purity, before being knocked about by wave upon wave of sexually-confusing-melodramatic-nightmare/dream-worthy imagery. This isn’t Maddin masturbating into your eye (like some people I know…Von Trier.) , this is a man inviting you inside his head for an hour and twenty minutes.

How do you feel once you’ve escaped? Violated. A little into it. Utterly, utterly, painfully, beautifully confused. Let’s get to it then. This movie exists because the Documentary Channel thought it was a good idea to ask this guy to make something. And he did. Oh, he fucking made something. On the surface, it’s the story of Guy Maddin growing up in Winnipeg, Canada. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Canada or met a Canadian, but, in general, they are made of lollipop dreams. They have managed, as a country, to create a persona so infallible that the world thinks they’re the niceness equivalent of the second coming of Jesus.

Not according to Guy Maddin. Sheeeeeeeeit.

This film, well, it’s a psycho-analytic fever-dream of a thing, twisting and curving through the murky past of Maddin’s bizarrely abusive relationship with his mother, a brief foray into his adolescent homosexual experiences (the dude is straight…I know, right?), and an existentially metaphorical waltz through a city once golden and now crumbled into purgatorial hellscape. Here are a few items that you will witness during the truncated length of this film: he reenacts sections of his life with actors standing in for his mother and siblings (though he insists it’s his actual mother. Eesh). He exhumes his dead father and puts him under the rug in the living room because it ‘makes mother feel more comfortable’. Horses freeze in a river, populating the ice with shattered grimaces held in place for the entirety of the winter, real-life, stomach-churning ice sculptures. A map of a river repeatedly overlaid with a vagina. Ledge Man! A television show about a boy trying to commit suicide every episode and his mother convincing him not to. A gay bison stampede through a theme park. And so, so much more!

That shit actually happened. Canada is a place of death and frozen horses. And bacon that’s actually ham. Hellish.

This is a ‘documentary’ and yet there is absolutely no way to check any of these facts against reality. According to Mr. Maddin, Winnipeg has a civic law prohibiting the destruction of signage, thus the creation of the world’s largest graveyard of discarded signs. Fake Nazis invaded the city during WWII as a test to see what would actually happen if the fuhrer made it across the pond. The town has an epidemic of sleepwalkers. What do you make of this? Do you sit there, declaring what’s bullshit and what’s not? Do you call the man on his shenanigans? Or do you sit back and allow the insanity to take hold, to seep through your every pore and infect you with the oddity of pure sense. Not an ounce of this picture is coherent and yet you never question. Once the claws are in, you let it drag you along, smacking your head against the sidewalks of ‘irrationality’ and ‘Oedipal complexes’. It’s as though you’re sitting next to a good friend, showing you his/her art film. Every time you ask a question, such as ‘Did you have to dissect a pig anus? And did you have to do it to a soundtrack of the Backstreet Boys?’ they yell ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP AND WATCH’. And you do. You do shut the fuck up. And you do watch.

And I haven’t even scratched the fucking surface. His style, for whatever reason, harkens back to the melodramatic noirs of the late thirties and forties. Maddin’s voiceover is a mixture of Werner-Herzogian hilarity, peppered with misplaced metaphors and thoughts so deep, you’d need James Cameron to excavate the bottom. (Side note movie idea: James Cameron as a ‘thought diver’. He uses an Inception-like submarine to dive into your darkest dreams and nightmares…and once he gets there he calls you a ‘pussy’ and makes a billion dollars. How? Don’t ask. He’s James Fucking Cameron.) And between the eyeball-battering flashes of disconnected flotsam and jetsam, Maddin breaks in with title cards screaming subtext through your entire body. There’s no time to process or argue, you just have to wait, thinking, “Wait…wait… did that just say boobs? Guys…why did it say boobs? Guys…?”

Here are a few of my favorite title cards:

“Breast milk!”

“Man-sweat!”

“Urine!”

“The Marchpast of Flesh.”

“The Corridor of Thighs!”

“Jiggly!”

“Basements!”

This is an actual title card. The piece de resistance.

It’s as though those art students, who create six-hour performance pieces of them exfoliating their scrotums while pouring cat urine into a hollowed out doll-head and repeating ‘IRAQ, IRAQ, IRAQ,’ are slowly digested by the world at large, sucking out the creative juices that bring about such acts of bold artistic bullshit and funneling it down into a well of the collective-consciousness, an emotional runoff, a cesspit of retarded passion. As they hide their tattoos, grow back the half of their head they shaved and begin wearing clothes that weren’t found in a dumpster, their aesthetic aspirations die a quiet death. Does that energy dissipate? Or concentrate into a mix of such hellish oddity that it would make the Marquis De Sade blush. If that does indeed exist, then Maddin is the guy who found it and jumped the fuck in. He’s if those people made full-length films. Every second is an assault on the sense and the logic of reality.

All that said, this was, by far and away, my favorite viewing experience thus far. As he turned Winnipeg into the ideal of Beckettian nonexistence, I gobbled up every second. And I had no fucking clue what was happening. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen in years. But we need that. We need that jump in the tracks to off-set the train of normality, sending it careening into the uncharted woods of pure possibility, killing all 350 passengers of conformity and…alright, that metaphor got weird. Point is: we need the crazy. We don’t need too much. We don’t need it all the time. But we need it, a palette cleanser for the artistic soul, a catharsis of such inexplicable queerness, it forces you to question everything in your life…until you realize that you just watched a movie. You take a breath. You eat another Twizzler and turn on The Big Bang Theory. The cycle begins again.

As a person who has severe phobias of being trapped in my Connecticut hometown, I can absolutely relate to the train that just never leaves the station, the over-riding frustration that translate directly into crushing inaction. It’s hard to encapsulate the emotions we have towards the places we grew up. These nurturing spaces transform into a malevolent specter, a symbol of comfort that becomes smothering. It’s a pillow that you know you can lay your head when the world gets rough, an eternal safe space…and yet, when you fall back and feel the warmth of slipping between sheets that you’ve felt a thousand times before…you remember that you’re falling back, not forward. You get tired. You tell yourself 5 more minutes. Ten, twenty…

Home. It’s deadly.

A day passes. And another. And another. Maybe a year. You look at the clock and rub your eyes. Most of your young life is gone. And all you’ve done is catch up with sleep.

by Andrew Mooney

Well, we have the movies I’m actively excited about. This list, well, this list is not that. This is the stuff in the middle. The pudgy flab, that isn’t quite ab, isn’t quite a gut. It’s just there. Neither negative nor positive. The purgatory of summer film, if you will. These are the movies that, when you witness the trailer, everything about the flashing lights and moving shapes pummels your body with messages of “YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED” and yet, you come away with a resounding ‘Meh’. And that ‘meh’ has power. It can come from a place of frustration, the collective sigh of a civilization yearning for more and yet settling for less. These are those movies that, yes, they’re not perfect but they have their pros and their cons. Yes, we can wait until the perfect film will come along and fulfill all of our desperate needs, or we can find Mr. Right Now: The Movie. We can settle for a fling. It doesn’t bring any closure. It doesn’t even bring decent climax. It just passes the time.

For this section, I have rated each film on the internationally standardized ‘Meh’ scale. It ranges from ‘Meh’: nothing too offensive, finely constructed, yet it didn’t build any expectation that it would be anything other than what it would be, to ‘MEEEEEEEEEH, ugh, Meh!’: You know the people here are talented, they have ideas (or had) and yet this thing is a bunch of forgettable by-the-numbers crap. Don’t you remember when you were hot? Young? Ready to take on the world. Now you’re just a haggard mess of an artist, scraping what’s left at the bottom of the molded barrel, searching for that lost youth. And yet, every year it slips ever-more steadily from your grasp until you are nothing more than a husk. Taking up space. Useless. Wasted.

So, here they are:

MOVIES I WILL SEE AND HATE MYSELF

Men in Black 3

Oh Will…you fill me with such…respect. Guys, I said respect. That’s what I meant. No, I’m not blushing!

Alright, let’s get real for a second. I enjoy Men in Black. Let’s get even realer. I even, wait for it, didn’t mind Men in Black 2. There is something so effortless about Will Smith. About his finely trimmed mustache. About his smile that’s just the right amount of trickster, mixed with the perfect dash Han-Soloian sexiness, sprinkled with just the right of ‘black-person-white-people-aren’t-afraid-of’. I will watch him in pretty much anything. Even Wild Wild West. That’s like a Vegan saying that there’s a sauce so good, they’d eat horse-penis with it. This movie has a few things going for it: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin as a freakishly accurate Tommy Lee Jones and…well, that’s about it. What’s against it? They started shooting without a script. That’s beginning to cook without a recipe…or ingredients…or pots and pans. You’re just some jackass switching a stove on and off.

I’ll see it. I’ll shrug. I’ll say ‘Meh’. Maybe I’ll laugh…I probably won’t cry. It will be effortlessly forgettable…as effortless as Will’s roguish charm. Okay…this is weird. Now I’m blushing. Moving on…

The Dictator

I imagine Baron Cohen has one of these above his bed where he sleeps with Isla Fisher every night. Bastard.

So. Sacha Baron Cohen made a movie. It was called Da Ali G Movie. It was a movie. About Ali G. It had characters. A plot. It had actors in it, many of them good. My 13-year-old self loved it. It loved the gay jokes. It loved the boob jokes. It loved the hilarious misunderstanding of youth/rap culture relegated to London suburbs. As I have previously discussed, my thirteen-year-old self was an ironically sexually frustrated/fucking idiot. That movie is nine levels of awful, each level being a hell of Danterian horror, wrought with the souls of those too far-gone to salvage. We had Albus Dumbledore as the Prime Minister, toiling in a mess of gay/black jokes, stumbling around after drinking marijuana-laced-tea. We had Shakespearean thespian Charles Dance dressed in drag and tied up with leather straps. We had Rhona Mitra…well, we had Rhona Mitra’s breasts. She might have been present, though my thirteen-year-old memory is clouded with a mammary-clogged haze. It was bad.

And then Borat arrived in theaters. Now an immigrant myself, I appreciated the crass dissection of American xenophobia and bigotry. It’s characters were one-dimensional, its humor, like an Israeli brothel, specifically semitic/genital-based. What helped it surpass its basal subject was its use of actual Americans spouting some of the most hateful things I’d ever heard…until the next presidential election. Somehow, Cohen’s schtick managed to unearth the harsh underbelly of American racism, especially at a time where fears of middle eastern terrorists were at a peak. And it had a naked jew-fight in the middle of a conservative convention. I laughed. I cried. I tried to wash the sight of hairy taint from my mind by inserting bleach into my ear. I needed surgery. But it was worth it.

This has parodies of terrible people, Kim Jong Il, Gaddafi, Hussein…you know, dead guys. It’ll explore the hilarious excesses of people drowning in the belief that their very testicles are the second and third coming of Christ. Or whoever. Someone apocalyptic. It also makes light of the US murdering foreign enemies with precision robot strikes (yeah, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to unironically write that sentence during my lifetime…Sky Net is coming). And that’s fine. But it has a plot. And characters. This doesn’t seem to be Baron’s forte. Like a dog with a bone, Cohen plays with his narrative structure, knowing that he needs it, and it’s important, so much so that he has to keep it safe. But fuck if he knows what to do with it. This gets a “meeh”. A light shake of the head and face produced usually by the presence of passed gas.

Snow White and the Huntsman

“Yes, I have special powers. I bite my lip. And I pout. Well, it worked on the American public, so go to hell.”

A few summers before this, while I was still burgeoning with optimism for my life once released from the shackles of my undergraduate degree, I stepped into a movie theater and witnessed a little movie named Star Trek. I’m sure you’ll hear me rant about that film another time. The point is this: the opening to that film is one of the most unfairly affecting pieces of short sci-fi you’ll see gracing the multiplexes any time soon. Captain Kirk’s father, Cameron (this isn’t true, but how hilarious would it be to see Kirk Cameron yell about Jesus in space? Copyright, bitches), sacrifices himself to save his wife and son then becomes the aptly named ‘Captain’. I wasn’t really paying attention to the details because, seriously, this is Star Trek. Give me Han Solo and humanity’s inexplicable ability to understand every language over Spock any day. Anyhoo, sidetracked. The guy playing the Kirk’s dad was a pretty lad named Chris Hemsworth. He was also in Cabin in the Woods  and he was fucking great.

He was also in Thor, where that fascinating nuance of a beef-head with actual emotions was sorta, well, ignored. In between his hammer hitting’ stuff, and kissin’ all up in Nat-Port’s facial region, he was about as complex as George Lucas’ artistic intentions. So, let’s move onto the film at hand. Hemsworth is back: good. He plays a beef-cake: bad. Already in the trailer we had more shots of him swinging his penis axe and flicking his totally-super-manly locks of gold this way and that. We also have K-Stew who has made an entire career out of lip-biting and acting like a sack of lady-meat.

But there’s also Charlize Theron eating people’s hearts. And that creepy-Matrix-mirror thing. Remind me of my Grimm’s, but I’m pretty sure cave trolls, harpies and The Prodigy’s terrible come-back album weren’t a part of the original text. We all know Bella Snow White isn’t going to die, but what a sweet way to end the saga of Twilight if Charlize Theron ate her fucking heart. I would pay to watch that. Alas, I shall be frustrated, as I am with each film in the glitter-sporting-not-sunlight-fearing whimpy vampire pout-fest when, just before the credits roll, I pray for Wesley Snipes to show up in his Ray Bans and fuck some Cullen shit up. And yet, he doesn’t.

It’ll be pretty (hopefully). It won’t contain Julia Roberts desperately trying to murder her own career with each blinding second of Tarsem Singh’s visual insanity. I’ll watch it. I might heave up a little popcorn. I won’t see K-Stew get viciously disemboweled. Maybe another year when she delves into that inevitable crevasse of her career where she’ll play a murdered stripper trying to figured out who’s semen that was. I might see that.

The Bourne Legacy and The Amazing Spiderman

Dude, Jeremy, I think you need some new blinds. You fucked these ones up.

Alright, alright, neither of these movies look bad, per se. No, both offered the world trailers that actually seemed mildly palatable. Spiderman is taking the darker edge with the tale of Peter Parker’s forays with a radioactive spider (in real life: dead of cancer in months). We get a little of his parent’s history. It’s got Emma Stone (always good even if the film is created in total ignorance of the entire Civil Rights Movement). It’s got Andrew “That’s Right, I ACTUALLY Founded Facebook” Garfield. Also good. It’s even got the wonderfully bizarre, Notting-Hill-dwelling, tight-whitey sporting Rhys Ifans as the lizard. Sure. All of that seems fine. Even The Bourne Legacy has Jeremy “Fuck you, I was in the Hurt Locker” Renner, Joan “Not Rivers” Allen, Rachel “Most Beautiful Woman on the Planet and Sleeping with James Bond, That’s Right” Weisz and Edward “Eh” Norton. It’s even written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the crafter of that George-Clooney-Being-George-Clooney-Being-Someone-Else lawyer-fest Michael Clayton. The pedigree is all there. So, what’s my problem?

Do you remember when original movies used to arrive in theaters? Do you remember the times that the numeral ‘4’ after a title usually meant it was in the malaise-period of the Nightmare on Elm Street series? Do you remember The Fifth Element? That movie was fucking crazy and original. In fact, out of the seventeen movies this year that I’m mentioning, only six are original IPs. What happened? Did Hollywood suddenly go self-human-centipede and begin guzzling its own refuse? We have movies coming out this year based on Battleship. Read that sentence again. And again. Read it until your eyes bleed. One more time.

What makes the abdomen part of the shadow? Garfield is hung like a horse. That’s what.

I have picked these two films to berate, not because they are the worst of the bunch (just wait for Dark Shadows) nor are they particularly egregious. They are boring wastes of time. Spiderman: we already had an entire series of those fucking things about four years ago culminating with the campy-ass-lobotomy-I-will-never-get-back-my-childhood-watching-the-old-cartoon-orgy that was Spiderman 3. And now they’re rebooting it? For what greater purpose? Of course, more money. Of course. But it’s boring. It’s so, so, so boring. Piranha 3DD may be a pile of elephant anus, the likes of which the world has never seen…but it certainly won’t be boring, ladies and gents. Of that, I am sure. Marvel, do something new and good. You’ve done the Avengers. Figure it out.

But you, Mr. Gilroy, you disappoint me. You can write real movies. We’ve seen it. Why settle for a forth-quel? Are you looking to place your work on the same mantle as Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace: How Many Colons Does Lucas Need? What about Saw 4? Or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides? Or Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers, the movie that killed professional granddad of the year Donald Pleasance? Give us something new, you talented bastard. Give us some meat. We’re hungry and we don’t go for fecal matter like the bottom-feeders running some of these studios.

Both movies will be fine. They might be enjoyable. But they are both a waste of time and energy. So, Meh, with a tongue stuck out, at both of you.

Dark Shadows and Savages

Miss Hayek, blunt bangs are not your friend. Please deal with them immediately.

Hey guys! Yeah, you guys! You directors. Right, the ones with oscars sitting at home and cult classics on the shelf that will be enjoyed for decades after this. Hey, you remember when you were good? And then do you remember when your careers became less good you went one of two paths, down the route of absolute bat-shit-insanity and the route of by-the-numbers uninspired garbage? And then do you remember waking up in the morning realizing that every one of your good years is gone and you only pump these things out year after year because, honestly, its better than staying home and masturbating? Well I do.

Let’s start with you, Mr. Stone. Congratulations, this is a new movie. Not-congratulations on casting Blake Lively. She’s pretty yes, but about as compelling as See Spot Run once you know the ending (Spoiler: he runs). It’s got Salma Hayek (one of my deepest loves) forced out of her natural comedic brilliance and employed to spice up a role that, if it were cast with the dude it was written for, would be completely unforgettable. It’s got John Travolta. I don’t even need to ridicule that one. It ridicules itself. Oliver…you made Platoon, arguably the best way to witness Willem Dafoe die like Jesus (and that includes The Last Temptation of Christ). You made a movie where Charlie Sheen isn’t terrible. You have bent the rules of the universe and created work that isn’t just good, it’s fucking brilliant. What do we have now? W? Wall Street 2? Oliver, I understand that your ‘schtick’ is being an unrestrained maniac…so do something maniacal again. Yes, Natural Born Killers was, to be kind, a hot mess that could eclipse Lindsay Lohan after a long weekend in Vegas. But at least it was ridiculous. Maybe this will be that and the trailers are just terrible. Maybe. I’m hoping, not just for your sake, but for Juliet Lewis’ career. She needs the help, man. Look at her…she’s a scientologist.

Tim Burton: “I want the Addams Family, but less dynamic and more 70s”. Art Director: “So…more color?” Nailed it.

Now onto you, Mr. Burton. Once you were great. You created Edward Scissorhands, the most inspiring biopic of a bondage/hair artist the world has ever seen. You made Beetlejuice, thereby making all children terrified for modern art for the rest of their lives (and bringing the world Winona Ryder, Saks Fifth Ave. aside). When I hopefully have kids, I will force them to watch Nightmare Before Christmas so many goddamn times they’ll be afraid of even asking for Christmas presents, including the pony that, I’m sorry, we just don’t have the space or the income for a stable, I don’t care how much you plea and hug my leg and cry or tell me how you’ll do all the work or that I’m the best dad in the world… Well, alright. But don’t tell your mother. Our secret. Our secret pony.

Sorry. Distracted again. What now, Mr. Burton? Michael Jackson Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Alice in Lord of the Rings Wonderland? Planet of the Apes starring Mark Wahlberg? Okay, seriously, who thought that was a good idea? I want to know. I’m not leaving until I find out. Because I want to slap some sense back into their stupid…

Anyhoo… Now we are reduced to seeing that golden god of a man, Johnny Depp, follow you once more into the heart of darkness. This isn’t just a remake. Or just a remake of a TV show. It’s a remake of a soap opera. Sure, I could see that maybe working out…if you didn’t rely on base, poorly-timed slap-stick. It won’t be bad. It will be totally useless. It won’t piss anyone off. Nor will anyone remember it. It will be blip in the universe, two hours of completely pointless time, spent switching off one’s brain and allowing the world to trickle by. Hundreds of people worked on this thing, artists, people with ambition. And what is the result? Nothingness. Pure nothingness.

When you look back in time, inevitably forgetting each of these films, you think on the days you were young, the days you were in the best of health, the days you could get into raucous hijinks with college friends… And you’ll think…with all those gifts the world gave me, what did I do?

And you won’t be able to remember. You turn back to your kids/grandkids and you simply answer, “I don’t know. Can’t have been that important.”

by Andrew Mooney

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) – Ken Loach (Dir.), Cillian Murphy, Liam Cunningham

The Irish are a smiley bunch.

There’s this country. Rolling green fields, rainbows sprouting from pots of gold, little men wearing green and sporting beards redder than my lobster back after a day at the beach. This is a land of faeries, of leprechauns, of Guinness, of Jameson Whiskey. A simpler land.

If you think I just described Ireland, congratulations, you’re a racist. Every year, around March 17th, as the inebriated begin their vomit-ridden trek from the toilet to the pub and back again, guzzling themselves on green beer and drinking enough Guinness to make even Dionysus embarrassed, I am harshly reminded that Ireland has a reputation. An incredibly inaccurate reputation. Having been in Dublin for about 6 hours, it’s about as obvious as a punch in the kidneys that Ireland has its issues. Taking the bus from the airport we drove past a building complex taken down by an bomb. A building. In rubble. In fact, growing up in England, I would hear countless BBC reports of IRA bombs left in trashcans around Manchester or London, thereby destroying both cities’ ability to keep streets free of detritus and options for quickly-improvised armor.

Being from a hybrid, mutant-beast of an Irish/British background, I’ve always been fascinated with my fair-skinned, strangely genetically-dominant, whiskey-brewing brethren. It’s a complicated country, its history about safe and blood-free as a BDSM weekend with Dario Argento and Eli Roth. Artistically, Ireland has produced such happy-go-lucky scamps as E.E. “CAPITALS” CUMMINGS, James “Words As Masturbation” Joyce, and Samuel “There is No God And Everything is a Pointless Danse Macabre Until We Are Motionless Clods Buried Six Feet Under” Beckett.

So, onto this lovely picture-movie. Where does it fall within the lexicon of brutality and fatalism that makes up the majority of Irish political drama? Well, the movie opens with a game of soccer…in that they have sticks and are yelling in a language that makes no sense. Maybe it’s another sport. Research isn’t my forte. It becomes quickly apparent that there is literally no way to discern gaelic from English-With-An-Irish-Accent-So-Heavy-You-Could-Whip-It-Into-Butter. But everything is happy as a pudding…until a bunch of British soldiers show up, voices set to ‘YELLING’, and stab a lad to death for not saying his name in English. Cheery stuff.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is not a fun film. In fact it’s a brutal, rough-edged, crusts-left-on, growly chronicle of two brothers pulled into the Irish Republican Army in the 1920s. On the one hand, there’s the revolutionary Teddy O’Donovan (the deliciously named Padriac Delaney) and the initially-non-partisan Dr. Damien O’Donovan (Cillian “If Crispin Glover Was Beautiful” Murphy). While Teddy acts as a lightning rod for the cause, training his rag-tag Republican boys to fire rifles and murder the British/loyalists, Damien holds off to the side, healing and tended the wounded. But things change. They get worse. Fast.

Even pool is a somber affair.

Now, a movie portraying the IRA sympathetically isn’t going to be free of bias, let’s be honest. It’s a touchy/volatile/explosive subject. I’m going to hell. Anyway, I just wish this Palm d’Ore winner had given the asshole British soldiers a little more nuance than “YELL, FUCKING YELL, YOU TOSSERS, YELL!” It was as though the entire movie was a game of footie and, instead of beating the shit out of Liverpool supporters, they’re shooting people. And pulling off fingernails. And screaming. They scream a lot. It got to the point that Cillian Murphy is forced into a scene with the only seeming-mild-mannered gentleman in the entire British army. They begin chatting, a volume appropriate for high-tea and intellectual discussion. And then fucking yelling happens. I didn’t even see it coming! Just yelling. I get the stakes are high, but Ken, Kenny baby, have you ever heard of tonal variation?

So, people get shot. People get bludgeoned. A car blows up. A lady gets her hair cut off. It really is a barrage of brutality, unrelenting from scene to scene. I believe I counted about three smiles in the entire thing. Now, of course, the history of the IRA is no laughing matter but…Jesus…seriously. Can’t we have one scene where someone is petting a puppy and the puppy doesn’t get shot by British soldiers?

Dreariness aside, there were some fascinating quirks to this film. If you’ve ever listened to the pit-patter of the Irish brogue, even the most basic chit-chat is ticklish poetry. Seriously, if we redubbed every Vince Vaughn movie with Irish actors being douches, I wouldn’t think they were such passé pieces of shit. Or maybe I would. It’s a worthy experiment. What’s odd about this movie is that it doesn’t seem to adhere to a script. People just talk. There are all kinds of verbal blemishes, ‘um’s and ‘ah’s flooding the lines, stutters and malapropisms. Either this was a stylistic choice on the part of Mr. Loach, or in prime Irish fashion, they didn’t have enough money for second takes. The pinnacle example of this was when a kid brings a note to the O’Donovans…but he’s dropped it on the path. The kid looks into the camera, as though he’s expecting the director to yell “Go back, you little ass, and do it right!” He doesn’t. The actors carry on, filling the air with delightful Irish chatter before finding the note on the path. Right there: favorite moment in the movie.

Making Ireland proud since never.

So, let’s move onto the lads then. The acting on show is pretty phenomenal. Every scene is natural as a organic orgy. Liam “Poor Man’s Liam Neeson” Cunningham takes a break from not-yet-being Davos Seaworth in this current season of Game of Thrones to kick some British tail. Both brothers are mesmerizing. Loach, as a director, doesn’t really give a shit about moving the camera around a scene or highlighting things or editing. He just films and the actors do their thing. And with a man like Cillian “I’m Fought Zombies in London, I Can Kill You With My Eyes” Murphy as your centerpiece, you can’t go wrong. If I could put him in every movie, I would. The two seconds he appeared as not-Mark-Zuckerberg in the new Tron movie were the best-acted part of the entire bat-shit ordeal (other than Jeff Bridges being high as a fucking kite the entire movie…but that wasn’t acting. We all know this to be true). He’s the spine that holds this whole thing together, along with the fear that, as everyone else around him is masticated and mutilated,  he will get punched in the face. That’s like smashing a Ming Vase. I know we all cheered when Jared Leto got his mug wrecked in Fight Club because, let’s be honest, dude is a cock-weasel. Have you heard 20 Seconds to Mars? Also, what kind of band name is that? What differentiates the last 20 seconds of a 2 year journey to the red planet? Slightly faster than the rest? Leto aside, Cillian Murphy is too pretty to harm. And creepy-as-fuck when he wants to be. I suppose that comes with the territory.

Time to get serious. What drew me into the film wasn’t the plot as a whole or any of the individual characters. This isn’t a biopic. And, with most historical-political dramas, I lose interest easily when I’m aware I’m watching fictional people doing mostly-fictional things. But this isn’t about events, nor is it about politics. Loach probably saw Michael Collins and thought, “Eh…let’s not do that. Let’s break some friggin’ skulls.” This is about two brothers and their self-destruction by way of a national revolution. Though Teddy is the political one at first and Damien the mild-mannered, by the close of the film, Damien’s become the vicious outsider, going so far as to murder fellow Irishmen. The beauty of the universe has delivered this into a line of films about hatred, birth and inevitable end. While The Serpent’s Egg was an intellectual examination of Nazi genesis, this is tactile, real, immediate. This is not a complicated narrative and it needn’t be. It’s beginning to end. You understand why they hate the British…you almost go as far as to excuse their violence. But, by the end, you see that there is no way for the moderates to exist in the same space as the radicals. As the old adage goes “brother against brother”. After all the killing and revolution, once the end is reached, the warriors are still fighting. Some people are content to change the flag and keep the same politicians. Some people are determined to burn it all to the ground.

Danny Boy indeed, mutherfucker.

It’s a beautiful country, its cragged fields and mossy forests the birthplace of so much of western imagination. This land bore such fancies as faeries, banshees, leprechauns and all manner of mystical whimsey. It’s also where a lot of people have died for what they believed in. It’s easy to forget, in between shots of Bailey’s dumped into frothy pits of Guinness (pleasantly named an Irish Car Bomb), inebriated chants of ‘Danny Boy’ in the streets of Wrigleyville and wearing the most hideous shades of green this side of a vomitorium. Movies like The Wind that Shakes the Barley, though about as enjoyable as strapping oneself to a chair and ripping out your own thumbnails, are essential reminders. Ireland, we love you, but you’ve got issues.

by Andrew Mooney

The temperature is rising. The rains are coming. The sun isn’t being such a dick anymore. Puxatawny Phil lied to us. As Ned Stark wouldn’t say: Summer is Coming. We know it comes every year and, no matter how much we think we can prepare, the result is a vomitous mess of wasted celluloid and fried neurons. We no longer measure summers in lost loves, days trickling away on the beach and road trips. We measure them in blockbusters, Twizzlers and jumbo buckets of popcorn, monstrosities we know are going make us want to throw up and yet we keep coming back for more because…because it’s free refillsIt’s free food! WHY WOULDN’T YOU TAKE IT?

Summer movie season will be upon us soon. As I practice how many Reese’s Pieces I can force down my gullet without purging, the parade of mediocrity that is the Summer Movie Preview begins its dirge. So what do we have this year? What films will play across our faces as we question what we are doing with are lives and why we’re not in grad school and, seriously, Tom Hardy has like a thirty pack, how is that even possible?

I have split the bigg’uns into four categories: Movies I Want to See, Movies I Will See and Hate Myself, Movies I Will See Drunk, and Movies I Would Rather Be Diagnosed With an Awkwardly Placed Fungus Than See. So…let’s get started shall we?

MOVIES I WANT TO SEE

The Dark Knight Rises

Bane? Bane! Hey, Bane! You forgot your mask! Hey Bane?

Alright, alright. Let’s get my fanboy panties out of Christopher Nolan’s butt and just come out and say it. I love Batman. Not just that he is an enjoyable character with intriguing flaws as well as equally complex villains to complement him. I love him. I want to be him. I always have. This is no joke. If he actually existed (that’s a begrudging ‘if’) I would attempt to steal his heart and force marriage. Perhaps by way of a faked pregnancy. I haven’t thought it through.  Thus, when Batman Begins charged its ways into theaters back in 2005, I was about ready to put a hit out on the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane when he declared it “Meh.” Meh? MEH? Batman is the night. You know what doesn’t give a fuck? The night. Because it comes, whether you like it or not, every night. They even named a part of the day cycle after it because it’s not-giving-a-fuckness hit such levels of magnitude, it had to be respected.

So, there is this movie. I still get hot flashes when I think about the truck chase in The Dark Knight. Granted, the trailer for Rises had some…odd stuff in it. And I still have not forgotten Ken Watanabe’s hilarious accent in the first one. But seriously, on paper, it’s like Christopher Nolan went into my dreams and took everything I have ever wanted in a film: Batman, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, my insatiable crush on Anne Hathaway in leather body suits and… Wait…that is my dream. Did Nolan…?

My god. He is the Master of Dreams. All hail Nolan.

The Avengers 

This poster is terrible, aside from Iron Man playing invisible basketball.

Alright Joss Whedon. You have my ear. Now give me something good.

The movie that instigated this re-scouring of classic film was actually one of Whedon’s. I saw Cabin in the Woods twice in one week. I loved it that much. Seriously, if you enjoy horror films like I do, go see it immediately. You will have a blast. Ok…so, now onto this 4-year marketing campaign in the making. This film better be fucking worth it otherwise I’m forming a fucking posse and we’re gonna ride into Hollywood and drag Whedon out by his ass. And then we shall brand him, on the rump, “Thanks for wasting out time. Jerk.” I know it wouldn’t really be his fault, but someone must pay.

Ang Lee’s Hulk was one of the worst pieces of fecal matter I have ever had the pleasure to witness at 30,000 feet. And, as everyone knows, all movies are 40% worse on a plane. That’s science. I vowed, then and there, that I would never see another Hulk movie. And then Ed Norton decided to take a career nosedive and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk was born. This time, 100% less credible! Well, I saw it. No, not because it looked good or that it had fine reviews, but because Robert Downey Jr. was in it for thirty seconds. I watched two hours of unrelenting mediocrity because of The Avengers. So, Whedon, you have been warned.

In all honesty, it looks kinda cool. Yes, the only interesting part of Thor is back (Tom Hiddleston, not Chris Hemsworth’s abs. Put it back in your pants, ladies). Yes, I get Scarlett Johansson in a cat suit…again. Yes, Jeremy Renner shoots a bow…or something. Whatever, he was in The Hurt Locker so he is infallible. Yes, Samuel L. Jackson yells (he better fucking yell or Whedon is getting branded). And of course Mr. Robert Downey “Just Dare Me to Give A Fuck, I Dare You” Jr. as Iron “The Nice Version of Batman” Man. I’m a teeny bit excited. And apprehensive.

Your move, Whedon.

Moonrise Kingdom

Have you ever noticed that every Wes Anderson poster is the same thing? Quirky people standing in a line according to height?

That’s a lot of cursive. Cursive is intimidating.

I’m gonna lay down some truth bombs. I am white. I am male. I went to liberal arts college. I believe I am legally obligated to love Wes Anderson. Of course, the budding hipster, yearning to escape my body every day I think to myself, “Which vest goes with this shirt?” shudders with restrained excitement at the thought of Wes “No Big Deal” Anderson committing a new image to celluloid. The love affair began with Rushmore, as it did for so many blossoming detentes of the millennial generation. It grew from a tryst into true, codependent adoration with The Royal Tenenbaums, had a sexy vacation with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, lost the luster slightly trapped on a train with The Darjeeling Limited and then rediscovered the passion with the divinely-sent Fantastic Mr. Fox. As his similarly named counterpart traversed the Matrix in order to bring down the robot hierarchy, Mr. Anderson traverses human emotion to bring down our hearts. Aww. But seriously, if you like him, his movies are hilarious. If you don’t, well, you are probably a lot more fun at non-hipster parties than us.

I owe Anderson several life debts. 1) Fantastic Mr. Fox. My entire childhood development, if it could be blamed on any one person, was crafted by Roald Dahl. This book was perhaps may favorite of all. This is a movie, that no matter how crappy I feel, how lost, how tired, how depressed, I can switch it on and feel a wash of bliss subsuming my every doubt that, in the end, everything is going to work out. That is, until Michael Bay announces ‘Ninja Turtles‘. Head…about…to…explode… I mean, since Fox, whenever I really am feeling down, I think to myself “I wish I were Fantastic Mr. Fox”, because then I would be George Clooney. And Clooney is a fucking god.

2) He reanimated the jaded, bearded corpse of Bill Murray, siphoning that sarcastic Ghostbusterian brilliance into the bitter, distant father of humanity that he has since become. It’s incredible to see such a nice man act like such a brutal jerk, seemingly drunk at all times and finished with life. And yet, instead of murdering himself, he continues to trudge through each day, shooting down the young and sneering at the optimistic. His acting is amazing. Unless he isn’t acting then…well, I would certainly regret inviting him to my 21st birthday party.

This movie looks great. Surly Bill Murray? Check. Throwing shoes at Ed Norton? Check. Quirky, hipstomatic color scheme shot square in every scene? Check. Bruce Willis? Um…sure. Why not? Sometimes you need to invite the older kids to the party. It’s just polite.

Brave and Paranorman

Oooooh. Puuuurdy.

Now, it’s not really fair they don’t both get a section each, but I have pretty much the same thing to say for both. Brave is the newest Pixar film. Disney has been successful in convincing me that, no matter what happens, the world exploding, Mitt Romney becomes president, Newt Gingerich reaches the moon, one thing will always, always be true: Pixar films are amazing (unless the word Car is in the title). The Incredibles, Toy Story 1, 2 and 3, Wall-E, Finding Nemo and Up weren’t just formative moments in cinema for me…they reduced me to a weeping, giggling, spitting-up child, squirming with glee as I gobbled the rest of my Reese’s (I bathe in them. The love affair is that deep). I can count dozens of moments that took my heart and twisted it into a tiny ball of fear, anxiety, stress and longing before allowing it to explode out of my face in the manliest tears possible (given the situation of course). That being said, Pixar gets a pass. The trailer for Brave is beautiful…it has Scottish people in it. Yeah, the jokes fall a little flat and the story doesn’t seem as mind-bogglingly brilliant as their other stuff. But then, what did we say about Up’s teaser? Lawyered.

Worst. Metal band. Ever.

Paranorman, on the other hand, is from the same studio that produced Coraline a few years ago. Since growing up with those apexes of literary brilliance that are Wallace and his pensive canine companion Gromit, I have adored stop motion animation. Yes, I was that ass with a Nightmare Before Christmas poster in college. Also, I’ve been known to pop a boner or two for Neil Gaiman, on occasion. Coraline, though flawed as all hell (the second half devolves into a video game, essentially), it tickled every Roald Dahl bone in my body. And there are a lot because, after my accident when I was a boy, I found his grave and took several pieces of… I’ve said too much.

Paranorman looks fun. Zombies. Scary things. Imaginative stuff. In the end, it probably won’t be anything to write home about. But then we remember we have the Internet and everyone loves to write home about everything. So…yes, it will get written about.

Prometheus

Bask in its glory.

Ok, boys and girls, this is it. This is the big kahuna of the summer. I would like to believe that, if there were seven and two half words that could collectively drop fanboy panties through the outer crust of the earth, they would be: “Ridley Scott is making a new sci-fi film”. And then we hear it’s a ‘prequel’ to Alien. Thanks to George Lucas, the word ‘prequel’ is about as palatable as a UTI. Also, there have been so many Alien films and only two of them have been good. Lastly, Damen Lindeloff, a man whose name is synonymous with ‘Fanboy/girl Blue Balls’, wrote the script. At that point, I dusted off my hands, looked out into the sunset and declared, “I think I’m done here. See you all in hell.”

And then the trailer was released. Even with my best Clint Eastwood poker face (equal parts concrete, disgust and ‘wow this cigar tastes terrible’) disintegrated into something closer to a gelatinous mass of anticipatory euphoria. Michael Fassbender…Noomi Rapace…a soundtrack that seems deadly close to Inception’s…Charlize Theron…Idris Elba…ALIENS…CREEPY ALIENS… SCREAMING…IT’S IN MY SKIN…

I can’t explain the religious epiphany I had in that moment. If this movie isn’t good, I won’t be upset. There will be no posses, no branding of Scott’s heiney. Rather, I will sit in the grass outside the movie theater (let’s be real: tarmac) and weep. For Beckett was right. We are waiting for something that will never come. Something greater than ourselves. Something to give meaning to this universe and its backwards existence.

And that thing, of course, is another good Alien movie.

by Andrew Mooney

Bill Cunningham New York (2010) – Richard Press (Dir.), Bill Cunningham (duh)

This movie makes me want a bike. Not that I’d ride it. I just want one. Gimme.

Alright, so I’ve broken down and created a new category of viewing situation. This isn’t a relapse. I’m not slipping into my old ways of watching Independence Day every time I can’t think of anything else to do (I will not go quietly into the night, Mr. President. Never.) This is a new part of the game. It came to my aggravated attention that Netflix changes movie availability. I mean, am I surprised? Bastards. Therefore, movies harshly recommended by friends, or those that are required viewing need to be watched now or never (see what I did there? I went to college!). After an extremely forceful suggestion from my friend and work-buddy Christin, Ryan and I flicked this bad boy onto the streaming mecca that is the Flix of Net.

Now, I’ve never been a fashion person. I’m white. I’m male. I’m straight (shocking, I am aware). Thus, my predisposition for well-tailored clothing isn’t genetically probable. I spent all of high-school looking like a Backstreet Boy, then a copper-top battery, later upgrading to ‘fancy homeless person chic’ in college. It wasn’t until I began my hilariously fish-out-of-water talents towards the hair industry did I begin to see the light…and learn anything about the fine, ancient, mind-boggling art of ‘color coordination’. I’m still fairly terrible at it…but at least I’m told occasionally I dress well. The issue had always been one of apathy. I didn’t care. Fashion was for people with money. Fashion was for ladies and, as some of my relatives would put it, ‘the gays’ (God love the Brits). I’ve always been a man of words, putting them on the page, shifting them about with nerdish glee and twisting phrases like a lad ripping apart ants on the playground. Visual aesthetics have always been lost on me. During my ‘fucking idiot’ period, reaching its indelible peak during freshman year of Oberlin, I would love to lay down statements, laced with bovine fecal matter, such as, “Modern art isn’t art.” I wish I had a time machine. I’d go back and slap the shit out of myself. (And I’d also go back and insert myself inconspicuously into scenes of Jurassic Park containing Laura Dern. Don’t ask why. I don’t judge what you’d do with a time machine. Jerk.)

Bill “You Wish I Were Your Grandfather” Cunningham

Alright, that’s the lengthy and, most likely, unnecessary preamble. Let’s cut the foreplay and whip out…the movie. So, there’s this guy, Bill Cunningham. He’s 83. He did live in a rent-controlled artist studio in Carnegie Hall until he was evicted. He only has about 3 outfits. He has no kitchen, no bathroom because, as he says, “Who needs all those rooms to clean?”. His bed is plywood held up by books. He owns nothing but a camera, a Scwhinn bike and about ten thousand filing cabinets. And he is one of the most respected names in fashion journalism. No fucking joke. This guy, right here, is the definition of artistic badass. If he were a warrior of art, he’d be John McClane strapped to Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrapped in a big ball of Alexander the Great and sprinkled with a dash of Death Star.

He takes photos. That’s it. They’re not prepped; there is no studio, no set up. Candid. People on the street in New York, in Paris, just wandering around. He sees something, he takes a picture. And that is all he does. He barely eats. I’m not even sure he sleeps. He simply takes photos of anything he likes. No less. No more. He doesn’t give a shit about celebrity or fame or manners or whatever. If it’s ‘boring’, you’re out of the club, bucko. Good luck next year when you’re not such a bland, cookie-cutter douchebag, crowding the streets of our cities, spreading cultural excrement in a way to build your own insatiable self-esteem…

Sorry, not sure where that one came from.

Iris “George Burns” Apfel

Thus, in New York, there is a man, a superhero if you will, wandering the streets in a blue windbreaker, snipping and snapping people leaping over puddles and snuck in snow drifts, documenting every inch of current fashion. An old man, who, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think was a misplaced trainspotter and/or peeping Tom, trolling for young flesh to add to his scrapbook of pre-faceless victims. But he’s not. The second you hear him talk, you realize this guy is the result of dipping Mr. Rogers in fairy-batter and baking in an oven set to ‘Adorable’ degrees. He’s probably the only person on planet earth, who could stand on a corner in Soho, taking photos of people’s butts and escape without a stiletto heel burying in his spleen.

Within minutes, I was convinced Mr. Cunningham was no mere mortal. His artistic passion is so uncompromisingly beautiful that he disregards romantic relationships, base needs, social standing etc. He does whatever he wants. He tore up checks from Conde Naste because, “if they give you money, they own you.” He is an artistic aesthete I’ve never experienced in my life. He’s described by fashionistas and titans of the fashion industry as ‘the most important man in the world’. And yet, he’s this 90lb bag of bones and pixie-dust jam who doesn’t even stop hiding in the sidelines and snapping shots at his own awards show. No, he is not a man. He’s a demigod, a nymph displaced from the ancient forest to the urban millennium, drifting about civilization, observing and yet never disrupting. He does not review. He does not analyze. He simply watches. When told to differentiate street fashion as ‘in’ or ‘out’ he returned with the agonizingly egalitarian, and bewitchingly brilliant “if they’re wearing it, it’s ‘in’. Everything is ‘in'” (paraphrase, sorry). In no way does he create trends. He’s a cultural scientist of such blissful objectivity that he can simply observe. He does not partake in the slightest, never accepting so much as a glass of water at events and sporting a duct-taped poncho when it rains because, “why buy a new one? It’ll just rip in the same places.”

‘Inspiring’ isn’t the word for Bill Cunningham, nor would he care for it. It’s something else. This man is living proof that artistic ideals never need to be compromised. When I complain about how my work may not allow me enough time and energy for my writing, I’m incorrect. I’m giving in. I’m allowing what is as essential to me as respiration fall by the wayside because of petty things such as ‘nice food’ and ‘belongings’ and ‘relationships’. If committing word to the page, be it electronic or otherwise, is the delicious addiction I believe it to be, nothing will get in my way to get my fix.

The movie as a whole is endlessly enjoyable. Not only does Bill “Teddy Bear Made Out of Gumdrop Dreams” Cunningham brighten every frame, but he has collected such a gallery of fascinating characters that you can only marvel at the eccentricity on display. From the 98 year-old Editta Sherman, who refused eviction from Carnegie Hall as well, declaring the film-crew uncivilized for not bringing coffee, yelling at them for filming one of her pictures of Andy Warhol and displaying one of her Cunningham original berets, to the former ambassador of Nepal modeling his collection of polky-dot, plaid, striped, furniture-stolen, manic-panic clashes of chromatic brilliance, pieces that would make a blind man declare, “That suit is loud as hell.” We have a man who refuses to you let you see his face as he changes hats (and they are fucking fabulous, of course). We have Iris Apfel, whose plate-sized spectacles and peacock-murdered attire manage, somehow, to overshadow her fun-house decorated apartment, rounded out subtly with a stuffed parrot looking directly into the camera (It’s disconcerting. I was uncomfortable). But, still, for those morsels of insanity shaved down into human form, none of his muses can measure up to the enigmatic nature of this movie’s subject.

Editta “I’m a Legend. And Get Me a Coffee, You Bastards.” Sherman

Mr. Cunningham is an example of a curious cultural phenomenon. His fervor and unbreakable dedication to his work is not simply trapped in the world of fashion. In every walk of life there are maniacs of a similar sort, people who have crafted something seemingly minor into an art form. Look at plumbing. I guarantee there are people who care so deeply about controlling the path of water in an industrial environment that they have made it their life work. Every aspect of our society has an obsessive, unrelenting and unyielding, whittling their field down from the basic to the infinitely artful. For Cunningham, it’s what people wear. For Isaac Newton, it was calculus. For Bill Gates, its computing. They are the web of passion, coursing through every fiber of civilization, holding the whole thing together for the rest of us. The blood pumping away under the surface.

I witness it and, in vain, wish I could be one of them. I’m not. I’m just an asshole with computer who enjoys the sound of keystrokes. And that’s fine. I love being an asshole…(there should be a better way of saying that). For all the work I put into my craft, I’m still human. I am no demigod or genius. I go home at night and hang out with roommates. I have relationships. My addiction can subside without stimulation, allowing me just slivers of temporal briefness to live in the moment. For all the undying respect I have for greats such as Bill Cunningham, I would never wish to be part of the club.

There was a moment, near the end, when Bill was asked if he’d ever had a relationship. He laughed, of course, and said ‘no.’ He was then asked why he goes to church every Sunday. He fell silent and looked down at his hands. For far too long. Press, the documentarian, told him he didn’t have to answer…yet Bill had shut down. As though a kill switch had been flicked. For all his smiles and sweetness, for all his charm and gregarious nature, he was still impenetrable. There was no way into his psyche. We are simply allowed to witness. He only let’s us observe.

There’s no way into a mind such as that. Perhaps, it’s best if we simply leave it, an undiscovered country. Perhaps, under the surface, there’s nothing we would wish to see. I’m okay with that. I think.

by Andrew Mooney

The Serpent’s Egg (1977) – Ingmar Bergman (Dir.), David Carradine, Liv Ullman

Look at him. He’s a plank of wood.

There were two criteria for entering a film into the pot. 1) We have to have heard of it or 2) We have to have heard of the director. That was it. Pretty simple, right? Well, this was certainly a gem that only found its home in the latter category. Ingmar Bergman is a name synonymous with cinematic excellence and creepy-as-fuck-people-doing-creepy-as-fuck-things. His work is almost unparalleled. In senior year of high school, I dragged myself through four sittings of his Kill-Yourself-Everything-is-Pointless Magnum Opus The Seventh Seal. It’s an uncompromising view of the end of all life…or maybe just a soldier’s life…or maybe the world…or maybe…just shut up and listen to how absurd a language Swedish actually is. Well, hoping that this little ditty, The Serpent’s Egg, would be of the same caliber as Mox Von Sydow playing death with an IKEA chess board, we turned it on.

It became quickly apparent why this is the only Bergman available on Instant Watch. Seriously. It is a movie about David Carradine, a jewish trapeze artist (how do we know he does trapeze? Because he’s David Fucking Carradine and he fucking says so), wandering drunkenly around 1920s Berlin punching people and sleeping with prostitutes and having mood swings and then (SPOILERS) getting told he was all part of a pre-Nazi experiment. Um…okay…

After researching a little about this film, Bergman described Carradine as “sent from God”. You may remember Carradine as the illustrious and heart-exploded Bill from Kill Bill (SPOILERS…dammit. Late again. Oops)…or dying by way of auto-erotic asphyxiation in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. He’s about a charismatic as that piece of wood Keanu Reeves has been emulating his entire career. This man is a kung-fu artist. He punches people. He kicks them in the face. He reaches into people’s chest and rips out their hearts. He does not sit with existential stillness and channel the horrors of being into corporeal form. It’s just not his strong suit. He stumbles from scene to scene, brokenly speaking words as though he just remembered that his tongue does exist and it’s used for verbal balletics and randomly hitting people (usually of the female persuasion…but who knows? Carradine’s a wild card).

Fuck with him. I dare you.

I considered Bergman’s words. As a director, he’s worked with some of the greats. How did he consider Carradine, ‘sent from God’? This was Bergman’s only Hollywood film. Here is my theory: the movie was actually coherent at some point and then some executive informed Bergman that “Carradine is hot shit. Have you seen him punch people in the face? Top dollar! Top shelf! Top dog!” He then sucked on a cigar and petted his obligatory man/boy-sex-slave (they all have cigars…and little slaves. This was the 70’s, let’s be real). Bergman then attempted to make his movie and yet Carradine, upset that he didn’t get a shot at Footloose (which wouldn’t be released for another decade, but Carradine knows kung-fu so he obviously has powers of clairvoyance. That’s science.) insisted upon drinking a fifth of moonshine every twenty minutes and showing off that he can beat the ever-loving-shit out of anybody. Thus, Bergman compensated. And so, he built a perfect replica of 1920s Berlin and allowed Carradine to just kinda wander around, crying, yelling, throwing bricks through windows and hitting whomever he pleased (or getting hit, depending on his current flavor of crazy). Then he filmed it. This is no movie, it’s an extended experiment, investigating the true depths of celebrity/kung-fu-induced insanity. One would expect this to culminate in the “Let’s explain everything but actually explain nothing and end with a Nazi watching himself die in a mirror”…but the true apex of drama in this film is the absolutely inexplicable, thinly-veiled dance sequence in which Carradine light-foots his way through a police station Kevin-Bacon-style.

And then he accidentally locks himself in a cell. Like a champion. And gets beaten senseless. Like a champion.

The other theory is that, somehow, in the future, Quentin Tarantino discovers a time machine and returned to 1977 to lay the prequel work for Kill Bill. Then again, Tarantino with a time machine would be far more destructive… (note to self: movie idea).

What else to discuss with this very odd, aimless movie? Not much of a plot. Like Carradine’s inebriated adventures, it stumbles about before revealing that it was all a hoax the entire time. What do we get along the way? Midget strippers. A heroine, dressed as the Joker, doing her best Liza Minelli impression. Jews getting hit. Horses dying. As my roommate Ryan said, the “one crackhead in all of Berlin”. Prostitutes. Cross-dressing minstrel shows. Pretty much everything on the checklist of a Tommy Lee weekend in Vegas.

Yes. This is from the movie. I shit you not.

Much like Haneke’s The White Ribbon, this is about Nazis. Where they came from. How they came to be. It’s about the birth of hatred. So, thematically, its strangely apt for this last run of films. Plot doesn’t matter. It’s a portrait of a country disintegrating, laying the groundwork for an uprising. Bergman isn’t the peppiest of filmmakers. In fact, he’s about as uplifting as a kick in the nuts…that then leads you to discover that you have inoperable testicular cancer and only 3 months to live…and your house just got foreclosed on…and your dog just doesn’t care anymore. Carradine aside, it’s a fascinating collage of a frustrated nation, cracking at the seams, waiting for the influx of evil that’s only ten years away. As the crazed, yet terrifyingly sane doctor says in the final scenes, “In ten years, the ten year olds will be twenty. The fifteen year olds will be twenty five. This is how hate is born.” For a movie so blissfully incoherent for the most part, its ending makes your skin tingle with irrational rationality. Every single button is pressed, forcing you mental g-spot to overwhelm itself and take into account that, when pushed too far, people will turn to anything to solve their problems. Sometimes it’s constructive. Sometimes…it’s genocide. ‘Haunting’ was the only word I could conjure once the ending credits rolled. Carradine left my mind, as did the rest of it. Every memory of this film flittered away into nothingness and I was left with a single thought.

Hate. It comes when you least expect it, when you most expect it.

Thanks, Mr. Bergman, for ruining my Friday. Great job. You existential dick.

Also, as a little pick-me-up, I had a guest star watching with me. My new roommate Ryan is apparently the worst person to watch a film with if you want to take it seriously. Conversely, he’s about as reverent as a clown taking a shit in a church. Such gems flew from his lips during the course of this film:

“She’s addicted to shitheads!”

“She looks like she’s been infected with the Rage virus.”

And the coup de grace, about Carradine: “This is before he got that boring job jerking off in the shower.”

He will be included in future viewings. He has cemented that right. Be prepared.

by Andrew Mooney

Serpico (1973) – Sidney Lumet (Dir.), Al Pacino

This is not a film about Al Pacino as Jesus. I thought it was. For years.

Next up. My friend Molly, a house guest for a few days, did the honors this time. When she removed the card from the basket, she read it as though this were a terrible game of charades (ed: redundant) and I’d just given her “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas“. After we all agreed that the film sounded harmless, I announced proudly, “At least you didn’t get one of the rapey ones!” Um…well…oops. From now on, I will assume that they’re all at least a little rapey.

So, this is Sidney Lumet’s retelling of a true story. The story of this New York cop, Frank Serpico (porn name, anyone?) who took the entire NYPD to task for corruption. Much like many of its 1970s brethren, this movie is well-acted, well-shot, kinda boring in places, has plenty of naked woman, and incredibly inappropriate musical cues. We see Al Pacino as the titular cop transform from a clean-cut golden boy into something more resembling a crazed hippie-Ron-Jeremy. We see him go from department to department, discovering that everyone is on the take and that he’s in danger for not doing the same. He stands up for his principles and fights for justice. Honestly, after my Mississippi Burning rant about police procedurals, this was a welcome breath of fresh air. We even witness his descent as the movie chugs along. In the first act, he looks away and leaves the room while one rapist (told you it was a little rapey) gets the ever-loving shit kicked out of him. He even buys the guy coffee. But, later, when he comes across one of the criminals protected by the cops because he’s paying them off, Pacino breaks into full-Scarface, stripping the guy ass-naked, throwing chairs and locking him in a cell. The juxtaposition is obvious and effective. Police work screws you up. Permanently.

The centerpiece of the movie is Pacino. In fact, the man has made a career of being the centerpiece of everything. Even if he isn’t, he will chew so much damn scenery until there is nothing left but him, a half-nibbled back drop and his costars fearing for their lives. Mutherfucker is crazy.

Look. He isn't yelling. This isn't what I paid for...

Look. He isn’t yelling. This isn’t what I paid for…

But he wasn’t always so…I remember watching the Godfather: Part I for the first and marveling at his subtle, restrained performance as the heir to a Mafia legacy. He was cool. He was calm. He was deadly. Man was cooler than a James Dean…before he died of course (though he was probably, body-temperature-wise, pretty cool afterwards. That’s logic.) What happened? How did we get from that to “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND?” How did Michael Corleone become Tony Montana? Did someone hurt him? Did he open his heart to some girl, a process difficult for a man with so much restraint, and then she discarded him like a used rag, forgetting to close that opened door, thereby letting his emotions run rampant for all time?

And now…what has he been reduced to? Jack and Jill? A movie where they couldn’t afford two main stars, so they just told Adam Sandler he could fulfill his sexual fantasies by dressing up as his sister? (That’s what that movie’s about right?) Pacino is in that movie. As himself. Selling Dunkin Donuts. But that’s only the turdish cherry on the pinnacle of shit-sundae. Lest I remind you of The Devil’s Advocate, the only time literalizing an English phrase into three act film didn’t work. Charlize Theron’s breasts and Keanu Reeves only facial expression aside…that movie was a satan-hot mess.

That’s a little more like it.

So, where does Serpico fit into this retrospective? Like that thing that looks like a monkey had sex with Courtney Love, it’s what I see as the missing link. We witness every shade of grey in this film. From the terse, distant, green cop all the way to the full-yell, chair-throwing Pacino we all know and fear. He’ll have a tense scene…and then he starts running. When Pacino runs (or dances, for that matter) he looks like a marmot trapped in a paint-shaking machine. Worth the price of admission alone.

As Serpico’s hair, both facial and otherwise, grows, so does his insanity. It almost becomes a fractal of his career at large. As his wife in the film tells him, the last person to take the crazy pills is seen as crazy by everyone else… Perhaps the world has descended into madness and Al Pacino is the last bastion of the old rationality. As he ages, he holds on with increasing tenacity, dressing like a homeless man and always seeming as though he walked into the wrong strip club. It’s a theory.

So, this movie. It’s good, like most of the films in the bucket. It’s slow and takes time. It employs many of the editing and narrative techniques seen in similar films such as The Conversation. Sometimes time just switches. Scenes change. You have to do the work to figure out what happened in the interim. I haven’t seen a film like that since last year’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a movie that if you aren’t paying attention, will whip you with the plot-mace. And it hurts, boys and girls. But, this is also the 70’s…so the costumes are hilarious. From Pacino’s porno get-up to the oversized, strip salmon, puce and cream-striped ties, this thing is an epileptic’s nightmare. Also, the music sounds like the drunk-end of a Greek wedding. And it always decides to begin at full tilt when someone is talking. Thank god that doesn’t happen anymore.

Jack and Jill. Dear god. Make it stop. Think of the children!

Also, one minor gripe. Early on in the film, Serpico buys a sheepdog from a neighbor. This dog hangs out at his house for the rest of the movie, wandering in and out of scenes with reckless abandon. This wouldn’t have been an issue for another breed. The problem with sheep dogs is that, due to their size and hair length, like Keanu Reeves, they only have one expression: “Derr, I’m a dawg.” The fluffy brute is completely unaffected when Pacino and his partner start screaming in each other’s face. He is content to just sort of lumber through thinking, “Me? I’m a dawg. Aw yeah. I’m a dawg.” Tension was broken more than a couple of times.

This is an important film, though, about an important man. It deals with that concept of police brutality and corruption on a very practical level. It depicts NYPD officers as warriors, most of them dirty. The randomness of the universe did well to place this movie right after Mississippi Burning. Both films depict progress and violence. And both films understand that sometimes, to effect change, the heroes have to fall. Those who do the work can’t necessarily enjoy the fruits of their labors. Serpico ended up quitting the force and disappearing. I guess he lives in a trailer in upstate New York, still crazy, still paranoid. I guess whatever floats people’s boats.

So, if you’re patient, see this film, if only to help chart Pacino’s descent into the Heart of Movie Darkness. It’s a hell of a ride.