Movies postsWednesday April 24, 2013
Find the Future Movie Star
This is a second-grade class photo of a family friend. One of his classmates became one of the biggest movie stars of the 20th century. Can you find him? Click on the photo for a bigger version.
Five Facts about Terrence Malick
All 39 facts, written when “The Tree of Life” was in theaters, are interesting, particularly to Malick fans I suppose (Malick interviewed Che Guevara?), but for those confused by, or disappointed in, “To the Wonder,” these facts are helpful:
- During his “sabbatical,” home base was an apartment in Paris and later two apartments (one for living, one for writing) in a prefabricated building in Austin, Texas.
- In the early 80s, Malick fell in love with Michèle, a Parisienne who lived in his same building in Paris and had a daughter, Alex. After a few years the three of them moved to Austin, Texas
- Malick married Michèle in 1985, but they divorced in 1998.
- Malick married Alexandra “Ecky” Wallace in 1998 (his rumored high school sweetheart from his days at St. Stephen’s). They are still married and currently reside in Austin, Texas.
So Michele is Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Alexandra is Jane (Rachel McAdams). My review of “To the Wonder” will be up later.
The most interesting fact on McCracken's list?
- Zoolander is one of Malick’s all time favorite films.
I don't know whether to be disappointed or monumentally impressed.
Neil and Jane or Terrence and Alexandra?
Consumption Written with Lightning
I saw Pablo Larrain's movie “No” Saturday afternoon. It was humorous and yet disquieting in a way I couldn't put my finger on. Its hero, René, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, was basically selling pablum and we were cheering him on to do so. He achieved a greater good in doing so. Patricia and I spoke about it during coffee afterwards.
But it wasn't until the next day, writing my review, that I wrote to a place where I realized this may have been the point. René believed in Hollywood endings but he was in an arthouse movie. In a sense, he wouldn't approve of the movie he was in—with its boxy aspect ratio and old-school, unflattering video format. The movie was about a group of people who said “No” to a dictator, which was a great event, a furthering of democracy; but the way they got there, through the cold machinations of an ad man appealing to the lowest-common denominator, indicated the direction democracy would go. We would wind up where we are. To use the Neil Postman paradigm, Chile overthrew “1984” to wind up in “Brave New World.” The people said “No” to Pinochet but they can't say “No” to René.
For a second I thought, “How brilliant.”
A second later, I thought, “How sad.” For Larrain. For filmmakers. They spend years on something that most people consume in hours and quickly forget. If I hadn't written my review, I would've thought “No” was simply a good, funny movie about the '88 election. I might have said there was something disquieting about it but I couldn't have told you why. Because I only would have spent two hours and change on it.
A novelist may spend years on a book, sure, but it takes most people days, or weeks, to consume that book. And in that time they're in the novelist's world. They're immersed in it. They have time to think on it. It's an entirely different experience. One that generally doesn't involve other people munching popcorn and checking their cellphones.
That must be tough for filmmakers. Their medium defies analysis for the mass. It leads to the ascendancy of people like René.
On the other hand, it's easier to rewatch a movie than it is to reread a book.
Road to democracy or road to nowhere?
Breaking the Fourth Wall
For the past few weeks, Patricia and I have been watching all 13 episodes of Netflix's new show, “House of Cards,” in which Kevin Spacey's character, Rep. Frank Underwood (D-SC), keeps breaking the fourth wall, a la Richard III, to tell us his inner thoughts and potential schemes and means to power. It's fun, and Spacey does it impeccably.
I mentioned this at work the other day and one of my colleagues brought up a new YouTube video that compiles great fourth-wall breakers, from, yes, Richard III, to Alvy Singer to Superman:
Not sure why they began the way they began. With a literal breaking of a wall? The “Blazing Saddles” stuff is less fourth-wall-breaking and more self-referential, isn't it? The James Bond, too, is post-modern/meta. I would've begun with Rob Gordon in “High Fidelity.” He gives you your structure.
Plus there's a whole lot more Groucho they could've done.
But the “Sweet Transvestite” number—Dr. Frankenfurter leading to Belushi to Damien to Norman Bates—is inspired.
Is fourth-wall breaking better for comedy and horror? To make us laugh or scare us? Seems to.
What's your favorite example? How would you rank them? I might put Norman Bates No. 1: When the voyeur, being watched (by us), watches back; when he reclaims that power.
Missing scenes? Off the top of my head, and besides Groucho, I'd go with Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”: “... pork bellies, which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon and lettuce and tomato sandwich.” Then the look.
A Question for Fans of 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Timothy Egan has a piece on The New York Times site critiquing Kathryn Bigelow's “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Jeff Wells, a movie blogger and fan of the film, rather than responding himself, gets someone close to the project to respond. Must be nice.
It's not a bad response. It's certainly better than the official responses from Boal and Bigelow over the past months. Among other things, he/she says this:
By the way, we showed plenty of false starts. We portray the first eight years of the hunt as being wasteful because the name [of the courier] was in the files the entire time.
I've heard this defense several times now. My question: Why would Maya have been searching for the name of the courier, Abu Ahmed, if she hadn't already gotten it from Ammar after he'd been tortured for two years?
Here are the relevant lines of dialogue from the script; the moment Abu Ahmed's name first appears. It's when Ammar is enjoying a picnic lunch with Dan and Maya outside.
AMMAR: I wanted to kill Americans. We tried to get into Tora Bora but the bombing was too high. We couldn't cross.
MAYA: Sorry, who is the “we” in that sentence?
AMMAR: Me and some guys who were hanging around at that time.
DANIEL (casually): I can eat with some other dude and hook you back up to the ceiling?
AMMAR: Hamza Rabia, Khabab al-Masri, and Abu Ahmed.
(Maya makes notes on her pad.)
MAYA: Who's Abu Ahmed? I've heard of the other guys.
AMMAR: He was a computer guy with us at the time. After Tora Bora, I went back to Pesh - as you know - and he went North, I think, to Kunar.
This is why Maya began to search for Abu Ahmed. Because Ammar mentions him after two years of torture. He mentions him after being threatened with torture again. The fact that his name is in a file is as irrelevant as the fact that the Ark of the Covenant is boarded up in a government warehouse at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Bureaucratic files are where names go to disappear forever.
So if Ammar had never been tortured, Maya never would've been searching for Abu Ahmed, who never would have led us to Abottabad and Osama bin Laden.
So why isn't the above defense of the film's at-best ambiguous dramatization on the efficacy of torture a bullshit defense?
“Who's Abu Ahmed? I've heard of the other guys.”
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