Apr. 21, 2014 at 3:53pm
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The Raid 2

* * * 

Dir. Gareth Evans

  1. What made The Raid so revolutionary (I think it was the best pure action film since Hard Boiled) was that it made two interventions in the action film genre: 1) it was basically one big boss fight after another and 2) it was 90% fighting and 10% story because if you’re going to see a martial arts film for the choreography why wait around while a threadbare plot gets going? This film is almost an inverse of the first in terms of being mostly story. The result is that the final fights are rather cathartic, as some people felt the first one got tiring after a while, but…
  2. this is a completely different movie than its predecessor. It’s an epic crime film (a combination of elements from a number of Asian crime film traditions borrowing structures, elements, and stylization from Hong Kong, Japanese, and South Korean cinema) while I think I didn’t enjoy it as much as its predecessor, I think it’s good that it is a different film. Evans is definitely trying new things and has grown quite a bit as a director who will be able to operate outside of a niche genre. An ambitious director working with genre material might be my favorite thing in movies. 
  3. This is a sprawling (aka long) movie (2 1/2 hours). There’s at least 2 movies worth of material here, yet the first 20 minutes covers so much familiar territory (unlike The Raid this takes forever to get going), that I think they could have gotten away with not devoting as much time to it.
  4. I was happy to see Yayan Ruhian, who stole the show in the first film, again in this one, but if you haven’t seen the first one in a while this might confuse you because he is playing a different character
  5. But are the fights good?  Part of the incredible cinematic experience of seeing the first film was the row of teenage boys behind me reacting like the crowd in an And1 Mix tape during the fights. In this one the fights are bloodier, more brutal, and just as fast, but not as unrelenting.The prison yard brawl is conceptually the most ambitious and complex but the highlight here is a surprisingly visceral car chase. 
9:33am
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5 Thoughts: This is Not a Film

Dir. Mojtaba Mirthahmasb (Whether Jafar Panahi directs the film is the central question posed by the film), 2012

* * * 1/2

  1. At a certain point some films have to be considered for their production rather than finished products. The fact that this was made under considerable censorship, legal, and other limitations makes this films existence as a feat itself. 
  2. But this can be enjoyed on another level. As a theoretical question: what counts as a movie? Is it a script? Is it camera work? Intention or chance? For Panahi it seems to be the contingent events that one cannot control, not the things that someone attempts to control, that make directing and film important. 
  3. That some of the most important points or at least points of consideration in the film are clips from his past movies also suggests a type of filmmaking. That they can be created from existing works, or the importance of reference, or perhaps, considering the clips he shows, it’s the making of a film that’s as important as the finished product.
  4. Prominent use of timecode in the DVD playback indicates manipulation of the footage and I think that’s intentional. What’s real or not or how that is blurred is a running theme. 
  5. Prominent placement of a DVD of “Buried” is interesting. 
12:02am with 3 notes
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It was Janis Ian day on Lifetime Movie Network…

It was Janis Ian day on Lifetime Movie Network…

Apr. 16, 2014 at 11:29pm with 1,562 notes
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Apr. 12, 2014 at 1:27pm with 310 notes
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disfiguredstick:

FAMILY PHOTO TIME!!!Based off this

disfiguredstick:

FAMILY PHOTO TIME!!!

Based off this

Apr. 7, 2014 at 8:31pm
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The Conversation
Released on this date in 1974

The Conversation

Released on this date in 1974

8:17pm with 63 notes
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Apr. 6, 2014 at 2:22pm with 1 note
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Noah

image

* * *

Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2014

I typically try to limit myself to 5 thoughts in consideration of papers and other work I need to be doing, but there was more to talk about here. I was hoping to go with a good Old Testament number like 7 and then 12. So, here’s 10:

  1. First, as someone very interested in spirituality and film this is a refreshing movie. Playing in the same cinema as what looks like the paint-by-numbers Son of God (To be fair I haven’t seen it, but my question related to it is that at what point does it really add anything to see the same material covered in the same way), this is a Biblical story that actually brings new life and new insight into the Noah story. Fidelity to scriptural stories isn’t always the same as reverence for them in art. And, as I say about every adaptation, any change from words to images fundamentally does violence to the initial text, so that in adapting, pretending to be faithful is more dishonest to the source material, and creates tepid, uninteresting cinema. To me, film is a media that begets contemplation, and fidelity leads to just going through the motions, while a more liberal, artistic interpretation creates thought, conversation, and insight. So, while this isn’t always a successful film, it did make me think a lot about what the story of Noah means, and structurally it is still the same. And it’s nice to see that this kind of crazy version of a Biblical epic can get made 
  2. Likewise, faith that only feeds itself media that reenforces that faith isn’t really dynamic faith. And faith is perhaps the fundamental spiritual point this movie displayed, to me, so well. God lets Noah figure things out himself. He let’s him be wrong at times. Faith is tested and is stronger because of that testing. The rainbow as sign means a whole lot more in this version of the story, as the manifestation of acceptance only long after Noah has made his decisions without any sort of confirmation. 
  3. There are some beautiful moments in this movie. Ridiculous but moving moments. Interestingly enough almost all of them don’t involve the human characters which seems to complicate a movie with the question of the salvation of humanity at its very center. Particularly, the pre-flood world of the Old Testament, has to me always seemed like a strange, very different place. And this is the first movie that has succeeded in providing me with that feeling of strangeness.
  4. So, if not humans then who? Well, it turns out, and you find this out rather quickly, that Aronofksy is using elements from the apocryphal Book of Enoch (and Midrashic traditions that alter the image of Methuselah from just a really old man into an OT bad-A) namely the Watchers, fallen angels who have an ambivalent relationship with mankind (lacking the rather uncomfortable sexual elements that this tradition usually goes in). If you haven’t read any of Enoch than you may be familiar with similar fallen angel stories (generally in horror films), as Hollywood seems to like adapting it. In this case, the fallen angels have taken on a rock-based form, not unlike a Neverending Story character. But still, their fall/redemption narrative was to me, the most moving in the film.
  5. I actually enjoyed this film until the flood happens. And then it seems to fill the gaps of the short Biblical Noah story less with imagination and more typical Hollywood story, even though the presentation of Noah becomes acutely a-typical at this point. This movie does give a rather interesting explanation into one of the more curious elements of the Noah story; his drunkenness. And it kind of makes a lot of sense. 
  6. Part of this could be that at this point the external action has long since reached its climax while Noah’s existential crisis is just beginning. The other issue is that the antediluvian world, full of strange powers and anachronisms (this is a technically a pre, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic movie) is so fascinating that once it’s gone the movie loses a lot. 
  7. The more I think about it, Ham, who is pivotal in this act, could have gotten to where he needs to be at the end of this movie without Tubal-Cain, who is so melodramatic he’d fit nicely into a number of run-of-the-mill action epics. 
  8. I did, however, like this more than Aronofsky’s other kind of crazy mess of a spiritual epic, The Fountain. Pi fits in somehow too and we should count it a success that Noah doesn’t quite go to the same lengths to rid his mind of the madness of discovered divine communication. 
  9. People who dismiss this as an environmentalist telling of the story aren’t fully understanding it. Plus, if you’re going to use an Old Testament story as environmental message movie, you’d go with the Tower of Babel, which is very much about the violation of the environment. This film is not saying that just as God destroyed the world because of the environmental destruction of the sons of men in Noah’s time he will do it again to us (which also would miss the end promise of the story). Instead the film shows how the sons of men misunderstood God’s first commandment and their destructiveness came from this misunderstanding. To them, it was all about subduing the earth, viewing the earth and mortal existence as a curse from God that must be, through violence, placed into subjugation. That the “sweat of thy brow” was bloody, brutal punishment. While to Noah, it was about replenishing the earth, and the sweat of the brow was co-creation with the divine (in this film at times literally). That the earth, even after the fall, was God’s perfect creation and expression of grace, of which nature and animals and humans are a part.
  10. One could cross-reference this to Agamben’s concept of “The Open,” in which, humanity has freedom to reject the “biopolotical machine” which replicates and enforces institutionalized power structures against what is named “animal;” borrowing/continuing from Heiddeger, what is considered “bare” life (and illustrated in this film by the industrial and wholesale consumption of everything by the sons of men; the lesser, weak things are only there for their appetites). What is interesting in this movie is a missing any major connection between Noah and the animals. God gets the message out via a natural information network, the animals show up, and Noah leaves them to do their own thing, and he does his. Perhaps an illustration of Agamben’s sabbath, or suspension of roles, a hiatus of the division between creation that has resulted in institutionalized destruction, illustrated by the sons of men. 

Would make an interesting double feature with: The Road or the final episode of Battlestar Galactica

Apr. 3, 2014 at 11:55am with 5 notes
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Mar. 31, 2014 at 8:17pm
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Mar. 29, 2014 at 3:03pm with 1 note
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FYI: Turner Classic Movies is showing some classic avant garde films early tomorrow morning.

Starting @ 3:30 am EST after the doc Free Radicals

Deren, Jacobs, Mekas, Richter, Vanderbeek

Mar. 28, 2014 at 7:38pm with 2 notes
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Ken Burns makes a Eugene Mirman profile and I don’t even care that it’s a commercial

Mar. 26, 2014 at 10:39pm
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tv
From Dusk Til Dawn, Fargo…I’m now looking for other movies from 1996 to make into a TV series

Let’s see: Broken Arrow, Jerry Maguire, Sling Blade, Tin Cup, Primal Fear, Mary Reilly, …Jack? Eddie? 

4:05pm with 10 notes
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Mar. 21, 2014 at 4:00pm
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5 Thoughts: Dreamscape

image

Dir.  Joseph Ruben ,1984

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A telekinetic man is enlisted to help rid the President of his nightmares. 

  1. This sounds like the kind of movie I should love, which may explain my tepid reaction to it. It’s a cult classic in some circles, but I wonder how much of that was initial viewings; meaning I wonder if it doesn’t hold up very well (whatever that means…one of those unquantifiable issues of taste). 
  2. There’s a light tone to this (as with most 80’s films of this sort, and the tone is especially interesting compared with the roughly similar premised Inception. Sure, you may say, that was more of a crime drama and this is an adventure movie, but then again one dealt with a guy who couldn’t go home and the other with total nuclear destruction), which is a nice change of pace (movies are far too serious nowadays), but at the same time it feels like it never gets involved in anything enough to care about what’s going on. 
  3. I wonder if this would have been more interesting had Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow switched roles? This is a surprisingly strong cast for this type of film. 
  4. There are two contemporary Christopher Walken movies that cover similar territory (the workings of the brain and government paranoia) a bit better: Brainstorm and The Dead Zone. Actually, put both on hold and instead read Le Guin’s excellent (and short) The Lathe of Heaven, perhaps the best dreaming related sci-fi I can think of. 
  5. Also, cf. Genesis’ grotesque “Land of Confusion” video for President’s dreaming about nuclear holocaust. There’s a paper here for someone who’s interested on Reagan, nightmares, and Nuclear war in the early-mid 1980’s