Archive for March 2017
Is Starship Troopers a critique/satire of Star Trek’s world (and worldview) or a ripoff, in particular of “The Devil in the Dark” episode, with some Aliens, Top Gun, and An Officer and a Gentleman tossed into the mix?
In 1985, more than a decade before Starship Troopers, J. Hoberman published a piece, “The Fascist Guns in the West,” about the films of the Reagan era (Rambo, Dirty Harry, An Officer and a Gentleman) that might help answer the question. Read it here (starting on page 53) or here. I saw the film last night and the screening was preceded by a short discussion between Adam Curtis (who chose the film as part of a weekend of films he curated) and the film’s screenwriter, Ed Neumeier. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to ask the writer if he was familiar with Hoberman’s essay, but I’d bet money that both he and Verhoeven were on the same wavelength as Hoberman. A true melding of minds about the Eighties.
Six plus hours later, long after the sun set on Hollywood Blvd., here’s what hours and hours of waiting got them:
Surrounded by security, Mr. Samuel L. Jackson helped his mother down the staircase after the premiere of Kong: Skull Island, walked down the blue carpet, never once looking up, got into his limo, and disappeared into the Hollywood night, disappointing hundreds of fans (plus the usual handful of professional autograph hounds).
Here’s what happened in between:
- We arrived around 3:30PM to find ourselves about a third of the way from the beginning of the “carpet run.” It wasn’t really a run, except for the ones who wanted to make it one, such as…
- Around 6PM, the stars started to arrive. John Goodman was the first to walk by the fans. And that’s just what he did. He made no eye contact and looked somewhat like a scared rabbit.
- On the other side of the “wall,” where some lucky fans sat in bleachers while a radio DJ blasted them with his barely intelligible voice, Jackson, Hiddleston, Larson and the director posed for pictures and talked to media types. We couldn’t see any of this.
- We waited and waited. No sign of any of the above.
- Finally, just before 8PM, a crowed of people passed by and climbed the stairs to the Dolby Theater. But still no sign of the stars.
- Then, suddenly, there was Jackson. There was Hiddleston. There was the director with the beard.
- And just as suddenly, they were gone. Not one of them stopped. Not even the director.
- I did not forget Brie Larson. Going in, she was the last person we expected to interact with the fans, that is, sign autographs and pose for pictures. But tonight, she was the only one who did. She went down the lane of fans, signing and posing, stopping just past us, then turned around, got in a limo, and drove away. She did not watch the film. (FWIW, we did not get an autograph.)
- We came back ninety minutes later. The film was supposed to last about two hours. A bit more, if there was an introduction. But we were surprised to see the exodus start nearly twenty minutes earlier than expected.
- John Goodman was one of the first to descend the stairs, just as he was one of the first to ascend the stairs. A group of professional autograph hounds yelled, “John!” He went straight to them and signed for two or three. For a moment, it looked like he was going to engage with fans. But then, suddenly, he yelled to his handler, pushing her, “Go! Go! Go!,” and hightailed it, disappointing many fans.
- One of the autograph “professionals” reported Jackson, upon seeing them lined up along the blue (not red) carpet, said: “I see all the professionals are out tonight. So, tell me, are you rich, yet?”
- Not tonight.
- That goes for the film, too. It finished first in this week’s boxoffice race, but with a meager $61 million.
- However, Brie Larson was not the only one who engaged with fans:
15. No, we did not see the film. Apparently, no one did, really. Later, we learned from a fan that the film, with twenty minutes to go, suddenly stopped and that was it.
16. At least Mr. Jackson ran the gauntlet again on his way out. Director Jordan “The Beard” Voigt-Roberts? Tom Hiddleston? After they went into the theater, we never saw them again.
This happened March 8, 2017.
Among the PC reproaches to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, the one that stands out for its sheer stupidity was that there are no gay couples in the film which takes place in LA, a city with a strong gay population… How come those PC Leftists who complain about the sub-representation of sexual and ethnic minorities in Hollywood movies never complain about the gross misrepresentation of the lower class majority of workers? It’s OK if workers are invisible, just that we get here and there a gay or lesbian character. — Slavoj Žižek (Source)
To [La La Land director] Chazelle’s credit, for both of them [Mia and Sebastian] luck will play an important role in their successful careers. But this career-wise luck will be combined with the breakdown of their relationship and this is another departure from conventions associated with backstage musicals. The successful career is not combined with an idealised heterosexual romance. If one of the charges pressed repeatedly against Hollywood is that it blissfully disregards labour relations in its portrayal of characters, La La Land dexterously avoids this pitfall by showing how labour relations and aspirations may come at the expense of love and private life. There is significant emphasis on labour conditions throughout the narrative, showing the characters doing all sorts of crappy jobs hoping that one day they will make it. — Angelos Koutsourakis (Source)
In response to Tuesday’s [Academy Award] nominations announcement, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday wrote, “It’s clear that, unlike recent years when the red carpet looked lily white, this year’s Oscars will resemble the outside world much more vibrantly.” But this is not true, or true only in a secondary or superficial sense (a greater range of skin tones). For filmmaking truly to “resemble the outside world much more vibrantly,” or simply accurately, is not a racial or ethnic question, but a social one. Films would first of all need to take on, through artistic means, the realities confronted by tens of millions of people: the sharp decline in conditions of life and growing social wretchedness, the bleak future facing young people, the growing and immense danger of war and dictatorship. They would have to reflect life in general “more vibrantly,” and not simply the concerns of self-centered layers of every ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. More than 40 million people in the US work in the 25 occupations with the largest employment. Those occupations range from clerks and nurses to truck drivers and teachers, sales representatives and carpenters to team assemblers and receptionists. Is the artistic representation of their lives, the exploration of their thoughts and feelings, a worthy undertaking? At present, they are almost totally excluded from filmmaking and art generally. (Source)
But to think of diversity purely in racial and gender terms is not sufficient. Yes, we need more candidates of diversity, but we also need candidates — no matter what race or gender — to be fighters for the working class and stand up to the corporate powers who have so much power over our economic lives. We need all of our candidates to have the courage to stand up to the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, drug companies, insurance companies, oil companies, and fight for working families — not just the top one percent. — Bernie Sanders (Source)
- Isn’t the “light escapist romp” and “crowd-pleasing Hollywood confection” La La Land, which shows characters whose choices are limited because their money is limited, more realistic than films such as Moonlight (where poor people seem to have money for everything but drugs) and Manchester By the Sea (where an apartment building factotum can afford to take off work for months without worrying about money)?
- I wonder how many of the people who complain about “privileged” people in La La Land are in fact well-to-do, that is, privileged, in a way the financially challenged characters in the film are not. My guess: lots.
- Why does talk about diversity begin and end with sex, gender, and race? Isn’t it possible to have a room full of people who represent every gender, sexual orientation, and race lack true diversity? George W. Bush’s cabinet included Latinos, women, and Blacks. Diverse, right? Or was it? Does a struggling plumber have more in common with Bill Gates because his skin is white like Gates’s, or with a plumber whose skin happens to be black?
- This diversity we’ve been talking about is a diversity of experience. But what about a diversity of ideas? Ideas of all kinds. As the man said (sort of), “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” Or a hundred thousand, a million, a billion… Or 7,489,381,257 (as of Wednesday, March 8, 2017, 9:43AM Pacific Time.)
So, T2 Trainspotting. I’m afraid I didn’t find much of interest. That doesn’t mean I found nothing of interest. The most interesting thing is the title. Director Danny Boyle said that the title is an intentional tip of the hat to The Terminator sequel because the characters in Trainspotting would appreciate being in a film called T2.
This is interesting. T2 Trainspotting ends with two of the characters in room stuffed with piles of DVDs. They’re film nuts. Robert Carlyle’s character and antics recalls the Terminators (especially T-800, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and T-1000, Robert Patrick) in both of Cameron’s Terminator films, as does several chase scenes.
But more could have been done with this parallel between the lives of the characters in T2 Trainspotting and those in the action films they shape their lives around. It would be tricky, but I think there was a untapped comic goldmine there in the contrast of the two T2’s, something along the lines of what James Joyce did in Ulysses, contrasting the life of ordinary man Leopold Bloom with the heroic adventures of the great hero Odysseus/Ulysses.
T2 Trainspotting does this a little, but if it had gone all the way, it may have been very interesting instead of just a wee bit interesting.
What do Rollerball, Death Race 2000, The Stars Our Destination, and The Belko Experiment have in common?
Answer: They’re all metaphors for capitalism. Yes, metaphors. Movies, believe it or not, can be metaphors.
Usually, filmmakers don’t state their intentions and they definitely don’t say their film is a metaphor.
However, if you’ve seen any of his films, you’d know James Gunn is an unusual guy. And in the Q & A for the screening at which I saw the film last night (3/3/17) he said his film is a metaphor for capitalism.
He also said it here:
Growing up in a family of lawyers and having that, looking at that and looking at my own career life, and what that’s like. How competitive I can be at times. How competitive people around me are forced to be. I think that it is a difficult part of our lives, living in a capitalist country.
Gunn, at the screening, said he loves capitalism. Makes you wonder what the film would be like if he hated capitalism.
The film is well made, funny as hell (mostly in a sick sort of way which sometimes is the best way) so see it and judge for yourself how accurate this film is as a metaphor for the society you live in.
Gunn, raised by a Catholic family, appears to be saying capitalism brings out the worst in human nature. But is there an alternative? Not in this film.
Belko‘s just a bit predictable, mostly regarding two “obligatory scenes,” scenes the film makes us want and expect after being set up in Act I.
The film delivers these promised scenes, and when it does, the audience cheers.
But with their cheers the audience may be proving the film’s (and Gunn’s) dark view of human nature (albeit a human nature shaped by a cruel environment).
A dark view shared by the filmmaker who shot this:
Note: you have to go to Youtube to watch the following Up in the Air clip.
Just kidding. Not a poll.
Note: the Up in the Air clip is a (very) shortened version.
- First, a confession. I saw The Last Word before a Q&A with director Mark Pellington and Shirley MacLaine. If MacLaine had stayed a few minutes after the talk to interact with her fans, just a little, I might not be writing this review. That’s the way the world works. But she didn’t. “If I sign for them, I’ll have to sign for a lot.” This, despite her telling a woman she was with, “This was a good crowd.”
- Second, another confession: I hate reviews.
- So… Let’s begin with the story. In general, it’s a very familiar story. We’ve seen it a zillion times. It’s a cliche. Recently, a film telling this type of story was nominated for an Oscar: A Man Called Ove. A curmudgeon that no one likes turns their life around. In fact, both The Last Word and Ove begin with their main character’s attempted suicide.
- For the most part, because we’ve seen this story a zillion times, it’s a predictable film. We know that the Scrooge-like character is going to turn out to be lovable. We know that she will die. We know that the obit will be read. There are a few surprises along the way. (Even fewer than there would be if you see the trailer first. I try to avoid trailers, but it’s hard. The theater showed it at an even we attended a week earlier, and the guy behind us played it on his phone before last night’s screening.) But there is one scene that stands out as something unexpected: MacLaine’s reaction after seeing her estranged daughter for the first time in many, many years. If there’s one good scene in the film, it’s this one.
- My guess is the film’s writer is under the influence of Neil Simon. Too much under the influence. Either that or too many screenplay guides. Dialogue consists of would be zingers. Even the kid speaks as if she’s in a well rehearsed play. In other words, it doesn’t have the feel of life, of authenticity, but of play acting without much fun.
- Two scenes stand out as especially poor. The first, in which MacLaine’s character attempts to kill herself takes forever to get to the point. She stares out windows, stares and stares and stares. If you want to know how to do this, watch A Man Called Ove. It gets to the point and does it will skill and humor. Before The Last Word had really begun, for me, it was pretty much over. But I stuck it out and endured it through MacLaine’s last scene, which was also less than good. We know she’s going to die because her heart is overworked. So, when we see her dancing and dancing and dancing, we expect that she will croak at any moment. She does croak, eventually, but first she sits, then she climbs the stares, gets a picture, comes back down the stairs, sits back down, then dies. It seems as if the filmmakers were dead set on MacLaine dying with that picture in her hand but couldn’t figure out how to get it in her hand without having her make an epic voyage to get it. Even MacLaine said she didn’t know what happened in this scene. “Did she kill herself? Did she die or just fall asleep?” Those were MacLaine’s questions for Mark Pellington, the director, who was sitting right next to her. Valid questions because the scene is poorly written, poorly staged, poorly edited, poorly thought out. In a word: bad. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be instructive.
- Kubrick said he was inspired more by bad movies than good ones, and others have said they learned more from bad movies than good ones. The Last Word, as a whole, is more mediocre than bad, but it can be instructive just the same. For example, MacLaine’s character is also a bit like Huppert’s in Elle. Compare the two films. You cannot help but admire Elle (and Huppert) all the more. Even MacLaine, last time we saw her, said she admired Huppert’s “audacity.”
- My last word on The Last Word: how much sense does it make for someone who doesn’t care what people think of her, to suddenly start caring what people think of her? I’m referring to the start of the movie, not the end. In other words, the movie’s premise is hooey.