Thoughts On: November 2018

28/11/2018

WALL-E - Value In Responsibility (REWIND)

Thoughts On: WALL-E (2008)


The only working robot cleaner on an abandoned Earth follows a scout robot to one of the last remaining populations of people drifting through space in a star cruiser.


WALL-E is a film I struggle over just a little bit. For the opening, I want to say that this is a truly great movie. However, everything beyond the first 30-odd minutes, whilst it is far from terrible, doesn't capture the essence of what came before, which brings into question the 'greatness' of this movie. This is why I've always felt like WALL-E could be turned off and be done with after the first act. Again, this isn't to say that the majority of WALL-E is terrible - the second and third act are just not as good as the opening. In such, whilst there are a few nice characters and a handful of beautiful sequences (namely, the dance through space) found throughout the second and third act, the charm of pure cinematic storytelling, the magic of the dystopian aesthetics and the enchantment of being alone with our two protagonists is certainly lost. In fact, I wouldn't say that the beauty of the opening is lost, rather, it was sacrificed for the sake of some world building and the construction of a social commentary which unfortunately doesn't build to much. Before getting further into this, however, let's discuss exactly what WALL-E is about.

In short, WALL-E is about human waste and pollution. This commentary is generated by depicting both the consequences of neglect upon the Earth as well as the evolution of people who harbour that neglect at the core of their societal structure. And so it is the essence of neglect that the population on the Axiom represents:


The passengers aboard this ship have no true sense of the physical world, rather, the projected world of human materialism - they are consumed by an empty axiom, one could say; a statement for being that is meaningless. This is why they are all guided through life by automation. In fact, the world that these people live in seems to be an impossible one. Not only does no one work, instead, consume automated, advertised mush, but they all pump their waste into the ether...


What is especially funny about the manner in which this waste is expelled into space is the organised fashion in which it is done. If the waste system was at all efficient, it would not involve the giant WALL-As; all waste shoots would lead directly onto a conveyor belt that would lead into this vacuum chamber that would then blast the unorganised waste into space. After all, how much of a difference is there between waste squashed into cubes and waste in a pile? This is a useful, even complex, question that we will return to. However, in context of blasting waste out into space, there is no difference; people have designed a system that seems organised, but is rather a facade for everything poisonous about their society to comfortably hide behind. We see this also in all of the highly inefficient and impractical robot designs. A particularly funny moment that exemplifies human's mindless waste is the delivery of EVE to Earth.






To extract the scout from her capsule, the spaceship requires two huge arms - and one only enters a password. The amount of money and resources wasted on this would be astronomical. The space that the arm takes up on this ship and the weight it adds to the hull alone would inflate the cost of fuel consumption unjustifiably - but think also of all the time that went into designing and constructing this system, and all so it can type in a password.


There are many robots and elements of technology like this throughout the film. Considering them wholly, the sheer scope of certain operations has us ask who designed all of this excess. Did the robots themselves? Are they creating more jobs and refusing to streamline operations so that they have greater purpose and place? Whilst the human population dwindles, the robots population, it seems, is in surplus. And this again brings us back to the logistics of living aboard the axiom. We can return then to the passengers...


We have to ask how much longer will they last. They've been in space, throwing all of their waste behind them  and consuming energy with no signs of recycling, for 700 years. How long until the stack of cups and stores of 'food' are done? It seems they should have ran dry hundreds of years ago as there is no implication of some kind of replenishment system (I'd hate to see where all the sewage goes - maybe into the food?), and such leaves this whole ship a paradox, a plot hole, of this narrative's design. However, beyond being paradoxical, what this detail seems to define is the endless consumption that this societal structure is based upon as they perpetually distract themselves from reality. If we do not see this as we watch, this likely says a lot about ourselves.

There isn't just critique in this narrative, however. If we return to the question, "how much of a difference is there between waste squashed into cubes and waste in a pile?", we are urged to return to the opening:


To build up to answering our question, we have to start with a realisation that this narrative lets time slip by as if it means very little. The evidence for this is certainly the work that WALL-E has done. Whilst we cannot know how long he alone has been building these structures, if he were to make even some of them, he would have to work for years, maybe decades, maybe centuries. And we know for a fact that the WALL-E robots were activated at least 700 years ago. But, to assume that WALL-E is a somewhat average robot without particularly unique programming, we are faced with an essential question with this image:


Why is WALL-E the only robot in his region - in the world maybe? If all the robots had something of a personality and some shade of artificial intelligence much like every other robot in this narrative does, why did every other WALL-E bot stop working? The fact seems to be...


... they stopped re-charging themselves. And this is certainly where things start to get dark; every other WALL-E robot apart from our protagonist committed suicide. This is where we must confront our question: how much of a difference is there between waste squashed into cubes and waste in a pile? The hundreds of other WALL-E bots saw no difference, thus, they had no purpose, no reason to charge themselves every morning and go to work. After all, who programmed these robots to construct these structures?


It is possible that only WALL-E makes these as an expression of his personality and 'humanity' - a detail we will return to - but, the entire operation of using WALL-E bots is quite obviously a ruse. There is then a rather obvious conspiracy afoot that is confirmed later on by Auto's undermining of the human captain aboard the Axiom: Earth was abandoned, there were no plans to return, everyone was lied to. The WALL-E robots were then a false symbol of hope that nobody questioned. They were going to clean up Earth? How, by organising all of the mess into cubes? Let us then take a step back and think of the robots having to perform this intentionally redundant operation and the idea of them going to work...


It is at this point that the personification of WALL-E becomes something entirely transcendent of basic novelty. We all laugh at this scene where WALL-E wakes up tired because we all have felt groggy in the morning. But, we can imagine that this was life for every other robot that lived in the racks beside our WALL-E bot. They woke up every morning, groggy, just as we do, and, after 100s of years, they decided to, essentially, stop making breakfast and let their daily work routine kill them.


As a result, it is very clear that they stopped seeing the purpose in their work; they saw no need to turn piles of trash into neater cubes that form greater structures - a clear metaphoric parallel drawn to the menial jobs people do every day. This turn to nihilism and suicide applied to every other robot apart from our protagonist. This seems to be because WALL-E not only finds apparent purpose in his job, but manages to find value and preciousness in his responsibility:


It is because WALL-E sees beauty amongst literal trash that he becomes, in a certain sense, immortal. And this allows WALL-E to transcend into something much more profound than just a cute robot; he is the encapsulation of all that makes humanity great. Not only does WALL-E construct, not only is he a builder, but he is, if you choose to see him as such, an artist that gives meaning to all that he constructs. Furthermore, he is himself an inefficient, imperfect and simple machine that knows how to make the best out of himself and life through ingenuity and vision. This is the beauty of this little robot. He not only materialises into being much of humanity's greatest attributes, but he continues to do this whilst humanity has given up...


So, the immortality that the 700-year-old WALL-E represents is the perpetual spirit of human creation and ingenuity that the last remaining population of ourselves have separated themselves from. What our little robot further symbolises is then humanity giving itself up to our creations, allowing the commentary constructed through the first act of this narrative to be that people stop being humans when we separate ourselves from all that motivates WALL-E - which, in itself, is a pretty staggering assertion. But, a significant aspect of WALL-E's persona that we haven't yet touched on is love and companionship...


This is another essential aspect of his being; a sense of purpose rooted in other beings. So, in essence, through the second and third act of this narrative WALL-E develops as an individual by not just serving an abstract master, but going on a quest with someone who can return his self-sacrifice and devotion. Thi renders romance essential in this narrative and, in turn, see WALL-E teach humanity what was wired into himself by them and what it was that he has nurtured; he teaches us the purpose of organising trash and making something out of it as well as the value and meaning to be found in responsibility. However, having touched upon all of these details, we reach an impasse.

I think it was a mistake having EVE taken back up to the Axiom and WALL-E follow her. Whilst I can appreciate aspects of the world building and a few of the characters that we find there, there is very little added to the profundity of the first act by the rest of the narrative - all we get is a lot of flabby plot. What is more, there are many plot holes surrounding these sequences. So, not only does the whole functioning of the ship make little sense, but a question I'd like to know the answer to would certainly be, where is this:


As WALL-E travels with the EVE transporter, he passes the moon, the sun, Saturn and then leaves the solar system--possibly the galaxy...


... before arriving at what could be a dust cloud, but what may also be a nebula. As we said before, this narrative doesn't portray time as having much substance (which makes quite a bit of sense as WALL-E is essentially immortal). However, the nearest known nebula to Earth is thought to be the Orion Nebula, which is around 20 lightyears away. 20 light years means 20 years travelling at the speed of light - a speed which is thought to take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate to and so is, in effect, impossible to reach. So, even if WALL-E was travelling at the speed of light here...


... which he clearly isn't - not nearly - it would take him 20 years to reach the Axiom. However, even if we ignore the implication that WALL-E left the galaxy (which is 100,000 lightyears wide), even if it took him 100s of years to reach the star cruiser, or even the Axiom was only on the edge of the solar system (and so only a few years of travel away), it is somewhat plausible that he'd survive the journey. We can question how he'd be able to continuously recharge, but let's ignore that. Having given this movie all of those passes, it still makes no sense that they'd send probes like EVE back and fourth looking for life. Moreover, leaving the probes to search Earth for a only few days or weeks is pretty absurd. How many are sent? How much land are they supposed to search? What about other countries? We know the humans are particularly wasteful and hiding the fact that they have given up on life, but are the humans that dumb?

These are all pretty pressing questions that could have been solved by the EVE probes being situated on Earth, streaming information to the Axiom. The Axiom would be decades behind the EVE probes as the signals would be delayed because of the distance, but that doesn't matter too much. If there were EVE robots scouring Earth perpetually, instead of being sent back and fourth across space, one would eventually run into WALL-E. This should have been the first major beat of this narrative and would have been the set-up for a story that stayed on Earth - which is, considering the opening, what we want.

If the majority of this narrative stayed on Earth, all of WALL-E's positive attributes could have been tested and developed with a romance flourishing between himself and EVE - all whilst they waited for a signal to be sent to the Axiom after EVE is shown the plant. Furthermore, conflict could have been introduced on the Axiom when the information (years later) reached the ship. Much like we see by the third act, there could have been a fight between the automation that the humans allowed to consume their lives and their will to do what is difficult, but, optimistically, worthwhile and a greater good. But, before I start re-writing the entire script, all I'll say is that there are many more opportunities that could have resulted in WALL-E being a masterpiece if it stayed on Earth for the majority of its narrative. However, all we can do is watch the opening sequences and dream of what they could be.

With that said, WALL-E isn't so much a disappointment, just a film with so much potential. I like it despite many missed opportunities and downfalls and it does do incredibly well in constructing a palatable commentary on pollution and the environment (which is seemingly difficult to do). Because of the brilliant characters of WALL-E and the tremendous world building I would then give in and say that this is a great movie. But, those are just my thoughts. What do you think of WALL-E and all we've covered today?


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Today I want to again address the fact that post output has not been too high for the past few months - this is especially in comparison to post output in the latter half of 2017 where I could put out sometimes 40 essays a month. The reason for the slight drop off is simply because I've been writing on the blog now for more than 2 years now. I started Thoughts On before I began university and am now coming to the end of my undergraduate course. This means a lot of things are changing significantly in my life as I now have to work on a lot more things beyond film and the blog.

I mention this not as a preface to the blog coming to an end. The blog is far too valuable to me to abandon it any time soon. I simply mean to communicate today the fact that, whilst I am trying to become more efficient in all I do, it has become apparent to me that it is pretty much inevitable that I won't be able to post as much as I would like to. I believe the current volume of posts (4 to 5 a week) is sustainable. This means, not 40, but about 20 posts a month (I used to target at least 25 or 30).

The type of posts going up, you may also recognise has shifted slightly. It is not too common that I delve into deep analysis - especially with images. It is more common, however, that I stick to and emphasise film theory. I always want to perform more analysis as I believe this is the highest form of film criticism that should live alongside ancillary film theory, so I will endeavour to not let the blog be overcome by theory. I also mean to sustain the blog's exploratory side; its venture into world cinema and film history. The World Cinema Series is rather easy to keep up with, but I have not forgotten the highly demanding Every Year In Film Series. I have been sporadically writing the new post and viewing necessary films for more than a month now - blog research on top of my other scholarly research is simply something I struggle with. Alas, let us not detail difficulty.

I'm writing to you now to introduce a new kind of post. Today, I re-watched WALL-E and wanted to write about its subtextual depths, but have little to add to what I have previously written. In reading over the older post, however, I noted room for improvement. So, I am going to post an updated version of WALL-E shortly. I hope you enjoy what I am calling Rewind posts. If you have any recommendations for films for us to return to, maybe in the form of the new Rewind post (which, admittedly, I do not plan on putting out very often at all) or anything else, feel free to leave a comment.

As always, however, thank you for reading.



25/11/2018

End Of The Week Shorts #85



Today's shorts: Blade Runner (1982), Midnight Express (1978), Bride Wars (2009), I Love You, Man (2009), Mildred Pierce (1945), Meet The Blacks (2016), Joe Rogan: Triggered (2016)



I can't say that I ever liked Blade Runner. I always assumed that it was a good movie, but, despite seeing it once or twice, I really never felt I had properly seen the film. Today, I sat down and gave it its due. I still can't say that I like Blade Runner.

Beautifully shot and somewhat thought provoking, Blade Runner simply feels flat to me. Not only do the characters not reach out with humanity, but the themes fail in gripping the conscience. All that rings through this are the moments of absurd acting and silly writing. Clearly descendent of film noir - which I cannot say I have managed to cultivate any appreciation for - Blade Runner is too much plot and a selection of boring archetypes; no romance, no melodrama, worth caring about. Little substance, no flourishing of photogenie, certainly no lyrosophy. The close-ups of Rachael is where the film begins and ends. A failure to blossom.



As tense and gut-wrenching as this is, as much as I can pour my heart into this film, it feels too untruthful. Midnight Express calls out of you a fear of ones own naivety and stupidity of a magnitude so large it is almost incomprehensible. Subsumed by not injustice, but a surreal imbalance - a swipe from above far mightier than believable - Midnight Express takes you down through the depths of one man's tragedy and has you wallow in the thick liquids of the dark below. Far down enough we do not go if this is to stray from reality. We are contrived an underworld with stain glass windows; in streams far too much light. Construct hell if you can't find it, but get an architect with guts. Turn the world upside down, let us realise we tunnel upwards - don't open a side door. I thought this was going to be something special, but it's too perfect, too easy. A prison film done well, but one that falls short of the promises it makes with its near-masterful realist-impressionist opening.



Nauseating. These movies aren't for me - they give me anxiety. I should stop watching them.

Romance is found in chaos, in some blood curdling conception of marriage as a carnival for one's ego, in a relationship as a wallowing place for the personal unconscious. There's most definitely truth in these conceptions, but the void has stared back at me--and how I shudder. Narrative aside, this is competently shot, but unimaginatively written. The V.O needs to go. The music sucks. I don't know what the cinematographer is doing, but they manage to light faces in such a way that they glow with an invite... one that seems to read "punch me" - at times anyhow. Again: not for me.



As cringe-inducing as it is to watch men learn to dance with their own animus after their anima has pulled their pants down - unbeknownst to them - I can appreciate I Love You, Man. It's around about as trashy as its symbolically feminine equivalent - the bride film, e.g Bride Wars - but the masculine undertones are somewhat soothing. That is to say that this is less about romance as a state of chaos, time and space, bent into one another, disorderly, but unconsciously sensical. I Love You, Man strives towards the logos and its simple order - to see the feminine and masculine in one man reach a better balance (hence the dual marriage). Existentially conserved as I am, this resonates with me. So, whilst objectively not much better than the likes of Bride Wars, I Love You, Man is less anxiety inducing - maybe more truthful, too - and therefore a more pleasant watch.



Fascinatingly absurd, Mildred Pierce explores the degree to which a mother's love, her instinct to protect, can consume her. It then follows a housewife who becomes a slave to her beyond-bratty daughter who constantly demands money yet showcases unbelievable disrespect for hard work. What works about the film is its 'tuphlodrama', its uncanny drama. However, what doesn't work is the melodrama - which so often masks serious plot holes; for instance, Mildred somehow accruing enough money to buy and furnish a seaside restaurant after 6 months of being a waitress whilst supporting two children's extensive demands and paying for a multiple bedroom house. If being a good waiter could get you so far in so short a time, I'd have quite uni long ago. It is unfortunate that the melodrama gives this narrative a basis in the unreal as seeing through the absurd drama into a genuine thematic exploration of overwhelming mothering instincts could have been very rewarding. So, all in all, shaky.



Meet The Blacks caught me entirely off-guard. If I had ever heard anything about it, it must have been a moment or two before an episode of slight amnesia as I went into this entirely blind.

All the jokes are low shelf, the continuity is entirely chaotic, the performances are as far from subtle as possible and the narrative is brainless, but nonetheless, Meet The Blacks is funny enough; it is probably the funniest parody movie I've seen (though, I'm not much of a fan of the genre). In part, deeply predictable, in many ways, entirely baffling, this is pure ridiculousness. The sound-design in particular is unstoppably absurd. Only an inch away from exploitation cinema, this can't be taken seriously (apart from the CGI blood--disappointing). Best watched with an equally shocked friend, I may as well recommend Meet The Blacks.



What was one of my favourites is now only pretty good. I used to love watching comedy specials, but this last year has seen that part of me die quite a bit.

You can see hints of Kinisen in Rogan's timing, and this really helps in the latter segments. But, equally good is the opening and ramblings about dolphins - which is somewhat reminiscent of the earliest specials of Rogan's. But, all in all, one or two pretty good laughs, but they were few and far between.






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The Shop Around The Corner - Two (Faces) Into One

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23/11/2018

The Shop Around The Corner - Two (Faces) Into One

Quick Thoughts: The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Two employees at a small general store can't stand one another.


A pleasant exercise in romantic tension, The Shop Around The Corner manages to supply us an ending within a finger's reach yet pulls it on a string for almost 100 minutes. We then see a man send and receive letters to and from a mysterious someone whilst a new clerk is employed in his workplace. The two cannot stand one another, but trope implies a romantic fate for the two. Somewhat surprisingly, with each tease and trick, each misdirecting moment, there comes not frustration; there remains a patient warmth and comfort in a strong faith - rather than an assumption based upon predictability - in an inevitable happy ending for two characters who don't know how they are to be. Underlying this patient experience comes the knowledge that there is an unknown face to all individuals - one that is hidden in romance and found in love. The Shop Around The Corner sees love and romance project each face through the two lives of an individual in numerous relationships--the meeting of the professional and private so often facilitating such a thing. We then see employees lie to their bosses to keep them happy; bosses turn a blind eye to their wife's secret gongs on to keep their relationship stable. Alas, the most rewarding expression of just this comes in the romance - yet the less amiable experiences of self-subjugation and betrayal are pivotal. These strands coalesce to create a touching orchestration of many two-truths that eventually form one. With The Shop Around The Corner, a sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, often comedic, sense of fate forces an integration of personas. And thus with the ending comes an all too pleasant feeling of unity a little deeper than a classical romantic formula would have you think.






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Creed - Where Is The Melodrama?

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21/11/2018

Creed - Where Is The Melodrama?

Thoughts On: Creed (2015)

Apollo Creed's son tries to anonymously rise into the professional boxing world with the help of an estranged uncle.


Looking forward to watching Creed II soon, I decided to sit down for the first Creed again. I remember liking this quite a bit when it first came out. What I saw this time, however, was far less impressive. What makes Creed work is Sylvester Stallone and its Rocky-isms. Many of these, such as the training montage, aren't very well done though. Seeing this, I have grown weary about Creed's sequel. To explore why, we will discuss the three or four notable missteps that I believe Creed makes as a Rocky film.

Firstly: realism. Rocky is a melodrama - understated and somewhat typhlodramatic, but primarily melodramatic. Melodrama is essential in the Rocky film for these are very much so narratives about the world coming into harmony; about chance in one's personal and professional life coinciding and fuelling an individual to grip what he has been so fortunate as to stumble upon and to live up to fate and a smile from destiny. Melos, dramatically speaking, requires an orchestration of narrative. Formulaic and rhythmic as it may be - predictable as it may seem - repetition in music, predictability in music, is a virtue, for it is music's capacity to pull you into its contrivance and structure that makes it so magical. Such is true of the musical drama - the melodrama. Rocky, the first two films especially, are perfect exemplars of just this. As the cliche goes, these films are not necessarily about the A and B, but the journey between the two. Creed's use of realism, its typhlodramatic basis, only serves to quash the affective abilities of melodrama. That is to say that the realist touches add not to our understanding of character and narrative; we feel not the harmony that Adonis strives for, that he must orchestrate with instruments of fate. With further expressionist melodrama, however, the palpable themes bubbling on the surface of this film would be allowed to strike out and resonate. We can come to a specific point of analysis briefly, but firstly, we must discuss a side-effect of the realism: meta-drama.

The first Rocky sees two actors step into a ring; two actors who look and dance like boxers. Rocky III strays from this with the injection of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T - both of which were pro-wrestlers. Rocky IV welcomes Dolph Lundgren, a genuine Kyokushin karate black belt and international champion. And of course Rocky V finally steps into the real boxing world to use Tommy Morrison - who essentially plays himself. This trend continues through Rocky Balboa and Creed with the use of real professional boxers who all play versions of themselves. Such details a way in which the Rocky series has gravitated towards realism and, in my belief, only to the series' detriment. The Rocky films, in my opinion, gain little from verisimilitude in the boxing sequences. As we see with the iconic editing and choreography in the first Rocky films, two athletic actors are more than enough--provide a scene with suitable verisimilitude and so give way to the development of genuine melodrama: story.

Ever since Rocky Balboa in particular there has been less focus put on the 'behind the scenes' of the boxing world and more focus put on some meta world in which Rocky was a real boxer; on actual conferences and a very present 'boxing world'. We feel almost no presence of a boxing world in the first two Rocky films. We see inside Apollo Creed's offices, we go into his home to see hate mail, but there are very fleeting moments in which there is a direct and real representation of a boxer's media obligations and professional life. The first two Rocky films are far more interested in the personal--only in the professional when the personal is embedded within it, or is expressed through it. A beautiful moment that expresses this in the first Rocky is one of the only conferences that we see. Instead of trying to answer reporters' questions, Rocky calls out through the TV to say hey to Adrian. And we watch this from their living room, we don't care to go to the conference itself. We only start to do these kind of things in Rocky III and V. In Rocky III, we start to see more of the professional life, but this is a signification that something wrong is occurring - that Rocky letting the media into his gym is going to destroy his career. This speaks volumes on the unattractiveness of the meta boxing world in my view. Alas, in Creed, there is an eagerness to move into the professional realm and present what TV shows provide. Such only feels disingenuous to me. I'd rather learn about personal struggles, see more training and character focus - for, as melodramatic as Rocky is, the first two had so much patience. They didn't care to throw in a few sequences of action in every 20 minutes. All the action comes at the end; melodrama and patient character observation first.

With many essential traits of the first two Rocky films - the traits that made them great - having been left behind by Creed, new things have been picked up. As in Rocky Balboa, aesthetics have been centralised and, to some degree, become a source of spectacle. We then see in the long take fighting sequences one of the most inane elements of Creed. Whilst film studies undergraduates and self-taught film buffs love a long shot, if those in Creed are questioned, they seem to fall apart. Primarily, it seems that the long shot is an expression of Coogler's realist approach. Without breaking the illusion of passing time with editing, Coogler has his audience feel a boxing match somewhat impressionistically; its tension, the changing of the upper hand, the chaos, the strain, etc. However, as previous Rocky film's prove, realism and verisimilitude help not in the boxing scenes; story, theme, archetypes, sound track and editing are those key elements that shake you to your bones. That is to say that Coogler's long shot is far from an improvement of the montages in Rocky IV, II and I. This is more than self-evident when you fall into these sequences, which begs the question, what is the function of the long shot in Creed? Is it merely a flashy attempt at shooting a scene uniquely?

Whilst more could be said, we have outlined some key ways in which Creed departs from the expected Rocky film without finding much success. I then believe the realism, the long shot, the meta world of real boxing, all harm narrative and drama before enhancing it. I leave things with you, however. How would you compare the early Rocky films and Creed?







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The Cabin In The Woods - Why Watch Horror Films

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19/11/2018

The Cabin In The Woods - Why Watch Horror Films

Thoughts On: The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

A group of teens wander into a real-world set of a horror movie.


Why do we watch horror films? The Cabin In The Woods has an answer: ancient evil gods need to be placated. Translation: the shadow upon the collective human soul requires them.

Cabin In The Woods breaks horror films down into 5 archetypes: the virgin, fool, athlete, whore and scholar. These are the five archetypes of youth, and each--at least four--must be destroyed. The reason for this is seemingly due to the fact that youths transition into adulthood, and with their archetypal death comes the death of certain values not admissible in the individuated person. These inadmissible values are ranked. Firstly, infidelity and a lack of respect for oneself as embodied by the whore - not welcome. Second, a reliance on brute physicality as embodied by the athlete - not welcome. Third, foolishness; fourth consciousness; fifth innocence. Each of these values, the archetypal horror seems to suggest, must come under attack for an individual to become whole. The complete person is then reserved sexually, physically, ethically and intellectually, conscious yet not naive. This person is the virgin who faces their shadow - which explains why a virgin does not have to die in a horror film (according to Cabin In The Woods).

This value system, in my estimation, seems rather solid considering its symbolic underpinnings. Alas, Cabin In The Woods has one major critique: real teenagers are not archetypes. This is why there has to be 'puppeteering' put in place so that the actual individuals of this narrative are made into archetypes; the 'whore' made loose, the 'athlete' made stupid, the 'fool' made dumb, the 'intellect' made weak and the 'virgin' made naive. Each of our five characters, despite not being the archetype they're manipulated into being, are faulted but pretty much the polar opposite of what they're made out to be. Maybe this explains why the 'value system' as represented by the organisation running the horror show is shown to be corrupt and indeed falls; maybe this is why the world had to end: our values are, in essence, corrupt.

I cannot agree with that final assertion, however. The ending of Cabin In The Woods is tremendously nihilistic - almost beyond belief. Convinced that the world must end if he does not sacrifice himself, the fool decides to see the world burn. And the naive virgin is fine with that. Maybe the archetypes emerge out of the individuals, maybe we do need them to die, to not become aware of the role they play?

If this is true, then Cabin In The Woods is a horror film so meta that it becomes classically narrative. That is to say that it is so self-consciously trying to destroy the messages of an archetypal horror that it ends up only reinforcing its meaning. We then see through the self-consciousness and witness the true shadow upon the human soul: ego and consciousness. Aware of the roles they are made to play by their chthonic puppeteers, our main characters become self-fulfilling prophets of doom; the antithesis of the virgin who confronts their shadow and emerges whole. The virgin confronts her shadow in Cabin In The Woods and crumbles; decides to die and become the death of humanity.

In many senses a critique of postmodernism, of the self-conscious youth, Cabin In The Woods gives the know-it-all teen all it wants; sees them struggle, sees them suffer, and all for nothing, all to collapse.

Or is that so?

Why, if archetypal evil is defeated in the constructed horror realms - as occurs during the many rituals across the world in Cabin In The Woods - would evil have to rise? Why if youths prove themselves capable of confronting a shadow (evil embodied by some monster), should humanity have to be destroyed?

Maybe it is this logic that reveals the value system to in fact be corrupt. Maybe, however, the transcendence of the games of evil played in the horror realms has proven humanity prepared to face real evil. That is to say, if youths can all confront their shadow in the rituals across the world, maybe humanity as a whole is prepared to do just this; to see ancient gods rise and defeat them collectively, not as archetypes, but as individuals, faulted, but real. This may just be an appraisal of the growing consciousness of youth in the modern day. Maybe Cabin In The Woods challenges us with just this? Maybe it asks us if we, in reality, are ready to be tested by the horrors of reality; to confront our own shadow?

I leave all these possibilities in your hands. What do you think of Cabin In The Woods?






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18/11/2018

End Of The Week Shorts #84



Today's shorts: Derren Brown: Pushed To The Edge (2016), Derren Brown: Sacrifice (2018), Derren Brown: Miracle (2016), Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1927), Anjelah Johnson: Not Fancy (2015), Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (2016), Creed (2015), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)



Pretty brilliant.

Whilst entry-level psychology classes could essentially teach you the same thing about human behaviour - about conformity, authority and social pressure - as Pushed to the Edge, this succeeds with its use of drama. It is then watching a story unfold, real characters develop and struggle, that makes this so engrossing and facts supported by much scientific data and historical instances palpable. Equally fascinating is the choice as to who to follow in this. Without spoiling anything, it first of all helps generate tension, but goes on to poke at our presuppositions. Alas, in total, a one-time watch, but a good one.



Sacrifice is most intriguing when juxtaposed with Pushed to the Edge. Where one experiment deals with murder, the other deals with saving a life, but both are equally focused on cynicism, on how malleable we believe people to be. That said, and maybe this says something about my own cynicism, Sacrifice is not too interesting. Playfulness aside, I don't think this has too much to do with a doubt in humanity. Rather, the methodology of this experiment is simply far less dramatic than Pushed to the Edge's. Following a single subject, carefully picked so that he would pass the test, this is far more biased and controlled than its predecessor. One does not then feel that humanity is really poked at and questioned here - and primarily because we aren't allowed to associate with the subject as he essentially is defined as, at the very least, a boarder-line racist waiting to become a hero. I very much so appreciate the point made on how even slightly extreme types can be transformed, but, this just wasn't as wholly affecting as Brown's previous work. Nonetheless, fascinating.



Cheeky, provocative, quite a lot of fun.

A whole heap of parlour tricks you've seen before are thrown in our face, magic and mysticism debunked, but not obliterated; their essence removed and put some place else, some place dark and gloomy, but unprotected and passingly accessible. Not a game-changer for me personally, this was just a solid chunk of entertainment.



No matter how many times I see this, I'm still impressed by its technical brilliance. In essence, it is the blend of impressionism and expressionism that make this a masterpiece. It is being made to feel the silent archetypes permeate trough space and time as well as see their melodrama exude across the screen that creates a perfect psychic harmony; a comfort and terror found in the realm of cinema being cinema, art being art, to simple perfection. Without pretence, this functions like music - indeed, a song. We exist from state to state with characters, we enjoy their day, we fall through a tremendous roller-coaster ride - the kind days only a relationship between two faulted humans in love can be made of (but, of course, melodramatised) - and thus find ourselves lost in the transcendental scope of profound and true melos. As always, a masterpiece.




All the laughs are stockpiled into the final sequence - which, as stereotypical and childish as the Vietnamese accent is, I won't deny crumbling into laughter whist hearing it. But, whilst the laughs aren't really there, this was pleasant, light and unpretentious. Far too much comedy is benign and self-important - just tell a good story; truth and all that other stuff will naturally follow if you tell it well. Don't tell me about comedy, tell me about you. Don't tell me about what you see, show me how you think and how you are. Johnson's stage persona seems slightly contrived, so she doesn't tick all the boxes, but she stays within the lines quite brilliantly. Much appreciated.



Too hard it is to have trust in another's ecstatic experience. Too easy it is to be sceptical of mass ecstasy.

Hard to watch, but, silently, I managed to listen and hear a call to understand oneself and try to take control. From having nothing apart from vague assumption about Robbins in me to being thrown into this, I have to admit feeling like jumping into freezing cold water. Still sceptical, trying not to die in my head, I'll merely say that this is fascinating.



Probably the third or fourth best film in the Rocky series, certainly subservient to the first two films and maybe even IV.

Whilst I like Creed quite a bit, what I like about it are the elements that make it a 'Rocky film'. I appreciate Michael B. Jordan's performance and think his character is satisfactorily drawn out, but don't think he holds a candle to Sly as Rocky. As counter-intuitive as some may think this to be, this suffers from the lack of melodrama and furthermore suffers from the realism and use of real boxers. In fact, this falls down a hole that the fifth Rocky film did in doing so and which the sixth, Rocky Balboa, kind of crawled out of. But, like its 2006 predecessor, whilst this has flash and directorial uniqueness to it, I feel it lacks wholeness and a unity that only archetypes and melodrama can seal. I plan to write more about this, but I'll leave things as such.



From quite a young age I had just assumed I had watched the entire Rambo series. I must have dreamed this delusion into existence as I remember now never being allowed to watch these as a kid. Alas, whilst I managed to see First Blood whilst too young, I can now say I've seen part 2.

What can be said about this? It can be lambasted for its macho stupidity, but, such criticism is low-shelf nonsense. Rambo is something of an expressionist melodrama, a stoic confrontation of ones own patriotism and heroism. This is no doubt silly, but it's far from stupid; quite far from macho in my estimation too - at least in the boisterous, opening of Predator or first act of Aliens, respect. This is rather humble in scope, technically focused in its story-boarding and thematically written. It deserves no awards for such things, but takes itself serious enough to gain my respect.





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16/11/2018

Out Of My Hand - The Grind

Quick Thoughts: Out Of My Hand (2015)


Made by Takeshi Fukunaga, this is the Liberian film of the series.


** SPOILERS **

Out Of My Hand is a film about struggling to be and have more than life hands you and, ever so subtly, is also a commentary on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. It follows Cisco, a rubber plantation tapper who lives an honest, yet difficult life. For his family, he'd like to figure out a way to make more money, but cannot do so without huge risk. With his union, he eventually decides to go on strike so that wages and hours can be made more just and liveable. Many of the plantation tappers look to Cisco for inspiration as his cousin managed to move to America to live what they think is the American dream despite Cisco's constant denial of such a thing. As the men laze around on their days off, hiding from their wives as they strike, one worker becomes increasingly confrontational with Cisco over his defamation of the American dream. Alas, all comes to an end very soon. The plantation managers get the local authorities involved in the matter and begin out-casting from the village workers on strike. Cisco's co-workers scramble back to the plantation, willing to beg for their old job back. Cisco cannot bend. He moves to America to work with his cousin as a taxi driver. There he is haunted by the ghosts of his past as a solider in the Liberian Civil War (whether it is the first or second is not clear). Despite only wanting to work and send money home to his wife, he eventually gets tangled in with a prostitute who he thinks he has the opportunity to maybe help, but all is for nothing. The ex-solider who worked for Cisco during the war merely manipulates him with the prostitute as to get money out of him. The two confront one another on the street and the pimp is hit by a car. Cisco drives away. Later that night he gets a flat. He changes the tire.

Shot almost as a documentary, we are brought into this world with patient observation. Much attention is paid to the silent process of working - especially with one's hands, which is where we are made to feel most at home. It then says much that this opens with an extended sequence that only watches Cisco clean and re-tap a tree and then ends with him procedurally changing his car tire. These moments are significations of equilibrium in two different contexts unified by Cisco's commitment to physical, honest work. There is a little more to this, however. As implied, it is rather hard to not think of Taxi Driver whilst, haunted by the remnants of war and confronted by the troubles of a prostitute, Cisco drives around New York City. Alas, where Taxi Driver holds at its heart something of a vigilante's hero narrative, Cisco fails where Travis only gets started. He cannot then find a just cause to fight for via the prostitute, only self-indulgence and naivety. Having already made his integration back into society via his family, his wife and children, Cisco needs not listen to the hero's call in New York City - he has already made this journey before we meet him it seems. The subtle statement made by Out Of My Hand then seems to be pessimistic or cautiously optimistic. It seemingly asserts we have a limited amount of chances for transformation in our lives and only so long before our children must take our place. As we watch Cisco silently grind away, stoic despite the tragic limitation underlying his being, we find solace in the fact that his youth ended with a positive transformation, that he has the power to clean up, fix up and keep moving through life--that this has not changed since the film began. What we see ground by Cisco is then not necessarily his essence, but the rough edges of his will and of life. To grind is then to slowly make life smoother. As difficult and attritious as this may be, with each bump overcome, things seem to flow freer.

The only draw backs of this film concern the fact that the realism that secures the film's affecting subtext is perturbed by sometimes shaky acting. Beyond this, Out Of My Hand is a strong film. I recommended you see it as it is currently on Netflix. A good supplementation to the film would be a Vice documentary on The Liberian Civil War. Little is spoken of the war during the film and the contextual references are easily overlooked. This documentary will help fill in the gaps and let you know who General Butt Naked is, if you do not yet know.


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Bao/Jung/Sign/Symbol/Film - Semantic vs. Semiotic Readings

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15/11/2018

Bao/Jung/Sign/Symbol/Film - Semantic vs. Semiotic Readings

Thoughts On: Bao (2018) & Don Frederickson's Jung/Sign/Symbol/Film (2001)

A question of how to read films.


I am currently reading though Christopher Hauke and Ian Alister's book, Jung & Film, a compilation of Jungian essays on cinema. The most striking essay I have so far read is the first: Don Fredericksen's Jung/Sign/Symbol/Film. The assertions made in the essay are simple yet evocative and profound in their alignment of a Jungian perspective of mythological narrative, fantasy and dreams with the modern cinematic narrative.

The brilliance of so much of Jung's thought rests in his assignment of unfathomable depth to the unknown and then his subsequent arrangement of the unknown in ways that make them accessible - knowable to whatever degree is functional and necessary. Jung does this with his most famous theories of the collective unconscious and the archetypes. It manifests also in what Fredericksen highlights as Jung's distinction between symbolism and semantics. The following is a quote from Jung's Collected Works (book 6) used in the essay:

A symbol always presupposes that the chosen expression is the best possible description or formulation of a relatively unknown fact, which is nonetheless known to exist or is postulated as existing... Every view which interprets the symbolic expression as an analogue or an abbreviated designation for a known thing is semiotic. A view which interprets the symbolic expression as the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown thing, which for that reason cannot be more clearly or characteristically represented, is symbolic... The symbol is alive only so long as it is pregnant with meaning. But once its meaning has been borne out of it, once that expression is found that formulates the thing sought, then the symbol is dead.

Semantics is concerned, by and large, with what words and things concretely mean and can be defined as. A semantic mode of analysis in film may then question the validity and function of defined entities. We can draw up an example of this with the short film Bao.

You may have seen this if you watched Incredibles 2 in the cinema. Bao follows a lonesome middle-aged lady. We are introduced to her making breakfast, bao, for her husband. After her husband eats and leaves for work, the woman is flabbergasted when a piece of bao she puts in her mouth cries out; this is not food, but a baby. The mother decides to care for the child and it grows fast. She does all she can to protect the boy, but all he wants is to confront life despite its dangers. All too soon, the kid is grown. He brings home a strange girl and tells his mother that he is leaving. Distraught, she tries to stop him from going - but the only way she knows how is to eat him. She is awoken later that night by her real son. They reconcile and, the next day, the whole family - which includes the son's girlfriend - make bao together.

Read semantically, we can suggest that the piece of bao is, indeed, not just a piece of food come to life, but a metaphorical representation of the mother's son. The short is then an allegory about how quick a child can grow up and how a terrifying this can be to a mother, who will have difficulty recognising a grown son as more than what was just a baby seemingly only moments ago.

There is a deeper, yet almost equally obvious, reading one could make of this film: a Freudian one. A dream of an all-consuming Oedipal mother, bao, read in Freudian terms, sees a mother's ego overtaken by destructive impulses from her id. The piece of bao is an extension of her conscious mask, her ego and identity as a mother. Embedded into this 'child' is the libido of the mother - that which has an oral focus. As an implication of an inferrable oral fixation complex, the mother is a rather helpless and highly dependent person. This is how she becomes an 'Oedipal mother'. It is not that her son wishes to kill his father and sleep with her, but that she wishes to kill the man, the father, her son could be, and consume the baby he no longer is.

This Freudian reading is semantic. Fredericksen makes such a distinction briefly, emphasising Freud's semantic place by demonstrating how Jung and Freud differ most greatly in regards to their reading of fantasy; Freud's analysis was concrete, his dream analysis an attempt to unmask unconscious truths that are hidden to us by the unconsciousness itself. Jung was far from concrete in his his approach. Fredericksen quotes him thusly:

We have no right to accuse the dream of, so to speak, a deliberate manoeuvre to deceive. Nature is so often obscure or impenetrable, but she is not, like man, deceitful.

Exemplified here is Jung's absolute trust in nature over consciousness: man. To Jung a dream does not mask its meaning from the dreamer. Furthermore, a dream cannot be pre-formulated by an analyst - as is attempted in dream dictionaries. A dream is alive, given a soul by nature. It is man's task to realise this nature, to try bear witness to it. It is therefore the consciousness' task to uncover, not meaning in a dream, but its very own eyes. We can now then come to understand why even the Freudian reading is a semantic one, despite being abstract.

If we were to read bao as an Oedipal mother's dream, we would be applying constructs of a tangible character onto the short. That is to say, we would reduce the ambiguity of the short to rational absolutes and all of its ambiguous elements to knowable attributes of a logical narrative. The question then is, is this viable?

Fredericksen makes use of Edward Eddinger's term, 'reductive fallacy' to describe the errors of some semantic readings:

The reductive fallacy is based on the rationalistic attitude which assumes that it can see behind "symbols" to their real meaning. This approach reduces all symbolic imagery to elementary known factors. It operates on the assumption that no true mystery, no essential unknown transcending the ego's capacity for comprehension, exists.

We can question, however, if our previous semantic readings are consequences of reductive fallacy by assessing the complexity of impressionism exhibited in the film, which is to say, we must ask if the little piece of bao is an inanimate object, a breathing, complex person or some intermediary entity.

In my estimation, the piece of bao, despite being brought to life, is not rendered as a complex human. Furthermore, because it is not given a primarily inanimate quality, it cannot necessarily become a symbol. The piece of bao is a mask, a representation of an archetypal son. Falling into a mid-range of complexity, not a device or caricature, not a symbol of true character, the piece of bao is an archetype of sorts. An argument for both a semantic and symbolic reading of this narrative may then be viable. Perceiving the piece of bao as a basic archetype, not a Jungian one, our two semantic readings are acceptably complex; as complicated as the short; as penetrative as the short is ambiguous. One may find a Jungian archetype in this short, however.

Considered not just a son, but the essence of a son - masculine potential embodied by a Jungian 'child archetype' - the piece of bao can be understood as that quality of time which seeks to transcend the body; that quality of time that sees things die. A separation of yin and yang, a conflict between the mother's animus and her own persona (that which is bound by eros and the mother archetype that it is imitative of), the narrative transformation in bao is characterised by a fear of feminine darkness and individuation.

In this reading there are multiple vague and ambiguous terms: masculine potential, child archetype, time, yin and yang, animus, eros, mother archetype, feminine darkness, individuation, etc. These terms are intentionally imprecise as they mean not to reduce the short to knowable entities, but to outline the unknown qualities of it that are anchored to the bedrock of the collective unconscious and therefore truth in reality. This Jungian reading outlines what we don't know but can feel; a Freudian analysis outlines what our unconscious has hidden from us; our initial reductive reading outlines what you may not have seen but could have easily inferred. What is most accurate? What is most useful?

It is this set of questions that Fredericksen's essay provides. Whilst it argues that there is a need for more symbolic reading in film, it also poses a question of when and why this symbolic reading would be used. I then leave you with just one example in Bao. How should this be read? Furthermore, how, if you would hazard to answer, should films in general be read?

Before you go, I'd also recommend you read this essay for yourself. A good chunk of it can be found here.






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13/11/2018

The Night Comes For Us - Fight For Your Soul?

Thought On: The Night Comes For Us (2018)

An enforcer deeply entrenched in the Triad tries to escape his organisation, saving an innocent girl from the slaughter of his men.


The Night Comes For Us is a scream, an unrelenting bellow into shadowy depths whose black breath engulfs all that is and whose sable jaws rain upon all that there ever can be. A fight against cessation itself, this is marred by battle after battle, each fought between present death and a chance to save something that can live on beyond one's body; a chance to save one's soul, innocence and hope. Such outlines some of the archetypal underpinnings of what is, on the surface, a surprisingly gruesome meeting of martial arts and gore.

Of all the fight films I have ever seen, none really come close to The Night Comes For Us in regards to gore. Maybe some of the Rambo films come the closest, but to find more blood, guts and snapping bones, you'd have to move into horror and exploitation or outside of genre and into art cinemas (like the shadowy side of late 80s, 90s and early 2000s Japanese art cinema). The unique combination of exploitative spectacle of a visceral and real nature and a display of (for a film) high level martial arts - which goes far beyond the stylised goriness seen in the likes of a Tarantino movie like Kill Bill - is the film's key selling point. In some senses, this is then a rather more melodramatic incarnation, less sharp in the choreographic department, of The Raid (which is impossible not to think of thanks to Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim taking lead roles). Like The Raid 2, however, this suffers from trying to do a little too much in terms of narrative and dramatic performance. The Raid's excellence lays in its laconic characterisation and narrativisation; we come to learn only a little about who our characters are and what is going on - most of which is only imperative to understanding what is going on. The drama of The Raid, as is true of all great fight films, is found in physical combat; a key expression of conflict, meaning and theme. As described above, The Night Comes For Us does have a coherent narrative underneath it with an archetypal base. Too much of this, however, is rooted in melodramatic cut scenes and is not capitalised upon in the fights - a downfall of the too-long sequel to The Raid. That is to say that the fight sequences do not have drama embedded within them of much subtextual depth.

This is important and relevant not only for someone looking to write about the symbolism and meaning in a film, but because, without drama, a fight scene is only spectacle; is only an exuberant expression of martial arts skill, choreography, stunt work, set-design and practical effects (make-up, blood, etc). As masterfully executed these elements may be individually, without narrative support, they do little for a fight scene and simply aren't very engaging. This is especially true with all apart from choreography. Choreography is a form of storytelling, so it has the ability to generate its own drama, not just magnify drama established in a precursing narrative. Alas, it is highly unlikely that practical effects, for example, can generate drama genuinely. Of course, one can conceive of a means of making and analysing a fight scene that breaks this rule, however. One may then envision a fight scene in which blood streams through the air like visual poetry. Here practical effects create drama. On the other hand, one may see an excessive use of blood in a fight film to be an artistic commentary of some sorts; people have made this argument with art films such as Salo, perceiving the gore elements (manifested by practical effects) to be a core of dramatic expression. Alas, whilst this is a possibility, The Night Comes For Us operates in a more classical mode of fight film and so doesn't, in my opinion, deserve to be read in such a way - and indeed doesn't seem to mean to be.

In total, we are left with a somewhat mindless film in The Night Comes For Us. Its characterisation and story are weak. This is no surprise or much of a let down, but a bit too much time is spent on the empty melodrama. Furthermore, the acting is pretty shaky at points - one can even sense this through language barriers (which is... not good at all). Not all of the fights are choreographed and performed as well as one another (some early sequences are very stiff and unimmersive), and without generating physical drama, they lack impact despite being amusingly, creatively and strikingly gory. In the end, if you're a fight film fan, this may not be a masterpiece, but it is well worth the watch.







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11/11/2018

End Of The Week Shorts #83



Today's shorts: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), The Hours (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (2001), Sex and the City (2008), Big Daddy (1999), Devdas (2002), Mission: Impossible--Fallout (2018), She's Gotta Have It (1986)



When I first saw this two years ago, I may as well have been frothing at the mouth I disliked it so intensely. Having sat a bunch more D.C slop since, having not disdained the likes of Suicide Squad and having actually really liked what has been done with Wonder Woman, I went into this far calmer. And so whilst this is ridiculously childish in its conception of character, symbolism and meaning (far too conscious, far too intentional, far too transparent) I simply didn't let this rouse me. I was shocked, however, at how ludicrous Eisenberg's performance was. What was he thinking? How could he not have read the script and have slapped a palm-shaped hole through his head? Superman is hateable quite like Captain America is; Batman is self-righteously annoying; Louis Lane needs far less screen exposure; Perry White needs his lines slashed from the film. Is there a single character that works well in this film? No. Too pretentious to be trash.



A sweepingly beautiful melodrama, a tragedy in a cinematic space Maya Deren is known to have cultivated, The Hours is a film about ghosts falling through time and spirits struggling through space. What makes this such a special film is that its photogenic quality is constructional, is an expression of montage and a movement between blocks of spacetime of a feminine character. The daunting thematic juxtaposition between loving and leaving--and life itself--is made palpable by this presentation of time and characters lost in it - and each and every performance sees its performer lost. The Hours is cinematic suspension, deeply affecting for that fact.

Thanks to Jake for the recommendation.



Unspeakably perfect, Fellowship of the Ring is one of the most incomprehensibly flawless pieces of cinema ever constructed, each and every part of its construction in resonance with the next, every cinematic element in harmony, executed sublimely. Of course, much of The Lord of the Rings' brilliance lies in Tolkien's narrative, but how many times before has a great book--so great a trilogy--been turned into something so inconceivable as this? Exuding a mastery of form and an unfathomably deep understanding of cinematic narrative, Jackson has made something beyond special in his Lord of the Rings trilogy with Fellowship being the most complex, demanding and well-executed of all of the films. Watching this today was like stepping out of a haze; my whole life, I have felt the Lord of the Rings' existence (these are some of my favourite films), but it is only now that I have developed the ability to start to understand how profoundly important these films are. A revelation.



- Take one Andrei Tarkovsky, a drill, a saw, a pen and a screwdriver.

- Remove cranium.

- Poke at the flesh until one's curiosity is satisfied.

- Set the zombie loose in a shopping mall and batter with women's magazines whenever he slows.

- Add undead film crew into the mix.

Your sculpture in time will be ready in 150 minutes. The narcoleptic apocalypse will subside soon after.



Beyond his ventures into more 'artistic' cinemas (as with Punch Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories), Adam Sandler is only really palatable between 1995 and 2000, a period which captures some career highlights in Billy Maddison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Waterboy and, this, Big Daddy. The only exception to the rule may be found in 2004's 50 First Dates. Alas, it is in this period that Sandler hits that sweet spot in comedy in which a performance can simply not taken seriously, yet nonetheless felt. More important than this, it is in this period where pathos is sometimes seen to underlie Sandler's comedy. This is felt best in The Wedding Singer, but Big Daddy runs in a close second thanks to the silly, but legitimate melodrama.

In very many senses, this is Sandler's most serious comedy and I can't help but appreciate it for that fact. Seen it plenty, but still watchable.



A masterpiece and a new personal favourite. Never before have I found myself so lost in melodrama; melodrama of the purest poetic quality; a poem of elemental, transcendental supra-affect. My mind inured with a red swelling, my senses fever-stricken, this has left me inebriated and delirious. The dances, exquisite, the direction, performances, cinematography, flawless. A work of melodramatic art of incomparable brilliance. I can only say it again: a new personal favourite.



The only bad thing about Mission Impossible XI is the opening credit sequence. Which is only to say, why try and spoil all the greatness to come? Beyond this, Fallout is simply spectacular. The premise is basic and well understood. A hero is simultaneously that which confronts and creates chaos as it is a hero's idealism that sees the impossible transcended, that can create a third option when asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Ethan is a perfect embodiment of this archetype and Cruise puts him on screen seemingly effortlessly. The cast around him is solid; the script doesn't foreground itself (despite its unending plot) and the direction is simply immense. This is not mere entertainment, it is sheer brilliance; understated and formulaic (classically constructed) where it needs to be and balls-to-the-wall where it should be. I'm glad I've finally seen it.



She's Gotta Have It is, in essence conflicting. The script is clearly one of a young writer; arrogant, too sure of himself and rather pretentious. (I'm not too sure if Spike Lee has ever grown up much). The editing, however, is a reprieve thanks to its playfulness. That said, in the direction and editing is a self-relexivity that is a major ingredient of the pretentious whiff this generates. Alas, the biggest issue in She's Gotta Have It emerges when the amateurish dialogue meets the so-so performances. There is a conundrum in the film, for indeed, the dramatic roots of this lie in the meta-space between the viewer and narrative. That is to say that we can question the validity of all of our criticisms and consider these criticisms of Lee's that he has simply made with formal choices... but.... not buying it. Clunky--conceptually mature and slightly challenging, but ultimately asideable.






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