Sunday, October 31, 2010

Requiem. (2006) Hans-Christian Schmid

What better way to continue rollicking in Halloween horror than a dogme-like film about an exorcism, right?

Requiem is the story of Michaela Klingler, a young and devout German Catholic suffering from epilepsy. The disease held her back a year in high school, but now that she's nineteen she wants to attend University and study like any other college-aged kid, managing the disease on her own.

Away from her small town, in a city for the first time Michaela quickly makes her first connection in finding an acquaintance from home. She also gets her first boyfriend -- her first drinks, her first kiss, her first physical encounter with another. So are the voices in her head and her recurring seizures symptomatic of her going off her pills, or is this demonic oppression due to her entrance into sinful living?

As the studies get harder and end of semester papers are due, life for Michaela slowly spins out of control. The voices are calling her a slut, and have told her to no longer pray or try to touch a crucifix. She wakes up in contorted positions, and feels seizures steal the use of her hands as she tries desperately to type. She begins rejecting her priests and her doctors and even her friends -- everyone's got advice, but no one can walk in her shoes. Perhaps it's easy to understand why she makes her final decision for exorcism, when she's brought home by worried friends and faced with either the priests or the institution.

The film is based on the real life 1976 exorcism of Anneliese Michel, the same girl that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose. While Requiem feels more realist than The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the two feel like they offer similar sketches of the same story. Whereas The Exorcism of Emily Rose functions as a horror film, Requiem tells the story in more of a psychological character study. I mentioned the dogme movement before -- Requiem feels like Breaking the Waves in places. It had that strong, fluid camera work, that somber religious feel, and an incredible actress to pull the whole thing off. No special effects, no faces jumping out of the dark, no spider crawls, no backwards masking. Actress Sandra Hüller is believable simply by the way she fills the role of this troubled girl. Her physical presence on screen stands out. It makes the film.

Much to my delight, I was able to have a bit of back and forth with director Scott Derrickson when comparing the two films. That conversation is found Here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Changeling. (1980) Peter Medak

In one's attempt to travel backwards in time and find the "Ultimate Forgotten Halloween Horror Film," you're bound find one or two gems in a mixed bag of other movies ranging from the so-so-ho-hums to the outright stinkers. I'm thinking that The Changling fits into the latter rather than the former.

It's too bad, too, because it starts off as a chilling blast, rather reminiscent of The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise), a coldly creepy film that I'll stop right now and mention: if you haven't seen The Haunting, then that is your UFHHF. It is arguably the medium's finest ghost story in history.

But if The Changeling wanted to imitate The Haunting, it only wanted to do so for thirty or forty minutes. For that amount of time it rides the tails of that film well: Banging pipes and stuck notes on the piano, dreamy sequences of a drowned boy in the tub and a door that slowly creaks open by itself -- these things hearken back to Wise's masterpiece in well-done and similar fashion. A frightening mood is created in the mystery of what's not shown and in the fear-inducing sounds (a topic I'll delve more into when I sit down to write about Eraserhead next week). Sometimes it's best to let the viewer's imagination run wild, and that's accomplished with flair in the first half of The Changeling.

The problem, then, is in the second half explanation, which rather feels like an old Christian rock song in which the third verse makes certain it straightens out all the problems the writer created in the first two. The mystery is gone, some of it even beginning to feel like algebra, and the sound has lost its impressionable weight; the clanging and banging that takes place in the second half of the film lacks any curiosity that the first half generated. The ghost begins acting a little strange, too, and the people trying to help the ghost are kind of stuck in the middle. A lot of the details of the riddle's answers feel cheap. Then the ghost gets really really mad -- again for what reason, we can't precisely tell, although it is a child ghost, so maybe it's some kind of adolescent temper tantrum -- and he wipes out his place of residence, the only place where there are people who want to help him, the place where they live, too.

Not a whole lot of sense is made in the second half of the film, and the story's choice to leave the house and pursue a public figure -- the guy the ghost is REALLY mad at -- is awful.

Of course George C. Scott brought an excellent performance to a film that could have been better. His presence did lift the material, and I think one could say that about quite a few of his films.

There are so many films, especially in horror, that stack the deck in the front only to fail to deliver in the end. They're the most frustrating kind of film because you don't really want to pick on them after you initially liked them in the beginning. The Changeling is one such film. It deserves to be picked on harder than I'm picking on it here, but I just can't pick any harder.

Out of the gate, it could have been great, but I took the bait and it waffled.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Thing. (1982) John Carpenter

This is the first time I've seen The Thing, and apart from some very 80s looking effects, it drew me in. It's a fun and creepy monster movie that functions as much in the realm of nail-biting thriller as it does in cringe-inducing horror. Seeing it now and knowing it has somehow survived the test of time, I can't imagine how much cooler it must have been to see it in its day. But few did see it -- it came out two weeks after E.T., and for its poor timing it suffered at the box office.

Time has smiled kindly on The Thing, however, and a cult following seems to champion the film as a sort of b-movie horror staple. I don't know that this is a b-movie, per se, as much as it's simply a film that caught on years after its FX wore out. (But I'd still rather see this again than much of the current CGI garbage that dominates modern film, the horror genre in particular.)

The story follows a group of twelve scientists in the Antarctic who run into a virus-like alien that can graft copies of itself in the shape of another being. That is, it latches onto something or someone, destroys them, and incorporates its DNA to form itself in their image. The scientists, although typically quite drunk, remain very educated, and figure out what's happening relatively quickly. But the knowledge of what's happening is no comfort. If anything, knowledge in this case leads to greater panic. You don't know if the man you once worked with is still himself, or if the "thing" has taken over.

So half of the fun is the paranoia involved, and that strand of the story is why the film transcends its time. Kurt Russell, looking like a mix between Bad Blake and late period Jim Morrison, is especially fun to watch as he distrusts everyone and everything around him. The method he comes up with in testing the blood of all the men provides one of the greatest jolts in the film, and that jolt, from a blood sample in a petri dish, was perhaps the most fun jolt I've had this year.

I didn't even realize that a prequel to The Thing will be out soon. I've gotta say, I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jacob's Ladder. (1990) Adrian Lyne

Every year, October seems to creep up and get me. I find myself caught up in the Halloween spirit and wandering (yet again) to the horror genre. It's been happening for several years and hopefully climaxed last year when I ended up far gone into the French New Wave of horror, a grotesque movement of unrestrained decadence that rivals any of the so-called "torture porn" films created in Asia or the U.S.

Films like 13 Tzameti, ils, Sheitan, Martyrs, À l'intérieur (Inside), Frontière(s), Calvaire, and Vinyan probably left me a bit slack-jawed and dazed, hoping to only see reruns of "The Golden Girls" or "Eight is Enough." They're brutal films that follow up older Euro-horror like
I Stand Alone, Irréversible, and Haute Tension, some of which aren't even officially in the the horror canon but can nevertheless be labelled horrifying and grotesque. Last year was a hard year for me, the perfect year for October's horror fest to fully jar the envelope of my senses. It was a year and an October that don't need to be repeated.

This year I've decided not to go that route, a route that had me ending with Strangers and Vacancy and Wolf Creek. Not that all the films I watched last year were awful. They weren't. But they were all grotesque, and maybe only reserved for that one October in life.

So this year as October's personal horror fest creeps its way to me again, I find myself meandering back to classics, even alterna-classics of the genre. Not classics like Vampyr or Nosferatu -- I've seen those classics quite enough. I guess Jacob's Ladder would qualify as a great example of the kind of alterna-classic horror I'm trying to describe. It really isn't a horror film at all. But there are elements of tense horror in its downright terrifying moments of suspense. It is also a film that stands the test of time. Twenty years after its initial release, its non-linear command of the senses is as strong and sharp as when it was made.

The story follows Vietnam vet Jacob Singer, who having returned from active duty is slowly losing his mind. I've never been much of a Tim Robbins fan -- he's an actor I've seen countless times who just kind of remains "out there" for me -- but he is riveting as Singer, wandering from scene to scene, one moment with his wife and children, the next supposedly separated from them and living with his girlfriend, and always somehow strangely still in Vietnam -- we're never actually sure where he is until the final reveal, which is solid but no pre-fall M. Night splendor.

As he starts to form beliefs about his wandering existential crisis, he thinks he's losing his mind in one moment, and in another, he flat-out believes he's in hell. The first astounding ten minutes ease the viewer straight into Singer and his story. A great foreshadowing takes place -- on the subway he looks up at two advertisements. One reads about being "Crazy in New York," the other about life being "Hell" when you're on drugs. This movie feels like it's on drugs, and most movies that attempt this aren't able to make it work. Jacob's Ladder makes it work, and it works you over in nightmare fashion.

I'm diving into a few films like this for this year's personal October fest. Some, like Donnie Darko, The Shining and Eraserhead I've seen a hundred times each and still find them perplexing and fun with each additional viewing. Others, like The Changeling (Peter Medak, 1980) and The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982), will be quite new to me. If I've seen them, I don't really remember it. I was only ten and twelve years-old when they came out! But they're films I've heard good things about in recommendation from folks I can trust. It's good to have folks you can trust when you're a film buff.

It feels like 2010 is going to bring me great viewing and Halloween fun. Hope yours is safe and excellent, too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Non-lollipop Docs.

Catfish. (2010)  Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

There's a moment in the middle of Catfish when it hits you that the film could go practically anywhere. It's a fun moment because you're never really certain where you stand with the film anyway. Is it a documentary? A prankumentary? A fuck-u-mentary? What kind of a "mentary" is this?

With Exit Through the Gift Shop and I'm Still Here, 2010 has already given its fair share of new school thought that says, "I am going to tell my story whether it's true or not. I hope you enjoy the story." It was a blast of artistic irony and comedy in Banksy's hilarious offering Exit Through the Gift Shop. It was insufferable, miserable, a life gone wrong and right in your face in I'm Still Here. Catfish differs from both of these. It's neither a comedic delight nor an assaultive mess, but for what it's worth, I think I actually smiled through the entire first half of it.

The moment I mentioned is so much fun because you realize that honestly, at this point in the story, anything can happen, which is weird to think in a documentary-style film. We don't normally think that a monster or a serial killer is going to pop out of the woods during a Michael Moore film. We don't think an ATF helicopter might descend on an investigative Errol Morris-type scene of some young men from NYC driving in upper peninsula Michigan at night. A deer might cross their path, and they might hit it and wreck their rental -- but surely that'd be found in a Herzog doc -- not here. Right?

What really amazed me at the end of Catfish was the division of emotions segregated inside me as I watched from beginning to end. I followed the main character Nev from surprise and astonishment, to amazement and infatuation, to fear, to discovery and back to fear (a different kind), to identifying with another, to sadness and wonderment and finally astonishment again -- all in 94 minutes. Many movies do this. They play with our emotions and take us on a roller coaster ride of feeling. But for some reason in Catfish it feels like each emotion is its own chapter. It's divided so clearly it feels like the emotions are running the show.

And perhaps they are. Perhaps there's more manipulation here than at first we were led to believe. But I don't think it matters, if we surrender to the story. All art is a lie, yes? All art has to lie a little to get to a form of truth.

So Catfish is a story, whether truth or lie, that kind of piggy backs off The Social Network, a social myth of sorts, fusing into a first person My Kid Could Paint That (a great docu-DVD rental, see below), and kind of rounding off as a make-up session after all the dumb Immatures just exploded on an ego-fueled reality show. It's the story of a talented eight year-old painter, maybe. Or maybe it's the story of painter girl's 19 year-old sister, who is just too good to be true. (Note the forum.) It is definitely a story of internet sociality and deceit, but above all it's about dealing with that great big Hole -- that needing, searching Hole you've felt when something was stolen from you, or when a relationship falls apart. It's the -- "what happened?" that's left unanswered, trying to find out where things went wrong.

It's that nagging need to figure out just how you were duped, and why. Film it in DV and send it from New York City to Michigan, cuz that's really what Catfish is about.

Freakonomics. (2010)  Full list of directors Here.

The trailer for this one looked like so much fun that I made a trip to the local library and got the New York Times Bestseller. The Revised and Expanded Edition of Freakonomics has been sitting next to my toilet for close to two months through several renewals. It is perfect bathroom reading, but I've often found myself asking why I should care about its insights -- it is insightful, don't get me wrong. It just seems that a lot of work has been put into reading data and studying incentives that would otherwise be trumped by common sense.

The movie version, directed by various excellent filmmakers, turns out to be a light doc, mostly happy with a shade or two of gray. Nothing wrong with that, it's good to think happy thoughts sometimes, but again, while some of the insights are interesting, I remain unconvinced they have much to do with a deeper level of Me.

I'm going to go ahead and spoil this one, so if you don't want the knowledge of the insights in Freakonomics, don't read on. However, if you're somewhat familiar with the book or have caught a glimpse of the trailer, you already know everything that's in the film, so honestly, this is no big deal:

1. Real estate agents would rather have a bird in the hand than two in the bush.

2. No matter what you name your kid, he or she may or may not succeed.

3. Some sumo wrestlers have been known to cheat.

4. You can potty train a child with M&Ms. (DUH! I have done this.)

5. Population curves as a result of Roe v. Wade have even effected percentages of criminality in the early 90s.

6. You can bribe some 9th graders to do well in school. Others, you can't.

The film is simple, but fun. I like the concentration on incentives and don't think I've seen it covered like this before, but I have a hard time thinking that a rogue economist like Steven D. Levitt can't come up with anything more interesting.

Even with its simplicity and inability to part from the topics of the book, I recommend the film based on its different directors -- all admired for previous documentary work -- and out of the sheer fun the movie has with itself. It's like going back to school with the coolest teacher on campus and letting his brain run free combining sociology with economics.

My Kid Could Paint That. (2007)  Amir Bar-Lev

Much like this year's Exit Through the Gift Shop, My Kid Could Paint That is about art and its authentic value: its birthing process, its original purity, and the ability of a seller to exploit it. In particular, the film may ask why some are willing to spend so much on what's passed off as art -- a problematic issue in My Kid Could Paint That because we're discussing the abstract art of a four year-old. Can four year-olds even think in abstract terms?

This is the perplexing story of real-life child prodigy Marla Olmstead, the story of a kid and her paintings which confound the adult mind. If everything is as true as reported and she's receiving no artistic guidance from dad -- something which may never actually be known -- she's been confounding even her parents since she first started using dad's professional paints and easels to begin working at age three. This kid's got incredible talent if everything as represented here is true.

(Big "If.")

Her first painting sold for $250. A few years later and she's now sold around $300,000 -- which mom and dad wisely put in a college fund.

The story starts out easy enough. Marla made a few paintings, a local New York art dealer saw them at a coffee house and decided to host a show to see if they would sell. They did. When people began learning about the child behind the art, the demand went through the roof to the point where Marla would never be able to meet the demand. Local press picked all this up, and the New York Times ran a story on it as well. Soon Marla and her paintings were featured in Time Magazine, on CBS and the BBC, as well as newscasts around the globe.

Her dad enjoyed all the attention Marla was getting, but mom's reception was more tepid, realizing the fickle nature of the media -- that in an age of instant fame there's usually a backlash, a turning against the thing that gave someone (even a four year-old) their fifteen minutes. What she didn't realize was how ugly this was going to be.

When "60 Minutes" covered the story on one of their weekly segments, they raised questions that, in my opinion, haven't been answered, but are heartbreaking nonetheless. They brought on a child psychologist who questioned whether Marla could truly have been the sole creator of these paintings, or whether the paintings we see her doing alone are inferior compared to the times when she's off camera with her (artist) dad.

Am I really a cynic if I agree with the "60 Minutes" segment? The paintings Marla did look too advanced, with too many styles. Even after her parents produced a five hour video showing Marla working on a painting ("Ocean") from beginning to end, I have to admit it wasn't as good as many of the other paintings already sold. This is one of those times where I hope that my cynicism is wrong, however, it looks to me like the paintings were doctored by dad.

But what does it matter? Are people buying these paintings for their end result alone, or only because they know a four year-old created them? Wouldn't they be just as beautiful and valuable if they were made by the daughter and father together? And in a way, aren't they? As her coach, dad provided Marla with all the paints and supplies she needed. He was a great assistant to her, the kind any professional would desire.

Beauty is beauty, but not in the eyes of all.

Encounters at the End of the World. (2007)  Werner Herzog

Encounters at the End of the World is the third Herzog for which I've given a perfect Netflix 5/5 stars. I may as well go ahead and just share my Herzogian Netflix ratings:

5.0/5 Stroszek
5.0/5 Fitzcarraldo
5.0/5 Encounters at the End of the World
4.5/5 Aguirre: The Wrath of God
4.5/5 Grizzly Man
4.0/5 The Enigma of Kasper Hauser
3.5/5 Nosferatu the Vampyre
3.0/5 The White Diamond
3.0/5 Rescue Dawn
3.0/5 My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski
1.5/5 Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
1.0/5 Wild Blue Yonder

I am on a huge Herzog kick as of late. I've been trying to see at least one of his films a month. I think he may be becoming one of my all-time favorite directors. If not that, he easily ranks as one of my favorite all-time personalities!

Encounters at the End of the World hits on so many amazing levels. Herzog takes what would by some other filmmaker be a great documentary on nature, specifically the Antarctic, and turns it into a study not only of nature itself, but of the people who study the nature -- they being just as interesting as it. And that easily sums up exactly why I've fallen so in love with this guy as of late. He loves studying and digging into and talking about people, he loves filming them and hearing their stories (especially when their stories are outrageous, which I'm sure he encourages, and probably even encourages them to exaggerate). It has been mentioned how fascinated he is with nature, and the struggle within that framework to wrestle its adversity into film. But he's also fascinated by the nature of man, and mankind itself, and how to express some of man's strangest thoughts and actions.

It is such a huge turn-on to see this in so many Herzog films. Think about it: How many directors are actually so interested in others that that is exactly what they want to display? Many filmmakers want to create something big and grande, and be known for it, and that's fine. Herzog finds the big and grande in everyone around him, and puts it on display, and in doing so he also becomes big and grande with his subjects.

So like with Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly Man and Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kasper Hauser and Stroszek, Herzog once again ends up in an odd location -- here, the south pole -- and the film becomes a nature film for PBS that's as much about the odd scientists (and divers and welders and physicists) as it is about the location itself. And all of these people are so odd and worth probing -- so worth checking out for their oddities -- they just kind of slid south of civilization, all the way down to the south pole.

So not only do we get shots of an underwater life that is more alien than anything in a sci-fi film (riffed on when the scientists sit around watching the old horror film Them), not only do we get to ponder a penguin that we can't stop as he blatantly journeys to his own demise, not only do we get boot camp for survival training and learn how to keep our group alive in a white-out (hilarious scene!), and explore volcanoes and the deepest parts of the coldest oceans on earth, but we get to explore the hearts of the travelers, to find out what makes them tick. To see through their eyes, and as it is mentioned more than once, to let the Universe discover its importance through their consciousness.

It is filled with danger, deep thoughts, ironies, humor, and those typical Herzogian moments of the completely bizarre Other.

It also seems to lack some of the scenes from other Herzog films that we've had cynical takes on before -- the Treadwell death tape that remains as the "white elephant" in Grizzly Man's empty room, or the cave behind the Guyanese falls that he couldn't possibly show for cultural reasons in The White Diamond. Encounters feels so close to Herzog's heart that the idea of a lie or a trick is held at a distance; we feel these tender scenes and he really wants to earn our trust, which may be difficult considering we've had the rug pulled out before.

For me, it worked. I fell in and trusted him completely this time. He was far too convincing for me to doubt, even an inch. The doc is an incredible study on man, animal, and life on the planet in general. Even in the final few scenes we delve into quantum physics, a search for ultimate reality, which for this crew is a desire for God.

Most of my film buddies aren't readily in agreement with me on the 5/5 greatness of Encounters at the End of the World, but I was able to fuel some fiery thoughts Here, where local A&F conversation was scrumptious.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Social Network. (2010) David Fincher

Layered performances and electrifying dialogue make this one of the best U.S. releases this year. Trent Reznor's pulsating score cranks it up even another notch. Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have created a masterpiece of post-modern cinema, a creation myth of the social order, perfectly capturing the need for human connectivity against egos that feed into betrayal and isolation.

Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara (who will be our American "girl with the dragon tattoo" -- and I'm hoping Reznor will show up with her in that film, too) relate a thrilling drama with fast talking characters representing the strange paradoxes found in social connectivity on the web, where you can be a jackass if you want to, but it's not the wild wild west, and your actions have consequences that might stalk you.

My friend Steve Greydanus has written an unbelievably good review, a reaction that's as fun to read as the film is to watch. There are no heavy spoilers, and it's well worth a look either before or after you've seen the film. You can find his review Here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Let Me In. (2010) Matt Reeves

I am eating some serious crow in regard to Let Me In. I wrote some time ago that there was no way an American remake of the now classic Let the Right One In would ever be able to capture the essence of this utterly Swedish vampire tale -- and even if it did, it wouldn't possibly be well received by U.S. audiences, who need loads of shock and gore to swallow down their helpings of horror.

I stand corrected on both counts. The remake does capture the essence of the original (which may present its own problems, and I'll get into that later), and whether audiences are lapping it up is really impossible to gauge, but critics and bloggers and film lovers in general seem quite smitten with it so far.

Not that Let Me In doesn't have its fair share of problems. It does. But it's a pretty damn fine film, and for me to admit it -- (when I originally heard the remake was even planned, I blurted out, "This is frickin' disgusting. Is there nothing sacred anymore?") -- makes it a monumental achievement, at least in my book. I don't go easy when America plunders the finest movies of other nations. It goes back to my belief that film energizes us to become global. That if we can't go to another country, we can at least understand another country through film. I see it as not just a good side effect from viewing foreign titles, but rather the responsibility of anyone who considers theirself cultured. Remakes in general defeat this purpose by offering films that cover-up the need to see the original in its land and in its language -- hence, why it's amazing I'm able to admit how well done the remake is here.

More than once I've read that Let Me In kept the essence of the original by becoming a shot by shot remake. That is as false as false statements get. There were similarities, sure, but an entire sub-plot is gone, traded in for a cop and a general tightening of a few core figures. Other scenes are indeed "roughed up" a bit for American fans of the horror genre.

But Let Me In has a huge problem with pacing. Yeah, they're trying very hard, probably too hard to get the pacing of the original. But the Swedish version was an extremely quiet film. As such, it was in tradition with much Scandinavian cinema, film from a land where people are typically more casual and reserved and a whole lot more peaceful than some of us in the crazy states. For the pacing of the dialogue to be understood as inherently Swedish makes the similar pacing of the remake's dialogue a little clunky when you consider that most American teens don't talk like this. (Sentence. Space. Sentence. More space. etc.)

The biggest problem is that the spaces are now loaded with music that throws this subdued style of dialogue completely off. At times the dialogue is forced. It's slower and quieter than normal American teenagers would be, wherein the original had a very natural (Swedish) flow. The score, filled with over the top tension and huge leading tones trying to steer and sway emotion, actually gets in the way and makes itself all too noticeable.

I realize that even as I pick on the score it's my own problem because I typically like subdued Swedish films more, anyway. It won't be a huge problem for the folks that show up to see the film in the theater. If anything, the biggest problem that US moviegoers will face is that they'll think the film is too slow. And that's an OK beef. They won't have fully grasped that they're seeing an art house film with horror, not a horror film with a touch of art.

Still, if I I left the theater and said the remake wasn't interesting, it'd be a lie. I guess I'm wondering whether I found it interesting because I know the original so well and, while I was impressed, I was comparing the films the whole time -- or whether Let Me In really is a good film, as stylistically created and well acted as the original. Haven't figured out my answer to that one yet.

I suppose I should celebrate that a wider audience has been exposed to a great story, a story that puts the Twilight stories to shame. (I haven't seen any of those films but seeing the trailers is enough to convince me.) I'm still wondering about the U.S. reaction, though. Will the horror fans that show up know they've encountered a great story when they finally see one?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm Still Here. (2010) Casey Affleck

This film is no fun in so many different ways.

It's no fun to watch a good actor destroy himself. Yes, I said "himself," and not simply his career. A part of a seemingly decent person dies here, whether they want to pass it off as fiction or not.

And it's not even fun as a gag, even when you're in on the joke and know the punch line.

Like wimpy freshman in the senior locker room, Affleck and Phoenix let the cat out of the bag last week. Tail ducked firmly between their legs, the Big Reveal was something I've known all along -- that none of this was real. Or, at least it wasn't real for them. We don't know who they duped in the process of capturing their "fictional" lives, or what it may have cost them in terms of friendships and acquaintances.

A famous Emerson quote says, "A cynic can chill or dishearten with a single word." Taken to greater proportions, a film maker can chill and dishearten the masses with a single cynical film.

The project may have started out as a rush, the adrenaline of being the only ones in on the Big Bad Secret. But to pull this off, wouldn't Phoenix have needed to actually smell like alcohol and not just simply act drunk? The lies may have been conceived as an art stunt (which apparently didn't work too well), but there's truth to be found even in the greatest of lies, and after watching this vapid prankumentary even with the knowledge that it's a facade, I still think Phoenix had fun throwing up on himself. What he did in falling apart, he did well. With hookers, booze and drugs. Let the campaign to cover-up begin. They can say it was for art, but I think not.

The real problem, however, is that anyone, anywhere can do this. It doesn't take talent, it simply takes a pulse. I've done it, I've pulled apart years of foundation I once laid -- and when I did it, I did it for real. Didn't have the press or media to run to and say, "It was all a trick! Forgive me and restore me, pleeeeeeze!!" All it takes is an ID with proof that you're 21 or older and anyone can do what's done here. Get a friend or family member to film it and maybe you can make a better film than this.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wall Street. (1987) Oliver Stone

I might be the last person on the face of the earth to see Wall Street, but I'm certain I won't be the last to appreciate it.

I was only seventeen when it came out. I'd probably only been to two or three R-rated movies, and by the time it hit video, it never really appealed to me. But this is one case where I'm glad I missed it when it first came out. Viewing it for the first time as an adult brings more depth to the story than I would have understood as a teen.

The sequel is now out, twenty-three years after the first film was made. I guess I decided to see Wall Street just to find out whether the sequel would be worth a trip to the theater. Time will tell regarding the sequel, which will obviously have to stand on its own strength -- however, I'm glad the sequel exists if only that it got me moving in the direction of seeing the first film.

If you missed it before, it's definitely one to track down. If you saw it as a kid, you need to dig into it as an adult. If it's been a few years, it might be one to revisit.

It really is a fascinating story about how money changes us and has the ability to corrupt. I don't think many of us would agree with its character whose motto is, "Greed is good." But things are different now than they were in 1985. We see the world in a bit of a different light. We actually see the world every day in far greater ability than we were able to twenty years ago, and greed today may mean something entirely different than it did in the mid-80s.

It's a high-level drama with some outrageous scheming, but has truths about human nature that make for excellent thought. It was well worth the time invested.