movie review: antichrist

I appreciate all kinds of movies, and I don’t mind depictions of gore, sexual violence, or whatever as long as they accomplish something, i.e. make me feel what the filmmaker wants me to feel.  I’m not sure what I was supposed to feel when, the middle of an otherwise beautifully shot opening sequence (a series of cuts between an unusually ambitious marital boning session and an unsupervised toddler about to jump out of his bedroom window), I was shown an ultra slo-mo high-definition shot of a penis entering a vagina.  Such a shot 1) is distressingly unsexy and 2) takes you out of the movie completely.  You start thinking, that’s obviously not Willem Dafoe’s actual penis.  You start thinking, is that actor credited as “Disembodied Penis” on  Should I check?   I don’t really care whose penis that is.  But now I’m wondering about that when I should be noting that this couple’s child is about to die because they were too busy fucking in the shower to make sure the baby monitor was turned on.

The movie’s other big wowie-zowie moment is at the end, when the grief-stricken mother elects to cut off her clitoris with the kitchen scissors.  A shot of her face during the crucial moment would have been a lot more emotionally effective than a close-up shot of a prosthetic vulva with a tube of corn syrup attached.  Again, it does nothing but take you out of the story.  It’s particularly annoying because this movie isn’t billed as some sort of generic torture-porn romp where the point is to be grossed out, or grossed out by how turned on you are, or whatever.  It’s supposed to be a movie that’s actually about something, and for the most part it is, but the narrative journey is ruined by the silly attempts to be shocking.

I also don’t get why, late in the film, it’s revealed that the mother was actually nuts long before her kid died, and spent her time in the woods making some weird misogynistic scrapbook.  So then, at long last, it’s not a movie about how grief affects people and their relationships; it’s just Crazy Lady Goes Even Crazier Comma Occasionally Does It With Willem Dafoe.   Which is, you know, still a pretty cool movie.  It just could have been so much cooler.

movie review: the wrestler

Last summer I re-watched Requiem for a Dream, having seen it once about eight years prior.  I found it an able and engrossing film both times; however, my response to it changed drastically between viewings.  In my teens the infamous climax with its swelling strings, amputated limb, and double-ended dildo made me feel sad and uncomfortable.  In my twenties, it made me laugh out loud.  Aronofsky is a divisive director–I’ve found myself defending Pi and even The Fountain because yeah, they’re ridiculous, but they’re passionately ridiculous.  You can either embrace that spirit or spit at it, and I tend to embrace it.  The same is true of Requiem, although I simply have no patience for melodramatic fluff that tries to force me to feel the dirty shame of stupid people’s stupid choices.  I just don’t care about that shit.

So it is despite the aforementioned that I fully endorse The Wrestler as a great movie, though it’s not without its trite moments, nor without a tendency to overstate the obvious (as well as to include too many naked scenes of the admittedly stupendously built Marisa Tomei)….even with those flaws it’s really, really good and engaging, and it’s got genuine heart to it.  Pro wrestling is a fascinating spectacle; it combines the campy fun of drag with the exhilaration of choreographed violence.  Even viewers who don’t share my fond memories of watching Wrestlemania on pay-per-view would surely be intrigued by the depictions of what goes on backstage before and after a match.

Many reviews have mentioned the national tragedy of Mickey Rourke’s epic descent from this to this, but which Rourke created more sympathetic, realistic, relatable characters?  We would be remiss to mourn the loss of the young, lovely Rourke when we could instead be celebrating the heydey of the old, busted Rourke, who is still lovely in his own way.  It’s hard to imagine another actor hitting such a perfect tone or so deftly portraying a character who would be pathetic if he weren’t so vibrant.  Despite an ambiguously sad ending, I left the theater feeling uplifted and hopeful, which may or may not be what Aronofsky intended, but it was very welcome anyway.

this post 9/11 world

You’ll have to excuse me if my intelligibility dips below acceptable levels; I am inconceivably tired but also sick of neglecting my blog and depriving the world (i.e. all three of you!) of my fantastic inner workings.

Last night Jared and I went to see No Country For Old Men, which I wanted to see it solely because Javier Bardem was in it. The only other film I have seen Bardem in is The Sea Inside, which we saw a few months ago. That was an astoundingly well-told story about a man who becomes paralyzed and, some decades later, assembles a group of friends to help him kill himself. Bardem plays an old man for most of the movie, and until some brief flashback scenes of his character earlier in life, I had no inkling that he (the actor) was not elderly. Similarly, when I watched him in No Country, he seemed to take up about three times as much physical space as he did in The Sea, and his voice and eyes were entirely different. That, to me, is what makes a good actor: complete immersion in a charcter, the ability to leave out one’s personal tics and mannerisms. So anyway, I thought he was neat and I enjoyed the movie.

My favorite thing to do after watching a movie is to go on or read published reviews to see what other people thought. In so doing I came across this review and was immediately disgusted. The reviewer doesn’t like the movie, he doesn’t get it, whatever; that’s not what I take issue with. It’s this load of maggot-infested feces, about the movie’s directors and their treatment of the source material:

“They even manage to acknowledge briefly the relevance of all this mayhem to the present occupation of Iraq (albeit somewhat anachronistically, as the action is set in 1980). At one point, [a character] ruefully reflects to a colleague, “It’s just all-out war—there isn’t any other word for it,” and goes on to comment about the sad times we’re living in, when some people even resort to senseless torture, making particular allusion to Abu Ghraib by mentioning a torturer placing a dog collar around the neck of one of his victims.”

This is a common meme in the world of morons: the insistence to link every fucking thing that happens in the media and in your personal life to whatever war happens to be on at the time. This movie didn’t have a single thing to do with the Iraq war, or with any war; it’s a violent movie, and war is violent, but that’s where the connection ends. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people try to describe popular media as “an escape from these turbulent times” or “a response to the conflict overseas”. The vast majority of us aren’t at war, don’t have loved ones who are at war, and are not actually affected by the current war any more than we’re affected by every other atrocity that goes on in the world every day. The journalists and academics and others who have been perpetuating this kind of pseudo-intellectual garbage since the beginning of time would be well-advised to experience something -anything- on its own merit and not purely as a response to that day’s headlines.

It’s one thing to make a passing mention of politics when describing why Dylan’s music became so popular in the sixties…it’s another thing to take your morning dump and then expound upon how constipated you’ve become in this post-9/11 world.

movie review: casino royale

I never really had an interest in the James Bond franchise, probably due to some combination of my disdain for gunfights/action scenes, my complete apathy for exotic cars, and my lack of attraction to the leading men. The earlier Bonds were halfway decent, I guess, but Pierce Brosnan? Not only could I kick that guy’s ass myself, but I would have no problem resisting his fancy sexual advances. So, for me, the character never quite came alive.

This new guy, however, this Daniel Craig? Yeah. He’s hot. He’s rough, he’s tough, he looks like he could legitimately bust out some Spiderman-rappelling moves on scaffolding, run through a wall, and attempt to administer an electric shock to his own heart. He made the movie thoroughly entertaining, and lent it an aura of not-totally-cheesyness that the other Bond movies lacked…and this is a movie where a scene of dialogue between two people is followed by a random jump cut to a bikini-clad woman riding a horse in slow motion. This is a movie with a Romantic Montage that involves actual gondolas. It’s pretty damned cheesy. But you find yourself not caring, because the blood that should be circulating around in your brain instead flows towards your pants, and you give in to the ridiculousness of it all. That’s good casting, people.

I was also impressed by the inclusion of a naked genital torture scene (an homage to Bob Flanagan?), which was both grisly and funny, again thanks to the talents of Daniel Craig. The scene added that little je ne sais quoi and confirmed, yet again, why Craig is a better Bond than Brosnan. I would be surprised if Brosnan even had genitals to torture, seeing as he looks exactly like a Ken doll. So lame.

Anyway, now that Craig is firmly established in his role as the new Bond, I think it’s high time we usher in the era of the 5’4″, tattooed, Jewish Bond girl, who would naturally be played by me. My name could be Esther Goldclit or something like that, and I’d make all sorts of hilarious innuendos about matzoh balls and say “But Mr. Bond, that doesn’t look kosher to me!” during the inevitable love scene. Then I’d be tragically killed by an exploding mezuzah. It would be incredible.

Official score: Awesome, and new recipient of the award for Best Random Sado-Masochistic Act Performed by a Dude with a Bleeding Eyeball.

movie review: rear window (contains spoilers!)

Yeah, so I’m 52 years late to the party. Rear Window is one of those movies that’s so ubiquitous, so referred to in the popular culture, that you feel like you must have seen it at some point, even though you haven’t. So then it gets recommended to you on Netflix and you’re all, “I’ve seen that movie already!” and then you’re all, “Psych! I have NOT seen this movie!” This happens to me with a lot of the “classics”. I didn’t see Citizen Kane until, like, last year. Anyway, the aforementioned Popular Culture and its ever-satirical ways had lead me to believe that Rear Window had a surprise ending. The infamous Simpsons episode, among other parodies, all feature the basic plot of this movie, except in the end the Jimmy Stuart character isn’t actually witnessing a murder, but instead something hilariously benign. Naturlich, I thought that’s how the actual film would end.

But in a shocking twist, there is no twist! Raymond Burr actually does kill his wife! So it ended up being somewhat unsatisfying in that I wondered throughout the film what was really going on in Burr’s apartment…and then I found that I knew all along. The expected moral of “don’t get sucked into a hysterical voyeuristic paranoia” turns into “spy on your neighbours, and suspect the absolute worst of them, because you’ll probably be right.” That’s a message I think we can all get behind in These Troubled Times.

One thing I greatly enjoyed about Rear Window is that Grace Kelly, hallowed specimen of feminine virtue and beauty, spends most of the movie putting the big-girl moves on Jimmy Stuart, and he is not having it. He’s not impressed by her fancy job or her pretty clothes. The only thing holding the relationship together is their shared trait of being sneaky and having nothing better to do than spy on people. Ultimately, that’s what works for them, and we should be happy for them.

I have to subtract a few points because, every time Jimmy Stuart’s nurse visits him, she fails to assess CSM in his foot below the cast or do anything remotely nursely at all.

I add a few points back for the unexpectedly funny bit of dialogue wherein Jimmy is talking to his boss about the racetrack photography accident that left him with a broken leg. Of the experience, Jimmy says “You wanted something dramatically different, and you got it!” The boss says, “So did you!” Heh.

Final score: Approved.