2017 is a strange world for this kid who was raised in the hippie christian 1970s and bizarro mega church 1980s. I never thought I would see a movie where Satan played the male romantic lead without having to even change his appearance. But there it is, Satan, Baphomet, the horned beast with goat hooves – sweeping the village beauty off of her feet. Now, look, all that christian mythology isn’t my thing. I’m a Buddhist and not the kind that prays to Benihana – but this is pretty trippy. America is a bizarre place where poor people elect a ‘populist’ who has a gilded toilet seat (and who may actually have sold his soul to the devil (Putin)) or might actually be the devil himself – and the highest grossing movie of the year is about Satan – the poor misunderstood sweetheart that will lock you in a cage but then sweep you off your feet. All you have to do is love Satan and then you can have your own Mar el Lago Resort and a new Ivanka Trump line of clothing.
All that being said – it was a great movie. I enjoyed it. And as far as Satan goes, good for him for finally getting the role he always wanted – the poor, misunderstood kid who did terrible things but only because of his awful father – not because he was bad. And, he looked handsome even with his horns and goat hooves. My daughter asked the logical question “How come he never wears shoes?” My first answer was that he didn’t have a cobbler, but hey, it’s a magic castle and someone is making those huge jackets he is wearing after the first act – so I didn’t really have an answer except – Hooves are harder than shoes.
So, that’s that. Nice work Satan. You deserve the Oscar. Emma Watson too.
If you haven’t heard of The Interview – you either live in North Korea or you don’t use the internet -either way, the chances are that you aren’t reading this – so, never mind.
Just in case you fall into some third category – here it is in a nutshell. Seth Rogen and James Franco made a farce film about a pulp entertainment magazine show which lands an interview with Kim Jong Un, the real life North Korean dictator. The CIA enlists them to kill him. Things go awry and gay jokes and anus jokes and sodomy jokes ensue. The film was made through Sony Pictures and as a result – Sony was hacked by real life North Korean hackers who stole tons of valuable data and threatened to blow up any theaters that showed the film because of the portrayal of Kim Jong Un in the film. As a result, major film chains refused to let the movie open on Christmas day and President Obama and many others said that Sony should not bow to the will of dictators and terrorists and so the film was released on Youtube and other sources online and screened in thousands of small theaters nationwide. With all the free press – a great many people who would not have seen this film probably watched it and many who would have watched it probably did not. And that’s the background on this. I watched it on YouTube which cost me $5.99 and robbed me of the chance to see a bunch of gray hairs being offended as Seth Rogen shoved a giant silver phallus in his rectum. More spoilers will follow so if that isn’t something you want to see – dont read on.
The only thing really political about this film was the real life drama that surrounded it’s release. Mostly it’s just a bunch of fart, shit, gay, penis jokes disguised as a buddy film. If you are looking for substance – you won’t find it. If you are looking for intellectual satire, you won’t find it. If you are looking for plot – you better look elsewhere. If you are looking for smart, edgy, funny, or thought provoking – it’s not there. If you are looking for Franco to hint at being gay, Eminem to come out of the closet, or Rogen to shove a bloody silver phallus up his anus – this is your film. There was some nudity, but none of it worthwhile – though the Korean party girls in bikinis were a momentary treat. The jokes didn’t really work in almost every case.
The violence was needless and way over the top with blood spattering worthy of a zombie flick but without the enjoyment of watching a zombie bite the dust.
The only good part about this movie was actor Randall Park’s portrayal of Kim Jong Un. Park brings multiple dimensions to a character that the world knows little to nothing about – a character that is real! A person who controls the fate of an entire nation and has his finger on a nuclear button. Park’s portrayal was sympathetic at times, crazy spoiled at times, and downright scary at times. This, if anything, is the value of the film and the reason why the film struck a nerve with North Korea. I’d like to see Park in a biopic about Kim Jong Un. A serious film. But that wasn’t what this was.
Ultimately, if the North Koreans had succeeded in suppressing this film – it probably would have been doing a favor to the people who ultimately went to theaters to see it. I saw some of them walking out of a Christmas Day screening and frankly, none of them looked like they were happy about paying ticket prices to see this crap.
You may think that you are free, but you are not. You may think that each action you take is an unrestrained choice, but it is not. You ( and everyone else) are incarcerated in a prison that controls every action you take and every decision you make. Even the decision to be reading these words was already determined before you had read the title of this article.
You can stop right now….but obviously that is not a decision you were able to make, because you are still reading. I don’t want you to harbor any illusions, I am just as much a prisoner as you are. As I write these words, a series of circumstances have led me to a point that cannot be returned from. The sum total of my associations and memories combined with the intensity of my feelings about them have led me to this moment, as I sit and write these words, and while it may feel like this is voluntary, the truth is that I really have no choice in the matter.
How can this be? Just as you can stop reading, I can stop writing…but we have not. We have not been able to stop even though the idea was suggested to us both. We continue on. I am not alone in suggesting that memory has a much stronger hold upon the actions we take in the present than most of us care to admit. Philosophers have debated the case of free will. Thomas Hobbes and David Hume suggested that if one were not being coerced by an outside agent that one was exercising free will. This is a just and necessary argument. It is just because, as John Locke suggested later, if one can pause long enough to think about the effects of one’s actions, one is able to make a choice. It is necessary because if individuals are not held accountable for their actions, there is no basis for order in any society.
Necessary and just…agreed, but are they correct? What if the judgment that is made in the pause Locke speaks of is influenced by the perception of the individual making the judgement? What if even the ability to pause and consider an action before making a judgement is predetermined within the individual by the way that the individual views past experience and current events? If this is the case, than, just as you are still reading these words and I am still writing these words, other actions by other individuals may actually be predetermined and potentially mapped out by the most fascist of all prison wardens….memory.
The philosopher Henri Bergson said in his book Matter and Memory that
It may be said that we have no grasp of the future without an
equal and corresponding outlook over the past, that the onrush
of our activity makes a void behind it in which memories flow,
and that memory is thus the reverberation in the sphere of
consciousness, of the indetermination of our will.
Consider that for a moment, since you are reading this. I will do the same, since I am writing this. I am not certain, but I think that it implies that not only are we influenced in our current decisions by the events of the past, but that we let current events reshape the events of the past, thus, the past that we are basing our decisions upon, is actually variable. This confounds the issue even further. To return to the situation that we currently find ourselves in, are we reading/writing this because of past events or reshaping past events to justify our reading/writing of this essay? In either case, who is actually in charge and making the decision to read/write this essay?
At the risk of disappointing you, I must confess here, that I do not have an answer. This whole series of events has been conjured up by a viewing of a film directed by Christopher Nolan, Memento. In Memento, such questions are suggested and because of an earlier exposure to the works of Henri Bergson, they have come to light in this essay. Memento is the story of a man who seeks to avenge the rape/murder of his wife. This is compounded a condition he has called anterograde amnesia which does not allow him to build new memories. His memories are fixed in the past. Or so he thinks.
The film starts from the present and traces events backwards using the point of view of the main character, Leonard, a man who uses notes, Polaroid photos, and tattoos to remember what he is doing and who he meets. Things are not as they seen for Leonard. His condition makes him vulnerable to exploitation. In the end (which confusingly is actually the beginning), Leonard is forced to confront the fact that things may not have been the way he thought they were. He is forced in short, to ask himself if what he thought was the past which had driven him to the present, was really what he had thought it was. He is forced to consider his actions and whether they were justified based on his memories. Leonard, is lucky though, he only needs to remember to tattoo a justification upon himself and it becomes reality to him.
It would seem that one of the major tasks facing filmmakers and story tellers of all stripes today is to find relevance between the story being told and the lives we lead. This search for relevance is not simply a way to achieve funding and production for a story, it is, more importantly, a way to connect the audience to the tale being told.
The all important connection can be through such obvious means as utilizing current events that the audience is familiar with. This was done to great effect in The Queen, where director Steven Frears reveals the very foreign and bizarre lives of the British royal family during the events which unfolded after the death of Lady Diana Spencer.
Another method might be to set a movie in a well known location. This worked wonderfully in Robert Altman’s classic expose of Hollywood, The Player. There are countless ways to create relevance.
In Looking for Richard, director Al Pacino seeks to show the contemporary world that one of the most important ways to create relevance is through raw human emotions such as greed, envy, jealousy, pride, fear, and the lust for power. Pacino takes his love of Shakespeare to the masses and finds that many of them don’t recognize the relevance of the Bard Poet in the modern world. Rather than simply explaining why the works of William Shakespeare have survived the test of time, Pacino takes Richard III, Shakespeare’s most performed play and breaks it into meaningful bits that clearly demonstrate the relevance to how we feel and think today.
This was interesting. Essentially a medieval peasant western with a lot of very sharp philosophy and criticism all steeped in religious overtones and an almost overpowering existential neurosis. Essentially, the questions boil down to ‘What is it for and what happens when we go?’ and the answer seems to be ‘You cannot know so you better enjoy the pleasures of fresh strawberries and cows milk.’ Secondary is the correlation that women and love make men miserable, but at the same time they make life worth living.
A film from Singapore about a very poor brother and sister who are on a far too long quest to find a pair of shoes. Horrible, sappy, and grating. Some touching moments, but for the most part, just fucking horrible. If you need shoes that badly, you should probably figure out how to make a pair from banana leaves.
The Big Lebowski
Overall strongest feeling about this was that I hate John Goodman and if he were someone in my life, I would either kill him or move to be as far away from him as possible. Other than JG, funny and totally enjoyable. Lot’s of audible guffaws. I love The Dude.
Three Days of the Condor
Good spy flick with a powerful message that applies today. The problems with oil and power are not new.
Time killer. Better than Spider Man 3 without as good of special effects. Pseudo intellectual, but it worked anyway. Groin kicking funny.
Ansel Adams Biography
Interesting. A bit too PBS. No fun. Very Educational
Great documentary series that started strong on sustainability but lost steam and eventually started telling stories that didn’t seem quite as relevant as they were at first. Some very interesting statistics and great narration by Brad Pitt. A nice way to present some unorthodox ideas and views.
David Brower and his fight to Save Wild America
This was what a good biography should be. It was interesting, funny, exciting, and inspiring.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
– a short review by Vago Damitio
In terms of keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next, this movie gets a perfect score. It was amusing, well scripted, and pleasantly captured the sense of nervous tension that all of the women felt. At the same time, the mise en scene and overall composition of the frames managed to make all of the women stand out. The colors of their costumes, the very specific and unique looks that each of them had really fit with the dementia that each of them felt. Small details like the rumba cab driver and his bouffant hair style created an eccentric feeling to everything about this film. I loved it.
Slaughterhouse Five (the film)- A Review by Vago Damitio
This wasn’t a terrible film. It seemed to stay fairly true to the book, however, they did a fairly bad job of making Billy Pilgrim age effectively. This was distracting. Pilgrim was perhaps a bad job of casting, though the actor’s expressions were sometimes fun, though again, not particularly convincing. The bombing of Dresden though was a homerun. The director did a superb job of showing that Dresden was a beautiful city of arts, a peaceful city in the midst of the German war machine, and finally, a pile of rubble filled with 150,000 innocent dead. This, I believe is main point of both the movie and the novel. The secondary point of time being one continuous non broken continuum was also made, though this was done in a bit more of a didactic and belabored manner.
I suppose this might have been the movie that personified a genre, but it didn’t work for me. I enjoyed it, but not enough to remember anything but annoyance. The message from the smirking Orson Wells, however, that killing people is what governments and business do wasn’t lost. Far too much needless betrayal of friendships and love though. Nice ending. The idea of post war Vienna split into four districts was a good platform to work on.
Again, a movie I thought I knew something about but was completely off on. Manhattan is a sort of cynical and sort of sweet exploration of what love is in the adult world. Woody Allen is a sort of anti-hero who judges the world around him while committing indiscretions of his own.
The film starts with Isaac (Woody Allen) and his 17 year old girlfriend (Muriel Hemingway) having dinner with his best friend Yale and his wife of 12 years. Soon we learn that Yale is having an affair with Mary, a writer and that Isaac’s ex wife left him for another woman. Their son lives with the women.
Yale justifies his past affairs as inconsequential and Isaac condemns infidelity. Yale says his current affair is more serious. Isaac and his young girlfriend meet her at a gallery. Isaac’s girlfriend loves him but he can’t take her serious because of her age despite her obvious maturity and depth. It is she who is the heroin of the film.
Yale ends the affair, Isaac becomes involved with Mary, and casts his girlfriend away. Yale and Mary become involved again and cast Yale’s wife and Isaac aside. Isaac realizes that he made a mistake and tries to reconcile with his girlfriend, but she is on her way to London. She will return in six months and says to him that six months is not that long if they love each other and that he shouldn’t worry because everyone gets corrupted. He smiles and the movie ends.
If anything, Isaac’s callousness in ending his relationship is preferable to lying about an affair. And yet, none of them are innocent, except the one who hasn’t had time to be corrupted yet. One has to wonder if the pain he caused her was not the first stage of the end of her innocence.
The theme song, Rhapsody in Blue, came to Gershwin complete as he rode the train. He wrote it down from memory before he ever heard it. It was divinely inspired and to my ear, it is perfect.
It’s funny how I have so many preconceived notions about films I haven’t seen. Now that I’ve seen it, I remember being excited about Good Night and Good Luck. It’s the story of television journalism without fear. The story of Edward R. Murrow and CBS News taking on the junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph Kennedy. It was good. Understated. Done with a period feel. The lights and darks not so much nuanced as they are by Fellini or Hitchcock, but intentionally blocky and rough…much like the television of the time it represents. It wasn’t slow even though it could have been. It wasn’t bogged down by the use of CBS News footage. It flowed and it worked.
My preconceived notions couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’d listened to the soundtrack numerous times since the movie came out without having seen the film. I forgot what it was about and was led by the sultry jazz vocals of Dianne Reeves to think it was probably a homage to film noir or a heavy romance starring George Clooney. Imagine my surprise to find it to be the story of Edward R. Murrow played by David Straithairn, the man who made ten gallons of chicken soup one night in Alaska for the crew of Limbo and then told them all that I had done it so they would go a bit easier on me at the back country craft service table. I wish I remembered the wisdom he passed on to me about the Buddha nature, something like most people get caught up in the acting and the Hollywood shit, but he always tries to remember that he’s not the Buddha and it gives him perspective. Shit, that was close anyway.