Tuesday, January 22, 2019



AMERICAN ANIMALS, like KINGS OF SUMMER, is an instant classic. There are lots of skilled directors in the business but stuck with poor/weak material, with so much talent going to waste. David Fincher is maybe the best example but hardly alone. Because kids today grow up with so much high-tech gizmo, they picked up lots of stylistic savvy from cradle. They don't so much learn to develop a personal style as pick and choose from countless pomo bits and pieces swirling all around, what with easy access to everything from youtube videos(made with green screen + effects) to Tarantino flicks to blockbuster movies(that are also often omnivorous in their cultural references, like the Beatles movie YELLOW SUBMARINE). A kind of reverse-dada-ism seems to be at play. If dadaism was about the freedom of breaking all the rules, reverse-dada-ism selects fragments from the nonstop maelstrom to improvise new arrangements. It's like Wellington Wimpy picking stuff from the food fight between Popeye and Bluto.

If Dadaism smashed art forms into smithereens, the current culture, being so inundated with excesses of cultural 'junk', opts to take and make of them as it pleases. When a culture is junked, the distinctions among high, middle, and low lose their meaning. It's like the space debris in GRAVITY is no longer distinguishable from complex to simple. The new collage incorporates elements from all forms of expression in ways that range from ingenious(on rare occasions) to clever(often) to mocking(too often) to retarded(all too often). Anything becomes fair game(though the formula in Pop Culture will always be winnowed in accordance to audience preference for fast and easy). Among big-budget movies wallowing in hyper-pomo-sity is READY PLAYER ONE by Steven Spielberg. Apparently, an old dog can learn new tricks, and Spielberg has proven time and again that he's up with the latest styles and gadgets. In contrast, men like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock mostly clung to their tried-and-true styles(though Hitchcock pushed boundaries with PSYCHO). If one missed Spielberg's name in the credits, one might think READY PLAYER ONE was made by some up-and-coming movie geek weaned on videogames than Disney movies on TV. READY PLAYER ONE references and 'quotes' everything and may be the most pomo-crazed big-budget movie ever. The hologram scene with Elvis and Sinatra in BLADE RUNNER 2049 is nothing compared to pomomania of READY PLAYER ONE. More than any movie, it captures the kind of virtual reality that kids now grow up with. In GHOST WORLD, the girl had to pay some weird kid to acquire exotic cultural products, like a VHS of Bollywood musical. Today, via various devices and sites, so much of cultural history is at one's fingertips, and kids can access every picture, sound, or motion clip from all times and places. Because there is so much stuff yet so little attention span, not least because of the effect of fast-paced video games, everything gets tossed and turned in a whirligig. Before anything is processed(let alone understood), the senses are assaulted with ever new(yet culturally recycled) stimuli. Because the emphasis is on the Initial Impression of WOW, most people fail to absorb much of anything. Before anything could be mentally processed, there is the constant rush of something new and new and new, a never ending mania of images, sounds, and effects. This is of course true with all those computer-animation movies where characters bounce around like rubber balls and talk at breakneck speed. As READY PLAYER ONE restlessly moves back and forth between animation and live-action(which itself is heavily animated), the overall impact is like getting a whiplash. There was a time when George Lucas and Spielberg were accused of turn movies into roller-coaster rides, but their works of the 70s and 80s now look slow and 'classic' by comparison to what goes on in READY PLAYER ONE. Also, back when they were 'Movie Brats', Spielberg and Lucas took on one genre at a time or carefully mixed together a handful of genre elements in movies like STAR WARS and TEMPLE OF DOOM, mostly an action-adventure with musical number as intro. On one level, READY PLAYER ONE has the fireworks and schmaltz of most other Spielberg movies, and maybe it's faithful to the graphic novel(as source material). But there is something dark and dystopian about the material that movie halfway addresses but mostly overlooks... which makes it different from A.I.:ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE where Spielberg did depart from the usual comfort zone(possibly because Stanley Kubrick's pull was so strong). READY PLAYER ONE tries to have it both ways. It is a total celebration, mindless but technically awesome, of the latest possibilities in CGI that favor fantasy and cultural pomo-miscuity, and there are some ingenious passages. But it also tries to end with a message that we need to wake up from our escapism and face reality... but then, its idea of reality is as far-fetched as the one offered in MATRIX movies. As with ROGUE ONE, the evil villain is someone who looks like Paul Craig Roberts. He's yet another Waspy type who stole the idea from some Jewish-looking genius with the most gentle nature. The too-muchness of READY PLAYER ONE makes it tiresome after awhile, but it is an amazing work that ups the ante in special effects. Even though CGI is now advanced and makes lots of sci-fi movies look impressive, ingenuity is still rare. READY PLAYER ONE has what TOMORROWLAND, ANT-MAN, and remake of ROBOCOP have. Not just visual muscle but visual wit.

In some ways, AMERICAN ANIMALS is the opposite of READY PLAYER ONE. The plot revolves around a rare book of Audubon's famous paintings of birds, a work where each image was carefully crafted by the author-artist. One of its leads is an art-student, a painter(specializing in an almost archaic artform), something of an eccentric who isn't cut out for fraternity life. He admires the great masters and wants a taste of what made them feel and see beyond the ordinary. He hooks up with another guy, and together, they recruit two more fellers who seem rather serious about life and study. They are far more grounded than the pomo-maniacal gamers of READY PLAYER ONE.
And yet, the guys in AMERICAN ANIMALS were also weaned on pop culture and think it might be fun, hip, and cool to pull off a heist in the special collections library. Also, even as they pull off something tawdry and shameful, they have some of the frontier spirit that created America through 'theft' and violence of men of impulse and impatience. The 'ringleader' is Warren, the driving spirit. He's the John Lennon of the crew. Without him, the others would not have entertained the idea. Indeed, the three seem to join in the scheme largely because they want to be liked by Warren, a bundle of energy. He's like what Don Rickles said of Scorsese.

The movie was certainly not meant as an allegory about the Iraq War -- it is set around the same time -- , but the heist and the war have one thing in common. They were both driven by power of personality. Warren has 'vision' and insistence. He marks himself as the Alpha of the pack. The other guys are not bad kids. If anything, they are from respectable families and seem normal(maybe not the coolest thing for a young male). But humans are animals, and especially young males(raging with hormones) respond most to the guy with the biggest hunger. As young males have yet to make something of their lives, they are in a state-of-being. As none of them have power or wealth of their own, they gravitate to the guy who possesses the greatest will for 'power', and Warren has that. This movie, which claims to be not just based on a true story but IS a true story, inter-cuts between the real-life persons and their movie counterparts. And the real-life Warren really has that cowboy spirit. He might have gone far in the frontier world of the 19th century but feels out of place in a ready-made world. He needs to shed excess energy because, unlike frontier men, he doesn't have to hunt for food or build one's own shelter. By coincidence or not, the guys with latent frontier spirit, end up stealing a book by man who captured North American wild life in his travels. (They sort of have something in common with the character of INTO THE WILD except the latter literally decide to become a neo-frontiersman in an all-too-discovered country. Maybe they should have just built a tree house or something, like kids in KINGS OF SUMMER. AMERICAN ANIMALS considers the difficulty of the American character in coming to terms with age and tradition. While younger than Old World civilizations, the US is no longer exactly a young country. Furthermore, it's an extension of Old Europe. Yet, just like young males have this naturally rebellious propensity to break free from home and normality to go off and conquer, the American mythos is that of youthful people coming to the New World as virgin territory to conquer and claim as their own. So, even as the US grows older, the culture has been stuck on the cult of youth[increasingly more so since the 60s due to pop culture's effect of amnesia and hedonism]. American history is an epic version of rebelling against parents and home to be 'different'. Some have compared the founding of US with the founding of Israel, but whereas Israel was about the return to ancient homeland, the US was[and is] about permanent detachment from the ancient homeland to reinvent oneself in a new land. Such being the mythos of America, so many Americans still crave for that dramatic jump into the Bold and New... and over time, what with US cultural hegemony, Americanism has come to infect even people in the Old World, what with Europeans welcoming the reinvention of their ancient homelands with multi-culti colonization by endless flows of Muslims and Africans. AMERICAN ANIMALS was directed by an Englishman whose emotional detachment from America allows for a keener perspective.)
If young males without power are attracted to the guy with the most hunger, established older men are drawn to those with the most actual power. It's less a matter of hunger than fullness. People like Sheldon Adelson are belly-full of money, and so, politicians are drawn to such men. Many Jewish oligarchs are also belly-full of money, and furthermore, due to the holy cult of Jews(and 'antisemitism' being the greatest sin), Jewish power has the biggest gut. What the GOP has envied most about the Democratic Party was not that it has the black or brown vote. Rather, it has the rich, powerful, smart, and holy Jews. So, what could the GOP do to win over Jews? Neocons offered a deal. GOP would do a great thing for Israel by smashing Iraq, and maybe many more Jews will come over to the GOP. After all, even NYT, New Republic, ABC, and CNN were pro-war, just like Fox News. The plan turned out rather like the heist in AMERICAN ANIMALS, though the far bigger crooks of the Deep State didn't go to jail. Justice is only for the little guys apparently. Still, it was a huge loss for the GOP as, even after 8 yrs of Bush II groveling to Israel, most Jews went with Obama.

AMERICAN ANIMALS is not a political movie but offers a psychological glimpse into the reckless radicalism among the young from the 'far right' to the 'far left'. It says something about the problems of boredom, the appeal of excitement, and the allure of the dominant edgy personality. Alt Right's strength and weakness owed to the element of Alpha-male-ism. GOP's manner of cuckservatism(also shared by white males in the Democrats) was about low testosterone, submission, and passivity. (In one scene, Warren is taken aback by the sight of his father weeping after discovering his wife wants divorce.) Among white male Democrats, it's been about sucking up to POC. Among white male Republicans, it's been about sucking up to Neocons. Also, white males need permission to be passionate about anything. Otherwise, they are derided as 'angry white males'. Their anger is justified ONLY WHEN it's directed at PC-approved targets or whatever-happens-to-be-hated-by-Jews. So, white males can hate 'bad' white males(like James Watson or the Covington MAGA kid), resulting in a kind of Multi-Sclerosis of the white race: White nerve system attacking its own. Or, people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are allowed to bark at Iran, Syria, Russia, and etc. to win doggy biscuits from their Zionist masters.
In contrast, Alt Right was Warren-like in demonstrating agency and aggression independent of the globalist master class. But such alpha-male-ism, especially when up against a much greater power, can recklessly shift into high gear on a difficult road and drive into a ditch. If you're climbing up a hill to take the fortress, you have to be extra careful as the advantage of gravity is with those on top. They can just roll rocks down the slope. Also, men with independent aggression tend to be reckless, even borderline psychopathic at times, feeling bulletproof and rushing into action without much thought or preparation.
But the mentality in AMERICAN ANIMALS also say something about Antifa members. Many of these guys seem bored, listless, and disoriented UNLESS they have some handy excuse and target to take out their frustrations on. Even though they are idiots whose only score against The Man is smashing a few coffee shops here and there, they seem to get excited over being part of a Cause.

AMERICAN ANIMALS is top-notch film-making based on promising material. The director's cinematic grammar is amazing, stylistically ranging from meticulous brushstrokes -- he has background in painting -- to feverish licks, combo of an illustrator's eye and guitarist's ear.

Based on the movie alone, few would think HOT SUMMER NIGHTS was made by a black guy(Elijah Bynum). Spike Lee made a few all-white movies -- SUMMER OF SAM and 25th HOUR -- , but they were mostly unconvincing or infused with irrelevant stuff that applied more to black concerns. In contrast, Bynum really seems to know the feel of white culture from inside-out. Maybe he was one of those Negroes who mostly hung around whites and non-blacks. That was true of Obama as well, which is why his 'black' stuff usually came across as phony or strained. HOT SUMMER NIGHTS is low-budget but stylistically impressive. Where it fails is in striving for significance that is either absent or missed. It has some of the drawbacks of young directors(as evident in early Coens' movies). Sometimes, it tries too hard to impress, it is overly derivative of the masters(esp Scorsese), and it plays a bit cute, especially with voice-narration. But once the story finds its groove and tracks the fate of its character to sure doom, it's often riveting. Especially impressive and unexpected is the emergence of the girl's father as a minor but key character.

HEREDITARY is a puzzle. Time will tell if it's a genuine horror classic or merely a nice try, but it is clearly the work of someone with big ideas. Maybe the problem is the youth of its Jewish director. 30 yr old Ari Aster seems to have Kubrickian ambitions. He might have done better to start with a simpler project and then work toward something more complex. It took several tries for Darren Aronofksy to finally knock it out of the ballpark with MOTHER! It seems Aster went for THE SHINING the first time out. Not sure if even he understands what he's aiming for, but it's a remarkable piece of film-making. And very relevant in our taboo age of HBD. Another esoteric movie like ROSEMARY'S BABY about the power of blood and tribe. Far more impressive than the phony art film UNDER THE SKIN by Jonathan Glazer.

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS could have been more, but it's pretty good for what it is.

LAST RAMPAGE is yet another in the genre of White Psychopathy. Though set in the late 70s, it says much about the degradation and depravity now so common in white communities all across the nation. It lacks the directorial mastery of something like William-Friekin-directed KILLER JOE -- ultimately a sick demented work -- , and it's rather familiar material, but one can't help feeling for the characters on some level. Like AMERICAN ANIMALS, it says something about the power of personality. The father-convict is a most terrible man, but he has what it takes to be a leader... and his sons tag along in a state of awe, fear, and/or haplessness. Not great but pretty decent.

Italian-Americans in trouble. PATERNO and GOTTI were made by different directors but could have been made by any capable professional. Barry Levinson directed PATERNO in impersonal style, not always a bad thing. It is a TV drama about the fall of Joe Paterno, and it's solid stuff and says something about power, truth, and celebrity. The movie overlooks one thing though. Based on what we know about People of Power, the question is no longer "who is the pervert?" or "who knew and when?" It is really, "Who gets to decide who, why, and when someone falls out of favor?" That's what the movie fails to ask. Look at the light sentence Jeffrey Epstein got. And how did Ed Buck get away with so much bad shi* over the years?
Everything about GOTTI is similar in style and treatment as PATERNO. The latter is somewhat better due to its focus on a specific case. In contrast, GOTTI covers too much ground for a movie under 2 hrs. And even though John Travolta does a creditable job, he's always too likable to be convincing as a monster. Al Pacino as Paterno is acting on a higher level.

WHERE IS KYRA? is an art film directed by a black guy of African origin(Andrew Dosunmu). As with HOT SUMMER NIGHTS, one wouldn't think it was made by a black guy based on the movie alone. Maybe a bit too arty and slow but a provocative work just the same about the problems of family, identity, and crime. The 'crime' here lacks the suspense of the one in AMERICAN ANIMALS, the sensationalism of ones in LAST RAMPAGE and GOTTI, or the grossness in PATERNO. Basically, a woman tries to steal her mother's identity to gain benefits. There is both an element of fealty and desecration in her scheme. Strange work.

UNSANE starts out brilliantly, and I was hoping it'd be another masterwork like THE INFORMANT, the one film where everything just came together perfectly for Steven Soderbergh. His use of odd angles is genuinely disorienting. Much feels, than merely looks(as with Gilliam), strange and off-balance. But for an admirer of Kafka, Soderbergh attempts something foolish here. He ultimately tries to make sense of his weird idea, and the story goes from warped to weary.

DOUBLE LOVER by Ozon is a pretty solid movie but more a cold exercise than a story about anyone we might care about.

OUTSIDE IN, PUZZLE, and SOLLERS POINT are well-made films I didn't care for. I got through about 40 min of OUTSIDE IN(directed by Lynn Shelton) before I couldn't take it anymore. Idiot male character and stupid woman. I'm sure the film is true to life on some level, but it's no fun watching a total moron.
PUZZLE(Marc Turtletaub) is a remake of some Argentinian movie. Well-acted and well-done all around. Another one of those true-to-life movies. But it also feels all-too-familiar, what with the housewife who feels unfulfilled and turns to puzzles to fill her void. It's not long into the movie before she meets up with some Dotkin as puzzle-partner, and all of a sudden, it felt less true-to-life. (Granted, the movie doesn't vilify her white husband and kids as Bad People.) I began to wonder where this movie would go and just Fast-Forwarded and, yep, she ends up in bed with the Dot-Man. I don't need to see Curry Fever, so all in all, I may have seen about 30 min of it.
SOLLERS POINT(directed by Matthew Porterfield) has some moron kid who looks like Andrew Anglin. Like the guy in OUTSIDE IN, he's out from prison and lives in Baltimore with blacks and white 'trash'. Overall, it's true-to-life though it underplays black urban pathology, and of course, the nastiest characters are white 'trash' idiots with white power tats. After about 30 min, began to Fast-Forward, and it struck me as one of those dull 'honest' films about 'reality'.

BEAST(directed by Michael Pearce) is far superior to OUTSIDE IN, PUZZLE, and SOLLERS POINT. It's like a cautionary real-life version of TWILIGHT. The girl is less attractive and has serious personality problems. The boy, also less attractive, is truly disturbed. The film is either confused or complex in the way it pulls our emotions in opposite directions with an ending that seems as dramatically unexpected as morally necessary. Whereas OUTSIDE IN and SOLLERS POINT pretend to favor truth but only in a half-hearted way, BEAST pushes its implications much further. But what it has in common with the other three is the sheer idiocy or repulsiveness of its characters. Such moronosity is dispiriting.
In AMERICAN ANIMALS, the guys do something awful, but they still come across as recognizably human and sane. One hopes they will learn from the experience, make better choices, and regain membership in society. In contrast, one wonders if the fools of OUTSIDE-IN, SOLLERS POINT, and BEAST even belong to the same species as us.

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