Friday, November 27, 2009

Handful of dirt.

The Limits of Control IS hard to write about.  

It plays out at its own defiant pace, interacting with the paintings depicted in it at least as much as the films it references and the "lone gunman" tradition that it stands in.  All while tearing apart and remodeling time, space, and imagination.  

There is no center and there are no edges.

As far as I understand what plot there is, I think that the film plays out like the cinematic equivalent of Woody Guthrie scribbling "this machine kills fascists" across his guitar, then using that death machine to belt out "take you riding in the car," every note screaming playful liberty.

I liked it a lot. 

Brandon, sorry I missed Mr. Fox. Thanks for calling. We didn't have anyone to babysit and I didn't feel like coming out alone since I'd already spent a few nights going off on my own and hanging with friends on the Island. I just felt like staying home with family and getting to sleep early.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There's no chance that I'm making it to the Cinema Saver tonight. It's about 3:30pm and we still haven't left the Island. Bleh.

After writing my A Serious Man post, I read all that I could find that has been written about the film. So far, my favorite article is this Salon interview...

Well, I'm definitely out of my depth with respect to Jewish culture, but the whole story -- the whole movie -- feels to me like a Talmudic parable, a moral fable about what happens to somebody who makes certain choices in his life. Then you've got these other stories nested into it, including a prologue that's in Yiddish and has the feeling of the old Yiddish theater. It uses the old tradition of the dybbuk, a kind of demonic spirit from Jewish folk tradition. I'm sure you don't want to give too much away, but what can you say about the relationship between that story and the main story?

E.C.: Well, it's interesting that you ask about it in connection with your other comment, that the main body of the movie feels like a folk tale or fable. That, I guess, is the ambition -- well, not even the ambition of putting on that beginning story, because there was no clear-cut agenda. It just felt right to us. But I think it felt right for that reason. It felt like a folk tale, so it served implicitly as an introduction, to say, "Here's another folk tale, here's another Jewish story." I guess this is imposing an explanation after the fact, because we don't really think about it in these terms while we're doing it, but, yeah, it's part of the whole Yiddishkeit, part of the whole Jew storytelling thing. Jews are big on stories, you know?

J.C.: Yeah, exactly. At a certain point we were thinking, maybe not explicitly, "What is Jewish storytelling?" This is Jewish storytelling, and this is Jewish storytelling. Are they an echo or a reflection of each other? Can they be? Would that be interesting? "What is a Jewish community?" This is a Jewish community in the shtetl, this is a community in another place. Are they reflections or echoes of each other in some way that's vaguely interesting and feels right, or at least not wrong? Will it be an interesting ambassador for the rest of the movie?

As Ethan was saying, sometimes you impose these things after the fact. But I think there was a little bit of thinking that by doing this we were saying immediately, "This is a story very specifically about Jews." Not a story about the Midwest, which you might have felt for a while if we hadn't done this. We were plunging into the deep end, and saying, "Here you are in a world of Jews, and that's what this movie is going to be about." It's a cliché, but when you see them in the long black coats and the sidelocks, that's putting your face in it. And we thought that was a good thing.

My heart's not in this post. It's late and I'm tired.

Goliath is an okay little mumblecore film. Similar to A Serious Man in its portrait of a man suffering through serious loss, the film differs in the fact that its lead character is awkward if not downright psychotic. The first half almost had me giving up, but I was wowed by a pretty great divorce papers shot, then silenced by the awesomeness of a crazy chainsaw/pepper-spray finale.

I don't really feel like writing about The Hurt Locker, but a post is past due and I'm otherwise caught up with writing about everything I've been watching. It is an expertly crafted film, but it falls short for me in the way that most war movies do. War is thrilling. Bah humbug. I liked The Hurt Locker. It makes sense to me as a drug movie and it works well at what it is. I just don't care too much about it now.

I took Abby to see A Serious Man tonight. It's still the best film of the year and I stand by my initial reading of the film. I could write a stupid funny story about the terrible circumstances leading up to seeing this film, but I'm too tired.

Brandon, if I can leave the island early enough tomorrow and make it back to Binghamton in time, I'm hoping to catch another double feature at the Cinema Saver, Where the Wild Things Are at 5, then The Box at 6:45, but it depends on how tired I am. I doubt you'd want to come out for it, but the offer is there if I even go through with the plans myself. Also, I'm not sure if I can come out yet to see Fantastic Mr. Fox on Thursday. I've been overindulging on personal nights. I don't really want to come out unless we can find a babysitter and Abby can come, too. Right now, I'm thinking probably not, but who knows, it may change.

I'm generally cranky at the moment, but here's a moment to thank you, Fred, for the "glorious dawn" link. I hadn't seen it. It's simple and genuinely moving. I love it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Goy's Teeth

Spoilers. If anyone is reading this who hasn't seen A Serious Man, then stop right here. Go see it while you can.

I really loved A Serious Man. At the moment, it's my favorite film of 2009. Like the writing on those teeth, it's going to keep me up at night until I realize that I have no proper answers to its challenge.

I saw it earlier tonight in the best of circumstances, at a great little theater with an old friend immediately after enjoying a liter mug of delicious Oktoberfest.

Brandon, I just read your post after getting back home to my parents' house after seeing the movie. Great timing. Now I'm staying up too late responding.

I'm also still struggling with the pre-credits sequence, but I love it. The best that I can make out is that it introduces themes of faith and rationality that are explored throughout and ends leaving the question up to debate. I also think that it immediately sets the film within a folklore and storytelling context. I've argued in the past that I see most Coen Brothers films as fairy tales (cf. Chesterton) or parables (cf. Meyers). I think that it is clearly the case here.

The Book of Job parallels are there, but not as overtly as many early reviewers made it sound. I went in to the film with bare minimum knowledge of it. What I had heard over and over again, though, was the Job comparison. Despite the constant refrain of "I haven't done anything," I don't think that Larry is as passive or as whiny as you make him out to be, but I think that you're on to something. Larry isn't quite a righteous man like Job even though he "hasn't done anything." He is a contented man and happy with his life. He's not sure why others can't see things the way he does.

The trouble, of course, is that he's not seeing clearly at all. Seeing, he doesn't see, and hearing, he doesn't hear. You seemed to think that the rabbis gave bad answers and that the Coens take some pot shots at the religion of their youth. I have to disagree. Larry can't see it, but each rabbi does give him a piece of wise counsel.

The scene with the first rabbi is one of my favorites in the whole film. Just look at the parking lot! Really, really hilarious. I also think that his advice is true and useful. I've already written that Larry has vision problems. He can't see what is going on around him. He does need a new perspective. He does need to look at a parking lot with wonder in his eyes. Parking lots and automobiles are freaking amazing. More so, we should be in awe that creatures just like us surround us day by day. Gobs of organs and tissues are held upright in a case of fragile flesh and we're able to vibrate the air to send thoughts to one another by flapping two pieces of meat in the middle of a meat head. We walk around on green pointy blades that bend beneath our feet. We can feel granules of sand on our toes. We have toes! The world is magical, but we can't see it.

The second rabbi gives Larry more advice that Larry doesn't want to hear and thinks is useless. Basically, the rabbi tells Larry that we live in a barely comprehensible story, that we can only understand as it is, through a glass darkly. We live with the questions and life goes on. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." This isn't comforting to Larry, but, then again, Larry's still suffering from blindness and deafness.

The third rabbi is busy. He's thinking. This also displeases Larry, but it's obvious at this point that Larry doesn't have ears to hear anyhow.

The rabbi does speak to Larry's son and gives him what amounts to the moral of this whole tale. "When the truth is found to be lies and all the hope within you dies; what do you do then?" The rabbi's next statement, after his praise of "The Airplane," is an answer to his own rhetorical question... "Be a good boy."

I'm not sure what it means that Jefferson Airplane's lyrics were changed from JOY to HOPE, but it's there. Or did I mishear this? Anyhow, Larry has discovered that the "truth" of his life has been a lie. Not all is stable. At a certain point, he does realize that maybe, just maybe, this testing of everything in his life has made him reevaluate his perspective, but then clearly rejects the idea. What is interesting is that he remains basically good throughout. Finally, though, dealing with the lies and having his hope die, Larry makes the fatal mistake of no longer suffering through the questions. He provides his own answer. He chooses not to "be a good boy" and crosses a line. The moment he does so, the magnificent finale begins. The ending caught me by surprise, but it only took me a couple of minutes into the credits to decide that I love it.

As far as what movie it reminded you of, I'm going to guess Drag Me to Hell.

Lastly, I really liked the nightmare sequences, especially Canada.

I'm hoping to see A Serious Man again tomorrow night. I'll let you know if I do.

I finished writing this at 3am. Hopefully at least some of it is coherent.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A theatre full of middle-aged women and me.

When I saw Departures, I spent about the first half an hour thinking about how delightful the film was.  Unfortunately, this rapture of mine was blown to bits by a terribly trite montage and I had to suffer through all of the contrivances that followed.

Like Departures, I was actually enjoying Julie and Julia through its opening 30 minutes.  It was irresistable.  I let myself get swept away in its delight.  I kept waiting to be disappointed.  The difference this time was that I wasn't.  Julie and Julia, despite (because of) its conventional Ephron script kept me delightfully engaged from start to finish.  I say that it's conventional because it is; all the typical RomCom stuff is there.  It just seems more mature than any of its countless siblings and every note of this familiar formula is played just right.  

There are moments toward the 3/4 mark where the film drags because the obstacles set up for these women are sure to be overcome, but even these are tolerable because by the 3/4 mark, I was already invested in everything coming out alright.  I knew it would and I was eager to see it happen.

Don't dismiss Julie and Julia.  It's one of Hollywood's best offerings this year; easily worth a rental when it gets its DVD release.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again with Abigail. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From a whisper to a scream to a whisper

I deny that Epidemic is a horror film.  It is instead a comedy about writing a horror film that fails to horrify anyone.  The hypnosis scene is the payoff to a long joke that seldom works.  Maybe I'm missing something.  I don't know.  I didn't particularly like or appreciate Epidemic.  I am going to watch the film again with the Von Trier commentary track on.  Pedro, what am I missing?

Scream, which I also watched recently,  holds up as a really smart love letter to the specific form of horror movie that flourished in the late 70s through the 80s.  It lovingly deconstructs the slasher film while upholding all of its basic tropes.  I've never been a fan of these sorts of horror movies and ultimately don't care about Scream, either, but I do respect Scream for its critical devotion to the tradition it stands in.

Since I've been engaged in educating myself about horror films and know that I like at least some goofy horror... I finally broke down and saw Zombieland at the Cinema Saver.  

I went in with low expectations, but I was still disappointed.  There's a lot to like and I smiled and chuckled often, but the film lost me during the cameo sequence and never won me back.  Up until that point, I bought all of the emotional stuff going on even if it was dumb and shallow.  There was still some core realism to the expressed emotions amid the goofiness.  Once Brandon Musa (or some other comedian with the initials BM, I forget) shows up, though, and gets casually killed, every last remnant of reality vanishes and the stakes don't matter anymore.  If the characters can't care about BM's death, I can't care about anything else that happens for the remainder of the movie.  I couldn't even care about attaching a spoilers tag to all of this.  Sorry.  The ending was a big let-down and about as conventional as possible, but, even so, it was fun to see Woody Harrelson play things so cool as a one man zombie annihilation machine.

What I took away from all three of these films is the knowledge that I still don't quite know how to define "horror."  Is it an "I know it when I see it" sort of thing?  Am I trying to be too rigid in my genre boundaries because of my quest to understand this thing?

Epidemic didn't feel like horror.  It felt like an examination of a creative process in a pre-Kaufman Kaufmanesque style.  Heck, Synechdoche, New York is more of a horror film than Epidemic is.  Scream works in the slasher sub-genre and is probably the clearest to define of the group.  Zombieland has a backdrop of zombie apocalypse, but it's more of a comedic road movie than anything else, sharing more in common with National Lampoon's Family Vacation than Romero's Night of the Living Dead.   

Brandon, I got your note too late. I ended up going to the Cinema Saver for
the double feature of Zombieland/The Hurt Locker. I'll be writing about The Hurt Locker soon after thinking about it for
a few more days. Also, we're in training together on Thursday. Want to work
out a movie loaning swap?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Benjamin Button Still Sucks

Quote: It's true that the two of us share a lot of the same tastes in film and it seems that whenever we do disagree it rattles you more than me.

Response: Nah, I wouldn't say that it rattles me. It doesn't even really bother me.  I actually think that it is really fun when we have disagreements.  I enjoy making little friendly jabs as I know you do.  I do think that you misunderstood part of my post, but I'm more than willing to take the blame for being unclear.  

My post was more me wondering out loud about the things that make us all unique even when we share commonalities.  Despite the uneven tone of my post, I think that these differences are a good thing and allow us to see things more clearly, not less.

Quote: I'm not surprised that you hated this film but I am surprised by statements like “I have to grapple with my respect for you as a person and specifically for your opinion regarding movies.” I don’t even know how to respond to something like this except to hope that this was written with heavy sarcasm.

Response: Yikes.  Here is one of the limitations of quickly blogging.   I do apologize if there was any insult there.  I actually meant quite the opposite.  I wasn't saying that I have to grapple with whether or not I'm going to continue to respect you and I definitely was not tossing out any moral condemnation.  Au contraire!!  

To be clear (which I obviously wasn't before), what I meant was:  I do respect your opinion.  Therefore, based on this respect, I can't dismiss your tastes in regards to something I don't like.  I need to "grapple" or wrestle with your way of seeing.  I need to be honest and reevaluate whether or not there is/was something wrong or incomplete with my own opinion of a specific film because I know with certainty that I can learn something from you.  I'm missing something in the film if I don't learn to see it in the way that you are seeing it.  I may still disagree and that's cool, but through disagreement I learn something.  

Quote: When we write about film here we are not making an argument for right or wrong but for our personal tastes and I had thought that we were not going to make attacks on each others' character. When you make a statement like the one I quoted above you make it sound like I robbed an old woman rather than simply expressing my love for a film.

Response: Again, yikes!  I do hope my clarification makes sense and has made things better.  I have nothing but praise and respect for you, my friend. Even if you are wrong about Benjamin Button (insert smiley face here to indicate good will). :)

Friday, November 13, 2009


The Curious Case of Disagreements Between Like-Minded Friends

I finally got around to seeing Benjamin Button this past Saturday night.  I went in biased against it (I couldn't help it but at least I was aware of it) and left it feeling underwhelmed.  I was hoping to find something there that would make me appreciate the film in some small way, but I couldn't find a thing.  The romance at the heart of the film didn't work for me so nothing here really mattered.  I hated the Katrina framing device.  The aging backwards and all the themes that accompanied it was stupid and worked out implausibly.  I liked some of the music and the special aging effects were alright.  The film's most obvious reference point is Forest Gump, but I think that it also shares affinities with countless biopics in its failed attempt to tell a sweeping life story in under three hours and make it all MEAN something.

So, why do we disagree?  Isn't it as obvious as the elpephant in the room that this picture just isn't so good after all?

It's tempting to think that I'm always right and those that disagree with me are wrong.  But, I was given a wife to be witness to how often I'm wrong.  I just can't get away with it.  Even though she agrees with me about Benjamin Button.

Besides admitting that I can be wrong, I have to grapple with my respect for you as a person and specifically for your opinion regarding movies.  We're so often in agreement that the disagreements are striking.

How could you possibly fall for the schmaltz of Button?  Why do we look at 25th Hour so differently?  

I insist on loving Julien Donkey-Boy and recently became quite enamored of Dear Wendy, another film that it seems every critic loves to hate.  Terror In a Texas Town, easily dismissed, is my ideal Western, above any Ford or Hawks.  I'm sure there are plenty of other examples.

It's a funny thing.

I am really glad that you liked Still Walking.  The more I think about it, the more I think it might be the best movie (that I've seen) of 2009 so far.  It's only been four days since I've seen it, but I haven't been able to watch a film since.  I almost went to see Where the Wild Things Are on Monday afternoon, but I got to the AMC parking lot, then couldn't do it.  I haven't even been interested in the DVDs I got from the library.  I want Still Walking to rattle around in my head a little longer.

Also, I was a bit dismissive of Beeswax.  I shouldn't have been.  It's among the best 2009 releases that I've caught so far, easily in a top ten if I was forced to list a 2009 top ten right this moment.  Movies like this one should be championed and held above the megaplex offerings and most of the arthouse fare.  It still doesn't particularly resonate with me deeply and personally in the same way that something like Moon did, but it has a quiet power.  To get in one last dig, Beeswax, in its small way, has all of the fierce veracity that Benjamin Button, in all of its bombastics, lacks. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ever Seen

I just re-read my last post and decided that it's one of the stupidest things I've ever seen.

"one of the best Westerns I've ever seen"

"best 'costume drama' I've ever seen"

"effective uses of pop music in any film I've ever seen"

I now promise to eliminate the words "I've ever seen" from my vocabulary.  If I write these words again, shoot me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Writing letters to dead rabbits

Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak is a nice little early Rohmer/Godard short.  Communication between the sexes is the ever-present exploration of both of these men.  This little film doesn't go far in answering any big questions, but Charlotte does get to eat her steak.  I'm hoping to watch more Rohmer shorts and all of his "Moral Tales" before the year is over.

As long as I'm writing about what I hope to watch, I have to confess that I haven't gotten back to the Boetticher box set like I had hoped.  The Tall T is all I've seen so far, but that film is easily one of the best Westerns I've ever seen.  I love Scott's character.  I hope that I grow up to be half the Man he is.

I started writing a post about Rossellini, Neo-Realism, and The Taking of Power By Louis XIV, but scrapped it because I was unhappy with it.  Simply, Taking of Power is the best "costume drama" I've ever seen, steeped in Rosselini's neo-realistic aesthetic.  I've been to Versailles (somewhere there is a picture of me relaxing and reading a pulp Western on the palace lawn.). What's fascinating to me Is how fair Rossellini is in his treatment of the king.  I have to wonder how the film was received politically when it was released.  I wish that I had bought all of these historical films during the last Criterion sale.

The Bugs Bunny/Road-Runner Movie is another formative film from my childhood, like The Muppet Movie, that I recently got a chance to revisit with my own children.  My girls have already been (over)exposed to Loony Tunes/Merrie Melodies through the first two Golden Collection DVD sets that we own.  The Golden Collections are awesome, but when I was a kid, it wasn't so easy to find these 'toons.  The Anthology films like Bugs/Road-Runner were my primary means of exposure.  This particular film is really a "best of" collection of Chuck Jones shorts.  I've grown to prefer most of Freling's shorts, but there's no arguing about these Jones selections.  Great stuff.  

I especially love the 19-minute Wile E. Coyote/Road-Runner chase.  I still havent seen Hostel, but I'm sure that it has nothing on these 19 minutes.  This is the original torture porn.  

Broken Flowers is a lovely little movie.  I wasn't sure about it given the cast and the story, but I shouldn't have doubted.  Jarmusch plays every note just right.  We leave aching a bit.

Sometimes I just fall for a movie, completely, even when I know better.  Dear Wendy caught me with my guard down and it absolutely charmed me.  Thomas Vinterberg delivers the heart which may sometimes be lacking in his friend Lars's own films.  Von Trier wrote the script here, but it is Vinterberg who grounds the entire enterprise in real human emotions and gives a real sense of place to staged surroundings.  "Pacifists with guns" is as good an externalization as anything to represent the obvious tensions that a dude like myself feels, torn between wanting to be cool like Randolph Scott out in the world, but feeling more comfortable sitting around writing about what goes on in a dark theatre.  Anyhow, the Zombies soundtrack ranks among the most effective uses of pop music in any film I've ever seen.

Tonight was a good night at Cornell Cinema.

I really enjoyed For All Mankind, a documentary about the Apollo VIII mission.  Fred, I think that you'll love this if you haven't seen it already.  It's got a good original score by Eno, but my favorite moments involve the astronauts playing music that they've brought along on cassette.  From Buck Owens to Berlioz, I had no idea how important a role music played in getting us to the moon.  There are also a few fun nods to 2001 by the astronauts.  

I don't know if humans should be messing around in space until we figure out how to get along with ourselves and with our planet down here, but I also get giddy about space travel and conquering the stars.  As a Christian and as a Science Fiction fan, I'm certain that this whole crazy universe is a lot more wonderful than we've yet imagined.

Still Walking, the second picture of the night, is all about life on the ground.  Unlike its Japanese sibling, Departures, this film earns every strained and painful moment, and also every joyous one.  The score is beautiful and supports the images instead of overpowering them.  

I'm just not the right guy to write about these family dramas.  Brandon, you did a great job with Summer Hours.  You need to see Still Walking and give it the proper considered response that it deserves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Frustrated yet.

The Muppet Movie is not as good as my memories of it, but it's still a lot of fun.  It was up there in the ranks of most watched films of my childhood.  I owned the soundtrack record as well and listened to it often.  I think that my girls liked the parts with Animal the best, but they generally liked it all.

I watched The Muppet Movie Monday night with my family as a way of washing clean another disappointing night at Cornell.

Departures starts strong.  I started to be charmed by its general likeableness.  Here, I thought, was the film I needed to cheer me up.

To my great dismay, the film falls apart after about half an hour and out-hollywoods Hollywood with its sickeningly sweet maudlin sentimentality which is hurled at us in the most manipulative ways.  I'd rather puke for an hour.

The Baader-Meinhof Complex struck me as a largely useless hipster presentation.  The soundtrack choices are awful.  By the time Dylan's Blowing In The Wind is playing over the end credits, I was ready to take some direct political action and either blow up the German studio that made this or blow off my own head for having sat through it.  I knew I should have gotten up and left the moment that the words "this is a true story" appeared on the screen.  Not even "based on.". Nope.  This film IS a true story.  What terrible audacity.  I wanted to hurl a rotten potato at the screen.  Screw you, Complex.  Pandora and the Flying Dutchman has more truth in any single frame than you could ever hope to achieve.

Dang it, I ended another night at the Cinema angry.  At least there's The Muppet Movie.    

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Conversations 3

Brandon, thanks for the long, thoughtful response to my chores post. I really wasn't sure about my own post and your encouraging words were a comfort. You are right. This IS Core Room 5 Movie Club, just in a different format. Without getting too gushy and sentimental, I'm glad we're both doing this.

I'm working the overnight tonight (as I did last night). I'm tired, but I'm keeping myself awake through Internet surfing.

Besides some theology stuff, two of my best movie finds were the following.

Martin Scorcese lists his Top 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time.
1. The Haunting
2. Isle of the Dead
3. The Uninvited
4. The Entity
5. Dead of Night
6. The Changeling
7. The Shining
8. The Exorcist
9. Night of the Demon
10. The Innocents
11. Psycho

And a new Tarkovsky documentary, Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Horrible Horror

I wish I cared about The Descent.  I didn't.

I couldn't tell any of the characters apart.  Even the two leads were hard to tell apart, but it didn't really matter until the final moments.  I didn't care.

The creatures weren't scary.  I'm not sure why except that the girls start acting like action heroes.  Honestly, I don't think they'd be able to fight off a pack of wild dogs.  I'm not sure how they fend off these evolutionary perfect underground killing machines.

Besides finding fault in the ease of killing these things that should have all of the natural advantages, I was disgusted by the editing.  I've been reading about Neo-realism and Bazin's notion of "image facts" so maybe I set myself up to hate this film.  Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I can't stand the type of frenetic editing that is showcased here during the fight sequences.  There's no room for the truth of an image to impress itself on us.  Most Westerns from 60-70 years ago intuitively understood this.  We might be able to tell a staged punch, but we always got the idea that two men were really struggling with one another.  Now real action is hard to come by.  I was left with a feeling of the falsity of it all and was quite conscious of the manipulation trying to be foisted on me.  The music went along with this manipulation and I found myself hating the music as well.  

Bringing things full circle in this mini-marathon, I have to compare the film to Dawn of the Dead.  Dawn takes its time and gives us characters to care about.  Also, the make-up may be dated, but we see clearly the horror of the zombies waiting to attack.  I obviously need to see more Romero films, but on the strength of this one, I consider him a master.  At the very least, he reigns as king of this mini-marathon.  Neil Marshall is just an upstart wanna-be.

Here's my final ranking of the five films.
Rated on the Netflix scale 1-hated it to 5-loved it

1) Dawn of the Dead - 5 (fell in love)
2) Videodrome - 4 (reluctantly really liked it)
3) Rosemary's Baby - 3 (liked it)
4) The Thing - 3 (liked it) 
5) The Descent - 2 (didn't like it)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Idleness so called

Idleness so called, which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognised in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, has as good a right to state its position as industry itself.
- Robert Louis Stevenson, from An Apology For Idlers

Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy.
- from Slacker

I start to fear for the world when I think about eternity.
- from Woyzeck

I was delighted to stumble upon Stevenson's Apology not too long after finishing the head-spinning double feature of Woyzeck and Slacker at home on DVD.  Stevenson is one of my favorite writers and I was happy to grab a couple of collections of his essays for cheap at the Ithaca Book Sale.

Slacker and Woyzeck are very different films, but share some commonalities. 

One is a seemingly loose string of character profiles held together by a vision of dignity for each one.  The other is a sad and comical examination of a singular man with a clear conscience.  

Both share playful philosophical underpinnings that celebrate the dignity of man opressed by social constructs designed to rob every man of that inherent dignity.  Both films are about redeeming time because the days are evil.

Slacker, in particular, is an expression of the merits of idleness, so called.  Woyzeck goes far to show the comic dangers of enslaving oneself to anything.

It's important to note that neither Stevenson nor Linklater are celebrating slothfulness, but instead advocating for a very specific creative activity that is profitable apart from societal recognition as work.  Herzog gives us a complimentary portrait of a man working to absurd ends.  My long "chore" post attempted to occupy this same territory, but my thoughts are barely coherent compared to the pure offerings of these three great works of reflective art.