Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Rambling

I wrote all of the following in bits and pieces throughout the morning. I tried to "vomit on the page" to get some thoughts out quickly before too much time passes.


There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.


When a writer/director deliberately has a character quote the bible, my ears perk up and I take notice.

I have long insisted that Korine knows what he is doing. I do think that he is absolutely in control over the wild hedonistic mess that is Spring Breakers.

SB opens with a string of shots advertising the hedonistic pleasures promised to us before settling down into its narrative of four college girls who can't quite afford to achieve their dream of being wild and free on Spring Break, somewhere where no one knows them, everything looks different, and responsibilities have disappeared in the sun alongside everyone's clothes.

Faith (a deliberately on-the-nose name) is introduced as the conscience of the group, first seen (I think) attending some lame Christian pep talk happy circle. The leader of this event quotes "1 Corinthians 10:13," reminding the kids he's counseling that they can withstand temptations.

Faith falters. She does not heed this advice. She goes after the golden calf with her friends. Cf. Faith's "this is the most spiritual place I've ever been" to Aaron's "These are your gods who have brought you out of the house of Egypt." Korine can't be ignorant of the context of 1Corinthians 10. He is deliberately setting up Spring Break as rampant idolatry and ingratitude toward ordinary provisions.

I won't review all of the plot points of the film. We've all seen it. I'll run down the four primary characters, though, as a way of exploring the narrative.

Faith's friends commit a horrible act of violence to gain access to Spring Break. Faith compromises enough to reap the benefits of the evil. She is always flirting with and playing with evil, joining her friends in the mindless beach and drug hedonism, but also a little aloof and trying to spiritualize events in a syncretic way. This is a sad but accurate portrayal of much of the church today.

Brandon mentioned the race aspect of the character's choice to leave when she does, but I don't think that's entirely fair, especially since Gomez is the only one of the girls with a shade of non-white ethnicity. She withdraws when things get serious. Up until that point, she had been pretending (believing) that everything was great. Dabbling with evil is fun and trendy and gives a little thrill. When faced with a fuller commitment to evil, an active participation in a real environment of violence instead of a safe, controlled area of play violence, well, it's revealed that Faith was only flirting with evil and can't stomach the real thing.

The next to drop out is Cotty. I looked up the name because I figured Korine was continuing to wear his symbolism on his sleeve. The word is an adjective meaning "entangled." Cotty, more so than Faith, is entangled in the world of Spring Break. She knows what it means and participates in it fully. She is a full accomplice in the robbery that starts it all. She loves the pseudo-reality of bong hits and beer funnels and attention from all the boys in the room at once. She consents to the madness of Alien's lifestyle. It is only when she is physically wounded that she is violently disentangled from Spring Break. A severe mercy.

Here's where I guess the names either mean nothing or get deep weird. B'rit is the Hebrew word for covenant. It's also a nickname for someone named Britney (Spears, representative of this sort of "youth culture"). Candy is sweet, but too much of it rots your mouth and destroys your health. These two girls have made a full and complete covenant with Spring Break. Spring Break Forever. This is hell. This is the fullness of the Spring Break experience that those on the beach are just playing at. "On the floor, motherfuckers" becomes the core command to all others as the ego rises and autonomous self-realization is made complete.

Ah, but here's the rub. I've been describing this Perfection of Spring Break as hell, but Korine films it as the achievement of Perfect Platonic F'ing RealitieS SPRING BREAK Achieved! The humor and his winking at sins show that he is in awe of the achievement that these girls have made, carrying through so perfectly on their pure desires.

Brandon is right to note a change in tone between Julien Donkey-Boy and Spring Breakers. The depravities on display in JDB are disturbing and the way that they are presented highlights this. The depravities on display in SB is gloried in. Korine seems to be enjoying Spring Break as much as his youthful group of gal hedonists. He delights in each pound of flesh, each gyration, every flirtatious movement.

Back to 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that the negative events recorded in Israel's history serve as an example for the young church in Corinth. They are to flee idolatry. I almost thought that Korine was going here (which still would have been problematic), but he doesn't. Korine's detailing of Spring Break idolatry is not portrayed as something to avoid or flee from. Each of the girls, including the two who see things through to the end, are heard calling their mothers/grandmothers and reporting that they're coming home and going to focus on being good now. The irreality of Spring Break is almost urged as a necessary good, a sort of Amish Rumspringa-style rite of passage that allows one give in to base desires in order to return to a more appropriately-ordered social setting with a new appreciation and conscious appreciation. Experience becomes the crucible of reality. And I think that this is fundamentally wrong. Paul writes, "Flee from idolatry," not "Experiment with idolatry to test your limits."

We do not need to drink the rat poison to know it'll kill us.

In the car, I said that SB is a gangster film and has the same problems as so many gangster films. It makes the lifestyle appealing. It shows unfettered freedom from social responsibility. It may also show the negative consequences that come, but more often than not, this is completely insufficient to counter the overwhelming "freedom" portrayed through the living out of the gangster lifestyle.

I also continue to think that this is Korine's Tree of Life. This is Korine's all-encompassing world philosophy film. It can stand side by side with films like Tree of Life and Melancholia. In rejecting this film, I don't want to belittle Korine's achievement. This is a purest expression of the MTV Beach Party mentality, a mentality that may take different expressions in hipster circles and square circles, but is still very much a dominant narrative paradigm of our time and place.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jeffy's Quiz

Trying not to spend too much time on this. You all can mock me as you will. Here are the answers that come quick.

1. Best use of Technicolor on film? (Best use of color, period, will work).

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is the movie I think of when I think of Technicolor. Technicolor was made for mythic melodrama.

2. What’s your favorite film score? Favorite film composer?

Score: Dead Man Walking
Composer: Ennio Morricone

3. What’s your favorite film from the year you were born?


4. Robert Mitchum or Dana Andrews?


5. (In terms of acting) Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby? David Bowie or Tom Waits?


6. What’s your favorite film with a woman’s name in the title?

I can't think of any off the top of my head so I'll go with the previously mentioned Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. It's right up there as a favorite anyways.

7. Who is your favorite foreign-language film director working today? Who is your favorite foreign-language film director of all time?

Today: Hayao Miyazaki
All-Time: Andrei Tarkovsky

8. If you could have written any screenplay, what would it be and why?

I have a really tough time answering questions like this. I'm not envious of others' success and have never seriously tried to write a screenplay. Trying to engage with the spirit of the question, though, I guess I'd say Adventureland. Because it's a screenplay that I admire and that I could have possibly written if I had ever worked at an amusement park. Which I never did.

9. Name the character from a film that scared you the most as a child. Name the film character, if any, that scares you the most now.

Child: Mombi from Return to Oz.
Now: Walter White

10. What’s the first R Rated film you remember seeing?

I can't remember. We had HBO and I watched all sorts of things at a young age that I shouldn't have been watching.

11. Name your favorite moment of vengeance in a film. And which film has portrayed the complexity of vengeance most accurately to you? (interpret that any way you’d like).

I've been thinking about Decision at Sundown since reading a review of it yesterday. That's my pick. I might watch it again soon and write about it.

12. It is okay to depict a positive story out of something as horrific and destructive as the Holocaust (e.g. SCHINDLER’S LIST). Agree or disagree with this statement.

I'm not sure what you mean here. Do you mean something like a musical comedy about the trials and tribulations of gas chamber maintenance and mass grave digging in outrageously rocky soil? Or do you mean something more mundane like Life is Beautiful or Inglourious Basterds or even Defiance or Valkyrie?

13. Which war film, if any, has had the greatest emotional impact on you?

Joyeux Noel. It is a very powerful film.

14. Name the top five *best looking* films you’ve ever seen.

I can't do this off of the top of my head. Sorry that I'm so lame.

15. Which film title would you use to describe yourself? Which film title would you use to describe each member of film club?

This is going to take way too much time to do right. I'll be sure to be entertained when I read everyone else's great ideas.

16. David Lynch or David Cronenberg?


17. Is there a book you would like to see currently made into a film? If so, by which director?

I've previously suggested that I'd like to see Linklater adapt Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. I'll go with that. I'd love to see Aaron Katz direct a series of Inspector Maigret adaptations.

18. What’s the most overrated film of the 90s?

I don't know. Dances With Wolves?

19. You are a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies. You get to choose any four movies to play. What are they?

Terror in a Texas Town
Force of Evil
3:10 to Yuma
Passport to Pimlico

20. It’s Ark time. You are only allowed to save films from one country (excluding the United States). Which country and why?

France. Probably because I've seen more French films than any other country's films.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Good viewing

I haven't been watching much, but I've been enjoying what I've been watching.

Hellfire is a genuine B western. Unlike so many B westerns, it is not interchangeable with dozens, if not hundreds, of other B westerns. The script is unique. Hellfire is the story of a gambler-turned-preacher looking to raise money to build a church. The best way to do this presents itself to him as catching the notorious Doll Brown and collecting the reward money for her capture. The interesting twist is that he's not willing to turn her in even after he's captured her. He's after her soul every bit as much as he's after the money. His goal is to convince her to turn herself in! What follows is plenty of action, a dose of screwball comedy, a burlesque song, and a nice bit of wild west preaching. All of this concludes in an ending which is as emotionally satisfying as it is sentimentally over-the-top. All of this is held together in the perfect performances of Bill Elliot and Marie Windsor. Good stuff indeed.

Sinister is worse than Brandon made it out to be. I can't even explain it. We get a shot of an 8mm film of girls hanging from a tree; cut to a shot of Hawke watching film; cut to film image; cut to Hawke writing in notebook; cut to film; cut to over-the-shoulder shot of notebook- Hawke writes, Why are girls in tree?; cut to film image; cut to close-up of writing in notebook. I know that I'm not remembering that sequence quite right, but that's about the moment when I shut off the movie. It was one stupid moment like that after another. Not to mention that Hawke's character is a complete idiot. Maybe he dies a grisly death at the end? I didn't stick around to find out.

Coffee and Cigarettes is fun to watch, but I don't feel satisfied after watching it. A little buzzed on caffeine and nicotine is all.

Oz: The Great and Powerful didn't quite awaken John Carter levels of Sense of Wonder in the kid-part of my brain. It still more than satisfied. I may be giving it extra points for being a part of a great day out with my girls. I expect that the rest of FC will skip this one, at least until DVD. I'll write more if anyone does watch it and wants to argue.

Station West is as tough as they come. It unravels a little too sloppily in the end. Up until that point, it's a tight knot of hard-boiled noir characters butting heads with one another, including a femme fatale who is, quite naturally, as dangerous as she is lovely.

In TV Club news, I'm done with Season 1 of Mad Men. It is a well-crafted show and I'll keep watching (I have Seasons 1-4 on DVD borrowed from my mother). I don't have much to say about it. I'm invested in Draper's story, I guess, but I don't much like him. The best moment is when the woman calls him out as a coward. I'd love to see Draper broken and repentant, but I don't think MM is ever going to go there. I'm guessing that he digs deeper into his Randian jerk-as-hero persona.

Top 5 Most Anticipated 2013

1) Computer Chess (d: Andrew Bujalski)
2) To the Wonder (d: Terence Malick)
3) Upstream Color (d: Shane Carruth)
4) Ain't Them Bodies Saints (d: David Lowery)
5) Much Ado About Nothing (d: Joss Whedon)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Quizzical Response

Brandon, fun quiz. I'd do it again, but you won't be convincing me to spend any time on them. Wham bam thank you bran, I'm done. Loved the grading. I put up an angry comment on CR5FC-FB just to see if I could get away with kidding without winking.

I'm not super-excited about Spring Breakers. I am afraid I'll hate it. I still haven't seen Trash Humpers (I would have seen it if it had played anywhere local). I would defend Gummo, but I don't think it's great. Mister Lonely is seriously good and funny. Julien Donkey-Boy is one of my all-time favorites. They're obviously very different directors, but I feel toward Korine the same way that I feel toward PT Anderson: cautiously optimistic. Both are sure to rattle my eye sockets and give me that "oh wow" sucker punch to my core. Every film is an event and a challenge. There are other directors that I feel the same about. I guess my point is that Korine is a major player in cinema and he's representing the home (U.S.) team. I'll be rooting for him whatever he does even if he never makes anything close to JDB again.

Re: film era. It's an easy choice. The present is not only the present (though the present is good). The present is all of film past available to us. We could gripe about deep back catalog titles not being available. We should do that, but only after gratefully acknowledging what unprecedented access we have to the past. Not only access, but the ability to discuss and joke and form community through these blogs and FB and all. In the 50s, if I was a cinephile living in the the country outside of Binghamton, I wouldn't be watching all of the movies that I can now. Maybe I'd be watching Gunsmoke and a dozen other TV westerns. I wouldn't be arguing about an Austrian film with friends living miles away. So, it's not only the films, but film culture that has me picking now as the best "era".

I found that Richard Brody review linked to from a history site and not a film review site. I guess you got me there, but only on a technicality. I did recently get a subscription to the New Yorker so I will be reading Brody and Lane regularly now. My first issue arrived yesterday.

And I do love reading film criticism. I'm sure I'll return to it eventually.

I'd watch Malick's version of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Quit pretending that that wouldn't be the coolest film event of any year.

I should join in on the love for Gabin. He can hold his own against Bogart any day.

I think that I've written in the past about why I dislike raunchy comedies. Do you really need me to spell it out for you?

I'd make a Westerns List.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Brando's Quiz

1. What is the most overrated film of the past 5 years and briefly explain why?

Everything by Nolan. I've made my feelings known already.

2. What are your favorite 3 favorite television shows currently running?

1. Breaking Bad
2. Parks & Recreation
3. The Colbert Report

Breaking Bad is the only TV show I'm current with. You all know I love this one. I've seen some recent episodes of P&R. Abby and I are currently working through the whole series. We're currently in the middle of Season 2. I find it to be consistently funny in its character-driven humor. I don't stay current with Colbert, but I do enjoy him from time to time. Watching him too much is a bit cultish and a bit bad for one's health, I think, in the same way that keeping up with the "real" news is. I respect his comedic chops, but I also sometimes weary of the never-ending mockery. I guess I'm really sick of so much out there being worthy of this level of satire. Even if so much deserves it, I think that the show's satire is not a good place to permanently reside.

3. Name one film and television show you are ashamed to admit to liking?

I'm not ashamed.

4. What do you look for in a film writer?

"But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances." -Aristotle

5. Name a great director (in your opinion) who also has enough problems to make you wonder why you hold him/her in such high regard.

Harmony Korine. I'm convinced that JDB is a Masterpiece. I'm not convinced that Korine is a Master.

6. What is your favorite film era and why do you think this era speaks so much to you?

Right now is my favorite film era. Because it's the era I'm in.

7. Name your favorite five working film critics.

I don't know. I stopped reading current film criticism last year. I wasn't keeping up with the films so I lost interest in the news and criticism. The guys (sorry, no gals) I'd turn to often in the past were:

David Hudson (the greatest aggregator on the webs)
Matt Zoller Seitz
Jim Emerson
Glenn Kenny
Roger Ebert

8. Name your five least favorite.

I can't think of any. Armond White's name springs to mind, but I don't think that's fair because he's fun to read and he is a good critic when he's not focused on being negative.

9. Name a few directors whom you have liked in the past that you are worried about and briefly explain why.

I can't think of any off of the top of my head. I'm sure there are plenty, but I'm drawing a blank and this quiz ceases to be an amusing diversion the moment I have to do research.

10. What actor and actress would make you watch an otherwise uninteresting film?

I watched Total Recall because of Bryan Cranston. It wasn't worth it.

11. What director would make you watch a film with an otherwise uninteresting plot and why?

I have many favorite directors that I'll watch anything they do. The Coens are the first to spring to mind.

12. What film did you feel the most intimidated to like despite some heavy reservations (be honest here)?

I feel like The Master has intimidated me into liking it. Not the buzz or the critical reception. The massive hulking thereness of such a rough beast. The film itself. It's intimidating.

13. What is your favorite documentary?

Probably Collision, the recent doc I watched about Wilson and Hitchens. Lake of Fire is the only documentary that has ever made me cry to the point that my whole body was in convulsions.

14. Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges?

Sturges without a second thought.

15. Jean Gabin or Humphrey Bogart?


16. Director you want to like more than you honestly do.

Scorsese. This isn't quite true. I like Scorsese a lot. I could listen to him talk about film all day long and into next week. It's his movies that I can't quite connect with.

17. 5 most anticipated films of 2013?

I'd have to look this up. Maybe I'll make a separate list soon.

18. What is your least favorite current sub-genre or film scene?

I hate the rise of raunchy comedies.

19. Name your 5 favorite unheralded modern day directors in a critical sense.

I don't know. I wish that Aaron Katz was getting billion dollar budgets.

20. What top 5 or 10 list would you most likely do in the near future if offered by a handsome member of Film Club?

I don't know. I'm burned out on movies at the moment. I haven't really been thinking about film much and I definitely haven't been obsessing enough to be in list mode. These things come in waves, though, and I'm sure I'll be dying to make any ol' list sometime in the future. I've watched a few good movies recently and I've got a post already written that I'll put up later today. Adrienne's Amour post got me fired up about that film. Maybe if you sat me in front of an Amour/Killer Joe double feature, I'd be inspired to make a Top Ten Intensely Disliked by Me Well-Crafted Movies Rant List. Speaking of that, you're missing a question that would have let me rant about how Ang Lee's Hulk movie.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

That's Amour, eh?

Someone else has probably already beaten me to that title, but I thought of it now, so I'm using it just the same to show off how amazingly clever this post is going to be.

If Amour is bullshit, well, at least it's providing plenty of fertilizer for film club posts.

Adrienne wrote, "I don’t think Haneke is judging these two"

Haneke absolutely is judging these two.

Your sentence bugs me because it's guilty (see how I just judged you!) of associating judgment entirely with its negative connotation. Judgment, though, is a great thing. Judgment is something necessary to wisdom. And it's very possible to judge something, even "harshly," and come to the judgment that the something you have been evaluating is quite wonderful. For instance, I judge your "Amour is bullshit" post to be overall quite good even as I quibble with one sentence.

So, back to Haneke. He puts these two characters through a terrible trial. This is presented matter-of-factly. We see characters acting out this struggle in the way that they do and occasionally we get alternate perspectives (from the former student, from the daughter) that challenge the primary perspective. We are obviously drawn into the suffering. Haneke succeeds wonderfully at communicating the weight of suffering.

At the end of the trial, the husband puts a pillow over his wife's face and kills her. I view this as a moral failure (on the character's part; Haneke's failure comes later), though maybe an understandable one. Haneke views it as a beautiful release of tragic necessity. If Haneke had ended the film at the close of the pillow scene (or with the husband's death), then I would have agreed with you that Haneke has left the audience to judge. He is successful at this in other films. Here, he gets sentimental.

Haneke does not leave judgment (of the characters) in the audience's hands, but guides them by the hand through HIS judgment by filling out the ending with bird-brained symbolism and a straight portrayal of the murder/death as a freeing release for both husband and wife, both reconciled in happiness and wholeness in death, Haneke's cinematic heaven.

The pillow scene is what it is. It is the final 5-10 minutes or so after the pillow that really irk me.

Finally, no, your blog post counts as one post and not two. Next time, you'll have to split it up into Parts 1 and 2.

Jeffrey, where you at? Yo' boy Mikey Hankey needs your help.

Chris, I've run out of pillow jokes. Please, help.

Okay, I do have one more.

Me: Knock, Knock.
Brandon: Who's there?
Me: Pillow.
Brandon: Pillow who?
Me: Michael Haneke's Pillow all over your face.
Brandon: Hahahahaha
Me: [applying pillow to Brandon's face]
Brandon: Hahahammammfmmfmfmffff........
Me: Academy award, please.
Brandon: [silence]

That's the best I could come up with. See? I'm losing touch with what's funny with the kiddos. Maybe for my next post, I'll compose a song about seeing Jason's and Ben's boobs.