Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Anatomy of a Cult Classic: Repo Man (May Contain Spoilers)

Repo Man is the kind of film that persists through the annals of history because it's a great example of a film that captures a moment in time perfectly: by standing back and looking at just how fucking weird it really was. These days it's discovered by 20 somethings with a bag of weed and nothing better to do on a Friday night,

but in 1984, in the midst of Reaganomics, Thriller, the threat of nuclear war, Footloose, government conspiracies and the explosion of the California Punk Rock/Hardcore scene, Repo Man was more than just the stylized mind-fucker of a movie it's come to be known as today. If anything, it's a bold reminder of the social landscape of the time from the perspective of the bottom percentile.

The film takes place in an L.A. that is seen as a sort of post apocalyptic barren wasteland in which it's every man for themselves. It revolves around an angry young punk rocker named Otto (Emilo Esteves). The L.A. punk scene had begun to explode in the late 70s and by the mid 80s, with the emergence of the Hardcore movement, Punk was being seen as no more than an outlet for bored white kids to start gangs, cause violence and commit crimes.

Hey, it was the alternative to becoming this:

Otto, fed up with his shitty fucking job, where he takes flack from his shitty fucking manager for the way he stacks shitty fucking faceless products, made by shitty fucking money hungry corporations, for a shitty fucking wage, has had enough.

Restless and in need of something more, he goes to his stoned hippy parents for an advance on the graduation money they promised him in hopes of getting out of town. He's told: sorry son, we gave it all to a televised charity. Right on man.

With no aim, no purpose and no resources he is tricked by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) into helping him repossess a car.

After some reluctance, Bud becomes a mentor to Otto in the repossession business. Bud is one of those career lifers who preaches the unsung and unwritten code of the Repo Man, as if it were some trade handed down by God himself. Really, Bud is just a another bum like the rest of them, out to make a quick buck in a dog-eat-dog world off of no discernible skills. This is the last pit stop before oblivion for guys like Bud.
Out somewhere in New Mexico is a car driven by a crazed man that has something sinister lurking in the trunk, which turns whoever comes into contact with it instantly into a skeleton, leaving no more than the boots they showed up in.
When said car comes across the repo men's radar with a $20,000 payout attached to it, Bud and every other rival repo man in L.A. is on the hunt for the big payout. It's the goldmine they dream of that will let them escape this shitty fucking existence. What ensues is a journey that brings Otto face-to-face with alien conspiracy theorists, Mexican repo men and punk rock criminals, all the while on the path to enlightenment, which he finally finds in a key scene involving a liquor store robbery.
So what does it all mean as Otto starts to see beyond Punk Rock and flies over L.A. in a glowing green alien car? At a certain point it ceases to matter; the value of finding enlightenment eclipsing that of knowing what to do with it. We have to crawl before we can walk.
Central to all of this is Miller (Tracey Walter); a byproduct of the 70s counter culture.  
In a way Miller is Otto's spiritual guide. Bud may lead Otto to a paycheck and a profession but Miller, who Otto initially dismisses as just having dropped too much acid, preaches looking at the big picture and seeing the forest for the trees. That kind of stuff.
And that's where the film ultimately finds it's emotional resonance. It begs to be looked at as a whole and not as a collection of individual pieces. As Otto looks beyond punk, which is simply the current generation's means to express their anger, frustration and alienation, he finds the only way to escape this current social climate is to give up punk facade, stand outside of it and look back in at what it all means. We become more powerful than something the minute we begin to understand it. This was, after all, the key value that lives on from Miller's generation.

And the film does the same thing (with wit, vision, panache and technical proficiency to boot from writer-director Alex Cox). It looks at a weird collection of things and people and sees them as the reflection of the social circumstances that govern their existence. It's therefore not only a contemplation of a time in American history but also a simultaneous deconstruction of it. It's also a lot of weird fun. Now that's enlightenment.
Repo Man will be available on April 16th through The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-Ray

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekend Reading

This weekend my life looked kind of like this:

And This:

And This:

Needless to say, not much time for reading. So here's the best of what was missed:

The Kid in The Front Row wrote a post about wanting to do everything and nothing all at once. As always, The Kid writes, and you should be reading.

Ben at Cinemania thinks you should probably check out The Dardennes Brothers latest The Kid With A Bike, which is available through The Criterion Collection.

Black Sheep Reviews gives it's thumbs up to Zero Dark Thirty, adding another positve review to the pile. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?

Kevin at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World is making early speculation on where Park Chan Wook's (Oldboy) English language debut Stoker will rank on 2013's best of list.

The Flickering Myth has a look at the teaser trailer for Riddick. I've read it. It's a cross between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick and, oh ya...not very good.

Breaking News: This just in, a fourth Riddick film has just been greenlit and will go by the working title Son of Riddick

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Few Words on Brick

So question: Is Rian Johnson writing a straight forward film noir (genre dialogue and all) set in a modern day high school brilliant or pretentious?

Of course, I'm opening up an endless debate to which there is no right or wrong answer.

So I'll put my foot down: it's mostly fucking pretentious Mr. Johnson.

But what you will notice from the very first frames of Brick right until the very last is that Johnson and his crew know how to make a movie. Seriously. This film is cinema, plain and simple. It's empty gimmick cinema, but it's cinema no less.

During the moments when I simply sat and looked at it, it conjured in my mind thoughts of Malick:

And Kubrick:

And Lynch:

This is a filmmaker that knows a thing or two about production value.

But the whole thing is such an empty, meaningless experience. Who was this film made to appeal to? What is it supposed to be about? It's influences are too broad and don't make sense together.

So the film, below the aesthetics, is all pose and swagger...A handful of intriguing with a spoonful of who cares. There's no heart and it just doesn't add up in any meaningful way.

It's about a high school private eye played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt. His character, probably having watched The Maltese Falcon one or ten too many times, says things like this, "No, bulls would gum it. They'd flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes and probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they'd trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes, and if we're doing this I want the whole story. No cops, not for a bit." He wisely at least delivers these gems straight.

He's on the case to discover who killed the apple of his eye, which leads him down back alleys, dark corridors and so on and so forth until the trail leads him to a femme fatal:

A heavy:

A local kingpin known as The Pin:
And a frame, composed in just such a way, that a chicken juice container distracts from an entire scene in which The Pin's mom offers orange juice:
You see, pretentious. 
Johnson, over the course of three feature films has proven that, as a writer, not a lot unlike Malick, Kubrick or Lynch, he's more into concept/idea than story. That's fine. His problem, however, lies in his inability to elevate his concept above the base level of gimmick, leaving the details of the plot to hardly matter.

The charm of Brick then is in that someone thought to do it. Now that it's been done, let's get over it and all move on with ourselves. 

The Mayans Were Right: The World is Ending

This Just In!

Chuck Norris is old and shaved his beard.

Say it ain't so Chuck!

In related news, Earth spins off axis for unknown reasons, sending it on a collision course with the sun.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celebrities Behaving Badly: Lindsay Lohan

So Lindsay Lohan is apparently a smarter member of the bottom-of-the-barrel club than Edward Furlong.

E! is reporting that the former Disney star turned threat to public safety has made a plea deal with regards to her car crash charges that date back to last June...or was that those shopping lifting charges? No wait, it must have been the cocaine charges? No, no it has to be for starting a brawl in a club in New York, right? Lohan herself doesn't even know what she's up for anymore.

So, instead of a whopping 90 days in jail, she'll be going to a horrible, miserable, depressing and disgusting rehab facility instead.

And so, thanks to the honesty and integrity of the L.A. judicial system Lohan will once again be able to avoid getting shanked in the shower by a group of raging Mexican bull dykes.

The E! article also included this hilarious tidbit, "She was also ordered not to drive with any measure of alcohol in her system, drive only with valid insurance and license, not to use narcotics, stay away from any place or people where narcotics are used and make restitution to victim in this case. A restitution hearing may be set to determine amount." Wishful thinking.

Well Lindsey, look on the bright side, you're Marilyn Monroe photoshoot from a couple years ago could have looked more like this

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekend Reading

If you're anything like me you're weekend probably looks a little something like this:


And This:

Needless to say, there's not much time for reading and/or writing...

Therefore, every Monday, from this day forward will be a collection of links to the best posts that may have slipped through the cracks over the weekend but are still worthy or your time and admiration.

Black Sheep Reviews took a look at indie mad-man Harmony Korine's newest Spring Breakers and kind of went, meh? That however didn't stop it from lighting up the select market box-office over the weekend, grossing almost 300K.

PS- Ashley Benson, if you're reading this, call me: 416-627-7963

Bob over at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind is doing his indie film civic duty with his love/support of Girl Walk // All Day. Haven't heard of it either? Go check it out!

CS at Big Thoughts From a Small Mind is pimping the Regent Park Film Festival, which is now accepting submissions. It's nice over there now...Really.

Norma Desmond of The Flick Chick takes a stab at figuring out David Lynch's masterpiece Mulholland Dr. Not an easy task. Head over there and let her know how she did.

Alex at Film Forager checks out little known 80s flick Rock n' Roll Nightmare and it looks pretty fucking  awesome if you ask me:

Jeremy at Moon in the Gutter reminds us that yes, Canadians make movies too with his look back at David Croneberg's early horror film Rabid

Chris at 1001: A Movie Odyssey keeps fighting the great movie fight with a look at two great Michael Powell (and don't forget Pressburger) flicks: Peeping Tom and Black Narcissus

Vancetastic over at the Audient gets a laugh out of the tag line for the new Kirsten Dunst/Jim Sturgess vehicle Upside Down

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Grilled Cheese Sandwhich: Flatliners

Looking back at popular culture and wondering just what the fuck we were thinking.

Flatliners came out in 1990, which was that strange transitionary period in American culture where this

Was starting to become this

And sure enough, the film constantly looks like it's suffering from a severe case of the coke sweats.

Flatliners was directed by the master of Hollywood low rent camp Joel Scuhmacher

Which means it's highly stylized.

And a tad gay.

It revolves around an interesting premise. Dr. Kiefer Sutherland convinces a group of fellow med students to help him in an experiment in which he will kill himself, staying dead for upwards of a minute to see if there really is anything beyond death and then be brought back.

The experiment is a success and soon each member of the group wants to try, deciding on who will go next, auction style, by betting on how long they are willing to be dead before being jolted back.

But alas, drama being what it is, there's a problem. The cast find that, upon dying, they are encountered with sins from their past that manifest in physical form back in reality.

Julia Roberts is haunted by her drug addicted father who killed himself when she was young. Kevin Bacon is encountered by a little black girl on the subway that he made fun of in grade school,

who, as she approaches, I shit you not, declares: "You don't know jack-shit! Butt-wipe! Needle-dick! Cock-bite! Jack-off! Limp-wrist! Corn-hole! Banana-breath! Shit-bird! Bird-turd! Turd-face! Kiss-ass! Brown-nose! Macho wimp! Limp dick! Fart-face! Tire merchant! What's the matter? Gonna cry? Come on, Crybaby Davie! Cry! Cry! Cry! Shit-face! Rat-turd! Ass-licking son of a bitch!"

Eloquent, wouldn't you say?

Kiefer Sutherland, who gets the worst of it, is haunted by a creepy kid,

who tries to kill him in the back of a military truck with a pick axe, but not before earlier pinning him down and hocking one serious loogie into his mouth...

And don't forget William Baldwin. He is haunted by hot girls who want to fuck him.

Poor bastard!

Oliver Platt, who is the straight man that doesn't flatline, sheds light on the serious nature of the shit these people have gotten themselves into when he declares, "Good thing I didn't flatline. My 350-pound babysitter would be chasing me for the half-eaten pastrami sandwich I stole from her."

That about sums it up how far the film slips away from its original premise and into utter ridiculousness.

The film's premise is a good though and, for maybe a quarter of the way, is handled with intrigue and intelligence. Sutherland wants to find a meaning in life that both religion and philosophy have failed to provide answers for and the film almost addresses the matter of ethics in relation to how far we should let physical science experiments go.

Roberts also has a crisis, believing that maybe what's beyond death is not utopia, but rather a depressing place where the past is there to haunt you.

However, all questions of theology, philosophy, ethics, and science fly out window as the film can't quite make up it's mind on whether it wants to be a horror film or not and in the process forgets altogether to explain how in the hell these in-death reflections become physically manifest in the real world.

I guess there are just some mysteries in the universe that man will never be able to answer.