Friday, September 15, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) - We Love You

Today, all cenophiles' hearts have broken.

We are so much poorer for losing him.

You may not have not known his name, but you sure as hell will recognize his face. Arguably the ultimate character-actor has been taken away.

"Wild at Heart"
"Twin Peaks"
"Escape From New York"
"Pretty in Pink"
"The Straight Story"
"She's so Lovely"
Countless parts in TV Westerns from "Gunsmoke" to "Rawhide" to "Bonanza."
He even played Saul of Tarsus in "The Last Temptation of Christ."
...and the list could continue.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Split - M. Night Shyamalan (2017)

I approached M. Night Shyamalan's "Split" with mixed feelings. I had heard the film was the best work Shyamalan had done since his 2000 masterpiece, "Unbreakable."

But I had a problem with the film's concept. Until now, I had refused to watch the film because it looked like an excuse to exploit the mentally ill for plot twists, backstories and any other cheap tricks one could think of.

The story centers around three teenage girls (Anna Taylor-Jo, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) who have been kidnapped by Kevin, (James McAvoy) a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID.) DID is better known as the term for MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder.) Kevin has twenty-three personalities and they all wait for a twenty-fourth personality known as "The Beast." We're meant to think there is something Messianic transpiring in his head.

The personality in charge at the time when he snatched the girls was violent and deliberate in the act. He was not frightened. Every movement was bold.

Then, as the man continues to interact with the girls, other personalities, kinder ones, have taken over.

As an actor, McAvoy deftly takes all alters, benign and malicious, and balances them like a pro.

And so goes the movie. They try to get help from some of Kevin's alters while trying not to get caught by some of the others. Before the story is wrapped up tight there are twists and turns we do not see coming.

All of the events thus far, all that we see of the other personalities, Kevin does out of fear for the oncoming twenty-fourth personality, known as "The Beast."

I will concede that "Split" is Shyamalan's best work since "Unbreakable."

It is a perfect psychological horror film.

Also, "Split" is the single most offensive movie I have ever seen.

Why is the concept of DID so frightening? Is it just morbid fascination? I have to admit Shyamalan has crafted an incredibly tense film wrapped around the phenomenon.

I think the idea of multiple personalities opens up a world of possible scenarios, especially to those who have no concept of what mental illness is. We don't even know who the villain is here. He or she hides in plain sight. The situation could blow up anytime because the villain is right there and can jump out at any scene.

Shyamalan uses his own presumptions of people with DID and crafts them into an accomplished film.

Not only does Shyamalan reveal himself as somebody who knows nothing about mental illness, he exploits DID and other disorders for entertainment. It  villainizes those who struggle with mental illness.

Shyamalan sees patients of this type of illness as sources of potential violence. He uses them to frighten us, just as our world is trying to get rid of the stigma of mental illness.

People with mental illness are not killers nor are they "Beasts." The name he gave the villain, Beast, identifies all people with DID or mental illness as potential monsters of whom we all should be afraid.

Kevin talks of all his personalities siting in one place together in a room with chairs. Shyamalan would have us believe that one with DID can switch from one personality to another at will. Medically and psychologically this is incorrect, as it is not particularly typical for DID patients to have that much control over their alters. Not only that, but this mindset is dangerous and irresponsible.

And not for nothing, but Shyamalan does not limit his prejudices to the mentally ill. "Split" is also unbelievably misogynistic, homophobic and most of all, trans-phobic.

And just as an aside, I don't usually address matters like this, because of my love for hardcore material, but as a father, I have to tell you that "Split" should been rated 'R.' I would never take a thirteen-year-old to see it.

And despite how clever of a thriller "Split" is, I can not, in good conscience, recommend this movie.

But I must admit, I am damn excited about the prospect of revisiting the "Unbreakable" universe in the near future.

David Dunn is an unsung hero.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Quote of the Day: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

"I have been offered a lot for my work. But never everything."
- Yul Brynner as Chris Evans in "The Magnificent Seven"

"Once you begin, you'd better be prepared for killing and then more killing. And then still more killing until the reason for it has gone."
- Yul Brynner as Chris Evans in "The Magnificent Seven"

Just watching this makes me want to watch it for like the eighty-seventh time.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quote of the Day: "Parks and Recreation"

"Don't you do it, Hitler. Don't you dare fall in love with me."
- Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer

Yes, I know I only exclusively film. I stay out of other mediums, but this has to be shared.

Quote of the Day: Fight Club - David Fincher (1999) Maybe More Like the Monologue of the Day

"I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."
- Brad Pitt as Tyler Durdin

Friday, August 25, 2017

Quote of the Day: Dead Ringers - David Cronenberg (1988)

"And tomorrow, well take some Percodan...just because it's Saturday."
- Jeremy Irons as Elliot Mantle

"Dead Ringers" is one of David Cronenberg's finest and overlooked films. His imagination is grim and he focuses it all on his audience with the precision of a rifle's red dot. His dialogue goes with his nightmares because it's both innovative and natural.

Filth - Jon S. Baird (2013) Does "Filth" Stand Up To "Trainspotting's" innovation?

Along with films like "Pulp Fiction," "Trainspotting" revolutionized the way all of us watch movies today. "Trainspotting" naturally wove between true life and fantasy. Finally, we were starting to hear our heros' inner-monologue. These films, along with others, unlocked a fifth wall.

The films also created a new height for dark comedies.

When "Filth" opens, Bruce, (James McAvoy), a detective, is focused on the race in his department over who will get a much envied promotion. It may not sound like much power, but Bruce covets it. It's a jump from Detective Sergeant to Detective Inspector and Bruce's lust for power has no threshold.

Bruce goes to great lengths to undermine the others trying for the job. Bruce is so amoral, he outstrips Harvey Keitel's LT in Abel Ferrara's 1992's "Bad Lieutenant," one of the most hedonistic and vomitous roles of the '90's, and probably any other decade, I guess.

Meanwhile, Bruce's lonely wife, (Shauna McDonald), has an insatiable lust for sex exceeded only by her lust for power. Power is her aphrodisiac. She loves power above all, even more than sex. Though it's power for her husband she wants, not for herself. Her sexual fantasy is to have Bruce to come home from work and call out, "Honey, I'm home! I'm a Detective Inspector!"

It does not take long before filmmaker Jon S. Baird establishes that Bruce is a bastard. He is the worst kind of cop and he belongs in prison. He is also the nastiest kind of man and deserves to be abandoned by everybody who loves him.

As this is based on the works of Irvine Welsh, it's no surprise to find that much of the story is wrapped around Bruce's so-called medication. These drugs collude with his natural fiendish disposition. The only brights spots of what you might call hope in his life are his consultations with his brilliant but rambling psychiatrist, Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent.)

Bruce's manipulations are masterful. He systematically ruins each contender for this promotion, both personally or professionally, friend or not. This changes a murder investigation that just so happens to be going on, into a minor backdrop.

As "Filth" continues, it becomes clear that the real, actual Bruce is only a cool guy in his own mind. But in reality, he's not suave or in any way impressive.

Much of the visual imagery in "Filth" is not as much fun as intended. It's hard to tell if these cheap cinematic tricks are inspirations of Welsh's book or "Trainspotting."

A pathetic attempt at a shocking twist at the start of act three is not enough to save this mess.

Baird is clearly trying to revisit the style, tone and fashion of "Trainspotting" and he falls tragically short.

The first part of the film is quick, funny and hard to criticize. Unfortunately, it falls tragically short due to sloppy character structure and plot development.

Not only does the "twist" fall short, but the entire third act is a contrived wreck. The only part of the film that really works is the deconstruction of Bruce's brain by the mad Dr. Rossi.

And not for nothing, but "Filth" is overtly homophobic and trans-phobic.

"Trainspotting" was innovative in style and tone, but it didn't exist just for the sake of itself. It had so much more to give. It had life and hope and joy to offer. We intensely cared about those characters, even Begbie.

I'm afraid that we just don't give a damn for Bruce.