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Extinction of Oysters and Hermaphrodites.
Wurmfeld's Oyster: Andrea Merkx is a hoot as usual and I liked her/him paired with Hank the waiter. Loved the "gorgeous extinct creatures" lot!
The ending kind of lost me. They run happily out of the room to go extinct? That's the point?
The poster photo isn't part of the film or did I miss something? I know the photo is a takeoff of the American Gothic painting but both are sex role stereotyped for a hermaphrodite analogy.
The actors are kind of androgynous. You aren't wondering which is biologically which gender. They are not clearly hermaphrodite if they are supposed to be like the oysters in that respect.
The oysters on the subway platform aren't hermaphrodite either. This one looks female. The other looks male. So is that what you are saying, that hermaphrodites don't get to be hermaphrodites any more?
Or do they happily run out of the room to become something different?
Saw Whole Foods listed in the credits. Did they provide the oysters or the restaurant? Where were the oysters from?
The film didn't lose my attention.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Animated, paranoid stoners and drug enforcement officials discuss/spy/rat on each other while doing a disabling drug called D. It isn't flat animation though. Like an animated paint-by-number the faces are depicted in about eight shades and tones of color and shadow that all shift with facial movements.
Adventurous animation with an adult theme. Sounds good. Animated Japanese cartoon sex turns me on more than filmed sex. Maybe the artistic bent. Maybe that it isn't quite real. Maybe the focus on essentials and editing out of the rest. So watching animated, driving Winona Ryder lure a guy home for drugs was great and watching the scene twist into something else was great too.
Non-addicted life seems intolerably boring. "OK. Let's eat," is the reward for listening to a speech that is comprehensible only in fragments. "Would anyone like some popcorn" is the effort to cheer up family life.
I liked the visual of the suburban drug house morphing into the comfortable home of a nice family that actually was the lead drug addict's former family. Drugged perception seems heightened. His roommates might be more interesting companions than his family had been so why the regret about his choices?
A favorite scene came back to me when I was expecting to be reprimanded at work. It was the one in which the Angel of Death stands at the foot of a bed reading the sins of a suicidal man as he prepares to die. The angel reads on and on. The list seems endless.
Not only are the characters high on who knows what drug it also seems like the whole production crew was high with heightened details and drug perception.
So I like animation. I like adult themes. I like cop movies. I like a-typical characters that look like people who roam the world. I like heightened perception. The whole thing was successfully, on all levels, about being stoned but I wasn't.
Punishment Park (1971)
This comment is based on watching Punishment Park last night, in 2008 on Sundance Channel.
I had never heard of the film and couldn't figure out when it was filmed. The characters rang true to the 60s instead of displaying distortions in language, mannerisms and attitudes that films being made now about the 60s contain.
1971, when the film was released, was still very much the political climate of the 1960s. In some ways it was the pivotal year of radical politics. Radical politics dwindled, took different directions and tone after that year.
The setup of the "war game" seemed impossible for the rebels. They started out on foot, unarmed, crossing a desert. Simply by remaining upright they were visible from a distance. When they agreed to the sentence it is not clear that they even knew that the soldiers-in-training they had to evade were armed and in vehicles, what the terrain looked like, the heat, no water, or that they wouldn't be rescued from death. They didn't know how unlikely it was that they would make it to the flag.
The rebels split into packs of two to eight people. I kept debating whether it would be better to head out alone but no one took that option. It might not have made much difference but at least you wouldn't be assisting someone who couldn't make it or be the one people thought they had to assist.
In an action film the rebels would have succeeded, there would have been heroism, the unbeatable odds would have been beaten and people would have shown superhuman endurance. Tom Cruise would have captured the flag.
Actually the physical endurance of the rebels was one of the less plausible aspects. 1960s Radicals were not prone to daily strength and endurance regimen. They had the advantage of being young but still Since I run in the desert I experience how quickly you are wiped out by heat. Untrained, without shade or water, three days? Maybe not.
The long discussion of the moral inferiority of their enemy that some the rebels engaged in was very true to the times, and ineffective in getting to the flag thereby ending their sentence.
Why didn't the soldiers follow footprints and track the large band that way? They probably figured logically, with 50 miles to cover the rebels probably took a straight path, which they did, even to finding a small provisions box.
It's not fair to expect people to strategize a completely unfamiliar situation but The rebels could have taken the two-hour head start, curved to the left, jogged through the night instead of dealing with the heat, tried to find shade to hide out/rest during the day, and come up behind the flag at night. But, that wasn't the point of the movie.
I yelled at the TV, "That's why I run in the morning, in case I am ever in a situation like that", and am relieved that I am now relatively old and moderate to be in a life and death political situation. There was a political paranoia to the times that the film captures and I might have internalized.
The press/film crew was the only accountability for the soldiers. The photographers engaged in argument, challenged and were indignant at times. By 2008, after Abu Ghraib, the soldiers would have been more aware of how long that coverage could haunt them.
Sometimes the film looked like a documentary, sometimes acted, sometimes plausible, sometimes not. Not having seen any pre-movie explanations I kept wondering what this film was, enough to go to IMDb to find out, and felt good about having guessed that it was a pseudo-documentary.
The sun is coming up. I better go run NOW before it gets hot.
Breaking the Waves (1996)
Another one of Lars Von Trier's naive, saintly heroines goes too far.
Breaking the Waves
Emily Watson loves her husband too much. All the neighbors say so and they should know, having spend all their lives in the same moralistic Scottish church and community.
Husband is an outsider who is injured in an oil rig accident (rescuing someone, this being a movie). Husband lies in and out of comas, narrowly escaping death.
Watson's character, Bess, does everything in her power to help him. But how much is in her power?
The doctor thinks the husband has some kinks in his psychological makeup, and maybe the wife does as well. If husband asks that wife dress like a schoolmarm she does. When he asks her to wear revealing clothes or have sex with other men she complies until her well being and reputation are shot.
Unfortunately her husband's health improves proportionately to how deeply and dangerously she debases herself.
The dire prediction of the church Elders, "Nothing good has ever come of marrying an outsider" comes around 360 degrees from an earthly viewpoint, and 180 degrees in terms of what Bess attains spiritually.
Another one of Lars Von Trier's naïve, saintly heroines goes too far.
Nicole Kidman in Dogville had to learn that her tormentors deserve their lessons, their life and their hardships. She paid the price to protect total creeps and they become even worse because of it.
Von Trier calls karma like it is, except, can you really improve someone else's medical condition by debasing yourself?
Maybe Emily Watson's martyr character needs to learn to not sacrifice herself for anyone else. Maybe she should let her husband have his karma, and let herself have her own karma of living without a husband she adored instead of taking on his karma.
Von Trier has a fascination with martyr-ly women in their contemporary manifestations. His fascination creates a seemingly misguided (since lots of people think that a woman who sacrifices all for her family should be canonized, not punished) movie.
Another contention with the spiritual message of the movie is why God would want someone to prove her devotion to Him by engaging in animal-nature behavior. There is a long religious history in which Saint Anthony, nuns, priests and monks have had to struggle to transcend sexual inclinations. Maybe Bess transcends by engaging physically without being engaged mentally. And she does take care of her husband's sexual needs.
The bells tolling at the end suggests that God approves of Bess. She did everything in her power. She stayed in intense, personal communication with what she knows to be God. Maybe the price she paid was simply earthly. Maybe God gave a sign to show people that they should back off their criticism of her. Maybe Von Trier wanted to placate the viewers: Yeah, yeah, she's a saint. You got what you wanted after all.
Maybe she is a saint.
The Alcohol Years (2000)
Alcohol Years From the Outside looking In.
Carol Morley of Manchester, England, with unabashed narcissism filmed people talking about her youth. She was blond, slept around, drank too much, had wild friends and big boobs and might even be charismatic. Fascinating.
Movie has parental guidance warnings but actually it could let teens live the scene vicariously, from the end viewpoint, so they can do something different with their youth. Morley herself didn't have much parental guidance. Her father killed himself and wasn't around to have any input.
She was a wild girl and now teaches film making. She pulled it together.
There are friends from my youth that I would love to watch a multi-angled analysis of so I don't have any complaints about the concept of the film. A drunk girl isn't necessarily the person I want to see in this much depth though.
The Island - Profound or Doctrinaire?
The Island (Ostrov)
A slow pace depicting monks on a snowy, picturesque, secluded island. One of the monks has attracted the trust and dependence of local residents who dock their boats and walk the rickety planks to shore to seek guidance.
The monk is a prankster who annoys the other monks. The monk maintains his own spiritual reverie but it wasn't always like that. The film opens with a scene of the young pre-monk as a sissy coward who would let anyone else pay any price (death) as long as no one hit him.
Wearing a long robe the monk wheels coal in an old metal wheelbarrow and keeps the handful of buildings on the island warm. He prays constantly while working. He sleeps on a pile of coal by the furnace. He sees future events.
Rural Russian culture might be pretty foreign to non-Russians. The first towns person we meet is a teen seeking blessings for the abortion she intends to have because she will never find a husband otherwise. The monk tells her she won't find a husband either way. Have the baby because it will be a golden boy, and a comfort to her.
It's a new angle on the abortion argument, but not one heard often in America. Or is it the most simple of traditional arguments? In America we tend to see the unmarried teen with baby combo as a barely manageable, stressful burden, not a comfort.
I wondered if the saint's abortion advice was supposed to substantiate his saintliness by agreeing with the church's stance. The character was more appealing if I took it as an honest assessment in the best interests of this particular girl.
People were talking afterwards and had different takes on the film. One was adamant that it was an expose of the Priestcraft. One said that his wife is a Jesus Freak (his words) and that we are fortunate to not have to retreat to a monastery in order to have a spiritual life. The wife was pleased that the film showed at Sundance. I was at Sundance, new to town, lost and unsuccessfully trying to get to the showing, hoping like a monk to see a film less second-chakra-oriented or political than most. One person loves foreign films and thinks it was a miracle that she got to see it.
In a hopelessly American way I wondered if you could get to France from Russia by selling a pig. I was glad that the saint was a prankster and didn't always seem so perfect. It was explained to me that Greek Orthodoxy (similar to Russian) considers saints to be childlike and mischievous which made me wonder if all the qualities of Father Anatoli as portrayed were simply in keeping with Russian Orthodox religious teachings.
I was dubious about possession, exorcisms and healing. They work but usually at huge personal cost to the practitioner. But this isn't your local health care practitioner who keeps getting sicker and sicker. This is a Saint. He knows how to handle the cost although that part isn't shown.
I really enjoyed how people blubbered and shrieked at the solutions to their problems that Father Anatoli proposed.
Black and white. Subtitles. The monk is played by Russian rock and movie star, Pyotr Mamonov. 1,000 Russians, because of this film, have headed to monasteries for vacation. Or so the Greek Orthodox priest who brought the film to town told us. If you can overlook the possibility of it being a doctrinaire rendition it's an enjoyable flick.
Differing versions of what happened during basic training.
The acting holds your interest as each character, during interrogation, tells a radically different version of what happened one night in basic training in the jungle.
No one seems to tell the truth. The different versions don't mesh. Well into the story this seeming lack of culmination becomes irritating. The viewer has no idea how to piece together the whole.
The ending is as pathetic as "and then I woke up". Lame as a drug movie. Lame as an action movie. Only half there as a war movie. The setting isn't spectacular. Stereotypes of military personnel were barely humanized.
Good thing they were able to attract a skilled cast, with the exception of the lead actress, or this movie would be a total bust. I don't know the lead actress's work, so I don't know if it's her or the directing, but the line delivery, flirtation, anger, was bland. It seems like a lot more could have been done with the character. This ain't Lynndie England. No complexity. You aren't left wondering what hit you or who was that.
Considering the importance of the role to the movie, you should have wondered or at least been impressed her by the end. As stands it looks like the casting guys decided that long legs and big boobs will a fine female coworker make.
The movie demonstrates that the DEA has a big training budget and room for lots of creativity in the training of each candidate. Okay, military personnel, is this realistic?
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
Australian version of racism.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is a well cast oppression movie that makes its points clearly about white imposition of their nasty desires, culture, methods and values on other races. The only aspect of the film that would engender a vacation to Australia is how likeable the main characters are.
I have an oppressive job and didn't want to watch an oppression movie on a holiday weekend. I planned on switching to another movie if I couldn't stand it but then had no trouble staying with this one.
Three girls running away from boarding school prison do not hunt their food although their mother back home does. Even though raised in the outback they are dependent while escaping on offerings of bread from others. The traditional ways they know and prefer have already been co-opted. The home they long for looks like a trading post in the dust with a fence running alongside it.
They make a mistake that saves them.
The former seminarian watching with me commented afterwards that "at least the missionaries aren't blamed for Everything" which brings up a point: this is a PG rated adult-theme movie that is likely to challenge its biggest potential audience, the churchgoers.
The best point of all is that the girls don't care about the (comparatively) big buildings and chance for lighter skinned children. They just want to be with the people who love them.
It is so simple it doesn't seem like much of a movie, just three girls journeying, evading capture, but in the simplicity is beauty. You think, "This isn't going to fly the way the world is now. Most of us work the hell-jobs hell-schools trained us for." Two of the escapees are introduced at the end and they look like they are doing just fine, thank you, in spite of adversity. So maybe there are ways other than the work grind. On the other hand the movie didn't go into what their day to day lives look like. Like it or not it is probably all attitude no matter what your circumstances are. Their attitudes are pretty good.
Dad saves his family.
Formula script. This time about the war on drugs. Guy with integrity in ineffective Washington,DC saves his family. Didn't Harrison Ford just save his daughter in spite of being President? Seen it before.
If you like this particular type of movie by all means see this one.
A bright teenager explains the economics of the drug trade to us. "If black people in hoards came to your white neighborhood asking every white person if they sold drugs, how many white people would be going to law school?"
Many people consider lawyers to be as morally reprehensible as drug dealers. So what exactly is the point being made?
Factor in Mexico. The incompetent government is in Mexico instead of the US because they don't have an effective drug enforcement agency covering their side of the border. The expressed Mexican opinion is that drug use is a personal decision so leave the users alone to kill themselves while others profit financially.
The line from Traffic that people quote is, "Police work in Mexico is considered an entrepreneurial activity." So bravo for Benicio del Toro for wanting to make parks safe for kids to play baseball. It is a relief to have someone in the movie looking out for everyone.
Plenty of helicopter shots of the Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing. Two kinds of Traffic. Plenty of hot days and torture on the Mexican side. The Spanish speaking world still living out the inquisition in yet another movie.
At six months pregnant Catherine Zeta Jones is prettier than ever (no joke). All she cares about is her family. Her La Jolla family is threatened since she didn't know it but Dad brings in the bucks through drug trade. Her superficial Country Club friends dump her when Dad gets busted. Even at a Country Club these aren't the people you pick for your friends. You find the one who looks fun and make her your friend. Some people just can't pick 'em. As long as she can protect her family from harm, poverty and humiliation all is well. Other reviews seem to think this constitutes a happy ending. In fairness, there is a suggestion that they might get caught so all her effort will be for naught.
Witness Amy Irving's descent from prime roles. Now she plays an unhappy housewife.
Michael Douglas's prep school daughter is a drug addict. Boo hoo hoo. All that talent and privilege cashed in for private adventure. What did the parents think would happen if they sent her to a school like that? No, you do it the way the Clintons did. You find the one private school that doesn't have a big drug problem and send the kid there. Oops, wrong party.
Having an addict daughter makes Michael Douglas the perfect person in charge of Drug Enforcement in the USA because he works to understand the problem and has a personal investment in finding any solutions he can for any aspect of the problem.
Like Daughter, like Father. He concludes that the problem is insurmountable, abnegates the social responsibility he accepted when he took the position, and instead pursues the personal solution of helping her overcome her addiction. Why couldn't he do his best in both arenas? Or did he come to accept the view of the Mexican government that drug use is a personal issue?
This movie served other people well. Read what they have to say. It ticks me off. "My family is the only thing I am responsible for." I disagree. I don't even know your family.
That's the point. So let's nominate Benicio del Toro for an Academy Award for portraying someone doing his little part in solving the problem.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Fun. That's why you went isn't it?
They are going to be selling waist attached bungee cords for Xmas, right? This one is fun. Anyone who gets a line of dialogue milks it for all it is worth. Angkor Wat and the polar regions look like unique travel destinations. Angelina spins and flips for you.