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Everybody seems to be missing the point
I happen to be taking a class in college right now that deals with literary interpretation, and all the different theories of how to go about analyzing language. One theory is called deconstructionism, in which it is stated that language as a whole is slippery and unstable, forever contradicting itself, falling in on itself, and revealing its binary oppositions, the polar opposites of life. Light/dark, happy/sad, etc. In other words, each text, when deconstructed, has not one meaning, not even two meanings. But multiple meanings depending on the reader. Language is always changing, shifting meanings. A kaleidescope of interpretations. The reason I have gone into all this, is because it's very relevant to the study and understanding of why Gus Van Sant decided to remake Hitchcock's classic. Since the 1960s, so much has changed socially, culturally, and in other ways of interpreting situations, people, words, innuendoes. And within an art form such as film, it's very intriguing to explore this dynamic to its potential. And it's something you don't see done very much at all, which is why I believe people were so weirded out by the approach to remake, shot for shot, Psycho, including using the original script. This aspect especially is the most intriguing to observe: same dialogue, same story, same setting, same characters, but DIFFERENT actors, which means altogether different interpretations, different approaches. The best example is Julianne Moore's portrayal of Lila Crane: watch Vera Mile's very good performance, and then turn around and watch Julianne Moore say the same exact lines, but bring to it a whole other attitude sexually, aggressively, even politically. Julianne Moore decided to play her Lila Crane as a lesbian, and even though this was not a significant aspect of her character - at least to the extent of making it verbally known - it is an underlying layer that completely spins the character on its head, reversing its role in the film completely. She's much more aggressive, which actually makes more sense given the things she does once she's at the Bates Motel: peering boldly into the cabin her sister stayed in when Bates is right behind her, going into the Bates house and stepping right into almost guaranteed danger with Norman right upstairs, etc. While Vera Miles did an excellent job, it's not as believable within her interpretation of the character that she would do all those things. With Julianne Moore's bold, sharp, confrontational Lila, it's much more plausible. That is just one example of how the remake of Psycho offers a whole new insight into a classic story, giving it wholly new undertones to today's societal climate. Certain lines that, because of today's poltical correctness, take on whole other context within the scene; the very nature of the character of Marion Crane and her death - in the early 60s it was much more of a shock that a woman would steal, leave her job, to run off, UNMARRIED. But now it's not such a shock, which then leaves the question, is her seemingly punishable death as shocking now? Maybe so. And the masturbation Van Sant added shows the psychology of Norman Bates: as soon as the thrill has left him after orgasm, he's left with the shock and shame that he gave into his desires, which propells him into Mother Mode, killing the object of his forbidden, suppressed desires. These are just some examples of how the remake of Psycho makes perfect and creative sense, and how it should have been much more exciting to artists, who should have realized the thrill in reinterpreting a work of art that takes a great story and gives it whole new meanings. There are so many possibilities within this method, stylistically and story-wise. It just seems to me that most audiences missed the point.
The Cell (2000)
Haunting and dreamlike, this film is like a series of paintings.
I had a dream last night of the sequence in this film where Catherine Deane (Lopez) falls upward from a box in Stargher's world, then frees herself from the tether and falls down through a hole and into the Roman Pantheon. I absolutely am in love with the shot of her slowly falling into the Roman house of the Gods. It's beautiful. The whole film is beautiful.
Too many people do not understand that dementedness and derangement can in a way be just as beautiful as anything else. Everything in life has beauty simply by being. But we're taught through morals and ethics to think that things are "ugly" and "not beautiful". And while I'm not saying that being a serial killer is by any means beautiful, what I am saying is that "The Cell" takes a beautiful and artistic look into the sadistic and complex, highly splintered mind of a killer. Everyone's psyche is a treasure trove of their past, their present, and their future, their thoughts, ideals, feelings, desires, repressions, EVERYTHING. It's ALL stored in there. So like director Tarsem says, it's an open canvas. Anything goes. So right off the bat we know this film can and does go anywhere. By its nature it would. That's why I don't understand all these people who like to cut the film down because of its leading visuals. Yes, it's about a serial killer. But everything has been done by now, so it's all how you do it. Has there been another film where a psychologist literally goes into the killer's mind and explores his psyche to locate his latest victim? And since when can there only be ONE serial killer movie? Is there just one war movie? Lord knows there are more than enough of those kind, but you don't hear people complaining about that. Or ghost films. You can never make enough of those. There are subjects that are eternally open for exploration and expansion. And the subject of serial killers is one of those. We're fascinated by the dark side of human nature that resorts to taking other's lives. That's a fertile subject to deal with in film, and "The Cell" takes it to a whole new level, visually, psychologically, and cinematically. There is no other film like it. Some of my favorite films are those that do actually get into my head and seep into my dreams. As of this morning I can say "The Cell" has become one of those films. I loved the dream I had last night. And it just goes to serve my point further: this film is about the psyche and all the richness therein. And it's gotten into mine.
Pretty good - and I never watch Lifetime movies...
I generally dismiss any Lifetime TV movie. Can you blame me, what with titles like "Mother May I Sleep With Danger", "Danger In Blue Sky Country", and my personal favorite: "Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear"? However, I was flipping through the other night and it was on, and it actually caught my attention and held me. It was very interesting and well done for a television movie. I think Angie Harmon saved it, she's very good to watch. The script wasn't bad. But overall it was the fact that this was a true story and that I learned from watching it that only FIVE states in the US have laws against video voyeurism!! I couldn't believe it!
So, this was pretty good. The first Lifetime Movie I actually watched and could say I liked. I just watch Lifetime for Golden Girls and Nanny - both shows you should watch if you don't already, by the way!
Blood Work (2002)
I just had the unfortunate experience of staying up late to watch a sneak of this at the theatre where I work. The other employees and I were literally laughing through the entire thing. I don't know if I can get across in this review just how sloppy, sluggish, and amateurish this movie was made. To me, a movie does not have to have action to keep me interested, in fact, movies with mostly dialogue - good dialogue - hold my interest just as much if not more. But this...this crawled along to the point where we just didn't know and didn't care who was doing what or why. Not that the filmmakers didn't try: they literally repeated everything at least three times, in case we didn't get it the first time around. They spelled things out that, had they done their jobs right, we should have just gotten from visuals or just implications. And the story was absolutely trivial and, in a word, stupid. The funniest part about this drek was some of the lines. Allow me to recite: "She stood out like a whore in church." Wait, it gets better: "I like being jerked off." * "I don't think so. I don't know. But I don't think so." * And later, when a Hispanic cop screams to Eastwood - who had a heart transplant from a Hispanic woman - "Just because you got a Hispanic heart, don't make you one of us!" Eastwood retorts: "Next time you come around here, this Hispanic's gonna kick your ass." Real great filmmaking. The only reason I can think of as to why Anjelica Huston agreed to be in this - in a role that has three brief scenes that lead her nowhere - is that she must be a good friend of Eastwood's. He simply needs to learn how to act, choose scripts, and direct a film. This was a laughable experience. If I were everyone involved in this film, especially the writer, I'd be horrified right now as the release date draws near, chewing my nails and thinking "How the hell did I get involved with something like this?" Utter waste of time. And I don't like to say something like that about most movies - I try and find something good about it. I don't like being that negative most of the time, but that's how BAD this is.
Death and the Maiden (1994)
Brilliant, disturbing, compelling...
This film had me glued to my seat. The extreme and disturbing ordeals the characters have gone through in the past and are going through now are so compelling, that the fact that the entire film takes place in one location in one night serves to intensify the plot and situation even more. Like "Panic Room", "Death and the Maiden" knows how to keep the one situation/one night plot moving and moving fast and thrilling. When you have compelling characters, compelling storylines, and compelling dialogue, the film doesn't need anything else. All of that is the best thematic material. I didn't crave an explosion or a car chase. None of those would have been appropriate. This film is a dialogue-driven one that couldn't have been any other way. Another equally but differently riveting film based on a play is "The House of Yes", and like "Maiden" knew it had to rely on nothing except the already existing strengths of its characters, situation and dialogue. Both "House" and "Maiden" are brilliant films. "Maiden" has to be one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen, not for what it shows, but for what it implies and calls up from memories. It is an absolute and abhorrent SIN that Sigourney Weaver was not noticed for this role. Same goes for Roman Polanski and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias (he wrote "From Hell" - another great one to check out.) "Death and the Maiden" is simply great filmmaking.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Boys and their toys
CONTAINS SPOILERS Oh, where can I begin? Let's see, there's: U571; WINDTALKERS; BRAVEHEART; WE WERE SOLDIERS; BLACK HAWK DOWN; SAVING PRIVATE RYAN; PEARL HARBOR; THIN RED LINE; PATRIOT GAMES; SPY GAMES; CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER; THE WIDOWMAKER; CRIMSON TIDE; I could go ON and on and on. What do all these have in common with each other and Sum Of All Fears? They all show white middle-aged men sitting around a table discussing what, when, where and why to use in attacking and blowing things up. It's all deeply rooted in psychology: these men simply either have or are worried they have very small organs...They feel the need to blow things up to prove their power and size. As the great comedian George Carlin points out: Even the rockets and the tankers are all shaped like d*&%s! This is the mentality of the U.S.: "What?? They have bigger d*&%s? Bomb them!" We have to prove we're special and always the right ones in every situation. All that aside, there's still something BADLY wrong with Sum Of All Fears. Laughably, horribly, OBVIOUSLY wrong: Somehow a huge nuclear bomb manages to blow through a football stadium, through a hospital - blowing away frat boy Ben's 'beauutiful' girlfriend, - through ALL of New York, and most people LIVE through it, including the girlfriend. She's up and running around assisting the "wounded". Please. They even show a MUSHROOM CLOUD. Same thing happened in Hiroshima: everyone not only died, they died so fast their shadows were imprinted on the wall across from them by the flames! So please don't try and tell me that they lived through that, especially when you as the filmmaker decide to even SHOW the bomb blow through the rooms of the people. I'm a little teeny bit smarter than that. And I think most other people are, too. But then again, most people don't care...they'd rather just watch a movie with frat boy Ben Affleck, and watch the white American men blow up anyone who tries to mess with them. Even if the Americans were just defending themselves in this film, which they were, it's still propoganda, as all those other films I listed above are. They perpetuate that mentality of "What?! They have bigger d*%&s?! Bomb them!" as George Carlin so eloquently observed. People, now more than ever, want to sit in a room and watch the fictional American government and militia triumph over a foreign nation - ANY foreign nation, it doesn't matter which to them, as long as "America wins." Because America is "always the winner." Not that I have anything against America. I'm American. And living in this country definitely is a great thing. But so is living in a whole lot of other countries. I don't use the fact that America has privileges to serve any kind of elitist, hierarchical mentality as so many others do. I don't hate anyone who wants to burn the flag any more than I hate the other one who wants to flaunt and wave it. I don't hate either, because they both have a right to express either viewpoint. Why? Because that's the true ideal of freedom. I just wish more people would realize that and stop this adolescent urge to wanna go "blow stuff up" to prove their "patriotism". It sickens me. And the last thing we need is more propoganda like this.
China Moon (1994)
Ah, film noir...
I've rented a few movies lately that have been alright but have failed to really catch my attention. This, however, was different. First of all, it's film noir, and you gotta love film noir. "Palmetto", "Body Heat", "Double Indemnity", "The Big Sleep". A good guy gets screwed by a beautiful temptress. Only, in "China Moon" it's different. I won't tell the ending or any details. But this was a very well executed film, very suspenseful. It doesn't follow any cliches and it always has new tricks and twists. Like a lot of film noir, this film features heat, wetness, the night, and cops. A lot of movies attempt film noir but don't always achieve its true spark. This film achieves it.
Interesting character piece
While this film has a plot, that isn't the focus. The characters matter here more than anything, for better or worse. While the characters are very developed in their motives, emotions, and otherwise, the story suffers somewhat from lack of attention, which instead is given almost completely to the characters. Again, this may be for the better or the worse, depending on what the filmmakers were going for. The theme of the film is that you should live each day as if it were your last. But the actual development of the story is almost voyeuristic in following an undecided and conflicted Gere around as he goes from wanting Sharon Stone to wanting Lolita Davidovich. He can't decide, and we watch him slowly wrestle with it. This isn't a film with a tight, driven story, but at the same time it's not one claiming to be. It studies three lives, and their slow growth. And Gere's slow development to the decision that was ultimately in him from the beginning. He realizes the truth and then everything shatters, as is what often happens in life. Interesting approach to filmmaking, interesting character piece. At the end I found myself much more involved than I thought.