Saturday, March 31, 2012

Great Characters: Sarah Pierce

Anxiety pushes us to do unpredictable things. But even moreso are the people it pushes to do things outside of their everyday, rigid schedule. In the case of Sarah Pierce, the longing for a life outside of the one in which she is trapped with a man who cruises porno sites. She is both excruciatingly alive and encaged. The 'hunger for an alternative' only takes her so far until it causes small but distinct disruptions in the lives of another couple, Brad & Kathy. If not for this, the mere fact of her rebellion against a life of unhappiness is what places her as a great character. Or as she would put it, Sarah Pierce was one who chose to struggle.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Top 100 #28: Inland Empire

It isn't anything new that the films of this particular auteur have been described as "dreamlike". What is so ironic is that the films of Lynch consciously try to wake us up. They're not ones where Joe Moviegoer would go to see to pass the time. They are not the kind of art films you would expect but they are very commercial either. These films occupy an entirely different territory. His best work doesn't really have much of a point (as in a traditional narrative) to them. Thus resisting interpretation and analysis from countless faux hip snobs and critics. Lynch's works also tend to avoid the trap of irony. The restrictions he puts on his characters means they are not to analyze anything. This lack of irony is the sword on which cineastes who dislike his work fall on. Which is another reason (of many) why I dig his catalog so much.

Lynch is more concerned about mood. In fact, open any youtube interview and chances are you'll hear him discussing mood. If Inland Empire is any indication of this, then it is his most accomplished and fully realized vision in that regard since Eraserhead. All the hallmarks are present. The fascination with electricity and lights, The textures of the haggard face of Dern as she limbers down Sunset Boulevard. The sound design and colors used throughout the picture. It all comes together in a stream of consciousness type of writing. This is coming from a director who was working without a script.

If there's one thing that rings true about most of his works, you don't feel like you're entering into an unconscious contract like you do with other films. This is why his premiere work, Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire, have effects that are often emotional and nightmarish. In fact, I would go on record to say that Lynch's tone in his films has influenced more than any other living director. Including Quentin. As David Foster Wallace posits in an essay on Lynch "Quentin Tarantino is interested in watching somebody's ear get cut off. David Lynch is interested in the ear." & while I enjoy being stuck in the middle of Marvin, Mr. Blonde and Stealer's Wheel, I still find that Jeffrey Beaumont's Norman Rockwell-esque strange world of Lumberton to be more fascinating.

That's not to say his ouevre is entirely even. We've seen faults in the second season of Twin Peaks just as much as the entire production of Dune. But when he is on his A game, his visions tend to be at their sickest (or creepiest) and tend to derive emotional power making us complicit in their sickness. Laura Dern's collapsing dream presents to us a number of nightmarish visions from which are culled from Lynch's mind.

Nonlinear films for the most part reject the idea of individual characterization. What is so frightening about Inland Empire is that Dern's portrayal of Bobby Sue allows us to empathize with her plight. It's scary to see distrubing images up on a movie screen. It's absolutely terrifying to see them happening to a character that comes off as distubingly personal. You're not safe in the hands of this man who is at the helm of this surrealist nightmare.

Lynch has always used an idea and worked it out to its fullest detail and to its most uncomfortabler consequences. It seems to be a trend amongst some people who like their art to be neat, tidy and morally comfortable. The films of David Lynch are ones that force us to face truths about human nature against evil. The exploration of human beings' relationships to evil are unflinchingly honest and stand as testament to the persona of Lynch himself.

In that regard, Eraserhead and Inland Empire stand as the best examples of that.

Top Ten Breaking Bad Moments

Each weekend I'll give you one of my ten favorite moments on the show.!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Now's the time!

One of the ironies of the New Hollywood movement of the 70's was that as Coppola, Bogdonavich, Scorsese, Friedkin and DePalma were all rebelling against the system, they simultaneously reinvigorated it.

Out of all the New Hollywood directors, the one that gained true independence from it all to make his films on his own terms, George Lucas, also ended up directing his 'artistic freedom' on the films that made him. Those films being the beloved Star Wars saga. Coppola bankrupted his Zoetrope studio, Friedkin's Sorcerer would bomb, Bogdonavich would fade into a footnote and become known as 'the man who directed Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and some other stuff'.

Then there's Mr. Scorsese. With the 1-2-3 punch of Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore & Taxi Driver, the gangster and the priest inside him felt a little immune to failure. When New York, New York ended up getting a lukewarm reception it devastated him. With all the coke he had done along with him blacking out and winding up in a hospital, his decision to tackle Raging Bull came through.

Anyone who says a director is only as good as their last film is full of shit. There's just too many cases in which a veteran director has that lull in creativity only to strike back with fierce and fiery vengeance. How does one explain The Player & Short Cuts after the likes of Popeye? This is just as apt with Scorsese. The disappointment of New York New York could actually be considered a good thing for his career. In the long term of course. When '84 rolled around and the financial dropoff of his movie King of Comedy combined with the studio's unwillingness to give him his passion project Last Temptation of Christ, he just said "Fuck It!". So out comes After Hours.

Out of the New Hollywood 'brat pack' he was the one who landed on his feet. What makes him stand out among his colleagues it that sis work post- After Hours not only matched what he did in the 70's, in many ways it surpasses it in aesthetic variety and uncompromising excellence.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And then there was...MASH

Making a great debut film is something every young filmmaker aspires to. Thinking you're going to churn out something monumentally profound will only give you a headache and a blank piece of paper. Or blank word document if that's your preferred method.

Nobody remembers Finian's Rainbow or Who's That Knocking but they do remember The Godfather and Mean Streets. These films were not the first films these directors completed, but the ones people consider being their first real film as an artist. For Robert Altman, MASH was just that. The one people point to as being the first Altman film. Right off the bat, the overlapping dialogue is present. Along with that, the improvisation and slow zoom lens effect.

It's Korean War setting is something forced upon the director by the studio. Which is telling enough. This film plays a lot more as a contemporary war satire. Given that its doctors we are dealing with as opposed to soldiers, it makes the sense of irony and dark wit something to be cherished. From the pun-infused lyrics 'Suicide is painless', right down to the parody of DaVinci's Last Supper.

The film hit at just the right moment. After Hopper gave us two hippies searching for America, Altman gave us a bunch of surgeons relaying two army officials having sex over the loud speaker. Who could resist?

Known for being a quick shooter, Altman's style would soon clash with Warren Beatty's methods on McCabe and Mrs Miller. A film notoriously known for it's post production sound flaws. Nashville would come four movies later.