Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Dramatics

Kathryn Bigelow directed "Fallen Heroes," the 2 hour sixth season finale of Homicide: Life on the Street in 1998. And while I was a fan of the series and had then not yet seen its early seasons (which are tremendous in quality) I was religiously watching and taping that season. "Fallen Heroes" is explosive for concluding vendettas that had gone back to earlier seasons involving the GEORGIA RAE character in a shootout with her nephew JUNIOR BUNK (Mekhi Phifer) where, in custody, in the homicide office of the Baltimore P.D., handcuffed, he manages to gain hold of a pistol, murdering and injuring several cops in a lengthy sequence. Or as I remember it, the scene where the young black gangster blows away a shitload of white cops.

Then there's The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). I love Kathryn Bigelow.

And I have a long standing theory that Homicide: Life on the Street influenced Lars von Trier to adopt his handheld documentary realism approach to everything from The Kingdom (1994) and Breaking the Waves (1996) to Dogme 95, which beginning in the late 90s would prove one of the biggest cinematic trends of the twentieth century. In the 2000s it's cult fanaticism died down some, but not for Kathryn Bigelow. With The Hurt Locker, she found collaborator Barry Ackroyd, B.S.C., who previously had honed the very same style of camerawork to perfection in United 93 (2006, Paul Greengrass).

Detroit (2017, Bigelow) is an historic agitprop riot-police brutality drama set in 1967. Barry Ackroyd's subjective handheld gritty camerawork paints canvases of rioting masses in night urban exteriors. Kathryn Bigelow contrasts a racist evil white cop helplessly giving into his violent impulses as he desperately tries to maintain justice in the middle of a huge riot with a Christian pious black Motown singer with an angelic voice and his friends being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This might all seem outrageous, but I'm a huge fan of the way it all goes down. The bulk of the first two acts comprise harrowing racism, police brutality, corruption, and rioting with large scale scenes of huge crowds interspersed with old bits of historical footage that is so convincing if you ask me I think it's all real, then segues into a nightmare claustrophobic raid at the Algiers motel.

Is there a riot genre in movies? Recently I got to enjoy the superb ESPN doc O.J.: Made in America (2016), which delves into the history the LAPD and 1965 Watts riots. And a lot of the same footage is used in the prologue of Menace II Society (1993, The Hughes Bros.), which sets the right tone for what follows in that movie. Remember in 1992 when Spike Lee and other celebrities were wearing Starter baseball caps that had a block all-caps arch font of the word LOOTERS? The rest is fuzzy, but after the 1992 L.A. riots the movie had to change its name to Trespass (1992, Walter Hill) and the movie also has nothing to do with riots. What a let down.

Detroit took me into the riot and left me there, with Bigelow's painterly eye and sense of textures utilizing tapestries of a decaying city. And the coda courtroom proceedings with loathsome Krasinski giving us something to hate pulled me out of my seat with outrage. Okay, I saw this coming but still, I became susceptible to my own anger over injustice. The cops. The courts. Anyway I guess the politically correct thing to say here is: even though this kind of situation may happen, it doesn't happen all the time.

What a beautifully complex series of questions to leave Detroit with. I feel like it's all really provocative and I wasn't let down.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Valérian and Laureline

As long as I've tried, I haven't ever liked any of Luc Besson's movies.

I am a huge fan of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999, George Lucas). Since, say, 1990 I'll say it's my favorite sci-fi fantasy movie and for the longest time I hated sci-fi and fantasy movies. But I wanted to broaden my tastes. The colorful imaginative alien worlds and species along with futuristic space ships and colonies finally became of particular interest to my artistic sensibilities. And The Phantom Menace is what led me to discover this latest personal cinematic obsession.

But key to appreciating The Phantom Menace is recognizing its inherent drawbacks as a giant budget VFX franchise entry (PG-13, positive values, kid-friendly) and being able to overlook them in favor of finding something you've never seen, and personally, some camp and space oddities that are fun in a shocking looking at a trainwreck at times kind of way. Still, since 1990 the only sci-fi movies I truly deeply love are the Star Wars prequel trilogy and The Matrix trilogy. But I love the look and feel of: Total Recall (1990, Paul Verhoeven), Starship Troopers (1997, Verhoeven), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001, Steven Spielberg), Minority Report (2002, Spielberg), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991, James Cameron), Avatar (2009, Cameron), Prometheus (2012, Ridley Scott), Alien: Covenant (2017, Scott) and John Carter (2001, Andrew Stanton).
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017, Luc Besson) is a big-budget sci-fi fantasy screwball comedy that rapidly jumps from all over several sequences in a quaintly comic serial manner. The best thing going for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is its art. It just feels like it delivers the promise of what I'd imagined and hoped to see based on my connotations of the term 70s French comic book. I'm very uninformed when it comes to comics, especially 70s comics or French comics; but names like Jean Giraud/Mœbius, Heavy Metal, H.R. Giger, and Frank Frazetta always draw my attention and leave me wanting to see more.

Similar to what I find to be The Phantom Menace's greatest strength (believably creating and populating another universe), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets offers 302,036 different species in Alpha (the space station where the title comes from). And this is the source of all the film's eye-popping imagery, along with the heaping assortment of inventive sequences. First, the beach utopia is so colorful and surreal in its depiction of the alien ecosystem; and the jumpcut to VALERIAN (Dane DeHaan) sunning as LAURELINE (Clara Delevingne) enters in a black bikini (we are introduced to her by way of a close-up of her ass before we even see her face) on their own beach establishes the correct genre tone taking us into the enjoyably unfamiliar. Cara Delevingne in black bikini with her bushy eyebrows and high ponytail is a total movie star.

Secondly, the Big Market sequence is one of the most jaw-dropping spectacles of sight and scale. (The narrative device that enhances this business is the set of goggles that setup the possibility of having this scene play out simultaneously cross-cutting from different dimensions.) And well there's also the benefit of Luc Besson's passion of dizzying heights when he creates his visual geographies. The scene where Valerian is hit by heavy metal ball bearings and sinks through a series of floors is awesome. And as much fun as Big Market is, Alpha is an even larger maze of chutes and ladders where Valerian at one point gets in a dogfight piloting his skyjet then later has to escape running through a wall that he breaks through into more assorted rooms, including an orchard, and an underwater civilization.

There's this one character the commander is speaking with who looks so amazing in his thick white plastic coat with clear red bubbles and purple blob body who only appears on screen for a few seconds but it's moments like this that make me feel the craft here is worth appreciating.

The Paradise Alley set piece rounds out the city of a thousand planets and introduces BUBBLE (Rihanna) in a cutting-edge music video really cool gimmick that allows her to effortlessly morph around the stripper pole from a cabaret Sally Bowles outfit to nurse to jump rope schoolgirl to 70s rollergirl to French maid. As Bubble, Rihanna channels Jake Lloyd as ANAKIN for her performance and I love it. The ham was needed. Like The Phantom Menace, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is camp. I mean come on, the entire plot centers around a rainbow kinkajou who shits pearls. But it's some of the best, most artistically adept, coolest camp around.

Oh yeah before I forget, normally I don't associate movies with political messages (ahem Avatar coughing), but, in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the good guys were attacked (6 million casualties) by a bad guy (a government commander who lied by telling everyone they had weapons of mass destruction) and I think it's all just a coincidence so why read anything into it. And I think there's a whole bunch of hints about gender diversity which of course I'm not saying is bad. Like, this might just be me, but while Clara Delevingne is strikingly high fashion sensationally cute and sexy, she is a lesbian from what I hear and I found absolutely zero chemistry between her and her male costar; nor do I buy the playlist maguffin. I look at Laureline as the smart one who puts up with douchebag Valerian and his sexual harassment only for the greater good of the universe. And Valerian has a woman trapped in his body the whole movie. Also all the aliens are like gender swapped, like the father who talks with a woman's voice. Progress evolves slowly.

I love Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Horrors Heroes and Youngandinnocentocide of WWII

I don't recommend movies. With the exception of The Spanish Prisoner (1997, David Mamet). For the last 20 years that's the one movie I recommend. Why? Maybe because first of all I don't expect most people to have heard of it. Secondly, it's a David Mamet sleeper plot about tech jargon that features the casting of Steve Martin in a dark, straight role. And third, the rest is better left without description.

For a while, when it first came out on home video, I recommended Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan) often, but its novelty has worn off long ago. I've wanted to but have yet come to appreciate any of Christopher Nolan's work. His movies are tedious and boring.

90s filmmakers are my contemporaries. For me the modern era of cinema is 1990--. That's my main focus. The 90s are my main passion. The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick), Che (2008, Steven Soderbergh), The Hurt Locker (2008, Kathryn Bigelow), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Bigelow) spoiled me. As of this writing, since 1990 no other movie has come close to qualifying as a great war movie. But I'm still looking. Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino) is amazing, but really it's such silly fun I kind of have to set it aside. Saving Private Ryan (1998, Steven Spielberg), Black Hawk Down (2001, Ridley Scott), Flags of Our Fathers (2006, Clint Eastwood), and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006, Eastwood) are cool. Miracle at St. Anna (2008, Spike Lee) sucks.

Dunkirk (2017, Nolan) in 70mm is a documentary realism World War II drama streamlined to 100 minutes of Hans Zimmer-scored first person any-minute-this-could-be-the-end patriotic nailbiter. Probably the best thing going for Dunkirk is its breathtaking technical craft using David Lean formalism by way of subjective POVs that place us right in the middle of imminent danger with the sense of scale and space uncomfortably close. I mean like that scene on the beach when the British troops hit the ground for cover and we see the plumes erupting spewing wet sand telling us that as this gets closer and closer it ends in death; yet, wait it comes closer than it normally would. And there is the death. Everywhere.

But my favorite thing about Dunkirk is its proficiency at telling a story through silence. And when I say silence I obviously mean every sound but dialogue. This is so uncommon nowadays. Also another thing nifty and great about Dunkirk is the illustrated key that tells us in the film's opening that 1. THE MOLE 1 Week, 2. THE SEA 1 Day, and 3. THE AIR 1 Hour sequences elapse at different lengths of time. So cool.

And well I am a total sucker for how cool the Tom Hardy dogfight Spitfire sequences are, or really even just anytime he and the other two Spitfire pilots are doing any kind of maneuvers--I used to love drawing fighter planes and playing with jet toys so much when I was a kid. And the shots from the cockpit benefit from a constricted POV that has the same limited field of vision as the pilots do.

Returning to the evocative depictions of horrific death: the climax of the attack on the Heinkel, the submerged destroyer, and the fuel engulfed waters burning and trapping the young soldiers in between burning or drowning, the surrounding perils in Dunkirk continuously shape together cohesively towards the final minutes. And at the end Hardy, Kenneth Branagh as a British Naval Commander, and Mark Rylance as a civilian with his own boat, combine to give this genre piece some pretty worthwhile performances. Yet at the end I also near my fill of British gentlemen at war high culture. It's so obnoxious. Evident most when the son of the Rylance character saves the British troop greeting him with: "Good Afternoon," in that stupid ha ha isn't it ironic that I'm being civilized at such a moment? kind of way.

So Dunkirk might be a great war movie. It certainly is one of the best pure cinema exercises in genre filmmaking. Cold? Sure. But that is another of its characteristics that fit it well.

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Toward a Total Theory of the Messenger Bag: Volume 3, the Israeli Paratrooper Bag

Years ago—12 or more—I had many special needs. I rode my bike everywhere, with a 12-mile round trip to work, regardless of Portland weather, and I didn't spend a lot of time at home outside of sleeping and (rarely) bathing. This all meant: I needed to carry layers, for rain, for stench and a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and rain off of my glasses; I needed to carry entertainment (reading material [Moorcock paperback?], music, my beloved pink handheld, maybe a DS, one or another notebook); I needed to carry bike locks; I needed enough storage space to pick up a sudden Gundam or Stikfa, or wedge in a thrifted Dreamcast; I needed somewhere to tuck my travel mug; at the end of my idiot nights, I often needed a six-pack of tallboys and a Totino's party pizza.

I had two bags at that point. One, my college LL Bean Turbo Transit backpack, big enough that I once lived out of it, travelling, for six weeks, magnificently ugly, but not strong against rain, and not convenient for getting into / out of without taking it off. Two, an early model Timbuk2 messenger bag, modified by its previous owner to use a length of seat belt material as its strap—a bag I adored, but found too big for some summer nights.

Thus it was that Tinzeroes and I betook ourselves to the local surplus store, where I first encountered an item listed as an "Israeli Paratrooper Bag". My first reaction: "Wow, evidently Israel's paratroopers need to do a lot of paperwork, because this bag is like 80% pen slots." My second reaction: "I really like this bag's look, feel, size."

Besotted with notions of kit-bashing and customization, and at a surplus store, I bought a couple strips of hook and loop fastener, a big buckle, and a length of wide, thick strapping. Once home, I grabbed a case of dental floss, my sewing kit, my pocket knife, and an X-acto blade from my model-building set.

I added the hook and loop to close the bag's flap more easily, and replaced the shoulder strap, sewing in as much strength as I could with floss. I added an attachment loop for a blinky bike light, and heat-sealed the straps where I'd cut them with my pocket knife, held over the stove's burner. The X-acto knife cut out one of the two main compartment's dividers, freeing up space and lightening the bag a bit (but I think it was mostly just doing something for the sake of doping something).

Even for summer use, it was never quite big enough. With anything at all in it, it was a little too full for much more than a six-pack, and even the most wadded-up hoody would more or less fill it. And since I hadn't tested where to put the velcro, if the bag was too full, I couldn't close it. Rainy season ruled the bag out entirely for outdoor use: the thick canvas wasn't waterproof, or even really colorfast.

But I loved it. The experience of customizing it had only taken an evening, but had bonded me to it as securely as the shoulder strap was bonded to the bag's side wall.

The size was too small (14" wide, 11" tall, main compartment 4" deep), but every force that constrains my overpacking is welcome. The material wasn't waterproof, but it didn't promote gross back sweat as badly as a plastic bag on longer summer rides. Plus, the canvas was strong without being stiff or rough, meaning that it didn't tear up things it came into contact with (sweaters, for example) or wear through where it creased, with the exception of this one spot, after substantially longer than a decade.

The organization options weren't incredibly robust, but the flat pocket at the back wall was always a good spot for a U-lock, and the front pouch pocket always seemed to accommodate more than I'd expect. And a big empty main compartment is a must no matter what your needs are.

I still have the bag! I throw it in a larger bag sometimes if I'm flying somewhere I expect to be walking around a lot. It's also good for those late-night "need beer" rides. Most of my special needs from circa 2004 are no longer, but a good bag is a good bag. This is a good bag.

Previous entries:

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Fat's HEAVY TUNES of the Year 2016

Introductionalizing Maunderings

Just in time for the year to be more than half over, it's the latest installment of of my yearly roundup of HEAVY TUNES. (Sorry so late: right when I would normally have typed this up, I broke my hand. As my hand was healing, I changed jobs. Enough excuses.)

If I'm honest, the song of the year was a toss-up between Roundabout and Starship Trooper. I spent a lot of time this year defaulting to Pandora and that meant I spent a lot of time this year defaulting to the "Classic Prog Radio" station I thought was a joke at first. Anyway, I spent the bulk of my year humming to myself IN AND AROUND THE LAKE (bawmp bawnp bawmp baaawmp) MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY -- AND THEY STAND THERE! (I spent roughly an equal amount of time doing grooving chair-dances to the "Wurm" section of Starship Trooper. It's a very groovy section.)

Also worth noting is that I listen to a LOT of podcasts. More accurately, I listen a lot to a couple podcasts, meaning that I have heard the theme songs to The Flop House and The Best Show more times the last few years than I've heard probably any other songs over that time.

Also powerful that I would otherwise have forgotten: Dio. Also also: Diamonds and Rust. Also also also: Patti Smith doing Bob Dylan (and then writing about it.)

That's what was clear from looking back at the year from here in the middle of December (when I drafted this). Also clear: I listened to very, very, very little new music in 2016.

The Awards

Newer-music highlight was absolutely the four-song set Andrew Cashen and Sabrina Ellis played on The Best Show, introducing me to the undisputed Song of the Summer 2016: "Too Much Makeup". I mentioned this amazing set once before, and hinted at their songs' power elsewhere and I recommend you check it out.

The Album of the Year was, of course, Emma Ruth Rundle's excellent Marked for Death.

The Song of the Year 2016 came from previous HEAVY TUNES of the Year provider B.D.s, who you may remember as the Bad Daddies. Their demo was brilliant: Camille's vocals were more scathing than ever, also prettier; Matt's guitar was noisier and racketyier than ever, also also prettier. And nothing they did on their demo was better than "How Do You Like Your Coffee"—great melodies, huge fuzz, tumbling anarchs of pure noise.

The Year

Crucially, 2016 began with and was saturated by a great deal of David Bowie. I never really got to Blackstar; The Next Day, somehow, made incredible sense all year long, though it was often too intense for me to turn to often. Yet another reason to think Spotify sucks: The Next Day ain't on there.

Other than Bowie, most of my year was older stuff I've talked about before: Windhand, Okkervil River, Future of the Left. Records I really enjoyed this year that I hadn't really before included Richard / Linda Thompson's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Anthrax, Spreading the Disease, and Vince Staples, particularly Summertime '06 and Prima Donna.

Nobody gave me anything free this year.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Hail, Caesar!

What could top the high concept of a planet where apes talk and subjugate humans as their slaves?

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017, Matt Reeves) is a sci-fi big budget vfx ape opera that opens as a road movie about wandering exiles then establishes itself as a The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, David Lean) war camp drama concerning a wall, with prisoner CAESAR (Andy Serkis) up against Woody Harrelson as a mad COL. MCCULLOUGH who comes straight out of Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Coppola).

What I came for is delivered as the film begins. Large scale battle raids and heavy doses of melodrama punctuated with tenderness and empathy as Caesar leads his people and his family towards a peaceful home. The lush sentimental orchestral arrangements take me back to Hollywood's golden age and I'm continuously impressed by how they get to my emotions. And the opening battle scenes are breathtaking and executed with a fluid precision that takes full advantage of unexpected angles and dynamic imagining of relating spaces to each other that looks like something out of a manga or graphic novel.

The tone of War for Planet of the Apes is darker, for instance when Caesar passes through a field of crucified apes. And after that we're into the whole Ape-pocalypse now territory and much has been done to craft a believable world where this is the apocalypse. The themes of self-sacrifice are intact but it's never clean and easy for Caesar. And although sometimes the screenplay might exceed the limits of good taste with its archetypes--like McCullough sacrificing his only son so humans could survive--the second half of War for the Planet of the Apes is far from stale, to say nothing of how moved I was by its ending.

So my watery eyes were no match for Michael Giacchino's score at the end when MAURICE is talking about Caesar's legacy. Holy shit. I couldn't find out what the piece was called but I swear it's "Past Their Primates," a track from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014, Reeves).

Except there's one last thing. I guess this is weird to end on but oh well, the scene where the ape POW keeps throwing his own shit at that human guard got me laughing hard. Well done.

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Great Urinals of the Pacific Northwest

This is two rows of four urinals facing each other over a chest-height divider wall. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017


So far Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures has released:

  • Lawless (2012, John Hilcoat)
  • The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson)
  • Killing Them Softly (2012, Andrew Dominik)
  • Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Kathryn Bigelow)
  • Spring Breakers (2013, Harmony Korine)
  • The Grandmaster (2013, Wong Kar-wai)
  • Her (2013, Spike Jonze)
  • American Hustle (2013, David O. Russell
  • Foxcatcher (2014, Bennett Miller)
  • Joy (2015, Russell)
  • Everybody Wants Some!! (2016, Richard Linklater)
  • Wiener-Dog (2016, Todd Solondz)
  • Sausage Party (2016, Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan)
  • 20th Century Women (2016, Mike Mills)

The Bad Batch (2016, Ana Lily Amirpour) is an acid western romance starring Brit fashion model Suki Waterhouse as ARLEN, a newcomer to a TX wasteland for exiled nonfunctioning members of society. There she meets tatted-up brute MIAMI MAN (Jason Momoa) and his kid HONEY while they all wander along making their best efforts to survive.

The Bad Batch opens with art direction that feels like the music video for "Telephone," by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé (2009, Jonas Åkerlund), with its sexually ambiguous bodybuilders, B-movie genre exploitation, urban street fashions, and pop dance music. There are a few graphic sequences that go a long way establishing tone. First, Arlen waking up bound in a cannibal camp. With only a few of the dozens of close up shots of Suki Waterhouse's crotch and "All That She Wants," by Ace of Base in the background playing, the cult midnight movie exploitation is dispatched post haste. Soon after the orientation into this locale the narrative carries us right into a yard of weightlifters set to Die Antwoord.

This movie is also a road movie about Arlen's path. And it's not really important where she's going because she's still trying to find out. Suki Waterhouse commands the screen excellently. But the strength of The Bad Batch relies on its setting. Amirpour's ability to turn heads with this taboo shock mix of porno mags and cannibalism flesh-is-king aesthetic, set in a dystopian inferno where we as audience are unable to guess where she's taking us, and her realization of this small stake of Texas land are the meat we actually chew on.

The plot may seem sparse, but The Bad Batch is definitely the product of intellectual artistic conceptualism. It ponders how close we as a contemporary society are to returning to the Dark Ages and what that might look like. And, well, everything comes across as an artfully evoked creative foray into this visually satisfying sexy shocking shithole of American society.

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Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Virgin Homicides

I've been seriously obsessed with Marie Antoinette (2006, Sofia Coppola) for a couple of years now, after picking up a French forced-subtitled Blu-ray at a record store. For years after that movie had come out I thought I'd never have any interest in it. But somehow I opened up to it and the music finally expressed so much that I'd become intoxicated with emotion.

I'm still hooked on Marie Antoionette's scenes with 80s new wave from the opening Devo, to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bow Wow Wow, and especially New Order (I actually got into a New Order phase in '06 because of the Marie Antoinette trailer). That movie is constructed with nothing but emotion.

There is no music in The Beguiled (2017, Coppola). There is no color. In Civil War Virginia amid light bird chirping and not too distant mortar blasts, located in the woods, Miss Farnsworth's Seminary for Young Ladies is where the tautly paced Southern Gothic chamber drama The Beguiled occurs.

CORPORAL JOHN MCBURNEY (Colin Farrell) spends the first hour sharing the best of times with the little women. As McBurney's time is about to run out, it's time for him to decide if he's going to fuck Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, or Elle Fanning. The Beguiled is like The Three Little Pigs with McBurney poised to decide if he'll choose the older refined beauty who has shared a brandy with him one night; or, the romantic young woman whom he's connected with emotionally; or, the teen Baby Doll who's snuck away to come and made out with him one night and doesn't talk much.

The night all the ladies dress up and serve apple pie after dinner, with the fever pitch wanton allure of the 3 little women too impossible to resist, McBurney goes to bed with...

The last 25 minutes are an entirely different world. What has changed? Sex. The Beguiled is about how this isolated community of women are able to function before McBurney, and with him up until one of them has sex with him. And they will function after he is gone. That's the best part of the ending, it's like a reverse denouement.

Framed at 1.66 on 35mm with mostly static shots, The Beguiled is a classic Hollywood prestige costume picture with stars, full of sex, violence, and scintillating pulpy drama. Coppola's blond girl cult in the forest aesthetic proves one of her most charming longest-lasting strengths. And The Beguiled succeeds as one of Coppola's best experiments with art in film.

Kidman's MARTHA in black and white blouses and accents is so cool, and really so much in The Beguiled is intensely evoked without words. Like the moment Martha gives McBurney the spongebath and there's that 70s Warhol porn torso insert. Dunst as EDWINA when she has that private breakdown collapsing horny against the wall is bold. Elle's ALICIA is so awesome in the scene where she pops in and out of McBurney's bedroom with that curtsy Coppola inline-cuts to as she exits. But really all three of the lead actresses do so much and bring so much to The Beguiled.

Maybe it's cause this is my kind of subject matter. Maybe it's because it's a woman's picture. Maybe it's because I love Sofia Coppola. But The Beguiled may be the most satisfying Hollywood movie I've seen so far 2017.

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Friday, July 07, 2017

The New New Hollywood

I've been seriously obsessed with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010, Edgar Wright) ever since it first hit theaters. I've been having to wait a while for a follow up.

Edgar Wright is like 70s Spielberg meets 80s Simpson-Bruckheimer with a comedic streak of self reflexiveness entrenched in 90s sitcom wit.

Baby Driver (2017, Edgar Wright) is a zippy heist/car chase movie with a cooly protagonist. The pacing is quick and light. The narrative never stalls. The cast are few. The plot is simple. And it's all done cleverly, effectively, with continuously refreshing results.

In Baby Driver the rare occurrence of a colorful fast-food advertisement slick plastic cartoon kid-friendly depiction of the criminal underworld is on display. Remember Sugar & Spice (2001, Francine McDougall)? Why aren't there more of these? This movie feels rated G.

First and Foremost Baby Driver is an action movie. And the code among these criminals is as dangerous as that found in any 80s R-rated gritty guy movie. I almost thought BABY (Ansel Elgort) was smug, but he's cool I actually really like him. The great thing about the cast because this is a heist movie is that the principals are all bad guys even though each has their likeable qualities--except BATS (Jamie Foxx). Bats is the only real bad guy, because he has no love in him.

Yeah while the best part of Baby Driver is the car chases, it's still mega-syrupy sugary sweet greeting card sentimental at its core. But there has to be a place for the best smartest crime doesn't pay Hollywood action movies yet. And as much as I fell in love with the romance and family drama shit in Baby Driver, I kind of wonder could there have been more car chases? There's really like 2 and a half car chases spread out through the movie. And I worry that the opening "Bellbottoms" sequence is the strongest part of the movie. Oh shit the energy, the momentum, the adrenaline from the beginning of the song--the drifting, throwing the E-brake, faking, swerving wow. Also I love how Baby actually runs into stuff while he drives.

After the "Bellbottoms" sequence the funnest parts were the times during the massacre of the Butcher's crew at the farmer's market when the gun blasts are composed in synch with "Tequila," and the similar device used in the final shootout with DARLING (Eiza González). This type of kinetic visual and aural vocabulary is what's most rewarding about Edgar Wright's work.

I love Eiza. She's so beautiful and does so much little quirky charming sexy gesturing through mannerisms throughout Baby Driver. I've always loved to watch her. Eiza and Hamm are sympathetic cute as the cokehead robbers too. Jamie Foxx is terrifying. But I still laugh when Foxx does the Austin Powers voice. So I buy this criminal underworld and it's a cool one. Just the perfect pitch of Hollywood artifice and stunning craftsmanship.

But I'll close with what to me was the most characteristically Edgar Wright moment in the movie: when DOC (Kevin Spacey) is briefing his crew and reveals, "I just drew a whole goddamn map in chalk while we've been standing here squawking. That's pretty impressive, isn't it?"

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