30 January 2009

reasons and reasoning

as anyone who monitors my cinematic viewing patterns by perusing the the dear diary section directly to the left already knows, i have recently and very unintentionally completed a weeks worth of film spectatorship that contained three films that dealt with various themes of race relations. at this point i will concede that the discussion henceforth will not deal with my own thoughts on the issue, but instead with how well, or in instances not too well, clint eastwood's gran torino, tom mccarthy's the visior, and alan clarke's made in britain present their somewhat pre-structuralized takes on the issue.

in addition to serving as the endcap to this threesome, my viewing of made in britain also served as my introduction to the supposedly realist world of english resident genius filmmaker alan clarke. as one of a series of clarke films that deal with the structural failings of the conformity seeking mentality of the english educational system, the film started off well enough as clarke used his camera to calmly record, without much in the way of emotional hystrionics or pyrotechnics, a young tim roth's maniacal rampage against society. i begin to fall in love with the long tracking shots that casually observe the goings on with an almost bemused view of the anarchist rebellion on display and i convince myself that i am truly watching a master of the kitchen sink realism as clarke is allowing me to calmly observe while allowing me to reserve judgment for a later time, if not suspending it altogether. but then clarke does something that seems a bit out of character for the aesthetic that he has previously built. just as the film reaches the crux of it's issue, and finds itself at a point where it can finally provide some clarification on tim roth's seemingly unprovoked rebellion against society, it really seems to chicken out, allowing roth's character to babble incoherently and unconvincingly about the supposed fall of england being somehow tied to the influx of various non-native cultures. it is at this point that i am unsure whether clarke is making some blanket statement about racism being a crutch of the unenlightened or if he is just rendering his character as completely idiotic, therefore taking the stance that the rebellion has no idea what is even causing it to rebel. for argument's sake i will choose the latter, because it will allow me the room to compare clarke's ideology with that of the establishment educational system that he seems to distrust. when clarke hangs roth out to dry in that interogation scene, he essentially makes the point that these kids have no choice but to rebel because they aren't bright enough to see the systems at work that keep them in place, for only smart guys like alan clarke(or the english government) can do that. so they misplace their hate in petty things like racism until hopefully one day they see a slice of alan clarke's realism on the telly and realize the bullshit system in place and make a change. nope. clarke dips his otherwise aesthetically appealing film into the realm of smug intellectual finger pointing and therefore renders his "realism" as both artless and uninspired and he fails to reach the standards that accompany his premature annointment among the greats of british realism like leigh and loach. nice try alan, but next time save the political meanderings and intellectual superiority complex and just stick with the facts.

similar in smug intellectual approach is tom mccarthy's lackluster follow up to his heartfelt, emotionally complex station agent, the visitor. where in the station agent the battles toward forging a friendship and emotional connection are hard fought, the ones in the visitor are often times too easy. it's like, so let me get this straight, a cold, lonely, grieving, introspective prig of a professor comes back to his long abandoned old apartment in the city and finds two illegal immigrants have taken up residence and two seconds after everyone calms down from the all too quick emotional outbursts, this prig instantly becomes a neo-hippie, socialist who starts a commune for illegal immigrants in his apartment and sits around in his underwear playing in drum circles. really? that fast? shit doesn't change like that in two seconds. nerdy economists don't just adopt new personalities and become extroverted immigration law challengers over night because a few things happen to them or they witness some shit. it takes time to develop a new voice like that. it takes fighting and biting and piss and vigor. it's hardfought, like the station agent. and it's this lack of understanding of simple concepts of human personality that essentially negates mccarthy's right headed, sense of understanding between cultures as merely pre-programmed liberal agenda. this is a lite version of a film for the new yorker reading set who like to feel that they only have time for "important" films. i can't believe that the generally amiable and spot on richard jenkins pulled an oscar nom for a softball lobbing, walk in the park role like this one.

and that clint eastwood didn't for his badass turn as walt kowalski in gran torino. to be honest, i have never been a big fan of eastwood as a director, but i do love this film because it ascends to seemingly higher plane of human understanding than his usual turns at revisionist demythologising. while eastwood still relies on some tropes of genre to deconstruct the very essence of the "macho" myth of male behavior, i find that this time around eastwood id finding a bit of beauty in the gray area between violent reaction and a more peaceful resistance. whereas the eastwood demystification machine has previously stuck to the credo that violence, especially the unwarranted variety, only leads to more violence, and there is that message in this film too, this time he seems to revel in it. he seems to goad the audience into wanting an outlaw josey wales type response where clint goes in and mows down everyone. we want the violence and when we get the more intellectual resolution we are not entirely pleased or displeased. and the endpiece is more effective because of it. clint wins again with his level headed, anti-dirty harry, anti-"shoot first" mentality. but this time he does so in a way that doesn't condemn the violent reactions and responses in anyone. in clint's "shade of grey" world racists, who behave as such with a certain amount of dignity and reasoning, can be good people. people who lend a hand one minute can be bad news the next. things and minds are fluid, everchanging things, yet the essentials will always ring true. good people will find other good people even if they have to climb through all sorts of bullshit to do it. that and the mind is a better problem solver than the fists. good lessons, indeed.

21 January 2009

is wayne brady gonna have to choke a bitch?

as many of my people already know, i have become increasingly disappointed with our 44th president lately as he continues to eschew the "change" that we were promised and instead just plugs various members from the clinton administration into his cabinent. ram emmanuel? cool dude, but not change. hillary? she said it best when she said, "now that's change you can xerox!"

i suppose i am sad because i feel that, with a support camp that rival's the number of tila tequilla's friends on myspace, he could have made much more interesting and possibly better selections. that's where i come in.

so to right the wrongs of my man barry, i present to you...the dream cabinent.

secretary of the treasury: oprah winfrey. because that bitch practically prints money already. shit, oprah could buy up all the sub primes by herself and save this ship from having to bail water. as an added bonus, you know at some point there would be a photo op that would produce a picture of oprah standing next to alan greenspan...i'm practically designing the frame for it as i type.

surgeon general: dr phil. hell i don't even know if he's a real doctor, but really what the fuck does the surgeon general do anyway besides pimp out medic alert bracelets to the elderly on the tv like my guy c. everett koop. dr. phil could do that...and with a twangy drawl no less.

white house press secretary: steven spielberg. because that fuck can turn any old garbage into gold. i mean, did you see a.i.? yeah, me too unfortunately. but tis the genius of old steven, his name alone pretty much insures that we as an audience will swallow garbage and then say it's ok.

the secretary of defense: denzel washington. because when denzel gets agitated behind the podium and starts banging his fist, people listen. i dream of his "by any means necessary" speech where he states that we didn't land on 9/11, 9/11 landed on us, right before he lays waste to the desert with the nuclear holocaust. king kong indeed. (if denzel doesn't want to do it, wayne brady could also substitute)

and finally secretary of state: tony dungy. because for one, he ain't got no job. and two, if obama truly is the second coming of jim caveziel, then he's gonna need to bring along some disciples. and there is no better place to start than with saint dungy, the patron saint of one and done. i mean, everybody loves this guy, right? i think it's his muppet voice that sounds like a cross between a young kermit and an old yoda. fresh and wise simultaneously.

as for the other positions, mr. obama can handle those. although i do implore him to keep condoleeza rice around because condi is kinda foxy in an all-powerful, gap toothed sort of way.

14 January 2009

an essay in the mold of la ronde(with apologies to max ophuls)

once upon a time, long before the director known as eyebrows was awarded a "lifetime achievement" oscar for his incredibly cheesy film the departed, i remember sitting in a film class the day after eminem was awarded one for his song from his movie when out of nowhere, in the middle of his lecture, venerable professor dennis bingham blurts out, "i can't believe i live in a world where eminem has an oscar and martin scorsese doesn't." it kinda reminds me of kate winslet, who, if she doesn't get her lifetime achievement oscar for essentially playing the same characters she always plays, will probably have to resort to offing herself to join the likes of another probable oscar winner because i couldn't possibly live in a world where heath ledger has an oscar and kate winslet doesn't, right? but, who cares? she got two globes, so at least one of them has to carry through to oscar night, right? the oscars, who needs em?

kudos to the golden globes for giving one to sally hawkins. happy go lucky is one of my favorite films of the year and she is wonderful in it as a girl who very much knows the occasional darkness of humanity and still chooses to almost cast herself as an ever cheerful, do-gooder dingbat in the mold of the great comedienes of the past like gracie allen or judy holiday. mike leigh has fashioned another complex tale around a character who knowingly play other characters within the lives of the people they portray as if he understands that human beings are constantly choosing what roles to take on in social acting classes everyday. sally hawkins, as poppy, seems like someone one could possibly come across in real life, as opposed to the shattered messes who wear their constantly changing emotions all over their "actor's visage" like the two aformentioned likely oscar winners.

and speaking of real life, i recently watched the lovely little film dan in real life. and while it is does not exactly portray what i would call "real life," i did enjoy it because any movie where anybody, in this case steve carell, steals a girl from dane cook(especially when dane cook is their brother) is a.o.k. with me despite its failed claims at some sort of realism. i am, however, completely sold on the idea of having sondre lerche music ambiently play over all the poignant moments in my life. we gotta make that a reality.

real. like this jam(please read on afterward)

that video goes a long way in proving the idea that as long as their are featured artist slots open in the realm of hip hop, no artist, no matter how played out or irrelevant, is ever truly career dead. except hammer. and vanilla ice, but i said rappers. congrats andre 3000 for momentarily forgetting your rampant uncle tom-ism and stylistic posturing formula and hopping on board a good jam. i didn't know you still had it in you.

speaking of formula, laurent firode's film happenstance totally rips off the structure of max ophul's luscious film la ronde, but completely forgets to tap into an ounce of ophul's abuntant visual poetry. and as i sit back and ponder it now, i think of la ronde and how good that movie is(simone signoret...yum) and even attempting to copy it seems quite sadistic, if not downright satanic.

and speaking of satan, this is for everyone, who like myself, thinks that michael mcdonald is the devil(please read on afterwards)

i have to admit, i learned of that killer video from bill simmons, the sports guy at espn.com. it was a link in one of his mailbag columns from a few weeks ago. we here at beer cannes whole heartedly suggest that once you are done reading this, that you head on over to espn.com and check him out if you don't already do so. karate kid and teen wolf references mixed with nba talk make for some interesting columns that explode from the chemical combination of sports, pop culture and humor. his mail bags responses are the best. go read his old shit.

and speaking of old shit, how about rachel getting married resurfacing at landmark? what's up with that, frost/nixon? jcvd? nope, you get rachel getting married! again.

is it sad that when i read that it was returning, i immediately thought that it would make topical the blog about it that i have been wanting to unleash for some time now? i guess no more sad than the fact that it's wednesday and i still haven't typed it up. that sucks too, because it is pretty good as it borrows, from an incredible book called flickers by gilbert adair, this fantastic argument about modernism and how antonioni and hitchcock fell on different sides of it and then discusses that argument in terms of rachel getting married and its modernist aspirations. i hope i get around to writing it soon, but i wouldn't hold my breath if i were you. as i sit here holding mine in anticipation of the wrestler, i just can't be bothered with old shit right now.

except for this old shit, reimagined...

beer cannes highly recommends checking out flickers. even as a personal, investigative chronicle of the first hundred years of cinema, it remains a relatively light, easy read. it is easy and fun, much like the book i am reading now, acting male by dennis bingham. i have only gotten through the quite long, twenty page introduction, but i am already sure of its status among all those things that we consider as "winners."

in his introduction, bingham writes of the acting style of jack nicholson, that he was a "post-modern actor" constantly taking on roles as people who spent a great deal of their time playing roles in public, not their "true selves"(whatever that is). and that he garnered much of his cultural cache as a great actor by essentially being the actor who was "cool enough" to pull off such character within a character mechanisms. this playing of a character which knowingly "wears a social mask" reminds me of sally hawkins as poppy in happy-go-lucky, which is anothe cool performance.

and with that, anton wolbrook says, the carousel has come full circle(and then some) and the ride is over. please dismount thine steed and exit to your left. thanks for stopping by.

08 January 2009

the beer cannes hall of awesomeness

some may recall bolo yeung as the neck breaking baddie from such martial arts faire as enter the dragon and various jean claude van damme films. but we here at the b.c. feel that bolo's main claim to fame lies in the huge boulders that he carries around on his chest. big boob bolo, or b3 if you will, was the type of dude that didn't take no shit from anyone. witness the primal death scream released on ray jackson in the uber-classic bloodsport. as my bro zach said the other day, it is primal in a way that suggests "sexual release." but i think that he might just be lactating. pretty fucking badass, but not heartless.

no, despite his murderous rage, one really can't call bolo heartless. in fact, it's more like heart-loss, as his heart is probably just hidden beneath those huge fucking pectoral muscles. i mean really, has anyone else ever seen an asian built like that? it's like he has been on horse steroids since the age of five. huge boobs. i am udderly impressed.

so with that in mind, beer cannes makes its innaugural entry into the beer cannes hall of fame...erm awesomeness, and we salute the work of big boob bolo yeung: professional badass. so to the only man to have a style of necktie named after him i say, welcome to the hall, bolo.

i wanna see jcvd

05 January 2009

a case against milk

on the promotional poster for the new film milk, there is a statement (from the director of good will hunting) that i find particularly instructive when viewing and subsequently reviewing the film. with this one statement, the producers seem to be implying that the last decade or so, one of the most creative periods of output by any film director ever by the way, never actually happened. and while i find it insulting to forget films like paranoid park, elephant, and gerry, i think overall this might be a useful tool in breaking down the reasonings behind my lukewarm reaction to gus van sant's latest work, as this is by far the most commercial (i.e. linear, straightforward narrative) product that van sant has put forth in a long time.

the film begins with harvey milk offering up his story into a microphone as if conducting a self interview. this vehichle will serve as a framing device throughout the narrative, bookending the film and occasionally popping up in the middle to over-emphasize parts that don't really need any additional emphasis. this rather traditional narrative structure, which would seem completely out of place in recent van sant work, fits right in with a film from the "director of good will hunting." i think of the journal in paranoid park, which serves as the narrator in that film, and how it mesmerised the audience with it's seeming inability to get to the point, to the crux of the matter. with it, the film became not necessarilly suspenseful, but more questioning, more probing, as if the viewer were being taken further and further down to the film's/event's emotional core. in this film there is no real searching for the heart of the matter, as its complete lack of subtlety takes hold frame one and doesn't really allow for any self discovery. we know from word one that milk is fighting for an issue of great imporatance, an issue that the film seems more than happy to make him a figurehead of.

in the role of harvey milk, sean penn physically resembles a grocery bag attempting to keep a nuclear bombs worth of kinetic energy bottled up. this is probably due to his uncontained excitement at the prospect of another oscar nomination, but for argument's sake we will contend that this energy comes from a man that can be bound up no longer. and that is all well and good, if the film made me think for at least one minute that harvey milk was the type of guy that could ever be bound up like that. unfortunately the film does not, as it seems to rest on this idea of harvey milk, not necessarily being a character, or a man, but as a representation of a much larger thing.(in this case the gay rights movement) ultimately, i left the theater with not so much of an understanding of milk the man, but with an understanding that milk was representative of an important cause.

i think that is because the film doesn't allow harvey milk to transcend his gayness and develop into an individual who has much more to offer than just that. i mean seriously, is it too much to ask that this man be given one character trait that doesn't involve his homosexuality. and no the interspersed title cards that told me what milk stood for(seniors, education) are not the types of character shading i was looking for as they merely seem to be trying to pile stuff on to a one dimensional character.

it is funny, but on the ride home from the film, i started daydreaming about van sant making a film about the one interesting character, supervisor dan white. i thought about how incredible a film structured like paranoid park with white as the film's center would be. how his journal reading as narration would create an enormously arresting picture of a man that van sant already tends to shade as a closet case. now that would be a worm hole worth going into, as i feel that white, played brilliantly by josh brolin, was the only character allowed any sort of greater emotional depth in milk. that, and as a confused, conflicted, possible homosexual, i feel he would have fit right in with other latter day van sant protagonists, about whom more interesting fare than milk centered around.

but unfortunately for me, milk isn't really a "gus van sant film," but rather a film by the "director of good will hunting." it's sad, but there is a difference. good will hunting's director is forced by his cast, by his studio's need for awards, by an issue too big into a straightforward, kind of bland narrative structure that leads to a big, important, utterly forgettable film. milk feels like a film thats issues are "too important" to be overshadowed by the type of "great film" that van sant normally makes. it makes me wonder if all the hoopla and applause that followed my viewing were directed at the film, or at the championaing of a cause that anybody with a sembelance of intelligence can get behind. my belief is that people are cheering for championing the cause, and looking past the fact that it is a mediocre film doing it.