But Tony Bee and George Dubya and Operation Sinbad are years away from Shaun, the boy in early-1980s England without a father but eager to find someone aside from his well-meaning mother—and he joins a band of Little Punk Rascals who shave his head and encourage the Doc Martin in him, all in good fun, kids on a spree—until the New Skinheads arrive, filled with fear and sick of it, so they try to foist it off on everyone else, a vision of the world as a ghetto of Wogs and Pakis and niggers that they just can't wait to corner and beat to death, their own lost hearts broken, their madness the kind that rats piled up in a little cage understand and turn into blind cannibalism, the taste of each other sickening, their hearts, once filled with ska-dee-lites, now sagging with the effort of pumping anemic pale nothing through flattened veins.
Young Shaun falls into this despair and almost eats his own heart in the lonely frenzy of the moment. He goes to the water like Antoine Doinel, the two of them cut and battered 400 times—but Shaun leaves something to sink under the waves: the Union Jack like a coffin-shroud shrugged off in disgust right before the body slips into the water, leaving Shaun alone but free, "on the beach" like the old movie about nuclear annihilation—except he isn't burning, he can still walk away, and thank God he does.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 6/05/2013 12:54:00 PM
At the center is the lovely Penelope Cruz—and it's fun to watch the other women know it's her, commenting on her cleavage—and the camera, too, looking at her and admiring—although she can be a bit much, full of temper and rash words as she alternates between hurting and apologizing. Around her are women bound by the evil deeds of the men in their lives—and by the women who did not bond with them but have thwarted their hopes or ruined their memories with regrets.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 4/26/2013 10:52:00 AM
I was shocked to hear of Roger Ebert's death. I hadn't visited his blog for a while, but earlier today I read on his Journal of his ambitious plans for his site, his show, his festival—his work. And then less than an hour ago I hear that he's gone. I will not attempt the right words; I simply want to express my deep sense of loss for someone who taught me much about the movies, particularly the need to admit that the movie doesn't occur only on the screen but in your head, and if it's of any worth it takes up residence in there and effects changes—in you, in the other movies you've seen, in the way you see other things. I am grateful for Mr. Ebert's help in realizing that, and I look forward to that fine day when I will sit with him—and Gene Siskel and Carlos Clarens and Orson Welles and Tarkovsky and so many more—and pass the popcorn and watch a great many great movies.
God bless you, Roger Ebert. "The pain then is part of the happiness now."
God bless you, Roger Ebert. "The pain then is part of the happiness now."
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 4/04/2013 05:12:00 PM
And where am I? It seems small but free, like the high stool on which a Nowhere Man could sit—except I'm lying down, one leg dangling, the foot on the floor, the couch scratchy on my arms, my tee shirt bunching up beneath me, and the house quiet while the traffic shivers outside like small waves breaking. And the TV keeps on, excited voices turned down but insistent, whittling at something until it becomes something else. So I crack one then both eyes open and see the flat familiar shapes on the screen sliding a little like plate tectonics sped up—each million years a half-second, the jitter from era to era no longer discernible—and it's faces and cars and trees—and more faces, some dull, some shifty, all bearing down on whatever's in front of them—except some of them slip and shift forever into scrambled disguises, masks and altered tones until no one knows who's who. An undercover world.
"What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly because I can't any longer see into myself. I see only murk. I hope for everyone's sake the scanners do better, because if the scanner sees only darkly the way I do, I'm cursed and cursed again."
And now I'm no longer on that couch, I'm on my own and I see him bending down; it's a moment without murk, almost joy—certainly relief, certainly one little piece of what should be; and he plucks a present for his friends at Thanksgiving.
In an essay on Dick's novel, Frank C. Bertrand reminds me of something that M.H. Abrams asserts about the Romantics in his book Natural Supernaturalism:
"Whether a man shall live his old life or a new one, in a universe of death or of life, cut off and alien or affiliated and at home, in a state of servitude or genuine feeling ... all depends on his mind as it engages with the world in the act of perceiving."
I can see Dick's scanner, Arctor, a clear and cleanly drawn object flat and right there against the glass wall of my TV, losing his old life to live the new, making a little quavery sound like a Theremin approached that makes me smile at the spooky half-gift and almost-promise of freedom slipped into his sock.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 3/26/2013 02:10:00 PM
I think Children of Men was shot with digital cameras—it has that clean look, everything clear, each clod of earth arcing in unsmeared trajectory. I'm not sure, though—but that long sequence when they escape the farm, an unbroken shot—as so many of them are in this movie—of growing tension and light, from pre-dawn to day, for a while made me forget what the movie was about: The light was so perfect, like Millard Sheets' painting of a train station, all buttery gold and blue and serious blacks. Again, if this was shot without film, Children of Men speaks well of the new medium.
—But there is no "superordinate goal," no Independence Day Enemy from Space for us to rally against. Like something out of Cronenberg, this apocalypse comes from within, and the barren species begins a last long period of mourning.
—But unlike Brunner's methodical punishments, Children of Men moves toward hope, in the end more Star Trek than A Boy and His Dog. A child is born, and sacrifices are willingly made for it—yes, in fog and choppy waters, but out of the gloom decent hearts shine. Along the way the movie (once more: beautifully) acts as a travelogue for The End, with Michael Caine's benign counter-culturalist and sundry jackbooted and babushka'd hindrances and helps. I'm glad that science fiction occasionally gets to be itself at the movies, something more than sparks and monsters.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 3/25/2013 02:24:00 PM
I think Scorsese gives us a modern world of chance, like a priest offering a taste of Eternity--but that chance is old, Medieval at least, maybe more: the first sign of bad weather East of Eden, a lightning bolt from outer space bouncing down into Frank's cell phone: not just a product of the environment but the environment itself. The trick is to pick a side--no matter that one looks like the other, Chang and Eng--and hold on like that pit bull, Mark Wahlberg's Dignam (IN-dignant, more like it), who curses out the naughty world and cleans up afterwards.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 3/19/2013 03:51:00 PM
And the song he sings--the tune that comes out of Ben Affleck's affable but uncertain face--is straight out of Chinatown. Simo (a name as silly as "Gittes") has also been a bit slow on the uptake, and taken chains to the face--not as bad as a slit nose, but close--and been beaten down by not only the tawdry details of the case but his own complicity in the mess he's stirred up. And Louis, like Nicholson's Jake, is sapped into sleep, rest for the weary at last--until the phone rings again and he winces and touches his wounds and slogs on.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 3/04/2013 02:59:00 PM
What a tale Jones tells, though, aided by Barry Pepper as the bull-moose knucklehead who shoots the titular thrice-buried Melquiades--who in turn forms the grisly third in their death-march. The movie is Texas-true: It begins as a puzzle and ends as a requiem, its editing laconic and terse, the visual equivalent of Jones'--or Gary Cooper's--voice. And Jones' face as always makes him look like a weirdly bent straight arrow--and Barry Pepper is the perfect snake-bit greenhorn, his pall-bearing duties bringing him self-awareness and maybe the first real tears of his life.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/26/2013 12:02:00 PM
I can still recall rejoining Jean, seeing her across a parking lot, walking up to her--and as though she were one of Job's friends visiting him in the midst of his ashes and boils she saw my state from afar and cried out in dismay--and no How-are-you-honey-missed-yous for me; no, she went straight to, "Grow it back." I did, and kept it longer than I should've, dutiful but dumb, and happy to say so.
Lucky me I did not make the attempt while living in the French movie La Moustache. Marc also simply does it, no real hesitation, the little clipped hairs collecting in the little dish, scraped in the trash, we see it all--and no one notices--and more: Everyone insists he'd never had one. And even the photographs don't matter, the hairs collected from the dumpster and presented by a stinking, almost-raving man desperate to understand how something like that could not only be overlooked but erased--I mean, we've all made this change or that, and no one notices, sometimes not even when you point it out to them, not really--and we chalk it up to the strange shifting point-of-view of the self: After all, our haircuts and eyeglasses and so on are a presentation to others; good grooming is for everybody else--you can't see it, it's all on your face, on top of your head, dangling from your ears just out of sight. You can look down at your clothes and your shoes, but your face and your head and all its this n that are little somethings for everybody else. And how strange when they don't notice the change--but how natural, since in the end it's all on you, literally, and their job--to see it--is taken so lightly you may as well not bother.
But when they do notice--sort of: by asserting that it never was, that your relatively thick and dark moustache was a figment of your imagination, and you alarm them with your continued insistent fear that you had it, that they're plotting against you with a lie so facile that all it takes is one quick look at the photo album to dash it to hell--but no one looks, and Marc begins to give up trying--again: When they let you know that what was, never was, then what more could be lost? And Marc finds out what that is, how much can be taken away as his old life slips into memory, then maybe nothing at all.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/25/2013 05:06:00 PM
But long before he feeds the appetite to see, Spielberg lays out nauseating dishes: poor Jim McCay back there in 1972 telling me as calmly as he could that just when you thought you could hope for the best you hear the worst. And then the secret assassins that Israel sends to collect eyes for eyes, teeth for teeth: Their righteousness becomes cruelty, then thoughtless routine, like a career butcher doing his job over the dripping grate. And Munich makes me peer down there below the butcher's feet, and it's an abyss with a reflection blackly rippling with just enough light to see myself. As one of Munich's assassins notes, "All of this blood comes back to us."
And so then another echo-bounce: to Kubrick--or maybe a Hitchcock movie remade by Kubrick. It's the cold hand refusing to let go of the back of my neck, forcing me to see--to give in to my desire to see--the details of execution, the careful preparations made and the tense, sad challenges faced by the--and which is it? Heroes? Villains? Whose movie has Spielberg made? His own? Kubrick's? Hitchcock's? Some devilish hybrid? Maybe in the end it's more Spielberg than anyone, especially in the pity he invokes, so that the deaths are not just political but personal, not just inevitable but universal.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/20/2013 11:21:00 AM
Is it the look, the quality of light, shared by William Hurt's study and the orgy-castle of Kubrick's picture?
Maybe it's their other-worldliness--Kubrick in England shooting a feverdream-NYC filled with Nighttown memory-spooks and dim-to-sparkly possibilities hiding in every dressing room and piano bar, and Cronenberg putting Aragorn in Anytown, USA, his cook's apron as incongruous next to his solid gritty good looks as an I'm-with-stupid tee shirt on a peacock.
Or it's the two husbands and their mile-high piles of lies, and the way they run from their wives and do awful things then come home and ask, Please pass the potatoes. At least in Eyes Wide Shut they know what "potatoes" is code for, and are ready right there in the toy store to dig some up and enjoy--while A History of Violence is a squirmy "no longer at ease" sheepish nudge back to the kitchen table--although both movies made me queasy.
--Oh ferchrissakes: Was it, come to think of it, Michael Moore who brought them together in my mind? Was Bowling for Columbine correct in its assertion that we've been scared of each other for so long that even love and sex and marriage and home are out to get us, waiting in the bushes to cut us deep and show us our own insides just long enough for us to wonder how that gory mess could've kept anything alive for as long as it did?
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/19/2013 04:54:00 PM
Who is working as hard as Spielberg to energize movie frames while holding fast to Old Hollywood? He even revisits the menacing rise of William Cameron Menzies' Invaders from Mars, where the underground aliens also wait to suck in Mom and Dad and all--but this time there's no overheated Space Cadet kid's dream for us to climb out of. No, this time it's all real, no matter that we know how it's going to end.
He's reached a point where all we need to do is watch--he's doing all the heavy lifting, and our job is simply to gasp as needed. Like Hitchcock, Spielberg just keeps making emotion-manufacturing machines--and we can complain about it all we like, but the warranty's still good and as long as you don't tamper with the factory specs it'll run smooth as pistons and relays, invisible weapons of mass destruction pushing you over the edge.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/13/2013 05:20:00 PM
--And also somehow beautiful--Svankmajer, that is, that irreplaceable master puppeteer who knows what all the surrealists do about children--that they don't care about the weather, they'll play in the rain, let the thunder crash--oh, afraid to death of it, but squealing and pressing their hands against their ears and still darting on the soaked lawn like stop-motion clay imps whose souls are not for sale.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/11/2013 04:59:00 PM
And while the Batman has since become the Dark Knight--tortuously reshaped under Frank Miller's crypto-fascist scalpel and partially revived by Tim Burton's camp expressionism--and has been tossed around some godawful "sequels" like a nerd in a high school locker room--those few Neal Adams panels in my head marked Batman's dogged refusal to be ruined.
Christopher Nolan, like Peter Jackson, produced some strange but compelling fruit before finding his own Ring of Power in the Batman. And he takes his time about it: It seemed the movie was almost over before we heard the cape snap, saw it float like--yes, like Adams' version more than Miller's, born in 1940 but born again in the early '70s--somewhere in a desert ringed by snowy mountains, thirty years later.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 1/31/2013 04:37:00 PM
A few decades ago Jim and I were walking late at night in the city. It was cold and drizzling, and for some perverse reason we figured we'd walk the subway tunnel. So down we went, the passageway long and slanting down, then slanting up, so that we could never see too far ahead or behind us. Did we talk about the possibility of imminent danger or did I only think it? It was too long ago to remember. But I'll never forget that straight upward-curving tiled path and a growing feeling that the Twilight Zone had been right after all, that some tunnels never end, they just become the rest of your life.
The existential Keystone Kops of Kontroll have little difficulty understanding that an underground life is entirely possible. But the desire to escape, to walk into the light, as it were, becomes overwhelming. I'm suddenly reminded of Plato and his Cave, an allegory for confused students that just may haunt this movie, where everyone's figured out how to play a completely ridiculous game, and the one guy who's smart enough to want out is, as far as everyone else is concerned, the real sucker.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 1/31/2013 01:28:00 PM