Even though I graduated from Fight Club University and studied at The Matrix Institute for Advanced Studies (though I dropped out after year 2, like a lot of people), my mind was still not properly prepared for the fucking given to it by Wanted , the latest self-help movie catering to dweebs seeking enlightenment and/or a hot, kind of crazy girlfriend with inscrutable tattoos. I think there’s a near-universal tendency to believe that there’s a hidden order behind the world, and that history is approaching a singular moment of crisis, and that our own inner existential torment is unique and special and therefore the fact that we’re required to, like, wake up on time and pay for stuff is a sign that something has seriously gone wrong with the sacred order of the universe and our Fate. My strong preferences for what I think reality should be like would totally be coming true right now if it weren’t for the world, and you, and you, and YOU just totally fucking with me. Honestly, didn’t you roll into work this morning, look at your meager surroundings, sigh, and think “won’t someone rescue me from all these forces of Control and control me in a new, hot sadomasochistic way, and then turn me into an Entemann’s cake?”
Wanted gives hope to those whom the invisible hand of global capitalism has pinned into a cubicle and fingerbanged their faithless girlfriend. All it’s gonna take for you to muster up the courage to break the shackles is a few extended sessions of being tied to a chair and punched in the face before you, too, can become a fully-actualized asshole capable of inflicting grevous bodily harm with pistol and ergonomic keyboard alike. One of these days you’ll be filling your Ativan prescription and meet cute with a raccoon-eyed fembot, and after a brief and post-modern gun battle you’ll learn how you were noble-born into a legacy of bitchin’ assassins with vague superhuman powers and a penchant for fruitily ornate weaponry, exactly like what all those kids currently daydreaming about being drafted into Hogwarts will be fantasizing about once they start getting embarrassing erections during trig class.
A beautiful assassin who clearly studied this video will drive your ass to an urban castle-cum-textile factory where a profound black man will introduce you the secret story of your life and also the secret story of history. Soon, in between beatings and archiving, you’ll have the run of the place, which includes an octagonal library, a romantic candle-lit spa complete with tubs full of wound-healing frosting, a garment sweatshop manned by killers, and a meatpacking facility*. All you have to do is admit to your tormenters/saviors that “I don’t know who I am!” (after they slap you around).
Sure, your face will get broken every day, and you’ll get stabbed a whole gang of times by various ethnic stereotypes, and soon you will be begging for that hot chick to hold a gun to your head so that you can “do that thing,” but compared to office work it’s at least…interesting, right? Even more so when you fully accept the fact that your lot is to simply to kill based on the word of God.
Well, not quite God, just his Word manifested through a mystical, long-lived…um, Loom, that weaves the story of reality, which looks a whole lot like a rough, featureless beige rug. Although beneath that bland surface of things, it appears that Loom works in mysterious ways, as some clever Druid or prophet figured out that God was communicating not through cross-stitch messages (as he does in cozy kitchens across the land) but through a binary code cleverly disguised as errors in the fabric of the weave (there’s an excellentLuddite joke in here but I can’t quite get it to where it should be). Dude, to me that totally sounds like the Demiurge’s steez but I guess I would kill for him too if, like, given the choice between that and waking up at 7am to go to an office job every day or some such bullshit.
Particularly if Loom’s instructions for me are to get revenge for the death of my daddy. You know, the one who abandoned me when I was a wee child. I loved that dude! His killers have to die, for some reason! Possibly so I can impress that chick! Or win back my cheating girlfriend! Or Both! Damn, don’t I look hot with this gun?
Wanted is kind of berzerk with unwholesome creativity. The mayhem is varied and absurd, and I’ll not spoil it by detailing all of the silliness. (okay: live rat-bombs). It’s the first Hollywood movie by Timur Bekmambetov, the director of the cult (in this country) sort-of-vampire films Night Watch and Day Watch. I’m not going to say that it’s not entertaining, particularly if you have the “over” in a gentlemen’s bet about the number of “flying cars” to occur (note to future bettors: trains count as cars, one per carriage), but I think there’s something kind of wrong about a film that more or less defines self-actualization by the attainment of the ability and desire to do extreme violence on other people at whim, and at the behest of a higher power than yourself. Coupled with the over-the-top sadomasochistic depiction of pedagogy and the claim that since your dad has been spying on you constantly since he left your family when you were a child, he really, really loved you (and someone else can connect the Foucauldian dots here, if you miss grad school), the structure of the universe in Wanted is extremely twisted. Which, if the film was actually some sort of parody of Fight Club-ian stuff, would be sort of interesting, but I don’t think it’s quite coherent enough to manage that. Anyway, I guess my takeaway from the film is, if I see the Buddha coming around the corner, I’m gonna curve a bullet and blow that fucker away.
* The only explanation for which I can think of is that the Chicago Meatpacking Union still has a lot of juice.117 comments
(this is suddenly timely again, given the film’s release on DVD/onDemand. So I am plopping it here even though the Face Knife is still not 100%. For more ephemeral stuff, visit How’s Yr Face? until stuff gets reorganized here.)
Wong Kar-Wai’s first English language film is an epic, in the sense that the scope of the bad decisions made regarding story, dialogue, shot choice, editing, casting, and music cues place it in a class by itself among films made by highly regarded, established auteurs. It is an utterly terrible movie and therefore I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and I wish to see it again, immediately. It’s not often that you can enjoy such an extreme collection of miscalculations by one of the most respected filmmakers in the world, and as such the film deserves to be treasured and studied for all time.
Ostensibly a film about lost souls and the geographic and emotional distances between them, My Blueberry Nights is also a road movie - if one were to take a standard road movie and:
(a) elide 90% of the actual travel
(b) pare down the usual number of Significant Encounters With Strangers to about three; and
(c) feature a main character whose capacity for introspection is stymied by an intellect capable of being confused by the difference between meatloaf and pork chops.
Played by famous musician Norah Jones in her first acting job, Elizabeth is an ultra-naif who makes the aimless Scarlett Johansson character in Lost in Translation look like Hillary Clinton in comparison. Don’t get me wrong - I have nothing against ultra-naifs, but they also need to be cutely retarded (cf Chungking Express, Amelie, most of the career of Samantha Morton) in order to sustain interest in their antics. We don’t really get a whole lot of quirky shenanigans in this film, and while that might seem to be a good thing in light of the recent overwhelmingly “twee” trend that has threatened to engulf cinema like a comfy, woolen tidal wave made during someone’s L Train knitting sessions, shenanigans would have been preferable to watching a total blank slate try and fail to come up with an identity for herself over 90 minutes (and however many miles/days the intertitles claimed for this beige night of the soul).
The story (as such) is set in motion when handsome and totally unbelievable restaurateur Jeremy (Jude Law) inadvertently reveals to Jones, via his charming ability to remember customers by their food orders, that her boyfriend is cheating on her. She freaks out and repeatedly visits the restaurant in order to semi-stalk her ex, an opportunity Law siezes to ply her with free pies and free metaphors about pies (as well as keys and other really obvious bullshit - god help them, they live in a world where people communicate solely through bad short story level symbolism - it makes the “dropping Dad’s luggage” scene in The Darjeeling Limited look fresh by comparison). The turning point of their would-be meet-cute romance occurs when both characters simultaneously acquire bloody noses from separate acts of random violence and Jones devours an entire Roofieberry Pie, which causes her to fall unconscious, thus allowing Law to lick ice cream remnants from her face.
Waking up with no memory of her formerly a la mode face and how it came to be cream-free, Jones decides to run away from her life by heading on a bus to Memphis. Her Hero’s Journey from depressed ultra-naif to not-depressed ultra-naif is symbolized by the adoption of various versions of her first name (Lizzy, Betty, Beth, Zabby, E-Liz, etc.) during her stint as a cross-country waitress. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to acquire a personality in the process. For someone who spends a year on the road waitressing she surprisingly only meets three totally fucked up characters who might Change Her Life: Alcoholic cop David Strathairn, his ex-wife Rachel Weisz (I think we are supposed to assume she is somewhat crazy because she left him) in Memphis, and conniving Texas Hold’em master Natalie Portman somewhere in Nevada. Jones is apparently waitressing to save up money for a car, which sort of doesn’t make any sense because she seems to be pretty mobile via bus, and the first thing she does after buying the car is drive straight back to New York City.
During Jones’s titanic journey, an inexplicably haunted Law tries to track her down, first by calling every bar and grill in Memphis (his efforts are stymied because, duh, she changes her name) and then by sending the exact same handwritten postcard to every bar and grill in Memphis. His year-long obsessive compulsive creepiness is interrupted only by his Russian ex-girlfriend Katya (Cat Power), who is responsible for one of the worst line-readings in cinematic history (though thankfully no one saw fit to ask her to attempt an accent), although it results in you know, an epiphany, about like keys and doors and people or something.
I actually have a lot of sympathy for the actors, because they were really given nothing to work with. Every character has a backstory that only exists in barely-there exposition, and I don’t think there’s a way to convincingly speak the alternately on-the-nose and corny dialogue. The extreme lack of action taking place in the present wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the characters were sharply drawn, but instead of conveying emotions through a precise choice of words WKW grafts some incredibly overused stylistic devices onto the scenes in order to convey those inner depths. Half of the movies is shot through obscuring glass windows and the like, making it look like photographer Lee Friedlander was lobotomized in the late 90s and forced to shoot a Molson Ice commercial. And Wong Kar-Wai apparently believes not only that every single internal emotion a person feels can be cinematically expressed through the use of slow-motion but that every single internal emotion a person feels MUST be cinematically expressed through the use of slow-motion, a tendency that reaches its apotheosis in a useless slow-motion sequence of Jones eating a sandwich while she ruminates on a business proposition put to her by Portman. It is almost a parody of his style, like a first year film school student roped in a bunch of his prettiest friends and decided to make a Wong Kar-Wai movie.
Those aren’t even the goofiest conceits in the movie. The film begins with a montage of close-up, molten piescapes that seethe with hidden emotions and also berries. While mouthwatering, these are exceedingly silly, especially when a dollop of melty ice cream is added to drip suggestively off the lip of the plate (and that’s as sexy as this incredibly chaste film gets). There are recurrent inserts of the piescapes throughout the film, which never failed to make me giggle. Repetition is also a feature of the soundtrack, as bits and pieces of source music are repeated throughout the film, tied to a specific locale and/or character pair. When the scenes between Law and Jones at the beginning of the film were scored to “The Greatest” by Cat Power, one after the other with no intervening music, my hopes were briefly raised that EVERY SINGLE scene in the film would be set to that song, (kind of like that Andy Samberg SNL parody of the OC/Imogen Heap) but it was not to be.
Look, do yourself a favor, get together with your most smart-alecky friends and go see this movie in the theater before it deservedly disappears. Ninety minutes of enjoyment can be had by simply exchanging incredulous looks as each bit of dialogue happens, and if you’re a tiny, tiny person (like me) maybe you’ll feel a little bit of satisfaction that even a creditable genius can crash and burn spectacularly.228 comments
(just a short squib, even though everything here is still not 100%. For more ephemeral stuff, visit How’s Yr Face? until stuff gets reorganized here.
The 800+ Year-Old Virgin, or, We are all idiot man-children now, even the robots.
Even though I really liked Wall-E, and though it was adorable and clever and fun, I have this irresistable urge to start cutting on it. Basically, my problem with Wall-E is that the heteronormative romance projected onto the robot protagonists is just another variation on the schlub/hottie dynamic that has been ruling romantic comedies in TV and movie formats for years. I mean, think about it:
(trying not to really SPOIL anything by spelling it out).
1.) Lonely male robot living by himself with a collection of odd pop culture ephemera.
2.) Lonely male robot has a menial job obviously beneath his skills.
3.) Meets cute with a much more put-together, driven and dynamic (not to mention more aerodynamically designed) female.
4.) Who somehow unaccountably falls for him, even though he is capable of communicating his feelings on the most basic and primal level.
5.) Then, he puts his seed in her.
6.) They’re separated by her career
7.) He has to win her back through haphazard though valiant effort.
8.) Which of course works, but only because:
9.) he gains a supporting cast of even more schlubby defectives who help him , and:
10.) the love of a hot chick inspires a loser man-child to face up to it, and do great deeds.
11.) She gives up her career for him.
This begs for a chart of some sort. Sigh. Too bad I gave up on doing that.67 comments
I am currently in the process of changing domains/hosting/practically everything, so links and tags and formatting will look a little wonky for a while (e.g., some permalinks link back to the old site, lost some comments on later posts, “Sicko” is currently tagged as “erotic”). RSS feeds will probably not work until the domain is transferred, if at all. Dude, I don’t know. Stay tuned. There will be content to accompany this momentous shift.68 comments
After a brief (for this site) hiatus, The Summer Movie Comparison Chart 2007 has been updated with the following two movies: innovative, moving limited-release animated film Tekkon Kinkreet (see my review at the Movie Binge) and the satisfying Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I love me some Potter.71 comments
Friend of The Face Knife Colin Rankine has added summer spectacular Live Free or Die Hard to the Summer Movie Comparison Chart 2007, the magnificent bastard! I’m still planning on seeing Transformers and Harry Potter to add them to the chart (and another addition being a film I’ve already seen (and highly recommend) Tekkon Kinkreet), but those run-times are abominable. I need some level *beyond* red for the danger-indicator in the runtime category of thee chart.81 comments
One of the beauties of filling out chart are the unexpected concordance between films, farcial though they may be. Multiple, identical birthmarks are just one of such coincidences to be discovered while perusing the chart.143 comments
As we hit the mid-way point of the summer season, the Summer Movie Comparison Chart 2007 swells to include Joshua (click for a delightful review), a delightfully creepy story of a boy who loves duets so much that he’d tear apart his family for more. Later this week, be amazed as the more esoteric charms of One to Another (click for a less delightful review) and TekkonKinkreet join the fun. If you’re missing the blockbusters, I plan to see a couple soon, so don’t worry - there will be room for them all on the Chart.171 comments
The Face Knife returns from 4th of July festivities to add the hilarious, ridiculous horror comedy Black Sheep to the Summer Movie Comparison Chart 2007, which was recently linked to again by the Guardian Film Blog. Do make sure to follow the above link to check out Kyria Abrahams’s excellent review of Black Sheep on The Movie Binge, which includes many helpful and enlightening links to YouTube videos that you really must see for yourself. It is not often that you get to study at the knee of an animal exploitation/horror specialist.190 comments