January 16, 2016

Movie Review: The Big Short

This genre mash-up left me speechless.  Unexpectedly brutal, but also confusing and triumphant, is The Big Short.

Christian Bale plays an over-confident Michael Burry, the sheriff of a small western town in the late 1800’s.  As the movie progresses we learn he is an avid fan of Metallica and YouTube “Reunion Videos”.  You know, the kind where people are reunited with loved ones or loved things or loved animals.  The majority of Bale’s on-screen appearances include one or both of these elements which lends one of the many bizarre facets to this quirky film.

Morgan-Stanley employee, Mark Baum, is played by an overly-intense Steve Carrell, who has recently ambushed a trio of travellers along with his partner, “Buddy” played by David Arquette; the both of them slitting the throats of their victims and rifling through their knapsacks.  Hearing a flurry of horses in the distance, they leave their spoils and head for the nearest hills in lieu of getting caught and possibly hanged.  This fleeing sets us on the fateful course The Big Short is built on.

The duo flees unexpectedly into a sacred burial ground, where they disrupt the stones and are immediately attacked by a group of Jabberwockies who we mostly see in shadow, their arrows doing the majority of the work.  Buddy is killed and Mark Baum, played by Carrell, escapes unscathed and finds his way to the nearest small town.

“I hear the drums echoing tonight, she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation…“ Ryan Gosling, the small town’s Saloon musician is playing to an almost empty room.  A drunk sits in one corner; face down on a small table.  A stereotypical saloon bartender stands behind the mahogany wiping a glass repeatedly with a white rag.  An overly well-dressed man sips brown liquid from a short glass.  Later we will find out he is Matthew Fox who plays his same character Jack from Lost, just dressed in the styles of a fop, or a dandy, his manner formal with a feminine air.   We watch as he loosens, his toe taps, his shoulders drop and begin a small sway, his head begins a gentle, rhythmic nod as Ryan Gosling hits the chorus, “It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, there’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do...” The corner drunk has shot up and joins Ryan, creating the signature harmony the song is known and loved for, “I bless the rains down in Africa, gonna take some time to do the things we never had…” The drunk’s head drops immediately following the chorus, eventually shooting up again each time Ryan reaches it. 

After the song finishes, a slow clap from the saloon doors begins.  It’s Bale’s Burry, the sheriff, who then enters at a less than relaxed pace.  “Nice job, Ryan Gosling. That there’s one of my favorite tunes after Metallica’s entire catalog, of course.”

“Thanks, sheriff,” he responds.

Bale-Burry turns serious; “There’s a drifter in town.  Says he disrupted a burial ground. Says there’s a tribe of Jabberwockies out some miles yonder.  Says they’re coming for him, and now that he’s here, this town.  We need to rustle up some men to go get them before they get us. Who’s with me?”

Nobody really answers.  There’s a palpable uncomfortable silence while everyone sits inside their cowardice.  Bale-Burry says he ain’t leavin until he gets some volunteers, then sits down and pulls out his iPad, his fingers scrape all over the screen until there’s a video of a soldier coming up a walkway, a woman releases a German Shepard who affectionately attacks the man and they roll around in a joyous cuddle of man and beast.  Bale-Burry’s eyes water.  His fingers slide again.  It’s a dark street, late night or early morning, a couple comes out of a van, carrying two twin babies. The words across the screen explain they’ve just completed a 17-hour flight from New Zealand to surprise the twins’ grandmother who has yet to meet them.  The couple and the babies walk to the porch and ring the doorbell.  The grandmother opens the door and immediately starts scream-crying.  Bale-Burry is crying now as the grandmother reaches for and takes both twin girls, hugging them to her chest as if they were life giving.  The bar patrons gather around.  A lion is reunited with two men who raised him as a cub, nuzzling and tackling them like a huge playful cat. Finger scrape again.  A small child is woken up by his father, who—as we can assume from his military dress—has just returned from a lengthy tour in Iraq, the child yells, “Daddy!?” and it’s both a declaration and a question and then devolves into sobs and hugs.   A mother sitting at a kitchen table being asked inane questions on video from who we presume—from the nature of their banter—to be a daughter, until a hearty knock comes from the side door and a large shadow appears behind the frosted glass, the mom reacts both annoyed and quizzical at this intrusion to a door other than the front one but with the daughter’s prodding to ‘go answer it’ does so, only to find her son who had been overseas for six years standing there with a small bouquet of daisies, she too scream-cries, much like the grandmother from earlier and she embraces him with a force that came close to knocking him down.  Fingers slide again. And again.

The group watches the videos and they are sobbing.  Outward.  Unflinching.  Arms around one another.  Bale-Burry selects video after video. As people enter the saloon they walk over to investigate the spectacle and they become entranced too.  The group becomes a crowd, growing like an arc of ripples around Bale-Burry.  Shirt-fronts and sleeves are soaked in salty-tears.  It’s when there is no more room left in the saloon, when all able bodies have over-crowded the small range of the iPad’s screen, that Bale-Burry turns off the device, which was at 3% battery power anyway, and re-explains the situation, finishing with a new element that turns everyone’s decision to a positive one, “And when you return from slaying those varmints, you will have a reunion come upon you, much like those you’ve just seen

Carell’s Michael Burry leads the horsebacked bunch to the lair of the Jabberwockies.  The cave entrance is at the top of a very steep cliffside.  They tie up the horses and head up, hoping for the element of surprise.

The cave entrance is littered with skulls and skeletons of various make; human, animal and other.  In the center of the room, next to an untended and failing campfire, is the corpse of “Buddy”.  It’s split down the center, from asshole to neck, the frame of it now a V, entrails a red, slimy web between.  A half-charred forearm that looks as if it’s been partially eaten lies next to the fire.  The group shivers at the sight, but continues into the cave. 

As they move further inward the visibility reduces to darkness but they light not one torch for fear of being discovered.  Bale-Burry is playing Enter Sandman in his head which is his fight-fuel for leading them into what could very possibly be their collective demise.  A light grows ahead. They creep.

As they get closer, and the light’s color morphs from straight white to one with a blue tinge, the sound of click-clacking is heard.  Bale-Burry turns and silently motions to the group to be quite and get ready.  Knives and guns are silently drawn as they reach the entrance to the chamber. 

The Jabberwockies are heavily muscled and painted white over dark skin.  Bones and feathers weaved into their plaited hair, animal skins covering their groins and nothing else.  Their size is that of a regular man, doubled. 

There are 12 of them that they can see.  Their group is only seven, however they have an obvious advantage;  the savages are each consumed with the computer screens in front of them.  All of them tap, tap, tapping on the keys, their fearsome faces reflecting the ghost-lights from the screens.  A stock-ticker’s scroll rides across the rim of the room, racing its letters and numbers across the cave edges.  Small murmurs are heard but nothing more. No actual words. Just the click, clack of keys.

I will spoil no further.  I will only say that this movie becomes a reunion video like nothing you’d ever seen before; no lions, no dogs, no children, no fathers, no mothers, no wives, no daughters, no babies reuniting will every match the reuniting that happens after the engagement with the Jabberwockies. 

I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened by this thing that I’ve become.  

January 02, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: The Revenant

It’s a path in Cambodia.  It’s jungle, dirt and leaves, jungle, dirt and leaves.  We come across Leonardo diCaprio—presumably after a frantic running through said jungle—paused in a clearing, intersected with a singular beam of sunlight that survived the breach of trees whose solemn oath to the jungle floor was to keep it and its kin away from it.  The trees’ failure illuminates diCaprio’s bearded face in microscopic detail as the camera pans around it, holding its structure closer than one feels comfortable.  Everything pap smear close. 

Caprio is paused, searching for something with his ears.  Something, we assume, is hidden amongst the trees.  We listen too, while searching his desperate green eyes for the moment his ears tell him they found that something.  There is no building soundtrack, just Leonardo’s face, the sunbeam and the slow blur of jungle and we spin. Listening.

The movie continues in this spin.  We wind with him.  Every pore, every whisker,—even the snotted ones—slowly becoming cement in our brains.  Was it the director’s goal to ensure each patron step away with a bust of diCaprio imprinted forever on their being?  A permanent 3D memory from which to sculpt from? 

The camera turns. Leo’s face, cheeks, hair, beard, chin, neck, shoulders, ears, eyes, nose, eyebrows, eyelashes, pores, face, cheeks, hair, beard, chin, neck, shoulders, ears, eyes, nose, eyebrows, eyelashes, pores.  It’s a continual splay.  I start to lose my gravity.  Unknowingly, I reach out and find the seat-goer’s hand next to me, realizing its grasp only when it’s squeezed, more than firmly, in return.  The woman on the opposite side of me takes my other hand and, one by one, the audience becomes a human chain.  We become the jungle wrapped around di Caprio, but really, we are saving ourselves. From the drowning.  His searching green eyes, how they panic.

The only variance, his breathing.  I find myself holding on to it.  The way it comes and goes in uneven ways.  Wondering if it is primarily escaping through his slit-open mouth or through his nostrils; sliding down the slick-slimed whiskers that must’ve become so during his run through the thick Cambodian jungle before he reached this point of reconnaissance.  I study how his lips sometimes meet, hiding his first few teeth that I have now counted and found the number over and over again to be seven. Occasionally reading secret messages in their movements, as if Leonardo diCaprio was trying to send me a clandestine dispatch or directive on how I could help him or why I was there and what was I good for.

The camera spins and we continue waiting for whatever it is that Leo is waiting for.  A rustle in the surrounding foiliage?  An attacker’s arrow? Knife? Sword? Bullet?  Or perhaps it is a lover?  Perhaps Leo is the pursuer and his target has momentarily evaded him?  The full extent of his clothing, save his shoulders which look to be covered in a dark, rustic fabric, is not visible, so we cannot ascribe further clues to what role Leo might be playing.  We just have his face, his face, his face, so we do not know, so we speculate.  The camera spins and I do not know if I should worry for him and his potential peril, or raise anger toward him and his vicious chase with intent to slaughter or rape.  Is this why I am here?  To wonder?  To guess? To build tangents of story while waiting still waiting and spinning and his facehischeekshiseyes?  Am I splintering?

In an attempt to ground myself, I try following my own breath, but cannot.  A panic wells inside me that I may not be breathing at all.  I urinate in my seat.  I feel the growing warmth and it comforts me like a mother-lain blanket.  A dead person cannot piss, I think.  Or I say it aloud, to Leonardo.  The latter seems true.  We are friends. Now.

The spin has become more of a spiral and I think, in my attempt to focus elsewhere than diCaprio’s face, I might have spotted some things hiding in the jungle; galloping herds of bison, blood-caked snow, a dark-skinned boy with a burn-scarred face, a woman floating horizontally in the air, her black hair hanging down like curtains.  These glimpses gloam a lump of fear inside me dense as coal.  An urge to fell one of the bison, slice its underneath from anus to collarbone and move into its warm, crimson guts erupts within me.  What safety that would bring! What permanence and still!

The bones in one of my hands have broken.  Not any of the fingers.  The middle part where they all come together like a thick web.  I believe, I may have, in turn, broken my other seatmate’s hand bones.  While the pain is almost excruciating, we continue the grip.  Each of us needing the saving.  The reminder that we are elsewhere, and that we exist outside of Leonardo diCaprio’s shoulders, head, face and hair.

The movie ends in the same way it begins, but I’m not sure.  I’m not sure it has ended. I cannot feel my hands.  I can see nothing else than what I have been looking at for hours. (days?) Is this The Revenant?  Am I? 

The slicing takes less time than the work to fell the animal.  His guts push out easy, steaming and vital.  I push inside and its warmth and womb.  Leo is there and we spin, paying no mind to the human chain staring back at us with dead, goat-eyes.  We've already found our peace.