Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Sadist

There's a masochistic / sadistic streak that runs through all of Mel Gibson's movies: The Man Without a Face -- a disfigured protagonist; Braveheart -- Gibson lingers on the horrifying torture of his hero; The Passion of the Christ -- essentially an excuse for a lot of gruesome make-up effects. Apocalypto is Gibson's only good movie (good, that is, but not great) because whereas his other films eventually reveal themselves as little more than excuses for sadism, Apocalypto is sadism that eventually coalesces into a film. It starts in torture and disfigurement (and a village raped and pillaged -- the ultimate "Gibson touch") and then goes from there, instead of delivering that vicarious violence as its conclusion. There's always an underlying cynicism to Gibson's directorial work (he assumes that deep down, movie audiences just wanna see a guy get stabbed), and the ending is definitely about as fake-wise as it gets, replicating the conclusion of Mann's Last of the Mohicans while simultaneously undermining it with some facile dramatic irony, but at least it's a movie with movement and people, instead of martyrs and inertness.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"As the days pass, you can feel yourself changing. Not so much in the density of your bones or the fiber of your muscles--although those are deteriorating, you have already proved that, physically, men can last long enough to make it to Mars--but more in the wearing away of the calluses life has given you. It's as though all your skin has been stripped off and replaced with a fresh pink layer, except it runs deeper than that.

You decide to watch a movie. You've resisted until now, because there was always something better on outside your window, but sunrises and sunsets can get old after a few thousand ups and downs, and frankly, there just isn't much new to do anymore. Movie night it is. There are a bunch of DVDs on station--smuggled up over time--and IBM Think-Pads to gather around. On this night, the three of you decide to flip on Tank Girl, a cult hit among women astronauts, who have told you that if you do nothing else in space, you must watch this.

It might as well be playing in fast-forward. A man walks across broken glass, and the idea of it makes your fresh pink skin crawl. There are explosions that make you jump. There are nauseatingly bright colors and painful flashes of light; people shout too loud and fight too hard. There are tanks, and there are girls--luminous girls, with lips and breath and falling hair.

You look down at your hands, and they are shaking. Your mouth has gone dry. Your heart rate is galloping. Even after you've shut off the movie and pulled yourself into your sleeping bag, you tremble, like kids who've been told ghost stories around a campfire before lights-out.

Come morning, you've each drawn the same conclusion: Maybe you've been gone for too long."

--"Home" (Chris Jones; Esquire, July 2004)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Gangster boredom makes shipboard bedlam / The Big Mouth (Jerry Lewis, 1967)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Letter to Billy Wilder from aspiring actor Clint Eastwood, age 24,
about a screen test for the lead role in Spirit of St. Louis.

Eastwood writes:
"When the time comes for casting, I would appreciate so much your letting me talk with you rather than seeing this test, for I have improved in every way since that time. I feel the qualities you might be seeking can better be found in a personal interview."

(via Letters of Note)