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Posts tagged “rango

Scream 4 (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Scream 4 plunges us navel-deep into the conceit that made the original pleasurable. I felt something tingling in the fun-center of my brain for half an hour before I located it—the joy of trying to figure out who done it, or rather, who doing it, stabbing voluptuous starlets in the stomach and their nerdier male antipodes in the dick or the forehead—crossing suspects off the list one by one as they are killed or witness a killing, trying to guess who’s behind the mask before the big reveal. I didn’t, and this simple excitement hums, assisted by strong acting in half the cast; and dialogue, action, and satire that are cleverly executed exactly half the time. Scream 4 stumbles, but so do some House episodes, and so do some of the most addictive twitter feeds. You know what’s going to happen, just not quite how, and if Wes Craven’s direction is depressingly antiquated, and Neve Campbell phones it somehow sumptuously in, and half the good jokes are ruined by dumb ones bubbling up in their wake—the simple presence of a mystery to solve makes Scream 4 a far sweeter diversion than Insidious or The Roommate or whatever other scary feature is out there, coming soon, cobbling itself together in the void at the center of the vision of the savvily barbarian overlords we euphemistically anoint Producer with every ticket we purchase.

With better visual storytelling, could’ve been awesome. Franchise detractors have always pounced on Scream‘s marquee self-awareness. Even in high school—small town, south Georgia—my artistic friends scorned Scream’s sniping the icons of their darling nostalgia; they wanted popcorn horror’s world to hold forever still. But as Rango and Inglorious Basterds and Toy Story 3—nevermind this very narrative—prove, self-awareness accompanied by bold and sensitive direction, writing, acting, etc—can work the well-wrought artifact into an abundant prism through which our very glimpse becomes a kind of key of light, unlocking the deepest, crystalline palimpsests of the sacred secret mystics call reality. Scream 4’s disease is weak expression, not post-modernism, and even then it’s only half sick. Frankly, we need more Screams in our forms. Or at least the ideal to which they Icarus-ly aspire. To enter prevalent, calcified, auto-piloted tableaus and decouple weary code from weary code. To pry open conventions zeitgeist’s jaws have clenched, steal gesture A out of B and hold it up while stuffing the void with C-4. Even when it fails this act is laudable. But, as I believe Hannah learned, going to see 4 for any of these reasons is to court your own disappointment. Go see it because you enjoy watching young people try to figure out who is stabbing them while trying to figure out how not to get stabbed using all manner of meta-reasoning while someone continues to stab them.


Rango (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Toy Story 3 was the best movie of 2010 because it revived the cadaver of adventure with brilliant scripting, realistic characters, and inventive action. Rango takes that resurrected corpus adventura and jabs a syringe of adrenaline into its heart. The first scene—too surprising, weird, meta, and smart to describe—is the best opening since Inglorious Basterds. And Rango’s multiple chases, battles, and other staples of action are so aware of their historical predecessors that watching each is like gorging yourself like a hog at the trough of homage to and parody of all the most beloved tropes of spaghetti western, space opera, noir, Freud, and Homer. Constant, riotous, gonzo wit at machine gun pace obliterates all your defenses against Rango‘s eleven-layer irony-cake of visual and narrative gratification. In one scene, our not really-eponymous hero, an Odyssean lizard and archetypal chameleon with no name—Johnny Depp, perfect casting—turns to a kid and shouts, “Burn everything but Shakespeare!” It was like watching something written by a future, infinitely more successful and disciplined version of myself. As the crowd shuffled me out of the theater I looked back over my shoulder and thought, “I want to see that again.” Last time that happened was Fantastic Mr. Fox, and before that Basterds. What do these three movies have in common? One, an oneiric swirl of fulfilled conventions. Two, a reeling, panoramic sensorium of metaphor. Three, a seemingly suicidal level of self-referentiality grounded in tight storytelling. Four, an almost obscene amount of jokes. Five, cornea-crushing cinematography. Six, sincere, devoted direction. Seven, perfectly executed setpieces. Eight, all squeezed through the estranging eye of auteurial mise-en-scène. No windmill goes untilted at; no saddle goes unblazed. No god of cinema goes uncrucified and seconds later, raised. Rango is generous and savvy in these ways. Gore Verbinski also directed the first Pirates of the Caribbean, another epic that took me back to the theater multiple times. Rango is so decadently good, it seems passive-aggressively pathetic to point out its only flaw: an impatient dénouement. The film could’ve luxuriated in its coolest characters more. And there are many cool characters. Anyone who does not see Rango, or anyone who sees it and doesn’t like it, Fuck you!




Rango (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

1.     Why is Rango delightful

2.     What specifically delights us about the animal in human attire

3.     Not of dress only, but of attitude

4.     Lizards in Hawaiian shirts; some sort of bird thing in a poncho

5.     Is it an aspect of miniaturism

6.     And from the miniature do we extrapolate perspective

7.     Is it perspective that delights

8.    How is it possible that for the first five minutes of Rango I literally did not know what was going on

9.     Why was this so delightful

10.    Is there less at stake for an actor in an animated role

11.     Or do they consider it an exercise in formal invention

12.     Like a Mark Leidner movie poem, for example

13.     What is the equivalent in poetry to Jesse Eisenberg being the voice of a blue parrot in the forthcoming, highly sucky-looking Rio

14.     Is this like if Mark made a movie of a Tony Hoagland poem

15.     The Tony Hoagland poem

16.     Does a topic’s importance—its claim on the political, the social, the real—bar it from delight, not to say delightfulness

17.     Is Rango partly delightful to me because it is fundamentally concerned less with the social and more with the self

18.     Whilst acknowledging the awkward demands of the polis—its tug

19.     But what is perennial about the search for the self

20.     When we sense allusion without perhaps knowing the exact nature of the referent, what is the pleasure

21.     Is this an allusion of codes—the hilariously absurd shot of Rango’s posse riding against the pulsating semi-circle of sun, for example

 

22.     “Hilariously absurd” because Rango is a lizard, his steed some sort of pheasant

23.     Because Rango is the voice of Johnny Depp, his steed a roadrunner with a butt-full of feathers

24.     In intuiting allusion do we feel bound more closely to the culture in which we and it bask

25.     Is allusion thus a tool of tribalism

26.     Which, like racism, is not delightful

27.     When I laughed so heartily at its Star Wars allusion, was I simply pleased to have been allowed access to the cerulean depths of Rango’s cultural sea

28.     Access because it proved I too am deeply cultural

29.     Is delight predicated mostly on consciousness or un-

30.     Is delight more complicated than we generally consider it to be

31.     Are good children’s movies the cinematic equivalent of the medieval jester

32.     In that they allow adults levels of experience conventional grown-up fare assumes

33.     Bewilderment; delight

34.     And yet it is only through recontextualization of cultural knowledge—which depends on the experience of exposure—that such delight can function

35.     Is it better to be young than old


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