and sometimes poetry

Posts tagged “inglorious basterds

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.

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Jane Eyre (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

The male imagination is a windy, terrifying place.

Its appetites insatiable, unstable, black, pornographic, and endless.

Rare is the movie that makes you want to not just fuck, but love the female lead—rare as I suppose it is in life.

Rare is the girl so pure and beautiful that to love her would be enough.

In every scene, Mia Wasikowska coruscates this rarity.

Never more eloquently than in sparring Michael Fassbender’s magically smoldering Rochester.

The teary, electric passion between the two is nothing short of a gift.

They make the Lifetime movie-brutalized genre of melodrama not only forgivable, but venerable.

Rare is the movie that can make you believe an unbearable love is possible.

The billowing torch Eyre and Rochester bear along the gusted midnight plain of their narrative makes my own sporadic bursts of pussy-chasing look like a miniature flashlight not even bought—shoplifted—from the CVS of my imagination, whose only light is its own fluorescent torture.

Like all good movies, Eyre helped me realize I am a fool and an asshole, even as it gave me hope I might not be.

The function I suppose Jane Eyre herself performs for Rochester.

That she does not exist in life, in the dark, rainy parking lot of Amherst Cinema, as I walked out to my car, seemed mankind’s keenest tragedy.

If in Eyre’s braids alone I could not glimpse all the universe I beheld’s coiled splendor, I would be blinder than an underwater mountain.

When Rochester smokes his cigarettes in virile anguish, just as Fassbender’s British spy in Basterds, for a few nighmarishly tantalizing seconds I literally become homosexual…

If women looked at me the way they must at him in my imagination, I would fear nothing.

I would walk through walls, breathe fire, stick my head into the mouth of death like a large black lion and laugh  into the throat-hole like a metaphysical bullhorn.

The first act is slow.

The dialogue is rich, baroque, and conceptual—yet effortless.

Fukunaga’s engaging direction; Goldman’s cinematography is quite lush; Buffini’s screenplay shivers between competence and excellence.

The acting is so close to being, we see into the consciousnesses of our two leads that thing we have no easy name for, and so, throwing up our hands in gratitude and disgust, call poetry.

Ten women with a tenth of Eyre’s courage and mettle, working together, could rearrange the madhouse we call the world into a paradise.

Go see Jane Eyre if you want to relearn how pathetic, petty, impotent, simple, tepid, empty, shallow, and alone your own experience of love has been.


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!




The Green Hornet (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

The Green Hornet is an okay but not stupendous superhero thingy. My expectations having been set low by the cheap jokes in the previews, I was pleasantly surprised. The villain is Cristoph Waltz, who delightfully stunned as the brilliant villain Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, the most beautiful movie ever made, and who throughout Green Hornet gots some funny-ass lines poppin’ out his mouth! The first scene also features a sweetly cheesy cameo by James “Jonathan Franzen” Franco! Due to these surprises and some creatively silly Pineapple Express-esque action sequences, The Green Hornet is better than you think it will be. But responsible critics should not confuse the illusion of goodness that shimmers around a merely passable entry’s transcendence of that critic’s expectation of suckitude with the gooey, gooey goodness of real goodness. The viewer, on the other hand, has a responsibility to lower his or her expectations, so that any film’s perceived goodness might be selfishly maximized. Thus the duty of the critic to the public and of the viewer to the self are forever opposed, like the crossed particle beams of two separate Ghostbusters sweeping the vaulted hotel ballroom of the soul for the shallow hologram of truth.

I’ll be the first to admit Seth Rogen was awesome on The Wonder Years. As the snarky sidekick of more versatile leads, Rogen is able to land his punchlines with a devastating, deadpan precision—but when he’s gotta leap around, conjure enthusiasm, mope, emote epiphanies, and cling genuinely to all those other skinny vines main characters must swing on through the jungles of change—he continually overplays his hand. He’s like a Jack Black without the hole in his soul, that thing deep down that drives great comic immersion into the moment, into the self-immolation of pure performance (which paradoxically reveals the self in the viewer). Rogen’s always holding back, clutching some dim ember of middle-class normalcy he believes is worth protecting, some shitty inner sincerity that’s just not interesting or dramatically useful, instead of melting fully into the form. Reading contemporary poetry one encounters too a commoditized bewilderment.  Poem after poem effortfully destabilizes  conventions of syntax and diction all to reveal… someone from the middle class wanted a taste of literature. There is no there here. Just a charging, adolescent energy unencumbered with the wisdom of years or the distance from self true alienation teaches. It’s easy to be a poet or an actor. But there is only room in art for language and character.