Seven years passed while watching it. I hobbled out of the theater feeling as if I’d been paroled in the waning years of a sentence whose heinous crime I could no longer remember, but had surely committed.
I scratched my beard and wondered, “Was Anonymous more boring? Or confusing?” Impossible to know!
And I almost longed for the blustery drear from which I had been freed.
Rivers of rats are hard to tell apart as they panic and scurry about on important quests; the many figures in Anonymous are equally indiscernible.
A bloated backstory cinched into a present action whose stakes are never established, wrapped within a different present’s cliffhanger, further tucked into a present-day Manhattan playhouse act that elicited nervous LOLs in the first thirty seconds of the movie.
Anonymous was halfway done before I realized who the main character was in the backstory. All characters past and present looked unlike their counterparts in the other timeline; or looked, sounded, and behaved exactly like their foils in the same timeline. I also remember none of their names, titles, or connection to Queen Elizabeth’s jizz-sticky throne.
The fact that none of the mistaken identity or generic incoherency was intentional ironically highlights Anonymous‘ epic fail: making it abundantly clear exactly who Shakespeare was and wasn’t in the first Act. This liberated the overcooked spaghetti that followed from the one thing that could’ve made it bearable: the mystery of authorship that brought us to the theater in the first place.
The next two hours aren’t insane or explosive enough to be fun. Scenes are orgies of exposition unlubricated by dramatic tension or directional clarity. Wait, who was that? Oh, yeah, okay. Wait, but? What emotion am I supposed to be feeling? Why did they have to do that? grumbled the groundlings in my brain every time someone grandstanded or threatened or stormed from a room.
The only thing that makes less sense than the plot of Anonymous… is why Olivia Wilde wasn’t cast as the young queen? Or any of the other generically buxom roles she could’ve strapped on a corset to portray? In order to entertain myself during the bewildering dullness of every conversation, I pictured a skit where Olivia Wilde gets all excited going to go see Anonymous, but walks out in a rage halfway through because she realizes she isn’t in it. Outside on the street she fires her agent over the phone. Then she listens to The Shins alone in the limo en route to her penthouse.
Payeth not to see this pile of crap / for life is but a dream that ends too soon / and already meaningful, and full / of Everests of crap we come to know / in the theater of human time, for free / by opening our eyes, and aiming them. / Why pay eight dollars for one nightmare more / twining tiny meaning to minor terror / to be piled upon the greater mountain-nightmare / of waking being, which we are ever given? / Heaven being everywhere an error / in an error, the rumor in the rune, / except for fools confusing truth for ruin / who would give new craters to the moon?
I saw Fright Night 3D on the sensible, square-toed, vaguely designer heels of The Debt. I saw The Debt on the trendy and brandless stilettos of One Day. Thus, I was prepared to endure yet one more sphincter-pinching round of the hot, stinky case of IBS that is Hollywood’s late summer. And yet…something felt almost cool, and nearly refreshing, as I moved my mouth around some popcorn, at once taking in awesomely effective squirts of Sprite and the crispy little tapas of subdivision that graces the film’s opening. Mark will say that FN3D suffered from a droopy diaper of a first act. And yet…I rather liked the scenes of the baked cow-patty of houses flung out into the distance of desert, the lights of Vegas glinting menacingly over the horizon. Though perhaps too much is made of the susceptibility of a “transient population of Las Vegas” to vampires, and the perfect cover that population offers because “they work at night and sleep during the day,” and too often, FN3D earns props for neither overdoing its nascent social commentary, nor indulging too indulgently in the meta-narrative that is de rigeur for horror flicks. Twilight gets its kudos, and some limited fun comes out of guessing which vampire tricks actually work in FN3D’s purposefully bland little world, but the greatness of this movie lies not so much in its willingness to inflect other movies as it does in its tentative steps into a world of its own.
I haven’t seen the original and have no plans to. What I liked about this Fright Night was its ranginess, its ability to juggle competing genres on their own terms. There is comic relief and something maybe kinda sorta about…the internet? our culture’s love affair with vibrant, freakish displays?…in the person of someone who is obviously supposed to be and yet is just as assuredly not Russell Brand. Or Johnny Depp. Or Keith Richards playing an old Johnny Depp playing a young Keith Richards. With Russell Brand on a bicycle doing coke off a tiny bicycle-sized rearview mirror in the background. Whatever. I really, really liked this movie’s willingness to call a spade a spade and go balls-to-the-wall on the casual misogyny. There is a scene were Colin “Feral” attempts to intimidate the main character, but cannot go inside because he hasn’t been invited in (score: that Swedish movie). So he lurks at the kitchen’s edge, pacing a bit and sniffing the air, describing the various scents the main women characters in the film give off. It doesn’t look much like he’s acting. And yet the women are allowed to be charactersas well. They don’t just get talked about and done shit to, they talk and do as well. It’s like: women get fucked, but whatever. When the final credits rolled to some sample of “99 Problems” I realized that I had just watched the nearest thing to cinema verite the vapid, desultory end of Hollywood summer season had to offer.
Fright Night 3D bores you with dumbness until you’re about to give up on it, then it bites into your neck with fangs of crazy bullshit. It pleasantly resembles Insidious in this way. An interesting premise that treats you like you are stupid—because, let’s face it, you are—until you forgive it for merely mirroring the void within. Then it rewards those base impulses with likeable weirdos wielding unconventional weaponry in a spree of set piecey fights. Colin Farrell Depps it up with dope, sprawling moronicness. The other guy who should have been Russel Brand but wasn’t was my favorite character only because he overacted on par with the bar the rest of the film set. The main character, a kind of skinnier, nerdier Shia LaBeouf whose name I forget, or rather, never knew and never will, did okay. It’s one of those movies whose first act is so exposition-packed that I don’t fault the main guy for being a bad actor. While he did not save the unconvincing conflicts at the center of these scenes, at least he did not worsen them.
This summer’s Cowboy and Aliens offers an interesting counterpoint. Whereas C& A opens a tantalizing present of premise to reveal a steaming pile of shit, FN3D reaches into a pile of shit and pulls out $5 you didn’t expect would be in there. Leaving the theater felt like having a slightly shitty $5 bill in my pocket. I was excited about washing it off and using it the next day, but kind of sad I would have to wash these pants before wearing them again because they are my favorite pants and it’s raining, so doing laundry was going to be a problem, since there is no washer and dryer in my basement, which means I have to lug a laundry bag two blocks to the nearest lavaderia. In the rain? Not gonna happen. So that shit would still be in the lining of the back pocket of those pants as they sat on the top of my hamper. And yet, no one comes into my room but me. And I would still have that $5. There’s a lot of things you can buy with $5. Well not a lot. But some things that are pretty good cost under $5. And you can buy one or two of them with it.
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!
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
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
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
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