and sometimes poetry

Posts tagged “mark leidner

Anonymous (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

I don’t want to go into why Anonymous might be “bad;”

Its badness relative to its goodness discomfits me less than the coming onslaught of semester’s end;

The blizzard of Anonymous’s plots twists is of no interest;

Nor the ways in which narrative itself becomes lost in a white rush it both makes and is made from, stumbling through deep banks of its own inconsistencies;

Ill-timed and unmarked flashbacks;

Triple helpings of indistinguishable characters bearing the title “Earl;”

I don’t care that Anonymous stirred the tepid soup of its political intrigue with a splinter of moldy spoon;

That moments of drama sputtered up like stray sexual urges from Maggie Smith’s wrinkly loins; that its themes received more serious treatment in the Elizabeth movies, or Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet; nothing perturbs me about Anonymous because people spoke in complete sentences in it;

And some of those sentences were Shakespeare’s;

And the actor playing Shakespeare—

The fake one, the one actually named Shakespeare, not the writer, the actor, which Shakespeare also was, until he became a writer, which he doesn’t in this movie, because he can’t, because Shakespeare is the name of a nobleman, who is actually Shakespeare, though somehow Queen Elizabeth declares that “history will never know his name,” which, how is that possible, the point is it’s not! Complete sentences are the point—

Is a fine actor, and the name “Ben Jonson” is uttered at least 100x, and when was the last time a Cavalier Poet made it into a movie, huh Leidner?


50/50 (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

50/50 is a cancer movie for people who love cancer.

Increasingly the long, flat planes of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s resemble an Easter Island Statue—the child actor petrified in his own talent.

Seth Rogen’s annoying is inversely proportional to his paunch: we almost found ourselves attracted!

Let us consider the effulgent hokum of Anna Kendrick’s career: trapped in a small, chipmunky body, her choice of roles seems hopelessly doomed to that of the good girl, the bitch friend, the single, flowering frond of adolescence waving in the wind—we at once liked her and despised her, her luscious mountain of boob heaving sympathetically, uselessly, at JGL’s precipitous visage, her tight mouth purse…




OMG are we yet fronds in the winds of adolescence, waving?

50/50 is a cancer movie for people who like cancer movies equally as much as they like male sex talk and pot jokes—you do not have to choose: 50/50 gives you insights ranging from “bitches who live with you should be REQUIRED to give you blow jobs” to “do not be afraid to confront the fact of a loved one’s impending death from cancer with them.”

We cried merciless, fecund tears about 7/10 of the way through 50/50; and by “we” I mean Mark and me.

When Mark cries in a movie I can always tell because his breathing gets a little funny, in the way that one’s does when one is trying very hard to disguise the fact that one is crying; but I was also breathing funny, also crying, and at one point I let out a jagged, horrible laugh that I think Mark maybe thought was a great sob of anguish—really I had just endured a vision of our faces if 50/50 were the audience, and we the movie.

50/50 has some woozy shots meant to mimic, I think, the effects of marijuana; these shots in no way made me want to smoke marijuana, nor did they make me wish I had cancer—is this a failure of 50/50?

50/50 was successful as a character-driven movie about potentially saccharine subject matter in that it felt both “real enough” and “enjoyable enough”; while nothing surprising happens in 50/50, you still want to watch scenes to their conclusion.

The qualifying “enoughs” are probably because I am grumpy about the fact that this is yet another movie of “male friendship” in which the inside banter of white, late-20ish men is displayed as though it were some incredible ethnographic find—“Froggy position” you say? Fascinating!

However my normal ire is mitigated because this is a movie of male friendship with the tender edge only cancer can give.

50/50 (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor because he can play both iconic heroes as well as idiosyncratic wierdos; this movie in any other actor’s hands would’ve probably blown ass.

Rogen’s schtick is getting more efficient. It’s like the Jabba the Hutt of cheap jokes started working out; now his puerile misogyny lands 8 out of 10 punches instead of 15 out of 45.  If he’s going to make it into comedy heaven, Rogen needs to focus. In a few years he’ll be too bloated and hamster-faced for any audience to stand looking at, and will go the way of Jon Favreau.

Felt sorry for the bitchy hot chick, whoever she was; there was a creepily rapey scene where the bros destroy her painting by lighting it on fire and throwing axes at it while laughing. Fuck bitches! Men Rule! ‘S’cool cuz he got cancer.

( Has there ever been a Law & Order SVU episode where the perp is motivated by a terminal diagnosis to commit a series of heinous sex crimes, then gets arrested and tried but dies of cancer before the jury can render the verdict?)

50/50’s LOL-factor was one step above mediocre. Angelica Houston is a good-ass actress. She’s the mom. 50/50 made me want to not get cancer.

It  made me happy that I could cry obscenely in such a medium-good movie. It’s been so long since I cried at all, and the last time I cried, it seemed like I would never stop, so it was kind of nice, knowing the tears were the inspired by temporary, external stimuli instead of something you perceive to be permanent and internal.

50/50 contains one of the best murderous screams of  existential torture I have ever seen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor).

Cancer is awful; let us all take a moment in this time of global economical and political turmoil to catch our breaths. Let us remember whatever our differences might be as humans–gender, race, class, language, age, nationality–that death is the common enemy. It is the naturalest and yet oddest paradox that we all degrade, decay, go limp, and plunge back into the nothingness from whence we were summoned, but achieve our highest fulfillment as men and women in the way we attend to others who are closer, or are slipping faster toward the grave than us. Let us not forget the words of me, later, when I say now that whatever is waiting on the other side, heaven can occur on Earth if we all pull together. That doesn’t mean grabbing candy out of our better-costumed neighbor’s bags. That means emptying our own bag on the ground in front of those with no costume at all, walking away into the shadows before they ask our name.

Thor (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Thor is pure shit.

Imagine a person vomiting uncontrollably—not out of the mouth—but out of the anus. Color this blast of hot disjecta the brightest and cheesiest tints of CGI you can think of, and that is the feeling of Thor.

Thor‘s actors perform line readings like mass-media sculpted poodles painfully coughing up used condoms.

Through curly straws, Thor’s screenwriters sip cups of their own foetid feces, then spit it back into the cup of the movie, slide the cup across the table to you, which you drink without straw, so excrement cakes around your mouth until you resemble some kind of horrible clown.

Exiting Lascaux Picasso said, “In 12,000 years, we have learned nothing.”

Having attended the midnight opening, exiting Cinemark at a grim 2 a.m., I said to Hannah, “In 12 years we have learned nothing.”

Referring to 1999’s Phantom Menace, wherein millions of dollars pumped into empty CGI dreamscapes so enmired a narrative in visual camp that no emotional investment in a single character or event was possible.

Why is the Death Star of the immortal Norsemen a giant, fire-breathing, Soviet realism robot?

Why is there an Asian sidekick in the immortal Norsemen’s posse of stupid friends?

Of course the golden-mailed guardian of the Stargate of the Immortal Norsemen is a blind, black oracle who randomly melts out of the cocoon of ice in which Loki froze him at the very moment Thor needs rescuing—why not? Also, of course Anthony Hopkins’ Odin isn’t really dead but wakes up at the last second to shed a tear and live forever.

Of course the racial nemeses of the Norse are red-eyed blue goblins who do nothing all day on their iceball of a planet but stand around like refugees in ice caves, thinking about ice, making weapons of ice, planning al-Qaeda-style ice-hjinx.

I normally try very hard not to be a typically homophobic white male sexist pig; but Thor so thoroughly offended every  fiber of my entertainable being that I had no way to address it without recourse to the  homophobic epithets of childhood, turning to Hannah halfway through, “This movie is straight-up gay.” I am ashamed of that moment but report it in the spirit of full disclosure.

Loki—okay—Thor’s obvious neme-sissy—has an interesting character torn internally by dueling loyalties, each of which resonated royally with me; which is to say the villain, like good ones should be, is kind of right, he just takes it too far and gets his soul-wings clipped in the scissors of destiny.

Pods of greasy and pathetic nerds undulated with big-tittied laughter in the theater Hannah and I saw this bullshit in, wheezing hardest at moments of greatest homoerotic misogyny. Thor is like a thin trampoline upon which a Boy Scout troop’s worth of American nerds aren’t even jumping, just standing in a circle with their pants at their ankles, masturbating in patriotic, stroke-for-stroke unison.

I was a nerd too—but old school. The shame of a flowering sensitivity and brindling wit was what alienated me from my barbarian milieu—but today’s nerd is dumber, fatter, lazier, and duller than I ever was. Their only curse a blubbery sense of entitlement and wild overestimation of their own worth—like a moss that covers their souls—forever retarding growth.

Thor is proof of the nerd’s refusal to think about or attempt to articulate his plight; instead retreating fully into the gaudy treads of the wheel of the monster truck of comestible stupidity, currently brightwashed in icons of a once subversive  form—comics.

Thor isn’t story—but porn—for these people.

Thor is thoroughly horrible; boredom on steroids.

If Thor were real, he would swoop down from Valhalla on a brilliant thingy of light and individually sledgehammer everyone who had not seen this movie, to prevent them from ever seeing it, out of Nordic mercy.

I’m not a woman, but if I was, trying to enjoy Thor would be like trying to enjoy a warlock engaging my vagina with the lowest branch snapped off the nearest pine tree.

If there was something good about Thor, trying to remember it is like trying to remember the eye color of someone who killed your family.

In Thor we see the triumph of the dickless, of the thoughtless, of the hopeless masculinity—a bowl of vanilla ice cream left in the sun, melted, gone rancid, devoured by flies now trying to escape up the sides of the bowl, too bloated to fly—that with bright, loud explosions blinds itself to its own self-hatred, precipitating the recapitulation of that hatred outward onto the world, imperiling everything the real Thor stood for.

Thor lurches its way down the theatrical pipe like a multi-colored, irregular turd into the twin toilet bowls of your eyes.

Insidious (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Insidious is like terrorism. Intermittently frightening, but 99% of the time a cheap narrative slapped down onto a bleakly stupid vision of the human condition. It slips between boring, intentionally funny, unintentionally funny, not scary, and genuinely scary. The story is about a generic American family whose shame about their private, imaginative visions of the world prevent them from sharing those visions with each other. This unsung longing—for freedom, sexual gratification, omnipotence, life—clogs the channels of intimacy and forgiveness that might otherwise characterize the practical, day-to-day operation of the family, cutting every interaction with a many-bladed, nameless edge. Psychic tension percolates, traversing even generations, as the gulf between private and familial meaning widens like a torture rack cranked steadily by the grim, star-knuckled hand of time. Conversations become surreally polite, or purposely apocryphal, and sublimated urges grind and undulate into grotesque clouds bulging and banging against the wafery veil of social order until they tear—with eloquence in art and violence in war—through us like their doorways into the world.

A perpendicular gulf: There is great pleasure in watching great actors grapple with roles far, far below them. Think Nic Cage in Con Air or Don Cheadle in Drunk History. But if the difference between good actor and bad movie and movie is not an abyss, matrices of dramatic flaccidity, like Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson as the unhappy couple, or Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, arise. This of course the point of a movie like Insidious, and of a war like the one on terror. The characters are supposed to just competently be there, like the inoffensive suites of wallpaper that come with each new version of Windows. The point is not to look at it, but to click on other things. I saw Insidious alone in a theater full of drunk and stoned and very happy undergraduates. It made me jealous of when I was that thoughtless. Of when I too was possessed with an insidious innocence. The movie is unevenly enjoyable. A vacation through our collective domestic nightmare, glancing some humorous side-characters, and fleetingly inventive frights, with a long layover in the astral plain. Perfect for a date or a group of beloved friends with low standards, happily bored by their own political and existential terror. Click, click, click.

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.

Source Code (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

What if every time you read anything, you summoned the author’s mind into your own, housed it there on life-support, and for the duration of your attention span, that consciousness became a living thing. As long as you concentrated on this stranger’s words and let them overdub your own internal monologue, that writer was awake, alert, looking out through your eyes, feeling what you felt, thriving within your body. Then the moment you closed the book, or were distracted by a squirrel outside, or an email, or a phone call—the writer’s mind, as if struck by a freight train, is wiped from existence. It drifts without sensation or agency in the lightless void whose barest description belies a dimensionality it is defined by the lack of. Until the squirrel on the powerline runs out of your field of vision, or you delete the Facebook invite you just received, and return to your reading. Suddenly as if sucked out of purgatory and spit back into life the writer breathes again, or at least thinks, which is the breath of being. Once again the writer is smiling, weeping, opining, thrilling and being thrilled by the spongy, plangent joy of your form. As if to live in the empathetic present is the only heaven.

Reveling in the concept of a non-writer doomed to relive the same moment over and over is the primary Source of pleasure in Code. Watching whiskered, big-eyed Gyllenhaal grok his paradox isn’t nearly as wonderful as watching Bill Murray do it in Groundhog Day, but this sisyphean DeLorean gets adrenalized by shrinking down the existential loop from 1 day to 8 minutes. The other good thing Code does is blur in all its glossy, techno-thriller glory the line between the never-ending present and mother Death. Right now, reading this, you could be having a flashback on your deathbed, remembering when you read it long ago. Maybe we are all already dead, and the thing we call life is just one long, slow flashback. Something we lived before and now are falling through in a perfectly representational montage. Eternity, momentarity, the dream of forever realized through sheer faith in the infinity of now—in Code these venerable leitmotifs are like the most delicious Sicilian dough ever kneaded being grinded through the Play-Doh hand-crank of hackneyed idiocy that is the loud, plastic sacrament of blockbuster form. But it’s non-toxic, so you can still eat it. I’ve been eating it my whole life. It’s good!