Ah, the tower: sturdy symbol of priapic hubris, at once trans-historical (Babel, Pisa, Empire, Twin) and inter-textual (Dante, Shakespeare, Kafka, Crichton), dialectically isolate and amidst its surroundings, lonely, proud, horrifically erect—perfect fodder for the latest blockbuster Hollywood film, Tower Heist
Which interrogates none of these archetypes, explores not one of these fabulae…
Tower Heist: 22.3 minutes aggregate of genuine mirth; 58.5 minutes of pleasurable tedium; 6.2 minutes of self-scandalized am-I-racist-for-laughing-so-hard-at-Eddie-Murphy balls-out hilarity
Walter Benjamin believed we watched cinema in a state of distraction and indeed I was distracted throughout much of Tower Heist
For this movie is obviously about contemporary American poetry
Its dull white poobahs installed at the top of the tower of contemporary American poetry…
While they recline in tastefully spacious apartment, done up with all manner of first-edition, and Darger original, and racks of medium-nice wine, just racks of it…
Hardwood floors; cupolas; hand-signed broadsides of Berryman’s 14th Dream Song…
And the hive of minorities and young people scurrying to keep this all going, underneath and among, in between, dreaming the big, glossy dream ourselves as we hold an elevator, walk a furry speck of dog…
All we want, Tower Heist cannily shows, is just one piece of that pure-gold Ferrari called poetry, we would settle for just one stinkin piece…
A carburetor chapbook…
Hubcap reading series steering wheel residency side mirror grant
Just some gold, just some gold, just some gold to fill our profoundly sparse little hands
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.
The Lincoln Lawyer, a thriller coming out later this year, in which Matthew McConaughey mixes it up A Time to Kill-style with Ryan Phillippe, looks awesome. Except for the fact that the preview reveals the whole story. Movies cohere around set pieces—a helicopter crashing into a bunch of kites, a chess match on a rope bridge above an active volcano, the amphibious invasion of mainland—not characters; the literary is straightened like unmeandering streams to flow toward Freudian spectacle. By showing where everything is going to go, über-trailers prepare us to be less unsatisfied with turns, three months in the future, we would otherwise find unconvincing. If seeing is believing, remembering seeing something is really believing; and when you believe in a story at least a little beforehand, its spectacle’s plausibility ceiling gets a proportional hoist.
Although not a fantasy, the plot of Unknown does feature a unique corn. Innocently en route to a conference in which a bunch of politicians and biotechnologists will alter forever with the aforementioned grain the course of human agriculture Liam Neeson’s taxicab leaps a bridge and slams into the surface of a gray, German river. His comatose ass stays submerged for four days, after which he wakes with a beautiful Irish head full of amnesia. Worse, his wife, January Jones (as hot as her name is cold; as pretty as the last is plain; as visually excellent as her initials are alliterative and palatal) doesn’t remember who he is either. A couple decent car chases and some capable “Whoaooa… I think I’ve been… drugged…” POV work glue this otherwise incoherent thriller together. Many computers and cell phones are used throughout by the characters, and yet not ever simply to log into their Gmail, which could’ve instantly resolved every conflict in the movie. Dialogue seemed as if the screenwriters had recently been made fun of by bullies for being too good, and so were feeling insecure and decided to use the movie to flex their their expository muscles:
“We’re in a lab.”
“Yeah. We’re scientists.”
“Instead of spies, you mean?”
(Laughter) “Exactly.” (Picks up plant, examines it casually.) “Anyway, science is over. (Knocks plant off table.) Let’s go get some pie.”
“The diner around the corner…”
(Nods.) “Maybe we’ll accidentally meet someone important to both of us there…”
(Claps shoulder.) “I hope not a spy!”
(They kick over a shelf and walk out.)
My own desire for pie distorts the example, but the style is true to Unknown. A tenuous analogy to poetry (and I pray the last time I beat this dead horse): something like a willful negative capability endures, i.e., the hypocrisy of professing to write in the vacuum of non-intent, cutting your literary-social facility with a perfectly curated critical illiteracy; consistently declaiming to know less than the Joneses about your process, motive, and vision as you meticulously sculpt each glittering stanza—how the doctrine of not knowing has become so commoditized that in one semester, with a few procedural exercises, you can teach people who have never even read a line of blank verse to foment fragment after fragment that in a blind test not even Tiresias could discern from Celan. Which is to say, poems start to work like movies; their falsities gelled in by the contextualizing nets we string around and underneath them. Poetry becomes whatever its preview supersedes. As an almost honest man continually caught in the tractor beam of casuistry, I celebrate my participation in this echo chamber between truth and farce. I neither write poetry nor movies, but destroy both and gild my own complicity until it sings.
The Eagle has all the appeal of swishing back the warm sperm from a used condom found on a playground. The feeling I have right now reminds me of being an undergrad and going to the poetry readings I was mandated to by the creative writing class I was taking to get an easy A, and then becoming radioactive at what I heard there. So much that I pointed myself in the general direction of poetry, and detonated my life. Poetry is a sacred trust with the power to change nations, alter sea levels, raise the dead, unify the lonely, etc; at the very least it reveals the seething majesty of the universe to those whose minds and eyes the cruel machinations of culture have stabbed out. Poetry can never save the writer; but it can save the reader; as Whitman saved me; and to see the responsibility of that power abused and squeezed into the sequined bullhorn of the bourgeoisie, or erudition-sparklers, ought to shake to the core the conscience of anyone with a shred of honor. Poetry doesn’t belong to anyone, least of all the privileged; but that is who has it and that is who misuses it to freestyle steam-shine their lifestyle curtains. That being said, The Eagle is so bad, it makes me want to abandon all this rage, this judgment, this passion for poetry altogether and start all over in the same vein with movies. It makes me want to raise an army, storm the gates of Hollywood… not to demand better stories… but to wrest the cameras and booms and grips and scripts away from our lazy, lying, parasitic ruling class and make better movies myself… for the people.
To treasure art which pushes the limits of its materials to the brink of imaginative catastrophe—in order to exfoliate the shadows those holy materials bear—before bringing it back to the simple kernel of communication for which the form was born. A painting into which hours of physical and psychic labor have been poured by the painter; and then to think of movies as moving paintings, that could do the same thing faster and farther without having to hold still; that could enrich exponentially by virtue of their exponentially varied materials? Where do you stand on this important issue, Kevin MacDonald (director)? Duncan Kenworthy (producer)? Jeremy Brock (screenwriter)? If we have a gladiator fighting a slave in an arena, do we need Donald Sutherland repeatedly telling us, too, that a gladiator is fighting a slave in an arena? If we have painfully long scene in which nothing is said that has not already been said… after painfully long scene in which nothing happens that has not already been telegraphed… do we really need another painfully long scene in which nothing is said that has not already been said… followed by another painfully long scene in which nothing happens that has not already been telegraphed? What is a camera for? You don’t know. You don’t know what light is for. You don’t know what sound is. You don’t know what life is.