Mad Max: Fury Road – Official Main Trailer

I heading out to play a gig in Amarillo in about an hour.  It’s Saturday night so I thought I’d post something fun. I’m really looking forward to seeing the above movie.  George Miller, who created Mad Max and directed the first two movies, and co-directed the third, is back at the helm. He created a world so vivid in the original trilogy that it is still with us, despite there being a mountain of post-apocalyptic movies, books, and TV shows that have come out since.  The Road Warrior, especially, is more than an action movie, as it touches upon the primal.  Hopefully this new film will be batshit insane.  The trailer makes it look like it is full of strange, brutal, and original imagery.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter First Response

Tonight I saw the excellent new movie Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.  It is going to be a little while before I can write a review, as the movie defies easy description and categorization.  I was pleasantly surprised that the creators of the movies, the Zellner brothers, were at the screening and did a Q & A after.  I had no idea that they were from Austin or that they would be there.  I think anyone that enjoys seeing something unique and dreamlike at the movie theater would like this film.  Although one could draw comparisons to other directors and films that came before it, it was its own thing.  It was an art-house film, but one that had a story captivating enough that I think even a certain percentage of people that aren’t interested in those kind of films could be swept up in.  However, it was interpretive and requires the viewer to think, unlike a great deal of mass entertainment. Anyway, I will write more at some point.  I really liked the film and wanted to get something up about it.  I didn’t want my silence, since I posted I was going to see it, to be taken as dislike.

Give Us Three Minutes and We’ll Give You the World

The original version of Robocop hilariously satirizes TV news and television commercials.  Sure, a movie made in the 80’s is bound to get a couple things wrong, but overall it captures the shallowness of modern culture excellently.  Years on our culture still too often feels like an 80’s action movie.

One of the general plot points in the science fiction movie Robocop is that a military industrial corporation is trying to take over the police force of Detroit.  Knowing now how are police have often been militarized, thanks in part to the military industrial complex, a good deal of this movie is still more relevant than one would hope it would be.  

Fury Review and the Mythology of War

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There are some big spoilers for the movie Fury in this post.

Last night I watched the World War II movie Fury, starring Brad Pitt.  I liked it a lot, as I thought it had several things to offer.  With Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, and others, there has been no shortage of World War II themed entertainment in recent years.  If someone is going to tell another World War II story there has to be some reason for it to exist.  I think this movie has earned a reason to exist.  Before I start on that I should mention that I was a History Major for most of college and I even took a class on Nazi Germany.  I have read my fair share of World War II books as well.

I felt like this movie was as much about World War II movies, and war movies in general, as it was about the actual war.  First of all the first two thirds of this movie are simply great.  The final act was problematic, but even its problems might have been by design, and it is worth discussing.  The first two thirds of this movie are jet black.  This is definitely war as hell.  Most of the main characters are not even likable.  The performances, cinematography, action, and story are all perfectly orchestrated during this part of the movie.  Even though something like Saving Private Ryan presented the horrors of war, and even showed war crimes near the beginning, there was a sense of the movie paying tribute to the soldiers that fought in World War II.  The world of war in Fury is no place that any sane person would ever want to be.  There is no dignity and nobility displayed for the most part.

Even though I’ve read that the filmmakers of Fury wanted to be historically accurate, and perhaps they were, the battlefield looks like hell in some kind of Italian opera.  Many of the shots seem like different shades of black, with assorted explosions of deep red blood. However, instead of this feeling monochromatic, there is a sense of opera to it.  You don’t want to watch, but you can’t look away.

The tension is unrelenting, whether that is behind the lines or in the battlefield.  There are two scenes worth mentioning.  First there is a tank battle in the middle of the movie that is as well done as any I have ever seen.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, and well orchestrated.  You never lose the sense of what is happening and what is at state.

At the polar opposite, also towards the middle of the movie, there is a scene of character driven drama that is as intense as any battle.  It could almost be in a Kubrick movie.  The soldiers have taken a German town.  One of the main characters in the film is a young inexperienced soldier played by Logan Lerman.  This character is the audiences way into the story.  Despite 10 weeks of training, he knows nothing about what war is like when the movie starts.  Brad Pitt and the other soldiers educate this character on the horrors of war.  Well they are in possession of the German town there is an apartment with two German women, one of whom is young and innocent.  Pitt and Lerman’s character are having a meal with the German women when the rest of the tank crew come in.  Feeling that they are left out, and wanting the spoils of war, there is a psychological battle between the characters where you feel at any moment things could go horribly wrong.  These men have been dehumanized by war.  You do not like them as they behave closer to animals than men.

However, the very next part of the movie is the tank battle I described.  The battle forces these men, who only a shot time ago were at each others throats, into a kind of brotherhood of war.  You root for them when only minutes ago you despised them.  This could symbolize not only how war forms strong bonds between men, but also how as movie goers, through narrative arcs, we often root for people doing horrible things.

The end of the movie is where the tone of the movie really changes.  It is also, depending on how you view the film, where it becomes problematic.  However, I think the problems in the narrative and action are actually by design, and they add to the ideas of the film, rather than detract.  The end of the movie finds the soldiers of a single tank trying to hold a crossroads against an entire German SS Battalion.  The tank is not even fully functional at this point, having lost its mobility to a mine.  The movie almost becomes a typical action movie here, something closer to Rambo than a realistic World War II film.  I won’t spoil the final ending, but lets just say that they kill more Germans than is realistically believable.

Although one could argue that the filmmakers simply gave the movie a big action ending to satisfy filmgoers, I don’t think this is the case.  I don’t think that a movie that was so steeped in horror and believability through the first two thirds of the film, would simply throw that out the window at the end.  The characters go from being highly flawed well written characters to action heroes.  The tank battle that I described above still had a believability and realism to it that this final battle lacks.  But I think the themes of that battle are taken to their logical conclusion here.  This final battle is more symbolic than the rest of the movie.

The final battle is the lie that we have to tell ourselves to keep sending our young men and women into harms way.  It is the construct that we need to have to enjoy ourselves watching violence on screen.  It is the horror and myth of war in the same film.  These are no longer men that have been dehumanized through situations that they have been placed in by others.  These are heroes.  These are people that should be put on a pedestal because they are doing things that are above the actions of mere mortals.  We not only tell ourselves pleasant stories about heroes in real life, but as film goers we allow ourselves to indifferent to any suffering that we see on screen.

This is tough movie, for what is says about war, for what it says about us.

Nicholas Winding Refn Documentary and Interview

Nicholas Winding Refn Documentary

The above article is an interview with director Nicholas Winding Refn and his wife Liv Corfixen,  who just made a documentary about her husband.  He has long been one of my favorite working directors.  All of his movies have a emotionally intense poetic quality to them.  He is someone that can deal in abstraction and have it resonate.  You get a sense that he understands how to communicate on a personal level through imagery.   If you think of how many things have to be put in place for a film image to be just right, that is quite a chore.  One of the best.

Thoughts On the Wolf of Wall Street

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Last night I watched The Wolf of Wall Street for the second time.  I probably enjoyed it even more this time as the movie has so many great performances and scenes.  Even many of the actors that are in the margins of the movie shine.  The movie is long and dense, so I still don’t feel qualified to give it a proper review.  However, there were a couple interesting ideas that I picked up on.

I think it is good that the movie didn’t try too hard to judge the characters.  Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, a great film in its own right, was a condemnation of the kind of behavior that took place on Wall Street in the 80’s and it still ended up serving as inspiration for modern day traders.  The Wolf of Wall Street documents the decadent and depraved nature of its characters, but for the most part it stops at documentation, and doesn’t try to relay any heavy moral message, as that hasn’t really proved effective in the past even when it is extremely well done.

I can’t help but view The Wolf of Wall Street as a comedy about the absurdity of capitalism.  These people are entirely despicable, in every way possible, yet these are the people that run our world.  In the beginning of the movie the working class is portrayed as “suckers” by these people for not having what it takes to get ahead.  Even the other rich, anyone that dares trust these people with their money, are laughed at and mocked.  This movie paints our whole capitalist system as some kind of perverse joke.  One of the most telling scenes in the movie is when Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, changes the name of his company to Stratton Oakmont to give it a respectable old money waspish sounding name.  Respectability is nothing but an illusion used to steal money from the “suckers” of the world.

But again this movie treats these people as animals in the zoo.  They are not so much treated as bad guys, but as a strange species that we allow to roam, to the detriment of all.  They make a mockery of our society, because we let them.