The Movie Locke and The Morality of Telling the Truth

‘Mastery of small, telling gestures’: Tom Hardy as a man who goes awol in Locke.

Warning – There are some small spoilers for the movie Locke in this piece.  However, there is nothing that gives anything away that should spoil the ending or your enjoyment of the movie.  

Last night I saw the movie Locke starring Tom Hardy.  I knew very little about the film before I saw it, other than it was a one man show where Hardy spends the entire movie in a car, and what little I thought I knew outside of that was wrong.  For some reason I thought that it had something to do with crime, but it did not. I thought I was renting a criminal thriller, although one with a unique premise, but the movie, although it kept you on your seat the way a thriller does, was way more interesting and unique than your typical thriller.  

The movie is a story of a man that makes a moral mistake in his life, the only one from what we can tell, but a big one.  He has gotten a woman pregnant that he barely knows.  He is in charge of large concrete construction jobs and after finishing one of his buildings he sleeps with the woman after they share two bottles of wine.  His reason for sleeping with this woman is that she is a very sad person, who has a very lonely and unfulfilling life, and he feels bad for her.  However this act and all other characters are never seen.  We only know what is going on in the title character’s life, Ivan Locke, because of conversations he has on his car phone on the way to the hospital on the night this woman is to give birth.  

The character of Locke is not only married, but also has a historical concrete pour set to take place the next day.  He decides that it is the right thing to do to be by this woman’s side as she has a baby, because it is his mistake that it is being brought into the world.  He has to inform his family that he will not be home and his coworkers that he will not be at the concrete pour.  This is what the drama of the movie comes from.  It seems like a very simple story, but it is completely captivating.  

One of the things motivating Locke is that he never knew his father until he was in his 20’s.  He despises his father as he has a bunch of one man imaginary conversations with his father about how he wants to be a better man than him.  He doesn’t want the baby to grow up not knowing who he is.  

At the center of this film is a series of moral questions about what happens when we tell the truth.  Locke decides to be truthful with everyone involved.  Will he be ultimately rewarded or punished for telling the truth?  Does telling the truth matter more than the possibility of either the reward or punishment?  Is Locke acting morally when he tells his wife about what he has done, or is he destroying his family and causing unneeded pain?  

This is a film that could be discussed in a philosophy class, but it never seems like it while you are watching it.  It has the pace and excitement of a thriller.  It could be a one man play, but the cinematography and the music are highly cinematic and compelling.  I couldn’t help but think of other movies that have beautiful shot night sequences like Heat, Lost In Translation, or Drive.  

Tom Hardy is simply one of the best actors living and breathing today.  He is always able to transform himself completely into whatever character he is playing.  Watch him in Bronson, Warrior, or this movie and you will see a completely different and believable character on the screen.  Although there is no doubt that the writing and directing are absolutely superb in this movie, it says a lot that his performance, at the center of the film, is completely captivating.  

Whether you come to this movie to view it as a very well done piece of entertainment, or are looking for something deeper, I have no doubt that it will be worth your time.  

Police Militarization in the Media and in Pop Art

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/ferguson-protests-policing_n_5680594.html

The above link is an article from Huffington Post where Police are actually engaging with the protestors in St. Louis instead of using force against them.  This is what police should be doing.  I have have been especially hard on Police through this blog because of the increasing militarization and excess use of force that we have seen throughout the country.  Not just in Missouri, but as an overall trend.  However, there are some officers in a St. Louis suburb that are engaging with protestors int he right way and they should be commended.  

Our police officers should be a part of our communities and not something terrifying that stands outside and apart from communities.  They have a hard job, I’ve never denied that.  However, they are supposed to protect and serve citizens, which is a mission that seems lost on a more and more consistent basis across the country, due largely to the increase in SWAT teams and the movement of equipment from our war zones to our police departments.  

Yesterday I watched the new Robocop.  It can’t compete with the classic version from the 1980’s that was actually a pretty smart satire in the form of a sensationally violent 80’s action movie.  The new movie has many faults, mostly in the action scenes that are bloodless and cartoon like.  However, the movie is not completely stupid and not without its merits.  One of the things that movie does get right is the idea of a corporation moving military equipment from foreign war zones to our cities and communities.  This is something that is actually being done in reality and the movie uses science fiction to heighten what is being done in reality.  (The movie also deals, although slightly superficially, with the ideas concerning our increasing use of drones, our manipulation of the media by corporations, the way our corporations are stateless actors that think outside of what is good for the nation state, and our unjust occupation of foreign countries.  However, even if some of these things are being dealt with on somewhat of a superficial level, it is great to see a big money tent-pole movie that actually have these ideas included in it.)   

I am glad to see our mainstream media focusing more on this problem in light of what has happened in Missouri, although of course I wish the root cause of it had never happened.  I am also glad to see some police officers realizing their true mission and acting as part of the community.  Third, I was happy to see a piece of pop art that dealt with these subjects.  Hopefully there will be continued awareness brought to these issues through the media and entertainment.  

Apocalypse Now Turns 35

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http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/this-is-the-end-james-gray-on-apocalypse-now-20140811

Apocalypse Now has long been one of my favorite movies.  It is still completely relevant today as there is something elemental and myth like about it.  I watched it again earlier this year and this line by the character Kurtz struck me: “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”  We still see that kind of absurdity in our culture all of the time.  The above article is an excellent write up on the movie, and why it still matters, from Rolling Stone.  

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review

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Last night my kid brother and me went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

“Hey Ben, I know you are moving back to Pennsylvania in two days.  Do you want to spend some meaningful time together?  Let’s go chew tobacco and see some fucking apes fight.”  I’m sure at this moment he thought it was the shittiest going away present ever, but hey, we had fun.

As far as popcorn movies go it was really good.  If you liked the first one you should like this one and vice versa.  It was more epic and battle oriented, but it was tied together with a solid story.  There is always a bit of ridiculousness when you see talking apes in a movie, and there were several parts where you could predict what was going to happen in the next scene, but overall it was done about as well as could be expected.  The special effects were phenomenal.  I hate when something looks like it was created with CGI and it takes you out of the moment.  Other than one or two shots in the beginning of the film, there wasn’t a moment when a visual kept me from being engrossed in the story.

Let’s not kid anyone and pretend that a movie that features apes riding horses is Shakespeare, but these movies feature a degree of intelligence that most summer blockbusters lack.  This movie, behind it’s summer entertainment factor, is a tragedy where we slowly see peace break down between groups over misunderstandings and rival factions.  In each group there are those that seek peace and those that seek power.  Much as in the real world, those that seek power rig the game so that the peace is lost.  Yeah, yeah, I know, as I said there are apes talking and riding horses.  But most of the time when a summer movie tries to be smart it only looks dumber.  This was one of the few examples where, and don’t get me wrong this movie is entertainment first, where a small degree of intelligence actually manages to be a part of the proceedings.

As a final note, I had a friend with a child ask me if this movie would be OK to take him to.  I think this movie’s PG-13 rating is earned, as it might be too intense for anyone younger then that.  Also, I’m usually not a fan of anything rated PG-13, as it usually means that they take anything adult or interesting out of a film to appeal to the widest possible audience, without a film having the magical whimsey of a kid’s movie.  However, I didn’t feel that this movie lost anything by being PG-13.  In fact, despite the fact that there was no graphic gore or nudity, I just had to double check the rating to make sure I was correct.

If they can maintain this level of quality for a third film I would be happy to attend.

 

Fury Road

The new Mad Max: Fury Road trailer just came out, although the movie doesn’t come out till next year.  I’ll miss Mel Gibson, but Thomas Hardy is a fantastic actor.  He is someone that can completely transform himself depending on the role.  His turn in Bronson is one of my favorite pieces of acting in recent years.  Watch him in that and the see if you can find a clip of him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and you’ll see what I mean.  (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, although it featured some great acting, is not really worth watching in total.)  The new Mad Max film is also directed by George Miller, who directed the first two, and best, of the original Mad Max Trilogy.  

One of my favorite action movies is The Road Warrior.  It is totally batshit insane.  The sheer forward momentum of the storytelling is impressive.  It is completely relentless and completely entertaining.    It is full of unforgettable imagery and it is escapist cinema at its absolute best.  I am looking forward to the new film and the trailer makes me hopeful that Miller hasn’t lost his edge.  

Kinski on Herzog

He should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No — panther claws should rip open his throat — that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It’s no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me – Klaus Kinski on Werner Herzog

One of the greatest directors of all time is Werner Herzog.  Whether making documentaries or feature films his movies are full of original ideas and images.  When you watch one of his films you are guaranteed to see something you have never seen before.  His films are often filled with ecstatic fever dream imagery.  Even his documentaries allow you to experience the world in a new way. 

Over the course of his career Herzog made five feature films with volatile actor Klaus Kinski.  A completely insane and often hilarious film is the director’s documentary on Kinski, My Best Fiend

The above quote is from Kinski’s autobiography Kinski Uncut, which is also known as All I Need is Love.  It is probably the most perverse and batshit book I have ever read.  It was as if he was daring the world to hate him. 

In the movie My Best Fiend Herzog claims that he and Kinski sat around trying to think of the most vile terms to describe the director in.  The above quote always provides me with a good laugh when I need it. 

The Beautiful Strange World of Hayao Miyazaki

Don’t call him the Walt Disney of Japan: How animator Hayao Miyazaki became a cultural icon by doing everything Pixar doesn’t http://www.salon.com/2014/06/23/dont_call_him_the_walt_disney_of_japan_how_animator_hayao_miyazaki_became_a_cultural_icon_by_doing_everything_pixar_doesnt/ via @Salon

The above article is a really interesting one about the famous Japanese animator.  His films can appear very strange to the Western eye.  After traveling to and reading I have learned about how the Japanese are more comfortable with abstractions.  Abstractions are part of their everyday language.  Because of their complex social behavior they often speak in abstractions and convey certain nuances through how things are said and facial expressions. 

I love Miyazaki’s beautiful and surreal movies.  They are art and entertainment all in one.  If you are looking to go someplace you have never been give his films a try. 

My Computer Dumped Me and I am OK

My computer is down at the moment which is making it infinitely harder to post.  I have written the last three posts on my phone.  I just ordered a new battery and I am hoping that fixes the issue.  I will pray to whatever strange god necessary to make it so!  If my proofreading becomes even more dodgy than usual, at least now I have an excuse!

A week ago I watched Spike Jonze’s excellent movie Her.  I am not a huge Spike Jonze fan as I feel like his movies are often clever, but rarely land any kind of emotional connection.  I feel this may be his best film to date as it was full of ideas, visually stunning, and emotionally compelling as well.  There were several scenes which didn’t ring true, but I put this down to the aesthetic of the film, which felt to me like sort of a strange fairytale for adults. 

The movie takes place in the near future. In the movie the main character, played by Joaquin Pheonix,  falls in love with his computer operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.   The movie deals with our obsession with technology, mortality, and what it is to be human.  There is a scene where Pheonix has tremendous anxiety because his operating system is temporarily down.  In one way this plays like a romantic problem as it reminds you of how you feel when you desperately want to reach someone you love, but can’t.   However it is also a metaphor for how tied into our technology we are.  We depend on things which only years ago didn’t exist.  So many of the things that occupy our time seem essential, but that is just a fabrication. 

I was exasperated when I couldn’t get my computer to work.  But then I just read a book and the morning slowly faded from existence,  all the same…

Postscript: However, if my ipod breaks down the streets will run red with blood.

Complexity, Art, and Monsters

I feel a strange kinship with Michael Moore.  They’re trying to pit us against each other in the press, but it’s a hologram.  They really have got nothing to do with one another.  It’s just some kind of device, some kind of left-right.  He makes some salient points.  There was some very expert, elliptical editing going on.  However, what the hell are we doing in Iraq?  No one can explain to me in a reasonable manner that I can accept why we’re there, why we went there, and why we’re still there.  

The fear mongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys.  

I doubt very highly if, while reading the above quotes, you attributed them to Mel Gibson.  Jeez I get up to some strange shit at night.  Somehow at 1am I started watching Braveheart and then I went down the rabbit hole of IMDB.  I think Mel Gibson is an interesting figure because if you like his films, as I do, it brings up many interesting questions.  Should we separate the art from the artist?  Do we have the right to judge people’s whole lives on possibly momentary lapses of reason?  Aren’t people almost always more complex than our media portrays them?  I have defended him here before and these quotes again made me remember why I have.

Mel Gibson is someone that struggles from alcoholism and bi-polar disorder.  Having known people with both, I know that especially with alcoholism that people that are good and decent in most of their lives can turn into absolute monsters.  Most of us would say that alcoholism is a disease and that we should realize the good in people that are struggling against that disease and not condemn them completely for the monster that they may become.

I again am not supporting in anyway the awful things that Gibson has said.  He also has displayed extreme hubris by doing things like building a personal chapel on his own property.  Any of you that read this blog on a regular basis know that I believe in equality for all and also have politics that at times differ greatly from some of the things that Gibson has professed to.  However, what I do defend is his right to make art.  Whatever laws he has broken he has paid for.  I also read last night that after his drunk driving episode he was on probation for over four years where for several months he had to take classes four times a week.

If you look at our criminal justice system it punishes people long after they have served their debt to society.  Many poor people have trouble finding work after serving time or after receiving something like a DUI.  Someone like Gibson has the money that they don’t have to worry about those kinds of consequences.  He never has to work another day in his life if he wants to.  However, we have to be even handed in our justice system.  We should prosecute bankers that commit fraud just as we prosecute low level conmen.  Inversely if we are going to forgive low income offenders after they have paid their debt to society, which we do not but should, then we should also forgive someone like Gibson once they have paid theirs.

Also, I believe that one should try to separate art from the artist.  I am sure all of us own albums or watch movies that have saved our lives at certain times, where if we knew the personal behavior of their creators, might sicken us.  I remember hearing a priest one time on the radio talking about how art is often a thing created by people trying to heal themselves from their personal demons.  Because of that it is often an altruistic force that should be allowed to stand apart from its creator much of the time.  Therefore we should rightly condemn the anti-Semitism of someone like Wagner, but we also should not prevent ourselves from enjoying the extreme beauty of his music.

There is also a portion of our culture that is truly sick that capitalizes on the struggles of others.  On the high end this is represented by something like TMZ.  On the low end this is represented by something like Busted Magazine or any number of low level publications that print mug photos of our fellow citizens.  They capture people at their lowest and weakest moments and make sport of it for the rest of us.

People are complicated.  The world is complicated.  We live in a society that often values simplicity whether represented as left vs. right or good vs. evil.  There are times when we must make hard value judgments that come down on one side or the other of this divide.  However, when the world allows it, we should allow our feelings and interpretations of what we see to be, well, complex.

There is Always Something Worth Seeing

I watched the movie The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology for a second time tonight with my brother.  Wanting to learn a little about the film’s star, philosopher and narrator Slavoj Zizek, I read several articles about him.  This is one that appears in The Guardian:

www.theguardian.com/culture/2011/jul/15/slavoj-zizek-interview-life-writing

I am linking to this one not because it is the best, I am just discovering this subject, but I really like the last paragraph.  Here it is quoted in full:

It is time for him to leave. “My son and I are going to see Transformers.” He means the third and final installment of the dismal film franchise. It’s apparently terrible, I warn him. “I have been to terrible films before. There is always something worth seeing.”

There are good and bad movies.  However, all movies say something about the society in which they are created in.  This is not to say that I don’t personally try to avoid bad movies, but that in seeing them, if I get stuck in a theater watching something I realize I shouldn’t have gone to, there is usually some idea to be gained from watching them.  Although movies might have several layers to them, the explicit and the implicit, they usually either champion or subvert the dominant culture in some way.  It may be scene by scene even, but there is something to take away from every film experience. 

The last movie I saw in the theater was Godzilla. (Spoilers to follow.) I didn’t enjoy this movie in any kind of entertainment way.  I kept remembering I was in a theater watching a movie instead of getting lost in the world the film created.  On a level of entertainment it failed for me.  However, it had much to say about the culture we live in.  It was a technical marvel that also seemed to me to be largely empty and meaningless.  So much of the modern world is like that.  We can be wowed by our technical achievements, but also feel spiritually empty much of the time. 

The movie was also a piece of military propaganda in some ways.  It did acknowledge our mistake of dropping a bomb on Hiroshima, but it seemed to say that the new military establishment had corrected its ways and that our commanders, represented by David Straithairn, would do the right thing when necessary.  It also painted the average soldier as always being brave and intelligent, when we know better from incidents like Abu Ghraib to not always be the case. 

The movie also had a very slim environmental message, although one that was diluted by Godzilla saving our civilization at the end.  The movie contained the idea that nature is larger than us and that we were arrogant to think we could control it. 

Both of these themes, a sort of subtle catering to both the right and the left, take place while untold carnage and destruction happens, because of the monsters that have been released.  However, even this destruction is rendered largely meaningless as there is great amount of destruction and death without there being any real carnage.  The violence is never made horrifying or visceral.  Our government does its best to prevent images of the violence that we perpetuate from reaching the general public.  We may see a building exploding, but true human destruction is often kept slightly out of the frame.  The movie did this to earn a PG-13 rating so that it can gross as much money as possible, but it is telling of our times that we cannot confront violence head on in any realistic way.  If we were to do so in reality we would surely not let the military industrial complex get away with as many of it’s recent past and current sins as we do, at least I hope so. 

Anyway, I’m not telling you to seek out bad movies looking for meaning.  I am only hoping that if you do find yourself in a movie that you are not enjoying, it may be worth more of your time than you realize.  Often low brow movies can reflect who we are as much as high brow movies.  Keep your eyes open.