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.
This is an interview with the director and writer of Going Clear, the new HBO documentary coming out about Scientology. There are also some clips from the film. It’s a brief interview, but I think an interesting one. What interests me about this film, aside from the fact that something as strange as Scientology is interesting in and of itself, is that from what I’ve read, and from what they say in this interview, this film provides a window in belief and religion at large. Why do otherwise intelligent people believe in things which are just not credible?
I was reading a piece over at Rolling Stone about Yoko Ono’s upcoming show at the Museum of Modern Art. I have long felt that Ono got a bad rap. Even if her own work doesn’t appeal to you, I think that she was essential in helping John Lennon in becoming the artist that he eventually became. Well it can be debated as to the amount, there is no doubt that she WAS an influence on his solo career, especially on his more emotionally bare and politically fearless work. I don’t think you can be a fan of Lennon’s solo work and dislike Yoko Ono.
Ever since I saw the John Lennon song above at the end of the absolutely brilliant film Children of Men, I have loved it. (Children of Men is one of those rare movies that is brimming with intelligence and ideas, that also thoroughly entertains.) A less well known track off of Mind Games, it is an upbeat political anthem. (The song Mind Games will always be my favorite Lennon solo song.)
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.
The article linked above is a list of the best movies that came out in 2014 that aren’t part of the Oscars. In truth, I have only seen one of these movies, so I can’t vouch for this list. However, the movie I did see, Under the Skin, was easily one of the best movies that I saw last year, so I am willing to give the list the benefit of doubt. Under the Skin is a science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johansson. It has a slow art-house pace to it, though it is clearly made by a filmmaker that knows how to produce incredibly striking images. It is also the best kind of science fiction film, one that will make you reflect on the world around you.
My output has been a little slow the last two days due to a one two allergy punch of a high mold count and what is known in Texas as Cedar Fever. I love nature, but sometimes she hates my shit! I am a big supporter of protecting the environment. I find the natural world fascinating, beautiful, and full of mystery, but I am under no illusions about the nature of nature. Nature and evolution are a nonstop story of things killing other things. Although I love to spend time in the outdoors I know that if I had to survive in the outdoors I would probably freeze, get dehydration, starve to death, drown, be eaten, or meet any other number of unfortunate ends. When I went to snorkel at the great barrier reef last year they gave us a lecture before we left the boat about what could hurt you if you touched it. The list was so long I just remember thinking, “well just don’t touch ANYTHING!” The Australian beach and rainforest were also full of what not to do lists. When I was at the beach on the edge of the rainforest there were all kinds of saltwater crocodile warnings. Thinking about this tonight reminded me of Werner Herzog’s speech above. This speech is from the documentary Burden of Dreams, which is about him making the movie Fitzcarraldo with Klaus Kinski.
Yesterday the weather in Austin was like the movie Bladerunner. After being sequestered in my house all day, I started getting stir crazy. I finally decided I had to get out for awhile and I went to see the movie Birdman. The movie stars Michael Keaton and it is as fantastic as all of the reviews say it is. It is one of those rare movies that is full of ideas, completely original, and is extremely accessible. The human drama of it and the pacing are enough to keep one involved in every moment of the movie, even if one didn’t get off on all of the multiple levels of ideas and meaning in every scene. It is extremely funny, sometimes sad, and often poignant. The movie itself is largely about the human ego. It follows Keaton as a washed up actor trying to make a comeback, as actors, and artists in general, are a great subject to be able to examine the ego with.
One of the key lines in the film is about how Keaton is confusing admiration for love, which is something that so many people get confused on. People often confuse being appreciated for something they do, whether that is art they make, being good at their job, being a great athlete, whatever, with being loved for who they are as a person. Being appreciated for something you do is a superficial kind of love where people are only approving of one aspect of your life, that has nothing to do in the overall picture of who you are as a person. Whereas, if someone loves you they accept you for who you are, warts and all. As soon as you stop being good at what you are doing, appreciation can fade, whereas love should continue. I think that is why so many people in the entertainment industry, or in the public eye in general, have egos that have run amuck. It is also why so many are needy emotionally. Being appreciated is a thing that has to be constant to fulfill. If you have even just a couple people that really love you, you know that it is fulfilling in a way that all of the appreciation in the world can never equal.
The subtile of the movie is The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. I had a really strange experience on the way into the movies. This movie was in South Austin, the height of hipsterdom. While I was walking out of the parking garage there was a couple that looked like they were in 70’s costumes. Every article of clothing they wore was straight out of that decade, even if they were in times with current fashion. Then next to me sat a rocker looking couple where the guy had long blonde hair and a bandana, like Bret Michaels, but more hip. It was like I was at a costume party at the movies, but these weren’t costumes, just people dressing to some kind of strange fashion ideal. But fashion is a construct created by society and has nothing to do with if someone is a good person or not. All of a sudden the movie title and subtitle came up and it all made sense. Although you can still play with fashion if you are aware it is all a game, how much easier is it to take yourself seriously in one of those get ups if you are ignorant of the construct?
Also, isn’t it morally easier for someone to sellout, if they never had integrity in the first place. Although there are some people that definitely “sellout”, I would imagine that many people in the public eye are ignorant of the ethical quandaries that, say, endorsing some product bring up. If you buy into the larger economic system, or are even completely unaware of what is going on, isn’t it so much easier to go along with the program? In modern society ignorance is a virtue to some degree.
Anyway, those were just two of the ideas that the movie gave me. It really has so much going on, on so many levels, in not only the ideas that it contains, but also in the way that it is constructed as a movie. It is a fantastic viewing experience that I think most people would like, even if they aren’t consciously aware of all the ideas the movie is bringing up. It is entertainment in the best sense, in that it completely sweeps you into its world, holds your attention, yet it also somehow does the trick of making you think at the same time. And I should mention again that it is often funny as hell!