The Films of Terry Gilliam

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The Films of Terry Gilliam

I often mention the films of Terry Gilliam.  He is one of my favorite directors.  The above link is to a retrospective of his work.  For those of you that are not overtly aware of his films, this is an excellent place to get an overview.  I agree with the retrospective that The Brother’s Grimm, while having some things to recommend it, is his weakest film.  Visually the film still has many Gilliam hallmarks, but the script is the most generic of his movies.  Tideland is one of my favorite of his films, but it is also one of the most challenging, and it is best if you become accustomed to his style before watching that. I believe the themes of that film are easier to understand once you have some insight into the way Gilliam sees the world.  Jabberwocky, his first movie outside of Monty Python, while worth checking out, feels to me as if Gilliam was still finding his voice, as later films are more substantial.  So if you haven’t seen any of Gilliam’s films, I would check those three out later for the reasons stated above.  Otherwise read the captions and dive in where you please.  Gilliam is one of the true visionaries of the medium.

Small Films

Although I am a giant fan of great pop song craft, lately I have been listening to more dissonant fair like Public Image Ltd. and Rollins Band.  Lately I have been listening to some jams that Rollins Band did with free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle.  Here is one called Miles Jam #2:

Now I completely understand that there are some people that will just not like this kind of stuff due to the dissonant nature of the music.  I’m sure that there are even some of you out there that will think I can’t possibly enjoy this stuff, that I’m just claiming I like it to be different.  But honestly, I find this kind of stuff beautiful.  (And some of the insane language that Henry Rollins uses I find quite funny in the way that certain parts of Apocalypse Now are funny.)  I feel like when musicians play, that they are creating small films.  Music is really visual to me.

When you go to a movie theater I sometimes want to see different kinds of films.  Sometimes you want to see something that tells a great story.  Sometimes you want to see something that is more surreal and visual.  Sometimes you want to see a comedy and sometimes a horror movie.  Sometimes you want to hear a great three minute pop song and sometimes you want to hear almost thirteen minutes of dissonant metal jazz!  Each kind of music creates different imagery in the imagination.

The only kind of music I don’t like is stuff that just creates vanilla imagery.  There are a lot of modern country songs that are so bland I feel like my brain is being sucked out of my ears by a vacuum.  There is a lot of pop that has been autotuned to where the singers voice has been drained of all personality.  Those kinds of things leave my mind empty.

But really if you try to think of music as being visual, so much more of it will open up to you.  Some people are painting beautiful landscapes with sound and some people are using dark surrealism.  Imagine walking through an art gallery and each kind of music is a different period.  Give it a try.

Pet Cemetery Video

I’ve got to jet out to a rehearsal.  In the meantime, in honor of Halloween approaching, here is the Ramones video for Pet Cemetery.  I learned how to play guitar by playing along to Ramones records.  This movie used to also scare the bejesus out of me as a kid.  Alas, now I would gladly dance with the awoken dead of Pet Cemetery if it came between that and seeing Ted Cruz’s face one more time.

Would Jesus Want to See a Cross?

A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a fucking cross? It’s like going up to Jackie Onassis wearing a rifle pendant.  - Bill Hicks

I’d be lying if I said I knew Hicks work that well, though I certainly have heard of him.  Mark, our saxophone player, tipped me off to this quote last night.  I have always thought it strange that many people’s symbol of hope is also a symbol of one of the most excruciating ways to die possible.  Do some reading on crucifixtions sometime, it’s horrible!  If you really wanted to follow Jesus wouldn’t it be better to wear some kind of symbol of love or peace or understanding?  That is why I find things like The Passion of the Christ so wrongheaded,  it dwells on all of the wrong things.  But then again, I guess most churches do the same….

Black Sunday

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Whenever there are two football teams playing that I don’t like, I always say I hope for Black Sunday.  This is a reference to the 1977 movie where terrorists plan to blow up the Super Bowl using the Goodyear Blimp.  This week the Cowboys play the Giants.  As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, as all three teams are in the NFC East, I can’t really wish for either team to win even though it would be advantageous right now for the Giants to come out on top.  I know that pro football is completely ridiculous, but that is part of what I love about it.  So next time two teams play that you don’t like, and you can’t in good conscious root for either one, remember the term Black Sunday.  You’ll thank me for it.  Enjoy!

Wikipedia page for the movie below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sunday_(1977_film)

Twin Peaks and the Uncanny

I’ve been looking up stuff on Twin Peaks ever since it was announced that it will be returning in 2016.  The scene above is interesting because Laura Palmer tells Agent Dale Cooper that she’ll be seeing him again in 25 years.  2016 will be 25 years since this episode aired.

But what also struck me was how unsettling the above imagery is.  I no longer find horror movies frightening for the most part, and for those of you that haven’t watched Twin Peaks is not a horror show in any traditional sense.  (It is a combination of genres that is really quite unique.)  There are some that are well done and suspenseful, but as an adult they don’t leave me with any lingering terror after I’m done watching them.  I used to be really scared of The Shining as a kid, but I watched it a couple years ago and found myself laughing at how insane and over the top it was.

However, David Lynch is a master of what is called the uncanny.  A definition of uncanny is:  strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.

The uncanny is a feeling and feelings are abstract.  It can be as surreal as the imagery above or it can be a normal everyday thing that doesn’t quite add up.  Often in dreams it is never quite day and never quite night, and there is something haunting about this.  Lynch as a filmmaker, and the above imagery is not the best example of this, is able to create images that are more like real dreams than any filmmaker that I can think of.  It’s the combination of things that don’t belong together in a way that is troubling.  I think one of the many reasons why this show has remained fascinating for so many people for so long is there is something about the way that it affects our subconscious that leaves a lasting impression.

The Unknown Known and the Meaningless Language of Donald Rumsfeld

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My last post featured John Oliver on drones.  In that video Oliver talks about a government memo in which the word imminent is robbed of all meaning.  Recently I watched the Errol Morris documentary The Unknown Known, which is a documentary about Don Rumsfeld.  A better title would have been The Man Who Wasn’t There.  Rumsfeld talks in a bureaucratic language that robs everything of meaning.  He speaks almost entirely in euphemisms.  The more you watch of this movie, the less you know.

That does not mean that it is without value.  While you start the movie thinking it is going to be a movie trying to hold Rumsfeld accountable for the mistakes, namely the Iraq War, that he made while in government, it becomes that almost seems more to be about the manipulation of language.

Having just read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think but to compare Rumsfeld to Eichmann.  Now let me be clear, I am not comparing Rumsfeld’s crimes to Eichmann, or saying that they have an exact personality match.  However, both seemed to be characters in bureaucracies that used a kind of empty language that masked the horrible realities of their actions.  Both men also seem to be very shallow thinkers.

Rumsfeld, in this movie, rarely seems to reflect deeply on what he has done.  He has kept an amazing amount of records.  He dictated so many memos that he called them “snowflakes”.  He doesn’t seem to be consciously misleading Morris.  It is more that he answers the questions directly, but in a way that is devoid of any deeper meaning.  It is an interesting movie with an extremely frustrating subject.