31 January, 2013

In which I make fun of Hitchcock

I’m much too old to be batting against the classics. A serious attack on classic is too time intensive for a man who works 40 hours a week and, generally, it's an immensely unattractive quality. Everyone hates a know-it-all. In that regard, it’s a much younger man’s game.With that said: Fuck it, it's easy and I'm bored.

Come along, won't you?

With that said, I found Vertigo to be one of the most profoundly boring movies I have ever seen. Just. . . God, it went on forever. It’s half of an awesome ghost story, then at a certain point I just stop believing that it was worth Jimmy Stewart’s while not to fuck Barbara Bel Geddes. It’s preposterous.

So, yeah, naturally, I'm still going to make fun of Hitchcock, specifically Strangers on a Train.

Strangers on a Train continues that fine tradition of delivering well-paced, well-acted story that you just want to yell at somebody for. And loudly. Right in their ear. It is also the perfect example of a film that could have ended in its first hour if any of its characters bothered to act like normal people with reason and an intelligence slightly above that of a sea sponge with secondary concussion syndrome.

It’s the classic example of where a movie that could end twenty minutes in if someone just bothered to pick up a phone and act like a sensible person who doesn't like murder, which I think is most people who don't huff glue as a vocation or live in Florida.

I mean, hey, you, tennis dick! Just call your lawyer and then call the cops! It’s literally that easy. Do it. Do it now. You are engaged to be married to a US senator. He has a good lawyer. He probably has people in his employ who specifically exist to get rid of things like murder charges. Or the bodies that result in murder charges. Haven't you seen Michael Clayton? Hire exactly Michael Clayton right now, you idiot. You goddamn fucking idiot. Then maybe marry the woman you want to marry anyways so your conversations are privileged. Have you never heard of crime before?

Maybe it’s just because I’m not in the right head space or I’m just a cynic or maybe it’s because I watched too much of The Wire, but isn’t lawyering up pretty much de riguer? I mean, if you want to ruin a perfectly good murder movie plot, isn’t that what you do?

QUICK IDEA: Two lawyers, who are each others’ clients begin to murder people, but can’t go to the police for threat of losing their lawyer’s license! It’ll be called From Here to Attornies. Or something I’ll work on it.

Then there’s the fact that no one ever suspects anyone Bruce (the murderer) as anything but a lunatic who is probably capable of murder. Well, that's not entirely true. Some people probably think he's gay, but then immediately after that they think he's got a death or two to his name. At the very least he is understood to be that gay murderer friend of yours at the party.

He even strangles some old blue hair at a party! I'd like to think there is some satiric intent and that these people are just too polite to call the police, but deep down inside I just know that Hitchcock just really wanted to have that dramatic tennis scene go down.

Strangers on a Train is a series of conveniences and, it gets annoying, until you arrive at the climax, which is a fist fight on an out of control merry-go-round.. And at that point you realize that Alfred Hitchcock is truly the master of suspense because the whole time you were worried that this sort of silly series of events wasn't going to end with amusement park ride peril.



And, yeah, it’s kind of a thrill. And it’s kind of harmless. There’s really nothing to it. And then you have a murderer fight a WASP on an amusement park ride. And that’s pretty fun. That’s maybe the movie in microcosm.

Considering that Patricia Highsmith wrote the selfsame novel that this film was based on, I have to wonder what a Talented Mr. Ripley film directed by Alfred Hitchcock would have looked like. Now there's a guy you don't have to worry about calling his lawyer every fifteen minutes.

24 January, 2013

Hope I'm not too late on this one. . .

a review by James Kislingbury

Fear and pain can do incredible things and Zero Dark Thirty reminds us of that. It’s a well played procedural thriller that is based firmly in the characters of this world. It’s as much a piece of art as it is a remembrance of the past twelve years. It’s both exciting without being crass and mournful without being a dirge.This careful balance of fiction and facts is what makes it such a deeply satisfying work of art.

This movie is based on known quantities. It’s reliant on them. From the very first seconds of the film, we’re reminded of what kicked off this whole mess in the first place. From there it launches into another topic (and another important plot point), which is the government’s policy of, ahem, “enhanced interrogations.” It’s one of a few things we already have feelings about, which range from suicide bombs to government incompetence to the raid itself, but where the movie becomes more than a collection of facts is how these things are handled.

It doesn’t take much to recite what we know (we have 60 Minutes for that) and it isn’t much of a leap after that to make us feel how we’re supposed to feel (Answer: Bad.), what does take skill is to use these images (or not use them in the case of 9/11) to tell a compelling story in a way that isn’t obvious or exploitative. It can’t be easy to draw up a film like that and maybe there’s a reason it took 11 years for a movie like this to happen.

It is either because of or in spite of this irony that Zero Dark Thirty works so well. The scenes where you don’t know what is going to happen are just as riveting as the ones where you know exactly how they will end. I find it incredible that this film can lean so heavily on things that we already know and still find ways to surprise me. It’s for this reason that I want to avoid spoilers, for this movie is so much more than Osama bin Laden being shot in the face.

Though, that was pretty alright too.

Now, since I have to: Let’s rap about torture.

The torture is handled as brilliantly as a subject like that can be handled. It isn’t handled like an argument or a topic of discussion. It isn’t evidence or a plea for your emotions. It is just a thing that happened.

It is done dispassionately and as (seemingly) objective as possible. Bigelow doesn’t harp on about the mistakes (or even the gains) of the “detainee program,” rather it lets us develop our own opinions and feelings by showing us what it actually looks like. No news anchors or Basil Expositions in the background telling us what this means, there’s just couple of men in a room and one of them is chained to a ceiling beam and has a bucket of water being poured in their face.

But, because it is torture, it isn’t just a thing that happened. It’s torture and, worse yet, torture in our name. And we’re watching it happen to a human being and not in a way that proves that James Bond is dealing with rough customers or because Jack Bauer needs answers, but because it is an unavoidable truth of this manhunt and of a few planes stuffed full of people slamming into buildings.

Zero Dark Thirty gives its audience the credit to come to their own conclusion and, when it shows a man in a dog collar covered in his own feces, it also trust that they’ll come to the right conclusion.

What an idea.

I’m interested to watch this movie is ten or fifteen years with people who are children now. I want to see what people who couldn’t possibly remember the morning of 9/11 think about this movie, because they never felt the rage or the fear that I know I felt and that I know a lot of other people felt. I wonder how this movie is going to age, how it’s going to be felt by people who don’t remember September 11th or people who weren’t even born when it happened.

We all live in a world affected by it, so not matter what there is that connection, there is just something about remembering what it was like to be that afraid and that angry and seeing what people do with it. There’s this sense that we are doing this for you that makes the whole of the movie that much more frightening and that much more sad. Even when we get to the end, even if it was worth it, we can’t undo the things we did because we had one bad day.

Maybe that’s too soliphistic of a point to make. With that said, with a movie as well constructed as this one, I can’t imagine it was too far outside the minds of its creators.

Without giving too much away, the final shot is something of a Kuleshov Effect. Without dialogue, without a response, and without any real anchor to the rest of the movie, it leaves you to puzzle out the meaning using what you've just seen. It’s the movie’s thesis in brief.  Looking at this character and the background and where they are and what has just happened it is clear that Kathryn Bigelow is saying much more about her subject than she needs to put into words.  

 On its surface Zero Dark Thirty is a tense, intelligent thriller that works perfectly as what its tagline claims to be, “The ultimate manhunt.” Beneath that, though, it’s an important meditation on where we are and how we got here as Americans, as well the price of fanaticism. It’s a movie about emotions as much as it is about logic, as well as obliterating these things out of fear. Zero Dark Thirty skillfully transcends all of the stumbling blocks and talking points of the War on Terror to deliver a riveting film. Basically, it’s the best movie about the mess we're in that has ever been made.

14 January, 2013

My Review of Django Unchained

My Review of Django Unchained
by James Kislingbury

Django Unchained is a film directed by Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino, famous for directing such films as My Best Friend's Birthday and Four Rooms, this time has directed a western. The film stars Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz as characters in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Violence is used to further the plot, as well as to illicit an emotional reaction. These reactions very according to the context they are presented in.

After the beginning, but before the end there are flashbacks. Sometimes music plays in these flashbacks from other movies or eras.This is called "non-diegetic music."

In one scene Quentin Tarantino cannot act. Then the movie is twenty minutes too long and it ends with credits.

If you want to see a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, then Django Unchained is the most directed by Quentin Tarantino movie of the year!

I give it five toes out of five.

Thank for your time.

07 January, 2013

How I Miss it So

Garth Ennis is the single best war comic writer living today. It's an unfortunate reality of the market that this is not saying much. War comics, like westerns, like fantasies, like romances are a meager bunch. It's nice to know that every once and a while Garth Ennis will show up and knock it out of the park. And into a minefield infested with dogs. With AIDS. On the Moon. And the moon is Phobos.

With all that said if more people gave a fuck about war comics in the way that I give a fuck about war comics Garth Ennis would still be their king, sitting on a pile of melted keyboards. He knows how to write a good, violent yarn.

Fury: My War Gone By is more of Garth Ennis' take on the horrors of war. It is also more of the bourbon swilling, no nonsense, "What are you faggots looking at?" Nick Fury that we got to briefly known and love in Ennis' run on Punisher: Max (i.e: The real Nick Fury). It's what a war comic needs and it is what Fury deserves, after all, he's not a superhero, he's a born killer and those types of men aren't particularly romantic. They are awesome, though, if anything.They are awesome in the same way that the Old Testament God is awesome. You respect both of them, but you wouldn't want to celebrate Christmas morning with them.

My War Gone has a built in frame device: Fury, unshaven and drunk in an unnamed hotel room and a bathrobe is reminiscing on the dirt he's done over the years. We see him trudge through the mud of a post-WWII Earth, starting with the clusterfuck that was French Indochina and ending with the spicier, yet no less ugly clusterfuck that was the Bay of Pigs.

It is not a feel good piece. If I were to attribute a psychology to the war work of Ennis it is that his stories are written by an Irishman living in New York.

Ennis' (and Fury's) vision of Indochina that feels like Graham Green was doing a lot of trucker speed. There's no romance or cure references to Full Metal Jacket, there is just work to be done. If there is a complaint that I have of these stories it is that we don't have time to digest what is happening and neither do the characters. They feel brief and even paltry when you consider the gravity of the horrors that we're witnessing. Or maybe it's that Fury isn't much for waxing poetic.

The core of the book is prime material for Fury to ruminate on as an old man and engage with as a young man. The same goes for Ennis, because this feels like a book that he's been writing for at least ten years. If you like Punisher: Born and you liked War Stories and you even liked his flashbacks in Preacher, you'll love this book. If you don't like those books this will not change your mind, also: What is wrong with you? Are you a hippie?

He is a writer who seems to get what the hell is going on with soldiers and maybe even what is going on with a war. While that's a tall order to fill and while he also has to sell an action packed comic at the end of the day, it is something interesting and, dare I say, meaningful, and it is also something that many other pieces of media that revolve around similar matters lack.

There is no grand philosophy to Fury: My War Gone By. There isn't even really an arc. What you do have is some wonderfully contextualized events intercut with immense violence. That is more or less what the best Garth Ennis war stories eventually boil down to. And, besides, what the fuck am I going to do? Empathize with Nick fucking Fury? Even if any of us could he wouldn't want that shit.

This panel is not from the comic I am talking about. I just love it.
If we want to meditate on what Nick Fury "means" then, like John Rambo, he is a living monument to the failure of masculinity. Ennis' Nick Fury is a boozing, womanizing murder-machine and it has brought him nothing but pain, misery, and failure. He is too skilled in the art of war to do anything else and he his inability to love anything but getting back into the fray that he's a ruin of a man, a man that John Huston in Chinatown might call "respectable" if only for not having been killed.

Despite all of this, Fury remains and the need for a Fury remains. Times change, enemies change, politics change, and yet we need men like him to do our dirty work. The flaws of Fury are his own (he doesn't strike me as the type to bemoan his lot), but the necessity for wreckage like him is the work of men much more monstrous.

I mentioned how awesome Nick Fury was earlier and, really, he is. So are the events he finds himself in. War is an awesome thing. I say that in the classical sense, not in it being wonderful or impressive. I say that meaning that it is a thing that is worthy of awe and in that regard it's also pretty fucking awful.

Fuck. I just now realized that I want a copy of Nick Fury: Peacemaker. Oh well. At least I have my singles of Fury MAX to fall back on. Now there's a comic full of vim and vinegar.