Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bi-polar Film Reviews

 There is a problem in America with how society view and reacts to mental illness. Too often the attitude is "get over it" and from this i can speak from personal experience. Telling someone that's depressed to just cheer up, is about as sympathetic as telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. Something else i've had to do, by the way. Ah, the days before cellphones... but i digress.

There is hope however, social awareness about mental illness is on the rise, and certain taboos about shrinks, drugs, or just being "crazy" are fading away. Slowly, but they are fading.

Last year in particular had a pretty great push in this direction in the form of two movies.
They both deal with how society treats mental illness, but go in completely opposite directions.

This first movie is :

Originally this trailer had Nine Inch Nails' Closer, but they didn't really have the rights, so they had to pull it, but honestly, i feel the music here is better, less cliche anyway. Speaking of music though, the song from this film's credits (Waterflower by Pacific Ocean) is really beautiful, reminds me of the paper chase in a way.

i'm not sure what to make of the trailer, it doesn't convey the film in the best way, almost trying to sell it as perhaps an average teenage drama (and in a way, this is true) However the first time i saw it, i knew i needed to see this film. i mean come on, look at those beautiful and disturbing dreams of sex and violence, and John Waters as a priest!

Oh, like we all haven't had this fantasy.

AnnaLynne McCord gives a fantastic performance as Pauline, a teenage girl with some normal teenage problems, but also some really serious mental problems. And the tragedy of this film, is she's on some level aware of how troubled she is, and repeatedly calls out for help, only to be ignored. This sort of thing happens every day.

Pauline's younger sister has cystic fibrosis, so most of the attention is going to her, society treats physical illness more importantly than we do mental. And it seems to be implied that since they're saving money up for the sister's lung transplant, they're not really willing to send Pauline to a psychiatrist, so instead they send her to a priest.

There's this really interesting dichotomy in that every time Pauline acts out as a normal teenager, it's a huge drama, you know "Why must she be so unreasonable?"  but every time she acts out, in really troubling ways, it's ignored, by family, classmates, teachers, everyone. As mentioned great moments of tragedy come from her moments of clarity, realizing how she's acting.

Pauline has aspirations of being a surgeon, while being delusional to how it all works, and sister needs a lung transplant, so, you might be able to guess how this film ends.
How it plays out, however, is truly astounding, i've never seen a film end so brutally, so horrifyingly, so fucking tragic, it's almost beautiful.

While her mother is out, she drugs her father and ties him up, then drugs her sister and the girl across the street, takes them to the garage, and well, cuts them open and switches their lungs, all the while completely oblivious to the fact that she just murdered them.

Now i might just be speaking for myself here, but i have this real existential horror of the body. Not my body, not your body, i'm not talking Cronenberg body horror here, i mean the body, one that is not living anymore. There's just something absolutely terrifying to me, about being in a room with what once was a human. And to me, that horror is perfectly realized in this film when Pauline's mother walks into that garage.

i must take an aside to commend both the writing and Traci Lords performance, from the trailer i was afraid Pauline's mother, would just be some two-dimensional bitch, but she does try in her own misguided way, and she really does have depth.

So when her mother walks into the garage, Pauline is just so proud of what she's done, and everything that her mother has been ignoring comes rushing to her, she charges at Pauline in a rage, but just ends up embracing her, the film ends with them crying and screaming.

By far one of my favourite horror films.

The next film is a much lighter, romantic comedy:
Silver Linings Playbook

This film is actually generating Oscar buzz, which is interesting, i just thought it would be quietly ignored by the majority of people, but like i said, awareness of mental illness is on the rise.

So first up, i also wanted to see this movie based on the beginning of the trailer, the scene where he's ranting to his parents about Hemingway. i can relate to that, and many other things in this film. Though embarrassingly, i somehow missed this movie was by David O. Russel until his name came up in the end credits, which is funny because I <3 Huckabees is on my favourite films, and definitely my most watched.

So handsome Bradly Cooper plays Pat, a man who lived most of his life without knowing he had any issues with mental illness, until he caught his wife cheating on him, which caused him to snap and nearly kill the guy. His wife pulls a restraining order on him, and he's ordered to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital. The film opens with his mother checking him out, it's been long enough for the court, but they ignore the doctors that think he should stay. She's well intentioned anyway.

Pat is in denial of many of the problems he has, and is trying to get better for all the wrong reasons, he wants to get back with his wife, he wants to be better for her.

He then meets the also troubled Tiffany, played by the lovely Jennifer Lawrence. They have an interesting chemistry, they're drawn to each other but also drive each other crazy, drawing out whatever each of them is ignoring about themselves. Eventually they come into an agreement to enter a dance competition, and it all comes together and a cute and romantic way. And i'm not dismissing the film, it really is cute and romantic, it's just the means of coming together isn't as important as the meaning. Like Chuck Palahniuk has said, Fight Club, could have just as easily been Knitting Club, or anything else really.

Tea and cereal. Cereal and Tea.

i did like that Pat almost messed it up by waiting so long to reveal something to to Tiffany, all because he wanted to be romantic, it's just a fun moment with a touch of realism.

i've heard a lot of bitching and moaning about the end of this movie, how it's some unrealistic Hollywood Happy Ending, and you know, that's bullshit. The entire film is about two people trying to get better, overcome their problems, accept their illness, and move on from the past. The final scene of the two of them being and cute and cuddly, it isn't a happy ever after, no more than it's some foreboding sign of doom. The scene takes special care to show their ring fingers, they're no longer wearing their wedding rings. That's huge, it's symbolic, the movie has showed us that there is no such thing as normal, everyone has problems (and the various healthy and unhealthy ways they deal with them). There is no happily ever after, but there is happy. They're not magically absolved, they're just happy. And i like that a lot.

I hope this means Chris Tucker is returning to acting.
The acting must also be mentioned, phenominal performances by everyone, Cooper, Lawrence, Tucker, Oritz. Though honestly, De Niro gave probably the best, he seems a bit unsure over what to think about everything going on with Pat, but is still trying to be a loving father, and he's completely in denial about his OCD and other issues, the two do eventually admit that Pat is a lot like him though. But the moment that really sealed the performance for me was when he was sitting on Pat's bed, crying to his son, about how he wanted to be there to help his son, and how he was afraid to admit he wants his son to be there to help him as well, it was touching.

It's just a fantastic movie.

And while i'm not as angry as Pat was with the ending of A Farewell to Arms, it did bother me that of all the mentions of Metallica, there was none of their music featured in the film. And i don't even like Metallica! So here, take out your stress in unhealthy ways to this:

i hope i've made the case, not only to why these were two of my favourite films from 2012, but why they're important films as well. Mental illness is just a fact of life, it isn't something that's going to go away if you ignore it, and seeing these two films taking on the issue was really refreshing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fuck the Cabin in the Woods

So at the end of this film, an Elder God rises from the pit, destroying the cabin and everyone in it, and then it turns to the camera, and destroys it and the audience watching the film.
That was me, i am the Elder God, i have nothing but contempt for this film and the people that enjoy it, and i want to see them burn.

No really, not only is this the worst film of 2012 (which i'm just amazed something managed to be worse than MiB3), it's one of the worst films i've ever seen.

The best way i've come up with to describe this film is it's an ironic episode of Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo is only fun, only charming because of how sincere it is. The same is true of horror movies, the last thing the horror genre, or any genre needs is this self aware, cynical bullshit.

It's often toted that this movie is somehow a deconstruction of horror movies, however, my question is; How can you deconstruct something without even understanding it? Sure Cabin in the Woods points out that there are character archetypes in horror movies, and that everyone get murdered, but that's not deconstruction. It's just stating what the horror genre is, it's about as meaningful if i were to say "Everyone dies at the end of a Greek Tragedy"

The main influences on this film seem to be The Evil Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hell, the main monsters of the film, The Buckner Family are described as "Zombie Torture Redneck Family" which is just combining the monsters from the two. The problem is, Goddard and Whedon seem to have completely misread these films, viewing them as comedies, or worse, films that deserved to be mocked.

A laugh a minute, i tell you what.

Let's talk about the Buckers for a bit. Now, they come out into the world like part of a gameshow, yet our meddling teens are terrified of these things, and the scenes are shot like conventional horror. There is however, no weight attached to any of this, never do you fear these redneck zombies, they're just gross looking and dumb. And there's nothing particularity funny about them either, they're just killing the kids. So what is the tone? When people think of Evil Dead, they're most likely really thinking of Evil Dead II, which is a mix of comedy and horror. But the thing is, it never forgets it's a horror movie, and it's very sincere in both the jokes and the gross. The original Evil Dead is a straight up horror movie, the only thing funny about it is Bruce Campbell's acting. That's part of why Evil Dead II works so well, Sam Raimi realized what he had with Bruce's charmingly bad acting.  Cabin is uninteresting horror until those behind the cameras think they've won. There's a "joke" where the one guy is talking about how he feels for the Virgin, but then fuck her, booze! This is the detached irony i'm talking about, "Oh how deeply I care, NOT!" It's fucking juvenile. Anyway, during the wrap party, we see our heroine getting the tar beaten out of her like a cartoon character. And i ask "Why?" It's far too over the top to be horrific or to fear for her, and we already get the Crew are uncaring assholes, so it doesn't add to that. It's just more unfunny schlock.

Another really weird thing about the Buckners is that the film goes out of its way to tell us that they're different from other zombies. The woman didn't win the pool because she bet on vanilla zombies, not torture redneck zombies. So the movie is telling us that monsters in movies are different. But then there's the purge scene. Shaggy and the Virgin release all of the terrible monsters unto the compound. And we see that the film makers understand nothing about the symbolism of these creatures, they're all treated exactly the same. So despite what the movie told us, it's showing us that yes, zombies and torture redneck zombies are in fact the same. We see a bat rip some dudes head off, then we see a unicorn impale someone (ugh). It's the same senseless violence with every monster. The worst offender is probably the Angry Molesting Tree. For fuck sake. i get it, a girl was raped by the forest in Evil Dead, but what is wrong with you that you'd concieve of making it into the cutesy joke? Angry "Molesting" Tree. It also shows the movies reluctance to go into horror, the unpleasant. Rape isn't funny you see. Nothing worse than a horror movie that's afraid to be, well, horrific.

The closest to horror this film ever gets.
The merman is another problem with the tone in this film, one of the two main guys watching over the teens really wants to see the mermen, he's disappointed that no one ever picks the conch. Well during the purge, guess what monster is coming right for him? Of course this movie being what it is bungles the joke and he's disappointed to see it, we get a sad trombone "Oh come on!" When really, he should have been elated to see it, his dream is finally coming true, the merman in action. He knew he was dead at this point, would he preferred to have been eaten by the giant snake?

i suppose more than ironic Scooby Doo this makes the movie TV-Tropes: The Movie. It's not about anything, it's just data to collate. Look at this nonsense. An index of all the monsters, stat cards of their origins and attributes. Not a word on what they mean, because in this film they're just a name on whiteboard.

Then symbolism, the hierarchy of the film all falls apart at the end. So we have the kids, they're the actors, we've got cameras everywhere and the Crew behind them, directing things, doing the special effects, essentially writing it. Then we've got Sigourney Weaver as the Director, she's in charge, get it? And what bizarre commentary that the director is a unseen and non-influential force behind a movie until things go wrong. Then there's the Elder Gods, you know, me giving you the middle finger. The Director claims they're going through this horrorshow to appeal to these gods, so one would think they're the audience, this vicious cycle of cliche stories will continue as long as we demand them. Well,  firstly i'm annoyed anyone thinks that horror movies are anyway lacking in creativity or originality. And secondly the Four Temperaments is something really weird to rage against. This isn't cliches in horror movies, this is basic human story telling that Cabin seems to have a problem with. Anyway, as mentioned at the beginning of the review, after the kids fail to appease the Elder Gods, they break free, first destroying the kids and the cabin, and then breaking the fourth wall, and coming out for the audience. So, The Audience Will Eat Itself? i imagine the film is trying to say, "Hey guys, only you can prevent bad movies." But the decision of using the audience surrogate in the film to deliver that is beyond me.

This isn't the worst film i've ever seen because it fails at being either a horror or comedy, it's not even trash because it fails to say anything interesting about either genre. What i've really got against Cabin is its lack of sincerity. Take the scene with the cute little Japanese girls defeating the demon, "Fuck you!" the crew member impotently screams. This the ideology of the movie, sincerity and happiness are things to be met with contempt. If the movie is saying only we can prevent bad movies, it doesn't give us an idea as to what a good movie would be. The kids at the end, they destroy the world because they can't think of anything better, they can't turn the evil into a cute animal. If they had actually joined with the monsters (the Cenobites looked sympathetic) and done something new, something with meaning, it might have been an interesting movie. But no, fuck the world, let's get high. Once you stop being a teenager, you should have grown out of the "edginess" required to tell the totality of history of humanity to suck it.

No Donny, these men are nihilists.