Wednesday, January 27, 2010
When dealing with the 'net, I have hundreds of graphics thrown at me daily in a never-ending cycle. I see more goddamned cats from behind my desk than I do on the streets.
But a few times a year, I'm impressed enough with an image that jumps up in my face that I have to drop it into my own personal gallery. This is my first of the year:
Well, yeah... she's hot. I'll cop, that's generally a recurring motif with the grabs I save. But there's also the lack of context... who is she? What was the project or event? When?
Without context, the anonymous graphic invites creating the context. Whoever she is seems to be looking at the director, (in whatever context that may be) and her mouth, her hands seem to be saying, "I can't believe I'm doing this..."
But her eye, so vivid and alive, seems to be saying, "... but I love you."
The world is having a bad day. It’s been having the same bad day since nigh on 30 years before, when some folks got into an argument about religion. One thing led to another, the sky was opened and the sun was let in at maximum volume. Now America looks like an Aussie post-apocalyptic movie from the 80s, just with more money tossed at it. And a li'l Segio Leone thrown in for spice.
It’s like The Road, but with more warm ’n’ fuzzy. Which ain’t saying much. Motorcycle gangs are still raping and murdering for entertainment, and some folks are eating other folks. Others occupy their time maintaining battlewagons bristling with ghetto armor. No one rides a bicycle. Even in the post-apocalypse, everyone seems to think that bikes are silly. Silly America. So everyone else just huddles in the doorways of ruined buildings looking miserable.
Like this review, The Book of Eli takes way too much time getting around to the story. The story here is that we've got ourselves some desert despot who wants some wandering dude’s Bible. Dude’s name is Eli, and he doesn’t want to hand it over. It’s his Bible. Granted, after the war everyone left who wasn’t blinded by the sun gathered up all the Bibles and burned them, so Eli’s Bible is the only one left. Seems pretty selfish to keep the only copy of The Word to oneself and not spread it, but that’s just the kind of guy Eli is. He’s also the kind of guy who can filet a room full of hard cases with only his bad-assed self and one nasty-looking sword.
He’s a polite sort, though, when he’s not killing people over his Bible. Eli’s played by Denzel Washington, so you know he’s a nice guy at heart. And the despot is played by Gary Oldman, who's introduced reading a biography of Mussolini, just so you know what he's all about. Which means plenty of scenery chewing until he gets his hands on that Bible. And being Oldman, his plans aren’t nice.
But mostly Eli walks. Walks, walks and walks. It takes fifteen minutes for Eli just to wander up to the story, moving in slow motion and with high-end music soaring. After the story gets rolling, sometimes people get in his way and asses get kicked. Despite that, there isn't any real conflict. Sure, people keep trying to take Eli's book away from him and he keeps messing their shit up for trying, but... it's a book. Yeah, a very rare one, and with some amount of power. But it's a book. And as the big, goofy reveal shows...
... not one worth dying over. Actually, since he had it memorized all along, it was really, really stupid to die over it. And the bit about him actually being blind entered everything into unnecessary silliness. Served absolutely no purpose. Didn't mesh with what came before, either. Not very New Testament either, when you get down to it. No turning the other cheek and blessed peacemakers in Eli's book.
SPOILER OVER, OKAY?
... and then the story is over, too. Well, sorta. After that the movie keeps wandering along with a voiceover that explains everything to the slower members of the audience.
It’s a nice-looking picture, though. In an aggressively ugly sort of way. Sort of like a spaghetti western with too much sauce. The movie almost seems to be embarrassed to be revolving around a pedestrian Mad Max with a Bible. Or maybe the directors were trying to make the padding look good.
What with the big reveal at the end, and trimmed down to an hour, the film'd feel right at home as one of those old hour-long episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Welcome to the world of 2019, where the day-to-day has become the night-to-night after a vampire plague has turned most of humanity into vampires. The good news is that oil doesn't seem all that important anymore. The bad news is that human blood is the new oil, with fresh supplies dwindling rapidly. But a dour, chain-smoking Hematologist (Ethan Hawke) is on the game, looking for an alternative for a multinational blood chain. Thing is, he's looking into a cure, and that's not in the interest of the corporation's bottom line. Sociopolitical satire and sporadic action sequences ensue.
Which is all well and fine, but as such Daybreakers falls into the inherent weakness of the vampire genre. Too much time spent with the monster morosely waxing existential. Not much joy de morte. Too much telling, not showing. The moments when Willem Dafoe shows up to chew the scenery infuses a li'l hot blood into the proceedings, but feels like they belong in another picture. Like he wandered in off a D2DVD sequel to John Carpenter's Vampires.
Daybreakers never really settles on exactly what kind of horror film it wants to be. Is it a dark comedy, a bloody actioner or heavy-handed sociopolitical allegory? Even Romero can't pull off the latter anymore, and he's an old hand. And while Tarantino may pull off mash-ups, he's spent an inordinate amount of time getting it down. The brothers Spierigs are pups, and don't have the chops yet to try and tackle such a difficult stunt.
What I enjoyed most about the Brothers Spierig's debut zombie slapstick debut Undead was their obvious exhilaration in making a movie without any money, a roll-up-the-sleeves and bark-the-knuckles in a Aussie "get-er-done" delirium. None of that energy seems to be on display with Daybreakers, as if being handed a real budget has sapped their creative spunk. Or worse, exacerbated the creativity to the point that they try to pack two or three movies worth of ideas into one, without having the discipline (yet) to make it cohesive.
Ultimately I found Daybreakers to be no fun. It was sloppily written, a barely connected series of vignettes rather than a cohesive narrative. Subplots are introduced and left mostly unexplored, or resolved abruptly. What should be left as subtext is made overt through dialogue.
But it's not a horrible entry, and the political cartoon aspect might be fun for budding anarchists. And I do respect that it's more ambitious than most American genre multiplex filler.