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Anosognosia: “lack of insight” or “lack of awareness” – is believed to be the single largest reason why individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder do not take their medications.
It’s this really unfortunate thing, right? That Paul Blart came out in January of 2009 and six days shy of four months later Observe and Report came out.
Every time I mention Observe and Report, people take a second to rattle their memories and typically come up with “That other mall cop movie? The one with… Seth Rogen?” Exactly. I guess if there were ever a time when a movie should be shelved, it was then. Because had Observe and Report come out a year later, it perhaps would have garnered a broader audience. They could’ve sold it as a parody of some kind.
But even those outside the film industry know that you can’t produce, edit, and distribute a motion picture in the span of four months. Had they perhaps waited, like, eight months maybe then the public would be willing to accept Ronnie Barnhardt as some sort of filmic response to how squeaky clean Paul Blart is.
Or maybe the next to non-existence of redband trailers in 2009 totally stalled any chance this film had of marketing itself as a graphic antithesis to Mall Cop. The trailer for the film does nothing to prepare you for how quickly the movie goes dark.
But, shit dude, the movie itself is brilliant. I have yet to truly grasp the humor of the Foot Fist Way, and could only ever make it through the first season entirely of Eastbound and Down, which leads me to think that this is probably Jody Hill’s most accessible work.
His style of humor is a tough pill to swallow and he doesn’t give you a glass of water. It’s an absolutely unrelenting experience that truly makes the viewer begin to ask, “Wait, when am I supposed to laugh?”
When Observe and Report first came out in 2009, the film blew me away with it’s deep-black sense of humor that absolutely tests your ability to finish its scant 82-minute run time. It takes you into the depths of purely being frustrated with Ronnie and his deluded, alternate, sense of reality that it gets to the point that you just feel bad for the guy.
That’s when his date with Brandi happens. He gives her all his medication figuring that because she said yes sober but went out with him drunk it clearly means that they’re now in love and boyfriend & girlfriend. Obviously. Given Ronnie’s great fortune at finally nabbing the One, the medication is now unnecessary so he gives it her and she says, “I was like ‘Okay, weird guy at the mall asking me out.’ Oh my God… But now I got a whole new script! Thank you!”
That whole section of the movie–and especially Ronnie’s actions–raise huge questions about the idea of consent and whether or not either of the two parties involved were in the proper state of mind– whether it be due to an external or internal struggle–to say no. Especially since Klonopin basically erases your memory if you take too much. That whole sequence is fascinating and the way it ties together at the end is even better.
That’s what it is: at about the hour mark the film externalizes his emotions when, after a fight with police, he is seen in montage healing from those physical wounds. At the same time, he starts taking his medication. And! His alcoholic mom has a change of heart and decides to switch to beer because, as she says, “I can drink that stuff all day and still keep my shit together.” It’s a moment in the film that, because of its structural placement, still connotes growth in her character.
This all leads to, when the final act of the film occurs, you’re rooting for Ronnie to accomplish his act of redemption–to see him restore faith in himself.
The entire film is based around Ronnie’s bi-polar disorder too. Coming from someone who’s dealt with it all his life and done his goddamndest to find the right medicinal balance, it’s interesting to see it from the pills perspective. See because, at the beginning of the film, when Ronnie’s doing well (but still fucking crazy in a moderately subdued way), he’s only on Klonozapam. Which, as you know, is what Stevie Nicks was addicted to. Except back then some drug company still had the patent and they called it Klonopin.
“When you’re on tranquilizers [ie, Klonopin] you really can’t be depended on.” -Stevie Nicks (around 1:15 in the video)
I’ve had a prescription for it before and it’s one of those drugs that makes you mild to moderately numb to the world more than actually help resolve any of the actual issues at hand. It’s kind of like a Band-Aid whereas something like an SSRI or MAOI is more akin to a brace. It’s something that inhibits your movements in a way that encourages proper development.
So at the start of the film, Ronnie’s already only operating with a Band-Aid to keep his gaping mental gash from splitting open. It explains his already deluded state.
That whole layer of the film, though, and the fact that he stays on the same medication and doesn’t get further psychiatric treatment, speaks to that inner ability to heal oneself to the point that the medication becomes mere augmentation to the solution itself, which is mindfulness. I guess that’s really what it’s all about.
So this year, I saw 19 new releases. The worst of which were Blackhat and Jupiter Ascending. The best of which, well…
Tarantino does it again. A 3-hour, seven chapter epic about eight people stuck in a room together could get boring real quick but, as he’s shown, he’s a gifted writer who knows how to truly ramp up the tension or play with the viewer’s expectations. I did feel that it got a bit repetitious (lookin’ at you, “door won’t close” gag), but the characters were interesting enough for this to be negligible. I’m curious to see how it plays on a smaller screen, without an intermission. But from what I saw, it’s up there with some of his best work.
4) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Did anyone expect it to be this good? JJ Abrams has totally been on a roll since Mission Impossible 3, with Super 8 being one of my all time favorites, but even I had tempered my expectations. And then promptly got lost in the visuals and the storytelling and the callbacks and everything else that’s made this movie worth watching (and rewatching, though right now my intention to see it a 2nd time is in the “plans” phase). It was pretty much what everyone wanted, somehow, and that’s evinced by the fact that it’s made close to $650 million domestically in just about 13 days. Ridiculous. But the hype is well-deserved. It’s a great fuckin’ movie.
The moment I found out they were adapting Although of Course you End up Becoming Yourself, a 300 page interview with David Foster Wallace that took place over a few days for Rolling Stone, I was stoked. Then I found out Jason Segal would be playing my favorite author of all time, and I became wary. The movie itself exceeded my expectations, and even included all my favorite moments from the book. It was a great look at a great writer and I honestly can’t believe they were able to work in the “Brothers of the Lung” line, the Alanis Morisette poster, and the Barney blanket over his window. I can only hope that, one day, someone (maybe me!) makes an inherently ironic TV show based on Infinite Jest.
I am an unabashed fan of this film. When I picked it up from Redbox, I wasn’t expecting much. None of the reviews I read of the film were all that positive so I skipped it in theaters in spite of being pretty excited from the start. Sure, there’s not too much Tomorrowland in the movie, but it raises some great points about humanity and starts an honest conversation for the adults in the audience to ponder (like, “We have simultaneous epidemics of starvation and obesity. Explain that!” is probably my favorite line from the film). The action sequences were great and the whole movie had me enthralled. Plus, it’s PG so I can show it my nephews way before a lot of other killer movies.
Did you see that ending coming? No? Me either. Exactly. Just an absolutely well-made film and an all-around great experience watching it for the first time. I was completely blown away by how smart the movie was and how well it was constructed, just like the house-fortress in the film. The story kept you on your toes and always seemed to evade my predictions. If you haven’t seen it yet, 1) Shame on you 2) Be prepared to be a little heartbroken. It’s amazing watching this story unfold. Just go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.
So there you have it. Here’s the full list of new releases I saw this year, ordered chronologically by release date:
Age of Ultron
Mad Max: Fury Road
The End of the Tour
Straight Outta Compton
Mockingjay Part 2
The Hateful 8
I’ve seen four films in the format over the past 4 years. This includes Inherent Vice, which had a little-mentioned 70mm blowup print created and screened at the Arclight in Hollywood, and getting to see Interstellar on IMAX 70mm before that system got changed out for lasers.
In the Booth
I spent a year as a projectionist for a theater in Humboldt County, so I know the medium intimately. I’ve worked hands on by building & breaking down prints and taking care of the projectors themselves. It’s a lost art, and one that I fell in love with during my short time at the theater. I can remember picking through back issues at the Humboldt State library of I think it was Film Comment not so much for the reviews, but to see how long the print was physically. I was always interested in seeing how many reels a picture was. 
Technically, it’s a difficult process to run celluloid through a projector. The prints are thousands of feet long and any small mistake can cause something to go horribly awry. I’ve been the cause of this. I dropped an Avatar print that had to be spliced back together and shown for another week.
Toward the end of my tenure, we got our first digital projector. Instead of prints, we were being sent a hard drive and the entire build was done on a computer.
It’s a fickle medium with a lot of detractors. But it’s also the classic way to view a picture. One that’s being lost completely not just because of digital, but because of the dwindling amount of humans who know how to work the machines correctly. I think that was the one unforeseen aspect of Hateful 8’s road show: they forgot about human error. I don’t know to what lengths they went to find people across the country who could run a 70mm projector, but it seems unlikely that, say, someone in Minnesota has been trained on how to run the projector, let alone maintain the print. That’s why they’ve run into problems when trying to show the film. If 70mm is gonna live on, there’s gotta be a workforce devoted to the special training needed.
The Viewing Experience
At first, seeing a movie projected on film now can be a little weird. The image almost seems to vibrate to life as your eyes adjust to that millisecond of black between frames when the aperture rotates. But, once you adjust, the differences grow more and more minimal as the movie continues. What stands out the most are the scratches, which you almost search for at a certain point to make sure you aren’t watching a digital projection and being duped.
It’s about the size, really. The image expands so far out into your periphery that you can’t see much beyond it. This is used to great effect in the Hateful 8 where you have six characters in the frame creating a sort of human vista. Or in the Master’s long take of Freddie Quell walking down the pier with the Alethia in the background. Simple shots take on a new life when there’s so much background room to play with. You can practically tell completely different stories in the left and right third of the frame—something which Tarantino does in the Hateful 8.
It all depends on whether or not the people want it now that 100 theatres are equipped for the format. Batman versus Superman, with sequences shot on both Panavision 65 and IMAX 70, looks like the next movie that’ll get this type of release. If the rumor holds up (and it probably will now that people have come out droves for the roadshow presentation), then we’ll probably also see this special run include souvenirs.
I’ll always love the printed film, but the swap to digital is wholly understandable. It’s easier, you need fewer employees, things won’t melt. I get it. But to just let analog die out would be an absolute shame. It’d close the chapter completely on an era in the film industry.
 I think I’ve always had an obsession with the length of a film. As a kid, I always thought that the longer the movie the better the movie, so I always hoped that every movie I was excited for as a kid (cf. Godzilla 1998, the Matrix, the Mummy Returns, Deep Blue Sea, Armageddon, Deep Impact, Titanic, Independence Day, Men in Black, Batman Forever…I literally just look back at the Calendar Section of the LA Times in my memory because I used to look at the movie showtimes every morning to see when and where everything was playing because I thought it was interesting. I knew a movie was huge when it was showing every half hour, for example.)
 Like New Moon was 8 reels when it was only like 2 hours and 10 minutes long. Reel 5 was so short I missed the splice when I was putting the movie back in its canisters.
 It was Dolby Digital 3D, with glasses that used actual glass instead of flimsy plastic like Real-D. The first movie we showed was Up, and I can remember being blown away by the amount of depth and height given to some of the aerial sequences in the film.
 Like for example: where a piece of the film went through a roller wrong, or someone touched a piece of the film wrong or the heads and tails of the reels are in shambles because it was a used print to begin with.
 Ostensibly. I don’t know how many were temporary setups or projector rentals or who knows what.
The goal of any historical film is to try and derive excitement and suspense enough that you’re interested for the entire runtime–even if it is someone as revered and learned and relearned as Honest Abe.
With the amount that people know of him, you’d think it would have been much more difficult to teach and inform on the subject, but Daniel Day-Lewis brings such deeply felt humanity to a role that he allows to engluf him so completely that, while the pace never quite picks up, you are enraptured watching the living visage of one of the greatest Presidents ever, one who’s probably in your pocket right now.
More than anything, this film is a courtroom drama, studying the effects of the bloodiest war in US history on the men who were on borrowed time to get the 13th Amendment passed during a lame duck session in Congress.
To that end, Lincoln also achieved another tenet of historical films: Teach me Something. I had no idea that Abe essentially bribed voted-out Democratic members of Congress with positions in the government for their vote to enact the 13th amendment.
Or that politics hasn’t seemed to change much in the past 160 years or so: Tommy Lee Jones’s Congressman Stevens spends most of the film insulting his fellow congressmen (nincompoops!) across the aisle in the Democratic party because they don’t believe in race equality; bribes and deals are cut to get things done; and that the only time stuff gets done is during Lame Duck sessions when Honey Badger Congressmen don’t give a shit.
Beyond that, it’s hard to say much–Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is stellar; Tony Kushner’s screenplay brought into the third dimension two and a half hours of speeches and stories; and John Williams’s score wasn’t overpowering, but subtle in its emotional direction–beyond that, though, there’s really not much than can be said about the Best Picture Winner of 2012 (Yes, that’s my prediction, even though I’d obviously prefer the Master) except…
Some Nitpicky Shit that nobody else may care about (but I do!)
Up until now, Steven Spielberg has had me worried–it’s not that he’s slipped at all as a filmmaker, but that I just haven’t enjoyed the last two films of his that I saw. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a two hour clusterfuck, and War Horse had me so distracted with its lighting choices that I never could get into the film.
Those lighting choices are here, too: Between War Horse and this film, it seems as if he’s started to move toward pointing harsh white lights on all his actors at all times in spite of the coloring of the rest of the scene.
In War Horse, it was fairly acceptable as it seemed like a fitting lighting design for a film that originally came from a stage play. But, here, it’s just distracting at first, and I had to continue to consider its thematic uses because, against such a ridiculously rich period piece, it simply looked awful at points.
But then I decided that it was more to give the actors with any sort of humanity an almost angelic glow, as if highlighting those who were fighting the good fight, and those who were fighting against it. I came to this conclusion mostly because Jackie Earl Haley’s turn as the Confederate VP is never shone in such a light, but in other scenes, each and every person in the background has a white spotlight shown on their faces.
It’s weird, unnatural, and distracting, but it definitely helped to accentuate the dichotomous nature of humanity because, most of the time, the light is often from only one direction, allowing shadows to fall across the faces of the actors in a way that hints at their own uncertainty at whether or not any of this will work.
So it has its thematic purposes, both here and in War Horse, but I simply can’t rectify within myself the need to use such a jolting strategy in an otherwise gorgeous film.
And I have an excuse to post this:
There’s another one, but I can’t effing find it unfortunately.
Now that Daniel Craig is three films into his career as James Bond, I can safely say that he’s my favorite incarnation of the character… And by that I mean he’s the only incarnation of the character I’ve been really able to connect with.
Casino Royale was a great, if not boring, introduction to this universe and Quantum of Solace was a really solid followup, but it was generally forgettable–it felt like a half-assed attempt at a revenge film where the sole focus was on the exotic locations, the women, and showing us for the first time how far this new James Bond is willing to go to enact his plan. It was a great experiment but it was also a Sophomore slump.
Developing the character in this nouveau fashion has honestly paid dividends in expanding the Bond mythology. He’s no longer untouchable. He bleeds (this is probably the bloodiest Bond film I’ve seen). He leaves people to die in favor of the mission. If I were as cynical as I once was, I’d say that this new direction was entirely dictated by the idea that this was the only way Bond was ever gonna make money again.
But that’s how its always worked for this character. Since he’s an ever-changing face behind the 007 brand, he more than any other superhero, has been able to morph and change to reflect the times.
Though perhaps more than Bond, the villains have also reflected the things we fear the most. Javier Bardem’s turn as Silva points directly to the cyberterror threats we face every day on a massive scale. There’s a part of the film where he goes through the list of all the chaos he can enact with a computer, from blowing up a building with a mouse click, to changing an entire population’s opinions.
Against that, you have Ben Whishaw’s Q who merely gives Bond a gun and a radio transmitter instead of all the gaudy gadgets and odd inventions he used to have–like exploding toothpaste and tensile floss. But what good is a gun against a man with a computer? He’ll just kill you from halfway around the world before you can even get on the plane to come get him.
Director Sam Mendes, who’s experimented with action before with Road to Perdition and Jarhead, brings his ability to draw out nuanced performances from the actors on top of his usual ability for visual flare (he also directed American Beauty… and all those rose petals). In working with Roger Deakins, one of the great cinematographers of our time, he was able to construct an spy film with clean action sequences that were neither disorienting nor simply pots and pans and cars and trains smashed together (like Quantum of Solace), and incredible acting.
Also, Chicken Little thought the sky was falling too.