Home » Reviews
Category Archives: Reviews
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.
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.