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Observe and Report: Anosognosia in Macro

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.

Treatment Advocacy Center


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.Observe-and-Report-Movie-Poster-observe-and-report-5364882-518-755

lincoln

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.

paranormal activity 2

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There is something about these movies that absolutely scares the shit out of me.

To wit: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more likely to cry during a movie than scream. I didn’t scream during the first one, but it was a well metered thriller that kept its high levels of suspense until the all-black credits.

This one, a prequel-ish movie, made me scream out loud twice. I wound up putting my sweater in my mouth for the last half hour just in case this shit got real.

It got very real.

This film, which tries to capture the lightning in a bottle of its predecessor, went the typical sequel route of more of the same but bigger. It worked the first time, don’t fuck it up.

This is where it succeeds, unlike the sequel to the Blair Witch Project. They made the creative to decision to, instead of making a typical slasher/supernatural horror film, take the bigger budget and bigger crew and create a bigger, scarier version of the first film.

Luckily, they also found a director in Tod “One D” Williams who could capture the same metered suspense that Oren Peli captured in the first film.

That’s why this film succeeds on an absolutely base level. It didn’t fuck with anything. It just got bigger. And tied itself into the original in a few very original ways that give an amazing amount of context to the first film.

And boy did it get bigger. The last twenty minutes of this film is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. The movie trots along with weird shit getting weirder, freaked out people getting more freaked out and then, in the final third, everything just gets amped up beyond belief.

Horror films rely a lot on their sound design (and score) to create atmosphere and tension. Every door creak, every footstep, every little moment is nuanced to create that suspense.

This film does that to perfection–to an Oscar worthy level, even (Seriously? Seriously.). Every tense moment is preceded by an ominous, David Lynch-esque, low-bass rumble. So you know something’s about to happen. And the camera is static. There’s nothing, just this rumble. Then things start happening. I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot of my reaction to this film was based on the way that they cranked it up to 11 during the most frightening scenes.

This is also known as the “startle effect,” when something jumps out at you unexpectedly and makes you jump. You’ve seen this before–like in Alien when Harry Dean Stanton (and the audience by proxy) gets startled by a cat coming out of a locker. This movie relies heavily on that–and, for once, it’s not a bad thing. Because it’s tied so well into the sound design instead of it just being faces jumping out and a violin shriek, it’s natural sounds crashing into unnatural sounds as something incredibly small–or, in some cases, nothing at all–is occurring on screen.

In spite of it being a found-footage film with all the rote shitty camera work, this is definitely one for the big screen simply because it’s a major experience to see it with a crowd.

When a movie like this gets its body count in the theater up towards max capacity, the tension on the screen becomes tension in the crowd. Everyone, except one douche boyfriend, is enraptured by what their watching.

That undivided attention, too, helps. I can’t imagine that this movie would work as well if I watched it at home, making a frozen pizza, checking my facebook (and probably naked). This is a front to back, all eyes forward, movie.

To work on absolutely gut-level, though, you have to buy into the premise. You can’t go into this movie jaded, thinking it’s bullshit, and ready to laugh at every moment. Your mind’s already made up. Stay home, check your facebook naked and watch a Saw sequel again.

If you go into this movie thinking, “I’m gonna get the shit scared out of me,” and you buy into it, then you’re in for the thrill of a lifetime.

You can’t just sit there, head in hand, observing all the plot holes and whatever. You have to give yourself over to this movie–especially since it gives back in a big way.

Oh, and one more thing:

I’ll be the first to admit that it was disappointing that this film had credits as opposed to the first one that just went black for a minute and a half.

I understand, though. It’s a bigger budget film and it’d be a real bitch to get everyone to sign off on completely forfeiting their screen credit like they did in the first film.

It was a nice touch, though, that they had 30 seconds of black afterwards and the credits were overlaid with creepy noises from the film. I’m willing to bet they couldn’t get the rights to Giacchino’s Ode to Godzilla (or something) that was over the Cloverfield credits.