Terry Gilliam turned 70 yesterday.  This is a fantastic fan video made to mark the occasion.

Hilarious Monty Python sketch that actually seems to predict furries.

When I was a kid my favorite relative was Uncle Caveman. After school we’d all go play in his cave, and every once in a while he would eat one of us. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Uncle Caveman was a bear.
Jack Handy, to get us in the spirit of spending time with family. (via shorterexcerpts)

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Eddie Harris, my hero.

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Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising (1985)


Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising (1985)

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Shutter Island: Guilt, Trauma and the Disappearance of Reality.

I posted this to my Mubi profile a few days after watching Shutter Island, I am reposting it here.  I’m not sure if I find the film as ambiguous now as I did on first viewing, and this may be overly hyperbolic, but I still think it’s a remarkable film.

After delivering what may be his most straightforward narrative ever with The Departed, Martin Scorsese does a complete 180 and offers up a narrative that is one of his knottiest. It has been 2 days since I have watched the film and I still feel as if I am untangling them.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays US marshall Teddy Daniels, he and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffallo) are sent to the titular island to investigate the disappearance of one of the inmates of Ashecliff, an institution for the criminally insane located on the island. Without giving too much away, let’s just say immediately things are not as they seem. They are “greeted” by the deputy warden (John Caroll Lynch), who immediately asks them to hand over their firearms, he says it’s protocol. The lead doctor at the facility, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is not very forthcoming with information, such as not handing over documentation on the patients at the Marshalls’ request. We are also left to wonder why he seems to take orders from the creepy Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow), who Teddy suspects of being a former Nazi scientist.

To say anymore about the plot might ruin the movie, but it would also be pointless, as that is not what the film is really about. The film is really about Teddy’s guilt (this is a Martin Scorsese movie after all) and his mental deterioration. Teddy is haunted by memories of his deceased wife, who we see in dream sequences and eventually hallucinations, and his involvement in the liberation of the concentration camp in Dachau.

When the revelation arrived it initially seemed obvious and not very surprising to me. But after the film was over, and I continued to think about it, I realized that the whole ending of the film has in fact resolved nothing, and we are left to ponder the reality of what we have just watched. And it is for this reason that I am still untangling the film.

DiCaprio delivers what may be his best performance as Teddy, if he was all coiled intensity in The Departed, here he plays a man who is emotionally bleeding all over, and although I did see the revelation coming, DiCaprio brings such anguish to the scene, I found it undeniably moving. Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow are appropriately creepy as the doctors who appear to be keeping secrets, and Mark Ruffallo, whose performance seemed a little off to me, on reflection is very sly and subtle. There are two phenomenal one scene performances that must be mentioned, the first is by Jackie Earle Haley, he plays one of the inmates of Ashecliff, he is someone Teddy has tried to help but has ultimately damaged. His scene with Teddy is quite eerie and tragic, especially once the reality is known. The other performance is by Patricia Clarkson, she plays a character Teddy encounters in a cave that leads Teddy further into the maze of madness and paranoia as she lays out for him what is “really” going on.

This film is Scorsese’s most personally driven film since at least Bringing out the Dead. He is experimenting in a way he hasn’t in quite some time, creating images that seared themselves into my brain, especially during the Dachau flashbacks. Although he has made films before that deal with characters who have a tenuous relationship with reality (King of Comedy, Taxi Driver), he has never dealt with the subject as ambiguously as he does here. Scorsese uses all of the tools at his disposal, set design, editing, cinematography, to create a world that appears to be filtered through Teddy’s mind. Scorsese has made an expressionist film, which is one of the reasons the film is proving to be divisive. When watching thrillers, there is an expectation that Scorsese is subverting here, we want our narratives to wrap up neatly, but Scorsese has chosen to focus on character over a clean and straightforward narrative.

I have been a fan of Scorsese’s post 2000 work, but after The Departed one started to wonder if he would just become an accomplished journeyman filmmaker as opposed to a driven auteur. With Shutter Island, fears of that happening are laid to rest, as Scorsese takes what appears to be a straightforward thriller, and explores guilt, trauma and the violence of the mind as only he can.

Public Enemies: The Eternal Moment

I posted this to my Mubi profile a while ago, I’m reposting it here.  It’s a bit hyperbolic, I sense a trend here, but I standby this film as a masterpiece and one of 09’s best films.

When the trailer for Public Enemies premiered in early 09, one could be excused for thinking that this was going to be a slam bang action movie. But considering this is Michael Mann, who perhaps pulled off one of the biggest artistic coups of the decade when he turned Miami Vice into a hard boiled noir film by way of Wong Kar Wai, we shouldn’t be too surprised that this isn’t what we have here.

Mann drops us into the middle of the action, as he loves to do, and we join John Dillinger as he busts his cohorts out of prison. Shooting once again in High Def, Mann makes the 30’s feel very much in the present. That appears to be one of the aesthetic properties of High Def as opposed to film, film gives us the feeling of watching something that has happened, and HD gives us the feeling of watching something that is happening. And like Miami Vice, we do feel as if we are watching events that are happening.

We follow Dillinger during the last year of his life as he goes on a bank robbing spree throughout the midwest. But mainly we are following Dillinger as he tries to experience as much life in as short a period of time as possible. Through his use of HD, and by putting us into what feels like the present, we experience all of these experiences as Dillinger experiences them. The film unfolds over a period of one year, but with the exception of the beginning of the film,when we are told it is 1933, we really have no concept of time ellapsing. It is as if we are stuck in an eternal present, a place where there is no future and there is no past.

This feeling of no future and no past is one of the fascinating things about the film, because it does take place in the past. It is almost as if Mann is telling us that we have an idealized notion of the past, and he appears to be doing everything in his power to strip all of those notions from the film. And yet, Dillinger does seem to be a mythic hero, a man out of time who is being crushed by the modernity that is closing in all around him. It is this schizm between realism and myth that makes the film fascinating and difficult to pin down.

Although Mann is dealing with real life characters, he is once again creating characters who seem to have no past and no future, these are characters who seem to be living in an eternal moment. Mann has stripped his storytelling to its bare essentials, so he is relying on his actors to fill in a lot of background with their characters through their actions, and top to bottom the cast succeeds. Johnny Depp has the right amount of charm and devil may care charisma as Dillinger. He is exceptional at capturing the curiosity behind Dillinger’s eyes, as the world to Dillinger, who has just spent 10 years in prison, would seem to be a very exciting place, and a very different place.

Christian Bale is also quite good as Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who is assigned the task of bringing Dillinger to justice. Bale is not afforded nearly as much screen time as Depp, but he does a good job at capturing the schism that develops within Purvis as he betrays his own ethics out of blind loyalty to the FBI and Hoover. Marion Cotillard also delivers a terrific performance as Billie Frechette, Dillinger’s love interest during the film. Her role is under developped, but she brings a real poignancy to her performance, and her and Depp do have great chemistry.

The film does take on a very tragic tone towards the end of the film, at moments reminding me of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as the weight of the world seems to be on Dillinger. It is here that we realize how much Mann empathizes with this man out of time, and the character of Dillinger almost seems to go to the core of who Mann is as an artist. Mann seems to understand the pitfalls and the lie of this male myth, and yet he yearns for it to be true, creating a sense of loneliness and isolation that seems to be at the core of all of Mann’s films.

So ultimately Public Enemies is still dealing with the myth of Dillinger, and Mann has not given us the truth about Dillinger, but he has created a countermyth, and in the process has given us not only a great film, but a masterpiece.

A great image from the living legend Werner Herzog’s latest film, My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done?

A great image from the living legend Werner Herzog’s latest film, My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done?

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I’ve discovered something. It’s a candy item. It’s actually kind of an immaculate confection.

I’ve played this clip more than a dozen times, but still, whenever I see Waits break into that rooster strut — fedora pushed low, jacket swung open, pointy-toed shoes kicking the sawdust — well, I get giddy.

“Chocolate Jesus.” By Tom Waits. Late Show with David Letterman. CBS. Sept. 27, 1999.

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