Birdy Nam Nam – The Parachute Ending, And Music Videos in General

Music Videos are easily one of the best things ever made. Honestly, if I ever made a feature film, my signature, and probably why I will never become a (successful) film maker, is because every time I use music I want to just do a music video. I don’t want a backing track, I want an experience. The music has to match the tone and the action and everything. It has to have it’s own plot and fit within the grand scheme as well. But it doesn’t have to be the same movie you were just watching.

Music Videos are an Art Form. Countless directors started there, two of my favorites being David Fichner and Francis Lawrence. Both visionaries, both bringing a unique, distinct visual edge to their work that many will agree is beyond many directors level of talent. The reason they make movies is because they can also tell great stories, as well as make them look great.

Here’s a recent one I came across, that inspired this post. Maybe later I’ll write a little love letter to animation as well, another art form that I love so dearly.



Prometheus: Just Getting Started

Imagine a movie that tries to explain the origin of humanity, the meaning of life, the requirements for a soul, and why humans are so petty all at once.

Now do it while trying to introduce an alien race that will be the namesake to one of the most beloved franchises in sci-fi history.

Ridley Scott is an ambitious man, who makes lofty movies, with luxurious budgets. He gets fantastic actors, he gets fantastic crews and generally he makes fantastic films. Many of which, in the past, were the defining movies of their respective genres; the blueprint if you would for many subsequent works within those genres.

Alien spurned Aliens, the much beloved sequel, which basically inspired the Halo franchise and countless other scifi epics. He made Blade Runner, one of the most mentioned inspirations for directors today and basically putting a point on what neo-noir cyber punk should look like. Gladiator is close to many hearts, and was the door to the ancient, sword swinging epic that so many movies imitated afterward. He made Black Hawk Down, quite literally the movie that decided how war flicks (and video games) would look, sound and play from there onward.

Ridley Scott is something of a visionary, with a few missteps of course. I think he’s most effective when he does a project he truly cares about though. Passion projects, if you would. Prometheus is one of those projects. Maybe not redefining the genre, but bringing a new angle to a tired tale of man vs alien.

Prometheus is not devoid of flaws. Ridley does not make perfect movies. Some of them get boring halfway through, others have cheesy dialogue, sometimes ideas or plots can get muddled. Prometheus is victim to at least one of these, but it’s ambition makes up for all of it. He reintroduces old sci-fi hallmarks in new ways, with invigorating guile and cleverness. He makes a dense and multilevel plot, with many and varied characters, all with their own motivations, and involving you with the profound questions we all face. And after being submersed in this quizzical, meaningful cacophony of stories and feelings, somehow we all still walk out of the theatre satisfied and puzzled. So many questions answered but so many more raised.

It’s a movie that leaves a taste in your mouth, maybe you like it or not, but you won’t be able to avoid measuring other movies you see up to it, if they’re as dense, as well told, as arresting as this movie is. Never a beat missed, nor a dull moment. Bringing fire to the blockbuster movie lovers, not every action flick has to be a mindless action flick.

Go check it out.

Underworld Awakening, Go Back to Bed

Seriously, who made this?

This movie is why we DON’T let highschoolers direct movies. Why they have to toil in their own failures for a decade before they get a glance from the studio system. This movie is why we have good film makers – so we don’t have to watch trash like this.

Seriously, the movie basically kills every main character off from the first trilogy just to relaunch the brand in the wake of Twilight, and keeps the two leads alive – Selena (who’s name isn’t mentioned until the last 20 minutes [what’s up with that]) and Michael, her man lover, who should have died, but didn’t… because the girls need something to look at, I guess?

Better yet, during the time you’re hoping he’s dead they introduce another beautiful young man that could take his place and – somewhat bravely – they kill him.

ONLY TO BE BROUGHT BACK FROM DEATH 5 MINUTES LATER. Do vampires’ hearts beat? because she pumped his heart by hand (also, nobody revived any of the other 50 dead vampires that were surrounding them, wtf?).

He drops out of the movie, to be reintroduced alive and shotgun slinging like an idiot in the end. They introduce a detective in the beginning, who completely falls out of the movie until the end, when he is reintroduced with a PREPOSTEROUS motivation for helping our main character, is NEARLY killed, but lives.

And the other new character, Selena’s daughter, is a super human with the worst CG/Makeup in the history of cheesy sci-fi/fantasy action thriller horror’s.

Movies have to have a COST. There needs to be death to give the life value. Selena, a vampire is walking around with IMMUNITY to both LIGHT AND SILVER. SHE IS A VAMPIRE. SHE ESSENTIALLY CAN NO LONGER DIE. Her one love? FOUND ALIVE NEAR THE END. NO COST. NO LOSS. Her Daughter? Lives. Her new friend/probably love interest until the hack producers said to keep Michael alive dies and comes back to life.

The creators of this movie are so impotent it’s frankly offensive that they would put this to be sold with their names on it. Underworld 1 was at least intriguing – cutting edge art direction, european sensibilities and a Romeo and Juliet-esque love story… except Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, that’s where it’s power comes from. And everyone ends up living. What the hell?

Anyway, skip it. Please. Go watch Red Tails. At least they made it campy on PURPOSE.

And look at this pic:

How could someone so beautiful make something so ugly?

Jesse & Bob

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a masterpiece. Film buffs would call it a ‘slow burn’. That is to say you will need to sit right through to the end for the intensity of every shot, every line of dialogue, every matter of subtext and symbolism to be done with and to imprint itself on your consciousness. That is not to say you will be bored. Repeated viewings, if you paid any attention the first go around, may not yield too much more insight in the plot or motivations but will afford you time to better study the players on screen, and to marvel in the spectacle of this achievement.

Many shots feature an out of focus effect with a small portion in the center much sharper. It emulates an old time photo. Many silhouettes come into play, shadows and moody lighting create what is best described as a symphony of sights, from Jesse James’ face lit only on one side, to the glow that surrounds him and Ed Morris in the night, as they pass under the stars for one last stroll together. The lanterns only light a small proximity, and the outlines of the men who carry them with bandanas over their faces are carved into the night and against the woods or the iron of the train. Every shot, if paused, is worthy of painting, capturing every facet of life in 1881 in perfect detail, no thread out of place or brow furled wrongly.

That brings us to the acting, which is superb. Casey Affleck puts on one the most disturbing, powerful and provoking roles in cinema. I do not know who he was channeling, be it an earlier rendition of Robert Ford or maybe his very own interpretation but it is hypnotizing and appalling all the same. Such a strange, small man carries so much weight in the rugged tundra and between the tall trees of Missouri, laid up against his contemporaries he is a breed all his own. From the words he speaks to his expressions and mannerism, they exist only here, a microcosm of genius glowing in a thoughtful recreation of America’s freedom age.

But that’s not to say his foil and all his stage-mates were not performing in their own right. Brad Pitt puts on his own Tour-De-Force as the mysterious, dangerous and frightening Jesse James. Spontaneous, unpredictable, equally as peculiar as Robert Ford and awfully alluring, the well-built man dresses sharp and carries words just as sharp. His mind always on the viewer’s mind, no thought goes unpondered in this troubled man’s head as any audience of this movie can attest. His face speaks volumes of what is never said, from his life-weariness and depression to madness and paranoia, Jesse James is a mess and a dangerous one.

Sam Rockwell’s charm and amicable attitude are put to good work here, playing the ignorant friend to Casey Affleck’s misguided hero and Jesse James’ world weary outlaw. So much characterization comes from even the most mundane tasks and conversations, and of course in the grotesque ones, like Jesse killing the snakes, or Robert saying hello to Jesse’s family.

The movie takes us through the life and times of one of the most well remembered outlaws in America and in the world, slandering the thoughts his name might evoke and bringing him to an all too cruel and uniquely human level. Robert Ford experiences the disappointment of a lifetime in meeting his hero, betraying him, and being made to think by the world, fooled themselves, that he was the bad guy by the very end. The narration punctuates emotions that are already tense and close to tearing with it’s all too convenient timing and frank description.

The editing has a very nice rhythm with long sustained shots keeping us mesmerized and looking for every speck of detail. Most notable is the end when the editing speeds up and features freeze frames as if to capture as a record the events that unfold in Robert’s twilight days.

In the end we never really knew Jesse James; even the Jesse seen here may very well not be real. In the beginning he is described as blinking more often than the common man due to a health condition, and yet his gazes lost in thought harbor very few blinks. What we do know is that we live in a misguided world, where villains rise to the top as heroes, and heroes sink to the bottom as villains. Robert Fords tale is the most important one here, seeing a young man with aspirations torn down and squirming under the weight of a million voices, it is a sight to behold.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In 1995 a respected journalist and major magazine editor had a stroke. He woke up 20 days later from a coma, only to find out he was paralyzed with his left eye the only thing he had full control over. In 2 years, he wrote a book of his experiences. 3 days after having the book published, he died of Pneumonia.

That’s how all the best stories go, don’t they? Joseph Schnabel made a movie covering this period of his life, and like his book took a few steps into his past. Somehow not a patronizing, pretentious exercise for an artist millionaire, and more an education in what it is to lose control. Although Jean-Dominique Bauby could move his eye and see, the way the movie is shot feels so restricting and real, from the perspective of Jean-Do, that you feel completely immobile. You are paralyzed. The movie has an arresting quality, after the first 3 minutes you realize this may very well be the saddest most masochistic movie (it ends up not) you’ll ever watch and somehow you can’t look away. Ironic, the weird disrespectful thing onlookers do is the only reason half our class got through this masterpiece.

The movie is not any more sad then it needs to be, nor does it make light any more then Jean-Do may have. It’s perfectly in tune with it’s context and content. It is not overdramatic, it is exploratory and enlightening, and again, horrifying, having to contemplate such a state, but comforting, seeing a man in his last days take advantage of the time he has as best he can. People need tumult to achieve their greatest accomplishments – necessity is the father of all invention after all.

I loved it. You should watch it.

Restrepo: It’s not just a last name anymore!

Restrepo is both my Mother’s Maiden name, and an American soldier’s last name, who was killed, and had an outpost in Afghanistan named after him. This outpost is of particular note, being in the most dangerous place on Earth. Or at least the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.

The Karengal Valley is a mountainous region where everyone EXCEPT the Americans know there way around. There are mortars, RPGs and Snipers pointed directly at OP Restrepo, the second OP in the valley, built deeper in to get a better footing, and named in honor of one of their fallen comrades, Private First Class Restrepo. The movie opens with Restrepo, the intrepid filmmaker, talking to the camera and chronicling the travel to Afghanistan with his fellow soldiers. He is soon killed, and as morale dives… the situation only gets more dire. The platoon, stationed at OP Korengal, is ordered to build another OP, deeper in the valley, and essentially cut off from any immediate support or rescue. OP Restrepo is erected, and Operation Rock Avalanche is not far behind.

The documentarians that put this piece of work together spent a year in these OPs with the soldiers, and suffered the same losses they did. Not only was Restrepo killed, but PFC Vimoto, as well as other soldiers in Rock Avalanche, and civilians. The movie is horrifying to say the least, literally on the ground floor of the Afghanistan conflict. It is not a drama or action film; it is real life, and the life lost here is lost for good. The scariest part is separating this movie from the fiction that it is entrenched in – from other documentaries that take license with their subject matter, to the wartime movies like Hurt Locker – this movie is filled to the brim with emotion and gun fire, and it is easy to forget these are real people on screen.

If you’re weird and like Documentaries, check it out. If you’re weird and like war movies, check it out. If you’re still reading this, just check it out.