Wednesday, January 20, 2010

3 Films with 4 Character, 1 Word Names

This past weekend I viewed 3 films with 1 word titles:

1) Moon (2009, Duncan Jones)

2) Fame (2009, Kevin Tanchareon)

3) Adam (2009, Max Mayer)

All 3 just out in the United States on DVD, these films were on my list of "films I wanna go see now that I am back in the US where movies generally premier sooner" but, with my newly ex-pat-returned-home status, I was unable to spend the outrageous $12 a ticket necessary to view whilst still in the theater.

Which is the case with a lot of films I am watching right now. I am catching up, so to speak...

Adam, a cutesy-poo film about love and Autism, ending with typical Indy Rom-Com discomfort and ambiguity, the film lacked a certain something special. Not a bad film, certainly worth seeing, but not particularly noteworthy either. Feel free to contest this remark should you feel so moved.
In my private weekend film-fest, the film that truly struck me as genius was Moon (forget about Fame...I'm not even gonna go there...though I would love to rip it to ever loving shreds).
Moon, staring the unrequited love of my film critical life, Sam Rockwell, takes place on the lunar surface, where a global corporation is mining a substance responsible for meeting 97% of Earths energy needs. Sam (also the characters cute!) is alone aboard the lunar station, where he has supervised the fully automated mining operation for nearly 3 years, the length of his contract. In a overly utilized narrative choice, Moon gives a nod the Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in the form of GERTY, the talking computer. Its not quite as big brother-ish as 2001: Sam has privacy and more than once he calls for GERTY with no response. It becomes plain that while the convention set by Kubrick in his groundbreaking Sci-fi vision, is referenced, it is not the template for the film. GERTY exists to serve and is not at all the nefarious HAL 9000 of Space Odyssey. Simply by referencing the convention set forth by Kubrick, the "character" of GERTY is assumed to be evil. Duncan Jones successfully denies the convention, yet manipulates the audience into thinking they already know the narrative to follow. The convention becomes subverted, allowing for the filmmakers to mold a tension that is unrelieved by the confirmation of assumptions.
I am not going to give away the story. I want you to see this film, but I will tell you a little something about Mr. Rockwell...
What ends up unfolding is a wicked performance by Sam Rockwell, Sam Rockwell and Sam Rockwell...that's right 3 Sam Rockwell's for the price of 1. Brilliant. And it takes a genius to pull off what Sam Rockwell gracefully accomplishes in this ballet of intertwining performances. Its a Celtic Knot of Sam Rockwell. Overall, Moon is a deliciously disturbing film. The discomfort creeps up on you like a dirty little prankster. A then BLAMO, the plot thickens in the most unexpected way (well...maybe not so unexpected...I kinda saw it coming, but then again I have seen A LOT of movies.) All in all, well worth the rental. And Sam Rockwell, if your out there: Shine on you crazy diamond!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Moment in "9"

Since this blog is primarily dedicated to artful moments in cinema, I can't resist writing about a beautiful (and probably also cliched) moment in the recently released to DVD film "9".

Humanity, along with the rest of life on earth, has come to a nefarious end, save for a few little mechanical creatures brought to life from the transference of a single human soul, who battle for survival against an intelligent super machine slightly reminiscent of a Jurassic Park predator.

The film as a whole is a nearly non-stop, teeth-gritting, thrill ride as the numbered creatures (1 is the elder "leader", 8 the cronie, 2 the wise intellectual, 9 the hero, and so forth) attempt to destroy the machine before it destroys them. One such attempt is the point at which the moment in question occurs:

Amid the desolate, brown hued, dust ball landscape piled high with the demolished human record, a fire ball rages where once stood the laire of the enemy machine. The surviving numbered creatures relax in the tranquility of knowing the predator is destroyed. In a surreal choice, marked mainly by the emotionally jarring "uncanny juxtaposition" over this disturbing visual landscape of death and destruction, floats the defiantly innocent voice of Judy Garland singing her most famous number, The Wizard of Oz "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Perhaps the metaphor is too obvious, as literally moments later the machine drags its crushed limbs from the inferno and begins once more its death dealing pursuit. Its not as though we the audience have never seen this type of musical juxtaposition; however, due to the quick-fire pace of "9"'s action sequences, this moment of pause is especially effective. Before the viewer is made aware of the approaching machine, Judy's voice gleams a reflexive sorrow. We, along with the our numbered friends inside the diagetic world, grieve. As long as there is someone to fight against, the bitter reality of an extinguished planet Earth can be temporarily avoided. But here, in this aftermath of a seemingly successful last battle, the calm is bitter-sweet. Nothing survives, and beyond the rusty vinyl sounds of Garland song, is the most terrifying silence imaginable. While 9 and his tribe feel at ease for the first time in the film, we feel disquieted and anxious, a feeling then justified by the appearance of the machine. A metaphor, within a metaphor, within a metaphor. This is but one rich moment in a fantastic film.