“The Box”

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Richard Kelly is a master at making nice-looking incoherent stuff.  Who can forget that brief period early in the 00s when we thought he was complex? Donnie Darko was “evocative,” “dream-like,” and other adjectives for stuff that makes no sense.  But unlike David Lynch’s style of nonsense, which seems like it would make sense if I just thought about it really hard, Richard Kelly’s gobbledygook just makes me tired.


Which brings us to “The Box,” which is a great name for an arty porn film.  Unfortunately, this is a PG-13 movie, and the only nudity involves Frank Langella’s face-bones.  Lord Langenheimer shows up on the doorstep of a serviceable James Marsden and a terrible Cameron Diaz, who suffers from that common actress affliction known as Inconsistent Southern Accent Syndrome, a disease that even the weakest actresses have overcome.  Half of Langella’s face is burned off, but Diaz’s character has a messed-up foot to go with her ISAS, so it’s all good.  Langella says that if Diaz pushes the button on the box, she’ll get some cash and somebody she doesn’t know will die.  Diaz is riddled with doubt, which she conveys in the accent of an Appalchian hobo: “WHUT DO AH DAY-OOOO??”

So, anyway, the button’s pushed, then (SPOILER TIME) the movie takes a screwball turn into aliens and Mars and what-nots.(NO MORE SPOILERS)  After a while, the story made my eyes cross, and it was all rather incoherent and odd.  Still, MAN, did this movie look good.  I loved the cinematography.  It appears to be shot with that RED digital camera, and it achieves a very cool period look. It looks great and makes no sense.  It’s a Richard Kelly film.

You should see “The Box” (snicker).  Maybe you could make a lasagna while it plays, or re-arrange some shelves in your bedroom while looking through a glass door at the film, thereby obscuring the dialogue. Maybe the Blu-Ray has a dialogue-free track, which would be ideal. The movie’s ludicrous, but you should watch it when it comes on FX in the afternoon in 2012.

My Crackpot Theory Regarding “The Invention Of Lying”

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At the end of my ramblings about The Invention of Lying, I said this:

If I were to guess as a guy with no clue whatsoever, I’d say that the religion stuff turned off the test audiences, so they re-shot and added a bunch of crap to obscure that subplot and re-shaped the movie as a shitty romantic comedy. It’s not good, but it’s interesting to see a film that attempts to discuss big ideas get its balls cut off.

Later on, a friend of mine said that he heard Ricky Gervais talk about that very thing on a podcast, and that’s pretty much exactly what happened:  The religion stuff made goobers poop their pants, so they reshot the film to death.

Now look at this article that came out last week. Supposedly, the issue is budget, but the film is also clearly a Scientology bash-a-thon. I’m wondering if Universal is balking at that aspect as well, especially after the failure of The Invention of Lying, which was made by Focus Features, a division of . . . yep, Chrysler.  No wait shit Universal sorry.

Does the TIL debacle signal the end of religious satire in mainstream films? Has one more avenue of creative expression been closed?  For the sake of my theory based on the unimpeachable source of My Friend Who Told Me A Thing That He Heard, let’s go with yes, absolutely.

(By the way, how awesome would a P.T. Anderson Scientology slam be?  I’d totally watch that, even if it means enduring Philip Seymour “Stop mumbling, you fucking slob” Hoffman.)

“Shutter Island”

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WARNING: Spoilers abound.  It’s the only way I can properly make fun of the thing.

So, is “Shutter Island” great or crap? After watching it, I can’t stop changing my mind.  The film is expertly shot, and Scorcese directs the hell out of it, with great performances, visuals that are literally insane, and a constant atmosphere of dread.  And yet . . .

The third act of the film may be one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever seen.  No matter how much it was set up beforehand, the “big reveal” is laid out in such a way that I openly guffawed at the screen.  And yet . . .

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a pretty damn amazing performance.  He’s required to play an incredibly intense character, and he doesn’t falter.  The rest of the cast is excellent as well, with Mark Ruffalo excellent as Leo’s sidekick, and Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow chewing up the scenery like [famous fat celebrity] at a [popular chain restaurant that serves large amounts of food].  And yet . . .

Ben Kingsley’s scene, where he lays out the scenario of the entire film, left me a big pile of giggles.  Put it this way:  As part of his explanation for what we’ve seen, he has to pull out a chart.  He then says an immortally terrible line, that unfortunately, I can only paraphrase: “For us to convince you, we had to pull off the most wide-scale roleplay experiment of all time!”  Oh, how I laughed and laughed.  And yet . . .

It’s not like this is a big reveal.  It’s clear that Leo’s character is a wackjob fairly early on, and how it all ties in was, for me, the big mystery.  After a while, it was clear that something was up beyond the “missing victim” case, and the moving was heading down a much darker path.  So, it’s not right to say that I felt “cheated” by the ending.  And yet . . .

The way it’s revealed is through the clunkiest 20-minute exposition scene ever.  The movie literally stops to tell you everything . . . AND THEY HAVE TO USE CHARTS, AS WELL AS AN EXTENDED FLASHBACK!  And yet . . .

The final scene is oddly poignant, and DiCaprio sells it like a mofo.  Even after all of the ridiculousness, I was moved, and it made me think back on the movie and think that maybe I was wrong all along.  And yet . . .

After thinking about it, I realized that for the roleplay to pan out, they had to know he’d climb down a sheer rock cliff, and survive.  Oh, and then climb back up.  Oh, and it ends on a shot of a lighthouse that’s supposed to be meaningful but ultimately makes no sense.  ARRRGH!

Was it crap?  I still don’t know.  One of the most conflicting movies I’ve ever seen. I liked it better than Gangs of New York, though, so it’s not Scorcese’s worst.