Friday, January 4, 2013

LIE #72: Starting the New Year with Django and the CIA!

Happy New Year! Hopefully the “thirteen” in 2013 is for good luck!

Sorry I am not posting as much as I would like—holidays and the snark hunt of looking for jobs can do that to a man.
And now it looks like I’m coming down with the flu! Blegh!

But as the Holiday Nightmares were winding down I did managed to catch a couple of the “biggies” out there in the hardtops:
Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty
Sort-of miniature reviews below…

First: The Break-Out Feel-Bad Epic of 2013!

Zero Dark Thirty (2012; Kathryn Bigelow) Yes, it’s a good film, but since I consider the MidEast Wars to be a sham, and the killing of Bin Laden an exercise in propaganda that was too little, too late, I was watching intense movie-people doing something that I ultimately considered futile.
The film’s poster should say, “The Most Pointless Manhunt in History.”

So, shouldn’t we have done this to Bin Laden after the USS Cole was blown up?
And even if we did, there’s no way of knowing that that would have prevented 9/11.
This movie shows me billions of dollars being spent (wasted! How much did that wrecked Stealth helicopter cost?) on the chase for an old, feeble man, while showing the abject poverty that the much of the Middle East must live under.

I think they would have caught Bin Laden sooner if they’d spent that money on air conditioners, food and TVs for impoverished Arabs, instead of mercenaries, military misadventure and torture (which non-neocon military professionals consider to be a waste of time—if there was only five minutes to find a doomsday bomb, torture won’t work: the terrorist being tortured only has to hold out for five more minutes).
I think Zero Dark Thirty’s ultimate—if subtle—message is that we will not win over there if we do not change tactics.

Some additional thoughts:
The film is like the cinematic equivalent of a record by the Australian industrial/noise band SPK: disturbing, equally fascinated with technology, torture, religion and willpower (and its subversion). And like SPK, Zero Dark Thirty leaves a gnarly, kind of bad taste in your mind…

The film struck me as a criticism of the narrow-minded, paranoid, self-righteous mindset of tunnel-visioned CIA analysts for whom 9/11 is the 24/7 reason for everything awful they do. It was as if Terry Gilliam decided to focus Brazil on Michael Palin’s character, Jack Lint, the state torturer.

Although she doesn’t pull any triggers, the CIA agent lead character (Jessica Chastain) is essentially a hired-gun assassin.
Later in the film she repeatedly states that this is now personal: “He killed my friends!” she often brays weepily, but methinks she doth protest too much. She just needs verbal reasons to keep feeding her obsession.

We discover she was recruited right out of high school (meaning not much life experience), has no friends, no personal life, probably no sex (for all we know, she could still be a virgin—at least in regards to copulation).
She’s a sad person, and when the film is over, so is her life. Is that why she cries? Because she knows she wasted the best years of her life chasing a ghost?
The ending would be a “personal apocalypse” equal to Lawrence of Arabia, if there was something nobler about her mission. (Another problem: as several other bloggers have suggested, Jessica Chastain seems to be playing the exact same character Claire Danes plays on the TV show Homeland, down to the sanctimonious histrionics and haughty bullying to get her way—because she knows she’s right.)

Don’t expect to get anything from ZDT except sadness.

On the other hand—
Django Unchained (2012; Quentin Tarantino) is a flick I liked much, much more than Inflorius BizTurds; it’s quite a fun blast, and a good way to spend three hours.
Of course, giving the always-fascinating Waltz more screen time was a good idea.

Perhaps uneven and needing a trim of about 20 minutes, Django Unchained is a delirious, blood-splattered attack of racism—and a righteous tribute to Blaxploitation films and Spaghetti and Zapata Westerns, including their inherent subversion.
Django Unchained is not as overtly political as I would have preferred, but by being a condemnation of the business of slavery, it makes its point: After all, Tarantino’s aiming at Corbucci, not Pontecorvo.

This may sound grandiose, but there’s a part of QT I get.
He grew up on the West Coast and me on the East, but we were both indiscriminate movie nuts and thrill seekers—we sought/still seek excitement cinema, and we never cared what the color was: I went to see Buck & the Preacher twice but I also saw The Cat From Outer Space twice; Bruce Lee and Charles Bronson were Gods equal to each other, but Toshiro Mufine was Odin/Zeus above all, but don’t you dare fuck around with Lee Marvin. Blaxploitation, Hong Kong madness, Filipino mutant prison girls, gore galore, anything by New World Pictures or Crown International.
QT had his grindhouses growing up, and I had mine (all in Brooklyn, thankyouverymuch; 42nd Street shouldn’t get all the attention).
And in our heads, we mashed all that glorious nonsense together—but where I had all my early self-confidence destroyed by selfish and self-absorbed parental units, and consigned these fantasies into the trash bin as I was ordered to “pay attention to your surroundings!”—QT did what I should have done: he started writing. (If it wasn’t counterproductive, I’d be jealous.)

[Admittedly, I think I’m more of a sci-fi geek than QT, but who knows? I’d really love to see him tackle a science fiction story someday, just to see how he fucks with the genre. Heck, maybe I should try my hand at this…]


  1. "Toshiro Mufine was Odin/Zeus above all, but don’t you dare fuck around with Lee Marvin."

    Wow, Hell in the Pacific must have been the Apocalypse for you -- or should have been.

  2. Sam:
    Heh-heh... I always loved the "sand garden" Mifune makes in that film.
    Funny thing about HitP: the nihilist teenager inside me LOVES the studio-imposed Ka-Boom ending; while the artist and human in me loves Boorman's original ending--and I cannot really separate the two/ the film exists with both endings in my mind. Really should revisit that one...
    BTW, "Companeros" sounds great!
    Thanks, and Happy New Year! Keep up the good work!
    PS: I should've asked this in the main text, but why isn't Dr. King Schulz, "Koenig Schulz"? I guess I shouldn't ask that of someone who spells Brunhilde as Broomhilda.