Thursday, February 20, 2014


There is a sad trend in social media, especially with my supposedly progressive brethren to bring self-righteous charges against admittedly immoral public figures. None of the charges are brought about with the intention of clarification or discussion. I’ll spare you my interpretation of this phenomenon, a lot of it is a result of our pack mentality, the need to belong. Sometimes we find our seemingly strongest connections in our collective disdain for injustice and conformity. The ironic thing about this is the way in which this type of virtual sanctimonious banter elicits a guilt ridden docility for many trapped within small screens everywhere. I should note that it’s ok to call out the wrongdoings of others, if only to keep the wrongdoers on their toes. I’m guilty too. One of the touchiest and timeliest subjects of our modern age is the reckless excess of the 1%. Who could blame us for our vitriol directed at them? So I entered THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES expecting to curse at the screen uncontrollably and came out feeling sympathy for the devil. It’s not that I condone David Siegel’s greed, misogyny, or utter disdain for humans outside of his peripheral vision. Nor am I willing to fool myself into thinking that his wife Jackie’s personality can overshadow her own complicity in many of the same social sins. There isn’t a moment in which Lauren Greenfield obstructs her subjects’ impact on our current economic rut, but somewhere along the way I kind of felt for Jackie and her kids. First, she’s a former Binghamton resident which explains a lot about her “don’t turn back” mentality towards poverty. Second, she’s just plain likeable in that dumb-but-kindhearted kind of way. There was some weird connectivity in her struggles, as luxurious as they may be. The key to the film’s ultimate success (and yeah I think this one is damn good) lies in Greenfield’s interviews with the maids who take care of the Siegel children, and what they’ve lost to come here and send all of their money home. I’m rooting for David Siegel to fall, for his family’s sake.

More sympathy for the devil in MITT, a film that has gotten some undeserved press by claiming to yield the power to repaint Romney’s public persona. It doesn’t. It reinforces the fact that people onscreen, vying for our sympathies in order to win a position in office are being absolutely full of shit. He smiles on command, lies on command, and his children are living proof of the dangers of constant diplomacy. I don’t want to be mean but they seemed more like hollow shells than actual people. You suck more when you have something to prove. Having a reputation hanging over your head is curse, though in this case one that is self-inflicted. So what if Mitt isn’t the table turning monster that perhaps some wished him to be, he is the same guy fighting for the same high position under the same terrible policies and ideology, at the expense of burying the rest of us. He wanted to lead our nation further into division, require those without bootstraps to pull themselves up by imaginary bootstraps, and as a stooge for the Republican Party he would have probably rushed us into another war. I’m not such a huge fan of the alternative, but Romney was worse. This film soft pedals its way through a series of boring scenes with boring people living a life of boring privilege. It’s disappointing to see Seth Gordon’s name attached to this one.

In Christopher Kenneally’s SIDE BY SIDE, Keanu Reeves interviews cinematographers, directors, producers, and camera creators about the dangers and importance of digital photography progression. Like most documentaries it doesn’t strive to set itself apart aesthetically from nearly every other doc from its respective time. There is a healthy format that seems to be recycled over and over again with films like this and I’m ok this with this now. While it would be nice to see something mind-blowingly different (I’m sure I will) it’s sticking with a tried and true template to illuminate an interesting subject. Some of the illustrious talking heads bring great ideas into the fracas, but mostly it’s nice to see some great looking cinema and learn a bit about how the magic was created. My love for classic film obviously leaves me hoping for photochemical film’s survival but the DIY dude in me is ecstatic about young creative men and women telling film school to fuck itself, instead bringing their visions to life without any proper education. In the end I’m torn. I think convenience is a double edge sword. On one hand it means bringing previously buried talents (the David Lynch notebook analogy worked well) to the surface, challenging age old techniques and evening the playing field. On the other hand, any hack with a decent grasp of PR and advertising can write a piece of shit screenplay and crowd the multiplexes. But this is the cinemascape we live in so resistance is futile. At one point someone argued that our oversaturation of special effects was just studios trying to outpace audience’s imagination. Nope. They are instead trying to overload our senses, outpace our inability to focus on something. This is where I long for celluloid to not only survive but to reign.