Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: April 2006

Not Jethro Tull

Brick was really good. I have to admit I went in expecting a cute gimmick movie — well, not cute. A noir gimmick, but you know what I mean. A movie that existed for the sake of the gimmick: noir high school. This was not what I got.

Yes, it’s a noir flick set at a high school. Strip away the high school and there’s nothing really new here. It’s pitch perfect; Rian Johnson gets the noir thing. The dialogue is tough, the characterizations are good, the fractured spinning loyalties are good. The subtle implications of perversity are good. If you grew the kids up and stuck the thing in Chicago or New York or LA, you’d have a competent but not surprising noir which would eventually show up in some classic noir boxed set or other, and people would say “Hey, it’s nice to see that one on DVD.”

Probably you’d stick it in LA. I haven’t seen mention of this in any interviews, but the washed out hallucinogenic colors are deeply reminiscent of Point Blank. There’s a chase scene which could be an homage to Lee Marvin’s loud footsteps. It’s fractured in some of the same loopy delirious ways.

However, the core power of the movie would be lost if you did that. The high school is not just a gimmick. The element that kept my gut twisted tight for the majority of the movie was the way in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries the weight of being a noir protagonist.

In the classic noir, the hero is flawed, drawn into situations beyond his ability to cope. Okay. Take that hero and make him a high schooler. There’s no way Gordon-Levitt can carry the weight of what he’s facing. This is a high school kid who’s messed up and isolated anyway; his clear vulnerability and fragility is nearly painful to watch. His fury is palpable in every scene: the way he roughs people up, the way he comes back up off the pavement when he shouldn’t be able to. The movie is a race between his anger and his ability to sustain.

And was it worth it? That’s the noir question.

Celluloid dreams

My current schedule for the 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston, which I will have the pleasure of sharing with my sweetie:

Friday 4/21

Edmond, Somerville 1, 8 PM
Mamet, William H. Macy. That does it for me.

District B13, Somerville 5, 11 PM
Cool as crap French sci-fi action flick with tons of martial arts.

Saturday 4/22

Shadow Company, Somerville 3, 12:45 PM
This is a maybe due to timing, but it’s an interesting-looking documentary. See also Kathryn Cramer’s writing on this subject.

Chalk, Somerville 3, 3:30 PM
Placeholder; we won’t have a ton of time this visit (which is why we’re not being all social), but just in case I wanted to have a record of this.

Death Trance, Brattle, midnight
Can’t have too much Japanese surreal samurai action. The link to Versus intrigues.

Sunday 4/23

The Legend of Lucy Keyes, Somerville 1, 6:30 PM
Looks like a good gothic New England horrory piece. With Julie Delpy!

Monday 4/24

The Proposition, Somerville 1, 8 PM
Aussie Western with Guy Pearce? How could one miss this?

This from that

This here is Spike Lee making the best caper flick he can make with a superb cast, which is pretty good on all fronts. And actually, the cast is a notch better than you’d think, for the following reasons: Denzel Washington does not play Denzel Washington, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is a great actor even if you don’t know who he is. I guess if you do know who he is already, the cast is only half a notch better than you’d think.

Um. Just go see Dirty Pretty Things already. I’ve talked about this before.

So there’s a good cast and there’s a nifty caper. The whole thing is handed to us from the start; when the first thing you see is Clive Owen talking about how the job went, you have a lot of information available. This trend does not end with the first five minutes. I had about 95% of the scheme figured out by the time the final steps were executed, and if I’d been paying close attention I would have had the last five percent. I am so happy to see a movie that plays fair with the audience. Lost, while I love it with a passion, has barely any mystery content at all. It’s all revelations. Inside Man is a puzzle that engages us. Way better that way.

Spike Lee knows how to direct a movie. I had some qualms about the (not unexpected) multi-cultural focus of the first half of the movie; it’s a Spike Lee Joint, so you know what’s coming, and from the first twangy world music hip hop notes of “Chaiyya Chaiyya Bollywood Joint” over the opening credits you know he’s partially just wanting to tell us how rainbow ethnic New York is. Which is both cool and true. But man, it’s a bit of a sledgehammer… and then it kinda vanishes; it’s not what the movie is about. Which is only weird because he goes out of his way to emphasize the theme early.

On the other hand? Such a minor nit to pick. The guy is so good with a camera and so good with his actors, and I’m very glad he pushed Denzel Washington out of his bad-ass self and into this funky twitchy brilliant detective role. It’s great contrast: Clive Owen (and Jodie Foster, at that) are cerebral planners. Denzel Washington is just smart, so smart he can barely keep himself on track, and plenty smart enough to keep up with the other two. Which is a bit of class consciousness in itself, I think. Jodie Foster’s character is Ms. White? Yeah.

Still reading? There are about to be spoilers.

One of the reasons I’m pretty sure the Washington/Owen/Foster dance was in part a classic Spike Owen discussion of race and class is because you can drop Jodie Foster out of the movie without having any effect at all. Which is a pity, cause it’s such a great role and the character is so fascinating. Sadly, she has no effect on the caper, the outcome of the caper, or Denzel Washington’s career. She functions as a gateway for the movie, allowing us a window into the high class New York which would otherwise be invisible to us (and to Washington). Plotwise, she’s less relevant.

She’s still cool. And I walked out of the theater wanting to know more about her above any of the characters; whence that career? Whence that need for control? She and Washington are in some ways two of a kind, possessed of a slew of non-verbal tics and trademarks. Owen’s the contrast when looked at from that angle: cool, controlled, and meticulous. There are a lot of ways to shake the triangle up: gender, race, mannerisms, legalities, class…

It’s a nice three-sided kaleidoscope. It’s a good movie.


Brick is playing tonight down at the Kendall. 7:10 show. And I might just hang out after for the 10 PM showing of Thank You for Smoking. I’m fairly sure that there’s some inherent value in the concept of a high school noir flick. Plus it’s got the chick from Lost, no not the evil one, the other one. Plus Shaft as a high school principal.

Possibly that last is stunt casting.

Possibly I should see it at the Coolidge instead. Hm.


We have caught up on Lost, thanks to Chris, Tivo, Bittorrent, and iTunes. As a result, I have a new theory, which I think is completely original. Although it’s flawed insofar as it explains precisely none of the mysteries at all. Still, it’s a good theory.

I noticed last night, while Sayid, Charlie, and Ana-Lucia were off investigating something dangerous without telling anyone where they were going — this, to make sure that anything that happened to them would be as bad as possible and cause as much impact on the rest of the group as was feasible — you can’t go telling people what you’re doing, especially if you’re violating the First Rule, which is “bring the irreplaceable doctor with you on any risky expedition” — crap, lost track.

Oh yeah! Two badasses and a bottom. You can’t do a trek on the island without two badasses and a bottom. Sayid, Charlie, Ana-Lucia. Danielle, Kate, and Claire. Locke, Sawyer, and Jack. Jack’s the interesting one cause he’s constantly fluctuating between the two basic roles. But you can tell where he is at any given moment.

There’s something going on about some kind of Project, too, but it’s too opaque for me to worry about.

Blast from the past

[When I was just a little lad, I worked at Netcom, then among the largest ISPs in the country. Some of our customers wanted me fired for posting this.]

Newsgroups: netcom.announce,netcom.general,netcom.netcruiser.announce,
From: (Robert McReiger)
Subject: ANNOUNCEMENT:  ScotsNet
Followup-To: netcom.general,netcom.netcruiser.general
Organization: ScotsNet On-line Communication Sairvices, Inc.
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 1995 00:00:00 GMT
I'd like to thank ye all for reading this little message I've composed,
because this little message is representin' a large change in this
company, and it's no small decision I've made.  So it's a good thing ye
took the time to read it.  Because I've got a lot to be tellin' ye.
But before I'm about that, I suppose a number o' ye will be won'drin'
why I've gone an' changed me name.  Well, I'm goin' to be tellin' ye
that too.  I've been resarchin' me heritage, and I've discovered that
I've a wee bit of Scots ancestry in me -- and I've decided that it'd be
fittin' to honor it.
Which leads me to the subject of this wee little announcement.  You
see, I dinna think just changin' me name is enough to prove me love for
my new-found heritage.  No, I don't.  Fairthermore, I've been thinkin'
lately it's about time my company was provin' its intent to turn over a
new leaf by turning into a new company.  Wi' a new name, you know.
As such, I've decided that NETCOM Online Communication Sairvices,
Incorporated, will no longer be NETCOM Online Communication Sairvices.
Incorporated.  From now on, we're goin' to be *ScotsNet*.  And our
domain name, it'll be
We'll also be changin' a few of our policies.  To start with, we think
anyone who gets an' account wi' us is deservin' of a little
recognition.  Any sort of account, from our beloved NetCruiser accounts
all the way to our T1 customers.  So whenever ye gets an account wi'
us, we'll be givin' you your choice of a *wee* little terrier, or a
*great whackin' huge* terrier.
Whichever ye like.
And furthermore, if ye've gotten' an account wi' us, and it hasn't
worked out -- perhaps the bairns have been peerin' at the filthy
pictures on Usenet, or perhaps ye can't get the bluidy modem to produce
the bluidy initialization strings, or maybe it's just that your spouse
dinna think you're spendin' enough time wi' your new terrier -- we've
got a way to make it up t'you.  We're not goin' to help you get it
workin', but if you can't get it workin', we'll send you a lovely
potted plant.  Altogether free.  *And* your money back, as an apology.
It's the least we can do.
And in general, there's one thing ye can count on from here on in.
ScotsNet will niver do anythin' less than our very best to be the most
*Scottish* Internet Sairvice Provider we can be, and we can be vurry
Scottish indeed.  And we will be.
Because there's one thing we know for sure.
If it's not Scottish... it's *crap*.
Robert McReiger                                        
Chairman, ScotsNet Online Communication Sairvices, Inc.