Lone Scherfig’s One Day

It is good and right in this life to be rich and white and attractive. The whiter you become the richer you become. The richer you become the whiter your friends become. The whiter your friends become the more good and right life seems to feel. Anne Hathaway is a negro. You wouldn’t know it to look at her. But she has negro problems. She’s poor. She’s desperate. She gets killed in the street. One Day would like to approach racial violence without the scandal of a bi-racial romance. That is, what Anne Hathaway perceives to be romance. Therefore Anne Hathaway supplants the idea of the negro within her pasty animal body.

Jim Sturgess does not love Anne Hathaway. Sometimes with no other friends around he thinks he can tolerate her. But it is clear if there exists a thing called love he cannot produce it for her. It is mostly because Jim Sturgess cannot see himself with a black woman. It is not that he hates black women, which is what he says out loud in public. It is that he thinks it to himself quite loudly. Anne Hathaway knows it. The filmmakers knew it all along. The audience is unsure. They are divided. The film has divided the world people into two categories. But this is not a problem in the world already divided on so many things. Whiteness and blackness. Richness and also blackness. White people who make laws and black people who get arrested. Jim Sturgess’s lack of love is not the subject of One Day. The subject of One Day is pity. More specifically the capacity of one person to pity another person who is profoundly more privileged than they are.

Mostly it is the job of Anne Hathaway to produce pity. She is a champion. A factory of pity. While the physical drain, stress and degradation of her life is portrayed as humorous – it is an ostensible tragedy for Jim Sturgess to live wealthy, famous, well-connected, charismatic, and able to magnetize as much stanky toward his hang-low as a toilet seat. Apparently the strain of his hyper-Anglo life is too much for him. He takes to drinking a lot of top-shelf alcohol. He takes to sleeping with too many attractive women. He takes to thinking of himself as an artist who is not afforded the integrity he deserves. He takes to crying on stormy nights when Anne Hathaway out betraying his attention with her mediocre boyfriend.

Anne Hathaway has a need to prove her love to Jim Sturgess and the audience. It is because women are capricious and we cannot trust their attractions. It is only when she abandons a superior man that we are allowed to accept her sincerity of love for Jim Sturgess. We weren’t sure because black-people love is cheaper and less sincere than white-people love. It is Anne Hathaway’s ability to produce pity for Jim Sturgess’s white-people problems (i.e. problems that are produced by the white person and the white person’s perception of the world, though not the world itself) where her negro-love is raised to the level of white-people love. And at that moment she transforms from negro status back into a white woman.

No, Jim Sturgess does not love Anne Hathaway. Even after she dies. Some bridges cannot be crossed and are better left burned. But sometimes he wonders if he did love her so as to intensify the pity he feels for himself. The audience also lets themselves believe in his love so as to produce more pity for Jim Sturgess. And that is what makes us better people in the world – our willingness to pity a person in a privileged position. Perhaps we are all negroes in this life. But probably not. Probably only as far as Jim Sturgess is concerned. It is more likely we are all white. Otherwise we would have no desire to see One Day or read or write a review about it . . . $3

If you heart One Day:

Recommendations by Day Gun Sho
When Harry Met Sally
Before Sunrise
Four Weddings and a Funeral

Another Earth

Another Earth. A brilliant concept for a movie.  A sci-fi masked in real-life drama.  It is writer/director Mike Cahill’s first full-length non-documentary feature – and it felt like it.  The preview reveals too much, but essentially the film is about a young woman and middle aged man whose lives have been devastated by death.  Overlaying this drama is first contact with Earth 2, a visible replica of Earth, where a parallel universe exists.  This sci fi concept hangs in the background.  It’s not the main focus, but it lurks in the sky as a constant reminder.  Another Earth has wonderful ideas, some which are beautifully executed, others which looked like it was someone’s first stab behind the camera.

What I mean is, the music was oftentimes intrusive, trying too hard to evoke a particular feeling.  There were a few too many close-ups of tears or displays of self-conscious art.  Sometimes, I could feel the people acting, a sure mood-killer.  There was very little dialogue throughout the movie.  It’s fitting, because the two main characters are so emotionally crippled they can no longer communicate with people.  I can easily be bored by slow-moving stories, but the lack of dialogue didn’t slow down the story for me.

Boy, did Brit Marling (as Rhoda) deliver an impressive performance.  I like the way she looks and talks.  I hope to see more of her.  As for William Mapother (as John Burroughs), I’d say I’ve seen enough, thank you.  If you find yourself watching it, and you’re not impressed, you should at least stay for the ending.

This movie isn’t for everybody.  It was for me, though… $7

If you heart Another Earth:

Recommendations from Yolkie:
Rabbit Hole
District 9

Ruben Fleischer’s & Michael Diliberti’s 30 Minutes or Less

A comedic rendering of the real-life manipulation and slaying of the pizza-deliver worker Brian Douglas Wells. The characters, motivations and plot devices may seem contrived, overly-complex, but are in fact consistent with the historical event (though the true events were not laughable and totally fucking creepy).

What remains inconsistent is the kidnapping of beautiful actress Dilshad Vadsaria as a means of recovering the $100,000 bank take (Dilshad’s mere presence is unrealistic given she is far too attractive to be Aziz Ansari’s sister or Jesse Eisenberg’s love interest). The abduction occurs in a public restroom stall despite our observation the kidnappers only knew Dilshad’s apartment address (the building address at best, not the actual room). Are we to believe Dilshad Vadsaria favors a dirtier, more communal bathroom to the comforts of her own apartment? That she would go out of her way, walk across the street to a convenience store or a gas station, to make her anus (symbolically and literal soft tissue) more vulnerable, more susceptible to stink, flesh-eating bacteria and airborne illness because that is where she likes to plop the doo-doo? And why would the filmmakers demand Dilshad is a womanly creature who wants to do this? Is she strange? Is she a pervert? Why the desire to save up her defecation for strategic, more urban drops? Is the appeal to her the PUBLIC, the SOCIAL arena that is forced to accept her abuse? Or is it the possibility for INTRUSION that gets her excited? In which case she was victorious on both accounts.

But even if that were the case, why would her abductors not attack her in the privacy of her apartment (complex, lobby, roof)? Why would they wait around, indulge her, until she was in an exposed space with plenty of foot traffic – and then confront her? And how did they know she was a woman who needed to perform doody in this Jeremy Bentham, panopticonish spectacle? There are simply too many unknowns surrounding this scene. I believe the scene may exist as a vehicle to accommodate the off-color but not wholly unfunny reference to the Slumdog Millionaire diarrhea-outhouse scene.

30 Minutes is essentially a vehicle for Danny McBride to get done what he does best – be totally fucking awesome. One aspect of that is cultivating the uneducated, arrogant, rednecked persona best suited for carrying his jokes. The man cannot be stopped. Motherfuckers keep trying to stop him and he continues to slay naysayers. 30 Minutes also has a more skillful ending than other films of its caliber (I mentally categorize it with Horrible Bosses, The Change-up, Due Date, Date Night, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Hangover Part II – flicks with so much potential but are ultimately mediocre and stumble from high expectations). It stops before it can ruin itself. On a dime. With paint in the eyes. What does it have most other flicks don’t? The triumphant performance of Michael Pena, a unsung and underrated Mexican genius of his generation . . . $6

If you heart 30 Minutes or Less:

Recommendations by Cheet Cheet
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Tropic Thunder
The Big Lebowski

Coming Soon: Melancholia

Yolkie is looking forward to: Melancholia

This is the latest by Danish writer/director Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville).  Looks like a beautifully bizarre drama of two sisters, a wedding, and a catastrophic red star?  I’m not sure what that’s about, but I am damn sure I will watch this movie to find out.  To name a few of the stars: Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides, Spiderman), Charlotte Gainsbourgh (Antichrist, Science of Sleep),  Charlotte Rampling (Never Let Me Go, Swimming Pool), Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood), and Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, 24).

US Release Date: November 4, 2011

Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

I left this film in a state of nostalgia for “conscious” hip hop and speechless because I couldn’t remember the last time I saw such an emotionally moving documentary.  It’s definitely not the originality in the subject matter that drives the film.  I mean Tribe is undeniably pioneers of a new brand of hip hop.  We’ve all heard of the complaints. WTF happened to good hip hop?  We’ve all seen and heard about the break-ups of legendary squabbling bands.  But the true greatness that is Beats, Rhymes & Life is not these heartbreaks, it’s how Rapaport so intimately captures human emotions in each of its context.  Rapaport uses timeless archival concert footage and signature singles like Bonita Applebum, El Segundo, and Can We Kick It, which perhaps is my biggest “I wish” was that he should have included more. The snippets were such a tease, but I guess that just shows how great innovative and influential Tribe Called Quest was that even a little snippet is enough to make you want more, to put you in a state of nostalgia, to make you feel regret for the stunting of a band’s creativity and decline of entire genre.  Certainly, emotions were yanked.
But what about the celebration and tribute?  One of the things I loved most about this film.  It was clear that everyone in the film, including Rapaport, loved Tribe – that they were emblematic of hip hop, holding a special place in everyone’s heart. This was also true for the in-theatre audience.  And let’s not forget the orgasmic display of hip hop giants, representing by their mere presence or the declaration that “I am Hip Hop” or echoed in their sentiments towards Tribe and that period in time when good music was being made.  Hearing their commentary had the effect of shit, that was taken straight from the mouth of the dragon…or was it horse? Whatever, dragon sounds way cooler. Anyways, you just had to believe it if fire was spit from the mouth of the dragon. I particularly liked being reminded of Tribe’s contribution to hip hop and other influential djs, emcees, rappers, artists…They really brought together a community literally and figuratively.  They changed the tone of rap.  Can you say Native Tongues? Craziness.  But these artists’ recognition of those who came before and how Tribe paved the way for artists like Common, Ludacris, Pharell, who I think was the best at conveying the impact of Tribe on our generation.

So yes, you get a slice of what the culture of the time was, but then there is more – the drama, the tensions, and the hardships of keeping the band together when there’s so much raw talent.  For me, the latter half of the film is less awe-inspiring, but in no way less great.  It was human.  Rapaport effectively captures the vulnerabilities of the members of Tribe.  It’s brings down the immortal, halo-wearing status of A Tribe Called Quest to a human level that is accessible and touching to fans.  We get artistic integrity. We get sibling rivalry. We get brotherhood. We get love. Life. Family. We get life-threatening diabetes. And yet, we get comedy in light of the most serious situations.  We get honesty and rawness of emotions from Phife, the ranty one, Ali, who is practically just trying not to piss his pants as he watches and crying over why his parents just can’t keep it together, Q-Tip, the one who wears the pants, and who else? Oh, Jarobi, the sibling that left the nest, choosing not to be around for his dysfunctional family, but remains the heart and spirit according to the rest.  How can you not get emotional when you see a grown man cry over friendship and loss?  Finally, we get the no matter what, at the end of the day, a simple few words is enough to remind us we are family.  One word on the conflict/drama, which I have mixed feelings. Rapaport did a good job in highlighting the tension between Phife and Q-tip, without vilifying either individuals take on the conflict, that it was a matter of difference in their perceptions of the same events and lack of communication and understanding between the two. However, I can’t help but think that the film is slightly misleading in its story-telling of the rise, the fall, and the reconciliation of Tribe.  Also, I would much rather have seen more original concert footage and music, than the underwhelming reunion clips.  Anyhow, Michael Rapaport did a lot. Go be moved. Go listen to the Low End Theory… $11

If you heart Beats Rhymes & Life:

Recommendations from Lil D:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Waiting for Superman
The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Mike Mills’s & Kasper Tuxen’s Beginners

Mike Mills is capturing what he can of the human soul. I do not mean he is out there with a box. I do not mean he has a box and a net and he is trying to coax the human soul into a box using a wad of bacon and magical snare. Mike Mills is not a hunter. He knows nothing of snares. But Mike Mills does have the noblest of ambitions – he is trying to capture something magical without possessing any actual magic. He is recreating the brevity of the soul’s movement through THE HOUSE.

Our problem is the assumption THE SOUL is IMMORTAL. This could not be further from the truth. The soul is brief. The soul is moving. When something touches our soul we say WE ARE MOVED. Movement above all implies a temporality. The soul is constantly and happily deteriorating. When I say THE HOUSE it is to say this world is not OUR HOUSE. We have no claim to it. No entitlements. We are visitors passing though this space. The soul is a tenant moving through THE HOUSE. It is very difficult to watch. It is almost impossible to map. It is like a handful of flour moving off the board in a bakery. Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent are tenants moving through the temporary space of light and screen and film gelatin. Mike Mills is mapping the human soul. He tries to anchor the experience down using concrete details – the stars, nature, the president . . . but even these are representations and must succumb to their own temporality. Even these are made of gelatin. Gelatin implies a temporary fixedness.

Perhaps none of that will make sense to you. Suffice to say Beginners is the best film moving through our screens right now. Soon it’ll be gone like anything. The reels recalled and burned in the crematorium. Maybe one or two copies will be hidden away, to echo, flickering like a ghost on a private screen. But the nostalgia and the ephemeral nature of a film’s run is part of the point. Mike Mills enacts brevity as his subject is BREVITY.

Ewan McGregor has charmed his way back into my heart and my pants. Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer never left. Goran Visnjic has burned a new poison into my heart. Together they perform the excruciating ballet of grief, new love, longing, heartbreak, sexual desire, loneliness, splendor. Perhaps I am making this film sound too serious since at its core it is a comedy. And I’ll be the first to admit I laughed a thousand times greater than I cried. But what better currency to operate in than laughter? A moment of ephemeral and coincidental bliss – whose novelty degrades over time. There is so little need to cherish something if we really do think it will last forever. The soul’s brevity defines its value – there is a dire importance we cherish what can vanish at any moment. Even if I’m wrong about all the rest – you’ve still got about the cutest pup I’ve ever seen . . . $12

If you heart Beginners:

Recommendations by Cheet Cheet
John Cameron Mitchell’s & David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole
Yojiro Takita’s Departures
Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro

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