Posts Tagged ‘American’

Lonesome Jim (Buscemi, 2005. US)

Masturbatory self-pity when pretensions of brilliance forgo decency.

Lonesome Jim does exactly what it says on the tin- it’s all about Jim and his lonesomeness. This film has been subjected to a fair deal of hate on the webs, and rightfully so really. The eponymous Buscemi-lite drifter is one of the most unlikeable protagonists to grace indie screens in recent years. Not in an uncomfortable-yet-necessary way, as we might find in a Noah Baumbach flick, or in a misunderstood-and-redeemable manner, ala Wes Anderson. Nope, Jim is just a prick. Consequently he  spends a lot of time on his jack jones.

There are some redeeming notes scattered about hither and thither, the only vestiges of Buscemi’s direction. As a character, I would have enjoyed watching Jim had he been played by a late 20s Buscemi in his trademark slightly socially incompetent sad sack routine. I like Affleck, especially in 2005’s Gone Baby Gone; he is a prime example of my slowly-evolving Hollywood theory: The Rule of Diminished Siblings. This is where the less famous/bankable sibling in a famous acting family is always a far better actor and quite often a more likeable person. Cf Casey Affleck, Joseph Fiennes, Joan Cusack, Rory Culkin… erm, Emilio Estevez. [Okay, every rule has its exceptions! Sx] (more…)


Welcome To the Dollhouse (wpd. Solondz, 1995. US)

I love this film.

Some people think it’s harsh, but it’s funny because it’s true. Many of us know that ‘fly buzzing against a window’ sensation; the endless procession of tiny humiliations and defeats that was senior school (or Junior High, or whatever your national equivalent is for thirteen year olds.) From the ironic, lingering zoom in to the idealised, patriarchal American family portrait, to our first view of Dawn in an almost mesmerising tracking shot of her long walk through the school cafeteria in search of a seat, and the irrational abuse thrown at her by even the other bullied misfits, to culmination in the awful, jangling discordance of her brother’s band scoring the cutesy Americana of their sister’s ‘ballet’; every moment of the first five minutes of Dollhouse proclaims everything you need to know about Dawn Weiner’s life and Todd Solondz’s world view. This is no testimony for the nuclear family and a Middle American childhood.

Shit happens. He says. Mainly to you. Live with it. The rhythms of editing in Dollhouse are as important as the actors’ comic timing. Though Heather Matarazzo’s perpetually bemused, bespectacled mouth breather does chip in at the opportune moment almost every time.

Dawn’s ongoing battle with her parents and her obnoxious siblings will strike a chord with anyone who has a) a family b) a bit of pragmatism. (more…)

An Economy of Violence: Thoughts on the prevalence of violence in British Cinema


In the process of starting this blog and planning what to write about, I have been making lists of relevant films, thinking about what they have to say and what they have in common and I started to notice a surprising trend. As I wrote synopses to see what there was to say the same word kept recurring: violence. Always couched and confounded with other phrases, but brutality is almost omnipresent in the Brit Flicks.

If you’ve studied film censorship at all you’ll know that America’s MPAA is far more tolerant of violence than Britain’s BBFC (with the Brits more permissive of sex, especially between same-sex couples). For exemplification, check out Andy Dick’s cracking documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. I’ve never much questioned this received wisdom, but a simple collation of keywords demonstrates that it may not be quite so clear cut.

Once I had made this observation it became increasingly obvious how integral violence in fact is to our national cinema, to our view of ourselves. When I say this I am mostly referring to Insider Cinema, by and for Brits and people who can get inside British culture. Not so much your made-for-export Tourist London, but what we think of as (to any extent that cinema can be) the real us. Representation with the dirt left on if you will.

The films I was calling to mind- Pure, Scum, Stella Does Tricks, Dirty Pretty Things, Guy Ritchie’s back catalogue, The Hole, Trainspotting, Kidulthood, Donkey Punch, Land of the Blind, Everything by Shane Meadows, The Warzone, Straightheads, Sweet Sixteen, Hallam Foe even, anything featuring Big Daddy Winstone or that twat Danny Dyer, the list goes on. Obviously not all of these films are supposed to be real or even realist; there are a genre considerations, a horror or gangster flick will necessarily have bloodshed and butchery, but that does not account for the prevalence of aggression in the films above. (more…)


Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda

(Spielberg, 1993. US)



You may be forgiven for incredulity, but there is a powerful irony at play in the inherent messages and values of Jurassic Park. Bear with me, I’ll prove it.

Let’s start with the figurative. Dinosaurs are, of course, a well-exercised and widely accepted metaphor for the past, for obsoletion, for the blundering remnants of bygone times and values. Now hold that thought.


Okay, to the meat of the issue. What, precisely, was this groundbreaking, blockbusting CGI and animatronic tubthumper trying to say?


We begin with a child-hating curmudgeon palaeontologist fellow (Dr. Alan Grant), his conscience: the blonde haired, blue eyed botanist assistant (read: latent love-interest), and the all-American moppet grandchildren of park creator and billionaire bampot John Hammond. That’s our core cast. Surrounding them, amongst others we have the brooding and cynical serial divorcee mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm; Genarro, the token Soulless Lawyer who is endowed with all the character depth of Random Totty or Gay Best Friend; Nedry, the weaselly, thieving double agent and two named but expendable park employees.


These predictable and reliable stock characters duly carry out their duty thus:


In the beginning, Man was proud and arrogant and thought himself God. But he was Dickie Attenborough so he can be excused for the mistake. He is joined by a host of generics on his island of atrocity against nature. The woman out of the David Lynch films shows how compassionate and nurturing she is by forgoing the safari trail of godless wonder, in order to assist the vets with a sick triceratops. The remaining assortment of obvious victims and potential survivors continue upon their merry way. Almost immediately technology, on which the entire enterprise is woefully over reliant, fails them spectacularly. This is due in part to sabotage by the weaselly double agent. It’s okay though; he’s killed horribly- blinded by a venom-spitting dilophosaurus. How apt. Cos he couldn’t see the error of his ways. Couldn’t see…Moving on.


The Soulless Lawyer promptly abandons the children to a T-Rex attack in order to save himself and is duly despatched by the aforementioned beast. Sitting on an outdoor toilet, to the great amusement of my six year old classmates at the time of release. Oh the indignity. Master Chaos is gravely wounded in punishment for his serial defilement of the sanctity of marriage. He, however, heroically redeems himself by luring the T-Rex away from the hapless moppets and is thereby permitted to live. For the time being at least.


Meanwhile, back on the farm, Granddad God meets up with Mother Earth and they set out in a Jeep to rescue everyone. When they get there though, everyone has inconsiderately left. Eventually they find Master Chaos and bring him back to base. Oh, the island is being lashed by a fierce tropical storm too. This is in no way to be interpreted as a manifestation of the wrath of an omnipotent Judaeo-Christian deity. So the bone collector and the moppets are forced, by some convolution or other, to spend the night together up a big tree, where he (reluctantly) watches over them in a Protector fashion. They are awoken by gentle, giant, herbivore brontosauruses, which is nice. He then tells moppets Precocious and Pantwetter all about Brontos and encourages them not to be afraid of the creatures. This is carried out in a Nurturer type way. All of the above lead to inadvertent ‘bonding’ and other such Hollywoodisms.


As they wend their merry way back to ’safety’, Mother Earth and The Expendables are heading through ‘Raptor’ (which is Yankspeak for velociraptor) territory in order to restore power to the base, re-electrify the fences, seal the doors and generally restore man-made order to this inexplicable resurgence of animal anarchy. Daddy Bear and the cubs are going cross country, Pantwetter is up a fence. In painful slowmotion all the fences in the park are reactivated. His comes on and the current throws him to the ground several metres away. It’s okay, he’s fine. Doctor Grant comes over all concerned and comforts him. Aaw. Sadly, yet heroically, The Expendables sacrifice their lives for the preservation of the Main Characters.


 Eventually Daddy Bear, Mother Earth and the moppets are thrown together in the control room where they overcome peril through teamwork. Pantwetter is no help whatsoever, but they let him off.  Then Granddad God and Master Chaos rock up in a Jeep, Dickie having presumably patched old Jeff up en route. They drive to the waiting chopper and everyone lives happily ever after. Warms your cockles does it not?


So what have we learned?  The child-hating alpha male is forced to dredge up his repressed paternal instincts and protect his involuntarily adopted brood. He also notices that a very good woman, who happens to be rather younger and more attractive than he is, loves him, possibly against her better judgement. So he sensibly opts to love her back. As a result of this they all manage to survive a seemingly insurmountable threat against harsh odds. Hurrah for the nuclear family! It can bring civilisation out of the prehistoric [That would be those metaphor-riddled dinosaurs] and save society from its bleak, permissive future [reckless cloning practice*]. Those who threatened the stability or completeness of the unit, those who did not prioritise family values, were swept aside by the double edged sword that is the cruel indifference of nature and man’s undoing by his own design.


Therein lies the aforementioned irony. While dinosaurs are traditionally a metaphor for the past [Still holding that thought? You’ll need it now], for archaic values, their creation here- through genetic tomfoolery- means they actually represent perversion of nature and that traditionalism of which Republicans are so fond. Their existence is therefore anathema to good Americanism and the destruction they wreak, the threat they pose to Daddy and the moppets, an indictment of contemporary attempts to reimagine the family. It is only by uniting as a monogamous, heterosexual nuclear unit that our heroes are permitted to survive**. Learn this lesson heathens, learn it well!

*I’ll admit that is a weeny bit tenuous, but go with it, I do make good on the point I’m labouring towards- honest!
** What happens to their actual parents is anyone’s guess.