Monday, 27 February 2012

Why I finally succumbed to Facebook

If you don't have a Facebook account, you are pretty much excluded. And it's got to the point where I'm getting pretty tired of exclusion.

Also, I thought it'd be a good idea if I expressed myself candidly there. Most of it falls to deaf ears, but I make a couple of people think...

And it'd be good to TRY (emphasis on try) destroying the system from within... It is of course impossible for a single person to do that, but you can try adding your own little contribution amidst the pilke of rubble...

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Scorcese De Niro partnership

Taxi Driver (1976)



The greatest depiction of a psychotic breakdown in the history of cinema? Possibly.

There's real poetry in this film. Travis Bickle, a Vietnam vet, is disgusted with the world... Although not formally educated, he writes little aphorisms in his diary like "some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets."

What at first seems like nothing more than misanthropy spirals into fully-fledged pyschopathic behaviour. Travis, a 20th century Raskolnikov, makes it a choice to murder the pimps who have escorted and terrorised an innocent 12-year-old girl.

Ironically, what is a psychotic act of murder, is considered heroic and Bikle is unanimously glorified by the media. Bickle rails against the establishment, confronts it, insults it and is offered to be a part of it.

"I'm God's lonenly man."

"Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground

Raging Bull (1980)

The best boxing film ever made (and there are many boxing films)? Possibly.

Because De Niro plays so many dislikable and unpleasant characters, you almost feel he really is like that... And they don't get any more unpleasant than Jack La Motta...

A wife beater, a bully, an outspoken tit...

Another film that acts as testament to De Niro's versatility. Ever the method actor, he actually took to underweight boxing matches...

And put on something like 20 pounds to play La Motta as a washed-out old man.

What I love the most about this film are the boxing matches. Enthralling, beautifully shot and visceral... (Hmm, I seem to be big on adjectives today!)

The King of Comedy (1983)

My stomach churned when I saw this. I kept thinking "Fucking hell this is awful," yet, conversely, thought "it's brilliant!!!"

Think The Office makes you cringe? Well, this is ten times more cringe-worthy than The Office... Rupert Pupkin loves himself far more than David Brent does and is far more disillusioned...

Filled with notions of grandeur, Rupert Pupkin thinks he is uproariously funny. He stalks Jerry Lewis and relentlessly pesters him for a place in the spot-light.

And, like Taxi Driver, there is an ironic ending... Pupkin hijacks Jerry Lewis show, makes lame jokes and... is worshipped as the latest mainstream entertainer.

The film is also prescient of the whole 'celebrity' phenomenon... Pupkin literally has no life and is obsessed with fame... Just for the pure sake of it: fame...

Difficult viewing and perhaps an even more unpleasant character than Jack la Motta...

Friday, 10 February 2012

How DARE you criticise Jean-Luc?

If there's one director who epitomises jump-on-a-bandwagon pitchfork cinephiles, it is Jean-Luc Godard. Please don't think this blog post is an attack on him personally - I happen to even like a few of his films - it is an attack on the stoicism and stubbornness of those people who choose to defend him.

One of the things that made me reconsider the worth of his films was seeing Breathless again. I was hit by the vacuity of it - like most of his films, it isn't saying much of anything. His supporters argue that he doesn't want you to get caught up in the narrative, he wants you to appreciate his technique... Well, the jump-cut wasn't even a self-conscious invention - it was accidental. The film was too long, so they cut it down, resulting with what you see on screen. This doesn't seem like innovative to me, it reeks of laziness.

And for someone whose films are purported to be very dense and complex, when a critic attacks one of his films, any intelligent argument that may arise devolves into childish name-calling. How DARE you criticise Jean-Luc? Isn't he supposed to be a polemicist, anyway? Doesn't that mean there's meant to be debate?

I have seen reviews and essays that are critical of Godard which are far more insightful and well-argued that those who defend him. While I have seen very interesting essays which explore the meaning behind his films, just a quick look through IMBD or Amazon and you'll find reviews that roughly say "Yeah! Jean-Luc is great! He is such an artist! So deep!"

His later work in particular is very dense indeed. I am at a loss as to what is the exact meaning/messages behind these films, but the thing is that I am yet to see an article which boldly describes what the film is saying. This article for instance is an adamant defence of Godard's later work - http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/137070-godards-invisible-cinema-the-neglected-genius-of-late-period-godard - but nowhere can I find in this piece am I convinced as to how Godard is 'redefining' the 'grammar' of film.

This just leads me to the conclusion that most people intellectualise things that aren't even there. Besides, in 'cult' and 'trendy' circles, most people need a guru to latch onto; for hardcore cinephiles, Godard is just that.

Friday, 3 February 2012

"Faith"

In a hospitable house I often stay at in the South of Chile, I recall having a quarrel with one of their children, one of my closest childhood friends. Like most Chilean families, these people were Catholics and firm believers in Christian doctrine.

I was visiting from England and I probed him by asking "How on earth can you believe in the literal meaning of the bible? Moses magically rising the sea, the reincarnation, etc. How can you really take such twaddle seriously?" This riled him, replying with "Tienes que tener fe" - "You've got to have faith."

Faith is one of the most common counterarguments to criticisms of religion. But, seriously, do you really think that you can refute such criticisms with one word? What's more, a word which means absolutely nothing?

I could say that I have faith in rape, that I have faith that aliens will invade and colonise the world, that I have faith in the 2012 apocalypse... If your notion of that word is defendable through believing in apocryphal texts describing inconceivable supernatural phenomena that supposedly took place thousands of years ago, isn't it also plausible to use it in defence of something equally riduculous?

On another occasion I was having a conversation with a woman of the house. She asked me about my religious beliefs. I told her that, whilst I am open to the idea of an afterlife, I thought that religion is oppressive and that I likw to make up my own value systems.

Pretentiously, I cited Sartre, existentialist etc. by saying that I like to make my own moral choices instead of subscribing to something dictated to millions of people. She replied that, if everyone would do what they wanted, the whole world would fall apart.

This is chronically wrong. I seem to remember an essay on existentialism citing a reason as to how, if everyone on earth were to make their own choices, the world would still function... but this is my own interpretation...

The fact is that religion in itself stultifies the world from functioning. Not only is it the cause for war, torture etc. but put a religious doctrine to place in a government and invariably it will fail. And, because everyone in this big world is different and has different inclinations, the world would not fall apart if everyone made their own choices irrespective of religious morality. The world does fall apart when swathes of people are submissive to something as tawdry and backward as Christianity or Islamism.

What's more is that religion isn't the only way of promoting morality... Humans have an innate understanding of morality. You already know you don't have to kill another person and you don't need something like the ten commandments to instruct you on such matters.

Counterargument to that: God gives us free will. Well, that is almost as pathetic and unfounded as "faith."