Menage a Quatre
You may like Closer because of its flawed characters and their doomed relationships. I like it because it's square. The assorted combinations of love and friendship, scorn and resentment, among two males and two females are literally geometrical. Typically, the dependable love triangle pits three characters together, often a heterosexual convention establishing a male lead zig-zagging between two females, or a female lead choosing between two male suitors. What if we include an extra character? How many triangles can be made with four individuals? Four! And Closer expertly covers them all. Next time you see it, draw out a square with each character occupying a corner. Then connect each of the couplings and triangles as they occur, beginning with Julia-Jude-Natalie. Jude falls for Natalie, introduces her to Julia who gets intimate with her camera. The Jude-Clive-Julia triangle is a clever one. Clive is introduced when Jude seduces him online pretending to be Julia who he meets at the aquarium. Often when a movie script or stage play adheres to a strict formula, it turns out flat and predictable. Not Closer. Applying a quadrangular network forces each character to cover all the bases, tagging up every way possible, pushing each juncture to the limit.
Survival of the Batsh!t Craziest
Here we have a sociopath for the digital age. A Taxi Driver for the early 21st Century. Louis Bloom might have been born yesterday, just before taking an online course in Small Business Management, the new way to self-educate, without the petty annoyances of human contact and interaction. Every basic lesson he absorbed is put to the test with the obsessive solitary singular purpose of succeeding. Jake Gyllenhaal immerses himself in the role with psychotic stupor. He speaks with the same forward-plotting conviction whether tossing about obvious clichés or revealing something brilliant. The perfect entrepreneur. A maniacal detached idiot savant on a ruthless predatory mission. Morality and the legal system are minor roadblocks to dodge, riddles to resolve, sentiments to overcome. His brand of narcissistic psychosis is a genetic mutation that insures the survival of the species. Like an Aryan bulldozer, he cripples and kills the weak, exploiting the flaws in humanity, cannibalizing the limits of civilization, and capitalizing on each opportunity every step of the way, all for his own personal gain. All while intuiting which backs to scratch and/or stab and when. The perfect entrepreneur. The quintessential post-9/11 movie hero. Where Travis Bickle sought to take down corruption to rescue the innocent, Louis Bloom does the opposite, preying on the fallen and severing the social codes and mores that bind us for his own solitary success. American Exceptionalism. Nightcrawler is nanoeconomics in its purest, most wicked and vicious form. I'm sure some may see it not so much as a comment on what ails us but as an inspiration to venture out from, and Bloom as a persistent determined role model to imitate. How-to-Succeed-in Business-Without-Feeling. Humanity is merely a construct that can be subjugated, an apparatus to dismantle, a child's toy for the child that wants it all.
tripping over ourselves
While there's no cinematic equivalent to the Mona Lisa, I submit a list of the top ten American movies of the last 50 years in no particular order:
The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mullholland Drive, Tree of Life, Boyhood, Short Cuts.
Whaaaaaa... Short Cuts? Is it even Altman's best work? Well, everything unique and original in the other movies on this list was done before... by Altman. (Is there anything the man hasn't tried?) And everything Altman achieved in his career can be summed up in Short Cuts.
Five of the entries on my list are genre intact: gangster, war, bio, sci-fi, adventure. Lynch is a genre of his own (a master of hook and subvert), Pulp Fiction is pomo-noir with a swagger, Tree of Life, an audacious and transcendent poem, Boyhood, literally an epic achievement of dedication and commitment. Short Cuts doesn't seem to fit in as it is merely an observation of lives and love. But what observations! What lives! What heartbreaking affection. All underscored with a resonating heartbeat patching into so many paths, teetering on the brink of disaster and threatening to explode, which it does, in the form of a climactic planetary stroke. Nothing brings people together quite like a natural disaster. An earthquake, tremoring just enough to inform us of our place in history on the cosmic map. Enough to bring us down to earth, reboot our egos, and put multiple perspectives in perspective. Enough to appreciate the simple state of being.
A larger-than-life baroque master is at the helm, warbling out contrapuntal narratives and swirling themes orchestrated to perfection. Multiple story-lines wavering under one very singular umbrella. And under Altman's protective cover the talent runs free and easy, playful and experimental, ironic and sincere. The key characters in one story become walk-throughs in another, paradoxically tethered and disconnected from the self, from family, community, and life. Boundaries are crossed and souls get lost. We're all the same if only by not knowing what our needs are or why we're even here. With nothing to say except everything is exceptional, infinite and empty. And life is short. Shorts Cuts of scenes stories words actions desire love loss lies lust faith wonder and devotion. Heck, I'd see it again only to watch Tom Waits and Lily Tomlin shack up.
Some movies claim to be infinitely entertaining, some maintain they can be viewed repeatedly without losing their initial charm, some insist they never age, I know only one that can lay claim to all such conceits. Short Cuts is like falling in love. It delivers quietly, wonderfully, naturally, tenderly, simply and deeply.
I declare Blade Runner the best sci-fi movie of all time. Arguments? No? Okay. So long. Please upvote the guest book on your way out.
WAIT! There's more. At the risk of whistling conspiracies and setting off inappropriate vibrations in your slacks, you see, this Ridley K. Dick concoction is going on right now. While we're all transfixed by the endlessly goofy droppings from the web, forever staring down and swiping things on our smarty-pants phones, retweeting selfies of infinitely mirrored selfies; proliferating at light speed, every aspect of humanity is being replicated, perfected, mechanized, optimized, upgraded, fortified, robofied, Googlized, quantumized, DNA'd and NSA'd and will soon converge to fall upon and supplant us, and Harrison Ford, despite looking trim for his years, will be too old to stop it! And the irony to end all ironies is that we, as the irresponsibly arrogant, over-infested and narcissistic caretakers and consumers, and the colossal defecators of this broken-down, flea-bag of a planet, are entirely fundamentally responsible. No, the irony of all ironies is that a world exclusively dominated by self-correcting technocratic cyborgs with zettabytes of artificial intelligence will be a vast improvement. The androids are saving the planet! AHHH, run for your life! Blade Runner is both an expired cautionary tale and emerging utopian fantasy.
Oh, you knew this already? Very well. Carry on. Enjoy your self-driving cars and virtual nature tours.
for so long its not true
I only saw it once. I dare not watch this again. For some reason it was playing at a dingy burlesque-haunted cinema on old Granville Street in Vancouver on a Sunday afternoon in 1993 where wasted men usually shuffle in to deposit their sperm. (Not enough credit goes to internet porn for cleaning up the streets). Richard Linkater wasn't a story at the time. The guy who made Slackers. The bastard love child of Jim Jarmusch and Chrissie Hynde for all I knew. No clue he'd be the chosen one to eventually deliver us to Boyhood. I went in with a friend on a lark and floated out on a psilocybin cloud of joy. I was awestruck. I know these guys! I wanted to endlessly sing its praises but my friend didn't get the same charge out of it. (Although months later at a Christmas party of wayward misfits, he couldn't stop playing the sound track). Maybe it was me. But this was exactly how I remembered High School in the 70's. Was I hallucinating the whole thing? Indeed I was stoned much of the time, but all that was brilliantly accounted for. All that was missing was a bit of Pink Floyd and a whole lot of Led Zeppelin as alluded to in the title. Dazed & Confused isn't merely the best movie about High School in the 1970's. It is the best movie about High School, and the best movie about the 1970's, and perhaps the best movie about male adolescence (yes, yes, IMHO, of course, what else). I dare not watch it again for what if I burst the bubble of such virgin memories to forever spoil my love and admiration for it. Or was it the dingy cinema I have fond nostalgic feelings for? Something. I'll have to watch it again, probably soon, once Linklater finally gets the grand red-carpet treatment along with the golden trinkets he so long deserves.