Voice of the Mountain
by Shawn K. Inlow
Today Vault returns with a bushel basket load of film for you to chew over. I've almost got all my required viewing ahead of the Oscars completed with only "Argo" still escaping me.
Others in the hamper are a decent romantic comedy ("2 Days in New York") two decent action pics ("The Bourne Legacy" and "Looper") an unusually dark and original horror/drama ("Perfume: The Story of a Murderer") and a touch of politics ("The Billionaires' Tea Party").
It is easy to write nice things about "Silver Linings Playbook" on the back of its eight Oscar nominations. Set in a normally off-putting rom-com frame the film brilliantly examines bipolar disorder in a way that is ultimately positive.
Most films of the kind would go for the cheap "crazy" laughs, but this film is better than that. Its laughs are smart and avoid condescension because the actors, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, who all portray characters with bipolar traits, are all playing it straight. So the situations are funny but humane.
Director / Screenwriter David O. Russell, drawing from the novel by Matthew Quick, clearly understands the disorder which is typified by wild mood swings and individuals who focus like a laser on certain wants or desires. In my life, I've dealt with many, many individuals with the disorder and I can tell you that the dialogue here is perfect. It is clearly the best screenplay of the year just from the dialogue.
Cooper plays Pat, who's just out of an eight month stint in a treatment facility and dealing with trying to win back his wife who's placed a restraining order on him. Pat Sr. (DeNiro) is his father who is obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles and really really really needs his son to enjoy the games with him. Lawrence plays Tiffany who has, shall we say, other obsessions.
So, despite my personal difficulties with the form, "Silver Linings Playbook" is clearly one of the best pictures of the year.
Vault is going to be a bit lazy about this next film, which I found available on DVD from Netflix. I'm a great lover of anime films and particularly of the great films of Studio Ghibli. "Grave of the Fireflies" is a 1988 release that currently sits at #103 on the IMdB top 250. It's the haunting story of a boy and his little sister trying to survive in World War II Japan.
I was going to write more on the film myself, but instead, click on the video above and my favorite film writer of all time, Roger Ebert, will lead you through it. The clip is from his Ebert & Roper show from a few years ago.
"Grave of the Fireflies" is one of those rare films that show what animation is capable of. This is a war movie and it captures something about the subject that, say, "Saving Private Ryan" or "Black Hawk Down" cannot touch. That is the microcosm of war. The small detail that Spielberg got so well with the little girl in the pink coat in "Schindler's List." The tiny detail that reflects on everything else.
On the action front, I got to check out two above average newer offerings in "Looper" and "The Bourne Legacy."
"Looper" is one of those time traveler sci-fi flicks that have been done any number of times, but there is something a little better here than the average. I like the way that this film hints at bits of strangeness on the edges of its own reality - the way "Blade Runner" does but certainly not on the same scale.
The story is about Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis), who is a contract killer who travels back in time to murder people, thus eliminating the problems that they pose later in life. The story is complicated when he is tasked to "close his own loop," or, kill his older self.
I have to tell ya, this movie sort of reminded me of a great little sci-fi short story by John Barnes called "Things Undone." In this totally unrelated story some bounty hunters are looking to erase time travelers because time travelers are constantly re-writing history such that the current reality keeps changing in really unexpected but really important ways. "Looper" doesn't do this, because the film would have gotten all "Inception" style head-trippy. Point being, I would have liked it to go a little further.
By focusing on the Bruce Willis character, though, the film doesn't try for much and gets there nicely.
The fourth in the Bourne series, "The Bourne Legacy," is a good, watchable action piece that finds the franchise running out of steam. If you really wanna see a Bourne flick, choose the first, "The Bourne Identity," which snaps with the electricity of a good story and features Matt Damon and Franka Potente. (And, by the way, if you wanna see a really fun Franka Potente movie, try the 1998 "Run Lola Run" - or "Lola Rennt" - from Germany.) And if you really wanna see a current A-Title in the action format, choose "Looper" over "Legacy."
Next up, here's a really original horror / murder / drama set in 18th century France. It's more from Director Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run" and most recently "Cloud Atlas") who seems on a mission to get my attention. "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" deals with a boy who miraculously survives his birth and youth in 18th century Paris and who is endowed with the finest olfactory sense. Finding his way to a famed but fading perfumer (Dustin Hoffman) the young man's desire to capture the perfect scent takes a wickedly dark turn. It's a creepy movie. Engrossing as it meditates on obsession. The film also stars Alan Rickman (think Professor Snape from the Harry Potter movies) as the wisely protective father of a beautiful young woman.
"2 Days in New York" - New York radio personality Mingus (Chris Rock) makes a fairly interesting foil for his French girlfriend Marion (Julie Delpy) as the couple endure the weekend visit of her Parisian family. Yet another better than average rom-com, the movie looks at a clash of cultures between the sexually liberated French and the less libertine ways of life in New York City.
"The Billionaires' Tea Party" - This 2011 documentary is a 54 minute examination of the political Tea Party movement that makes the case that the movement was born in the rich industrialist boardrooms of Charles and David Koch and bred in the fertile ground of voter resentment to dupe a broad swath of people into fighting for policies that would benefit the rich.
Same as it ever was, right? I mean, the Koch Brothers could do so much good in the world with their vast wealth, right? But they choose to sew the seeds of mischief in our politics and environment. To me, the Koch Brothers and their ilk need to be sought out and beaten with a stick. The only problem is the only people who would resort to that kind of personal violence are on their side.
Anyway, if you're into political docs that reinforce what you already believe, "The Billionaires' Tea Party" is just right for you.
Housekeeping: The Mountain has been working on a number of stories and ideas over the last week or two and I have lots coming this week.
On the Boggs Township Landfill issue, I've had interviews with Pa. Waste LLC's President, Bob Rovner, who I found out once served as a republican state senator from the 6th district. I also spoke with one of Pa. Waste's engineers, John Vargo, about the project. You will not be surprised to find them in favor of the controversial landfill. I also spoke with our new State Representative from the 74th district, Tommy Sankey, and have some details about the thing from his perspective. For the record, Tommy told me he opposes the landfill but says he's not in a position to do much about it.
I would like to talk to Richard Huges, who has testified about a fault running across the proposed site. I've gotten hold of the public documents at the Clearfield County Courthouse dealing with the 2,000 acre parcel of land's sale. I have some questions for the State Department of Environmental Protection (The very name of the agency always fills me with angst.) about where this process sits currently. And I'm researching the basic details about the relative safety - health-wise and environmental-wise - of landfills in general and once I gather all of it, I'll put it up for you, dear reader, in what I hope will be my last post on the subject.
The Mountain remains of the opinion that this project is a sore abuse of our land (What else is new in Central Pennsylvania?) and does not consider long-term health and environmental issues and will use the people here for the vast enrichment of a select few.
I am extremely peeved at State Senator Dominic Pileggi, another shitty Philadelphia lawyer who's trying to screw things up for the rest of us, who has introduced a bill to change the way Pennsylvania awards electoral votes to favor republicans. You know, it's this kind of crap that actually hurts republicans. If you can't win with your ideas, you just rig the process. And given that our state has already begun trying its hand at voter suppression, I charge our illustrious Governor, Tom Corbett, as being the biggest stinker in the stink pile on this.
We'll get more into this in a couple days, but here's the rub: Democrats won the recent presidential tally by more than a million votes statewide and Pa. has been going blue over the last six election cycles, but guess what? Our representation is somehow overwhelmingly republican. So creeps like Pileggi are trying to use their gerrymandered majority to try and rig the presidential voting too. Nice.
You don't suppose the Senate Republican Leader does a shitty move like this without the Governor's support, do you? Me neither.
So thanks for visiting the Voice of the Mountain today. If you find the writing here useful, please feel free to share the link with friends. And feel free to leave your comments below. I ask that you sign your name to your comments if possible because your opinions gain strength if you attach your name to them.
Osceola Mills, Pa.