Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

I don't think I've really processed this one, yet. It's an epoch-shattering event, on the same level as the deaths of Elvis or John Lennon, but by now we've seen so many of these superstars-turned-crazy-tabloid-fodder-turned-corpses that it almost feels like it was inevitable, like this was the logical next step after Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur, and Anna Nicole Smith.
I mean, we all knew that Michael Jackson wasn't going to have a happy ending, right? That he wasn't going to grow old gracefully and dote upon his grandchildren, Prince Michael III and Blanket II? And I can't help but think of that scene from Three Kings, the one where the Iraqi is torturing Marky Mark and asking him, 'why did you make Michael Jackson cut up his face?'
But my point is, it still doesn't feel real. This all feels like the Hollywood simulacrum that should predictably happen in the second-rate film of Michael Jackson's life. Which means, of course, that Jackson's life had inevitably followed the Hollywood script that he knew it would.
So that's that, but it's still incumbent upon a member of my generation to pay homage to one of the most famous people who ever lived, who was possessed of an incredibly, boundary-shattering talent for music and dance. So here's my favorite music video of his, possibly the first place I ever really was acquainted with zombies, Thriller (via Youtube link).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Angels & Demons (2009)

Ron Howard seems like such a nice guy, why does he insist on making such shitty movies? So here we have another Dan Brown movie - stiff, self-important, blithely clueless on its own subject matter (church history, particle physics) at the service of some kind of weirdly self-serving rhetoric about the Catholic Church being out of touch with the modern era. It has a little more energy than its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code, in terms of people getting murdered and explosions, but not enough to make it a good movie.

Sunday I saw Drag Me to Hell, the kind of energetic, inventive, fun movie that made me fall in love with the movies in the first place and be a filmmaker (more about it in another review). Yesterday I saw Angels & Demons, the kind of numbing, stale, made-by-committee product that makes a person want to just give up. I guess it's a notch less depressing than Wolverine, because there's an added dimension of competence and craft - Salvatore Totino's cinematography is moody and sharp, and the movie works through its nonsense at a steady (if overlong) pace. But what both this movie and Wolverine have in common is that I just can't imagine that the filmakers had any passion whatsoever for what they were making. They're just such empty, by-the-numbers pieces of mechanical clockwork with all humanity stripped out of them.

Hanks and Howard are bored by the material and it shows (hey Tom Hanks: you're making, what, $20 million? $40 million? to be in this movie, if you're not having fun, maybe you could pretend?). As for the real auteur behind this material, Dan Brown, what's his deal and why do so many people love his stuff, above and beyond other modern authors of simple potboilers? I think the answer is that he's found a way to exploit many peoples' modern, Western dissatisfaction with the institutions of the Church (Roman Catholic and otherwise) combined with their longing for something spiritual to fill the gap. Neither The Da Vinci Code nor Angels & Demons is simple-minded Catholicsploitation, but both end on notes of progress, of reformation towards finding a balance with science and feminism. Too bad the movies are so incredibly stupid or they might actually impact people.