Monday, July 21, 2008

Dear Chrisopher Nolan,


Justin D. Russo

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I’m not sure when, but there was definitely a point between the opening blaze of bullets and the closing press conference of Iron Man that my mind sort of drifted to a happy place that I normally reserve for especially intriguing New York Times articles, Wikipedia entries about Space, Star Wars Video Games and socially conscious/culturally philosophical comic-booking. In this happy place, my awareness of reality melts away and become one with my chosen medium and embrace it wholly as a part of my being. It makes me feel warm, accepted and beautifully coddled in the precious womb of geekery. Needless to say, I liked Iron Man quite a bit.
I’m not going to say much that other people haven’t already said, especially regarding the flawless performances of the main cast (special recognition goes to Robert Downey Jr. for playing Tony Stark better than I could have imagined, and to Jeff Bridges for making Obadiah Stane chilling and relevant, and for being the only person to ever look like a badass on a Segway) Jon Favreau knows how to direct, and direct well. This film easily slips from rock n’ roll action to non-exploitative social commentary in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen before. It was like the Spielberg duality of thrilling of action films and historical drama sort of rolled into one, it was just fun, it was smart.
Tony Starks evolution from a male Paris Hilton to a Robotic Barack Obama is done extremely well and never once did I feel like Favreau was pandering to me or telling me “just wait til we explode stuff!”. The relationship that Stark develops while captive is heartening and develops real weight, as if it was just what he needed to divine is real purpose.
I’m also a big fan of how quickly paced the story was. The plot unfurled efficiently and never felt like it was dragging along. When the movie was over, I had hardly realized that I’d been sitting there for 2 hours, I though the film had just begun. It was fresh and never boring, each scene held its own but still made sense in the larger context of the film. All in all, the main chunk of the film takes place over a couple days, and the plot hits the right notes and it unfolds into a climactic battle that could be one of the only chinks in the armor. The final battle felt rushed and went by too fast. Having now seen it twice though, I now realize that the oft-compared to Transformers fight scene is actually just what the doctor ordered and fit well with-in the established universe, pacing and context of the film. It wasn’t too flashy, but meaty enough to make sense in the end. I think most people didn’t like it in the same way most people on a diet don’t feel full after just having a salad. We were expecting a bloated, gluttonous cheeseburger like all the superhero/action/jerk-off movies of the past, but instead, we got a well-balanced, nutritious and well portioned meal of awesome.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Just a couple thoughts. I watched this last night, the first of many times I plan on watching it. I'm waiting for the blu-ray to just buy it outright.

also, there are SPOILERS.

Firstly, I loved the movie. It was beautiful on many levels, but also equally sad and depressing. Not the film itself, just the journey of its main character, Daniel Plainview. He's a sad guy, and I was never positive what his motivation was. It wasn't really money, because he had tons and was offered more. He obviously stated during his campfire boozefest with his faux-brother that he hated people, and his only motivation was to make enough money to get away from everyone. That said, then why, at the end, is he still surrounded by people? Are we to assume that he achieved his goal and his definition of "alone" happens to include being surrounded my a handful of close associates and butlers. Or are we to assume then that he has yet to reach his eden of lonesome wallow? I suppose it could be taken either way and the ambiguousness of it is sort of why its great.

Secondly, I love how at first you're lead to believe the Daniel takes back his son because he might have actually been saved when being baptised at the church of the third revelation. That we might have actually witnessed a miracle, this barren soulless man finding redemption and expressing remorse over his abadonment of his adopted son. Then in the final minutes of movie, as the now grown-up H.W. informs his father that he is leaving with his wife to start his own business, Daniels true intentions come to light. He didn't save young H.W. from being an orphan out of mere compassion or sympathy. He saw a way to sell himself as a family man when seeking out new investments, a "pretty face" for people to look at while he shilled them with his tales of being a family man and took their land and oil. It was then that I realized that Daniel was never saved, he simply saw that by sending H.W. away, it made him appear weak and vile, and that by bringing him back, it would make him appear to be saved and aid him continuing the expansion of his business. What a dick.

Thirdly, much has been said about the score. I can't say much more than: indeed, it kicked ass.

Lastly, I've never been a fan of Daniel Day Lewis. Maybe its the contrarian in me. I don't believe that someone is just automatically a genius. I'm more of a fan of the theory of acting relativity, in that you're only as good as those around you. I didn't like him much in Gangs of New York because I think that both Liam Neeson and Leonardo DiCaprio are much better actors than he is, and you sort of have to prove yourself when going toe to toe like that. In the case of There Will Be Blood though, Daniel Day Lewis was amazing. Not only that, but Paul Dano was brilliant, the unsung hero of the film if you will. Every performance was outstanding and Daniel Day Lewis made it even better by taking pain and aggression to a new level. I never doubted his character for a second, there was never any time when it thought "i'm watching Daniel Day Lewis with a mustache". He's a fantastic actor and as far as I'm concerned, this is probably the best work he's ever done.