What does Change look like?  What does it feel like?  How does it sound?  Is it a person, a place, a way of life.

Maybe Change is all of these things and more.

When did Texas really Change?  It’s always changing.  But what about the 80s?  The country was changing.  Texas has always been slower to change than the rest of the country.  At least the parts of Texas that really matter:  the fringes, the outposts, the small Texas towns that only other Texans know about.  They don’t experience change very often.

But the 20th century happened.  And it was going to reach as far as west Texas.

Change is violent.  It always has been and always will be.  Plants and animals die, stars explode in terribly violent bursts of energy, galaxies collide.

Change is not for the weary.

Or for the Old.

We cannot escape this certain death of our Selves.  Our culture cannot escape the death of Change.

Change carries an oxygen tank because Change gives life.  We breath the miniscule differences.  Inhale and exhale with each breath things are now slightly different.

And while you relax in your comfort zone Change decides to split your skull open.

We cannot escape the violent death of an old way in order to make a path for the new.

My only question is:  Why did they leave Josh Brolin’s death scene out of this film?  We can infer as to what happened to him from previous scenes, but we are robbed of the power of a powerful man being taken down by his own self assurances.

Change didn’t get him but the Mexicans did.

Texas is a different place these days.  We’ve lost what we valued most:  our values.

Change leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

And a hole in the back of the head.

4 stars, maybe 5 if anyone could ever convince me that Josh Brolin’s death scene was not needed.


The Road (2009)

Viggo Mortensen is one of my favorite actors of all time.  He has such great physical presence and intensity.  His “Aragorn” character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is probably my favorite character in film.

The Road.

So many films get bogged down in “how things work”, especially sci-fi films.  Watch “Inception” and you’ll see what I mean.  “The Matrix” ruined itself because it could never figure out what “The Road” knew all along:  Shit happens, and then there’s a movie about it.

“The Road” doesn’t explain itself.  I’m reminded of another post-apocalyptic film:  “Children of Men” (2006).  Neither of these films attempts to explain to the reader how or why things are the way they are:  instead, shit happened and characters have to deal with the consequences.

These two films trust their audience.  More importantly they trust themselves.  They say to the audience, “Look, something really bad happened.  It doesn’t matter why or how, it just happened.  Does it even matter?  We’re just going to show you how a few people deal with what happened.”

Viggo Mortensen and “The Boy” have great chemistry.  I believe these two love one another.  I believe “The Man” will protect “the boy” at all costs.

I once read that this film was “too sentimental.”  This is nonsense.  By the end of the film, hope is given.  Hope doesn’t exist in any other part of the film except in the final scene.  This isn’t being “too sentimental.”

Would you rather have it that there is no hope, ever, such as the film “Antichrist” (2009)?  That film had something to say.

So does The Road.

I have a young daughter.  Sometimes I think about living in a post-apocalyptic world.  I wonder how I would protect her.  I get angry that I won’t be able to join the Revolution because she will come first.  My old Self and my new Self, pre and post fatherhood, war with one another.

My new Self always wins out these days.

I’d love to join the Anarchy, but I’ll choose a different path.

The Road is about choices.  What would you do?

5 stars.

This is how I imagine it goes down for almost every horror film being made today:

Movie Producer: “So, Bob, you know…horror remakes are doing pretty well.  Don’t cost much to make, big market.  We need to get in on this.  Let’s remake, I don’t know…just pick one, Bob.”

Bob: “Ok.  Let’s do Friday the 13th.  I’ll go get a couple of undergrads at USC or a few waiters down at the local greasy spoon. We’ll offer them…what, 10 grand?”

Movie Producer:  “Fuck no, Bob!  What are you, stupid? Offer them 5 grand and throw in some of these bags of fucking peanuts that have been sittin’ around the office for the past few years.”

Bob:  “Sounds good.”

Movie Producer:  “Oh, and Bob:  make sure you the casting director finds a girl with big tits.  That ever been done in a horror film?  Big tits?”

Bob: “Yeah, I think it’s been done.  Big tits.  You got it.”

So Bob finds his “screen writers” and they get to work.  How do they get to work?  By cutting and pasting every single cliche of horror films from the “Big Book of Horror Cliches” that you can purchase…I don’t know, I guess at the campus bookstore.

And they remake Friday the 13th.  And they got a girl with nice, big tits.  After watching the film, I actually looked her up on IMDB to see if she appeared naked in anything else.  Her name is Julianna Guill, and boy does she have a nice set of tits.

Guess what?  I’m not the only person that looked her up after seeing this movie.  The ‘comments’ section is full of horny dudes wanting more Julianna.

1 star, but 5 star tits.

Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan must have had quite a bit of therapy in his life.  Either that or he just understands his subconscious better than most.

The subconscious is like a double helix.  It’s a spiral.  The more we move upon it, the farther down we go.  Yet there is no end, no beginning.   Now think of each problem you face as a single point upon the spiral.

One point on the spiral can look just like another point, but these points have different meanings.  People tell you, “Just get over it.”  But we don’t get over things.  We just move on to another point in the spiral.  This happens over and over again until our perspective of a point has changed so radically that the point no longer holds power over us.

If you can grasp that then Inception will work wonders on your psyche.

Inception is a creative person’s dream. What direction would you take this film if given the opportunity?
I know what I’d do differently.  The architect’s role would be larger.  Let’s actually see her build the dreamscapes.  Isn’t that what she’s there for?

One of the best scenes of the movie, of any movie I’ve seen, is of the architect playing with the physical dimensions of a dream.  It’s the scene that draws audiences to go see the movie.  It promises wonderful things for the rest of the film.

Unfortunately we never quite get to this point again.

Instead the film spends a lot of time explaining the rules of the world the characters inhabit.

And here, ultimately, is why Inception is overrated and a small disappointment.

When will writers and directors stop pretending that they know more than their audience?  They aren’t scientists, yet they want to explain to us these impossible scientific or philosophical ideas.

The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the television shows Lost and Battlestar Galactica suffer from the same ailment:  the shows become bogged down in the philosophy that they are trying to conceptualize.

But I’ve saved that argument for another article.

For “Inception” to be as great as it promised to be, we needed more of the architect.  We needed a more solid ground on which to base this incredibly creative film, this dream.

Christopher Nolan certainly dreams big, and that is the film’s strength.  The problem, at least for about one-third of the movie,  is that he chose to explain rather than show us his film.

“Inception” does work as a creative exercise in how the subconscious works.  It will certainly keep people talking long after the credits roll by.

Nolan should have given full reigns to the architect inside.  We got the scientist instead.

3 stars, but a 5 star effort.

Crazy Heart (2009)

Jeff Bridges has become one of my favorite actors of all time.  I believe he is the character he plays.  With most actors, I am aware of the actor.  Robert De Niro is an actor that I am always aware of as being an actor.  So is Leo DiCaprio.  It doesn’t matter that they are great actors:  I’m always thinking “Yep, that’s Leo.”

Not with Jeff Bridges.  That says something about him.

I like movies about second chances.  Or third chances.  Or last chances.  I like movies where a central character’s development turns on a single moment, a single event.  The best movies show us that, while a single event moves a character into another direction, it is the culmination of many events over many years that allows the character this pivotal moment in their lives.

Jeff Bridges character, Bad Blake, hits rock bottom.  He then has a choice: will he choose to lose his humanity or choose to save his soul.

It always comes down to choice, regardless of your beliefs in free will.  If you can get that, then you stand a chance.

So which way does Bad Blake go?  A more cynical movie would have a different ending.  “The Wrestler” (2008) was one of those movies.

“SherryBaby”(2006) was a hopeful film, although that film is more about the seeds of hope whereas “Crazy Heart” is more about the acceptance of hope.  Interestingly, both films star Maggie Gyllenhaal.  I don’t like how “Crazy Heart” handles her character in the last scene of the movie:  women don’t always need men to have a fulfilling life.

Robert Duvall plays Bad’s best friend.  The scenes between Duvall and Bridges are genuine and effortless: just two great actors playing two great friends.  Maybe they’re friends in real life.  I would bet a bottle of whiskey that they are.

I love the songs in “Crazy Heart”, especially “Are you sure Hank done it this way” by Waylon Jennings.  Great song.  Jeff Bridges is a natural old school country singer.  Colin Farrell is really good as a big time country star (who knew Colin Farrell would be a natural singer!).

I really enjoyed “Crazy Heart.”  It appeals to my sense of time and how we try to get back what we’ve lost.

Bad Blake lost a lot.  Fortunately he didn’t lose his soul.

3 1/2 stars with a 4 star soundtrack and a 5 star performance by Bridges.

Sunshine (2007)

“Sunshine”, on the surface, is about a group of astronauts sent deep into space in order to re-ignite the sun. The sun has died and it’s just a matter of time until all life on earth dies. On their ship they carry an atomic bomb that will be used to make the sun work again.  A spaceship has already tried.  And failed.  But nobody knows what happened to the first ship and its crew.

That’s what “Sunshine” is about…  On the surface.

This film is beautiful.  Some of the greatest visions I’ve seen are in this film:  blinding sun light and rich darkness. If I think about a painting and the painting is of the sun, then I come up with something that visually feels like this movie.  It’s violent, dark, white hot, brilliantly lit, deep.

This film, for me, is about those emotions that are too deep to express.  We all have these.  Words cannot conjure the depth and scope of these feelings.  Art can.

And that’s what “Sunshine” is about deep down:  coping with primal feelings, coping with larger than life emotions.  We all have rage, we all have hatred, we all love deeply and we all have a bottomless well of sadness.  But these feelings are not easy to get in touch with.  It takes courage.  More than courage.  A self awareness of the fear that is inside us.  The fear that our emotional states can destroy us.  Break us.

“Sunshine” deals with these feelings; it shows us that humans are capable of diving down deep into ourselves.  But without guidance, without the knowledge that we need help in our inward discoveries, we can succumb to our fears, our anger, our rage.

Do they save the planet?  Do they ever find out what happened to the other ship?  That’s not really relevant.

I watch this movie to tap into myself, to find my inner burning core and to see where the darkness leads me.  What is underneath the blinding light of emotional fire?  A Well of sadness, a water so deep I cannot swim to the bottom.  There is no bottom.  Some would say that to dwell here would lead to madness.  That’s why I learned to swim, so that I could come to the surface when needed.

If you let it,  Sunshine, in its visual brilliance, can take you to these depths.  Witness the climactic scene of the movie.  What is on the other side of the ledge?  Our characters find out, I believe.

Pink Floyd once asked about the dark side of the moon.  They were exploring emotional depth and the boundary between sanity and the insane.

They were looking in the wrong direction.

4 stars

Halloween (1978)

I’m breaking one of my own rules here:  reviewing a film that no longer needs to be reviewed, analyzed or talked about.  Enough has been said about this film.

But I can’t help it.  I love horror films, and this is my favorite of all time.  I also believe it to be one of the best movies of all time.  I’ll do my best to give you a fresh look at this film.

No film has ever captured the essence of the nightmare better than Halloween did.  It’s the way we see Michael Myers standing in the midground: he’s always hanging back just far enough to make his features difficult to read, yet close enough to the camera to know the protagonist (mostly Jamie Lee Curtis) is in grave danger.

On a hike, if a bear came out of nowhere and attacked you…would you be scared or would you just be in survival mode with no time for terror.

On a hike, if you suddenly see a bear off in the distance, standing on his hind legs and about to charge…just breathing down at you, staring at you with those large, dark eyes.  You have plenty of time to be terrified.

Unlike our real world terrors, however, Michael Myers walks and never runs.  We can’t escape our nightmares.  They walk behind us, always chasing.  Never in a hurry.

His face is emotionless.  Black eyes.  He is a voyeur, a sick pervert watching our lives unfold.  Biding his time.  He is not afraid to die because he cannot die.  He is a nightmare, a relic of our infancy, our traumatic birth.  He sleeps in the folds of human evolution.  We created him because we were created.

For a few years now I have been in a dream sequence.  A nightmarish world where I am being chased by a man or a demon or a shadow.  Always he wears the mask of Michael Myers.  I have ingested this villain.  My psyche spits him out at me during unguarded moments.

I’ve learned to live with him. I know what he represents for me. I haven’t spent years in therapy just so Michael Myers can terrorize me.  No. He represents my terror.  My rage.

And with each dream I understand more and I am less afraid.  Today he is nothing but a clown, an amusement.

But the psyche is not linear.  I know that a dream will come when he will grow to giant heights and wield his blade.  And stare down at me with the blackest of eyes. With the blackest of intentions.

I lived with terror as an infant.  I know Michael Myers.  I know what horror is.

Unlike our movie characters, however, I’ve learned how to deal with him.

5 stars.