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Written & Directed by Dan Gilroy
I don’t even know where to start with this one. On so many basic levels, it’s just flat out bad—Nightcrawler is what I would call a full-blooded B movie. How exactly it’s been getting rave reviews, I can’t say I particularly understand. I assume we’re just so desperately hungry for movies that aren’t based off comic books or teen romance novels that most of us will just take whatever we can get.
Yet, as I left the theater, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something deliberate about the heavy-handed execution of the whole thing. What if these aspects that seemed like missteps were really just deliberate choices made in order to hammer the point of the film home? After all, there did seem to be a very specific point to Nightcrawler: to shine a light on the dangers of unchecked, amoral startups in an economy saturated with entrepreneurial go-getters.
When YouTube started to happen, it seemed like the great leveler. Kids in their basement suddenly had distribution equal to that of the major Hollywood studios. And following in the wake of cheaper and better video equipment, it looked like the control of all media had shifted from ‘The Man’ to the everyman.
The results of this have been dismally revealing.
Thanks to the internet, and YouTube, we now have confirmation that 99.999% of all art completely sucks. Before, we could only look to the establishment and their putrid output to see how bad everything is. But with every person on earth making stuff, and throwing it up on there, we now have proof that almost nobody can make anything good.
Netflix Longies #2 (Thunder Soul, 26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story, Rolling Thunder, Mobsters, Batman: The Movie)
If you don’t know what Netflix Longies is, go read the first paragraph of Netflix Longies #1. I don’t feel like having to write it out again or copy and paste it or whatever. Anyway, here we go:
Thunder Soul (2010) | Dir. Mark Landsman | 83 min.
I’m big into soul and R&B and funk and whatnot. Earth Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly, Blue Magic, The Stylistics, Tavares, The Commodores—the list goes on. That’s the kind of music I was raised on, instead of Raffi or Barney or whatever. And there’s a channel on Time Warner Cable, in the MusicChoice section, called R&B Classics (channel 608 in NYC) and pretty much every night I’m listening to that while working on my laptop. It’s just calming as all hell.
Whether or not we can learn a thing or two about the current state of cinema by examining the 1980 film Maniac by William Lustig and its 2012 remake by Franck Khalfoun is difficult to say—both films were not made for mainstream audiences. And both have leading men that wouldn’t ordinarily be considered leading men: starring in the 1980 film is Joe Spinell (the extremely prolific character actor who had bit roles in such films as The Godfather 1 & 2, Taxi Driver, Rocky 1 & 2, and Cruising) and in the remake, Elijah Wood, star of the immensely successful Lord of the Rings saga (as well as many other films that aren’t necessarily known as Elijah Wood vehicles). The original Maniac was shot in the very seedy New York City, with Spinell stalking about the grimy 42nd St theaters that would soon be playing the very film he’s acting in. When it was released, it caught some of the backlash that all “slasher” films were experiencing at the time—namely, accusations of being merely an exercise in violence for its own sake. (Gene Siskel took pride in claiming he walked out of Maniac after 30 minutes.) The remake was shot in sunny Los Angeles, mostly in the downtown area. It has yet to have a wide release here in the US.
SLC Punk (1998)
Written & Directed by James Merendino
I could never identify the groups in my high school. We certainly had some jocks, potheads, and even a few hanger-on goths. But punks, I don’t know. We had a kid with a mohawk; he was a fucking asshole. And we had a bunch of kids who loved punk music—a lot of them had safety pins in their clothes and dyed hair, but they seemed to really like some band called AFI, which I always thought was the American Film Institute. By the time I was in high school, punk music had completely soaked into the mainstream and everybody had heard of Pennywise and Bad Religion. It was in vogue to go see Henry Rollins do his spoken word shows in Ann Arbor, and if you were really cool, you already liked Bad Brains and Minor Threat.
I didn’t care about any of that stuff and I was tired of every local band sounding like Green Day. I was like the James Duval character in SLC Punk—the social diplomat. I could be friends with anybody. I was too busy getting into movies and figuring out my own depression to bother committing to some specific clique. Plus, the fashion of punk seemed so childish to me. It’s music; I don’t wear it, I listen to it. But that being said, we didn’t have nazis or rednecks either. Well, everywhere has rednecks, but our punks didn’t beat them with bats. Our punks were nice kids (except for that mohawked loser) and they got good grades and loved their parents. They went to Michigan State University and were proud to do so.