Friday, November 30, 2007

Southland Is Your Land,
Southland Is My Land...

From California... I keenly appreciated 'Southland Tales,' the glorious, ambitious, apocalyptic mess of a film by Richard Kelly I saw Tuesday night with David at the Angelika. (Kelly's previous, first film, 2001's time-and-genre-bending parable 'Donnie Darko,' is an Aaron favorite. It was a sleeper hit in art houses and did much to propel the careers of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal...)

In 'Tales' a huge and unlikely ensemble cast (Wallace Shawn and Sarah Michelle Gellar!) tackles a huge and all too likely premise - our country, reeling from a 2005 nuke attack, goes into repressive lockdown.

This film is not for everyone - your litmus test: would you prefer to watch a provocative, thought-inducing mess or a predictable, well-constructed mediocrity. And you might respond: "Are there any other choices?" : - )

But Kelly is all about ideas, imagery, dialogue and juxtaposition, rather than clearly etched plotlines. Below, we examine 'Tales' through the lens of 5 Critical Parameters...

1. Four Words That Encapsule: Apocalyptic alternate universe kaleidoscope.

2. Haiku: (5/7/5)
"Is this the future?
Cartoon tyrants and rebels..
Parallel L.A."

3. Oblique Comment(s): This film and its maker are influenced by the Coen Brothers (irony), Quentin Tarantino (brief cartoonishness), David Lynch (stylized musical numbers), and even Robert Altman (sprawl). There are amplified echoes of Kelly's first film, Donnie Darko: use of time travel and space-time continuum, life or death choices, campy sensibility, framing 'chapter' themes.

4. Insight: In 'Southland,' Kelly is concerned with the loss of civil liberties stemming from terrorist threat, control of information and the truth, the fallout of war, and the vapidness of our pop culture. He clearly over-reaches, and allows a mess of characters, plotlines, and concepts spin and interact for two hours while reaching no conclusions and tying nothing together. There's a fine line between artsy and incoherent.

5. Metacritic Link.
Many reviewers were not kind. Metacritic average of 25 reviews was 43 out of 100 points. But I'd give it 75-80.

and here's the preview, for your viewing pleasure:

Exam Paper Howlers, Part 1:
from actual junior high examinations:

"In mid-evil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also wrote literature."

Cartoons du Jour:

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