Jump to content
đź”’ The Earwolf Forums are closed Read more... Ă—


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

8 Neutral

About thejlar

  • Rank
  1. thejlar

    Episode 79: THE USUAL SUSPECTS

    I appreciate your arguments, @Head Spin, but I want to correct one thing. See, I don't necessarily believe that the twist is "lazy." In fact, I think that Singer does a good job of getting us to that twist. I even like the nature of the twist, in theory. I think the twist is actively harmful. First, I agree that certain elements of the story are true, but the only parts of the film that can be corroborated are the line-up and the taxi job, and only because the police were there for both of those. I'll even grant that because other, objectively existing characters were present that the events happened precisely the way they are depicted on screen. The issue for me is that every other element of the film is told only through Verbal's perspective, to the point that I'm not sure that some characters even exist (i.e. "Redfoot," whose name comes from the bulletin board and whose identity is never confirmed outside of Verbal's tall tale). This lack of objective corroboration means that even if events that are depicted did "actually" happen, we as an audience have no way of knowing if they happened the way they are being shown, which harms the rest of the film. To expound on this, however, I have to take a brief detour. As a viewer, I can pretty much take or leave the plot. I don't actually care about what "happens." What I like about Shudder Island is that it's an exploration of a character's psychology, and the falsified bits pay off by bringing our main character around to a new mental state: DiCaprio's character goes on a journey, and remains, essentially, the same character we meet at the beginning. This allows me to invest myself in the larger philosophical question at the end of the film over whether DiCaprio's character is cured before his lobotomy. It's the characters that matter. Another example: One of my favorite films is Tarsem Singh's The Fall, a film that is almost entirely a (beautifully) fabricated fantasy relayed from one character to another. Very little that happens in the film's running time actually "happens." But the story is entertaining and beautiful and is used to great effect in the "real" world of our "real" characters, whose emotional journeys are reflected by the tale. In short, the fabrications of a story need to feed into character for me to care. Which brings me back to the issue at hand. The Usual Suspects' twist does not allow me to invest any emotion into the characters. My desire as a viewer is not to know what actually happens vs. what is made up whole-cloth; it is to know if what happens on screen is the true course of events for these characters and if the actions those characters took were their own. The reveal suggests to me that most of what happens is an invention of Verbal Kint, further suggesting that the actions taken and dialogue spoken is also invented. I'm not interested in parsing out what is true vs. what is a lie, either; the film should tell me that itself. If Singer wants me to become invested in these characters, and I don't think that he does, then he needs to assure me that the characters whose fates he wants me to care about exist. If the plot can't be trusted, then I at least have to trust in the characters. The twist suggests they do not even exist, at least not in the way I have seen them portrayed on screen. As such, any emotional investment I have made into the film is made worthless. I doubt I'm going to be able to convince you or anyone else to change their "Yes" vote to "No," but I do want to say I appreciate the discussion!
  2. thejlar

    What are the most Canon worthy films of this decade?

    The Revenant Kung Fury Ridiculous 6... Wait, what are we doing? 2006-2016? 2010-16? 11-16? For reals: I agree with most of your suggestions, except maybe 'Moonrise Kingdom.' It's great but not Canon-worthy. What I would add (2010 on) in no particular order: Beasts of the Southern Wild Samsara The Babadook The Act of Killing The Social Network A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  3. thejlar

    Homework: Marilyn v Marilyn

    Agreed. 'Gentlemen' is the clear underdog. Who do you hope takes the side of 'Gentlemen' in the 'cast: Devin or Amy?
  4. thejlar

    Episode 79: THE USUAL SUSPECTS

    It's an interesting read of the scene, and I won't argue that Singer moves his actors in an interesting way, but I can't defend the composition of the shot, with the two of them off to one side and all this clutter taking up most of the frame. There's a lot to learn about Keaton in that apartment, but we're forced to focus on the action of the scene, which is in the least interesting part of the room.
  5. thejlar

    Episode 79: THE USUAL SUSPECTS

    When I queued up the latest episode of the Canon this morning, I was excited to hear Devin and Amy tear The Usual Suspects to pieces; the twist here blew my mind, because it turns out that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Devin and Amy that this movie was good. First things first: the plot is fine, and, yes, Kevin Spacey is good, but that’s all I can offer. The film itself is bad. At one point in the episode, Devin makes a positive argument for the “misdirection” of the question “Is Keaton dead?” but then Devin points out that we see, objectively, at the beginning of the film that Keaton is, in fact, dead. That opening scene makes the aforementioned “misdirection” ineffectual, essentially letting us off the hook for caring about that whole line of questioning. And this is only the first of Singer’s massive errors in the construction of this film. The second is actually the execution of the twist (praised for its nature above, but that’s a different idea). By saving the twist until the very end, by “misdirecting” his audience throughout the film (a.k.a. not telling his audience anything), Singer essentially ends his film with “It was all a dream,” one of the worst ways to end anything. Granted, this is an expensive version of that trope, rather than a “cheap” one, and I think there is some groundwork laid, but we as an audience are still essentially taken for a ride. (I think I’d have less of an issue with this if Singer allowed his audience the chance to observe the office billboard a little bit longer, a little bit more thoroughly. This would not be to allow the audience to figure it out, but at least to allow the twist to land a little harder, with more of an “Ohhh” rather than a “What?”) Secondly, how do both Devin and Amy end up praising the camerawork and cinematography throughout the episode? There are *some* smart decisions made, but there are so many scenes abysmally lit (something Devin usually jumps on, but here, nothing) and full of empty, useless space. Take, for example, the scene where Verbal goes to Keaton’s apartment to try and talk him into the Taxi Job. The scene starts with the camera in extreme close-up on our two characters’ faces and a beige wall, and the camera does not move for what feels like an interminable amount of time. We aren’t given any information to place these characters, and we are given almost nothing to look at except two men talking to each other in slightly breathless voices; both characters are far too composed for us to get any real sense of heat or emotion out of their argument. Then we cut back to see Keaton’s full apartment, which has some really interesting furniture and art on the walls and plenty of little places for Verbal and Keaton to conduct their business. Instead, the two of them stand to the right of the frame against more beige walls, leaving three quarters of the room empty - save for all the things I *wish* they were standing in front of. There are many similar scenes where the camera is placed at odd points in the room, seemingly in service of nothing, and then just stays there; where the frame is composed in such a way as to leave the viewer with no focal point - and not in service of “misdirection”; or where the film’s gaze inexplicably turns away from interesting set pieces and action to show us something mundane and information-less. Finally - and only because I’m realizing how long this post will be - so much of the acting is atrocious. Postlethwaite’s inexplicable Asian accent cannot be excused by some possible theory that he is Söze. As much as I like that theory, there simply isn’t enough evidence for it, and too much in favor of Kevin Spacey (the artist’s sketch alone is evidence enough: it has Spacey’s widow’s peak and chin dimple). Similarly, I also like the story behind Benecio del Toro’s overblown performance, but it reads more as a protest against a ridiculous script than an inspired choice. It’s del Toro saying “Fuck it, just pay me,” not “creating an interesting character.” Third, Gabriel Byrne’s dead-eyed performance does not allow me to become emotionally invested in his character whatsoever, and the script desperately needs me to do that. Like Detective Kujan, I don’t believe Keaton loves that woman, either. Finally, the way this film is shot and the way the script is written (don’t get me started on the rest of that), it’s safe to say that Steven Baldwin’s character is supposed to be competent, but his antsy, machismo-inflected performance make the character impotent, impossible to take seriously. I just want to laugh him out of the film, and, as a result (and on top of the other bad performances), I cannot care about this little team’s hijinks and therefore cannot care about the plot and therefore cannot care about the twist. Essentially, for me, Baldwin ruins the entire film.
  6. thejlar

    Suggestion: The Warriors

    I came here to suggest this film as well, but mostly because I think it's trash: fun to watch once, but also horribly misogynistic and incredibly hollow. I would love to hear Amy and Devin debate this one. I feel like I can predict where Amy comes down on it (against), but I don't really know what Devin would say. I imagine he'd be against it, and, if so, I want to hear him tear it down. If he's for it, it could make for a compelling argument.
  7. thejlar

    Episode 77: SEVEN

    I watched Seven for the second time last night, specifically to be prepared for this week's episode of the Canon. I also watched Seven specifically because the first time I saw this movie, I absolutely hated it. I came out of that first viewing full of feelings of disgust and boredom, railing against the pretension of David Fincher, reasons very similar to Amy's complaints about empty stylistic flourishes and the grossness of the film. As such, almost all of her arguments made perfect sense to me. However, upon my second viewing last night, my tune has changed. I came away from this second screening with views much more in alignment with Devin's. This time around, I really picked up on the film's thematic consistency and overall point of view, and I realized that my initial reaction to the film was not really a reaction to the film's underlying problems, but to the problems the film presents on its surface: the problem of evil and the fundamental nature of humanity. Noticing these elements this time around got me to a point where I found myself applauding the cohesiveness and the artistry of the film at the end rather than flipping it the finch, as I did the first time around. That being said, my gut-level reaction to this film is still negative. While I can now appreciate the film for its craft and Fincher for his genius, I still cannot bring myself to appreciate the experience as a whole. The misanthropic, nihilistic messages of the film just don't sit with me and will always turn me away. And while I am tempted to say that this is my problem and mine alone, I also found that my reaction was problematic on a cinematic level. Because the film does such a good job of turning me into a little nihilist, by the climax of the film, I no longer care what Mills does. Whether he kills John Doe or not doesn't affect me in the slightest. I'm actually actively rooting for Mills to do it and kill himself to boot. So while the ending lands as a good climax to the story Fincher is telling and a good end to the characters' arcs, the film's unrelenting darkness leaves me so apathetic that any emotion I'm supposed to react with has already been bled out of me. In a way, the movie is too good. But that's not enough to keep it out of the list of important films that people ought to see. The combination of film's cultural significance of this film, its nigh-impeccable craft, and its overall artistry get an apathetic Yes out of me.