Netflix Was Chill

Will I ever go back to Netflix? Don’t get me wrong. I still subscribe to it in order to watch House of Cards and Narcos, but I can’t seem to find anything else that appeals to me. When I first started watching its streaming content, I saw a movie several times a week. Now, when I search for a Spielberg movie, I only get E.T. When I search for a Scorsese film, I only get The Aviator. I’m sure that what happened is that they needed to scale back their film library in order to expand their own content, but what’s a cinephile to do when he wants to see random films like Magnolia, Nashville, Hannah and Her Sisters or even Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I don’t expect all of those films to be there, but I’d definitely like more variety than I have now. I want to be surprised, and Netflix doesn’t do it anymore. The question I have to my  fellow bloggers and cinephiles is: Where do I go to now and is Hulu the place that I’m looking for? For now, the mom and pop video store down the street will have to hold me over…until their day is gone too.

The Valle Cinema Ramblings, Vol 3: Mulholland Drive

This piece subscribes to the theory that the two stories in Mulholland Drive are parallel universes. Not that I personally believe in that theory. I just found the dream theory too hard to write about.

I will refer to the characters in Universe A, the first part of the film, with an (A) at the end of their name. I will refer to the characters in Universe B, the second part of the film, with a (B) at the end of their name.

Adam-(B) is in love with Camilla Rhodes-(B), who is the love interest of Diane Selwyn-(B), who in Universe A is Betty-(A), who falls in love with Rita-(A), who in Universe B is Camilla Rhodes-(B), who is the love interest of Adam-(B).

Mulholland Drive is a circle with detours. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on Mulholland Drive. For example:

Betty-(A) = Diane-(B)

Betty-(B) = Diane the Waitress-(A)

Diane the Waitress-(A) = Betty the Waitress-(B)

Betty the Waitress-(B) serves coffee to Diane-(B)

Diane the Waitress-(A) serves coffee to Betty-(A)

The fabric of space/time has broken in Mulholland Drive. Two universes have been torn and sown together haphazardly to form a mangled circle.

We go in circles in our lives. Unless we move forward, we meet the same kind of people and enter the same scenarios. This leads to the same kind of dreams, fantasies and delusions. Diane-(B) believes that she can’t move forward without Camilla-(B) in her life. Has this emotional distress caused the temporal disruption? Or are we always feeding off of delusion, it feeding off of us?

Mulholland Drive is about the tragedy of romantic love. Diane doesn’t subscribe to the philosophy, “If you love them, leave them.” She wants Camilla in a box where only she has the key. Love is anything but freedom.

When we love someone we’re tied to them, a balloon string tied to a child’s finger. A child that can let go at any whim. Is the lover the child or the balloon?

And does Betty-(A) really need to help Rita-(A) find her identity? With no idea who she is, Rita-(B) is virtually untouched by the world like a puppy. Betty-(A) can mold her into anything she wants her to be. Like an abuser, she keeps her close…in a box.

Analyzing Mulholland Drive is like trying to shoot a moving target from a mile away. A soon as you think you have it boxed in, the film presents a hole in your logic. You find yourself going in circles until it spits you out at the beginning of the circle, which has no beginning. Instead, we search for a box and a key that will help us bypass the mystery and give us the answers. But all we find is beautiful production design, excellent cinematic craftsmanship and the feeling that we’ve learned something about life. And that’s all we can ask for.

The Valle Cinema Ramblings Vol. 2: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The modern interpretation of any story analysis these days is that the hero is a sociopath. An analysis of Ferris Buller should be no different. But I won’t go down that path. Calling our heroes (or anti-heroes) sociopaths is dismissive and keeps us from digging deeper. So instead, I’ll say that Ferris Buller is a fake.

He fakes his sickness to get out of school. He changes his cloths to fit into any situation that he needs to manipulate. He pretends to be someone that he’s not (Abe Froman) just for a seat at a restaurant. Then when the restaurant host sees past his disguise, he refuses to admit that he’s just a high school kid. He takes the risk of getting into further trouble by playing with the restaurant phone lines in an attempt to look like the person he claims to be. A scene later, when he leaves the restaurant, he sneaks past his father and steals his cab when he’s not looking rather than taking the less risky move of walking away. He still believes that he’s the Abe Froman he claimed to be.

I found it hard to connect with Ferris Buller in the end. There’s only so much I have to say about him, because he only reveals so much about himself. I don’t find him to be a likable character, and that might be the point. But how can we respect anyone that wants to be anyone but himself?

Redemption is found in characters like Cameron and Jean, who make the decision to change when they hit rock bottom.

This has been a very hard film for me to break down and write about. I couldn’t wrap my head around one theme like I can with many other films. But I do feel that the filmmaker used Ferris to make two critiques on the world:

  1. People believe what they want to believe just as they believed that Ferris was whoever he said he was.

 

  1. The world is a prison of rules and responsibilities that keep us from feeling freedom and happiness.

But then those are the life discoveries of a sociopath, aren’t they?

The Valle Cinema Ramblings Vol.1 : E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. is a pagan shaman. He nurtures plants. He heals. He flies. He makes psychic connections. He self-resurrects. Or maybe the flying makes him a witch. Or maybe the healing makes him a magic troll. Or maybe the psychic connection makes him a postmodern fairy. Or maybe the self-resurrection makes him a trans-human prophet. A new internet theory even suggests that he’s a Jedi. If Jedi’s can drop out of society to be intergalactic hippies, then I can support that argument. But whatever he is, he’s what Elliot needs to keep from developing an adult personality disorder. My guess is that Elliot would be a narcissist, always wondering how something will affect his life and not others. “We can grow up together,” he tells E.T., not thinking about E.T.’s home sickness.

Elliot can’t handle the absence of his father. His brother tries to be the man of the house, but he’s a child also. Elliot has a loving mother, but she’s clueless. She doesn’t see Elliot putting back the lamp that helps him fake his sickness. She doesn’t notice E.T. (pretending to be her daughter) fall backwards after a Polaroid is taken. She doesn’t see E.T. standing in her living room when her daughter is trying to point him out. Parents can only do so much. A child needs an outlet.

To Elliot, E.T is a good book. A movie. A TV show. A baseball game. A comic book collection. A best friend; anything that creates a buffer for a child and shelters it from unnecessary pain. E.T. is about how we must protect our children from realities that they’re not equipped to handle. E.T. is about how we have to listen to our children and do everything we can for them. E.T. is about the miracle of salvation; the miracle of finding something that gives us the release we all need in life.

In the end, Elliot tells the government doctors, “He needs to go home.” Elliot realizes that he must let go of what he loves in order for it to live and be happy. This is what he needed to do for his father. Isn’t that what friendship really is? The ability to say something to someone that you really need to say to someone else.

Oscar Season and Me

Starting in 8th grade, I made it my job to see any fall film that I thought would be an Oscar contender. When the awards show was telecast, I wanted to be able to judge for myself who was robbed or not. Some kids were jocks. Some kids were stoners. Some kids were nerds. But I knew what movies were nominated for best picture all through the 1970’s.

I can remember dragging my best friend to see Columbus: The Discovery, assuming that an historical film released in October was a shoe-in for a nomination. The film now has a 7% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. At 17, I even walked several miles to the only theater that was showing Breaking the Waves.

The last Oscar push I tasked myself with, was in the 2002/2003 Oscar season. I would leave my grocery job at 10pm, drive to the nearby theater and fit in films like Gangs of New York, Adaptation, The 25th Hour and Chicago (The only film that I ever walked out of.)

I can’t tell you what films won for best picture after those years. I started to get out more in life, and became tired of getting the potential nominees wrong. Over the years, I’ve waited for their video release, and have enjoyed watching them at home.

Last Oscar video release season (spring of 2015), I managed to sit through only 3 out of roughly 10 Oscar contenders. I saw the first half hour of Foxcatcher and skipped through scenes. I saw all of The Theory of Everything and Imitation Game the same way, but actually got to the ending. I started Selma and American Sniper, but turned it off after a half hour. I saw a half hour of Whiplash and skipped to the ending.

The only films I did sit though were Boyhood and Birdman. I was tempted to turn off Birdman. In fact, the only nominated film to capture my complete attention was Nightcrawler.

This is largely due to my lack of interests in features these days. Documentaries seem to be doing more for me at this point in my life.

Then there’s the fact that these films are artistic ‘drama queens’. They kick and scream, “Don’t you see? I have everything needed for an Oscar. A great cast, a talented director, gorgeous photography and a sparkling script. Just nominate me. That’s all I ask for.”

With the exception of Nightcrawler, I saw little or no edge to those films in the first half hour. Nothing fearless. Nothing raw. Nothing unadulterated. Talented directors just don’t take chances anymore. The Joseph Campbell heroes’ journey arc has infested its way into the Oscar season film.

Leaving Las Vegas, Dead Man Walking, Short Cuts, Boogie Nights, Wild at Heart. This is what I want my writing to be. A chance that’s been taken.

A lonely teenager might never walk several miles for my book in a digital age, but I want that kid to feel what I felt before I made it to the theater in the fall and winter of the 1990s, “This is what real art is supposed to be. Right? ”

Reservoir Dogs and Theme Analysis

As an adolescent, I believed that that tagline of a movie was its theme. If I wanted to know what it was about, I looked at the movie poster.

Christmas 1994. I opened my brother’s gift to me. Reservoir Dogs on VHS. The tagline: “Four perfect killers. One perfect crime. Now all they have to fear is each other.”

“Hey, this movie’s theme is that there is no honor amongst thieves.”

July 4, 2015. I was thinking deeply about friendship and trust. In my mind, I gravitated to Mr. Blonde and his friendship with Nice Guy Eddie.

Mr. Blonde was loyal enough to do prison time for Nice Guy Eddie, but he turned out to be unreliable for the job that Nice Guy Eddie had for him.

The list of imperfect relationships went on:

Mr. White bonded with Mr. Orange, but Mr. Orange was an undercover cop that meant to bring down Mr. White.

Mr. Pink had been friends with Joe since he was a kid, but expressed mistrust for him.

Mr. Orange looked to Detective Holdaway to mentor him on undercover survival, but Holdaway is just doing his job. He might not have the concern for Mr. Orange that Mr. Orange believes Holdaway has for him.

My new Reservoir Dogs theme: No friendship or bond is perfect. Both their development and their maintenance is as unique as the next.

I’ve read many books on story analysis and development. They all helped as a writer and a critic. But it was a lack of a close circle of friends in my teens and 20’s followed by the longevity of new friendships that have allowed me to see the film in this light.

The tagline was my training wheels. I can ride on my own now, soaring down the street or falling off. With age, I realize that no one (not even tagline writers) know more than anyone about the nature of this world. We’re all figuring it out until we die.

Who knows what Reservoir Dogs will be about the next time?

Childhood Dreams

1988. Fourth grade. I drew a movie poster for a film that I thought I was going to make. The picture featured a man breaking through a brick wall. He was a cross between The Terminator and Max Headrorm. He wore sunglasses and had spiky 1980’s hair. He was my version of a good guy terminator. I called him Blockbuster.

Not only would this movie catapult me to cinematic success, but I would open a video store and call it Blockbuster Video.

A few years later, I saw a report on a growing video store called Blockbuster Video.

I was crushed.