Monday, September 29, 2008
I am pretty consistent with my media consumption. I know what I like. I have a schedule of regularly viewed TV shows, websites and types of movies that I pretty much stick to. As such, I am subject to a large amount of advertising aimed at men. When you watch a lot of football, you're gonna be attacked by sponsors pimping out their beer, shaving cream and old man boner pills. These products all use the standard "appeal to stupid horny men" playbook of boobs, grown men acting like juvenile morons and more boobs. Except the old man boner pills. I would like to know the origin of the whole "presumably naked, elderly couple enjoying the sun set over a wheat field in separate, old timey bathtubs" thing. Am I out of touch in thinking that's a really weird image? Is that a common fantasy among the flaccid?
Anyway, as I watch these ads I always feel like they miss the mark. Either the ads are off or I am not a reflection of their true target audience. I hope I'm not. I like to think I'm not the guy that Edge Shaving Gel had in mind when they made this ad.
But yesterday I saw a commercial that totally nailed me. That sounded weird but you know what I mean. I was watching Tron. That's right, Tron. That movie holds up pretty damn well for being made in 1982. And it stars the Dude. You can't go wrong. It puts the Matrix to shame. Hell, it puts Citizen Kane to shame. Rosebud my ass.
Tron was being televised on one of the HD channels that I'm just discovering called G4. It is a TV channel devoted to video games. I was watching it with a bit of smug attitude. "What a stupid network. A whole channel devoted to Halo? Stupid nerds." And then this commercial came on. It was like the TV read my soul.
Alright, so I hate Anime and I don't know what Master Chief is, so it's not a perfect fit. But judging by the market research of these Television networks (which is never ever wrong), I belong with the G4 crowd more than I belong with the ESPN crowd. That makes me feel a little conflicted.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I remember the moment very well. It was Christmas Eve 1990. I was in a crowded hotel room at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in glamorous Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s sounds a little racy, but it certainly wasn’t. I had just turned thirteen years old. The Westenskow clan had driven the Wagoneer to Vegas on their way to San Diego. Ty Detmer had just won the Heisman a few weeks earlier, BYU was just about to play Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl and we had tickets. And oh man, did BYU get their butts kicked. That was brutal. But it was a fantastic trip and wonderful memory from my childhood that included me almost getting kicked out Disneyland for spitting on a bird from the Sky Ride and my mom smuggling a stiletto for me across the border from Tijuana. Darolynn, you’re a champ.
But this particular night, the five of us (my folks and my two brothers) were enjoying Christmas Eve in Vegas. It was late at night and the whole family was nestled into a single hotel room with two beds. My two brothers and I were entwined in the same queen sized bed, trying in vain to not touch each other. Let me tell you something. My little brother sweat like crazy when he slept. You could grow rice.
The TV was on even though no one was watching it. One of those music commercials came on where the song titles scroll up the screen while they play clips of the music. As I was about to fade away, I heard something that caused me to jerk up in bed, waking up my sweaty little brother. I heard the first few bars of the Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. The commercial was for the Zeppelin Remasters. I had never heard them before, but those ten seconds grabbed my attention. Zeppelin would soon become my first true musical love. It was their music that began my quest for a full appreciation of Rock n Roll’s finest era (1965ish - 1974ish). To this day, if I am bored in a meeting I find myself doodling the four symbols from Zeppelin IV. My hand just works off autopilot.
Led Zeppelin is well known for their Satanic darkness (ooooo, scary!) and face melting power. But my favorite feature is their totally overlooked and completely unique acoustic stuff. Jimmy Page knows how to compose a song.
Bron–Y–Aur Stomp – Led Zeppelin III 1970
Aside from the aforementioned Immigrant Song, Zeppelin III is pretty much an entirely acoustic album. It is my favorite Zeppelin Album. The title (pronounced Bron Er Air) is a reference to a Welsh Cottage where the band wrote the majority of Zeppelin III. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp has a great country folk vibe.
Going To California – Led Zeppelin IV 1971
Ah, Zeppelin IV. What is it about this record that resonates so well with Junior High aged males? Going To California features the excellent mandolin work of John Paul Jones. It’s kind of Celtic, kind of Bluegrass. I really don’t know what it is but it’s friggin beautiful. Is there another band that sounds anything like this?
Black Country Woman – Physical Graffiti 1975
I’m not sure if this song refers to a woman from the Black Country or a black woman from the country. Either way, I’m cool.
Hot Dog – In Through the Out Door 1979
In Through the Out Door has a very different sound than their previous records. They pretty much cut their balls off before they recorded this one. But I don’t care. Fool in the Rain, All of My Love, I’m Gonna Crawl. Maybe I’m an apologist but I like ‘em all. Hot Dog is the only non-80’s sounding song on this record. It is a classic country hoe down. I can picture Slim Whitman crooning to this bad boy.
That’s The Way - Led Zeppelin III 1970
This song is sublime. Page’s open tuned twelve string and Plant’s dreamlike lyrics creates music that sounds like shimmering water. Crank this song next time you’re driving through a heavily forested, winding road. Big Cottonwood Canyon would do nicely. You’ll thank me.
One More - Alright
It’s interesting to hear an unfiltered live performance like this. Warts and all. Jimmy isn’t perfectly on with his solo, but it’s still entertaining as hell. How can this much sound come from a single beat up Telecaster, one bass guitar and a stripped down drum kit? Holy crap, Bonzo bashes the hell out of those drums. The crowd’s reaction reminds me a bit of Hill Valley High after Marty McFly played a Van Halenesque Johnny B Good at the 1955 Enchantment Under The Sea dance. I wish at the end of this song, Robert Plant said, “You guys may not be ready for this. But your kids are gonna love it.” We do.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Take On Me. The good old days.
About a month ago, I invested into a big fat plasma HDTV. As such, I spend most of my TV viewing time in the 600’s of my Comcast service. The HD channels. There are a lot of new stations that I have never seen before. I have the National Geographic Channel or Nat Geo as they like to say. I have a channel that does nothing but explain how random things are made. Kayaks, pinball machines, medieval swords. I have Discovery Health with its wealth of medical information about conjoined twins, plastic surgery and pregnant women. I like that channel but they have way too many documentaries featuring women giving birth. As a squeamish man who has no kids of his own, that’s a bridge I am reluctant to cross. As beautiful as the miracle of life may be, I really don’t want to see a screaming woman blow a hairy, slimy bubble between her legs. I’m still mad at Knocked Up for smacking me in the face with that image.
With this wealth of educational channels, I can fool my brain into thinking I’m being productive while I sit my fat ass on a couch for seven straight hours. That last line is an example of self deprecating hyperbole. I don’t really watch that much TV. (That last line was an example of a lie.) But my new favorite channel is without a doubt Palladia.
Palladia is a channel that does nothing but broadcast concerts and music videos in HD. I know what you’re thinking. How is that any different than what MTV has been doing since 1983 or whatever? Well there are two primary reasons that Palladia is better.
First, watching a well filmed concert in HD is fantastic. I watched a Tom Petty show that lasted about two hours. I’ve seen Petty live three times. I may have enjoyed that show on Palladia more than any of the concerts I have seen. They focus on the guitarist’s fingers during their solos. You can see the chord progression and when they change their settings on their pedal. Unless you’re front row center, you don’t get that experience in the E Center. And you really need HD to properly celebrate the craggily glory of Tom Petty’s face. He is a worn, out ugly woman. He should start dating Brett Butler. It really is to the point where it’s better to watch an event like that on TV than it is to be there live. MTV never came close to that.
Second, MTV and VH1 haven’t even referred to music in any way in the last five years. They sold their soul to the low production costs of preteen Reality TV years ago. Holy hell. MTV has become Nickelodeon with tons and tons of pubescent sex.
Now a guy like me bitching about MTV is similar to me bitching about a tampon commercial. Neither MTV or Tampax are interested in selling anything to me. I am a thirty year old male. I am not a member of their demographic, so it shouldn’t be a shock that their crap doesn’t resonate. I don’t care about flexible applicators and absorbent cotton anymore than I care about “Watch as my slutty mom sets me up with date raping frat douches.”. And more importantly, MTV is quite aware that people like me don’t care about their crap. But I’ll bitch about MTV anyway. (Stay tuned for next week, when I deliver a scathing review about the marketing techniques of feminine hygiene products. Take that, Summer’s Eve!)
Everyone born in
I found myself watching footage of some British music festival on Palladia. I didn’t know who any of the bands were, but I enjoyed it. I guess I never knew who any of the bands were in the 80’s when my nine year old brain was educated by Adam Curry of the wonders of Cindy Lauper, Warrent and Motley Crue. And this is why I lament the effective death of MTV. As stupid as these videos may be, I have a certain fondness for them. And at the risk of sounding like an old coot, kids these days just seem to miss out on that. It’s a shame that MTV doesn’t offer this anymore. They don’t play videos. Ever. But I guess music videos are something that really is associated with the past. Their time came and went.
Nowadays, I listen to my Ipod exclusively. I have no connection to the current music scene outside of a friend telling me to listen to a particular band. So watching Palladia gives me a little fresh perspective without wasting my time with VJ’s or countdowns or any crap like that. They barely have commercials. Just a wide variety of visually detailed music. I’ll take it.
Here are a few classic videos from MTV’s prime. Enjoy. Feel free to post a link to your favorite video.
The Gay Synth Pop British Stuff
Come One Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runner
I have exactly zero Irish blood in me. When I hear this song, I lament that fact.
Head Over Heels - Tears For Fears
I love any video that features a Monkey in a Red Sox Jersey. I also like the singer's tight, curly proto mullett.
The Safety Dance - Men Without Hats
The only thing better than a monkey, is a midget. Especially if it is a Renaissance themed midget.
The Glory Days Of Butt Rock
I hate Van Halen, but this song kicks ass. About time
High Enough - Damn Yankees
Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw and a full string section? Mozart was a hack.
Nothing But a Good Time - Poison
Brett Michaels, you are indeed the voice of the downtrodden proletariat. Posion tours all the time. Take my advice. If you get a chance, go see them.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
This picture was taken on the way to BYU’s football game on Saturday. Note: if you pretend to be texting, you can take pictures with your phone of anyone in public and then mock them on your blog and they’re none the wiser. It means you’re kind of a dick, but they will never know.
This was one of those
If this were an isolated case I probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared. But ladies, the whole obnoxiously ugly boots thing has gone on far too long. I am declaring this for the world to hear: No more stupid furry ugg boots worn with a mini skirt! No more giant, platform hooker boots! Speaking as a shallow, horny man, those things are about as sexy as a pair of drywall stilts. Enough is enough. It ends now!
It feels like you are playing an intricate practical joke on the male gender. When we see them, we are confused. “Do they really think that looks good? Why would they think that that looks good? Should I pretend to think it looks good? Holy crap, she has just tricked me into having an opinion about women’s shoes. Damn it! Of all the things I never want to think about, it’s women’s shoes! Quick! Think about football, steak, Die Hard, boobies. . . Aahhh, that’s better.”
When I was in 3rd grade, there was this weird kid who wore the same gross moon boots and sweat pants to school everyday in the winter. After recess, he would take his moon boots off and then suck out the melted snow from the exposed foam. This kid was weird enough that we all just felt bad for him and no one really made fun of him. To his face, anyway. But his goofy looking boots made him an object of pity. In high school, my buddy’s dad would wear cowboy boots with a Speedo at the beach, just to be as absurd and foolish looking as possible. Embarrassing his kids was always a top priority. I mention this because these are two acceptable reasons for wearing such preposterous footwear. And neither of these reasons applies to Polly Pink Boots.
She isn’t some poor derelict that is wearing the only thing she has. Nor is she going for wacky, cheap laugh. The women that wear these kinds of boots are among the upper crust of women’s fashion. Or at least they aspire to be. These women have enough money and free time to indulge their vanity to an excessive degree. They are readers of Vogue (note the sponsors on the backdrop) and admirers of Carey Bradshaw and Paris Hilton. They all think very highly of themselves. They are calculating in their style and they are convinced that they look fabulous. I guess when you’re so full of your own crap, you end up thinking that everything you do is fabulous.
Here is a link to Nordstrom's "Fall 08 Boot Guide". Son of a bitch. The Jessica Simpson Yana Boot? Really? Really, ladies? Notice how the more asinine the boot, the more they cost. None of them are under 150 bucks. And let me tell you something about conspicuous consumption. No one pays 300 bucks for a pair of functionless boots (I'm quite sure these are not line with Gore Tex), if they don't want to feel superior to everyone else around them.
I hesitate to rant and rave so emphatically about women’s fashion. I like to believe that I don’t give a crap about such things. However, this particular issue is not actually about clothes. It’s about the prevalent and detestable attitude that fuels these kind of fashion statements. I realize that most douchebag hipsters would spit in my eyes for comparing them to these fashion snobs. Hipster’s have their own funny brand of snobbery. But they are very similar. The same principle drives the attitudes reflected in each of their laughable costumes. Two sides of the same coin. And it is this:
“I am so damn cool that I can wear self consciously idiotic looking shoes and I will still be cooler than your dumb ass. And just so you all know exactly how friggin’ cool I am, I will wear what is the equivalent of a strobe light on my feet, so you will all stare in a bewildered awe at my undeniable awesomeness. Suck on that, boring, regular shoe wearing people.”
Yes. We are the fools.
Now it’s possible that I’m way off here. I’m open to the possibility that our featured friend is in fact a Power Ranger that forgot to fully change out of her costume. But to my knowledge, there were no giant rubber monsters terrorizing
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Quickly, before I get to Lebowski, let me cover Burn After Reading now that I have seen it. It’s good. Not great, but quite good. It is much better than Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty. It's no Lebowski, but if you go into the movie with those kind of expectations, disappointment is inevitable. I have a feeling I’ll like it quite a bit more after multiple viewings, but I don’t know that it will achieve regular viewing status that Lebowski, Raising Arizona, O Brother and Hudsucker have. I will re watch one or more of those movies at least every month.
Anyway, it’s the number one movie right now and if you want a review, here you go. Take your pick. There is one thing I would like to mention, though. The previews for this movie are totally misleading. This is not a wacky, stupid comedy. It is wacky and it is certainly stupid and it is a comedy. But the tone of the film is much darker than I expected. It has a couple of moments of shocking violence.
Burn After Reading is an anti spy thriller. It follows all of the expected formulas however never at any point is there ever anything of real value at risk. No war to prevent, no bomb to defuse, no assassination to prevent. The whole storyline is bullcrap. Which is exactly what makes the film so self deprecating, subversive and funny. It is an affectionate middle finger to 24 and The Bourne Identity.
I planned this to be my finale. It is tied for my favorite with Raising Arizona. I just can’t watch this movie enough.
The Coens love to take well established movie formulas and turn them on their ear. Lebowski is a hard boiled private eye film in the tradition of The Big Sleep with a few Busby Berkley musical numbers / acid flashbacks to boot. But instead of Humphrey Bogart it stars a middle aged, burned out bowler known primarily as the Dude (Mind if I do a J?). That’s a name no one would self apply where I come from.
The Dude is a regular guy who, due to a case of mistaken identity is thrust into a world of kidnapped trophy wives (You’re not blowing), avant garde artists (Coitus, the physical act of love.), German Nihilists (at least it's an ethos), porn kings (Jackie Treehorn wants his money, Lebowski), child molesting bowlers (Eight year olds, Dude), paralyzed millionaires (I went out and achieved anyway!), their lackies (Ah hahahahaha! Wonderful woman. We're all, we're all very fond of her.), an angry Sherriff (Stay out of
I must also mention Walter (Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature) and Donnie (I am the Walrus?). I love buddy movies about buddies that don’t really like each other. I never tire of the arguments between the Dude (That rug really tied the room together) and Walter (Shabbos is the Jewish day of rest.) with Donnie interrupting (Shut the f*ck up, Donnie) with his clueless comments (Those are good burgers, Walter).
One more note. Apparently the character of Walter is based on Joel and Ethan’s friend John Milius. Who is that? Only the writer/director genius behind the Reagan Era
I realize that this entry makes absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t seen The Big Lebowski at least seven times. My apologies to those in the dark but if it provides you with incentive to go out tonight and watch this movie, then I have achieved my objective.
The Big Lebowski - Jesus Quintana - The funniest movie is here. Find it
There are 281 "F" words in this movie. It's is definately R rated.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
So I’m not going to spend too much time talking about two movies that I didn’t really like that much.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
This is a movie that could have been really good, but they pussed out at the end. They set this up as an anti-romantic comedy about two repulsively self-interested people but it ends in rather convenient and boring way. It would have been worthy of the Coen brand if they both died in an ironically appropriate and violent way at the end. But instead, they live happily ever after. What a cop out.
"Who's on first?"
I really liked Tom Hanks and Ima P. Hall (the old lady) in this film. But man, Marlon Wayans did not fit. Now, I could take a Scary Movie 2 shot here, but Marlon Wayans was pretty good in Requiem For A Dream. So I can see why the Coens would take the chance. But the crude humor just didn’t fit. Again, I’m all for vulgarity, if it works. But it doesn’t work at all in Ladykillers. I think that they should be beyond irritable bowl jokes. It isn’t bad, but it’s very average.
But if you’re going to have 13 feature films, this isn’t a bad one to have as you week link. Coppola has Jack, Spielberg has Hook (and now the latest Indiana Jones debacle. Seriously, what the hell?), Scosese has Bringing Out The Dead. Ladykillers is way better than those pieces of crap.
Here's the trailer.
So my sister in law just got a new phone that streams live television via her cell reception. So, unlike previous portable TVs, this thing actually works. As cool as this is, it seems about ten years too late. Shouldn’t we have had this before the year 2000? For that matter, where the hell are the jet packs? I feel I am owed a working, Boba Fett style jet pack. And don’t even get me started on flying cars (by the way, Blade Runnner sucked). Have Science Fiction movies set in the “near future” lied to me all this time? It's seven years past Space Odyssey and we're no where near taking an expedition to Jupiter. Come on science, get on the ball.
Mattel better get their R and D in gear. I expect hover boards to be a universal toy among children within the next five years. I know that Back to the Future Two was set in 2015, but the hover boards seemed pretty common place. So I figure they were released at least two years before that.
Just for fun, below is an episode of the third season of Arrested Development in which a jet pack is prominently featured. If you haven't seen this show at all, this is a great introduction to it. You won't be in on all the jokes but if you squint, you should be able to follow along.
Monday, September 15, 2008
This is one of those films where nothing good happens. From the opening scene to the final arrest, it’s all just one big cluster. Well, I guess Norm got the three cent stamp. That was a plus. But for how brutal this film is, it is also incredibly funny. That quick shot of Jerry Lundagrd’s sales’ board. Margie eating Arby’s. Carl trying to get service at the Jose Feliciano show. Yah, you betcha, this is a bute.
The best known feature of
Francis Mcdormand won the best actress Oscar. Her pleasant strength is such an interesting thing to study. When she corrects her partner on his police mistake, she is agreeable but still firm. She then disarms the situation with a bad joke. When she repels her old friend from high school, she remains the same uncompromising, friendly woman. In these slow moments, study the subtlety of her facial expressions. It is a deeply convincing performance.
Steve Buscemi really is funny looking.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
Here is a link to a review of No Country from Pajiba.com. As much as I love this movie, I’m just feeling too lazy to write a big thing about it. But I will mention two things.
First, there is no music at all in this entire film. That makes the tension that is built that much more impressive. Most movies make the audience feel suspense with a variety of tricks. Zoomed in tight shots that shake a lot. Loud startling noises. And most commonly, creepy sounding string music. In No Country, the Coens managed to make the sound of a light bulb being unscrewed frightening. That’s an impressive bit of film making.
The second fact of note is that Josh Brolin who plays Llewelyn Moss also played the older brother on The Goonies. Remember the cool guy that wore sweats under his shorts and made out with the cute redhead that Lucas was on love with even though she liked Charlie Sheen? I’m mixing my 80’s movies here. That may have been confusing.
It’s great to see how that cast grew up. Brand (was that really his name?) stole a suitcase full of money from a Mexican drug cartel, Mikey got a sack for Notre Dame and then carried Frodo up Mt Doom. Stef got knocked up by Kianu Reeves (anyone else see Parenthood?). Data liberated child slaves in
But what the hell happened to Chunk? I don’t think he did any other movies. It’s a shame really. Perhaps he spiraled into a depression from being a nationwide fat joke. Or maybe he was balanced enough to walk away from the "Corey" lifestyle.
Here are a few clips from No Country For Old Men, winner of Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Picture in the 2008 Academy Awards.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
So are you ready to get pissed off? I am. I almost always am. So I’m chatting with my buddy Leroy earlier today about the upcoming BYU, UCLA football game. Are we nervous after last week’s subpar performance (at least on defense)? Can we trust this team to rise to the occasion? Typical banter among fans. He then sent me a link of the following message board from a misguided BYU fan.
This is a post from “Broncoite” at cougarboard.com under the heading “A righteous team is a successful team.” That right there is enough to piss me off.
"BYU carries the name of the Church where ever it goes, if the players live good lives and they work hard they will be blessed and yes those blessing can include winning football games. Why wouldn't the Lord care? Of course he cares, he cares about everything we do and all the aspects of our lives, "But seek ye first the
"Why do you shirk from these facets of the program, why are we afraid to let the world know what we stand for. Bronco is teaching those young men something that will bring them success in all aspects of their lives. When we are righteous, we are successful, and it so happens they are playing football right now, so they should expect to be blessed in their endeavors. So their are those that will mock and scorn, their are those that will say it's inappropriate, I say lets show the world what can be accomplished when you put God first! The difference between me and a Yewt, a Yewt doesn’t want to acknowledge His hand in all of this, I love that God cares enough about His children to bless them, even if it’s winning a football game. The Yewts or any team for that matter can find similar success, if they put God first."
You may not be able to tell from the casual profanity on this blog, but I do consider myself a devout Mormon. And as such, my reaction to this unwise misrepresentation of my cherished beliefs is as follows: Shut the hell up! Just shut up. Please Broncoite, do not speak anymore. Do not pretend to represent what I believe. Come down from your Rameumtum, you self righteous Zoramite. Righteousness does not equate with success. It doesn’t. And believing that, and piously preaching that leads to all kinds of serious problems, you unprofitable servant. There are a lot of incredibly valiant failures out there and a lot more successful assholes.
If the motives for your perceived righteousness are to experience some superficial level of “success” than you are missing the mark in a big way. I do believe that we are blessed in many ways for obedience to God’s law. But when you then treat righteousness like a stock investment, you’re missing the whole point. You don’t pay tithing so God will owe you; you pay it because you realize you owe God.
Brocoite (Is that like Nephite? Cute), did you honestly walk away from Saturday’s win over
What irritates me about your posting, Broncoite, is the sanctimonious way in which you declare it. You have the balls to set yourself up as a martyr by acknowledging others will disagree with your crap. “they will mock and scorn us” Dude, they are not the Large and
The biggest problem I have with the Broncoites of the world is that they screw everything up for the rest of us. Like the Texas Polygamists, they inaccurately represent me as a proud Mormon and for that matter a BYU fan. I resent that. When I hear Ute fans rip on BYU fans and why they hate them so much, I often find myself in agreement with them.
One more thing, Broncoite. "Their", "they’re" and "there" are all three separate words that have specific meanings. It’s not hard to use the correct word in the correct context. If you’re not sure which is which, ask any third grader. They’ll be happy to tell you.
Of course, there (their?) is a possibility that this guy is pulling one over on me. It could be a seriously so blessed kind of satire. If it is, then I'm a sucker. Either way, it illustrates an attitude that is entirely too prevalent within the LDS church (including many Ute fans) and my rant still applies.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I’ve already written about how fall is my favorite time of year. And I have recently regained my love of skiing, so I’m getting geared up for winter. There’s plenty to look forward to. But still, next summer is a long ways away and that kind of makes me sad.
Here’s a cool song by Josh Rouse about the frivolity of youthful summers. I really like the guitar work. If you’re into the Indie, Alt Country sounding thing, then it would be worth your while to check him out. I would especially recommend his 2003 album 1972.
This is the fourth film made by the Coen’s and the first to garner overwhelming critical praise. Of course it’s a movie about people who make movies. Film critics love that. It makes them feel like they’re enjoying an inside joke.
To be honest, this was the film of theirs I had the hardest times really liking. It’s one of those art house movies that make you feel stupid at the end because you’re not sure if it’s overblown and pretentious or if you’re just too dumb to get it. Well, the first time I saw Barton Fink, I didn’t get it. But upon further analysis I really came to enjoy this film.
This film is a skewering of creative process in mass media context. Barton Fink, played by John Turtorro (Coen regular), is a highly touted play-write from New York who heads to Hollywood to write for Capital Pictures. He checks into a strange hotel where he is stricken with writer’s block and befriended by talkative traveling salesman played by John Goodman (another Coen regular).
It is an obvious allegory in which Hollywood is very literally hell. Can something within an allegory be literal? Barton descends into the depths of disillusionment and self doubt. He discovers his idol is a drunken fraud (a not so subtle reference to Faulkner). The film states pretty clearly that movies seem to be either made by formula obeying, bottom line focused hacks or self important, intellectuals who are full of their own crap.
The ending of this thing is a strange one. It will leave you thinking, “Was that a dream? Did it really happen? What the hell did I just see?” Believe me. If you give it the thought that it deserves, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of insight.
Great scene that introduces the strange hotel Barton stays in.
I really enjoy having a love of obscure music, films, books, TV shows. Anonymous masterpieces that no one know about but me. The Man Who Wasn’t There qualifies as one of these gems.
When you film a movie in black and white, you pretty much know that no one is going to see it. I would guess this film is the least viewed of their twelve movies. Well, I say to you all, join the elite club and see this movie. It is a straight up Film Noire complete with the voice over, dramatic lighting and plot twists. Billy Bob Thornton plays a bored and defeated man named Ed Crane who makes a botched attempt at blackmail in an effort to break out of his life. Of course it all goes wrong and the all hell piles on top of him and everyone in his life.
One element of Coen brother films that needs to be acknowledged is Roger Deakins. He is the George Martin to the Coens' Beatles, if you will. He has worked as their director of photography for eight of their movies. He is a huge reason why their movies are always distinctively beautiful. The black and white medium of TMWWT gives them unique opportunities to build tension and mood. Look at the clip of attorney Freddy Reidenschnieder below as he explains his defense strategy. That light pouring over him, like he was an angelic deliverer of God’s word. It highlights the fact that he totally full of crap.
Again, this is a movie that has some strange parts to it. But it also has Scarlett Johansen. It can be as weird as it wants to be. Damn it, she’s hot.
Ed Crane describing his life.
Freddy Reidenschneider and the law of uncertainty (referred to above).