Friday, June 14, 2013
Pigs and Apocalypses
UPSTREAM COLOR left a strange, glacial feeling inside me. It just kind of sat there like a hulking slab of lead. Its chilly impact may have been enhanced by some unrelated and untoward anxiety I was experiencing while watching it (this is probably the case). But leaving my own personal problems aside for the moment, purely as a film to be consumed, it left me feeling a bit cold and lifeless inside. It's a mostly impressive film, from a technical standpoint, and it successfully elicits the kind of melancholia it portrays while also piquing our curiosity through its abstractions and diffuse narrative structure. It also does feel like it sways somewhere between the transient beauty of THE TREE OF LIFE and the fear and loathing of ERASERHEAD (both pluses). But it gets bogged down by its overly abstracted aloofness and some serious, eye-rolling indie cliches. As smart and impressive as a lot of the filmmaking is here, I can't help but feel that Carruth overburdens himself in a gargantuan effort to appear deeply poetic and solemn. He adheres too much to so many self-consciously indie images and tropes (isn't every fucking indie movie about joyless people trying to rebuild their ruined lives or does it just feel that way? And doesn't every self-serious indie movie create an image like two people cuddling in a bathtub that essentially occurs no where outside of indie movies?). I'm not consciously trying to be too hard on Carruth. I just think that for as talented as he is, he has a few cliched hangups to get over, and for as smart as he is, he still makes some glaringly contrived missteps. I'm still not entirely sold on him as a filmmaker, even as I applaud him for essentially doing everything to get this movie made and released.
To Carruth's credit, he has created a film that is much better than his last effort and infinitely more successful than the similarly-themed sci-fi indie flick ANOTHER EARTH (which I really disliked). He has an ephemeral editing style that remains intact throughout and doesn't make us pine for scenes to drag out longer than they should. We know the rhythms of the film right from the opening, and that's a positive. He also generates some thought-provoking and genuinely cool ideas, like the suggestion that these mealworms can create a connective fabric between two of their carriers (sharing memories or feelings) and sort of lifeline between two species (loved the last shots with the pigs). And decidedly, there's a lot to unpack in the narrative because it is so enigmatic and equivocal. I thought Brandon did an admirable job breaking down a lot of what was happening in the film, and I don't really have much more to add. I think it's entirely possible to figure out much of this film after one viewing, as long as you are connecting the dots and following along diligently. So, in that way, it's not so abstract that its indecipherable. Anyone who thinks this is simple obscurantism is wrong.
I'd say overall I was impressed by UPSTREAM COLOR, though I'm hardly in awe of it. It's perhaps too elusive and somehow stunted for me to fully connect to. I greatly prefer the complexities of LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE to it (and, yes, for the record, John, it is indeed as complex as I described - probably more so :) ). Still, I can see why it has its many stalwart advocates.
I have a pretty strong affinity for THIS IS THE END already. It's easily my favorite film of the year so far (beating out the only other two I've seen in UPSTREAM COLOR and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS). It's frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious and, at the very least, pervasively amusing throughout. It's definitely up there with best genre/comedy mash-ups of recent times. It's also the spiritual twin of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, and it delivers the same amount of hysterical banter, self-deprecating meta-awareness, and endearing male bonding that made PINEAPPLE so much fun. Honestly, if you enjoyed PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and SUPERBAD, then you'll love this. If you didn't like either of those or can't stand the guys involved, then just skip it entirely. It doesn't tread radically new ground for Rogen and Co. but continues in a lot of the same patterns they've been developing for years. Yet, for lovers of this pattern, it's terrifically executed. It's definitively hilarious and probably one of the best times you could have at the theaters this summer. I've got nothing else to really say about it, other than to encourage those interested to see it with some friends and cut loose.
In other film news, I'm worried about MAN OF STEEL. I'm still going to see it soon, but all the negative reviews (especially those suggesting it falls into generic blockbuster and run-of-the-mill superhero territory all too easily) have really cooled my excitement. We shall see.
I'm infinitely more excited for BEFORE MIDNIGHT. Next weekend, y'all?
Brandon asked me to do another film quiz. I've been slacking on coming up with questions, but I'll have one up soon hopefully.