Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I should've known about this motherfucker the second he began reminding everyone around him that his birthday was coming up about a month-and-a-half in advance, on some Hint-Hint type shit.

My coworker loves to talk about his life and I don't think he minds that I'm wearing earbuds and listening to podcasts while he's venting because that's all he's really doing -- venting. Long ago, I used to talk with him and try to cheer him up by reminding him that it's a big blue ball we live on, and we, brother? We are legion. So you're never really alone, I tell him, because millions out there have had their worlds rocked in various magnitudes -- many higher than yours -- but they got through it and if they got through it, so can you! Then I usually cock my head to the side and give a big ol' smile and wave at him, with that gay shit.

OK, that's unfair and offensive, but you are reading the words of a man who last month watched his coworker tear up and fight back sobs before going up to him and giving him a hug because it seemed like the right thing to do. You are reading the words of a man who would occasionally bring his coworker a donut or a pastry or a fucking breakfast burrito in the morning in an attempt to brighten his day with a little kindness. You are reading the words of a man who used his personal time to fill up a flash drive with various movies that he felt the coworker would like and would help him get through this bad time, and instead gets to hear his coworker constantly bemoan being "bored as shit at home" as if there was nothing for him to WATCH.

In other words, you are reading the words of a schmuck.

And what exactly is the coworker's latest tragedy that even a daily dab of hash oil in the morning -- as is his daily custom -- will not cure? The coworker became friendly with a neighbor in his apartment -- a neighbor with kids -- and this friendship involved dinners at her place, rides to work, and nights out at the local craft brewery. Soon, this lady began to "catch feelings" for him and his response was that he wasn't interested in a relationship because he had just come from a bad one.

A few months later, he began to catch feelings for her, and when he told her this, she then informed him that she had a boyfriend/baby papa in prison who will be released in a few months, hence that's a No Go on replacing "friend" with "relation" on this ship. And that, dear reader, is when the tears began to roll.

I am going to open up a bit more and talk about something I don't really like to talk about -- yup, I'm bringing up Daddy again.

You see, I never brought up my father's death on Twitter or Facebook, not because I didn't want to talk about it, but because I didn't want to fuck with anybody's day. I only mentioned it here on the blog, because if you clicked on the link, then you are entering of your own free will knowing that whatever you are exposed to was a result of you being interested and may God have mercy on your soul. (I've since come to the conclusion that this was a terrible mistake. In addition to the blog, I should've shouted out the dearly departed old man on every fucking social media network that I was a member of, the same way I know all of you would do the same thing.)

And I never brought it up at work except to let my boss know why I was taking time off, and I never walked around all morose & moaning & wailing among my coworkers because we have to be fucking professionals and do our best as members of an ensemble cast in this fucking movie we call Life, motherfucker! This guy, on the other hand, not only thinks he's the star, he must've been busy smoking weed with his asshole friends in school when R.E.M. came out with "Everybody Hurts".

You know, he kinda reminds me of me, maybe that's what it is. Because I remember a couple years ago I responded to a friend's e-mail with this real fucking epic pity party because the movie I directed turned out to be such a piece of shit. I went on and on in such a Woe Is Me type way, and I was so far up into my own fat ass that I conveniently forgot that the person I was writing to had spent a long portion of her life UNABLE TO FUCKING WALK. She has since gotten better but it's still tough with obstacles like Cuntface in her way whining about a fucking movie. By the way, I actually had to take a break right now to literally smack myself in the face about three times in some weird kinda Catholic punishment for that bullshit. Anyway, where was I?

So I think maybe you understand why I might be feeling a growing resentment towards this coworker who is letting what is ultimately minor in the grand scheme of things affect him to the point that he'll literally moan/groan out of nowhere because he is soooo much in pain, this guy who shows little empathy to others but expects every bit of sympathy to be given. This is a man who in his current condition can be sullen towards everybody else at work, whereas I was still putting on a happy face and joking around with everybody while waiting to go home so I can cry alone about my recently deceased father. My coworkers are human beings who just want to make a living and go home and deal with their own problems -- why would I punish them for something they didn't do?

Whatever. I have my earbuds. And I have the knowledge that this is a man too hip to be happy. A man who subconsciously (at least) enjoys feeling terrible. While some of us had been exiled from contentment, he apparently sent himself away and is now possibly institutionalized from the experience. No man is an island -- except this one, and he evidently believes that his is the only island where pain can occur. This morning we spoke about the tragic events in Brussels for about 5 minutes, and then he changed the subject to the Same Ol' Shit for another two hours. So I now feel confident in rubber stamping Fuck This Guy on his file folder. I gave him a hug, I gave him my time -- now I'll just give him the impression that I pretend to give a shit.

On the bright side, I got two raises in the last year because my boss confided in me that I knew how to "handle" this asshole.

It's too bad my coworker is not at all like Christian Bale's character in Knight of Cups, the latest film from my man, Terrence Malick. I say that because Bale's character -- whose name I can't remember, nor does it matter, so then I'll call him "Fool" -- has had various relationships go south and there never was a moment in the film where he pulls any of that coworker shit with the other people in his life. No, he just mostly wanders around, the way people do in a Malick joint. And why is he wandering? Why is he here? Why are we here? Why is life so difficult? Why do people still give Malick shit for the kind of films he makes when it's pretty clear he is operating on his own level and doesn't give a shit about things like Story and Plot when he's got more metaphysical fish to fry?

These are all questions we have and Malick too has those questions (except the last one) because he is human like the rest of us. His career has been leading to these types of questions more and more since The Thin Red Line and it's been a real trip for those of us who signed up for the journey. His films used to be more classically composed in the visual department, but like most directors, Terrence Malick has slowly changed his style over the years; it started with The New World, because that's when things got more, I don't know, flow-y? Like, the camera started moving and roving about, following the subject like a curious angel observing this fascinating creation known as Man and Wo-Man. (Whoa, man!)

Then he kicked it up a notch with The Tree of Life, and while we were barely getting our bearings this motherfucker went even farther and further with To the Wonder and I guess he was going way too fast because he lost quite a few of us with that one. I managed to hold on and ultimately I liked it but I felt he'd done better work. But after watching Knight, I wonder if I'd like To the Wonder even more now. Why? Because I liked Knight of Cups very much, even though it's even more, uh, opaque and deals with something I'm getting kinda tired of seeing in movies (which I'll get to soon). Maybe To the Wonder goes down easier now?

FYI, the original title for that film was To the Wonder To the Wall Till the Sweat Drip Down My Balls Till All These Bitches Crawl (Skeet Skeet Motherfuckers, Skeet Skeet Goddamn).

But yeah, I wasn't sure at first about this one because when I read the synopsis -- knowing that it would probably tell me more than the film would, because Terrence Malick makes films that you don't have to worry knowing too much about before seeing it -- I kinda rolled my eyes when I read that Bale's character Fool was playing a screenwriter in Hollywood. But I also felt, hey, maybe now Malick will actually get a chance at winning Best Picture or Best Director, because you how the Academy loves movies that involve The Business They Have Chosen, right?

Well, you wouldn't really know that Fool writes movies, except for a line said by one of his agents, something like "All you wanna do is write big movies in Hollywood" and even then that line you could barely hear because Malick isn't really that interested in what these people have to say to each other, and is more into what they're thinking. Yup, just like his other films the characters have their own inner monologues on the soundtrack and some of it is on the nose and some of it only makes sense to the person saying it. No really, I don't even think Malick knows what some of this means and I think that's the idea.

What do I mean? I mean I think he came up with this idea for the film because the premise is more or less (I'm sure, or at least I think I'm sure) an autobiographical one, but used it as a springboard to delve into more personal shit for himself AND personal shit for we the viewers (but more on that much later); Fool the screenwriter goes to Hollywood to write movies and ends up doing that but also ends up doing a lot of partying and drinking and whoring and fucking around with Asian chicks in his classic Lincoln Continental on his way to the usual rooftop bacchanalia, and then spends the early morning after staring out to the horizon thinking about what it all means. What an asshole. If I were in that position -- and I'm sadly not, but not for lack of trying -- I'd spend that morning looking for somewhere to have breakfast, preferably with one of my fellow partiers, preferably a couple of them, and preferably of the female persuasion.

What are you saying, you ask: I'm saying that even though this takes place in the Here and Now, this is pretty much what Malick probably did back in the 60s and 70s when he was writing movies, before he stepped up to the bat and knocked it out the fucking park with Badlands. But he wasn't just banging and passing out on couches, he also had time to grow up a little and get himself into the occasional relationship with a lady. He even got married for a while, and then moved on to hooking up with a married woman which I guess was his way of compromising, like "I won't get married but I'll find a wife". I'm talking about Fool mostly, I can't say if Malick was fucking around with married women but I do know he's been married three times so he must like 'em hitched one way or the other, dig?

I don't know what kind of quality wool Malick was pulling, but Bale gets some pretty choice chicks in this film: Natalie Portman, the chick from Slumdog Millionaire, the chick from the Point Break remake that I actually paid to watch, a chick I don't remember from one of the Transformers movies because who actually remembers that garbage, Imogen Poots from the Society of People With Unfortunate Last Names, and Cate Blanchett -- but as regular readers of this blog probably already know, her full name is Cate Blanchett Who Held Open The Door For Me At The Arclight Hollywood At A Screening of Notes on a Scandal.

The biggest tip-off that this is based on his life back in the day is that it's kinda dated; for all of his Hollywood lifestyle, you never see the dude use a smartphone or a computer and as mentioned earlier, his car is vintage too. Plus, if this guy were an actual working screenwriter in the late '10s, there would've been scenes of this motherfucker holding court at the New Beverly Cinema or the Cinefamily, introducing movies he likes to packed crowds, all of them held in rapt attention to every word he says like he's Paddy Chayefsky or some-fucking-body, even though he probably wrote one well-received genre movie that wasn't even the director's best work and I guess that's why he has fans -- because he's a working screenwriter and that's closer to The Dream Achieved than most of his 50,000+ Twitter followers will ever get, and that's why he gets hundreds of retweets every fucking day for every passing thought he posts, and no, I am not the least bit jealous or envious.

I am every bit jealous and envious.

Anyway, the movie is like my writing here: all over the fucking place. But unlike my ramblings, I feel there is something substantial in all of this. The movie starts out with a narrator (Ben Kingsley, I believe) telling the Gnostic Gospel tale from "The Hymn of the Pearl" which is about a young prince who goes on a journey to find a pearl, which I guess is the Pearl of All Pearls considering all the shit he goes through to get it. Problem is, along the way the prince takes a drink and unfortunately this drink must've come from the Cosby Vineyard Selection because the prince then passes out and when he wakes up he's forgotten everything. He forgot who he was, why he was there, and his purpose. His butthole hurts, he doesn't know why.

So right there, the movie tells you what it's about. The movie basically spoils it all for you right there if you pay attention rather than question why the fuck we're looking at a satellite hovering over Earth, making you wonder if Malick is gonna get all 2 Tree 2 Life on us and take us back to Dinosaur Land immediately after.

But he's not, he takes us back down to Earth with some Go-Pro footage of a desert highway and then we see Bale looking all assed-out near the highway. He's on his way somewhere but he's taken a detour to wander around the desert and think of what brought him to this point. And that's when we go all over the place as his tale is told in various chapters, each with tarot card names like The Hermit, The Hanged Man, Judgment, Death, The Moon, etc. So it's kinda like The Tree of Life's Sean Penn sequences, except instead of some douchebag wandering around Dallas, we have Bale wandering around the desert. Ah, what am I saying -- Bale's probably a douchebag in real life too.

I'm bringing up The Tree of Life a lot because I love that film but also because, yeah man, there's elements of that brought up here too. I already brought up a couple but another one would have to be how Bale's character had a brother who killed himself a while ago, just like Penn's character in the aforementioned movie-joint. As mentioned in my ramblings about that film, Malick had a brother who killed himself, so yeah, I can't talk shit about that, that's some tragic stuff right there and of course it's gonna stick with you and you'll always try to work that shit out in your soul. And you see, man, that's the beauty of Terrence Malick's films, this guy isn't preaching, teaching, or reaching (take that, Cimino!) -- he's wondering. He's as lost as the rest of us snowflakes, he's getting older and he still hasn't figured it out but there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, he's inviting us to see his attempt to work this shit out but he's also giving us something to work our own shit out on too.

This film, more than his others, comes closest to a kind of Rorschach cinema (with a slight tinge of Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke); it gives us imagery, it gives us moments, and while they can be taken at face value (and enjoyed as such), it can also be something we can interpret in our own way based on our own baggage. The relationship stuff I'm not going to get into because I've already exposed enough about myself, so I'll just say there were a couple lines in there that gave me serious douchechills because of what kind of memories it brought up; basically all my past relationships I look back on with embarrassment (not against them, this is all self-hatred, son). And like, there's quite a bit of stuff involving Bale's family; his father is played by Brian Dennehy and at one point Dennehy's inner monologue is talking about how he thought things would make more sense as he got older but here he is as an old man and he's just as confused about this world as ever, and then there's stuff about Bale realizing that there's stuff his father was trying to teach him but he wasn't trying to hear it, and he realizes his father was right way after the fact and GODDAMN there I go thinking of my dad again.

Bale's bro is played by Creepo the Shopping Bag Filming Creep from American Beauty and Creepo is really good here, playing some dude who lives in the real L.A.; I'm talking about the downtown areas where the poor and downtrodden try to get by on a day-by-day basis, and it's also one of the few times you see people from the darker echelon and I'm grateful for it. I'm getting fucking tired of people putting down Los Angeles as being this super fake plastic town, when what they're really doing is generalizing the fuck out of the tiny portion they were exposed to. I want to tell these out-of-town fucks that just because you work in the film business and you only deal with film people, it doesn't mean that is of what the entire city is comprised.

The real majority will soon be made of minorities, and when you talk about how an earthquake should sink the whole fucking town you're giving me images of Latinos, Blacks, Asians, South Asians, Middle Easterners, everybody else I'm leaving out because this paragraph would be too long, the working class, the struggling, the poor, the hungry, the ones who take the fucking bus not because it's good for the environment but because they have no choice, the ones who used to shop at Grand Central Market before it started getting gentrified and expensive, the ones who are constantly late for work because of yet another fucking road closure (so they can film a fucking movie), everybody else who doesn't use valet parking, the ones just trying to get by, I see all of them drowning like another movie from that disaster porn filmmaking asshole Roland Emmerich and that's why I'm going to put this baseball bat across your fucking face until it looks like Garry's face when The Thing '82 got him.

I will say this about the downtown L.A. stuff; Bale is wandering around the streets and not once does a disheveled-looking gentleman approach him all polite-like, greeting him, asking him how he's doing and Man, how about this heat? and maybe compliments his outfit -- and then hits him up for a dollar or two. Because at least for me, I can't stand in one spot for more than 30 seconds in certain parts of the downtown area without least 2 instances of that occurring. To be fair, it used to be more like 4 instances of that, but the past few years they've been Giuliani-ing the fuck out of downtown so there's that too, I guess.

It's cool to see Malick and three-time-in-a-muthafuckin-row Academy Award-winning raza cinematographer (¡raza, güey!) Emmanuel "El Chivo" Lubezki work their visual magic in and around the Los Angeles area; they shoot in downtown, the Hollywood Hills, Koreatown, Venice, Santa Monica, Burbank with the fuckin' studios. Also lots of footage shot in freeways, looking at the road ahead, behind, or the sights beside it; man, it reminded me of when I was younger and didn't have a license. One of my simplest pleasures was looking out the window from the car, looking at the buildings, or the land, all that shit. I miss it, and whenever I get the opportunity to be a passenger, I take advantage. Because it sucks driving and not being able to glance over and enjoy the sight of Los Angeles at night. Not unless I want to then follow it up with me going "OH SHIT!" as I almost crash into someone's Prius.

They even journey out to the desert in Death Valley, making a stop in Palm Springs, and there's time left to make a stop over in Las Vegas, Nevada where it appears they managed to find the real Elvis Presley because this Elvis was old, fat, and looked nothing like him. They even shoot over at one of those massive concerts, the kind of laptop spinning affair where the DJs show their appreciation to the throng of sweaty molly-popping peeps by throwing cake at them and somehow he or she doesn't get a shotgun blast to the face for that rude shit.

Once again we are treated to the winning combo of Malick's penchant for roving handheld cameras and Lubezki doing the wide-angle lens thing and it looks wonderfully dreamy as always, but on this film they pull a couple new tricks from their bag; in addition to 35mm and 70mm, they shot this sucker on digital -- but not just your usual Arris and Reds, they also toss in some GoPro and even what looked to me like lower-end cell phone video. And it never felt gimmicky, it all felt...right. If for nothing else, Knight of Cups is good cinematography porn. I noticed I've said "porn" like three or four times already, and it's probably because I'm horny.

Speaking of horny, all you Quentin Tarantino types are gonna have your Hattori Hanzo swords standing at Full Attention with all the foot shots in this film. No joke, it got to where I thought that clearly Malick must have a thing for tootsies. I mean, he shoots a lot of footage for his films and you could probably edit three or four films out of them. So he easily could've put together a cut that had zero foot shots but I think he was looking out for his fellow foot fetishists, rather than keep that footage for himself in a hard drive reserved for spanking, labeled "Tax Returns".

But yeah, it got to a point where I thought to myself, "all that's left is for someone to stick her foot in some dude's mouth" and lo and fuckin' behold, here comes Natalie Portman sticking hers into Bale's mouth. Even though it's a foot, it didn't gross me out because I'm sure Ms. Portman is a clean woman. But what got me kinda skeeved out was watching a scene in a strip joint, where Bale talks up this stripper who then takes out this giant lollipop and sticks it into his mouth. I'm thinking "Jesus Christ, Bale, you know she does this for a living, right? You think you're the only one she's offered that same exact lollipop?" Man, imagine all the various Heps and Herpes and Desperation all over that candy, in addition to all those unnecessary empty calories. Eww.

Hey man, you like dogs? I love dogs and I love seeing a dog in this movie stumbling around after an earthquake among all the shaken & confused Los Angelenos like he's thisclose to saying "Is everybody all right? Why didn't any of you listen to me? Didn't you see me freak out a few seconds before the shaking started?" There's also this mini-montage filmed underwater in a swimming pool, where we're treated to awesome slow-mo shots of dogs in Hawaiian shirts and leis jumping in as they attempt to grab tennis balls; they all open their mouths all wide like AAAAAAARRRRRRR I'M GONNA GET YOU BALL but they all fail at being dogs, and the tennis balls go free. As true a metaphor for life and as true a beauty in cinema as only Terrence Malick can bring you. That's both a joke and a sincere statement. I'm as confused about it as you are.

Those dogs were part of a big Hollywood party thrown by Antonio Banderas, playing a version of himself named "Tonio". I almost kinda want the real Banderas to be like the one in Knight of Cups; he's an unapologetic pussy-hound ("They are like flavors. Sometimes you want raspberry and then after a while you want strawberry.") and I'd like to see a spinoff buddy film with him and Neil Patrick Harris from the Harold & Kumar films. There are lots of familiar faces at the party, and one of them is Thomas Lennon, formerly of "The State" and "Reno 911!" and currently mostly of writing many a shitty high-concept studio screenplay. Anyway, he has a pretty cool interview where he talks about working on this film and it's a great look into how Malick makes his movies.

Damn, man. I went on and on here, and the sad truth is I can keep going on but I think I've kept you for way too long -- and I ain't no Ariel Castro, you're free to leave whenever. But I guess that shows to go you that I really liked this movie, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I don't do Top 10 lists but goddamn if this doesn't end up on the year-end Best Of that I won't make. As of now, it's up there with The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life as the Malick films that hit me hardest while watching them for the first time.

I've said this before when rambling about his other films, but it bears repeating: The overall message in this film is a very simple one and it's often told and often heard, and maybe some of us are tired of hearing it. But it doesn't make it any less true, and sometimes we need to be reminded. But I totally get it if you see this film and don't like it at all. I mean, that's art for you: some will see beauty, some will see garbage, and some will just go "eh". And I'm not one to throw that word out so easily either, "art" -- especially in an industry filled with artisans who mistake themselves for artists. They see themselves as The Real Thing and then they try to convince others by constantly talking about how great they are. And that right there, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is Exhibit A through Z as to why they are not. But Terrence Malick? He ain't saying shit. He just does it.

In conclusion, my coworker needs to shut his bitch ass up.