Archive for the ‘SATIRE’ Category


23 Mar

Nightcrawler – written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Crime Satire. 117 minutes Color 2014


The Story: A petty thief steals his way into The Profession Of Paparazzi Of Gore.


The two best male performances I saw for 2014, and in perhaps the two best films, were Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler.

For once the writer of the screenplay has not botched the direction of the picture by forgetting to leave all that stuff out or by not having listened to someone who cast a cold eye beforehand, as Zanuck used to do. For the screenplay is masterful. And the direction is masterful. And the music is particularly masterful. And the casting is masterful. And the filming is masterful. And the playing is masterful.

Why would you possibly deprive yourself of this? Is it because it deals with ambulance-chasing video-vampires who sell their spectacular footage to the TV stations every night? Is it because it is a satire with no laughs? An exposé of how we drool over roadside kill and the crimson-dripping misfortunes of others? How the front pages fix their starshine on murder, misery, rape, crime, and sexual exploitation? If it bleeds it leads.

This is the motto of the studio head played by Rene Russo, so well cast by the director, who happens to be her husband. It is good to see Miss Russo back in business on the blockbuster screen. She plays this well-written part with all the humor, reserve, and savvy in the world. Boy, is she good!

The movie is, however, entirely the province of Jake Gyllenhaal who plays the smarmy but effective video-cameraman. He has lost 20 pounds to play the part of a sort of Zen master juggernaut of the night. Lithe, quick, unreadable, he has made of this character a stern robot, mouthing maxims from career manuals and community college TV management courses. He never speaks ordinary English. He is always a quote. It is an astonishing tour de force for an actor, for even when he breaks out of this humorless, manipulative mummery, he is, behind it, nothing less than insane. This we know.

So the suspense is: what will become of this nut? Will his sidekick, well played by Riz Ahmed, get shafted? Yes, but how? Will Russo outlast our Jake?

Gyllenhaal’s face is sculpted to a skin and a bone. With a little queue on his head, he is an ascetic of slime. If he is not human, it is not because he is insane, not because he is relentless, but because he is without fear. It is an emotion unknown to him, and his being without it gives us ourselves in our ghoulish eye which would gaze on death without horror. As though we were training ourselves for a genocide. A sweet immolation of everything and everyone. An eager 42-caliber finale served up as a free sample at any supermarket you go to at all.

Worth seeing, my dears.

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Posted in CRIME DRAMA, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, Jake Gyllenhaal, René Russo, SATIRE



23 Aug

Frank— directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Serious Satire. 95 minutes Color 2014


The Story: A gormeless wannabe songwriter is accepted into a band so far out they’re out to lunch.


I love the way this story was told. I felt I was in good hands with the director, that I was given no more and no less than I need. My curiosity was sustained.

It wasn’t sustained because of the young man. For the young wannabe is entirely without talent, and he always will be. So there is nothing in him to latch onto. He’s just a slice of bread. He could be anyone. But still one wants to see where this poor sap will end up.

The overall thrust of the movie, which is a satire without laughs, is a take on the solemnity of musicians who wish to express a music so rare it must only be played to the corner wallpaper. It would be sullied if anyone heard it, much less sounded its content. For behind this itch to musicalize is a bent that has nothing to do with music at all. It is agoraphobia, which is the refusal to be seen in the marketplace.

Consequently Frank (Michael Fassbender) — the leader of the troupe and the being to whom all its members have mesmerized themselves because none of them are interested in communicating either — this very Frank has ensconced himself in a huge round Keane-eyed false head.

He is never not in it. He never takes it off. He even puts Band-aides on it as though he were nicking himself shaving it. As a sort of Amazon guarding this leader, the inestimable Maggie Gyllenhall makes of her role a masterwork of sustained contempt. For her a dime in a tin cup would be selling out. Even the tin cup without a dime would be.

A female drummer groomed like the bride of Dracula and a guitarist who never deigns to learn English make up the quintet. The music they make insults the word banal.

The thing about artists is simple. They sit down and they throw their pots, which they love to do, and some of them just naturally make things folks find fetching. There is no mystery to it. It’s called a calling. There is mastery to it, of course, but that is called craft, and there the mystery lies — an entirely different matter.

The world is full of saloons with microphones in them, oh, so that must mean one is a musician! This movie is about such people making music for the deaf who are never present, or not listening if they are, and about their insanity of refusing to entertain to begin with. Particularly when there is no soul in them that can entertain anyone anyhow, at least with music. One learns from this film that the thing to do when people say, “I want to be a musician,” is to walk the other way just as soon as one can.

I liked the movie. I thought it was sweet. I thought it was just right. I was entertained. Let me know.

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Posted in Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, SATIRE


The Wolf Of Wall Street

03 Jan

The Wolf Of Wall Street – directed by Martin Scorsese. BioPic Black Comedy. 189 minutes, Color 2013.

The Story: The rise and rise and rise of a sharpie-broker to the heights of wealth and disorder, and the outcome in ultimate wealth and disorder and gullibility for all.


I was disappointed to read in the credits that The Wolf Of Wall Street was based on someone’s life, for it is such an imaginative movie, I expected it to be as made up on the spot as the many dodges it chronicles. It is the wittiest movie I have seen in ten years.

It starts with a 26 year old Leonardo DiCaprio being put in a trance by Matthew McConaughey, a trance in which he remains for the duration, and in that trance enacts the dance of greed and more greed (in the word “greed” the “more” is silent), until at the end we are shown the whole world to be in an obsessive trance, too.

McConaughey’s fugazi-cadenza of the fairy dust of Wall Street opens the piece with a The Gambler’s Creed. It shows that capitalism, meaning brokerage investment (meaning stock and bonds), is silly. For it is based on a cheap thrill. To which one and all must be addicted. Meaning entranced. Get Rich Quick is the silly thrill.

The film is a must. For the writing. For the mastery of execution of the director. For the performances of the McConaughey, along with Rob Reiner as Belfort’s irascible father, Margot Robbie as Belfort’s second wife, the beauteous Joanna Lumley as her aunt, and everyone involved, small part to major. Jonah Hill is the co-star, and his scenes put one in mind of the early work of Scorsese in Raging Bull, as does the acting work throughout, with its ruthless improvisations and trash talk at will.

Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor of deep shallowness as a leading man, brings his thin-sliced white bread and slather of profound character-acting talent to bear on the part of the cavalier investment broker on the make, and gets up on his hind legs, and his abilities shimmer throughout the picture and hold our interest at a fascinated distance, as he continues his compulsion to trick the customers into speculations from over-the-counter penny stocks, which no one may profit by but him. He gives us a deal of rash playing. The entire performance is flavored into reality by the fragrance of a Bronx accent.

The law bears down. This does not dissuade him from drugs, sex, and high-rolling.

But why go on? Why spill the beans, when it is such a pleasure for you to see them topple out on your own? It is because of Scorsese’s dab hand with this material that you must  attend, and for DiCaprio’s in playing it out with him.

Is it the best film Scorsese has ever made? Could be.

You tell me.

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