Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Conjuring, Red 2, Turbo, RIPD Opening This Weekend

It took nearly 20 years to get this film made: two interesting tid-bits, it was actually shot in chronological order (to save money and accommodate conflicting schedules, films are usually shot in expedient arrangement rather than in the order the scenes will appear to the audience; A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe is an example of a chronologically produced film), and it required only 38 days of shooting on a mere $13,000,000 budget (which it will probably easily make this weekend, even if it is a bomb). The same husband-wife team who were the paranormal researchers for the Amityville horror which spawned the films are the same researchers here but there appears to be tremendous confusion: it's the same researchers, the Warrens, but different cases (there are some thinking this is supposed to be another Amityville case but Harrisville actually happened prior to Amityville) which leads us to two more interesting facts. First, the sequel is all ready being developed: it hasn't hit theaters yet, but another Connecticut "investigation" is mentioned in The Conjuring and will most likely be the basis of the sequel, the new franchise deciding to stick with the Warrens rather than a location or killer as horror films have done in the past. Secondly, director James Wan will be/is doing Fast and Furious 7 based upon his work on this film which will likely keep him from directing the sequel. When it comes to judging whether or not a film is scary, I confess: I am a terrible judge. In The Woman In Black, I thought I was going to run out of the theater screaming my head off but no one else seemed to have thought it was scary in the least. According to other reviewers, this is solid horror, not gore, but it is genuinely scary and the acting is top-notch, even from the numerous children in the film.  The Conjuring is actually opening Thursday night at my theater, so I will be going to the 8 showing and tweeting my reactions. What about this poster above (please click on the image to open in a window to get a better view)? What information can we possibly glean about the film which is from an actual scene in the film. The larger figure in the chair is a girl holding a doll and the object in her left hand appears to be a yellow hair brush. Whereas the doll has straight, well-combed hair, the "girl" holding the doll has frizzy hair. What do we know about hair as a symbol? How a character wears their hair reveals how their thinking patterns are working, how balanced their mental stability is, if they are having difficulty conforming or they are trying really hard to conform. The hair brush, the doll's hair and the hair of the tantalize a theory that (assuming the girl whose back is to us is dead and the/part of the haunting presence in the farm house) the dead girl was mentally unstable in life; either she was normal and the hairbrush (symbolic of trying to conform thoughts the way a brush conforms our hair to a particular style) was an abusive instrument related to how she became unstable (think, for example, of the role coat hangers play in the film Mummy, Dearest about Joan Crawford) or how she failed to become stable. What about the doll? The doll is probably the girl's object of transference, that is, the girl probably role-played with the doll, to some degree or another, and either the doll was the "good girl" the real girl failed to become (or was striving to become) or, if the girl had an abusive parent and was good but wasn't good enough or should have done something she didn't, the doll might take on the role of the abuser (think of Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho); so, the role of the doll--and how the girl interacts with the doll--will be imperative to understanding the sub-text of the film. What else? The girl sits in a rocking chair, and there is probably solid proof why there is a saying, "Off her rocker," and the back-and-forth motion of rocking chairs indicate "mental instability" because the chair itself isn't stable (as in The Women In Black). The job of the horror film is to take the innocent and pervert it--like the eggs cooking on the counter-top in Ghostbusters--and invest the ordinary with the extra-ordinary, which is why the picture above is all ready so creepy: it's a little girl with her doll and a hairbrush; what's not innocent and ordinary is the girl sitting with her back to us; as the viewers, half are probably ready to walk up to her and see what she's doing, and the other half ready to run away for their lives, so her back being to us puts us, the viewers, in a state of undecidability: we don't know what's wrong with this scene, but because of the girl's hair, the exaggerated features of the doll's face, and the doll fulfilling the role the little girl should be fulfilling (the girl should be looking at us the way the doll looks at us) we see a unnatural role reversal between the two and that tells our instinct something is wrong here; this is the hallmark of "good horror": when a juxtaposition of un-like elements--ordinary though they may be--are brought together in an unnatural way and our own emotions, the deep, dark, inarticulated part of our own being, is therefore brought into play whether we want it to or not, and the releasing of that part of our self is what causes the rush of fear and horror and that rush is exactly why horror--as a genre--is so necessary to us as a culture and to certain individuals. That part of our self needs to be released, at least occasionally, but because it is so dark, we generally don't like to release it except in a controlled environment like a film. The last element: it appears the wall was white but the black "stuff" that has overtaken it. In the late 1960s, Deconstruction started taking root in politics, arguing that society is based on binary oppositions of which one is favored and the other is demonized: white/black, rich/poor, man/woman, adult/child, pretty/ugly, good/evil, etc. Deconstructionists argued that it was better to be white than black, rich rather than poor, a man rather than a woman, pretty rather than ugly; the poor, ugly and evil were necessary to society to format the "other," but the "other" (the less-desirable in the binary opposition) would always have to be at the bottom or on the margins of society and political power.  The white wall being overtaken by the "black stuff" coming down (similar to what we saw in The Apparition) might be an indicator of strong binary oppositions the film will be constructing in order to make a statement, for example, the film seems to be pre-dominantly filled with women (like Mama with Jessica Chastain) and that's somewhat typical of horror films: "woman" is the great mysterious other, the unknowable, so it's easiest for her to communicate with Mystery because it's so much a part of her all ready. These are just some ideas to get our minds working of what to be looking for when we see it this weekend.
As you can tell by glancing to your right, part of my Blog is still broken. I can finally write in the blog again, so those technical difficulties have been overcome, however, the archive feature, the most popular blogs, search & translate, etc., are MIA. I am trying to get it fixed but haven't the slightest idea what is wrong. Now, this weekend, FOUR important films are opening: The Conjuring, Red 2, Turbo and RIPD; why are all of them opening this weekend instead of spreading them out to next week? Wolverine with Hugh Jackman opens next weekend and I guess that is going to be too big of competition,...? Anyway, I am going to see The Conjuring Thursday night at 8 and will break my neck to get that post up but, regardless of box office winners, the film I am most interested about is RED 2; why?
"The best never rest," and that is actually quite a statement for two reasons. First, as members of the audience, our attention is being directed to "The Best," not the mediocre or the second-best, not the run-of-the-mill, but THE BEST, the best to the point of being committed to an asylum. As those who saw RED know, RED stands for Retired: Extremely Dangerous but retirement hasn't been so easy for Frank (Bruce Willis) and we can reference another Willis film for our second reasons: A Good Day To Die Hard. What does John McClane keep saying? "I'm on vacation!" Well, no he's not, he's there to save his son Jack, but if we take McClane to be a symbol of American capitalism and--more specifically--American bravado which he fully typifies in the film (the kind we see in Iron Man's Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) General MacArthur's (Tommy Lee Jones) in Emperor and Expendables 2), then American "swagger" being on vacation does make sense because that is exactly what has happened, since 2008, America-as-a-superpower has been on "permanent vacation" (consider that absolutely no retaliation or defense was offered for the Americans in Benghazi; would any previous American president have tolerated that? No.). So, given this idea of "retirement," and Frank coming "out" of retirement to solve some lingering Cold War problems, it begs the question: should Frank Moses have retired to begin with? How you answer that says a lot about how you view today's international politics and America's role in the world.
I got really picky about a detail from Oblivion (Tom Cruise), towards the end of the film, when Jack discovers that his real wife is Julia, a woman of Russian descent, not Victoria of British descent.; why does this matter? Great Britain is the long-standing ally of America, but the increasing socialism in the country has put America at risk for becoming socialist ourselves, whereas Russia has committed itself to capitalism and should, therefore, be our new, steadfast ally. That's what Oblivion seemed to be saying. In RED 2, Victoria (Helen Mirren) is also British and a long-time ally of Frank Moses who is suddenly turning on him to fulfill a contract:
Who is it that Frank turns to when the British (Victoria/Helen Mirren) has turned against him? The Russians, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ivan (Brian Cox, who returns from RED and was the love of Victoria that she spared from her assassin's bullet; so how that relationship does/does not develop is of interest). I don't think it would be possible for anyone to love the British more than I do, and I know I have a large readership in the UK for whom I am deeply grateful for all their support and loyalty, but this question of the direction the UK is going and whether or not it's the right direction for the US to go, is an important one and a question this action-film fully takes up.
But there's always more,...
In the trailer above, one of the lines spoken by Marvin (John Malkovich) is, "They're coming" and we have, of course, all ready heard that line in World War Z, when Gerry (Brad Pitt) says to his wife of the United Nations convoy to get them, "They're coming." Whereas World War Z sees the UN coming as salvation, whoever "they" are in RED 2 is trouble (the international police agency Interpol, which we also just saw in Now You See  Me?), and the repeating of the line in two films being released so close together is hardly coincidence, rather, a feeling that is cropping up and we should pay attention. Why, in the trailer, does Marvin have such a hard time saying, that Russian word? Because he can's quite bring himself to the reality of working with the Russians and the plan they have concocted, that's why Marvin is able to say, "What happens in the Kremlin, stays in the Kremlin," because whatever Marvin does with the Russians is going to remain in Russia, he's not "taking it home with him."
At the start of this trailer is the CostCo store (which we have seen in both The Apparition and Neighborhood Watch) and Sarah (Parker) says, "Look at all this bulk," as a display comes toppling on some man; we also know, from an earlier trailer, that their cart has a,... "loose wheel," and Frank Moses wears dentures (because he's buying Polident). These things wouldn't say anything to most film viewers, but to and me, such details speak volumes: we know that the teeth symbolize the appetites, so dentures symbolize,... uh,... well, it follows that dentures would symbolize,... fake appetites? This is a possibility (but I will probably have to adjust this) because they are in a CostCo: has the appearance of conveniences, like bulk buying, created an appetite for bulk buying that wouldn't exist if the convenience weren't there? 
"He's fast. They're furious," a direct reference to the highly successful car racing franchise Fast and Furious; why is that important? When a film references another film, they want to expand their immediate world to include references outside their immediate context (we will also see this in Planes which is very similar). Most of us probably didn't know there was a world of "street racing" until we were introduced to it in F & F; likewise, many of us probably didn't know anyone staged snail racing until we saw it in the trailer for Turbo. Why is this important? I think this will probably be a pro-capitalist film (but I am wrong about as often as I am right) but what appears to be demonstrated is that there is a group of people who have an interest (those watching real Nascar style racing and those watching the snail racing) and those who have a talent or skill set, regardless of how narrow that set might be (and we see this with Yancey and Raleigh in Pacific Rim, they weren't the top of their class, but they could fight and their talents were used to fight the monsters), and in a capitalist economy, that skill set can be put to good use if there is a "taste" for what you do (which might easily relate to Frank Moses' dentures and his "false appetites" in RED 2). Recall, if you will, a "minor" detail in Dredd: Dredd and the rookie get outside the apartment complex and they find themselves on a skateboarding ramp; why? Those kids aren't just messing around, skateboarding is a multi-million dollar industry, and if those kids practice and get good, they can get sponsors and make a future for themselves doing what they love and what they are good at instead of what they have to do to pay bills; isn't that at least part of the American Dream, to fulfill your potential? That American Dream is what has been under attack, by Hollywood and the Obama Administration: whether or not it really exists or is just a myth. In Turbo, at least by the trailers, we appear to be seeing the American Dream working for an impossible candidate: a snail becoming fast, a slug racing. It appears that Turbo wants to tell us, if we can dream it, no matter how impossible, we can make it come true, and isn't that the kid of encouragement we all need for our dreams? There is another reason for attention to Turbo: Rush. In September, the Ron Howard directed Formula One car race film starring Chris Hemsworth comes out and that could very well be a anti-American dream and anti-competition film (like The Hunger Games and Catching Fire coming out in November), so films that support competition might be in short supply in just a few months.
Now, Edward Bailey (Hopkins) has been locked up for 32 years; so, using the calculator feature on my cell phone, that means Bailey was locked up in the asylum for the criminally insane in 1981; what other films have referenced 1981 lately (Ronald Regan's presidency began in 1981)? The Amazing Burt Wonderstone and Wreck-It Ralph, as well as Red Dawn and Evil Dead; what other films have taken us to Russia lately? The Chernobyl Diaries, A Good Day To Die Hard and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. We can't quite say for sure, but it might be that the ardent capitalism imposed on the US economy by Reagan was a dominant anti-socialist weapon (that the US became so economically and structurally strong, there was no possible way for socialism to compete and survive in international politics [and it soon fell in the Soviet Bloc]) that not only led to the inevitable defeat of socialism, but kept the world from a nuclear war,... it remains to be seen in the film, but these are some of the reasons I am so intrigued by what RED 2 presents.
What I have said heretofore of the film (that it will probably be anti-capitalist) is probably what I will say after I have seen it; however, there is something I wasn't expecting: "Defending our world one soul at a time." Socialists don't believe in a soul, they don't believe in an afterlife because the State government takes the place of God. To me, the "dead-os" walking around like normal people would be socialists--because socialism died with the Soviet Union--and they refuse to accept the judgment of history. A part of the plot is that tunnel you see in the poster is supposed to be a one-way street: when someone dies, they go up in it and don't come back. There is a Jericho artifact, however, that allows the tunnel to be opened from the other end so the earth becomes flooded with the dead. Now, for a socialist, they probably consider capitalism in America to be dead, and those weird monsters are people like myself who are "dead" to the revolution taking place and need to be sent through the tunnel; but someone could (by impeaching Obama for any plethora of reasons) turn the tide back and re-start capitalism back in America, which for a socialist would be devastating. At this point, that's all I know about the film, so it will, as usual, be up to the fine details to alert us as to which way the film goes, what it values and which political direction it wants the country to take. Just because there are references to Jericho and the soul does not mean it supports Christianity, but might actually be a "decoy" to get Judeo-Christians to believe the film supports religious beliefs and get people to unconsciously accept what is happening to the country as part of our religious expectation of government.
Here is a little featurette, I don't often pose, but I thought it contained interesting material. Why is 3:07 am the "Devil's Hour?" Because 3:00pm is the Hour of Mercy, the hour when Christ died upon the Cross, so the inversion of that Hour of Mercy is the Hour of Damnation. It's almost like at Candlemass, the feast of Christ being Presented at the Temple and the Church blesses candles because of the Light Christ brought into the world, that satanists have their high black mass, their,... "unholiest" day to try and bring as much darkness into the world as possible to counter Christ's light:
Again, seeing this Thursday at 8pm, tweeting my response and breaking my neck to get the post up asap. Sorry for all the technical problems on the blog as of late, I have contacted Google and hope all will be well soon!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner