What Did Jung Say About Glow Sticks?

6 02 2012

Josh Trank and Max Landis Pen Gnarliest of Chronicles

Chronicle opened at number one this weekend, and domestic receipts have already surpassed production costs. There’s been a lot of talk about Chronicle being an Akira for the found-footage generation. And yeah, I guess they both feature a heavily-bandaged whipping boy who breaks out of a hospital facility and goes on an ESP rampage, if that’s what people are getting at. Personally, I see a greater resemblance to Clamp’s X/1999. But whatever. Regardless of its J-Pop antecedents, Chronicle is a concise science fiction tale that culminates in a bus-tossing battle to the death in a metropolitan area with a prominent landmark. So we’re already off on the right foot.

But Chronicle is also a study in fraternity. Three characters—Andrew, the put-upon;  Matt, the ex-chasing big brother figure; and Steve, the prototypical prom king—form an unlikely bond so strong that it makes their noses bleed. The conspiratorial intimacy that is a product of this bond is of such a caliber that it’s characterized by cruising-altitude group flight. It’s really touching to watch, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see it all annihilated when Andrew, a truly broken person, fails to harness his all-consuming rage as expertly as he harnesses his new-found power.

Above (from left): the scion, the bitch, and the wardrobe.

Russ Fischer at /Film says some interesting things about the film’s approach to friendship here. I especially appreciated Fischer’s analysis of Steve as “the exact opposite of Andrew”.  Socially, emotionally, and behaviorally, they totally are mirror opposites who suddenly find themselves with one enormous thing in common, and this specularity is succinctly conveyed through camera work and dialogue. Their specularity also makes Andrew’s eventual sense of betrayal all the more eviscerating.

Fraternity. Belonging. Documentation. Chronicle is not nearly as “subtext-free” as The A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias seems to think it is. Here’s how I see it. One of the first (and only) things that the character of Andrew volunteers about himself is that he’s shy. He lives behind the lens; for the longest time, we hear his voice more than we see his face, and when we do see his face, it’s only in the mirror, or when things outside his control (always aspiring alpha males) forcibly separate him from his camera. After forming his accidental bond with Matt and Steve, he steps out from behind the camera—but only within the confines of his small and private fraternity.

The trio repeatedly defy the laws of nature without the slightest repercussion, but the very moment that they upset the social order, all hell breaks loose.  When Steve orchestrates a talent show triumph for Andrew, going so far as to play a very self-deprecating straight man to his introverted friend, Andrew finds himself in public view. And while there, a brief triumph is followed by immediate public humiliation that involves both sex and shame.

The soft sciences call this aversion therapy.

Albeit with the best of intentions, Steve has deliberately upset the viewer/viewed dynamic. The closeness that Andrew and Steve had enjoyed—at one point, Steve even calls Andrew his “best friend”—is spoiled, replaced in Andrew with distrust of Steve and his motives. And suddenly, CCTV footage starts getting woven into the fabric of a narrative that has so far been propelled only by handheld footage. For all of his ever-growing control over people and objects, Andrew has lost control of the camera. A convenience store camera views Andrew now. So does a hospital room camera, and a camera in the lobby of an office building. Surveillance footage starts to tell his story without his consent. And indeed, at one point during the final battle, Andrew is floating outside the observation deck of the Space Needle, surrounded by digital cameras, iPads, and camera phones, all sucked away from onlookers. It’s only a matter of time before you cross the Rubicon with this sort of instability, and then of course things can only end badly.

No good can come out of upsetting the viewer/viewed dynamic. Which is what this film is about.

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Speaking of Party Boys

23 06 2010

Somebody’s Learning to Dance the Twelve-Step

Chris Klein checked into Cirque Lodge the other day. He did what he had to do, I guess, having bagged himself a DUI arrest last week—which didn’t bode well in light of his 2005 DUI conviction. Apparently, he was swerving on the 101. I like to think that it looked something like this, only with his dog, who was reportedly in there somewhere, too:

Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) after a night of partying in Rollerball (2002).

Yeah, that’s right. Rollerball. Oh, you didn’t know? You better call somebody. Because Rollerball was a better remake than most people allow themselves to admit. I don’t have anything else to say about Chris Klein’s 30-day stay, anyway. That was just a gateway to post screen grabs from something that nobody on the planet besides me was thinking about.

Why. What were you feeling in 2002? Shakira? 8 Mile? The Osbournes?

I’m not suggesting that the film is perfect, mind you. An extended chase sequence at the end of the second act, for example, is shot in night vision, which is so distracting and ugly that this fifteen minutes of the film is almost unwatchable. But as far as if-this-goes-on dystopian scenarios go, this bread-and-circus tale is fairly respectable. It’s got globalization and commodification galore.

“Label out.”

It’s also got loads of industrial grime and not a little violence.

There will be blood alcohol level.

If nothing else, it’s fun to look at five years ago as depicted by a creative team eight years ago.





Plague of Bears To Be Unleashed on Select Theater Audiences as Punishment for Arriving Early

25 11 2009

Conservatives with Weakened Immune Systems Already Experiencing Allergic Reaction to Rare 11th Plague; Vaccine-Resistant Viral Clip May Also Convince Stubborn Eskimo to Rethink Unnecessary Air Travel, Free Israelites

You guys know I find politics gross, but I really wanna talk about this clip, and there’s no way to do it without trudging through hot-button sludge. So here goes. A nickel-bag environmentalist group in England somehow rustled up the funds to produce the following clip, which is blue-filtered and moody and Bolero-like and melodramatic and artsy and all of the things that a good theater commercial should be. That’s right, I like commercials—that doesn’t make me a capitalist any more than a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint makes me a communist.

Fueled by blind, impotent rage, scores of resentful, self-imagined guardians of truth instantly responded to this new threat with a barrage of climate statistics and strange references to Al Gore.  This counteroffensive, however, will probably prove ineffective against the bears, which are computer-generated and not really falling from the sky. YouTube is not the front, and the comments sections are not the trenches. Get over yourselves. You’re taking all of the good out of it, and ruining it for the rest of us.

There will be blood.

The channel that I embedded from is called “adsoftheworldcom“, and the theme of the channel is not global warming or climate change or making fun of birthers, but rather—you guessed it—ads of the world. It’s seemingly a repository for cool ads. That’s why I thought the comments for this clip might break YouTube precedent and actually be about style and technique and approach. It was naive of me, I now realize, to expect that the invisible chains of relevance would hold. Again, I thought we could all just enjoy the fact that it really looks like there are polar bears falling out of the sky. Yeah, the factoid is specious and the mammal use is over-the-top sentimental. Yeah, the cause is too niche. But the jet engine SFX are synchronized well, and incongruous imagery is always a treat. Usually the comments are an amusing supplement to any popular YouTube video, but today they just made me feel like I was living in a social Dark Age.

This is something that happens.

This is not something that happens. It looks really crazy, though, right?





Street Date: HEALTH, “Get Color”

8 09 2009

Executioners Are Standing By, So Die Slow: 1-999-GET-COLOR. That’s 1-999-GET-COLOR. That Number Again, 1-999-GET-COLOR. Die Slow.

The new HEALTH album. It’s called Get Color. Don’t try to discern the lyrics. Don’t try to keep still. Do play this in a car full of your friends with the windows down, and do also try it alone with headphones and a bag of Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists. This is the best album of the year—and I didn’t think anything was going to beat out Röyksopp’s Junior. When you listen to Get Color, you feel like a non-existent William Gibson character who travels back in time to the mid-1990s in a parallel universe where Brit Pop and the Matador record label don’t exist to play a White Wolf role-playing game to the death in some warehouse made of corrugated sex.

Don't worry, I will.

HEALTH, Get Color. Lovepump United, 2009.

You’ve probably already heard the Get Color track “Die Slow”. Of course, the year’s best single deserves the year’s best video. If you’re prudish or squeamish, there’s plenty to be offended by; if you’re down with all things visceral, there’s plenty to be excited by. Either way, this video’s gonna give you some sort of a charge. Writhing bodies, ritualistic vessel smashing, human sacrifice and choreographed dance inserts. Seldom does one get the opportunity to use the terms bloodbath and eye candy in the same sentence. Now’s your chance:

They directed that themselves. From what I understand, their shows are pretty intense, too.