Deepwater Horizon [2016)

This film has every reason to be horrible, but it’s not.

It’s actually quite a good piece of filmmaking.

It’s not cinema, but it’s the kind of stuff which resonates even with a crusty old jaded bloke like me.

BP.

That’s why I went.

As my few diehard readers know, I am a business student.

And Charles Ives was an insurance salesman.

Similar juxtaposition of temperament and métier.

It is my job to research.  To go to school.

I am infinitely lucky to have such an opportunity to retrain.

If you hear of a music theory factory, let me know.

But the men and women on the Deepwater Horizon rig were doing real work.

And so it is an honor to see these employees of Transocean conduct themselves with bravery and virtue on the big screen.

And BP.

What about BP?

We’ll be getting to that.

In 2010, I was still the drummer in a Cajun punk-rock band.

We played benefits in places like Venice, Louisiana.

I can personally attest to the fact that the media focus at the time (2010) was on the plight of shrimpers and marine life.

The focus was on the oil spill.

Sadly, the 11 Transocean employees who lost their lives in this textbook case for business ethics (lack thereof) were never given the memorial they deserved.

Until now.

Yes, this is a story of the deplorables.

Working on an oil rig.

Gulf of Mexico.

These are your Donald Trump voters.

And I am proudly among their number.

If you want to get the real story of class conflict in regards to the deplorables, try parsing this (mostly-good) socialist take on the situation.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-class-dynamics-in-the-rise-of-donald-trump-why-establishment-voices-stigmatize-the-white-working-class-as-racist-and-xenophobic/5549634

While I do not agree with all of the author’s conclusions, I think the “white working class” has been unjustly portrayed as deplorable by elitist, pseudo-leftists like Hillary Clinton.

Make no mistake (to use Obama’s favorite phrase):  Hillary Clinton is an extremely wealthy individual posing as a “people’s candidate”.

Her opposition (Donald Trump) does not adopt such Janus-faced dissimulation.  He largely admits to being a (gasp!) capitalist.

It would have been more exciting to see the extremes of the continuum represented by Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the infinitely-crooked Clinton stole the Democratic Party nomination from the genuinely-socialist Sanders.

However, Sanders immediately turned around and campaigned for Clinton.

Bernie, then, is the spineless, wet rag he always seemed to be.

But Trump hits back.  Hard!

And that is what the deplorables want.

There are many aggrieved parties in America.

Deepwater Horizon presents the case of craven, feckless British Petroleum executives who let the little people die.

Socialism is right to focus on workers.

Capitalism is right to focus on value-creation.

China (a real nightmare) just happens to have had a very large hand in funding this film.

Right?

Maybe not.

It seems, however, that there are a few names (and one Hong Kong company) missing from the Wikipedia rundown of Deepwater Horizon.

The company in question is TIK Film (or Films) of China.

As of 2015, Lionsgate had signed a $1.5 bil. cooperation deal with TIK’s parent company Hunan Television.

And so this brings up a point:  was Deepwater Horizon Chinese propaganda to further smear British Petroleum?  It’s a possibility worth considering.

In fact, there are a couple of associate producer credits (if I remember the description correctly) missing even from iMDB’s more extensive summation of the film’s business players.

The two Chinese executives (presumably) are clearly identified in the opening credits of Deepwater Horizon.  Unless you have a photographic memory, you’re not likely to find corroboration of this once you get home from the theater.

But maybe this angle is a diversion.

Certainly, the most important issue covered by this film is that 11 human beings with wives and children lost their lives ostensibly because a company put profit before people.

The film lays the blame primarily on two BP executives.

But all of the major oil and gas players are there including the pivotal case of Schlumberger.  One company suspiciously missing from the film is Halliburton.  Indeed, it doesn’t take very long to realize that this outfit was intimately involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Maybe Dick Cheney promised to donate his pacemaker to the CCP?

What about these players?

Transocean Ltd. of Switzerland (lovely).

Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea.

Indeed…the OptiCem cement modeling system of Halliburton is extremely germane to the issue of culpability for the deaths of these 11 workers.

And yet Halliburton managed to extricate itself completely from this cinematic muckraking.

What gives a company such power?

We likewise don’t hear about Anadarko Petroleum.

Or the Mitsui Group.

It certainly seems BP had a controlling interest in the Macondo Prospect well which blew out, but 35% of the ownership pie was not held by BP.

Our film portrays BP as playing an operational role in overriding the experience and wisdom of Transocean workers at the site.  It portrays BP executives as committing the cardinal sin of business ethics:  focusing on short-term profits over long-term safety.  Indeed, the film under review makes the case that BP executives prevented Schlumberger from performing due diligence in testing the concrete at the well in question.

The most disgusting part is that no one personally got in trouble.  That, indeed, is the most deplorable aspect of all.

 

-PD

 

The Lovely Bones [2009)

Somehow, at some point…people forgot how to make films.  This would be considered cinema in today’s Hollywood (which is to say, a great film).  Sadly, this is barely a good film.

Once upon a time there were masters like Murnau and Lang and Dreyer. They worked in an age before sound.  They had less variables to ponder.  And yet, they managed to tell stories in elegant, sophisticated ways.  There was no CGI.

Cut to the present film.  Saoirse Ronan is truly lovely, yet not even she can salvage this schmaltz.  To be sure, this is not a happy story.  I would like to congratulate director Peter Jackson, but I cannot do so without a plethora of caveats.

Let me start by saying that Mark Wahlberg, at least, does an excellent acting job.  I can’t help thinking of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch every time I see his name.  That was the age I was raised in:  ridiculous, posturing hip-hop.  Don’t get me wrong…some of it was good.  I even remember having a fondness for Wahlberg’s group, but suffice it to say that their oeuvre has not aged particularly well.  I fear the same might be the case with this film.

Stanley Tucci is excellent and creepy as hell as the serial killer George Harvey.  Susan Sarandon, on the other hand, is a caricature of herself…completely ridiculous and superfluous to any of the aims which this film should have had.  Rose McIver is actually quite good as Susie’s younger sister (though the film seems to suggest she is the older sister in the beginning…just one loose end among many, many others).

There are moments when this film touches on the sublime, but they may not be the ones of which you’re thinking.  When director Jackson approaches the realm of Hitchcock, he does so quite capably.  One even gets the sense that a Silence of the Lambs might be developing on screen.  Sadly, we seem to slip into What Dreams May Come.  Much better to emulate Alfred than Vincent Ward.  Yikes!

About these dream sequences–this “In-Between”…it is as if Salvador Dalí’s superb imagination was being hijacked by a third-rate M.C. Escher reproductionist.  It is as if we were watching the music video to Seal’s “Crazy.”  It is horrible.

Nikki SooHoo’s acting is really, really bad.  Poor girl.  She is the Jar Jar Binks of this ill-fated venture.

After all this CGI tomfoolery we finally have another shard of cinema when McIver find’s the murderer’s sketchbook.  The close-ups of her fingernails trying to silently lower the loose floorboard back into place have a gripping suspense worthy of Hitch.  Jackson at least does a good job of making fingernails (you heard me) a significant motif throughout the picture.  Tucci’s neatly manicured nails are pictured in close-up as he disgustingly fondles the dead Susie’s house charm which he ripped off her bracelet.

The story is not bad, but Jackson has not inspired me to read the book any time soon.  The motif of the kiss is a sweet sentiment and it is just one of many touching moments in this train-wreck of a film.  Susie is supposed to be the amateur photographer.  Jackson directs like a 14-year-old.  The film would doubtless have been better had he 1/100th the budget.

The overall narrative (with voiceover by Ronan) is a formulaic, staid, pale imitation of American Beauty.

One last thought:  I can’t believe Brian Eno did the music.  Sadly, the only musical moments which are transcendent come at the hands of Dave Edmunds and The Hollies (though the latter’s is ruined by a Sarandon montage).  Nay, I shan’t be running out to see any Lord of the Rings movies anytime soon.  This is a stinker which won’t soon enough evaporate from my memory.  Jackson could really use a good night in with TCM for starters (and then, perhaps, God forbid…an Ingmar Bergman movie).  Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy obliterates The Lovely Bones in every aspect.  Google Dogme 95, Mr. Jackson.  Learning is fun.

 

-PD