To Write Love on Her Arms [2012)

This film goes beyond film.  Which is not to say it doesn’t have its problems.  Like the protagonist, it does.  But let me tell you why this film is worth it.  No…you know what?  This is fucking bullshit!  That’s not the way to review a film.  This is.

It’s gotta come from the heart and mind.  Depend too much on the mind and you miss the beauty.  Secrets make you sick.  Must be a whole lot of sick people in Langley, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland.  Go on, look it up.  It’ll do you good.  But for you lazy bums, that’s the CIA and NSA.

I read about the CIA all the time.  Why?  I’m only answering limited questions today.  But suffice it to say that both of these spy agencies are pretty interesting.  Don’t you think?

Well, so that’s one of my secrets.  It’s not really a secret.  It’s pretty transparent.  But maybe not.  So, there.  Like Robert Creeley said.  There you have it.

It’s very hard to not drop into John Berryman testimonial mode when talking about this film (oh yeah, this is a film review…duh!).

First things first:  you gotta love a film that premieres at the Omaha Film Festival (!)  Just knowing that Omaha has a film festival makes me feel a little less depressed about my life and the shitty town I live in (San Antonio).

And so…our setting:  Orlando.  It’s like an outtake from Mister Lonely–Cinderella smoking a cigarette at the bus stop.  Headed to the theme park presumably…  It’s certainly begging for a Harmony Korine touch, though director Nathan Frankowski does a nice job handling this priceless aside in more of a Terry Zwigoff way.

Wow.  Somebody needs to give the Wikipedia page for TWLOHA (the movie) some love.  I mean, Jesus!  A three-sentence plot summary???  There’s lost silent films which have more detailed synopses on Wiki than this!

So I guess my first inclination was correct:  speak from the heart.

Well God damnit!  There are some priceless moments in this film.  The secret weapon is Rupert Friend.  I’ll be damned if he doesn’t strike a stake right to my heart…fondling that pocket watch…  It’s no jive-ass MC5 John Sinclair rave-up testifyin’ going on.  This is some real shit.

For all of the snobs (like me) in the audience:  you gotta give this film time.  Clear from your mind the unpleasant parallels to the CGI of What Dreams May Come and The Lovely Bones.  IT GETS BETTER.

That said.  How?  Well, once again Ms. Kat Dennings hits a home run. This is no easy role.  It’s a tough, tough, TAXING role to embody with anything even approaching Method Acting.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that Dennings felt this role naturally (to a certain extent).

How does this film go beyond film?  Because.  Ghost World was a masterpiece.  Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was perfection for its genre (young adult comedy romance).  Charlie Bartlett was a mini-masterpiece…a damn good film.  Hell!  Daydream Nation was pretty fucking good too.  But TWLOHA moves into the social realm…because it touches on depression and substance abuse (not to mention the cutting words of the haiku title) in a real, sobering way.  No pun intended.  At least not the sober one.

Yeah.  What does this mean for you, dear WordPress blogger…or for someone who stumbled across this article?  It means you are powerful beyond your wildest belief.

Every time you commit your precious thoughts to the page and share them with people (comma) you are saying the only stuff that people believe anymore.

It doesn’t mean you can talk about reptilians and be taken seriously (no offence to my reptilian theorist brothers…and sisters).  No, it means that the only people who have CAPITAL in SINCERITY are everyday people like me…and YOU.

We don’t believe the lies anymore.  We’ve swallowed so many damned secrets that we’re sick to death.  We can’t sleep.  But we are fucking powerful!  Hillary Clinton knows it.  Zbigniew Brzezinski knows it.  I’m not sure if David Rockefeller knows it.  Nor George H.W. Bush.

That’s ok.  They came from a different generation.  Hell…I’m not even a “digital native”…  Not a Millennial.  I guess I am part of that lamentable flannel fuzzed Generation X.  I hyphenate when I damn well please.

I make inside jokes that only I get.  I don’t have any friends.  Not anymore.  But I have family.  I have cats.  Some days I think my best friend is an extraterrestrial in Turkey.  Or a classmate from Iran.  But most days my best friend is an actor or an actress.

So to Kat Dennings (and Renee Yohe)…wherever you are.  Thank you.  It makes a big fucking difference.  That you exist.  My sentence fragments and idiosyncratic punctuation are yours.  Mi casa es su casa.

-PD

The Host [2013)

Science fiction is often a metaphor…and this movie is about the national security state (whether it knows it or not).  It would be easy to fault this film for its trite trappings, but if one has reason to give the film a chance…  My reason was Saoirse Ronan.

I remember being a big fan of Thora Birch after seeing Ghost World.  [I’m still a big fan.]  The lengths to which film fans go to see their favorite players is sometimes remarkable.  My admiration went so far as to watch Dungeons & Dragons (2000).  Boy, I wish I could get those 107 minutes back!

I can’t echo the same sentiment about The Host.  This is truly a fine film.  Granted, it is a pale imitation of Hanna (2011), but I believe that Hanna will stand as one of the best films of all time.

What we do have is a dystopian “failure to communicate.”  This is essentially the problem with the national security state.  No reasonable person can seriously believe that the men and women of the CIA, NSA, and other such agencies are truly sitting around frying up babies on spits.  The problem is that the technology has far outstripped the human skills of these agencies.  For every action which is automated–every process given over to a computer…these agencies lose the war they think they are winning.

When agencies such as MI6 and Mossad no longer have popular support, their days are numbered.  The American intelligence community has failed to recognize that the war is not against “terrorists,” but rather for Americans.  “Hearts and minds” went the old phrase…  The world’s most powerful intelligence agencies are losing the human relations race almost as much as they are losing the information race.

Every once in a while there is a crack in this monolithic façade.  Not so long ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski (perhaps inadvertently) blurted out the real score of both the information and interpersonal communications races during a speech in Canada (Toronto, I believe).  It may have been a Council on Foreign Relations function, but really:  who cares?  The sentiment was echoed on the floor of Congress some years back by Hillary Clinton.  Whether explicit or not, these cracks indicate the panic of highly intelligent and heavily-invested players on the world stage.

Technology brings with it a certain uncertainty:  an undefinable amount of risk.  The same can be said of democracy.  It is no wonder that certain American Founding Fathers (Alexander Hamilton, for instance) felt ill at ease about the prospect of “government by the people.”  But this fear only shows weakness.  When power is fearful, power shows its ass.  Obverse and reverse.  We are used to seeing the obverse, but we must remember there is a man behind that wizard curtain.

Diane Kruger impressed me with her articulate acting in the National Treasure movies.  Here, she represents the sheen of the national security state.  She is like Shannon Bream on FOX News:  a neocon trophy anchor.  In truth, her character is staged in almost an identical way as that of Cate Blanchett in Hanna.  The accoutrements of power in The Host also have a ubiquitous and literal sheen in the form of mirrored-paint (chrome).  It is not far from the cheese factor of Sphere (1998).

Yet, The Host truly does have something to offer…and that is primarily due to the acting prowess of Ronan.  The major addition is the superb support of William Hurt.  In his character “Jeb” we see the dreamer mentality of American ingenuity which stretches back at least to Benjamin Franklin.  We also see in Hurt’s depiction the presence of John Wayne and other noble examples of simple morality from the American western genre of film.  What is really at issue is consequentialist morality vs. deontological morality.  Consequentialists (such as the rational aliens of our film) would argue that their ends justify their means.  Deontological circumspection (as in the case of Hurt’s character) holds that certain acts are repulsive in and of themselves (ontology) and therefore to be considered in such light.

Hurt’s character goes against the grain (Huysmans, anyone?) by refusing to kill the alien which has occupied the body of his niece.  His hunch turns out to be right:  his niece is still alive somewhere deep down inside there.  In Hurt’s character and his milieu we see the “prepper” mentality which has remained strong in America, but most of all we see the imagination to think conceptually.  Uncle Jeb is the only one to give credence to the thought which those around him spurn.  It is possible.

Much has been made about the American intelligence community’s “failure of imagination” regarding 9/11 all those many years ago, but I believe that’s rubbish.  However, the only way the U.S. will ever heal and move forward in an evolutionary way is for those “in the know” to come forward in numbers and ways heretofore unseen.  Likewise, those upset with even the most senior of the military-industrialists must be prepared to embrace the unique wisdom they have.  It is hard to talk about such things in precise terms owing to the nature of the dispute, but ultimately the powerful and the powerless need each other.

-PD