Under the Volcano

[18 Dec 02] Like a disturbingly large proportion of the online population, I too am jonesin' for The Two Towers. It's even harder to wait knowing that all of the reviews have been extremely good.

Well, not quite all. As Ed points out, the Rotten Tomatoes rating is a staggering 99% Fresh. But it's not a hundred percent. Who was the heretic responsible for this lapse? Your humble reporter decided to investigate. My in-depth probe took me numerous clicks away, to the end of the relevant 'All T-Meter Reviews'. There, I discovered... this.

I'll be the reckless, foolish messenger and endure the wrath of LOTR devotees: Compared to THE FELLOWSHIP, THE TWO TOWERS is a big, sprawling disappointment.

Who'd want to be in Victoria Alexander's shoes? The one critic out of 76 (at last count) who calls The Two Towers 'rotten'... yet actually admired Die Another Day. (Treebeard is 'poorly conceived'? How about having James Bond surf a tsunami to safety?)

I understand that many of my story criticisms will be answered in the last part of the trilogy when all the pieces come together. However, THE TWO TOWERS must stand alone in its own right.

Why? Because J.R.R. Tolkien said so? (Nope. He conceived of LOTR as a single book, not a trilogy.) Because Peter Jackson says so? (Nope. Didn't even bow to studio pressure to include a preamble, and thinks of the three films as parts of a unified whole.) Because the fans say so? (Umm.....) No, no, no—every film must stand alone, because... because it must! What would happen if Peter Jackson dropped dead tomorrow with the post-production on Return of the King unfinished? Ms Alexander is saving us, saving us from the awful lack of closure that we'd suffer if the entire fabric of Western civilisation collapsed before next Christmas, and every library and bookstore burned to the ground, and everyone on the planet who had read LOTR set sail for the west in the Tolkienian equivalent of the Rapture, and there was no-one, no-one left to tell the poor unbelievers how the story ends!

Oh, and the battles feel impersonal. And there wasn't enough hot Legolas action.

Fortunately, it's her lucky day. Because I have read the books in question, and can tell her right now, before the collapse of Western civilisation, that in part three Legolas plays a much bigger role, personally leading the climactic battle against Sauron (the half-hour sword fight should be a real treat, with lots of opportunities for close-ups), and actually saves the day when Frodo is severely slapped by Gollum on Mount Doom. So now there's no need to see the movie and risk disappointment and write a bad review of it and SPOIL ITS PRECIOUS 100 PERCENTSES AT ROTTEN TOMATOES, IS THERE?

So there.


That Was The Year That Was

[11 Dec 02] The end of year has always been best-of-lists time around these parts, where 'always' equals 2000 and 2001. Since skipping a year would require messy surgery on the space-time continuum to remove 2002 from the collective consciousness, it seems a lot easier just to continue the tradition with the latest instalment. Guaranteed to be at least as pointless and arbitrary as whatever your local paper printed last weekend, and a lot less wasteful of trees.


Changing Places in the Heart

[27 Nov 02] This growing list of blended film titles continues to be one of the funniest threads anywhere on the Web, and I eventually couldn't resist adding to it:

24 Hour The Party People
Peter Sellers stars as Manchester raver looking for 'birdy num-nums'.

2001: An Office Space Odyssey
Dave has a hell of a day at work.

Morvern Callar of the Wild
Scottish girl wigs out after death of boyfriend and flees north to become a sled-dog.

Fargo and Away
Quirky Minnesota detective sees Nicole Kidman put Tom Cruise through a woodchipper.

Driving Miss Days of Thunder
Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy get lapped 38 times in this high-octane dose of high-octogenarian action.

On Goldenfinger
Bond and Blofeld 'suck face'.

Reign of Mrs Doubtfire
Robin Williams stars as everyone's favourite old dragon.

Super Marathon Brothers
Bob Hoskins and Laurence Olivier fight video-game villains by pulling out their teeth.


Rabbit Redux

[29 Oct 02] It was a fair while since I'd seen a movie that really grabbed me. The Road to Perdition was elegant to look at and pushed all the right gangster-movie buttons, and had a truly original villain in the form of Jude Law. One Hour Photo was also pretty good, taking the antiseptic qualities of the modern mall and projecting them into the empty life of its protagonist. But neither left me completely satisfied. The only really good film I'd seen lately was the excellent Chopper: funny, tense, chilling, and very, very Melbourne. But that was on DVD, and the movie was two years old.

So I was looking forward to Donnie Darko, with its alluring giant bunny motif and advance reports that it was seriously strange. And fortunately, it didn't disappoint. Set in the John Hughes world of 1980s America, it takes a bunch of teen movie tropes, stirs them into a bubbling black stew of medication and hallucination, and turns the whole thing in on itself with a looping time travel storyline. The plot never takes the easy way out, never underestimates its characters or the audience, and, more than anything on the big screen in months, is utterly unpredictable.

It's also a fine black comedy, with wise-cracking teenagers, uptight teachers, and a loathsome self-help guru played by Mr Dirty Dancing himself, Patrick Swayze. There's more crammed into Donnie's bathroom cabinet than most '80s teen movies managed to squeeze out of three sequels. Who'd have thought that one of the best movies of the genre would emerge this side of the millennium?


My Little Eye

[ 4 Oct 02] This tense thriller by a relatively new director returns us to the finest horror tradition of the past. A group trapped in a rambling old property in the middle of nowhere wait out the days in the hope of winning a valuable prize. Cameras follow their every move and transmit them to the world. Their goal appears to be within reach, until startling events jolt them out of their complacency.

As the tension mounts, one player fears they're being stalked by a menacing figure from the past. The others attempt to keep them calm, but in this paranoid atmosphere—masterfully conveyed by distorted visual and sound effects—that becomes increasingly difficult. Then, just as hidden agendas behind the game emerge, the killing begins. The original goal is soon forgotten as the players fight for their lives.

Comparisons with Big Brother are inevitable, but the situation portrayed here bears only a superficial resemblance to it. This clever blend of reality TV and the Internet dramatizes the risks of ignoring dissent in the pursuit of immediate gain, and will definitely keep the audience lying awake at night.

My Little Eye-raq, starring G. W. Bush. On general release.


Signs of Madness

[ 1 Oct 02] I would put one of those considerate 'spoilers' warnings here, but if anyone spoiled Signs, it wasn't me, it was writer-director M. Night Shyamalan. Still, if you prefer your incredibly obtuse endings unspoiled by apoplectic splutterings, skip ahead now.

I should have listened, I suppose, to the reviewers who warned that Signs was sabotaged by its final moments. But many of those same reviewers hated Unbreakable, which I enjoyed (if they could buy the ghost-story stuff of The Sixth Sense, why weren't they prepared to buy a superhero story?). Sure, Signs looked like silly alien fare, but I hoped that Shyamalan would transcend the usual clichés, as he'd done in his first two.

For most of the movie, he did. He played with our skepticism with jokes about nerds in crop-fields and al-foil helmets, and cranked up the claustrophobic dread in finest horror-movie fashion to the point where it seemed that the main characters were all doomed. Even if it was obvious that the lapsed priest played by Mel Gibson would return to God by the end, and that this meant we were in for a miraculous resolution of some kind, that at least suggested that the ending would be worth it. And right up to the final moments, it looked like it would be. (You haven't seen the film and you're still reading? Go on, skip now, or don't say I didn't warn you.)

Even the sight of the alien maintained the suspense—shadowed by the sun through the window, dimly reflected in metallic surfaces, looming menacingly over the boy. How would they defeat it? And then: Mel sees the baseball bat on the wall, next to his ball-playing brother. Of course! Ultra-violence! Maybe the aliens have unusually brittle bones, and a bit of biff is all it takes to defeat them. How brilliant—the whole film becomes a statement about how our fears of the unknown greatly exaggerate any actual threat. Now that is timely.

But no. It's not the bat—it's the glasses of water set on every surface by the obsessive daughter. The alien is allergic to water. Not just allergic—it burns him; it kills him.


Let's assume, Mr Shyamalan, that aliens advanced enough to travel all the way to another planet will also be able to tell if it's covered in a compound that causes them extreme physical distress, and if so would:

  1. not go there in the first place
  2. if they must go there, at least wear some sort of lead-lined space-suit or water-proof body-lotion or something, dammit.

Imagine if we earthlings started colonising the universe and stumbled across a planet covered in oceans of concentrated sulphuric acid whose inhabitants drank the stuff and could burn our tender flesh just by spitting at us. Would we go there? Would we start strolling around it in the nude? Would we even taunt them with a few well-placed crop-circles and risk that they would come after us with sulphuric-acid water-pistols? I think not.

I mean, man, you have scenes of an alien wandering around in Brazil, and he doesn't even notice the humidity?

There is only one thing that could have redeemed that ending: following it with a shot of thousands of amassed aliens being struck down by a sudden rain-shower, all screaming in alien-speak, "I'm mellllting, I'm meeeeelllllltttiinnnng!" At least then we would have been in on the joke.

And another thing: the TV announces that three cities in the Middle East found a primitive way to defeat the aliens, but "we haven't yet learned what it is"? What the?

"Hello, this is CNN."

"Hello, this is Beirut. We have found a primitive way to defeat the aliens. It is w... [crackle, crackle]"

"Hello, Beirut? Hello? Must be some kind of interference. Oh well. Tehran, are you there?"

"Yes, we have found the weapon to defeat them, Allah be praised. It is [chhhrrrrkkkkk, chrrrk]."

"Damn! Damn... Tel Aviv? Are you there?"

"Yes, we are here. You'll never believe what it is. Why, you just might have a few glasses conveniently placed around the house by a fussy four-year old. You might even have been tipped off by the rumours about how they kept away from lakes. That's right, it's been under your nose all along, but you refused to believe it because it's the STUPIDEST WAY OF DEFEATING ALIENS EVER, AND I'VE SEEN ROBOT MONSTER AND PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. It's [beeeeeeeeeee...]"

"Rats. Guess we'll never know how it ends."

How lucky you are, my friends.


Bollywood and Bunburyists

[28 Sep 02] Somehow I've ended up seeing two romantic comedies two weekends in a row, which for a hardened cynic* like myself is one viewing of Notting Hill away from having to turn in my badge (Hardened Cynics Brigade, 3rd Division). But with Edinburgh's cinemas filling up fast with pale imitations of Porky's, you take the laughs wherever you can get 'em. And after the trapped-under-floating-logs scene in (the excellent) Insomnia, I needed something a tad less tense.

Fortunately, The Guru was better than expected. Its tale of an Indian dance teacher making it big in America as the 'guru of sex' managed to spoof Bollywood, dreamy idealists, porn films, self-help culture, upper-class New York, and stereotypical American ideas about the sub-continent, without being overly condescending towards any of them. Jimi Mistry was terrific in the lead, as were the American cast (the presence of Michael McKean an early indicator that this was going to turn out well), and to top it all off, the dance scenes were genuinely good.

Even better was The Importance of Being Earnest, the latest screen adaptation of Huonville High School's 1983 Grade 10 English class ("Ewins's reading of Algy sets new standards"—The Stage). I enjoyed it a lot—too much, probably, given that Frances O'Connor's Aussie accent showed through a few times, and Colin Firth's scenes of London exuberance seemed a little forced; but who cares, when Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon and Judi Dench were all excellent, and the lines of Oscar Wilde are perfect whichever way they're sliced. The real surprise, though, was realising that Earnest was the blueprint for the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse, with its city larks and country estates, haughty aunts, Jeeves-like butlers, and half-baked schemes coming unstuck in the pursuit of young women. Oscar created more archetypes, it seems, than Dorian alone.

*Erratum: for 'hardened cynic' read 'big softy'.


[23 Aug 02] Saw another film at the Edinburgh Film Festival last night: David Cronenberg's Spider. As close to a perfect piece of direction as you'll find, and very well-acted by Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne. The story of a schizophrenic gradually piecing together his past was slowly paced but always compelling, and the East End of London has never seemed more haunting. Avoid the official site, though: its 'synopsis' should read 'spoiler'.

The screening was followed by a Q&A session, but while I was interested to hear what the star, the writer and the producer had to say, I sort of wish I hadn't stuck around; the audience questions were mostly superficial, and filled in that valuable period when you normally walk out of the cinema and try to make sense of what you've just seen. In hindsight, the film's denouement makes sense, but rather than make our own sense of it we had to listen to questions from audience members who just didn't get it. The chance to give Fiennes and co. an extra round of (well-deserved) applause was an inadequate trade-off.


Pages, Stages and Images

[19 Aug 02] Another weekend of festival-packed fun. On Friday night we went along to one of the £5 concerts being held as part of the Festival proper at Edinburgh's Usher Hall. The seats were way up in the gods, but the acoustics were perfect for hearing Angela Hewitt's fine performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations (not so good for seeing her individual finger-movements, but you can't have it all). Wonderful music, too; I've never been a big Bach fan, but this could make a convert of me.

Saturday was a profusion of riches: all-too-rare warm weather, the streets packed with visitors, and the festivals in full swing. Started the day by hearing Neil Gaiman talk about his new book, Coraline, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. From the readings he gave us, it sounds like an excellent dark little fairy-tale. The questions from the audience were also thoughtful and interesting, prompting explanations of Gaiman's childhood fascinations, his wanderings across genres, the differences between the British and American publishing industries, and how Good Omens came to be one of the funniest books ever written (both Gaiman and Pratchett were racing against each other to get to the next "good bit" in their tag-team collaboration).

In the evening it was Fringe time, with Club Seals at the Pleasance Dome doing a terrific set of sketches about 'The Museum of Everything'. Well-observed and performed, with great use of props and video segments: the animatronic Merlin talking about the History of Wicker while perched on a skateboard; shrunken heads bitching about the New Acquisition; a talking whale and a reggae-loving octopus; an audio guide that compares every exhibit to 'your mum'; and the mystery of Jack the Wippah revealed. Good stuff.

Rounded out the evening with another Festival concert, Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Miller's Beautiful Daughter) performed by Jonas Kaufmann (tenor) and Helmut Deutsch (piano). A revelation; I'd never heard classical song in concert before, only ever on record or TV. It's amazing to hear a single human voice fill a huge hall without the aid of speakers and amps; rock concerts suddenly seem amateurish by comparison. And Kaufmann—who looked the part, with his big Beethoven hair—was a marvel, conveying every emotion of the songs even when every word was in German. Beautiful music; the hall wasn't as packed as Friday night, but I enjoyed this concert even more.

We finished the weekend at the Edinburgh Film Festival screening of Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence. Noyce himself was there, as were the lead actress and the writers of the screenplay and the original book. The film is not without flaws—the social and historical context could be fleshed out a little better, especially for the benefit of international audiences—but it has an undeniable emotional impact. Ultimately, its greatest importance is as testament against the lie that white Australia and its current government have no need to apologise for the wrongs done to the Stolen Generation.

Here's an idea. Let's take any member of federal Parliament who refuses to apologise on behalf of white Australia to aboriginal Australia—let's call him 'John H.'—and fly him to Edinburgh to watch Rabbit-Proof Fence among an audience of intelligent fair-minded Scots. Then let's see if he can make it all the way to the end without feeling a deep sense of shame on behalf of his country and its majority culture, and an overwhelming desire not to say a word until he's well away from the cinema in case anyone hears his Australian accent. Hey, it worked for me.

(Coincidentally, a thread on MetaFilter prompted a few more words along related lines today.)


Tilting at Windmills

[ 8 Aug 02] Took a break from live comedy last night to go and see Lost in La Mancha, the 'un-making of' documentary about Terry Gilliam's version of Don Quixote. One of the best docos about the film-making process I've seen, by turns comic, tragic, and almost unbearable to watch. By the end you're hoping against hope that Gilliam will one day be able to bring those costumes and props out of storage, wrest the script from the insurance company, and try again—even though it could all be just as difficult next time. It's only a movie? Sure, but it's also a missed opportunity to see one of the most personal works by a director who has already given us some incredible personal visions and has ideas enough for many more.

Interesting, too, to see how similar multi-million-dollar film-making is to multi-dollar short-film-making, once you leave aside the CGI. I've only spent a single day on a film shoot, holding a fuzzy-ended stick just out of shot; it was guerilla film-making on the cheap, but recognisably the same process.

Apart from the flash flood that swept away all of Gilliam's equipment on day two of his shoot.



[17 May 02] Long weekend. Trip away. Cancelled because of air traffic control problems in Luton. The perils of flying BananaJet.

'Salright. We got our money back, and saved on hotels, and were feeling a bit weekended out anyway. It leaves a more respectable gap before the next one, to give us time to get properly excited.

Went and saw Attack of the Clones instead. I know: Phantom Menace sucked; you have a bad feeling about this; begun this Hype War has. I won't add to the critical mass, except for the briefest of notes (and if you think these need a spoiler alert, you really have too much invested in this movie):

But it's fine. The dialogue stinks, but hey, it's a Star Wars movie. How quickly those who bag the whiny Anakin have forgotten the whiny Luke. And honestly, does anyone really believe the romantic scenes in Empire any more than the ones in Clones?


[15 May 02] About a Boy is a surprisingly effective translation of book to screen, even though it diverges substantially from its source in the final act. The book, not Hornby's strongest, has been pared down to essentials and improved in the process: the one-liners have more snap; key moments benefit from being underlined by the visuals, actors and soundtrack; and a minor tale of pre-adolescent and eternal adolescent both facing up to adult responsibilities becomes—well, a minor film about same, but certainly enjoyable enough.

It's good to see Hugh Grant shrug off the last vestiges of his roller-coaster charm and portray a less sympathetic character; and good to see Toni Collette keeping her Aussie accent and capturing the barmy hippy spirit so well. It all holds out promise for the inevitable film of How to Be Good.


Two Tales of Madness

[17 Mar 02] Saw a couple of movies last week. First up, The Royal Tenenbaums: a film the word 'amusing' was made for, because it's rarely laugh-out-loud funny. A strong cast assume the mantle of weirdness and drift through a fairly slight storyline; not much happens, but it's fun to inhabit their fractured world for a while.

The role of Royal, prodigal patriarch of the Tenenbaum clan, was written for Gene Hackman, and it shows: he's obviously having a lot of fun with it. It reminded me of something my own patriarch said years ago: that he'd never seen Gene Hackman turn in a bad performance. And it's true; the man is as close to a seal of approval as any movie is likely to get.

Ben Stiller, who's developing quite the seal-of-approval reputation himself, has a smaller role here than screen siblings Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson, who both turn in beautiful performances. But the one who steals the show for me is Owen Wilson (perhaps because he also co-wrote the script), in a parallel-universe version of his Hansel character from Zoolander. The sight of a doped-up Wilson sprawled under two paintings of insane shirtless bikers in voodoo masks was certainly the funniest I'd seen for a while.

Second on the list was the story of schizophrenic genius John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, a celluloid combine harvester designed to reap fields of small golden statuettes of men with swords. Every element of a Best Picture is there: the struggle against adversity, the picturesque settings and momentous historical backdrop, actorly acting from a previous Best Actor winner, the personal rise and fall and rise again, the uplifting finale. So much so that you can't help feeling manipulated.

Its middle act is undoubtedly compelling: diseases of the mind always are, and 1950s treatments for them were pretty gut-wrenching. At this point, when Nash's reality is dissolving around him, the movie captures something of the phildickian worldview, which is no small feat.

It's the last few scenes, with forty years of what one assumes was a slow and painful struggle against personal demons compressed into a few minutes, that left me dissatisfied. How did Nash get from there—the rockiest of rock-bottoms—to here—the 1994 Nobel awards ceremony? Director Ron Howard doesn't really show us; Nash just 'gets better', or better enough to function in the cloistered world of an ivy league campus, and somehow the Nobel makes everything all right.

This movie about delusion is, in many ways, a delusional fantasy of academic life itself. Socially dysfunctional genius attends Princeton, skips lectures, wanders around in deep thought, glimpses deep inner structure of universe, hands in no work until his last paradigm-shattering paper, lands important government job influencing the fate of the nation, meets beautiful girl, almost loses everything but hangs in there, becomes campus eccentric at alma mater, wanders around in deep thought and again does no work, ages rapidly, scores free pens and Nobel prize. Ninety nine percent of academics have nothing like that life, but most would identify with some of it; everyone fancies him- or herself as a misunderstood genius.

I didn't dislike A Beautiful Mind, but disliked feeling that I was being made to like it; and, worse, knowing that this ultimately routine bio-flick is odds-on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, because the Academy will never bring itself to honour a towering achievement in an admittedly geeky genre, or even a beautifully bizarre deconstruction of Hollywood itself.

I know it shouldn't matter, but somehow it does, year after year; just as world-record holders don't always take home the Olympic gold, the Oscars all too often go to the wrong directors, the wrong actors, the wrong movies. The difficult movies, the movies that wander around from screen to small screen meeting general box office derision, the movies that glimpse the deep inner structure of the universe, don't end up on stage at awards ceremonies.


The End of the World As We Know It

[19 Feb 02] One kid's mission to watch every post-apocalyptic movie ever made. Conveniently, he sorts them by cause of the apocalypse: cyborgs; plague; zombies; nukes; and 'misc'. (The sixth link on the page—'working'—turns out not to be one of the causes of the apocalypse, at least in Hollywood.) Reviews aside, I particularly liked this plaintive comment:

You have to realize how badly damaged my brain is here. This is really a monumental effort for one burnt-out kid. I would try and do it faster, but it seems like if I watch more than 3 of these a week I am racked with wicked nightmares.


Tea at Four. Dinner at Eight. Monster at Midnight.

[18 Feb 02] In Robert Altman's latest, Monsters Park, a star-studded cast pushes a clever script to the limit in a breathtakingly-animated 'upstair downstairs' murder mystery. John Goodman is perfect as Sulley, the monster with a heart, who's mistakenly exiled to an English stately home with only one change of clothes, while Billy Crystal is entertaining as his one-eyed Hollywood producer sidekick. Bravura touches from Richard E. Grant as a fiendish butler, Steve Buscemi as a fiendish purple lizard, and whoever wrote that beautiful scene where the Abominable Snowman meets bumbling inspector Stephen Fry, are all worthy of mention. But the heart of the film is undoubtedly the understated performance of Kelly Macdonald (Diane from Trainstory) as the Scottish lady-in-waiting, Boo. Visual spectacle aside, Monsters Park proves once again that special effects and lavish sets are nothing without a good cast and script.


[21 Jan 02] Speaking of Lord of the Rings: LOTR as PhD Allegory; LOTR in Two Hours; and (less flippantly) Reasons for Liking Tolkien.

And I'm surprised that nobody else has noticed this disturbing similarity:

The Eye    Not the Eye


One Ring to Spellbind Them All

[21 Jan 02] While I'm on the subject of film I should mention something about The Fellowship of the Ring, which I saw on New Year's Day with a few friends.

I watch a lot of movies, and it isn't often that something goes so far beyond my expectations, so far outside my experience of big budget action flicks. I think this as much as anything explains the rapture with which Fellowship has been received: those of us who read the book at an impressionable age somewhere in our teens, who've lived with it tucked snugly in our memories for half our lives, and who have been watching one-note popcorn movies of no particular substance for just as long, went into this with one fervent hope and fear looping through our minds: please don't fuck it up.

For Peter Jackson to dispel that fear, and to do so not just adequately but gloriously, is without doubt one of the miracles of modern cinema. For Fellowship is glorious, no doubt about it, and if Jackson can create an unbearably tense and gripping movie out of the waffling first volume of Lord of the Rings, imagine what he'll do with the later volumes where Tolkien cranked up the pace.

One review in particular captured the experience of watching Fellowship perfectly for me. Since it's buried in a bulletin board without a permalink, I'll quote it in full:

I have nothing useful to say, for good or ill, because this film did to me something that no other film has ever done: it short-circuited my critical faculties.

I read the books just once, years and years ago, and remember only bits and pieces—but the moment the screen lit up, my eyes filled with tears at how fucking right it all was; and for three hours straight I wept and gaped, feeling all the while like my heart was going to burst out of my chest.

I was absolutely demolished, emotionally wrung dry, incapable of coherent speech for a half-hour or so afterwards. Three hours was much too short. I wanted more more more right now now now, goddammit.

SO it was pretty good, I guess.

[Jack Fear, 24 December 2001, at Barbelith Underground.]


Hollywood Dreams

[21 Jan 02] Saw David Lynch's Mulholland Drive on the weekend, and felt the urge to snort derisively at every critic who has called it confusing, baffling, incoherent, unbearable—and that includes many who liked it. Good grief, haven't these people heard of flashbacks? Dream sequences? Metaphors? Wishful thinking? Intertwined parallel storylines? Must every movie plod from A to B to C, and in that order? Where did they earn their critical stripes, at an Adam Sandler retrospective?

It was great, of course, and the 'confusing' last third of the film was deeply satisfying—far more than some linear extrapolation of the first two-thirds would have been. Lynch has made a movie that captures the stark contrast between Hollywood dreams and bitter reality better than any in a long time. All that, and it has one of the best incompetent hitman scenes and jilted husband scenes in recent memory. Calling it 'weird' is fair enough—with amnesiacs, mysterious blue boxes, ominous cowboys, miniature senior citizens and, ahem, masturbating lesbians, it's definitely that—but calling it 'meaningless', 'moronic' or 'impossible to understand' says more about the critic than about Lynch and this fine work.


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