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Comments

Jane

Lame-o's!

Nick C.

I'm looking forward to seeing it when it comes to my area!

Jane

Roger Ebert liked Brick!

I love film noir. Rian Johnson's "Brick" is film noir. That it takes place entirely within a population of high school students makes it no less film noir than if it starred Robert Mitchum or Richard Widmark. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the high school loner and/or self-appointed private investigator who finds the dead body of a classmate and tries to untangle the events leading to her murder. At first you think maybe the movie is a stunt, like "Bugsy Malone," the gangster movie starring pre-teens. But, no, it's a film noir to its very bones, consistent and creepy from beginning to end, and if it doesn't star Mitchum it channels him.

THUMBS UP, I guess!

david

It sounds a little pretentious, but I'll probably rent it if it comes out on video.

Jane

If I've made it sound pretentious, then that's my fault - it's in fact NOT in the slightest bit pretentious - it's just a good detective story. I think the bottom line here, is that I'M pretentious.

point taken.

rcjohnso

I agree with David. Maybe if I'm not doing something more important with my hand (like scratching my butt) I'll toss it on the end of my Netflix queue.

david

I shouldn't have used the word "pretentious." Based on your description, I'm willing to pay to see the movie. It's just that "film noir set in high school" sounds potentially a little gimmicky-in-a-bad-way. Like I say, though, I'll probably rent it if I see it in the store.

Also: You don't come off as pretentious, Jane.

Jane

Oh, I am pretentious. There's no doubt about that whatever.

david

Jane's pretentious, but it's her detached willingness to submit to that directive that is the source of her hard-bitten heroism. Jane is tough, competent, aggressive, and she'll do the right thing in the end.

Heather

I have to disagree with the pretentious quote, because having seen the movie it walks that line of a quality independent movie.

Basically there wasn't any thing that made this movie not believable. From the scenery to the emotions the characters expressed inviting the audience to step into that world for even just a moment.

I think the only time I blinked during the movie was when Brendan & The Pin were walking along the beach and The Pin talks about wanting to be caught up in the stories of Tolkien.

It definitely exaggerated the idea of a high school dark side. VERY DARK.
Heighten Reality is how I would describe it and I know Rian would agree.

It's a sophisticated contempo-noir!

david

Heather, you're the perfect specimen of a bygone era, driven by external expectations of what a man's gotta do to be a man, even if it means you have to sacrifice your own heart.

OK, I'll stop now.

Jane

Geez, David.

Heather

I think it would be interesting to see what you really think once you see the feature, David. You may even understand where I and Jane are coming from.

With everything the main character sacrifices --- physically, mentally and emotionally I think there is a point where it was just as powerful when he didn't do anything at all.

[To anyone who saw the movie: what was the quote Brendan stated to Emily's character about bringing it all down just to protect her?]
I don't know if I would want that for myself in a guy, & I don't know if I could do that either, but that is the fun in fantasy of a film/story. It has its own invisible boundaries that allow the hero or heroine risk themselves for something better.

And yet there is a twist that makes the audience wonder if Brendan would have went down the same path if he knew then what he knows now?

And that is what makes this story so intriguing, for me at least.

Zooey

Brick was so good that it made me happy for three days. The last time a movie did that to me, it was probably because I saw it with a cute girl.

It even left me with little to say because I was enjoying grinning about how much I liked it, but I will agree with Jane (who I'd imagine belongs to that peculiar field of artistic people who are quick to disclaim themselves as being pretentious so that the whole question of pretence can happily be abandoned as a moot point) that Brick is a beautifully depicted story of a determined and lonely young hero with an almost obsessively beating heart. His methodical fury, however, is released over the course of the film with such sad determination and lack of remorse, that any sense of what could have been gimmicky in the highschool surroundings dissolves into a serious (while often very funny) backdrop for the agony and bitter resolve of Brick's teenage characters.

Far from winking, the high-school setting only makes more harrowingly immediate the bleak questions of alienation, obsession, morality, and revenge that the genre originally provoked. With Brick's masterful reserve, intelligent humour, and disguised tenderness all working slowly together, it becomes impossible to ignore or write-off the brutality stretched taut beneath the surface; and when the expected violence of the noir film is present, it is with a suprising gravity that the audience (or, at least, this audience) experiences the impact.

Anyway.

Jane

Zooey, you are the coolest. I agree completely with your assessment, and should add that meeting you was easily as much of a gigantic pleasure as was seeing Brick.

As to pretentions, I tend to love all the things people say are "pretentious." I love the highly intended work of art. Break out the concept albums, contemporary art installations, works of experimental fiction and Dashiell Hammett-style stories that take place in High School. I LOVE THEM!

But, you're right. The film noir genre aspect is hardly the raison d'etre of Brick... and well, basically, everything you said in your last paragraph, you clever creature.

Zooey my dear, I am remembering your many charms with fond affection.

Brian

I found this through Brick's official web site. Thanks for the photos. I saw the premiere at Sundance and I loved it.

The dialogue is so nice -- after certain exchanges, I'd sit back to catch my breath and smile. It's definitely not going for absolute realism, but that's what makes "Brick" a fully realized world of its own. The characters are like caricatures, each distinct and focused, and it's done brilliantly. The themes and emotions are real, the story telling is unique.

My favorite bits? When Kara, the "drama vamp," scowls and says, "Meanie." That killed me. That whole scene with Kara and Brendan, visually, was so beautiful to watch. All the fight scenes were great. That Brendan just don't won't stay down. He's seeing it through to the end.

Rian Johnson is the shit. I can't wait for more from him.

Heather

As each of you, sometimes poetic articulate memorable moments you hold dear -- do you think anything may be extracted because business heads will want to reach a curtain demographic?

What rating do you think it will get?

david

I obviously know nothing, but it seems to me that sometimes compromises with the business heads make movies better by injecting weird tensions into an overly tidy story. I think they might have done that to "Friday Night Lights." (I have this opinion solely on the basis of the internal features of that particular movie, so I could be way off.) So who knows, maybe after the business heads get done with it, Brick will make you happy for *four* days.

Crazy Jane

Brian: Thanks for your comments! It's so cool that you liked it. I agree with you about that "meanie." So good!

David: Funnily enough, the guy who scripted Friday Night Lights (also called David) is a very old friend of mine, and if you knew THE HALF of how insane that process was, you'd know that you're not exactly hitting the nail on the head, there.

More often than not, and certainly in this case, the business people, when they are actually involved in MAKING the film, take a story with weird tensions, and inject it with over-tidyness. Having said that, I was actually suprised, in the end, by how good the film actually was. A big part why that was, is that they went back to an early draft of the script that was more loaded with the weird tensions of that real life source material. Have you ever read that book, Friday Night Lights? It's all about a weird tension, and it's fantastic.

Anyway, if you're translating "film noir set in high school" as "overly tidy and precious" and you're thinking that the suits might add some desperately needed "weird tensions," you're backwards. That said, Brick is pretty safe from alteration, I'd think. Rian has told me that he has final cut.

While we're on the topic, I've never felt the uncomfortable marriage of art and commerce more keenly than I did at the Sundance Film Festival, where people who made their films with practically no money, but loads of passion and vision, are greeted and courted by the machinery of turning that into cash, baby. Obviously, it's a necessary evil, because making films is expensive, and even passionate geniuses need funding, but there's a fine line to walk through that, and I can honestly say that I really understood how people can lose track while I was up there in Park City.

david

Jane,
No, I haven't read the book. You definitely seem to know more about the making of "Friday Night Lights" than I do. I'm actually pretty interested, for some reason, in how that particular movie got made, so I'd like to hear you or your friend talk more about it. But at the risk of putting my hammer down even further from the nail than before: Here's what I meant about "Friday Night Lights."

As I said on my blog (and I'm ctrl-V-ing part of this): In the first half of the movie, we are shown how destructive and cruel high school sports can be in a small town. In the second half, we are asked to root for the hometown team anyway, when the climactic Big Game occurs. The shouting and cheering and football-glorifying of the ending seemed (to me) to come out of thin air; it doesn't really make sense given the first half, which is all about what a bunch of bullshit football really is. But that incongruity was what made the movie interesting to me.

Now, I obviously don't know for sure, but after I watched the movie, I suspected that some "business head" had said something like: "Toward the end, you need a triumphant Big Game to make people cheer. You can have your depressing beginning, but I won't pay for it unless there's an adrenaline rush at the end." And that, I thought, was how the glorious big game got slapped onto the end of that movie.

This is the sort of "tension" I have in mind: the tension between satisfying the "business head's" needs and satisfying the "artist's" needs. When the indie folk are allowed to do as they please, they come up with seamlessly sour spectacles. When the business heads are allowed to do as they please, they make uniformly uproarious underachievements. But when you force those two types of people to work together, the product has a big seam showing where the crowd's desires and the artists' desires were grafted together. Movies are sometimes more interesting that way.

david

So, just to clarify: The kind of "tension" I have in mind isn't tension within characters, or between characters, or between plot-points, or whatever. The tension I have in mind is the kind you can observe in a movie which has clearly been monkeyed around with by someone other than the original author.

Jane

Well, the book is much grimmer than the movie, and it's also more of a sociological study than it is a narrative. The movie is definitely fictionalized. I know that the decision to make some characters more sympathetic than any of them are in the book was made from early in the scripting process.

Still, I think it's arguable that you NEED to be rooting for those characters, who, at the end of their HS football season, will go back to being impoverished nobodies, working at the 7-11, in a town that only has football and a bunch of dried up oil wells. The highs have to be high, so that you can understand the town's almost pathological relationship with the team.

I'd take issue with your statement that the first half of the movie is about "what a bunch of bullshit football really is." I'd say it's about how damaging that town's sick relationship with it's HS football team is. I could write a veritable BOOK on the way sport has a place in the poetry of human endeavor, and the fact that even though it's trivial, the things it can sometimes show us are certainly not trivial at all, but not now. I think the movie is about how sport can get under skins like that, especially where there's a void, and about the sad town of Odessa, TX, and I think it needs the triumph to fully tell it's story.

I'd agree that there can be interest added in the relation of art and commerce, but I'd say that it's only aesthetically interesting when it's in the artists' hands.

david

'I'd take issue with your statement that the first half of the movie is about "what a bunch of bullshit football really is."'

Fair enough -- I did sort of paper over the more careful way of putting the point you make above.

'...who, at the end of their HS football season, will go back to being impoverished nobodies, working at the 7-11...'

Yeah, except one of them went Harvard (at least in the movie version).

'I'd agree that there can be interest added in the relation of art and commerce, but I'd say that it's only aesthetically interesting when it's in the artists' hands.'

I disagree completely! To me, the thing that's so interesting about mainstream movies is precisely that the final product is never entirely in the artists' hands. If I cared about 'pure art' I'd go to the museum. I do that occasionally, but it's not exciting to me the way commercially polluted things are. But that's obviously a personal preference and I do understand why someone would not share it.

Heather

David-- wow.

quote: If I cared about 'pure art' I'd go to the museum. I do that occasionally, but it's not exciting to me the way commercially polluted things are. But that's obviously a personal preference and I do understand why someone would not share it.

I wouldn't state it like that, but yeah.

Jane

I'm not talking about "pure art," really, but for me, the intention of the artist is a big part of the aesthetic interest. If the intention behind a thing is that it make loads of cash, I think that makes it sociologically interesting, perhaps, and often highly entertaining; but for me, the most interesting movies are the ones where something aesthetically or philosophically intentional is taking place.

Friday Night Lights was a good movie, and I really enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I've enjoyed Jane Campion's films, even her most flawed effort... Which is not to say that commercial films aren't good - some are totally awesome, and personally, I'm as big a sucker for TOP GUN as the next person - but in the end, my favorites are always films where the priority was art, not commerce.

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