I've been trying to pony up with a report and review of Brick weekend, but at this point, I've abandoned the notion of a review. Obviously, I love the holy hell out of this film and my friends, so there's no way I'll be producing anything that purports to be an objective look, and anyway, I don't believe in objectivity. This post is more of an appreciation, than I review, I'd say.
I've been reading the proper reviews, of course, and they always mention that Brick is a film noir, set in high school, referencing films like The Maltese Falcon. It's true that Brick owes a debt to those films, sharing a common source in the novels of Dashiell Hammett, but frankly, the thing I love most about Brick is not the ways in which it's true to those sources, but the way it diverges from them; Brick isn't a nostalgic re-imagination of that genre, as much as it's a film that uses that familiar language to tell us a story that's much fresher than that, and revealed by its relationship to those archetypes.
The lynchpin line in The Maltese Falcon (brilliant, FYI) is when Bogart's Sam Spade tells the Femme Fatale that "when a man's partner gets killed, he's supposed to do something about it." Despite (or because of) the fact that Spade doesn't like or respect his partner - he's been sleeping with his partner's wife, and doesn't like her, either - it's his detached willingness to submit to that directive that is the source of his hard-bitten heroism: Spade is tough, competent, aggressive, and he'll do the right thing in the end. So, when he sends that scheming Brigid O'Shaughnessy down the river because maybe "every part of him doesn't want to," Spade's emotion is as terse as Hammett's brilliant dialogue. He's 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 he has to sacrifice his own heart.
Brick's Brendan Frye couldn't be more differently motivated, and even though nothing outside of the dictates of his own heart demand that he put himself on the line for his murdered ex-girlfriend, he pursues his self-appointed task with single-minded intensity not for money or honor, but because there's something in him that he can't let go: his love. Brendan, like Spade, is resourceful, observant, willing to suffer, and emotionally detached when he has to be; but he's also a high school kid, and the girl he loves has been killed.
When I first read the script, my favorite part was when Brendan, worn out by sickness, grief, several beatings, and the whole pressure-cooker situation, breaks down and cries in the arms of the wrong woman. I liked it because it showed us his heart in a way that isn't heroic, and he's not a 40 year old hardboiled detective; he's a young man with a broken heart.
I feel like I've got to write a goddamned thesis to justifiably arrive at this next bit, but who has time for that? I'm just going to tell you that the big question for me, back in my days of soaking in ye old feminist theory classes in college was, now that we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater on a whole range of masculine ways of engaging the universe, what becomes of those legitimate powers? Because, the world needs them, and like matter, I believe they cannot be created or destroyed. It always seemed to me that an authentic answer had to be spontaneously arising, so Robert Bly's whole barbaric yawp thing aside, I'd say you can find some examples of an answer to that question, for instance, in the oeuvre of Trent Reznor, and you can find another in Brick.
I know all y'all haven't had the pleasure of seeing Brick, but for those who have, here's what I loved: Brendan's expression of consternation when Emily rejects his protection, and the way his clear, bespectacled face in the flashback gives way to the bruised look of grim determination he wears on his way to hide her body.
I love the way the other characters present a laundry list of failures to ante up: The Pin, holed up in his mom's basement, wishing he could just disappear into the Hobbit books; Tugger, with his muscle car, so inarticulately bound up in anger and violence that all he can do is sputter and fight; and poor Dode, whose heart is in the right place, but he spends all his time smoking pot behind a dumpster - a loser who just doesn't have what it takes. Even Brendan has his moment of failure, when his desire to protect Emily drives her away.
I love Brendan's tough competence, his brain, and his ability to play his cards; but more than that, I love his consternation. I love the stark quaver in his face when he stands up to Tugger's Mustang, the way impotent sadness shapes his posture when Emily tells him to leave her alone and let her go, and I love that he doesn't grieve in stoic half-measures. In the end, for me, it's Brendan's heart that makes his toughness and sacrifice feel heroic.
I've got about 10 more pages of blather in me on this topic, but I'll spare you all. For any of you that saw it, what were your favorite things?
In the photo above, Mr. Johnso applauds his cast of total superstars after what I can only describe as a totally triumphant debut screening of Brick. A full report will follow at a time when I've had less to drink, and it isn't 2:00AM, but I will tell you this: in addition to seeing the best film EVER, we left a party just as Paris Hilton was arriving, and I saw Daniel Day Lewis and Pippin today. Plus, it's WINTER here in Park City!
Tomorrow I'll be piling into a minivan (I offered my car, but they wouldn't bite...) with Mr. RCJohnso and crew to whet the old whistle in Las Vegas before heading on up to Park City, Utah, and the Sundance Film Festival. There, I will kick it with so many of the scrumptious Johnsons that I may lose my rag from happiness, and witness the long-awaited, first-ever public projection of a little film called Brick. Seriously, nothing could be more awesome. I've never been to Utah!
Full reports will follow, and you better believe that if I run into Mr. Grody, and he's wearing a trucker hat, I am going give that biz-natch a piece of my mind.
Well, I got rid of my car. I am SO HAPPY that I will never see that bitch EVER AGAIN. However, since I still live in Los Angeles, and will do for awhile yet, I've been forced to trade it in for another vehicle, and I want you all to know that I DID NOT TRADE UP. For the final 6 months of my glorious tenure in the City of Angels, I will be driving this supremely grody Nissan POS:
This glamorous vehicle is a 1993 Nissan Sentra. Can you believe it had to be red, of all colors? I hate red cars.
In this picture, the trunk is open because the inside of it is all wet, for some reason (I shudder to think WHAT reason) as is the floor in the backseat of the car, and it SMELLS TOTALLY GROSS; especially when combined with the smell of the gallons and gallons of Armour All they used to shine up the dashboard and every other interior surface. I'm not kidding you when I say that it's a pretty frightful odor. I've got to air that shit out.
I'm especially proud of this part. This is the lame plastic steering wheel cover I had to get, to cover up the revolting, Armour All-coated steering wheel, because it was totally sticky. I figured, as long as I'm going to pimp my ride with a plastic steering wheel cover, I might as well go with red. I also got some beautiful rubbery floor mats, and some super elegant polyester velour seat covers. Dudes, my ride is PIMPED. All I need now are some spinners, a sub-woofer, and an X-Box system, and I bet Adrien would always say "You know what, babe? Let's take your car."
Here's a close up of my totally cherry paint job. Oh yeah, baby. That is H.O.T.
And this is my self-portrait, me and the palm trees, reflected in the rear window, underneath the hood of my new rig. I'm breathing some serious fumes to bring you this picture, and I AM LOVING IT. As much as I am complaining about this car, though, it does have some distinct advantages:
The heater and defroster work. Now, when I get up in the morning to drive my monkey to school, we don't have to dress for the arctic, even though we live in Southern California. Also, I can use the defroster such that I can actually SEE out the WINDOW. Big Plus.
I may have traded in my 12 CD changer with remote control, but dudes, I am gaining a TAPE DECK. I can listen to my Czech course on tape ALL DAY LONG now, and yesterday, I scored me some Michael Penn and Linda Ronstadt. Tapes are only 99 cents! Who knew?!
The air-conditioner works. This way, when it hots up around here, as it inevitably does in LA, I will be able to roll up all the windows, trap that luscious smell in with me, and crank up the refrigeration!
When I bang the doors into the walls of my narrow driveway, I JUST DON'T CARE. There's freedom in just not caring. I like it.
Trading down like this, from my relatively nice car to this POS, made me feel like I'm really taking steps to blow this popsicle stand. Prague, I'll be there soon!
Mostly, people, IT DRIVES. There's nothing I love more about my new rig. Having a car that drives is definitely the way to go, as long as you're going that way.
Now, I know I've carried on and on to you all about how my little monkey is the cleverest and sweetest little monkey ever, but today, I bring you proof, because, for homework, he wrote this sonnet. I helped him punctuate, and use the Rhyming Dictionary, but other than that, it's the product of his own pure brain:
As I behold the sky as a great dome
It seems my feet leave the ground, I seem to fly
through billions of stars that light this earth, my home.
Then, I look down at the sea, so like a mirror of the sky,
how similar are its depths, and yet so different.
As many silver fish as there are stars in sight,
fixed in the vault of heaven, the firmament;
but the fish, their opposite, as fast as little rays of light.
Now I seem to float to earth again
and come to land soft upon a grassy hill,
The night slips away, as the day's power gains, and
Night seeps from the sky, when the sun asserts his will.
With the sun and stars my dreaming goes
And with the sun, new life into me flows.
Right, people? Pretty freaking awesome. Needless to say, I am quite proud, really.
I saw one this weekend: a film so filthy and so utterly crap that I actually left the theater wanting to offer up the single-fingered salute to the credits. That film, my friends, is Mike Nichols' Closer. I can't say I wasn't warned, because I had heard that it was dreadful, and that I should definitely skip it; but somehow, that egged me on. I had to know. Also, it has been raining so hard that it may be time to actually build an ark, and I had exhausted the current crop of good films playing at the theater that doesn't involve driving my evil demon of a vehicle more than 5 blocks. Plus, Jude Law.
So, the film opens as sad-sack failed novelist turned obituary writer Daniel (Law, with the wattage of his beauty turned way, way down until he reveals the pathetic wretch without fabulous hair that lurks within) falls in love at first sight with "Alice," played by Natalie Portman, in the first role that gives her ample opportunity to flaunt her naked ass. A few years later, Daniel has smartened up his wardrobe and written a novel (destined for failure) about Alice, and though they are happily shacked-up, he develops a ridiculous obsession with Anna, the woman who photographs him for his book sleeve. Why? Well, she is played by Julia Roberts, and every film with Julia Roberts involves someone in love with her for precious little else. While obsessing over Anna, Daniel strikes up a raunchy internet sex chat with Larry, a dematologist played by King Arthur, er, Clive Owen, who is lumpish, crude and apparently desperate enough to wank in some dark little corner of the hospital to predictably stupid descriptions of sexual degradation written by a man pretending to be a misogynistic woman. Daniel (posing as Anna) sets Larry up to meet at the aquarium, where he knows Anna will be because he's been stalking her. Although Larry arrives and immediately starts in with the raunch with complete stranger Anna, she takes up with him, even though he is clearly a revolting person. Then, they all proceed to fuck around with one another, working out every permutation except the gay ones, to demonstrate that romantic relationships are based on lies, illusions, deception, and self-deception, as the film treats us to several torturously expository interactions underneath which the words "author's message" should be flashing. Then, in the last scene, it is revealed that Alice's real name is Jane.
SO WHAT?! Bottomline: WORST FILM OF THE YEAR. It made me feel like I needed a scrub, like after being exposed to radioactive waste. It was a hateful, filthy film. I'm going to have to start listening to Mr. Johnso, or something.
On the other hand, I also saw Kinsey, which I liked quite a bit. I'm not sure how accurate a film it is about the real Dr. Kinsey, but I liked the way the film seems to think about how a quantitative approach to human sexuality can't quite get the whole picture in focus, without actually coming to a conclusion, or purporting to tell us something "true" about human relationships and love that is, in actual fact, TOTAL BULLSHIT.