Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Sympathy for the Orcs
There was a ten year period when the best American movies made were films about Vietnam. Coming Home. The Deer Hunter. Apocalypse Now. Platoon. Full Metal Jacket.
But then I read a review, or it could have been an interview, where someone said "We'll never come to terms with that war until we make a movie where the heroes are Vietnamese."
I say this as prelude to a rant against violence. Not destruction, or the pyrotechnics of filmic chaos, or even the brutality of movie warfare, but narrative violence, violence that knocks against the heart.
Violence that's a cruelty of story. Any tale that needs to make of one people, or tribe, or race- the Japs, the Vietnamese, the Arabs, the Zombies, the Orcs - needs to make them into a horde wherein any one of them can die without question, without reference, without pause.
I find this filmmaking insufferable. A visual soullessness.
And we feed from this trough of trash, this new fascist bucket, at a steady clip.
Unbroken, Black Hawk Down, The Walking Dead, WW Z, 28 Days After.
And....go ahead and laugh....each and every one of the Hobbit films.
They're the end of the Epic. They're the nerd versions of Schwarzengger flicks- money on screen, character in the toilet. But oh how cute!
Fake films made about fake literature where no one of any consequence to the narrative ever dies, no one has sex, and English gets tortured into ye olde modes of courtly speech. Nabokov's "poshlost" come to a theater near you.
Shoot me. Just fucking shoot me. Or stab me with your plus ten paladin dagger.
The Hobbit films are the worst things made since the last season of Leave it to Beaver when Fred McMurray hated everyone so much he demanded to be on set alone and spoke his lines to balloons with faces drawn on them. The Hobbit films make the Femme Nikita sequels look good. I'd rather watch Clash of the Titans. (The stop motion one from the 80s.) I'd watch all 7 Fast n Furious flicks before I ever try to sit through the Desolation of (anyone who tries to watch) Smaug.
The Hobbit films slay narrative. They drown its demands - the demands for opposition, for a contrary, for context, and most crucially, for loss.
All saga is tragedy. All journeys have a price. Faye Dunaway's gotta die in Chinatown. Chow Yun-Fat kills em all and gets the girl in Crouching Tiger...but only for a second. Jesus Christ, John Wayne dies in The Green Fucking Facist Berets! Laugh out loud bad Will Smith even has a second in "I am Legend" where he realizes the boss zombie's mad at him because his attempts to "cure" the undead look like torture to the boss.
The only part of Desolation Smaug Electric Boogaloo I actually registered? That penetrated the Wonka color scheme and reached my ear? Orlando Elf has captured an Orc and his even Blonder Boss wants to interrogate the creature. Mid way thru the basso profoundo Gauntanomo sequence the camera gives the Orc a close up and you see him shift his eyes. These amazing pin like lion yellow eyes. He doubts, he pauses, and all I could think was, "My God, real drama. An actual moment." This Orc must have had an Orc mom, and ran around like Orc kids do, and kinda felt something for Geenie the Orc girl and maybe he's asking himself right now if this ravaging and killing lifestyle is worth it, and maybe some kind of dialogue between these massive opposites is about to occ- and then Platinum Greg Allman chops his head off and makes a joke. And as the Orc twitches and bleeds out in a wide shoot, all of us could care less. Gotta get on with "the Story". Don't slow down the plot!!
I could watch cars go by on the 405 in Mid Wilshire and feel more emotion for a random Hyundai than I did for Team Bilbo.
"But it's just a fairy tale!"
Yeah and that magazine in France just drew cartoons.
I can't watch it anymore, these mindless mowings down of the troops of "evil". Orcs tossed about like wheat stalks, like garbage thrown into a river, it's film history told by the Bush family, by the Pentagon. It's empty of meaning, of effort, of cost, of impact.
And it's made for kids? Making slaughter cute, like a dance or video game? It's the tail of the shit. The black poisoned end. What emptiness draws up these millions and millions of dollars, spent to avoid emotion, to avoid question, to avoid empathy.
We need to give a shit about Orcs. We need it.
Empathy for the devil.
Beowulf has it. Gilgamesh has it 3000 years before!! Shakespeare has it in spades. And well basically any film made before the Reagan Administration has it. They remind us- Heroism has a cost. No story can ignore its contrary.
When it does what you're making is a template for a video game. You're designing marketing platforms, product to be sold to kids for whom re-spawning is a daily event.
War and Peace. A modern epic. An industrial age attempt to wrestle with The Odyssey or The Iliad. And its most moving passage? Four pages among 1200. When the Russian officer Andrew Bolkonsky runs before a French assault and as it bears down upon him he asks frantically, continually "Who could this person be who wants to kill me? He's equally as lovely, as human, as simple, he must see in me the same, HOW could he want to kill me?"
There's nothing else in War worth knowing.
All else is simply the horror we feel as we fight with that realization, the impulse that all of us share. "He must be as human.."
Abandon this and you make propaganda. You make a kind of crime. Re-birth of A Nation.
Film is art it's not news. Yes some guy beheads five tourists for jihad take him out and kill him, that's "the world". But if you're going to make a movie about some guy who beheads five tourists show me how and show me some attempt at WHY.
You can't make a war movie unless your enemy has a reason, a calling, a hope, a family.
You can't tell a fairy tell unless your wolf needs to eat.
You end up singing to Himmler if all your elves and dwarves and hobbits can do is endlessly slay things that don't even have a name.
Nothing's without a soul.