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Posts tagged ‘three’

Media Log: 02.19.2012 – PARADISE LOST 3, THE GREY

West Memphis 3, Paradise Lost 3

(cinema) Paradise Lost 3, Purgatory (d. Joel Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 2011) It’s been 16 years and two sequels since I saw the first Paradise Lost documentary at the Film Forum in New York City. I’m glad the wrongfully accused are set free but I still feel the truth rots a in dark, incarcerated place. I remember that the first documentary, a compelling story of wrong compounded by wrong, was also a frustratingly unthorough piece of journalism. The synopsis is that in 1993 three eight year old boys were murdered and thrown in a ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas. Three teenage boys, to be nicknamed the West Memphis 3, were convicted of the murders under highly questionable investigatory and judicial procedures. The first film fell well short for me in providing a sufficient account of the prosecution’s so called case. A year after seeing the first PL the friend I went to see it with called me up and said, “I heard those documentary guys made it all up to make the teenagers look good. When you hear the whole story they are totally guilty.” Really? What’s your source? None, really. Is there a whole story?  I have always been convinced that the teenagers were railroaded. But after years of sequels, cult-like public outrage, websites, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp I still have no idea what happened back in 1993. If the WM3 were not murdering cub scouts that night in 1993, where were they? None of these films have ever discussed an alibi. If a documentary is presenting itself as the balanced account of its subject matter and one side of the argument is being left out, there must be a reason. I can’t speculate the reason because facts in this case have always been overshadowed by emotions, self-righteousness on behalf of the WM3 supporters, stubborn obfuscation by law enforcement, and repeated attempts by the filmmakers to offer alternative accusations that frankly are as shoddy and irresponsible as the lousy case against the teenagers. There is another feature documentary ,West Of Memphis, in circulation as well as many tv magazine pieces which may provide more information. I’d like to know if there is more to know about what happened the night those young boys were murdered, and I’d like to know more about what the police actually had on the WM3. In Purgatory the defense has gone to all the trouble of pulling together world renown criminal profilers and DNA experts. Yet the new documentary doesn’t reveal one thing we didn’t already know. These films succeeded in calling attention to injustice perpetrated on the accused and the fact that the real killer will never be brought to justice. The Arkansas court system created an outcome in which the case will never be reopened. The whole story is fascinating and sad, but these movies aren’t very good either. ๏ ๏ outof ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… The Grey(d. Joe Carnahan, 2012) An airplane transporting ruffian oil workers

The Grey. Your enemy or your conscience?

crashes in barren Alaska. The men must try to survive arctic conditions, interpersonal conflicts, and attacks by an aggressive pack of wolves. The wolves are of course metaphor for the organizational behavior of a pack of men on the brink as well as the haunting pasts that brought each man to this frozen Purgatory. The challenge includes lots of tense survival action and man-chewing wolves, but what keeps the film interesting are the metaphysical elements, both in the blurry camerawork and the cryptic storytelling. Is this situation real or are we in the self-exiled imagination of the central character? Not brilliant but  an experience, however harrowing. ๏ ๏ ๏ out of ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… (theatre) West Side Story (RISE theater company at Stadium Performing Arts Center, Woonsocket, RI) I go to a lot of community theater and you might think I am fortunate to live in a place where there are many local companies. One has to approach community theatre with prejudice of lowered expectations. Some of the worst crap in the world gets to Broadway with multi-million dollar underwriting. Under what circumstances can one expect no-budget theatre to be any better? Surprisingly often the risk does pay off in community. I see performers all the time who have dedicated their lives to craft and not to making it big. But “big” took on new meaning for me in seeing this production of WSS when the curtain went up on a cast of teenagers who were mostly all overweight. I’m not kidding. I don’t know anything about casting a play in suburban area where your company may also be completing with a lot of other companies, but surely someone had to realize the absurdity. WSS is as much a dancing show as it is musical as no one wants to see roly-poly people rolling around on the stage floor. I will say that the lead vocals were excellent. But the show itself seemed out of the director’s grasp. The pacing was awkward, the actors were bad, and the choreography was an embarrassment waiting for wincing audience. Whoever you are RISE, you need to set your ambitions lower for now and find material that is appropriate for your acting pool.

Fish, Fish, I Got My Subconscious Wish

Piranha 3D (2010, d. Alexandre Aja)

And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. -Genesis 19:28

Spring break at Lake Victoria is a retreat for young people who worship water, sun, and public self-indulgence. But nature has pronounced judgment on this debauchery; a plague of thousands of man eating fish; piranha with teeth like jackals.  Survival or death is gauged largely by one’s moral rectitude.  Jake is a good, local kid who serves as a surrogate parent for his little brother and sister while his mother, the town sheriff, is out busting bad-boys.  Jake isn’t as muscular or cocky as the big knuckleheads who party all day at the beach.  When Jake naively gets hired away from babysitting to chaperone a pornographic film crew on a boat cruise, he doesn’t know that the piranha are coming for he and the girl he likes, and for his family too.  Confronted with temptations of money, drugs, and underwater lesbians, Jake is spared the grizzly, ichthyologic death of his peers by choosing family over fantasy.

This is a seeming twist on a popular theory in horror film criticism, that of the “last surviving girl” as proposed by Carol

"Men Women and Chainsaws"

Clover in her book “Men Women and Chainsaws.”  Through most of Piranha, Jake is the unguided but innocent victim of monsters.  The monsters aren’t just the prehistoric, blood-thirsty fish.  Jake is victim of the macho beach bullies, the sleazy porn producer, his masculinized and absent mother (way out of her acceptable feminine role), and his adolescent sexual impulses.  But by denying these impulses, he survives to become the hero who reconstructs his family and kills all the evil fish.

The use of a male character as victim-hero is only a seeming innovation on the form. The preponderance of female nudity, male prowess, excessive gore, and history of the genre would still indicate a typical young male target audience.  But Jake isn’t like other boys at first.  He is initially effeminate, virginal, a baby-sitter.  In terms of male identification, Jake becomes a hero over this emasculation.  As the collective fantasy of a fully bacchanalian paradise at the beach is literally eaten to pieces in a horrific lake of blood, the audience has Jake, to teach male virtue, to overcome his Freudian father beating (the fish), and survive for an inevitable sequel.  Piranha plays like a Biblical size catastrophe.  The angels save Lot from the doom of the sinful citizens of Sodom.

Personally I don’t care for these kinds of movies so I have a slight objectivity problem.   To me they are just pointless, sadistic voyeurism from a safe vantage.  Despite all the nudity and sex the whole genre is repressed, sexually retarded, and culturally conservative in its stereotypes, conscious and unconscious.  Such films are little more than regurgitated mythology that allow viewers to experience forbidden desires and then displace their punishment onto morally simplistic characters.  Despite the apparent twist in gender roles, the real exercise of Piranha is to advise young males on their castration anxiety.  If you dip your penis in the bloody lake it will become bait.   It will get bitten off.  This is another Freudian complex demonstrated at one point  by a floating, three-dimensional, dismembered penis which gets eaten by the piranha.

In terms of pure filmmaking – the effects, the 3D, a pretty good cast – Piranha is the best made of this genre I can think of.  It’s definitely the grossest movie I’ve ever seen.  For blood and gore it’s the best of the worst.