Friday, September 24, 2010

Film Review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Yes!  Thank God Terry Gilliam is back to making a Terry Gilliam movie!  After making the un-Gilliam like Brothers Grimm and the interesting but flawed Tideland, Gilliam has finally decided to take a page from his old hand book and make a movie that is in the same vein as Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchasen.  Although not as good as the former two, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is still an interesting film that deserves to be considered along with Gilliam's other great films.

Co-written with Charles McKewon (Gilliam's co-writer from his classic Brazil) Imaginarium tells the story of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) who in exchange for his magical powers promised the Devil (a wonderfully over-the-top Tom Waits) his daughter at the age of 16.  Although the deadline is fast approaching, Parnassus strikes a deal with the Devil: if Parnassus is the first to get five souls, then he may keep his daugther, if not then the Devil wins her.  Enter into this set up is Tony (Heath Ledger in his final role) a mysterious stranger who decides to help Parnassus, although his motives may not be clear.

Along with breathtaking visuals which audiences have come to expect from a Terry Gilliam film, the film can also be interpreted as a metaphor of film making: Parnassus is Gilliam himself, a man in charge of creating dreams; the Devil represents Hollywood, who is trying to bring Parnassus under his control; Tony represents the critic or supporter who is trying to get Parnassus to not back down. 

Although this metaphor is just an interpretation, this interpretation is even more likely considering the obstacles Gilliam has faced time and time again in his career (such as the studio handling of Brazil and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; and the extreme box office failure of Baron Munchasen.)  Through this interpretation it could also be seen that this is Gilliam's artistic testament, one where an artist must always put his feelings and emotions into his work instead of conforming to the ways of the public.

Most of you however will probably see this movie due to the fact that it is Heath Ledger's final role, and although Ledger does a fine job in his part, I implore you as a viewer to look at the big picture of the film: what does the film say about art, creation and emotion?  In the words of Parnassus: the path is not easy, but if you persevere, you will succeed! 

Final Rating:  * * * 1/2 out of * * * *

Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- The Good Son (1990)

Cave loves the Children!

Released on the heels of Cave's most rocking album to date Tender Prey, The Good Son was maligned upon its release by Cave fans for its emphasis upon ballads and love songs instead of focusing on other Cave topics such as death and Old Testament rapture.  Although this description of The Good Son is true, it should not be served as a distraction, but instead should be served as a welcoming point for a new direction in Cave's career.

Instead of overpowering the narratives of his songs with bombastic music, which no doubt worked to effect on his earlier work, Cave decides to be much more minimalistic on the music.  However, this minimalist approach does not distract from the lush orchestrations or the power Cave's  lyrics, which is on full display.

Cave directs his lyrics to be focused on heartbreak and love, and although this combination can be damning to some songwriters who have spent the majority of their career having a hard rock mentality, Cave is able to handle his lyrical subject with great emotion.  Take for example The Ship Song, a love song that is seemingly simplistic.  Although the song can be taken as a love song, the song is also about letting go with the person you love and letting them discover themselves in the world, even if that means not being by their side.

Another great highlight of the album is the duet between Cave and Blixa Bargeld on The Weeping Song, which tells the story of a son's betrayal to his father.  Cave's tenor and Bargeld's bass help elevate the song from a simple duet to a haunting melody about sadness, betrayal and even possibly murder. 

Finally, The Good Son should not be seen as some aboriginal album on Cave's discography, but instead should be seen as evidence that Cave is just as comfortable writing love songs and ballads.  Personally, this album is my favorite Cave album, and is a perfect starting point for any person seeking to get into the work of Cave and his music.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Proposition: An Appreciation in Bad Ass Film!

Bad Ass film, on an epic scale!
 In 2005, The Proposition an Australian film directed by John Hillcoat with a script written by Nick Cave (him of the Bad Seeds) was released into theaters.  Although the film did not become a big box office smash in the US, the film has found a steady cult following on home video and is widely considered to be one of the best neo-westerns released in the 21st century.  In my personal opinion, The Proposition is not only a great western, but also a completely bad ass film that provides some much needed bad ass filmmaking that cinema today seems vitally lacking.

First, lets look at the fact that Nick Cave of the mother fucking Bad Seeds wrote the screenplay.  That's right, the man who is responsible for writing some of the most tender songs ever written (think of The Ship Song, Into My Arms and Straight to You) while never losing touch of his complete ability to rock (think The Mercy Seat, The Carney, Red Right Hand) wrote the screenplay.   This comes as no surprise if you are familiar with Cave's music because the plot feels like a Nick Cave song.

The story goes as follows: Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is an outlaw in the Australian Outback circa late 1800s.  After he and his younger brother Mikey are captured by the law, he is given a "Proposition" by law enforcer Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone): In order for Mikey to not be executed, Charlie has to find his psychotic older brother Arthur, (Danny Huston) who has murdered a local family, and kill him.  While Charlie goes off in search of his brother, Stanley is presented with all sorts of challenges in order to civilize the Outback, which is not only limited to rounding up murderous outlaws, but also includes aboriginal rebellions, a meddealing Governor, and a displanted wife from England (Emily Watson).

This theme of attempting to civilize a land is very prominent.  As the film goes on, Stanley begins to wonder whether or not he can keep order in a land that is rooted in chaos.  This predicament gradually takes its toll on Stanley to the point where he is constantly suffering migraines and feels completely fatigued.  Winstone displays this anguish perfectly as he alternates between acquiescing to the forces of the Outback and attempting to create a piece of civilization in an uncivilized part of the world (notice the fact that the Stanley's home looks as though they are trying to recreate an English garden.)

Another prominent theme of the film is choice.  What choice would you make if when you were in Charlie's shoes?  Would you attempt to kill your older brother to save your younger brother's life, or would you let your older brother live because you love him.  Unfortunately for Charlie, he has to make that choice, whether he wants to make it or not. 

In closing, The Proposition is a great film that exemplifies the themes of civilizing an uncivilized land, brotherly bonds, and the ties that bind.  Although the film may appear to be old fashioned, it is the old fashioned-ness that helps make The Proposition a new classic of the new millennium (plus let's just face it, any movie that Nick Cave is involved in is bound to be at least a seven on the bad ass scale.)

What the Blog is About

Hello Interweb,

In case you haven't figured it out yet, this blog is about the world of movies, music and books.  So basically I will be taking about these three things in the form reviews, essays and appreciations.  I will probably tend to focus a bit more on the movies and music side of things, but I also will talk about such things as restaurants and sports from time to time.  So in a nutshell, onto the blogging!