Monday, January 30, 2012

Movie Review: The Grey

The Grey is a standard action movie. There is a tough, older hero leader, a band of brothers, a problem, savage villains that somewhat mirror but are unlike the good guys, and a journey. It's also a great guy movie. This film smells of man. The frozen, isolated mountain setting, the battle with wolves, campfires, beards, sharp sticks, storytelling and swearing. These guys don't run from the wolves when someone is attacked, they run towards the wolves. The movie really pushes that vibe of positive brotherhood, yet it also reveals the background of how men fit into America today across generations. What do these men have to live for is steady issue, and their stories are rather illuminating on modern men. I found that far more interesting than the beautiful setting or action sequences.

Let's start with the characters and how they fit in. Ottway is the white, boomer Alpha. He is the rough, outdoorsman leader type. Tall, dark and powerful, yet with a reflective soul that seeks more. He has knowledge that the others do not due to his age & experience. He is our main protagonist. Spread throughout his pack of men, similar to the wolves, are the different types of men in America. There is the Gen X tough guy Diaz, who is portrayed as a Hispanic (named John), and is the ex-con, no woman in his life, hard working but nothing to live for back there Gen Xer. He is the Gen X nomad. He challenges Ottway in the completely set up Alpha face off and is put down in his place. The Boomer Alpha still rules. There is the Gen X white guy (Talget) portrayed by former heart throb Mulroney. He's handsome under the glasses and hat, but he also has an ex, who rarely ever agrees with him and loves his daughter. He's the Gen X divorced guy everyone knows one of who has a witch of an ex-wife. As we slide down the generations, there are the two Millenials and a black character. Burke, the black guy, has few lines, no stories, little impact and dies from the harsh conditions. We only know details of him from the sensitive Millenial or when Ottway goes through his photos. There are plenty of black writers who would say this is mirrors how society & black men intersect ***. The Millenials (actually played by Gen X actors) are the Hispanic Hernandez who has the family yet still plays his packed handheld video game, the Jolly Joker, player prole Flannery who has multiple women on the sly, and the sensitive, sharp Pete Hendrick. When Diaz does no want to go on, Hendrick implores him to keep it up with that Millenial can do optimism. Hendrick is willing to take the leap for the trees and knows the stories of the other guys. He is a family man as well. These are the men you see every single day. We see their types all around us and in our families.

What happens to them? They get picked off one by one. The wolves get to them, one the mountain takes, and in Burke, the condition of living is too much. The Gen Xer's do not have the fight nor qualities to assume leadership. One is a criminal fringe nomad, while the other is your standard American chump who got divorced and lost his kid in it. They b*tch about their lot and always want more but do not earn it. The Millenials have the man-child scenario as exemplified by the jokester player and the video game player. Their shining light is the Hendrick character who shows flashes of becoming the man Ottway is and fails to be at all times. Hendrick has faith, smarts and courage. It is for naught, as he is killed just inches from the water's surface in a sad twist of fate. Ottway is the last man standing. A man connected to the tougher past (B&W photos of his dad in uniform) raised with the rod & love. His wife, his true love, dies. See, guys? Even when you find that special woman who won't divorce you and take the kid, who actually inspires you, she can be taken like that? He calls to help angrily to God, but no answer is sent. What does he have as he faces that big bad wolf in the den? What meaning does his life have at the end? What does the American man have? Is it just to fight that big bad wolf of hardship and suffering head on? Fighting on your feet for something, when life has given you nothing, is the mark of being a man.

The idea of the fight is something Ottway learns at a young age from his father. Ottway learns the 4 lines from his father's poem; the only poem he had framed; his father's very own work. Passed on from one generation to the next. I didn't like the idea of it dying in the snow. Having read up on hero mythology & construction, I really expected either the Diaz or Hendrick character to learn from Ottway and survive even if Ottway died in a climactic battle with the alpha wolf. It seemed tailor made for "the younger aspiring hero learns from the older hero who sacrifices himself or leaves the stage for the younger hero to grow and complete the quest". Hollywood is in a bit of a pessimistic mood right now with confused good & evil plots (any war film), apocalypse or disaster movies that are not averted (Knowing, 2012), and hero deaths that are sacrifices or have no obvious payout. The final trio had me thinking one would survive because of Ottway's sacrifice. The battle he would fight at the end would allow for the other to live. It just seemed to make sense with the whole beacon emitting watch being passed from one guy to the next. Hollywood sent a bleak message with this movie. Maybe that was the intent to tap into our down, pessimistic times. "The Grey" made me think, and it is always a pleasure to see a movie that makes one think.

*** Anyone who wants to point out how our POTUS is black can ask him who was he surrounded by when he was a child? Who raised him? genetically, he is half black. In reality, he was an opportunistic, lonely & ambitious white kid culturally who had a cloak to wear and manipulate others with for his gain.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Movie Idea: Sequel to WW2 Art Treasures Film

There's a wonderful meeting at the Chateau Frontenac in Aug 1943 where the big wigs who planned D-Day are meeting. There is a scene with the big wigs who are meeting with lookalikes for the big names in a room and the doors close. Another set of doors open and men walk in to meet with a table of men (some uniformed, others in suits). Here's our introduction to the problem. The table men explain to the uniformed colonel level guy that he has to assemble a team that will get into France and set up the network of assets for the invasion of France. The Army official explains that they should choose men of French or French-Canadian backgrounds and fluent French speakers who have extensive knowledge of the language & customs. Standard spiel on the trust, risk, etc. Colonel says he might have a good asset in mind. Suited table man says the OSS can also furnish some men with intelligence backgrounds as well as the Canadians, but they will need decision makers, guys not afraid to shoot and creative thinkers.

Brief Book Review: Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

The Library of America series has an incredible book that is the memoirs of U.S. Grant. They selected it as it documents Grant's time between his studies at West Point to the Mexican-American War and ending in the Civil War. All fo it is written from the perspective of a dying president, looking back on his life and country. There are maybe 100 snippets of this book that history teachers could have students read in junior high or high school that would impress students. The humility of Grant shines in this book in a way that no modern politician ever would display. His love of the Union was evident. He despised the Northern press for glorifying all Southern wins and downplaying any good Northern moves (sound familiar?). He found the 'copperheads' weak, and wrote a rather illuminating thing about the anti-war northerners. He wrote that the best they could hope for is their story is sent into oblivion. Thanks to those who teach history, that has been the case. This is a fantastic book of details. Amongst all of those details is the deep theme of the change in America from an agrarian, salvery is ok nation of regionalism and gallantry in war to the unified country of mechanized war with freedom for all.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Movie Idea: Swamp Spirits

Setting: Florida, small town, panhandle Gulf Coast side. Old beautiful house built post WW2. Very large downstairs layout, smaller upstairs. Big lot (couple of acres).

Family: Dad (40-45), Mom, 3 sons (15-13-8)

Set up: Man inherits old home from his deceased father who used it for wintering and rented it out for years. Home was in family for decades first as rental then as snowbird residence. Monsters are there, and they have to find the cause and the way out.

Man is moving his family to Florida for architecture/planning type job. That was his father's job. Hangs up photo of his dad with two other developers of post-WW2 Florida which includes original owner of this house and third man. Opening scene is the move in, which is in Winter. Home gets decorated, things look great, one co-worker/local acts surprised they are living in house year round, and mentions how that original owner was found dead in the home and there had been other odd accidents the first few years, but things cleared up when his dad bought the home for a song.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Movie Idea: Love Strikes Back

Rom-coms suck for the most part. In my tradition of Ang Lee style movie making, I will dare to conjure up a rom com that might be super cliche, but pretty entertaining for 20s somethings. Have I posted this before? Who knows, let's roll that beautiful movie idea.

A young man wrapping up law school has his folks visiting for the graduation. Annoyed by his folks incessant pressure to marry, he talks his ex-girlfriend from undergrad days into posing as his fiancee for the weekend. First twenty minutes is guy dicking around with friends and enjoying 3rd year law student life: playing video games, eating bad food, doing 'manchild' things. Parents call him up to tell him they are coming for the long weekend graduation thing. Phone conversation has to be awkward and show the stupid family pressure. He then concocts plans with his roommate about how to cover this. There needs to be a whiteboard scene where the guys go through his list of ex-gfs before settling on one. He reaches out to ex-gf from college who lives in NYC. Her dumb friends all live that wanna-be s3x and the city life. He calls her while she is about to go out one night with them, she says she might do it, friends bash the guy, they go out drinking appletinis and girlie drinks, only to wake up crying with their giant sunglasses on the next morning. That image has to be in the movie, crying with giant sunglasses on. Ex-GF decides to take him up on his offer and they meet for a lunch to square away the details. Lunch has them hash out some details. I want there to be a flashback scene, Rashomon style, of some event that caused the end of their relationship like him getting drunk and insulting all of her friends before pissing on her lawn, but he describes it as getting drunk after she had neglected him for the umpteenth time and delved deeper into her big city girl life. they look at this as a fun challenge.