“We’re aware of how the plastics get into our food chains and our oceans, and how there’s a 30-mile ring of plastics floating out somewhere in the middle of the ocean,” Koretz says. “It made environmental sense to us to just ban all the wasteful and polluting materials.”
Reading this article, all I could think about was trying to drink a 40 out of a canvas bag…
One might expect a film containing low-budget CG dinosaurs to have its low point at said dinosaurs. Oh, if only. Instead, it appears that what must have been the easiest scenes to shoot - Sean Penn looking sad and confused in a modern office tower, and more confused in a rocky desert landscape - are the film’s lowest point, the most unnecessary segments of what is otherwise a beautiful look at the complications in family life, and the connection they share with all of existence.
One of the key factors holding the film together is Sean Penn’s father, Brad Pitt. He is seen entirely from the perspective of Penn, as a young boy, and is excellent in portraying his complexities, his failures, and his successes, both as a man and as a father. The father is complicated, an intelligent man dissatisfied with his professional life even as he pours himself into (his vision of) his kids. Of course, when his advice to his kids is, “don’t be like me,” what can he expect of them? And so, the kids don’t always react as he expects, particularly the young Sean Penn, and throw his idea of a good family, a good household, into turmoil. With this turmoil, Brad Pitt and his wife, Jessica Chastain, lose themselves as a couple. Or, more accurately, Brad Pitt’s idea of a tough father brings on both problems, and he begins to lose himself as a father, and as a husband. When Brad Pitt’s kids are forced to choose, they gravitates to their mother, who protects him and nurtures them. Unfortunately, this gravitation, extremely Oedipal in appearance, overwhelms the film, and Malick’s emphasis on it adds maybe fifteen unnecessary minutes to the film. Their devotion to their mother is obvious, and slows the movie down considerably near the end.
What I love about this decision is that it is specifically choosing quality over some kind of financial, monetary “benefit” - for once, someone (Christie, of all people!) doesn’t think that money is all and everything.
The film is primarily about Watanabe’s relationships with two women. One, Naoko, is a close friend from childhood who was with his best friend, Kizuki, until he killed himself; Naoko has never fully recovered from his suicide, and spends most of the film attempting to cope. The other woman, Midori, is another student at Watanabe’s school in Tokyo, and is much more sure of herself; she does not appear to regret or dwell in her past. Watanabe, desperate to connect with Naoko, is able to sleep with her on her birthday; she admits to never having done so with Kizuki, and appears to regret this fact as well. Kizuki consumes her mind and life, and she cannot connect to Watanabe for that reason. I cannot help but wonder if her lack of sexual experience with Kizuki informs her intense desire for him, as the scene between her and Watanabe, while not exploding with passion, is certainly well-made scene, suggesting any attraction between the two holds some legitimacy.
“We are born because of our parents’ love. We encounter appropriate partners and get married. We form happy families, get old, and die peacefully. Anyone can imagine such a story, but it is a mere fantasy. Human beings cannot face the actual reality of the world, and they tend to condense and fast-forward the flow of their life and dream of a convienent conclusion. On the contrary, the human lives that Ozu-san knew were composed of stagnation, delays, and peripheral transitions. There were no plot lines. They were “anti-stories.” Ozu-san thought that human beings must stand up and live their anti-dramatic lives.”—Yoshida Kiju, Ozu’s Anti-Cinema, pg 28-29
What does 9/11 mean now? There are probably as many responses as there are people alive. Interpreting the meaning of the day, as an American, or as a New Yorker, is extremely difficult, and very few have been able to express themselves successfully in response to it (notable failure: the Bush administration).
Maybe it should come as no surprise, then, that one of the most expressive New Yorkers, Spike Lee, should be able to create an image of the city after the attack, and express the anger and frustration present in everyone’s minds at the time. His film, so heavily laid in the pathos of the city, makes me wonder if anyone who hadn’t lived there would even be able to understand it. Holding the film together is the notion of imperfect, unjust, yet relatively human, people, who have made mistakes and need to, on some level, pay for them.
Nothing makes this idea clearer than the first monologue, Monty’s “fuck you” speech. He lays it all out, all the flaws of every group of New Yorkers; referencing each borough in some fashion makes clear he’s damning the entire city as a whole. Of course, to damn the city as whole means he must damn himself as well, which he does. At this point, he realizes he must atone for his own sins, and nothing he can do can fix the problems of the city. They must atone themselves; the sins of New York are not on his shoulders.
This is why Monty appears surrounded by trouble, even though he is in the greatest amount of it. His friends and girlfriend bicker and argue over minor aspects of his life, and criticize each other for their flaws. They criticize Monty for his own mistakes, and hate themselves for not doing more. But what can they do? Not much. Even Jacob has to watch his own mistakes unfold, as he denies his own attraction to his student, Mary. Once he does break down, he can only retreat; his regret plays out in the trademark Spike Lee “floating” shot that follows.
Jacob receives no penance for his mistake, but Frank gets the opportunity, when he is forced by Monty to “make him ugly.” A painful moment, to be sure, since the last thing anyone wants to do is beat up their best friend, but Frank has to do it, and does. He’s left in tears, as the enormity of his failure (in his eyes) as a friend comes crashing down upon him. All he is left with afterward is the park bench Monty used to sell drugs at as a reminder of his friend; Jacob, tasked with taking care of Monty’s dog, Doyle, has a bit more to look forward to.
Ultimately, the realization of failure, and the search for penance, is what leads to the final speech, the other great monologue of the film, given by Monty’s father, James. This speech is the ultimate fantasy, presented in total Hollywood glamour. It is supposed to be “imperfect,” as Monty does have to give up his city and his home. The speech, however, also suggests the “going west” meme, an integral part of the American fantasy, as a glorious way out of the troubles Monty has brought upon himself. Go west, remake yourself, and don’t own up to your mistakes. Very American. The fantasy is Monty’s chance to escape his reckoning; as Frank and Jacob have had to face theirs, however, Monty will face his own, and so he chooses to go to prison.
I think the demand to face reckoning for one’s mistakes, whether through penance or through pain, is what the film seeks; even though we are all imperfect, there are times when we’ll have to face up to the mistakes we’ve made. Monty blames the Bush administration for failing to either prevent 9/11 or stop the Wall Street executives; in this part of the speech, Spike Lee is oddly prescient in his depiction of how the rest of the decade will turn out. Monty faces his reckoning in prison; when will those responsible for the worst excesses of the post-9/11 world face theirs?
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who retired quietly from the political scene in 2002, was also on hand, opting as always not to give a speech, saying that such a gesture would be “a selfish exploitation of the events of that tragic day.”
Smith has a course called Portuguese for Spanish speakers that allowed them to skip all the confusing/forced parts in the beginning because they already had a context for it that made more sense than trying to explain it from scratch/from English as the base language, and I want that for Korean—I…
I have used this one - it’s pretty good, with descriptions of all the changes between Japanese & Korean.