“[T]here are no small matters. Just as there is no small life. The life of an insect, a spider, his life is as large as yours, and yours is as large as mine. Life is life. You wish to live as much as I do; you have spent seven months of hell, waiting day after day for what you needed . . . the way a spider waits. Think about the spider, Joe Fernwright. He makes his web. Then he makes a little silk cave at the end of the web to sit in. He holds strands that lead to every part of the web, so that he will know when something to eat, something he must have to live, arrives. He waits. A day goes by. Two days. A week. He waits on; there is nothing he can do but wait. The little fisherman of the night . . . and perhaps something comes, and he lives, or nothing comes, and he waits and he thinks, ‘It won’t come in time. It is too late.’ And he is right, he dies still waiting.”
I caught up with Dark Star only a few years back, at one of the Music Box‘s science-fiction marathons. I was pleased to discover that Dark Star ranks among John Carpenter’s best, while at the same time standing out due to its odd, grim humor. (Kubrick’s influence hangs over the picture, which pokes lovingly not only at 2001—just look at the opening scene—but Dr. Strangelove.) Much of the comedy is also due to the presence of writer/star/production designer/editor Dan O’Bannon, the brilliant screenwriter behind Alien and Total Recall and Lifeforce. Appropriately, Dark Star contains lots of swipes from Philip K. Dick, as well as some ideas that would later infiltrate Alien: the cramped and tedious corporate working condition, an ornery alien creature running amok…
Remember those George Burns Oh, God! movies? Richard Thomas (maybe) does.
(This also calls to mind Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , a favorite of William S. Burroughs).
Even if we can’t all quite agree with Thomas’ assessment of the “rules” of writing (I’m in deep trouble if these are indeed the rules), we can get behind the dumping of this manuscript to the recesses of the Jaynes’ silent hemisphere of the brain.
And there, nothing quite lives on.
The first book I ever wrote was a complete and utter failure. Remembering? I’d like to forget. Two years, several workshops, and many lost nights pouring over tarot cards, books on astrology and conversations with God netted me a pretentious, preachy book that will never see the light of day. It relied too much on my personal experiences—rewriting events of my life that (at the time) had significant meaning, but in the telling were nothing but a series of drug aided, hallucinatory, dream-state apparitions. Continue reading
[You click this link, you go back to the first installment, which found me and Jeremy unable to get service at an Applebee’s, following a screening of Duncan Jones’s Source Code. Increasingly hungry, increasingly desperate, we debated the nutritional value of our napkins and tablecloths, before Jeremy remembered that Applebee’s coats all such textiles in an indigestible plastic (to prevent sullen teenagers from rending or defiling them). Our gazes fell upon the Awesome Blossoms sizzling on our various neighbors’ tables.]
A D: Let’s keep talking about movies; it’ll distract us.
Jeremy: Capital! I liked Source Code better than Thor, I’d say (though not so much as Ang Lee or Bill Bixby’s Hulks). Because Source Code is a nice little movie. Though not as nice or little as Moon, Duncan Jones’s debut.
Tobe Hooper‘s science-fiction/horror film Lifeforce (1985)—and I’ll confess right up front that it’s one of my guiltiest 80s pleasures, despite it not being “all that good”—is a mess. It begins as an Alien ripoff, rapidly veers into sexploitation territory (where it dwells for a good long while), drops by an insane asylum to pick up some Gothic overtones, then devolves into a relatively generic zombie movie before metamorphosing one last time into something of a vampire flick (which it’s supposedly been all along).
The plot, very briefly:
Update: Related posts that may interest you:
- “Art as Device, and Device (When it Works) as Miracle“
- “Scott Pilgrim vs. Inception for the Future of the Cinematic Imagination“
- “More on Inception: Shot Economy and 1 + 1 = 1“
- “My Favorite New Movies of 2010“
- “A D Jameson talks about movies #1: The opening scenes of Inception” (YouTube)
- “The Ever Risable Dark Knight” (HTMLGIANT)
- “We Need to Talk About Batman” (HTMLGIANT)
- “Reading Frank Miller’s influences on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy” (HTMLGIANT)
- “Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” parts 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8
Christopher Nolan, while presumably a rather likable fellow (he does give work to Michael Caine), is a depressingly artless filmmaker. To be sure, some of the concepts in this new one are clever enough (even if they play like weak snatches from Philip K. Dick): the military developed shared dreaming, which then became a tool for corporate espionage—sure thing. The great Dom Cobb and his team now must infiltrate a businessperson’s mind in order to plant the seed of an idea, rather than steal one—a nice enough twist, and a fine enough premise for a caper.
But Nolan then fails to dramatize his concepts. His primary—indeed, practically his only—tool for delivering information to the audience is character dialogue. Rarely does anyone shut his or her mouth during the 148 minutes that are Inception. Its actors are talking threadbare ciphers, eager mouthpieces for their director.
Examples abound. After failing in their mission to deceive Saito, Cobb remarks to his teammate Arthur: “We were supposed to deliver Saito’s expansion plans to Cobol Engineering two hours ago. By now they know we failed.” (A potential response: “Hey, dude, I’m, like, your partner. I know the score!”) An even better one: the line where Cobb points out to Michael Caine’s character—a university professor teaching in Paris—”You know extradition between France and the US is a legal nightmare.” Yes, Mssr. Professor Caine probably does, in fact, know that! But I’m sure that somebody way in the back row was happy to hear.