All the world

there is nothing, and nothing ever matters,
because your brain is nothing but sparks and dials and levers
going haywire on a loop
over and over, but what about beauty?                                                                                                        
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang is a story about friendship
where the two styles merge, choreography superior
fetishistic circus of movement, kung fu inferno
never translated with a meaning, iron eyepatch
villainy inherent, there is always more.                                                                                            
Nothing and more there is always there, behind
all time and space, depending on how you look
through one eye alone, see vapors evaporate
into joyful progress, every day a new door
made of candy, stars bursting chewable
red and blue and purple, but probably not.                                                                                      
That would be madness, panoramic obsessive
without paranoia, you’d be locked up
believing that, there never was tomorrow
in the first place, because all of us can feel
that we are the same, marrow and saliva
leaking out the folds, memories of pain becoming.                                                                               
Shadows receding slowly, clearing your head
of detritus, nothing is ever at all
without a passion, stories die as reborn
becoming all places, characters and statements
at the same time popping a brain out your eyes.                                                                                     
Love is in everything, forever onward
omnipresent dreadfully looming
horrors of the dawn dusk in between and end,
search for a kernel of joy, that’s all there is
when it comes down to it.
All the world

Movie Review: LA Confidential (1997)

Director: Curtis Hanson

Writer: James Ellroy (novel) Brian Heigeland (screenplay)

Starring: Guy Pierce, Kevin Spacey, Russel Crowe, Kim Basinger

LA Confidential, simply put, is one of the most compelling, endlessly re-watchable thrillers of all time.  One thing that distinguishes this film from its rivals is the faithfulness to its source material.  I don’t mean the novel it was actually adapted from, James Elroy’s piece of the same name, which I haven’t read, I mean Dragnet (1952-9)Dragnet has its fingerprints all over the film, from the opening slightly satirical monologue delivered over a montage of scenes from the city, to the way the story tends to take place in a series of interrogations.  However, this isn’t Dragnet, and modern audiences need a bit more nuance and a bit more honesty.  Not every interrogation ends in a fade out.  Some interrogations end in blood, some end in death, and some end in sex.

The interrogation that ends in sex is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  Kim Basinger (who won Best Actress for her performance) blazes the screen with wit, honesty and intensity.  Her character Lynn Bracken distinguishes herself early as an intelligent and capable woman, but the world in which she works as a high-class call girl only values her sexuality.  So when Ed Exley (Guy Pierce) knocks on her door in the middle of the night, and passionately kisses her, she resists at first.  She even says “fucking me and fucking Bud White (Russel Crowe) aren’t the same thing you know?”  Upon hearing this, a statement that correctly judged Exley’s true motives, he simply persists, and power relationships being what they were in the 50’s, she has no choice but to succumb.  This quasi-rape scene spurs the film on to its conclusion, but more than just a plot point, it showcases in horrific microcosm one of the film’s central themes; that when the police outstep their bounds, they become indistinguishable from the criminals they fight against.

This theme is shone most obviously in the performance of Russel Crowe, who is stunning as veteran detective Bud White.  When we first see officer White, he interrupts a domestic dispute not by ringing a doorbell or pounding on the door, but by yanking the christmas decorations off their roof.  Though it turned out officer White was justified, as his actions did put at least a temporary halt to an ongoing case of domestic abuse, I wonder who was going to pay for the destroyed christmas decorations.  Later in the film, White executes a man, shooting him in the chest, before taking care to pull out a second gun and stage the crime scene.  Both White (Crowe) and Exley (Pierce) are weak and morally compromised in their own ways, but by the end, they must join together to reach a satisfactory conclusion.  This brings us back to Dragnet.

Every episode of Dragnet ended with an arrest, showing that any mystery is solved and evil is punished, and though LA Confidential is definitely unconventional in most every respect, its ending draws everything together.  Through the masterful performance of everyone involved, particularly James Cromwell whom I believe should’ve won an oscar for his portrayal of Captain Dudley Smith, Curtis Hanson (Director) stitched together a remarkably compelling history lesson.  He shows through the slanted motives and animalistic desires of nearly each character involved, that nothing is exactly as it seems.

Unknown-3.jpeg

Movie Review: LA Confidential (1997)

Poem: The Killing of a Horse (Sort Of)

The texture flits in and out

like a spark hog, I guess, I mean a spark that’s all

like “I’m totally a spark n’ shit,” sparking shit blue moon

tongue depressors, but you knew this would happen, or preternaturally

supposed the future as it occurs, but sometimes it’s like yesterday

by the Beatles isn’t my favorite, ‘cause it’s kind

of doughty, it’s probably cause you hit her, whichever one that was

I forget shit all the time, and my girlfriend is increasingly reluctant

to believe thee readily evident, repeatedly reticent

panoramic period ending the sentence, and then it starts

“Again, crackers!” crackers this time, cheerio that is

as in “that is,” a good pip, when you pop.

 

explicative pretense denied, bitches, this is my coaster

rain-soaked chinchilla prostitute in the future, a pig in every poke

on the literal use of terms, pejorative leaning Mamet monologue

you son of a bitch, the truth handles your ass or some shit

I’m so Sorkin, showing itself a gag on fire

speech of truth, which has never been written

before now, madness fudge-battered cocaine spectacle

sounds tasty in the sun, but it would totally melt so

it would probably kill you, unless you were a hardcore

user specific, or lucky like me I guess.

Poem: The Killing of a Horse (Sort Of)

Faux?

The air flashes very green, a warning viewed from every angle simulcast

syndicate horse hooves clatter up, roll call

sisters astride of dangle hooks by the side, saw blade miming, as the kids say

these days, don’t write it if it’s not true, though to you

truth is an attitude.

 

Wonder, or is it because that’s a dark staircase, if you leap

with a sash over your eyes especially, foreknowledge is invention’s chief

impediment raining in bolts, yes and like you learnt

in the gravel pit, cackle caw cawing and dancing everyday

till mom rang the bell, the flowy whooshy whispy stuff all over

everything is magical really, which has textured worth

called Personality Shakes yesterday, they told me to fill the flower pot

everyday until you have raspberries, a metaphor for every occasion.

Faux?

Movie Review: Cam

Many Netflix original movies have so far ranged from simply awful (The Cobbler, The Ridiculous 6) to charmingly loopy (The Babysitter, Turbo Kid), frequently producing content that simply would not fly in a theatrical release, either due to shocking and unexpected violence or the laziest of comic writing.  However, with 2017’s Wheelman Netflix showed that it could produce a first-rate thriller, creating a fast-paced, exciting ride, even if the plot was a little thin for a theatrical release.  2018’s Cam represents another step forward for the production team, crafting an immensely watchable and unconventional thrill ride, one that is familiar in the type of tension it brings to the fore yet wholly modern in its conclusion.

Though Cam was helmed by promising first-time director Daniel Goldharber (and co-written by Goldharber and Isabelle Link-Levy), the story comes from Ilsa Mazzei, who used her own experience as a working cam girl to color the piece with an unmistakable layer of authenticity.  The story concerns Alice Ackerman (Madeline Brewer), an enterprising young woman who makes a more than healthy living as a cam girl, which is a term I was unaware of before I saw the film.  Cam girls make their money by performing an improvisational pornographic cabaret in front of their personal webcam, receiving suggestions and payment from legions of leering patrons.  The film offers a peek inside the world of the cam girl, including the friendships, collaborations, and antipathy shared among this society of modern entrepreneurs.  Early in the film’s runtime, however, Cam takes a turn to the dark underbelly of the Cam girl business, making of itself an unconventional and immensely watchable thriller.

As the movie never strays from her character’s point of view, Madeline Brewer delivers what could be a star-making performance, displaying in equal parts intelligence, strength, resourcefulness, and desperation.  As Ackerman and her cam girl pseudonym “Lola_Lola” are toyed with by a mysterious doppleganger, the film’s tension expands into unexpected avenues, keeping the tension tangible and unconventional.  There is at one point a threat that Ackerman’s cam girl persona might be exposed to her friends and family, and while a more conventional look into this business might cast this as the ultimate horror, Cam simply allows it to happen and then deals with the consequences.  The greater threat comes from the false “Lola_Lola,” and in a climactic showdown that takes place entirely on Ackerman’s webcam, she vanquishes the threat and regains control of her digital identity.

Though the film is littered with excellent supporting performances, most notably from Kevin Druid (13 Reasons Why) as Ackerman’s younger brother and Patch Darragh (The First Purge) as her most slavish patron, the film lives and breathes through its star.  Brewer’s performance acts as the perfect conduit for the statement being made by Ilsa Mazzei, that cam girls are not like prostitutes or even strippers whom could become victims of exploitation, but are more akin to explorers in a new field of profitable sexuality.  Though this statement might seem dubious to some, particularly Ackerman’s mother Lynne (Melora Walters), Cam constructs a fascinating argument, and heralds the arrival of exciting new talent in modern filmmaking.

Unknown-2.jpeg

Movie Review: Cam

Zen Comedy: Darkness

The Zen Comedian, when approached by a pupil who complained of depression, even going as far as to say that he could not find the world funny anymore.  “Sadness, when rightly harnessed, is very powerful,” he paused, “but it is not the fire, only the fuel.”  The Zen Comedian offered this lesson, I believe, to describe the way that heart-dulling sadness, though not necessarily the subject matter and substance of hilarious comedy, can in many ways be useful.  There are two Zen Comedians who’s perspectives and performance styles are seemingly opposite, but each of them demonstrate this Zen comedy principle perfectly.

First, Zen Master Norm Macdonald spends seemingly endless stretches of stage time opining on the darkest pieces of reality conceivable.  Death, horror, pain and wrath are the subject matters of almost every joke delivered, but when they come through the voice of what seems to be a listless Canadian hick, they become riotous.  One of Zen Master Norm’s greatest bits evokes the death of his father, which was such a sad event in his life that he was able to use it as grist for a hilarious routine.  The central sentiment of this bit is exemplified in the part of the joke where he describes standing at his father’s deathbed: “My niece came up to me and she was like “He’s in a better place.  I said “He’s on the floor.”  This joke is absolutely hilarious, and it shows the way the extreme sadness, while not necessarily being the subject of the joke, as Norm’s aspect throughout the piece does not change, but tragedy on its periphery

On the other side of the spectrum from Zen Master Norm is a completely different style of performance, one that might even be considered the opposite of Mr. Macdonald’s dusky fatalism, the mad antics of Zen Master Conan O’Brien.  Zen Master Conan, having never been a standup comedian in the strict sense, has found a conduit for his own comedy in hosting a late-night show, which he has done nearly constantly for almost thirty years.  Throughout his career hosting these talk shows, most of the comedy presented is fairly madcap, relying on sheer insanity to produce laughter, but every insane moment Zen Master O’Brien creates on his various late night talk shows there is a center of existentially suicidal dread.  The very first episode of Late Night With Conan O’Brien starts with a taped piece in which O’Brien is in his dressing room, overwhelmed by the intense pressure not to blow it, steps up onto a stool and puts his head in a noose.  This image, I think, is an evocative tableau, perfectly expressing the terror and dread of this (then) new television personality.

One of the things that comedians can do very well (as in the work of Zen Master Pryor) is to grapple with the darkest recesses of their own mind, but I don’t think that is what this lesson is meant to show us.  When the Zen Comedian said that sadness is “not the fire, only the fuel,” I believe he meant that comedians can dwell on the saddest aspects of their own histories and personalities, but in the face of depressing reality, it is the job of the comedian to laugh.  One of my earliest and most consistently successful bits draws from my own experience as a lonely young man.  I used to stand in front of a crowd and wonder aloud to myself, “How do I get a girlfriend?”  Then it would occur to me, “I could dig a hole!”  I would then describe myself digging a series of large holes in the park and waiting for girls to fall in, and when I came to rescue them, they would prefer to stay in the hole.  This was a simple and effective joke, one that took a concept like loneliness, and brought it to its logical maximum impact.  The comedy here lies not only in the ludicrous nature of my proposal, but also in the relatable nature of its emotional anchor, showing that the darkest sides of our own perceptions sometimes yield the funniest jokes.

 

images.jpeg

Unknown.jpeg

Zen Comedy: Darkness

Poem: The Killing of a Horse (sort of)

The texture flits in and out

like a spark hog, I guess, I mean a spark that’s all

like “I’m totally a spark n’ shit,” sparking shit blue moon

tongue depressors, but you knew this would happen, or preternaturally

supposed the future as it occurs, but sometimes it’s like yesterday

by the Beatles isn’t my favorite, ‘cause it’s kind

of doughty, it’s probably cause you hit her, whichever one that was

I forget shit all the time, and my girlfriend is increasingly reluctant

to believe thee readily evident, repeatedly reticent

panoramic period ending the sentence, and than it starts

“Again, crackers!” crackers this time, cheerio that is

as in “that is,” a good pip, when you pop.

 

explicative pretense denied, bitches, this is my coaster

rain-soaked chinchilla prostitute in the future, a pig in every poke

on the literal use of terms, pejorative leaning Mamet monologue

you son of a bitch, the truth handles your ass or some shit

I’m so Sorkin, showing itself a gag on fire

speech of truth, which has never been written

before now, madness fudge-battered cocaine spectacle

sounds tasty in the sun, but it would totally melt so

it would probably kill you, unless you were a hardcore

user specific, or lucky like me I guess.

Poem: The Killing of a Horse (sort of)