Frank McCourt Must Go.

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This has nothing to do with film, but I must confess that I am a huge Dodgers fan. I grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, a suburb outside of Los Angeles. My father and his father grew up in Pasadena as Dodgers fans.

As a result, I will be a  Dodger fan until the day I die. Through thick and thin.

And even Frank McCourt.

I love my team, but Jesus Christ do I hate my team’s owner. For the past year–ever since the divorce proceedings got messy and then the bankruptcy hearings–I’ve wanted to write something on here about Frank McCourt and how much the sins he’s committed against this team make my blood boil.

I could never find the right words… Until this poll-result graphic from an ESPN-LA article inspired me to write this post:

Dear Bud Selig, We Think Frank McCourt is a dickslap. Love, Dodger Fans.

For the first time in four seasons, I didn’t go to a single Dodgers game this year. Even though I lived in Northern California for the past two and a half years, I still made the effort to make it to a game.

This year, though, was my first full season back in Los Angeles. You’d think I’d have gone to at least one game.

Trust me. I would’ve.

I would’ve gone to at least one of Clayton Kershaw’s stellar performances this year. And I would’ve gotten to see Matt Kemp try to win an MVP.

But instead, I decided to stay back and not go. Going to baseball games costs money, and that money would’ve gone straight into McCourt’s pockets. Every $15 dollar parking ticket, every $25 Reserve Level Ticket, every $12.50 beer and $5.50 hot dog I would’ve bought didn’t exist this season because I finally realized where my money was going.

I understand that going to a ball game costs money. I understand that baseball is a business first. But what I don’t understand is the ability for an owner who seems to have no love for the game–someone who doesn’t understand why we’re willing to spend so much goddamn money at a game.

It’s because we love it. And we’ll always love it. We understand that the money we put in will produce a greater work on the field (ostensibly… that’s another long argument, I suppose), not enhance the living conditions of the team’s owner.

It’s tragic, but it happens.

I’d like the next owner of the Dodgers to understand this concept. I’d like for him to understand that the money made isn’t to be spent on anything but the team and its needs–not because it’s personally gainful, but because of a love for the game.

graceland now has a trailer…

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…and I’m finally posting it here.

There’s more over at the film’s official site. 

Also you should totally post a comment on the video and let me know you what you think.


Netflix Watch Instantly Recommendations (7/30-8/5)

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Let’s face facts here: the selection on Netflix’s Watch Instantly section is definitely about quantity over quality. It’s hard to find good movies mixed in with all the crazy shit they like to put up for you. It’s a lot of dentritus, Mockbusters, television, and weird stuff.

So, as your faithful (and inconsistent) blogger/gatekeeper, I’d like to recommend a few films this week for your viewing pleasure… This also gives me a chance to capsule review movies and that’s always fun.

You can click the titles to go straight to the movie’s Netflix profile. The dates in parentheses are when the movie gets pulled from W.I. 

La Dolce Vita (ends 8/1/11. SEE IT NOW!)

This is arguably Fellini’s masterpiece: a lush, three hour tour of Rome and papparazzi and woman troubles. It’s one of those movies that’s really hard to write about because it’s so densely layered and absolutely fantastic.

But, as mentioned. It ends on Monday.

A Woman Under the Influence, Faces, Shadows , The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (all ending on 8/3/11)

A Cassavetes quadruple feature, listed in my preferred order. I haven’t seen The Killing of a Chinese Bookie yet, but all I’ve heard is that it’s great, so I guess I’ll have to watch it before Wednesday.

A Woman Under the Influence is my favorite of the three. It’s a 2 and a half hour character piece on a woman’s mental instability and the ways that it’s pulling the family apart. Like all of his films, it never flinches away from the crazier moments and the experience is definitely life changing. Check out the trailer:

Faces comes in at number 2 and it probably has the best ending of the three. It covers a single night in the life of a married couple after the husband says “I want a divorce.” They both go out seeking solace in myriad ways. My only complaint is that, because of the high-contrast (possibly Super-16) black and white film stock this film was shot on, the shitty quality of Watch Instantly is really on display. If you can ignore that, you’re in for a great movie.

Shadows is Cassavetes’s first film as a director and really puts on display the themes he would continue to deal with: the brutal honesty of love and its implications. It’s about a mixed race couple in 1950’s New York. And has a lot of Jazz. It’s also the shortest of his films, so it’s definitely a good entry into his style.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (doesn’t end… it was distributed by Netflix, so why would they pull it?)

This Romanian film won the Palme D’or in 2007 and is absolutely fantastic. Set in the Communist 80’s, a woman and her friend seek out a black market abortion to get rid of the child for various sociopolitical reasons. There are several sequences in this movie that will stay with you.

It’s an emotional film that, if you can stick out, is a rewarding experience.

Let me In (no end date)

original review

This remake of the 2008 Swedish film, Let the Right One In, does its best to not really remake the original film, but to reinterpret the novel. For that reason, this movie stands alongside it as a solid companion. And! It’s not subtitled like the original (in case you hate reading).

This film is filled with great cinematography and an excellent score from Michael Giacchino on top of two great kid-performances (a trend I’ve noticed the past few years and would love to see continued) from Kodi Smit-McPhee of the Road and Chloe Grace Moretz from Kickass.

Let the Right One In (no end date)

As it turns out, both versions are on Netflix. I’m of the camp that thinks that both are equally as compelling and awesome, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Gomorrah (no end date)

I watched this one the other day and, no, it’s not about sodomy’s cousin. It’s actually about the most influential Italian mob, which is called Camorra. It follows the lives of several people of different ages and occupations as they deal with being in the mafia and the choices that people must make in situations like this.

What I found most interesting, though, is that it turns its focus away from the violence and onto the characters. As a result, it could be criticized as boring, but I found it to be the exact opposite–especially when the two teenagers are on screen. Their story is perhaps the most tragicomic since you know exactly what ends they’ll probably meet from the moment they begin to buck the trends and laws laid down by the bosses. And then stealing their guns and cocaine.

It’s a gutsy movie. And I can definitely see why Martin Scorsese attached his name to it.

Oh-kay. I guess that’s about it for this week. Hopefully I’ll do it again in a week. I’ll be honest, I’ve been intending on doing this for awhile and am finally getting around to it.


Turn the page on the day, walk away [transformers 3]

Let me start this off by saying that I am a Michael Bay apologist. I don’t know why, really. I just like his movies and am not sorry for it. He may not be able to make an Oscar-Bait late-fall type of movie, but he’s probably the second best in the summer movie business (behind JJ Abrams).

I haven’t written many reviews recently because most of the movies that’ve come out this summer have sucked. Hard. And I don’t mean that in the typical “story was flat, effects were okay” type of way but in the way of they left absolutely no impression on me.

Take Green Lantern for instance. I saw it the Monday morning after it came out. By the evening, I had to remind myself that I had seen it. It was like watching a $200 million cut scene from a video game. None of it stuck with me. Maybe it’s because, at this point in the game, we’ve seen the origin story a hundred million times. It’s a necessary evil I wrote about in my Thor review.

X-Men First Class was the same way.

But Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon actually left shrapnel in my brain, left me breathless by the end of it’s 2 hour and 40 minute run time.

It’s also the only movie I’ve seen this summer that led the audience to applaud at the end of it. Which usually says something.

It’s not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I promise. 

A lot of the flack that this film’s predecessor got was deserved. Revenge of the Fallen was overlong and bloated by a plot that made no sense because of the fact that it was written in three weeks (thanks writers strike). This was probably also the reason for all the racist/sexist humor–when you’ve only got three weeks, you’re gonna reach for the low hanging fruit just to fill out the pages.

It was basically a boat with a screen door for its hull. It couldn’t hold water.

But it tried to entertain us with giant action sequences in interesting locations despite not making much sense.

This one, though, returns to the first Transformers in the sense that it really feeds my sick addiction for explosions and destruction. It never lets up. It piles on the tragedy to the point that, yea, I honestly thought that everything was fucked before the third act took hold.

Death and Destruction

Seemingly taking a cue from all the recent “urban warfare” films, this movie takes its major sequences from the Pyramids of Giza to the streets of Chicago. What this does is make the deaths of civilians that much more prominent. I’m a little surprised with how much they were able to get away with in this film because some if it is fairly grisly, even if it is just CGI people.

This doesn’t even begin to describe what happens to the city itself. It’s really something you have to see to believe…

The 3D

Before going in, I had heard from several different reviewers that the 3D in this film rivaled that of Avatar and it’s true. Especially since Bay employed some of the same techniques like slowing down a shot mid-action so you could really get a sense of what was happening. Or simply not shaking the camera so damn much.

The technology was used to its full extent by adding a lot of depth to scenes and having the giant fighting robots brought right to the forefront. Nothing ever felt too gimmicky or out of place, which I guess is the beauty of the PACE 3D cameras. They make things pretty.

How Best to Enjoy this Movie

See it in 3D; turn off the critical/analytical part of your brain; sit close; enjoy the action. If you’re willing to give yourself over to this movie, you’re bound to be entertained. Which is more than I got from the rest of this summer’s lineup thus far.

But where Did Megan Fox go? 

Shut the fuck up.

graceland’s poster

Oh My God, Girl.

We shot the poster a couple weeks ago and have been working at making perfect. This is what we came up with:

Don’t forget to check out our IndieGoGo page for all the latest updates and to donate (you really should). And the facebook page.

A Detailed Guide to Donating on IndieGoGo, Just In Case You Need It [graceland]

Okay, so. Let’s say you get to the IndieGoGo page, you read through all the information, and then you’re all “Gee, I’d love to donate, but I wish someone was here to help me out!” Well, this is the closest I can get to being your personal Donating to Graceland Assistant. Follow these instructions and you’re on your way to having a good day. You can click on the pictures and they’ll come up all huge in a new tab and whatnot. 

Step 1: The Contribute Now Button

This is our IndieGoGo page. What’s Circled is the Contribute Now button. Keep in mind that you can pick whatever amount you wish to donate, the $50 next to it doesn’t mean anything. Give what you can!

Step 2: Figure Out How Much You Want to Donate

The first section of the Contribute Now page lists all of the perks available, with the final one being “No perk, just a donation,” which is 100% tax deductible no matter how much you give. If you get some of our swag/cool shit, you’ll notice that only the cost over the item is tax deductible. So you’ll get everything back on your taxes except what it cost us to make you a bitchin’ poster (ed. note–we’re actually doing the photo shoot today!)

In the box that the arrow is pointing to, you can put the amount which you wish to donate. It can be any number you want, like the Showcase Showdown. You do the $1 bid, but everyone knows that’s stupid. But any number from 1-nth is valid. You could donate $43 if you wanted to. Or any number. You get it.

Step 3: When things Get PersonalIn order to donate, you need to first give us your email address. If you don’t want fun emails from IndieGoGo, uncheck the box that says “Send me occassional emails like our monthly newsletter.”

Step 2 of this part is whether or not you want to tell the world that you donated. We’ve got three options: Name and Amount, Name only, and Anonymous. So there’s confidentiality–or, if you’re embarrassed about supporting the arts (you really shouldn’t be, silly goose), you can go anonymous. I’d like to think the second two are mostly for Daddy Fat Stax out there who give a lot and don’t want to be recognized. Either way, you should be proud that you’re doing this, so I’d recommend at least posting your Name.

Step 3 is totally optional, but I’d love for you guys to leave us a comment–hell, you could even do a shoutout. “All my homies in Cell Block 3 would be proud of my donation…” Anything. Just try to leave a comment.

Step 4:  Pay the Man

This is the part where you fill out your credit card information. In the picture, you’ll notice there’s a popup window–this is their “Don’t worry, your safe” message. I figured you should see it so I could say Don’t Worry, Your Money is Safe and We’re Not Gonna Steal Your Identity.

Then hit contribute. 

Step 5: ConfirmationThis is your last chance to back out, if you really really want to (My guess, you don’t.) Just make sure you didn’t put extra zeros at the end of your $5 donation. We’d be pleased to have it, but your credit score might not be. Or, hell, make sure you did put extra zeros if your confident like that. We appreciate extra zeros.

Step 6: Spread the Word (This One’s Important)

After you press confirm, you will get a nearly identical dialog box. Don’t Ignore It, This is Important. See, crowd funding requires a crowd. And one way to get a crowd is to get our donors tweeting/emailing/Facebooking about their contributions and how just absolutely bitchin’ this project is.

If you don’t have a twitter, hit the email button. Then the Facebook button. We need you to help us by sharing this project. Your money is incredible and great and we’re incredibly thankful for it. But, think, there’s even more you can do to help us that doesn’t cost anything.

Spread the word.

Step 7: The Emails You Receive.

7.1 The Important Email from Fractured Atlas

This email is the one that you need to print and file away, or let sit in your inbox until Tax Time next year. But this is your voucher that says “Give me my money back Uncle Sam.”

So print it, and save it with all the receipts from the Goodwill and whatnot. I figure your philanthropic enough to have a folder entitled “Awesome Shit I’ve Done that the Government’s Gonna Pay Me Back For.” I do. It’s not only helpful come next tax season, it’s also a friendly reminder on a bad day that, yes, you do help people and yes, you are a good person.

7.2 The Kind of Important Email from IndieGoGo

This email from IndieGoGo is one you don’t need to print and save, it’s simply the one that says “Your Order Went Through, Here’s the Details.”

You can keep this one for your records as well, but the only one you need for taxes is the Fractured Atlas Email (7.1)

Step 8: You Make Me Feel Like This:

Happy. We’re making a movie folks.

Party Down, Funding Up. 

Help us Fund Graceland–An Open Letter.

As many of you know, I am directing a short film and, in order to fund this project, we have been crowd funding through IndieGoGo. Many of you were incredibly gracious during our first round of fundraising when we were able to raise $2,050.

Although this is a healthy sum, it winds up being not enough.

We are attempting to make a film of the highest caliber–one that will win awards and will make all of us proud. And, in order to do that, we need a larger budget… It’s not that it takes a million dollars and a small army of people to do this, not in the least. It’s simply that, right now, we are operating on an incredibly tight budget that would benefit greatly from even a marginal increase.

The cool thing is that the donations are now tax deductible meaning that you’ll get your investment back next April no matter what. The only legal thing to mention is that if you request a physical product (one of our gifts like a poster or a t-shirt), then only the amount over the cost of the item will be tax deductible.

However, if you simply give, your donation is 100% tax deductible and your email from IndieGoGo/Fractured Atlas–a non-profit organization we are partnering with–counts as proof for a write off.

When you head over to our IndieGoGo page, you’ll see a new pitch video that includes footage from the rehearsals we had the week before last. We are fully casted and fully crewed, we just need your help.

So please go to our donation page and check out our information and consider giving with the knowledge that your money is helping launch the careers of all of us on this project.

Also head over to the graceland updates section of this site to get access to all the videos and posts I’ve done about the project including information on what we will be using the money for and where the script comes from, where I come from, all of that.

We have a presence all over the web, if you’re interested. We have a Facebook page, and you can follow us on Twitter as “@gracelandfilm”. Like us, follow us, and please, please, give.

I know in my heart of hearts that this is a project that you can get involved with, be a part of, and take pride in. We’ve got 30 days left, let’s see what we can do.

Yay graceland!


takes four legs to make a ceiling [thor]

graceland updates

We’re moving along just fine, everything is sorting out.

We need your help with fundraising, though… And it’s tax deductible, so give it a look and give knowing that you’ll be getting it all back from Uncle Sam next April. And that we’re a talented group of people ready to kick some serious ass.

[Insert MC Hammer Joke]

At this point in time, releasing a Thor movie runs into two giant problems: there needs to be an origin film and we’ve seen those a thousand times before; and this origin story is the kind of high fantasy stuff that makes most moviegoers glaze over.

These two problems then create one giant problem: This film is fucking boring.

But, y’know what? I’m okay with that. Because Kenneth Branagh, in all his understanding of the techniques of archetypal storytelling, did the best he could to make it kick some serious ass.

It honestly seems that, by choosing Branagh to direct, they were for once focusing more on the story than on the shit blowing up. Which is impressive,, because it usually seems to be the reciprocate. Let the noise tell the story, let the plot fill in the gaps; whereas, in Thor, the story is king and the action is ancillary.

The reasoning for this, I’ve gathered, is that this is the latest in a number of origin films. Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern later this summer, Captain America later this Summer, Daredevil, Iron Man–you get it.

Thor is late to the party and, as a result, we’ve all seen the fallen hero turned stronger hero story before.

So it has to be really really good to keep our attention at all. Otherwise we’ll lapse into thinking about how awesome Spiderman was as mind trails off and away from the film.

Thor attempts to reach this level of “really good,” but it falls just short–hence the middling reviews of a lot of people.*

* – Walking into the theater, I heard a little boy coming out exclaim “THAT WAS AWESOME DAD!!” Walking out of the theater, I heard a 20-something dude on the phone someone, “That was awful.”

So View Thor Less Like A Film and More Like a Pilot Episode…

Given the move toward focusing less on a single film and focusing more on a franchise, movies with built in fan bases are now looking far into the future and what they can do with the story.

But in order to get you there, you have to start somewhere, as with any television series.

And pilot episodes, against the rest of the series, usually suck. But they set a lot of things up for future episodes/films, and that’s what they’re really there for.

We are here to see Thor stop being a total dickslap and start becoming Thor, the humble protector of humans. Just as we were there to see Spiderman stop being such a pussy. And to see Batman learn how to channel his sociopathy in a helpful way.

With that in mind, then, this film succeeds. It is the pilot episode for both Thor ad infinitum as well as for the Avengers movie coming in 2012.

…and Just Enjoy the 3D.

The 3D in this movie is killer–and worth the ticket price alone of the final credit sequence. I really like 3D when it works on a purely “making things seem fucking huge” level (cf. Up, the dildoes in Jackass3D), and Thor uses this technology like that to a T.

But if you’re looking for swords and things to fly out at you, don’t get the 3D ticket. There’s not much of that stuff going on. And I figure only people studying Freud are really interested in it given that you’re basically pushing a giant phallus into the viewer’s face. But I digress.

So Now Then. 

Yea, the movie works on several different levels, and it consciously makes an effort to keep it from being boring, but, at the same time, I couldn’t help but nod off at times.

And I got the feeling that everyone else there felt the same way because most of the theater (save the ones who know to wait til the end of the credits on Marvel movies–you get rewarded, don’t worry) rushed out and were trying their best to immediately get on with their lives.

Which sucks because some of the best 3D in this film comes during those end credits. And having people wandering in front of you is annoying.

take them both in a perfect direction [hanna]

We’ve begun fundraising again, and it’s tax deductible this time. Click Here to Check it Out. We’re up to $200, now.


This movie starts off awfully slow.

And this isn’t a bad thing.

See, in a character-driven action film, you need to develop the characters before you can get into the action. It’s why one precedes the other.

The film starts off in an arctic forest, with Saoirse (Sur-Shuh [thanks IMDB!]) Ronan hunting down an elk–tracking it through the trees, shooting it with an arrow, then chasing it down to make sure it dies in the snow.

When she reaches the animal and sees it’s still alive, she looks at it and says, “I just missed your heart.”

Then pulls out a gun and shoots the damn thing. Cue title card: HANNA.

As she’s degutting the animal, Eric Bana’s character, Erik Heller, sneaks up behind her and proclaims, “You’re dead.”

She attacks him, nearly snapping his neck, then is forced to drag the animal back all by herself.

When they get back to the cabin, you begin to realize just how truly isolated her life is. No electricity, no heat except for the fire, no culture.

The latter one is key because that’s what the film is truly about. Hanna’s mission is to kill Marissa Viegler. But what she wasn’t prepared for was actual, y’know, human interaction. She’s been trained to kill, not to be cordial.

It’s when they decide to flip the switch and allow her to come find them that the movie really kicks into high gear.

See, what’s really interesting is the way that they made Ronan look as albino as possible. They died her hair and eyebrows platinum blonde, kept her skin as white as possible, helping her to almost merge and become opaque in the forest. Because the forest is home and she has adapted to it. But the entire Earth is not an Arctic Forest.

So when she escapes from a military base, and emerges into the desert, it’s an incredible shock because, now, for the first time, she is out of her element. Against the desert backdrop, dressed all in orange, she stands out. Imagine seeing a polar bear in the desert. It’s like that.

From that point on, she is constantly dealing with trying to figure out how to deal with civilians who don’t, for once, want to kill her.

At this point, the family she hitchhikes across Morocco with is introduced–as well as her first friend, a British girl named Sophie who is obsessed with everything an actual 15-year-old girl should be obsessed with (boys, pop culture, makeup, clothes, parents being crazy).

When we first meet her, she begins to go off on a tangent about how “It’s okay if you can’t speak English. MIA couldn’t speak English til she was 8. And now she’s a huge pop star. So it’s okay if you can’t speak English.”

She, Sophie, tends to steal every scene she’s in simply because of how funny she is.

And so does her younger brother Max.

And her parents.

In fact, what’s mind blowing is that the entire family that she hitchhikes with isn’t simply there to get the plot forward, they’re fully developed characters with quirks, quiet problems, and happy moments.

The whole subplot about this family could’ve been glossed over as having them simply there as plot devices but, instead, they get just as much attention as everyone else, and even get dragged into it. They not only move our main character both physically and emotionally, they propel the film itself into the third act.

But the Action–And the Chemical Brothers–Steal the Show…

Quite honestly, I could write a 1,000 words simply on the characters in this film and how well acted and well written and well directed they are.

About how Cate Blanchett is shown cleaning her teeth to the point of bleeding to show just how exacting and perfect she requires everything to be.

About how Eric Bana wants desperately to be a good father in spite of all the secrets, the murder, and the general ephemera that comes with being an international spy on the lam.

But what I want to really, really, talk about are the action sequences. I can’t remember the last film I saw that used its sets and its lighting and its camera work to so well contextualize or stylize the beatdowns.

Choreographing fight scenes seems to have fallen to the wayside in favor, most of the time, of putting the camera super close and shoving each other around.

(Aside: This is another reason why I think Fast Five was getting such good reviews. The action sequences kick some serious, serious, ass without being confusing)

Instead, here, the choreography of the fight scenes is built around flashing lights, dark hallways, pillars, and the Chemical Brothers.

In one sequence, done in one long SteadiCam shot, Erik gets off a bus, walks through the bus terminal, the camera gliding around and revealing the danger lurking behind each corner, then down escalator and into a pillar-filled underground station, kills about five people, then runs off. Seriously. It’s one long take. It’s fucking incredible the way that they were able to choreograph buses, traffic, pedestrians, a subway station, five deaths, and a walkie talkie conversation into one single take.

And then there’s the Chemical Brothers.

They did what I was hoping Daft Punk would do with Tron Legacy–make a score so loud and ass kicking that I just had to see it a second time.

Because I have to admit that, yea, the score was probably the biggest reason I saw this film a second time.

What’s incredibly interesting about it, too, is that their bass-thumping rave-score is built out of really interesting diegetic soundscapes. The songs start and end, and get heightened, by the sound design of the action sequence. Gun shots occur on beat. Foot steps nearly in rhythm. They are building the score out of the existing sounds in the scene and, as a result, does a lot in helping express just how Hanna’s senses are adapting to these incredibly new surroundings.

And I think that’s what I like about using electronica/house music as a score. It’s always been a musical genre that felt like it needed some kind of an accompaniment. Dancing, ecstasy, what have you. It’s not the type of music you can sit and simply listen to.

The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk have proven that film, too, is a great accompaniment to the generally grating 9-minute songs of “thump thump thump ‘Get your ass on the floor!’ thump thump thump thump.”

Ok, Let’s Try to Wrap this Goddamn Thing Up

When Joe Wright released Atonement, I was incredibly disappointed. It seemed like it was gonna be really good. But it wasn’t. The characters were superb, but the movie was overall forgettable.

But, with this film, you can bet your ass I’ll be in the seat for his next film.

There’s way, way more about this movie that I could talk about (The scene of Terry Gilliam-like “madness of the mundane;” the ending; the plot twists, etc), but, y’know, I really try to keep these things to about 1,000 words or less, so maybe when the DVD comes out there will be a part 2, and we can really dig in to just how layered and fantastic this movie is.

water dissolving and water removing [meek’s cutoff]

Not related to Meek’s Cutoff; Related to my short film

We’ve begun fundraising again, and it’s tax deductible this time. Click Here to Check it Out

Be forewarned that I deal heavily with the ending, the story arc, and what it implies meaning, “Y’ar, thar be spoilers ahead.” But see this movie… But take a No Doz beforehand if you have a short attention span. 

I saw this movie last Friday and I’ve been flummoxed ever since.

The way it begins with water and ends without it. The way it begins without any traditional setup–including how Meek convinced them to follow him–and ends without any conclusion.


See, this film’s “problem” is that the outward plot and conventional beats of storytelling openly defy what is actually going on. This is because conventional beats imply the destiny of characters. As Kate Stables wrote in her review, “”What’s manifest in Meek’s Cutoff isn’t destiny, but the difficulty of gauging truth, whether it concerns what’s over the hill, or within a human heart.” In other words, what we should be waiting for isn’t the destination, but the decision as to what the destination will ultimately be–water or death.

When Michelle Williams’s character, Emily, makes the decision to convince everyone else that the Indian knows what he’s talking about, she has figured out that the Indian is the only one, anymore, who may even possibly know where water is, so when he begins to signal and speak in Nez Perce that’s unsubtitled, she tells everyone what she believes she’s hearing.

And not in a suddenly-clairvoyant way where she finally truly understands what he’s saying but in a “He’s gotta be saying this, for the love of God” kind of way. It’s her final act of desperation to save this group.

The viewer, though, isn’t privy as to whether or not this final act of desperation yields them any luck.

At this point, I’m pretty sure watching everyone die would be really disappointing.

Destiny and Gauging Truth

While the men are tending to destiny, the women are left to be the quiet jurors. The women can’t speak openly with the men about the plight of having no water and being lost and “what the fuck are we supposed to do with this Indian who’s just as lost as us?” but they can speak quietly, by making broken, elliptical statements to their husbands in such a way that guides them without being subordinate. The last thing anyone wants is a fight of any kind.

As a result, this movie exists in a weird juxtaposition in which the outward plot and conventional beats are pointing us toward destiny while the inner workings and the quiet force of the women is truly taking us where we want to go.

The film itself is within every single detail of what these people are doing on this trail. It is built to request the empathy of the viewer, only to have any emotions toward these characters pummeled by the irresolute ending.

Just as their wagons are built to get them across the country, this movie is built to get us from water to water… Only, just like the characters and one of the wagons, we don’t quite ever make it.

The Viewing Experience

The focus of a film isn’t on its broader story but on its intricate parts and, as a result, takes its time.

In order to better to pull the viewer into these intricacies, Meek’s Cutoff is shot using the old “Academy Ratio,” or 4:3, or square like televisions older than HD.

To Director Kelly Reichardt, “It gives you this foreground: you get the height over the mountains and the sky. But it also worked for the vision that the women have in their bonnets, this lack of peripheral vision and this straight-ahead, no-nonsense perspective. And then also if you’re traveling seven to twelve miles a day, and you have widescreen, it’s like, ‘There’s tomorrow! I can see it in the screen! And there’s yesterday!’ So this was a way of keeping you locked in the moment and not getting ahead of where the emigrants were. I think that helped build tension, because you could not see what was around the next corner.”

What is interesting about using this aspect ratio is that it enhances the area which our eyes are drawn to in the sense that our characters remain in the center of the screen the entire time since there’s really no left or right third of the screen.

Reaction to the Ending

When I went to see this film, the ending was the part that made the entire theater groan and say “That’s it?” Then the middle aged couples continue to talk about it during the credits.

But while everyone else was asking “Where’s the rest of it?” I was left asking “Why?”

Because it’s a complete film, it just doesn’t feel complete. It feels like it blacks out right before the third act.

From Emily’s perspective, the story begins at the river and when she’s convinced she’s found it again.

And so, since the story of the women is done before the story of their destiny, the movie ends without resolution.

One Last Thing

The Indian in this film speaks no English, only Nez Perce (I stayed through the credits to find out what language it was). And it isn’t subtitled.

I’ve always felt that subtitling words that the main characters don’t understand cheapens the experience for the viewer. We’ve come far along on this journey with them and, now, you’re giving us more information than them for the first time. The biggest offender of this is the film adaptation of Everything is Illuminated. Elijah Wood’s character is only understanding what Alex is telling him and yet the viewer has subtitles to make sure every word is understood.

So, to me, this was a gutsy move driven by the story. But I can understand if it’s frustrating. I’d like as much as anyone else to know just what the hell he was actually saying.

But that’ll probably have to wait until the DVD.