Drive

According to the trailer, “critics are raving ‘Drive is the coolest movie,'” but I think I’m a pretty good judge of cool movies and let me tell you Drive ain’t all that. First, let’s take the terrible pacing. Nicolas Winding Refn’s films are notorious for being slim on dialogue and long on stylized takes, but it’s poorly utilized here. What makes the pacing even worse though, and truly emphasizes it, is the music. Synthy, repetitive, indie pop is literally plugged in like the editors just sat there and went, “Ok, well I don’t feel like trying to cut this song to the actual film, so I’ll just slap the whole track in there and make people sit through a couple five minute, boring, slow motion music videos.”


The song at the end of the film, called “A Real Hero,” by a band called College is especially terrible, and even worse, distracting from the great ending. You see, the film has a fantastic story and even better acting, and honestly, Refn’s style-over-substance-cinema wouldn’t be so bad if it were just employed appropriately. This film needs a new editor bad. The lyrics which constantly repeat “He’s a real human being, and a real hero,” are just flat out laughable when put to the serious images during the final scenes of the film. It’s literally the worst pairing of score and movie I’ve ever witnessed. Sitting in my movie theater seat, finding myself actually fidgeting and thinking, “Yes, I get it, he’s a real human being and a real hero. Can we go now?” is not the way I saw myself finishing this movie.

According to Refn, and many critics I guess, he thinks the music speaks for the film in this case. But that would be so much better realized if he just didn’t pick a song that is literally explaining to us that Mr. Ryan Gosling is a real human being (during the day), and a real hero (by night). It’s like the laziest filmmaker move ever. Instead of trusting your audience to get what the film is about on their own, you just tell it to them in some ambiguous, cheesy, Urban Outfitters muzak, by a band that no one will ever make an effort to drive to a store and buy an album from. This unnecessary explanation and use of the song’s lyrics to explain the story however, makes absolutely no sense when you watch the movie, because by night Gosling’s character is aiding and abetting criminals and evading the police while simultaneously endangering anyone else who is on the street at the same time as him. He is most certainly no hero.

Here’s the bottom line: wait till it’s available on DVD/Blu-ray, then kill the score (God, I hope the DVD offers that option), or mute the film at the beginning and end only. Now you’ve got yourself one hell of a movie.

Here’s the song. If you listen to it long enough, it will likely make you want to drive full speed into a wall.

I’ve actually previously reviewed two of Refn’s other films Bronson and Valhalla Rising, and while Valhalla didn’t score many points for me (even though it looked gorgeous), Bronson was enjoyable albeit forgettable. Refn will probably become big(ger) news now, but before Gosling, he was maybe more of an acquired taste for the typical filmgoer. What could really make him stand out and get noticed by larger audiences though (more than the addition of a star like Gosling to his cast), is someone to help him hone his work to finer, sharper point. Conceptual, highly visual and visceral films are great, and even though Drive doesn’t appear nearly as visually striking and rich as his previous work, it’s alright because it also boasts such a rich story. The problem is, Refn doesn’t seem comfortable telling a story without the use of some style or technique picked up from whatever training he’s had. If he’d stop relying on other cinematic elements to do his storytelling work for him, but still employ those cinematic elements, he would be the next Oliver Stone or Tarantino.

David Byrne + Fatboy Slim + Imelda Marcos = 2010’s Weirdest Boxset

Below there’s a post which mentions March 16th’s release of White Stripes for the concert film Under the Great White Northern Lights. So, obviously, I was surprised to find yet another boxset slated for release in 2010, this time February.

It’s apparently for a long-in-the-works project between NYC-based avant-garde artist/musician David Byrne and British electronic artist/DJ Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) which is a tribute to ex-First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos. You can find out more about the infamous First Lady here.

The two-disc set is titled “Here Lies Love” and is garnished in garish, almost romance novel-esque cover art. It also includes a 100 page book and a DVD. Couldn’t find anything detailing the contents of the DVD, but there’s a pretty interesting press release which explains the purpose of this “concept album,” how it began and what it all means. That’s here (courtesy of the Manila Standard).

Aside from all that, there’s the guest vocals. Spanning a realm of musicians that I never thought I’d see listed on the same record (let alone an Imelda Marcos concept album), Byrne and Cook have built one hell of a tracklist:

CD 1:

1 Here Lies Love (Vocals by Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine)
2 Every Drop of Rain (Vocals by Candie Payne and St. Vincent)
3 You’ll Be Taken Care Of (Vocals by Tori Amos)
4 The Rose of Tacloban (Vocals by Martha Wainwright)
5 How Are you? (Vocals by Nellie McKay)
6 A Perfect Hand (Vocals by Steve Earle)
7 Eleven Days (Vocals by Cyndi Lauper)
8 When She Passed By (Vocals by Allison Moorer)
9 Walk Like A Woman Vocals by Charmaine Clamor)
10 Don’t You Agree? (Vocals by Róisín Murphy)
11 Pretty Face (Vocals by Camille)
12 Ladies in Blue (Vocals by Theresa Andersson)

CD 2:

1 Dancing Together (Vocals by Sharon Jones)
2 Men Will Do Anything (Vocals by Alice Russell)
3 The Whole Man (Vocals by Kate Pierson)
4 Never So Big (Vocals by Sia)
5 Please Don’t (Vocals by Santigold)
6 American Troglodyte (Vocals by David Byrne)
7 Solano Avenue (Vocals by Nicole Atkins)
8 Order 1081 (Vocals by Natalie Merchant)
9 Seven Years (Vocals by David Byrne and Shara Worden)
10 Why Don’t You Love Me? (Vocals by Cyndi Lauper and Tori Amos)

Don’t Believe Everything Oprah Says: ‘Across the Universe’

The Taymor brand amalgamation of colors, textures and sounds unfiltered of any poignancy is something I’ve come to expect and admire. Conversely, I wonder if anything stripped down, less visceral and more linear could still leave the chalky residue that her films generally deposit on my brain. I believe that Across The Universe, may be of her best work; yet, I’m left cold (and with a headache) after the kaleidoscopic credits roll.


So what is it? An homage to The Beatles? An anti-war film? A neo-musical? Postmodern surrealist cinema? The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The love story is overtly pat and one-dimensional, except when Taymor throws in a few nuggets of Bertolucci: is Lucy’s brother really jealous of her being with Jude? If so, why is that never further developed? The other storyline involving Prudence, which appears to have a point it’s working towards at he beginning of the film, never gets anywhere by the end. I admit I was enthralled with the imagery and literal, visual translations of famous (and some not so famous) Beatles songs, but I wanted it to all come to beautiful revelation at the end. Not some rip off of every other post-Vietnam anti-war film ever made. I kept expecting Forrest Gump to appear somewhere during the last act’s anti-war protestor riots.

Another step too far was the kitschy is-it-or-is-it-not improvisation of both Joplin and Hendrix. Once I’d acquiesced to it I wondered was I supposed to just overlook the fact that neither of the two should have anything to do with a Beatles musical, and so I just waited impatiently for Janis to finish the job with the bottle in her dressing room and Jimi to light his guitar on fire. Instead they hooked up. After Titus and now Universe, I want Taymor to try something fresh. You know, maybe a cabaret film about illegal immigrants crossing the US/Mexico border set to the discography of Black Sabbath. I look forward to that.