Infinity starred its first-time director, whose mother wrote the screenplay. The film is composed of a number of engaging anecdotes concerning the early life and first marriage of Richard Feynman, the celebrated physicist, teacher and mensch. It’s an intelligent, sensitive and heavily-edited film that feels like a string of elaborate in-jokes that meander around immensely-important subjects concerning life, learning and (nuclear) death — but it doesn’t provide a valuable sense of the quirky, hyper-intelligent, conflicted and paradoxical protagonist, Richard Feynman, a paragon of curiosity and a beacon of lifelong education with an aptitude for lethal humor. Evidence suggests that one has to look elsewhere for that unique sensibility by doing a lot of additional homework before finding the personal satisfactions that seem to be locked in this film; satisfactions shared by the Brodericks.
This is my first encounter with a commentary delivered by mother and son; frequently-overlapping conversations with constant deference by only one of them to the other — it’s like watching Charlie Rose interview practically anybody; frustrating as a mother.
Anonymous is a significant setback to the Oxfordian cause of persuading anybody that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote exactly everything we’ve been stupidly misled to attribute to William Shakespeare. It does this simply by being an amazingly confusing movie in which adjacent cinematic events take place at both ends of a 40year period early and late in the reign of Elizabeth I, involving young and old actors (who are meant to resemble one another), their significant others, and enemies in an ingeniously-woven conspiracy narrative that lost my attention a few minutes before the expository disclosures that make 90 minutes of interminable and bewildering tedium entirely worth my while — well, almost worth my while. What if William Cecil had told Edward de Vere (rather than Robert Cecil) what he’d had in mind all along? How does an anonymous playwright coax properly-nuanced line readings from his untalented front’s tin-eared, illiterate actors?
While I was still interested in the convoluted story line, it occured to me that the Oxfordian premise smells like it’s driven by an elitist agenda; that a lowly, uneducated, plebian actor shouldn’t have written the most important body of work in the Engllsh language. That stuff must have been written by a brilliant, forgotten aristocrat. And that’s the arrogant notion that yanked me out of a movie that’s primarily dedicated to an incredibly trivial pursuit; ornery academics putting an uppity Shakespeare back in his proper place, academic obscurity.
Wikipedia, I’ve since learned, lists a few dozen discrepencies that make the license Anonymous takes with fact smell significantly worse than I thought it smelled while I was watching the movie.
On the other hand, Contagion is the terrifying story of havoc wrought on the global population by a new, profoundly-lethal viral disease. Every bit as potentially-confusing as Anonymous, this film whips the viewer’s attention (and an excellent ensemble cast) from Minneapolis to China, Atlanta, London, San Francisco…freely, wantonly and ruthlessly tracking initially-boggling threads of several disturbing tales that may/may-not justify the investment of engaged interest in a remarkably-bumpy ride on a hyperlinked magic carpet. I think it works well enough to justify repeated flights to re-explore a dozen suspenseful threads, not the least-memorable of which involves Elliott Gould’s delivery of a fairly brilliant line, “Blogging isn’t writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.” And “Great stories are rarely true.”
Both films would benefit greatly from a commentary track (or 6) providing the kind of insider-insight that permits the audience to evaluate and discriminate the efficacy of filmmaker intent versus execution. Neither of the NetFlix rental discs I’ve got include “special features”, which raises an interesting irony regarding MRC-style (Media Rights Capital) restrictions and the unavoidable disclaimer that precedes the delivery of content in this medium;
“Whatever the idiots who made this junk may say in their stupid interviews and their masturbatory commentaries, you can’t hold responsible us faceless corporations that own this valuable intellectual property. Because we say so!”
Yet in order to gain access to that worthlessly-creative infra-junk, I’ll have to pay the IP’s owners for my very own personal copy (of the BLUE-RAY disc and the appropriate unnecessary and obsoleting hardware they seem also to be hawking) in order to listen to the idiots’ valueless blithering. I believe that kind of penurious, mercenary, unscrupulous thinking is at least the square of irony, and ought to have a special name (that’s briefer and more precisely specific than FUCK. YOU!) highlighting irresponsible, money-grubbing, misanthropic, misattributing corporate anonymity.
After the second pass through Contagion:
- Deadwood was about second-chance strangers coming together to initiate the natural coalescence/formation of a rudimentary and rapidly-evolving community/culture, out west.
- John Adams was about imperfect people breaking away, en masse and cohesively, from England to try forming a more-perfect union back east, where second-chance strangers are made.
- Dancing with Wolves was about an alienated individual finding belonging in a doomed community, in spite of his practical comfort with the habitual isolation he found indistinguishable from solitude.
- Contagion is about the natural process governing the Articles of Disintegration into chaos with the aid of a panic-accelerant called virtual social media and a viral catalyst that requires physical contact.
Just a bit of tasty junk I plan to think about; related, cyclic, self-destructive, and prone to endless repetition.
From the middle of the second pass through Anonymous:
Although this movie’s less confusing the second time around, it has a pair of dual, opposed resonant kinks. The one I’d like to applaud involves the belief that entertainments can teach, inspire, foment all manner of cohesion and action in an audience. The other one still stinks of flattering aristocratic unreason.
The pace of this magnetic, beautiful, resonant film is so agonizingly slow that everything that happens seems completely predictable.
It also seems criminally naive to blame Melies disheartened retirement on disinterested postwar audiences rather than on his being repeatedly raped into bankruptcy by the thieving Thomas Alva Edison and defective international copyright law designed to canonize plagiarists and obliterate originators.