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..and now it's dark
really great movie, like any other art, can make you think and feel with their imagery, themes, symbols, dialogue, characters, and stories. Unfortunately, a bad film can do the same thing especially when it's an "independent film" from a "respected artist". Don't get me wrong, I love independent cinema. I also love big Hollywood films, but at the end of the day the film has to stand on its own merits, regardless of its studio affiliation or budget. The problem with independent films is that their DIY aesthetic and often more overtly artistic approach to story telling will endear them to the audience. I find often times that this allows independent film makers to be provocative for the sake of being provocative, without offering the viewer anything of substance.

If you've ever seen Gummo, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But I'm not here to waste more words than have already been written about Harmony Korine's turd of a film. Instead I want to talk about two films dealing with a similar theme; one a charming-yet-flawed indie newcomer, the other a tried and true freakshow-nightmare master piece,

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)

Directed, written, and starring performance artist Miranda July, the film features an impressive ensemble cast of unknown actors, especially the child actors. At the core is a love story between its principle characters but a larger theme unfolds in the vignette stories within the plot, one which weaves through and binds all the characters in Magnolia-esque fashion. It is a theme of lost innocence in the rapidly shrinking boundaries of the digital age and the simultaneous self-imposed isolation in which we increasingly place ourselves.

I really wanted to like this movie, as I've already been a fan of Miranda July for some time. Her 1998 album The Simon-Binet Test ranks among one of my favorite spoken-word albums ever. In her first outing as a feature film director, Ms. July certainly exhibits plenty of passion for her project and it shows in the care with which it is filmed. While not visually stunning, nor creatively shot, nor possessing any iconic photographic moments, it is pleasing to watch. Unfortunately, she drops the ball on everything else.

There simply is very little character development. They're caricatures with no histories or futures; just shallow impressions of people you know or have known. This lack of depth in character makes it difficult to invest in anyone in the picture. Also with concern to character, there's very few people who you feel like you can actually believe. Everyone talks in literate double-entendres and does quirky, eccentric things which are windows into their SOUL, man. The pretentiousness of July's characters becomes laughable after a while. To her credit, she has one character point this out to the character she portrays, when he accuses of her behaving like she's a character in a book.

Which is ultimately, the problem with the movie. I was constantly conscious of the fact that this was a FILM. I was never sucked into the story and I never cared what happened to anyone in it.

Blue Velvet (1986)

In stark contrast, David Lynch's treatment of the loss of innocence of a couple of small town busy bodies is multi-faceted, multi-layered, filled with rich characters and stories. I've seen the film a few times and decided to revisit it when I discovered that my girlfriend was not familiar with Lynch's work in general and Blue Velvet in particular.

As a story-writer, Lynch grasps and utilizes something which Miranda July didn't employ: the importance of a credible straight man. In Kyle MacLachlan's portrayal of Jeffrey, we have the all-American kid from small-town America, home from college to be with his family after his father has a stroke. After finding a severed human ear in a vacant lot, a mystery unfolds which he decides to investigate further, finding himself sucked into a seedy underworld completely foreign to anything he has ever known. As the parade of ne'er-do-wells crawl out from the rocks he begins to look under, their eccentricities, flaws, and depravity are magnified by the foil of Jeffrey's wholesome goodness.

Dennis Hopper's portrayal of Frank Booth stands as one of the great bad guys in modern cinema. The reason is that, for all of his psychosis, he's basically a hopeless romantic at heart giving his character a quality that you can't help but like, even if he expresses it in completely inappropriate, sadistic, and morally reprehensible ways. Most complicated of all is probably Isabella Rosselini's treatment of Dorothy Valens, a character who, to this day, I still can't wrap my head fully around. Most of all, she makes me feel embarrassed for her, which is a testament to Rossellini's performance and the guts it took for her to portray a character like Dorothy.

With an inventive score/sound design, interesting photographic compositions, and the sorts of scenes and characters that stay with you for a lifetime, Blue Velvet is classic cinema, in every sense of the word.

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That's a great assessment of Me and You and Everyone We Know. As much as I liked the pacing and cinematography, I had trouble getting pulled into it; it just wasn't written to be believable. I can respect that as a design decision, but it comes with its consequences -- an apathetic audience.

The beautiful blog she wrote while the movie was being released, though, is one of the few sites I return to over and over. Can you imagine living life while looking out through those eyes?

I think that actually might be part of the problem with why her film (particularly her dialogue and character situations) were so unbelievable. As much respect and interest I have for/in Miranda July, sometimes I get the impression that she's a tad out of touch with reality.

It's a recurring symptom of Y.

If you catch my meaning. We're meandering.

And I just wrote a song right there. Because I suck.

I absolutely loved both of those films. I've actually watched them both several times. :)

I'm curious about what qualities of Me and You and Everyone We Know makes you love it so much. Granted, it's not an awful movie, but since I thought it doesn't even qualify as a "must see", I have to wonder what draws people to it? I don't say that to be condescending; everyone has different things they are attracted to and there are a good number of movies that I've watched multiple times that certainly aren't very good movies. I guess I'd just like to know what about this movie you connected with to make you love it.

To be honest, when I first started watching it (I like to try and view all films nominated for Spirit Awards at some point just to keep up), I found it slow-moving and wasn't sure I was going to continue watching it.

Then the little boy appeared with his computer and it was like a door opened for me and the movie took on magical qualities. I completely got drawn in at first by him and then the rest of the movie as well. I love quiet movies like this and found the film to be completey charming. There was an added intensity for me because I kept expecting something bad to happen, which probably would have in most movies (especially, for instance, the outcome of the little boy meeting up with his "computer date"), but they never did. What can I say? I love it. And, for as many times as I've seen it, I will watch it again. As I will for Blue Velvet too, but obviously for entirely different reasons. ;)

I liked the park-bench moment, too.

I'm not a big movie buff, but I do like my independant non hollywood films. And I honestly have to say based on everything you said, I want to watch these movies. And I'm so tired right now, I'd love to crawl in bed and watch these!

A viewing of Blue Velvet is something that you should correct as soon as possible.

What am I saying?!?!? You're not old enough to be watching either of those movies!!!! ;-)

Too young? Fuck and a. Censorship is dumb.

and now it's poop

))< >((

Re: and now it's poop

I love you Welf, but I'm not passing poop back and forth with anyone ever... much less, forever.

Re: and now it's poop

Will you pass other bodily fluids with me forever?

Uh, Gummo is actually totally rad, and you're just way too Kentucky to know it.

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