Tag Archives: Donnie Darko

T.G.I.F. – Ten Twisted Tales

And we would have gotten away with it too, if you had never seen a Scooby Doo episode before.

"And we would have gotten away with it too, if only you had never seen a Scooby Doo episode before."

One of the biggest problems with film and television is predictability; after watching thousands of hours of sitcoms, dramas and movies I can often see the next plot point coming along like it has beepers and a blinking light. It’s not so much that the plot is redundant – although it often is – but that the brevity of the material (especially commercial television) doesn’t allow for proper story arc and character development.

So often what happens is either the director/writer cheats, or the information is presented in such an obvious manner that you’re almost being told “hey, this is a clue!”. Of course people have the attention span of a gnat these days, so maybe I’m overworking the issue. But here are two key rules you can usually count on:

  1. If an odd fact is introduced – like a character being left-handed or a man just quit smoking – pay attention. It’s probably a critical piece of information and not just padded dialogue.
  2. If within the first five or ten minutes a character looks to have opportunity and motive, that character probably didn’t do it.

Few writers/directors would be crass enough to have the killer or key plot fact come sailing in out of left field at the eleventh hour, that’s just not fair. But a well-played twist requires what I’d call  sleight-of-mind…laying everything out there but being clever enough to not point at it with a floodlight.

An example of a well-presented twist is The Sixth Sense. (SPOILER ALERT…) At the end of the movie, when it was revealed that a key character was dead, I immediately recalled a scene where he was at dinner with his wife, had a conversation and even touched hands. But when I replayed the scene, I noticed that they in fact did not touch – their hands passed within a second of each other – and there was no eye contact. And then there was the revelation about the use of the color red. Then finally, the most obvious clue of all – “I see dead people“. Well played, M. Night Shyamalanit was all right there in front of me and I missed it. Too bad you have been unable to hit the mark since then.

So for this Friday’s exercise, ten recommended movies that I think did the job well. Some will be very familiar, a couple are stone cold classics, but I’ve avoided the real obvious ones like Psycho, Vertigo, Fight Club and The Shawshank Redemption. These aren’t my ten favorite movies, but I’d watch any one of them again in a heartbeat, and if you haven’t seen them I suggest you immediately add the omissions to your shopping list or Netflix queue.

In alphabetical order:

no idiots

Angel Heart:  Probably a little more obvious than most (Robert DeNiro’s character’s name) and a little overwhelming with visual pizazz, but the end(ing) justifies the means. One of Mickey Rourke‘s better performances.

A Beautiful Mind:  Having two dynamic actors like Russell Crowe and the great Ed Harris was huge; they could not have sold this premise with pedestrian performances.

Donnie Darko:  So was it a horror flick, a religious allegory, a knock on conservatism, a time travel epic, a fable or a study of hallucinatory madness? Yes.

The GameDavid Fincher is more famous for the brilliant Fight Club but this tense and clever story keeps you wondering what and who you can believe. Michael Douglas, Sean Penn and a large supporting cast do the script justice.

House of GamesDavid Mamet, a master of words and misdirection, at his peak. Joe Mantegna and Lindsay Crouse deep in the world of con men and grifters where not everything is what it seems to be.

MementoChristopher Nolan directed and wrote the screenplay based on his brother’s short story, and Guy Pearce provides a brazen and brilliant performance alongside Joe Pantoliano. Told backwards, like Nolan’s prior film Following.

Once Upon A Time In America:  Maybe my favorite gangster movie of all time, and considering how perfect a movie Goodfellas is, that’s saying something. Sergio Leone directs a star-studded cast but you have to pay close attention.

Primal Fear:  I’m normally not a Richard Gere fan but he’s great in this one as his arrogance is his downfall. This film launched Edward Norton’s career (an Oscar nod in his first real role) and made me fall in love with Laura Linney.

Session 9:  One of the truly atmospheric horror movies of recent times, far from the gorefests that are passed along as horror movies today. This is creepy and unnerving, and even David Caruso is good in it. Director Brad Anderson now works on Fringe.

The Spanish PrisonerMamet again. Everytime you think you know what’s going on, you really don’t. It’s like watching a magician show you the trick but then repeatedly doing it again. The final scene makes me wonder if Mamet didn’t intend the entire movie as a con, but I change my opinion every viewing.

fingers crossed

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Blast From The Past: Masters of Reality

Bunnytime, a decade before Donnie Darko

Bunnytime, a decade before Donnie Darko

Although often described as stoner-rock (that was an redundant statement back in the day), Masters of Reality have proven to be an inventive, morphing amoeba of cool over the years. But yeah, they’re trippy, bluesy, psychedelic, fragile and rocking. Sometimes all on the same record.

The original Masters of Reality, a powerhouse band from Syracuse, NY, had an acrimonious split which led to Chris Goss and bassist Googe keeping the moniker while guitar wizard Tim Harrington and drummer Vinnie Ludovico formed The Bogeymen. I remember that Goss took a lot of shots that the Masters were just aping Cream, so he probably figured “fine…why not“?

You could drop the figurative needle on this album in a room full of blindfolded people, and by the tenth second of  “She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)” I guarantee you anyone with a brain would recognize that Ginger Baker is pounding the skins. (The rest of them will probably incorrectly yell out “Radar Love“!!).  That slide-step, that tom-thump, that goddamned swing that so few drummers posess these days is Baker incarnate, and he levitates this band to great heights throughout Sufferbus. He even reanimates the oddball Cream track  “Pressed Rat and Warthog” with “T.U.S.A.”, a lament that Americans can’t follow the simplest instructions to make his daily brew (“pour boiling water/over the tea/how simple and clear/can instructions be?”)

But it’s a democratic effort –  Goss’s vocals are stellar, whether rocking out on “Tilt-A-Whirl” or chanelling Ram-era Paul McCartney on “Jody Sings” and the brief but hilarious “Madonna”. He and Googe easily lock into a groove with Baker, with hybrid jazz rock (“Ants In The Kitchen”), trippy musings (“J.B.Witchdance”, “Rabbit One”) or the self-described “blues acrobatics” of “Gimme Water” and the Black Sabbath-sounding “V.H.V.”.  And much like The Bogeymen saved their best moment for last with “Damn The Safety Nets“, the Masters saved “Moon In Your Pocket” for last to put the bow on the package.

The album title reportedly comes from Goss and Baker’s insomnia on the tour bus, although the cover art seems to predate Donnie Darko by a decade. (Or…did…Donnie…time-travel?). But whatever the inspiration, it was lightning in a bottle, at least with this band configuration; Baker moved on after this. Both their careers are definitely worth tracking before and since, but this crossroads produced a real gem of an album.

New album Pine/Dover due from Chris and the Masters this August, so bide your time until then with Sufferbus. It’s sixteen years old and still sounds as fresh as a morning muffin (and nothing like gnat’s pee).

Masters of Reality website, MySpace and Wikipedia.

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Easter Eggs and Easter Bunny

What we've got heah...is fail-yuh to digest!

What we've got heah...is fail-yuh to digest!


Far from your normal Easter Bunny

Far from your normal Easter Bunny

You could do worse things on Easter Sunday then watch Cool Hand Luke and Donnie Darko…two of my favorite films. Enjoy the day with friends and family, and then immerse yourself in a great film. You deserve it.

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