Mar 16, 2016

"10 Cloverfield Lane" - The Bastard Child of "Misery" and "World of the Worlds"

Hypothesis - If Misery and World of the Worlds conceived an illegitimate child, they would name the bastard 10 Cloverfield Lane.  

I managed to get out and see 10 Cloverfield Lane opening night.  After reading early reviews, I drank the cool-aid, and harbored some excitement for what I thought would be a decent sci-fi thriller.  But 2 hours later, instead of glowing with the same excitement expressed by many reviewers and Redditors, I was more confused.  My confusion was not caused by the movie, but by the praise 10 Cloverfield Lane is receiving.  

"Smart," "bold," and "solidly crafted;" these are some of the reviews the film is soliciting.  But I don't see anything smart about it.  The protagonist, an aspiring seamstress, welding together a hazmat suit using duct tape and a shower curtain, with a facial respirator make from a soda bottle?  What the fuck.  Do you expect any inquisitive and observant viewer to believe that she suddenly knows how to engineer a functional hazmat suit?  And, would any smart person, in this situation, think this worthless attempt to create a guaranteed-to-fail hazmat suit be a better solution than over-powering the captor?  She managed to wrangle away his keys.  And she managed to burn the bunker down with him inside.  Isn't it plausible to conceive that Michelle and Emmett could have overpowered Howard, and locked him in the same room that Michelle woke up in?         

But regardless of the wonky character decisions derived from the shotty script, here are some looming after thoughts from my displeased experience.

1. Howard Stambler is Annie Wilkes

I'm in disbelief that I haven't seen this comparison anywhere else on the internet.  If you Google Howard Stambler and Annie Wilkes, no claims emerge.  I'd love to reward myself with an honorary ass-scratching, but I just don't believe I'm the first to make such an obvious connection.  Regardless, as I was watching John Goodman unravel his best efforts at presenting obsessive lunacy, it triggered visions of deja vu.  My neurons started firing images of Kathy Bates being asphyxiated with smoldered printer paper by James Caan through my gray matter.

But then I started thinking more: the crash scene, the amorally oblivious captors, shots fired, fight for freedom!  The parallels are so bold, that there's more in common than just Howard Stambler and Annie Wilkes; Misery and 10 Cloverfield Lane are practically the same!  So before we start awarding such honorary accolades to these writers, let's keep in mind that it's not exactly original.  

2. Hazmat suit out of a shower curtain?

I touched on this in the opening.  I didn't want to mention it then, but the silliness of this concept overshadows everything that I partially enjoyed about the flick.  But maybe this says more about me than the film.  Maybe engineering a functional hazmat suit isn't as challenging as I think it should be.  Maybe there's some easy-to-access anarchist instructions that go into step-by-step detail explaining how a shower curtain can become a gas-impervious hazmat suit.  And maybe those step-be-step details are simple enough for a seamstress to comprehend.  So maybe all this is true, and there's something wrong with me for not buying into this stupid idea, and believing that this is actually more plausible than over-powering Howard with the help of Emmett.  But then again, apparently a Molotov can blow up a mother-ship.  let's applaud the screenwriters for forcing a pithy concept past inquisitive viewers, (while sadly succeeding in most cases). 

3. Did John Goodman save this film?

I  believe he did.  He was really the only redeeming quality.  And his screen time was the only time during the film where I didn't have to fight to stay awake (I did fall asleep for a brief 5 minutes.  Or it may have been 20 ...).  The screenwriters tried going all Shutter Island on its viewers by adding some interesting clues to build an intriguing mystery.  But the screenwriters did such a lousy job keeping the mystery involved with the film, that it gets easily forgotten by the fumbling characters.  And then the characters!  The entire time, I gave Emmett enough credit be have the mental capacity to coerce Michelle for the benefit of Howard.  But once Howard shot Emmett, I was slightly betrayed that the writers wouldn't try to build on what would have been an interesting plot twist.  And I just didn't think Michelle was as smart or daring of a character that the film tries to present her as.  I thought the hazmat suit was stupid.  I didn't understand how she was able to sneak around and make the suit in that tiny bunker without Howard noticing.  I sure as fuck didn't expect anything clever from her. And I still don't know why Emmett and Michelle did not try to overpower Howard.  AND DON'T SAY IT'S BECAUSE HE HAD A GUN!  She managed to konk him on the head while trying to flee the bunker.  

I know, I'm rambling about the shitty script.  But I do believe John Goodman saved this film from catastrophe.  No one knows what to think of the ending that came out of left field.  Some people are suggesting that the unusual transition from a thriller movie to a sci-fi wrecker, is like trying to mix water and oil.  And I think there's some truth to that, that each one has a completely different tone, and they don't complement one another.  But, my theory is because Howard is no longer in the film at this point.  

In conclusion, does 10 Cloverfield Lane contain Literary Merit?

 Hell no.

Our ongoing definition of literary merit states that a movie needs to be honest with its presentation.  And this movie was far from honest.  And to reinforce what I define literary merit to be, I am not suggesting that the move is not honest, due to the aliens, or other fictional elements.  I believe this movie lacks honesty in that these characters are not reacting as we would expect them to act in these situations.  I don't believe a person in this situation would attempt to make a hazmat suit from a shower curtain, before trying to over-power their captor.  I don't believe that someone who just wakes up from a coma, finding herself locked in an unknown room, would willingly accept the situation without some type of reservation.  She did show reservation, but not enough.  

10 Cloverfield Lane is strictly a flick for the easily amused.  And you can enjoy it to, as long as you don't come in with in inquisitive mind.  

Nov 1, 2014

Literary Contender or Pretender: DJango Unchained

Hypothesis: Django Unchained offers a fantasy script that will resonate with humanists, but misfires for audiences expecting a masterful composition from Quentin Tarantino.  

There's the typical Tarantino flare that pulsates from Django Unchained: The hyperbolic violence, the candid and extended dialogue, bombastic audio, and animated characters that often parallel cartoons.  This is the good stuff.  This is the stuff that helped Tarantino create his very own style, and almost, his very own genre of film literature.  Many of his works are considered, by the Sirloin Furr blog, to contain literary merit: Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Inglorious Bastards.   But these mentioned films offer more than style: they present well executed story lines that intermingle the zany characters that are standards in Tarantino's work.  And unfortunately, that story line doesn't fully bloom with the same seduction that some of his other works have evoked.  

The Good Stuff

The Visuals

Most of Tarantino's films award the viewers with flawlessly orchestrated visuals.  This is a keystone to not only his success, but a major contribution towards achieving literary status.  Django Unchained offers these iconic screenshots, which helps give the film an distinct placement within the literary community.  

Django Throwing The Blanket
This 4 second moment of Django Unchained is a fraction of a fraction in the 165 minute film.  But, it stands as not only one of the most iconic images of the film, but for Tarantino's portfolio.  Firstly, the scene erupts with frisson, when Django, launches the tattered blanket from his shoulders, and displays his chiseled back like a triumphant boxer.  But even beyond the instant visual, the scene is symbolically driven, with Django's actions speaking vibrantly like a shackled man being granted freedom.  This moment perfectly reflects the rewarding sensation of achieving freedom, and offers a very realistic sensation for its audience, which is what literature is all about.

The Dialogue

(Video is NSFW)
Tarantino's other talent is his absorbing dialogue.  His characters often recite these loaded, emotional, and magnetic strings of dialogue, that perfectly presents every complex modicum of entangled emotions in each of his scenes.  And what makes this talent so important is that the personal divide between movie viewer and witness disappears.  The viewer transcends from passively viewing the film, to actively becoming a member within the scene.  And Calvin Candie's (Leonardo DiCaprio) scene, where he confronts Django and Dr. Shultz, embodies tension, fear, suspense, and anxiety, a web of emotional terror that blankets the viewer with an authentic reflection of a cruel and monstrous slave-owner.

The Bad

Inadequate Editing

Keeping focus for 165 minutes is a challenge.  But indepth stories, fascinating characters, and sublime presentations can help conceal the challenge.  Goodfellas is considered by a few critics to be the shortest 3 hour film they've ever seen.  And it's for good reason, it has fascinating characters, absorbing stories, and has dancing cinematography that tango's with the viewer through the entire ride.  Tarantino has experience building a long film that provides these caveats, but unfortunately, they just aren't there in Django Unchained.  The story is an interesting revenge, history piece, but when broken down to its cinematic DNA, it is a "find a missing person" case.  Great films can be made with this plot line, but it is too one-dimensional for a nearly 3 hour movie.  

Although the editing is the film's biggest issue, it is a LARGE issue.  Scenes drag on, characters sit silently, and the camera doesn't feel like it always knows where it should be looking.  These aren't pandemic throughout the film, but they are serious issues that would be expected from a film student, and not an auteur.  And the issue with these missteps is how it impacts the viewing experience.  These scenes don't carry the emotional frisson, disrupting the film's ability to transition the viewer into the world of the film.  This seriously impairs Django Unchained from becoming literary merit.

The Literary Verdict

Films like Django Unchained stand in literary limbo.  Between its visuals and dialogue, but inadequate editing, there just enough reason to merit the film as literature, as there is to dismiss its credibility.  There is no right answer, as all of these observations are absorbed subjectively.  But as far as Sirloin Furr is concerned, although Django Unchained offers impressive and transcending monologues and iconic visuals, its not polished enough to fulfill literary merit.  It provides enough creativity and skill to provide valuable guidance for aspiring film-makers, and it is another diverse piece of solid entertainment for Quentin Tarantino's portfolio.  But its inadequate editing doom the film's rhythm, and breaks away from the audience too many times during its 165 minute showtime.  

Aug 2, 2014

Literary Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

Hypothesis: Glengarry Glen Ross is a minimalist film that utilizes character exploitation to drive desperate actions by the supporting cast to create a memorable and honest film.  

Displays Literary Merit: YES

Key Points:

  • This film loves (well-written) monologues.  
  • The film is simple.
  • The film exploits every ounce of desperation from its characters.
The Film Loves (well-written) Monologues
Glengarry Glen Ross isn't rich in set pieces or special effects.  But the props don't interfere with the meaty dialogue that does more than enough to make up for the lacking props, by gasconading testosterone-fueled bravado and discourse over intensity and desperation.  The under-performing salesman are presented with a stipulation: either sell, or be fired.  After the salesmen learn that the one who sells the least by the end of the week will be fired, the entire staff is launched in an uproar of defense and panic.  Some try to sell, others think of alternative solutions; stealing the good leads from the office in the middle of the night.  The next morning then becomes a who-dun-it mystery, as the sales staff is forced to defend themselves against the interrogation from the police.  And what really propels the desperation, is each salesman trying to sell their own defense of their innocence against the others.  And just as natural salesmen do, these characters all recite detailed, verbose, and volatile monologues, reinforcing the only trait that this subset of working class has.  

The Film is Minimalist
Glengary Glen Ross isn't trying to preach minimalist ideals (suggested by the natural inclination of a salesman).  But the film's lacking special effects, CGI, or expensive set pieces create a very singlular scene that takes place almost entirely in an office.  And although this sounds like an unlikely environment for a film, the scrip writers put all of their chops and bravado into the script, that maximizes the quality actors used for the film (Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Ed Harris).  Glengary Glen Ross strips filmmaking to its core, and puts its emphasis into its script, injecting so much power and strength that the lacking set practically has zero influence on the picture.  There's a good chance the film could have been filmed in a remote location, and still offered the same impactful delivery due to the magnitude of its script.  

The film exploits desperation from its characters
Although the film doesn't offer much to chew on, what is there is alot to swallow.  And all that it offers is presented in an honest disposition that makes Glengary Glen Ross a film containing literary merit.  The desperation fulfills the bulk of the honesty, as the desperate actions are believeable because of what is on the line for the salesmen.  

Jul 11, 2014

Literary Review : Prisoners

Prisoners is Literary Merit Certified

Thesis:  Although baring some holes in its script and forcing the audience to accept some questionable antagonist motives, Prisoners successfully executes a gritty mystery/drama by focusing on the perspectives of those most haunted by the trauma.

Key Points:
  • The desperation of the father and detective drive the film
  • The environment and score contribute to the desolate atmosphere
  • The captivating portrayal of the father and detective over shadow the holes in the script and questionable antagonists.  
The desperation of the father and detective drive the film
Their motives and actions are captivating, and ultimately drive the interest of the film.  Although the surrounding environment is enriching and the plot is enough to reach front page of national news, the depth of their desperation draws the audience to enter the deep and dark place that the film dares to descend.  

Keller Dover (father)
Hugh Jackman utilizes the testosterone fueled aggression that helped secure him the role of Wolverine, to present a relatable portrayal of a vengeful father relentlessly seeking the abductor of his daughter. His anger and impulsive actions can be understood by the audience (especially if the viewer has any children of their own), making the film feel honest.  By creating an honest character portrayal, the film has freed itself from viewer skepticism, allowing itself to demonstrate the extreme magnitude that Keller Dover is willing to take to find the location of his daughter.  Kidnapping, torture, and incarceration are all actions that a reasonable person would never consider.  But forced into a situation where a raging father believes that police and authorities are not fulfilling their civic obligation, that are not working relentlessly to find an innocent little girl, then it suspends belief, and allows the audience to believe that the actions of Keller Dover, although extreme, desperate, and radical, are honest.  

Detective Loki (detective)
There isn't much revealed about the detective.  His history isn't revealed, personal tastes aren't disclosed.  All that we know is that he has solved all of his cases, twitches his eyes due to an unknown and unacknowledged condition, and buttons his shirt all the way to the collar.  Should the audience believe that we have an atypical, hard-nosed, down-on-his luck cop?  Or should the audience believe that, because Detective Loki has solved all of his cases, that he's actually a well studied and above his time detective?  It's hard to say.  Not knowing his history prevents the audience from typecasting the detective, which gives the film some more ambiguity.  And that ambiguity gives the character some freedom, by not having to fulfill pre-conceived expectations, of what we're expected of on-screen pigs.

The Score 
The score was great.  It's not a Grammy winning sound track.  Instead, it adds subtly anxiety to very specific scenes, helping the audience commit to the realness of the film.

Plot Holes
The film wasn't perfect, so there are most likely other holes.  But one glaring hole that I'd like to mention is the forensic teams inability to find Keller Dover's truck or bag of tools.  So after Dover is brought to the hole by Ms. Leo, Detective Loki shows up shortly after.  There could not have been any more than 1 hour between the time Dover went into the hole, and the time that Loki showed up.  So how did Ms. Leo find time to hide Dover's truck and bag of tools?  She wouldn't have been able to.  So how did the forensic team not find the Dover's truck and bag of tools?  They had reason to believe that Dover was there, and should have noticed that his truck and tools were there.  This did not deflect from the mood, tension, or atmosphere the film built.  However, anyone paying attention will have noticed that this is something that was not presented honestly, and is asking the audience to dismiss its unfeasibility.

Conclusion: Contains Literary Merit
Regardless of the ending plot hole, the atmosphere and honest characters pitted into this atmosphere justify the tension and radical decisions that the characters present.  Detective Loki's collectiveness, and Keller Dover's anger, build an tense parallax within the film, that contributes to the stressful situations that they both find themselves in.

Dec 4, 2012

The mud run explosion:

Tough Mudder has been a fairly trendy commodity since it's debut in 2010.  In only 6 weeks, it was able to register 3000 participants for its first event.  And since that first event, it has expanded to many other states and other countries, still unable to feed the demand.  So, like many initially successful business plans, there are always immediate imitators.  Here are 5 similar (and less expensive) obstacle courses that have spurred existence because of the influence of Tough Mudder.

1. Warrior Dash
Warrior Dash is a shorter version of Tough Mudder.  It throws contestants through an obstacle course/mud run, but it is only a 5k event.  They claim the race will only take about 30 - 45 minutes.  For those looking for a shorter event, with the same after party, check out Warrior Dash.

2. Spartan Race
Spartan Race is for the serious competitors.  One of Tough Mudder's slogans is that their race is not designed to be competitive  but for camaraderie.  Well Spartan Race tosses that notion out the happy window and taunts its contestants to win.  One of the more versatile races, it offers a 5k run, an 8 -10 mile run, and a 10-12 mile run.  Then, there's the popular Death Race, with bragging rights of being uncompleted by 90% of its entrants.  For the more competitive, give Spartan Race a glance over.

3. CerebRun - Get Mental Mud Run
CerebRun is the most interesting and interactive mud run option.  Not only does this race claim to be a brutal course of 5-7 miles, but it includes puzzles and problems, that dictate the length and difficulty of the CerebRunner's course.  Their website provides an online quiz that includes puzzles and problems, designed to alleviate cognitive bias.  This is the only mud run to include puzzles and problems, and seems to have blended a very interesting mix of physical and mental events.

3. Rugged Maniac
Rugged Maniac looks to be a half-assed obstacle course, with a pathetic marketing scheme, an elementary sketched logo, and a minimally functional website.  It's a 5k run, probably exactly the same as Warrior Dash.  But the registration is cheap, which is one thing that it has going for it.

4. Hero Rush
Hero Rush is interesting.  It is influenced by the real-life experiences of fire fighters.  They haven't issued any events just yet, but from what it sounds, participants will be jumping in burning homes to save people.  Basically, firefighters are sweet, and so are fires.  Keeping a close eye on this one.

5. Run for your Lives!
Run for your Lives takes a different angle.  Another 5k, tucked in the woods, where zombies chase the participants.  The participants run with flags on their sides, like flag-football.  Then, people can sign up to be zombies and chase down the uninfected.

Clearly, these types of events and long distance obstacle courses have been with held from American society.  The sheer demand is proof of that.  So as of now, while the initial, thoughtless start ups are enjoying the quick financial gain, we'll have to wait to see what inventive tycoon can come through and really improve on what is becoming an overly trending experience.       

May 10, 2012

Why Marvel's The Avengers worked.

Marvel's The Avengers

Thesis: I thought The Avengers was going to blow, but it proved me wrong with a focused script and evenly distributed action.  

I was genuinely surprised that The Avengers didn't suck.  With a mix of characters, all equal in power (almost), all worthy of screen time and attention, I expected some shit-show, cinematic slop, with unbalanced character distribution.  Who was going to be the star?  Ironman and his wit?  Captain America and his leadership?  Hulk because he's simply awesome!  (Thor never had a chance)  But Whedon did a great job avoiding any of this turmoil, evenly distributing all the focus characters, and utilizing all of their talents to weave together a fine film.  They all genuinely felt involved through the entire film, without being over shadowed by one of the other personalities or characters.

Another trending feature in today's super hero films is the super hero bitching about being a super hero?  What?  Spider-man begging for his normal life to return, and the Batman doing a noble gesture by leaving Gotham?  This makes no sense to the average joe, but with a good script, an audience can buy into anything.  Fearfully, it seemed almost inevitable that The Avengers would experience something similar.  I could foresee Bruce Banner needing a shoulder to weep on for a complexion problem, or Tony Stark wanting to return to his bachelor days.  But thankfully, there were no moments of faggy bromance hogging screen time.  The characters all generally seemed to accept their super-hero nature, without any hesitation to ever jump into an action scene.  

And kudos to Whedon for knowing that his villain had to unleash some truly, brutal hell on earth in order to get this clan to work together.  I thought Loki was a poor villain.  The antlers were corny, and the chosen actor just didn't have the ruffled skin to be a villain.  Too baby faced.  But, he did unleash some demonic creatures that didn't mess around, and there were tons of them, making the final fight scene enjoyable.  

Overall, this film is a great comic film.  This is the result of a focused script that didn't wandering off into emotional trash-like territory.  Totally unrealistic, and on the brink of tongue-in-cheek.  But with these characters, it certainly should be.     

Mar 11, 2012


Thesis: Drive is a movie full of style, grit, flash, and well placed sound tracks, which help hide the very lacking plot lines, and the quiet and inconsistent main character.

I just finished watching the movie Drive, and here are the main points that I'd like to cover to discuss the film's literary merit:

a. the 80's them
b. precise visuals and sound
c. inconsistent main character
d. lacking plot

a.  The 80's theme IS very prominent (literature IS alive!).  I'm not sure if it was meant to be an 80's theme, or if it is stating that the 2000's are constructed of similar, shallow elements that have made the 80's so attractive to mass culture.  Regardless, the theme within the film (clothes and music) earned comparisons to Scarface.  Nowhere near comparable to the epic plot line and the in depth character study that Scarface offered, but comparable on the level that the time of which the film is engrossed in is so much a part of the film itself, that it ultimately acts as a tangible character with the film.  Because the retro theme was clearly so relevant and an intentional part of the director's scheme, that this proves to be a very prominent literary element within the film.

b. slow motion visuals perfectly synchronized with majestic scores and sound tracks, demonstrate exactly what Nicholas Winding Refn is trying to create.  The opening scene in the car, while Ryan Goesling's character, who simply goes by the name of "Driver," builds great anxiety for the audience, as one criminal is in the car, while they wait for the other.  The music introduction boars through the scene as driver releases a hammer from the inner sleeve of his shirt as he walks into a dressing room.  But one of the most mystical visuals was the shot gun blast through the bathroom window, causing an instant burst of crimson red through the separating cranium of an unsuspecting being.  The scene was shot in slow motion, presenting the beauty of a sensational explosion of innards for the audience to witness.  These are the elements that Refn offers the audience.  These are the elements that will cause viewers to review and rewind specific scenes.  These are the artistic qualities that Refn implies for his viewers.

c.  One quality that a story needs to have is a reliable character.  Not reliable in the sense that other characters in the film can rely on him/her, but in the sense that the audience can believe the actions, reactions, and logic that the character has displayed.  Drive does not offer this reliability.  Within the first scene, the main character is silent, smooth, and confident.  The audience believes that this character is in complete control of every situation that comes before him, which the main character does justify thoroughly with some kick-ass and grappling performances.  However, there are a few instances where things don't add up.  During the planned heist in the middle of the movie, the father was shot in the head, and fell dead before he could enter the car.  The main character, uncharacteristically, got out of the car, looking confused and unaware, appearing extremely vulnerable.  This inconsistency drastically hinders the film's reliablility and authenticity.  All literature will have reliable characters, characters that the audience can trust and expect to react the way that they have led the audience to beleive that they will react.

The main character's history appears to be completely irrelevent to the director, as nothing is ever presented.  There is not justification for why he wishes to assist the broken family, and aside from the lacking past, the main character is mute.

d. The plot line isn't interesting.  Some money gets taken from a guy who doesn't want it to be taken from him.  The main character's motive is to help a broken family, without any reason.  A well written script would have presented a more dynamic main character, involved with a more enticing and enthralling script.

Literary conclusion:

Drive offers great scenes, wonderful music, and very anxious situations.  It is a good movie, satisfying and enjoyable.  It challenges viewers with shocking moments of inhumanity and excessive violence, without immersing anyone with a short attention span into a twisting and clever plot line.  But without that plot line, it doesn't qualify as a film that could contend with the damning disease of time, as age will slowly dismember its entity.