Sunday, March 31, 2019

Supernova: Of Combustion and Cosmic Matter on the Big Stage

A Star Is Born is a story that seems destined to be retold as long as a single Hollywood producer has even a single dollar left to their name. It makes a certain kind of sense; like most people, people in Hollywood like to talk about themselves. There's a reason movies like The Artist and Birdman tend to get a lot of recognition come awards season, and it's the same reason the dicks of every man you know get a lot of extra attention on lonely Friday nights at home alone. The masturbatory urge isn't self-destructive or antisocial, rather it is as comforting in its familiarity as it is reassuring in its final, inevitable result.

Each iteration of A Star is Born is built on a foundation of anxieties unique to Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general. The 2018 version follows the same mould as its previous versions as far as basic plot points go: a male music superstar, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), mumbling his way through life one sold out show after another has a chance encounter with an struggling, female singer, Ally (Lady Gaga), they fall in love, he helps catapult her to success, their relationship goes through a rough patch, his own star begins to fade, he dies tragically,  and she moves forward through the grief while honouring his legacy.

At a surface level, A Star is Born is a romantic drama, but at its heart, it's a retelling and reinforcement of a core part of Hollywood mythology. In an industry and a profession where success is as fleeting and as fickle as it is difficult to attain in the first place, it makes a certain kind of sense that fame would be integral to its lore.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Total Recall and Other Tall Tales. Reality is as Reality Does... When is an Alien Artifact Not an Alien Artifact?

Paul Verhoeven's movies are almost as well-known by this point for being chronically misunderstood as they are for their over-the-top violence and sex and their underlying subversive social commentary. His storytelling style is perhaps one of the most unique in the history of film, and it is both the most significant factor in understanding the core messages of his films and the largest hindrance. This is not the fault of Verhoeven, but more of a testament to the failure of educational systems to truly instill a foundation of media literacy in audiences at large.

The films of Paul Verhoeven are almost paradoxical in their execution; they simultaneously revel in and rebel against the actual literal content being shown on screen. On the one hand, they can be enjoyed by audiences at face value for the sheer visceral absurdity of the whole spectacle, but for all of their ultraviolent bluster, their core messages are almost always the exact opposite of (or at least vastly different from) what you might assume they would be considering the subject matter. The thing that causes so much confusion among audiences in understanding Verhoeven's films goes beyond the normal complexities that can be involved in decoding various garden varieties of irony and satire; his work is simultaneously completely obvious but intentionally cryptic. It's like being invited into somebody's house for dinner while standing there watching a wrecking crew demolishing that same house. The intention is genuine, but the execution is enigmatic.