Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Film Pairings — The Stuff Of Dreams, Nightmares Actually

Horror films are supposed to touch our deepest fears, awaken us, our flesh covered with sweat, screaming for our mothers. Those aren’t my nightmares. I’ve never had dreams in any way related to Freddie Kruger types, where the monster is so apparent.  I’m much more likely to have bad dreams that lead to despair rather than death and dismemberment.   The two I mention below, in story and style, are certainly different from the garden variety nightmares in which the dreamer is chased by a monster.  One is a visceral hell, and the other an intellectual one.  However if it is escape you want, neither offers a way out.
The Salton Sea — Some critics have called it “derivative.”  What isn’t? It is fair to say that the film certainly brings Tarantino to mind.  A reality – a violent one – is created that is inhabited by the kind of people most of us will never know, thank goodness. Psychopaths, desperate meth users and corrupt killer cops battle in Val Kilmer’s nightmarish, noirish existence. And the question, of sorts, is: “Is it a nightmare?”  Kilmer, who some of us have nearly forgotten is good.  So is Vincent D’Onofrio as the whacko, noseless, drug dealer Pooh Bear.  Credit also goes to actor Peter Sarsgaard in this 2002 film directed by D. J. Caruso with cinematography by Amir Mokri. 

Ex Machina  — I am a fan of Alex Garland’s work.  He wrote three novels – all of them well worth reading – The Beach, Tesseract and Coma. He also wrote and directed Ex Machina , which was released this year to surprisingly low buzz. That shouldn’t be a surprise. There are no big-name stars. The special effects are low-key. They couldn’t be costly. The questions the film raise are endless. Though touched on before, they’ve never been answered, nor are they here. However we need to keep asking them until they can be answered.

Not only is it likely we will be able to create artificial intelligence in all ways equal to human intelligence but should we? Are these creatures equal?  The same? If we say they are less because they are programmed, what about us?  Aren’t we programmed by our DNA or the nurturing process or some combination thereof? If what we manufacture is capable of love as well as self-awareness, have we created a being? Garland presents us with a story, a little less powerful but more intimate than Blade Runner, that forces us into some uncomfortable thinking. The important thing here is that it is a thought-provoking couple of hours. Actors include Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Sonoya Mizuno and Oscar Isaac. Rob Hardy was in charge of cinematography.

To accompany this double feature, I think we avoid the meth so prevalent in the first film and the vodka in the second. Maybe substances supposed to make us smart would work here.  Pomegranate juice, coconut water, blueberries, salmon….

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