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December 17, 2007


Southland Tales: most mental movie of the year

Southland Tales

Southland Tales came out a month ago. Even though it's not that relevant anymore, I think it's safe to assume that hardly anybody has seen it: so far it's made something like $250,000, so I'm guessing that roughly the population of a small county in Maine has seen this movie.

Which is too bad, because it is by far the weirdest movie I have seen all year. It's already gotten a fair amount of press about how crazy it is, how it got trashed at Cannes, how the distribution company and studio totally disowned it by being hyperclear that the movie is nobody's fault but writer/director Richard Kelly's (the same guy who made Donnie Darko in 2001), and the best thing most critics had to say is that the movie has "a certain delirious lyricism", in the case of David Edelstein. Manohla Dargis liked it, or at least strongly admired it, and actually compares it favorably to No Country For Old Men for how many risks it takes.

It's well documented that this movie is really crazy and that Richard Kelly is a lunatic, so all I have left to talk about is the cast.

In Southland Tales, Richard Kelly leaves his former stunt casting abilities in the dust. Casting Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko was pretty good, but Southland Tales actually achieves 100% stunt casting.

You know how with some actors, like Meryl Streep, even if you've seen them in dozens of roles, they are still able to disappear inside their characters so that you aren't left thinking "There's Meryl Streep" when you see her on the screen? This movie was like the opposite of that. Different actors come on the screen, and all you think is "There's Buffy!" or "There's Justin Timberlake!" or "There's the guy from "Night Court" and the whole past and present cast of SNL!" This has to be on purpose. The overall effect is the sense that you are watching some compressed apocalyptic version of our entire pop culture all together at the end of the world in Southern California.

I think the best way to describe the overall story and feel of the movie is this: one scene features the guy from The Princess Bride, the scary little-girl-voiced medium from Poltergeist, and Booger as a group of scientists who hold a press conference for their new energy-generating machine called Fluid Karma that creates a rift in the space-time continuum, and that this group also launches a giant glowing Mega-Zeppelin, accidentally generates a clone of The Rock, and makes a secret drug that Justin Timberlake smuggles back from Iraq to create some sort of telepathic communication. Bai Ling also vamps around with the scientists as an even more outrageous self-parody than usual, and enthusiastically makes out with Wallace Shawn. Awesome.

I was really impressed by how imaginative and wacky the movie is, but it's pretty clear that Richard Kelly also ripped off some other filmmakers. Rebekah Del Rio singing an impassioned Spanglish version of "The Star Spangled Banner"? Hm, just like David Lynch did in Mulholland Drive, when Rebekah Del Rio sang an impassioned Spanish version of "Crying". And the hallucinatory Busby Berkeley-style song-and-dance number with Justin Timberlake in the arcade to a Killers song sure was a lot like the Busby Berkeley number with Jeff Bridges in the hallucinatory bowling alley in The Big Lebowski.

Pretty obvious steals, but they're good scenes to lift. Trying to understand the plot of Southland Tales and make sense of the goofball dialogue won't get you anywhere, but it's a really funny freakshow of a movie. There are so many other subplots that are really good: Sarah Michelle Gellar and her "The View"-inspired talk show with her porn star pals are especially hilarious, as is Amy Poehler's brief scene as a new bride having a screaming match with her husband about all the men she's cheated on him with.

It's still playing at the Village East cinema on 2nd Ave.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 1:41 PM | #

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Teen horniness:

Posted by: essbeekay at December 18, 2007 10:40 AM

"Teen Horniness Is Not A Crime" is Krysta Now's (aka Buffy's) pop single; the video clip was one of the most boldly inexplicable highlights of Southland Tales:


Posted by: amy at December 18, 2007 4:55 PM

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