Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Graduate

The timeless angst of The Graduate reminds us that the quarter-life crisis is no recent phenomenon, and this film masterfully articulates the ways that coming of age in a culture and time which honors informality and individualism only heightens the ambivalence and angst of early adulthood. The tone that Nichols sustains throughout the entire film: the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack (although that's a large part of it), the heightened reality where fish tanks and swimming pools offer the audience away to float through a regrettable summer with Ben, and into an ambivalently happily ever after with Elaine.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why Talk About Movies

The proliferation of blogs has replaced the rate of human reproduction by almost half in the last two years*. So why develop another blog? Why contribute one more voice to the babble, the caucophany, the roar? I, myself, already maintain over 45 blogs**. Only three of them have achieved enough validity to be google-able. So why more?! Why now? Why me***?

Good Question. My answers may or may not be good ones, but the profound lack of exigency reminds me of the humility of this particular venture. And in humility, I seek to demarcate the *rules* (as it were) that will (hopefully?) render this blog distinct.

1. This blog will review movies.

2. The movies reviewed on this blog are not selected because they are good movies or because they are bad movies. They're primarily selected because I watched them.

I watch movies because they are made by filmmakers that I trust and love.

I watch movies because I teach a class about faith & film.

I watch movies because a filmmaker I love or trust recommends it to me.

I watch movies because cinephiles I trust recommend them to me.

I watch movies because I want to understand strange trends in our culture.

I watch movies because they are independently made and don't have mainstream distribution.

I watch movies to learn about something new.

I watch movies that post-adolescents love (because I teach them at my day-job).

I watch movies that my partner, Lynn, wants to...to be with her and know her better.

3. This blog will seek to identify the good and the worthwhile in the films it reviews.

4. This blog wishes there were a way it could do all of these things and NOT reinforce and calcify a hierarchical approach to art, but this blog (well, actually it's author) knows that's impossible. Still, it will try to work against such rigidity.

5. This blog reserves the right to make new rules as it goes along.

*I made up this statistic. It relies upon hyperbole to make a larger point, that is, hopefully, more true than the statistic or my use of it.

**Again with the hyperbole. I have a lot of blogs, but 45 is actually just the age that I used to tell people that I thought I was "made to be." when I was just 12. I know. VERY geeky. And I actually have no idea how many blogs I maintain, but its nowhere near 45.

***if you've read this far, then there's nothing that I can say to rescue my credibility from the trash-heap that these asterisks have made of it -- so the answer to "why me?" would have to be -- because you find chicanery-via-hyperbole to be a pleasureable reading experience....? If not ? No point in reading forward from this point....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

About Redbaerd

I am:

Someone who loves film.

An external processor. I think by talking/writing.

Someone who was (because of religion) deprived of films for the first 16 or so years of his life.

An amateur film critic.

Someone who values the popular.

But also someone who appreciates critical standards.

An amateur screenwriter.

Someone who eschews film snobbery...

...and someone who inadvertantly snubs films all the time.

A failed filmmaker.

Someone who has read a smidgen of film theory.

Utterly transfixed when bathed in the glow of a screen.

Someone who ended up teaching a "faith and film" class at his church under duress...

...and started writing this blog while teaching the class.

I write this blog because:

I like to remember what I think about anything by returning to re-read my journal.

I've experienced the thrill of *connection* with like-minded-folks through the internet, and its a high that I wouldn't mind replicating.

I know that once others read my ideas -- they'll challenge me, provide me with new great leads, and introduce me to films and filmmakers I wouldn't have otherwise known about. I can't wait.

Writing is a heuristic process for me, I'll develop both my thinking and my questions by writing. I also know that I'll be more moderate in the claims I make because of the theoretical audience that could be lurking any moment.

The two-sentence review is an exercise in clarity and directness (neither one are virtues I posess).

Monday, September 19, 2005


I first saw Rushmore in a theater in Toledo, Ohio. I went to the movie alone, and I laughed so loud and so much that occasionally it felt like I was the only one in the theater.

Perhaps this sensation was reinforced by the feeling, throughout the film, that Wes Anderson had made this movie for me. That in fact, we spoke in a secret code (you know, the kind you invented in the secret club comprised of you and your ten-year-old friends hiding under the vast bushes at the far side of the block), and the whole movie could only be decoded by me because we had been in the same series of clubs.

Max Fisher, the ne'er do well protagonist of RUSHMORE, is an incorrigible adolescent who majors in extracurriculars at the private prep school called...Rushmore. His quest to save Latin is just the beginning of his obsession with Kindergarten teacher Miss Cross. When his friend Herbert Blume, local steel magnate falls in love with Ms. Cross, too, things go horribly wrong. The only way Max can heal the breach he's created is by staging one of his spectacular plays.

I am Max Fisher. I didn't have an obsession with a kindergarten teacher, but I definitely majored in extracurriculars. What's more -- the answer to any problem -- in my mind was: Stage a Show.

In every Wes Anderson film, what I love more than anything is the way that Anderson lovingly crafts his characters. His compassion for quirky, neurotic, annoying people is exactly the kind of grace that touches me most deeply. It seems like what the world really needs.

Don't squelch the odd impulses that make you unique -- his credo seems to tell us -- instead, embrace the intuitions and urges that drive us. These quirky dimensions of our selves can create meaning and beauty for everyone around us -- each story reveals -- if we can be reconciled to the community that nurtures and supports us.

The dramatic arc of the film follows one of the wierdest love triangles I've seen on the silver screen. Both Howard Blume (the wealthy industrialist with a disaffected wife, and twin sons who he could have never imagined having, all simmering in a wounded past from Vietnam - and played by Bill Murray) and Max -- love Ms. Cross the enigmatic kindergarten teacher at Rushmore. Ms. Cross is just as obsessed. For her, though, its a dead husband that she pines for.

I have to admit that its not the plot that I love as much as I love the world of the movie and the tone of the movie.

Rushmore Academy takes place in a world that seems recent and ancient at the same time. There are enough features of our world to alert us that its not a period piece. And yet, oddly enough, that's exactly what it feels like -- a period piece. The hairstyles and clothes and colors and buildings all seem of a piece with one another, but vaguely off kilter from our everyday world.

All of the transitional moments of the film open with a velvet curtain, leaving a lingering sensation that this whole production is Max's own vanity production -- a retelling of his own story much later in his life. All the good parts ramped up a bit. The bad parts played lightly, with melodramatic music and stylized acting. When Max and Howard Blume trade pranks and cruel schemes, we hear the music of The Who: "You are forgiven."

Who's forgiving anyone in this moment?

I think Max is forgiving himself and Blume and inviting us to forgive them too. The chorus is almost Grecian in this moment chanting the emotional response that we, the audience, are to employ, too. "You are forgiven."

And ultimately, the common grace afforded to all characters in this movie comes in the form of Max's shows. They have the power to heal old wounds, to bring together old enemies, to enchant new audiences and to turn sixth graders into Hamlets. In a storytelling universe, all it takes to bind us back together is a new story that we can believe in.