Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
"I may have won 19 awards that you don’t feel I earned, but it’s neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you’re not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved Arrested Development! Aren’t we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks? Hey, let’s go bitch about how Black Kids are overrated!)
I’m sorry that while you were shooting your failed opus at Tisch, I was jamming toxic silicon toys up my ass for money. I get why you’re bitter. I took exactly one film class in college and– with the curious exception of the Douglas Sirk unit—it bored the shit out of me.
I’m sorry to all those violent, semi-literate fanboys who hate me for befriending their heroes. I can’t help it if your favorite writer, actor, director, or talk show host likes me. Maybe you would too, if we actually met.
I know my name is fake and that it annoys you. What, do you hate Queen Latifah and Rip Torn, too? Writers and entertainers have been using pseudonyms for years. Chances are, you’re spewing bile under an assumed screen name yourself. I’m sorry if you think I’m like some inked-up quasi-Suicide Girl derby cunt from 2002, but I like my fake name. It’s engraved on an Oscar. Yours isn’t."
Note: This is a radio rip so you'll probably notice some choice sound effects and inane lead-out banter. But I still think you get the idea.
The essential story centers on a freshly fired employee of the CIA (John Malkovich) trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman (Tilda Swinton) who is having an affair with another married man (George Clooney). Matters are complicated when some of Malkovich's personal info ends up in the hands of truly stupid employees at a fitness chain called Hard Bodies. The doltish personal trainer Chad (Brad Pitt) thinks he has stumbled on to government secrets whereas he really has nothing but scraps from a proposed memoir and some financial information. He shares this find with his surgery obsessed co-worker Linda (Frances McDormand) who sees the event as an opportunity for lucrative blackmail that might earn her enough cash to pay for her much desired face lift and tummy tuck. Overseeing the lot is their very mild-mannered boss (Richard Jenkins), in desperate love with Linda, who of course notices nothing. The eagle eye to the whole debacle though is J.K. Simmons in a minute but wonderful comic turn as the CIA operative trying to keep tabs on the increasingly elaborate and incomprehensibly stupid actions of everyone involved.
Government apathy and American obsessions with sex and physical perfection - the moronic nature of the entire modern age, in fact - are merely fodder for this low scrutiny satire. No agenda is set specifically but the general implication of the material - namely that we're all raving, needy, thoughtless Starbucks patrons bouncing around like pinballs - rings out loud and clear. And when the books is closed on the primary narrative (by film's end a near afterthought) there is a resounding sensation that nothing has been solved, and even more embarrassingly, there was really no problem at all.
Burn After Reading certainly feels like perhaps one of the most loose, fast-paced, and ultimately uneven films in the Coens' filmography, but it's so filled with pizazz and unstoppable energy that nothing else seems to matter (and nothing here really does). As with the film's characters, who run around foolishly with nowhere really to go, the film itself zings about so frenetically that you almost never realize it's heading nowhere. It's a 90 minute delight that passes before you at such a sprint, there's hardly even time to catch your breath.
What you most remember about the ride in the moments that follow are the performances, so magnetic and exciting and yet built on little more than high-adrenaline and the air in the room. So perfectly comic is Brad Pitt's mindless Chad that he literally makes the empty time spent waiting in a car funny. Pitt's every little twitch and sneer are laughable for reasons logic can't describe. So too are Clooney and McDormand as two ravenously needy lovers with no future. The two most polar opposite of all these performances shine the brightest though: Malkovich in a truly spastic foul-mouthed 90 minute rage and Richard Jenkins, all sad eyes and honest words, as the film's one and only gentle soul. The two are so disparate that there could be no other plausible end than for them to square off in the final frames.