Archives for posts with tag: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

don-jon-poster

Jew Joseph Gordon-Levitt has fun pretending to be a dopey blue collar Italian in Don Jon, which the multi-talented actor also scripted and directed. Jon is a bartender and ladies’ man who nonetheless prefers internet pornography to the shapely bimbos he casually beds. But this state of affairs is challenged when Jon falls for oily-lipped Jewish floozy Barbara (real-life oily-lipped and tattooed Jewish floozy Scarlett Johansson), who has the big lug hooked as soon as he lays eyes and hands on her ass. When Barbara disapproves of Jon’s pornography habit, will love be enough to make him kick it? Furthermore, will Jon’s unexpected acquaintance with Esther (Julianne Moore), a complicated and damaged older woman, affect the outcome?

Don Jon is an impressive feature debut for Gordon-Levitt as a writer-director, but the cast is what really makes it pop. Gordon-Levitt, light years from 3rd Rock from the Sun, has emerged as one of the most compelling leading men of his day, while Johansson, in addition to being a natural at playing the tramp, gives ample evidence of the electric power that was always present behind her exotic looks. Tony Danza, proving that there may yet be life after Who’s the Boss?, delivers a rowdy performance suggesting he could enjoy a late-career renaissance as a high-voltage character actor. (Scenes around the boisterous family dinner table may put some viewers in mind of the Maneros in Saturday Night Fever.) Moore is bizarre and cries as usual, while pretty Brie Larson is enigmatic in her mostly silent role as Jon’s younger sister, Monica.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt betrays a contempt for the conventional happy Hollywood ending, a bias he actually inserts into his character’s dialogue; but if Don Jon has an Achilles heel, it is its insistence on insulting and abandoning the traditional audience expectations of how a romantic comedy ought to develop and blossom. Don Jon, consequently, fails to satisfy precisely to the degree that it deviates from the time-tested narrative structure. One suspects that Gordon-Levitt may have been influenced in his decision to consciously disappoint his audience by an admiration for Woody Allen’s dramedies of the 70s and 80s, films like Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hannah and Her Sisters, which end in messy non-resolutions which nonetheless satisfy. Before he experiments, however, Gordon-Levitt is hereby advised to be patient and master the traditional forms.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Don Jon is:

11. Un-p.c. In one of his bouts of road rage, Jon yells that another driver is “retarded”. See also no. 7.

10. Drug-ambivalent. Weed is okay, but crack and heroin are referenced derogatorily.

9. Crypto-corporate. Don Jon ostensibly criticizes commercial culture, but works in product placement for Swiffer, Coke, Carl’s Jr, and Hardee’s.

8. Class-conscious. Barbara, who has a cleaning lady, is disturbed to learn that Jon mops his own floors. She also demands that he go to night school, the vague idea being that Jon ought to be moving up in the world somehow.

7. Sexist! Jon and his buddies argue about whether or not a nightclub cutie is a “dime”, i.e., a ten. Women are, for the most part, treated as sex objects, and also present themselves that way.

6. Anti-Christian. Jon’s religion is a matter of empty ritual, with a crucifix, for instance, dangling impotently from his rear-view mirror as he curses at other drivers. He regularly reports in the confessional how many times he has masturbated or fornicated out of wedlock, but then casually goes about his business with no intention of changing his ways. The priest, for his part, sounds uninterested, prescribing his Hail Marys with robotic boredom. A montage irreverently juxtaposes the collection plate with the confessional. One church scene cuts directly to Jon’s father (Danza) exclaiming, “Holy shit!”

5. Pro-wigger. Jon calls his car his “ride”, etc. His and other young singles’ idea of rug-cutting is basically a vertical lap dance.

4. Multiculturalist, postracial, and pro-miscegenation. Jon’s club-prowling buddies include a token black (Rob Brown) and an indeterminate (Jeremy Luke). Seemingly every sexual coupling in the film is interracial in one way or another.

3. Pro-slut/anti-marriage. The only sexually well-behaved woman in the movie is Jon’s mother (Glenne Headly), who, however, appears to feel somewhat neglected in her marriage. Despite a flippant acknowledgment that “real pussy can kill you”, Jon (along with the film) appears to believe that a condom makes him invincible. Don Jon‘s idea of a girl playing hard-to-get (necessitating “long game”) is Barbara bringing Jon to orgasm by grinding her buttocks against the crotch of his pants instead of actually going to bed with him.

2. Anti-porn. To its credit, Don Jon tackles the very real problem of addiction to internet pornography, a problem which may also contribute to Jon’s difficulty with anger and impulse control behind the wheel.

1. (Ironically) anti-Semitic! Barbara’s genetic impulse to dominate the gentile expresses itself in her controlling approach to her relationship with Jon, her attempted programming of his life, and her surveillance of his computer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has performed a valuable public service in exposing the bitch’s protocols.

Slightly less simplistic and ridiculous than this past summer’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Steven Spielberg’s snooze-inducing Lincoln – which, for the purposes of this review, shall go by the more appropriate and poetic title Stinkoln – is a study in arrogant Hollywood leftism thinly disguised as a prestigious period piece and civics lesson.  The essence of bare-assed propaganda, Stinkoln has multiple ulterior motives, which, however, are unified by the idea that the United States are a cess pit of ethical retardation and gross injustice, a situation that can be remedied only by a dictatorial executive beloved of “the people” and “clothed in immense power”.

Stinkoln fires its first shot with inspiring footage of black soldiers shooting, stabbing, and strangling white soldiers in open race warfare, after which two of the heroic Negroes pester the president himself for a raise and complain about their second-class citizen status.  Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis, doing his best Walter Brennan impression) gives evidence in this, his first scene, of what a shrewd politician he is by listening sympathetically, but then pretending to be half-senile and abruptly changing the subject, telling unfunny jokes instead of answering the Negroes’ concerns.  Lame comedy, unfortunately for the viewer, is a tactic that will be shamelessly employed by the commander-in-chief throughout the film, which focuses specifically on Lincoln’s crafty intention to stall peace negotiations with the Confederacy in order to force the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, finally abolishing slavery.  Opposition is strong in that “rat’s nest” of “hicks and hacks” the House of Representatives, however, and securing the necessary votes is no easy task for the Anointed.

David Strathairn, veteran of another self-congratulatory and horribly overrated liberal propaganda film, 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck, appears as Lincoln’s David Axelrod, William Seward, the unscrupulous muscle whose duties as Secretary of State also include overseeing a posse of political operatives engaged in bribing and browbeating representatives into enacting the people’s will.  Alternately aiding and irritating the president is First Lady Mary (Sally Field), an erratic, self-important ditz who characterizes her headaches as “another casualty of the war”.  Tommy Lee Jones steals the show, however, as Lincoln’s cantankerous, insult-spouting Marxist id, the abolition-uber-alles Radical Republican Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt also figures in the cast of hundreds, wasting a few minutes of his promising career as Lincoln’s idealistic first son Robert.

As a costume drama Stinkoln succeeds in recreating the look and feel of a place and time.  It sacrifices most of the entertainment value it might have had, however, in functioning as a political passion play.  Sanctimonious, rigid, hateful, and partisan, Stinkoln has nothing but smiling contempt for its audience, the American people.  Presenting a righteously reconfigured genocidal Ozymandias archetype for popular adoration and executive imitation, this freak-bearded Kool-Aid pitcher of a film is not only irresponsibly subversive but – arguably more unforgivable – actually boring. Lincoln’s dialogue consists almost entirely of purple prose that constantly chafes the viewer’s patience and makes this two-and-a-half-hour lecture on freedom feel more like four hours of chain-dragging bondage.  One of the kookiest, most cocksure, cruddy, overstuffed, oversimplified, overwrought, overbearing, and overlong offerings of Steven Spielberg’s overly hyped career, Stinkoln earns 2.5 of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Stinkoln is:

7. Anti-tobacco.  Second-hand smoke agitates emphysema.  An evilly racist representative rudely spits tobacco juice after voting against the Thirteenth Amendment.

6. Pro-miscegenation.  Thaddeus Stevens, Stinkoln reveals, has secretly been balling his black housekeeper, and therefore has more than a humanitarian motivation to pass the Thirteenth Amendment if he wants to keep the taste of that sweet brown sugar on his crusty, lusty old white lips.

5. Militarist/pro-NWO.  Government-directed bloodshed is the Philosopher’s Stone of social justice.  Brainwashed Robert, after seeing a patriotic heap of severed body parts, decides he is “nothing” if he fails to enlist to assist in the extermination of the enemies of the state.  Featured prominently in one scene is a George Washington statue by Frenchman Jean-Antoine Houdon (who also sculpted Rousseau and Napoleon), depicting America’s first president resting his left hand significantly on a fasces.

4. Anti-South.  Southern diplomats are pale, vampiric creatures who wince at the sunlight on emerging from the coffin-like darkness of their carriage (cf. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).  Robert E. Lee is, however, granted at least a measure of dignity of bearing in his brief appearance to throw in the towel.

3. Egalitarian, and specifically espousing a form of liberation theology.  Lincoln derives his power to redistribute property from “the people”, who, however, have defective moral compasses and require a man of superior fiber and spirituality to lead them to glory.  Equality = Fairness = Justice in Lincoln’s sophistic recipe for a moral economy.  Before his assassination, the president tells his wife he would like to travel in the Holy Land and visit Jerusalem, thus setting up the tacky Jesus comparison that finds its explicit expression in the beatific deathbed tableau, with Daniel Day-Lewis aglow in demise and looking like the figure in Bernardo Strozzi’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ.

2. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn).  Tad Lincoln (Gulliver McGrath) appears as a whiny, neurotic mess wracked by acute white guilt.  He divides his time between playing with toy soldiers and staring with naked self-loathing at photographic plates of miserable slaves.  One of the White House domestics recalls being beaten with a shovel as a child.  The horror!

1. Obamist/Machiavellian.  Political oppostion and pesky legal restraints are to be overcome by any necessary means.  What this country needs, Stinkoln dares to suggest, is an enlightened despot “clothed in immense power”.  It helps the masses to swallow the bitter pill of tyranny, however, if their dictator presents himself as Main Street incarnate, a folksy figure of Andy Griffith wholesomeness (think A Face in the Crowd) who tells jokes and anecdotes and whittles during strategy meetings.

With influences ranging from Scanners to The Terminator, Rian Johnson’s new film Looper nonetheless succeeds in being highly original and might best be described as a time travel western or sci-fi gangster film.  Crime organizations of the 2070s are in the habit of disposing of unwanted people by sending them back in time to be executed by “loopers” in the 2040s.  Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper working in Kansas and finds himself in a terrible predicament when faced with the option of either assassinating his future self (Bruce Willis) or disobeying his boss (Jeff Daniels) by letting himself run free.  Complicating matters still further is the intention of the older Joe to assassinate a young boy, Cid (Pierce Gagnon), who will grow up to be the Rainmaker, the mass-murdering mutant mega-crimelord who wants Joe and all the other loopers erased.  The boy’s mother (Emily Blunt) naturally tries to prevent this from happening and wonders if young Joe, who shows up on her farm, is someone she can possibly trust.

Futuristic films rarely instil hope, and Looper‘s predictions for human society fit nicely into this tradition.  Looper keeps its forecasts relatively modest by movie standards, with a few technologies and other developments having changed dramatically, while other aspects of society – not to mention all of humanity’s failings – remain remarkably the same.  10% of humans do manifest a mild telekinetic mutation, however, which plays into the Rainmaker origin story.  The Great Recession appears to have settled into an ongoing American decline, with systemic unemployment creating vagrant gangs and making people with money intolerant of the poor.  China is the ascendant power, and with the dollar apparently having lost all value, gold, silver, and yuan are the preferred forms of payment.  Joe is planning to emigrate after saving enough money, and is learning French toward that end, but his boss, who has lived in the future, advises him to forgo France for China.

With a plot revolving around strategic child murder, Looper is strong stuff, not to be dismissed as fantastic escapism, and is arguably a meditation on the ethics of abortion.  The older and presumably wiser Joe wants Cid dead to save his own and his wife’s future life, while young Joe, a junkie and whoring materialist, is divided by his loyalty to himself and to his boss, his new knowledge of potentially preventable future horrors, and his revulsion at what he sees himself attempting to do to correct the situation.  If time travel allowed Abraham Lincoln, Lenin, or Hitler to be located and neutralized as children, would the future outcome of the action justify their preemptive murders?  This is the problem Looper addresses.

The story can be disorienting, and Looper may not make complete sense even according to its own logic, but the ideas are important, the vision compelling, the direction certain, and the acting almost uniformly accomplished and affecting.  Bruce Willis, after appearing in the excellent Twelve Monkeys, now has two very memorable time travel films to his credit, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt can add one more to his recent string of high-profile roles in action winners.  Pierce Gagnon turns in a remarkably intimidating child performance as the future Rainmaker, and writer-director Rian Johnson identifies himself as a talent to watch in the years to come, with Looper easily earning 5 of 5 possible future star outcomes.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Looper is:

6. Anti-drug.  A psychedelic eye drop trip almost results in a young boy being run over.  Joe is an addict and more than once is depicted going through withdrawal sickness.  The film is cigarette-ambivalent, however.  In one scene, Emily Blunt sits on her porch and mimes the smoking of a cigarette, as if she’s given it up and misses the naughty ritual.  While cigarettes appear to be equated with hypodermic needles and eyedrops as an addiction, smoking is still, in the classic Hollywood tradition, also the mandatory film noir post-coitus convention.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s flirtations with a black waitress are punctuated by lurid shots of cream billowing in his cup of coffee.  He leers lasciviously at Chinese women before marrying one of them as Bruce Willis.

4. Gun-ambivalent.  One particular murder is appalling, but gunplay can be horrific or thrilling depending upon the target.  In one montage of mob hits, machine gun fire actually provides the percussion to the accompanying music.

3. Arguably anti-capitalist and egalitarian.  The silver currency evokes the Judas story, with a montage alternating mob executions with shots of silver bricks being neatly stacked, seemingly equating the profit motive with treachery and murder.  The lives of the poor are increasingly worthless as income inequality has broadened.

2. Feminist/pro-slut.  Emily Blunt’s character is a single mother who also manages to run a farm by herself.  Her telekinetic ability is stronger than that of the men who have used that tactic to try to impress her, and she knows how to handle herself with a shotgun and even doctor a man after she’s shot him.  Who needs some presumptuous penis mucking up her life to be a good, protective, and affectionate mother?

1. Pro-life/pro-bastard.  Looper can leave the viewer in no doubt as to its attitude toward innocent human life.  Only after they grow up and join criminal organizations do humans become entertaining machine gun target galleries.

In Shoot ‘Em Up, Hollywood gave audiences a new, health-conscious kind of action hero in Clive Owen’s gunman who chooses to gnaw on carrots rather than Clint Eastwood’s cigars.  Now Premium Rush continues and develops the healthy hero trend, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s courier Wilee riding a bike instead of tooling around in a pollution-and-noise-producing auto like the Batmobile or Mad Max‘s Main Force Patrol Interceptor.  The bicycle messengers of New York City, it turns out, actually lead perilously exciting lives and emerge as unsung heroes of sport and private enterprise while also menacing mainstream traffic.

Gordon-Levitt, who against the odds has left behind TV sitcom cutedom to break into mature, masculine lead roles in a major way this summer, stands a chance to become one of the action heroes of Generation Y based on his likeable turns in Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, and – we’re hoping – in his upcoming pairing with Bruce Willis in Looper, hitting screens in September.  Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee is a new kind of hero, a far cry from the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers of yesteryear; he’s philosophical, triumphing through (mostly) non-violent athleticism, split-second risk-taking, and hypothetical physics-informed bicycling strategy.

He needs everything in his physical and mental arsenal when he finds himself pursued across NYC by a bike cop and a crooked police detective villainously named Monday (Michael Shannon, who resembles a young Malcolm McDowell both facially and in intensity) in a feature-length chase setup that recalls Night of the Juggler‘s use of the city’s streets.  Like that film, Premium Rush never lets up and, in short, delivers what the title advertises.  5 stars.  Highly recommended entertainment.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Premium Rush is:

5. Multiculturalist.  Wilee receives much-needed aid from a multiracial horde of his bike messenger colleagues.

4. Pro-immigration.  Wilee’s “premium rush” delivery will help a Chinese mother bring her son to the U.S.

3. Multiply pro-miscegenation.

2. Anti-police.  Detective Monday is a vicious, corrupt murderer who abuses his authority.  Other police, even while well-meaning and simply trying to do their jobs, act as pesky antagonists toward the hero throughout the film.

1. Green.  Apart from the glorification of Wilee’s choice of transportation, NYC’s hybrid mass transit system also puts in a cameo.

The Dark Knight Rises is flawed, but can hardly be faulted for not giving its all.  If anything, it feels like too much movie squeezed into too little time, so that nearly every scene in this long but fast-moving film feels abbreviated.  It probably would have needed to be at least twice its length to develop all of its ideas and tangents satisfactorily, and I wouldn’t have minded at all if that had been the case.  A gloomy, brooding opus with adult themes, this is by no means a superhero film for the kiddies, and it may not leave you with a smile on your face; it will, however, give you a lot to consider.  I give it 4.5 of 5 stars for its ambition, atmosphere, and awesomeness of vision.  So much power has never before been generated by the simple sight of an underdog climbing a wall in combination with rousing music.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Dark Knight Rises is:

7. Mildly pro-green.  Bruce Wayne looks forward to the day when a clean energy source can be safely unveiled for public consumption.

6. Feminist.  Catwoman repeatedly allows men to underestimate her and then takes advantage of them.

5. State-skeptical.  Authorities are too often given to self-aggrandizement and poor judgments.  The sinister Dent Act, meanwhile, has ushered in draconian measures to fight crime.

4. Pro-police.  Despite the above note, police are depicted as mostly admirable and self-sacrificing heroes.  They are, however, human, and some are prone to terrible errors.

3. Pro-vigilante.  Police aren’t always enough.

2. Persistent in perpetuating the idea that angry white males pose our scariest terrorist threat – with which many, after the recent massacre, would probably concur.

1. Capitalist.  Despite Michael Savage’s ignorant assertion that responsibility for the Aurora massacre belongs to this film and to Hollywood, “the ones who gave us Obama”, The Dark Knight Rises is actually a cautionary tale about the bankruptcy of class warfare politics and where it leads a society.  Despite the initial, naive flirtation of some characters with wealth redistribution of one sort or another – burglaress Catwoman has no sympathy for the rich, and some police are even reluctant to intervene when Bane targets Gotham’s stock exchange – the romantic illusions crumble when socialism shows its true colors in practice.

Bane, an eloquent fraud who poses as a messianic revolutionary but is actually a former mercenary and nihilistic madman, promises “hope” (with a capital H, perhaps?) to the people of Gotham while leading them over the brink and into moral anarchy and authoritarian red terror with his unquestioning lynch mob of slavish occupiers (capital O, perhaps?).  The only thing missing is the guillotine, with a punitive stretch of (metaphorically?) thin ice substituting.  The Dark Knight Rises favors redistribution, but only of the strictly voluntary variety.  Bruce Wayne, the film’s representative billionaire, is not only a hero and a formidable philanthropist, but also demonstrates the fluid membership of the 1% when his fortune is dashed in one fell swoop.  There are other hues and complexities to the class question as treated in this story, but the general tendency of the film’s sympathies is clear.

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