Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 1987

Friday, March 04, 2011

Apocalypse-Dependent: SOUTHLAND TALES (2006)


"It is the business of the future to be dangerous."
  ----Alfred N. Whitehead (1925)

"Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted." --- Krista Now

Watching THE SOUTHLAND TALES (2006) followed by the Little Ice Age and UFO documentaries (only on the History Channel) and preceded by Libyan unrest on the news; as Portlandia and The Onion News Network make amok globalization and conservative paranoia funny again, all I can think is my knees hurt from the weird solar weather outside and how it's all going according to plan, but it's not my plan.

12/21/12 is coming, the solar storms are moving in, MONSTERS patrol the widening contamination zone between the US and Mexico; "Cyberspace is placed under federal control, formed under the protection of the patriot act," says Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake), narrating from the vantage point of his California beachside gun turret, where he watches like a cross between Charles Starkweather and Bela Lugosi in GLEN OR GLENDA. Pull zee trigger!


This is the way the world ends, not with a whimper but with a bang, so TS, TS!

...there's unofficial links in SOUTHLAND that are surely to make film fans recall other films about the nature of cult film viewing, like BUCKAROO BANZAI, but at times Kelly's presumption we're going to watch SOUTHLAND over and over and compare obscure clues with each other seems presumptuous in an age where an infinite amount of films and TV are available at every moment and we can barely sit still for a film once. Pre-fab camp never works, well sometimes.... and I admire the abstract crossword puzzle association to films like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (Boxer passes and pockets a blinking plastic orange while Ludwig Van's 9th plays in the background), MADAME SATAN (crazy Zeppelin party), THE BIG LIEBOWSKI (dancers in the skee-ball lanes) and MULHOLLAND DRIVE (Rebekah "Llorando" Del Rio, singing the Star Spangled Banner, clashing against droning John Cale strings). Moby does the rest of the music and it's a perfect fit for Kelly's mood - it's the end of the world and everybody's fine with that, acting to stop it only in the most perfunctory of ways


"---Science is harnessing... wormholes... light speed.... time travel..."

I'm inserting random history channel quotes as I write to add some post-cinematic affect; the voice intoning scientific advancement playing behind my head on TV; listening to a radio in a separate room at the same time; I'm deliberately screwing with notions of actor vs. character in this essay; everything I say is a lie but this. Buffy's actress's porn stars' TV show's theme: "Quantum teleportation, teen horniness, and war."


 ----"what caused the abrupt climate shift that doomed the Vikings?"

The Nostradamus History Channel TV show proves what Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES hints at: Americans are excited for the apocalypse. I'd even argue our whole culture is apocalypse-dependent. Without the fantasy of a global reset button, we'd be stuck with the guilt, hangover, and debt of seven generations. If 'nothing' happens on 12/21/12, man we'll be pissed, let's not kid ourselves (unless we have kids of course, as it's dad's fault). In my childhood during the still cold-70s, it was the sudden threat of nuclear war that kept us edgy and smoking without excess guilt; kept us screwing (the expression at the time) and burning out. We secretly hoped it would come so we could go out on the roof and watch Philadelphia get it first, and even the kids would get gin and tonics to celebrate.


But what I can't understand is why Nostradamus and--apparently--every ancient civilization with star savvy was so anxious to encode everything on earth with the date that is now rapidly approaching. In the new century, if we heard the world was gonna end 'exactly' five hundred years from now, would we care? Seven generations is a crap in the bucket when you're thinking about Egyptians and Mayans... who themselves were wiped out long before getting close to within seven generations of 2012. So why did they inscribe our date with destiny in secret code all around their architecture. Why did they care about us?!!! What about the fast food and the banks and power plants that might fall a mere 7,000 years from now!?

I think it was, in the end, they had no television, no internet; nothing else to do.


That problem is answered in SOUTHLAND by completely collapsing any notion of linear time. Even the bad guys who monitor everything on IDENT are secretly enthralled by the notion of the end, and are all rebelling from one program or another to ensure that end arrives. Good guys and bad all want the same thing in an age when amnesia is inducible via an easily acquired drug. Anyone can be abducted and turned loose without being able to identify one's abductees. The Rock (Boxer Santeros), starts the film with amnesia and the first thing his wife (Mandy Moore) notes when seeing him--with some disgust--is that he has it again -- do reprobates pop an amnesia pill after cheating on their spouses so they can't get trapped in a lie? She notes it with the repulsion one might notice the reek of stale booze and cigarettes or ring around the collar. He denies his amnesia on instinct as if its something to be ashamed of. The game of it all becomes what the Buddha calls "joyful participation in the sorrows of the world," or what Joseph Campbell deciphers it to mean: "When you're falling, dive." When the world finally adapts that marvelous strategy, owning up to amnesia is the same as confessing to Satanism, and pressing the button because even Def-Con 5 needs love.


What Kelly also understands is the nature of drugs and the weird habit alcoholics and drug addicts have of watching the same movie over and over again because... I forget why. Or for that matter endless repeat seasons of reality TV shows, where our knowledge of what is going to happen, who will win, who will die, is granted us like benign rulers, or our own inner Pilot Abilenes. Revelation 6.8 and behold a pale horse and the name that sat on it was repeat business. Of if you've ever edited footage on Final Cut until it loses all meaning... or if you've ever conducted experiments on soldiers, or called him Ronald Taverner, or sniffed paint fumes from a spray can, or had amnesia... if you're happy and you know it, hit the squib, and act shocked when you die, for the kids!

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