Captain Fantastic: All Aboard the Fantasy Train

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously

-Noam Chomsky

Sometimes – okay, more than sometimes – I feel myself wanting to pull away from modern society. Or more specifically, capitalist, consumer, money – driven society. I find myself considering switching out my iPhone to a standard flip phone, trying to completely unplug myself, avoiding shopping of any sort, pining for a weekend trip to the woods or just stay home and drown myself in a sea of books. I fantasize about moving with some of my more adventurous friends to a mountainside and creating a perfect little community where we share everything – money, resources, child care, food. And then reality hits painfully, when I realize despite these imaginings, I am just as entrenched as everyone else. Thinking is not the same thing as doing. And I am just as much as a cog in the wheel as a politician, or an ignorant bystander. Captain Fantastic was a nice little getaway, despite dealing with some heavy issues – specifically grief, and the incredible responsible weight of parenting. Viggo Mortenson places a father who with his wife, brings their six children to a secluded forest in the Pacific Northwest to try to escape the trappings of modern Western society. The cinematography and costume design brings a rich colorful palate of primary colors – complimenting the forest then later juxtaposition against the New Mexico desert and bland background of strip malls and track housing of modern life. In the forest, the children tare trained to be survivalists, train their bodies to be athletic and train their minds to be ravenous of knowledge and skeptical of everything – especially modern capitalist society. When the father is left to care for his children alone he turns up the volume, increasing the training, and truly immerses the family in his vision. When the family needs to travel back to civilization, the children are in awe of many things. “What is wrong with everyone? Are they sick? Why is everyone so fat?” the children wonder aloud. They ogle at video games, TV, grocery stores, diner food and see first hand how their cousins live their “normal lives”. The children know everything – but nothing. Which I believe is the message of this film. Don’t we all feel like this? We think we know so much until we experience a new truth, a new perspective, a new environment. And we realize with maturity comes the grace to acknowledge what we don’t know. Which is exponentially more than what we do. The father is forced to accept the fact that his vision of how he wants to raise his children might not be the best way. But indeed the other extreme isn’t the best either. He is forced to accept the Middle Way – a fantastic message with heart and hope for those of us who are just a cog in a wheel. I heartily recommend.

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Mad Max: Black and Chrome – So Shiny! So Chrome!

Currently, Mad Max: Fury Road is in limited release around the country in black and white. I got the privilege of viewing the film at the Cinerama – a fantastic state of the art cinema in Seattle. It was incredible. Fury Road is a fantastic film in color – the super bright orange and greenish hues especially highlighted the explosions, and well chrome against the Namib desert in which it was filmed. However, to view the film in black and white is a whole other exercise completely. Although it was my second time viewing the film I believe taking away the color highlighted some of the details for me. The film is chock full of tiny amazing details – such as the Brannock device used as a gas pedal in the war rig to the intricate arm prosthetic that Charlize Theron wears. Light and dark was also highlighted – both contrasting each other and illuminating the natural light of the desert. Without the usual explosion of color I felt more engaged in the film’s feminist story and able to truly watch the acting despite the near constant action. The film felt grittier and more realistic – and the fact that over 80% of the stunts were done without CGI really shines. The Mad Max franchise is really one of the coolest post apocalyptic worlds in fiction. I heartily recommend seeing this version – whether its the first time seeing this film or the tenth. Mad Max: Black and Chrome truly reveals George Miller’s vision for the fourth installment in the franchise, and brings you in deep to the Wasteland.

 

Kin – Picking Up Where Most Horror Stories End

The premise is intriguing: Kealan Patrick Burke’s novel Kin begins with a tortured, beaten traumatized survivor, fleeing her tormentors. She is left piecing together her life, and trying to move forward – a luxury her three dead friends do not get. The first chapter is harrowing and nauseating, describing the horrors she fled – reminiscent of the family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Deliverance. I actually though a couple times I didn’t want to keep reading. My friend who loaned me the book encouraged me to finish it, and finish it I did in a few days. After the initial start, the story takes a quick left turn giving you a glimpse of the terrible family who lives in the backwoods and loves to torture and kill anyone unfortunate enough to find their way on their property. The best part of this family is one character in particular  – to avoid giving anything away I will just refer to her as the Matriarch of the clan. Then the story jumps again to a war vet and brother of one of the dead victims and suddenly the story becomes a tale of revenge. And let me tell you what – you want revenge. The villains are vile and disgusting and terrifying. And that is where the strength of this book lies – Burke is able to write about the antagonists in a way that he gives them a little humanity. It causes the reader to try to see things from their side – to try to understand how a character can do such horrendous things. And you can’t. Despite the little bit of intimacy you gain from seeing the inter workings of the clan – there is still no excuse, no good reason for what they do. So you root and cheer for their demise. The last part of the book is what I would call action – but let me warn you things don’t go as well as you might want them to. This book is a quick read and a fun one at that. I heartily recommend if you are in the mood for a fun horror story with larger then life characters that will keep you up at night.

Green Room – Hardcore Tension

Indeed, reality is much more frightening then fiction. Although Green Room is fiction, the villain (played by the legendary Patrick Stewart), the setting and the violence that ensues are quiet, believable and unsettling. Ordinary, even.  The quietness is the perfect juxtaposition to the culture and extreme noise of hardcore punk. Anyone who has gone to a crusty punk show in a rusty tin can of a venue is familiar with the gritty, grime covered atmosphere. The Green Room itself is the embodiment of this, a tomb to previous musicians that played in the past, vandalized with stickers and etchings of band names and inside jokes. Truly, it is the perfect setting for something terrible to happen.  To up the ante the venue is a neo-nazi skinhead bar. Enter a few starving musicians, who will play anywhere – anywhere – to make a few bucks. This is one of the most original thrillers I have seen, combining a very believable set of circumstances, and unfortunately a very believable cast of characters. The ordinary, every day nature of the main characters just trying to get by are naturally easy to feel empathy for. After all, we all remember when we were young and desperately needed to make a few bucks to pay rent. It is was easy for me to imagine myself in the same terrible circumstances. Director Jeremy Saulnier creates an atmosphere of quiet dread. The cast and acting are amazing, from Anton Yelchin, Alia shawkat and an unrecognizable Imogen Poots sporting a Chelsea Cut. And of course the amazing Patrick Stewart. The cinematography is completely on point – dark and dingy with a greenish tint. This is a film that is best watched knowing little about it, and instead just be immersed. I heartily recommend.