Sunday, December 9, 2007

You Think You Love Movies?

Some people have a passion for football, some a passion for art. Jason Alley has a passion for movies, all movies. He has seen 337 movies (new to him) this year and the year isn’t over yet. He has see somewhere between 120 and 150 movies in the theater. This is average for Jason. For a long time, his daily routine has been to wake up, exercise, watch a Netflix movie while eating breakfast, go to see a movie at the theater, then head to his job as manager of an independent movie theater. That is a daily routine, every day, Monday through Friday.

When he was six, Jason went to see Gremlins. It is one of his earliest memories of falling in love with movies. “I was terrified to go see it because it was the first movie I went to that wasn’t G rated, and I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I knew that it would be something different than what I had seen before. I even made my mom sit in the back row with me so that I could run out of the theater if I got too scared.” He didn’t get too scared. In fact, Gremlins, as well as The Never Ending Story and Goonies, were the three movies influenced his obsession. “That period in my life, watching those movies, it swept me away. I was hooked on the way movies take you to a different place mentally and emotionally.”

Jason keeps all of his movie ticket stubs, all of them. When he was in high school, he kept a chart on his wall where he gave a star rating to every movie he watched, from zero to four. When he got his first computer, he built his own, simple website where he wrote movie reviews. Seven year later, he is still doing it. “I just like putting my opinion out there, I like reading other people’s opinions. I like debating about stuff.” Check it out.

Jason loves movies so much that he got a job at an independent movie theater. He has been managing the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento for four years. When he was younger, he wanted to direct movies, but after taking some college courses, he realized that there was a lot of technical stuff involved in directing and decided it wasn’t for him. He has thought about writing a screenplay, but is perfectly happy just watching. “To quote John Cusack in High Fidelity, “I’m a professional appreciator.”

Although Jason loves all genres of movies, his favorite is the horror genre. He says horror films instantly take him back to his childhood and why he fell in love with movies. He goes to the Fangoria Convention, which is the biggest horror convention in the United States, every year. “There’s just something about being a horror movie buff that’s different than being a fan of other kinds of movies. When you get two horror movie geeks in a room together, it’s almost like a religious conversation.”

As a child, Jason and his brother bonded over their love of movies. “We had this thing in 1990 when I was in sixth grade and my brother was home after his first year in college and we called it the summer of a thousand movies because we went to the movies every day. And when there wasn’t anything new to see, we would just go see Arachnophobia. We probably saw that movie 12 times that summer.”

What is the favorite movie of someone who watches well over 300 movies every year? Well, for Jason its George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead. “I remember the first time I watched it, about halfway through I thought ‘This is something like I’ve never seen before. When you watch a movie that you really love, you get that certain buzz that you don’t get from watching a regular movie.”

What is his least favorite movie? Da Hip-Hop Witch. Rent it on Netflix.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

This is the Way the World Ends

After watching Richard Kelly’s newest sci-fi, time travel film, Southland Tales, I left the theater feeling a little sick to my stomach, my head hurt, and my heart was pounding. These were all for good reasons, I swear. I can’t explain what Southland Tales invoked in me, but it was exhilarating.

Richard Kelly earned a cult following after writing and directing his sci-fi, time travel film, Donnie Darko. This movie gained little acclaim at the box office, but it skyrocketed the acting career of its star, Jake Gyllenhaal and fueled an underground fan base. Donnie Darko was a surreal story of a teenager’s journey through life (and time). I had to watch it five times to even start to get what was going on, but I absolutely loved it anyway. Southland Tales does the same thing.

Set in Los Angeles in the near future, Southland Tales tells of a nuclear attack hear on United States soil and the oppressive legislation that follow the tragic day. It also tells of a war machine running out of fuel, literally. It tells of a (mad) scientist who discovers how to harness the ocean’s constantly moving energy. And it tells of time travel and its potential effects on the end of the world.

T.S. Elliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” Our narrator, played by a facially scared Justin Timberlake, relays the message that Elliot was wrong. The world ends with a big bang caused by a rift in the time/space continuum. Kelly’s vision of the end of existence is full of indecipherable messages and factions of wing nuts who all want to run the country their own way.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who just goes by Dwayne Johnson for this movie, plays a high profile action star and husband to a republican presidential candidate’s daughter (Mandy Moore) who goes missing for three days and awakes in the desert with amnesia. He hooks up with a porn star turned talk show host played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Johnson’s character, Boxer Santaros, writes a screenplay about the end of the world, not realizing how real his fiction tale is.

At the same time, in another part of town Roland Taverner, played by Seann William Scott, is experiencing amnesia as well. He is helping the neo-Marxist group stage a murder that they plan to use as blackmail. He had to be reminded by members of the neo-Marxists that he has taken the identity of his twin brother as a police officer in order to trick Santaros into being involved in the crime. The two unwittingly end up staging the events that end the world.

As the events of the story unfold, so does all ability to understand the plot at all. But it is still a wonderful movie. Like David Lynch or Federico Fellini, Kelly’s film is an abstract art, beautiful to look at, emotionally stirring, but impossible to understand. The artist will tell you that his intent was clearly laid out with that brush stroke up in the left corner, but you will still walk away from it wondering what it was you were looking at. The important thing to remember when watching Southland Tales is not to try to understand the details, but to soak in the stunning canvas and let your emotions guide you through.