This Sean Penn movie is very much a surprise. The last film I remember him directing might have been one of the worst directing efforts I can remember. Something about Jack Nicholson getting weepy and the police force. I had almost driven it out of my mind out of respect for Penn because I think he's actually kind of cool. Yeah, he attaches himself too often to films packed with Meisner crying moments. Yet, in his "private" life he's always in the news going to some disaster area because he can and generally seems interested in helping people. That he is perceived as a fool in the right wing media for being an out of touch idealist is a crucial point to remember...
Making a film is often a therapeutic act, which is paradoxical because the process of making a film is typically dysfunctional. (I suppose the therapy is for previous events and this is what makes it addictive.) For Penn to choose this story to tell can't be an accident. The similarities between Penn and the lead real life character in Into the Wild are too close. Both are free spirits who jump right into the middle of crazy experiences and as mentioned, their actions have prompted a great deal of divisive debate. Penn's true inspiration for making the film will probably remain a mystery, perhaps even to him. But in watching the film the closeness to the main character is deep and atypical. Put another way, this isn't a Stanley Kubrick film by any stretch.
The acting in Into the Wild is real without having the sort of deep actorly moments that Penn seems drawn to as an actor. The cinematography is epic. The editing channels a long sprawling story into as focused a narrative as could be hoped for. The music by Eddy Vedder is loose and downplayed, and adds surpising depth. After leaving the theater, its hard to imagine the film without Vedder's songs. And I didn't even think I like Vedder, which makes it all the more surprising.
I can't imagine this film doing well at all at the box office, and the soundtrack for sale at Starbucks will probably make more money. Still, this has to be considered one of the better movies of the year so far. It doesn't scream Oscar bait like many films that will begin to debut as we get closer to the new year. But who knows, perhaps it will get an award or two. If so, it would add some random integrity to the Academy. I'm not sure if it would see it again, but I would listen to the soundtrack.
I thought I was done with the movie but then I saw this interview with Charlie Rose...
In the interview both Vedder and Penn make references to 70s cinema, specifically Hal Ashby, and even more specifically, Ashby's film Harold and Maude. I'd always thought of Wes Anderson being the supposed heir of Hal Ashby, with Rushmore being his parallel to Harold and Maude, but Wes Anderson's style of working is completely opposite of the way Hal Ashby was known to make films. Whereas Anderson is known to be driven by details, Ashby was knownto be loose (possibly drunk) and open to fixing things in the editing process.
That Into the Wild could be a rechanneling of Harold and Maude seems odd. But I remember stories of Penn speaking at Ashby's funeral. Something about Penn stealing a street sign in West Los Angeles named "Ashby" and showing up to a funeral with it. Harold and Maude dealt with a young man trying to find himself while in the midst of a deathwish.
Vedder's songs work directly to tell the main character's personal story. Cat Stevens' songs in Harold and Maude worked similarly.
And speaking of the former Cat Stevens, what to make of last week's Bike Gang Summit II: "The Reclamation!" when Yusuf Islam showed up out of nowhere?
Bike Gang Summit II: Electric BOOgaloo toured all across the downtown area, somehow always ahead of the heat and somehow always out of grasp of some stranded cyclist who broke their chain or derailler, but those were passing moments in the grander scheme.
Things started slowly at an empty field next to Pig Stand under the freeway. We quickly went into the east side and made our way to one of the many graveyards. Passing underneath Hays Street Bridge at dusk was as cinematic as I thought it would be. Near the entrance to the graveyard a violin player in costume was waiting by the side of the road playing a classical dirge. A surreal, unexpected moment as it was hoped to be.
From there we rolled downhill and came across a loud heavy metal festival going on at the bar Krazy's. Next, we continued along to St. Paul Square and then paraded down Commerce street into downtown. The energy increased insanely at this point. We headed by the Alamo and then over to the Tobin Hill neighborhood for a party at a house known as the Farm. There was a brief stop at the Valero on McCullough. The clerk initially noticed the first few bikers and told them over the loud speaker to clear room for the motorists to pull in, but she eventually dropped than line of reasoning as over a hundred bikes took over the gas station in search of cheap beer and fritos.
After about 40 minutes at the Farm the group continued over to St. Mary's street and under the highway towards Brackenridge Park. On Mulberry street my favorite moment of the ride occurred. On the left side of the street, a father and daughter were riding on a tandem bike. There raced off road jumping up and down over the terrain as the daughter yelled, "I LOVE SAN ANTONIO!"
We came down Broadway and ended up near where we started at a creepy field next to the San Antonio river construction. About an hour later, after a brief performance by Potter Belmar Labs, the group splintered off to various events and parties.
The night was a success as many first timers (granted there was only previous Summit) declared the night the most fun they had ever had in San Antonio.
It's worth at least mentioning the crazy last second play in the Trinity football game last week. Some have called it the most spectacular play ever in all of football. Watch and be the judge...
And speaking of sports, the Spurs regular season has returned. After watching the first two games, it seems the team is looking sharp and ready to have a strong season. Granted its only two games. But no player has gained 50 pounds over the off-season. Everyone looks motivated. Beno Udrih was recently traded away for a bag of chips, which seems to be the way our past two trades have gone. However, unlike the debatable Scola trade, no one is upset about seeing Beno gone. He was traded about a day before the opening game, so he wasn't able to get his ring. However, he was just picked up by Sacramento who happen to be playing the Spurs in 2.5 hours. If only there is an extreme close-up on the exchange between Pop and Beno as he is given his ring before the game. It could be the most interesting play of the whole game.
For next week - more Spurs commentary, First Friday fotos y mas y mas...
And so goes another week on the streets of San Antonio. As always, to be continued...