Friday, November 19, 2010

button, button ...

Your home is a box. Your car is a box on wheels. You drive to work in it. You drive home in it. You sit in your home, staring into a box. It erodes your soul, while the box that is your body inevitably withers ... then dies. Where upon it is placed in the ultimate box, to slowly decompose.—Frank Langella, in The Box

The Box isn't a great movie. I'm not even sure if it's a good one. But it sure held my attention. It was enthralling. Maybe it was the performances by Langella, Cameron Diaz and one of my favorite actors, James Marsden. Or maybe it was the out-of-this-world set design. I was a child in the seventies, but I never saw patterns like the ones on Diaz's and Marsden's walls and upholstery—but I have to admit I loved them in this movie and found them as intriguing as the convoluted plot. The crazy plot can be blamed on famous sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, best known for I Am Legend, Hell House and Nightmare at 20,00 Feet. The whole film does have an extended Twilight Zone episode feel to it. It doesn't quite successfully pull together the disparate themes of (possible) alien intervention, religion (is Langella a god or a devil?), or existentialism (Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit is an oft-referenced subtext.)
I have an offer to make. If you push the button, two things will happen. First, someone, somewhere in the world, whom you don't know, will die. Second, you will receive a payment of one million dollars. You have 24 hours.—Frank Langella, in The Box

But mostly I keep going back to the visuals. Some of the film's scenes have the color and tone of an old Kodachrome print. That crazy wallpaper. The scene at the school where Cameron Diaz is challenged by a creepy student. Gigantic rectangular shapes of water. Arcade Fire's creepy-beautiful score.

I had to laugh at a scene that was full of danger and suspense, but also humor (It's a Christmas movie!)—a waving Santa Claus (creepier than any clown, and we all know how creepy clowns are) blocks the hero's progress in the middle of a road, causing the car to crash. I remembered at that moment that the film was directed by Donnie Darko's Richard Kelly.

Where can I get that wallpaper?
Sometimes a movie can be scary and funny and not make any sense and you can still enjoy it. It may never be on the "greatest movies" [arbitrary] list, but it's still worth watching. If movies weren't so g-d expensive we wouldn't have such high expectations, be so hard on them. I guess because it's getting rarer and rarer for me to rush out and see a movie first-run (I'll make an exception for Harry Potter, of course) I can be a little more open-minded. I've only invested a DVD rental or my monthly cable bill at most to see it, and not a six dollar soda and 12 dollar popcorn and parking, etc., etc. So I didn't think The Box "owed me" anything. Not even, as Dr. Evil might say, "One Meeelllyun dollars!") I just found it interesting. Interesting enough to recommend. Maybe even interesting enough to see when it rolls by again on cable, if I'm in the mood for a puzzler. And great set design.

Film is ephemeral. It's a shame that it is so industry- and profit-based. Taking a quick glance at the box office receipts on Wikipedia it seems that The Box cost about $30 million dollars to make. It made its money back and then some. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus cost the same amount of money to make. It also made its money back, but like The Box, not from its U.S. release, but predominantly from receipts outside North America. But both movies, I'm sure, are considered by Hollywood to be flops. I love movies, but this way of thinking sucks.

Anyway, check out The Box—not the greatest movie you'll ever watch—intriguing, interesting, and original. How's that for a conundrum/recommendation?
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