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Chaos cinema reigns in modern action movies

Chaos cinema reigns in modern action movies (photo)

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indieWIRE’s Press Play blog has a must-watch 2-part video series this week entitled “Chaos Cinema: The Decline and Fall of Action Filmmaking” by Matthias Stork. In it, Stork uses extensive clips from movies past and present to argue that action films have fallen on hard times as a result of their trend toward what he calls “chaos cinema,” a style recognizable for its hyperquick cutting and hypershaky camerawork. Here’s Stork’s video essay in full.

Chaos Cinema Part 1 from Matthias Stork on Vimeo.

Chaos Cinema Part 2 from Matthias Stork on Vimeo.

I was particularly struck by this segment of Stork’s narration:

“Most chaos cinema is indeed lazy, inexact and largely devoid of beauty or judgment. It’s an aesthetic configuration that refuses to engage viewers mentally and emotionally, instead aspiring to overwhelm, to overpower, to hypnotize viewers and plunge them into a passive state. The film does not seduce you into suspending disbelief. It bludgeons you until you give up.”

In that one brief paragraph, Stork eloquently and succinctly describes all that is right and wrong with chaos cinema’s worst practitioners, particularly Michael Bay, whose films appear throughout the two videos. Yes, there is a visceral component to Bay’s work, like the undeniable and borderline beautiful feeling of flight and movement in the base jumping sequences from “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” but there’s also a lot of spatial confusion as well. When you can only grasp the broad strokes of a scene’s action, it’s awfully difficult to get caught up in its drama or story. The juxtaposition of films like Bay’s “Bad Boys 2” with the similarly themed and structured (but very differently shot) “Hard Boiled” by John Woo highlights just how much the latter film invests in its characters even as it thrills us with palpably exciting stunt sequences. Woo’s work also showcases action choreography of a kind of intricacy that chaos cinema filmmakers don’t seem interested in (or capable of) replicating.

My only gripe with Stork’s piece is my feeling that he occasionally paints with too broad a brush. Chaos cinema is undeniably a major force in modern action filmmaking, and its impact has largely been a negative one. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few filmmakers who can use the style to their advantage. Stork acknowledges Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” as a positive example of chaos cinema, but there are lots of others and not all of them are war movies. For instance, Stork doesn’t seem particularly enamored with the popular “Bourne” franchise and their “shakycam”-style fight scenes directed by Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass. And while I would agree that the fight scenes in “Bourne” are often frenetic to the point of incoherence, I’d argue that there are a few thematic underpinnings motivating that incoherence.

Jason Bourne’s a character who’s lost his identity to amnesia; he can’t remember who he is or how he can do these incredible physical feats. He’s acting on a level of pure instinct, a fact emphasized by Liman and Greengrass’ faster-than-thought technique. From the viewer’s perspective, it all looks like chaos. But that chaos also serves to show us just how superior Bourne is as a physical specimen to us. We normies can’t even watch him fight, let alone fight like him.

That said, the “Bourne” franchise’s popularity inspired a lot of crummy knockoffs. These movies copied “Bourne”‘s form but none of that form’s function. And that’s where chaos cinema reigns, and reigns in a dark and sad way. To me chaos cinema is an idea that has its place. But that’s where it has the most value: as an idea. When it’s stripped of its intellectual underpinnings it just becomes a lot of pointless flash and sizzle.

Do you like chaos cinema? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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