Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Flight flipped around how I thought of addiction. There have been precious few films, that I’ve seen, that are able to speak in the language of humanity. Films normally seem strange or robotic to me. They blast this “fill-in-the-blank” style of adlib emotion. A man’s whole family is killed, he feels a sadness that is relatable. It’s emotion without breadth or depth.  We relate to it but fill in the (noticeable) gaps with our own experience to make it work. It functions more like a check. Like when meeting someone new, unless there is instant chemistry, the discussion is crude. General topics or events are swapped, our ratings (sad, crazy, cool) and emotional response are matched, but it’s all a way of saying “I’m a normal person, how about you?”.* That’s authenticating, not talking.

Prior to Flight I thought of addicts as weak people. They had the potential to be great but constantly, and needlessly, fucked up. Think of Christian Bale in The Fighter. He was so fragile mentally and physically. The world was littered with all sorts of triggers that would lead to him having another colossal fuck up. Flight showed me how powerful it really is to manage. To live a life fairly close to normal but deal with a staggering addiction at the same time. Addicts from The Fighter’s view are like people who can’t swim and are put in the middle of the ocean while everyone else just watches from land. Pity is my strongest emotional response, how I relate to them. In Flight, addicts are like heroes of Greek Myth. They’re doing all the same things the normal people do, but with a giant bolder chained to them. It’s awe-inspiring. My thinking shifted from “just put them out of their misery” to “how amazing would they be with no bolder?”.* Addicts seem like stronger people. Stronger people with bigger weaknesses.

The role of normal (everyone not an addict) people gets shifted as well. Fighter’s normals were unlucky but incredibly generous people. They behave and function like blameless parents. Sure, typically the caregivers try to shoulder some of the responsibility in another heroic display of affection but the audience never buys that. Everything wrong in contained, neatly, within the addict. Flight, with their superpeople addicts, tears down that condescending wall. What makes non-addicts so good? Did you not feel that co-pilot’s (Brian Geraghty) wife (Bethany Anne Lind) had some very serious issues? With each normal person Denzel met I felt the take-away message was “who you calling crazy? who you think is weak? You’re lucky courts and lawyers don’t recognize what you do as an illness”. Normal wasn’t “normal”, those people were just undiagnosed. Or maybe managing better. Hiding whatever quirks they had.

It was a line of questioning Denzel kept coming back to. Even though the plane had faulty parts, fell apart on him, and even though he miraculously landed it anyway, the only thing everyone else was hearing and seeing was that he was drunk. His weakness broke the plane and God was the one who saved it. Addicts couldn’t do anything right, only varying degrees of wrong. I never felt that the search for the plane’s problem was an escape route for Denzel. It was more “what’s the bigger prolem?”.* I think Flight moved away from the Freudian notion that all character is built in childhood too, which is more satisfying, and allows addicts to be adults not just big malfunctioning kids. Flight replaced the linear equation so often used as a metric in real life with a grayscale. It never hid or emphasized one aspect over another, just asked you to form an opinion based on the total character.

Too many films corroborate our feelings or thoughts. They work so long and hard to authenticate themselves only. Flight effortlessly spoke with true humanity, carrying it so comfortably it could move beyond and challenge anyone watching to really understand their own notions about it. An absolutely beautiful piece or art.

*I do what I will with punctuation 

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I could be mistaken but I feel the wrong approach towards making a film with a historical setting is to play the whole thing straight, like nobody knows what’s going to happen. Knowing the ending hurts this film a lot. The first act of Argo, where it’s unknown what plan the CIA is going to go with to rescues the Americans? Waste of time. The tension as the audience wonders if the group will be able to hold together despite the pressure of the situation? Non-existent. The final “chase” where our heroes sit calmly in a plane while their pursuers frantically use every method available to them, notable exception a radio, to stop the plane that everyone knows takes off just fine…?

Mr. Ben Affleck, as the big play maker CIA escape artist, acts by not acting. His performance reminded me of Gary Oldman’s in Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy.  Both men stayed in the background and gave quite simple answers to anything directed towards them. I didn’t feel like he was channeling anxiety, or playing to the seriousness of the situation. He was just quiet.

The group of Americans in need of rescue are all just awful. Both in terms of their role in the story and their performance. The worst line of the film unquestioningly goes to Wife #3 who says “Joe… I’m scared”. YES DEAR. That is what the scene has been trying to convey. That has been your entire objective for the film. Was this the last kick upon that particular dead horse? One among them decides to play the most unlikeable person on Earth. It’s his job to cry and complain about everything that happens. Constantly threatening to go off by himself unless everyone plays the game he wants. So yes, of course he’s the one who surprisingly saves the team from their last hurdle. As for the rest… it was tough mustering my own concern for them as they ate lavish meals in a luxury home. Boredom was their greatest enemy. On that we can relate.

I liked John Goodman and Alan Arkin (Special Effects and Producer guys) despite how weak their jabs at Hollywood were. If there was some angle to make this film worth watching, it was undoubtedly with them. Some intersection of what people of any cultural background are prepared to believe with ideas on where the stage ends and how fake is sometimes real enough.