Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Eyes Wide Shut" - My Favorite Christmas Movie

*As always, I write my articles based on the assumption that you have seen the film. So...SPOILERS.

**Note: I absolutely love this movie for many reasons that I don't get to in the article, but I felt the need to make that clear from the beginning. I could write five more posts about this movie and still feel like I left something out. In other words, this article is not meant to be my definitive take on Eyes Wide Shut. It's simply where my mind went this year after watching it.

I wanted to write about one more Christmas movie before I get back to “regular” movies from my collection, I decided to go with my favorite Christmas movie of all time: Eyes Wide Shut. Unlike Die Hard, it is not up for debate whether this is an actual Christmas movie or not. I’ll get into specifics about that in a bit, and, unfortunately, I’ll get into some of the insane theories about the film. I find the insane theories unfortunate because I truly love this film, mainly for its surface qualities. It’s also a bit of a Christmas tradition for me. I watch this film every year around this time. It is best watched in a dark room next to a glowing Christmas tree. That’s how I typically like to watch Eyes Wide Shut, but some people need to get beyond the surface of this film.

Obviously, the mysterious and open-ended nature of the film leaves it open to interpretation, but I feel like some theorists have taken it so far that they are no longer enjoying the actual film any longer. It’s not just that these people are missing the forest for the trees, they are missing the trees for the branches. One might argue that they are even missing the branches for the leaves. If anything, reading and watching many of these theories just made me want to watch the movie again, but not to look for any clues in the corner of the frame. I just wanted to watch the movie. It’s okay to do that sometime, even with a Stanley Kubrick film.

A true Christmas Classic

One of my favorite elements of Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick’s use of color. I attempted to write about this in the previous iteration of my site (I’m not even going to link to it, because I find it woefully simplistic now, but it’s still there if you want to look through the older posts section), so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. It’s fairly simple: red = danger, blue = safety, and green = uncertainty. The colors are very prominent throughout, and at times they are all present, which says something about Bill’s state of mind and/or safety in each scene.

As I said above, I’m not trying to list every instance of this theory or anything. I like to bring it up as something to pay attention to as you watch. I bring it up here because of the my claim that this is a Christmas movie. The holiday setting is a perfect excuse to use exaggerated lighting throughout the film. And it also allows for plenty of red and green without coming across as odd. The film could still be quite colorful outside of the time frame, of course, but Christmas does lend itself to be a colorful time. But it’s more than just the colors.

Many people argue against Die Hard as a Christmas movie because Christmas is simply the timeframe of the film and is not necessarily integral to the plot. I disagree. If a movie takes place during Christmas, then it is a Christmas movie. Still, you could not make that argument about Eyes Wide Shut, anyway. As I stated above, the lighting alone justifies it. On top of that, the Christmas timeframe is essential because of what Christmas represents for many: a time of love and family. Bill is clearly struggling with his marriage, and the holiday setting amplifies the importance of a happy marriage. The film could definite work in any timeframe, but Christmas just feels right.

A dream is never just a dream, but a theory is often just a theory. (Somewhat sane version)

I love movies that lend themselves to theories. It makes a film infinitely re-watchable as you look for clues to fit or dispel a particular theory. And the best movies are presented in a way that could be enjoyed on a literal level and a figurative level. Personally, I like to enjoy this movie on the literal level: Bill Harford thinks he has a happy marriage with Alice, but she reveals to him that she fantasized about cheating on him previously, shattering his beliefs of his faithful wife and female sexuality in general. He embarks on an all-night odyssey to commit adultery, never going through with it but endangering himself increasingly through the night. He reaches a breaking point and confesses to Alice. After a tearful conversation, they acknowledge that they have survived these real and imagined trials, and now their eyes are open.

You may have noticed that I left out the sex cult part of the plot in my summary, and that is intentional. I have always felt that people who are disappointed by this film tend to focus too much on the orgy, and the point of the film is about Bill and Alice’s marriage. That’s not to say I don’t find that aspect of the film to be interesting. In fact, I find it to be the most interesting part of the plot, but that doesn’t mean it’s terribly important to my overall takeaway from the film. I like to save the mansion orgy for viewings when I feel like looking for more hidden meanings and theories about the film.

One of the more popular theories out there is that most, if not all, of Bill’s evening is a dream. This explains the increasing oddness of the night, and for some, it even explains why Kubrick uses so many shots of Bill walking from place to place. The idea behind that is he is drifting from location to location in a dream-like state. (I definitely do not buy that, mainly because in my dreams I am always simply at a location; I never walk from place to place, but maybe that says more about me [and my physique] than anything. For the record, I think Kubrick uses these walking scenes to establish colors, show locations differently in the dark and the light, and create a visual symmetry [for example, Bill and Carl walk in and approach the door at Marian’s apartment identically].)

The theory helps ground the film in reality a bit more, and it makes the movie even more psychological. It’s a great way to watch the film. I don’t buy it at all, but it’s a fun way to watch. I don’t buy the dream sequence theory mainly because of all the stuff that happens the next day. Sure, it’s possible that a mansion orgy is a dream, but who dreams about questioning diner waitresses and hotel clerks? Who dreams about returning a costume? Who dreams about telling their secretary to reschedule appointments? Sure, anything is possible when it comes to dreams, but I think finding your way into a mansion orgy is more likely than dreaming such mundane things.

I just don't like it when anything weird or off in a film can just be shrugged off with, "It's all a dream." I don't think Kubrick was a simple enough filmmaker to do such a thing. If I buy into this theory, then it's on a much more complex level along the lines of: some of this is real and some of it is not. We are basically in Bill's head for most of the film so it could all just be Bill's fantasy. But still, I enjoy this movie the most on the basis that everything is actually happening. The dream/fantasy theory is an interesting way to watch it, though. As for Kubrick, I do believe he masterfully crafted the entire film on the edge of dreams and reality to intentionally leave it up to the audience. All that said, the themes about marriage and sexuality do not change whether the events are real or imagined, which is probably the whole point of the film.

My favorite theory involves Ziegler and the two parties he hosted. The idea is that Ziegler’s Christmas party is the illusion. Everything is proper and nice, but under the surface lies deviant, sexual behavior. The mansion is the same party with the illusion wiped away. This is how the rich and powerful really are.

That’s not a very crazy theory, but it gets a bit more interesting when the claim the Ziegler is Red Cloak is introduced. The main evidence for this (aside from the fact that Ziegler admits to being there, and he used Nick for music at both parties) takes place during the billiards room scene near the end of the film. Ziegler, like Red Cloak, holds court over a red surface, tapping a billiard ball as he speaks to Bill. Watch that scene with that in mind, and it adds a new level to an already mysterious film.

I don’t really buy this one, either, though. Mainly, it’s because I don’t buy Ziegler doing the accent that Red Cloak has. I think the simplest explanation is probably correct: Ziegler is the pirate mask man who notices Bill from the balcony. Or he might just be one of the random masked men. But back to that billiards room scene to finish up.

The movie itself addresses theories when Ziegler explains what happened to Bill. He dispels any theories Bill has about what happened to Nick and Mandy. Nick should have kept his mouth shut, so yeah, he got roughed up, but they sent him home. Mandy was just playing a part to scare Cruise. She died later from an overdose, not from murder. For whatever reason, I usually believe Ziegler (I say usually because sometimes I’m in a more conspiratorial mood when I watch this film, and that changes my viewing). As I’ve grown older, I tend to accept the simpler explanations in life and, especially, in film. As for accepting explanations in life, perhaps I’m becoming more of a sheep; but I think it’s more about thinking it’s too hard to keep things truly hidden or buried in today’s world. As for film, I just find theories, especially claims that portions of or entire movies are dreams, lazy. That doesn’t mean any theory is wrong. How you watch a movie is up to you. I just hate that when something is odd in a film, it must be a dream. I’m veering off course here, and there’s plenty of room for in the next section. Let me get back to why I usually believe Ziegler.

The sacrificial scene that Ziegler calls a charade does come across as staged. She appears above everyone and makes a proclamation that sounds very scripted. (And if you pause the film and read the article about her death, it states that she was trying to become an actress.) What convinces me about this is Red Cloak playing along with her. He wouldn’t barter with her if he truly wanted to shut Bill up for good. On top of this, the muttering reactions of the masked figures as the scene plays out felt like a staged element, as well. Finally, her death as just being a coincidence holds up, too. She nearly died at the party at the beginning. It’s not a jump in logic for her to die that way. Also, if you look at the article, it states that she was taken to the hotel, and she was laughing when she arrived.

Now, as for what happened to Nick, I think he lived, as well. Why go to the trouble to take him to his hotel to get his things? They could have just taken his key and gotten rid of his stuff themselves.

Of course, Ziegler could be lying…

Pizzagate, Alex Jones, 666, Rothschild party, 24 minutes cut, Kubrick murdered, sex slavery, Alice was part of the orgy, etc. (Crazy “I keep my shit in a shoebox” version)*

*The “shit in a shoebox” line is from Waking Up in Reno, an underrated little comedy with Patrick Swayze and Billy Bob Thornton.

Stanley Kubrick’s work is commonly over-analyzed to the point that Kubrick himself is viewed as some mythic keeper of the world’s secrets. The most common theory is that he filmed the moon landings (and later left clues in The Shining to admit it). Then there’s Room 237, a full-length documentary that is just about theories about The Shining. A lot of this is because of Kubrick’s reputation for being obsessed with the tiniest details of his films. So that makes people analyze absolutely everything in his films. And when that kind of scrutiny is applied to movies, it only makes sense that some crazy theories would come out of it.

So when I started to do research for this article, I should not have been surprised by the insanity I found. But, in my defense, I was expecting more about the film itself and less about background moments. And I suppose I was taken aback by the confidence in many claims I had never heard of before. I think that’s what bothers me the most about conspiracy theorists these days: they present info with usually little evidence as if it is accepted fact. I’ll get into some of the crazier things I came across in the list below. And one final note: I am not going to link to any of these mainly because I’m too lazy to go back and find the specific videos and sites I found, but also because I don’t want to contribute to any more clicks or views for this shit.

  • One theory focuses on a pizza being visible on the table at the costume shop when Milich’s daughter is found. The pizza, according to this particular idiot, confirms that pizzagate is real because Milich ends up pimping his daughter out later in the film. So Kubrick was warning us about the child sex slavery ring in a D.C. pizza place in 2016 in a film released in 1999. My God he was prophetic...
  • Speaking of pizzagate, Alex Jones shows up in a lot of videos about Eyes Wide Shut theories. That was typically the moment I would turn off a video.
  • Most of the Alex Jones stuff deals with the orgy being about the Illuminati. That’s not that crazy, but since Kubrick died so soon after turning in his cut to the studio, it makes it easy to theorize about the final cut of the film and even Kubrick’s death.
  • People claim that Warner Bros. cut as much as 24 minutes from the film because in those 24 minutes Kubrick revealed the secrets of the Illuminati, which is why they had him killed when he refused to cut the scenes. He had final cut approval, so they had to kill him to make the cuts. I do think it’s possible that Kubrick would have made some changes if he had lived (because there are many examples of him changing his films late in the game), but I don’t buy this 24 minute shit. For one thing, most of the people who claim this say that there were documents and articles that reference the cut, but now they have disappeared. Convenient. Also, they claim that the cut footage included Mandy being sacrificed in front of Bill. If that’s the case, then why is he shocked to learn of her death?
  • Kubrick was killed on a specific date because it was 666 days before the first day of 2001. It’s funny that these powerful groups who control the world get together and plan on killing people based on how many days away from certain dates they are. “Okay, brother, we must silence Kubrick. He’s almost done with his film that will expose us.” “Agreed, brother, but how many days are there until 2001?” “Let me hundred.” “It must wait, then.” “But, brother…” “It must wait! His death means nothing if we cannot leave a clue for future internet sleuths to uncover!”
  • Kubrick was murdered. My problem with this one is that Kubrick is presented as some young man who was the picture of health before he died. He did die suddenly, but of a heart attack at age 70. He was a lifelong smoker, by the way. It was sudden, sure, but it’s not all that unlikely.
  • Kubrick was tasked with faking the moon landings, and he knew all of the Illuminati’s secrets. Why do people think Kubrick was privy to this info? I get the moon landing theory. Based on his work in 2001, he was chosen to fake the landing. I don’t believe that, but it makes a little sense. So where’s the evidence that he knew all about the Illuminati?
  • The mansion orgy is a recreation of a secret Illuminati party the Rothschilds held in 1972. The evidence for this is based on “secret” photographs from the event that have been unearthed. The party was actually a well-known event, and it was actually called the Surrealist Ball, and Salvador Dali was even in attendance, as were a few celebrities. So yeah, the pictures are weird, but I think if the Rothschilds wanted to hold a secret Illuminati party, they wouldn’t have allowed photography...and Audrey Hepburn probably wouldn’t have been there…
  • Bill and Alice sell their daughter, Helena, into sex slavery at the end of the film. This one really surprised me. Once again, mainly because it’s presented as fact. At the end of the film in the department store, Helena is looking at toys while Bill and Alice talk. The last time we see her, she walks past them towards two men in the background. The rest of the scene is a close up of Bill and Alice. Now, this is bad parenting, as they ignore her for a good two to three minutes. But I think it’s quite a leap to say they sold her to the orgy people in this scene.
  • Alice was sold into sex slavery as a child, which means she was at the orgy. The dream she tells Bill about is simply her describing her experience at the orgy. First off, there are way too many jumps made there for that to make sense. On top of that, why is there a scene of her calling Bill asking when he’s coming home? If she was going to be at the orgy, wouldn’t that scene involve her getting ready for it, instead of showing her sitting in the kitchen smoking and eat fucking Snackwells?

There are a lot more, but I can’t write anymore about this. It’s making my head hurt. Which is exactly what the Illuminati want! They want me confused! They want me to just watch a movie for enjoyment and stay asleep. If that’s the case, then I will gladly stay asleep and enjoy this movie as a movie.

I just hate that some people have taken this film and applied such insanity to it. Stanley Kubrick’s work is meant to be examined closely, but when you start bastardizing his work to fit into some conspiracy theory agenda, you’re dishonoring his films. Films can be important, and deep, and mysterious, and everything, but they can also be enjoyed, and for the most part, they are meant to be enjoyed. I don’t like Kubrick’s work because I want to eventually write a few thousand meandering words about one of his films, I like his films because they are entertaining. I do like to take a deep dive when I watch his films on occasion, which is why I wrote this. But more than anything, I just like to watch his movies as movies, not as cryptic mysteries attempting to expose the secrets of the world.

Why do I own this?

It's Kubrick, so I own it. I will buy Kubrick films over and over again as new editions and advances in technology continue. In particular, I own this film because I truly watch it at least once a year. In fact, I may buy a new copy soon because I just watched Filmworker, a documentary about Leon Vitali, and I'm worried I own a crappy version of the film.

Random Thoughts

I always liked how the music at the beginning ended up being diegetic. Why were they listening to that? Oh, right, because they are going to sell their daughter into sex slavery.

The wide shot of all the dancers reminds me of The Shining.

“Don't you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties?”

Ziegler can't keep it in his pants during his own Christmas party? I know the dude is into secret orgies, but damn, take a night off.

I love Kidman's “ffffucking laughing fit” after Cruise says, “I'm sure of you.” It's so fitting because she's trying to talk realistically about sexuality, and he keeps giving seemingly scripted answers based on what he thinks a husband should day.

According to IMDb trivia, Kubrick originally planned this as a comedy. I still find a lot of it funny, especially when Cruise's dead patient's daughter proclaims her love for him, and he responds, “We barely know each other. I don't think we've had a single conversation about anything except your father.”

The name Harford always bugged me. Why isn't it Hartford? Then I read the trivia, and it claims Harrison Ford was Kubrick's original choice (he had been developing the film for years). So as years passed, he claimed to want a Harrison Ford type, so you get Harford.

I can see why some people think most of the night is a hallucination, especially the odd costume shop scene, which is called Rainbow, which is referenced by the models earlier.

Thanks to captions, it is revealed that Leelee Sobieski whispers “You should have a cloak lined with ermine” to him. By the way, conspiracy theorists use this as evidence that she is a regular at the mansion orgies. And they use the ermine part of it as evidence that children are being sold into sex slavery because ermine comes from stoat that used to represent the safety of children or something and I’m getting a headache from this nonsense.

Showing up in a taxi was a pretty stupid move...

Prostitute (for the trouble): $150
Drinks at the Sonata Cafe: $20 (He bought Nick's drink, plus tip.)
Taxi: $260 (assuming the ride home cost as much as the ride to the mansion)
Costume: $375 (including the missing mask)
That turned out to be a very expensive night out.

In one of the videos that casually states that Bill and Alice sell their child into sex slavery at the end, it is mentioned that you can see the word “sex” above Helena’s bed when Bill looks in on her. Looking back, it is possible to make that out of the painting above her bed. I don’t think that counts as evidence of her being sold into sex slavery. I’d say it’s more about inserting more subliminal instances of sex in a film that is very much about sex. But what do I know?

He plays the doctor card a lot.
“I need a costume at 1 A.M. It's okay. I'm a doctor.”
“Hey, waitress, where is the pianist from next door staying? It's okay. I'm a doctor.”
“Hey, hotel desk clerk, give me all info you have on a guest. It's okay. I'm a doctor.”

So the orgy house people had that threat typed up and ready to go just in case he showed back up at the mansion? Way to be prepared, orgy house people.

One thing that made me immediately dismiss a theory I came across was if the writer referred to Bill as Hartford or Hardford. If you can’t even get the last name of the character right, why should I listen to your thoughts on what Kubrick “truly meant” with the film?

One theory I left out was that Bill’s night is a hallucination brought on by the weed he smokes with Alice. What did she lace that stuff with? Who really believes that weed can lead to such a hallucination?

Monday, December 17, 2018

"The Hate U Give” tops 2018 Indiana Film Journalists Association awards

“The Hate U Give,” a drama that examines contemporary race relations in America through the eyes of a culturally conflicted young woman, took three prizes at the 2018 Indiana Film Journalists Association (IFJA) awards — including Best Film, Best Actress for Amandla Stenberg and Best Adapted Screenplay for Audrey Wells.

“Paddington 2” was named Runner-Up for Best Film. Eight additional films were named Best Film Finalists, collectively representing the group’s picks for the 10 best films of the year.

Roma” and “First Reformed” each won two awards in addition to being named Best Film Finalists.

“Roma,” a look at a Mexican family’s cultural and interpersonal struggles, won Best Foreign Language Film. Alfonso Cuarón took Best Director honors for his work on the film.

Ethan Hawke won Best Actor for his role in “First Reformed” as a reverend whose faith is tested. Writer-director Paul Schrader also took Best Original Screenplay honors for the film.

Other winners included:

  • Sam Elliott as Best Supporting Actor for “A Star is Born”
  • Regina King as Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Thom Yorke for Best Musical Score for “Suspiria”
  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” for Best Ensemble Acting
  • “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” for Best Animated Film
  • “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” for Best Documentary

Josh Brolin won the IFJA’s Best Vocal / Motion-Capture Performance award for his turn as the mad titan Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The IFJA's Original Vision Award, given to a film with innovative and distinct storytelling, went to “Sorry to Bother You,” a satire of social issues and racial identity from writer-director Boots Riley.

The Breakout of the Year, which is given to performers or filmmakers whose work represents the arrival or realization of promising talent, went to writer-director Chloé Zhao for her contemporary Western-drama “The Rider.”

The Hoosier Award, which recognizes a significant cinematic contribution by a person or persons with roots in Indiana, or a film that depicts Hoosier State locales and stories, went to Alan Berry and Mark Enochs for their documentary “Dead Man's Line: The True Story of Kiritsis.”

IFJA members issued this Hoosier Award statement: “This painstaking presentation of an Indianapolis hostage crisis utilizes a treasure trove of news footage and photos — some previously unseen — as well as exhaustive interviews with nearly 40 witnesses and participants. Berry and Enochs throw their audience into the fray with nail-biting intensity. But they also illustrate how a moment in Hoosier history helped usher in news as entertainment, which has - for better or worse — become inseparable from America’s cultural identity.”

Below is a complete list of winners and runners-up in all IFJA Categories:

Winner: “The Hate U Give”
Runner-Up: “Paddington 2”
Other Finalists (listed alphabetically):
“Black Panther”
“Eighth Grade”
“First Reformed”
“The Rider”
“Sorry to Bother You”
“A Star Is Born”
“You Were Never Really Here”

Winner: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Runner-Up: “Isle of Dogs”

Winner: “Roma”
Runner-Up: “Cold War”

Winner: “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”
Runner-Up: “Minding the Gap”

Winner: Paul Schrader, “First Reformed”
Runner-Up: Bo Burnham, “Eighth Grade”

Winner: Audrey Wells, “The Hate U Give”
Runner-Up: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters, “A Star Is Born”

Winner: Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Runner-Up: Lynne Ramsay, “You Were Never Really Here”

Winner: Amandla Stenberg, “The Hate U Give”
Runner-Up: Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Winner: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Runner-Up: Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Winner: Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”
Runner-Up: Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”

Winner: Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Runner-Up: Jonah Hill, “Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot”

Winner: Josh Brolin, “Avengers: Infinity War”
Runner-Up: Ben Whishaw, “Paddington 2”

Winner: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
Runner-Up: “BlacKkKlansman”

Winner: Thom Yorke, “Suspiria”
Runner-Up: Jonny Greenwood, “You Were Never Really Here”

Winner: Chloé Zhao, “The Rider” (writer-director)
Runner-Up: Elsie Fisher, “Eighth Grade” (actress)

Winner: “Sorry to Bother You”
Runner-Up: “Eighth Grade”

Winner: “Dead Man's Line: The True Story of Tony Kiritsis”
(As a special award, no runner-up is declared in this category.)

About IFJA: The Indiana Film Journalists Association was established in February 2009. Members must reside in the Hoosier State and produce consistent, quality film criticism or commentary in any medium.