Monday, January 11, 2016

Movie Review of Nightcrawler

Netflix is a fantastic technology. Bill gates knew digital versions of media and transmission was coming, but somehow Netflix and Amazon beat him to it. There are movies or documentaries I will start because I can stop them at anytime since there is no sunk cost of renting. After reading some favorable reviews, I watched Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler is a great film that I heartily recommend.

The movie is about modern society and especially the modern city. The film depicts modern city living in all its "people are interchangeable units to be used by the city" glory. Louis Bloom is just a young white guy searching for meaning, a purpose, a job. He wants to turn a job into a career. He knows that is what he is suppose to do and will help him get the things he is suppose to want, but he has a hard time finding it.

Louis Bloom is not a sociopath as some reviewers labeled him. The director wanted to avoid this and focus on Bloom being a product of society. Bloom is a kid you went to school with who was awkward but would know he had to copy some things to fit in. It feels forced with him. Not austim as much as a kid who learns the buzz word speech of school and corp lingo. If I study it and mimic it, I will be successful. These are the Zig Zigler convention attendees. There is nothing original to his life. He steals and copies ideas from others. The end is a two van team which he stole the idea from Bill Paxton's character that he indirectly killed.

He is but a victim of the atomization of society and city living. Bloom lives alone, eats alone, has no shared goals, and struggles with social situations. He seemed very Millenial. The hustle of the moment he will try, and apply his school robot program to, but he is easily distracted. Listen to the statistics he spits out. Bloom researched his new task, but how committed to it is he in reality? He thinks he wants this, and thinks he can make a career of it at this moment.Even in a sexual situation, he has things he thinks he wants but a resistant partner. His assistant, Rick, is the perfect representation of the modern American city dweller: a mystery meat, helpless male. Rick is a borderline bum just looking for some cash. Rick could be any ethnicity or combination. He is the beige being that is chewed up and spit out by our modern cities. He is a fringe guy, a byproduct of failed social policies and a piece that the city cannot help. Of course Bloom, with his slight mental and information advantages, will use Rick for his ends.

The scenes between Rick and Bloom are fantastic commentary on the modern economy. There are regular folks looking for any type of niche to have merit and earn money. Become a subject matter expert in the gig economy, which is what the duo becomes with collecting news footage. These two are goofy and not corporate brainiacs yet these characters still know the corp lingo that we have witnessed and swallowed whole. I loved the negotiations for Rick's raise and the "where is my performance review!" demand from Rick. We all are infected with the buzzwords. Rick is paid in cash, yet still mimics what he knows real jobs say and demand. Bloom gives Rick a meaningless title bump and Rick eats it up because we have all been trained to recognize and react to those status labels: Vice President.

Think of their set up. It is two guys in a car chasing crashes. Louis found Rick from an online ad or something weak and they have an interview at a diner. Rick just wants some cash each day for showing up. He worked landscaping and odds and ends jobs. Louis needs him for navigation but more for companionship in their atomized dystopian lives. Despite the abuse and the risk, Rick still stays. Louis Bloom has a plan, which he keeps from Rick, but he himself is still dependent on finding footage every single night for his 1099 employee (if that) payments. There is little to no security for them, but they know there will be some catastrophe to film that night. What is Uber? What is AirBnB? Someone is going to need smething. There is a market, but you gotta hustle for it kiddo. This is the 21st century American work experience.

The journalism angle is well represented for gore but there is a miss. The sell is that crime creeping into white burbs plays well for cameras. We know this is a lie. Hollywood wants you to think the media is not on the side of criminals and trying to frame crime as a bad thing. This is a lie since the dindu crimes of break-ins are suppressed while the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin shootings get national coverage. Where was the national outrage for Amanda Blackburn? Unfamiliar with that name? She was the pastor's wife raped and murdered in front of her toddler. They couldve just robbed her but they did not. they raped and killed her. That did not get trayvon or michael brown treatment, but if we are in the start of a national crime wave and incarceration policies are being debated, what better symbol to push to be tough on crime? She is not used since she does not fit the prog narrative. Yes, if it bleeds, it leads, but the media will do their best to say, "he dindu nuffin, he a good boy, he turnin' his life aroun'". Read the framing of this crook's justified death at the hands of an off-duty cop.

The setting and situation itself enhances the movie. They chase accidents and break-ins on the roads at night. Aren't our cities nothing but a maze of roads? Isn't that the American landscape? Kunstler calls it the Geography of Nowhere. American towns developed far more along the "company town" line, which is why the Rust Belt and even the old mill towns of New England emptied out. There was no long term, natural development of a town as a trading spot, religious holy spot or even simple, easily defended mountain towns. Many towns are simply near a power source or waterway that mills could be built near and then it was a matter of putting people near the economic centers. Then it was putting people in bdroom communities so they could drive to economic centers without being killed by Democrats. Thanks to Robert Moses and his backers (automobile and oil interests), cities are built for cars. This is why there are no walkable cities, even the small ones. This flick handles that perfectly. Everything is finding a route, getting to locations, using a vehicle to place oneself on the two dimensional map in the right place at the right time.

Pardon this interlude but Los Angeles comes across as soulless here. It is an awful city. Thank you.

The mood is great. Bloom's pauses between lines combined with his silent performance in many shots makes one more curious. The lighting is dark and has a blue hue to it. It lives up to its name and is a night movie. Cities have a different feel after dark. Maps of who is where in a city during the day versus at night reveal quite a bit. It is a different crowd and this movie touches on the evil. Some people are just night owls. The night owls, or simply night people as Jean Shepherd referred to his loyal listeners, area different type. Working third shift is unnatural so there are stereotypes or implications to being a night person. Even during the daytime, Bloom keeps his shades shut. It was a nice touch.

With that mood, there is a missed opportunity. I expected as he lost out on a scoop that he would turn into creating the crimes he would then cover. It seemed a logical extension to his character forever flirting with legality. Why not go that route? Instead we get him playing things up to film, when we could have had a sinister turn of instigating the robberies to push his company. Bloom paying  robbers to then film them and their results would be a guaranteed investment to a character who slapped corporate lingo onto anything in the grey zone. Is that not a little like what we feel now with protestor-rioters used by the police state and left to further their political goals? MSNBC practically goading blacks to burn down Ferguson, MO was done so in order to air the fires as they started. It's using the fringe of a city for one's gain. Whether Rick or a robber, it felt like this was a missed opportunity for the filmmakers.

It might have been too dark. It might have been too much for a film. This also points to another idea or avenue that this film's creators could develop. This would make a great television series on HBO. A season could be 10-12 episodes. Series arcs are easy to think of, and character development far easier to push in a serial format. People can come and go due to television news setting. It is a great opportunity, and would work even better than a film. Does Louis Bloom go fully evil? Is he even evil in today's world? Is there anything of substance there? Why is he off? These are questions the two hour film could not answer. Still the film is great.


peterike said...

Been thinking about watching this film. Thanks for the review. I'm pushing it up on my watch list.

DCThrowback said...

Saw it and loved it - Louis Bloom, innovator in the digital age. Really thought creating crimes or accidents was next for Louis, so I agreed with you. Thought it was a great meta-commentary on the corporatization of our verbiage, too.

Gyllenhaal is a fine actor. There, I said it.

Other great, gritty LA movies: Heat, obviously. Drive, w/ Ryan Gosling, was great too. Training Day, no brainer.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Thanks, Ryan. Will be watching this tonight.