Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why "Southland Tales" was the Worst BEST Film of 2007

This is going to read as a delirious rambling-incoherent jumble of ideas, but that's about the the only
appropriate/corresponding way to go about describing the subject matter:

Kaleidoscopic in the issues it tackles, "Southland Tales" sets about telling too many 'tales' in too much
time, but most successful among them is its america-in-a-twisted-hall-of-mirrors Philip K. Dick sci-fi
SATIRE depiction of our current global/domestic state in 2008. As though all of this country were as
warped and completely f*cked! as LA - with the additional doomsday-stoking factors of an atomic 'Terrorist'
strike on Texas, a new 'Big Brother'-style surveillance wing of the CIA, corporate sponsored war in Iraq/Iran
(Hustler logos on military vehicles), an 'alternative fuel source' natural disaster in the waiting and the best
all-around mockery of the TV-People unreality that seems to have become the american dream I've maybe
ever witnessed on the big screen. The additional genius stroke of using many known, but B-grade hollywood
actors to depict fictional A-grade hollywood icons/celebrities/politicians is one of the best executed jabs of
the whole film. Schwarzenegger? Jenna Jameson? George Bush? You've got em all in "Southland Tales".

Some cons; The near total lack of any real resolution of the major plot-points where things just kind of all
Apocalypse-explosion fall apart in the last 1/4 of the film as the dramatic 'conclusion' was a bit of a cop-out.
Where rather than tying some (of the many) untethered plot threads together to give more perspective into the
insane surreal jumble of global events and the 8? 12? major characters in this ensemble-cast uberdrama, instead
we get a string of (admittedly beautifully choreographed) MTV music-video vignettes that ad much to the mood
of the film, but in end are head-scratchingly pointless to the narrative and don't advance the plot at all.

Another con of a different variety; NObody saw this film. For the next major studio release by the director of one
of the biggest cult hits of the early 2000's (yep, "Donnie Darko") - its confounding that there was no audience to
speak of that saw "Southland Tales" in the cinema. Obviously, the studio had no clue what to do with this film
(see the later couple of trailers, the lack of any mention of the prequel, etc.) and the ad campaign was one of the
shortest-lived I have ever seen for any film (one week) and its theatrical run was abominably short (two weeks in
Seattle) with, confoundingly, no second-run screenings. Which is where "Donnie Darko" made its money and
retroactively found its audience, as a second-run and midnight movie. There was a lesson learned there, that
could have been applied to this film and evidently was not. By NObody, this is the kind of box-office ticket
sales numbers/audience attendance I'm talking about:

"Southland Tales grossed $275,380 at the North American box office, and $81,028 elsewhere, making a
worldwide total of $356,408,[24] falling far short of the film's $15-17 million budget."

In the end, what does seem to be Kelly's point, beyond just the insanely fun(!) total satire of the times in which
we live - is that the film suggests people-want-doomsday = people-get-doomsday in a Neo-Con / Fundamentalist
Christian 'War on Terror' manifesting the Apocalypse kind of moral/biting jab/humor play. And no, the Republican
party aren't the only ones targeted by Kelly, he finds much to parody about the directionless ineffectual jumble of
absurdist Marx-appropriating misguided/wrong-headed political 'action' on the part of what the Fox Network currently
refers to here in usamerica as the 'Extreme Left'. The overarching politics of the film bring to mind Kubrick's 'How We
Came to Love the Bomb' subtitle on "Dr. Strangelove" - and there are some parallels here, but mostly, "Southland Tales"
is just a thing unto its own and WOW what a wonderful apocalyptic-satire-disaster of a disaster of a film it is.

Official site:

New York Times and Village Voice reviews:,hoberman,78254,20.html

The most outspoken advocate of the film was Amy Taubin, who in both Film Comment and Sight & Sound
bemoaned the fact that the studio levered Kelly to reduce the scale/duration of the movie from the version
that was seen at Cannes and afterwards horribly mismanaged its theatrical release stateside the following year:

And the wiki:

Lastly, a fitting quote from Quentin Crisp: "If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered
to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe
things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist."