In 500 Words: Southland Tales

Yeah, I know. Missed the last week of Exploding Shorts. They’re on their way, probably in a couple weeks. Plus some others, and news about a bigger project. Promise. Anyway, here’s a review for y’all:

Southland Tales

If you aren’t willing to go on a head trip, Southland Tales isn’t for you. If you don’t think the end of the world is funny, Southland Tales isn’t for you. If you want a movie that demands anything less than your undivided attention, Southland Tales isn’t for you. Southland Tales is a mental workout. It’s a magnum opus. It knocks your socks off and feeds them to you. The plot is so dense and multi-layered that I’m still not sure what the movie is actually about. Here’s all I know: MARTIN KEFAUVER is an anagram of FREAK MAN VIRTUE. The internet is the future, Boxer Santaros has a blood stain that looks like Jesus on the back of his shirt, and nobody rocks the cock like Krysta Now—and I mean NOBODY. After watching this movie, I get the odd sensation that I should track down Richard Kelly and thank him for making it. And if Kelly has another movie of this caliber in him, I will be the first in line to kiss his boots and call him my king.

There is virtually nothing I can say about the plot that would make any kind of sense in the context of this review, so instead I’m going to focus on craft, for whatever that’s worth. I’ll start with casting. The film is populated by scores of B-list pop cultural icons: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Will Sasso, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, John Lovitz—the list goes on. The stunning thing is that all these people who I usually think of as mediocre actors at best deliver makes-my-hair-stand-on-end performances, especially Johnson and Scott, both of whom I now hunger to see more dramatic acting from. The production design sports the best near-future sci-fi look since Blade Runner. Those of us who are connoisseurs of fine tracking shots will not be disappointed, and neither will those of us who appreciate sudden, inexplicable music videos. The cinematography is understated but brilliant. The music is perfect. The story is… confusing. That’s the way it should be.

Southland Tales garnered an intensely negative critical reaction, for precisely the same reasons that it is such a landmark film—the film I would show to my grandchildren to explain to them what it was like to be alive in 2008. Its satire is perhaps a tad too accurate, and just a tad too grotesque. Have you ever looked in one of those distorted funhouse mirrors, and then you realize that it’s just an ordinary mirror and you’re the one who’s distorted? It’s an uncomfortable sensation, and I think that’s why so many people are so hostile about the film. I don’t doubt Kelly’s fortitude, though. I get the feeling that this is not the last slice of weird, freaked-out Americana we’ll be seeing from Richard Kelly. Because, judging by all available evidence, Richard Kelly is a pimp. And pimps don’t commit suicide.

[rate 5]

5 thoughts on “In 500 Words: Southland Tales

  1. Dwayne Johnson and J.Timberlake are surprisingly talented actors; but i’m still trying to figure out what Southland Tales was about… maybe it’s really obvious, i.e. life in Los Angeles is blurred, clutter, flashy and not always meaningful.

  2. I watched this movie again recently (I own it, by the way), and it’s incredible. So, so great.
    The second time around I found out that the guy who drives the ice cream truck full of weapons, the one that one of Sean William Scott gets abducted into? That guy is the same guy who played Raiden God of Thunder and Lightening in the Mortal Kombat movies.
    I also found out that there were originally more song-and-dance sequences, but they were cut out from the theatrical release. Sadly I only have the theatrical release and not the extended versio, so i don’t know how the other musical numbers match up to the one most of the folks on this blog have seen.

  3. I wouldn’t lament not seeing the festival cut, as what I’ve read implies that most of the changes made between then and the theatrical release were actually at Kelly’s request, not the studio’s. He also had Justin Timberlake come back and re-record all his voiceovers, which suggests to me that perhaps it’s a bit of an ordeal to get a good performance out of the man.

    Another fun one: the white-haired guy with the big beard who runs USIdeath? Kevin Smith!

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