Moon

Stars:  ★★★★

Summary: Remarkable philosophical sci-fi from a great new director.

Positively cool.

Review: Newbie director Duncan ‘Zowie’ Jones — David Bowie’s son — has officially blown my mind.  The hard sci-fi awesomeness of the original ‘Solaris’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ has returned in the form of ‘Moon’, Jones’ debut film, starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a man working on the titular orb that I’m sure we’re all familiar with.  Kevin Spacey supplies the voice of Gerty, the apparently friendly computer that runs the base and is Sam’s only companionship.  The details of the plot are directly tied to the surreality of the experience, so I’m afraid I can’t spoil it, though eventually it will suffer from ‘Planet of the Apes’ disease and have its great twists assimilated into common knowledge.

But ‘Moon’ really isn’t a movie about twists and turns. It’s really not a movie about science concepts, either, even though one familiar to modern audiences does appear.  It’s more about loneliness.  It’s about the tendency of human beings to divorce themselves from painful self-knowledge.  Sam Bell could never have taken his harrowing journey towards overcoming his demons had he been working amidst a community.  He, like the early Christian ascetics, found, unwittingly in this case, that in isolation there is a chance to explore the regions of heaven and hell within the human spirit.  This is not a permanent pursuit; even Sam Bell must eventually return to Earth.  The great danger for Sam Bell, as it was and is for all ascetics, is to become trapped in one’s hermitage, unable to overcome hell and trapped in a cycle of defeat.  The nirvana of Buddhism is nothingness; the nirvana of the Christian monk is everything and everyone, when viewed through the right eyes.  We are our worldview.

The music by Clint Mansell is a strong counterpoint to the music of Kubrick’s ‘2001’.  Clint Mansell creates a score of the moment, a piano-driven, eerie, unsettling atmosphere that centers on the individual.  The ‘2001’ soundtrack, with its many classical pieces from different sources, represents the whole of mankind and its evolution through encounters with the alien.  Clint Mansell’s ‘Moon’ is always introspective.  This provides an excellent contrast of the themes of each film.  ‘Moon’ is about the one small step for a man; ‘2001’ is about one giant leap for mankind.  In another sense, Clint Mansell’s score is ambient and uses electronic sounds to subtle effect, showing some similarity to Vangelis’ score for Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’.  Both films have something to do with the relationship between identity and technology.

All in all, ‘Moon’ is spectacular filmmaking.  It’s greatly moving and greatly creative.  Here’s hoping for more from Duncan Jones.

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James’ Top Ten Directors (Without An Order)

Sorry about the long hiatus, folks, but I kind of lost my drive to write.  The good news is, I did regain my drive to screenwrite, and I’ve got a solid idea progressing nicely.

It occurred to me that a major obstacle to the success of this blog is the lack of variety in articles.  Sure, we’ve got reviews and the ‘Elements’ series, but what about top-tens and other die hard blog tropes?  Ain’t nothing wrong with a good trope.  So, here we go.  My top ten favorite directors.  Minus the numbers one expects from such things.

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg shades his eyes because they're too bright for you.  Hence the hat, even without the glasses.

Spielberg shades his eyes because they're too bright for you. Hence the hat, even without the glasses.

Here’s the why. He made ‘Raiders’, ‘Close Encounters’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Jaws’, and your mother’s amazing plasticine face.

Christopher Nolan

I think he's an accomplshed actor, too.  Didn't he play a James Bond villain at one point...?  No?

I think he's an accomplished actor, too. Didn't he play a James Bond villain at one point...? No?

Here’s the why.  He saved Batman’s batfilm batexistence batfrom bathell.  He’s really good at screwing with your mind, even in relatively straightforward movies like ‘The Dark Knight’.  On the extreme end of intentional mindscrews, of course, is ‘Memento’, which is referenced in way too many screenwriting books. C’mon, people, we’re novices, if we’re reading your book looking for advice, don’t mock us with a challenge to repaint the Mona Lisa.  Also, Christopher Nolan is the only fellow I would trust to remake ‘Blade Runner’.

Quentin Tarantino

That's the German three.

That's the German three.

Here’s the why. Quentin cares enough about his stories that he lets them gestate for ridiculous periods of time.  That way, he doesn’t rely on formula, but delivers a compelling and original story that breaks a lot of “rules” and yet somehow still works.

Peter Jackson

Before

Before

After.

After.

Here’s the why. He directed ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, which kicked everybody’s ass, except J.R.R. Tolkien himself, who was on the moon fighting vampires when it was released. Mr. Jackson has since lost a lot of girth and become a Hollywood heavyweight, shepherding up-and-coming directors and projects, like Neill Blomkamps’ ‘District 9’, which was like the ’80s sci-fi craze had come back to life with a blood transfusion from Jason Bourne. So he’s got that going for him.

J.J. Abrams

He is not clueless.  Merely geeked the heck out.

He is not clueless. Merely geeked the heck out.

Here’s the why. He’s great at fusing genre films with solid, emotional stories.  Sometimes too good.  I didn’t expect the opening of ‘Mission: Impossible III’ to be nearly as traumatizing as it was, but that’s okay.

Alfred Hitchcock

Nobody does it better...

Nobody does it better...

Here’s the why. Hitchcock represents the majority of exposure pretty much anyone has to the silent era and its powerful ‘show, don’t tell’ ethos. Thanks to this training as a silent film director, Hitch kicks lots of ass in the suspense department, and his stuff is really memorable.  Every suspense movie, ever, is compared to Hitch.  Not to his movies, no, to the man himself.  Why is he laughing in that photo?  Why?  Why!?

Brad Bird

Let's see... Bird pun... Bird pun...

Let's see... Bird pun... Bird pun...

Here’s the why. Brad Bird is another fellow who can blend genre with emotional, original story. So far, his works have been fantastic animated movies, such as ‘The Iron Giant’, and Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Ratatouille’, but he may be making his first foray into live action soon. Whatever the case, Brad Bird’s imagination is sure to soar.  Ha.  Ha.

Sergio Leone

OVIEIf he looks fazed it's only because he spent all his energy making THE BEST MOVIES EVER.

If he looks fazed it's only because he spent all his energy making THE BEST MOVIES EVER

Here’s the why. Sergio Leone is the godfather of the Spaghetti Western subgenre.   Since he’s passed away, there’s no point in making Spaghetti Westerns anymore.  Unless you’re Quentin Tarantino or something.

Duncan Jones

This is what happens when you put out the fire with gasoline.

This is what happens when you put out the fire with gasoline.

Here’s the why. He directed ‘Moon’, the best sci-fi film of 2009.  Strangely, he’s David Bowie’s son.  Sure, this guy’s new, but he’s awesome and he looks to be building a sweet sci-fi series.

Tim Burton

How dare you, Tim.  I used to hate your movies.  Who do you think you are?  Get out.  You misfit, you.

How dare you, Tim. I used to hate your movies. Who do you think you are? Get out. You misfit, you.

Here’s the why. He’s quirky.   He’s got scissors for hands.  He was not permitted to eat sweets as a child — because his father was (not) Christopher Lee.  His movies are bizzare.   I don’t like the ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’.   I do love ‘Batman’.  Why, Tim?  Why do I admire you, so?

And, that’s my top ten.  Patrick should be coming out with his soon.  Very soon.  You hear that, Patrick?  WRITE THE DAMN LIST.

What?  Oh, okay.  Bye for now.