16 March 2015

Sell Yourself

Although wanking and crying takes up most of my time, I do try to be productive in the half hour of each day that I'm completely free. Sometimes I like to take my dog on a walk and other times I enjoy playing Grand Theft Auto to see how many prostitutes I can kill before having to commit suicide. Occasionally though, I also like to read books with my latest effort being Jon Ronson's enjoyably un-comforting The Psychopath Test. The book followed Ronson on his one-sided adventure into the world of the crazies, whilst detailing how he suspected they're fucking up society from the top. For birdwatchers looking to take their weird hobby to the next level, the book also detailed how one might go about spotting a real life psychopath in the wild. Turns out they're manipulative, glib, callous, have rather ambitious long term goals and as such make pretty good politicians, serial killers and in some cases, step-parents. It also pointed out that if you've ever panicked about being a psycho whilst doing something a bit kooky like microwaving the cat, masturbating with shit, or enjoying a Michael Bay film then you shouldn't worry too much. A psychopath has literally no interest in how another person might define them and so you're probably fine.

One person who I think definitely falls into a category that non-experts would refer to as 'a total fucking headcase' would be Jake Gyllenhaal's character of Louis in the thriller Nightcrawler. The film tells the story of an unblinking loner as he attempts to live the American Dream through any means necessary. If the British media is to be believed then for most Americans, the dream is to simply eat themselves into an early grave whilst avoiding being either shot to death at school or at home by the police. Louis however is more obsessed with the traditional definition of taking advantage of opportunities that might lead to him being more financially successful as he creeps his way up the career ladder. He starts off by finding and stealing bits of metal to sell like a cross between Ted Bundy and a Womble, before finding his true calling of filming accidents for a local news show. Ronson's book talked a lot about 'The Hare Checklist' which is where he got his details on how to spot these wacky bastards. Watching the film, it seemed to me that Louis ticked almost every single box in terms of his superficial charm, ability to manipulate, lack of empathy, and general nonchalance for breaking the law. As the film goes on, we see Gyllenhaal descend into darkness, committing even more worrying acts than simply making me question my own sexuality by him having the same face as his fit sister Maggie. 

By the end of 2014, this film began appearing quite highly in a lot of critics top ten list of the year and I can see why. To summarise, it was totally fucking brilliant. Of course there are lots of reasons as to why I might have loved this film more than I love my own family, with the fact that I couldn't give a pigs dick about my family being only one. I suppose that the most obvious thing however is Gyllenhaal's central performance which is like a jittery cross between Travis Bickle, Rupert Pupkin, and David Brent. He's a weird, obsessive loner who craves success and attempts to convince people he's normal by puking out rehearsed answers to normal everyday questions. I don't think the film leaves his side once and at no point do we ever really have a clue what he's going to do next. As the light bounces off his reptile-egg eyes, it's hard to figure out what emotion he's feeling beyond a desire to skull-fuck the human race into a bloodied mess of shit for him to film for local news. At first he seems pathetic and desperate however during one diner scene with Rene Russo, he reveals himself to actually be confident, controlling, and right at the batshit end of the twat-o-meter. Interestingly, this is the same scene in which we then see Russo's character switch from being professional and experienced to vulnerable and, essentially, fucked. There's no doubting that this is Gyllenhaal's movie however that's not to say that the rest of the cast isn't great too with Russo also delivering her best performance in ages. The last thing I saw her in was Thor: The Dark World which, although fine, did have me on the verge of an Odin-sleep at times. 

In terms of what the film's subtext is, well Nightcrawler has more going on below the surface than a swimming duck with dicks for legs. For me, I think it's a satire on how we're meant to behave in a world where jobs are scarce and the economy is as fucked as a battered arse in the museum of buggery. If my experience of job hunting is anything to go by, employers are less interested in humans than they are dead eyed members of a cult that live to stack shelves and chant about growth and self-improvement. Gyllenhaal does everything that we're told to do and thanks to our society having been dipped in shit, it seems that the only people who will truly prosper are wankers and psychos. He uses his superficial charm and lack of empathy to acquire an income and even does quite well as a result of being more than prepared to kill anybody that might stand in his way. These days, it's less of an American Dream than it is an American Nightmare. We British might be directionless and cynical without such a national ambition, but to quote comedian Al Murray, at least this means 'we're awake'. That's not to say that we're any better though, with my old boss clearly haven risen through the ranks as a result of being a sociopath. He genuinely came into work a few hours after finding out his sister had been murdered and described the situation as 'a family mishap'. Like I suspect Gyllenhaal's character would in his position, I can't help but imagine he's simply grateful that there's now less people to share his inheritance with.   

However, as well as holding a circus mirror of crap up to the current state of employment, the movie also casts it's sinister eye over the state of the media. In the film, the news is less interested in showing the truth than it is in sensationalising guff in a chase for the ratings. It's hard not to find things amusing as the news team start to gush with excitement over the thought of showing a blood splattered massacre to innocent families who are presumably relaxing at home. I was watching the news once when they genuinely announced, ' join us after the break to find out about the hidden killer in your home'. They then returned and delivered a ball achingly dull story about bacteria. I mean seriously... bacteria?! I drink that shit in Yakult! For two minutes I'd sat gripped to the TV, waiting for them to return, whilst imagining that Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Guin were behind my sofa, waiting to jump out, drill holes in my head and make belts out of my nipples. Nightcrawler looks at the media's liberal use of the truth and then even hints towards our own morality as a viewer. At the end of the day, they're only trying to get viewers and it seems the way to do that is by filming somebody's gruesome final moments. Is Gyllenhaal's headcase the bad guy for filming it, the news station for paying him, or us for essentially demanding it? Well obviously Gyllenhaal crosses the line in how he gets his footage, but I suppose, like a slaggy mouse's fanny, none of us are exactly squeaky clean. 

On top of all of this, I suppose the film could also be seen as a look at the obsessive nature of filmmaking. If anybody has seen Hearts Of Darkness then they'll know how insane people can get whilst trying to make a movie, with Apocalypse Now almost killing Martin Sheen. Possibly the closest a Sheen had come to death at that point until his son Charlie later discovered an addiction to attention and claimed he was a warlock. Even recently there was the case of the director being charged with manslaughter after filming on a railway without permission which ended with a crew member being killed. Oh, and I suppose there's also the famously documented incidents of Herzog and Kinski's attempts at making movies together. I'm not suggesting that any of these people would intentionally put innocent people at risk of death, but there's certainly a similar, obsessive quality there to whatever is driving Gyllenhaal's demented fuck-nugget. In fact there's one scene near the end which may well be one of the greatest car chases of the last few years, as we essentially sit in the vehicle that's filming the chase. Not only does this push it closer to being full-on meta but by adding an extra car, things started to get so tense that my arse clamped me to the chair like a fucking bulldog clip.  

I should probably say that even if you're a casual viewer of movies then you're more than welcome to ignore any hint of subtext and you'll still be left with both a gripping and deeply disturbing film. People have compared the neon look of this film to Drive or a Michael Mann film, but for me this is Cronenberg through and through with it sharing a tone that's closer to his Crash than anything else. Although as disturbing as Nightcrawler might be, even it doesn't come close to having somebody fuck a leg wound. Still it is essentially a Conenbergian look at a detached character as he's forced to interact with human life as a means of achieving his goals. To be honest, I just nipped the shop and it didn't take me long to get annoyed by all the pricks there just pissing about and getting in my way. Although I don't think Gyllenhaal's character is meant to be anything other than a full on villain, there's no denying his point that people can be pretty unlikeable. I've read a few criticisms of Nightcrawler which claim the film doesn't judge his actions enough and so runs the risk of turning him into an anti-hero. But for me this is missing the point. The character simply exists to show how screwed up the world is by demonstrating how somebody like him is able to prosper. I don't think we're meant to look at his success and follow his career path but question the morality of a sewage stinking society that's custom suited for the needs of a psychopath. For me, Nightcrawler really was worth the hype and it didn't even bother me once that despite presumably being an X-Men spin off movie, the title character didn't even show up once. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time. 


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