The Boy Who Loved Ronald Reagan
by Alex Carnevale
Into the Wild, 2 and a half fucking hours
dir. Sean Penn
Becky and I went to see Ira & Abby yesterday. We walked out at about the moment that Fred Willard started doing Judith Light, presumably under the assumption that it could only get worse from then on.
Part of the fun of knowing someone like Becca is that it is a complete and utter challenge to get her to do anything remotely outside of the norm. I would bust her chops more but we are currently in a simmering feud over her debut as a senior contributor tomorrow. Sure, there’s a small naming ceremony, and we’ll probably take a blood sample and put it behind our air conditioner or something, but the real action is in the photograph selection process.
In fact, looking at photographs of oneself is a difficult and unrewarding process. Caught in a moment impossible to replicate, we are disappointingly static, and our motion doesn’t describe us anymore. In an effort to select a different version of Becca I convinced her to do something that is completely morally wrong and should be published by a jail stay–sneaking into another movie.
Blonde girl and Jewish bear, remind you of anyone?
Boy, that Chris Messina fellow is certainly different looking in his non-bear incarnation. God his movie sucked.
We walked right out of Ira & Abby. The 7:00 screening had attracted few.
Into the Wild, meanwhile, was packed. People were literally squeezing in for an 8:20 showing on a Monday night. I think this film will do well, but perhaps mostly just with the hippie crowd, as our showing was about 80 percent hippie and 95 percent moron. That we stepped on their shoes as we walked out early and probably broke their dumb toes brings us only joy, no sorrow.
Into the Wild isn’t a terrible screenplay, that is the first thing we can say about it. Also in its favor is Sharon Olds helping out with the narration. The performances, from William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden and Vince Vaughn are all entertaining in their way.
Truthfully, it was time to expect more from Sean Penn, whose Jack-Nicholson-and-I-fell-in-love-and-did-LSD-one-weekend begat The Crossing Guard, a critical, financial, and artistic disaster. His first film, The Indian Runner, was a brutal Cassavetes imitation, and the less said about The Pledge, the better.
“Far Behind” — Eddie Vedder (mp3)
“Long Nights” — Eddie Vedder (mp3)
Penn’s actually not a terrible writer. He is gifted with truly interesting source material. After graduating from Atlanta’s Emory University (What, he couldn’t get into Brown?), Christopher McCandless was a generation removed from Molly and I’s own generation. (I am naming us Generation Robotron, and after I file a number of U.S. patents, you will see why.)
McCandless was a punk loser dumbass admirer of Thoreau, he seems to have processed none of T’s advice, only his observations. That’s correct, I refer to Thoreau as T, we also use the tu form.
The real McCandless was also an admirer of Ronald Reagan. Like Everett Ruess, he died of starvation, McCandless in the Alaskan wilderness. The timeframe we are talking about here is roughly near the end of the movie.
The death opens Jon Krakauer’s book version of Into the Wild. In fact, it’s on the cover. The young runaway who was not a runaway abandoned his car, burned all his money and set out West and eventually ended up…wait for it…outside of the contiguous United States. Whoo.
The moral of this story is, don’t dress like a hippie, and don’t head into the wild until you refer to Thoreau using the tu form
We admire people who do their own thing here at This Recording. For instance, Danish decided to add “Senior Contributor of Color” to the sidebar. Did I feel that was offensive? Yes. Did I feel that was accurate? Sure. Did it need to be done? Questionable, and I’ve been waiting on a post from him since last Friday.
The differences between McCandless and myself are plenty. McCandless (Emile Hirsch) is the kid from The Girl Next Door, a fact which improves vastly my feeling from the film. Jena Malone plays Chris’ sister.
“How She Bowed to Her Brother” — Gertrude Stein (mp3)
We are treated to a series of vapid but lovingly photographed outdoor locales. Nothing is really learned by the main character, unlike in most conventional drama. Here that’s OK, and suits the theme–McCandless’ deadly trip in the Alaskan wilderness was, like Tim Treadwell in Grizzly Man, more a death wish than anything else.
Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack puts this film on its back and carries it in a fashion not unlike that of Darren Aronofsky’s utterly bizarre material of The Fountain.
Visually, The Fountain was of course stunning, and brought Aronofsky’s considerable craftsmanship to a special-effects driven overbudgeted vanity project. Remind you of anything?
In an early scene where McCandless has dinner with his parents and his sister after his graduation, the camera swivels from close-up to close-up. Besides the film’s awkward green titles, this is the largest evidence for Penn as an amateur filmmaker. He has no idea where to put the camera. There are literally only three meanings derived from the movement of the camera. This is the kind of filmmaking that does not reward repeated viewing. Citizen Kane has 784 such moments.
Pearl Jam hanging with the fam, fatherhood makes him angry
Back to Eddie Vedder, though, who proves why Pearl Jam is one of the absolute greatest bands of all time by pulling out classic melodies, addictive choruses and profound spiritual interesting music on a freakin’ soundtrack for his acid buddy.
We can settle this debate now: Bad. Interview with Sean.
If I did not make my point clear already, Sean Penn is the biggest acid freak in Hollywood. Once he reportedly got so f’d off acid that he tried to bite Robin Wright Penn’s foot off. He usually does not even realize he has a moustache.
Penn conveniently omits what a crackpot McCandless is. This dude idolized Ronald Reagan. (Although I do not believe myself that this would justify his death, most of our hippie readership would probably argue in favor of that supposition.)
His parents were perfectly normal, nothing of the profound dysfunction of the film McCandless’s journey, which to my view was the simple expression of one soul into deep and utter darkness.
In fact, the depiction is rather unfavorable. Despite various Christifying on Penn’s part–this is basically the passion of the Christ except the victim chooses to be persecuted–McCandless comes off us as a puppy basically wagging his way through life. He is totally uninterested in any kind of human connection, and sort of eggs everyone on. If this is what he was like, bravo Sean Penn. If it wasn’t, shame on you, acid freak.
It’s especially ironic that Eddie Vedder on the soundtrack blasts Jerry Falwell (good one, he’s important, not), with Vedder singing the fascist “Jerry Falwell/find yourself/another country to be part of.” This is something short of good sportsmanship. Falwell and Reagan are one and the same, and telling Alberto Gonzales to find another country to be a part of is racist and mean.
I still love Eddie Vedder though, fucking “Rise” is the greatest song ever and my new jam for the ladies to boot.
“Rise” — Eddie Vedder (mp3)
“Here’s to the State” — (mp3)
“The Wolf” — Eddie Vedder (mp3)
I do like Into the Wild as a larger parable for a reaction to capitalism. It’s hard to be capitalists, we probably have to make movies like this where we pretend to like nature and being poor instead of buying 7 dollar soft drinks at Jamba Juice and peeing into an actual toilet.
There is something you do admire in Chris McCandless, something that forces me to be unable to diss his story as mere WPP: White People’s Problems (see every piece of television or entertainment out there besides Jamie Foxx’s technically competent performance as Ray, lord, that was no white person’s problem.)
He had a reaction, at least. He didn’t want to fit in like everybody else.
From early childhood, his teachers noticed that Chris was unusually strong-willed. As he grew older, he coupled this with an intense idealism and physical endurance. In high school, he served as captain of the cross-country team, where he urged his teammates to treat running as a spiritual exercise in which they were “running against the forces of darkness….all the evil in the world, all the hatred.”
Fred Thompson, eighties version.
Like all forms of fascism, communism would have served as a good evil for a Reagan-lover to overcome. By the time of McCandless’ adolescence, the most obvious evil in the world and the superpower that embodied it was heroically brought to the ground in a good ole United States spending spree.
McCandless desired to live as the most poor and destitute people in the world live. They wish for something far different than the existence he values over bourgeois wealth. This is probably OK–McCandless did send $24K to Oxfam.
His dislike of bourgeois culture is also understandable, and he would have hated the victory those in the shallowest end of the pool have wrought on our civilization. He would have also hated this movie. The disturbing discovery of a hoax and subsequent extreme sadness and disappointment I am feeling now that I am replete with the painful knowledge that the Meg White sex tape is not real is evidence enough for that.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
I’m writing a part for you betch
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