Friday, February 24, 2012

"Left in Darkness" gives an unpleasant primer on what angels put us through when we go; AND, Bill's pick for "Best Picture"


When driving back to Dallas from Oklahoma on a fall Sunday night in 1983, I heard, on the car radio, a fundamentalist pastor describe what happens when one “dies”.  You are met by an angel, who tells you the lowdown on just how you will be processed.  It sounds like getting drafted into the Army all over again.

I recently did have a dream, of being in some sort of cabin, and wanting to wake up, of being on another planet where they did not use money, and then being in some sort of “Yotel”, and then I finally did wake up.  That was a scare.  Another time I dreamed of being blind, and of not being able to get the lights on.

In “Left in Darkness”, a low budget ($200000) thriller from Anchor Bay and IDT (2006) (director Steven R. Monroe) the “heroine” Celia (Monica Keena) “comes to” on a latrine floor, after being sick, on the night of a 21st Birthday Party. She drank too much, and was slipped a date-rape drug, and her last memory was giving in to an attractive young man.  She has trouble getting a grip on things, and when she sees her own lifeless body, she knows she’s in trouble. She wants to wake up, and wanders around, and finds herself in the same frat house, more or less, but the people are gone.  Her hope that she is dreaming and sleepwalking fails.  Then she meets the guardian angel, Donovan (David Anders), who may not turn out to be her “friend” either, and not even a guidance counselor. 

It seems that she’s caught in a limbo, not exactly Catholic Purgatory, and she has a certain amount of “light” in her parallel-universe “sanctuary”, and she can increase her time if she gets others at the party to come with her. After all, shouldn’t her attacker get what he deserves? There’s a good question as to whether she’s allowed to intervene in any way to save the life on anyone on Earth.

She carries a lot of baggage from her life.  Her mother had died in Childbirth, and her grandfather is questionable, too.  It’s not so clear why she has to go through these tribunals. 

I didn't find myself having a "rooting interest" in Celia. I was more intellectually curious about its view of the afterlife.  That's probably not a good reflection on a "thriller" like this but would be appropriate for an intentionally more intellectual film (like "Inception").  One thing, even though great wrong was done to Celia at the frat house party, she still bears the permanent consequences.  She helps pay for another's "sin". 

They’re been other movies about the afterlife.  I reviewed “Astral City” in December, and I remember an earlier film from Lionsgate, “Wristcutters”, where a young man explores the netherworld, and it ain’t pleasant. 
  
The complete film appears to be available free on YouTube from Starz.  I would think there should be a $1.99 rental charge. 

The official site is here.

Here’s the trailer:


The DVD has a behind-the-scenes featurette (10 min), and a short-short, “My 21st Birthday” (2 min).

On the weekend of the Oscars, Dave Berg in the Washington Times has a commentary, “Academy awards the unpopular and unprofitable: Hollywood just doesn’t care what Americans want”, link here.    I would disagree with him somewhat:  Americans do want “The Artist” (although some didn’t), and “The Descendants” (even if about a man’s being cuckolded).  I thought they wanted “Hugo”, but a lot of people had trouble with “The Tree of Life”.  I think Hollywood gives us way too many franchise retreads.  Is it snobbery to praise movies for adults that don't pander to suburban mall "family" or teeny-bop cliches?

Once, in 2006, in a screenwriting seminar sponsored by a group from LA, the “coach” tried to take my sci-fi treatment ("Titanium") and add to the “stakes” (with unnecessary chases and police threats), as to undermine the whole concept of the film – as a reporter’s existential  journey when his fiancĂ©e “went up”.
 
Okay, who do I think should win Best Picture?   It’s tough.  Who I would have liked (“The Tree of Life” or “Hugo”, or maybe “The Help”) probably isn’t “best”.  And I loved “The Artist” (but I love Paramount’s re-release of “Wings” even more.) I have to go with “The Descendants”.  It did cover even my creative territory pretty well.   Best LGBT film is “Judas Kiss” – which deserved to be in the running in its own right.  I really got in to all of the characters in that film (even Shane!), and they did what characters do.  But that’s also the case with “The Descendants” in the “straight” world.  

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