The Radical Optimism Of Richard Linklater’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

James Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965. He spent seven and a half years in the hellish Hỏa Lò Prison (aka the Hanoi Hilton), where he was tortured and abused. Stockdale made it out – you might remember him from the 1992 Vice Presidential debates, where he infamously began with “Who am I? Why am I here?,” reinforcing his image as a doddering, confused old man – but many other men didn’t. Years later, when asked what kind of man didn’t survive the Hanoi Hilton, Stockdale said:

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

Continue reading “The Radical Optimism Of Richard Linklater’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG”

ROCKETMAN Finds Ecstatic Truth In Movie Musical Falseness

The music biopic is dead, a rotten bloating corpse that stinks up the joint. Yes, the Queen movie made towards a billion dollars, but we all know that success is no measure of quality. The very form itself is rancid, unsalvageable. We all know this, and yet Rocketman has the audacity to be released into theaters, giving us an exhilarating jukebox musical-style take on the genre, and in doing so presenting a beautiful, raw and honest portrayal of pain and healing… even if it is largely full of shit. 

This is the fascinating dichotomy at the heart of Rocketman, one that mirrors a myriad of dichotomies in subject Elton John’s life. The movie is factually inaccurate, and yet it is undeniably true. John himself was surrounded by people and love, and yet was alone and unloved. He was shy and reserved, and yet he took to the stage in increasingly silly outfits. He sang someone else’s lyrics and yet his songs were incredibly personal and honest. 

Continue reading “ROCKETMAN Finds Ecstatic Truth In Movie Musical Falseness”