Some years back, Charlie Kaufman, one of the great writers of our time, gave the world a glimpse into the inner workings of the human mind in Being John Malkovich. Malkovich was an ideal subject for such a script. He was not a giant “A-list” star, but we had all heard of him. He was considered one of the great talents of the acting profession, yet he was an enigma.
What did we know about Malkovich? Nothing. Yet without his acting prowess, it is impossible to imagine In the Line of Fire. Of course, it is equally impossible to forget Johnny English, try as we might, but no man is perfect. Still, Malkovich was a perfect vessel for Kaufman to contain his boundless and eccentric imagination.
But I maintain that Kaufman’s world of wonder is not new to this Earth. Based on what I’ve seen, what passes for entertainment in Kaufman’s world has been around at least since man discovered peyote.
And while the vision of Kaufman may seem half a world away, I submit that it is the very same formula used to create the new science fiction film Chronicle.
“Surely not the effects-laden new film about telekinesis?” you may ask. “You could not possibly mean the action-packed, “˜teens with superpowers’ flick opening this month?” you might add. Or maybe you’d sum up your inquiry with a simple, “Say what?”
[pullquote]Chronicle is actually a pretty damn good movie. I am especially proud to recommend this film to you, as the only reason I chose it is because it has the word “chronic” in its title.[/pullquote]
I say this! Chronicle is exactly like Being John Malkovich because they are cut from the same cloth that was the genius of one, and only one, Hollywood visionary: Robert J. Rosenthal.
Who is Robert J. Rosenthal, you ask? He was a giant. A legend. A virtual god. And he is unlamented and unremembered in the field in which he created a new world: film. Rosenthal was a man who took one simple idea “” revolutionary in its simplicity “” and built an entire industry devoted to its worship.
What was that simple idea? We’ll get to that. First, let’s look at Chronicle and work our way back to it.
Chronicle is actually a pretty damn good movie. I am especially proud to recommend this film to you, as the only reason I chose it is because it has the word “chronic” in its title.
Its very name screamed for it to be seen only after I had seriously toked it up. So I did. And it was a GREAT idea. The movie ain’t half bad, either.
On the surface, Chronicle had two things working against it, and two things working for it (if you counted the title).
AGAINST: This is another film where the action is “recorded” by one of the characters in the film on a video camera. Think Cloverfield. Better yet, don’t. That movie sucked. Also, this is one of those “found footage” films. You know the idea. The footage has been “found” after the people in the film are missing, dead, etc. Think The Blair Witch Project. Or again, don’t.
FOR: This is a movie where people gain superpowers! I love me some superpowers movies. So, this film has superpowers and a title that begs me to get baked before I watch? I’M SOOOOOOO IN!
And the great thing is the movie is pretty f””king cool! The premise is simple: Three teens make a discovery in the woods that gives them superhuman abilities, and they discover their wonder together “¦ but soon the powers they have been given begin to grow beyond their control as one of the boys turns to a darker person.
The film stars newcomers Alex Russell as the fun-loving Matt, Michael B. Jordan as “the black guy,” Steve, and finally, Dane DeHaan as the troubled Andrew, who becomes a serious danger to them all.
And what do these kids do with their newfound powers? They do what any kids would do: They freak out children in toy stores, they playfully harass people in malls, they move people’s cars into new parking spots using only their mind, they cause girls’ tops to come off “” it’s the superpowered equivalent of cow tipping! Good old, harmless, American, teenage fun!
But this film, for one that did not get too much fanfare, proved to be a really well-directed and -written film. The film’s lead roles are well done, and their youthful enthusiasm proves contagious. You find yourself along for the ride and enjoying yourself. This is a true popcorn movie in the very best sense. It’s all implausible fun, and it’s very easy to strap yourself in and enjoy.
And the effects! TOP NOTCH! Even if I had not been stoned “” and I was; Lord, how I was “” you could not help but be impressed by the effects. Lots of things go BOOM! And it makes the found footage concept come alive in a way most films just are not able to pull off. It is all just well done on every level.
I highly, highly endorse this film. See it, and see it with many friends; it’s the only way. I cannot thank director Josh Trank (whose drug-reference name also inspired me!) enough for this film. I also wish to thank the film’s unsung hero: Robert J. Rosenthal.
OK, now, at last, I will answer your question: Who is Robert J. Rosenthal, and what was his simple idea that revolutionized cinema?
Well, it’s simple. Robert J. Rosenthal was the very embodiment of taking one central idea “” one central theme “” and pounding that idea home by concentrating on it to the point of near absurdity. And around that one idea, he would build an entire film.
But everybody makes movies that way, you say? Not so. I am not talking about making a film based on a BROAD theme. THAT is what everybody does. I mean making a film around one, single THING.
An example of one, single thing: nothing.
Charlie Kaufman, who learned well from Mr. Rosenthal, took the simple idea of nothing and asked himself, “Now, how many things can I make from the idea of nothing?” As it turned out, he made many things.
What did we know about John Malkovich? Nothing? How MUCH nothing? We knew A LOT of nothing about him. How little did we know? Did you know he has a restaurant in his head that serves nothing but himself? Fascinating stuff!
In this way, Kaufman became the first pioneer to discover the vastness and complexity of nothing. That is why Kaufman is a genius, and we’re not.
It is also much of Kaufman’s vision that has helped fuel the popularity of LSD, in which I have certainly helped to do my part.
But I maintain that without Rosenthal to light the way, there is no Kaufman “” and, by extension, no Chronicle. Rosenthal was a man on a mission: a mission to take one central thing, one basic idea, and build worlds of entertainment we could all live in.
The staggering thing about his idea is that he used it not once but many, many times and built MANY films out of it.
That’s right. For Rosenthal, tits were not just the object of men’s desire, the fantastic asset of the elusive female allure, or the reason Dolly Parton was destined for fame. For him, tits would be the catapult that launched his name into history and gave rise to the career of one of the greatest thespians on this planet: Scott Baio.
In the late ’70s, Rosenthal set his phasers to “titty” and rocked our collective worlds with films like Malibu Beach and The Pom Pom Girls before giving his big K.O. to the world with his classic Zapped!
Zapped! not only starred heartthrob Baio but also forgotten Eight is Enough star Willie Aames. Zapped! was a virtual love letter to the pursuit of the boobies, and it was so powerful in its impact on the moviegoing public that America’s voice would not be quelled until Baio and Aames were joined together again in Charles in Charge. Clearly, America would always love Chachi.
And Aames went on to further “¦ um “¦ things, as well. Though Baio has had his own reality shows and a great role in Arrested Development, Aames’ fame would peak with the role of Bible Man “” sort of a pussy, caped crusader who would guilt evil into submission using Scripture. Aames also went into middle age being one of the few men who still insisted on being called “Willie.”
Baio has distanced himself from the failure of Aames, not even making a special appearance on Bible Man as Altar Boy!
And what do we have in the new film Chronicle? Why, even in the trailer, we have a girl defending her topless self from the advances of one of the superteens. One of the teens even uses his powers to make a leaf blower blow up the skirts of several schoolgirls! What this tells you, dear film lover, is that you can have the biggest budget in the world and as many explosions as you like, but men’s baser needs will always win out.
Tits. They’re what made America great.
ROBERT J. ROSENTHAL. FILM GOD LOST TO THE AGES. HE HAS NOT DIRECTED A MOVIE SINCE 1982. MISS HIM. MISS HIM.