Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Netflix Finds: Salt and Fire

This evening, I watched a movie I did not personally pick out. It was the choice of my spouse, who sometimes sees something he thinks he might like and clicks on it even though I am in the same room and he could ask if I have any interest at all. Sometimes, he picks something really good. I recently enjoyed Lo Chiamavamo Jeeg Robot, which, while definitely reminding me of the problematic relationship so-called "(super)heroic" themes have with respect to female characters (vide The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente which explores the "women in refrigerators" trope and The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley) also was a send-up of the application of fantasy to the "real world". And then there was this film I saw just now: Salt and Fire.  

I did not enjoy this movie. About 20 minutes in, I did a thing I often do after watching a movie, where I consult with online reviews to see if other people felt the way I did. (I seldom consult reviews before--for one thing, there is a risk of spoilers and setting expectations, which I just hate. I like to see a movie with little more than the trailers to get me going.) I was happy to know many felt the way I was feeling about this thing.

There's an irony to the theme of the movie (a hostage scenario) and my getting "trapped" into watching it. Me--I'm no sentimentalist when it comes to films. I will walk the hell out or quit viewing if I'm on my own watching a film. Not sposo mio. He commits. And I, as a part of our unspoken joint adventure together as media co-consumers, have decided it is better to just be part of the ride. I have watched, for fun, really wretched B-movie schlocky-ass stuff I would never subject him to--I understand my tolerances for crap. So I tolerate. I forbear. I bitch strongly afterwards. I know if something was truly unacceptable, violent, exploitative, he'd shut it off and not watch with me if I gave the word. But this time, because I'm trying to get away from just doing politics all the time, I'm submitting my multiple grouses with this nonsense in a review.

The actors did well with what they had. Michael Shannon and Veronica Ferres are not to be faulted for the dialogue that could not help but be leaden. I genuinely think they did as convincing a job as could be done with a story which is kind of The Worst. Veronica Ferres plays Dr. Laura Sommerfeld, a scientist who is part of a UN delegation to an ecological disaster in South America. Her delegation is taken hostage when they arrive at the airport, and the male members of the delegation have been segregated and afflicted with food poisoning to disable them. She comes to be aware that she is singled out by the kidnappers because of their mission, and she is told by Matt Riley (the head kidnapper played by Michael Shannon), after some weird nonsense about perspective in an Italian Renaissance mural and a little inquisition about her not being the custodian of her little girl, who lives in Morocco with her birth father (thanks, patriarchy!) , that the area is under threat because of a potential supervolcano threat which is more drastic really, than the ecological disaster in the long run, isn't it?. And then she is abandoned in a salt flat miles from anywhere with two blind little boys who basically just speak Spanish and the local dialect. 

And she perseveres. She takes the kids under her supervision, and works out how to speak with them, feed them, rationing water and trying to spare them the ugly truth of their situation, not understanding at all why they were abandoned this way. She plays with them, becomes affectionate with them. And then, as things look desperate, the head kidnapper and his guys show up and apparently he was the boys' adoptive father, and the ecological disaster he created (I don't care if I'm spoiling you regarding this movie--watch it at your own risk because it is dumb!) is what killed their natural mother and made them blind. (Also he abandons them with a female scientist he just thinks might be a hell of a mothering type because she has a child she is removed from--not father of the year material, him.)  He wants a cookie from her because he's going to "turn himself in" (I guess to the "ecological disaster police"?) and doesn't think she deserves an apology for being kidnapped or abandoned with these kids in a completely inhospitable situation because he's feeling sort of noble about owning up to his fuckery, and he's only done it to get her to be the very best witness possible to the full extent of his stupid fuckery so she could tell his story the way he perceives it.


Also he is giving her tickets to Rome to see the mural thing he was jazzed about for some reason. Yay. Why not a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat, if we're giving out prizes for surviving the wilderness while watching his kids? Why not Samsonite luggage? And then he has a couple "asks" of his hostage who he put through the wringer--

Can he call her by her first name? (Bitch, call me "Doctor" after all this fuckery.) Which she allows. And then he wants a spoon and a toy and to have picture time with the kids he disabled and doesn't seem to give two fucks about, resulting in images like this:

Hah!--Perspective! The thing of when the lady you kidnapped who is blonde and western is in the foreground and your native babies are small! So he can save those images for his mental scrapbook when he is in ecological nightmare-creating prison. Which is a thing.  There is also a perspective trick where the boys are small and on the spoon, and of a size with a Godzilla toy. We interrupted Riley alleging he "gets it" with his artistic vision about staging photos with the kids. Staging. Photos. With. The Kids. He endangered and disabled.  Fun Times. 

The denouement is unsatisfying and Riley doesn't understand how badly he fucked up, and Dr. Sommerfeld is stupidly charitable, and the future of the kids is whacked, and the image of a wheelchair with a jeroboam of champagne in the seat vrooming across the salt flats to elicit the attention of the space brothers (no, motherfucker, I am not even making that bit up) ends this stupid and annoying self-indulgent crap-ass movie. 

I mostly just wish Lawrence Krauss was not in this because he is really smart and this movie was not.


I also wish my husband asked me what I wanted to see so I could put my votes in for continuing to work our way through either Midsomer Murders or Father Brown.  Because while a good movie could have been done regarding an investigation of an ecological disaster--this was not it. The ecological disaster was a MacGuffin to get the CEO vs. altruistic scientist thing to happen, and then it never got done, because the CEO was supposedly subject to an off-screen change of heart (whilst using people around him willy-nilly) and the scientist was shown to be a lady and a softy who loves babies. 

I finished mostly just thinking fuck every gotdamb thing about this movie. And that is where my blogpost stands: Fuck this movie. Fuck every damn thing about it.  I don't care if somebody is Werner Hertzog or WTF--this is some self-indulgent, white male savior-ass fuck up and be redeemed bullshit. I was sitting in the room--but I was not there for this stupid movie.

1 comment:

mikey said...

Yeesh. Not the sort of thing I'd choose to watch, but double not after reading this. I'm not as wound up over the social justice implications in fiction - the world is not a place that regularly produces just outcomes, so movies that do usually come out of Disney studios. For that matter, I like violent films - IF they're good. Reservoir Dogs, Heat, Fury - these are films that scratch all my itches.

You do touch on something difficult for couples - teevee control. I have lived alone for years (decades), so it's not an issue for me, but thinking about it I can't remember every seeing a couple that had truly worked it out. Usually one of them (you, in this case) is either sitting through something they hate and have zero interest in, or just leaves the room or goes under headphones. I know one couple where she will not 'allow' (yep, that strongly) any movies or shows with 'violence' (she even refused to allow Breaking Bad), but will INSIST they watch 'Dancing with the Stars' (I'd rather just poke knitting needles in my eyes) together. The power imbalance is always skewed when it comes to the main screen.

I am the last person who has any good perspective on how a couple might solve this, but it's a real, genuine issue that couples have to work out the best they can....