Southland Tales review 48 of 52.

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Last night I got home from my trip to San Diego to visit my family for the holidays. I stayed a couple weeks longer so that I would be in town for my mom’s wedding. It was an amazing trip and I had a lot of fun. I get to learn more and more about these people with every visit and you got to learn a little about them in the past to reviews.

Now I’m home and it’s back to work.

I have a new project that I am going to be incorporating into thewickerbreaker.com as the project to fill the free time that’ll be on my hands four weeks from now when this Southland Tales review experiment wraps up. The project involves 365 Days of Resolutions. I’m still working on the details and will be posting my strategy soon but until then I’ve been posting daily resolutions on my personal Facebook page.

Last night I started the first of my at home resolutions which was to rearrange my one bedroom apartment to where I might use the entire space. I’ve lived in this apartment for almost three years now and have never really used the bedroom except to store my bed, clothes, bookshelf and up until recently, my spare television. I slept on the futon in my living room leading me to believe I was meant to live in a studio apartment because I’ve always preferred living in one room.

So last night I started to move furniture and clean, turning the main area of my apartment into what now appears to be a studio apartment with my own little man cave. I turned the place into a huge mess and feared that I'd never get things set up in time to fit in this week’s view and review of Southland Tales, but you know me by now. I almost always have these fears.

At about midnight I got the place to a good stopping point and sat down to come up with my strategy for this week’s review. I did a Yahoo! search for movies similar to Southland Tales so I could do yet another compare and contrast review. That’s right I Yahoo! Don’t judge.

After sorting through several list and watching several trailers the movie This Is Not a Movie seemed like it had the most potential, at least as far as something I was interested in exploring, and luckily it’s streaming on Netflix!

At about midnight on Tuesday January 14th I fired up This Is Not a Movie to see what I could find.

Between the trailer, this description of the movie from IMDB “Twisted, apocalyptic satire, THIS IS NOT A MOVIE envisions the end of the world through the bi-polar mind of a strung-out pop-culture addict. Starring Edward Furlong and Peter Coyote, with a jagged, atmospheric score from Slash,” and what I’m about to write you should be able to put together what you need to know.

  • Right out the gate This Is Not a Movie starts by letting us know that the world IS going to end in 48 hours, sure that’s 24 hours shy of the time frame given in Southland Tales but there is no doubt that we are going to see the end of the world in both films.

  • We are told this in voice over in both films. Both voices then go on to explain the circumstances that got us to this point. Where Southland Tales leans towards the government making a power grab, This Is Not a Movie leans toward the overall sinful nature of mankind.

  • Both movies are inspired by conspiracy theories.
    • Southland Tales follows political conspiracies that seem to be coming to fruition, at least things like USIdent being very similar to what's coming out about the NSA, and the whole Orwellian Police State that you can’t avoid reading about if you have any friends on Facebook who actually follows the news.
    • In This Is Not a Movie the conspiracies are more about the occult and turn out to only loosely be part of the overall storyline.

  • Both movies deal with existential issues and the questioning of mental stability. Where the Rock and Seann William Scott don’t know who they are because of amnesia, Edward Furlong doesn’t know who he is because he thinks he’s crazy.

  • There are several music videos throughout This Is Not a Movie, but as soon as the music starts we break away from the characters and it pretty much becomes just a music video for a song featuring Slash’s guitar playing. None of these break aways seem to add to the story.

    In Southland Tales there are several musical elements including Justin Timberlake’s I Got Soul But I’m Not A Soldier song which is pretty much just a music video, but at least it’s fitting because Justin Timberlake had just shot up fluid karma and this is the view of an former celebrity hopelessly flashing back to his glory days.

  • Near the beginning of This Is Not a Movie I got a little excited when I thought I saw Bret Michaels. I was really looking forward to seeing what level of “woe it’s that guy” actors they were going to fill this movie with only to realize that it was not Bret Michaels but instead a parallel version of Edward Furlong. Granted the same actor playing multiple characters was a good consolation prize as far as story connections go but I was looking forward to seeing a cavalcade of washed up celebrities.
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  • Other than a few cut aways, that are reminiscent of the news cut aways in the theatrical release of Southland Tales, Edward Furlong and the parallel versions of himself are pretty much the only characters in this story. We never get to venture out and explore the apocalyptic world.

  • In Southland Tales even though the characters seem a little misguided everyone seems to being doing their best to keep progressing toward their goal.

    I'm not saying that one choice is better than the other, but in This Is Not a Movie our hero has pretty much given up. This is not a story of pimps not committing suicide, in fact there are several threats of suicide throughout the entire movie. Including a scene where one of the Furlongs threatens to kill the main Furlong and is warned if he dies then they both die. Sound familiar. I only say this to point out the similarity not to say it is a rip of, neither of these movies is the first to use this convention.

  • As This Is Not a Movie went on I saw less and less connections to Southland Tales and found myself reaching for connections as the movie shifted to be more and more of a rant about writing and less and less about the impending doom.

  • Looking through my notes the best of these reaches is that in This Is Not a Movie it’s suggested that this film does not take place in reality, but instead these are characters in a script who are waiting for the writer who seems to have given up on them. This reminded me of The Power, especially if you’ve read all the prequel material where the world in Southland Tales seems to mysteriously blend with the prophetic screenplay.

  • Spoiler alert both movies end with a threat of suicide only we find that our ultimate version of Edward Furlong who is the writer (played by Peter Coyote) and created Edward in his own image is definitely not a pimp.

I’m not sure how the above comparisons makes this movie sound, but over I liked This Is Not a Movie. I liked what the writer was trying to say and what he was trying to do, it was just different from Southland Tales.

This is Not a Movie is more about a writers struggle with conforming to structure, and art vs mainstream entertainment, which is a struggle I totally understand. However I wasn’t a fan of how straight forward the conversations where about writing. None of the writers frustrations where hidden in the story. There were no interpretations to be made the entire movie seemed to be a night in the head of a stoner having a conversation with himself about how he has it all figured out.

I’ve been there and would prefer to see his finding in a movie where I have to do work rather than an hour and a half long rant. That said, even though I was frustrated from time to time I did find this to be a movie worth watching, but be prepared to have mixed feeling towards it if you do.

After finishing This Is Not a Movie I crashed hard and woke up early. I wanted to go back to sleep but couldn’t. Instead I stayed up and returned to my mission to complete my first resolution of the year!

I finished cleaning at about 3:00 in the pm and by 3:30 in the pm on Tuesday January 14th I fired up Southland Tales for the 48th time in my cozy new set up.

One month to go.

I bugged Richard Kelly about this on Twitter earlier but I think I’m going to try and arrange an online viewing of Southland Tales to virtually watch the movie with whoever is interested for my last review. If you have any ideas feel free to chime in

See you next week!


Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.