From One Second to the Next by Werner Herzog

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From One Second to the Next by Werner Herzog

The moment I read about this new documentary short from Werner Herzog, I thought, “A public service announcement video to warn people to never text while driving? Really?” It seems like a small hair ball of a problem that should already be common sense. Having watched the short, I realized that’s precisely the problem, that texting while driving seems like a such a minor hiccup. It is not.

The half-hour short covers the story of four accidents that have caused by texting while driving. One case has a child that is paralyzed for life and is currently on life support, caused by an accident from a teenage girl who was distracted from texting. There were no skid marks. She never saw him. Another case involves a man who killed two Amish children. The driver is now perpetually left to questioning himself what was so important about his text that couldn’t wait. The other two cases was a family dealing with the monstrous medical bills from her mother’s accident and a family losing her father. What really struck me was the last man who caused the accident, who wasn’t able to recall the text message he sent after the accident happened. He couldn’t remember why it was important.

Herzog brings his brand of deep introspectiveness to the short, adding the much-needed seriousness this topic deserves. As the title suggests, life is connected by each second. It’s in-between each seconds we must throw caution, because everything can change within a second. The most disturbing part for me was, my initial reaction was exactly the type of behavior this short was trying to warn against. It is not a hairball. It is not something to handle. Reading a text is not better than sending a text. There are human lives at stake. Do not text and drive. You just do not do it.

Some statistics I found on texting while driving:

  • Texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year.
  • The minimal amount of time needed for a text is 5 seconds. If you are traveling at 88.5 km/hour (55 miles/hour), that would cover an entire football field without any attention paid to the road.
  • As of 2011, at least 23% auto collisions have involved cell phones. That amounts to 1.3 million car crashes.
  • 1 out of 5 drivers of all ages confess to surfing on the web while driving.
  • Text messaging is the longest eye-off-the-road time out of all the distracted driving  activities. An accident is 23 times more likely to happen if you are texting.

The documentary can be viewed here. The slogan to the AT&T campaign is “It can wait.”

Related Reviews

Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog

The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer

The Act of Killing by Joshua
Oppenheimer

A
documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders
to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic
genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and
lavish musical numbers.

By omitting the historical context
behind the 1965–1966 Indonesian killings and letting the
Indonesian death squad leaders tell their own story, watching
The Act of Killing evokes the
Nietschean idea of ‘gazing into the abyss’. That if one
were to ‘gaze long
into an abyss, the abyss also
gazes into you.’ The Act of
Killing
is a deep ocean of ideas, constantly
reflecting the human condition. Every scene was like a wave, with
an entirely different idea, crashing over the previous scene and
provoked a new thought in me. My thought train spiraled and
branched off into different directions.

At first, I thought about the brutality
of man. Then it went to how history is written by the
victor.

And then I
thought about the nature of cinema and storytelling. That in the
act of telling their own story, the death squad leaders became
conscious of their past actions through the task of having to
present it to an audience. That aesthetic distance, interestingly
enough, ends up being the distance these death squad leaders needed
to truly examine what they have done.

And then I arrived at the nature of how
extreme ideas in society prevail, despite of how illogical or
inhuman they may be. That logic is relative, anyone can easily
manipulate logic to justify any action. One can make anything sound
logical to do whatever they desired in a given moment.

And like that, the film kept on
giving infinitely and its themes continually deepened. The Werner
Herzog brand of the ‘ecstatic truth’ is at play here. Each
audience member will have their own individual experience of the
film’s ideas and themes, because the film allows it so. Director
Joseph Oppenheimer never puts these men on trial and instead of
burrows for something deeper to reflect humanity at its core. These
men, like anybody, are just human. And I cared and became invested
into their emotional journey through how Oppenheimer displays their
humanity, which was perplexing at points. I had to remind myself
that they were still mass murderers.

At a two and a half hour running time,
the film is too long. It’s hard to sit with such heavy material.
There is a 115-minute theatrical cut that exists, which is 45
minutes shorter than this director’s cut. Joshua Oppenheimer
seemingly wants to covers more ground than needed and less
definitely would have been more. I stuck with it alright because I
was fascinated by the film’s subjects, but it may test the patience
of general audiences. That said, The Act of
Killing
is a great story told through subjects
that I never ever want to meet in real life.
It is an unsettling and powerful
experience and is one of the best films of 2013, if not the most
important.

Jack Reacher by Christopher McQuarrie

Jack Reacher by Christopher McQuarrie

A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.

So on the height debate, I have never read the Jack Reacher books, so I do not have an impression of the character in my mind. However, it’s irrelevant that Tom Cruise is not 6″5. Hugh Jackman is technically much taller than Wolverine in the comics. And even though they make everybody taller than him in the movies (imagine the budget of apple boxes on every X-men movie), nobody’s arguing that his height ruins his performance as Wolverine. At the end of the day, it’s a question of medium. Lee Child stated that he wrote Jack Reacher to be 6″5 because he wanted Reacher to feel like an enormous presence in the reader’s mind. As film is a visual medium, one can build a person’s presence by adjusting how you film an actor and the actor can perform a larger-than-life personality in his performance.

That’s exactly what Tom Cruise brings to the table. Not since Collateral has Tom Cruise created such a powerful onscreen character. The Jack Reacher character embodies a lot of qualities that we enjoy seeing Tom Cruise play: a savvy maverick (pun intended) who can handle any situation and deliver funny zingers as he’s doing them. The biggest thing going against Cruise is his own stardom. With the amount of information we know about his personal life and his star power, some people may not buy Tom Cruise playing a “Man with No Name” archetype who is shrouded in mystery. It’s a legitimate argument, however, Cruise plays against his stardom as much as he can. I understand that Jack Reacher in the novel is a womanizer and they downplay that here, probably as a way to help shape Tom Cruise into more of a normal person for the movie. He does not grin his way through this role, and in the sum of it all it made a huge difference for me.

The film has an all round great cast. I’m a Werner Herzog fan and he was actually the initial reason why I wanted to see this movie. Herzog brings a chilling presence to his villain role that pushed me into nervous hysterical laughter every scene he was in. Knowing the funny stories behind Herzog, I would say it was 40% scared by his character, 60% laughing giddy because it’s Werner Herzog. Technically that means I’m taken out of the movie by having this pre-existing knowledge, but for me personally it engaged me even more.

Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel is a story conscious cinematographer. He is aware that he’s making a crime thriller and uses cinematography to punctuate thriller conventions. He frames the shots in a way that maximizes the tension for each scene, keeping the viewer unnerved and agitated throughout the film. Deschanel understands that visual spectacle is most effectively earned when people believe what they are seeing. A noteworthy example is a car chase sequence in the film that is covered in a series of long shots designed to ensure the audience that Tom Cruise is indeed driving the car performing all the stunts. It was one of the best car chases I’ve seen in a long time.

Christopher McQuarrie is a competent director and I look forward to his work as a director. It’s nice to see a screenwriter make his way into a director and earn their visions. It shows in the film. The best part I enjoyed about Jack Reacher was that it reigns itself in. It understands set-up and payoff and plays like an old fashioned suspenseful thriller where the mystery patiently unfolds itself before the audience. Much of the fun factor comes from the fact that Jack Reacher is ahead of the film’s characters and the audience in figuring out what’s going on. It engaged me and I found myself shifting forward on my seat anticipating what was going to happen next.

I wish there was more I can say about how much I enjoyed it, but that’s about it. Tom Cruise, forget your beloved Mission:Impossible franchise

Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog

Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog

On October, 24 2001, Michael Perry and his friend, Jason Burkett, decided steal a Camaro from the the Montgomery home of Sandra Stotler. Perry entered the house through the garage. Perry shot Sandra Stotler with a shotgun and the two men dumped her body in Montgomery County’s Crater Lake.

The duo then returned to the gated community where Sandra Stotler lived and waited outside the locked gate until the dead woman’s son, Adam Stotler, and his friend, 18-year-old Jeremy Richardson arrived. Perry and Burkett lured the teens to a wooded area and killed Adam Stotler and Richardson. Perry and Burkett, driving the Isuzu Rodeo Adam Stotler had been using, went back to Sandra Stotler’s home and finally stole her Camaro. They kept the Camaro for no longer than 72 hours and were finally apprehended after a gun fight with the police. Perry received a death sentence and Burkett received a life sentence.

Into the Abyss is the new documentary film from Werner Herzog, it focuses on the two convicts and various people affected by the crime. In his documentaries, Herzog always seeks what he calls the “ecstatic truth”, his theory that storytellers should never look away from the truth. It’s not enough that we know that murder exists. You have to look at it face-to-face. Once you do this, you will find a whole well of deeper truth.

That was my experience watching Into the Abyss, on the surface it covers a very depressing subject. At the helm of any  lesser director it would probably be depressing. Instead, it cuts right through and takes you to different places emotionally beyond “hey dude, murder is depressing, so be depressed while you watch this”. It’s emotionally raw, the parts about the victim’s families dealing with the victim’s deaths are powerful stories. We see that it so much more harder to grieve when one’s death was over something so meaningless. Mostly we can say that these deaths are all made from wrong choices. Did these people have a choice? Some seemingly did and some claimed they did not. It would be so much easier to judge and encapsulate how we feel about a person’s actions if we did not look at the whole truth of his predicament.

There is humor at times, but it’s not there to break tension. It comes as part of the ecstatic truth. Herzog greets the father of Jason Burkett, Delbert Burkett, who is also in prison, “How are you?” The sits down and casually snaps a “I’m fine.” Herzog half-scoffs, “How fine (are you really)?” Delbert recounts how he testified for his son in court and pleaded to the judge not to execute Jason. He blames himself for not being there as a father and never gave his son a chance for a good life.

It’s even romantic at times, the wife of Jason Burkett speaks about how she fell in love with her husband and desires to bear his child, despite that they will not be together for 40 years until he makes parole. She holds a sonogram picture of the baby and that was an unnerving moment. As she held up the picture, I wondered if the child is another seed of criminality. That’s what I saw. I think other people will have different interpretations. The film is dense enough for it.

One of the most chilling moments for me was the interview with Fred Allen, the Captain of the Death House Team in Texas, where the prisoners are brought to be executed. He describes the procedure of taking the patient to be lethally injected and his struggle with keeping the job after lethally injecting 125 convicts. A notepad is shown noting the times of the procedure of Michael Perry’s execution: when he arrived, when he was strapped to the bed, when he was injected and when he passed. That struck me still. I did not have an emotion for that.

Herzog does not narrate as he usually does and I think that was a good aesthetic choice. He only conducts the interviews. Herzog’s own views are implied in the film (he is against the idea of capital punishment), but it’s not as loud of a statement as one would experience in a Michael Moore film. It is unlike Cave of Forgotten Dreams where he needed to answer, “Why the hell are we looking at these caves for 2 hours?”  There is no question of why we need to watch this and Werner Herzog takes a step back from telling us his personal views. The viewer is left to decide how they want to judge the actions Michael Perry and Jason Burkett. Herzog provides no answers, but asks all the right questions.

Why did these three people die for a car? Why did these two kids kill for a joyride? How does death affect a family? How do you live your life knowing that you will be executed next week? Is there any real purpose to executing Michael Perry? After all, it won’t bring them back. Does anyone, including the state, have any right to take a life? Just because the law says so, does that make it right?

At the end, It left me raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I thought about the absurdity and ironies of life. Into the Abyss reflected the human predicament and how as human beings we think we know everything, but we are not even close to understanding ourselves.

Announcement

To my readers,

I will be going to the Mainland working for 4 months as an assistant director on a feature film.

This is my first time working a feature film. It’s very exciting, it’s what I’ve been working towards this whole time and I don’t know what will happen with it. As Werner Herzog once said, filmmaking is articulating one’s dreams. It’s not one’s individual dreams, but everbody’s dreams. And to work on a film is never a job but a priviledge. That said, I regard this as a life-changing experience on the horizon and I intend to seize it.

I will do my best to keep the posts coming and even write about the production experience itself. Chances are I will miss a lot of the summer movies coming in, such as The Avengers or The Amazing Spider-man. However, I should be back in time (maybe a bit late) to see The Dark Knight Rises. Who knows, I may just write about movies I have already seen, just to talk about them.

However, I’ll do my best to keep writing and keep the articles interesting.

Thanks everybody,

HK Auteur