Tag Archives: Don DeLillo

The Leftovers 1.6 – “Guest”

The first scene of “Guest” perfectly encapsulates the special kind of world we talked about in our review of the previous episode “Gladys“. Sure, the second scene steals the show: Nora leafs through a newspaper, makes an appointment with a prostitute advertised under the headline Nothing is Forbidden, invites the scantily-clad girl into her home, plants a pistol in her hand, dons a bulletproof vest, then demands the girl shoot her directly in the chest. Nora’s done this before, she assures the prostitute, although the last girl she got to shoot her “said she’d never do it again”. Thousands of dollars change hands, as do a great number of understandable health-related concerns. Tears fall. Eventually the gun goes off and Nora lurches backwards onto the blow-up air mattress. The hooker flees. After a long moment, Nora gasps a breath of fresh air.

Hell of a scene, no? Even if you aren’t sold on Nora’s self-help methods as a kind of New Grief — as if the old methods of grieving for lost loved ones no longer cut it — the intensity of the scene is still powerful. It builds moment by moment, starting as the prostitute steps over the threshold and holding an inhale as she darts back over it after the gunshot, finally exhaling at the same time Nora does. But a large part of the intensity of the scene might be attributed to the fact that this is the second scene of “Guest”, and the first is so deceptively twisted and unimaginably tragic that the gunshot scene almost becomes inevitable.

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True Detective 2.7 – “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

One writer I enjoy reading and rereading is Don DeLillo, author of Underworld and White Noise — arguably his most famous works — and my personal favorite Libra. I rambled about him in relation to Birdman in this article. His relation to True Detective? Negligible, mostly, except for the fact that the sheer volume of characters in play during the second season of the HBO series has frequently recalled the densely-populated neighborhoods of DeLillo’s books. This dude packs characters into his stories, and if it gets out of control at times it’s still a very intentional and graspable phenomenon wherein the primary characters both stand out from the pack and blend into it. They get sort of out of control, these chessboards of intermingled personalities, and in the case of the 800+ page Underworld things get downright daunting; but it’s all controllable and palatable at the same time, somehow, in the way that all of the disparate colors in a kaleidoscope can still be explained as part of a single device made of cheap plastic.

True Detective is, I hope, more akin to that kind of a story than we’re able to grasp with the final episode (which will be an extended 90-minute finale) still to go. At the moment, one would be forgiven for wondering what in the heck it is we’re even rooting for here. Caspere’s killer? Maybe. That’s the event that kicked the season off, and it’s definitely still “unsolved”. But there are more loose threads in this season than there are loose threads on David Morse’s drug rug, so let’s get down to detecting some truth. Spoilers follow for the seventh episode “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”.

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Birdman (2014): Riggan the Supernova

Our Take Two column offers second opinions and alternative angles on films and TV series reviewed elsewhere on Motion State. Head here for our original review of Birdman.

There’s a story about these guys, Jack and Murray, who head out to the countryside to visit The Most Photographed Barn in America. They follow the signs and arrive at the barn site, finding a visitor center, an observation deck, droves of people with cameras, the actual barn up on a little rise. “No one sees the barn,” Murray notes. “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.” Jack says nothing as more tourists arrive, snap pictures, buy postcards. Murray continues. “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one,” he says. “Every photograph reinforces the aura.”

That story is from White Noise by Don DeLillo, an author who largely concerns himself with the same exploration of modern celebrity at the heart of Iñárritu’s Best Picture-winning Birdman. And that aura, so built up around the little red barn that the mass awareness begins to eclipse the individual identity, is not at all unlike the celebrity in which Michael Keaton’s actor Riggan Thomson finds himself trapped. The “public Riggan” — an image maintained in tabloids and represented by the superhuman Birdman — is so overwhelming that it obscures the real Riggan, the artist beneath the public persona, threatening to further that obscurity by tempting Riggan with Birdman 4. Plenty of films address Hollywood and modern celebrity in this way, and we’ll mention a few more from this past year in a moment. It’s Riggan, though, who most fully and tragically shows how impossible it is for an artist to escape the machinery of fame.

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