Days of Future Past: Southland Tales


Written by Amanda Pampuro


“This ain’t no disco. It ain’t no country club either. This is LA.”

I am a foreigner to the country of Southern California and I get the idea that some lingo went over my head. Southland Tales made as much sense as Portlandia must to Canadians. I can’t quite draw line between spoof and fiction through the fat double divorced Neo-Marxists, abundant movie props, and roller blades.

As Justin Timberlake pops beers and needles, he narrates the story of actor Boxer Santaros (the Rock) who has just written a movie script with porn star Krysta Now. The script is about green energy which has the side effect of slowing down the Earth’s rotation, and opens a rift in time. When an LA cop goes through the time rift, he goes back in time, and meets himself, and BANG that is the end of the world. All is well and good in the Southlands until, while researching his role, Santaros’ script becomes more fact than fiction.

Like I said, Southland Tales is about Venice, CA. It is a weird place.

But then Richard Kelly has never been concerned with making sense—he likes sudden rips in time and the end of the world, the dangers of new age religion and oil, porn star talk shows and druggy music scenes. Actually I wish he directed more music videos, those are certainly his highs.

Kelly’s follow to Donnie Darko tries very hard to be bigger and stranger than Donnie Who? Southland Tales was a necessary creative purge from Kelly—after all he had to do something post-Donnie and no matter what it was, it wouldn’t match his Gatsby. Might as well be strange. Southland Tales—for some reason I keep wanting to type Strange Days—is trippy and entertaining. I won’t watch it nearly as many times as I watched Donnie Darko or ever again and I won’t tell anyone I meet that it is required viewing to know me. Still I liked it.

Filmed in 2006, set in 2008, Southland Tales covers a thorough list of millennial fears including: nuke attacks, WWIII, the draft, war in the Middle East, North Korea, the Patriot Act, oil, alternative energy, shell shocked vets, drugs, Marxism, and federal control of the internet. Many of these issues are ongoing, but the film tries to cram too much into the already bloated two and a half hour rant from a drunk beach rat.

All actors pulled their own weight, even the Rock as an actor awkward in the real world. One cannot say enough good things about the golden nugget Wallace Shawn. Amy Poehler plays an overly dramatic slam poet, the first slam poet I’ve seen floating in the background of a film. Holmes Osborn constantly quotes Robert Frost as Senator Bobby Frost and only Kelly can get away with that kind of dumb joke. Justin Timberlake continues his uphill battle to earn my respect. Who knew that the gel-haired, Brittney-banging, pre-Bieber actually had talent. If only he would stop singing over-produced pop and work with SNL full time, then I would rock a JT t-shirt.

After all this, Richard Kelly could retire. Donnie Darko was cinematic gold and in Southland Tales it seems that he got to work with everyone he ever wanted to. But Kelly isn’t so old and he’s fun! He writes really interesting, very strange films, and I like him. I don’t recommend watching this or any movie that clocks in over two hours, but I will say give it a shot. Watch the first twenty-five minutes. Then if you’re not bored, if you are somewhat intrigued, keep on. If not stop the movie, no hearts will bleed. It doesn’t suddenly get good at the end.

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