confronting the Zone in the allegorical film art
of Richard Kelly
by Gary W. Wright
While still quite young when a fatal helicopter crash killed Vic Morrow and child extras Renee Chen and My-ca Le around 2:20 am in the early morning of July 23, 1982 on the George Folsey jr. produced John Landis set of the allegorical, Frank Marshall executive produced and Kathleen Kennedy associate produced Landis, Joe Dante, George Miller, Steven Spielberg film, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983), James Richard Kelly was implicitly quite shaken by the TZ disaster. For the TZ disaster was the central implicit theme of his three surprisingly mature and confident feature films. Indeed, Kelly implicitly and earnestly tried to break audiences, film art, film artists and the Temple Theatre free from the disaster and kick off a sunlit new millennium of film art with the help of computer graphic imagery (CGI) in his first twilit, allegorical, Ozian themed and CGI enhanced film, DONNIE DARKO (2001).
‘What if you could go back in time and take those hours of pain and darkness and replace them
with something better?’
Not that one would get the impression that DONNIE DARKO had any implicitly twilit intent from the beginning of the film, which saw troubled and medicated sadolescent Donald ‘Donnie’ Darko-played by Jake Gyllenhaal-waking up to his surprise one morning on a road in the visionary hills outside Middlesex, Virginia and riding his ten speed back into town to his parent’s house. Twilit forebodings began, however, when Darko walked past his mother when he entered the back door of the house. For Rose Darko-played by Mary McDonnell-was sitting on a lawn chair reading the twilit and allegorical Screamin’ Stephen King novel, It (1986), openly linking the film to the twilit fiction and film art of the dread allegorical Zone Wars. The presence of King also openly linked the twilit and disastrous year of 1982 via King’s allegorical novella collection, Different Seasons (1982), and via his screenplay for and role as the implicitly George Lucas linked Jordy Verrill in ‘The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill’, the second implicitly Scarecrow themed episode of the allegorical and implicitly Ozian themed film roasting George A. Romero film, CREEPSHOW (1982).
Meeting the rest of the Darko family-father Eddie, older sister Elizabeth and younger sister Samantha, played by Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Daveigh Chase-after Donnie’s return increased the film’s implicit link to and interest in the twilit and disastrous year of 1982, for the two adults and three children evoked the two adults and three children of the Freeling family in the twilit and allegorical Tobe Hooper film, POLTERGEIST (1982), a film co-written and co-produced by Spielberg. How eerily fitting that POLTERGEIST was inspired by the allegorical and Richard Matheson scripted Paul Stewart telefilm, ‘Little Girl Lost’ (1962), a season three episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE telefilm series, given the release of POLTERGEIST several months after the TZ disaster in the fall of ’82.
Thus, with all sorts of subtly twilit allusions appearing at the beginning of DONNIE DARKO, it was not too surprising that the famous door to the Twilight Zone opened soon after on October 2, 1988 when Darko was awakened by a telepathic voice that persuaded him to get out of bed, leave his room and sleepwalk downstairs and out of the house by the front door. Eerily, in the darkness outside Darko met the owner of the telepathic voice, a nightmare and implicitly Great Oz linked rabbit named Frank-played by James Duval-whose named evoked Marshall and whose appearance recalled that of a nightmare rabbit in ‘It’s A Good Life’, the third Dante episode of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE. The mysterious jet engine that fell on the Darko house soon after Donnie left to join Frank, crushing Donnie’s second floor bedroom, reaffirmed the film’s implicitly twilit intent, for it evoked the falling helicopter in the TZ disaster. Darko’s return to the Middlesex Ridge School (MRS), a private Christian high school for boys and girls, soon after the accident reaffirmed the film’s implicit interest in the TZ disaster. For waiting for the school bus to pick him up, we discovered that one of Darko’s fellow students was Cherita Chen-played by Jolene Purdy-whose surname evoked that of Renee Chen, the girl extra who was the first to die in the TZ disaster.
Meeting the implicitly Folsey jr. and Landis linked pair of Ricky Danforth and Seth Devlin-played by Seth Rogen and Alex Greenwald, respectively-in the hallways of MRS upon arrival at the school reaffirmed the film’s implicit interest in the TZ disaster. Meeting the implicitly Wicked Witch of the West linked gym teacher, Miss Kitty Farmer-played by Beth Grant-and the implicitly Dorothy linked Gretchen Ross-whose surname reminded us that Steve Ross was head of Warner Brothers, the studio that produced and released TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, in 1982, and played by Jena Malone-in the high school halls as well also reaffirmed the implicit Ozian theme of DONNIE DARKO. Last but not least, the appearance of Darko’s archetypical frustrated and heartbroken English teacher, Karen Pomeroy-played by Drew Barrymore, also the head executive producer of the piece-also openly linked the film to Spielberg the twilit and disastrous of 1982. For Barrymore played Gertie Thomas in the allegorical Spielberg film, E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982), affirming the implication that the film was addressing Spielberg. Indeed, the film alluded to E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, particularly at the end, reaffirming the implication that Kelly was addressing Spielberg on one level in DONNIE DARKO.
Significantly, shortly before the arrival of Miss Pomeroy, we also met MRS Principal Cole-played by David Moreland-and motivational speaker and supposed fear liberator, Jim Cunningham-played by Patrick Swayze-author of Attitudinal Beliefs (200?). Intriguingly, the names of Principal Cole and Jim Cunningham evoked that of the quixotic and implicitly James Cameron linked future time traveler, James ‘Jim’ Cole-played by Bruce Willis-in the twilit, and allegorical Terry Gilliam film, 12 MONKEYS (1995), a character as equally troubled and confused as Darko. This implicit interest in 12 MONKEYS was reaffirmed when over the course of the rest of the fateful October of 1988, Darko underwent sessions with a psychiatrist named Doctor Lilian Thurman-played by the fittingly named Katharine Ross-shortly after he used an axe to break open a water main and flood MRS, for the sessions evoked Cole’s run ins with the implicitly Kathryn Bigelow linked psychiatrist, Doctor Kathryn Railly-played by Madeleine Stowe-in 12 MONKEYS.
Thus, Kelly implied that he was addressing Gilliam as well as Spielberg in DONNIE DARKO. Indeed, the presence of a girl in Ms. Pomeroy’s English class who resembled Alfred E. Neuman evoked the boy who resembled the infamous symbol of MAD Magazine in 12 MONKEYS, and of a father who resembled Gilliam mentor and MAD co-founder Harvey Kurtzman amongst the parents in the auditorium audience listening to Cunningham give a fear conquering seminar to the students of MRS affirmed the film’s implicit Gilliam addressing intent. The fact that the soundtrack of the film oscillated between an original surreal and wistful electronic soundtrack composed and performed by Michael Andrews and a pop soundtrack comprised almost entirely of English pop bands from the Eighties like Duran Duran and Wham reaffirmed the implicit Gilliam addressing intent of the film. For the English pop songs reminded us that while born and raised in the U.S., Gilliam became so disillusioned by his home country by the late Sixties that he moved to England and had based his film art life there ever since.
The implicit Gilliam addressing intent also prepared us for Darko travelling back in time at the end of the film like Cole throughout 12 MONKEYS. For a CGI tornado straight out of the black and white Kansas prologue of the allegorical and implicitly Wallis Simpson roasting Victor Fleming film, THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), arrived to implicitly affirm the Ozian theme of the film and rip off a jet engine-evoking the plane wrecking gremlin played by Larry Cedar in the allegorical Miller short film, ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet’, the fourth episode of TWLIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE-from the passenger plane taking Rose and Samantha back to Middlesex after competing in a dance competition in California. As the engine fell out of the sky, an equally CGI fourth dimensional space-time wormhole took the errant engine and, implicitly, Darko, back through time from the morning of October 31, 1988 to the night of October 2, 1988 when the mysterious engine first fell on the roof of the Darko family home over the bedroom of Darko, bringing DONNIE DARKO full circle back to the ending beginning of the film.
But not entirely back to the beginning ending of the film, for this time Darko was not saved by being woken up by Frank and persuaded to sleepwalk out of the Darko home, and, as a result, was killed when the falling jet engine smashed through the roof of the Darko home and destroyed his room. Significantly, the sight reminded us of the knight on horseback and the madcap dimunitive time travelers who just as suddenly appeared in the bedroom of bored and lonely Kevin-played by Craig Warnock-in the allegorical, equally time travelling and implicitly New Hollywood roasting Gilliam film, TIME BANDITS (1981), reaffirming the film’s implicit interest in Gilliam.
Curiously, despite being cruelly kissed by fateful free will, Darko’s death was not in vain. For his death prevented him from meeting and developing a relationship with Gretchen Ross, only to see her die to his furious horror on the night of October 30, 1988 when she was run over by a red Trans Am driven by a horrified Frank. A Frank who resembled and was implicitly linked to Spielberg, wearing the nightmare bunny suit that turned out to just be a homemade Hallowe’en costume, as the visions of Frank that Darko experienced throughout the film also turned out to be haunting memories of the future, a Frank who was shot dead in fury by Darko for inadvertently killing Gretchen. Thus, by dying before he met her, Donnie saved Frank and Gretchen, in the end. In addition, given the film’s allusions to 1982 and the TZ disaster, allowing the implicitly falling TZ helicopter linked falling jet engine to kill him also symbolically freed Chen, Le, Morrow, audiences, film art, film artists and the Temple Theatre from the TZ disaster and the Twilight Zone at last, allowing a brave new era of CGI enhanced film art to finally begin in the first decade of the first century of the new millenium.
The sight of the implicitly Gilliam linked Darko dying at the end of the film and the implicitly Spielberg linked Frank surviving also implied the hope of Kelly that the film art career of the mostly CGI enhanced film art eschewing Gilliam would also soon die in the new millennium, and that the film art career of the CGI enhanced film art embracing Spielberg would continue to prosper. Indeed, the survival of Ross implicitly supported this interpretation of the end of DONNIE DARKO, reminding us that Warner Brothers CEO Steve Ross had openly reached out to and supported Spielberg after the TZ disaster, allowing the embattled director to complete the three film deal he had made with Warners and which had begun with TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE to be completed with the twilit and allegorical films, THE COLOR PURPLE (1985) and EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987). With Darko’s arson attack on Cunningham’s house also leading to his arrest after firefighters discovered the fear conqueror’s ‘kiddie porn dungeon’, Kelly also implicitly hoped that Spielberg would top Cameron with another box office smash hit like E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL in the new millennium.
However, given that Darko had been linked to the four Ozian elements by waking up in the Earthy Scarecrow hills outside Middlesex at the beginning of the film, by the Tin Man rusting and freezing Water he had unleashed in his axe attack on the Middlesex Ridge School’s water main, by the Cowardly Lion linked Fire that burned in his arson attack on Cunningham’s house and by the Great and powerful Oz windbag Air of the tornado which ripped off the jet engine and caused it to, fittingly, fall through the air before it crashed above his bedroom on the roof of his parent’s house, and given that Darko had conquered his fear of dying alone and had become certain that the arrival of Frank and his lessons in how to manipulate fourth dimensional space-time was confirmation of the existence of God and that he was fulfilling the will of God by allowing himself to be pulled back in time by the fourth dimensional space-time tunnel and let the jet engine kill him at the end of the film, Kelly also implicitly hinted that Gilliam had achieved some sort of harmonizing absolution and liberation from the karmic cycle of endless reincarnation and finally succeeded in his cinematic Grail Quest by the end of DONNIE DARKO.
Fittingly, given that conquering fear-particularly the fear of death-was a major theme of DONNIE DARKO, two years after the film’s release Kelly was implicitly linked to Matt ‘Daredevil’ Murdock-played by Scott Terra as a lad, and Ben Affleck as a laddish man-in the twilit, elektrafying, CGI enhanced and allegorical Mark S. Johnson super satirical film, DAREDEVIL (2003), a film inspired by a character implicitly linked to John F. Kennedy jr. that was created by Stan ‘the Man’ Lee, Bill Everett and Jolly Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics about a man with no fear and a film that also anticipated the arrival of a fan with no fear that some mockingly called Gardevil in one of the most eerily prescient memories of the future of the entire dread allegorical Zone Wars.
‘Because I can. Because I’m not afraid.’
Indeed, the indie Daredevil-whose alliterative name and ‘DD’ initials evoked the equally alliterative name and D.D. initials of Donnie Darko-and his battle to rid New York City of the blockbuster loot lusting and implicitly George Lucas linked gang boss, Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk, and the gleefully psychopathic and implicitly David Lynch linked Bullseye-played by Michael C. Duncan and Colin Farrell, respectively-was linked to Kelly and his battle to ensure that indie film art always had a home in the Temple Theatre throughout the film, an implicit intent affirmed by the film’s allusions to DONNIE DARKO. Murdock’s implicitly Spielberg linked father, Jack ‘the Devil’ Murdock-played by David Keith-affirmed the implicit Kelly addressing intent of the film, reminding us of all of the allusions to E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL and POLTERGEIST in DONNIE DARKO. Curiously, Bigelow was also implicitly linked to martial arts warrioress, Elektra Natchios-played by Jennifer Garner-in DAREDEVIL.
Alas for Kelly, despite his best efforts in DONNIE DARKO, 911 made it clear that a new disaster free era of film was not in the works in 2001, an unexpected and uncertain new terrorist threatening reality that Kelly explored on one level while he again also implicitly explored the battle that had erupted between CGI embracing film artists and CGI eschewing film artists when he returned with Grant, Osborne and Lisa K. Wyatt-who played resolute fear conqueror, Linda Connie, in a Cunningham motivational video in DONNIE DARKO-and co-producer Sean McKittrick, costume designer April Ferry, director of photography Steven Poster, editor Sam Bauer and production designer Alexander Hammond-also from DONNIE DARKO-in his next confident, brilliant, twilit, allegorical, CGI enhanced and Ozian themed film, SOUTHLAND TALES (2006).
‘Pandora’s box had been left exposed to prying eyes.’
Indeed, on one level, the CGI realized nuclear attack on Abilene, Texas on July 4, 2005 that sent the United States into World War Three at the beginning of the film allowed Kelly to explore his fear that the repercussions of 911 would drag the U. S. into another world war. However, the war set off by a CGI realized nuclear explosion that polarized the country and led to the Republican Party battling radical members of the far left known as the Neo-Marxists also implicitly evoked the war in the world of film art that erupted after the arrival of high quality CGI and that led to the rise of tensions between those film artists who eagerly embraced CGI enhancement and digital film and those film artists who disdained CGI enhancement and preferred celluloid film. This embattled allegorical implication was affirmed by the presences of the implicitly Bigelow linked Neo-Marxist, Cyndi Pinzicki; the implicitly Cameron linked Republican, Vaughan Smallhouse; the implicitly Cowardly Lion and Landis linked Martin Kefauver; the implicitly Lynch and Tin Man linked ex-Marine, Pilot Abilene; the implicitly Spielberg linked LAPD Officer Roland/Ronald Taverner; the implicitly David Cronenberg linked weapons dealer, Walter Mung; the eccentric and implicitly George Lucas and Great Oz linked, Baron Von Westphalen; Walter’s daughter, the implicitly Sarah Polley linked Neo-Marxist, Veronica Mung; and the implicitly Scarecrow and Arnold Schwarzenegger linked action star, Boxer Santoros-played by Nora Dunn, John Larroquette, Lou T. Pucci, Justin Timberlake, Seann W. Scott, Christopher Lambert, Wallace Shawn, Amy Poehler and Dwayne Johnson, respectively.
Indeed, the film’s many zany characters and narratives and its post-nuclear sneak attack agitated, soldier filled, terrorism obsessed and edgy L.A. bristling with mounted machine gunners implicitly affirmed that the film was also roasting film artists on one level. For all of these elements evoked the many tragicomic characters and zany narratives of the post-Pearl Harbour sneak attack agitated, soldier and sailor filled, Japanese invasion obsessed and edgy L.A. bristling with anti-aircraft gunners of the allegorical, Ozian themed and implicitly New Hollywood roasting Spielberg film, 1941 (1979). Thus, it was fitting that the Santa Monica amusement park, beach and pier figured as prominently in SOUTHLAND TALES as in 1941, and that Sarah Gellar’s implicitly Dorothy linked Krysta Kapowski resembled Dianne Kay’s Dorothy linked Betty Douglas of 1941, affirming the implicit link of the two films. In addition, Treer Products, the company owned by Baron von Westphalen, which produced the CGI realized and linked ‘quantum entanglement’ alternative energy known as Fluid Karma-reminding us that Lucas was the film art world’s foremost eccentric apostle of CGI-also affirmed the film’s link to 1941. For Treer Products evoked Dan Akroyd's character Motor Sergeant Frank Tree, a surname that reminded us that the 'Baum' of L. Frank Baum, the author of the allegorical children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), was German for 'tree'.
Significantly, the film also alluded to the many characters, creative chaos and L.A. settings of the twilit and allegorical Alex Cox film, REPO MAN (1984), the twilit and allegorical Bigelow film, STRANGE DAYS (1995), and the twilit and allegorical David Lynch film, MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001). Indeed, singer Rebekah Del Rio returned from that latter film as herself again in an open link of SOUTHLAND TALES to MULHOLLAND DRIVE. In addition, Cheri Oteri's pugnacious and implicitly Sofia Coppola linked Neo-Marxist, Zora Charmichaels evoked Joanna Cassidy's equally pugnacious renegade Replicant, Zhora, in the eerily and presciently twilit and allegorical Sir Ridley Scott film, BLADE RUNNER (1982), also set in the L.A. area.
Indeed, the film long narration of Abilene evoked that of Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard in the original theatrical release of BLADE RUNNER, reaffirming the link of SOUTHLAND TALES to the L.A. set BLADE RUNNER. In fact, the presence of conceptual artist Ron Cobb, who worked on BLADE RUNNER, openly linked SOUTHLAND TALES to BLADE RUNNER and to the twilit and disastrous summer of 1982. The surname of Taverner also openly affirmed the film’s link to BLADE RUNNER and the twilit and disastrous summer of 1982. For Taverner shared the surname of Jason Taverner, a tv star in the allegorical Philip K. Dick novel, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974), reminding us that the allegorical and implicitly Disney animatronic ‘people’ roasting Dick novel, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968), inspired the creation of BLADE RUNNER. Thus, it was appropriate that the mysterious and implicitly Great Oz linked Simon Theory-played by Kevin Smith-resembled Dick as much as Karl Marx.
Significantly, after all was said and done, most of the implicitly film artist linked characters were killed when the Baron’s fluid karma powered MegaZeppelin, the Jenny Von Westphalen, was taken out on its maiden voyage by Kefauver with a missile blasted from a shoulder fired and heat seeking Syrian ground to air rocket launcher near the end of the film in the ultimate exultant explosion while the multi-coloured explosions of regular fireworks filled the nighttime sky as the downtown core of L.A. celebrated the night of Independence Day on July 4, 2008 in a closing celebration that evoked the exuberant crowd of partygoers that filled the downtown L.A. core and rang in New Year’s Eve 1999 at the end of STRANGE DAYS. One of the few characters who were not killed in the explosion was Taverner, who was not really linked to either the Neo-Marxists or the Republicans, and who had also been split into a past and a future self after being driven through a fourth dimensional rift in the fabric of space/time. However, with a healing and harmonizing handshake reconciling these two selves while floating inside an ice cream truck at the end of the film in a nod to the floating Chevy Malibu at the end of REPO MAN, Kelly implicitly hoped that Spielberg would finally be able to heal and release his twilit and disastrous past and return to being a successful and L.A. based CGI enhanced film artist. Curiously, Abilene, who was also not really linked to the Neo-Marxists or the Republicans, also survived, implying that Kelly hoped that Lynch would also continue to succeed as a film artist. While it was a curiously implicit conclusion, given how different the philosophies and film styles of Lynch and Spielberg were, it was a fittingly implicit way to end SOUTHLAND TALES. For the style of film art of Kelly was a mixture of the dreamy and surreal film art for film art’s sake philosophy and style of Lynch, and the exuberantly commercial and CGI enhanced philosophy and style of Spielberg.
Just as fittingly, the deaths of the gleefully duplicitous Baron von Westphalen and his colleague, Dr. Katarina Kuntzler, in the MegaZeppelin explosion shortly before Roland and Ronald’s healing fourth dimensional handshake affirmed the concluding implication that Kelly wanted to leave behind the twilit and disastrous year of 1982, as Kuntzler and von Westphalen were played by Zelda Rubinstein and Shawn, respectively, who linked forever to 1982 by her role as the ghostbuster Tangina in POLTERGEIST and as himself in the allegorical Louis Malle film, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (1982). The presence of Larroquette as Smallhouse, the Southern aide de camp of Republican Texas Senator and 2008 Presidential Candidate, Bobby Frost-played by Osborne-who also died in the same explosion that destroyed the Jenny von Westphalen reaffirmed the implicit intent of the end of SOUTHLAND TALES, as Larroquette openly linked the film to 1982, Landis, Spielberg and the TZ disaster through his role as an unmasked Southern KKK member menacing Morrow's character Bill Connor in the Landis episode of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE.
Curiously, Clement Virgo implied that SOUTHLAND TALES left him wondering if Kelly was more than just a film artist who featured racist characters in his film art but a racist himself-and, furthermore, one that may have been implicitly roasting Clement in the form of the Neo-Marxist, Dion Element (played by Wood Harris)-and symbolically forced Kelly to prove himself by having the Kelly resembling and implicitly linked pugilist ex-con Donnie Rose-played by Rossif Sutherland-free himself from a racist cloud that hung over him by agreeing to a boxing match with a black boxer named Ossie Paris-played by Flex Alexander-in the allegorical docufeature film, POOR BOY’S GAME (2007), an implication affirmed by the film’s allusions to DAREDEVIL, DONNIE DARKO and SOUTHLAND TALES. Rawson M. Thurber implicitly roasted Gilliam in the madcap form of Cleveland Arning-played by Peter Sarsgaard-and also implied that SOUTHLAND TALES left him wondering if Kelly was really suited for the world of film art or if he should head off into another career like the implicitly Kelly linked Arthur ‘Art’ Bechstein-played by Jon Foster-did at the end of the allegorical film, THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH (2007)-a film inspired by the allegorical Michael Chabon novel, The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh (1988)-an implication affirmed by the importance of books and reading in the film, and by the film’s allusions to DONNIE DARKO and SOUTHLAND TALES.
Francis Coppola also implicitly roasted Kelly in the form of linguist Dominic Matei-played by Tim Roth-in his intriguing allegorical film, YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH (2007). For his part, Sir Scott implied that he had noticed the allusions to BLADE RUNNER in SOUTHLAND TALES and urged Kelly to stay grounded, not get too cocky, kid, and drop his fondness for Spielberg by forcing the young, Abilene resembling and implicitly Kelly linked CIA Agent Roger Ferris-played by Leonardo DiCaprio-to be humbled and humiliated before he was finally able to capture the terrorist leader, Al Saleem-played by Alon Aboutboul-in his twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced film, BODY OF LIES (2008), an implicit Kelly roasting intent affirmed by all of the film’s allusions to SOUTHLAND TALES.
As for Kelly, he implicitly affirmed that he had indeed been brooding over the TZ disaster in his film art and reaffirmed his fondness for the art of literature-seen and heard in Abilene’s numerous quotes from the Book of Revelations and Frost’s fitting quote of the last three lines from the allegorical Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ (1916), in SOUTHLAND TALES, and the allusions to It, the allegorical and implicitly British Commonwealth roasting Graham Greene short story, ‘The Destructors’ (1954) and The Philosophy Of Time Travel by the implicitly Glinda the Good Witch linked Doctor Roberta Sparrow (played by Patience Cleveland) in DONNIE DARKO-when he returned to Virginia with Bauer, Ferry, Hammond, McKittrick, Osborne, Poster, Wyatt, Michelle Durrett-who played Starla Von Luft in SOUTHLAND TALES-and SOUTHLAND TALES co-executive producer Edward H. Hamm jr. in his next confident, brilliant, twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced film, THE BOX (2009), for the film was based on the allegorical Matheson short story, ‘Button, Button’ (1970)-a story that also inspired the allegorical Peter Medak telefilm, ‘Button, Button’ (1986 ), a story written not only by one of the most prolific writers for the original TWILIGHT ZONE telefilm series but one who also revised his original teleplay for the allegorical Richard Donner telefilm, ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet’ (1963), a season five episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE telefilm series for the Miller episode of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, and a story that also inspired the allegorical Peter Medak telefilm, ‘Button, Button’ (1986), which was one half of episode twenty of season one of the Eighties revamp of the TWILIGHT ZONE telefilm series.
‘There are three gateways,
but you may choose only one.
Be careful which gateway you choose,
for there is only one path to salvation.’
Intriguingly, the film implicitly roasted Coppola and Lucas in the implicit forms of lightning strike survivor Arlington James Steward and Arthur Lewis-played by Frank Langella and James Marsden, respectively-given the resemblance of Lewis to Lucas and given the film’s allusions to YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH. Kelly also implied that Lucas killed his promising indie film art for film art’s sake career by making his six STAR WARS films, given that Lewis ended up killing his English teaching but Hollywood blonde wife, Norma-played by Cameron Diaz-in order to save the life of his son, Walter-played by Sam Oz Stone-who was as blind as Murdock by the end of the film.
Significantly, the lives of Arthur and Norma went dramatically downhill leading to Arthur’s murder of Norma after they made a decision to reach for money regardless of the consequences, openly linking a desire for money to the end of Art in a pointed implicit message to Lucas. Thus, it was fitting that the name of Arthur Lewis evoked that of Art Lewis, an actor who played a drunk in the allegorical Robert Florey telefilm, ‘The Fever’ (1960), episode seventeen of the original TWILIGHT ZONE television series. For ‘The Fever’ was about a man named Franklin Gibbs-played by Everett Sloane-who succumbed to a fatal lust for slot machine loot while on a trip to Las Vegas with his wife, a lust that evoked the lust for fortune and glory that overwhelmed New Hollywood artists and led to the TZ disaster. This twilit dimension to the tale was reiterated by the fact that Arthur, Norma and Walter created another twilit trio composed of one female and two males that evoked the twilit trio of Vic, Renee and My-ca.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the implicit fear and loathing with which blockbuster CGI enhanced super satirical film art is treated in THE BOX-the title reminding us that super satirical films began in the box panels of comic books-Kelly disappeared from the Temple Theatre like Lynch after 2009. However, while the allegorical film art of Kelly disappeared, Kelly did not entirely disappear. For Cameron implicitly linked Richard ‘Rick’ Kelly to Jacob ‘Jake’ Sully-played by Sam Worthington-in his allegorical and CGI enhanced Zonebuster, AVATAR (2009), an implication affirmed by the film’s allusions to DAREDEVIL and SOUTHLAND TALES and by the fact that Pandora was the name of one of the film production companies that produced DONNIE DARKO. By having Sully undergo difficult trials and tribulations before he became a Nav’i and the only one on Pandora to ever ride a CGI enhanced blockbuster beast of a leonopteryx, Cameron also implicitly warned Kelly that despite his talent and confidence, he still had a ways to go before he came a successful film artist. Curiously, with its allusions to BODY OF LIES, DONNIE DARKO and SOUTHLAND TALES, Jason Reitman also implied that he was roasting Kelly and Sir Scott in the implicit form of termination facilitator, Ryan Bingham and his boss, Craig Gregory-played by George Clooney and Jason Bateman, respectively-and urging both film artists not to get so caught up with the new digital film technology that they would lose the vital humanity of their film art in his allegorical film, UP IN THE AIR (2009).
Joseph Kosinski and company also sympathetically addressed Kelly’s sojourn in film limbo in the form of the Kelly resembling and implicitly linked Earth straggler, Jack Harper-played by Tom Cruise-but wondered if the high price to rejoin the Titans of the film industry would be worth it if the price would involve becoming a powerless puppet of the pitiless CGI enhanced blockbuster machine in their twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced film, OBLIVION (2013), an implicit Kelly addressing intent affirmed by the importance of books and reading in the film and the film’s allusions to DONNIE DARKO, SOUTHLAND TALES, THE BOX and THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH. In time, Kelly was also implicitly roasted in the form of another marvelous superhero in the twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced Peyton Reed super satirical film, ANT-MAN (2015).
‘This is not some cute technology
like the Iron Man suit.’
Indeed, Kelly’s diminished presence was implicitly and mockingly linked to that of Scott ‘Ant-Man’ Lang-based on a character created by Kirby, Lee and Larry Lieber for Marvel Comics, and played by Paul Rudd-throughout the film, an implicit Kelly roasting intent affirmed by the film’s allusions to DONNIE DARKO, OBLIVION, POOR BOY’S GAME, SOUTHLAND TALES, THE BOX and THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH. Lang’s descent into the CGI enhanced quantum zone at the end of the film reaffirmed the film’s implicit Kelly addressing intent, as the quantum zone evoked the CGI enhanced trips through the fourth dimension in the film art of Kelly. Significantly, the sight of Ant-Man learning to ride a flying ant he named Ant-thony also evoked the sight of Sully learning to ride a flying banshee and the dread blockbuster leonopteryx in AVATAR, affirming the implicit link of Sully to Kelly. Indeed, the presence of Bobby Cannavale as Paxton affirmed the film’s allusions to Cameron and AVATAR, reminding us that that Bill Paxton was Cameron’s lucky charm who appeared in his most successful films. Of course, the presence of Harris as Gale not only affirmed the film’s implicit interest in Cameron as his surname reminded us that Cameron was once married to film producer Gale A. Hurd, but also openly affirmed the film’s implicit Kelly addressing intent, as Harris played the possibly Virgo linked Dion Element in SOUTHLAND TALES.
The presence of the implicitly Landis linked Doctor Henry ‘Hank’ Pym aka the original Ant-Man and the implicitly Kate Capshaw linked Hope Van Dyne-played by Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly, respectively-also affirmed Kelly’s implicit link to Sully in AVATAR, for their frustrating struggle to get Lang’s Ant-Man mojo working so that he could defeat the implicitly Jeff Bezos linked Doctor Darren Cross-played by Corey Stoll-evoked the equally frustrating struggle of Doctor Grace Augustine-played by Sigourney Weaver-and her team of scientists to get Sully’s avatar mojo working in AVATAR. The link of Henry and Hope to Landis-an implicit link affirmed by the film’s allusions to the allegorical and equally mayhem filled Landis film, THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980)-and Capshaw also supported the ‘diminished presence’ theme of the satirical piece, reminding us that Landis faded from view after the TZ disaster and that Capshaw faded from view after marrying Spielberg.
Ant-Man’s small but memorable dustup with the keen eyed, vigilant and implicitly Will Smith linked Sam ‘Falcon’ Wilson-played by Anthony Mackie-also introduced Lang to the dissembling Avengers, an introduction expanded when Scott ‘Ant-Man’ Lang-played again by Rudd-had another combative encounter with most of the rest of the Avengers in the twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced Anthony and Joseph Russo super satirical film, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016).
‘I got something kinda big.
But I can’t hold it very long.’
Curiously, as the film saw Lang show off his ability to transform from Ant-Man to Giant Man aka Goliath when he fought on the side of the implicitly American film artist linked superheroes against the implicitly Canadian film artist linked superheroes at the end of the film, the Russo Brothers implicitly held out their hope that Kelly would return to prominence with another hit film. As long as Kelly was not cut down by an insightful review of that film by the poor ol’ Gardevil, as the creative quick thinking of the allusive and implicitly Gardevil linked Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker-played by Tom Holland-brought Giant Man/Goliath down to size in that memorable super rumble at the Berlin airport. Not surprisingly, Lang-played again by Rudd-survived being brought down to size by Spidevil, for he returned along with Dr. Pym and Van Dyne-played again by Douglas and Lilly, respectively-for more superheroic battles and trips in the CGI enhanced quantum zone in the twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced Reed super satirical film, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018), an implicit intent affirmed by more allusions to DONNIE DARKO, SOUTHLAND TALES, THE BLUES BROTHERS and THE BOX.
‘Quantum entanglement, Scott.’
Curiously, the film saw Ant-Man team up with Dr. Pym and Van Dyne’s winged will o’ the Wasp to battle the implicitly Meghan Markle linked Ava ‘Ghost’ Starr-played by Hannah John-Kamen-a supervillain whose molecular disequilibrium problem caused her to constantly flicker uncertainly in and out of existence was an implicitly wry comment on how Markle was now uncertain whether she was an American ‘commoner’ or British ‘nobility’ in her new role as wife of Prince Harry. Just as curiously, when they were frantically trying to come to grips with the elusive and allusive Ghost, Ant-Man also teamed up with Dr. Pym and the Wasp to free Henry’s implicitly Deborah Landis linked wife, Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp-played by Michelle Pfeiffer-from the Twilight Zone evoking quantum realm in a ‘Little Girl Lost’ and POLTERGEIST evoking quest. Given that Lang, Pym and Van Dyne did in fact succeed in freeing Janet from the twilit quantum realm, Reed implied his hope that CGI had become so advanced that film artists would never again have to worry about fatal film set disasters, thus freeing Landis and his film art from the Twilight Zone and ending the dread allegorical Zone Wars-at last.
However, whether a daylit and brave new era of CGI enhanced film art would truly begin was left uncertain at the the end of the film, given that Hank, Hope and Janet vanished into thin air like many of the other marvelous superheroes at the end of the twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced Russo Brothers super satirical film, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018), leaving Scott trapped in the quantum realm. However, given that Reed also allowed Ant-Man to cut loose as Giant Man/Goliath like the Russo Brothers to bring both threads of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP to a successful conclusion, and given that Lang was seen safely free of the quantum realm asking the implicitly Sofia Coppola linked Natasha ‘Black Widow’ Romanov-played by Scarlett Johansson-and the implicitly Clint Eastwood linked Steve ‘Captain America’ Rogers-played by Chris Evans-to let him in to the Avengers facility in upstate New York so as to help out in the battle to finally defeat the implicitly Michael Eisner linked and power mad titan, Thanos-played by Josh Brolin-in the first trailer for the twilit, allegorical and CGI enhanced Russo Brothers super satirical film, AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019), implicitly did Reed share the hope of the Russo Brothers that Kelly would return to the Temple Theatre from the Fourth Dimension with another CGI enhanced film whose success would allow him to rise again to prominence and that would also perhaps be another of his book loving and twilit tales.
Kelly, Richard. The Donnie Darko Book. London: Faber
and Faber Limited, 2003.