Donnie Darko ★★★★½

1) The best thing that ever happened to this movie/Richard Kelly's career was his producers insisting Kelly cut it down to 120 minutes. The director's cut is basically an extremely dull/dry tract on time travel, one whose pedanticism is dependent on chunks of Stephen Hawking and an understanding of quantum physics I neither care about nor can master. I knew nothing about wormholes etc. when I first saw this and had no idea what the fuck was going on. Now I know how it "works," but it's much better as the subjective emotional trajectory of teen self-martyrdom ("I Was A Teenage Jesus") than as the outline of how time travel might work. Plus that director's cut is full of bad decisions; yes OF COURSE INXS is a better choice for the opening than "The Killing Moon." I prefer a movie which at least masquerades as irrational.

2) Whatever happened to this Richard Kelly? Viewing companion for my second pass on The Box pointed out that by then he's totally addicted to rotely symmetrical compositions, but here pretty much every shot is perfect in unpredictable ways. You can see seeds of the Kappa Sigma frat boy who assumed that reading six books made him a perspicacious political commentator — Dukakis! that fucking flag on the ceiling! — but it's also true that Donnie's parents are totally plausible, even reasonable, in their anti-Democratic hatred, nor is it ever suggested that there's some kind of cause-and-effect between their self-interest and Donnie offering himself up as a martyr. People position themselves in inflexible corners, things happen, situational ethics are not impossible regardless.

3) What happened to this Richard Kelly pt. 2? Much of the film is set along one deterministic track (DO NOT LISTEN TO THE DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW [spoiler it's stupid]), but there are also jokes that have nothing to do with where the movie is going or what it wants to Mean — "I think we've all watched 'Bonanza'" — and despite the fact that he apparently can't make a movie without a wormhole, here everything feels logically organized rather than the product of an increasingly insular mind.

4) I've watched this like a dozen times. I haven't bought DVDs in years, but I used to — it seemed like what a teen cinephile should do, but in reality I prefer my re-viewings spread out and serendipitous — but I've seen this so many times, because no one who came over wanted to watch After Life or 8 1/2 , and who can blame them. Even then, it seemed like even more self-pity than I craved as backup for how I was feeling, This is my E.T. — Donnie and his crew biking through the suburbs doesn't seem like an accidental allusion, even as it speaks to Richard Kelly's tiny frame of reference — which seems similarly accurate/specific in all its aspects. I remember people complaining about Patrick Swayze's character verging on caricature, but in retrospect it makes sense: there were feel-good charlatans running around, both secular and explicitly religious. Jim Bakker may have been a prominent example of a busted fraud advocating for sexual purity, but bullshit can be smelt a mile off, even if it can't be proved.

5) Someone I didn't know very well but had hung out through mutual friends many times committed suicide today and this gutted me.