Southland Tales ★★★

Impenetrable. No idea what this is. The presence of satire is plain as day, but its extent is anyone's guess. The absence of any glaring technical sloppiness further complicates matters. Everything here is meticulous, detail-oriented, fine-tuned—in a laughably specific sense, somewhere near perfect. There must be a purpose to every artistic choice made here, because if there wasn't, Kelly wouldn't be so damn confident about all of them.

Maybe it's an attempt to stratify the whacked-out zeitgeist of the Bush presidency's waning years. The Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, the disorganized unrest among the younger generation just beginning to realize how fucked they were about to be, the steady commodification of celebrity, The Killers, the news cycle, the constant barrage of terror threats real and imagined, the malaise and jingoism and aloofness and mass confusion that my generation grew up around but couldn't begin to understand. They're all represented here, some more literally than others. You've heard Southland Tales is a mess, and it is. But so was the decade that birthed it. The act of rating this film is a farce. Those three stars are nothing but an image file. Pay them no mind.

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