Is there any genre that excites such undeserving scorn and hatred as the Musical? It seems that the very core of this hatred is nothing more than a revulsion to unceasing optimism and a complete refusal to suspend your disbelieve that normal people would burst out into song at random intervals.
I won’t say that La La Land solves this problem, nor that it is a problem.…Continue Reading
Mad Max: Fury Road is the best political film of 2015. The pleasure I take in saying that is more immense than I can explain coherently. My father raised me, cinematically speaking, on the masterpieces of the 1970s—All the President’s Men, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon—and if nothing else, what is apparent in those films is a steadfast political atmosphere. Today, for better or worse, the films we see on screen are politically noncommittal. One either has to dig for any political subtext, or it exists as middle ground between two more devoted extremes. George Miller, the veteran filmmaker (of the previous Mad Max films, as well as both Happy Feet—fun fact), directs Fury Road, whether he admits it or not, fully aware of the feminist charge that electrifies the entire film.
The film begins with the eponymous hero, Max (Tom Hardy). He provides us with expository detail, and as soon as we understand the post-apocalyptic context, he is appropriately done away with—captured, branded, and turned into a human blood bag, used to energize the War Boys, who do the bidding of the savage patriarch Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).…Continue Reading
The character of David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour is an overpowering presence. Director James Ponsoldt is a more than capable director, yet here his direction comes off as uneven, perhaps because of the charismatic enormity of Wallace as both a character and a thinker. …Continue Reading
A Most Violent Year is an exercise in that 1970s New Hollywood style that has become so common in recent films that it may as well now be a considered a contemporary genre of its own. Dark lighting, steady shots, gritty urban realism, a political atmosphere, and a cynical and stark worldview are all attributes of The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, and Serpico, amongst others, and A Most Violent Year utilizes all of them, which weighs on the film heavily.
A Most Violent Year is about the young owner of a growing oil company, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), whose trucks are being hijacked, men beaten, and oil stolen just as he is trying to close a deal on a riverfront property. He’s losing money; his drivers are getting nervous; he’s showing vulnerability. Adding to that, the DA’s office is bringing up charges against him for possible illegal activities. The year of the title is 1981, which was one of the most violent in New York City’s history.…Continue Reading
Pauline Kael wrote, after seeing Shoeshine (1946): “I came out of the theater, tears streaming, and overheard the petulant voice of a college girl complaining to her boyfriend, ‘Well I don’t see what was so special about that movie.’ I walked up the street, crying blindly, no longer certain whether my tears were for the tragedy on the screen, the hopelessness I felt for myself, or the alienation I felt from those who could not experience the radiance of Shoeshine. For if people cannot feel Shoeshine, what can they feel?”
A similar experience for me happened when watching Still Alice; a heartwrenching existential play written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. …Continue Reading
“After the Spaniards had conquered and sacked the Inca realm, the sorely oppressed Indians invented the legend of a golden kingdom El Dorado. Its alleged location was in the impenetrable bogs of the Amazon tributaries. Near the end of the year 1560, a large expedition of Spanish adventurers under the leadership of Gonzalo Pizarro set off from the Peruvian sierras. The only document to survive from this lost expedition is the diary of the monk Gaspar de Carvajal.”
This is the text preceding Werner Herzog’s 1972 film Aguirre, The Wrath of God and, though Herzog claims historians repeatedly ask him where he found these documents, it doesn’t claim to be anything more than a fabrication–which it is. How could it be anything else? Certainly Don Lope de Aguirre, Gonzalo Pizzaro, and Gaspar de Carvajal were real people, but the story itself, its cinematic presentation, chronicles a megalomaniacal odyssey through the gates of hell. The Spanish conquistadors, spurred onward by their hubris and insatiable desire, rush through the dense Amazonian tributaries toward El Dorado as quickly as the current will carry them.…Continue Reading
Who is the star of Birdman? I ask genuinely, as director Alejandro González Iñárritu, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (fresh off an Oscar win for Gravity), and star Michael Keaton, seem perfectly content to live harmoniously in this wonder of a film, while also threatening to overwhelm each other to stand as the true star. It’s a film about egos though, so I suppose this is only fitting.…Continue Reading