Archive for the ‘Film’ category

‘Driven’ to THINK

September 23, 2011

It’s a very minute sort of cognitive dissonance that results when one of your favorite film writers picks apart a film you recently loved without reservation. But then again, minutiae is the stuff blog posts are made of, so instead of the paean to Drive I’d scribbled down some notes for (in short: Nicholas Winding Refn’s directing is a skillful Twin Peaks-style tightrope walk above the valley of camp, and his movie’s the best filmic argument this year that style can be substance, with instances of violence that carry real impact and weight, and great performances from Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks, plus a little bit of teeth face from the Cranman, too), here’s Richard Brody’s take, in the interest of food for thought/devil’s advocacy/etc.:

For a film centered on the madness arising from reason, [Drive is] singularly devoid of irony; for one built on absurd contrasts, it’s humorless; for one based on rapid calculations based on changing circumstances, it’s ludicrously impractical.

There’s a lot more at the link, including some pretty fair-handed complements directed at Refn and Brooks. Please note that Brody also praised Eddie Murphy’s performance in Norbit earlier this month, which either undermines his credibility here or means he’s the gutsiest person on the New Yorker masthead or both. He’s an enigma! Look at that beard! There are SECRETS in that thing.


“There are many other cop shows built around investigation, of course…”

June 28, 2011

. . . But where something like Bones or the Mentalist lets the knowing detective tie up the truth in a pretty bow at the end of (at least most) episodes, the Wire and Twin Peaks treat truth as an overwhelming excess, which expertise can provisionally master but not contain. The resulting tragedy is is in many ways the guarantor of the reality. The real does not have a happy ending.

The Hooded Utilitarian–home to the Victorian Wire piece from a few months back–has a new post up exploring some parallels between (of all shows) The Wire and Twin Peaks. Noah Berlatsky includes some provocative thoughts about the pervasive whiteness of Twin Peaks, as well as a strongly observed coda about the weirdo mundanity of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, but the genius of the piece is basically in putting the following clips back to back:

X-Men from Mayfield

June 10, 2011

“[A]s “First Class” roars to its final climactic scene, it appeals to an insidious suspension of disbelief; the heroic mutants of America, bravely opposing bigotry and fear, are revealed as not so much a spectrum of humankind, but as Eagle Scouts from Mayfield. Thus, “First Class” proves itself not merely an incredible film, but an incredible work of American historical fiction. Here is a period piece for our postracial times — in the era of Ella Baker and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.”

— Ta-Nehisi Coates, from his NY Times op-ed about X-Men: First Class. First Class is solid summer fun; it’s told with ruthless narrative efficiency and features excellent performances from Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon, among others. It combines ultra-modern CGI with charming pseudo-vintage SFX. It even includes my personal favorite X-person, the bouncing blue Beast. It’s also, as Coates observes, a bizarrely white movie, given its driving themes.

[via Sean T. Collins at Robot 6]

Nolan Around #5 – Hijacked!

May 26, 2011

(I feel sorta compelled to note that I drew this one before Cannes ’11, and am not, as it might appear, trendspotting or something. Nolan Around will continue to meet a high baseline of integrity, and I value your continued trust.)

MEEK’S CUTOFF: Trust Building and Westward Expansion

May 24, 2011

Meek’s Cutoff trusts its audience, and that’s a wonderful thing. The film is director Kelly Reichardt’s fourth full-length, and her second with Michelle Williams as its lead (2008’s Wendy and Lucy is the first). Williams plays Emily Tetherow, a member of a band of settlers heading west across Oregon in 1845. When we first encounter Tetherow and her companions, they’re already lost—or “just finding [their] way,” according to hired guide Stephen Meek. Fatigued and short on supplies, the settlers begin to question Meek’s judgment. Emily, in particular, wonders if Meek is simply incompetent, or if he’s been paid by another party to lead her group astray.

Reichardt and screenwriter Jonathan Raymond are fascinated by the minutiae of westward travel, both sensory and interpersonal. Reichardt’s camera frequently pans across alien landscapes, tracing the Oregon High Desert’s cracked, barren ground and craggy hills. But unlike The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, another recent revisionist western that relied on landscape shots to convey vague profundities, Meek’s Cutoff is about being there—trudging through an unfamiliar place, with no clear end in sight. (more…)

Nolan Around #4

May 20, 2011

Nolan Around #1

Nolan Around #2

Nolan Around #3

TYRANNOSAUR: Miserable is Easy

May 5, 2011

Questions about the duties of a good reader/viewer dominate the first draft of nearly anything I write lately about books, film, or TV—the efforts a reader ought to make to approach a work on its own, to ignore his/her biases, to give it an adequate level of attention. At best, this preoccupation with what a good reader/viewer does/doesn’t do leads to the sort of figurative going-down of previously unseen pathways that comes with more carefully considering any given work. At worst, it’s a sign that even though you escaped Catholicism a decade ago, you still want to feel guilty about something. (Just kidding [mostly kidding].) In any case, these are really useful terms on which to talk about Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaur, a work of unrelenting harshness, screened in Minneapolis last week as part of the MSPIFF, to an audience that seemed to gasp and cringe in unison.

Paddy Considine

Considine is perhaps best known to American audiences as one of the detectives who heckled Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz or for his supporting role in The Bourne Ultimatum, although he also played the lead in the excellent Red Riding: 1980, which received a limited stateside release. Tyrannosaur is his directorial debut. The film is the story of damaged people who find each other, similar to mid-‘00s cult hits Head-On and Me and You and Everyone We Know. And like those films, Tyrannosaur begins with a jolt, as working-class British angryman Joseph (Peter Mullan) accidentally kills his own dog in a drunken fit. (A minor spoiler, granted, but consider knowing that a dog is kicked to death five minutes into Tyrannosaur a ‘You Must Be This Tall to Ride’ kind of thing.) (more…)