Author Archive
Test-Marketed Sensitivity

Test-Marketed Sensitivity

Jason Reitman should go back to school on Labor Day Labor Day would be laughable if director-screenwriter Jason Reitman wasn’t so clearly in need of a guiding hand. This melodrama from the director of the appallingly snarkastic Juno seems to have been made with a degree of creative freedom. How else could Reitman get away...
A Thousand and One Points of Light

A Thousand and One Points of Light

Winter’s Tale and Invisible contrast the visual art of cinema Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s lighting in Winter’s Tale is only not banal when Deschanel illustrates the film’s sub-theme (that everything in life is connected by light) and shows refracted sunlight bouncing through a room off a cache of jewels fondled by arch villain Soames (Russell Crowe)...
DeTocqueville and Del Toro Go West

DeTocqueville and Del Toro Go West

Del Toro and Desplechin play post-colonial brotherhood in Jimmy P Benecio Del Toro’s Jimmy Picard, a Blackfoot tribesman undergoing medical tests at the Menninger Clinic in 1940 Topeka, Kansas, speaks in measured phrases sending his thoughts and feeling through themedium of the white man’s dominant English. But this extraordinary characterization also illustrates the physical and...
It’s Resnais Time

It’s Resnais Time

One of cinema’s masters finds the right genre In Je t’aime, Je t’aime Movie history is short (106 years and counting) yet Alain Resnais’ special place in it is apparent in his 1968 film Je t’aime, Je t’aime showing at Film Forum (Feb. 14 to 20). More than 50 years since his feature-length debut Hiroshima,...
P.C. Ping Pong

P.C. Ping Pong

Philomena sentimentalizes motherhood and chips away at religion  Philomena reveals its cynicism when BBC political journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) initially refuses to take on an assignment: “Human interest stories are for weak-minded, vulgar, ignorant people” says the supercilious Brit professional (a Coogan specialty but worn out after 24 Hour Party People). He invites a...
A Piece of Resistance

A Piece of Resistance

The Lego Movie’s capitalist tour de force restores satire to animation   A $60 million animated film that looks as cheap as The Lego Movie must be some kind of avant-garde prank. Styled to resemble the punch pressed, interlocking plastic chips kids play with to build crude, child-proof versions of…everything, the trademark bright primary colors are...
Awkward and Uncertain

Awkward and Uncertain

That Awkward Moment’s frat comedy lacks the Lubitsch Touch The three best friends of That Awkward Moment, graphic artists Jason and Daniel (Zac Efron, Miles Teller) and medical intern Mike (Michael B. Jordan), are cynical about increasing their sexual activity, enjoying their young middle-class professional prerogative on the loose in New York City. Encouraging each...
Obliviots, or Shallower Into Solipsism

Obliviots, or Shallower Into Solipsism

Spike Jonze dehumanizes women and love in Her  Until Her, Spike Jonze was a favorite of the American Eccentrics. His brazen artiness was usually redeemed by youthful goofiness and the goofiness had a certain conceptual finesse–best demonstrated in his 2000 Weapon of Choice music video for Fatboy Slim where Christopher Walken’s song-and-dance pantomime jeteed into...
Sunbathing in the Gay Ghetto

Sunbathing in the Gay Ghetto

Stranger by the Lake is a pathological murder mystery The full-frontal male sexuality in Alain Guiraude’s Stranger by the Lake occurs at a gay nude beach in France. This location, surrounded by hilly woods and a parking lot, puts gay cruising rituals on display as well as explicit sexual acts–ejaculation, fellatio, copulation–shown with matter-of-fact frankness....
Pop Origami on Broadway

Pop Origami on Broadway

Doug McGrath reimagines Broadway’s Jukebox Musical  One of the best aspects of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (at the Stephen Sondheim Theater) is seeing book writer Doug McGrath’s origami treatment of American pop music history. McGrath, who has directed the excellent films Infamous and Nicholas Nickleby, starts with bio-pic basics about singer-songwriter Carole King’s life...
Over-acting-Out

Over-acting-Out

August: Osage County bashes red states and Chekhov As the film version of August: Osage County finally, mechanically winds down, it reveals playwright Tracy Letts’ goal: His unoriginal view of domestic squabbling goes from warmed-over Edward Albee to room-temperature Chekhov in a scene where three adult sisters Barbara, Karen, Ivy (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette...
Freeze-dried Disney

Freeze-dried Disney

Thawing out the clichés and commercialism of Frozen  Disney Animation is no longer simply Disney Animation as proven by the mega-blockbuster Frozen (to date: over $300m gross). This neo-fable has social prognosis and prospective commercial potential prefabricated into its mythology. Frozen’s tale about two temperamentally different sisters, the frolicking, touchy-feely Anna (Kristen Bell) and the...
Cluster-Cliché

Cluster-Cliché

Why Lone Survivor fails to adequately convey the tragedy of war Of the many dramas, documentaries and mockumentaries that have come out of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and both Iraq wars, the most painful is Lone Survivor. The problem isn’t political (it would be a relief to see a film take a fresh position...
The Better-Than List for 2013

The Better-Than List for 2013

See the year’s best films, reject the overrated The false politics of film culture 2013 (films exploiting race, class, sexual politics) paralleled the continued diminishment of cinephilia that has subordinated movies to TV, shifting cinema from a popular art form into political soccer games for media’s power elite. Lots of good film but also lots...
Film History 106

Film History 106

Re-watching 2013’s Best DVDs It was a rich year for new theatrical releases but the DVD releases have also been extraordinary. Film History lessons begin here:   Nashville (Criterion)  Following Disney’s years-ahead lead packaging Blu-Ray discs with digital copies of new releases, Criterion finally begins offer movies-worth packages of classic films. No better example illustrates...
Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em

Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em

How Grudge Match provides the great sorting-out of 2013    DeNiro and Stallone’s first face-off was at the Oscars 36 years ago when Rocky won the Best Picture Academy Award over Taxi Driver. Turns out that was a defining moment for pop culture: Feel-good entertainment defeated thought-provoking art cinema and the challenge of serious life-reflection...
Merry Gentlemen, Rejoice!

Merry Gentlemen, Rejoice!

Erasure turns seasonal songs into radical praise in Snow Globe At Christmas time we forget that seasonal songs can also be praise songs. This comes clear in Erasure’s new release Snow Globe, a Christmas album built around the tradition vs. modernity tension of the holiday season–and yet an evergreen subject. Praise songs suit singer-lyricist Andy...
Back to the Basics of the Bard

Back to the Basics of the Bard

Rylance re-invents Shakespeare at the Belasco  It is fitting that the Globe Shakespeare company’s new repertory event appear at New York City’s most dramatically beautiful venue, The Belasco Theater. Its recently renovated, sumptuous, layered designed—both theater and sanctuary, offering volume, ornamentation and radiance–makes an on-stage performance special. Imagination and skill are represented in a jewel...
Secret Lives of Walter-Marty

Secret Lives of Walter-Marty

Scorsese and Stiller overindulge themselves in two new films The Wolf of Wall Street and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty share the same misfortune. Both films deal with the ambition of working-class protagonists: Scorsese’s three-hour epic about a kid from The Bronx who becomes a Wall Street titan (Leonardo DiCaprio) charts his aggression through...
Romanticizing Mandela

Romanticizing Mandela

Idris Elba on the right side of victory Idris Elba is such a fine figure of a movie star that only racism (its practice and its expectations) can explain why his Black British suave masculinity prevented him from being the new century’s James Bond. Nelson Mandela will have to suffice and in Mandela: Long Walk...
David O. Russell’s Stock Company

David O. Russell’s Stock Company

American Hustle is GoodFellas and Boogie Nights done right David O. Russell goes to the 1970s to satirize contemporary Americana in American Hustle. If the title sounds both plain and pretentious, it takes a sense of humor like Russell’s to get over those hurdles and he does it with his new stock company of actors–great...