Film

Obama-era Mythologies

12 Years a Slave at the Oscars No wonder Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave seems primed to take the big prize at this year’s Oscars. That anti-art institution serves the purpose of industry self-congratulation rather than expressive achievement. And McQueen’s movie cunningly conforms to Obama-era mythologies. McQueen’s prolonged sequences stretch out events or non-events...
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...
Politically Compassionate

Politically Compassionate

Date and Switch prefers friendship to snarkasm Nicholas Braun is my favorite chinless actor. His zygote-like appearance gives visual form to an emotionally-sexually stunted generation of straight men. Fragile as a fetus, Braun’s snarkasm—and comic timing—always doubles as defense for insecurity.   True: Braun is less famous than the iconically chinless Michael Cera. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim...
Executive Order Hype

Executive Order Hype

Netflix’s House of Cards insults democracy with sentimentality and cynicism Spoiler #1: Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) covers up the murderous tracks that took him from house majority whip to Vice President by throwing reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) in front of a subway train. The scene’s shock tactic typifies how Season 2 of David Fincher/Netflix’s streaming...
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...
Blood Is the Warmest Color

Blood Is the Warmest Color

 The grisly truth in bisexual bipartisan farce Nurse 3D  Introducing the latest graduates into the Nursing Corp, Kathleen Turner passes the baton from John Waters’ Serial Mom (1994) to Paz de la Huerta, star of Douglas Aarniokoski’s serial killer comedy Nurse 3D. Jejune in the Clinton era, Serial Mom meant to expose the hypocrisy of...
Nitwits.net

Nitwits.net

Too much attitude, not enough wit in new Canadian rom-com The Right Kind of Wrong attempts the kind of class comedy that comes off much better in its less mean-spirited mode, unabashedly broad, youth-pandering product featuring parodies of frat brats, sorority snobs, cads named Chad, and the idle rich being bested by the plucky hoi...
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...
What's Up, Umbrellas?

What’s Up, Umbrellas?

Feckless screwball comedy in At Middleton  “How does it end?” asks George Hartman (Andy Garcia) about Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. “You know, French films are always complicated, aren’t they?” Edith (Vera Farmiga) answers while the two find themselves watching the 1964 film as they steal away into a projection booth on the Middleton...
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...
Cue the Wah-Wah Trumpet

Cue the Wah-Wah Trumpet

Misfits soap opera Somewhere Slow hits a speed bump Writer/director Jeremy O’Keefe references the phrase “nowhere fast” within his execrable Somewhere Slow, cunningly disarming critics of their most obvious barb. Suffice it to say that audiences with the time and tolerance to watch neurotic, unhappily married Anna (Jessalyn Gilsig) skipping stones on Mount Hope Bay with...
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....
Half-way Housing

Half-way Housing

Vanessa Hudgens is a prodigal daughter in new teen drama Gimme Shelter lacks depth and complexity but not the proper affect. This memoire of Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens), about her flight from a New York tenement and her prostitute, welfare-and-drug addicted mother June (Rosario Dawson) in search of the father she never knew (Brendan Fraser),...
Wounds of the Father

Wounds of the Father

A poet is born in Jamesy Boy  “Never back down” says the ad copy for Trevor White’s modest feature debut Jamesy Boy referencing the title of another (better) film about a white boy’s pain finding constructive focus in the masculine code provided to him by the mentorship of an older Black man. Indeed, as title...
Mean Queens

Mean Queens

Sensual and cinematic regression in G.B.F.  “In times of crisis, I turn to LiLo,” says flamboyantly gay high school student Bret Van Camp (Paul Iacono) when his best friend and secret crush Tanner (Michael J. Willett) inadvertently steals his high school “coming out” thunder. The accompanying image in G.B.F. shifts in focus from Iacono’s reflection...
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...
“Hercules! Hercules!”

“Hercules! Hercules!”

Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules makes no myth-take  The perverse core of Renny Harlin’s Legend of Hercules reveals why this b-movie matters. The first display of Hercules’ superhuman strength occurs at the moment of his defeat (chained up between two stone pillars), his impotence (the murder of his teacher before his eyes), and his humbling (finally...