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Tag: "film"

Lincoln

[ 76 ] December 23, 2012 |

I finally saw Lincoln last night. I doubt what I have is to say is anything others haven’t verbalized. But a couple quick points. As a film, it’s classic Spielberg. Well made entertainment in the broad and often obvious populism of D.W. Griffith and John Ford. Several eye-rolling lines, BIG music. It’s also hard to believe that someone could make a film about the end of slavery in 2012 and neglect to have a single vital African-American character, but it’s Spielberg so there we have it. On the other hand, the film does do a good job on focusing on the political machinations of the 13th Amendment, with generally very good casting, pacing, and editing. Daniel Day-Lewis is always good, David Strathairn seems destined to play Forces for Good through his career but he does it well, Tommie Lee Jones was sufficiently cranky as Thaddeus Stevens. The movie definitely should have finished 20 minutes earlier, with Stevens in bed with his black partner. This would have avoided the pointless march through time to Lincoln’s assassination, though there was something so old-school Fordian about how it ended with Lincoln’s second inaugural address that it was hard not to feel a little warm about it.

What really matters here though is Spielberg’s point about politics. He so obviously wants to give today’s Americans a lesson on how to GET THINGS DONE IN WASHINGTON! So here’s how you do it. First, 35% of the country secedes. Every single one of the politicians from the seceding states opposes your platform. Without that 35% of the nation, you have a bare legislative majority that allows you to pass legislation if you hold your fractious party together. For situations that need a supermajority, you need your president going into a sort of mid 19th century Green Lanternism on politicians, combining LBJ style physicality with endless yarn spinning tales of life in Illinois and an appeal to morality that will convince them to Do The Right Thing. You also need the kind of patronage positions to buy off your opponents that mercifully began to end after the Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883. And then, with luck, you can get your supermajority.

In other words, Spielberg’s film has absolutely nothing useful to say about modern political life.

A Casablanca Sequel?

[ 100 ] November 8, 2012 |

Alyssa Rosenberg leads us to discussions of a Casablanca sequel:

The New York Post is reporting that there’s some momentum behind a decades-old script treatment for a follow-up by one of the original movie’s screenwriters, Howard Koch, which would have focused on the son Ilsa ends up having after finding herself pregnant from her encounter with Rick in Casablanca. The sequel would cast older actors as the original stars, and would bring in the son as an adult character having adventures in the Middle East, a la Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

OK fine Republicans. You win. We surrender. You can have the presidency. For that matter, the Yankees retroactively win the 2012 World Series. Just don’t make this movie!

Storytelling

[ 120 ] October 30, 2012 |

Why has television surpassed film as the most important form of motion picture media? Maybe because shows like Mad Men tell interesting stories while the 14th sequel to a superhero movie might sell tickets in China but is culturally irrelevant over the long-term. And while I don’t doubt that TV being free after subscription and pirating are issues, the real problem for Hollywood is that they don’t tell interesting stories anymore, preferring to rely on CGI and tricks to get 15 year old boys to spend money, while adults can watch Mad Men or Girls or The Wire or whatever.

But hey, I’m sure having Seth MacFarlane host the Oscars will make a huge difference and put film back on top. Clearly Hollywood studio executives have identified the problem correctly…..

The Films of 2007

[ 119 ] October 17, 2012 |

I just finished watching California Dreamin’, which is an absolutely outstanding movie you all should see.

Now, I am a list oriented person, for whatever reason. So I keep a list of my favorite movies of any given year, up to 15. Here is my list for 2007, as it currently stands:

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Silent Light
4. No Country for Old Men
5. Juno
6. Katyn
7. The Edge of Heaven
8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
9. California Dreamin’
10. Persepolis
11. The Savages
12. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
13. Eastern Promises
14. Knocked Up
15. In the Valley of Elah

That’s a list that so far bounds beyond anything else in the 2000s, or really probably anything since the 1970s, that it’s kind of crazy. I know some people didn’t like Knocked Up, but I liked it a great deal despite the sexism at its core, and it’s only #14 on my list. In the Valley of Elah is a really good movie and it is #15. And everything in the top 13 is basically a really outstanding film.

It’s my belief that 30 or so years down the road, 2007 is going to be a year that film critics are going to look to as a time when the stars aligned.

Wenders

[ 27 ] October 15, 2012 |

That’s cool that Criterion is releasing Wim Wenders’ dance movie from last year. Who knows, it could be good. Though when was the last time that Wenders really did an excellent movie? Wings of Desire? I mean, Buena Vista Social Club is good but that’s mostly because of the music, Ry Cooder’s unnecessary slide guitar interventions notwithstanding. But I simply cannot understand why, if Criterion is so enamored of Wenders, that it doesn’t put out Kings of the Road, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, Alice in the Cities, or any of his other outstanding films from the 70s and early 80s that remain unavailable on DVD, not to mention blu-ray.

Hell Bent for Election

[ 36 ] October 12, 2012 |

If you’ve never seen this cartoon by Chuck Jones from Looney Tunes and produced by the United Auto Workers in support of FDR’s 1944 re-election, do yourself a favor and check it out. This is quality political art.

I want to ride that FDR bullet train.

Trailer for “Won’t Back Down”

[ 29 ] September 29, 2012 |

Maybe I will go see Won’t Back Down since I have a love of agitprop. I couldn’t find the exact trailer for the film online, but I’m guessing if you switch a couple of characters around, this is pretty much the same film.

Film Genre Over Time

[ 56 ] September 27, 2012 |

Chris Blattman links to this very interesting image, charting film genres over time.

As you can see, this charts some expected but interesting phenomena–the decline of westerns, the rise of pornography, the consistent production of comedy.

There are a couple of problems here though. First, a short is not a genre and it makes no sense to have that as a separate category. Yes, 50% or more of early silents were shorts. But they were short comedies, short westerns, etc. Why are these not included in the other categories? Many of today’s shorts might fall under an “experimental” category, which could make sense. But for silent film, it really undercuts itself.

I’m also curious as to the lack of science fiction in the early years. I know it was hardly the popular genre of today. But a lot of the iconic silent films can be classified as science fiction. Maybe they were just statistically insignificant but culturally influential. I don’t really know.

Game of Thrones: “Winter Is Coming” for Catelyn and Jon Snow

[ 28 ] September 25, 2012 |

(This is another one of those visual rhetoric posts that’s born of this upcoming course … which now has its own website that’s only a demo at the moment so don’t judge.)

To recap: in the first post, I demonstrated how Van Patten turned Will into a sympathetic character. In the second post, I established that the scenes in Winterfell that weren’t in the novel were designed to establish a perspective on Will’s coming execution that’s focalized through Bran, but which also introduces the audience to the larger Stark family dynamics. (I also, as Julia Grey pointed out, inadvertantly indicated how Arya’s character would develop over the course of the season. I’ll let Julia’s analysis carry the weight of that interpretative thread for now and return to it when it comes to fore later.) Before I can yoke those arguments together, though, it would behoove us to see what happens when Bran steps off-stage, as it were, beginning with the announcement of Will’s capture:

Games of thrones - winter is coming00270

Those smiles are residual: for one of the only time in the series, Ned and Catelyn have watched Arya and Bran engaging in what we might call “play.” She hits his target and he’s encouraged by his brothers, bastard and true, as well as his parents, to take off after her:

Read more…

Seapower in Culture Interregnum

[ 8 ] September 16, 2012 |

The Seapower in Culture series continues, although at a much slower pace than I had hoped for. At the Diplomat, James Holmes has thoughts on Battleship and In Harm’s Way. Of the latter:

Apart from Pearl Harbor, the battles shown on screen are amalgams of legendary engagements like Midway, Guadalcanal, and Leyte Gulf. Curiously, the makers also saw fit to fictionalize well-known figures like Admiral Husband Kimmel (“CINCPAC I”), the aforementioned Pacific Fleet commander who had the misfortune to be in charge on December 7, and his successor, Admiral Chester Nimitz (“CINCPAC II”), who oversaw the Central Pacific counteroffensive against Japan.

My favorite part of In Harm’s Way is that it captures a navy at a time of wrenching change. As someone once said, you go to war with the army you have. In 1941 the U.S. Navy went to war with the fleet it had—except that the Pacific Fleet the United States had on December 8 looked radically different than the one moored near Ford Island at dawn on December 7. The maimed navy had to wage war with the implements that remained to it until 1943, when the entirely new fleet Congress had authorized in the 1940 Two-Ocean Navy Act had been fitted out and began arriving in the theater. Battleship engagements were out; unrestricted submarine warfare and aircraft-carrier raids on Japanese outposts were in. Methods changed while the battle line remained ablaze in Pearl Harbor.

See also Jim Emerson’s unsympathetic but fair discussion of the late Tony Scott’s filmmaking.

Kurt Maetzig, RIP

[ 2 ] September 1, 2012 |

The great German director has died.

If you’ve never seen The Rabbit Is Me, you are missing out on one of the great movies in the history of cinema.

Eastwood

[ 125 ] August 30, 2012 |

I always thought Clint Eastwood was the genial, George H.W. Bush type of Republican voter. Didn’t care much about the social issue stuff, didn’t much care to pay taxes, bought into his own character, whatever.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s actually the type of Republican who buys into the first half of Gran Torino.

Yet another good reason not to watch a single second of either convention.

And just to be snarky, it’s as good as time as any to note that Eastwood is vastly overrated as a director.

As for Romney, he probably wishes he was an Eastwood character, but he’s really just Mr. Morton, the old railroad tycoon from Once Upon a Time in the West.

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