It has been said in so many ways so many times, but there really is something rather obscene about the spectacle of a disproportionately white and male collection of individuals almost completely out of touch with the general population getting together in an exclusive and bizarre setting to essentially pat each other on the back for perpetuating the very things that set up and reaffirm the disconnect and lack of diversity in the first place. Continue reading
I can’t help but perceive a certain distance implied in the title A Most Violent Year. It’s as if the speaker is regarding the year in question with an intimate knowledge of the violence referenced without having actually been a part of it, per se. It’s reminiscent of when one hears of the untimely death of someone one doesn’t know personally and remarks something along the lines of “how tragic;” acknowledging the loss without feeling it. That sort of detachment lays at the heart of the journey of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) in J.C. Chandor’s film. Continue reading
The manner in which the Civil Rights Movement is typically depicted in American media is problematic to say the least. One is quite frequently presented with a picture of a clearly defined struggle between right and wrong with a foreordained and definite outcome complete with a happy ending. Narratives such as these tend to create overly simplistic narratives with little nuance between and within the constituencies represented. Selma, to its great credit, manages to avoid this trap. Continue reading
There is a strange phenomenon that occurs in films where something can seem both drawn out and rushed at the same time. This usually happens when filmmakers try to do too much at once. For example: when one is attempting to tell a long, epic story in a normal cinematic run-time. Or when one is trying to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to the theistic, supernatural, or miraculous aspects of a particular story. Continue reading
Two very different films released in October, Gone Girl and Nightcrawler, have a lot to say about American media culture and the way we consume events on television. David Fincher’s Gone Girl examines how stories become sensationalized by frenzied media and a salacious cultural appetite, while Tony Gilroy’s Nightcrawler explores the lengths some will go to to capture and create the sensation and stoke the fear of members of the public. Continue reading
Channing Tatum doesn’t say much during the first twenty minutes or so of Foxcatcher. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t say much throughout most of the film. We first meet him as Mark Schultz, a wrestler training and hulking around the ring, fit, disciplined, and physically domineering. We then see him in a car that looks too small for him, in front of a room of elementary school children, awkwardly speaking about his Olympic triumph, dwarfing the small children. The first time we see him have a meaningful interaction with another human being is when his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) enters the picture. Even then, their meaningful interaction is not a verbal conversation but a session in the ring stretching, warming up, and sparring with a palpable intimacy and athletic intensity. Even when Mark meets John du Pont (Steve Carell) the meeting that jump starts the main spine of the narrative, John does most of the talking. Tatum’s Mark appears uncomfortable in the world outside of the ring and a poor fit for it at that. His actual presence seems out of place outside of the strictures of his sport.
Christopher Nolan continues to stretch the IMAX medium to new cinematic and narrative bounds with Interstellar. But let’s get one thing out of the way; while Interstellar is grand and ambitious, it does not come close to the grandeur and majesty of 2001: A Space Odyssey, nor does Mr. Nolan even begin to approach the transcendent genius of Stanley Kubrick, despite the reports of some. Kubrick’s influence on Nolan’s work in general is quite evident, as is the influence of 2001 on Interstellar in particular. While a fundamentally a different film on many levels, Interstellar poses many of the same questions as 2001, exploring humankind’s place in the cosmos, examining our exploratory ambitions, and the limits of our abilities in those areas. Continue reading
The thing that sets Alejandro González Iñárritu apart as a filmmaker is his humanity. He shows human beings at their extremes, showing people at their most animalistic and also at their most humane, doing so with empathy and free of judgement. He has an incredible ability to not just examine human behavior but to see into the human soul. Iñárritu is the foremost humanist director of his generation. Continue reading