A movie about the “war on drugs”

At the end of the excellent movie Sicario, Benicio del Toro puts a gun to Emily Blunt’s face and tells her that she should move to a small town where the rule of law still exists because the place where they are – the U.S.-Mexico border – has become a land of wolves and she, unlike […]

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The heroes we get (summer of 2014, continued)

Thoughts on the commercially successful superhero movies Guardians of the Galaxy and Lucy. Apparently, superhero movies are a bad place to look for heroes. Guardians of the Galaxy is full of clever jokes and features a disarmingly charming actor as its protagonist. It was clearly made by very talented people whose greatest achievement is to […]

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Apeface

Many film critics, including some of the most astute, have written praises for the 2014 movie “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. I greatly enjoyed a few scenes and marveled at many shots that are visually stunning. I also found it an offensively lazy and shallow commercialization of its predecessors. This is why. In […]

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Chestbursters vs. Engineers

Like many, I found the sequence in which the new Ripley gives “hacks” a sexist computer to giver herself a Caesarian to be the best and truest to form. The magic of the original Alien movie was largely the alien in all its unsubtle sexuality. That is, the species will or drive for self-preservation programmed […]

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Mad Men 2013

About 15 years ago I saw Tyler Brule, then just two years into Wallpaper, give a presentation that would forever change my understanding of art and commerce. He explained how Wallpaper was cajoling its clients into letting the magazine’s art team redo their ads so that these would play better as facing pages to the […]

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actor and spectator

in the actor-spectator relationship, both participants experience self-knowledge by “trading places” with another person. for the actor, self-knowledge is gained by looking inward, as if into a mirror. the actor is trained to master her own mind and body so that she may produce the gestures and voice that convey another person. the better the […]

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the vessel of exploration

For Europeans and their former subjects, the making of planet Earth – a process better known as globalization – begins after the Renaissance, as newly empowered groups embrace the idea that, contra the Church, the world is both knowable and mostly unknown. before The frontier – the unsettled terrain – is thus not just an economic and […]

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Blue Valentine: the love story as murder mystery

Surely, for every lover who says “I love you” (which is to ask “Do you love me?”) there is another who asks “What went wrong?” – or, simply, “Why don’t you love me anymore?” Few movies so deftly tackle this whodunnit as well as Blue Valentine. Using the techniques of a mystery – the withholding of […]

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The movie Return: wanting for a story.

In the vein of Todd Haynes and Tony Kushner, Liza Johnson’s movie Return dramatizes an intimate, personal crisis to make intelligible a broader social catastrophe. The plot is achingly simple: Kelli is a reservist who returns from war, loses her way, then her job, her car, her husband, her children and finally her freedom. Why […]

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Bart Simpson’s tattoo.

Why does this image make us laugh? The tattoo. It translates into the simple world of The Simpsons elements of our complex society. The tattoo as totem. The pirate as hero. The clown as pirate. (Krusty, meet Jack Sparrow.) Using symbols, we take a familiar scenario and transpose it into a new setting so that […]

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“It has absolutely no meaning.” Yet.

“There’s nothing intelligent in Alien. It has absolutely no meaning. It works on a very visceral level and its only point is terror and more terror.” – Ridley Scott To be self-aware about making art is an exceedingly rare stroke of fortune – probably, of the bad kind. But there is no such thing as a terrifying spectacle […]

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Bad action movie plot: Chinese hackers and Mexican cartels

The Vanity Fair expose on likely Chinese hacking of many important corporations and government agencies by Michael Joseph Gross describes a ploy I’d only known from Hollywood movie: infiltrators intercepting calls to the victim’s security dept. in order to field these calls and prevent detection. The scene prompted me to imagine a contemporary kind of […]

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