A very popular movie on how the terrorists win

A group of terrorists attempts to steal a weapon of mass destruction by driving a truck through the gates of a government compound in the capital city of an African nation. The terrorists are stopped by a special forces team led by a legendary American soldier. The leader of the terrorists vows revenge against the […]

Continue reading →

Ghost in the Shell

Emily Yoshida makes a subtle argument for the changing political context of art: Japanese audiences, unlike American audiences, don’t understand Motoko to be a Japanese character, just because she speaks Japanese and has a Japanese name. This speaks to the racial mystery zone that so much anime exists in… Of course, it’s a different issue […]

Continue reading →

the nadir in “midnight run”

In the first image, the protagonist is defeated. He faces away from us, towards the past. The road ahead of him is indirect and would take him away from us. He is pushed up against an enormous wall. There is no exit. The scene is clear as day. And then, in the very next shot, […]

Continue reading →

Dry direction

Jason Guerrasio: “We’re all standing there and Malick hands out these pieces of paper to all of us,” Lennon said. “And the one he gave me said, ‘There’s no such thing as a fireproof wall.’ And I ask, ‘Is this something I’m supposed to say in the scene?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’” Lennon […]

Continue reading →

Hollywood

From West of Eden: An American Place by Jean Stein, excerpted by Andrew O’Hagan: I was very young in 1955, when Warner Brothers did Rebel without a Cause – 18 or 19 years old. We’d started shooting in black and white, and two weeks into it Jack clearly saw that something was going on with […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

The heroes we get (summer of 2014, continued)

Guardians of the Galaxy is full of clever jokes and features a disarmingly charming actor as its protagonist. It was made by extremely talented people but its greatest achievement is to leaven the emotional impact of a plot that hinges on a nonstop parade of death and destruction. (Update below.) Guardians presents as its hero […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

Chestbursters vs. Engineers

Like many, I found the sequence in which the new Ripley “hacks” a sexist computer to give herself an abortion 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 into […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →

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 […]

Continue reading →