January 2007 Archives

That obscure object of desire: Mia Kirshner in 'The Black Dahlia'Rather than merely join the chorus of those who dismissed Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, and rather than cast a dissent from the general critical favor accorded The Illusionist, I’ll respond to critics I enjoy and respect whose perspectives on these movies differ significantly from mine.

This is, to some degree, an act of self-doubt. I disliked both films and have no difficulty enumerating their faults. But part of me fears I didn’t open myself adequately to the movies, or watch them closely enough.

Most importantly, though, these essays from other critics do a better job articulating and developing the movies’ themes than the filmmakers do. These writers see great things in The Black Dahlia and The Illusionist. I see them, too, although I think they’re in raw form in both movies.

'Unknown White Male': Who am I?Because I do have a memory — not a very good one, but a memory nonetheless — I can save myself some work by providing filmmaker Rupert Murray with a few lessons I’ve learned from other movies and simply link to previous essays.

Lesson number one: Let the story tell itself.

Lesson number two: When you’re dealing with people who have lived in front of cameras, you have an additional burden of proof to establish their credibility.

Murray’s Unknown White Male is a fascinating but headstrong and immature documentary about amnesia. The film’s subject found himself on a New York City subway one morning in 2003, not having any memories of his previous life.

Fighting for phallus: 'Marnie'Marnie is narratively and technically artless — literal and obvious and shrill and nearly naked in its themes and concerns, a story clumsily built around Freudian repression. Its psychology is facile; its score is overbearingly dramatic; and director Alfred Hitchcock seems hostile toward even the most basic realism with his rear-projection drives and the mechanical horseback riding of the fevered climax. The technique of Marnie is downright standoffish, easily read as laziness or incompetence.

Yet Marnie is not the travesty many people think.

Mix 2006

Dresden DollsYear-end lists of the best albums of the past 12 months are cruel, because either you’ll go bankrupt buying all these fantastic records or you’ll resent how much great music you’re missing because you can’t afford to buy them.

I’m not typically a nice person, but these are the holidays, so my year-end list is something that most anybody can afford. I’ve selected and sequenced 15 favorite songs (by 15 lesser-known artists) from 2006 and — in 11 cases — provided Web addresses where you can download or at least listen to the song for free. The remainder can be purchased from iTunes (and, most likely, other download sites). And it’ll all fit on a single CD (if you’re still into that sort of thing).

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