March 2007 Archives

A better superhero gig than 'Daredevil': Ben Affleck in 'Hollywoodland'Looking at this list, it’s apparent I’ve been slacking. So let’s dispense with Hollywoodland, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Art School Confidential, Serenity, and 13 Tzameti in fewer than 900 words total.

Yes, it is a motley crew.

Bryce Dallas Howard: strategically naked in 'Lady in the Water'We understand why a studio would give M. Night Shyamalan the benefit of a doubt, with even the much-maligned The Village grossing more than $100 million in the U.S.

We understand that audiences might be willing to take a chance on the writer/director who burst onto the scene with The Sixth Sense and made an unexpectedly thoughtful and human superhero movie with Unbreakable.

And we understand that Syamalan believes that his shit stinks not, and that he further thinks those bowel movements represent a new form of artistic expression.

But why oh why did I assent to River Cities’ Reader film critic Mike Schulz’s inebriated suggestion that we record a commentary track for Lady in the Water?

Links, Briefly

'The Prestige': Tesla provides enlightenmentThe reasons for recording (with Bride of Culture Snob) this commentary track to The Prestige are many and simple:

  • Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan didn’t include one on the first DVD release — at least not that I’ve found.
  • In my essay, I faulted the movie’s ending, but I now accept it as suitable and even necessary.
  • There remains great confusion and debate about what actually happens in the movie, even though the script and presentation seem to me models of clarity and foreshadowing.
  • Bride of Culture Snob and I continue to argue about the conclusion, and whether it fits or panders to an audience’s anticipated inability to follow the story.
  • While it received generally favorable notices, The Prestige seemed to be dismissed as a mere entertainment, and I think critics and audiences failed to recognize the movie’s depth, density, and elegance.

We address all these areas in the commentary track, come to some resolution about the ending, and explore my theory that viewers tend to understand one of the movie’s “tricks” while watching the first time but get fooled by the other.

Spot the vagina: a poster for 'Pan's Labyrinth'As much as I’ve wanted to write about Pan’s Labyrinth, it hasn’t happened, so you’ll have to wait until its DVD release for a proper essay. (I have lots of ideas, but the movie’s details have faded so much that anything I write would be either too vague or filled with errors. Even more than normal.)

For now, I’ll note that I was struck by something writer/director Guillermo del Toro said in an interview:

Question: “So often in fairy-tale analysis, there’s a tendency to read any story of a young girl as a psychosexual parable, but this film specifically doesn’t go that way.” Answer: “Not at all. I consciously avoided it, not out of prudishness — though I probably am prudish — but out of the same reason why I tried to avoid the myth of vampirism in Cronos through using the most completely unerotic window I could; I tried to approach it like an addiction. In Pan’s Labyrinth, I knew that the psychosexual angle was really tired; it felt very 1980s for me, and I felt this was a movie about a girl who was on the threshold of making a choice, where she could cease to be a girl, but it was not about sexual identity.”

Perhaps he should have told that to the movie’s designers and marketers. Take a look at these images and say with a straight face that they don’t bear a striking resemblance to female genitalia.

Jen ChapinIt’s no surprise that Jen Chapin was pulled in several directions.

Her father, the late Harry Chapin, is most famous for writing and performing “Cat’s in the Cradle” but was also a humanitarian, co-founding World Hunger Year in 1975. (He died in an automobile accident in 1981.)

Jen Chapin is following her own social-justice calling. She chairs the World Hunger Year board of directors, and on tour will sometimes lead events geared toward activists, such as an upcoming forum on “Music and Social Action” at a Unitarian church the morning after a show.

Juliette Binoche co-stars with a color in 'Three Colors: Blue'As part of the Krzysztof Kieslowski Blog-a-thon at Quiet Bubble, Culture Snob recorded a commentary track for Three Colors: Blue, with some assistance from Bride of Culture Snob.

The commentary track deals with a handful of themes: the blunt use of color contrasted with the almost tangential way the movie deals with its ostensible theme of liberty; the use of visual and aural cues to indicate the subjective nature of the film; Julie’s progression from isolation to active engagement with the world; and the relationship between the concept of “freedom” and Kieslowski’s obvious interest in responsibility. Plus, I call Juliette Binoche a “two-faced bitch.” How can you resist?

This entry also includes a short essay dealing only with Blue’s first shot, inspired by Jim Emerson’s Opening Shots Project.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Sheen in 'The Departed'I was complaining to a friend about the final half-hour of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and he suggested I was looking at it all wrong. If you see the movie as a serious cop-and-gangster thriller, it does fall apart, with its escalating body count and that blunt-instrument final shot, juxtaposing unattainable dreams with vermin.

But if you see it as a comedy ... .

It’s a tempting reading, because the movie holds together slightly better. An absurdist futility pervades the film, and the bleakness is so complete that it approaches being funny. (But without, you know, actually being funny.) The last act of The Departed reminded me of Adaptation; in both, the writer (here William Monahan) gave up and caved in to his basest inclination. In Adaptation, it was done with a wink.

In Scorsese’s movie, though, the tone is fatalistic instead of comic.

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