Film Criticism

Nolan's characters show us the fastest way between two points is often to chase yourself in circles.

"Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak," says Kurt Vonnegut. Someone should tell Wes Anderson.

In which he is implored to leave Hitch behind.

Film Reviews

Subtle and stark, brooding and intense, The American gives us the perfect allegory for America today; alone, fairly unlikeable, and untrusting of everyone, willing to do anything for survival no matter what the cost or to whom, and charged with the task of creating, for one of those untrustworthy everyone, a secret and powerful weapon designed for the sole purpose of destruction.

 

But whose?

In his self-proclaimed companion piece to The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky gives us another, more overtly frightening look at what artists will endure in the name of their craft.  Black Swan is the perfect metaphor for the self-actualizing emotional metamorphosis brought on by intense pressure from outside and within.  Add some blood, feathers, and a healthy dash of surrealism, and this is one of the best pictures to come out this year.

In the big-screen adaptation of the first of four Books of Ember, we are taken on a quirky underground journey with two young children determined to save their city’s dying generator.  While many young adult films are able to find their way into the hearts and minds of an older generation, City of Ember does little to capture the more spiritual essence that such a story inherently exudes, thus making it “A good kid’s movie” as opposed to “A good film.”

The great Gatsby was glamorous and empty, as was his movie. I’m not a huge Luhrmann fan, nor am I a detractor; he knows what he likes to do and does it nearly perfectly (at least in the sense that no one else could have accomplished the vision he set out to create). Admittedly, I’m the first to poo-poo (accent on the second poo) what I see as shoddy filmsmanship, which, surprisingly, is not what I plan on doing here. The general consensus about the filmic adaptation of The Great Gatsby is that it’s almost unbearably boring, albeit very glitzy, and that very well may be a valid complaint. But it also very well may be the point.

Hereafter is one of Eastwood’s most personal films, filled with heavy stories, emotional performances and, much like the characters it depicts, allows us just enough of a glimpse into the afterlife to keep us intrigued and full of wonder, and like our non-existent understanding of the afterlife itself, gives us no definitive answers, but leaves us with at least a sense of hope.

In the opening scenes of HBO’s 10-part miniseries about the often unseen side of World War II, the soldiers are informed that they will be disembarking on a journey to a new battleground, a new “theatre of war”: Japan.  This new Japanese enemy, not the pasty, phlegm-inflecting, goose-stepping Nazis that we normally associate with WWII, represents a side of war that often remains unseen.  There is a grizzly side that isn’t as visible as the violence and death that engulfs the soldiers during their various campaigns, but is just as easily (and often more permanently) injured by the constant barrage of terror around them – the psychological side.  The entire series exudes a sense of the disillusionment of everything we know and feel about war, and recalls to mind the opening quote from Oliver Stone’s Platoon: “Hell is the impossibility of reason.”

In the most subtly American movie yet this year – directed by South Korean Bong Joon-ho, no less – Snowpiercer somehow manages to touch on so many aspects of our nation’s present circumstance; the collision of cultures and integration of languages, the wealth gap and income inequality, climate change and conservation, and the rapidly life-changing role of technology in our lives, all while hiding these political flints inside the most American thing of all: a Hollywood movie replete with guns and explosives and choreographed fight scenes. Oh, and Captain America plays the lead. Natch.

Screening more like an intense, moody historical film, David Fincher’s The Social Network is intriguing considering Facebook’s questionable beginnings, but we’re all gonna have a fairly hard time rooting for (or caring about in the least) a smarmy, genius, billionaire asshole.

Coppola returns to his familial filmic roots telling the story of an Italian-American immigrant family ripped apart in Tetro.  Having been so successful in his early career, Coppola can spend all of his remaining time and effort telling the stories that hewants to tell, in the manner in which he wants to tell them and, lucky for us, it looks like he’s doing exactly that.  

We revisit the tough, criminal side of Boston and Ben Affleck takes a definitive step sideways with the follow-up to his surprise hit Gone Baby Gone, and his acting/directing debut in The Town.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
© 2018 by J. Eric Thompson