Monday, August 3, 2015

The Consequences of Impossible Missions in Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol opens with CIA frontman Alec Baldwin trying to shut down the IMF for the destruction they caused in Ghost Protocol. This establishes the conflict for the film—our secret agents must operate without a headquarters—but it also establishes the film's theme. Just as the IMF is being interrogated for the consequences of its actions, so Rogue Nation interrogates the consequences of unilateral global policing. The Syndicate, the evil shadow organization supposedly behind a series of terrorist attacks worldwide, is referred to interchangeably as a paranoid delusion of the IMF and a result of its own operations. The syndicate is both a foil for the IMF and a offspring of its own creation. Through this narrative, the film questions America's role in international politics and its actions in response to acts of terrorism. By attempting to control the world with our surveillance and espionage, we end up creating the very threats we intended to defeat.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Spoilers?

There are spoilers for movies in this article. Mentioning which movies they are for might accidentally spoil those movies just by virtue of pointing out that they might have spoilers in them. If you are a spoiler sensitive reader, consider yourself warned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Style as Substance: The Killer – Love is Seeing, Death is Blind

"I always save the last bullet, either to kill someone else or kill myself."

Not the first Heroic Bloodshed film, but one which helped define the genre.

Friday, July 24, 2015

For a Few Dollars More & The Value of Life

Tom Szorady
For a Few Dollars More, Sergio Leone’s sequel to his own A Fistful of Dollars, helped cement the popularity of the spaghetti western to which his previous film gave birth. It’s a wacky and irreverent film, exactly the type of cheeky genre fare that you’d expect as the follow-up to a blatant act of plagiarism (A Fistful of Dollars famously lost a copyright infringement case to Toho, the company that owned the rights to Yojimbo), but all the more entertaining for its disrespect to tradition.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Slow West: The Need for Civilization & Domesticity

"Until civilization arrives."

If the traditional western is a tale in which cowboys establish a society and a rule of law that they do not fit into (the reason they have to ride off into the sunset), then Slow West is the preface to that tale, the movie that makes the need for society and for rule of law unbearably palpable. Its most intense moments revolve around this need for a governing force on two different levels: the individual and the community.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Marvel's Scaled-Down Storytelling in Ant-Man

A smaller scale Marvel film that could have used its size to be different, but instead uses it to stay pretty much the same.

When Edgar Wright signed on to direct Ant-Man with his writing partner Joe Cornish, everybody suddenly understood how a movie about this silly superhero could be made. He gave the movie such a reason for being that when he subsequently walked out on the production, expectations plummeted below the point before Wright and Cornish had even submitted their treatment. So it was without much hope that I entered Ant-Man, and perhaps that’s the reason I came out generally positive about its achievement.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Conformist: Repressed Guilt, Duty as Denial of Agency, & the Birth (or Death) of the Ethical Subject

In a room flashing intermittently with red light, Marcello Clerici anxiously sits by the phone, waiting for it to ring. We don't know who's supposed to be calling, or what he's anticipating a call about—this is our supposed hero, but it's our first time meeting him. We don't know anything about him yet, but this sense of vague discomfort at the expected attention from an indefinite somewhere else will come to define his character. This is Bernardo Bertolucci's Il Conformista, a film about the fall of Fascism in WWII Italy seen through the nervous eyes of this Marcello. By telling this large story from this small perspective, it dives down into the human psyche and reaches toward a psychopathology of Fascism which offers a diagnosis of humanity's desire for a psycho-symbolic structure to keep us rooted in our everyday experience of reality—and an explanation for why giving up that structure is necessary to accepting true ethical agency.