Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How The Force Awakens Is a Politically Reversed Remake of the Original Star Wars Trilogy, and What That Means for the Progress — or Regress — of American Ideology

Everybody knows the story of Star Wars. Even if you haven't seen the original three movies made between 1977 and 1983, you will recognize their structure. As every modern review of them loves to point out, they are a close adaptation of Joseph Campbell's Monomyth (aka The Hero's Journey), and as such their story of a young boy answering the call to adventure is a familiar one to audiences of any age or literary expertise. But it's in the details that this tale begins to take on political significance.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Quantum of Solace

"They say you're judged by the strength of your enemies."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #22
Star: Daniel Craig #2
Director: Marc Forster #1 (his only one)
My Ranking #15

Ironic quote considering the film has one of the most forgettable enemies of the series.

Monday, November 2, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Casino Royale

"This may be too much for a blunt instrument to understand, but arrogance and self awareness seldom go hand-in-hand."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #21
Star: Daniel Craig #1 (my favorite of his)
Director: Martin Campbell #2 (my favorite of his)
My Ranking #1

For me, this is the one. After my long journey through the Bond franchise, I can finally say with certainty that this is my favorite James Bond movie.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

James Bond Marathon: The World Is Not Enough

"Oh, pipe down, 007."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #19
Star: Pierce Brosnan #3
Director: Michael Apted #1 (his only one)
My Ranking #20

This is what happens when you prioritize big action set pieces above everything else.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Tomorrow Never Dies

"They'll print anything these days."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #18
Star: Pierce Brosnan #2 (my favorite of his)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode #1 (his only one)
My Ranking #7

The one where they say "satellite" way too many times.

Monday, October 26, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Licence to Kill

"I help people with problems."
"Problem solver."
"More of a problem eliminator."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #16
Star: Timothy Dalton #2 (my favorite of his)
Director: John Glen #5 (my favorite of his)
My Ranking #5

Bond gets personal.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Octopussy

"I haven't time for these adolescent antics."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #13
Star: Roger Moore #6
Director: John Glen #2
My Ranking #24

Bond on autopilot—autopilot on a crash course straight to the bottom of the Bond barrel.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

James Bond Marathon: For Your Eyes Only

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."
"That’s putting it mildly, 007!"

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #12
Star: Roger Moore #5
Director: John Glen #1
My Ranking #18

Why does the best Bond stuff always involves skiing?

Monday, October 19, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Moonraker

"James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #11
Star: Roger Moore #4
Director: Lewis Gilbert #3
My Ranking #19

It's Bond in space, so what's the problem?

Friday, October 16, 2015

James Bond Marathon: The Spy Who Loved Me

"Moneypenny, where's 007?"
"He's on a mission sir. In Austria."
"Well, tell him to pull out. Immediately."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #10
Star: Roger Moore #3 (my favorite of his)
Director: Lewis Gilbert #2 (my favorite of his)
My Ranking #8

The best of the Roger Moore Bonds.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

James Bond Marathon: The Man with the Golden Gun

"You get as much pleasure out of killing as I do, so why don't you admit it?"
"I admit killing you would be a pleasure."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #9
Star: Roger Moore #2
Director: Guy Hamilton #4
My Ranking #12

More like the man with the third nipple.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Live and Let Die

"Hey man, for twenty bucks I'd take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout!"

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #8
Star: Roger Moore #1
Director: Guy Hamilton #3
My Ranking #17

Bond (ill-advisedly) meets blaxploitation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Diamonds Are Forever

"My God! You just killed James Bond!"

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #7
Star: Sean Connery #6
Director: Guy Hamilton #2
My Ranking #23

Sean Connery returns in an unconscious attempt to derail the entire franchise.

Monday, October 12, 2015

James Bond Marathon: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

"This never happened to the other fellow."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #6
Star: George Lazenby #1 (his only one)
Director: Peter R. Hunt #1 (his only one)
My Ranking #2

The one where a new bond steals the show by running around in a kilt and fanny pack.

Friday, October 9, 2015

James Bond Marathon: You Only Live Twice

"I have much, much better. Ninjas. Top-secret, Bond-san. This is my ninja training school."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #5
Star: Sean Connery #5
Director: Lewis Gilbert #1
My Ranking #16

The one that only looks good from the point of view of vulgar auteurism.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Thunderball

"Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She's just dead."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #4
Star: Sean Connery #4
Director: Terence Young #3
My Ranking #10

The best of the worst; my (not so) guilty pleasure.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

James Bond Marathon: Goldfinger

"Beautiful animal, isn't she?"
"Certainly better bred than the owner."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #3
Star: Sean Connery #3 (my favorite of his)
Director: Guy Hamilton #1 (my favorite of his)
My Ranking #3

The classic Bond.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

James Bond Marathon: From Russia with Love

"Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something."

Chronology & Stats
James Bond #2
Star: Sean Connery #2
Director: Terence Young #2 (my favorite of his)
My Ranking #6

Quintessential Bond, Connery or otherwise.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Shooting Both Sides of International Politics in Sicario

"The CIA's not supposed to work this side of the fence."

I've been excited for Sicario ever since it was announced because I thought that after Edge of Tomorrow Emily Blunt had finally been given the action hero role she so deserved. It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year given what I knew going in (Denis Villeneuve still hasn't missed a mark for me, Roger Deakins is some kind of camera god), and the movie managed to meet those high expectations without being at all what I expected. There's plenty of action here, but there are no heroes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Revitalizing the British Crime Thriller with Sexy Beast

Just when I thought I'd seen it all (just kidding, obviously I haven't, I haven't even seen The Godfather Part II, it's a rhetorical device, try to keep up), Jonathan Glazer comes out with one of the most creative crime films of the new millennium. I went into Sexy Beast knowing nothing about it except that I absolutely loved Glazer's Under the Skin, and it put me so far on the edge of my seat wondering where it was going to go that I recommend anyone with any interest in gangster movies to check it out before reading anything else.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy & The Dehumanization of Late Capitalism

Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy is a meditation on three interrelated symbolic points: money, labor, and bodies. Although the characters across the three movies are technically different (they have different names), the Clint Eastwood character in particular and the Lee Van Cleef character to a slightly lesser extent develop during the series, and as a whole the films follow a tangible thematic arc.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Death Walks at Midnight & Overcoming Trauma

Not as wild as Argento, as silly as Bava, or as gory as Fulci, Luciano Ercoli's giallo Death Walks at Midnight is a more measured effort, for better or for worse. When Valentina takes an experimental hallucinogen called HDS, she believes she witnesses a horrific murder. Despite her conviction, everyone she talks to assumes she's delusional, and the situation is made more complicated when we find out that a similar murder took place six months ago.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans: The Appeal of Silent Film

Like many modern film viewers, I often have trouble connecting to silent films. Over the years of cinematic history, filmmakers have developed shorthand techniques for expressing action, emotion, and theme in a way which is not necessarily better but is almost certainly easier. And yet, most of the silent movies that remain in the cinematic lexicon have something special which makes them remain watchable to this day. This movie is barely farther from the origin of cinema itself than I am from my own birth, so it's totally impossible for me to conceive of how revolutionary it is; but the fact that it never feels distractingly dated or artificial is an incredible testament to its success.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sex without Emotion: The Dreary Politics of Shame

Steve McQueen's directing stands out as the primary force shaping the feel of the film. Every scene is very precise in its tone: the cold, slow, bleak life of a man without desire, a life which is more like death. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of the filmmaking: the camera is always steady, and its few, subtle movements have a controlled sense of choreography that only comes from a director with a distinct vision (and a cinematographer with a strong hand, of course).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Casino: Individualist Business vs. Faceless Capital

The only thing Martin Scorsese loves more than propping ambitious men at the top of a cliff and watching them fall back down is propping ambitious men at the top of a cliff, giving them buckets of cash, and then watching them fall back down. In Casino, Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro) owns and operates a casino in Las Vegas. He's at the top of his business, but the force pulling him back down isn't so much his own greed (that's part of it, but not the main part), it's his friends. Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is originally Sam's muscle, but he's so violent that he eventually gets kicked out of the gambling scene altogether and starts his own mafia ring. Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone) is originally a hustler in Sam's casino, but she's so driven by the affection of others and the acquisition of wealth that she accepts Sam's proposal to marry him.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bicycle Thieves & the Economics of Desperation

A touching tale of hardship and struggle, Bicycle Thieves is one of the most popular and well remembered films from the Italian Neorealist movement. I've never been a fan of Italian Neorealism (I often find it a bit too sleepy for my dumb, attention-starved brain), but I've always been fascinated by the issues they tackle (class, nationality, family). In Bicycle Thieves, I finally found those issues tackled in a way that was also entertaining to watch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dog Day Afternoon: Case Study in Character Development

Billed as "the most bizarre bank siege ever," Dog Day Afternoon is a remarkably strange beast which comes rather close to living up to that claim.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Colors of Outer Space in Planet of the Vampires

You know that this is the future and that we’re in outer space because of the yellow stripes on the black leather Space Jumpsuits. The title Planet of the Vampires is perfect in that it tells you exactly what sort of campy silliness is in store, but the irony is that the closest the film gets to vampires is the Dracula-esque high collars on the Space Jumpsuits.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Unconventional Path to Accepting Our Faults

Leland Orser is Ansel, a man who specializes in helping brainwashing victims take their lives back into their own hands, but whether he has his own life in his hands is the central question of the film. He's fallen on hard times, sleeping in his car and desperately living under the shadow of a large debt (hilariously trying to reuse a meal voucher), so when an opportunity to make some money shows itself, he reluctantly agrees in spite of his ambivalence. He’s assigned to deprogram Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Claire, a member of the Faults cult. But Claire is resilient.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears & Sexual Violence

"I'm looking for my wife."
"She hadn’t disappeared, it was he who was afraid of disappearing."

This movie is absolutely crazy, but it's also about someone going absolutely crazy, so it kind of makes sense in a senseless kind of way.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Editing Sexual Violence into Coming of Age in Amer

Like The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, Amer is an experimental take on the giallo which uses its genre influences in order to rise above them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pushing the Boundaries of Storytelling in Pierrot le fou

"Chapter Eight"

The fragmentary incoherence of the stories we tell about ourselves; the inherent contingency and inconsistency of both narrative and identity.