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.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Consequences of Impossible Missions in Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 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 (it's composed of agents gone rogue just like Hunt). 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.