Category Archives: Evaluating Culture

Everyone Is A Thief In “Widows”

The heist film is a tried and true formula for genre moviemaking. There’s no denying the simple pleasures of watching a team of “who’s who” stars work together to either steal their way to wealth and luxury…or perhaps get punished for it. Steve McQueen’s sprawling Chicago-set crime saga, Widows, follows in the footsteps of the classic heist films, the Heats and Dog Day Afternoons of the world, and forges its path with a mixture of social commentary and an examination of our obsessions with tales of teamwork and thievery.

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“A Bigger Splash” – A Thrillingly Erotic Classic

The erotic drama is a unique subgenre unto itself. There’s always been a stigma associated with it in terms of the inherent sleaze juxtaposed with often revealing explorations of lust, love, sex, sexuality and the specificity of emotions associated when two or more individuals connect or attempt to connect on a physical and/or emotional level. The infamous classic Nagisa Oshima film, In the Realm of the Senses made it a point to juxtapose his lead lovers’ fiery passion with their self-imposed solipsism. Luca Guadagnino’s gorgeous A Bigger Splash sets itself in a rather “on the nose” yet still effective metaphor for this specific form of myopia and hedonism: most of the action takes place by a swimming pool on a private island surrounded by the sea. Essentially a riff on The Big Chill and 9 ½ Weeks, this vibrant tale is about the lustful intertwining love square between four individuals.

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25 Best Films of 2015 Countdown Part IV (5-1) – Finale

The Final Countdown!!!

(continued from Part IV)

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25 BEST FILMS OF 2015 COUNTDOWN PART IV (10-6)

The countdown continues…again!

(continued from Part III)

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25 BEST FILMS OF 2015 COUNTDOWN PART III (15-11)

The countdown continues!

(continued from Part II)

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25 Best Films of 2015 Countdown Part I (25-21)

Anyone who says there weren’t many good films this year is either lying or they simply don’t go to the movies that often. I can’t help the former but for the latter I’ve curated my recommendations for 2015’s best movies. Many films were excellent this year – my initial list of possibilities numbered over 60 – but these were the movies of the year that I think offer that perfect mix of “new & exciting” and accessible to general viewers.  This list spans megabudget spectacle to microbudget indie, strange foreign pictures and more but perhaps like 2013, this year encapsulated the range of what cinema can offer.

Without further ado, the countdown:

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“Spotlight” Reminds us Why Journalism is Important

Spotlight is a tight, blunt, un-cinematic and un-fussy movie that’s as to the point the moment in journalism it explores. The movie is almost documentary-like as it dramatizes the true story of  a handful of Boston Globe reporters who exposed a wide-reaching sex-abuse-and-cover-up scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. The movie never gives into the sensational subject matter or exploits it for melodrama; instead it remains a grounded character drivenstory that is predicated on the nitty-gritty details and painstaking work that went into exposing such a major story. Spotlight is one of the best movies of the year, offering the kind of measured craft and adult-minded drama that we once had been  granted at a studio level, more akin to a film like All The President’s Men.

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What Gaspar Noé Talks About When He Talks About “Love”

The films of Argentinian director Gaspar Noé (Irréversible, I Stand Alone, Enter the Void) are obsessed with the intertwining of “authenticity” and “artifice” and thus: every scene of pain or desire is purposefully made overlong to leave the impression that they leave no stone unturned. Noé is a filmmaker who pushes audiences uncomfortably deeper into moments that are usually reduced to a suggestion or glimpse if they are not censored altogether. Some call him a “pornographer,” others consider him a “provocateur” – but whatever merits his work may or may not have, he is at the very least a challenging artist if only for the discussions his films provoke. Perhaps the most famous example from his work is the 12-minute-long rape scene in the middle of his dizzying revenge flick Irréversible; which used such scene to deal with the entire nature of consequence by contextualizing all the problems of the male-id “lizard-brain” thinking. Love is the title of Noé’s interesting-yet-difficult to see/unsee film, which opens with a man and a woman explicitly performing an unsimulated sex act to careening violin music (the film earns its X-rating immediately). Of course Love will undoubtedly be referred to as “that 2015 unsimulated sex movie,” a type of film that has been equally derided as taboo and praised as transgressive in the history of cinema. The modern “art house sex” movie has been a staple of festivals and young film fans and recent examples include the digitally inserted (i.e. computer animated) porn star genitals in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac; Vincent Gallo receiving oral sex from Chloë Sevigny in Brown Bunny; and the body-double orgy in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. However, in the case of Love, does dabbling in taboo inherently make for worthwhile art or are we merely content to guise up pornographic indulgence with “artful” posturing? Where does art end and porn begin or are they intertwined beyond distinction? Likewise, which is more authentic: “lust” or “love”? Continue reading What Gaspar Noé Talks About When He Talks About “Love”

The “Spectre” of Past Bonds Looms over This Misfire

Ian Fleming’s suave British superspy, James Bond, has been a pop culture icon for over 50 years. Evolving from a literary character to the quintessential blockbuster action hero, he’s gone through decades of re-invention that both innovates and reflects where contemporary cinema goers are in terms of pop culture and what they like from their pulp escapism and fantasy. Who is James Bond? Why ‘nobody does it better’? What drives him and these films about him? These questions rarely came up in Bond’s early days until the radical 2006 re-invention Casino Royale, the 1st time Daniel Craig stepped in the role. That was the moment the franchise began to wrestle with what made the man tick, and the next two films, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall were all about moving this anachronistic character into our modern world, or at least the heightened/romanticized “Bond” equivalent to it. The Bond films have been about many things, some even as ridiculous as cloning and space lasers but the one thing they have never been about is nostalgia. These were movies of their time, occasionally forward-thinking enough to define genre movie-making for the foreseeable future. All Spectre does is regurgitate well-worn tropes without any clue how to re-engineer them for modern standards. Everything old felt new in Skyfall but here, everything is just old. The movie actually would even be just fine as a love letter/homage to those tropes but a lack of strong narrative tissue connecting those beats only compound their ineffectuality. Spectre is a movie so obsessed with regressing Bond back to the past that it plays like a soulless greatest hits cover album. Continue reading The “Spectre” of Past Bonds Looms over This Misfire