The countdown continues…again!
The countdown continues!
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”
There is no other movie like Jupiter Ascending. Don’t get me wrong, the latest ambitious original intellectual property (IP) from the Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas, The Matrix Trilogy, Speed Racer) is an imaginative and goofy epic space opera with ideas and concepts never done before. With a seemingly bottomless budget and decades (possibly eons) of sci-fi concept art and clear influences from Japanese comics and animation, these ambitious auteur have created not only the craziest, biggest and most visionary sci-fi/fantasy blockbusters of our time…they may have also made one of the dumbest and messiest movies to ever clunk its way to the big screen. In some ways I was reminded of the sheer absurd and trashy joy I felt last year when I saw Luc Besson’s Lucy but I feel that may be underselling it. By no means is Jupiter Ascending a “good” movie let alone a “smart” movie (though it’s clear even in this film the Wachowski siblings may be two of the most intelligent and ambitious mainstream filmmakers out there) but it is endlessly entertaining both in intentional ways and unintentional ways (just as many “so bad-it’s good” moments as there are respectable moments of filmmaking craft) that it practically defies traditional qualification. It’s unfortunate that this film seems destined to fall at the box office (it’s being taken down from screens pretty fast) because if I had the choice between seeing competent-yet-unimaginative and repetitive blockbuster fare (such as the Marvel superhero films) versus endlessly imaginative and wildly ambitious yet weirdly incompetent failures like this, I’d choose the latter every time. Even if this film is for all intents and purposes “terribad,” it’s also one of those rare times I saw a movie and truly felt there were endless possibilities as to what can be imagined and brought to life on screen.
The film franchise based on Marvel Comics’ ‘X-Men’ comic mythology (which follows the exploits of “mutants” – people born with superpowers) are the last connections to the time when superhero movies were still a novelty and when lines like ‘What did you expect, yellow spandex?’ were eaten up by fans who were simply happy to see their favorite characters taken seriously by Hollywood. The aesthetic of early superhero films were clearly lifted mostly from The Matrix and Blade. The one thing nobody ever really talks about when revisiting the original X-trilogy is that none of the films are particularly good in purely cinematic terms and they are poor interpretations of the X-Men mythos. They do get a character or concept right on occasion (Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine), but in terms of interpreting the X-Men, they never seize the opportunity to tackle what has been a most interesting and pleasantly soap operatic serial storytelling (the comics being 50+ years ongoing). Four movies into the film franchise, with the critical & commercial flop, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, almost putting the series to whimper of a close, something remarkable happened: X-Men: First Class. The film was conceived as a soft reboot while also serving as a prequel to the previous films and it established a whole new tone and mission statement for the films going forward. First Class director Matthew Vaughn (L4yer Cake) embraced the freestyle camp and soap opera fun of the comics while allowing the mythology’s sense of social commentary to breathe and really come alive.After another fun brief one-off film focusing on the character of Wolverine (who has been the central character for every X-film prior to First Class), fan-favorite Bryan Singer, who directed the first 2 entries in the franchise and produced the rest is back at the helm. Singer has slowly gotten notoriety for not being reverent or respectful of the X-characters and mythology save for Wolverine but it seems many lessons were learned from the success of First Class as this film, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a good movie, it’s Singer’s best X-Men movie, and the best X film to date.
As social creatures, people often have a craving for romance stories or at least romance IN stories. Romantic plots and subplots are common even in media aimed at subcultures with a stereotypical reputation for being socially and romantically inept, such as fans of science fiction or fantasy. Recently, romance and romantic subplots come under heavy criticism by fans and scholars alike; often self-identified feminists call such media and stories out for being poorly written and having disrespectful (often overly sexualized) portrayals of the female romantic interest and often rightfully so. The usual suspects for such stories and subplots are media straight up classified under the “romance” genres and subgenres. However, even stories and media where the element of romance isn’t the primary focus can have not only well-written portrayals of romance – they can be remarkably thoughtful and somewhat progressive in their own right as well.
It can be easy to overlook such elements in media, especially when they are not the subject by which the work is focused on or associated with. That does not make any serious evaluation or analysis of them any less valid. A good example of one of the MOST OVERLOOKED on-screen romances comes in Universal Studio’s 1982, Conan the Barbarian.