No reason to mince words: Django Unchained is a masterpiece of awesomeness, birthed in that wacked-out brain of Quentin Tarantino’s and hurled at the screen with equal parts breathtaking beauty and unflinching severity, at once underscoring its repulsive origins and then its gleeful subversion of them. Let’s face it – no white guy would ever or should ever attempt to mount a slavery revenge fantasy but QT, who has always seemed to both identify and operate on a psychic wavelength with urban cultural norms, and for whom this material comes straight from the gut. This film – set in the Deep South, at the height of the slave trade, in the mode of a classic Spaghetti Western – may, odd as it sounds, be Tarantino’s most personal. Django Unchained represents a blissful fusion of all things Tarantinian, forcefully expressing both his passion for cinema and his identification with the African-American plight, both of which have been woven into his work from the beginning, but never so explicitly gelled until now.
Browsing: Home Entertainment
A great deal of the appeal of Sons of Anarchy lies in the antagonism of its protagonists: not only in their criminality does the audience experience the thrill of vicarious existence, but also in the sustained hope that, beneath the violently nihilistic chauvinism they exude, there are genuinely good people to be found. It’s been the shows modus operandi since its opening episode to tease us with the prospect of main character Jax’s departure from the motorcycle club he calls home; if a man as repulsive and repugnant as he can find salvation, is there not hope for us all?
What the marketing department were thinking when they made the poster for The Sorcerer and the White Snake is anyone’s guess. Proudly displaying a typical example of what the film’s few defenders have kindly described as “stylised” CGI—a careful euphemism for “incomplete”, or perhaps just plain “bad”—the one-sheet sees the latter character of the title encircling the former, portrayed by Jet Li with a stoic grimace that just about manages to disguise the awkward posture required of an actor posed before a green screen awaiting later insertion of a large serpent. It’s far from a resounding endorsement of the film’s visual quality, hardly a promising start for what is essentially an effects-laden fantasy epic.
…the film plays like a loose adaptation of a much-beloved fantasy novel that, its liberties considered, will only be comprehensible to those who’ve read the book. Only in this case, of course, there is no book, and without it no fans to make sense of the loose assemblage of scenes the movie mistakenly considers a plot.
It’s difficult to imagine a film more awkward and discomforting than Hyde Park on Hudson. Such a film would probably have to involve some sort of incest/bestiality combo. I’m stretching there, obviously, but only because it’s difficult to put precisely into words the tonal train wreck of Roger Michell’s film, which has been positioned as Oscar bait but emits the stench of fishing bait. I don’t necessarily have anything against art that depicting a version of historical figures that is perpendicular to our revered understanding –lord knows I’ve defended Hitchcock against just about everybody – but the nonsense this film is trying to peddle is borderline appalling.
Have any filmmakers implanted their evocations so ardently in the fertile soils of other artisan realms as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger? Proffering their cinema as not only a protraction of life but also of art’s variable forms, the famed duo often call upon established means of expressions – and usually in juxtaposition of some sort of conflict or war – as if to suggest not only art’s importance to art but the everyday as well. Their 1948 masterwork, The Red Shoes, probably best encapsulates this reverberating dynamic, positing the multifarious nature of creation as, because of human pride, existing in something of a constant state of friction, its participants often striking discord rather than harmony in attempting to collaborate; visionary struggle becomes a microcosm for existence. Other examples of course befit this distinction: one of their late post-war efforts, The Tales of Hoffman, has the pair adapting an opera through a lens of filmic agency. And even their works of less direct influence – such as I Know Where I’m Going and A Matter of Life and Death – still emit hints of oral storytelling traditions and the ability of [art] to shape our worlds, or at least our perception thereof. (Powell’s own Peeping Tom, too, is an erudite exhibition of the medium’s connections to both voyeurism and reality.) In any case, the common thread of such a sweeping canonical gesture is one that deals in a dialogue of producers and their participants, the architects of social order and those who abide their formations.
Adapted from the 1970s TV series of the same name, a show hinged on the idea that its eponymous armed response squad was a relic of times gone by, The Sweeney seems a spectacularly ill-suited candidate for a modern updating, its transposition of that narrative four decades into the future assured only to further divorce these characters and their actions from reality. And that’s precisely the effect; this is a film not just out of touch with reality, but actively ignoring it too, refusing to return its calls and pretending not to see it from across the street.
A suitably strange cinematic debut for surrealist comic Ross Noble, the eponymous role of Stitches—a clown arisen from the grave to avenge his accidental death at the hands of an unruly children’s party—sees him pair his Geordie persona with that reliable old horror trope of coulrophobia. Directed by Conor McMahon, the film centres on that same party re-enacted some years down the line, its child attendees now beer-guzzling teens more enthused by the prospect of hash cookies than clown entertainment.
Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen) hauls garbage, remnants of modern life whose use has faded, articles and scraps that have become more burdensome than practical. It’s not a glamorous profession, but its demands happen to fall within the breadth of the wayward twentysomething’s skillset: a certain tolerance for dirty work, base monetary needs, and most importantly, a strong, young back. To be sure, picking trash isn’t a romantic vocational choice, though it is, if nothing else, a job necessitated by contemporary models for living, and director Terrence Malick, in his first full-length output, finds a poetic mystique in this underlying social need of removal and severance; in Badlands, a tale of building an identity in an image obsessed cultural structure, his philosophical angle is one set on exploring not a rejection of customs and mores, but of this idea of conscionable loss and abandonment.
Following (1999) is Christopher Nolan’s directorial debut that established him as an innovative writer/director. The story is that of Bill (Jeremy Theobald), a writer wannabe who starts following people to develop characters and eventually becomes addicted to it. He meets Cobb (Alex Haw) who begins taking him on burglary trips, teaching him what to take and how to know the people that live there based on what they own. Bill meets ‘The Blonde’ (Lucy Russell), whose house he burgled with Cobb a couple days before, and begins a relationship. She’s really Cobb’s girl and Bill is being set up by Cobb. To go further would not be fair to the viewer.
Somewhere off-screen, flesh crackles and blisters. Liquefied on contact by fire-lit iron, the forehead skin of the slave first melts and gnarls before finally congealing into its new, permutated state. Now forever marked, the servant lives out his buffeted existence as a walking monolith, a human insignia, to the cost of defiance: Oppression, torture, and deformity of both mind and body alike.