We aren’t informed as to what drove Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) from Dodge City, although his personality quirks permit us inference; important is that he’s no doubt a stubborn man. Imbued with a markedly androgenic obstinacy, the kind that can fairly be genderized even if other factors, a penchant to side morally …
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An insularly tailored domestic “comedy” with hugely reverberative implications, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1925 silent, Master of the House, earns its potency both acerbic and chilling primarily through innuendo, specifically in how it suggests the casualness and rampancy with which men abuse their wives. Released into a world of crumbling economic stability, the film indicted the kind of self-pitying male egos that felt entitled to the status quo – haughty patriarchs who would stratify their own family as society would workers. To evoke such lordly behavior, Dreyer uses one family, the Frandsens, as a template for what’s shown to be a ubiquitous issue of the time; his avatar for over-compensatory, limp masculinity acts as a veritable tyrant to his spouse and progeny, who spend the majority of their day evading and diffusing his bitchy tantrums.
Before gifting us the cinema of blood spurting phalluses (and talking foxes!) in 2009, before he ended the world in 2011, and before he, in graphic yet clinical fashion, challenged the sexual mores of society and the filmic facsimiles thereof this past year, Lars von Trier made Breaking the Waves, a work that’s as much a remonstration as is its younger brethren. Despite the late public courts decreeing him more a provocateur than auteur – even a hybrid moniker like “provocauteur” feels like a concession of his talents – the confrontational tenor that pervades his films is one that’s distinctly personal, an extension of his own musings on social and artistic orders, his own phobias and anxieties, and his own feelings on what constitutes beauty and amity; his characters often reflect this, bearing the weight of the director’s cognitive crosses as they march themselves perforce toward martyrdom. What’s of important note, however, is that while von Trier readily projects his own traits and concerns unto a protagonist, he’s able to refrain from painting himself a sacrificial lamb – he never truly characterizes by way of surrogacy. Thus, his films take the form of largely candid but wholly exotic outlets, works that are imbued with a certain intimacy even when at their most oblique or didactic; to find appeal in von Trier’s cinema is to realize that his essayist intellectualism and his coarse humanity are complimentary tendencies of the same persona.
Though jarringly oblique in way of presentation, Persona is a work that’s brimming with tidy cases of contrast, ostensibly neat binaries whose borders are purposefully blurred as if to make broader points – or perhaps, to raise broader questions – about the ambiguity surrounding reality and the ways we define it. As humans, our communal sense of history has allowed us to accrue more than a few modalities for communicating our initially ineffable experiences on Earth, and director Ingmar Bergman makes it a point to underscore several of these methods throughout his 1966 “art house” prototype: His camera lingers and focuses upon gestures and the unconscious dance of hands; faces are featured in penetrating close-up to bring forth the kind of expressional wrinkles that we ourselves are blind to; and variegated methods of human invention, from letters to theater to radio to film to television, make cameos that evince how acts of art and creation have come to shape, even dominate, our concept of existence. But such examples of conveyance, particularly the manmade tertiary group, are mere constructs, and it’s important to note that Bergman understands and utilizes them as such. His film makes it not a point to explore these modes of communication, but to demonstrate the complexity and sophistication with which we attempt connection and empathy through them.
It’s a paradoxical body, the filmography of David Gordon Green, a collective that’s oft regarded as something in a near dependable state of decay. Immediately peaking with George Washington or perhaps All the Real Girls, the theory goes, the director slowly fell victim to a clot of expectations and misgivings, eventually coming to favor illusorily safe narrative choices over the somewhat naïve, though no less poignant, rhapsodic lilts that typified his earliest works. The idea here is that vocational experience is supposed to beget formal refinement, which in turn should beget expressional maturation. But this criticism, like many other reductive exercises, is great with fault. Envisioning a strictly linear interpretation of progress, the suggested notion posits a rather capsular view of how artists develop, ignoring, if not outright rejecting, the complexity and dynamicism of the individual. While fiscal burdens and critical pressures may help to curtail some of their more audacious tendencies, a filmmaker is ultimately a multifarious and evolving entity – even, yes, a human being; to decry thematic or ambient shifts in their oeuvre is to assume motive, and moreover, romanticizes the notion of personal stagnancy.
I have two personal problems: I am a masochist when it comes to watching terrible gay movies, and I have a tendency to compare every gay film to Andrew Haigh’s brilliant Weekend (2011). Unfortunately the latter informs the former since I am under the firm belief that no gay film will ever be as perfect as Weekend…but that doesn’t mean that I still won’t endure the tackiness of these films. When I heard that Darren Stein’s G.B.F (2013) was coming to a local theater, I decided to watch it alone (out of embarrassment for watching a film that I openly criticized). After this first viewing (along with multiple subsequent viewings), I found myself enjoying it, much to my own chagrin.
Rush from Ron Howard is quite simply a cinematic experience. This is a boys own adventure story built around the intriguing world of Formula One and the sport’s stereotypical elements of fast cars, playboy drivers, willing groupies and intense rivalry. The thing is though that amongst these extremities of life lies an almost unbelievable truth, a story that is so laden with fantastically uplifting and tragic moments that surely it must be exaggerated?
I like zombies. I like them slow. I like them slightly clever. The zombie flick will never die, nor will it ever go away. It’s the monster that keeps coming back up at the end of a classic horror film. You open the door to a brand new day, and oops, zombie: the ubiquitous comment on a decaying consumer society right in your face. When Zombie Night came across my cluttered desk, it was like a breath of fresh air. While endlessly try to come up with new words to express the underrepresentation of minorities and mixed genders in Hollywood, here comes a movie that could’ve changed all that. After a bottle of wine the night before and a half a cup of coffee left in my mug, zombies were indeed my kin.
…where vocal training comedy means make or break. One woman must face up to her abilities and tackle an entire industry head on. Director, writer and star Lake Bell is the woman in question. Her comedy feature offering marks her as detrimentally different to her contemporaries. The likes of Lena Dunham and Rashida Jones have given the film industry a run for its money recently with their unrivalled successes. Revolutionaries like Nora Ephron, who took the multitasking variety of the film industry by storm, are the new prototypes for innovative filmmakers making waves. Lake Bell is one of the incredibly few actress/models that divert their careers in the direction they want to take them in. In a World… is entertaining, hilarious, charismatic and one of a kind, more than the trailer lets on.
There are times when a film struggles to evolve past its premise. Coming up with an original idea does not necessarily mean you have set yourself up for success. A fantastic premise can be undone shockingly quickly, especially when said premise resides in an area of the ridiculous and obscure. I don’t care how fantastic your idea sounds, if you don’t have a solid script it will all just fall apart. Even the best comedic actors will have trouble eliciting laughter from unfunny jokes. Let’s not forget that Brewster’s Millions had both Richard Pryor and John Candy, or better yet, let’s. Bad Milo! has a lot of potential but seems too distracted by the kid in the corner screaming “butt monster” over and over again.