Aug 042013

Not much to say about the movies I’ve seen in the past few months. The worst of the lot were just loud and shiny, exhausting. Logging them in a batch.



The Best of the Lot

Hannah Arendt

A film dealing with a non-dramatic but fierce intellectual conflict. How do you represent a fight that happens in writing between people who compose their words sitting alone and still in their homes? The film doesn’t shy away from showing the stillness. The actress creates intellectual depths. The dialogue offers exposition deftly without condescending. An exciting movie.

Man of Steel (first twenty minutes)

The opening segment of this movie—which offers up a completely imagined alien world ripe with imagery and symbolism and is wonderfully free of geek-dream, Marvel Universe-style exposition—is pretty much the best thing I saw all summer. It is also better than most of the science fiction movies I have seen these past few years. The view-screen technology was interesting and new. Better still, the mammalian insect mount—a live animal, a biological presence in a highly advanced technological culture—and the way the ships echoed this biological model suggested an entire way of life in miniature. Quite an achievement.


Completely Good

Louis Cyr

The ellipses make the narrative work. A scenic biography that moves confidently through the life. 

World War Z

An old-fashioned quest narrative. The narration could have tracked travel using the map device from The Raiders of the Lost Ark without ruining the tone. CGI and frantic violence were there at the beginning but the movie kept toning the noise down after that, finding drama and tension in slowness and silence. The best blockbuster of the summer. (Book log here.)

Children of Men

Beautifully shot and moving vision of a near-future apocalypse. A nice companion piece for teaching The Road.


Completely Okay

The Kings of Summer

This film is about the moustaches. The mystical snake-charming coming of age moment—save the girl!—feels off key but actually shows the movie’s cards. This hour and a half is a wish: “please please please make me an old-fashioned man, tough, competent, primitive and unemotional. So my dad will love me.”


…sur fils plutôt que père.

The Man of Steel (Everything after the young Clark saves the bus)

This movie slowly descends into the mud of too-loud sound design and pointless CGI stupidity. There is plenty here that, I suppose, looks cool—if cool is determined in your belly and scrotum and is pronounced “Awesome”—but nothing makes sense. How much does Superman weigh? Because in this movie, his Mass x Speed = enough force to destroy a mountain. Cool? Maybe but it doesn’t make sense. He takes off in flight and leaves a crater beneath him every single time. Cool? Maybe, but who wants a local hero that destroys your streets every time he moves from one place to another?

In other words, the already exaggerated-out-of-all-reasonable-proportions source story is being even further exaggerated until the whole exercise—and it becomes an exercise in sound and animation—becomes self-defeating. The “realistic” special effects create a completely non-sensical image of our world that is so unreal that you can’t care. Worse, it makes judgment—and important part of narrative—impossible: in what universe does it make sense for a woman looking at a city reduced to cinders (literally) say “he saved us”? I mean what exactly has been saved? And what happened to heroes who prevented damage? There was a time when they did that.

Thought of in another way, the movie suffers from the increasingly common problem a filmmaker setting up a strong opening, that either establishes a sense of place or a strong character or a particular mood, but then has no idea where to go from there. To often, sensation and excess are offered up as if they amounted to narrative resolution.

People laugh about the obligatory happy ending in Classical film, but I’m a bit nostalgic. Today, Hollywood has no idea how to end movies.


Time Wasters (Unless Seen on hot day to have air-conditioning)

The Great Gatsby

Iron Man 3

Star Trek: Into Darkness

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