Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Revisited: Steve McQueen Discusses the Politics of the Body in "Hunger"

A complete unknown in the film a few years ago, Steve McQueen has become an art house and festival favorite with only two films. This week sees the release of his highly anticipated film, Shame, which stars Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in New York. The film (reviewed at the New York Film Festival here) marks the second collaboration between the director and actor. Their first film, Hunger, debuted in 2008 to critical raves and won Mr. McQueen the Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for best debut feature. Below is a piece on Mr. McQueen written during the film’s US release in March 2009. Hunger is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection, and I highly recommend it to anyone compelled about Shame.

Despite a similar name, director Steve McQueen is not the same one who rode the motorcycle in The Great Escape. The Black British artist has been working in visual arts for many years, but Hunger, a devastating and brutal film about the 1981 Irish Republican Army Hunger strikes led by Bobby Sands, is his first feature film. Lunged over in his chair with an astute pair of glasses, Mr. McQueen spoke sternly at the Meatpacking District Hotel where we met, occasionally sipping on a fresh tea and taking long pauses before every answer. Mr. McQueen explained that this was a story he needed to tell, “Young people talk about Abu Grahib and Guantanamo but don’t even know what happened in their own backyard 27 years ago.”

            Hunger is a mostly silent film that tells the story of the people within a prison known in the United Kingdom as “The Maze,” where a number of IRA prisoners participated in a series of dirty protests (no cleaning or shaving) and eventually turned into a hunger strike. The purpose? To regain their status as political prisoners, instead of simply regular criminals.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

(Not) Talking Movies: Michel Hazanavicius Discusses "The Artist"

            It may comes as a surprise, but the front runner for this year’s Oscars is a black and white silent movie from France with no movie stars. However, it is an homage to the classic Hollywood era, full of references to masterful films and featuring the glamour of the 1920s. That’s the conceit of The Artist (reviewed here), a film from French director Michel Hazanavicius. His previous films include two spy comedies called OSS 117, which starred Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, who here star as two actors who must deal with the coming of sound as Hollywood transitions. Earlier this year at the New York Film Festival, the director and stars, along with the producer Thomas Langmon, discussed the bold project to bring silent film to a mainstream audience.

The origin of the project

Michel Hazanavicius: The first impulse was to make a silent movie, and I felt it was not something so easy to connect with. Just talking about making this movie, people were saying to me, “Why do you want to make a silent movie?” And the answer was, “Well I want to” but it was not enough. So I had many options for a script—well, maybe two options—but one of them was this one. I think it was maybe easier for to accept to watch a silent movie if the subject is a silent actor.

Collaborating with the same actors

MH: They inspired me—both of them. When I met Thomas [Langmon], he really wanted to make a movie with me. I said, “Okay; we can make a movie together, but I want to make a silent movie.” And he said, “Okay.” And then I said, “I want to do it with Jean, Berenice, Guillaume, who is the cinematographer, and Ludovic, who wrote the music composer.” And he said, “Okay.” So they really inspired the characters and I used them in the writing and I really wrote it for them.

Producing a silent movie

Thomas Langmon: Well I had a lot of concerns. But I thought, maybe, yes today, with such a gifted director and my adoration for Michel, I wanted to work with for a long time, I thought yes. When he spoke about making a silent movie, I thought, especially for a producer, “Silent…black and white…” well that’s really not what’s expected…But I thought Michel could succeed in making a silent black and white movie with this love story and if we had to chance to set it in Hollywood to work with American actors, people who wanted a very small part, then it would make it real and with the talent of Michel, it would then make a very good movie.

Hugo: The Past, Present and Future of Cinema, All Collided Into One

Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: John Logan, based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Mortez, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Jude Law
Director of Photographer: Robert Richardson, Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker, Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Original Music: Howard Shore
Rated: PG           

            In 1989, film history Tom Gunning wrote a highly influential essay entitled “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde.” Mr. Gunning examined how film historians had written about the early yore of silent cinema and its push toward narrative cinema. But he proposed that the attraction of the works of Thomas Edison and the Lumiere brothers was not based on seeing stories, but seeing things move. The cinema itself, the spectacle of movement, was its primary attraction. Stories came later; cinema was born out of this attraction of the possibilities of cinema could show or do anything we could think up.

            It is this love of spectacle that has obviously drawn Martin Scorsese to make one of his most ambitious, pictures of his career and one of his most self-conscious films. Hugo, an adaptation of a young adult novel by Brian Selznick looks like a strange departure for a director as it follows a story of a child in somewhat of a fairy tale. But Hugo is much more than that, a bold, genre-crossing picture that is both narrative and spectacle, and ultimately a film essay on the importance of the origins of cinema, and the need to preserve classic film as well.

The Muppets: The Rainbow Connection to the Past

The Muppets
Directed By: James Bobin
Written By: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, based on the characters created by Jim Henson
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Chris Cooper, and the Muppets
Director of Photography: Don Burgess, Editor: James Thomas, Production Designer: Steve Saklad, Original Music: Christopher Beck, Original Songs: Bret McKenzie
Rated: PG for Muppet related humor.

            Gonzo. When I was a kid, my hero was Gonzo the Great. I was weird, and a bit crazy, and identified with the big, blue-nosed lunatic that always dreamed of become a great daredevil, though always failing. How could you not love such a dreamer?

            Heck, how can anyone not love the Muppets? The fantastic puppet creations by Jim Henson started with their SNL-like sketch show in the early 1970s, going on the inspire countless movies (three considered canon, the rest with their moments of comic genius but most forgettable). Since Mr. Henson’s death in 1990, many thought the Muppets have become the great comics of a past generation, relics of a forgotten era. But one only needs to pull up Youtube videos of Fozzie’s stand-up, Animal’s drumming, or Honeydew’s lab for proof that their comedy is timeless.

            In an age where our comedy has become much more cynical, could the Muppets find a place? That’s the hope of the latest film, simply titled The Muppets. The film is the brainchild of Forgetting Sarah Marshall duo Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who you may remember ended that film with a puppet musical of Dracula. It’s obvious from the first moments of their latest film that Mr. Segel (who stars along with the delightful Amy Adams) and Mr. Stoller are Muppet devotees, and their great nostalgia shows along every frame of this film. In fact, few films are more nostalgia whoring than The Muppets, which means fans of those guys will go bonkers for this latest iteration, which I sure as hell did.

The Artist: Smiles of a Silent Era

The Artist
Written and Directed By: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, and James Cromwell
Director of Photography: Guillaume Schiffman, Editors: Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Original Score: Ludovic Bource
Rated: PG-13 for the only silent way to swear and a few disturbing images.

            The opening scene of The Artist, a mainstream delight shot in a very classical matter, is one of the film’s many in-jokes, as we see a handsome man being electrocuted in a chair. “Talk!” scream the men torturing him. Well, they don’t scream it—a title card tells us that’s what they are shouting as their mouths open but we here only the chimes and whistles of Ludovic Bource’s score. Soon enough, the film cuts out to a full-house theater watching the silent flick, but the illusion doesn’t stop. When the audience screams, the only sound is violins, and when the applause comes at the end, we hear only the joy of silence.

            The Artist is an homage to the good ol’ era of silent filmmaking made in the style: black and white, 4:3 aspect ratio, title cards for dialogue, and (save for two smartly used sequences) only music to take us through the narrative. It is of course also an extremely self-aware film, following two movie stars at transitional periods of their lives in the heyday of Hollywood. The director behind this project, however, is a Frenchman named Michel Hazanavicius, and the two stars, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, are French as well. But just because they don’t come from the US doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate the day when words meant nothing and gestures and expressions were at the heart of Hollywood.

Rampart: A Monster Ordered to Protect and Serve

Directed By: Oren Moverman
Written By: James Ellory and Oren Movermann
Starring: Woody Harrleson, Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty, Steve Buscemi, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Ice Cube, Anne Hesche, and Brie Larson
Director of Photography: Bobby Bukowski, Editor: Jay Rabinowitz, Production Designer: David Wasco, Original Music: Dickon Hinchliffe
Rated: R

            Rampart begins with a series of profile shots of police officer Dave Brown driving through the streets of Los Angeles. Sporting a pair of black shades with gold rims and often one (and sometimes two!) cigarettes in his mouth, we get a good look at a man who we can’t see because those shades create a mirror. Who is this man behind the glasses and why is he so angry? But you can’t explain what drives “Date Rape” Dave, a nickname he got for allegedly murdering a known rapist. He simply exists in a world where he believes his corruption is not just legally fine, but the invisible hand of justice, where he is detective, court, and executioner, all tied into one.

            And so begins a violent and often brilliant new drama from writer-director Oren Moverman, who last brought us the intense war drama The Messenger. Here, Mr. Moverman has teamed up with the legendary pulp novelist James Ellory (The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential) to bring us a story of justice run completely amuck, but without any heavy hand giving us some liberal message about it. Rampart takes it title from the infamous scandals in the LA Police division in 1999, where the film takes place, but Mr. Moverman and Mr. Ellroy move the story to instead a fictional man who is coming in much too close contact with both physical and mental demons.

Tyrannosaur: Power in Faith; Peril in Reality

Written and Directed By: Paddy Considine
Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and Eddie Marsan
Director of Photography: Erik Wilson, Editor: Pia Di Ciaula, Production Designer: Simon Rogers, Original Music: Dan Baker and Chris Baldwin
Rated: Unrated, but brutal violence and explicatives throughout.

            Bad things are all around the world of Paddy Considine’s Trannosaur, which begins with a dog being kicked to death and ends in bloody violence. The gray skies pepper this grisly drama that is more of a punch to the gut as it observes the lives of two people living in a brutal world. Mr. Considne, a great actor known for roles in In America and The Bourne Ultimatum, brings the same aesthetic to his writing and directing as his acting: everything is raw and unfiltered, as he explores a story of faith.

            The film begins with Joseph (Peter Mullan), slowly banging a bat against his head, as if trying to smash the demons of his past back into his head. Joseph lives alone in a small English town (as someone mostly unfamiliar with the country, it’s very difficult to say if it’s a particular region) where he mostly drinks, swears, and beats people to a bloody pulp. His only friend is a young kid who lives across the street with an unsympathetic mother and a dangerous boyfriend. After one particularly nasty day, Joseph runs into a donation store where a middle-aged Christian woman named Hannah works.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Dangerous Method: Crumbling the Mind, Not By Machines But Words

A Dangerous Method
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: Christopher Hampton, based on his play The Talking Cure, adapted from the novel A Most Dangerous Method by John Kerr
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson, Kiera Knightly, and Vincent Cassell
Director of Photography: Peter Suschitzky, Editor: Ronald Sanders, Production Designer: James McAteer, Original Music: Howard Shore
Rated: R for psychoanalytical perversions

Cinema and psychoanalysis have a long history together, as the new technology and the striking new school of thought both began and evolved during the turn of the 20th century. And since the 1970s, psychoanalysis has been used in film theory to explore cinema in new light, where characters once thought to be crazy are instead explored within their Freudian terms of wanting to return the womb or whatnot (Classic Hollywood seems ripe with metaphors for sex looking back).

            So what can we infer about the makers of psychoanalysis? That certainly sounds like an interesting question for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, a stately and often involving piece on the history of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, as well as the woman that changed everything. On first appearances, Mr. Cronenberg, known for his more graphically violent films from Videodrome and A History of Violence, might seem like the wrong choice for this imperial work from screenwriter Christopher Hampton (adapting his own play The Talking Cure, which was adapted from the book A Most Dangerous Method by John Kerr). But thematically, this is a work through and through by Mr. Cronenberg, who explores how an idea, the psychological, can transform, disfigure, and infect the body.

My Week With Marilyn: Dancing With A Star

My Week With Marilyn
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Written By: Adrian Hodges, based on the books My Week with Marilyn and The Prince, the Showgirl and Me by Colin Clark
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Julia Ormond, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson, Judi Dench, Toby Jones, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper, Zoe Wanamaker, and Derek Jacobi.
Director of Photography: Ben Smithard, Editor: Adam Recht, Production Designer: Donal Woods, Original Music: Conrad Pope
Rated: R for some naughty language and business, but that’s why you love Marilyn, isn’t it?

My Week With Marilyn, a messy comedy of sorts that’s more enamored at its star than it needs to be, opens with a recreation of a song and dance number from There’s No Business Like Show Business. There’s Marilyn Monroe, all jazzed up, singing “Heat Wave.” We then break out of the film and into the theater, where we follow the young face of Colin Clark. He looks up in awe in the way that plebeians love to glorify stars, and if you don’t understand his love, then you can’t understand Ms. Monroe.

            That’s not to put down a star that made splashes whether on screen or off, becoming one of the most recognizable names and faces of her era. Like Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, My Week With Marilyn attempts to view a giant through the eyes of a small man who can only see the genius. The similarities end there, despite a tonal disposition to direct everything with a light foot and a skip through the wind. Some of this comes from issues with the script by Adrian Hodges, based on a pair of memoirs by Mr. Clark (yes two whole memoirs for one summer with a star!) and director Simon Curtis, who isn’t exactly sure how to handle the more serious moments. But much of the issue is the perspective of the film itself, which throws the titan on such a pedestal of genius that its attempts at more human moments of the star feel more crass than authentic.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Under the Skin: David Cronenberg and Michael Fassbender on "A Dangerous Method"

            Since early masterpieces like Videodrome and The Fly to more recent hits like A History of Violence, director David Cronenberg has been getting under people’s skin through his psychologically disturbing works of cinema. His latest film, A Dangerous Method, takes the subject of the psychological and the physical body directly, as it follows the story of Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and their early work, as well as patient of Jung’s, a hysterical Russian named Sabina Spielrein (Kiera Knightly). Although it seems like a departure for the director—a period piece that’s more talking and without any disturbing violence—A Dangerous Method is dealing with many of his favorite subjects. During the New York Film Festival, Mr. Cronenberg sat down with screenwriter Christopher Hamption (Atonement) and Mr. Fassbender to discuss the bold new project.

The gestation of the project and its different forms

Christopher Hampton: It was first written in the mid to late 90s, as a screenplay called Sabina for 20th Century Fox and Julia Roberts’s company. It floundered in the way screenplays usually do, but it seemed too good of material to not take further. I turned it into a stage play called The Talking Cure, which we did in London and the National Theater with Ralph Fiennes. About a year or so later, I had a call from Mr. Cronenbeg, who said “I think it might make a film.”

On the material changing from the original script to the final version

CH: To start with, the film was called Sabina because it was mostly focused on Sabina Spielrein. But in between the original screenplay and the stage play, it dawned on me that it couldn’t be Sabina, but had to be Jung. So there was quite a shift on emphasis. The work that I did with [Cronenberg] had to do with refining it and sharpening it and honing it.

On working on another film about sexual perversion of the body

David Cronenberg: That doesn’t sound like me—I think I’ve made a lot of comedies actually (laughs). I don’t really think about my other movies at all, frankly. I don’t think about what I’ve done at all. When I decide to do something I’m passionate about it, I’m only interested in realizing that particular thing. I don’t think about if it fits in with anything or if I’ve done it or not. 

I think when I read Christopher’s play—I’ve never seen it performed—in retrospect, I’ve always wanted to do something about Freud and the birth of psychoanalysis. But to say that isn’t to say anything really because it’s such vast topic full of incredible characters that surrounded the birth of psychoanalysis, all of them really eccentric and wonderful. What I saw in Christopher’s play was this really fantastic structure that distilled the essence of the era and the psychoanalytic movement into primarily five characters. That was a structure that could allow me to play with that topic. I also have to point out that the first movie I ever made, Transfer, was about a psychiatrist and a patient.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Descendants: Crisis in Paradise

The Descendants
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By: Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, and Judy Greer
Director of Photography: Phedon Papamichael, Editor: Kevin Tent, Production Designer: Jane Ann Stewart
Rated: R for naughty language, often coming out of the most unexpected places.

Clouds always seem to hang over the luscious sky in The Descendants, the first feature length film from Alexander Payne since his wine-country comedy Sideways. The film, set in Hawaii, is full of gorgeous sun-soaked beaches and tropical landscapes, but those clouds always seem to hang a shadow in the land. It seems apt then that our protagonist, Matt King, calls out the absurdity of the island’s image of the land of perpetual happiness. “Paradise can go fuck itself,” he exclaims in the opening voiceover.

           The Descendants is a very reserved and often fascinating maturation for the director of usually much more bizarre comedies like About Schmidt and Election. The film, which stars George Clooney among a cast of character actors and breakout unknowns, is a much more nuanced work with melancholic tones, following a man who must come to terms with his identity as a father and a husband. Payne garnered an early reputation as an over-the-top satirist, but he’s always but much better observer of the human emotions that bubble under the surface. The film, adapted from the novel by Kuai Hart Hemmings, may feel like treading along easy territory as it wanders through its loose plot. But as a visual stylist (his best effort yet as a director), Payne presents a slow transition of forgiveness through a portrait of an American family, coming to learn what that word really means.

Into The Abyss: Searching the Eyes For Life Before Death Comes

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
Written and Directed By: Werner Herzog
Featuring: Michael Perry, Jason Burkett
Director of Photography: Peter Zeitlinger, Editor: Joe Bini; Music: Mark Degli Antoni
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material and a few shocking images.

            In an interview earlier this year, Werner Herzog mentioned that almost every film he has ever directed could have been called Into the Abyss. The abyss in Mr. Herzog’s filmography has been both one directed by the physical landscapes his characters often inhabit, but often more the psychological torment they go through while on these journeys. Is it Fitcarraldo’s own madness that drives him to carry the boat over the mountain, or the jungle that commands him? Is Timothy Treadwell simply insane, or does the isolation push him over the edge? And what of that penguin, walking toward certain death alone in Antarctica? Especially as a documentarian, Mr. Herzog has often found the most unique subjects and, through his own philosophical inquiries, transforms what is not just a re-telling of stories but a piercing look into human’s most fundamental emotions. 

            And so, for his film actually titled Into the Abyss, Mr. Herzog has chosen what actually seems like a subject not to his tastes: a story of a Texas Death Row Inmate, his partner serving a life sentence, and the crimes they committed. Mr. Herzog has never been a political figure, and the issue of the death penalty is one that doesn’t interest him. And Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life is in many ways his least Herzogian feature, as the director restrains himself occasionally to simply tell a tale not too different to In Cold Blood.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

J Edgar: Facing His Own Past, A Legend Creates a Man

J. Edgar
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, Jeffrey Donavan, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, and Christopher Shyer
Director of Photography: Tom Stern, Editors: Joel Cox and Gary Roach, Production Designer: James J. Murakami, Original Score: Clint Eastwood
Rated: R for occasional language

            Midway through J. Edgar, a stodgy yet occasionally exciting biopic from Clint Eastwood, the titular legend asks a number of young men, “Who is the famous person of the first half of the 20thcentury?” Of course, we know the name he is searching for: himself. And who can blame John Edgar Hoover for thinking of himself as such a figure? Serving under eight presidents, creating one of the most recognizable organizations in America, and modernizing police enforcement (legally and illegally), Hoover is a figure that I’ve heard many people generations older than me speak with disdain and hate.

            And yet, Mr. Eastwood, working from a screenplay from Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, has made something of a psychological portrait of a man where his personal feelings became his politics. It’s certainly a messy film, attempting to capture over fifty years of history in just over two hours, and Mr. Black has chosen what appears on surface arbitrarily which events to reproduce from the life. But like Mr. Eastwood’s great works, it’s a film that is essentially about the American myth, and about one’s man obsession with trying to preserve history the way he desires, while burying the parts of his past he hates. After the largely bland Invictus and Hereafter, it is Mr. Eastwood's most personal film in some time, quite a statement for a film that takes on such a daunting subject.

Melancholia: A Bang To Replace Our Whimpers

Written and Directed By: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Kirstin Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, and Brady Corbet.
Director of Photography: Manuel Alberto Claro, Editors: Molly M. Stensgaard and Morten Hojbjberg, Production Designer: Jette Lehmann
Rated: R for bringing the truth (sex, language, and more than disturbing imagery)

When describing the filmmaking qualities or narrative strategies of Lars Von Trier, one word shows up again and again: provocateur. The Danish director wants to get inside our skin, distort our comforts, and make us declare his vision of the world as false. This applies not only to his films like Dogville or Antichrist, but also to his personality off the screen. At the premiere of Antichrist at Cannes, he claimed God declared him the greatest director in the world. And this year, at the premiere of his latest film Melancholia, Mr. Von Trier went on a rant that ended by claiming himself a Nazi. Give it, the director was only joking, knowing the Cannes press core would eat such comments up (it did; the jury declared Mr. Von Trier persona non grata). But Mr. Von Trier was really loves watching those reactions nonetheless. This is a director who loves fucking with you.

And thus comes Melancholia, Mr. Von Trier’s latest, and surprisingly restrained examination once again of depression, except this time with a bang. The apocalyptic imagery that surrounds Melancholia not only makes for some moments of genuine shock, but there is certainly much more under this surface as well. Mr. Von Trier suffered from a severe depression in 2006 and has been slowly rebuilding himself as a person, including the blunt instrument that was Antichrist in 2009. But now with some distance, and a real provocation out of the way, Mr. Von Trier has created a more thoughtful approach to not only examining his own depression, but how to fuck with our perception of him as well.

Margin Call: The Calm Before the Financial Storm

Margin Call
Written and Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, and Mary McDonnell
Director of Photography: Frank G. DeMarco, Editor: Pete Beaudreau, Production Designer: John Paino, Original Music: Nathan Larson
Rated: R for usual office language

            Margin Call, a new drama about moments before the financial crisis from newcomer J.C. Chandor, has timed its release either perfectly or terribly, depending on how you consider your political affiliations. In the atmosphere of Occupy Wall Street, Mr. Chandor has crafted a film specifically about the 1%, the men (and one woman) responsible for leading our financial situation into a tailspin in the fall of 2008. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing,” need not apply to these guys—they knew exactly what they were doing as they tried to save the company and their livelihoods. 

            Modeled similar to Dante’s Inferno (we head up instead of down in the corporate world), and loosely based on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Margin Call brings us inside a fateful 48-hour period in a major financial film where bad news is already on its way. As the film starts, two young associates (Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley) look on as HR storms its way into the office, eliminating over half of their floor, most notably their boss, Eric (Stanley Tucci). As Eric leaves the office, he hands a flash drive to Peter (Mr. Quinto) and warns him, “be careful.” A superstar rocket scientist turned financier (for the money—why else?), Peter quickly analyzes the data and discovers the horror in the data: their entire assets are worthless, and the loss they hold is greater than the company’s entire worth.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Like Crazy: Bound Together Despite the Ocean

Like Crazy
Directed By: Drake Doremus
Written By: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, and Oliver Muirhead
Director of Photography: John Guleseria, Editor: Jonathan Alberts, Production Designer: Katie Byron, Original Music: Dustin O’Halloran
Rated: PG-13 for the foolish troubles that happen with first love.

            Allow me to get much too personal for a moment, though it all leads to a point. I dated an amazing girl for quite some time, and it was my first big relationship. There was a point, however, when it was coming to a place where I thought I’d be leaving New York for good, and she would be staying. I began to seriously consider whether our relationship, which had gone on for over a year and a half, was forever, and whether it would be worth it to begin to play the “long distance” game. I thought one of us would get hurt, or make a decision we would come to regret. As it turned out, I stayed in New York, but that conversation with myself never ended, and eventually broke up with her, knowing I was being both unfair to her and myself. Now I’m too young to ever consider myself an expert on love, but all I know is that four months later, the pain still stings. I find myself constantly looking back at the shadows, not because I want to be followed, but just because I want to make sure she still exists out there. First love is impossible to forget.

            So did I find Like Crazy to be a good film about the insanity of love to drives people both together and apart? Not particularly. However, that never stopped me from feeling the emotional sting of every twist and turn, even if they didn’t follow logically. Like Crazy, directed and co-written by Drake Doremus, follows two young, beautiful people as they struggle to stay together under difficult circumstances. The two lovers, played by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) and Felicity Jones (The Tempest), are the bright eyed hopefuls that often inhabit the cinematic space, despite Mr. Doremus’s attempted realism. But damn if I didn’t feel their pain, no matter how silly it may be.

The Wire - Hard Cases: American Dreamin'

The Wire: Hard Cases
Season Two, Episode 4
Directed By: Elodie Keene
Written By: Joy Lusco, from a story by David Simon and Lusco

            The Wire is a show primarily about those we barely notice, and “Hard Cases” is one of the best displays of that theme. There are people all around us that we barely notice as we go about our lives, and it is ever so easy to forget that these people have lives as well. It really shows that this is the first episode in which someone else besides David Simon and Ed Burns have gotten a story credit, that being Joy Lusco (who also wrote last season’s “The Hunt”). Ms. Lusco began her career doing a documentary with her husband Scott Kecken on produce vendors in Baltimore. This is a woman who isn’t just interested in the illegal activities, but the day to day activities. 

            The best story in tonight’s episode is thus the story of Nick, the nephew of Frank, who has sort of come off as a reasonable middle man character so far. Tonight, we get much more of his life. He lives with his parents, who don’t approve of his girlfriend, and maybe don’t even know he has a young daughter. He wants to provide the best for them, and early in the episode gets chastised by Frank for helping Ziggy sell the camera (Ziggy meanwhile continues to be a grating element of the season since he is simply so unlikeable). We get to see the life that Nick grew up, his now alcoholic father and just-barely-with-it mother, and thus decides to reach into some “pocket money.” Nick believes in the American dream, and like we learned in the first moment of The Wire, “This is America, man. You gotta let him play.”