Though this Q&A doesn’t feature the director of A Separation, Asghar Farhadi, it is still a wonderful discussion of a deep and beautiful film. Give it a watch.
I’ll often sit down to watch a movie and latch onto an actor. Usually an actor I’ve gotten to know through a few movies or TV shows. I look at the performer and say to myself, “that person should be in every movie.” Maybe you get the same way. It’s a curious thing. These aren’t always the very best actors, though they’re obviously ones I’d consider great. They are the people who are often the best part of bad films, or the scene-stealers in any situation. I’ve come up with a bit of a list.
There are others, but these are the ones I have thought about the most, recently. Each of these actors bring something unique to the table, but also seem to fit in even when you wouldn’t expect them to. But I want to go one step further. I’d like to see a movie that brings all six of these actors together. Click to read more.
Today, Matt Singer kicked up a bit of a storm of commentary when he wrote a heartfelt post over at his Indiewire Criticwire blog about extremely sexist comments left on a negative review of The Avengers at Rotten Tomatoes.
If you asked me now, I would observe an interesting coincidence: that eighth grade was also the year when I received the harshest bullying of my entire life.
The abuse I endured wasn’t especially serious, but it was serious enough to understand how bad it hurts to be teased or called a name because of how you look or act. I was less than five feet tall through most of my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I didn’t hit puberty until I was 16. I had big glasses. I wore white sneakers and tapered jeans. I may as well have walked around with a gigantic target on my backpack.
What did I do instead? I found comic books.
What Matt highlights is the message behind many of the very best and most popular comic book properties. These are stories about outcasts, often people who were bullied or suffered traumatic events in their youth, who overcome adversity. These stories are regularly a plea for tolerance and acceptance, of understanding different points of view and coming to terms with those who are different from us. Though they are regularly violent, they usually depict violence as a last resort to stop those who would rather destroy peace than be a part of it. I never really read comic books as a kid, but I was bullied, and I deeply sympathize with Matt’s concerns that these self-described comic book fans have completely missed the point of comic books. Click to read more.
I have been to a number of midnight shows in my time, ranging from Snakes on a Plane to Avatar. I tend to think these “first” screenings lend themselves to some of the best theatrical experiences possible, though it can definitely be a risk. There’s something about midnight shows, a fanatical quality that makes them great but can also make them quite bad.
In many ways, midnight screenings are like the very best film festival screenings. Generally, the people who are willing to drag themselves out to a show, stand in line for a couple of hours and watch a movie until some ungodly hour in the morning are also the people who will be the best audience. Why? Because they actually want to be there. For example, for all this recent talk about allowing texting at the cinema, I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody pull out a phone to text at a midnight screening. That’s the difference between a regular audience where half the people are just there to be passively entertained and a truly excited and engaged audience. Click to read more.
I just listened to a discussion about the death of film on the latest /Filmcast episode. I think the discussion was well-reasoned, and I liked that the guys didn’t take the luddite approach that I feel Scott Tobias mostly advocates. There is a place for nostalgia, but it’s not like we make movies with hand-cranked cameras for that beautiful variable frame rate and flicker anymore. Technology improves and changes and artists change and adapt to keep up.
There is one area that I think they did sort of gloss over, and which I think wasn’t perfectly expressed in the otherwise great LA Weekly article that set off the discussion, and that’s that this whole conversion to digital is being forced by studios for reasons of cost savings, but also sheer laziness. Digital filming and projection is the kind of change that needs to happen, but it can’t be pushed so forcefully before it’s 100% ready. While this conversion is the biggest the industry has seen since the advent of colour, colour film didn’t need brand new projectors and screens and server systems to run. But why would the studios care? The end cost generally falls on exhibitors. The studios give up very little. Click to read more.
Gary Ross announced he wouldn’t be helming the sequel to the mega-smash The Hunger Games, which set off a flurry of speculation. Who would take on Catching Fire? Who should bring the second book in the series to life? A common request was for a female director. There were also tons of requests for impossible choices like Alfonso Cuarón. Now we have the official choice. Lionsgate has offered the job to Francis Lawrence, a name nobody thought to mention in all the guessing.
The initial reaction to Lawrence being chosen was a mixture of ambivalence and general dissatisfaction. I guess people were hoping for a bigger name. I’m not sure what anybody expected. Due to Jennifer Lawrence’s schedule on the next X-Men film, the sequel to The Hunger Games needs to complete principal photography by January next year. That’s not much time. A script has already been written, but any director hired would need to sit down with screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and author Suzanne Collins to shape the film. Then he’d need to get all the pre-production and get a move on with production for a 2013 release. There’s not much time, and it would be practically impossible for Lionsgate to get a bigger name director to agree to those terms. That’s where choosing Lawrence is a brilliant move.
I loves me some Old Testament stories. Forget, for a moment, the debate over their veracity or their divinity. Forget the most boring and didactic sections. Just look at the awesome, grotesque, violent, wild stories. I’m talking the deviant horror of Lot and Sodom, the gruelling moral quandary of Abraham and Isaac, the sexually explicit poetry of the Song of Solomon. So much great literature, and in many instances told with a pointed efficiency severely lacking in other forms of storytelling.
And that’s why we need more Old Testament movies. Sure, there have been tons. Yeah, I know. But I feel like the most known, most serious ones are based on the biggest stories. How many versions of The Ten Commandments are there? Darren Aronofsky is now signed on to make a big-budget version of the Noah story. But where are the smaller stories. And so I have a proposal. I would like to see a string of medium-to-small budget films directed by great auteurs and based on more obscure stories from the bible.
My first pitch? The perfect Tarantino film. Click to read more.
Much has been written about the genre de-construction of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, and lately it seems that the surefire way to be called original or groundbreaking is to approach genre from a vantage of total self-awareness and meta irony. I enjoy this kind of film as much as the next film snob, but I do sometimes tire of this age of irony. On the flip side there are films like The Raid, which receive praise partly for sheer technical craftsmanship, but also for taking genre and bringing it down to basics. Making an action movie? Sure, let’s pay lip-service to character and plot, but then get to the action quickly and keep that action going uninterrupted for as long as possible. Sometimes this approach can be fun, as in the Crank series, but there’s a natural limit to going for nothing but action, and The Raid breaches it. Films like The Raid essentially misunderstand the reasons we watch action films in the first place. Action sequences are great, but they are not an end to themselves, they form the punctuation for story and character. This is something that the Luc Besson-produced Guy Pearce vehicle, Lockout, understands perfectly.
Lockout is not ironic, though its main character certainly approaches situations with casual irony and intense sarcasm. Lockout also contains fairly non-stop action without forsaking narrative or character. But what makes Lockout stand out above and apart from other action films of its ilk is the clear self-awareness, not of the film, but of the filmmakers. Lockout is a wildly derivative work. The plot is basically Escape from New York IN SPACE! The main character, Snow, is basically John McClane boiled down to only his most sarcastic quips. The narrative turns of the film are often ridiculously contrived, and I can’t help but feel key scenes were cut out causing character motivations to lack sense in numerous instances. Some of the action is also really badly done with terrible CGI effects. Yet, through all of these clearly problematic elements, Lockout succeeds at being a solid action film by sticking to what actually makes the action genre work. Click to read more.
So fucking badass.
David Ehrlich’s opinion is a little more nuanced than his above tweet implies. Having read Roger Ebert’s review of the new Jafar Panahi documentary “non-film”, This Is Not a Film, Ehrlich finds it difficult to square that while Ebert offers extremely high praise for the film, highlights no flaws, but still only gives it a 3.5/4. It’s the incongruous gap that bothers Ehrlich. If Ebert agrees the film is amazing, and agrees that it’s socially important, why wouldn’t he give the film 4 stars to grab the attention of more readers and hopefully send more people to seek it out?
It’s an interesting question, and one which leads me to consider the retort: Does Ebert, as an important critical voice with a mass audience, have a responsibility to bolster a film even he might consider “important” in a context outside of cinema? Click to read more.