Archives For War Horse

Dear Smug Jerks,

The Hunger Games is not Battle Royale.

Sure, both properties have an authoritarian government forcing teenagers to do battle-to-the-death. And sure, both have serious political undertones and social satire. Nobody can deny this, and I think it’s reasonable to assume Battle Royale, either in film or manga form, was a considerable influence on The Hunger Games.

Other influences on The Hunger Games? The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man, Soylent Green, Death Race 2000, The Giver, and many other sci-fi films and books.

But The Hunger Games is not merely the sum of a bunch of influences. While I am not the biggest proponent of the novels—I find them entertaining, but also quite poorly written—I do think they cover really interesting thematic and allegorical ground in a unique and accessible way.

Continue Reading…

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I don’t like writing about the Oscars. It’s not some hoity toity snobby thing. In general I actually love the Oscars. I mean, I hate them because they’re stupid and meaningless, but I love the game of it all, and I love the passions it sparks, and I love the whole circus surrounding them. I just don’t like writing about them. It feels too formal. It’s a set of awards I don’t actually take seriously, so why should I grant them the permanence of written prose? But this is the internet, and I have a movie blog, so it’s basically obligatory. ON WITH THE OSCAR BLOGGING!

So let’s talk about these nominations. Click to read more.

Honesty in Interviews

January 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

Interviews with actors or writers or directors or anyone involved in film and TV production are a strange beast. On the one hand they can be quite illuminating in terms of the creative and logistical process of making the entertainment we so enjoy. On the other hand, there is almost always a deep artifice to these interviews. They are usually arranged through publicists, and the only reason they happen is to drum up publicity for whatever property needs to be promoted. There’s also the issue of artistic ego and general politeness and all of it combined means most interviews, while partly illuminating, usually aren’t very honest about the work being discussed.

Sometimes, though, you do get honesty. For example, Rian Johnson, director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, has appeared several times on the /Filmcast. He’s often on to actually review and discuss new films, and he has little problem being critical. In one episode, while it wasn’t the main topic of discussion, Johnson talked very specifically about why he did not care for the Coens’ Burn After Reading. I happened to agree with him, but I was also pretty surprised about how forthright he was. Click to read more.

It felt like a bit of a slow week in the blogosphere. Maybe it was the continued talk about 2011, which for me is pretty played out at this point. Maybe it was that other than 2011 films there is nothing good coming out in cinemas at the moment. January is often a dark time to be a film lover, especially when you’ve already watched most of the awards-baiting movies.

I did read a number of great blog posts, though, and I’ve collected my favourites for you.

Click to read more.

I think I need to preface this list by saying that I hate lists. I’ve discussed this before. I had ranking films. It’s the worst thing ever, and it’s almost always arbitrary. I could labour over my rankings for hours and then be switching things back around the next day. But hey, it’s the end of the year and if I’m going to talk about my favourite films, might as well put them in a list, rank them, and earn some praise and scorn.

(As a side-note, I tried to leave off films from TIFF that haven’t gotten a theatrical release yet, but there are a few exceptions in cases where I really wanted to highlight them.)

Also, I think it’s appropriate now to comment on what kind of year 2011 for film. Well, I think it was a pretty phenomenal year, but also an odd one. There weren’t really any films that stood out as obvious #1s, but I think a lot of that is because there were so many amazing films that were all great for very different reasons.

To give you an idea of just how good I thought this year was, while my top film is pretty well solid, any of the films in my 2-15 would likely have been Top 5 level any other year. In fact, there are a couple of films that just missed my Top 20 from earlier this year that I swore would make my Top 10. It’s been THAT good a year. Anyway…

On to the list! Click to read more

“They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.”

That’s the thought that was running through my head after I saw War Horse for the first time. It took a few minutes before I realized the irony of that notion. War Horse is a brand new film, yet it feels so old-fashioned that my immediate reaction was to think of it alongside old John Ford and Frank Borzage movies. I’m not the only one to have picked up on this. It’s been mentioned in almost every review of the film out there. What I found more curious was the reaction of people to the sentimental and melodramatic aspects of the film.

The most common complaints about War Horse relate to its sap and sentimentality. What’s weird to me is that many of these complaints seem to take for granted the idea that sentimentality is a bad quality in a film. How did this become the case? Why is it a bad thing to be sentimental, or sweeping, or even sappy? The way many critics and film lovers talk, you’d think that for sentimentality to be acceptable it has to be couched in raw reality or ambiguity or even an ironic wit and cynicism. It doesn’t make sense to me that films like Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life can be called masterpieces, but War Horse can be taken to task for its sweep and romance. Click to read more

What to Watch This Christmas

December 24, 2011 — 6 Comments

Christmas is a wonderful time. The most wonderful time of the year, some would say. You get together with family and exchange gifts and get mildly drunk. All of these are good things. But what happens after everyone’s eaten, when the drunkenness is beginning to turn into lethargy and the roast ham is taking a severe gastronomical toll? Well, the only thing to do is sit on the couch and watch a Christmas movie. There are the classics, of course. It’s a Wonderful Life has become the gold standard of Christmas classics. Then you’ve got the counter-programming classic, Die Hard. So what to put on? Well, let me recommend some titles: Click to read more.