Tag Archives: Film

Up in the Air…

This week my Missus and I hit the discount Tuesday night at our local mega-plex cinema.  It’s a five dollar ticket.  That’s a pretty nice price for new releases.  (A few weeks back we caught Sherlock Holmes, which I thought was a great time…who knew R. Downey Jr. could still act well? … plus, all those over the top effects looked sweet on the big screen!)

At any rate, we decided to check out Up in the Air.  This is the new Jason Reitman (Juno, and Thank You for Smoking [which I haven’t seen either of!]) vehicle.  This one stars George Clooney and features Jason Bateman.  It’s the film adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel (from 2001) of the same name.  

It seems that this film has suffered from some early branding as a romantic comedy…which it most certainly is NOT.  Now, it’s trying to be re-cast as something other than a “rom-com.”  I hope it succeeds, because it was brilliant.

I must admit, my interest in this was really piqued when I read a stunningly good review in the commie newspaper I read (which is now, sadly, all on line…but still good).  The last film I read a sweet review of in there and watched was The Badder Meinhof Complex, which was amazing (I posted a blog about that film a little while back).  They have a good track record of pointing me in the right direction.  I also heard an interview with Kirn on NPR about the adaptation of the novel to a film.  He said it was NOTHING like the book, but that he liked it a lot and that it was very good.  All of this…plus Clooney.  YES!

In short, SEE THIS MOVIE.  It’s quite well done and it looks way better than I expected.  There are some beautiful shots that illustrate the modernist architecture of many airports in the US.  (Interestingly, the modernatity of design is well balanced with the scattered diasporatic nature of the postmodern really well here, both visually and thematically.  Sound pretentious and wankerish enough for you there?  Sorry…but it’s true!)  This film also serves as a pretty interesting analysis of contemporary capitalism, but not in some overly heavyhanded way.  It shows the elements, and then backs away.

The larger context of the film is about connection and interaction.  I think the play of that element juxtaposed with the larger economic realities of the film (what Clooney’s character does for a living, for instance) is quite interesting.

Aside from being good to look at and interesting in a thematic way, the acting in this film is VERY good.  Clooney, who is a fantastic actor – even when he’s not working with the Coen Brothers now!- is brilliant.  I hate that there is some element of his characterization that I don’t despise, but that speaks to the textured complexity of the film.  In a more characteristic portrayal i wouldn’t have any trouble just hating the Ryan Bingham character that Clooney plays so well.  I think some of the most brilliant moments are when there is no dialogue and Clooney is either still, looking at some element of an airport, or when he is simply acting naturally and having fun at his sister’s wedding. 

Likewise, the performance by Anna Kendrick is really well done.  She acts how someone like her character would act.  It’s refreshing to see that in a movie!  It’s a subtle ability, to have a way of mannerism that so closely resembles the person – or personality- that the actor is attempting to illustrate.  Kendrick does this really well.  Her character also experiences an interesting evolution that I was not expecting.

Finally…Bateman.  This dude brought his A – game.  I was blown away by his performance as the hilariously named Craig Gregory.  He plays a smarmy boss and is believable, not over the top or characteristic.  Perhaps the upsetting thing is that it’s NOT a stretch, a surprise or creepy to see this kind of character be the boss.  It’s pretty gross, but it’s supposed to be.  It works.

I saw this film on Tuesday, it’s Friday and I’m still thinking about it quite a bit.  It was well done and well worth your time.


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Badder Meinhof Complex…


I checked out The Badder Meinhof Complex tonight.  I read an interesting review in a commie rag and thought it might be interesting.  A few impressions…the woman playing Meinhof looked like a very attractive German Tina Fey, which is fine by me.  In fact, most of the cast is very nice to look at.  The movie captures the rock star element of the Badder Meinhof Group and the Red Army Faction.  That is not to say they these folks weren’t terrorists and all of the baggage and issues that accompany that.

One thing that is nice is that the film maker tended to give a rather honest approach.  This is more of a “worts and all” kind of thing.  There are certainly unflattering elements to the story – of course depending on your own political / social outlook – and the film maker shows this.  From the elements of sexism within the group, to the violence, to the random nature of the actions, the story of the Badder Meinhof Group is discussed in a rather even-handed manner.

Likewise the issue of a larger analysis of global issues and larger global struggle is present throughout the film.  That concept, and the idea that resistance can be rooted in deeper, far-reaching issues, as well as localized actions, is explored pretty well. 

This film clocks in at 2 1/2 hours, is interesting, well filmed and worth it.  There is a lot of gritty violence, but given the subject matter it is fitting and done well.  Check it out.

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The Long Good Friday

If you know me, you know that if Morrissey mentions something, even in passing, I’ll most likely look it up.  That’s what happened with The Long Good Friday.  This is the statement in which our boy Mozza drops a mention of the film in question if you are interested… http://true-to-you.net/morrissey_news_071203_02

At any rate, I had actually heard of the film through BBC America.  From time to time they show an edited version.  I absolutely LOVE this movie.  It is a masterful piece of film making, and is equal parts British gangster movie, artistic film exploration and discussion of England on the cusp of the 1980s. 

This 1979 film is set over about 36 hours from the morning of Good Friday until the following evening.  Bob Hoskins creates a masterpiece of his role as a London racketeer who witnesses his firm falling down around him.  It is his intention to keep it together at any cost.  Hellen Mirren plays his wife.  She is brilliant as well.

Hoskins plays the London small time gangster made  big…the last of the famous international playboys, one might say.  Truly, the romance of crime is laced in this film, but it goes far beyond that.  The East London // South London crime syndicates are featured.  Hoskins delivers a wit and charm that simply SHOULD NOT be there.  His character should not have the appeal that he does.  It’s wonderful.  In addition, the film is gripping from the outset, as the rather complex story unfolds in such a manner that the viewer is only half a step ahead of Hoskin’s character.  It is quite fascinating.  I’ve never seen pacing used so effectively in a film.  I must say, however, as an American, the American accents of the two New York gangsters are hilarious.  The one sounds straight up Canadian, and the other is half John Wayne, half Frank Sinatra.  It’s pretty hilarious. 

The social and political realities of a changing Britian are a subtext to this film making it so much more than it could have been.  Masterful film making and superb acting do the rest.   Go see this film.  It’s brilliant.

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The Film Life…

Recently my lovely wife and I took the Netflix plunge.  This has allowed us to start from the beginning and watch the BBC series Hustle (which is FANTASTIC, by the way).  Keeping with that, and I suppose I should mention how much I love a good con-story, we recently watched The Man Who Would Be King. 

This 1975 film, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer is AMAZING.  My wife knows my tastes well and when she said I would LOVE this film she was right on.  This is based on a Kipling short story (which I am now very excited to read) and is the tale of the Raj days in India, of empire, of colonialism, of capital, of Masonic brothers, and much more.  This is a con story that speaksbroadly of the ills of imperialism.  It has all of the insight of Apocalypse Now, all of the poetry of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but with the humor of a skewed buddy picture road film.  Excellent.  See this film.

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Happy Soulstice, (Never Trust a Hippie)

There is a soulstice upon us.  No one can refute the fact.  It’s the shortest day of the year, soon, and then we begin the long, slow crawl back to sun drenched (and at the point where three rivers meet) humidity of a summer about eight months from now.  This is science, folks, not hippie crap.  I feel almost as cheated that the so-called “left” of hippie-dom has taken the ideas of any kind of value in the soulstice (and nature for that matter), as I do that the anti-choice crowd has shifted the debate to refute what we all learned in 10th grade health class about what conception is and when “life begins.” (You know, that pesky science that lets us in on the fact that the zygote needs around 2-4 days to make it to the uterus, and how so many times the zygote never makes it…all that.  So the “morning after” has very little to do with it all.)

At any rate, last night I had a soulstice miracle of my own by watching The Wickerman with some friends.  I’m talking about the 1973 version here.  It’s AMAZING.  I am still so blown away by the film.  Discussion of “the old gods” and all…what a way to celebrate the pre Hogswatch (Hogmanay)!  http://www.hogmanay.net/history/faq 

I’m not sure how The Wickerman went under my radar for so long, but I must highly recommend it.  Please, however, make sure that you find the original 1973 version with Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt and Christopher Lee.  The film really has everything!  It’s wierd and wonderful and creepy and brilliant. 

 I am tired of the hippies getting to have things that are just tradition. 

In other news… 

For inspriration, go here:


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I recently saw the Shane Meadows film THIS IS ENGLAND. 


 Indeed, this is one of the best films I have seen in YEARS.  I got a few good reviews of this from friends, but they always went something like “You’ll LOVE it…it’s so depressing, but you will LOVE it.”  Alas, my friends know my tastes, and they are right.  I do love it and it is depressing.

Meadows tells a “semi-autobiographical” tale of young Shaun, a 12 year old lad (played deftly by Thomas Turgoose) who is struggling with growing up in the wake of his fathers death in the Falklands War.  Through a few rather random events, Shaun becomes involved with a group of Skinheads.  The top boy of this firm, Woody, takes Shaun under his wing and becomes a kind of father figure to the lad.  When Combo, Woody’s friend from the past gets out of jail and comes back to the old neighborhood with some new friends and some new ideas, things change radically. 

This movie possesses all of the intensity of The Deer Hunter for me.  So many similar themes run through both.  THIS IS ENGLAND moves much quicker, however, and has much less violence in it.  That’s not to say that this film has no violence in it.  It does.  That violence is portrayed in a different way.  The themes and inclusion of the youth subcultures of British popular society in the 1980s is very close to my heart.  Indeed, the depiction of these things is done in a fantasically interesting way.  Meadows includes the difficult hypocracy that exists in most subcultures.  He rather embraces them in his depiction of the Skinhead life during the early ’80s revival.  In addition he also does well to historicize the content of the subcultre.  Well done.

Meadows does well to intersperse shots form the Falklands War with the story line he tells.  This makes for some very powerful visual experiences.  Likewise, the film is shot beautifully.   It was shot on location around Nottingham and Grimsby.  The scenes near the water are some of the most evocative.  The visual imagery of the desolation encompassing a young persons life is palpable. 

Aside from being visually amazing, having an interesting, riveting story line and generally being crushing to watch, there are also amazingly funny bits in here as well.  Meadows does well to include scenes that illustrate the tension of certain social and familial situation that often result in awkward silences or stilted dialogue.  This gives the film a realism that is noteworthy. 

I LOVE this film.  See it at all costs.


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the economics of zombification

I love my friends…even when they drastically change the landscape of my daily life.  And they do. 

I’m not much of a horror film fan.  I do enjoy cinema, and I like to see the so-called classics in all genres, but the whole horror thing kind of passed me by when I was a kid.  Many of my closest friends, however, are very into horror films.  Because of this, I’ve been, shall we say, “exposed” to a few films recently that I really never would have watched otherwise.  One of these films is Dawn of the Dead.  Romero directs a classic for sure.  The LOCAL draw was more than anything else for me.  Of course there are multiple shots of Tom Savini running around, AND to my surprise, Tony Buba!  The local Braddock boy made good is a sombrero wearing motorcycle rider!  Crazy.  Buba, the director of documentary work on the decline of the steel industry in Southwestern Penna was also running around Monroeville Mall with Romero et. al tearing the place up!

That is the real point of this discussion.  I mentioned above that my friends change the landscape of my everyday life.  While at the Monroeville Mall I can’t help but think of zombies now.  The shoppers, the stores, the floor…it ALL points back to that film for me.  I work near there, so I end up doing some time killing there…not to mention a good deal of Christmas shopping there! 

Here’s to my friends, for making Christmas shopping an exercise in cultural studies even more than it was before.  Well done.  Sometimes Pittsburgh blows my mind.  Economics and zombies are perhaps too good of an image for this region.  Again, cheers to my friends for crystallizing those images all the more.

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