Monthly Archives: November 2011
As I left the theater after viewing The Descendants, one thing became obvious while overhearing the other patrons’ after-show assessments: the movie they just watched clearly wasn’t the one they were expecting to see. They came to the film apparently anticipating some kind of broad comedy, and based on the advertising, I suppose I couldn’t blame them for feeling that way. But The Descendants isn’t that kind of film, and it was obvious that the other filmgoers, whether they enjoyed for the experience or not, weren’t quite prepared for it. The best classification I can think for a film such as this would be either “dramedy” or “seriocomedy” – emphasis placed on the “serio” – especially when you consider that the film’s chief running joke comes from characters continuously telling the lead character, Matt, how strong his wife is, and how “she’ll pull through” after her serious injury. Of course, that’s the type of encouragement other people give to make themselves feel better. In truth, Matt’s wife isn’t going to pull through, and he knows it, but never lets on. It can be called a joke because it involves someone making a fool of him-or-herself by stating something we know to be ludicrous. But not all jokes, even when told well, should inherently be funny. Sometimes, the best humor is the kind that reveals tensions more than relieves them. Read the rest of this entry
Near the beginning of the film Hugo, there progresses an elongated tracking shot that follows the title character, a young orphaned boy of eleven, as he rushes urgently through the tunnels and up the ladders and staircases that form the inner walls of a Parisian train station. While the marvelous sequence reminded me of director Martin Scorsese’s other films, it also reminded me of a famous and influential essay by scholar Tom Gunning called “The Cinema of Attractions.” In “The Cinema of Attractions,” Gunning postulated that the appeal of the earliest films was based not on narrative, but on the immersive experience that only the cinema could offer. This early, spellbinding shot in Hugo (all the more so with 3D), a film in which the narrative encourages us to remember some of the earliest achievements of the cinema, indeed had as much that same effect on me as the earliest cinema has on its audience, drawing me deeply into the film before its story could even begin. As I sat gazing up at the screen for much of the next two hours, allowing the visuals and narrative both sweep over me, I never felt anything less than fully immersed in what was happening before me, a rare occurrence these days, where even my most rewarding film-going experiences involve some form of conscious disconnection. As Martin Scorsese’s Hugo emphasizes throughout its story, films can sometimes be our dreams made real; this film itself is a testament to that, a true masterwork from one of cinema’s true living masters. Read the rest of this entry
Nearly six months ago, in one of the first pieces I posted on this site, I wrote an essay discussing the film Super 8 and my impression of its marketing. Specifically, I felt the film’s advertising campaign, built primarily around building intrigue for the film’s mysterious creature, and secondarily on nostalgia for old Steven Spielberg movies, seemed to me an ineffectual approach to marketing a poorly defined film, and that had dulled my already limited desire to see the movie. Six months later, I stand by my assessment of that approach, and if anything, I’m even more critical of it now, especially given how much I appreciated Super 8 once I finally got around to seeing it.
I cannot tell a lie; writing this appraisal of the new movie The Muppets means that I must compensate for a certain amount of bias. You see, I love the Muppets, and always have. They were a huge part of my childhood – not only as a source of entertainment, but as part of my cultural development. It was the Muppets who helped teach me to appreciate humor and parody, and their movies were likely some of the first musicals I ever saw. They showed me what irony was, and unlike most cartoons and other childhood entertainments, they taught me that being different and special, as all Muppets were, was far more important that trying to achieve some unattainable perfection. Therefore, when the extremely clever and funny parody trailers for the first Muppets film in years began popping up a few months ago, I was more than simply intrigued; I was genuinely excited. Read the rest of this entry
In one of his works, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Karl Marx famously (or infamously, depending on your view) labeled religion as “the opium of the masses.” As it would later come to be interpreted by theorists, Marx’s use of the “opium” metaphor was a way of describing a condition or system which provided an illusory or tranquilizing effect that inhibited a society from both recognizing and correcting its own flaws. In Marx’s opinion, and again, it was his opinion, he saw general religion as an impediment, something that assuaged and clouded the minds of people, so that they ignored the injustices in their own society. So, instead of seeking to undermine or address their own class inequality, for instance, they might seek refuge in the calming belief of a divine power or in the hierarchal authority of a religious organization. Much later, Marx’s concept of the “opium of the masses” became further expanded upon by later Marxist theorists who tried to ascertain the causes of why the much longed for “revolution of the proletariat” that formed the basis for later Communist and Socialist thought never actually occurred en masse in industrialized society, and in most cases moved beyond the idea that religion alone was the impediment. Antonio Gramsci, imprisoned by the Italian Government as an enemy of the state, penned the theory of “cultural hegemony,” the belief that the ideals of the ruling class become the norm for all. Later, Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, members of the famed “Frankfurt School,” posited that it was the “culture industry” and its creation of mass products of technology, advertising, entertainment, and art that had lulled the mass populace into a sense of complacency. As recently as the early 1970s, Marxist philosopher (and, admittedly, paranoid schizophrenic) Louis Althusser famously formulated his belief that the docile ideology of a people were molded by what he labeled “state apparatuses,” individual cultural forces, such as the government, the mass media, and so forth, of which he claimed the educational system, instead of religion, was the most influential apparatus.
First off, I apologise for what grew into an extended hiatus from this website. It was a largely unintentional action on my part; I ended up becoming extremely busy with other writing work and job hunting in the last month or so, plus I also was somewhat embarrassed by something. You see, when I last posted, I had promised to write about my trip to New York Comic Con. Unfortunately, after going, writing about it ended up being just about the last thing in the world I wanted to do. To be honest, my experiences at NYCC proved to be nothing to write home about…so, simply put, I didn’t. Though to even be more honest, I’d call NYCC something of a personal disaster, for reasons that had to do with the event itself, and for reasons that had to do with me. Read the rest of this entry