Leave it to
eagle-eyed critic Debbie Schlussel to
spot the hand of Al Qaeda in Andre Dubus III’s Oprah-touted “The Garden of Last Days,” which
“sympathizes” with one of the 9/11 terrorists.
Around the time of the moon landing when people were wondering
what Neil Armstrong would say when he first set foot on the surface some
comedian whose name I can’t remember joked that he could make himself a pile of
money if he just shouted “Coca-Cola!” Those were the days. Now such Philip K.
Dickian crass commercialization of space flight is the norm and what’s left of the
final frontier is only on the Sci-Fi channel or in Star Trek sequels.
Far from being tossed onto the trash heap of history, the
Russian Communist Party has recovered very nicely from the downfall of the Soviet Union by entering another field: film criticism.
After ripping “Armageddon” a few years ago because it impugned the quality
of Russian space hardware, they are
taking to task Steven Spielberg’s International blockbuster “Indiana Jones and
the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Because of his many, memorable appearances on screen, Sydney
Pollack, who just died at the age of 73, might
have the been the most familiar of contemporary directors to the average moviegoer. In
most roles (but not Stanley Kubrick’s "Eyes Wide Shut." Yikes!) he seemed that
hardbitten, savvy guy with a heart of gold whom you wouldn’t mind having a beer
with and whom you could rely on to help you out in a pinch.
Who needed drugs back in 1970 when there were peyote-powered
brain bogglers like Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s Performance, Alejandro
Jodorowsky’s El Topo and Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small on the
screen? Those psychedelic, boundary breaking days might be coming back despite the perpetual complaints about the death of independent cinema.
The conventional wisdom says that C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and the movie adaptations of the books offer aproper Christian alternative to the godless moonshine of Philip Pullman’s "The Golden Compass" and the satan worshipping witchcraft of Harry Potter.
But how Christian is it? I’m not referring to the scene in 2005’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in which Father Christmas (that’s Santa Claus, or the Spirit of Rampant Consumerism as he is known to us on this side of the Atlantic) presenting children lethal weapons as holiday presents.
With two grim milestones passed -- the fifth year of war and the 4,000th soldier killed in action -- it would seem prime time for the presidential candidates to push the issue in their campaigns. John McCain, for one, seems to have pretty much taken it for granted that the war has been won (winning = endless U.S. military presence) and is setting the groundwork for a similar intractable, bloody and unrthinkably costly conflict in Iran?xml:namespace>
Anthony Minghella, who died unexpectedly Tuesday at the age of 54
, made some films that were truly great (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”), some that were madly overrated (“The English Patient”) and others that
were deeply flawed (“Cold
Mountain”). In all of
them, however, he demonstrated the same principles: reverence for the art of
film, ambition to push that art to its limits, a sincere humility and an
engaging sense of humor.
Last year I had the chance to talk with director Ang Lee on the
occasion of the release of his steamy, unrated film “Lust, Caution.” Ever the
champion of beautiful young women who appear naked on screen, I asked him if he
was concerned about the impact the film would have on Tang Wei, who engages
with Tony Leung in numerous graphic and anatomically challenging sexual acts.
The heated, ongoing Democratic presidential nomination contest might be an interesting historical footnote, but what really concerns most Americans at the moment is, what’s wrong with Oscar? I thought the ceremony went rather briskly this time, but then again I was also eating pizza, doing the Sunday “Times” crossword puzzle and paying my bills (don’t ask!) while watching.
what a terrific motion picture “Chicago,”
winning the Oscar and all a few years back. But who knew it’s been made into
eight sequels already? Where was I when this happened? We’re already up to “Chicago 10” already and
having seen the movie, I don’t see how it ties in. At least it doesn’t have
Richard Gere tap dancing.
Now, as far as I know, unlike the ill-fated “The Signal,” “Chicago
10” is still in the theaters. So I can run
the lengthy phone interview I conducted with the director, Brett Morgen. And
it’s a good thing, because I think this part animated, part archival recreation
of the events leading up to the anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic
National Convention in 1968 and the subsequent trial of
the “ringleaders” provides some useful services.
I had intended to post a transcript of a fascinating (if I do say myself) interview I conducted with the three directors of “The Signal,”
which is a thriller about a mysterious signal broadcast over every media that
drives people into a murderous frenzy. Frankly, the same thing happens to me
when I see a Head-On or Bob’s Furniture commercial.
I think we can safely say, after watching last night’s Oscars,
that Barack Obama will defeat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential
nomination. Otherwise, how else account for my incorrect prediction in the Best
Supporting Actress category? And there are other reasons as well.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Alain Robbe-Grillet has passed away. Or has he? Given the fluid nature of reality in
his books and films, the permeability of all times with eternity, the
interconnection of every consciousness and fate with one each other and with
none in particular, he may just have moved on to another scene or narrative
line or another movie.