Written by guest writer Tom Beaver
What are your limits?
If you’ve never experienced anything undeniably catastrophic in your life (bad Internet connections, sketchy cellular reception- these do not count)- then how would you know? Until you reach your outer limits or your “breaking point”- how can you possibly see how you’d function there? What you would do? As John Huston’s villain, Noah Cross, says in CHINATOWN (1974)- “Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place they’re capable of anything.” (continue reading…)
The Shining is probably Stanley Kubrick’s most mind-boggling film, certainly not his best but not far from what its poster heralds as “a masterpiece of modern horror.” Watching the film for maybe the seventh time the other day – but the first ever on the big screen, in a gloriously crisp 35mm print at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox – the film registered to me as droll. Many scenes, thanks to Kubrick’s craftsmanship, sink their hooks in you, while others hang loosely with pin-dropping bemusement. (continue reading…)
There is an important irony that Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (“The Sweet Life” – 1960) signifies a transition for Italian cinema, while its protagonist Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) is ostensibly in one himself. The first refers to La Dolce Vita as Fellini’s departure from Italian neorealism and themes of salvation and grace within a bleak Italian social reality. The second – ultimately the consequence of the first – indicates Marcello’s fruitless stroll through a new Italian reality of stardom and media consumption. The social reality was just as bleak, but it was adorned by Marcello’s self-gratifying, insatiable, and ostensibly pleasurable search for “the sweet life”. (continue reading…)
The ambiguous part about Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), and what makes it fascinating, is the creative gap in the thematic components of the story between the director and leftist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. There is a tale about the Thracian slave’s divine quest to save his people from an oppressive Roman Empire, and concurrently an undertone that scoffs at the absurdity of that mission in a rigidly right-wing empire. (continue reading…)
Laughter in Dr. Strangelove comes from both fear and joy. The film’s entertainment value is paradoxical – we are amused by humanity’s pathetic, fallible efforts to overcome global destruction. With Dr. Strangelove, harmony and perfectibility in America no longer exists and Kubrick demonstrates this realization through a sort of nightmare comedy, a sub-genre where wit and woe coexist simultaneously in a hopeless struggle against the arrival of our doom. (continue reading…)
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is full of dialogue, genre homage, eclectic tunes, and savage violence – typical ‘Tarantinoisms’ – but it’s stuck in a fake-epic deprived of any real forward drive or momentum. It’s even downright mechanical at times, for a lot of what Django Unchained offers early is a basic, personality-hungry inciting incident where its bland antihero and ex-slave, Django (a stoic-faced Jamie Foxx) colludes with German dentist/bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, essentially recycling his Jew Hunter flippancy from Inglourious Basterds). (continue reading…)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey unfolds in blithe fashion, in that Howard Hawks tradition where a small band of characters banter and indulge themselves, while occasionally taking a breather to participate in the plot. There is an objective that drives this unexpected journey – a trip to the Lonely Mountain to obtain a treasure guarded by the sinister dragon Smaug – but at 170 minutes it barely seems like a bother at all. The Hobbit is all journey, little destination. (continue reading…)
Hitchcock (99m) – ***
The Girl (91m) – **1/2
Alfred Hitchcock was a droll filmmaker who mastered the vast landscape of genre films, by prying into their tropes and deflowering them with perversities. He’s a man meant for the cinema, but it’s questionable if the cinema is meant for him. I mean that in terms of a starring role, because he preferred to flash before our eyes. He’s known of course for the quick cameos, most inventively in North by Northwest and Family Plot, but his brevity I believe was for a reason. (continue reading…)
Lincoln is a bold and monumental achievement in filmmaking craftsmanship, and solidifies two irrefutable outcomes: Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor at the Oscars for his role as the United States’s 16th president, and Janusz Kaminski will also take the Academy’s accolade for Cinematography. Both add depth, intrigue, and beauty to what may be Steven Spielberg’s finest, or at least most assured film. Its humanity and politics are remarkably brilliant. (continue reading…)
Only just over a year and another Terrence Malick work has hit cinema’s mainland, sure to polarize populist moviegoers lost in Malick’s conceptual sea. His next film usually materializes out of thin air after a decade’s pass. We never know what (and when!) to expect. A Malick movie is really a cosmic event and last year’s Palm D’Or winner “The Tree of Life” was of equal beauty and splendor. It was on a grand scale visually, but it told a story that was personal, powerful, and spoke bravely on complexly universal grounds.