Friday - December 13, 2019
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Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

 

The Doughnut Hole

December 8th, 2019

Making a movie is hard. Making a good movie? That’s really hard. Making a good mystery? These days that appears to be damn near impossible, given the relative scarcity of mysteries. Horror movies, superhero flicks, action, and dramas are all doing well in theaters and multiplexes. A good old whodunit? They’re a rare breed. But why? Is it because, as a society, we’re dumber? I imagine that some people of a certain age would sneeringly point to Millennials and the rise of social media and claim their attention spans have been irrevocably damaged.* Yet the average American reads somewhere in... Read More

The Man Who Painted Houses

December 1st, 2019

What is cinema? Is cinema only cinema when you’re watching it in a movie theater? While their methods have changed throughout the years, ultimately a sculpture remains a sculpture and a painting stays a painting. Most of the arts have resolutely remained themselves, but cinema has a kind of protean quality, whether its worshipers choose to admit it or not. Consider that the first movie theater opened June 19, 1905, in Pittsburgh. 96 seats were dragged into an empty store located on Smithfield Street, and when it opened, admission was a nickel. At their height, theaters bore the more grandiose... Read More

Go Like Hell

November 24th, 2019

One of the keenest pleasures found in moviegoing is that of competence porn. A great comedy can flood your brain with endorphins, a solid horror movie can unnerve you days after you saw it, and the right drama can restore your faith in the essential decency of humanity. Even the much-maligned superhero genre can, when executed properly, provide viewers with something mythic. That’s all well and good, but I really dig films about smart people doing a particular job with intelligence and competence. Consider Apollo 13, a film I absolutely adore. On the one hand, I understand perhaps 25 percent... Read More

Eat The Rich

November 17th, 2019

“Someday, even the experts will figure out, that crime is not caused by rap music…or even my music, but by a power structure of self-absorbed property owners so brain dead and stupid they won’t even see that if you’re too goddamn greedy to pay taxes for schools and services, they’re not going to be any good anymore! And that uneducated time bombs are a very poor investment as a future workforce. And if you go on teaching people that life is cheap, and leave them to rot in ghettos and jails, they may one day feel justified in coming back to rob and kill you. Duh!” Jello... Read More

This Franchise is Terminated

November 10th, 2019

Sometimes it feels like franchises never end. There’s a bunch of films in the Fast and Furious series, the James Bond movies have been trucking along since 1962, and the MCU will end at roughly the same time that our sun goes supernova and wipes out all human life on our fragile planet. But franchises end. Consider the little-remembered Francis the Talking Mule series. Based on a 1946 novel, seven films were made during the 1950s about a mule in the Army that could talk. Presumably, they were profitable—for a while, anyway. As time went on, audiences either a) searched for new diversions in... Read More

A Comedy of Terrors

November 3rd, 2019

Anything can be funny, right? There are two schools of thought, there. The first is the theory that anything has the potential to be amusing. Comedy is all about puncturing bubbles of pretention, going after targets that deserve skewering. As long as the joke teller is punching up instead of punching down, the only limitation is their imagination. The other school of thought is that some subjects are too sacrosanct to be mocked and to even attempt them is, at best, in poor taste. We wouldn’t dream of making fun of the Nazis, right? Ah…as a matter of fact, we would! There’s a long and... Read More

For Those in Peril on the Sea

October 27th, 2019

The worst job I’ve ever held was working in an aluminum factory. I’d gone through a nasty divorce and needed a job immediately. The workers at the local aluminum factory were on strike, and the facility was hiring scabs. You didn’t need to be qualified, or even particularly intelligent. You just needed to be smart enough to not accidentally light yourself on fire. Being in a position of serious financial jeopardy, I immediately jettisoned my principles and crossed the picket line.* My job didn’t require much in the way of finesse or analysis. It was simple—I’d stand in front of a foundry... Read More

Remember the Rules

October 20th, 2019

If you went back in time and told the younger version of myself that a) there would be a gigantically popular TV series about the zombie apocalypse and b) that I would have tapped out on it after the third season, Younger Me would have immediately called 911 and had you arrested with extreme prejudice. Consider that The Walking Dead began as an independent comic book. Now, it’s getting started on its 10th season, has one current and one upcoming spinoff series, and there’s talk about releasing three connected theatrical films. To paraphrase a former Vice President, The Walking Dead is a big... Read More

Battle of Wills

October 13th, 2019

Some movies only require a script, actors, and a camera. A good and tragically underseen example of this is 2018’s The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, a thriller following an ex-cop investigating a police funeral and his suspicion that the shooter belongs to the same militia he does. It’s a great film that had an estimated budget of $450,000. Costs were kept low by keeping the locations modest. It also helped that the vast majority of scenes were essentially guys talking to each other in rooms. It’s a great film due to smart writing, efficient direction, and strong acting. Does the fact that... Read More

I Started a Joke

October 6th, 2019

“So, when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your head where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit. You can just step outside and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away…forever.” That dialogue is from The Killing Joke, alternately the best and worst story about The Joker ever written. On its face, the story is simple. The Clown Prince of Crime has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon, and his plan is to drive Gordon mad, proving to both him and... Read More