Archive for the 'Commentaries' Category

This Is It Revisited
Does Purpose Count For Anything?

Choreography Travis Payne says that Jackson’s dancers are “the next generation to help convey his messages, and help continue his ideas; and they are soldiers, in a way.” And what are those ideas and messages? Baby dangling? Crotch grabbing? Myopic, blindered excess in service to tree-hugging environmentalism? Alleged child molestation? Well, not really. Almost all of those faults, crimes, and misdemeanors come through in the hours of material on this DVD. But what drives Jackson—as attested to both in testimonials and in Jackson’s words and behavior, and no matter how misguided his efforts may be—is love.

Bright Star Revisited
A Movie Lovely As A Tree

When young woman-of-privilege Fanny Brawne attempts to “study” poetry at Keats’ feet, she tries to understand it by dissection—as if it were a matter of construction and a collection of choices, and a matter of digesting one great work of poetry after another in order to extract what’s nourishing and move on to the next. But Keats tells her: “Poetry is like a lake, and when the poet jumps into it, his purpose is not to swim immediately to shore, but to luxuriate in the water.” And this is what Campion’s film—and Campion herself, as a cinematic poet—does with the poem “Bright Star.”

No Awards Here… 2008
The So-Called Experts Weigh In

There were 603 theatrical releases in 2008. Of these 603, I actually saw 98 in their entirety. (Of these 98, I reviewed 70.) Of the remaining 405, I edited detailed reviews of another 195. (One film that made my list of favorites for the year, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, ranked 515th out of those 603 in terms of boxoffice. It sold a total of 1,468 tickets.) So out of 603 releases, I am well familiar with 293—less than half of the films released during the year. And I’m reasonably well informed, by critical standards. This is why I continue to be reluctant to offer an opinion about which were the “best” films of the year.

Anatomy of a Christian Approach to Movies
Christian Cinema, Meet PtP

Past the Popcorn, now partnered with Christian, is an attempt to reflect, through criticism, the love that Christ has for artists working in film. We hope to do that (albeit imperfectly) by demonstrating that we at least care what these filmmakers’ works are trying to say—whether we agree with those ideas and worldviews or not. The world knows full well that Christians know how to speak, and how to speak loudly. We’re trying to demonstrate that Christians also know how to listen, and listen attentively. As to the question of whether anyone ought to be seeing any of these films… well, given that Hollywood entertainment is arguably the art-world’s equivalent of crack cocaine, even The Sound of Music can be seductively dangerous.

The Dark Knight Redux
Whence This Perfect Storm?

The more I think about this, the less I think that the film is a defense of shady governmental policies justified in the name of fighting evil. From my perspective, the film is sympathetic to Batman’s decisions, but ultimately argues that his choices remain not only wrong, but fruitless and even destructive. And this, I think, accounts for the broad appeal of The Dark Knight: it is complex, as I noted in my review, yet still remains balanced. It can see our pragmatically-fueled political reality for what it is—without having to come down squarely on one rhetorical side or the other, allowing plenty of room for an audience (and individuals) to react, to think, and to reflect. Such room for thought exceeds whatever biased clap-trap our other sources of political commentary are offering these days. In an election year when major media outlets are turning news into mere entertainment and talking-head blather, mere Hollywood entertainment is offering up one of most meaty analyses of “what interests us and frightens us” that we’ve yet seen.

State of the Art
All Digital, Or All Dinosaur?

In 1970, United Theaters opened the original Southcenter theater—the last 70mm Cinerama-capable single-auditorium moviehouse built in the United States. It seated over 1200, and featured a sloped floor and an 88 by 32-foot curved screen. I specifically remember waiting in line years later to see Raiders of the Lost Ark during my second college summer break. The theater was actually too state-of-the-art, and had trouble finding films big enough to grace its enormous screen; it was demolished in 2002. Thanks to AMC Entertainment, Southcenter now has a new multiplex, the AMC Southcenter 16. So what does state-of-the-art mean these days? 100% digital projection. This theater couldn’t screen a 35mm print if it wanted to… because there are no film projectors!

Prince Caspian Redux
What's Not to Like?

Will the Narnia film franchise continue to position the fantasy genre as the one which best posits that good and evil are real, and matter? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was disappointing in that respect, I thought, because it just seemed too interested in the chase, and the evil it portrayed was too abstract. But I feel Prince Caspian helps the answer to that question be: “Yes… so far.” The question I did not ask, and which I think is culturally less significant, is: Will the Narnia film franchise repeat on film what Lewis already did with the books? That subject really just does not interest me.

The Narcoleptic Critic’s Society
The 2007 Somnolent Awards

When we ran our 2007 year-end lists two weeks ago, Jenn had just been admitted to the hospital for a rather unpleasant 7-day tour… so she missed out on the round up. Fortunately, that has given her an additional two weeks to refine her own selections, just enough material to justify an entire column unto itself. By way of explanation, Jenn attended just over 40 screenings last year—all before a long-in-coming diagnosis of a rare sleep disorder was established. Thus we have… the “Somnolent Awards.”

No Awards Here… Nope!
The So-Called Experts Weigh In

Out of the 611 films released theatrically in 2007, I am reasonably familiar with 294—less than half of the films shown in theaters during the year. And I’m reasonably well informed, by critical standards. This is why I’m reluctant to offer an opinion about which were the “best” films of the year. All I can really talk about with much assurance is which films were the best (by various standards of measure) of the films I actually saw. Bottom line: take it all with a grain of salt… But without further ado, here are our picks for 2007.

Attention Span Theater
The Gnats Appear To Be Winning

As Jenn and I would agree after the screening, Vantage Point represents an increasingly rare breed of film—one that actually demands that you pay attention. If you so much as blink (or glance down to jot notes for your review), you’re likely to miss some salient clue or detail. Now, it would be very hard to argue, empirically, that films have actually dumbed-down or assume that audiences no longer have attention spans longer than gnats; but a lot of industry insiders have strong impressions along those lines. Jenn started noticing the trend herself after interviewing Billy Bob Thornton almost exactly a year ago.

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