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Nathaniel

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Everything posted by Nathaniel

  1. Nathaniel

    The Public Cinema

    Congratulations, Darren!
  2. Riley’s behavior is not "governed solely by" her emotions. Her emotions obviously significantly influence her decisions, but Riley’s decisions are her own. The clearest evidence of this is the way the “control panel” acts on its own, expressing Riley’s choices. There is other supporting evidence as well, but this is the clearest evidence. Beyond that, though, there is also the danger of pressing a metaphor further than it was meant to go. Imagine someone coming to the parable of the sower and the seed and concluding that, according to Jesus, everyone is automatically saved or damned from the outset, because every soil simply behaves like the kind of soil it is, and there’s no way for rocky soil to become good soil — or vice versa. The parable wasn’t meant to explore every aspect of soteriology. Likewise, Inside Out isn’t meant to be a complete anthropology. Mmm, thanks for explaining this. Not sure how I missed such an important detail. It prompts the question: Is the control panel acting on its own, or is something else pulling the strings? And I think we're getting closer to what bugged me about the film: that it wasn't a more complete anthropology, and didn't indicate a world beyond that of emotion. In Socratic terms, the movie only deals with the "spirited" part of Riley, and ignores the reasonable and appetitive. (This is not an invitation to hold Plato's ancient theory of the tripartite soul under scrutiny, by the way--it's just a useful example.) I couldn't help but think how much more entertaining it would be to see Team Reason duking it out with Team Emotion! You're so dramatic, SDG. Of course I was moved by this, though clearly not as deeply as you. But then you've had a few extra years on this planet than I, and have seen your children grow up. Give me time. In fact, the bit that got to me was the sacrificial Bing Bong fading into nonexistence, a moment of pathos worthy of A.A. Milne. And if you've read Milne, you'd know that isn't a backhanded compliment.
  3. Not to draw undue attention Brody's review, but he makes some salient points. For instance, I agree with his frustration over the absence of other, equally basic emotions (whither surprise? trust? vigilance?) and reject its central premise: that our behavior is governed solely by our emotions. Note that these emotions are also curiously endowed with reason, and are themselves rather emotionally complex. At the heart of the matter, though, is a difference in world view. Brody may be secular by admission, but he appreciates religion as a category and has an understanding of fallen human nature, in which "doing dumb and nasty things is sometimes the only way to feel alive." (Did you follow his link to a letter by Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne? Provocative stuff.) If I were to guess at Brody's aesthetic system, I might say that he is a Gnostic in the tradition of Harold Bloom, only his sensibilities are of course cinematic while Bloom's are literary. His criticism is often ecstatic and visionary; he seeks to set human beings free from the mass deception of factory made claptrap, favors individual "genius" over art by committee, and gets all huffy when a popular film fails to live up to these standards. Hence his hostility toward this sweet, clever, yet possibly mediocre family film. His vitriol is all the more acidic since the film is slanted toward children, who will accept the film's "insipid virtue" uncritically. I think Brody's approach to film has some grave implications, but I won't get into that now. I'll just say this in his defense: he keeps you on your toes.
  4. It's a strange thing, the contours of the human heart. I sat stone-faced through most of Inside Out, yet this sentimental 7-minute sketch about a lonely Hawaiian volcano nearly shredded my skeptical faculties. Thank goodness for that pat ending!
  5. I've just returned from this movie, and I'm more interested to hear what everybody thought of Lava, which at one point seems poised to deliver one of the most devastating codas since A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but which, as if suddenly perceiving the full horror of its cosmic vision, promptly retreats from the abyss.
  6. ... and Bruce Beresford enters the canon. The question on everyone's mind: Will Driving Miss Daisy make it?
  7. Cushing spoke out against spiritualism in interviews, so it would surprise me to learn that he was himself a practitioner, although he employed it as a motif in one of his greatest performances: Mr. Grimsdyke in Tales from the Crypt. I found an excerpt from an interview that deals with the creation of that character. Cushing and Lee were longtime pals, of course, and Lee pays lovely tribute to his friend in his autobiography.
  8. I think I know the one, Attica. In partial response to the success of The Devil Rides Out, and to the counterculture's growing interest in the occult, Lee set up a company, Charlemagne Productions, and produced exactly one film, Nothing but the Night, in 1973. Lee claims the film failed because it was "ahead of its time." But Charlemagne lives on, mostly as a platform for Lee's awesome symphonic metal music. Cushing was a very private, impeccably English gentleman, and so his faith in God remained a vital yet unproclaimed part of his life. But evidence of his faith (and Lee's) can be sensed in their vigorous depictions of evil in their films, and of their insistence on a moral reckoning for such wickedness.
  9. Favorite pagan in film: Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man Favorite Christian in film: Christopher Lee as the Duc de Richleau in The Devil Rides Out (in the top ten, at least)
  10. I used to read lots of film criticism. In high school, it was Roger Ebert. During my college years, the capsule reviews of Dave Kehr and Jonathan Rosenbaum for the Chicago Reader were a key discovery in my development as a cinephile. (Often, they forced me to examine why I disagreed with them so violently.) Then, shortly after school, I discovered the writing of Duncan Shepherd of the San Diego Reader. When he retired in 2010, I lost the most profound influence on my taste and writing. Richard Brody is now my egghead critic of choice; I don't read anybody else consistently. (Although, come to think of it, I still like J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader.) Longer, more complex pieces of film writing interest me more than current reviews of films. There are so many voices out there now--some of them quite good, some of them shockingly poor--and there's a scary herd mentality going around. I yearn for a truly independent voice (like Agee, Farber, Sarris, Kael, and Sontag were in their day), but everybody seems to be bound by an external system that dominates them. Predictability has pretty much killed my interest in the form. I'm far more interested in having a conversation about movies with people I know, which is why I'm more apt to check A&F than scan Metacritic or the Tomatometer for inspiration.
  11. I average about 300-350 per year now. About 60-70 of those are new releases. I figured that having a baby at home might see a steep decline in my viewing regimen, but that hasn't happened yet. Perhaps it's that once you've finally put the baby to bed, you feel too damn lazy to do anything else but watch Netflix. Now, going out to movies is a different story. That takes coordination, determination, and, with wife and wee bairn at home, negotiation. Common conversations go something like this: Me: Honey, I'd really like to see A City of Sadness at the Aero this Saturday. Will you and the boy be okay? Wife: That's fine. But this is the last one for a while, right? Me: Well, yes. Sort of. There's the Wellman retrospective coming up, but some of those are on DVD. Wife: And how many of those will you be going to? Me: I think three. Wife: Try again. Me: Two? Wife: (Silence) Me: Okay, two, but after that, the next few weekends belong to us. I'm canceling The Puppetmaster. That's how much I love you!
  12. Ah, got it. What I like about du Maurier (from what little I've read) is that she has a touch of the weird in her writing. The kind of imagination that can dream up the death-in-Venice convolutions of "Don't Look Now" is alright by me.
  13. I've read "The Birds" and "Don't Look Now," but that's about it. I'm not much of a mystery reader, but she seems to have a firm command of atmosphere. I reread "The Birds" recently and yes, it's impressively dread filled, although I remember thinking the prose style a bit spare for my liking. How does she compare to Agatha Christie, in your opinion?
  14. I think I see what you mean, Christian. Those categories needn't cancel each other out. West Side Story is still a musical and Forbidden Planet is still s-f, despite being Shakespearean and romantic. And the Western genre is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of styles and approaches. But the thing that really disturbs my friend (a diehard Western buff) about this movie is the anachronistic use of Buscadero holsters, which weren't invented until the 1920s.
  15. That the "wives" could easily be mistaken for Noxzema cold cream spokespeople seems to be just another example of the need to kowtow to commercial expectations. There's a lot of studio money invested in this project, and Village Roadshow/Warners have to cover their bases. Miller does essentially expose this exhibitionism in one perfectly timed shot. Add the fact that one of them is clearly very pregnant and you've got an acceptable subversion of populist imagery. But the feminist angle breaks down for me on closer inspection. For instance, why do the skinny attractive women get to be rescued while the buxom lactating women get left behind? Dissecting the film's politics in this way can easily become a joyless, though fruitful, exercise.
  16. I logged a few initial thoughts here. Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader noted a shift in Thunderdome from pure technique toward sententious social message. Fury Road also seems slightly at odds with itself. It wants so badly to be an amoral exercise in action aesthetics, but it also wants to be taken seriously as a humanist/feminist parable. The latter gets short shrift, but make no mistake, if it's body thrills you're after, you can't do much better.
  17. Nathaniel

    Crimson Peak

    I won't argue with you on that, but maybe "personal" is the wrong word. Regardless of personal investment, I've sensed a retreat into silliness. But I'm going to pipe down until I actually see this movie.
  18. Nathaniel

    Crimson Peak

    Del Toro's most successful films revolve around a single powerful concept or point of view. For Cronos, it's immortality. For Mimic, evolution. Both The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth adopt a child's-eye perspective of evil. The trailer for Crimson Peak is selling special effects, not ideas. But it's just a trailer.
  19. Nathaniel

    Crimson Peak

    Guillermo Del Toro's transition from imaginative, personal, cerebral genre exercises to vulgar, gluttonous, soulless spectacles is a crying shame. I could be wrong about this one, but apart from some bold, Bava-like coloring, it looks pretty dull.
  20. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Romero's Land of the Dead. I remember Guillermo Del Toro exclaiming, in some advertisement or other, something to the effect of, "The master returns to finish his Sistine Chapel."
  21. I know I'm forgetting some important ones, but: Another Year Boxing Gym Certified Copy Flamenco Flamenco The Kid with a Bike Le Havre The Complete Metropolis Museum Hours Mysteries of Lisbon The Strange Case of Angelica Carlos Saura's latest dance film (my #1 of last year) feels like a major work to me, but nobody seems to be talking about it. I left the theater in a state of elation.
  22. Yeah. Even though it's about a group of evangelistic nuns' lack of success, Christianity is treated more as an abstraction in an elemental story wherein the spirit does battle with the flesh. A more hysterical treatment of this theme can be found in Ken Russell's The Devils, the ultimate political nightmare movie. Now that we're on the subject, I greatly admire A Nun's Story (which I believe SDG reviewed at some point), which strikes me as one of most complex films about religion that Hollywood ever produced. And it's actually about religion in a way that the aforementioned are not. A marvelously nuanced film, and the final shot is as moving as it is ambiguous. A more modern treatment along these same lines is The Devil's Playground (dir. Fred Schepisi), a warmly humane and sympathetic look at life in a Catholic boarding school, which depicts in quietly devastating tones how agonizing celibacy can be for those who are not called to it. I'm curious to see if Dans mentions these, and what his interpretations are.
  23. She argues that the film refutes the false nature/grace dichotomy:
  24. Through a Lens Darkly, by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki Overstreet brought my attention to this slim volume, calling out its uncanny resemblance to both the title of his own movie book and the cover art of Anne's collection of verse. I was sufficiently curious to check it out from the university library (no offense, Jeff!), and discovered a collection of essays by a professor emerita and "process theologian" (a term hitherto unfamiliar to me). Suchocki takes an auteurist approach to a group of exceptional filmmakers, asking of each one, "How does this director resolve the problems set up for these characters?" Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Joel and Ethan Coen, John Sayles, and Ang Lee each get a chapter. The final chapter examines the nature/grace tension in Malick's Tree of Life, identifying it, correctly I think, as a false dichotomy. It always piques my interest when established experts in any field branch out into film studies, but Suchocki's approach will seem awfully familiar to those who live at the intersection of theology and cinema (i.e. 90% of everyone at A&F).
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