VIZ. ARTS
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Desert Solitaire (127 Hours, 12/13/10) Forewarned is forearmed: though sorely tempted, this review is not going to be a string of lame arm jokes. Danny Boyle, who made one of the best movies in the '90's in Trainspotting and one of the most overrated ones of the '00's in Slumdog Millionaire, deserves better than that for giving us his latest, 127 Hours...
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Is Our Children Learning? (Waiting for Superman, 11/8/10) The heartless critic strikes again. How can he find serious exception with Davis (An Inconvenient Truth) Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman, an exposé on the crisis in American education that is getting serious buzz and—incidentally—made his own wife cry at a recent screening? Mind you, this is a woman who didn't cry when the dolphins were being slaughtered in The Cove...
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The Secular Saint (Agora, 10/25/10) Secularists can have heroes, but not saints. Yet what else can we call Hypatia of Alexandria, the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician? Intellectual heroes are usually remembered for some message, some disposition that might ideally be boiled down to a few bullet-points. All we know about Hypatia is that she was brilliant, she was thought beautiful, and she was dismembered alive by a mob of crazed Christian monks in the 4th century AD...
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With Friends Like These (The Social Network, 10/11/10) Who cares about the origins of Facebook? Well, obviously the makers of The Social Network do, as do the moviegoers who made it the nation's #1 box office draw last week. One imagines other interested parties, such as the few hundred souls who make serious study of the history of the tech industry, and business journalists, and management students. But the vast majority of just plain folks are probably much like Bill Maher, who asked the other day, "What's next, Google, the Musical?"
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Spermicides (The Kids Are All Right, 8/30/10) We all know that the creation of compelling movie titles is a lost art. I mean, does much thought need to go into calling a movie Saw, Suck, A Prophet, or An Education? But titling a poignant, off-beat drama like Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right is truly a head-scratcher. Did somebody think the classic concert film by the Who, The Kids Are Alright, has faded that completely from public consciousness? Or shall we expect more tender domestic dramas with titles like The Song Remains the Same, Gimme Shelter, or Stop Making Sense...?
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Come Again? (Inception, 7/26/10) So you're dreaming you're on a beach in Portofino, strolling with Monica Bellucci. You've got your arm around her waist, and you're savoring the memory of Christopher Nolan's psycho-thriller Inception, because in a summer full of dumbed-down movies, it actually seems to have required some thought to put together. You tell her you loved the visuals—the zero-G gymnastics Nolan exploits better than anybody since Kubrick for 2001. You love the image of Paris physically folded upon itself, as seen in the preview. And she agrees, nodding in the wind as she tucks a raven-haired lock behind her ear...
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Splice of Life (Splice, 6/14/10) With the public's appetite for vampires seemingly nowhere near its bottom, making a movie on a Frankenstein theme must qualify as some kind of counter-programming. Vincenzo Natali, maker of the certifiable strange indie horror Cube, has taken that plunge with his new techno-thriller, Splice. For anybody over the glandular age of seventeen, the result should be far more compelling than teen bloodsuckers in love...
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Just Another Iron on the Fire (Iron Man 2, 5/17/10) In the story from the Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a statue with a head of gold, torso of silver, legs of iron, and feet of clay. The prophet Daniel interprets this as a vision of the descent of mankind, with each empire always inferior to its predecessor. Hollywood's Iron Man franchise isn't quite in "feet of clay" territory, but with Iron Man 2 we're not speaking of precious metal anymore. "Legs of iron" sounds just about right...
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Clash of the Clunkers (Clash of the Titans, 4/12/10) So what's the point of remaking a movie like Clash of the Titans, the 1981 Ray Harryhausen sword & sandal epic that, truth be told, was not very good to begin with? Simple: in Hollywood's view, the advent of CGI has wrought a revolution in filmmaking as momentous as color or sound. Remaking an effects epic from antiquity (that is, before the year 2000) amounts not just to making it again, but making it right. So for those who thought that all the original Titans needed was photo-realistic special effects, your ship has arrived. Release the kraken...!
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The Man Who Saw Too Much (The Ghost Writer, 3/15/10) The Ghost Writer is a timely reminder that Roman Polanski isn't just the man at the center of a bi-continental legal circus surrounding a thirty year-old statutory rape charge—he's still one of the most gifted filmmakers we have. Love him or loathe him, the director of Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Tess, and other near-classics cannot be ignored. He's the real heir to the legacy of Alfred Hitchcock, except that his work is more inspired, kinkier, and painted on a much broader thematic canvas...
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Real, Traditional, Marriage (Big Love, 2/1/10) The HBO series Big Love is not for everybody. In a time when mere gay marriage—that is, between just two people—qualifies as a white hot issue, asking an audience to sympathize with a family of fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) polygamists in suburban Salt Lake City takes a certain amount of faith. The gamble seems to be paying off so far: the series began its fourth season last month...
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Descent of a Frequent Flyer (Up in the Air, 1/18/09) Here's a proposition for you: in exchange for a salary, I want you to devote at least half your waking life—eight to ten hours a day—to making me rich. I want you to devote your time and energy to the tasks I assign to you, at the expense of your family and social life. I'm going involve you in nerve-wracking competitive evaluations with your peers, after which I might reward you for good performance—or I might not. You may get some health insurance, but I get to dictate the terms. A pension? Forget it. In exchange for the absolute loyalty I demand, I reserve the right to dump you from my payroll anytime I see fit...
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Not Your Father's Apocalypse (The Road, 12/21/09) Is it time for the world to end—again? John Hillcoat's The Road has a lot of company in envisioning the end of days. On the other side of the multiplex wall, there's the Mayan-inspired apocalypse of 2012 (mark your calendars, folks); the previews before The Road promise no less than two world-ending visions, The Book of Eli and The Crazies to add to the list of Terminators and Matrices and zombie epidemics and planet-killing asteroids that already seem to have destroyed us many times over...
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About A Girl (An Education, 11/23/09) If there's a better British
example of a career-making role than that given to young Carey
Mulligan in An Education, you'd probably have to go back to Alfie in
1966, which made a star out of a Cockney bloke named Michael Caine...
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The Thing That Wouldn't Leave (Paranormal Activity, 11/2/09) How
creepy is Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity? Full disclosure: while I
refused to sleep with the lights on after a late-night showing, I did
turn on the lava lamp in my bedroom. And I cursed my corgi for her
heavy, inhuman snoring...
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CultureBlog Archives
9/22/08 - 10/13/09
4/14/08 - 9/15/08
10/15/07 - 4/07/08
4/09/07 - 10/08/07

10/16/06 - 4/02/07

 

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