Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

Courtesy of SLIFR: Professor Hubert Farnsworth's Only Slightly Futuristic Holiday Movie Quiz

by Tony Dayoub

Let's cap off 2010 with another scintillating cinephilic census from Dennis Cozzalio, now posted at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Visit his site to post your own answers. My answers appear after the jump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Review: True Grit (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Richard T. Jameson has an excellent piece up on his blog, Straight Shooting, entitled "also-true 'Grit'". You can (and most definitely should) read it for yourself, but in it he compares the new Coen Brothers film with Henry Hathaway's 1969 original. His conclusion:
So if I had to pick only one True Grit movie to take to the proverbial desert island, it'd be Hathaway's, Wayne's, Ballard's and, while we're at it, Elmer Bernstein's: that gentleman was Wayne's music scorer of choice in the Sixties, and the Bernstein sound laid over one of Lucien Ballard's high-country shots of quivering aspen and immeasurable, clear-air vastness imbues the moment with mystery. (The score of the 2010 version, by regular Coen collaborator Carter Burwell, runs variations on "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," a folk hymn best known from Night of the Hunter.)

The beauty of it is, though, that we don't have to pick one
True Grit. Both are worth having. We take for granted that any Coen picture is going to be a work of impeccable craftsmanship, and yes, Roger Deakins is at the camera once again. The brothers' fidelity to [Charles] Portis' novel not only honors a great literary achievement but also makes for a narrative with fascinating interruptions, digressions and enigmatic encounters - in short, storytelling of a perversity the Coens usually have to generate on their own.

Like the book but unlike the 1969 movie, their
True Grit has a narrator, Mattie, and keeps faith with her point of view. What she doesn't know, we don't know.
There are a few things I find particularly cogent about Jameson's review: his perceptive connecting of the Coens' True Grit to The Night of the Hunter; "What she doesn't know, we don't know..."; and, "The beauty of it is, though, that we don't have to pick one True Grit."

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Online Film Critics Society Award Nominees

From the Online Film Critics Society (of which I am a proud member):
The Online Film Critics Society is proud to announce its nominees for the 2010 OFCS Awards:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Somewhere, My First Piece for Nomad Editions Wide Screen

by Tony Dayoub

It's disappointing to conclude that writer-director Sofia Coppola’s latest, Somewhere, causes me to reassess her earlier film, Lost in Translation, in addition to her own potential as an artist. It's not that Somewhere is bad, or even dull. The strong performances by its two leads, Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning, along with Harris Savides’s handsome photography of a lustrous West Hollywood give one plenty to admire. But the superficiality of a tale rooted in the privileged director’s navel-gazing overwhelms the tender story of the relationship between a young actor and his daughter.
So begins my latest review. Posting here has been light this past month, but it doesn't mean I haven't been writing. My piece on Somewhere appears in a new digital weekly, Nomad Editions Wide Screen, edited by MSN's chief film critic, Glenn Kenny. I am pleased that Wide Screen allows me to share the company of such highly regarded writers as Simon Abrams, Kurt Loder, Farran Smith Nehme, Vadim Rizov, and others.

Here's the concept behind Nomad Editions (which also offers both a food and a surf weekly, with other titles on the way), as explained by founder Mark Edmiston:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Movie Review: The Fighter (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

It doesn't even take as long as you'd think. In fact, it begins during the opening credits for The Fighter. Christian Bale, already being lauded for his "scene-stealing" turn as the crack-addicted former boxer Dicky Eklund, starts showboating. And then, as he walks through his neighborhood with the film's ostensible star—Mark Wahlberg playing Eklund's brother Micky Ward—with a camera crew and some locals (surely non-actors given their earthy, blank-faced realism) gathered around them, someone stops to take a picture of Micky and one of the groupies, and Bale photo-bombs the shot with his hyperactive mugging. It's a moment indicative of the movie's flaws. Director David O. Russell (Three Kings), often portrayed as a control freak of the worst kind, gives up control to the manically cocky Bale, and The Fighter buckles to its knees.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon

by Tony Dayoub

If you are looking for an alternative to the 2010 lists proliferating throughout the web, something to carry you throught the end-of-the-year film blog lull, I can think of no better endeavor than Ryan Kelly and Adam Zanzie's Spielberg Blogathon, running today through December 28th. Ryan and Adam have been ardent supporters of both my site and my own blogathons. I wish them luck on tackling this high-profile filmmaker.

More info, links, and the like can be found here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Movie Review: Rabbit Hole

by Tony Dayoub

The loss of a child is one of those traumatic catalysts which, though it makes for good dramatic fodder, is horrific enough to frighten audiences away from any movies dealing with the situation. But in the right, sensitive hands, such as Robert Redford's in Ordinary People and now, John Cameron Mitchell's in Rabbit Hole, it can also trigger insightful performances which encourage a persuasive identification. Transitioning into the mainstream after directing two somewhat outrageous indie ventures (Shortbus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Mitchell has found the right material to delve into.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Mohawk Memoirs: You Sound Awfully Familiar!

by "Rooster" Clayborne

So I drag my six-year old daughter to the theater to see Tangled, the new 3D animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Why? Because I’m occasionally struck with the compulsion to watch films based on beloved classic tales—unless it’s called The Nutcracker in 3D and features rat-faced Nazi storm troopers (don’t believe me? check out the trailer). As I sat and watched Tangled, engrossed by the STORY, I found myself trying to crack the voice recognition code. Perhaps you’ve done it too, “That voice—I’ve heard it before. It’s…”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Videodrome (1983)

by Tony Dayoub

What's got two thumbs, hosted the Cronenberg Blogathon, and has never seen the director's most representative film, Videodrome? A week ago, I would have responded, "This guy." But Criterion sent me a review copy of their new Blu-ray of Videodrome last week, and I can now say I've seen all of Cronenberg's feature-length films. And boy, did I wait too long to catch this one! Criterion's wonderfully appointed package is a mixture of featurettes concentrating on the physical effects by the legendary Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London), extended sequences which appear as pirated S&M transmissions in the movie, and a fascinating panel discussion featuring Cronenberg, John Carpenter and John Landis (with then-unknown Mick Garris), all supplementing a high-def transfer supervised by cinematographer Mark Irwin. Part surrealist nightmare, part political satire and more, Videodrome is clearly the key film in the Canadian filmmaker's oeuvre.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Movie Review: Black Swan (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

I have never been one attracted to Natalie Portman much past her obvious physical beauty. With the exception of early turns in The Professional (aka Léon) and Beautiful Girls, her performance style has always struck me as perfect to the point of being brittle. So Darren Aronofsky's use of her in Black Swan stands out as an astute bit of exploitation, mining Portman's own flaws to inform her role as an overambitious ballerina. Indeed, one could apply this to the entire ensemble cast of this thriller mashing up the ballet movie with the psychological horror film.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Avatar Extended Collector's Edition

by Tony Dayoub

Sorry I've been scarce, but I've been contending with the nastiest cold, plowing through end-of-the-year screeners and some voluminous Blu-ray gift sets, all while caring for our youngest son as we prepare for a vacation. Before we part ways for the Thanksgiving holiday, however, to follow up on the ones reviewed here last week (and in anticipation of Criterion's amazing 70s-era set "America Lost and Found: The BBS Story", which is so thick with supplements I haven't yet gotten past disc 2 of this 6-disc set since receiving it this past Friday; I'll make it up to you with an in-depth look into the stunning package soon) I wanted to fill you in on another wonderful Blu-ray package well worth your time, Avatar Extended Collector's Edition Blu-ray.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Charles Laughton x Two - Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and The Night of the Hunter (1955)

by Tony Dayoub

This week brings us a few wonderful Blu-ray releases, two of which feature Charles Laughton at his best. One stars the portly British actor in his most iconic role. The other showcases his filmmaking talents and might be the most essential release of 2010. Let's start with that one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Opening Today: Unstoppable (2010) and Tamara Drewe

by Tony Dayoub

Looking for a couple of movies to help you take your mind off the oncoming stressful holiday season? Well, this weekend is your best bet to find such relief with two well executed trifles.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movie Review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Woefully underrepresented in the current film conversation, I believe Never Let Me Go will only grow in stature over the next few years. I saw this mournful film (based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) last week, yet still find it haunting me in a way that brought to mind one of my favorite movies of the last ten years, Children of Men (2006). That's curious because while Children of Men presents a dystopic future, Never Let Me Go gives us a utopic past, or at least an alternate past.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Movies...They Play Better in My Head Than They Do Onscreen

by Tony Dayoub

So last night I had quite a vivid dream, which is strange since I rarely recall my dreams at all. As they usually do this one took the form of a movie, one in which my point of view is in the middle of all the action but with a sort of detached omniscience allowing me to see multiple angles... think of an action movie if it were not just in 3D but as immersive as Star Trek's holodeck, yet none of the participants can see you. Get it?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Down, One to Go: Must-Read Recommendations

by Tony Dayoub

I don't discuss it enough here, but there are three film critics who have held the most sway over me since I was young: Danny Peary, best known for his Cult Movies books, whose long out-of-print Guide for the Film Fanatic (1986) is still an essential tome to keep on the nightstand; Glenn Kenny (now a friend), who I grew up reading in the now defunct Premiere magazine, writes for his own blog Some Came Running, and has just recently become chief film critic for MSN Movies; the last is a gentleman who edited Film Comment during what I consider to be its most fascinating period, 1990 through 2000, Richard T. Jameson.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Movie Review: Fair Game (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Any depressed Democrats still weepy over yesterday's election results by week's end can get a lift watching Doug Liman's liberal feel-good movie, Fair Game, which opens this Friday. While nowhere near a propaganda piece as a film I reviewed back in March, Green Zone (coincidentally directed by Liman's successor in the Bourne series, Paul Greengrass), it still has tinges of simplistic "Leftie good, Rightie bad" sentiments which do a disservice to what, based on the facts alone, should be a rather simple open-and-shut indictment of the Bush Administration and the cloud of malfeasance which hung over their entry into the Iraq War.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Random Sample: Legends of the Super Heroes (1978), Mad Max (1979) on Blu, and Hotel Terminus (1988)

by Tony Dayoub

As the holiday season approaches, demands on this writer are growing. The holiday season arrives soon with its requisite family vacations, end-of-year awards screeners and best-of lists, not to mention major new home releases timed to take advantage of gift-giving celebrations. So I'll clear the deck today with some thoughts on a few recent releases I caught up with at home this past week.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Movie Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009)

by Tony Dayoub

Last time we saw her, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) had uncovered a conspiracy involving men at the highest level of her government, all protecting her cruel Soviet father, Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), who Lisbeth had once torched in retaliation for beating her mother. Salander had penetrated this veil of secrecy with her super-computer-hacking powers, ass-kicking prowess, and a little help from Millennium Magazine reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). But the final confrontation between Salander and Zalachenko—a clean-up man for the shadowy organization behind the movie's conspiracies—left both of them bloodied, broken, and near death, while Zalachenko's near-invulnerable enforcer—and Salander's half-brother—the giant Niedermann, had disappeared. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest continues from this point.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Review: Hereafter (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

So after a nice little run of films by everyone's—or at least most film writers'—favorite actor-director to dump on, Clint Eastwood returns with Hereafter, his muddled attempt at a New Age suspense thriller. As someone once said, fault with Eastwood's films can usually be traced back to the script, here by Peter Morgan (The Queen), as if to exonerate the filmmaker who generally avoids substantial rewrites. And Hereafter, as naive and inept as it often is, is not without its charm. But its structure, a three-pronged storyline which slowly converges as it approaches the climax, has long past worn out any profundity it may (with emphasis) had ever possessed in cinema.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Criterion's Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) (1954) and The Magician (Ansiktet) (1958)

by Tony Dayoub

Today is the fifteenth, the point mid-month when the Criterion Collection typically reveals what new DVDs and Blu-rays they have in store for us three months from now. As we await with bated breath, let's take a brief look at two of their newest Blu-ray releases, the classic Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) and The Magician (Ansiktet).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Mohawk Memoirs: Decade of The Unfunny

by "Rooster" Clayborne

When was the last time you saw a REALLY funny movie? Don’t say The Hangover. If you even think The Hangover then don’t continue reading this. I’d rather you didn’t. Oh, before the Mohawk, I tried to convince myself that it was as laugh-out-loud funny as most everyone claimed just so I could feel connected to the general populace. But screw the masses. I’m done with you and what you think the benchmark of comedy should be. I saw The Hangover over twenty years ago when it was called Bachelor Party, which featured a then rising star Tom Hanks—now that was MUCH FUNNIER.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Carlos (2010): NYFF10's Masterpiece Premieres Tomorrow on Sundance Channel Before Theatrical Release

by Tony Dayoub

Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours) alternates between quieter dialogue-driven films and action-oriented pictures which explore themes related to the effect globalization has on individuals. So, given his previous film's quiet look at a family dealing with the death of their matriarch, it is no surprise he should return with this period biopic centered on the infamous terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. Anyone who grew up in the seventies can remember the rash of plane hijackings and hostage taking that plagued the era. Too many, Carlos seemed to be an omnipresent mastermind behind nearly all of them. What is surprising is how consistently exciting Carlos remains throughout its 5-and-a-half-hour running time. Even a film like Che (2008), which I rank among one of my recent favorites (and has sprung up in conversations comparing it to Carlos despite bearing little resemblance to it beyond sharing famous revolutionary protagonists), has its slower paced lulls. But I saw Carlos last week in one marathon sitting (interrupted only once by a 30-minute intermission), and it moves with a real urgency throughout its three parts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Review: We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay)

by Tony Dayoub

Jorge Michel Grau's We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay) is the most welcome surprise I encountered in this year's New York Film Festival. Appropriately enough I saw this horror film exactly a week ago the morning after it won the "Next Wave" Spotlight Competition at Austin's increasingly popular Fantastic Fest. With a film festival's focus on movies outside the mainstream, We Are What We Are is the least intimidating opportunity for first-time festival attendees to experience what it's like to go to one of these in the wonderful venues offered by the Lincoln Center.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Review: Black Venus (Vénus noire) (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

The "Hottentot Venus" was a freak show exhibition in the early 19th century, in which a black South African female, Saartjie Baartman (Yahima Torres), was displayed to European audiences curious about her anatomical differences, primarily her large hips and buttocks, a genetic trait common among her people. Not exhibited to the same spectators was another rumored physical feature, the elongated labia minora which hung down 3 to 4 inches from her vagina. As Black Venus (Vénus noire) begins, we see a plaster-cast figure of Baartman being examined at a scientific lecture, with particular attention being paid by the biologists to this feature, which they dubbed the "Hottentot skirt." This denigrating and sexist nickname is but one of the many indignities Baartman would suffer throughout her life, indignities which would continue even in death.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Review: Aurora (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Romanian director Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) returns to the New York Film Festival with the mesmerizing mystery, Aurora. It is my favorite kind of film, one in which the narrative emerges slowly over the course of the film. Beginning as a character study focusing on metallurgical engineer Viorel (played by Puiu), the film unfolds in lengthy scenes often consisting of only one or two long takes. The viewer learns Viorel's rather dull routine starting with his early morning tryst with Gina (Clara Voda)—who appears to be married—then following him to work, listening in as he asks a coworker to return money he had borrowed from Viorel, and back home where he is remodeling his apartment. But what seems a series of activities almost too commonplace to endure for a nearly three-hour film soon becomes something more.

Friday, October 1, 2010

NYFF10 CENTERPIECE Movie Review: The Tempest (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

I've long defended director Julie Taymor from detractors who accuse her of sacrificing substance for spectacle. Titus (1999) may have been eye candy but it was also a fairly brutal, if not the most brutal, depiction of a Shakespeare play I had ever seen onscreen. And Frida, a film about the painful life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo which wonderfully incorporated the Latin magical realism tradition amply demonstrated throughout the painter's work, was one of the best pictures of 2002. I guess the rumblings about Taymor's style began around the time Across the Universe (2007) came out, which I just chalked up to the film being a sort of trifle celebrating the music of The Beatles. Too bad I can't speak directly to it since I missed that film, but I feel like I understand some of this criticism now that I've seen The Tempest.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Reviews: Inside Job (2010) and Boxing Gym

by Tony Dayoub

Two vastly different documentaries impressed me at yesterday's press screenings. Each in their own way, Inside Job and Boxing Gym take subjects we already think we know about and make them more accessible to the viewer, and isn't that what the best of such films do?

Tony Curtis

by Tony Dayoub

Tony Curtis lived the Hollywood dream. Born Bernard Schwartz not too far from where I now write this, in the Bronx, he changed his name when he started getting film gigs. His matinee idol looks and youthful energy usually saw him cast opposite older stars as the hotheaded rival in early films like Trapeze (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), and The Vikings (1958). Curtis' perfectly coiffed black pompadour, in fact, inspired Elvis to dye and style his own hair in the same manner. But knowing his looks wouldn't last forever drove his need to play more substantial parts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arthur Penn

by Tony Dayoub

Earlier this year we lost a frequent collaborator of his, Dede Allen; now comes the sad word of director Arthur Penn's passing. Together, they were formidable in establishing the rhythms that would go on to define American cinema of the seventies with the seminal Bonnie and Clyde (1967). But one look at the Twitter page today demonstrates how unappreciated Penn was outside of this landmark film.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NYFF10 Movie Review: Film Socialisme (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Full disclosure: I'm the last one you want to ask about either Jean-Luc Godard (of his films, I've seen a sum total of 2 full-length features and one short, all pre-1990) or avant-garde film. I know much about the pionering French director from books and my studies in college almost 20 years back. But his films, indeed all films, are to be experienced. As for the avant-garde, it is a type of cinema I have always had trouble appreciating. I'm not judging it, mind you. If anything, it is my limited ability to comprehend them that I blame. So if this review is somewhat vague, or I sound out of my depth, please forgive me. What I can say is that the somewhat mystifying Film Socialisme is oddly enthralling even to an ignorant fellow like myself.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NYFF10 OPENING NIGHT Movie Review: The Social Network (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Midway through The Social Network, wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) calls his estranged partner Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) from California to inform him that their new partner, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake)—the smooth creator of Napster—has just succeeded in getting a venture capitalist group to invest half a million dollars in Zuckerberg and Saverin's Facebook. It is a crucial scene loaded with mixed emotions between the two partners. Saverin had just rescinded access to Facebook's $19,000 line of credit after discovering Parker has supplanted him as Zuckerberg's financial idea man; Saverin's clingy girlfriend almost burned down his apartment demanding to know why Saverin hasn't updated his Relationship Status from "single;" and Parker has proven his value by securing meetings with big money men while Saverin was going door-to-door in New York selling advertising to small-fish establishments like a tuxedo rental company. It is the most overt display of the rupture developing between Zuckerberg and Saverin. But for just a moment, Zuckerberg is big enough to congratulate Saverin for their success despite his anger over having the monetary rug pulled out from under him. For just a moment, Saverin is equally gracious even though his instincts tell him he is being shut out from his own company. Party boy Parker is inside their house/office with employees and female hangers-on as he pops open a bottle of champagne. And Zuckerberg is just outside, viewing the celebration through a sliding glass door, privy to—but separated from—the festivities inside.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TV Review: Boardwalk Empire (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

I try to see.
Well, I guess that I'm blind.
It's fine with me
'Cause i'm going to keep trying.
And I've made disappointment
My very best friend.
I wait and see
Who you're going to be
And when.

-"Straight Up and Down" by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

From the opening credit sequence in which we hear the lonely guitar of the Brian Jonestown Massacre (a band I previously mistook for the Rolling Stones) as waves roll into the Jersey seashore, I knew Boardwalk Empire had me. A quick survey around the internet reveals just as many who hated the opening track, but I would guess many of these folks are oblivious to the stylings of this first episode's director, Martin Scorsese. While I can't recall such a blatantly anachronistic use of music in any of his previous films, Scorsese has always had an instinctive grasp of how to marry music to film to create cinema. In this case, "Straight Up and Down" feels so right that to quibble about it is a petty bit of complaining. But to do it after you've taken a peek at its lyrics is even more wrongheaded.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)

by Tony Dayoub

Watching Breathless (À bout de souffle) today, with the benefit of fifty years of critical hindsight, I am struck by the way it so obviously indicates the trajectory its director's career would take over time. Jean-Luc Godard, who defended/lauded underrated American B-movies as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma, presents Breathless as both a tribute to and rejection of said films all at once, opening with a title card dedicating the film to Monogram Pictures while doing his best to overcome the budgetary and structural obstacles such films were often subject to. It's through his protagonists' interplay, though, that we see the earliest spark of Godard's revolt against the status quo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Solitary Man (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

There's a certain kind of "indie" film—your Little Miss Sunshine, or Slumdog Millionaire, or Crazy Heart—films which challenge their audience a bit more than the average mainstream film, but not too much. I put "indie" in quotes because the film is not the true independent from back in Cassavettes' day. It still benefits from the positioning a major actor or a cast of major actors provides. It still gets funding (at least on the tail end of the post-production/marketing stage) from a smaller shingle overseen by a big studio, or what they sometimes call a mini-major like a Lionsgate Films. This year's trendy film in this category is The Kids Are All Right, the one with Julianne Moore and her wife (Annette Benning) meeting their kids' biological father (Mark Ruffalo) whose sperm was used to inseminate each of them. These movies are usually pleasant enough I find. And I usually venture into them with an open heart, predisposed to liking them because of the alternative they offer to "the same old shit." But I usually leave feeling betrayed, for any number of reasons. Either the film's conclusion holds a "message"; or a contrivance is offered in the course of the film to goose up a narrative which hardly seemed evident through the first two-thirds of the film; or in the case of The Kids Are All Right, some annoying alt-rock soundtrack is married to the film in order to tell me how I should be feeling every step of the way (see Away We Go). What a true pleasure it is to encounter a film such as Solitary Man then—a movie which I went into feeling fairly guarded after the number of times I'd been burned—and finding a true gem.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Spider (2002)

by Tony Dayoub


Like the shoestring webs Dennis "Spider" Cleg (Ralph Fiennes) weaves in his room slice space into fragments, Cleg's mind is splintered, broken. Those who fail to see evidence of Cronenberg's "body horror" aesthetic in Spider are fixated on the gore and violence of his early career. One need only look at how Cleg's mind betrays him—a subtler but just as threatening betrayal to his identity as Seth Brundle's reluctant metamorphosis in The Fly (1986)—to see that the physical has now become metaphysical. Spider is a turning point where the maturation of this director fuses many elements from his oeuvre, internalizes them, and launches his body of work in a new direction.

RIP Kevin McCarthy

They're here!
- Dr. Miles J. Bennell Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both 1956 and 1978)

Cronenberg Blogathon: eXistenZ (1999)

by Evan Waters

[Evan Waters looks at movies, books and comics at Club Parnassus.]

eXistenZ has a bit of a place in my heart. It was the first David Cronenberg film I saw theatrically, having more or less discovered the man's work on video the year before. That was in 1999, a strange and far-off land, and seeing it in the immediate aftermath of the Columbine shootings—with media violence and video games in particular targeted as influences—made it resonate strongly. A decade later, it holds up in very unusual ways; it's unconventional even for Cronenberg and is a bit awkward in terms of how it's built and put together, but the sheer audacious oddness of it pulls us through and animates it with a unique energy.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Cronenberg Hypothesis: Stereo & Crimes of the Future

by Bob Clark

[Bob Clark, of The Designer’s Dilemma and Wonders in the Dark, takes a closer look at two of Cronenberg’s earliest cinematic experiments, Stereo and Crimes of the Future. His thoughts on these films can also be found at The Aspect Ratio.]

We are now reaching a point in time in which the great, most notable North American cinematic voices of the latter quarter of the twentieth century find themselves the elder statesmen among filmmakers. It’s been a long time coming, obviously, a fact of life made all the more apparent by the aging appearances of men like Coppola, Lucas, and Spielberg, their dark beards grown from graying to gray, and gray to white, each one more and more the picture of wizened old masters every bit in contrast with the rambunctious youths of the 60's and 70’s. Perhaps now it becomes so much more difficult to ignore, and somehow even more impossible to accept, as the films upon which they and others made their names approach their fortieth anniversaries. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead already had its big birthday two years ago. It will only be a year until Lucas’ feature-version of THX 1138 and Spielberg’s television-movie Duel turn 40. A year after that, it will be The Godfather’s turn to enter middle-age, and unless the world ends in some incredible Mayan apocalypse, two years later we will see John Carpenter’s Dark Star blow four rows of candles out on its own cake. But among the great modern cinematic voices to enjoy such a enduring anniversary, perhaps overlooked is Canadian auteur David Cronenberg.

RIP Claude Chabrol

If Jean-Luc Godard appeals to critics because of his extreme interest in politics and film theory and if François Truffaut appeals to the popular audience because of his humanism and sentimentality, it is Claude Chabrol—film critic, filmmaker, philosopher—whose work consistently offers the opportunity for the most balanced appeal… Chabrol’s work can perhaps best be seen as a cross between the unassuming and popular genre film and the pretentious elitist art film.
– Charles Derry (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Reassessing Crash (1996)

by Dusty McGowan

[Trickster Dusty McGowran has an interesting take on movies. You can read more about his private obsessions at the Playground of Doom.]


All right, so here’s my clever conceit for this blog entry. I’m going to write about Crash (1996), a film I haven’t seen in a good twelve years. I will write what I intend to be Part One first, covering what I can remember of my first impression of this film. (Assuming I have anything like an honest memory.) Part Two will be my impressions after seeing this film again all these many moons later.

Now let me pat myself on the back for my own ingenuity.

I’m patting myself on the back. You just can’t see it.

Cronenberg Blogathon: A Misdiagnosed Case of Insectivitis

by Noel Tanti

[The eloquent Noel Tanti presides over the very bohemian Nigredo's Room.]

It’s been long and hard-headedly argued that David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) is a metaphor for AIDS. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was quite big at the time, being hailed by some as God’s punishment for the capitalist, consumerist, yuppie-ish lifestyle that characterized much of the 1980s. Most of these "sins" are still pretty much in vogue today, unlike the AIDS awareness fad whose thunder has been stolen by cancer (watch South Park’s "Tonsil Trouble" for a shocking but brilliant take on this). It really doesn’t matter which degenerative disease one chooses to associate with Seth’s (Jeff Goldblum) tormented odyssey, the analogy simply does not hold.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Dead Ringers (1988)

by Adam Zanzie

[Adam Zanzie started blogging about film at Icebox Movies shortly before last year's De Palma Blogathon, where we got into it over his piece on Redacted. What a difference a year makes. Now, he sneakily lifts the film of choice for my upcoming contribution. What am I going to do with you, Adam? (Great essay!)]

When they were kids growing up in Toronto in 1954, Elliot and Beverly Mantle were already curious enough to want to know more about human sexuality and the female anatomy. “I’ve discovered why sex is,” Elliot tells his younger brother, walking down the streets in their neighborhood one afternoon. “It’s because humans don’t live underwater… fish don’t need sex because they just lay the eggs and fertilize them in the water. Humans can’t do that—because they don’t live in the water. They have to… internalize the water; therefore, we have sex.” Beverly is confused, “So, you mean, humans wouldn’t have sex if they lived in the water?” Elliot clarifies that “they’d have a kind of sex, but the kind where you wouldn’t have to touch each other.” To Beverly, the shyer of the two brothers, this sounds perfectly agreeable. “I like that idea,” he says.

Cronenberg Blogathon: Eastern Promises (2007)

by Jake Cole

[Jake Cole is the prolific author of Not Just Movies, a site which I predict will become one of the must-read film blogs in the near future.]

David Cronenberg's movies, to boil them down to their simplest essence, are about identity. In his old body horror masterpieces, The Fly and Videodrome, the Canadian director deconstructed identity via physical dissolution, stripping away literal flesh to show mental breakdowns. Dead Ringers, with its conjoined twins unsure how to operate once separated from each other, visualized a split personality in a manner that even Brian De Palma couldn't have dreamed up when he tread similar waters with Sisters. So fascinated is he by the nature of identity that a director then known for gross-out horror could be the perfect choice to direct an adaptation of M. Butterfly, a play about bent gender, sexual confusion, and national and ethnic clashes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

UPDATED - Cronenberg Blogathon: Considering Cronenberg Elsewhere in the Blogosphere (Part 3)

by Tony Dayoub

As we approach the final stretch of the Cronenberg Blogathon this weekend I'd like to thank everyone who helped make this a success. Whether you just came by to read some of these great pieces, commented on them, helped promote them, or actually submitted one, I thank you. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to close the door to any further submissions at this time. But we have at least ten more coming your way (including one from yours truly if I can catch up with all of this editing) through Sunday night.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Brood (1979), or David Cronenberg Presents: MurderBabies

by John Eno

[Delimited Liminality's John Eno finds reason to think Cronenberg's ideas sometimes outpace his execution, especially in The Brood.]

David Cronenberg was pegged early on as a horror director, albeit a director of horror films that didn't fit well in the genre as it had been established up to that point. A lot of this was due to his interest in particularly visceral horror, especially that which affects the body from within rather than from without. Even before I'd seen anything he'd directed, I knew him by reputation as a director of horror in which the monsters aren't any kind of external force but rather come from within, in the most literal way. (That the title of his first feature film is, well, They Came From Within is telling.)

Cronenberg Blogathon: Hearing Cronenberg - Eastern Promises

Howard Shore
by Jeffrey Goodman

[Jeffrey Goodman is an independent filmmaker who directed Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander in the wonderful neo-noir, The Last Lullaby. You can read about his exeriences making films at his blog, The Last Lullaby (and) Peril.]

Have you heard the most recent David Cronenberg film? I bet not. You’ve probably only seen it. But it’s worth hearing, too, as I would place Cronenberg in a very small of group of directors that think about the sound in their work as much as they do the visuals.

Working with Howard Shore for the twelfth time in Eastern Promises, Cronenberg once again proves that he and Shore have one of the most important director/composer collaborations in all of cinema. Their only contemporaries that even challenge them, in my mind, are the Coens/Carter Burwell, David Lynch/Angelo Badalementi, and perhaps Tim Burton/Danny Elfman.

Cronenberg Blogathon: The Business of Junk - Naked Lunch

by Ryan Kelly

[The eloquent Ryan Kelly fashions some great, thought-provoking pieces at Medfly Quarantine. I seldom agree with his opinions on specific films these days, a sure sign that the reason I return to his blog again and again is his potent, concise writing.]

Junk is the mold of monopoly and possession. The addict stands by while his junk legs carry him straight in on the junk beam to relapse. Junk is quantitative and accurately measurable. The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use. All the hallucinogen drugs are considered sacred by those who use them—there are Peyote Cults and Bannisteria Cults, Hashish Cults and Mushroom Cults—"the Scared Mushrooms of Mexico enable a man to see God''—but no one ever suggested that junk is sacred. There are no opium cults. Opium is profane and quantitative like money. I have heard that there was once a beneficent non-habit-forming junk in India. It was called *soma* and is pictured as a beautiful blue tide. If *soma* ever existed the Pusher was there to bottle it and monopolize it and sell it and it turned into plain old time JUNK.

David Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burroughs' junkie manifesto Naked Lunch surely ranks as one of the great film adaptations of all time—as much a biography of the novel's troubled author as an adaptation of his most well known work, which Cronenberg has cited as his favorite book of all time. Since the novel only barely has a plot, Cronenberg was forced to improvise much of the content of the picture, and the result is an often hilarious, occasionally tragic, perpetually surreal film—one that dramatizes Burroughs' psychological state at the time he wrote the famed novel. In spite of the numerous alterations to the text, this is a surprisingly faithful adaptation, as Cronenberg's film is a scathing satire that attacks Capitalism, drug culture, Corporate America, even the creative process—ultimately, it's as true to Burroughs' novel as any adaptation could possibly be, while also a new dimension to the text: an extremely moving portrait of its author.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cronenberg Blogathon: Notes on A History of Violence (2005)

by Montgomery Lopez

[Montgomery Lopez concentrates on the science fiction/horror/fantasy slice of the blogosphere at his Monster Scifi Show Blog]

Having known David Cronenberg primarily as a horror genre director, A History of Violence doesn’t exactly appear to be Cronenberg’s cup of tea on the surface. Even the summary from IMDB for this film, “a mild mannered man becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core,” doesn’t necessarily sound like Cronenberg material. Even the opening 4-minute one-take shot is not representative of a typical Cronenberg film. But there is evidence of a thematic similarity that resonates throughout his films.