Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: December 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Scenes from the Class Struggle in the Criterion Collection

by Tony Dayoub

Multiple viewings of a movie can not only yield varied interpretations but, more importantly, whether the film itself can stand up to such readings. When I watch a movie as many times as I've seen Rosemary's Baby (1968) I like to imagine a richer backstory for its characters than Roman Polanski might have deliberately threaded into the text. In reassessing Rosemary's Baby via its recent Criterion Blu-ray (released in October), I decided to entertain myself by watching malevolent-looking John Cassavetes' sly performance as the often ignored Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary's husband. Just as a rudimentary reading of the Bible might cast the Virgin Mary's husband Joseph in a relatively thankless part, so might one measure Guy, who is essentially meant to stay out of the way as a maybe-witches' coven ushers in their horrifying answer to the Messiah, the son of Satan. But what would motivate Guy to sell out and collaborate with the group in the first place? We might find some clues in some of Criterion's other recent releases.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Zero Dark Thirty

by Tony Dayoub

Zero Dark Thirty begins with heart-wrenching audio recordings of 911 calls placed from inside the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. From there, the long awaited film about the manhunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden follows a rigid three-act structure that is one part Michael Mann-style procedural—in which we get to know a protagonist simply through process—and one part meta-analysis of how America once again lost its innocence, possibly for good this time. That director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal frame this film through a unique perspective rarely found in war films—that of a female—is the key innovation. Instead of attempting to duplicate the action beats of their last Academy Award-winning film, The Hurt Locker (2008), by predictably zeroing in on the SEAL operation to capture or kill Bin Laden, aka UBL, Bigelow and Boal open up the canvas to spin a sprawling tale involving everyone from CIA field operatives to their more political Washington-based intelligence counterparts, from suspicious informants to the most trustworthy of military officers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Deathtrap (1982) Debuts on Manufactured-on-Demand Blu-ray... That's Right, Blu-ray.

by Tony Dayoub

In a move which came to quite a surprise even to loyal fans of Warner Archive, the most prolific of the MOD (manufactured-on-demand) DVD labels, two of their most recent releases have debuted on Blu-ray. Gypsy (1962) had previously been released in anamorphic widescreen on DVD. In my opinion, the more interesting title is Sidney Lumet's clever Deathtrap (1982), which had only been released on full-frame DVD back in 1999. Based on a stage play by Ira Levin, Deathtrap's theatrical roots show fairly prominently. Literally a drawing room mystery, it's mostly set in one large, open study. The script is rife with mordant humor, and has a teeny-tiny cast anchored by Dyan Cannon (Heaven Can Wait), Christopher Reeve (playing against type while at the height of his Superman popularity), and Michael Caine, during one of his most fertile acting periods. The witty esprit-de-corps between the three actors is perhaps the best reason to recommend the film, a minor Lumet movie with a cult following due to this very reason.