A slew of forgettable movies hitting DVD of late, with probably the most notable among them being the monumentally important though somewhat problematic documentary An Inconvenient Truth, in which Al Gore presents his standard global warming slideshow. The science is simple and hard-hitting, the points very well made. The bad points? When the film tries to give us Al the person, Al the father, and not just Al the environmental scold (the last persona works best for him, and the film). Scary and poignant, though of course still likely to make no difference in the end.
My review originally ran on Culturedose.net. Link.
Not that anybody could be thinking about Christmas so soon, but just in case people out there were thinking about it, and had a serious comic fanboy whom they wanted to lavish about $100 on, there’s not much better they could do than these Absolute editions that DC Comics is putting out. They’ve been publishing these lavish, slipcased, leather-bound editions for a few years but are now starting to hit some real paydirt, with one for Frank Miller’s Dark Knight books, and the first of four collections of Neil Gaiman’s landmark Sandman series. Even people who don’t even read comics could be seduced by these things. Seriously, better than an Xbox.
I effused more extensively about them in PW ComicsWeek. Link.
Now we’re into mid-November and it’s hard not to feel that one has fallen behind. So many movies are sloshing through the theaters unseen — Stranger Than Paradise, Harsh Times, The Queen; and that’s before even getting to Casino Royale — that it’s starting to get a bit depressing. Amidst all the furor comes a little Aussie movie called Candy, in which Heath Ledger and rising star Abbie Cornish (of the under-seen Somersault) play a pair of pretty young junkies whose lives slowly and inexorably collapse around them. Before it dives into full degradation, the film at least shows us the highs of addiction, the glorious fog of lazy usage which actually entices people into the lifestyle (“we lived on sunlight and chocolate bars”) — too many films on addicts and addiction are all too eager to get to the depravity that they skip the important first steps.
My review ran in filmcritic.com. Link.
Late last year, somewhere amid the sound and fury of the last-minute Oscar blitz, a quiet little film was released by the name of Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, which is just now hitting DVD. Being the real-life story of a Protestant girl executed by the Nazis in 1943 for protesting the war and the treatment of Jews, you’d think it would be the sort of angelic biopic that brings tears to the eyes but in an entirely hackneyed way. The film that resulted couldn’t be further from that — a restrained, severe, and rigorously honest morality play, it doesn’t provide Scholl with any great reward for her actions, only death, and the knowledge that she was right. The scene where she says goodbye to her parents, who instead of telling her to beg for her life assure her that she’s doing the right thing, is one of the most emotionally devastating I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t miss it.
My review originally ran on filmcritic.com. Link.
I know it’ll be tough to drag yourself away from that third screening of Borat, but this one is worth it. Just opened in New York and hopefully to play here and there around the country, Iraq in Fragments is a gorgeously photographed and poetic treatment of the country, post-invasion, done in three segments, each focusing on an individual from one of the main ethnic groups. Unlike most documentaries on Iraq, this one is not so much about informing Americans about themselves and their role in the war, but on the Iraqi people themselves, and what they’re going through. It’s not a film with a point, but rather the first truly artistic treatment of an ancient country being riven by an almost unbelieveable chaos and degradation of all forms of civilization.
My review ran in filmcritic.com. Link.
In the midst of all the heavy reading filling bookstore shelves now on the current political climate, it’s good to see that publishers are still unafraid to put out hefty tomes by Big Thinkers with Big Ideas on broader topics. Case in point: Robert Kagan’s Dangerous Nation, a brilliant study of America in the world, its constant drive for power and expansionism that’s curiously twinned with a near-complete myopia about its effect on the world. In short, we like to think of ourselves as naive idealists, when in fact the truth is somewhat nastier. What makes Kagan’s book so strong is that he doesn’t approach the topic from the expected, hectoring, Chomsky-ite point of view, but rather from that of a foreign policy realist. Helpfully, he’s also a writer of unusual grace and power. One of the best of the year.
My review ran on PopMatters. Link.