Free-market extremist Milton Friedman’s adoring obituary from the Financial Times in 2006 downplayed the central role that “the master” had in inspiring Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to go to war with unions and the civil service sector, and somehow forgot to mention Chile at all. Given that “the master’s” theories about the free market and privatization were a central component in the governing policies of the dictatorships which ravaged much of South America starting in the ‘70s, it’s an odd absence, and given what Naomi Klein says in her hand grenade of a book, The Shock Doctrine, a nearly criminal one.
You can read my full, rather lengthy, article about The Shock Doctrine at PopMatters.
Normally it would be a critic’s great, grinning pleasure to report on a film narrated by Justin Timberlake—in the form of a mentally and physically scarred, Book of Revelations-quoting Fallujah vet who likes to lip-synch to The Killers in other people’s nightmares—and co-starring a bleach-blond Jon Lovitz and dreadlocked, rollerblading Cheri Oteri as pistol-packing agents of the apocalypse. Not this time, unfortunately. There is more Dadaist illogic and over-imagined genre cross-pollination in about ten minutes’ worth of Donnie Darko writer/director Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales than in just about anything else you’ll come across in theatres this year or the next five. It’s a great bucket of sketches and ideas well-populated with a crack cast, mostly playing slightly satiric versions of their standard roles, that clearly has been close to Kelly’s heart in the six-odd years since he first started writing it; the problem is, it appears to have been too close.
Southland Tales is in theaters now, waiting for your post-Thanksgiving viewing. You can read the full review in Film Journal International.
Margot at the Wedding, Noah Baumbach’s fourth time out as writer/director and one that seems to set a template for the future. It’s a chill breeze of a film steeped in ugly inter-familial squabbling and the blinkered mentality of its self-absorbed characters who can generally only raise their gaze from their own navels long enough to find something lacking in the person they’re addressing. The sour tone which was shot through Baumbach’s previous work, The Squid and the Whale, has almost completely curdled here, though without losing any of that film’s swift tartness.
Margot opened in theaters today. You can read the full review in filmcritic.com.
Just as one doesn’t go to Michael Bay for messages of social responsibility, you don’t call on Brian De Palma when looking for a sensitive examination of rape and murder during wartime. As a filmmaker he’s a sensationalist at heart, seemingly unable to resist the urge to tart up any given material with comic exaggeration, particularly in the grotty, adolescent sex/violence nexus he’s so fond of. Like a dirty-minded Sam Fuller without the journalistic drive to locate some element of truth amidst the pulp trappings, De Palma is all about the gut punch, a tendency that can serve him in good stead when making gangster flicks, less so when trying to make an anti-war statement, as in his newest, Redacted.
Redacted is out in theaters now. You can read the full review in Film Journal International.
New on DVD
Following the thunderous and stupefying climax of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey — after the film has dispensed with even the rudiments of plot and human interaction it had previously been dallying with and gone straight for the cerebral cortex with a sense-jolting assault of sound and vision — many have found themselves moved to do something extraordinarily foolish, such as ask questions about What It All Meant. But to try and pin down this multi-dimensional work with reasons and purpose would not only be futile, it would miss the point entirely (assuming there is one, quite debatable) while also justifying the complaints of those who consider the film a colossal bore and demand an explanation for their time. This isn’t to say that the complainers are wrong: 2001 certainly is a colossal bore, unless you’re on its wavelength, in which case it’s one of the greatest films of all time.
A new 2-disc DVD of the film is out now as part of the new Warner Bros. “Directors Series” box set. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The flames from the bonfires around which the participants in Julien Temple’s loving filmic portrait Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten are gathered helps bring something more to their faces and words than the cold glare of a documentarian’s prying camera. Warmth, heat, honesty… whatever it is, that factor is a large part of what makes this documentary such a rollicking, damn near inspirational film, since these people for the most part don’t appear to be simply spitting words at an interviewer in the standard manner of a documentary, but rather conversing. They’re not being interviewed, it seems, but just talking, telling stories around a fire to whomever happens to be listening (as one does), helping the crackling flames keep back the circle of night by remembering one of the century’s most astounding and inexplicable talents.
The film is out in theaters now, should be on DVD in a couple months. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
There’s something dead in Denzel Washington’s eyes nearly all of the way through Ridley Scott’s American Gangster, which takes what should have been a mesmerizing slice of urban historical grit and grinds it into roughly two hours of standard issue cinema. Washington is playing Frank Lucas, a real-life crime boss who for a period lasting from the late 1960s into the following decade, ran Manhattan “from 110th to 155th, river to river.” A real slick character who doesn’t need to strut his worth on the street, Lucas hates flash like a junkie hates rehab: It reminds him of all he truly is but doesn’t want to be.
The film opens real wide today. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.