We Live in Public
Unlike the claims made by interviewees in many documentaries about a single, allegedly fascinating personality, there is one particularly grandiose one spouted off early in Ondi Timoner’s rough-cut but fascinating We Live in Public that actually seems to be true. Speaking of online media entrepreneur Josh Harris, one person refers to him as “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.” While the film that follows does a crack job of making this case, it doesn’t much bother trying to convince viewers that they’ve necessarily missed out on anything by this omission…
We Live in Public is playing now in very limited release. You can read the full review at Short Ends & Leader.
Empire of Illusion
In this day and age, starting a book with a full-throated attack on something as supposedly proletariat-friendly as professional wrestling, as Chris Hedges does in Empire of Illusion, takes some guts. The cultural and intellectual elites have had their marching orders for some time now: Mustn’t mock anything perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the territory of the Common Man. They still do it, of course, but it’s a slyer sort of jape. An off-hand snipe about patronizing a chain restaurant, say, or consuming the lower order of reality shows (i.e., those that don’t air on Bravo or VH1)…
Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle is in stores now, for what it’s worth. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
It’s often said about ambitiously failed works of art that they have greatness in them. That but for the grace of the muses – a better edit here, a dialogue tweak there – the work in question would have been able to vault that shadowy and indistinct line that separate those things which ultimately worked and those that didn’t. This isn’t much help to the filmmakers, of course, because such statements are often left vague and fuzzy, the speaker trailing off into an indecipherable musing on what exactly it was that left them so nonplussed. In the case of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, the film doesn’t just have greatness in it, there’s mighty rivers of greatness simply leaking out of the thing…
Inglorious Basterds, already a hit in Europe, opens here today. You can read the full (very mixed) review at Short Ends & Leader.
Not as smart as it wants to be but much cleverer than it could have been, District 9 is a kind of gross-out laboratory of sociologically-minded science fiction tropes updated for the post-Cloverfield generation. A first-contact scenario that eschews angelic choirs and glowing wonder for muddy corruption, the film threads enough thoughtful commentary into its whirligig media-fractured action plot to mostly make up for its lapses into cliché…
District 9 opens wide today. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The nonfiction novel is a curious beast at best—it’s too frilly in nature for the stylistically antiseptic practitioners of modern-day journalism (your Jane Mayers and Bob Woodwards) and more concerned with the quotidian lives of ordinary people than many current novelists would prefer (Roberto Bolano to Stephenie Meyer). By using multiple and overlapping points of view and creatively smoothing out some corners that were likely more jagged in the resolutely “true” telling, the nonfiction novel can easily fall prey to charges of distorting history for the sake of art, similarly to how a Hollywood prestige blockbuster “based on actual events” is often critiqued…
You can read the rest of my feature about, among other things, the new book Zeitoun, titled “Chronicling Catastrophe: Dave Eggers and the American Nonfiction Novel” at PopMatters.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
For better or for worse, what G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra inarguably does is to replicate quite well the experience of watching the militarized toy-advertisement cartoons that enraptured so many youthful males during the Reagan era. The film, as programmed by Stephen Sommers, captures the same gung-ho esprit des corps and the theme of banding together with an internationally diversified team (led by an appropriately rock-jawed American, of course), to do battle with a super-evil terrorist force. Both sides (the G.I. Joe team and their slithery evil enemies Cobra) have more weaponry to draw upon than the entire Wehrmacht, and many grudges to settle — not to mention a propensity for ninja tactics and rappelling into battle, which makes things that much more exciting…
G.I. Joe opened yesterday throughout the universe. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
I Sell the Dead
One would think that being a grave robber was a hard enough career. But in writer-director Glenn McQuaid’s bumptious horror comedy, I Sell the Dead, it’s a one-way ticket to indentured servitude and terrifying encounters with the undead.
Set in a particularly fog-shrouded corner of 19th century Ireland, the film is a buddy story about a pair of no-luck grave robbers, crusty old drunk Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden in fully whiskered, slovenly oaf mode) and impish joker Arthur Blake (a particularly puckish Dominic Monaghan), who discover that successfully stealing corpses is the least of their concerns…
I Sell the Dead opens in limited release on Friday. You can read the full review at The Hollywood Reporter.