Images can only do so much, even in film. When director John Hillcoat and writer Joe Penhall decided to turn Cormac McCarthy’s grim fable The Road into a film, they were setting themselves up for failure. When the Coen brothers filmed McCarthy’s previous novel, No Country for Old Men, they had a property just begging to be filmed: Its drumming plot and sawed-off dialogue were like a primitive projection system unspooling in the reader’s mind…
The Road opens in limited release today. See it if you dare. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.
In Jonathan Parker’s spry and spiky satire (Untitled), the composer in question, Adrian, is played by Adam Goldberg as a black hole of self-fulfilling failure. When first spotted, he’s riven with conflicting jealousy and disgust over the success of his brother Josh’s (Eion Bailey) art. Josh sells tonally neutral paintings to hospitals and hotels looking for soothing, repeatable pieces that don’t conflict with the décor. As comfortable as Josh is with his success, Adrian is torn apart by his lack of it — he performs atonal noise-explosions that seem designed to drive away listeners, even though bemoans his lack of success…
(Untitled) is playing in extraordinarily limited release now but is worth seeking out. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The End of Poverty?
Recently the poor seem to have lost their status as a subject of interest for the Western creative class. Once upon a time, the writings of Jacob Riis and Michael Harrington, WPA documentation, and even Preston Sturges’ films made the struggles of the poor (working or not) a constant and difficult-to-ignore pop-cultural theme. The hobo, a poignant representation of those millions made homeless by the Great Depression, became such a stock in trade during the 1930s and afterward, that he became a cliché…
The End of Poverty? is in limited release now. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Harkening back to the joys of their first collaboration, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach’s script for their stop-motion animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel The Fantastic Mr. Fox brings a wry and mature sensibility to the story, enhancing the original’s larkish fun. Although it may initially seem to be yet another kids-film-for-adults of the kind the industry has been pumping out of late, Mr. Fox manages to be something else entirely. Pandering to neither audience, it remains true to its story’s vulpine nature…
The Fantastic Mr. Fox opens tomorrow and shouldn’t be missed. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The Death of Conservatism
The Death of Conservatism.. For Now would have been a more apt title for Sam Tanenhaus’ book, but any editor worth their salt would have lopped that dangling ellipse of prevarication right off. It has the zing and jab of the political potboilers that increasingly crowd the bestseller lists and display tables at airport newsstands. But the boldly declarative title doesn’t do justice to the nuanced argument that lies behind. This is a book that doesn’t describe the end of an ideology so much as it explains the ideology’s current state of tail-eating suicide as a low point in a long historical trajectory of ups and downs…
Tanenhaus’ book is in stores now. You can also see his interview with Bill Moyers here. Read the full review of the book at PopMatters.
The great events of history have a tendency to collapse into a few melodramatic snapshots that hardly do justice to the real thing. Just as the collapse of the Berlin Wall was precipitated by a more complex chain of events than Ronald Reagan snapping his fingers at Mikhail Gorbachev, so too apartheid’s end was brought down by more than the stubborn persistence of an imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Endgame crafts a crackling thriller out of the tangle of crafty maneuvering and happenstance that put a stop to South Africa’s longstanding official segregation…
Endgame is in limited release now and should be on DVD soon — make sure to check it out. Read the full review at PopMatters.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol
If watching goony-faced animatronic creatures cowering in terror or delivering Christmas cheer as if with a cudgel is your idea of a good time, then Disney’s A Christmas Carol should be right up your alley. (Those who enjoy virtual roller-coaster rides and long falls from high places are also encouraged to attend.)…
A Christmas Carol — the 3D CGI version — opened everywhere Friday. You can read the full review at PopMatters.