Alice Englert and Elle Fanning in ‘Ginger & Rosa’
The newest film from Sally Potter (Orlando) is something of a departure for her. Straightforward stylistically, it’s a beautifully-shot story about two girls growing up in fractured families and learning how to navigate the stresses that the outside world and inexplicable, irresponsible adults put on their friendship.
My review ran at PopMatters:
In Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, two girls are linked by disaster at birth and have a hard time dodging it during their lives. As the film begins, the 17-year-olds are wrapped around each other like young kittens looking for a warm place to sleep. But soon enough, even joyful experiences (political activism, young love) lead to frustration and rage.
The setting is 1962, London. It’s a grey place, barely rebuilt after the Second World War: people keep their coats on indoors because the heating is no good. Here Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) find solace in one another and in jazz records. These bohemians have been best friends since childhood. Their mothers gave birth in adjoining hospital beds just as an atomic bomb was blasting Hiroshima off the planet’s surface. As the film juxtaposes the mushroom cloud and its aftermath with the mothers screaming in childbirth, we get the idea that the girls are born into a world of destruction…
It’s available today on DVD and Blu-ray.
Here’s the trailer:
Rooney Mara in Soderbergh’s ‘Side Effects’
Steven Soderbergh’s pharma-thriller Side Effects —out today on DVD and Blu-ray—appears to be the polymath filmmaker’s last feature film. (His apparently truly last film, the Liberace biopic, Beyond the Candelabra, premieres on HBO this weekend, since no studio had the imagination or spine to release it even to a few theaters.)
My full review of Side Effects originally ran at Film Journal International, here’s part of it:
The film’s ad campaign hinted at something vaguely related to Contagion, playing up the fact that both movies share a director (Soderbergh) and screenwriter (Scott Z. Burns), and that they are structured around a specific modern-day fear. While that pandemic film was more a fully realized, flesh-and-blood fictional story than it was a docudrama, Side Effects is really a sleekly constructed noir where the pharmaceutical topicality is mostly backdrop…
You can watch the trailer here:
One of the only films that almost everybody (from cinephiles to more well-balanced individuals) was talking about last fall besides Lincoln was the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. It was an interesting take on the mythology, with vigorous direction from Sam Mendes, and an unprecedented look at Bond’s bleak, aristocratic origins.
I wrote about Skyfall as a fight for the continued notion of British imperial relevance for PopMatters:
Whatever romanticism was left in the hoary old Bond franchise, in Skyfall Judi Dench’s M does her best to put a bullet in it. The standard opening chase sequence sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on a motorbike over the roofs of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul before putting him onto the top of a speeding train to do battle with an assassin. First, M instructs Bond to leave his wounded cohort behind. Then, since agent Eve (Naomie Harris) can’t get a clear shot to take out the assassin without also risking hitting Bond, M tells her to fire away anyway. Result: one big bloody hole in Bond’s trim suit coat and one escaped assassin…
Skyfall comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray.
You can watch the trailer here:
Stan Musial, the greatest St. Louis Cardinal that ever put on the red, and one of the greatest pro athletes of the 20th century, died Saturday at the age of 92. Born in Donora, Pennsylvania (where he played ball with Buddy Griffey, father to both Ken Griffey and Ken Jr.), Musial spent his entire professional career with the Cardinals, a legacy that would be nearly unthinkable today, particularly when you consider he played 22 seasons in the majors.
According to his New York Times obituary, Musial actually received his nickname in Brooklyn:
Musial thrived at the Dodgers’ Ebbets Field, plastering the right-field scoreboard and hitting home runs over it, and winning the grudging admiration of the notoriously tough Brooklyn fans.
“I did some phenomenal hitting there,” he told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The ballpark was small, so the seats were close to the field and you could hear just about anything anybody said. Then I’d come to the plate and the fans would say, ‘Here comes that man again.’ And a sportswriter picked it up and it became Stan the Man.”
Earlier this year, Sarah Polley’s heartsick love triangle melodrama Take This Waltz came out and was summarily and quite unfairly ignored by audiences. It’s out today on DVD, make sure not to miss it. My review is at PopMatters:
Somewhere inside this full-tilt lovesick blur is the kernel of a wildly uninteresting story. Woman in cozy relationship sans fireworks becomes attracted to new fella, with whom she has fireworks galore, but a dubious future. What to do: stay with husband or fly off with fling? Play the good wife or bad mistress? There’s a spinning galaxy of clichés for writer/director Polley to choose from here, but somehow she skips past them (well, almost all) and delivers a shimmering and raw ode to the ferocity of desire and the heartbreak that so often follows it…
You can see the trailer here:
My review of Bruce Wagner’s novel Dead Stars is up now at PopMatters:
It’s actually possible to think, upon finishing Bruce Wagner’s Dead Stars — his first novel since 2006’s majestic Memorial — that things have somehow managed to get worse in Hollywood over the past few years, vis a vis the human soul. Wagner’s writing has always worked that seam of grandiosely disaffected Tinseltown ennui pioneered so darkly by Nathaniel West.
But as crepuscular as Wagner’s view of humanity and the modern world had been in the past, little compares to his new novel’s phantasmagoria of pain and desire, where if it isn’t Tweeted, isn’t YouTubed, isn’t continually riding the wave of the eternally cresting Now, then it isn’t worth a damn…
Dead Stars is on sale now.
You can see Wagner talking to the Los Angeles Review of Books (yes, there does seem to be some inherent contradictions in that publication’s name) about his novel here:
- So where will you be when the United Nations invades?
- Poe to Shakespeare and Burns: Lincoln’s favorite poetry.
- Foreign policy flapdoodle and the possible return of ol’ Dick Nixon?
- The Sequaltology bracket is all well and awesome, but is it worth anything without The Road Warrior?
- Admired and disliked all at the same time: rich people.
- When reviews are real, and when they’re really really not (meaning: paid for).
- This is a horrible way to act like a real spy.
- Welcome back, culture war.
- Coming soon: special-edition Campbell’s Soup cans. Yes.
- The end of this particular (race) era.
- Melville, kills career with Moby-Dick, says forget this, I’m going to Jerusalem!
- The dancing, dear Lord, the dancing.
- What, oh what happened to the home state? This happened, and then people started moving.
- Print and read: “A steady ingestion of super-PAC poison, talking-point Novocain and fund-raising spam.”
For all the ink spilled (sorry, bits uploaded) about the demoting of Ann Curry over at the Today show and whether or not David Gregory was in or out at Meet the Press, the most dramatic story in American media right now is still happening in New Orleans. The city’s daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, has a 175-year history. It was just about the only institution that managed to function during and just after Katrina. Even after the kind of budget cuts that small-minded owners in smaller media markets are so enamored of (“More With Less“), they were still putting out the kind of very strong investigative pieces that civic government needs to watchdog it.
Then came the news that the Times-Picayune owners were cutting back to three days a week. So, more layoffs. But no worries, the owners said, because our “enhanced” website is going to keep operating. One soon-to-be-laid-off reporter had an opinion on how that’s going to work and laid it out in a letter to the management:
I take a lot of pride in my work, even after I’ve been fired and told my experience, skills, and talents are of no use after Sept. 30. I know that I am good at what I do. But compared to other news outlets, our website is a joke. We break news – but no one would know because of the worst news website known to man and the priority setting – whoever is doing it, is totally ####. Embarrassing, compared to TV. And yet we are focused on digital now? Enhanced? Who is buying this crap?
Sad as this is, it does appear irreversible for the time being. For right now, New Orleans will be the only major American city without a daily print newspaper. It will not be the last. That means going forward, stories like this one will most likely not be uncovered. And the guilty will run free.
New on DVD:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A quiet paen to personal discovery that masquerades as a quixotic journey into the wasteland of grief, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close makes a valiant attempt to understand catastrophe and loss but never manages to truly come to grips with it. This is a film in which the shadow of 9/11 is supposed to always be there, even though the smoking towers are only glimpsed a few times, once from a great distance and otherwise through televised news segments. But the horror of that day is sieved through too many filters and ends up as almost an abstraction…
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is available now on DVD. You can read my full review at PopMatters.