Five years into the Iraq War, Cornell Press has republished P.W. Singer’s groundbreaking 2003 study of military contractors, Corporate Warriors, which would have been a welcome thing even if they hadn’t done anything to the book besides fix a few typos. But fortunately, Singer has gone back and added a terse but heavy-hitting afterword on what has transpired since the book’s original publication: “The Lessons of Iraq.” When Singer first wrote Corporate Warriors he was mostly just trying to shed light and analysis on an incredibly secretive field that had been little studied. By the time he revisited the subject for this new edition, the situation appears to have grown to include an even larger part of the American military infrastructure, and with almost just as little reflection as there was before the first missile hit Baghdad.
The new edition of Corporate Warriors was recently published. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
Back in the early fourth century AD, the Roman Empire was riven by strife between dueling factions and threatened by northern barbarian hordes. One of the striving emperors, Constantine the Great, had a vision or dream featuring a cross that read, “In this sign you will be the victor.” The stage was then set for Christianity to become the Roman Empire’s state religion, a change often been played up by Christian historians as miraculous forward step in the previously underground religion’s legitimacy. However, in the viewpoint of James Carroll — the ex-priest and journalist whose 2001 bestseller, Constantine’s Sword, is the basis for Owen Jacoby’s thoughtful documentary of the same name — this is a more problematic event.
Constantine’s Sword is playing in limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
The hard core of concert hall habitués who await a new Philip Glass opera or symphony as children might look for presents on a snowy December morn will almost certainly be let down by Scott Hicks’ affectionate documentary on the composer, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. This would be a shame, for if they looked past the lack of long soliloquies from Glass on why he chose this particular movement over another, or on the details of his working method, they would find a completely charming piece of work that’s as unassuming and winning as the man himself.
Like figures in a Robert Altman film left too long in the sun, and who possibly never had that much going on upstairs to begin with, the characters of Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen’s Jellyfish wander about and go missing in their own lives, eventually washing up on the Tel Aviv beach like the silent hulks of dead jellyfish scattered across the sands. There’s action and episode here, but little purpose or necessity, just people trying to find their way in a world that baffles them with its willful obtuseness, and more often than not, gets them lost in the process. Everything comes back to the sea.
Jellyfish is in limited release now. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
While Etgar Keret can claim the not-exactly-thrilling title of being the most popular Israeli author of fiction published in America (quick, name another one), that doesn’t mean he’s a small fish in a rinky-dink pond. The guy can write, and not just with humor, but with style. His stories are like swift, poisoned darts that you initially think you can dodge, but every now and again the cock-eyed despair that he layers beneath the jokes and absurd situations gets you right between the eyes. You’re not sure whether to laugh or to cry.
Keret’s newest short-story collection, The Girl on the Fridge, has just been published. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
Though it doesn’t appear that Wong Kar Wai is going to be setting up shop permanently in Hollywood (nobody’s going to be after him to direct the next Die Hard installment), My Blueberry Nights marks his first English-language film, with an entirely American and British cast. It shows that the director is not just a foreign-language specialty. However, My Blueberry Nights also shows that for all Wong’s rightly vaunted abilities and passionate sense of cinema, there are some glaringly obvious rough patches in his approach, brought into sharp relief by transplanting the action from the teeming streets of Hong Kong to the wide open spaces of America, where his instincts for actors seem less sure…
My Blueberry Nights is in theaters now. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
Adam Thirlwell’s beautiful circus of a book, The Delighted States, serves as a welcome guide to the idea of literature as not just something that springs fully formed from the mind of a genius (or hack), but is instead a process with a historical lineage that must be taken into consideration; literature does not emerge from a vacuum. For those concerned that Thirlwell is one of those theorists unable to contemplate literature outside of its context, rest assured, he’s hardly immune to the gut-level attractions of great literature. Thirlwell admiringly quotes Nabakov, who said “what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art.”
The Delighted States will be in stores later this month. You can read the full review at PopMatters.