As hopeless a state of affairs it may seem for so many today, sense, reason and justice always prevail. As the plaintiffs in The Case Against 8 can attest, the pursuit of freedom and the pursuit of happiness are not fought for the individual. They're fought for the whole of humanity. Prejudices are dismantled, disproved and dissipated in time, and it is encouraging to note how America's highest courts can turn to America's oldest legislation to advance those pursuits. The Case Against 8's title makes clear that this is not a balanced debate, and that's because it never was. How sad to think that the majority of the world's population cannot realise this, but how exciting to think that history will remember the struggle for sexual equality under the law as it is presented here. These brave people do not need to argue the sense, reason and justice behind their cause, though to hear them verbalise it so candidly and so eloquently is very moving. Ben Cotner and Ryan White's film exposes, as the preposterously drawn-out legal proceedings did, the lack of sense, reason and justice in the case for Proposition 8 in California; no stable, well-informed mind could stomach considering that case as legitimate, and fleeting reminders of the cunning bigotry that fuelled it are emotionally corrosive. Just as it stings to witness such hatred, it soothes to witness such joy as is experienced when The Case Against 8 reaches its stirring conclusion. Cotner and White know the futility and the sheer inappropriateness of skimping on sentiment when it comes to a story they rightly depict as principally sentimental, rather than procedural; their over-reliance on sappy musical scoring is the movie's foremost flaw, however. But their determined focus on the optimism of this moment in the ongoing battle for LGBT civil rights is, itself, optimistic. Instead of examining the undoubtedly hopeless state of affairs of that battle across the globe today, they examine that state in the future, as history will remember it, as moments like this are shaping it. That's cause enough for me to get very sentimental indeed.
Sunday, 29 June 2014
Saturday, 28 June 2014
Is this the first time a Facebook friend of mine has been quoted in a trailer? Actually, make that a Facebook friend of mine quoted three times in a trailer for a major motion picture. This advertises The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them alongside both Her and Him; the two separate installments premiered back-to-back at TIFF last September, before Weinstein got ahold of the film and insisted it be edited down from two movies into one. But audiences will still get a chance to see all three versions theatrically (the combined version cuts out roughly a third of the footage of the other two), as they're all scheduled for a US release on the 26th of September.
A eulogy to the schlub, trussed up with all the ephemeral pleasures that a middle-brow douchebag is capable of concocting. Jon Favreau's Chef masks its petulant peevishness with laidback comedy and cooking, but these trivial treats don't linger long enough to mask the fact that Chef is one big whine from start to finish. Favreau has designed Chef as a reflection on his career as a high-profile Hollywood filmmaker, as blind in his fictional reconfiguring of fact as he seems to be in real life as to the immense privileges said career has provided this rich, obese, negligibly-talented, white American male. His concept, whose exposition is obnoxiously elongated thus to delineate his One-Percent Woes in full, involves laying the blame for what he retrospectively regards as poor artistic choices on others, and - even more vainly - prematurely presenting himself as his own saviour. Among this resolutely unattractive man's apparent tribulations are being father to a delightful son, having loyal, supportive friends, possessing a marvellous talent for cooking, and choosing between Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara. To distract from the inherent noxiousness of his conceit, Favreau embellishes Chef with a trite male-bonding narrative that compounds the sense that he is just an incompetent boor as a director (and possibly as a human being), proficient only in rehashing the recipes of others, and not even the good ones. Chef is, at least, graced with the visual delights of some of the finest cuisine on film, and a sense of humour that may be hit-and-miss, and may not conceal the stench of self-obsession that radiates from the film (indeed, it maybe even makes it worse), but does account for a few welcome chuckles.
Friday, 27 June 2014
The guise of genre provides an easily-enforced get-out clause for too many movies. It encourages unearned, inauthentic flattery, and subjective opinions, as the viewer responds to the movie's position within a broad cultural landscape, rather than as an individual entity. E.L. Katz's own cheap thrill is to riff on midnight movie staples with a pseudo-intellectualism that's nastier than any of Cheap Thrills' violence. In fact, this is a movie that gets off on pushing the envelope, yet Katz's style and imagery are tame and restrained. He intends to play to our prudish sides, that we might be repulsed by what he proposes, but not unduly repulsed by how he eventually stages it. The crassest he gets is in the garish use of sound effects, really. Working from an overblown script by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, Katz crafts a movie that's basically a less-horrible, more manipulative Saw sequel, not as viciously violent but not as forthcoming about its delusions toward intelligence. In embedding its psychological pretensions within its characters, Cheap Thrills aspires to a Chinese Roulette style of intense character study; it does hold some interest in this regard, especially in its first half, before it becomes clear that no-one has an ace up their sleeve and that the movie they're making is just going to conclude with a lot of silliness. But these characters are stereotypes anyway, not archetypes, all of them derived directly from low-rent genre movies, not highbrow philosophical drama. Cheap Thrills is attracted to a certain genre, but consistently dragged down by its nature as another.
Thursday, 26 June 2014
Weinstein are rly trying to convince us that The Giver isn't just another YA movie destined to bomb, with an even smaller budget than most such films, a big-name cast and a literary source that's older than most of the prospective audience. The film is out in the US on the 15th of August. StudioCanal is handling international distribution, so release dates for many territories haven't yet been confirmed.
Hollywood is willing to let Jon Favreau back into the big-budget fold with The Jungle Book. Not that we need another version of that story, because bitch plz wasn't the Disney animated one good enough?! Ben Kingsley has just been cast as Bagheera, well the best character, and methinks that's a smart casting choice. The film will be released on the 9th of October 2015.
Gonna admit it, I'm totes not interested in this. I don't think it looks much good. I mean, it looks fine, just no better. The music is by Gravity's Steven Price, and the editing by Memento's Dody Dorn. Out in the British Isles on the 24th of October and in North America on the 14th of November.
Rooney Mara will play Amanda Lindhout in an adaptation of Lindhout and Sara Corbett's memoir, A House in the Sky, that has been optioned by Mara herself alongside Annapurna Pictures. Lindhout was abducted by terrorists in Mogadishu in 2008, and the book details her ordeal in Somalia, which is a story ripe for a big-screen rendering.
Aaaaaaaaand you did it to yourself. A bunch of little new rules from the Academy includes one particularly pointed one for the music branch. After Bruce Broughton emailed other branch members last year to promote his eligible song from Alone Yet Not Alone, the Academy disqualified said song upon its nomination, since that officially counted as a breach of the rules. Dunno what the new rule, in which it is stipulated that members of this branch are not permitted to contact others to participate in such promotional activities, means in this context, since surely this must already have been the case, but hey.
Due in the US on the 29th of August, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's The Last of Robin Hood arrives in theatres almost a full year after its festival debut last September. The above trailer looks amiable enough, with strong performances, though it's a rather shoddily-assembled piece of promotion. Glatzer and Westmoreland will be back next year with Still Alice, with Julianne Moore.
A few things I gleaned upon looking over the list of new Academy members, which you can read in full over at AwardsDaily:
Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki! That's how we do it!
Chantal Akerman! About fucking time.
Claire Denis! Ditto.
Jean-Claude Carriere! Ditto.
Diane Kurys! Ditto.
Thomas Vinterberg! The Celebration, obvs. Just not It's All About Love.
Rithy Panh! I'm all over that.
Rob Riggle! No rly, they rly just did that.
Those reviews sure are strong for a film which, k, lbr, kinda looks like shit. The reviews aren't all as good as the ones they've put in the trailer, natch. This premiered at the Austin Fantastic Fest to much praise last September, and opened in New York on Friday.
Eli Wallach was one of the finest American actors in the history of cinema. Since his brilliant breakthrough in Baby Doll, he spent his 57-year film career playing some of the finest character parts in some of the finest projects, including The Magnificent Seven, The Misfits and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A performer both beloved and respected in Hollywood and by international audiences, he died on Tuesday, the 24th of June. He is survived by his actor wife of 66 years, Anne Jackson, three children, five grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Extraordinary events seen through the extraordinary filter that history has attributed to them, in an ordinary documentary. It's impressive how much a good story and some good intentions can achieve, and it's inconceivable to consider Anita Hill's story told truthfully without such noble intentions. Would that Freida Lee Mock had good filmmaking instincts, and she might have spoken these truths to a much greater power. Hill's subpoenaed appearance before a senate hearing, which has morphed into a trial of her character even before it has begun, provides ample material for a reflection on American attitudes toward gender and race in the early 1990s, and to the public notion of the invalidity of many claims of sexual assault and harassment, and for an examination of those same issues today. The proceedings are riveting in their content and fascinating in their context, both contemporarily and with 23 years' hindsight. Yet Mock strains to emphasise points that are far less strenuously yet far more successfully communicated by this footage, and she bulks up the back end of her film with her own, unnecessary defence of Hill's character. The nature of her public struggle to be heard and believed is evidence enough as to her integrity. The film nevertheless has considerable value as an item of uplift and of inspiration, even if it chooses not to elaborate upon the problems which Hill is helping to provide solutions for. To accompany Mock's portrait of her protagonist, further probing into the personae of her interrogators, or into the culture that influenced their opinions then (and the opinions of so many even now) would have permitted Anita to be as insightful a film as it is inspirational.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
The Rambo franchise is one of those ones that grew out of a modest first installment, and then grew out of Hollywood's bizarre desire to try to make Sylvester Stallone a major star again. Have you seen his face?! He'll write Rambo V, and after the most recent Rambo film was described as the series' most violent yet, the fifth one will see the famous character go up against a Mexican cartel! Apparently it will be 'his version of No Country for Old Men'. Apparently.
We already knew George Clooney and Josh Brolin would head up the Coen brothers' next film, Universal Pictures' Hail Caesar! Now some details on the supporting cast. Burn After Reading star Tilda Swinton will play a gossip columnist, Ralph Fiennes a film director and Channing Tatum a star, apparently modelled on Gene Kelly. Looks like a particularly starry outing for the writer-director-editor-producers, who are starry enough in their own right!
It was men vs. boys at theatres in North America at the weekend, though the real winner was the sequel brigade. All three top earners were follow-ups to comedy hits, and the battle for No. 1 was a closely-fought race between last weekend's first place, 22 Jump Street, and victor Think Like a Man Too. Grosses were nevertheless way down on the same weekend in 2013, when the Top 3 alone accounted for over $50 million more than this weekend's entire revenue.
1) Think Like a Man Too ($29,241,911)
Unlike 22 Jump Street, Think Like a Man Too was unable to claim an opening weekend victory over its predecessor, and that's probably the fault of Jump Street, which came a close second. Comedy sequels tend to need to notch up very large improvements to close higher in the end (The Hangover Part II being a classic example), so Sony ScreenGems will likely be underwhelmed by this performance. It's already made back its budget, though, so it's still a win for the studio.
2) 22 Jump Street ($27,460,995)
3) How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($24,719,312)
4) Jersey Boys (13,319,371)
No-one realistically expected Jersey Boys to open much higher than this. The lightly-marketed musical adaptation features no marquee names, and is being sold to an older audience, unlikely to turn out in massive numbers on opening weekend. So this ought to hold decently over the coming weeks. The film was shown in more screens than any other Clint Eastwood film on opening weekend; it's on track to become his eighth highest grosser as director.
5) Maleficent ($12,910,766)
6) Edge of Tomorrow ($9,820,080)
7) The Fault in Our Stars ($8,565,710)
8) X-Men: Days of Future Past ($6,150,460)
9) Godzilla ($1,888,304)
10) Chef ($1,708,590)
Clint Eastwood has never been the most philosophical of directors. Thematically, his films are simple and straightforward, their surface-based plot machinations kept busy to suffice for any lack of depth. Burdened with this non-fiction tale, a musical biopic, he flounders, with a film that has no narrative centre, and thus no real hook, no significant point of interest onto which we can latch and begin to invest our compassion. His latest cinematic experiment is one almost entirely unsuited to his skills as a filmmaker, with a fickle, flitting plot structure that demands a breeziness he doesn't possess, as opposed to the delicacy he does. The problem isn't Eastwood's reluctance to shut up and play the hits - not at all, they're here in abundance, and his defiantly non-theatrical staging of them actually befits this story on the screen. The problem is that Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's screenplay discloses none of the sympathy for their characters that it requires we cough up instead. They give Eastwood scenes of conflict and reconciliation that cry out for his probing, perceptive touch, but embedded within a shallow framework that relies upon the glamour and the nostalgia of the story rather than its emotional content. So Jersey Boys' success as a movie varies from scene to scene, depending on which elements are given the most room to shine, in what is an extremely sprawling enterprise in many regards: the performances fizz one moment, the dialogue drags the next. The cinematography is seductive in one shot, then over-saturated the next. The bizarre hodgepodge builds to a dire climactic scene set at the Four Seasons' induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, where the achingly drawn-out monologues (an aspect of the show that only reduces the degree of our empathy on film) vies with the old-age makeup for sheer heinousness. But the film is a hodgepodge of great as much as terrible, and though he continues to skimp on the philosophical complexity, Clint Eastwood remains a master of mood, and crafts a number of tart, evocative scenes here.
Monday, 23 June 2014
After that pretty stunning trailer, here are five stills from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman. After a slight change of pace with 2010's Biutiful, and with this representing an even bigger change of pace for the popular Mexican director, some seem to have forgotten how ambitious Gonzalez Inarritu's films can be. But this looks to be reminding people. Out in the US on the 17th of October and in the UK on the 2nd of January.
After his latest festival hit, Like Father, Like Son, also turned out to be a hit with audiences, Koreeda Hirokazu has become attached to his most high-profile film to date. He'll direct an adaptation of the popular comic Kamakura Diary, which has been serialised in Japan's Flowers magazine since 2007. The story is that of three sisters in Kamakura (Ayase Haruka, Kaho and Nagasawa Masami) whose life together undergoes a change when they are joined by a 13-year-old half-sister. Alongside her well-known co-stars will be Hirose Suzu, a newcomer to film acting in the role of the half-sister. A summer 2015 release is currently on the slate for the film, which takes on a welcome female focus after the male-dominated Like Father, Like Son.
Since 2000's In the Mood for Love, each of Wong Kar Wai's films has arrived on the screen with a fair deal of expectation attached. You can anticipate a similar buzz to form around his next feature, which is set to be an adaptation of the short story Ferryman, by Zhang Jia Jia from his collection I Belonged to You. Zhang will write the script, which centres on a married artist and a young woman with whom he conducts an affair.
Ava DuVernay's Selma is a curious case: a film anticipated with equal fervour by both mainstream and arthouse audiences. And from a black female director. The up-and-comer's account of the civil rights movement in America, starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, is scheduled for a U.S. release on Christmas Day, a ballsy move by Paramount, positioning the film as a major awards contender. It will open against another potential Oscar contender directed by a woman, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. That, provided that the film will be ready - that release is only six months away, and the film is still under production.
After Bernardo Bertolucci made a controversial choice at Venice 2013 and brought the Golden Lion home to his, and the festival's, home nation with the documentary Sacro GRA, the fest's organising committees have selected composer Alexandre Desplat to head up the jury this year. He'll be the first musician to serve as jury chair at Venice, which is widely regarded as the world's second most prestigious film festival after Cannes.
I wasn't sold on Mikael Roskam's The Drop based on the first trailer, but this one has me so there. I'm so there. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini and Matthias Schoenaerts, doing an American accent better than most Americans.
The style of one's own art, be it a painting, a motion picture, or the clothes on one's back. What a privilege that we can create that art out of something seen as a necessity, and what a joy that we can do it for the sake of just doing it. In their later years, seven New York women have honed their art into something remarkable, and groundbreaking. Their audacity is laudable; it is perhaps only seen as so by the general populace due to their age - we know that their experiments with fashion are actually well-considered, and their mental vitality confirms as much. Ari Cohen leads Lina Plioplyte's inspiring documentary, a cinematic expansion of Cohen's Advanced Style blog, about the fashions of stylish women over 50. Their grace, their self-confidence and their spunkiness are what bring those fashions to life, and the film is equally a tribute to that as it is to their impeccable artistic sensibilities. And their art is so legitimate because it is so deeply felt - this is personal style as an honest extension of personal feeling, and the clothes sit so perfectly on these women as a result, as though they were born in them and were intended to live their whole lives in them. It's soon as obvious to us as it is to Cohen that they are the true style icons of our time, since the beauty that emanates from them is not just visual, but also emotional. Plioplyte's art, this film, boasts none of the fearless originality of her subjects, but it does have their sincerity. Music choices are cliched and grossly overused, but are easy to look past, since what Advanced Style has in its looks is top notch.
Sunday, 22 June 2014
'A Sudanese refugee is taken in by a straight-talking American woman in their new home in the United States.' So reads the IMDb plot description for The Blind Side 2, otherwise known as The Good Lie #plz. Don't get me started on how revolted I am by this. Reese already has her shots at a second Oscar this year with Wild and Inherent Vice. She doesn't need this. The world doesn't need this. A British release on the 26th of September; an American release on the 3rd of October.
Directed by David Dobkin, who made Wedding Crashers. The right choice for this movie? The right choice for any movie? This looks like a strong premise, but that's as far as said strength looks to extend. Out in the US on the 10th of October, followed by a UK release on the 24th.
More Star Wars shit. JJ Abrams has a bit of talent, but Rian Johnson has a bit more. A bit more. Nerdgasms aplenty however. Gareth Edwards is doing the spinoff, remember? More nerdgasms. Plus a severe absence of vagina.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a bad-looking film that was turned into a good film by good directorial choices courtesy of Rupert Wyatt. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is another bad-looking film which, I hope, will be of equal quality. It's being helmed by Matt Reeves, unjustly criticised by some for Cloverfield and Let Me In. Out in North America on the 11th of July and in the British Isles on the 17th.
Canada's finest, filmmaker Guy Maddin, and his journalist spouse, Kim Morgan, will serve as guest directors at the 2014 Telluride Film Fest. The pair, who are working together on Maddin's upcoming feature Spiritismes, ought to make for an interesting programming team in the Guest Director programme, sponsored by Audible.com and due to run over Labor Day weekend, the 29th of August to the 1st of September.
Justin Simien's feature-length debut Dear White People has caused quite a stir on the festival circuit so far this year, including winning the Grand Jury Prize from Sundance back in January. It's set for release in the US on the 17th of October, with no international releases yet scheduled for the controversial comedy.
On the 17th of October, Pedro Almodovar will receive the 6th Lumiere Award from the Lumiere-Grand Lyon Festival. The fest, which is run by the Lumiere Institute's Bertrand Tavernier and the Cannes Film Festival's Thierry Fremaux, has previously awarded Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gerard Depardieu, Ken Loach and Quentin Tarantino. Almodovar will also present a programme of films entitled 'Almodovar: Mi Historia del Cine', while tributes will run for Isabella Rossellini, Ted Kotcheff and Warren Lieberfarb.
Covering potentially melodramatic terrain with a feather-light touch, Marion Vernoux's Bright Days Ahead is an amiable romantic drama, but its lightness, and the plot's wayward trajectory, consign the film to an inevitable future as a forgotten piece of French fluff. As yet another Gallic adultery drama, Bright Days Ahead is notable only in that it features Fanny Ardant in what has been marketed as a return to the big-time for one of cinema's most compelling, seductive figures; otherwise, it's of scant value, contributing little to an already-overstuffed sub-genre of cinema. Vernoux attempts nothing in the way of stylistic individuality, leading to an unflattering feeling throughout that all this has been done before, and much better, and quite possibly with Fanny Ardant in one of the roles. The graceful actor performs with exquisite poise and perceptiveness, as ever, communicating a plethora of emotions and emotional motivations in a film that's lacking in such depth in all other regards. She plays on her innate watchability, never overstepping her mark and overwhelming the film - perhaps to its disadvantage, in the end - but puts considerable work in to her characterisation, as evidenced by a strong scene in which she plays inebriation considerably more convincingly than most actors are capable of. Vernoux's camera seems to thrive off Ardant, as though she is its sole source of energy, and indeed Bright Days Ahead would be a lacklustre, lethargic trifle of a film without her. It even seems dedicated to her stardom, like Vernoux has intentionally stripped her film of anything of interest in the service of her star. The scenario she inherits from Fanny Chesnel's novel, however, provides her with little inspiration, and Bright Days Ahead dribbles its way through it from there.
Friday, 20 June 2014
His camera like an extension of himself, Tom Berninger applies his knack (not that anyone knew he had one) for drawing out the worst in others to a new-found knack (not that he knew he had it) for filmmaking. Crucially, he also draws out the worst in himself, and arranges the footage into a rich and funny hybrid of rock documentary and family portrait. Using a variety of techniques to evince this wide range of emotions present in his relationship with his brother Matt, the frontman of popular indie rock band The National, and also with his film's other subjects, what's surprising above all is the consistency of the finished product. It's evident in every short scene, though, the candour that Berninger seeks in his film, which extends to a candour in the artifices he creates for the film - staged moments whose corniness is so distinctly at odds with the rest of the film, or even the very process of making a film. In the apparent insignificance of much of what Berninger captures on his camera and in the self-sufficient loop the film seems to be in (screening old scenes as part of the film, chronicling its own editing process, like a 'making of' within the film being made), Mistaken for Strangers takes the form of a revision of what a film is, or what one can be. Its honesty does not relent, does not fail to permeate any fraction of the film, to the effect that it seems completely aware of its status and its purpose, even as it is in production. Berninger's camera seems to point back at itself, as well as the petulant, passive-aggressive, irresponsible, supercilious, pretentious, aloof, nasty, childish people in the frame. As a rock-doc, it's only of moderate value. As a bizarre family portrait, it's exceptional.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
A frustratingly basic and shallow biographical documentary, about a man who ignited a new flame of inspiration in a sport, by a man evidently burned by that flame. There's no denying the talent in Marco Pantani, nor the magnitude of what he achieved, nor the passion felt by many of his countrymen and women for him, and possibly not even the dubious circumstances under which his downfall was orchestrated. It's just that there's no denying that James Erskine tells this side of the story and this side only. Through standard documentary techniques such as interviews, voiceover, montages, archive footage and the occasional recreation, none of which have been used to especially impressive effect, Erskine charts Pantani's life through the prism of his career as a cyclist, with little insight into anything else. Considering the film's title, and the eventual manner in which both his career and his life came to their respective ends, there's scope here for considerable rumination upon Pantani the man, rather than Pantani the icon, but Erskine never seems to bother getting inside his head. We see his desire to succeed, and we see his desperation when that is denied him, but we don't understand them - there's no clue as to why. What we're provided instead is a doc that strives for dynamism in its style and structure, albeit a rudimentary dynamism, to make up for the lack of compelling archival content. Erskine manages to make his picture engaging, perhaps up until the close, where his adoration for his subject begins to grate in its relentlessness, but his stylistic choices are crude and cheesy, and cheapen the film to the point where it induces unintentional laughter. A shame that such a seminal figure in sport should be dishonoured with mediocre filmmaking, and ironically so, since this is the exact opposite of what was intended.
A trailer for StudioCanal's upcoming update of the popular British TV show was notable for not featuring Colin Firth. He had been cast to provide the voice of the titular character in Paddington in Paul King's film, but has announced now that he has dropped out of the production. The film, which is due for release in the British Isles as soon as the 28th of November, will now have to scramble to find a replacement for the Oscar-winner, and someone talented enough to head up a stellar supporting cast including Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Bonneville and Nicole Kidman. The Weinstein Company will handle North American distribution, where it's set to open on Christmas Day.
An as-yet-untitled Cold War thriller written by the Coen brothers and starring Tom Hanks, and an adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG which Melissa Mathison will pen. Those are the next two films on Steven Spielberg's slate, after months of speculation regarding which of the many projects he's considering he'll elect as his follow-up to Lincoln. Currently, the Cold War thriller is scheduled for the 16th of October next year, with The BFG set for the 1st of July 2016. That's a typically quick turnaround for Spielberg, though normally the summer blockbuster precedes the late-year awards contender. So far out, though, and with two such ambitious films to be made, one can expect these dates to change at some point in the future.
There's not nearly as much originality in Matt Johnson's concept for The Dirties, nor in the message he's peddling us in it, as he seems to think, but while all its gaucheries can be excused by its self-reflexive quality, the potency of what Johnson presents cannot. It's a product of the effort that went into making the film, and the skill, no doubt gleaned from the many classics referenced herein. The Dirties' main reference, though, is to itself, a technique that's old hat even among the cinema that has inspired Johnson, and which serves little technical purpose beyond showing off the ways in which it can be achieved: films within the film, acknowledgement of the crew, fictional storylines becoming real, even a neat scene in which Johnson presents a sequence we've seen as footage from his own feature. The style is found footage, though its application is more advanced. What purpose it does serve is to emphasise the senselessness and the awfulness of what eventually occurs here, in heightening the sensation of reality. Though a number of moments query the narrative validity of having an unknown third party carting filming equipment around in any and all circumstances, The Dirties is resolutely devoid of the staged sensation that is so often utilised in film to dehumanise violence. As is commonly the case in cathartic North American cinema, however, the sensational conclusion is more than the sum of the parts that preceded it. Johnson is fine at establishing his notions about bullying - that it creates not only social outcasts liable to express their shame, pain and rage in distressing ways but also more bullies born out of the victims. He's negligent, however, in exploring the roots of such behaviour, and the reasons behind the reactions. But it may not fit snugly into his film's design, which is simple but effective, and that's just about true for everything else about this film.
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
The second impression of war from Sebastian Junger, a reflection upon and depiction of the daily activities of the squadron stationed at the remote outpost Restrepo in Afghanistan's Korengal valley. Junger observes them first-hand, his method at once intimate yet removed, and also conducts interviews with the squadron's members after their tour, as they offer up their own subjective judgement on an experience few can know. There's a sense of monotony in their routines, the desperate boredom of being situated so distant from western civilisation, and the terror of near-relentless assault from Taliban fighters. In this examination of mundanity, Junger transitions smoothly from a physical perspective to an emotional one, and though his subjects may be varying degrees of eloquent or reliable, their testimony is powerful in its pertinence. It's also distinctly sanctimonious - this is a very contemptuous film. Junger gives a nod or two to the horror that is warfare, or even the very notion of it, but otherwise wholeheartedly supports these men's personal interpretations of their place in the world. It's less a portrait of dangerous individuals than a tribute to damaged heroes, which is a tone irreconcilable with Korengal's content, and so often are these soldiers seen to act in such a dishonorable manner that Junger's reverence swiftly becomes irksome. A frequently melancholy film, its spasms of brutal life rather spoil the initially subdued mood, and by generally vicious means, such as one memorable celebration of murder. When this mood is broken, it never catches hold again, and what sets this frankly redundant feature apart from its predecessor, Restrepo, is lost.