Man of Steel
The title "Man of Steel" tells you what you're in for when you buy a ticket to this immense summer blockbuster: a radical break from…
I've never been good with small talk. In those corporate conferences with high ceilings and manufactured friendships, I used to admire those high-speed networkers who spun small talk and smooth talk as they worked a room. I don't play golf. I don't drink booze. I'm a fair weather sports fan. If you were to stand alone in an elevator with me, you'd probably hear me breathe as I stared at the floor. Further, if you want to kill an otherwise lively conversation among a bunch of decreasingly sober corporate executives in ill-fitted khakis, sport coats, and crooked "Hi My Name is" name-tags, then make the mistake that I keep making: tell them that you're an expert on religion. The crowd in front of you will split apart faster than the Red Sea. And, perhaps that is why I was never invited by my colleagues to go on those weekend warrior trips, like the characters in John Boorman's forty year old "Deliverance" (1972). This is the story of four confident suburban businessmen looking to raft to the bottom of a river. Along the way, the experience pounds the hell out of them.
It seems like every film inspired on real-life events becomes controversial for one reason or another. The greater the subject's notoriety, the louder the outcry. The backlash to Oliver Stone's "JFK" was extreme by any standard; it became one of the rare features widely attacked for existing in the first place. This wasn't all that surprising; the movie took one of the most painful events in American history and came up with shocking, damaging conclusions. That Stone tackled the "whats" of the case (the pieces that didn't fit) was already a touchy proposition; that he tried to uncover the "whys" is what took the reaction the next level. Should a film like this have been made?
It seems to be an unwritten rule that every superhero origin movie should have a scene in which the main character excitedly experiments with his or her powers before fully donning the mantle of the titular hero.
Consider the scene from "Spider-Man" in which Peter Parker scales walls and jumps from building to building joyously, or the one from "Iron Man" in which a reckless Tony Stark flies too far into the higher reaches of the atmosphere just to break that altitude record, or that scene from "Superman" in which the young Clark Kent races with a train.
Britain is overrun with film festivals. I wouldn't be shocked to learn we have more per hundred miles per year than any nation on Earth. But there is room for more, provided they are carefully conceived, intelligently programmed and don't overreach themselves in their early years. ID Fest, which ran this year between May 24 and 27, is a fine example.
Beginning in 2010, with a year off in 2011, ID Fest is "a boutique festival", with each instalment programmed around a specific theme branching from the larger theme of identity - hence "ID" Fest. As such, it separates itself from Britain's large international festivals; small, un-themed local festivals; and genre fests, of which there seem to be more each month. The first ID Fest investigated what it means to be English (as opposed to British) but the second had a far broader focus, befitting its ambitions to become a truly international festival. In 2012, its theme was heroism.
You may find it disturbing to see audiences laughing while watching "The Exorcist"(1973), but you will probably not see any problem in having some laugh with "Rosemary’s Baby" (1968). It goes without saying that they are two of the most chilling modern horror films, but, while the former unsettles us with its utmost solemnness parodied many times since it came out, the latter has a spooky sense of humor immune to parodies. How can you make an effective parody to undermine a horror film if it already has a devilish tongue slyly placed on its dark cheek?
A quiet story of incestuous desire told with deadpan precision and a fair share of subliminal humor, "The Unspeakable Act" marks its writer-director's long-awaited cinematic breakthrough. Even though New York-based Dan Sallitt (born 1955) has been making movies from the mid-1980s on (he had three under his belt before this one), his media presence has been unduly under-the-radar throughout that period. With the new movie scooping The Independent Visions Prize at the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival, and then being picked up by Edinburgh, Karlovy Vary and - most notably - BAMcinemaFest (where it plays 24 June at 9:30 PM), it's high time to put Sallitt on the map of highly original independent American filmmakers, which is where he'd belonged right from the start.
A few years ago, while sitting in the mosque during a Friday sermon, I noticed a man in the center of the second row. This is an octagonal mosque with bare white walls. On the outside, its bluish brick and yellow dome consciously invoke the Dome of the Rock, which itself, incidentally is not a mosque. This man was sitting on the blue carpet with the rest of us, about six feet away from the preaching Imam, yet interestingly, he was not looking at him. The Imam was dressed in a white thobe, white skull cap, and that contrasted his thick jet-black beard. Instead, the man of salt-and-pepper beard was staring at the giant projection of this Imam on a screen above. I don't remember what the Imam was speaking about that day, which might explain why I was probably staring curiously at this man as he stared at the live video projection of the preacher standing right in front of him. But, for reasons I will explain below, that moment comes to mind when I think of Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" (2012).
This prickly film haunts me. I am now older than James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, and Malcolm X. I am at that age where the infinite world of my childhood bedroom is now replaced by a complicated mass of interwoven needs, wants, and concerns. The soundtrack of my youth is a summer of wind blowing through fragile leaves, with katydids buzzing along. The rattling taps of rain on our roof has now given way to the plastic clicking of this keyboard and various other mechanical monsters. Under it all is an ongoing hiss of noise. I also sometimes fall into that trap of looking at today through the telescope of an idealized yesterday; that outlook is a slick valley that is difficult to climb out of and easy to slide back into. Jack Nicholson in Sean Penn's"The Pledge" (2001) is likewise watching the world change. More than that, he is watching his world slip away from him.
When Jeremy Irons won an Oscar for his icy but humorous performance in "Reversal of Fortune" (1990), he thanked David Cronenberg at the end of his acceptance speech. He had a very good reason; in Cronenberg's unforgettable medical drama "Dead Ringers" (1988), he gave a stunning performance, or a pair of stunning performances, as the peculiar but prodigious twin gynecologists who are threatened by real emotions and then plunged into the self-destructive chaos where the only exit for them may be becoming one again, as they were conceived at first in their mother's womb.
I have a friend who promised himself over a decade ago never to be at the service of his career, and rather, that his career should be at his service. The result is that his wife left him, his family looks down on him, he earns a fraction of what his peers earn--a fraction of what his aptitude would dictate (I think he's a genius). He takes most of his jobs on contract, spanning very short periods of time. And, he is one of the happiest, most calm people I know; at least he seems content. In contrast, J.C. Chandor's "Margin Call" (2011) is the story of a group of high-powered bankers getting set to lose their jobs, and perhaps more.