Sword of Trust
A likable throwback to the kind of rambling, character-driven 1990s indie comedies that the U.S. film industry barely releases to theaters anymore.
"U.S. Said to Find North Korea Ordered Cyberattack on Sony": David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth of The New York Times report how American officials concluded that North Korea was "centrally involved" in the hacking of Sony Pictures. Related: Kim Zetter of Wired offers a rebuttal, arguing, "the evidence that North Korea hacked Sony is flimsy."
“Hours before Sony canceled the movie, the four largest theater chains in the United States — Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas — and several smaller chains said they would not show ‘The Interview’ as a result of the threat. The cancellations virtually killed the movie as a theatrical enterprise, at least in the near term, one of the first known instances of a threat from another nation pre-empting the release of a movie. While intelligence officials have concluded that the cyberattack was both state-sponsored and far more destructive than any seen before on American soil, there are still differences of opinion over whether North Korea was aided by Sony insiders with knowledge of the company’s computer systems, senior administration officials said. ‘This is of a different nature than past attacks,’ one official said. An attack that began by wiping out data on corporate computers — something that had been previously seen in South Korea and Saudi Arabia — had turned ‘into a threat to the safety of Americans,’ the official said. But echoing a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, the official said there was no specific information that an attack was likely.”
"The Prestige Freak Show: Eddie Redmayne's Metamorphosis in 'The Theory of Everything'": Movie Mezzanine's Angelo Murreda examines the Oscar hype centering on Redmayne's portrayal of Stephen Hawking.
“Actors’ chameleonic efforts to reject the defining biological and social cards they’ve been dealt is widely celebrated to the point of being fetishized outside of prestige season, to be sure. You could think of Leos Carax’s ‘Holy Motors,’ for example, as a mildly satirical essay about precisely this fixation, on how actors become other people while more or less staying within the confines of their own bodies. But there is a tendency to crank the hype dial on the perfectly fine work of handsome performers like Redmayne that is particular to this year-end moment—a habit of treating as inherently laudatory an able-bodied actor’s bodily contortions in service of a supposedly authentic rendering of a disabled subject. Put another way, the de facto celebration of Redmayne’s project owes less to his arduous task of inhabiting an idiosyncratic genius like Hawking—the suffering savant being another type well-served by the Oscars—and more to his ostensible daring in trespassing through a body that is so visibly not his own, the better for us to marvel without shame at Hawking’s physical transformation while celebrating the performer’s.”
"Why the message of the Hunger Games films is dangerous": The Washington Post's Peter Bloom argues that the franchise's "adolescent rebellion is increasingly common in real adult fantasies."
“The latest Hunger Games film, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1,’ is topping the international box office. Although it’s a Hollywood blockbuster aimed at young adults, it presents potentially quite subversive ideas of mass revolution, economic sabotage and the populist fight against oligarchy. These themes of popular uprising are particularly relevant in light of the current civil unrest happening across the world from the streets of Hong Kong to those of U.S. – the latest Hunger Games has tapped into a certain zeitgeist of global rebellion. Thailand’s pro-democracy protestors have even directly borrowed the movie’s three-fingered symbol of resistance in their own struggles against a repressive regime. Adding fuel to this fire, one of its main stars Donald Sutherland recently declared: ‘I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution.’ Despite these heady sentiments, the film’s depiction of revolution is astonishingly simple, an adolescent vision of toppling an ‘evil’ authority figure. Sure, this isn’t surprising as it’s meant for young adults, but in the context of political spillover this anti-authoritarian vision becomes more troubling. It reinforces prevailing Western ideas of social change – fastening on the idea that all one needs do is eradicate the enemy. And worryingly, it appears that this sort of adolescent rebellion isn’t just consigned to teenage entertainment, but also increasingly forms our real adult fantasies.”
"'Gone with the Wind': Is it America's strangest film?": BBC's Nicholas Barber is perplexed by the 1939 landmark.
“‘Gone with the Wind’ has been regarded as one of Hollywood’s crown jewels for so long that it’s easy to take its status for granted. We remember the sweeping scope and the bold Technicolor vistas; we think of Vivien Leigh’s pert beauty and Clark Gable’s unparalleled ability to make a moustache look sexy; we picture their characters’ torrid clinches and verbal sparring; and we imagine that it’s the kind of film which audiences were always bound to adore. But if you rewatch ‘Gone with the Wind’ now, what’s striking is how head-spinningly strange the entire thing is. Far from being simple, wholesome family entertainment, the film is an admiring portrait of a conniving, lying, mercenary seductress. It’s a valentine to the slave-owning South, and a poison-pen letter to the anti-slavery North. It’s a tonal rollercoaster that plunges from frothy comedy to gruelling tragedy and back again. It’s a romance that puts the hero and heroine at each other’s throats. And it’s an episodic coming-of-age story that keeps going for nearly four hours before reaching its abrupt, unresolved ending. In short, Gone with the Wind is a preposterous, almost unclassifiable mix of highly questionable elements. The wonder is not just that it’s America’s most beloved film, but that it isn’t America’s most hated.”
"Alfred Hitchcock's Fade to Black: The Great Director's Final Days": At The Daily Beast, David Freeman recalls his experiences as the screenwriter of the Master of Suspense's last, unfinished film.
“The screenwriter Ernest Lehman, who wrote ‘North by Northwest’ among other films, did several drafts of a script, based mainly on the novel. For reasons Lehman may someday wish to enumerate, he and Hitchcock had a falling out. So Hitchcock asked Universal to find him ‘a younger man.’ That must have galled Lehman, who is twenty years younger than Hitchcock. At the time, I had been doing a lot of script rewriting, some of it for Universal. I was asked to dance.The general agenda of our working sessions was similar in form to those I was used to with other directors, producers, or writers. That is, we discussed character motivation, situation, and story continuity. But with Hitchcock it was different in one important way: ‘First you decide what the characters are going to do. Then you provide them with enough characteristics to make it seem plausible that they should do it.’ This is a heretical view and if it were left at that, I don't think much good would come of it. The traditional wisdom is ‘action is character,’ and their evolution is one, with a slight edge to character. But when Hitchcock did get around to the characters, he discussed and analyzed their motives and their goals in depth. He might talk about the ‘what’ first, but it was the ‘who’ that was on his mind.”
Cameron Bird of The California Sunday Magazine illustrates how production designer David Crank and art director Ruth De Jong went about capturing Thomas Pynchon's "alternative Los Angeles" in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice."
A video essay about Mortal Engines, as part of Scout Tafoya's ongoing video essay series on maligned masterpieces.
This is the most purely entertaining season of Stranger Things to date.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...