Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
"Journalism, Even When It's Tilted." Wherein The New York Times' David Carr admits that The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald is, in fact, a journalist, and that the concept of "objective journalism" is a fairly recent invention.
"'Truth is not the hole in the middle of the doughnut, it is on the doughnut somewhere,' a veteran reporter whom I worked with at an alternative weekly in Minneapolis once told me. What he meant was that articles that strive only to be in the middle — moving from one hand to the other in an effort to be nicely balanced — end up going nowhere. I was just out of journalism school, brimming with freshly taught tenets of fairness and objectivity, and already those values were in question. Still, the fight between objectivity and subjectivity is a fairly modern one. In the 1800s, journalism was underwritten by powerful people, the government or political parties. It was only when an economic incentive for information absent a political agenda took hold that an independent press also emerged. It makes sense that as the financial rewards for traditional journalism have eroded, advocacy journalism has gained new traction. It is now up to the consumer to assemble a news diet of his or her choice, adding in news that is produced by people who have skin in the game."
"Repo Man: A Lattice of Coincidence." By Sam McPheeters, for The Criterion Collection.
"How a major studio allowed such a vehemently odd movie to exist really is a mystery. Its outlandishness isn’t forced; it’s forceful. This is a film that expands a singular style of humor into an entire worldview, a physics as vast as the Force in Star Wars. But part of the mystery is also that Cox could gather so much talent in one place. Granted full autonomy in his casting, he somehow assembled a flawless ensemble. Emilio Estevez’s Otto is a pitch-perfect mix of blank ambition and obliviousness. Matching this is the world-weary exhaustion—dubbed 'the Old West/cadaver look' by a friend of Cox’s—of Harry Dean Stanton’s Bud. Otto is a baby-faced punker initiated into a secretive trade by Bud, who listens to obsolete music, dresses square, and dreams small. Their worldviews collide in the new terrain of early eighties America, an era of subtle but rapid change from the Me Decade to the Greed Decade."
"Poets at the Movies, Part 3: By Michael McGriff and J.M. Tyree." Ruminations on Lynn Ramsay's film Ratcatcher. Part of the Los Angeles Review of Books' series in which poets talk about films; this is an excerpt from a forthcoming book by the authors, titled Our Secret Life at the Movies.
"One reason why I often enjoy talking about movies with poets more than with fiction writers is that poets aren’t so relentlessly zealous about adhering to conventional psychological realism. This peculiar pseudo-genre of contemporary fiction — which more accurately might be called Hollywood Realism — is neither particularly novel nor especially lifelike. Instead, it apes the conventions of characterization and plot development used in whatever genre of movie into which it hopes to be adapted. What’s worse, many fiction writers don’t even seem to recognize or acknowledge that they’re
"For The Is the End's James Franco, It Never Seems to Be." By Steven Zeitchik of The Los Angeles Times. Related: For RogerEbert.com, here's Simon Abrams on Steve Coogan playing various facets of Steve Coogan.
"In the last decade, Franco has created a rich set of personalities on-screen — as the Emerald City wizard, as the"Pineapple Express" pot dealer, as "127 Hours'" quixotic hiker, as "Spider-Man's" Harry Osborn, as Harvey Milk's boyfriend. He has created them so richly that he has joined the elite ranks of actors who have the chance to create a rich personality off-screen. But for James Franco that is not enough. For James Franco, there always must be a Francian twist. And so in "This Is the End," the Seth Rogen-directed apocalypse comedy hit in theaters, he plays, as one character calls him, a "pretentious … nerd," inclined to windy digressions about art and philosophy. He is named James Franco and looks like James Franco and seems to act like James Franco and lives in a house said to be owned by James Franco, where he hangs his own painterly odes to Rogen and James Franco. But he is not James Franco."
"Movie Review: David Edelstein on The Way, Way Back." The critic describes this comedy as an "It Gets Better film" aimed not at gay teens specifically, but "any kid (or anyone) who is or was lonely, disconnected, parentally neglected, and has/had no outlet for self-expression." But he didn't like the movie. Site editor Matt Zoller Seitz liked it somewhat better, but still had problems with it.
"Although [writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash] won an Oscar for their adaptation of The Descendants—despite the public claims of director Alexander Payne (who egregiously snubbed them at the ceremony) that he’d thrown out their work and started over—their background is in sitcoms and improvisational comedy. They’re primarily writers and actors, not directors. They keep adding comebacks, filling up pauses, leaving nothing unsaid. Characters like the dipsomaniacal divorced neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) make strong entrances and then go and on in the same vein—past the point where you get it, you get it, to the point where you’re ready to move on. The story doesn’t feel dramatized. It feels pitched."
The cover of the August Vanity Fair, featuring Kerry Washington of ABC's Scandal.
A BBC Moving Pictures special on Dennis Hopper, from 1994.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...