Almost two years ago exactly, I started this blog. Even then, I was ambivalent about it, unsure if I had the enthusiasm or stamina to write consistently. And with a few exceptions like covering the Toronto Film Festival and writing about my trip to Barcelona, my initial hesitation has borne out. Yeah, I posted a few reviews, but lately I’ve mostly just been alerting people to whatever new podcast Robert Davis and I recorded.

So it will surprise whatever current readers I still have to announce that I’m starting a new blog. And I’m a lot more excited about this one. It’s called Daily Plastic, and it’s a site that the aforementioned Mr. Davis and I have put together. To be honest, most of the cool stuff, like the Movie Grid, is Rob’s doing, though I may have contributed a few ideas. The site will mostly revolve around film, at least at first. But I suspect it’ll expand as we go along. And our podcast will become even more consistent in its new home.

There’s something ironic about switching from a blog in which I updated maybe twice a month to a site that has “daily” in its title. But the process of collaborating with Rob on the podcast has been invigorating, as have been our preparations this summer for the new project. For reasons unclear, the idea of working with someone on a film site is a lot more exciting than writing on my own.

I still plan on doing occasional updates here at Framing Device with content that doesn’t quite fit at Plastic (though that will eventually be a pretty wide-ranging affair). But most of my writing will settle comfortably at Daily Plastic. I hope you’ll join me there.

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I don’t think I could hold on to my official film critic badge if I didn’t say something about the biggest movie of this and any summer. For crying out loud, it’s the #1 film of ALL TIME on the imdb poll. I refer of course to John McCain’s wet dream. Just kidding. Sort of.

I don’t agree with this misguided writer, but it’s easy to see how McCain might fully embrace the milieu of The Dark Knight, a world where chaos and terror lie around every corner and where people’s only salvation is cowering under the protection of government-sponsored violence. But what I like about Christopher Nolan’s vision is he’s smart enough to interrogate that position. While Batman’s presence is necessary (this is a summer blockbuster after all), the movie and Batman wrestle with whether his style of vigilante justice is more harmful than not.

The film also calls into question certain axioms of contemporary entertainment (and government): 1) that good always triumphs over evil, so just sit back with a cold one and relax, 2) that the good guys are always good and therefore free to break the law whenever they want, and 3) that those bad things good guys do have no lasting repercussions. Batman is equated at times with a burgeoning fascism and, at other times, with how ancient Rome suspended its democracy in the face of violence and never recovered. There’s also an amazing moment when Michael Caine talks about how he captured a bandit in Burma: “We burned the forest down.” Anyone who doesn’t connect that story to Vietnam and Iraq isn’t paying attention.

But the politics are convoluted enough that some conservatives can legitimately claim Batman as their own. The Joker would likely run wild if he were not confronted by the unstoppable force of Batman. And Batman only locates the Joker at the end by spying on every citizen in Gotham. And most troubling for leftists of a certain view is that the film shows how easy it is for good intentions to be overwhelmed by awful realities and how those awful realities must sometimes be fought with violence.

Of course, few of the millions of people who’ve already seen the movie went because of Batman’s politics. They went for the incredible set pieces, and on that score the movie delivers. The centerpiece of the film is a chase through the bowels of Chicago that ends with the most spectacular stunt I’ve seen in years. People literally burst into applause at the screening I was at, and rightly so. But that’s not the only cool moment in the film. In fact, the movie’s first 90 minutes are filled with them. And unlike Batman Begins, which relied too heavily on CGI, The Dark Knight goes back to old-fashioned stuntwork, beautifully using a variety of Chicago locations.

Audiences also went to see Heath Ledger, and again rightly so. His big entrance with a disappearing pencil is startling and awesome. But Ledger is more impressive in how he taps into the horrible madness at the core of the Joker and the awful random amorality behind contemporary terrorism. But Ledger isn’t the only compelling actor. Gary Oldman as Police Commissioner Gordon is fantastic, Maggie Gyllenhaal brings panache to the role of girlfriend in peril, Aaron Eckhart almost steals the film as an upright D.A., and Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine do what they always do–bring flawless style and welcome comic relief.

It won’t surprise readers to learn that I don’t think The Dark Knight is the best film of the year, much less all time. The last hour drags a bit. And with so many great set pieces, it seems perverse to end with the dullest of the bunch. But there aren’t many summer movies that excite both my senses and mind. Yes, I’m already looking forward to the next one.

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“You ain’t a child anymore. You about to be a god-damned man. It’s about time you start learning what life is about.” — from the opening scene of Killer of Sheep

I know of few films that reveal more of what “life is about” than Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep. Unfortunately, it is better known for how it was made and not released than for its incredible portrait of lower-class America. So let me get that stuff out of the way. Burnett shot what would become his student film at UCLA on a budget of $10,000 by using non-professional actors and shooting in black-and-white 16mm on weekends in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood in 1972-73. Though the film won a prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 1981 and was placed on the National Film Registry in 1990, it went unreleased because of issues regarding music rights. I was fortunate enough to see it a couple times in academic settings, but most people, even rabid cinephiles, could only hear of its greatness. Not until the good folks at Milestone Films, assisted by generous help from Steven Soderbergh, untangled those rights (and paid the appropriate people) was Killer of Sheep able to be released last year and is now finally out on dvd.

Careful readers can probably guess the movie is about poor black folk–‘Watts’ has its own connotations–but that description is far too narrow. Yes, it focuses on Stan (played by Henry Gayle Sanders), an African-American man who works in a slaughterhouse and is so beaten down by his job and his environment that he seems to sleep-walk through many days. Yet, the film doesn’t reduce Stan to his job or his socio-economic class. Instead, Killer of Sheep offers a portrait of him and his family and his neighborhood that, without flinching or stooping to condescension, affirms his humanity while recognizing the difficult obstacles he faces.

Burnett accomplishes this by establishing a striking sense of place. I grew up in a housing project in the ‘70s, and the film feels like how I grew up. The way kids played in the alleys, how fights would sometimes spill out of the house and onto the street, how you bonded with neighbors over financial difficulties but yet everyone knew he was on his own.

killer-of-sheep_still-029lg-resized.jpgYet the movie is also fundamentally universal. The movie’s first action scene involves a game of ‘war’ played by boys in an open lot with plywood boards and dirt rocks, and I was taken back to my own childhood “battles” with friends. This and many other scenes feature children, and Burnett finds both the universal timelessness of childhood themes (boys playing until someone gets hurt, daughters cuddling up to their fathers, sons both admiring and fearing those same fathers) and wonderfully specific details. I have a particular fondness for a scene in which Stan’s daughter (played by Burnett’s real-life niece) sings along to an old record. Burnett gets his camera low enough to the ground so we can watch what feels so natural.

Those lyrical moments are often paired with scenes that portray the difficulty of being part of the working poor. We see Stan at work, moving the sheep along and cleaning up the offal. We see him trying to cut a deal that could make a small difference in his life. We see his wife shooing along some thugs who have a proposition for her husband. And we see Stan trying to rise above all this and find intimacy with his wife and children, but boy that can be hard when you’re tired.

The movie, despite its overall tone, is also incredibly funny. A Sisyphean struggle with a car engine ends with a hilarious sight gag. Another sight gag involves a windshield that doesn’t exist. A boy tries to stand on his head while a friend can’t seem to count time. Another boy puts sugar on his cereal and then some more and then some more and then some more. By the time the scene ends, the audience is howling. The humor comes from that amazing recognition Burnett achieves–we see ourselves as we once were and as we are, and we laugh at our own foibles.

But that humor can sometimes turn on a dime. In one incredible moment, what had been a funny confrontation between a wife and her no-good husband changes when Burnett cuts to a close-up of her face as she looks back at the crying children on her couch. His command of film style is genuinely impressive. Using the naturalistic approach of Jean Renoir or the Italian neo-realists, Burnett takes advantage of his grainy film stock and creates moments where we feel like we’re standing in the corner. He uses long shots to show us how people react to each other and long takes to let us immerse ourselves in the moment. He chooses low camera angles that confer a dignity to his subjects, who move beyond standard portrayals of the poor (merely subjects of the director’s lens) and become admirable, if not heroic.

And then there’s Burnett’s use of music, the bugaboo that kept his masterpiece out of the public eye for 30 years. But watching it now, we can see why he held fast to his convictions, why he knew that the movie has to have Paul Robeson singing “What is America?,” why it needs Earth, Wind & Fire and Elmore James. And especially why it has to include Dinah Washington singing “This Bitter Earth.” That song provides the soundtrack to one of the loveliest and most heart-breaking dances I’ll ever see. You should see it, too.

My friend Rob Davis and I podcasted about Killer of Sheep recently. You can check that out here or by searching at iTunes for the Errata Movie Podcast. Please excuse the shameless plug.

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Inspired by Kathy G’s great post last week but also by a wonderful film discussion I led the week before, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the best movie I saw last year: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. While some critics were underwhelmed, I found it to be incredibly powerful and thought-provoking each of the three times I’ve seen it. And like Kathy, my admiration is reinforced by the final scene. But rather than seeing Otilia’s final words–“We’re never going to talk about this, ok?”–as an attempt to repress discussion, they strike me as evidence of the incredibly rich and complex themes writer-director Cristian Mungiu has developed.

The movie is all about what can and cannot be spoken. For starters, the movie is set in 1987 Romania, in the final years of the incredibly repressive Ceausescu regime. Those of us on the left like to talk about the tyranny of the last eight years in the U.S., but we shouldn’t superficially pretend that our culture can in any way compare to the totalitarian dictatorship of Ceausescu (we show ourselves to be either ignorant or manipulative when we conflate things that are so different). In Romania during that time, all political dissent was forbidden, the economy was tightly controlled, and there were few options available, especially if you were poor and politically unconnected. Furthermore, not only was abortion strictly illegal, but women were encouraged to bear as many children as possible, with women in factories subjected to pregnancy checks as often as once a week.

Enter Gabita, a young college student from the countryside who’s pregnant. Her roommate, Otilia, is more savvy than she, so Gabita imposes on her to be the go-between in arranging an abortion. But Gabita’s naive assumptions bring about horrific consequences, for both herself and Otilia. And Gabita insists that Otilia handle the task in a way so as to not offend her sensibilities. When at the end of the movie, Gabita wants to know if Otilia followed her instructions, Otilia cuts her off by declaring, “You know what we’re going to do? We’re never going to talk about this, ok?” The statement isn’t so much an attempt to repress but rather a valiant effort to gain control over the one thing Otilia can control—her own past. In a movie in which our heroines are shown to have no legitimate choices, she can at least frame her own experience.

The film’s pinnacle, though, involves an earlier scene with Otilia and her boyfriend Adi. He’s invited her to his mother’s birthday party, a scene in which she feels out of place; she’s from a working-class background, while Adi’s parents and friends are decidedly professional. And so she sits there, listening to the condescending prattle (“sometimes country folk have the most common sense”) while unable to say what’s just happened to her. Not only can she not describe in public what’s just transpired, she can’t even tell her boyfriend. In an amazingly honest encounter, Otilia asks him what would happen if she were pregnant (a more relevant topic than he realizes). His answers reinforce what we already know—not only must Otilia leave unspoken what’s occurred, she has no one to depend on but herself. And unlike the narcissistic American tradition of the rugged individualist (see John Wayne, Dirty Harry, Lone Ranger, etc.), Otilia and Mungiu know that her self-reliance won’t take her very far. Mungiu has little use for the socialist state, but dog-eat-dog capitalism (note the amazing negotiation sequence in the hotel) only benefits those who already have the power.

But back to that final scene. In a movie in which the audience sits as an objective bystander through excruciatingly long takes, the movie closes with an incredible subjective moment. Otilia has been sitting quietly at the table when she slowly turns her face to the camera and looks us in the eye. Cut to black. With not one but two aggressive decisions, Mungiu provokes the audience: You might have sat and watched this nightmare from the comfort of the theater, but I’m not going to let you off the hook–what would you do if you were in Otilia’s shoes? and what are you going to do about our world today where so many victims of injustice have no real choices? Positioning his film in the rich neo-realist tradition, Mungiu confronts us with a humanist story and asks the great humanist questions. And though we may not want to talk about them, we must.

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Lest you surmise from my initial foray into summer blockbusters that I’m a snob, I offer the following shorter, cultural studies-free and, most importantly, positive review of Kung Fu Panda. Yes, you heard me right.

First off, Jack Black is terrific. True, it’s no stretch for Black to embody the slacker panda who dreams (literally) of being a kung fu warrior. But let’s give Hollywood credit for understanding what a star brings to the table and then capitalizing on those talents (see Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man for another example). Black has a way with phrases like “There is no charge for awesomeness,” so I never tired of his shtick. And his ability to capture the insecurity a fat panda might have in the midst of legends leads to a most satisfying, if predictable, finale.

But equally important to the movie’s success is the spectacularly beautiful animation. Unlike previous DreamWorks outings that often looked cheap or rushed (I’m talking about you, Shark Tale), Kung Fu Panda uses color in marvelous ways. The characters are distinctive and yet look like they’re cut from the same cloth, the action scenes are inventive without being showy, and the backgrounds are simply stunning. One involving a mountain prison had my jaw dropping in admiration. Best of all, though, are a couple dream sequences in which the CGI animation is dropped for a more traditional style that evokes sophisticated picture books. I could’ve watched those scenes all day.

Not everything works, of course. I’ve grown increasingly frustrated over how animated films rely on big celebrities rather than trained voiceover artists. I know, I just got done praising Jack Black, and now I’m complaining about Angelina Jolie et al. But Black knows how to use his voice. Jolie and Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen and, surprisingly, David Cross don’t seem to have a clue. And since they make up the Furious Five, the other animals aiming to be the Dragon Warrior, their scenes are much less interesting. Even Dustin Hoffman is hit and miss. I understand that Hollywood doesn’t think it can market a movie without overwhelming star power, but it’s a shame when that leads to a weak link in an otherwise entertaining flick.

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If the trailer for The Happening had you thinking you might check it out this weekend, tell your brain to think again. It is one of the more ridiculous movies I’ll see all year, with risible dialogue, stilted acting, and a plot so retarded I kept thinking writer and director M. Night Shyamalan must be pulling my leg. Yeah, there’s a compelling sense of dread in the first few scenes when people just start committing suicide for no reason. But as we start to learn what might be causing all this, the movie quickly crumbles under its ludicrous story. I couldn’t possibly mention every fatuous plot hole, but my favorite is that on several occasions our heroes try to outrun the wind…and succeed. And this comes from someone who actually liked The Village and Lady in the Water.

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No, this is not a post about George W. Bush. Instead, it’s about blockbuster movies. I’ve always been lucky as a movie critic, in that I never had to review the big summer films. The paper I used to write for wanted me to focus on smaller fare, and I was happy to oblige. And now that I write for myself, well I can choose what I want. But just because I don’t have to write about the big movies doesn’t preclude me from seeing them, and I like to be somewhat current. So I thought I’d check out two of the biggest from this summer’s crop, Iron Man and the Indiana Jones sequel.

Neither movie is terrible. In fact, Iron Man is quite good with a great Robert Downey, Jr. performance, some sharp dialogue, and convincing action sequences. But these qualities are what makes its stupidity so frustrating. I mean, if I go to the latest Adam Sandler movie and complain about how dumb it is, I have no one to blame but myself. What else was I expecting? That man eats stupid for breakfast. But Jon Favreau is a solid director, and Iron Man’s first ninety minutes are surprisingly tight. And yet, the last half hour trots out every asinine cliche you can imagine.

It all goes downhill (major spoilers from here on out) when Gwenyth Paltrow’s character (the excessively loyal assistant who also looks smashing in a backless dress) has her first heroic moment. She has to go to Stark’s old office and download critical files from his computer. First off, why doesn’t techno-genius have backups at his home office? Second, if he’s been shut off from the company, how can Miss Priss just walk into the building, then into the office, and then just start working away on the computer? Our arch villain is smart enough to bar Stark from the building, but not the sidekick? And then, as if that wasn’t enough, the bad guy actually shows up while she’s there but doesn’t seem suspicious? doesn’t ask what she’s up to? doesn’t want to see what she’s doing at the computer? Come on! And even when he does figure it out, he just lets her walk out the door. My friends, that’s stupidity.

But we’re just getting started. The final confrontation and inevitable vanquishing of evil begin with Paltrow’s other heroic moment. Based merely on the title of a computer file folder, she’s able to locate the super-secret lair of the arch villain (really?) and then in nothing but a dress and heels escape when said villain enters the scene. That leads to the predictable showdown between not one but two Iron Men. While I’ll admit the special effects are kinda cool, I also couldn’t help but laugh at the synthesized growls that pour forth from our gladiators. Pain never sounded so ridiculous. But that at least makes some sense. Nothing can explain why yet another movie needs to trot out the hoary cliche of the villain dropping his guard so that he can taunt his foe at the moment of triumph. And how is our arch-nemesis finally defeated? By some kind of weird nuclear explosion that conveniently obliterates the bad guy and leaves our heroes, who are nearby and defenseless, relatively unscathed.

I could go on an on about the incongruities in Iron Man’s final act, but you get the idea. My major problem with all of this isn’t that the movie is unrealistic. Heck, I’m willing to swallow the first 90 minutes without a burp. The travesty is that it’s so lazy and unnecessary. I mean, this is a freakin’ comic book movie where the laws of physics don’t apply. They can make up whatever crap they want. And yet the filmmakers can’t come up with a more satisfying conclusion? A conclusion in which our super-smart villain doesn’t suddenly become super-dumb? Apparently not. Even worse, those same filmmakers know that today’s audiences are so undiscriminating that no one will even raise a fuss.

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Indiana Jones and the Extremely Long Title at least has the virtue of being consistent. It’s silly from beginning to end, and that’s been true of the previous three installments, too. Our heroes can survive whatever catastrophe the screenwriter god throws at them–coincidentally, a nuclear explosion here as well. And they’ll always figure out exactly what they need to know, and just in time. So an unrealistic sword fight through the jungle while balanced on hurtling Jeeps? Yeah I can handle that. Amazingly carnivorous ants? No problem. I can even accept Spielberg’s weird fixation on aliens. The Jewish and Christian myths of earlier Indiana Jones movies strike me as more organic, but that probably says more about me than Spielberg.

So the stupidity of the new Indiana Jones doesn’t lie in its plot but in its approach to history. Now I know what you’re thinking. You don’t go to a Raiders of the Lost Ark sequel for what it has to say about the past, ancient or otherwise. Fair enough. But why then do writers George Lucas and David Koepp feel the need to evoke a particular time? The movie alerts us that this takes place in 1957 and then proceeds to show scenes involving nuclear test explosions, the Red Scare, a guy on a black Harley roadster, and a fight between greasers and preps. In each case, the historical motif is reduced to its most superficial essence, often to create a joke but sometimes to flatter the audience. It’s a bit like what tv shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” have been reduced to. But instead of offering some pop culture reference, Indiana Jones trots out an historical icon so that Joe Six-Pack can lean over to his girlfriend and whisper, “It’s like James Dean.”

The problem with this is that we as a culture are becoming more and more divorced from history by the day. I won’t bore you by quoting the cultural theorist Frederic Jameson, but his ideas are prescient. He argues that in our postmodern age, we have lost track of historical time and now connect with history only through iconic images: Abe Lincoln’s stove-pipe hat, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, a nuclear test explosion. We don’t have any context for these images; indeed we can rarely tell which event happened in which decade. And, therefore, any understanding of how history might impact the present and lead us to a different, more progressive future becomes impossible.

The use of the Red Scare strikes me as particularly problematic. It would be one thing if Spielberg were actually using this to make some subtle reference to the Bush Administration’s use of patriotism as a way to stifle dissent. But the short scene is so laughable in its simplicity and so lacking in any kind of historical context that it’s just window dressing, as if one of our nation’s more ignominious moments was fodder for the production designer. This becomes especially ironic when Harrison Ford solemnly delivers the movie’s moral at the end: “Knowledge was their treasure.” I’ll make sure to put that on a bumper sticker.

Again, I can almost hear the objections. Why should we expect Steven Spielberg to teach us history? I never said we should. I’d prefer he leave out history altogether. The problem is that when history is treated as a library of images that a filmmaker can trot out for atmosphere, people are fooled into thinking that’s all history is good for. Or even worse, that because they can catch the reference, they actually know something about history. As Neil Postman wrote, “What shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

My blog has withered to the point where it’s merely an update for the podcast Rob Davis and I are doing. But I am proud of it, and our two latest episodes feature interviews with directors Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor) and Errol Morris (Standard Operating Procedure), along with discussions of those films from Rob and me. I hope you enjoy ‘em, and feel free to leave comments at the website.

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As usual these days, I’m a bit slow on the draw. But there’s a new podcast up at errata, a long, rich conversation that Rob Davis and I had about the important Austrian director Michael Haneke. Haneke’s most recent film is an American remake of his own German-language movie Funny Games. That’s not my favorite film of his by a long shot, but it is a useful starting point to think about what he is trying to do. And Rob and I use it as a springboard to explore this most provocative of directors.

I realize Haneke isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (many of you probably won’t have heard of him), but I hope you’ll check out the podcast, as I’m particularly proud of it. I’m not sure there’s a better 70-minute overview of Haneke’s work around. To provide further context, I’ve posted below my review of his 2004 feature, Time of the Wolf. And here’s a link to my review of Cache.

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Michael Haneke is one of the most vital directors working today. Though he doesn’t receive the acclaim of Martin Scorsese or the notoriety of Lars von Trier, his body of work cannot be ignored. In many ways, Haneke reminds me of Krzysztof Kieslowski, with his moral framework and thematic control. Haneke’s works may not be as accessible as Kieslowski’s, but he is just as committed to examining contemporary society with a penetrating sword. His film Time of the Wolf is a perfect example.

The movie opens as a family of four are arriving at their weekend cottage. As they unload their supplies, they’re confronted by another family who’s taken refuge in the house. It soon becomes apparent that the family isn’t on a holiday but rather is fleeing some unknown catastrophe–a horrible state of affairs that has people scrounging desperately for food, water, and shelter. In a horrifying moment, the father is shot, and the mother and two children are chased off their property with only a bicycle and a day’s worth of food.

The three head into the village, hoping to find someone who will help them. But the only people they meet are just as frightened as they are and completely unwilling to assist anyone, friend or stranger. The family is reduced to sleeping in old barns or sheds. In one unforgettable scene, the young son Ben (Lucas Biscombe) goes missing in the night. The mother (Isabelle Huppert) and older daughter Eva (Anais Demoustier) head out into the total darkness, yelling Ben’s name. Even the hay they set on fire for light only reveals how dark their situation truly is. And when the shed they’re sleeping in catches fire, it becomes a miniature apocalypse and a perfect metaphor.

time_of_wolf_01-resized.jpgThe majority of the film takes place when they meet up with other refugees who are camping out at a train station. Their hope is to force a train, which may or may not come, to stop and take them to a better place. As they wait, they form a community based merely on what they have to offer. Eva’s bike makes an attractive bargaining chip, while some of the women willingly offer their bodies in exchange for fresh water or food.

Time of the Wolf is reminiscent of books like Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness–works that explore what people are really like when civilization is stripped away. What makes Time of the Wolf especially powerful is Haneke’s absolute rigor. If you’ve seen his earlier films like Seventh Continent or Benny’s Video, you’ll know what I mean by ‘rigor’. He refuses to allow any hint of sentimentality into his work. His objective camera placements offer penetrating looks at his characters and their situations, gazes that refuse to look away no matter what’s taking place on screen. While his narratives are often shocking, they’re not designed merely to shock but rather to jolt us out of our complacency, to force us to see things as they really are.

Haneke’s focus on truth is similarly unblinking. There are two situations in Time of the Wolf when characters accuse someone else of a heinous crime. In one case, the audience is set up, by its empathy for certain characters, to believe the claim; in the other case, to doubt it. And yet Haneke, through elegant rhyming, forces us to grasp that truth can not be dependent on whom we like but on whether something is true. And that often is very difficult to determine.

Yet, Haneke’s films are not without hope. True, they spend much more time destroying the false hopes of civilization, technology, and bourgeois sentiment. But that’s only so they can point the way to something richer, something deeper. This reaches its apex in the astounding climax of Time of the Wolf, simply one of the most surprising, stirring, and memorable conclusions to a film from the last several years. Raising fundamental issues of sacrifice and salvation, it challenges us to examine our own beliefs and assumptions. And in the midst of this darkness, a light breaks forth, one that recalls the famous passage from the Gospel of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Time of the Wolf is certainly not for everyone. Animals are killed onscreen, for instance, and certain scenes are so intense that people in the audience I was with started swearing out loud. Yet those who stick with it will experience spectacularly beautiful compositions, acting of exquisite control, and a story so haunting I’ve been thinking about it ever since I saw it.

Time of the Wolf: four 1/2 stars, out of five

While I’ve been doing a whole bunch of non-blogging, the world has been passing me by. Apparently, my neighbor Barack Obama goes to a church. Who knew? Next thing, someone will be telling me that white people don’t always treat black people so well. But that’s just crazy talk, and anyone who says otherwise hates America. And anyone who hates America…well, I don’t want to think about it (where’s that remote?).

Rob and I actually recorded our 2007 year-end discussion in time for summer, and Rob was muy pronto in posting it at his site. My apologies for not pointing it out earlier. I sound like I had too many cheese fries the day before, but Rob is coherent, thoughtful, and not at all racist.

I couldn’t tell if you David Gordon Green was a racist (though I could if you told me what church he goes to), but Rob has posted a thoughtful interview with the director of the masterpiece George Washington (see review below–warning, recycled content) and the new film Snow Angels.

And for something completely different, I offer a link to the funniest thing I’ve read this year. The folks at The Onion have to be jealous. Heck, I’m jealous. And grateful.

Long live “Links to Other Sites With Quotes and Paraphrasing”

!! (exclamation marks added for emphasis, parentheses added for explanation)

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