April 18, 2014
Does It Matter If ‘Heaven Is For Real’?

A new movie about the afterlife is the equivalent of spirituality porn—but is that so bad?
Read more. [Image: Sony Pictures]

Does It Matter If ‘Heaven Is For Real’?

A new movie about the afterlife is the equivalent of spirituality porn—but is that so bad?

Read more. [Image: Sony Pictures]

April 16, 2014
The Subversive Awkwardness of Four Weddings and a Funeral

The story of Four Weddings and a Funeral’s success is about as likable as the movie itself: With a name that sounds like a working title the producers forgot to change, the low-budget tale of a bumbling bachelor somehow broke the box office, made an overnight international star out of Hugh Grant, and earned a Best Picture nomination.
How did a film (in U.S. wide release 20 years ago this week) shot over one month for four million dollars end up grossing more money than any British film made before it? The answer may lie in the movie’s refreshing take on romance. In an era of glossy erotic dramas ruling the box office (Basic Instinct, Indecent Proposal, Sliver etc.) filmgoers were apparently ready to watch a bunch of awkward British patricians attempt, and usually fail, to navigate sex and love. Grant’s endearing Charles at one point even mutters to Andie MacDowell’s Carrie, “Oh God, for a minute there I thought I was in Fatal Attraction.”
From the first, expletive-laden line (“Oh fuck, fuck fuck… fuck”) in Richard Curtis’s screenplay, the British sitcom writer immediately lets you know that he’s not telling another tale of the quietly restrained customs and code of the British aristocracy. In his high society the affluent are self-deprecating and foul-mouthed—the most repeated words in the movie are “fuck” and “splendid.”
Read more. [Image: MGM]

The Subversive Awkwardness of Four Weddings and a Funeral

The story of Four Weddings and a Funeral’s success is about as likable as the movie itself: With a name that sounds like a working title the producers forgot to change, the low-budget tale of a bumbling bachelor somehow broke the box office, made an overnight international star out of Hugh Grant, and earned a Best Picture nomination.

How did a film (in U.S. wide release 20 years ago this week) shot over one month for four million dollars end up grossing more money than any British film made before it? The answer may lie in the movie’s refreshing take on romance. In an era of glossy erotic dramas ruling the box office (Basic Instinct, Indecent Proposal, Sliver etc.) filmgoers were apparently ready to watch a bunch of awkward British patricians attempt, and usually fail, to navigate sex and love. Grant’s endearing Charles at one point even mutters to Andie MacDowell’s Carrie, “Oh God, for a minute there I thought I was in Fatal Attraction.

From the first, expletive-laden line (“Oh fuck, fuck fuck… fuck”) in Richard Curtis’s screenplay, the British sitcom writer immediately lets you know that he’s not telling another tale of the quietly restrained customs and code of the British aristocracy. In his high society the affluent are self-deprecating and foul-mouthed—the most repeated words in the movie are “fuck” and “splendid.”

Read more. [Image: MGM]

April 15, 2014
It’s Still Okay to Hate Showgirls

Some critics and fans argue that the once-maligned 1995 film is actually a masterwork of self-aware parody. But they’ve missed the ugly message at the movie’s heart.
Read more. [Image: MGM]

It’s Still Okay to Hate Showgirls

Some critics and fans argue that the once-maligned 1995 film is actually a masterwork of self-aware parody. But they’ve missed the ugly message at the movie’s heart.

Read more. [Image: MGM]

12:25pm
  
Filed under: Film Showgirls 
April 11, 2014
The NFL’s Draft Day Hypocrisy

The propagandistic Kevin Costner movie inadvertently highlights just how much pro football doesn’t live up to its own ideals.
Read more. [Image: Summit; Lionsgate]

The NFL’s Draft Day Hypocrisy

The propagandistic Kevin Costner movie inadvertently highlights just how much pro football doesn’t live up to its own ideals.

Read more. [Image: Summit; Lionsgate]

3:55pm
  
Filed under: Film Draft Day NFL Football 
April 9, 2014
The True Subject of Errol Morris’s Donald Rumsfeld Doc: Smugness

With Robert McNamara in The Fog of War, the filmmaker captured a painful redemption bid. But the star of The Unknown Known doesn’t think he needs redemption at all.
Read more. [Image: AP]

The True Subject of Errol Morris’s Donald Rumsfeld Doc: Smugness

With Robert McNamara in The Fog of War, the filmmaker captured a painful redemption bid. But the star of The Unknown Known doesn’t think he needs redemption at all.

Read more. [Image: AP]

April 7, 2014
Why The Conversation Should Be Required Viewing at the NSA

Technology—iPhones, Google Glass, tablets, and the like—makes our day-to-day lives easier to quantify than ever. That’s a good thing, in many ways; more information about how people live can help, say, improve healthcare.
But fiction, from George Orwell’s 1984 to this weekend’s box-office hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has long warned us about the ways that data collection can also threaten privacy, freedom, and happiness. The most powerful cautionary tale for the Age of Big Data comes from an unlikely place: Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, which turns 40 today.
Read more.

Why The Conversation Should Be Required Viewing at the NSA

Technology—iPhones, Google Glass, tablets, and the like—makes our day-to-day lives easier to quantify than ever. That’s a good thing, in many ways; more information about how people live can help, say, improve healthcare.

But fiction, from George Orwell’s 1984 to this weekend’s box-office hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has long warned us about the ways that data collection can also threaten privacy, freedom, and happiness. The most powerful cautionary tale for the Age of Big Data comes from an unlikely place: Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, which turns 40 today.

Read more.

April 4, 2014
Revenge on the Nerds: Why It’s So Cool to Laugh at the Tech World Now

In a lavish Silicon Valley mansion, amid ridiculous liquid-shrimp appetizers and a performance from Kid Rock— “the poorest person here” in a room full of Eric Schmidts and Elon Musks—a handful of hoodie-clad twentysomethings start grumbling.
“These guys built a mediocre piece of software that might be worth something someday, and now they live here,” the shaggy-haired one says to his gangly friend. “There’s money flying all over Silicon Valley, but none of it ever seems to hit us.”
A few moments later, the gangly one observes, “It’s amazing how the men and women at these things always separate like this.” A third jumps in: “Every party in Silicon Valley ends up looking like a Hasidic wedding.”
With that, the first few minutes of HBO’s sharp new comedy Silicon Valley from Office Space creator (and former software engineer) Mike Judge lay out most of the reasons why the titular tech hub is ripe for skewering: It’s full of young people with too much money, revered personalities with cultish admirers, and brilliant professionals who are disasters in their personal life thanks to their industry’s “women problem.”
The show, which premieres Sunday and has already been met with enthusiastic reviews, adds to a small wave of television projects scrutinizing the culture of the Bay Area’s most notorious industry. Betas, one of Amazon’s early forays into original content, premiered last November; Bravo’s 2012 reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley counted Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark, as an executive producer. (In March, Amazon chose not to renew Betas; Bravo canceled Start-Ups after one season.) The projects arrive sandwiched between two Steve Jobs biopics—Jobs opened in theaters last August, while Aaron Sorkin’s similar project is in the works—and just a few years after David Fincher’s Oscar-winning The Social Network (also penned by Sorkin) made a million dollars uncool.
Silicon Valley has been the epicenter of information-technology innovation for decades, though. So why are all these shows about it happening now?
Read more. [Image: HBO]

Revenge on the Nerds: Why It’s So Cool to Laugh at the Tech World Now

In a lavish Silicon Valley mansion, amid ridiculous liquid-shrimp appetizers and a performance from Kid Rock— “the poorest person here” in a room full of Eric Schmidts and Elon Musks—a handful of hoodie-clad twentysomethings start grumbling.

“These guys built a mediocre piece of software that might be worth something someday, and now they live here,” the shaggy-haired one says to his gangly friend. “There’s money flying all over Silicon Valley, but none of it ever seems to hit us.”

A few moments later, the gangly one observes, “It’s amazing how the men and women at these things always separate like this.” A third jumps in: “Every party in Silicon Valley ends up looking like a Hasidic wedding.”

With that, the first few minutes of HBO’s sharp new comedy Silicon Valley from Office Space creator (and former software engineer) Mike Judge lay out most of the reasons why the titular tech hub is ripe for skewering: It’s full of young people with too much money, revered personalities with cultish admirers, and brilliant professionals who are disasters in their personal life thanks to their industry’s “women problem.”

The show, which premieres Sunday and has already been met with enthusiastic reviews, adds to a small wave of television projects scrutinizing the culture of the Bay Area’s most notorious industry. Betas, one of Amazon’s early forays into original content, premiered last November; Bravo’s 2012 reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley counted Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark, as an executive producer. (In March, Amazon chose not to renew Betas; Bravo canceled Start-Ups after one season.) The projects arrive sandwiched between two Steve Jobs biopics—Jobs opened in theaters last August, while Aaron Sorkin’s similar project is in the works—and just a few years after David Fincher’s Oscar-winning The Social Network (also penned by Sorkin) made a million dollars uncool.

Silicon Valley has been the epicenter of information-technology innovation for decades, though. So why are all these shows about it happening now?

Read more. [Image: HBO]

April 4, 2014
A Somber, Super Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel’s latest offering is among its most ambitious—and most satisfying.
Read more. [Image: Marvel/Disney]

A Somber, Super Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel’s latest offering is among its most ambitious—and most satisfying.

Read more. [Image: Marvel/Disney]

April 3, 2014
Why Can’t Pop Culture Get Single Moms Right?

Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club is a radical and compassionate portrait, but the film, like others before it, still follows certain formulas about how single women are expected to succeed.
Read more. [Image: Lionsgate]

Why Can’t Pop Culture Get Single Moms Right?

Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club is a radical and compassionate portrait, but the film, like others before it, still follows certain formulas about how single women are expected to succeed.

Read more. [Image: Lionsgate]

April 2, 2014
The Most Powerful Piece of Film Criticism Ever Written

Who’s the greatest American movie critic?
A lot of folks probably would say Pauline Kael or David Bordwell or Manny Farber; some might argue for more academic writers like Linda Williams, Stanley Cavell, or Carol Clover. For me, though, it’s an easy question. The greatest film critic ever is James Baldwin.
Baldwin is generally celebrated for his novels and (as Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote recently) his personal essays. But he wrote criticism as well. Mostly this was in the form of short reviews. There is, though, a major exception: his book-length essay, The Devil Finds Work, one of the most powerful examples ever of how writing about art can, itself, be art. 
Read more. [Image: AP]

The Most Powerful Piece of Film Criticism Ever Written

Who’s the greatest American movie critic?

A lot of folks probably would say Pauline Kael or David Bordwell or Manny Farber; some might argue for more academic writers like Linda Williams, Stanley Cavell, or Carol Clover. For me, though, it’s an easy question. The greatest film critic ever is James Baldwin.

Baldwin is generally celebrated for his novels and (as Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote recently) his personal essays. But he wrote criticism as well. Mostly this was in the form of short reviews. There is, though, a major exception: his book-length essay, The Devil Finds Work, one of the most powerful examples ever of how writing about art can, itself, be art.

Read more. [Image: AP]

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