Along with Batman, the X-men are my favorite comic book creation, and a great science fiction concept to boot, so it pains me to consider the number of missteps and poor decisions that have gone into the film franchise so far. There are numerous moments (and full films) where the filmmakers were unable or unwilling to commit to what the X-men really are, either in concept or theme. X-men: Days of Future Past thankfully rectifies several of those missteps, but still left me wanting more as a fan of these characters and their world, due mostly to some uneven and messy script work.
Obviously everyone is aware of the shootings in Santa Barbara over the holiday weekend, an awful tragedy the likes of which are already more commonplace than any of us would like. The most sickening part is that the shooter seems to fall into the philosophical zone of “nice guys”/Men’s Rights Activists, frustrated with women and blaming them for his frustrations instead of taking a look at himself. In response to the absurd amount of justification/dismissal that this has received, #YesAllWomen has broken out as a rallying cry against such callous indifference towards the societal victimization of women, and the lack of responsibility taken by men in such moments as this. Where this comes home for me is that far too many of these assholes (including our Santa Barbara shooter) seem to be geeks and fanboys. As someone with a lifelong passion for geek pop culture, I am constantly disgusted by this sizeable crossover, and I feel like I should say something about this bullshit.
There I was, sitting in the IFC Center, furious about Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-man, cursing the movie gods… and then Cold in July took over. Cold in July is a perfectly-crafted film that is built on genre archetypes and tropes while also feeling like a natural and multifaceted story. It’s a good step forward for Jim Mickle, who brings his great sense for the dark underbelly of rural America and his nigh-Spielbergian father themes to bear in a whole new kind of story, one that thrills and disturbs in equal measure.
I’m writing this post, fighting through an awful cold/flu/headache/backache/whatever-the-fuck, because this shit just needs to stop. If one more cranky old arthouse guy comes out and says that “cinema is dying” I’m going to lose it. This happens every couple of months, it seems, and every time I have to roll my eyes at how whiny and bitchy it always sounds. I don’t care who’s saying it (in this most recent case it’s Alejandro Jodorowsky), but it’s just ridiculous. It is close-minded and irresponsible to suggest that this art form is failing, and you all need to lighten the hell up.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to introduce someone to a franchise as long-running and multi-faceted as James Bond 007. When it’s been around for so long and gone through so many different filmmakers and stars and eras, what’s the best starting point? You could always go with the first film, Dr. No, except it’s not a full representation of what the Bond franchise is capable of. Or you could go with the modern reboot, except Casino Royale is as close to Bourne as it is classic Bond, so it’s not a great representation either. Thankfully, all these considerations are an afterthought anyway, as Goldfinger has always been the clear choice for me. It is the quintessential Bond film, covering every famous beat/trope/cliche that the franchise has lived on for 50+ years, and it still holds up pretty well as a great piece of filmmaking overall.
Sorry this one is getting up a week later than it should; I’ve been swamped with non-blog responsibilities to deal with instead. It’s actually kind of fitting, as the last few months have really started making me feel like an Adult. During this recent stretch, I got a 9-to-5 office job, found an apartment without my parents’ help or financial support, and took in a pet to take care of. Combined with my (amazing) long-term girlfriend, it seems like I’m starting to figure stuff out by the classic definition. But now that I’m feeling vaguely more mature, the usual Apatow Comedy Troupe manchild hijinks don’t resonate with me as much as they might have a few years ago. However, one subsection of their collective work does hit home for me in a very specific way: the films of Nicholas Stoller. Stoller’s movies, rather than dealing with early-twentysomething dudes trying to grow up, follow people who have (mostly) grown up, trying to deal with the ramifications of what that means, and his latest film Neighbors is no exception.
Perhaps my most telling moment of watching 400 Blows came during the opening credits and thought that the camera was tilted upward to capture the perspective of a child… a thought I immediately felt obnoxious and pretentious for having. While that is a perfectly valid interpretation of the shot, my impulsive dismissal of that interpretation probably comes from my prejudice against the French New Wave as being a movement full of pseudo-intellectual, loosely structured sequences with little direct narrative. But by the end, 400 Blows surprised me in not just being a solidly-structured narrative but also a great, authentic (if bitter) exploration of a broken and desperate childhood,