There’s something to be said for one of the most successful mainstream directors of the 21st century, Christopher Nolan, focusing his energy and cachet on a couple of avant-garde stop-motion animators, the Quay Brothers, that I imagine aren’t known to many viewers. To me it speaks to the symbiosis between the mainstream and the arthouse. Not only does it show how one (theoretically) supports the other, but it also shows how much one (definitively) depends on the other for inspiration and exploration. Upon watching the retrospective selection at Film Forum this past weekend — one organized and restored by Nolan himself, and accompanied by his short documentary on the Quays — I think it’s easy to see where Nolan could draw inspiration for his own work, taking the artistic ambition of the Quays and filtering it through his own populist gaze. But even more importantly the retrospective shone a blindingly exciting light on the Quays themselves, revealing their peculiar and challenging voices to those like myself that were only aware of them in passing, and giving them some well-deserved attention for their impressive — if off-putting — cinematic talents.
In storytelling terms, “pulp” has some very specific connotations. It suggests hard-boiled, lewd, violent, visceral, archetypal storytelling that is driven by a base need for entertainment value above all else. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that the late, great Tony Scott was one of the premier pulp filmmakers of his time. His films are designed to entertain first and foremost, often in the most aggressive and surface-level ways possible. But while Scott was always known as a style-first filmmaker, I submit that he knew damn well what it took to tell a proper story, and more often than not he told them as well as any of his peers, if not better. Following the third anniversary of his tragic suicide, I thought it was worth looking back at his films and reminding people how good a filmmaker Tony Scott really was.
I’ve always been a fan of The Daily Show and Jon Stewart, but having not watched the show in some time I’d been watching his victory lap as host at something of a remove. The thought of bidding farewell to Jon had ultimately felt to me like having had a really good friend during high school and college, not talking to them for years and then finding out they’d died. You feel bad, but not as viscerally as you might have years before, and the sadness stems more from the time you had missed then the time you would be missing in the future. But now, with The Daily Show With Jon Stewart having officially ended, I lament both of these things: all the smaller bits that I missed over the last few years, and all the incisive commentary that we will need in the years to come. But I can also be immensely grateful, not just for the work that Jon did over the years but the message he embodied and the mentality that he passed on to so many, myself included.
I’ve always been a fan of Tom Cruise, which means I’ve always been a fan of the Mission: Impossible series. After all, each film of the franchise is the distilled essence of who Cruise is as an actor and an entertainer. In the modern vernacular it would be safe to say that the Mission: Impossible films are “peak Cruise”, and they are more his films than anyone else’s. And yet, each film in the franchise has also been a great distillation its director as well. Cruise has allowed each movie to have its own voice and tone, making Mission: Impossible one of the more limber and engaging film series Hollywood has to offer. Thankfully, that trend continues here with Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, not only as good a film as the franchise has had but also one of the best blockbusters of this year.
Alright folks, the home stretch of the summer is upon us. Overall I say it’s been a solid one so far; while the biggest movie of the season was a disappointment for me, there have been more than enough good-to-great movies over the last few months to leave me feeling satisfied with the State of the Blockbuster. And who knows, some of the films on tap for this month might continue that positive trend… if they don’t get drowned out by the exciting indie offerings August has for us. Let’s take a look!