For every handful of reviews I’ve skimmed, the word “minimalist” is predominately displayed. Minimalist dialogue, visuals, narrative, etc. I’m afraid that I’ll need a definition for “minimalist” (straight from the Oxford English Dictionary no less) before I assign such a label to Meek’s maximal beauty. The narrative is simple, granted: “Settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 find themselves stranded in harsh conditions” (IMDB) and, honestly, that’s about the gist of it. Yet, it’s a historical event. There was a Stephen Meek; he lead emigrants through Oregon by way of a trail that would be named after him; and he was not the most well-liked, trusted, or friendly of folk. Disregarding the whole history of Meek’s trail, the film begins in ’45 when emerging settlers already came to suspect Meek’s abilities, or lack thereof. The trail is rough, water is near non-existent, fear of Natives run high, and the piety of the settlers clashes against Meek’s survivalist strategies. Continue reading
There’s an ever common phrase in cultural discourse that goes something like ‘such-and-such is a work of art that defies description.’ Or classification. Or definition. Or any number of vague excuses that tell you more about the critic’s lack of understanding (or engagement) with the material than it does about the actual piece of work. That being said, Kill List is a film that defies description. It is not only extremely difficult to pin down or label but it also it nearly impossible to go into any detail as to not spoil the, uh, fun. Therefore, I don’t fault others for relying on the safety of cliche crutches and/or ambiguous classifications. Let’s just start with this, you should definitely go see it but only if you’ve got a few days after to think about it [by think, read: obsess].
When I first heard that Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was getting a makeover, I believe there were spasms of expletive fury (as I now feel of the upcoming The Wild Bunch remake at the hands of… Tony Scott?). Yet, after a weekend of contemplating whether to see the film – and then deciding to – I’m surprised how faithful Rod Lurie’s version is to the original. Overall, the slow-burn to chaotic violence found in the original is ever present in the remake, yet too much violence is used to replace the uncomfortable topic of sexuality. On a side note, it’s also a fascinating study of the modern theater audience as well. Continue reading
Sports movies are treated like any other genre fare. It’s as though by definition they are automatically of a lower quality. Not art. Not worthy. You know, they often get the suffix ‘just a’ thrown in from of them. It’s just a sport movie. And you know what, most of the time they’d be right. There must be a thousand sports flicks out there, the question is, how many transcend the genre?
How do you make a film that feels vintage yet completely fresh at the same time? And not only that but make it one of the year’s most interesting films from what will be a major new presence on the Hollywood film scene. Yes, an exciting new artist who is interested in making mainstream movies… but with a catch, Nicolas Winding Refn will be delivering ‘Hollywood’ in a whole new package. Drive is bravura filmmaking is ever there was cause for that word and I knew it the moment the hot-pink letters hit the screen after the insanely gripping opening sequence. The hot-pink not only announced the film had arrived but also the filmmaker.
The apocalypse starts in Vietnam where super suave John Saxon is bitten by a P.O.W. that he is sent to rescue who, apparently, is infected with some sort of cannibal virus. Skip ahead a little, back in the ole USA, and J-Sax wakes up from a nightmare of whathappened back in the jungle. Next thing we know, the P.O.W. (Morghen) that bit Johnny has turned cannibal and barricades himself in a department store, picking off street-punks with a shotgun. The cannibal virus continues to spread, but will Saxon’s handsomeness be able to stop it?!? Continue reading
About the only law that I think relates to the genre is that you should not try to explain, to find neat explanations for what happens, and that the object of the thing is to produce a sense of the uncanny. Freud in his essay on the uncanny wrote that the sense of the uncanny is the only emotion which is more powerfully expressed in art than in life, which I found very illuminating; it didn't help writing the screen-play, but I think it's an interesting insight into the genre. And I read an essay by the great master H.P. Lovecraft where he said that you should never attempt to explain what happens, as long as what happens stimulates people's imagination, their sense of the uncanny, their sense of anxiety and fear. And as long as it doesn't, within itself, have any obvious inner contradictions, it is just a matter of, as it were, building on the imagination (imaginary ideas, surprises, etc.), working in this area of feeling. Stanley Kubrick, "El Pais Artes" (1980)