Film Review

An irregular online film supplement edited by A. S. Hamrah.

Welcome to Violence

Welcome to Violence

When the characters end up in Sicily, a supertitle reads “Sicily, Italy,” so we know we are not in Sicily, Illinois.

Clint Eastwood is a Giacometti sculpture with a skull stuck on top. What skin he has left on his face is paper-thin, ready to be scraped and scratched. He looks dermabraded even before drug runners in The Mule push his face against a wall. Eastwood walks across motel parking lots in his latest movie with the careful certainty of a man who has always stayed on the hard line, a rule of life from a movie of his, Blood Work, he made seventeen years ago, when he already seemed old but was only 72.

The Shallow Now

The Shallow Now

Oscars 2019

The worst advice anyone ever got in a movie is in Casablanca. An underage, newly married Bulgarian girl wants to leave Casablanca and go to America with her husband, but without having to sleep with the local corrupt cop to get them both visas. She asks café-proprietor Humphrey Bogart what she should do. “You want my advice?” he says. “Go back to Bulgaria.” Cold War is the story of that girl if she had gone back to Bulgaria.

Movie Stars in Bathtubs

Movie Stars in Bathtubs

48 Movies and 2 Incidents: 1916–2002

John Carpenter emerged from the same California milieu in the 1970s as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. He has worked in the same Hollywood as they have, in the same genres, but in many ways he is the anti-Spielberg and the anti-Lucas. They Live is the most extreme example of this. It criticizes not only spectacular entertainment but commercial image-making in general. That it does this in a cheap, blunt sci-fi flick starring a professional wrestler is nothing to sneeze at. Here Carpenter reveals himself as an enemy of what one of this film’s villains calls “our ongoing quest for multi-dimensional expansion.”

New Ways to Kill Yourself

New Ways to Kill Yourself

Tom Cruise keeps moving

At one point, watching Cruise skitter through Paris on a motorcycle, I realized I didn’t know who was chasing him or where he was going. I didn’t care; I could see Cruise’s face, and it told me he was on the run from something, while trying to get somewhere else, quickly. The threat of the bomb always looms, and Hunt never wavers in either his love for his friends or his will to do his job well. He is thus spared from making any ethical compromises—he really can have it all.

How Asia Got Crazy Rich

How Asia Got Crazy Rich

Toward a materialist history of Crazy Rich Asians

What the film’s central conflict turns upon is not simply strife between rich and poor, Asian and American, but rather the friction between different forms of accumulation—landed rents, financial interest, industrial profits, et cetera—that are historical in character and can be located throughout the diasporic division of labor that has evolved across Asia the past half-century. These tensions are a palpable reality in everyday life in Asia today, bubbling up periodically in the tabloid press, from the Kyoto locals who deride the recent influx of Chinese tourists as “pollution” to Hong Kong TV commercials in which Chinese actors wear dark makeup to portray Filipina domestic workers. Such economic racism is perhaps the clearest marker of all of modern Asia’s shared resemblances with Europe and America.

Corruptions and Duplicates of Form

Corruptions and Duplicates of Form

He looks near-homeless at times, a street creature in a movie where pizza rat meets Pizzagate.

This post-Wonka kid’s movie about future videogame competition in dystopian cyberspace contains every pop 1980s reference imaginable, including “Blue Monday,” and stuffs them by the handful into a recycling bag like cans worth five cents each. The movie is cynical and manipulative because the ’80s it exploits means nothing to Spielberg. He uses items from that decade because he noticed that’s what kids are into, even though the movie takes place three decades from now. To Spielberg, the digitized fodder of Ready Player One is not truly classic, and can therefore be further trivialized for any reason. If money can be squeezed out of it from an undiscerning audience of nerds, so it should be and must be. Here, Spielberg has truly become Disney.

The Battle of Mythologies

The Battle of Mythologies

Padmaavat, protest, Bollywood, and Indian national narrative

The Padmaavat protests are remarkable chiefly for the scale of their success. All kinds of groups have protested Bollywood for offending their religious or cultural sensibilities—many for good reason—but its most faithful enemies have always have been Hindu fascists. They have hated and feared the spell the movies cast over Hindi-speaking India, because no other enterprise, save electoral democracy itself, has had more spectacular success in creating a national—and a nationalist—imagination. For its part, the movie business has always been extremely faithful to its duty as the keeper of an Indian dream. When the nation broke away from the British empire in 1947, the roaring business of Bombay commercial cinema was held together by two things: the business acumen of Partition refugees, and an undivided language—the blend of Hindi and Urdu kept alive by progressive writers and actors.

I Might Get the Hazelnut

I Might Get the Hazelnut

Clint Eastwood’s late late style.

Nothing that happens on the train approaches the strangeness of the preceding half hour, which reprises Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler’s backpacking trip through Europe in the weeks before the attack. The trip becomes an opportunity to deploy basic instances of foreshadowing and dramatic irony. In every other scene, someone advises the guys to avoid Paris. Why? Charlie Hebdo never comes up, but a terrorism-shaped cloud hangs over these conversations. “Paris was OK for me,” a new friend tells them, pronouncing OK in a way that obviously means not OK. Fate, already an unsubtle presence, begins to sound like a car alarm.

Sanctuaries of Trust and Caring

Sanctuaries of Trust and Caring

Oscars 2018

What McDonagh believes in is storytelling. Storytelling, like Catholicism, can be plunked down anywhere, and through sheer force it will conquer. So it doesn’t matter to McDonagh if he finds himself in Belgium, Joshua Tree National Park, or Missouri: he will tell his story with forceful dialogue and dramatic violence and he will get his point across: Repent, sinners!