Film

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.

We Can Still Think Our Own Thoughts

We Can Still Think Our Own Thoughts

Put your shit on silent.

The cancellation of both services, at this point, seems like the end of the long tail. The blockbuster model has reasserted itself and as usual seeks to muscle everything else out of the way. At the height of corporate capitalism you pay full price for bad movies improperly projected in ugly theaters whose business is selling large sodas at a 1,000 percent markup. If you want to watch a movie at home, there’s Netflix, now mostly a streaming television service, or Amazon. It’s all an insult to cinephiles and to film history. Going mass means living in the moment and throwing away what came before. The moment is crap.

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 kids’ movie about future video-game 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.

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.

We’re the Good Guys, Right?

We’re the Good Guys, Right?

On the Marvel movies

Marvel’s first hit, Iron Man, was released in 2008, just as the surge in Iraq was coming to a close. This marked the end of the hot wars of the Bush years and the transition to a cooler state of continuous half-war, characterized less by boots on the ground than by eyes in the sky. The Obama era revealed that the war on terror would be unlike past wars, with beginnings and ends. It was a way of life rather than a discrete event, a chronic condition rather than an acute one. The war was routinized and, with the dramatic surge in the use of drones, mechanized.

Sanctuaries of Trust and Caring

Sanctuaries of Trust and Caring

On Oscar Movies

Back in the 1990s, I predicted — maybe it was after I saw Happiness — that sound design would soon get so extreme that there would be a movie in which we heard not just the sound of salt leaving a saltshaker, but also the sound of it hitting the food. With Phantom Thread, that day has come.