And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

“Just pretend like it’s a video game.”

-Candy, Spring Breakers

“Spring break forever, bitches.”

-Alien, Spring Breakers

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Nader and Simin have been married for over a decade. They have an eleven-year-old daughter, Termeh, and also live with Nader’s father, who suffers from severe Alzheimer’s and needs round-the-clock care. The couple is solidly middle-class, with a well-furnished apartment, two cars, and apparently steady employment. When Simin insist they leave the country for the sake of their daughter’s future, and Nader refuses to join her, Simin files for divorce. Read the rest of this entry »

Few films use animals to comment on its characters to the extent that Sátántangó does. This thematic conceit is laid out in the film’s notorious opening shot, an 8+ minute tracking shot of cows grazing a barren Hungarian wasteland, moving from one muddy patch to the next with little sense of purpose (and occasionally trying to screw each other). Aside from its purpose as a stylistic rejoinder to the much more audience-friendly pacing and aesthetics of typical films, it functions as an amusing, low-key overture for the rest of the film. Because dumb animals living purposeless lives in flux, and occasionally screwing each other, isn’t far from the mark in describing Sátántangó‘s characters. The people in this film are thoughtless and crude, content to mire around in the muck; only financial opportunity (more to the point, greed, a base instinct) acts as sufficient motivation for them to get off their asses and do something. Even then, they’re led around by the nose as a rabbit might be with a carrot, instead of taking their own initiative.

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Over on the SomethingAwful forums, a poster named Ben Solo has unearthed a 16mm workprint of notorious shlock film Manos: The Hands of Fate (for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, that translates as “Hands: The Hands of Fate”). The film is most well-known at this point for its exposure on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its perpetual placement towards the “top” of IMDb’s bottom 100 list, but some shots of individual frames of film taken by Ben reveal something that is surprisingly beautiful-looking after coming to know it through VHS and television broadcasts of exceedingly poor quality.

With that in mind, Ben has taken it upon himself to give the film a proper restoration, and to try his hand at releasing the film on blu-ray. Since it’s in the public domain, there are no legal roadblocks, and given its status as a cult classic, this could prove to be a surprise hit. Somebody should definitely get ahold of Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson in the meantime, in order to get this the exposure it deserves.

As a certifiable Scorsese fanboy, I’ve been waiting to hear what he had lined up after Hugo. Turns out his next film will be an adaptation of a Norwegian crime novel, The Snowman, by author Jo Nesbo. The story involves a hard-living, hard-drinking detective, Harry Hole, who hunts a serial killer who leaves a snowman in the yards of his next victim. Though Scorsese is no stranger to gritty crime films, it sounds like the film will be more David Fincher than Michael Mann. Given Scorsese’s recent predilection for genre-hopping, it comes as no surprise.

This announcement once again relegates Silence, the novel by Japanese author Shusaka Endo, to the backburner. The project was slated to be made after The Departed, but was set aside in favor of Shutter Island and Hugo. The story, which involves two Christian missionaries in Japan, seems right up Scorsese’s alley, and he’s been planning on adapting it for years, finally announcing his intentions in 2007. Daniel Day-Lewis and Benicio del Toro were attached, but given the silence (sorry) surrounding the project, it’s a mystery whether they’re still on board.

Two nights ago, I watched Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man; last night, I watched the Coen brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There. So maybe the connection I’m making between the two is completely arbitrary, but the similarities – and differences – between them struck me. On the surface, both are weird-ass black-and-white movies that tackle old, mostly dead genres (the western and the classic film noir), but beyond that, they’re hardly mirrors of each other. Dead Man deliberately avoids western clichés to present something off-kilter, while The Man Who Wasn’t There faithfully reflects noir elements before pulling the rug out from underneath, but in their own way, they both put a unique spin on old genres.

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Let it be said: Ralph Fiennes is an extremely capable, even great, actor, but as Francis Dolarhyde, the twisted, enigmatic serial killer of Red Dragon, he’s nothing special. In broad strokes, his performance is effective and believable, but what results is a rather one-note portrayal of a demented, schizoprenic victim of child abuse. What’s lacking is any sense of pathos, so the film is reduced to surface pleasures: a perfunctory thriller without an emotional center.

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For the ninth time, that is.

After last year’s fiasco of a performance by James Franco – who would have thought that ironic detachment isn’t a desired quality in an awards show host? – and the recent dropout by Eddie Murphy, the Academy was likely eager to seek out the safest possible choice. And while Crystal drips charisma and embodies a family-friendly schtick (pharmacy jokes, ho-ho!), it would’ve been nice to see Murphy in the spotlight, primed for a comeback with the late praise of his performance in Tower Heist. Hell, there are a million different directions the Academy could have gone. One of the many good late night hosts, a repeat performance from Jon Stewart (who I thought did great) – or Colbert, in character, which would’ve been fantastic – or even relatively new blood like the multi-talented Donald Glover. So while Crystal is likely to be enjoyable, it’s also pretty easy to envision a night of bland comforts. Which, really, is what the Academy defines itself by. I wasn’t even 2 when GoodFellas lost to Dances with Wolves but I’d like to think I was still somehow aware and pissed off.

In the interest of encouraging myself to be more active on my blog, I figured I’d add some other features beyond the boilerplate film review. Of course, my interest in film is still heavily slanted towards analysis over anything else, so this is more of an extension than anything radically different. I intend to single out great scenes (whether from great films or otherwise) and fit them within the context of the entire work, as a summation of style, themes, et al. Oh, and I figured I’d touch on TV as well, because why not? It is, in fact, a scene from The Sopranos that inspired this. And it goes without saying that these features will be pretty spoilerific by nature.

Okay, on to the analysis.

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Drive begins with a monologue, spoken over the phone, from its titular character, the otherwise nameless “Driver.” In it, he espouses his personal code for his job (which, inbetween stunt-driving gigs for movies, entails getaway driving for thieves). Shortly thereafter, we get a look at him in action, driving the getaway car during a nighttime heist in which he escapes police attention with robotic precision and skill. In this opening sequence, Nicolas Winding Refn establishes a well-explored archetype as the basis for his lead character, and proceeds to spend the next 90-odd minutes dismantling it piece-by-piece, revealing a character that is perfect on the surface but broken underneath.

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