New Orleans, Five Years Later
August 15, 2010
Note: This is the first in a series of items about New Orleans, based on a just-finished visit to the city. I’ve spent the last forty-eight hours trying to think of an image that conveys what I saw in New Orleans last week. But the best I can do is a pair of images, both from the Lower Ninth Ward, that together capture the contradictions and complexities of the city five years after Hurricane Katrina. A few blocks north of one of the neighborhood's main thoroughfares is a single-story house with a fresh coat of grayish-blue paint. The lawn is bursting with green grass, recently cut.
The Baby Lottery
February 17, 2010
As someone who has long believed that there is something morally repellant about living in a country that prides itself on being the greatest democracy in the world but where the top one-tenth of one percent of the people "earn" as much money per year collectively as the entire bottom fifty percent of working people, I would like to offer a modest proposal that might "level the playing field," as the popular saying has it, and thus provide a foundation for a democracy worthy of the name.
The Movie Review: 'Inglourious Basterds'
August 21, 2009
There is a moment in the first scene of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds that is not what it appears to be. A Nazi colonel named Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is interviewing a French farmer (Denis Menochet) he believes to be sheltering Jews. Landa is conducting the inquiry in more than passable French (yes, with subtitles and everything), when he pauses. He's come to the limits of his francais, he claims. Does the farmer speak English and, if so, might they continue in that tongue?
The Majestic Assassination of Jesse James
October 01, 2007
Gentleman bandit. Heartless killer. Confederate martyr. Rank opportunist. Inspiration. Abomination. Jesse James has been considered all of the above by various people at various times, but Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is largely agnostic regarding such disputes. The film is concerned less with the content of James's character than with the meaning of his murder. Insofar as it asks a question, it is whether a man who has been elevated to myth can continue to coexist with mere mortals.
Check Out The Big Brain On Brad
September 10, 2007
Over the past year or so, Brad Pitt's reputation has come to be a little diminished, as if he were more an accoutrement to Angelina Jolie than a star in his own right. But that could change pretty quickly if his surprise Best Actor win for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford at the Venice Film Festival this weekend proves a harbinger of things to come.
Second Time Farce
June 21, 2005
In Hollywood, the one thing as inevitable as death and taxes is sequels. They roll them out, year after year, the 2s and IIs, the Returns and Revenges, and Strikes Backs and Strikes Agains. For decades, the first rule of making a successful sequel has been simple and unchanging: Figure out what you did right the first time and do it again. The problem, of course, is that this isn't always so easy. For every The Godfather: Part II there's a The Two Jakes; for every The Empire Strikes Back, an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
January 25, 2005
One of the most emotionally affecting moments of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow comes, unfortunately, during the closing credits, when jazz vocalist Jane Monheit sings "Over the Rainbow." It's a wistful, haunting rendition that plays beautifully off Judy Garland's Wizard of Oz version, becoming at once old and new, an homage and an original. It's this challenge, of simultaneously conjuring the classics and offering something fresh and vital, that largely eludes Sky Captain, released on video today.
June 07, 2004
Vachel Lindsay, the poet who was for a time the film critic of The New Republic, published a book in 1915 called The Art of the Moving Picture, a pioneer work in the field. In one of its many comprehensions, he said: "The supreme photoplay will give us things that have been but half expressed in all other mediums allied to it." I thought of Lindsay while I was watching Troy, the latest in a very long line of films made to give us those things that other mediums could not provide.