June 15, 2010
BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.
Earlier this week, Matt Lauer had this exchange in an interview with President Obama: MR. LAUER: -- that this is not the time to meet with experts and advisers. This is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and -- I never thought I'd say this to a president -- but kick some butt. PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Chuckles.) MR. LAUER: And I don't mean it to be funny. PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. And I understand. And here's what -- I'm going to push back hard on this, because I think that this is just an idea that got in folks' heads and the media has run with it.
February 04, 2010
The Oscar nominations rolled on out this week, but with a difference: In a rather explicit admission that it does not trust its own judgment, the Academy has upped the number of Best Picture nominees from the usual five to ten. Let’s begin there. Best Picture Last year, there was widespread disgruntlement that critical and popular hits Wall-E and The Dark Knight missed the cut for this award. So the Academy decided, in essence, to protect itself from its own ineptitude by nominating more pictures.
The Mini-Review: 'Invictus'
December 11, 2009
Though the story is set in South Africa, Clint Eastwood’s Invictus is a hybrid of classic American forms, the triumphant sports movie and the high-minded political film. There is much to like in the film, and a fair amount one might dislike as well, but in the end one’s overall feelings are likely depend on one’s enthusiasm for these genres in general and for their peculiar marriage in this instance. Invictus tells the story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the first major international sporting event to take place in South Africa following the collapse of apartheid.
Made His Day
December 05, 2008
The National Board of Review have their film awards out today, and they evidently really, really like Clint Eastwood. Both his efforts this year, Changeling and Gran Torino, made their list of top 10 films of the year, and for the latter they also awarded him best actor and screenwriter Nick Schenk best original screenplay. Now, I'm a longtime Eastwood defender, but these were two of the worst films I saw all year.
The Worst Cinematic Trend Of The Year
December 02, 2008
When Ed Harris decided that producing, directing, and starring in Appaloosa wasn't enough for him, and he needed to co-write and sing the movie's theme song ("You'll Never Leave My Heart") over the credits, it was a painful, but endurable, event. The song includes lyrics such as these (he's referring, rather ungallantly, to co-star Renee Zellweger's character) Being scared and lonely, acting so darn looseScrewin' who you want to and believing you're excused and Harris's singing voice might be charitably described as unmemorable.
Spike Vs. Clint, Continued!
June 08, 2008
The best feud in Hollywood has just gotten uglier. It all started when Spike Lee complained that Clint Eastwood's 2006 World War II dramas--Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima--did not show any black soldiers. Eastwood responded by saying that the people who raised the flag over Iwo Jima (the subject of Flags) were all white, and added that Lee had complained about Eastwood directing the Charlie Parker biopic Bird back in 1988: "He was complaining when I did Bird. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that's why. He could have gone ahead and made it.
Matters of Fate
January 29, 2007
In the otherwise brilliant opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, dramatizing the American landings in France on D-day, Steven Spielberg made one small slip. He completely engulfs the viewer in the American assault; but when we are thus immersed, he inserts a brief clip of German machine-gunners firing at the Americans. This complete switch in view cracks our involvement. It takes a few seconds to become American-absorbed again. Knowingly or not, Clint Eastwood has converted the Spielberg slip into a triumph.
Men at Arms
November 13, 2006
These are the first minutes of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, Clint Eastwood's new film about the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. When word came of an Eastwood film on this subject, the blood didn't exactly freeze, but it did become tepid. Did the twenty-first century really need another gung-ho tale of World War II? Eastwood's reply is no. His film is crammed with physical horror and courage in crisis, but the intent is not mere replication of battle.
The politics of "24."
May 15, 2006
It's 11:20 p.m., and agent Jack Bauer has had a very long day. In the morning, he worked to rescue the secretary of defense and his daughter (who also happens to be Bauer's girlfriend) from a terrorist kidnapping and Web- telecast execution. The afternoon was mostly spent unraveling a plot to melt down all of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors simultaneously.