January 30, 2008
Fans of the show "24," or anyone who has followed the recent controversy surrounding its portrayal of torture, may have been understandably surprised by a mid-summer announcement by Fox network executives: The series—whose co-creator and executive producer, Joel Surnow, is a Rick Santorum- supporting, friend-of-Ann-Coulter sort of conservative, and whose hero, Jack Bauer, knows his way around a waterboard—was going green. In fact, it would be the first TV series ever to do so.
At Home and Abroad
January 30, 2008
The SavagesFox Searchlight4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 DaysIFCBeaufortKinoThe first virtue of The Savages is its daring. Daring, in this case, doesn't mean sensationalism: quite the reverse. The Savages dwells on the far side of the spectrum from sensation, past the middle ground of customary drama, in a mode that dares to be undramatic. Steadfastly, empathically, its method is to take us into several lives for a while, then to let us leave enriched. This method, we don't always remember, is a venerable one in film-making (think of Yasujiro Ozu), and The Savages does it honor.
December 31, 2007
Look Liberated Artists Protagonist IFC Billy the Kid Elephant Eye By now it is so common that we almost miss it when it isn't there. When television reports a robbery or a street fight, we wait for the surveillance-camera footage that will intensify the report. We now take it nearly for granted that the world is no longer watched by Big Brother but by Small Camera.
Law and Disorder
December 14, 2007
American Gangster UniversalBefore the Devil Knows You're DeadThinkFilmIn its way, American Gangster pulls its audience up on to the screen along with its characters. This violent picture would never have been made unless the makers thought the audience wanted to be in it. Audiences have always been thrilled by vicarious lives of crime for a couple of hours--those swaggering thugs done by James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson!--but we had an escape hatch for our errant morality: the gangster always crashed at the end, and we could slide back into our orderly, lawnmowing lives.
Law and Disorder
December 10, 2007
American Gangster Universal Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ThinkFilmIn its way, American Gangster pulls its audience up on to the screen along with its characters. This violent picture would never have been made unless the makers thought the audience wanted to be in it. Audiences have always been thrilled by vicarious lives of crime for a couple of hours--those swaggering thugs done by James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson!--but we had an escape hatch for our errant morality: the gangster always crashed at the end, and we could slide back into our orderly, lawnmowing lives.
November 12, 2007
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037PlowRenditionNew LineIn 1874, Gerhard von Breuning, a Viennese, published a book called Memories of Beethoven, whom he had known fifty years earlier.
Kinds of Success
November 05, 2007
What we hear first is a man's voice ranting, telling a nightmarish story that very quickly makes no sense. What we see is the camera traveling through a long suite of slick offices, all of them empty. The voice vaults and leaps in florid phrases. The offices are cool, angular, affectless. Then the voice fades as the camera slides into a large, brightly lit room crammed with people working hectically.
Geniuses: Some Notes
September 19, 2007
They might have smiled. Averse as they were to plot mechanics in their work, they might have been amused at the blatant coincidence of their deaths on the same day. Or they might have been amused at those who believe it was planned by a cosmic trickster. In any case, July 30, 2007 is now a signal date in film history. Michelangelo Antonioni was ninety-four, Ingmar Bergman was eighty-nine.Their work now moves into a different light. Almost all the art that is valuable to us is encased in history: it comes to us from the past, recent or remote.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: People in Shadows
May 21, 2007
AWAY FROM HERLionsgate FRACTURENew Line WHAT A TREAT it is to watch Sarah Polley’s career flourish. First, her acting. A few months ago she was in The Secret Life of Words,where she created a young woman stilled by gross experience. Now, after directing several shorts, Polley has directed her first feature, Away From Her (in which she does not appear).
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.