At a Christmas party in 2004, a cousin asked me "Do you like Medea?" For a minute I was a confused, since it didn’t seem to be the occasion for sharing our impressions of Greek mythology. But it turned out she was talking about Madea, the massive, loudmouthed, pistol-packing black grandmother who Tyler Perry performs as in drag in a series of "chitlin' circuit" touring shows. Perry sells DVDs of the shows on line, and ten minutes after my cousin put one on I was hooked. I’m not alone. Madea was the biggest new phenom in black America until Obamamania.
It's taken countless hours of TV crime-drama ("Crime Story," "Miami Vice") and nearly a dozen feature films (Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice again), but in John Dillinger, Michael Mann may finally have found an ideal vessel for his particular vision of masculine cool: stylish, charismatic, unflappable, adept at violence but not hungry for it. After spending nine years in prison for his rookie robbery (a grocery-store heist that allegedly netted him $50), Dillinger emerged in May 1933 to launch perhaps the most storied crime spree in American history.
About 400,000 people, many of them children, annually tour the battlegrounds of Ypres, near the French border in Western Belgium, the scene of some of history's most savage combat. Millions of troops fought here during World War I; more than 600,000 of them died.
Jacob Rubin has a rather more generous view of Michael Haneke--and his most recent film, Funny Games--than my own, but his article on the site today is sharp, sophisticated, and well worth reading. Moreover, I was struck by the degree to which, despite approaching the film from markedly different directions, he ("[Haneke] is far more interested in reflecting the world than changing it") and I ("[T]he lessons Haneke claims to impart... are ones that his viewers already know, or will never learn") wound up at very nearly the same place. --Christopher Orr
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.
I know curators have to come up with ever-more-inventive ways to lure folks into their museums. But this strikes me as truly embarrassing: Media Advisory: Twentieth Century Fox and Bruce Willis Present "Die Hard" Objects to Smithsonian's National Museum of American History [snip] In a special donation ceremony, Bruce Willis will present objects from the "Die Hard" films to the National Museum of American History.
Advertising Age is reporting that a pirated copy of Michael Moore's new movie Sicko has turned up on the Internet and is now easily viewable for free. The article goes on to say that Moore, and his distributor, The Weinstein Company, have every film maker's worst marketing nightmare on their hands--how to persuade people to go to the theater to see a show that's available free on the Internet. I don't know. Doesn't this sort of thing actually help Moore's marketing plan--by generating even more free press for his film?
Anthony Lane may be one of the best film critics around, but his review of the new movie The Good German contained a particularly outrageous comment: George Clooney plays Jake Geismer, a reporter with The New Republic. As a member of the press corps, he has a rank and a uniform, and I intend no slur upon that publication when I say that he must be the spiffiest example of the human male ever to emerge from its bureau. It's true. After all, Jason Zengerle doesn't work out of our main office. --Isaac Chotiner
Early in Bottle Rocket, writer-director Wes Anderson's 1996 debut film, a little girl asks her recently de-institutionalized 26-year-old brother when he will be coming home. "I can't come home," he explains. "I'm an adult." With that scene Anderson, himself 26 at the time, announced the theme that would dominate all his movies to date: the plight of the man-child, too old to live life like a kid but not mature enough to stop trying. In Bottle Rocket, it was half-hearted thieves Anthony and Dignan straddling the gap between boyhood and manhood.
In 1999 it looked as though American filmmaking might be on the cusp of an exciting period not unlike the Coppola-Scorsese-Allen 1970s, with several original young directors coming into their own at once. That year, fortyish David O.