Sunday, March 23, 2014

Misogyny as Arachnophobia

The opening sequence's gold-and-onyx lighting and oblique angles afford a maybe-great filmmaker's sense of immanence to the containment of male ambivalence toward female Difference in underground spectacle, but then the rest of Denis Villeneuve's well-acted, well-shot Toronto-set ENEMY fails to make the leap from misogyny to empathy represented by Kafka, Lynch, Araki, Bertolucci, Rudolph.

American Liebestod

Raymond De Felitta's ROB THE MOB and its stars Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda make the most delirious liebestod since Alex Cox's SID AND NANCY; love story and cultural critique spin along an axis of Oedipal trauma (crime instead of punk is the American difference).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pillar of Fire

Journey to the West
Tweet-sized Review by John Demetry

Stephen Chow applies the visionary ecumenical Buddhism from his Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle, and CJ7 to the new JOURNEY TO THE WEST: extending his reach from the classic Chinese tale of the Monkey King to contemporary global pop lore (Spielberg's Jaws and E.T.); example: the darnedest image of covenential love since the pillar of fire.

"I believe in America"

A Whole Lott More
Tweet-sized Review by John Demetry

"I believe in America": so opens Victor Buhler's A WHOLE LOTT MORE, answering THE GODFATHER's despair over capitalism and power with uncanny human interaction and empathic revelation--Buhler's documentary gift: Kevin's brother's loving caress, Kevin's tour of an art gallery (the Italian Renaissance and the surrealists seen afresh), Wanda's hilariously recognizable then universally moving visit to her parents' grave, and TJ's essential dream ("I want to be a father"); each of them engender--then demonstrate--the imaginative identification required to realize new social-economic possibilities. It's the best documentary since ... Buhler's RIKER'S HIGH.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Operatic Cinema

Prediction: There won't be a better American movie this year than Noam Murro/Zack Snyder's visionary operaticism in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE--the sword-thrust of politics powered by muscle forged in tragedy. It's the most delirious and intense sequel narrative since INFERNAL AFFAIRS III and the deepest sequel enrichment since THE GODFATHER PART II and III.

One of my many choice lines: "You fight harder than you fuck." If you value your manhood, you won't miss 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. Its densely layered narrative--identifying the prime motivations of its epic characters--gives intensity to operatically rendered political-military maneuvers. It's a great amazing astounding staggering film.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

R.I.P. Alain Resnais
by John Demetry

With his last three movies released in the US, Alain Resnais continued to push himself and the medium forward--achieving this era's peak cinematographic visions with d.p. Eric Gautier: the Joycean AIDS-era lament of PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES; the cinemascope surrealism--where desires meet--of WILD GRASS; the emotional extravaganza of YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET. Apparently there's more to come. RIP Alain Resnais. One of the last masters.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Grandiose Sense of Cinema

Grandiose Sense of Cinema
Me and You

As its closing night movie, Me and You brings a grandiose sense of cinema to the Film Comment Selects series at Lincoln Center.

“He has a grandiose sense of self,” one character explains the anti-social behavior of 14-year-old Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You. Rumours have it that Bertolucci originally considered making a 3D movie of this chamber piece—primarily set during the weeklong basement hideaway of Lorenzo and his estranged older half-sister Olivia (Teo Falco). Movies such as The Spider’s Stratagem (1970), The Conformist (1971), The Sheltering Sky (1990), and Little Buddha (1994) make 3D redundant—and insufficient—to Bertolucci’s unparalleled ability to make depth of field pop like a storybook. 
Bertolucci and cinematographer Fabio Cianchetti achieve tactile emotions without 3D gimmicks. “Normal means normal. So nothing,” Lorenzo describes his (lack of) feeling to a therapist in the opening of Me and You. Immediately afterward, Lorenzo goes spiraling down a vertiginous staircase shot at extreme low-angle punctuated by a signature perspectival shift to follow Lorenzo out the door. Such existential perceptiveness—and delirious expressiveness—matches that of silent films.
Yet Bertolucci fills the soundtrack with pop music. The sequence features the diegetic (ear bud) sound of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” Bertolucci’s lyrical, rhythmic images cry for Lorenzo, who turns inward from the world through the music on his mp3 player. A long lens during the “Boys Don’t Cry” sequence captures Lorenzo oblivious in the foreground while a woman in the background loses control of her leashed dogs.
Lorenzo is not normal. Filled with misdirected feeling, he asks his mother inappropriate (sexual) questions and explodes into tantrums when she treats him like a child. At the center of these passions is a longing, visualized in a low-angle point-of-view shot of Lorenzo’s dream of mother and absent father dancing on a glass rooftop. The sequence reminds of Bertolucci’s Luna (1979) with its movie theatre ceiling that opens up to the moon and stars when its young protagonist, motivated by Oedipal desires for a missing father and self-absorbed mother, loses his virginity during a heroin high.
Anti-social Lorenzo finds interacting with people so difficult that he spends time at the pet shop observing the animals in their aquariums and cages—in a sequence more amazing than anything in Avatar (2009). So a class trip to a ski resort gives his mother hope for his son’s social future. It’s an uncanny memory out of the adolescent collective unconscious made piquant by an image of the enthusiastic mother seen and heard through the slats of light of a two-toned frosted glass door.
Lorenzo takes advantage of the class trip to plan a week of privacy—just him and his iPod, ant farm, and favorite junk food—in the storage room of his parents’ apartment building. Then Olivia shows up. As made riveting by Antinori and Falco, this brother-and-sister pair works through their family’s pain to discover untapped capacity for compassion.
Bertolucci evokes compassion through intense magnification. Indeed, another eye-popping trope includes Lorenzo scrutinizing with a magnifying glass the ant farm—and then his sister as she kicks heroin. “They put me in a box,” Olivia complains when she locates a valuable item in her father and stepmother’s storage.
The effects of the broken family reflect in Lorenzo’s discovery of Olivia’s photography—through which she creates the illusion of her head dislocated or of her body endowed with ambisexual appendages. Then, the story that reveals the reason for Olivia’s estrangement from her father’s new family shocks even Lorenzo. These familial insights fill with primal, dream-like suspense a mesmerizing late-night raid (for food) into the parents’ apartment.
The focused space and timeframe of Me and You ultimately magnifies the essence of love. Olivia’s junky withdrawals bring out the worst in her—physical and emotional frailty. Yet that vulnerability ultimately draws out Lorenzo’s tenderness: “I’m sorry I made you cry.”
Significantly, these two sibling oddities bond over “Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola,” Mogol's translation of David Bowie. Bertolucci reveals—as if for the first time—the deep yearning of “Space Oddity.” Doing so restores pop expression to the communal space. It provides an alternative to Lorenzo’s escapism that makes manifest Internet, high-tech solipsism. After a decade, Bertolucci triumphantly returns to cinema his grandiose sense of the Other.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

3D Meaning vs. Nihilism

Auteur: Paul W.S. Anderson's volcanic POMPEII imagery--such as the gladiator coliseum heaving to the Earth's groans--expresses a nihilistic culture: like the zombie hordes in RESIDENT EVIL, the Frankenstein mask in DEATH RACE, the flying grim reaper battle ship in THREE MUSKETEERS. Now, his most radical vision of hope defeats death with 3D (sculptural) rendering of love.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kevin Costner & the Eiffel Tower: An American in Paris

It's over. Film culture is rotten. Film criticism is dead. It's laughable that these folks don't recognize Besson/Costner/McG's extraordinary investigation--and clarification!--of THE SEARCHERS masculine myth amidst multi-culti contemporary France--Kevin Costner and the Eiffel Tower! 3 DAYS TO KILL is the first great film of 2014. John Wayne and John Ford would be proud--but nothing will be MORE breathtaking in movies this year than the climax of the final shoot-out.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Nicholas Braun: Chinless Hero

Date and Switch
by John Demetry

The break-up/make-up montages that open and close DATE AND SWITCH are pretty wonderful. is my favorite chinless actor. PROM is a great movie. DATE AND SWITCH is like a very funny footnote with a special insight.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Binge or the Ballot

The Binge or the Ballot
House of Cards
by John Demetry

At the 2010 New York Film Critics Circle Award, Tony Kushner presented an award to David Fincher’s The Social Network. Kushner answered NYFCC chairperson Armond White’s challenged to explain why The Social Network matters by claiming the film fulfills Bertoldt Brecht’s call for a dramatic art that addressed its time, with that which is new, in order to snap spectators out of complacency. Bona fides: Kushner, who teaches Brecht in universities, made intellectual romance of Brechtian nostalgia with the AIDS-era play Angels in America

Kushner got it wrong. 

The Social Network combines television narrative--courtesy screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing)--with Fincher’s tv-commercial aesthetic. Nothing could be cornier--more old-fashioned and less Brechtian--than the combination of mawkishness and misanthropy of The Social Network. Now, Fincher’s Netflix streaming series House of Cards makes audiences complacent to power by sentimentalizing political corruption just as The Social Network encourages audiences to accept capitalism’s exploitation of technological change. 

Material differences: House of Cards constitutes the first “television” series produced by Internet streaming giant Netflix. As such, rather than restricted to the tv medium’s serial format (and commercial breaks), the full second season of House of Cards dropped on Netflix on Valentine’s Day. It encourages the new social phenomenon of “binging”--watching an entire tv season in one marathon sitting--without opportunity for reflection. 

Such social practice threatens Democracy: The Binge or the Ballot. 

"One heartbeat from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is so overrated,” a conspiratorial aside from Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey as Congressional whip appointed to Vice President in the beginning of Season 2). Breaking the fourth wall--a trope compared by reviewers to Shakespeare’s Richard III--also makes for hackneyed Brecht. Television is not theater. Contrast this to the way Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai (the 1946 film that recently played at Film Forum) applied delirious, Brechtian film style to Shakespearean character motivation--heightening awareness of the spiritual toll of power and greed. The House of Cards combination of sentimentality and cynicism lulls audiences into a passive resignation to the “ruthless pragmatism” of despotism. 

That phrase--the quality Underwood seeks in his allies--uncannily recalls President Obama’s pining for the “ruthlessly efficient” political machinations of House of Cards to be made a reality. In fact, the POTUS twitter account called for “No spoilers” of HoC Season 2. Such cultural norms spoil critical thinking in favor of sensationalist excitation. Spoiler alert: it’s time to resist.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

3D Weekend

Nurse 3D
by John Demetry

"There no cure for the married cock. Except me.": NURSE 3D has lots of 3D T&A--even Corbin Bleu's T&A! Yay!  But only Boris Kodjoe's T! Boo! 

The Lego Movie 3D
by John Demetry

"Where's my pants?": THE LEGO MOVIE has lots of 3D full-frontal Lego action. lol

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Space Oddity

Bernardo Bertolucci doesn't need 3D gimmicks to achieve tactile emotions in ME AND YOU, as riveting brother-and-sister work through family baggage in a basement hideaway to become compassionate, loving social beings--a spatial odyssey for two oddities that unlocks the longing for connection in Mogol's heartbreaking translation of David Bowie's Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola. No wonder the father looks like Morrissey.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Espoused of Death

The ludicrous STRANGER BY THE LAKE by Alain Guiraudie removes context for gay sub-cult isolation and sex compulsion to espouse an ESSENTIAL thanatos drive.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Steve McQueen's Myth of Black Guilt

12 YEARS A SLAVE elicits no imaginative empathy, failing to make cinematic the distinct individuality/personality/imagination of its lead character--only to then expose director Steve McQueen's insidious Oscar-bait racism: that enduring disenfranchisement of Blacks is a consequence of BLACK GUILT for slavery!--an insane Obama-era fallacy then expunged with sentimentality and nihilism. The slavery of death remains.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Berman-Pulcini's Class-Conscious Pop Instinct

Girl Most Likely
Tweet Review by John Demetry

"Good old-fashioned nepotism": Only  makes more incisive comedies about class in America than Berman-Pulcini--in the hilarious GIRL MOST LIKELY they display their class-consciousness through pop instinct.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Imago dei

Imago dei 
Sexual Authenticity: More Reflections by Melinda Selmys 
by John Demetry

In sync with The Advocate magazine’s “Man of the Year” (Pope Francis), Melinda Selmys shakes up the discourse of identity politics and the Culture Wars. With her sequel to Sexual Authenticity, subtitled More Reflections, Selmys deconstructs her own personal evolution as the preeminent voice on reconciling Catholicism and gay identity.

As that description suggests, the book’s style is remarkably postmodern.

With More Reflections, Selmys recontextualizes her superb articles, essays and blog entries. She ties them together with self-reflective narration that makes this collection consistently fresh, no mere rehash—and an essential reclaiming of her own signification from the uses of Culture Warriors. As a whole, it reveals an expansive, openhearted understanding of Catholic theology, of classical-to-postmodern philosophy, and of Queer Theory.

The breakdown of the distinct sexualities of a succession of “gay” Roman emperors is worth the price of admission alone!

Yet, Selmys applies postmodern, deconstructive, Queer methodologies to bolster the most radical proposition—embedded in the yearning core of postmodernism—about the nature of identity in the history of the world. Man is made in the image of God and redeemed by the “perfect gift” of the Word made flesh.

Consequently, More Reflections points the way toward developing three Catholic approaches to queerness:

1) Relate to the queer-identified individual as made in the image of God (“Even when I was seeking it [Beauty and Truth] imperfectly I was seeking it with tremendous good will.”)

2) Develop radical methods of evangelization to gay folk (“Instead of trying to reorient homosexual desire toward heterosexual desire, it is possible to simply bypass heterosexuality and move directly towards Goodness, Beauty, Truth.”)

3) Appropriate those elements of gay culture/art/experience that lend themselves to the universal uses of worship (“All men are by nature designed to desire one flesh union with Christ, to be espoused to the Divine Bridegroom. All sexual attraction is merely a sign which points towards this.”) 

Summarize the Selmys stance thus: “Truth told without affective love is not true.” Simply put, it represents a profoundly Catholic understanding of sexual morality: that it is not generated by a repressive subservience to Law but by the gratuitous economy of self-giving Love, by fidelity to the Trinity and Creation and man’s true nature.

 For me, as a Catholic, a gay man, and an Arts Critic, this tome is invaluable—and sure to end up under all my friends’ and family members’ Christmas trees.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Trials of HERCULES

Renny Harlin's 3D pec-tacular LEGEND OF HERCULES makes palpable moral abstractions in the form of a goofily ripe man-god: through strong dramaturgy, efficient action, and fun 3D effects. Consider the trials of HERCULES thus: fear, jealousy, potential, mind-body dichotomy, freedom, justice, faith, power, and sacrifice.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

R.I.P. - Paul Walker: The last movie star?

R.I.P. - Paul Walker: The century's greatest--and most beautiful--American actor. Is he the last movie star? From The Community of Desire by John Demetry:
Kramer casts Walker--gifted with bountiful feeling--as Joey. He conveys character sensitivity in delicate details in his three distinct cop characterizations: In The Fast and the Furious, the feeling vibrating through his body blows his cover. In Noel, he reveals the fear at the core of his character's self-destructive insecurities (rising to hetero-male compassion). In Running Scared, he tenderly explains why his son can't go into a strip bar for fear of exposing him to nude women: 'It's always a big deal.' [...] However, Walker is also a genuine star. He has IT. Walker is beautiful--and he uses that beauty expressively. His character's pain is made palpable as spectator desire: a pain that, since it is physically evoked, can be healed.
Always vibrating with feeling and evidencing striking moral vision in his choice of projects, consider this undeniable roll call: Pawn Shop Chronicles; Fast & Furious 6; Vehicle 19; Takers; Eight Below; Running Scared; Noel; The Fast and the Furious. Plus, upcoming: Hours (which economic historian Gaston Diaz praised) and Brick Mansions (written by and produced by Luc Besson!!)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Suburban Surrealism

Grown Ups 2
Tweet-sized Review by John Demetry

Dugan-Sandler's GROWN UPS 2 deserves critical acclaim for its delirious suburban surrealism to visualize family and social connections and anxieties (especially sexual) and for its innovative montage during a dinner table sequence that Godard should salute--bringing avant-garde hilarity to the multiplexes. They might be geniuses.