Monthly Archives: October 2010

“Waiting for ‘Superman'” bloated but powerful

If you were to ask a teacher which film they hate the most, Dangerous Minds might be at the top of that list.  The film’s oversimplification of reaching students makes any parent think they know what it’s like to be at the head of the classroom.  By way of contrast, the documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’ could become a teacher’s favorite film–though it might depend on their own standing as a good or bad teacher–for the way the doc dives headfirst into the systemic issues of public education.

The film’s premise is that several children are waiting for their number to be called in a lottery, which will mean they get accepted into a “good” school.  The trailer seems overly dramatic (more like a game show than anything in real life), but it turns out to be true.  The problem is that if there are more applicants to charter schools than positions available, a public lottery must be held: names drawn at random receive their acceptance into one of these charter institutions (schools which receive public funding, but aren’t beholden to district rule).  As the film lays out the failings of public schools and the costly nature of private education, charter schools come out looking like the DMZ of this educational battlefield. Continue reading

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Never Let Me Go

Back in 2002, Robin Williams lobbed three dark performance hand grenades, the most powerful of which was One Hour Photo.  What was so compelling about Photo was not only Williams’ ability to channel a character who was simultaneously repulsive, pitiable, and menacing (Anthony Perkins anyone?), but director Mark Romanek’s stark photography.  His shots still remain burned into my cerebral celluloid and his work with Never Let Me Go reveals the same beauty, but doesn’t quite carry the same human vitality. Continue reading

Two Truly Terrifying Tales

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King says there are three types of horror: terror, horror, and revulsion/disgust.  The first is psychological, the second terrifying based on sight, and the third a horror stemming from a reaction to grotesqueries.  With most horror films playing into straight horror (“Look at that freaky monster!”), I thought I’d suggest some stories that fit the “terror”category–things that keep your brain churning as you try to sleep…. Continue reading

“Hereafter” surprisingly insipid

The Fountain and Sunshine are two films that tend to receive some of the most vitriolic commentary, eliciting praise or hate.  What they also have in common is their mutual exploration of what it means to die: Sunshine, “We’re all stardust” and The Fountain, “Death is the road to awe.”  Clint Eastwood isn’t having any of that shit though: in Hereafter, death leads to romantic comedy vapidity. Continue reading

Why Christians Should Love “Pulp Fiction”

Much to my dismay, there are people who don’t like Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction.   Among cinema fans you’d be harder pressed to find such sentiments, but out in the wider world such antipathy is surprisingly common.

When one of my undergrad classes watched the film, about half the class didn’t like it.  The most oft-repeated complaints: the copious amounts of swearing and violence.  I don’t know the religious affiliations of my disappointed classmates, but several people I’ve been speaking to recently, specifically Christians, have commented along similar lines.  The thing that is so mystifying to me is why they would hate a film with such strong Christian themes. Continue reading

“Jackass 3D” recalls early cinema, but more mean-spirited

The first films ever made were single reels of a recorded event.  A boat rocking in the ocean as the sun set; a baby eating between smiling parents. These were soon followed by the fantastic special effects of the Méliès films and the daring do’s of Buster Keaton.  The work of the Jackass team is working within parameters strangely reminiscent of early cinema- but with much more mean spiritedness and fecal matter. Continue reading

Full trailer for Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours”

There has already been a teaser trailer for 127 Hours, so this is the first full length trailer.  I would like to persuade you though: if you’re a die-hard Boyle fan, just wait to see the film.  If you’re genuinely curious about the film, go right ahead.  I just feel that trailers give too much and there’s something to be said for going into a movie mostly blind.  It’ll feel fresher if you haven’t already seen it on a tiny laptop screen a month ago.