Life
Society Reviews

Life was on pace to be a decent B movie with high budget effects, but the ending to this film was such an epic fail (in terms of the character’s plan, not the writing) that I had to give them an extra star just for writing such a ballsy ending.

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The Federalist Staff
A few days ago, I was pretty sure this review would go in a very different direction. When I first saw the trailers for “Life,” I fully expected I’d find myself watching an updated incarnation of Michael Crichton’s classic sci-fi thriller “The Andromeda Strain,” which focused on CDC researchers’ efforts to control a dangerous extraterrestrial pathogen. Clearly drawing some inspiration from “Strain,” this movie’s been marketed pretty straightforwardly: researchers on the International Space Station encounter the first traces of life beyond earth, but quickly realize they’re dealing with something potentially dangerous. Obviously, someone would end up infected, and intense moral dilemmas (“treatment or containment?”) would result. That sort of storyline isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it makes for good popcorn entertainment. But director Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is something very different—and, unfortunately, something much less interesting. This is essentially a slasher movie in space: an insanely high-budget foray into sci-fi horror that mashes up “Alien” with “Gravity.” Despite its talented cast and eye-popping effects, there’s not much substance beneath the sizzle. What ‘Life’ Could Have Offered To its credit, “Life” wastes very little time in setting up its central conflict. Upon recovering a Mars soil sample that happens to contain an ancient single-celled organism, an international team of astronauts begins conducting a series of experiments. Exposing the cell to oxygen and glucose triggers a rapid growth process, and the cell quickly develops into a small creature resembling a translucent sea star. It’s really a shame “Life” doesn’t embrace the better angels of its nature, because the concept here has lots of potential. If extraterrestrial life was discovered tomorrow, the implications would be world-shattering. Political sparring over healthcare reform would be forgotten in the rush to understand exactly what else is out there. “Life” momentarily floats this possibility—when the creature first begins to grow, one astronaut remarks about the inevitable “custody battle” to come. There’s a great political space thriller to be made about an international team of astronauts that struggles to fend off different world powers vying for control of an alien lifeform, and I hoped “Life” would go in that direction. Alas, it was not to be. “Life” is far more interested in creative astronaut-themed carnage than profound plotting: that little “sea star” soon evolves into something much nastier, quarantine protocols are breached, and all hell breaks loose. ‘Life’ Has Great Graphics, But Little Substance “Life” does succeed on a number of fronts. The movie’s production values are positively stellar, from the hauntingly beautiful tracking shot that opens the film to the solar-panel-smashing climax. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds anchor a solid cast (that, yes, finds itself being picked off one by one by the marauding monster). For all the film’s similarities to “Alien,” the setting is quite unique: a zero gravity environment provides plenty of opportunities for inventive mayhem. And I’d be remiss in my critical duties if I didn’t mention that “Life” has one glorious third-act moment that almost redeems the whole thing. (Almost!) But these high points just aren’t enough to make “Life” really succeed. I can certainly appreciate a quality horror movie (“The Conjuring,” “Insidious,” and “Misery” are personal favorites), so I wasn’t automatically repelled by the film’s unexpected turn toward the macabre. But to the movie’s great detriment, very little in “Life” feels original. There’s an alien-crawling-through-the-vents scene (pilfered from “Alien”), a scene with a defibrillation that goes horribly awry (stolen from “The Thing”), the alien’s instant consumption and ingestion of a living creature to increase its biomass (swiped from “The Blob”), an attempt to throw the creature down a shaft into deep space (cribbed from “Aliens”), and much more. The full-grown creature even looks uncannily like a Mutalisk alien from the video game “StarCraft II.” Such unoriginality might be forgivable if “Life” was actually scary. Sadly, it’s not. The key to making a film genuinely frightening is to tap into a primal human dread. In its crudest form, this looks like movies about masked serial killers (after all, people are afraid of them). A more sophisticated expression of this principle might be H.P. Lovecraft’s “cosmic horror” (built on the fear that we’re simply pawns in the hands of malevolent forces). Viewed in this light, the premise of “Life” doesn’t measure up: there’s no sane reason for us to be afraid of marauding organisms from Mars, because our odds of encountering them are infinitesimally small. (By contrast, Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien” evoked menace due to its appropriation of artist H.R. Giger’s eerie, sexually inflected imagery.) Nor is “Life” particularly grisly—in fact, it’s quite tame for the genre (it’s rated R, but take out a smattering of profanity and the movie’s easily in PG-13 territory). There Are Better Sci-Fi Horror Films Out There “Life” suffers not because it relies on a bait-and-switch premise, but because its B-movie sensibilities don’t do proper justice to its talented cast and top-notch cinematography. Unlike 2012’s “Prometheus,” which explored questions of Gnosticism and human origins alongside terrifying imagery, “Life” simply has very little on its mind. Similarly, the bleakest undercurrent in “Alien” was the prospect that the murderous creature would be commodified and weaponized by a multinational corporation. Nothing so provocative is teased here, and given the clear talent behind “Life,” that failure is really quite a shame. When all’s said and done, “Life” is perhaps best enjoyed as a late-night Netflix pick. If you like this sort of movie, I recommend the far superior 1997 film “Event Horizon,” which probes similar themes and packs a much fiercer punch. Otherwise, save your money. ]]>
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
Movies The monster movie tropes might feel familiar at times, but Life flirts with audience "alien"-ation in ways that are surprising, even shocking, making for a more memorable film experience than we expect during the early part of its story. 3.5 out of 5.   Synopsis Aliens-on-the-loose movies, a cinematic staple for decades that had grown stale by the dawn of the 21st century, may be on the cusp of a resurgence, thanks in part to an effective—and gruesome—new entry. Life tells the story of occupants on an international space station—David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Roy Adams (Ryan Reynolds), Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare)—who are ecstatic when samples from a Mars probe reveal a new life form. The organism, which they dub Calvin, quickly grows into a jelly-like creature that, far from passive, can wrap around human hands, slip confinement, and choke, consume and devour whatever stands in its way. One by one the crew members try to fend off Calvin, even as their resources diminish. They're racing the clock, running out of oxygen, under threat of burning up upon re-entry... we've seen all these plot points in other movies about astronauts and outer space. But Life's willingness to upend audience expectations gives the story a sense of, well, life that keeps the story from growing stale.   What Works? It's not complicated, but watching the human characters fight valiantly—even as they lose—against an alien being provides plenty of suspense, not to mention several demises that won't easily be forgotten.   What Doesn't? The first 30 minutes aren't promising, setting up several less-than-appealing characters who seem designed to be disposable. Do we really want to spend the rest of the movie watching these people? It turns out we do, but only after their number is whittled down to a few key characters.   googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes Life doesn't shoot for profundity. There's no God talk and not much philosophical discussion about Calvin beyond a reference that the alien, like the astronauts, is just trying to survive. The film does showcase a tenacious instinct—both human and alien—for survival, but Life is more of a thrill ride than a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of existence.   CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers) MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror Language/Profanity: Lord's name taken in vain; numerous uses of the f-word, including the 'mf' variety; "holy s-it"; a person confesses to feeling "pure hate" for the alien. Sexuality/Nudity: None. Violence/Frightening/Intense: Several scenes of alien attack, including several vivid character deaths; a memory of the space shuttle Challenger disaster; a comment that "it's hard to watch people die." Drugs/Alcohol: None.   The Bottom Line RECOMMENDED FOR: Viewers interested in a throwback to the action-adventure blockbusters of the '80s and '90s. Life doesn't satisfy on the level of, for example, Ridley Scott's Alien or James Cameron's Aliens, but it works well enough not to suffer miserably by comparison. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who expects to see their favorite stars not only survive, but thrive, through sci-fi/space monster adversity. Life, directed by Daniel Espinosa, opened in theaters March 24, 2017; available for home viewing June 20, 2017. It runs 103 minutes and stars Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ariyon Bakare. Watch the trailer for Life here.   Christian Hamaker brings a background in both Religion (M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary) and Film/Popular Culture (B.A., Virginia Tech) to his reviews. He still has a collection of more than 100 laserdiscs, and for DVDs patronizes the local library. Streaming? What is this "streaming" of which you speak? He'll figure it out someday. Until then, his preferred viewing venue is a movie theater. Christian is happily married to Sarah, a parent coach and author of [email protected]/* <![CDATA[ */!function(t,e,r,n,c,a,p){try{t=document.currentScript||function(){for(t=document.getElementsByTagName('script'),e=t.length;e--;)if(t[e].getAttribute('data-cfhash'))return t[e]}();if(t&&(c=t.previousSibling)){p=t.parentNode;if(a=c.getAttribute('data-cfemail')){for(e='',r='0x'+a.substr(0,2)|0,n=2;a.length-n;n+=2)e+='%'+('0'+('0x'+a.substr(n,2)^r).toString(16)).slice(-2);p.replaceChild(document.createTextNode(decodeURIComponent(e)),c)}p.removeChild(t)}}catch(u){}}()/* ]]> */ and Ending Sibling Rivalry. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Publication date: March 23, 2017 ]]>
(Review Source)
Armond White
(”Life” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Anyone who fixes his social frustrations on the Academy Awards needs a new mode of protest. Followers of the frivolous #OscarSoWhite campaign confuse film-industry flattery with justice (“justice,” another currently misunderstood word). Sadly, all this nonsense is a continuation of the millennium’s misunderstanding of what exactly “civil rights” means 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The Oscars are not fun anymore, and protestors have misjudged their priorities. It’s bizarre, but perhaps inevitable, that well-heeled African Americans from Jada Pinkett-Smith to the Reverend Al Sharpton (who both called for Oscar boycotts) consider that their personal class achievements entitle them to many more, additional honors. They mistake a dearth of trinkets for all the other issues that beset African Americans — as if awards were the same thing as freedom. The encouraging facts of black social progress are ignored, and disrespect for serious black struggles has run amok. The real social progress that African Americans have earned — evident in the un-Oscared movies Sweetback Sweetback’s Baadasss Song, Sounder, Amistad, Beloved, Life, Next Day Air, and others — has been taken for granted this century. To conflate contemporary social frustrations with the nagging paranoia resulting from historically based awareness of past injustices is idiocy. Contemporary race hustlers such as Pinkett-Smith and Sharpton are naïve, and twittering students don’t appreciate what rightful struggle and personal dignity mean. RELATED: The New Segregationism: The Oscar Nominations Have Brought a Corrosive Racial Politics to the Fore The #OscarSoWhite campaign doesn’t deserve to be labeled “political.” It derived from a conceit of black bourgeois privilege and from the self-righteousness of the white-owned media that promote the #BlackLivesMatter “cause” for no other reason than to prove their liberalism. It’s snootiness and sanctimony combined. In practical terms, this false “politicizing” of the Oscars demonstrates an ignorance of recent Hollywood history. Think back to 2008: Eddie Murphy, who was ignored for his extraordinary performances in the Nutty Professor movies then — finally — got an Oscar nomination for his way-late SNL shtick in the dreadful but highly promoted Dreamgirls. And he still lost. Later, Murphy got little media support for indignantly walking out of that year’s Oscar ceremony or for his principled refusal of an Oscar-hosting stint in 2012 when his colleague and producer Brett Ratner was vilified by the Academy for perceived political incorrectness. This forgotten history shows the current protests to be both ahistorical and unethical. (function($){ var swapArticleBodyPullAd = function() { if ($('body').hasClass('node-type-articles')) { var $pullAd = $('.story-container .pullad').addClass('mobile-position'); if (window.matchMedia("(min-width: 640px)").matches) { if ($pullAd.hasClass('mobile-position')) { $pullAd .addClass('desktop-position') .insertBefore('.article-ad-desktop-position'); } } else { if ($pullAd.hasClass('mobile-position')) { $pullAd .addClass('mobile-position') .insertBefore('.article-ad-mobile-position'); } } } }; $(window).on('resize', function(){ swapArticleBodyPullAd(); }).resize(); })(jQuery); More Race Seventy-Five Percent of Black Boys in California Fail State Reading Standards Unsayable Truths about a Failing High School Black and Muslim Women Are Invisible to the Feminist Movement Oscar race hustlers still don’t understand the prejudiced underpinnings of cultural ideology — the standard procedures by which industry executives routinely give advantages to their own kind and studios continue to operate with white preference (as 2014’s Sony hacking exposed). These problems get repeated in the mainstream media’s unacknowledged biases: In recent years, liberal Hollywood has frequently awarded Oscars to only the most demeaning black performances. This is the same false liberalism behind Spotlight, the Catholic Church–bashing movie that celebrates crusading journalists and, with six nominations, is an Oscar favorite. Let’s see if Spotlight wins any of its undeserved recognition. It would ceremoniously confirm Hollywood’s ongoing sanctimony. — Armond White, a film critic who writes about movies for National Review Online, received the American Book Awards’ Anti-Censorship Award. He is the author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World and the forthcoming What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about the Movies. ]]>
(Review Source)
Plugged In
Sci-Fi/FantasyDrama We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewCalvin had been doing just fine before the astronauts showed up. Granted, he wasn't exactly lively. The single-celled, Mars-based organism had been fairly catatonic for a good 100 million years or so. But who among us couldn't use a little more shut-eye? Given that his cellular structure is all eye—and all muscle, and all brain—one could argue that Calvin needs more rest than most. But while Calvin was sleeping, a rover collected him (or her, or it) from the Martian soil and blasted him into space, to be examined by the six-person crew of the burgeoning International Space Station. They start pumping oxygen into his little box. They heat him up, nice and comfy. Once the conditions in the box reach a warm, primordial Earth-like state, Calvin perks right up and starts growing. Why, how nice of these strange bipeds to revive me like that, he might've thought to himself in inaudible Martian. They certainly seem frien—OW! Now, it's entirely possible that Calvin wasn't thinking such kindhearted thoughts when the electrical shocks started. Given that Calvin doesn't seem to possess a heart exactly, it's possible that he woke up cackling silently, like an alien Snidely Whiplash. Cattle! It might've said in inaudible Martian. Bend to the power of the Old Ones! One can never be too sure about extraterrestrial beings. But whatever Calvin's initial motivation might've been, the events that follow are indisputable: Once the astronauts start a-shocking, Calvin starts a-killing. Alas for Calvin, there are only so many humans to feed on in space. But the planet below has eight billion of 'em. Now, if only he could find a way down …Positive ElementsWe don't get to know our astronaut cast that well in Life, what with all the screaming and dying and whatnot. But these scientists definitely feel super, super bad when one of their own is threatened. And I think every single one of them risks and sometimes sacrifices his or her life to protect their fellow space-walkers to ensure that Calvin doesn't get to earth. Spiritual ContentScientists believe that Calvin has been around for at least 100 million years. "We're going to learn so much about life," says researcher Hugh Derry. "Its origin, its nature, maybe even its meaning." One astronaut, Sho Murakami, whispers to a picture of his wife and newborn daughter, "I'm coming home." It's not completely clear whether he means he's literally planning on getting home somehow (despite the creature that's determined to kill him) or means it in a more figurative, spiritual sense—that he'll see them both in the afterlife.Sexual ContentAfter the wife of an astronaut gives birth back on Earth, one of the man's fellow crew members ribs him, "Do they have any idea who the father is?"Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentCalvin is not a gentle soul. When he's still pretty small, he grabs hold of biologist Hugh Derry's hand (protected by a thick rubber glove) and crushes, it would seem, every bone in it. (When Hugh manages to pull free, the hand is completely mangled, looking more like a contorted octopus than a recognizable human appendage.) And that's just the beginning. Calvin's first fatality is a literal lab rat, kept (for some reason) shackled inside the space station's lab. He wraps the poor, squeaking little critter in his grip and seems to absorb the thing alive, the rat clearly conscious until almost the end. Calvin then moves on to people: He pries open someone's mouth and kills him from the inside, blood floating from various orifices—both natural and made by Calvin—in weightless space. He kills another by crushing a coolant container in someone's spacesuit: The victim eventually drowns in liquid coolant. He latches on someone's leg, feeding on blood until that person, too, dies. He wrestles with someone in the vacuum of space, leading to another fatality. A mishap with another spaceship causes passengers on the visiting vehicle to lose their lives. Calvin fights with another astronaut in what would ordinarily be a space-bound "lifeboat," and the results, while uncertain, are not good. Corpses float about weightlessly throughout the film. The astronauts try to inflict their share of pain on Calvin, too. They attempt to barbecue him with an incinerator and, when the creature escapes outside the ship (he's an extremely durable chap), blast him with the station's maneuvering jets (which he's trying to sneak back into the ship through). They shock the creature when it's a more manageable size. Explosions explode. Parts of the space station are shattered. Someone laments war and references a conflict in Syria. Crude or Profane LanguageNearly 30 uses of the f-word and another 10 of the s-word. God's name is misused once, and Jesus' name is abused at least four times.Drug and Alcohol ContentHugh is initially enamored with the life-form he and the team have picked up. Rory warns him that his apparent affection for the creature is dangerous. "You're drunk on this," Rory says. "Wake up."Other Negative ElementsBefore Calvin becomes a deadly nuisance, the astronauts are interviewed by school children via satellite. One of those them asks how astronauts go to the bathroom, and Sho shows them the apparatus they use, explaining in clinical detail how it works.ConclusionIn our individualistic society, to go "by the book" is often seen as a bad thing. We like to take chances, to color outside the lines, to get out of the box. As such, Life comes with a rather interesting countercultural message: There's a reason we go by the book. There are occasions when we want what's in the box to stay in the box. About half the terrible things that happen in Life happen because someone literally opened doors that should've stayed tightly shut. Admittedly, keeping those doors shut often doesn't feel like the right thing to do, particularly when an imperiled crewman is on the other side. But ask folks who save lives for a living, and they'll tell you some pretty sobering truths: You don't dive in to save a wildly thrashing drowning person because they'll likely take you with them. You don't carry someone down from the top of Mount Everest, because if you do, neither of you will make it back. Life adds another example to the list: Best not to mess with super-strong, super-hostile Martian life-forms. We're all about sacrificing ourselves to rescue others … but when we sacrifice ourselves and don't save anyone, well, that's another kettle of crawdads. Life is a tense, often contrived story—Alien reheated, minus the acid blood. This sci-fi horror story could've easily been a PG-13 thriller without all the blood and harsh profanity, and frankly, it wouldn't have lost a thing. But as it is, Life feels a lot like its Martian star, Calvin: a critter you might not want to let out of the box. Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
(Review Source)
The Federalist Staff
This is essentially a slasher movie in space. And despite its talented cast and eye-popping effects, 'Life' doesn't offer much substance beneath the sizzle.
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
Movies Life or Something Like It - PG-13 Best for: Mature teens and adults will enjoy it the most. What it's about: Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie) seemingly has everything. She's a feature reporter at a Seattle television station and is under consideration for a major network position. She's also engaged to a baseball superstar (Christian Kane) and leads the "perfect" life. Lanie, sent to cover a homeless man (Tony Shalhoub) whose prophecies come true, is shocked when he tells Lanie that she isn't going to get the network job and that she'll die the following week. After seeing his other predictions come true, Lanie is convinced, so she takes a few days to reexamine her life and relationships. When she turns to her co-worker and former fling (Ed Burns) for support, she ends up gaining more than just a listening ear. Stockard Channing plays another media diva. The good: You might feel good walking out of the theater after this movie, but the feeling will fade as the movie's flaws become more apparent. Jolie does a good job of portraying a media prima donna who realizes just how empty and vapid her "perfect" world really is. She adequately grapples with her personal relationships (distant father, troubled sister, indifferent fiancé) and wrestles with the homeless man's prophecy. Burns seizes the opportunity to show Lanie a different side of herself and ends up falling in love. The witty dialogue and clever retorts reminded me of what used to work in all of those old-fashioned romantic comedies -- chemistry between interesting characters in an entertaining script. This is a lighthearted story that will leave you with a smile, reflecting on who and what is important to you. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); The not-so-good: Life is not meant to be a serious evaluation of life or personal relationships, but when I walked out, I kept feeling like there was something lacking in Jolie's character. If you knew you were going to die, wouldn't your spiritual destiny be sort of important to you? I'm not trying to "super-spiritualize" the situation, but this is a story about superficial life in a superficial world. Yes, she makes some life-changing decisions for herself and chooses the personally rewarding path instead of the career lined with incredible opportunities. But instead of more depth in Lanie's character (that could have easily been brought out in a few lines), we get a typically happy ending that makes everybody feel good but doesn't leave you with much substance. Offensive language or behavior: Several uses of profanity. One scene shows a drunk Lanie leading a group of people in a protest. Another scene shows her smoking a cigarette. Sexual situations: Some sexual dialogue. A couple is shown kissing and going to bed together, then waking up and leaving for work. No nudity, but a few scenes of people in their underwear. Violence: A man is cornered and a gunshot is heard, but no one is shown being shot. A hospital patient's stomach bleeds through a gown. Parental advisory: By today's standards this is a mild romantic comedy with lots of witty one-liners, likable characters and a story that shows how a woman who seems to have everything finds meaning in her life. But the sexual discussions (and scene) and adult issues make it for mature teens and adults only. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Bottom line: I took my college-age daughter and her girlfriend to see this with me, and we all agreed it was entertaining and enjoyable. It's a decent story about a superficial woman coming to terms with her life and facing death, but in the end, the story seemed two-dimensional. Without a heavenly perspective or Godly purpose to life, I guess you could safely say that all that you're left with is life, or something like it. ]]>
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
Movies from Film Forum, 11/08/01Speaking of great actors, Life as a House gives Kevin Kline, one of the most underrated, underused lead actors in movies, a big showy role as George, an architect struggling with a dysfunctional family, even as he is dying of cancer. The movie also introduces us to Hayden Christensen, playing Kline's prodigal son Sam. (This is significant trivia for Star Wars fans, who can tell you that Christensen looks good as the young adult Anakin Skywalker in the new trailer for Attack of the Clones.)While the film is being sold as a tearjerker, critics were too busy jotting down complaints to bother with hankies. Most faulted the film for sentimentality, and others for its conflicting signals about right and wrong.Holly McClure (The Orange County Register) finds "clichés about life, death, relationships, and the importance of the choices we make. Several scenes will tap into the hurt, broken, and bruised areas of many people's lives, and that's why many will relate to it." But, she concludes, the film fails in that it "presents the dysfunctional side in such an unrealistic way—as if it's normal."The USCC calls it a "contrived drama," and reports that the "few life-affirming moments are sullied by several distasteful episodes, while the rudimentary story about the measure and meaning of a man's worth is emotionally manipulative." googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); Lisa Rice (Movieguide) frowns at a missed opportunity: "This movie shows a father doing his best to reverse the generational curses of his own life, and impart life to a family long forgotten. The theme is 'life through death,' the message of the Cross in a nutshell. Why mar such a great allegorical story and such poignant universal truths with so many smutty side-scenes?"Mainstream critics aren't sold on the storytelling either. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Mary Johanson (The Flick Filosopher) writes, "Kline and Christensen give terrific, heartfelt performances. But screenwriter Mark Andrus relies too much on convenient coincidence in his plotting and schizophrenic morality in his message. George letting Sam do whatever he wants is bad for his growth as a human being, but a neighbor mom letting her teenage daughter do whatever she wants—including shower with a male houseguest—is an indication of her maturity. Doesn't work that way." ]]>
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
Movies DVD Release Date:  February 8, 2011Theatrical Release Date:  October 8, 2010Rating:  PG-13 (for sexual material, language and some drug content)Genre:  Romance, Comedy, DramaRun Time:  113 min.Director:  Greg BerlantiActors:  Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett, Hayes MacArthur, Christina Hendricks, Melissa McCarthy, Sara Burns, Jessica St. ClairEmploying the ol' if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it mentality, Life As We Know It basically follows every rule in the romantic comedy playbook to a "T"—no clairvoyance required. But what is surprising and dare we say, unpredictable, about the familiar opposites-attract premise is that the perpetually Type A Katherine Heigl (yes, that Katherine Heigl of Killers and The Ugly Truth fame) and the easy-on-the-eyes Josh Duhamel (When in Rome, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!) do make a pretty great pair, particularly when they're playfully sparring. In fact, it's their combined charms, plus a little help from an adorable baby, that ultimately elevates what could've been a big-screen sitcom gone seriously wrong.In the sort of set-up that probably only happens at the movies, (let's hope, anyway) Eric, who goes by his last name "Messer" (Duhamel) and Holly's (Heigl) best friends (played by Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and Hayes MacArthur, a frequent T.V. show guest) don't ever bother mentioning that in the unlikely event of their death, Messer and Holly would be picking up the slack in the parenting department. And then, after the unthinkable happens, Messer and Holly are as surprised as we are to hear the news.Mind you, these attractive thirty-somethings can barely tolerate each other, (he's a womanizer, she bakes and loves to make lists in her spare time) let alone have a civil conversation, as evidenced by a date that went so bad that they skipped dinner altogether. So naturally, they're the right people to raise their friends' precious baby together? Riiiiiight.But for whatever reason their friends chose them, and don't worry, the script gets around to explaining that by film's end, they are now forced to step up to the proverbial plate after a car accident leaves sweet little Sophie (played by identical triplets Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett) without a family, save for an elderly grandfather and an aunt and uncle who've got nine kids already.Of course, these new circumstances pave the way for plenty of awkward—and sometimes funny—situations now that they're living under the same roof (their friends conveniently paid the mortgage ahead of time, but the rest is up to them) and facing the challenges real parents already know all too well—staying sane during a stream of sleepless nights, changing one stinky diaper after the next and feeling helpless when some unexpected ailment rears its ugly head.Naturally, the situation is even more challenging when each partner also puts in long hours at the office. While Messer is an up-and-coming producer for the Atlanta Hawks' broadcasts, Holly owns a specialty food shop that she's hoping to expand into an après-work watering hole for the locals. But somehow, no matter how busy their schedules, Messer and Holly find a way to navigate the tricky role of single parenting, and apparently, it involves lots and lots of charts. Just as the couple is starting to figure things out and keeping that sexual tension in check, something their jittery caseworker highly recommends, the requisite rom-com conflict threatens to tear them apart for good. Even when an attractive doctor named Sam (Josh Lucas) enters the picture, however, there's never any doubt of how things will end up. Sam doesn't have a chance, love will conquer all, and a great pop song will be playing in the background while it happens.Sadly, if not for the parenting part of the story where priorities are challenged and selfish motives are called into question, Life As We Know It would be just another quasi-enjoyable romantic comedy. But as we see our protagonists grow as individuals and as the loving caretakers of Sophie, the story becomes something better—almost enjoyable—and certainly a move in the right direction for Heigl after a slew of iffy roles in the past year.CAUTIONS: Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking, plus marijuana is used recreationally. In one scene, pot makes it way into a batch of brownies that Holly and Messer chow down on. Language/Profanity:  An ample amount of four-letter words, including the PG-13 allotment of "f" words and instances where God's name is misused. Sex/Nudity:  There's a quick sex scene with Holly and Messer, but nothing aside from kissing and the beginning stages of clothing removal is shown. Given Messer's reputation as a ladies man, his sexual escapades are referenced several times. Messer also has a habit of walking around shirtless a lot, which gives the neighbor ladies plenty to smile about.SEE ALSO: Killers Lacks Any Instincts—Acting or Otherwise googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); Violence:  A car accident that claims the lives of Sophie's parents is referenced but never shown.Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.  For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website. SEE ALSO: Crass Over Class Prevails in a Charmless Ugly Truth googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); });   ]]>
(Review Source)
Plugged In
(”Life As We Know It” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Earlier this week, Lisa Anderson, director of young adults for Focus on the Family and host of the wildly popular and incredibly entertaining The Boundless Show,  spent some time on Focus on the Family’s daily broadcast chatting about her new book The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage With Purpose. You can catch up with her broadcasts here, and it’s well worth the listen: Lisa’s one of the most entertaining, insightful folks I know, particularly on the subject of young adulthood and dating. We asked her to give us her own thoughts on how entertainment can impact your dating life, and the resulting blog post is pretty delightful. But don’t take my word for it: Check it out for yourself. ***  Pride and Prejudice ruined me. I know I’m not alone. Women the world over know exactly what I’m talking about. We know the lines to repeat and scenes to replay in A&E’s 1995 movie version (the only true version) of the Jane Austen classic. The Lizzy-overhears-Darcy-at-the-ball scene. The Lizzy-dances-with-Darcy-at-the-ball scene. The Lizzy-banters-with-Darcy-at-the-pianoforte scene. The Darcy-proposes-but-Lizzy-tells-him-off scene. The Darcy-pays-off-Wickham-but-doesn’t-take-credit-for-it scene. The Darcy-against-all-odds-proposes-again-and-Lizzy-accepts scene. The Lizzy-and-Darcy-kiss-as-they-drive-away scene. Pride and Prejudice as a novel qualifies as classic British literature; Pride and Prejudice as a movie is pure romantic escapism. So are its knock-offs: You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and Life As We Know It, among others. Many filmmakers have acknowledged and tried to reproduce (most unsuccessfully) the power of Lizzy’s and Darcy’s tumultuous tale. Why the obsession with P&P? Why is it the only movie I’ll watch over and over, scene by scene? Why is the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy irrevocably burned into my brain? Because I desperately want it to be my story, that’s why. I want a handsome, brooding, intelligent, emotionally distant but winnable, guarded but compassionate, truthful, just and impossibly rich bachelor to look my way. And if I’m being honest, I want him to not just look my way—I want him to really see me and then fall in love with me. You see, I’m a bit like Lizzy. Average looking, past my prime (more than a few years beyond Lizzy’s 21), middle-class with few societal connections to speak of, hopelessly opinionated, and with more than one socially inept or embarrassing relative in my family tree. But with Lizzy, Darcy eventually saw beyond all that. He saw who she really was: a spunky, smart, self-starting girl with a true heart and a lot of common sense. I like to think I’m that, too. But whatever I am, the truth is that Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were birthed out of Jane Austen’s imagination. They don’t exist. They are fiction. As is my assumption that my story should look like theirs. Or like a movie script, period. Life’s just not like that. Somehow we’ve been conditioned to believe—even expect—that our path to true love will unfold like a Hollywood plotline; that in a mere 90 minutes we’ll experience an intoxicating romantic ride that will unfold into an inevitable lifetime of marital bliss. But life isn’t a blockbuster rom-com. And neither is the path to marriage. I think Hollywood has duped us, encouraging us to believe that true love is “out there” if we’ll only “believe” (yeah, thanks, Disney). This is nonsense. To this point, here are a few of the movie myths I’ve fallen for in my own dating history, along with why I think they’re a key reason for so many relationship stops, starts, stall-outs and general toxicity and dysfunction. See if any of them sound familiar: Myth One: There’s one person in the world who’s your perfect soul mate. Is this concept in the Bible? No. Is it in a number of romantic screenplays? Yes. The idea of finding our perfect match is tempting, because it almost guarantees success. After all, if you find “The One,” won’t life be easy and perfect? Won’t you be so compatible with your significant other that each blissful day will hum along with little to interrupt it? Not so fast. Remember, you’re a sinner who will date and marry another sinner. Looking for perfection will either keep you looking forever, or you’ll find your “soul mate” only to have him or her disappoint you and leave you angry and disillusioned, prompting a breakup or even a divorce. Myth Two: A relationship will solve all your problems. “You. Complete. Me.” Jerry McGuire said it to Dorothy Boyd, and an entire generation believed him. We shouldn’t have. Jerry convinced us that all you need is love. It’s a great sentiment, but a relationship is more than love. It’s also sacrifice, commitment and hard work. It’s sickness and kids and carpools. It’s bills and bickering. There are incredible benefits, too, of course, but marriage doesn’t “happen” to you as some kind of reward for little to no effort. We’re encouraged to believe that Jerry’s shaky job history, cocky attitude, and questionable relationship track record mean nothing. Neither does Dorothy’s difficult life as a single mother with all its history, baggage and responsibilities. Last I checked, a relationship is for two healthy people who will love better, serve more and glorify God more fully together than they will apart. It’s not for people who are looking to fix or escape problems or people. That’s what counseling and godly mentorship is for. Know the difference. Myth Three: The more drama your story has, the better it will be. Let me return to Pride and Prejudice for a moment. Because of the way Darcy and Lizzy’s story unfolded, I dared to believe that the ideal romance was made up of two individuals who at the very least misunderstood each other, and in some cases hated each other. But after twenty or so scenes, a crisis or two, a breathtaking location or adventurous situation, love would strike them both like lightning. Or smallpox. Whatever. I looked at the guys around me whom I couldn’t stand to be around, and wondered if any were my future husband. Was one of them Darcy in disguise? Nope. They all turned out to be guys I couldn’t stand to be around. Nothing more. My hopes were dashed. Guys play this out by pretending they need a girl to rescue. She’s impossibly beautiful, but a general mess in every other area of her life. No worries. Mr. Awesome will swoop in and talk her off the ledge.  But after they’re married, he discovers that she is a compulsive shopper or incessant talker or commitment-phobe, and he wishes he hadn’t acted so fast. Bummer. I’m not intending to bash movies altogether. Some, including some romances and romantic comedies, are quite charming and innocuous. But it’s time we stop taking our dating cues from Hollywood. It’s time to instead get a biblical view of dating, relationships and marriage. How do we do this? For starters, we read the Bible and see how God created relationships to function. We look at Jesus as an example. We pray for discernment. We practice humility, compassion and love in all of our relationships, including those with our family, friends and coworkers. Second, we get godly mentors to model what marriage looks like—the good, bad and ugly. We have them act as “mirrors” to us, pointing out blind spots and areas of necessary growth. We work on the areas over which we have control. Finally, we move forward boldly. We look around us for potential people to date—people who love Jesus, are in a position to date and marry well, and with whom we could potentially craft a future. Want to date with the best possible success? Leave the fantasies in the theater. Let the princesses and superheroes have their day; but don’t be one. Do your best, trust God with the rest, and you may actually find a real human being who wants to date you. That’s better than Hollywood. That’s a story actually worth living.   Lisa Anderson is director of young adults for Focus on the Family and host of the popular weekly radio program and podcast The Boundless Show. She’s the author of the brand-new book The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage With Purpose. Her writing is featured in newspapers, magazines, and at Boundless.org. Lisa is a frequent guest on radio and TV programs, and she speaks around the world about relationships, faith, and the many challenges facing today’s young adults. She can be found at LisaCAnderson.com, Boundless.org and @LisaCAnderson. ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Life Is Beautiful” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Resistance successfully channels the spirit of mime in that it is completely unbearable.
(Review Source)
Armond White
(”Life Is Beautiful” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Jesse Eisenberg’s Resistance pays unimaginative tribute to sentimentality.
(Review Source)
Armond White
(”Life Is Beautiful” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The PC junk that wins thrills the finger-wagging Hollywood elite and their media allies.
(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Life Is Beautiful” is briefly mentioned in this.)
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
The phrase “Christian movie” has many definitions, but it typically involves a Christian filmmaker, a faith-based story and perhaps even a Christian film company and studio, too. But not all movies are so easily defined.
(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Life Is Beautiful” is briefly mentioned in this.)
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And now Weekend Update …

Breaking news on several fronts over the last few days (when I was away for a film festival) and on which I have posted here before:

First, Mel Gibson landed a distributor, Newmarket Films, and confirmed the planned release date for the newly titled THE PASSION OF CHRIST as Ash Wednesday. I’ve already made my predictions — a firestorm of anti-Semitism charges (the Lent opening will give another excuse … er … news peg to accuse the Church of anti-Semitism and assorted other bestialities), and a negative critical reception since some critics already have their leads written, and I refuse to believe this is an isolated attitude. Box office, we’ll have to wait and see, but subtitled films just don’t do well in the United States. I think only two, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and CROUCHING TIGER, have ever even broken $50 million. (And if it’s not two, it’s no more than three.) Any good? I’ll get back to you.

Second, the screener issue was “solved,” with the MPAA agreeing to lift the ban, but only for Academy members. This solves some of the problems, but leaves critics groups, primarily those for critics working in smaller markets, out in the cold.

Third, Michael “Killer” Schiavo is starting his Public Redemption Tour facing the tough, incisive questioning of Larry King. “My girlfriend supports my stance on Terri because the kind of care I want to give her will remove Terri as an obstacle and we’ll be free to marry.” Or something like that. And of course, the Atheist Press is spinning this story as a “right-to-die” case, when curiously, the person who will die never herself asserted that right.

Finally, on the Canadian tolerance beat, theological liberals in the Episcopal Church prove their open-mindedness, Celebrate Diversity and fight the forces of inquisitorial reaction by threatening heresy trials for those who repudiate the One Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Be Intolerant Of Mine Approved Groups.

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(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Life Is Beautiful” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Lifestyle Only a few years ago, news that footage of Jerry Lewis' legendary lost film The Day the Clown Cried had been unearthed and then posted on the internet would've sent me into a day-long movie-geek freakout.Judging by the avalanche of online reaction, there are still some folks eager to view even short scenes from this infamous 1971 mess-terpiece.I'm just not one of them.Legend has it that the only surviving copy of The Day the Clown Cried is locked in a vault, a casualty of international legal disputes and Lewis' legendary perfectionism and/or Percodan dependency.He recently reiterated what he's maintained for decades:The movie will never be released to the public.Oh, come on, you're thinking. Sure, this is a Jerry Lewis movie we're talking about, but how bad can it be?Well, it's about a clown in a Nazi concentration camp who leads children, Pied-Piper-style, into the gas chambers.So there's that. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'The Day The Clown Cried: Jerry Lewis Anwers THE Question', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/8/24/behind-the-scenes-jerry-lewis-holocaust-clown-movie/ previous Page 1 of 3 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Life Is Sweet” is briefly mentioned in this.)
(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Life Is Sweet” is briefly mentioned in this.)

Toronto 08 — Day 7 capsules (part 1)

(Because Day 7’s six capsules included the two longest and most involved by far, I decided to break the day into two parts for blog readability’s sake.)

HAPPY GO-LUCKY (Mike Leigh, Britain, 2008) — 8

Very early on, central character “Poppy” gets the ultimate symbol of cinematic misery imposed on her — her bicycle is stolen. But her only visible reaction is to make Italian lemonade, saying she “didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to it.” And the title sequence — both in its choice of music and its frame-shifting strategies — put me in mind of one of those Doris Day romantic comedies from the early-60s. So, Sally Hawkins as the titular HG-L High-On-Life heroine Poppy is a bit of a “dafty” or a “doo-lally-sally” who speaks without thinking (a type I was quite familiar with among working-class Britons). Mike says his reaction was repulsion at her relentless chipperness followed by an exercise in Leigh chastising his audience for being so repulsed. I had the almost perfectly 180-degree reaction — that we don’t find her offputting so much as unrealistic and un-grown-up (more on all that shortly), and that the film is about pushing her to the point where she finally has to … I will speak vaguely … use force, impose herself and act like an adult.

The central relationship in the film turns out to be between Poppy and her driving instructor Scott, played by Eddie Marsan, and I think one’s reaction to HAPPY GO-LUCKY turns on how one reacts to this character. Four or five lengthy scenes in this episodic movie involving Poppy and him in the car. Scott is a boor in many respects, and by the end he’s completely gone off the rails, partially as a result of starting to fall in love with Poppy, who represents everything he detests. But mixed in with some of the bizarre rants (my favorite involved tinfoil-hat talk about the height of the Washington Monument), he says some uncomfortably true things about Poppy — the only character in HAPPY GO-LUCKY to do so, in fact: “all I ask is that you behave like an adult,” he rants at her after one of her do-lally jokes while driving. And by the end of HAPPY GO-LUCKY, Poppy has had to use force and threat against him, had to act in the “toughlove” way the therapeutic society rejects as patriarchal violence. I think Leigh has made a movie about the damage from the collapse of patriarchy (though as I acknowledged to Mike in a personal discussion, if he did so, he did so almost certainly inadvertantly). There is a discussion involving Poppy and her girlfriends in which they note there are no good men around, or if they are they’re hiding or “haven’t got the balls” to appear. And indeed, there is not an attractively effectual male in this movie — Marsan’s anger representing pre-therapy masculinity in a post-therapy world; Poppy’s brother-in-law, a childlike father-to-be who seeks or subverts his wife’s permission to play video games; Popp’s pupil who bullies the other kids because he’s abused at home by his mother’s live-in boyfriend; that (offscreen) boyfriend, who is not the child’s father, natch; the (offscreen) lover of the flamenco dancer. The only possibly attractive male character is Poppy’s late-acquired boyfriend Tim. The problem dramatically is that Samuel Roukin’s performance and/or Leigh’s conception of the character, while not bad per se, is utterly bland and uninteresting in the presence of dynamos like Scott and Poppy. HAPPY-GO-LUCKY is a (kind of) romantic triangle, but with one iddy-biddy teeny-tiny leg (imagine a HIS GIRL FRIDAY in which Ralph Bellamy gets Roz Russell — only more so). On the other hand, if Tim is intended to represent a “happy ending” in this respect, then Leigh also badly miscalculated the ideas he was playing with. To put it simply and crudely, if traditional masculinity has collapsed, then a social worker who fornicates on the first date is only more of the same.

But there are flaws in this generally great film (I haven’t even mentioned the funniest scene — involving Poppy’s taking flamenco lessons from a dance instructor who really gets INTO the dance’s emotions), and they are Leigh returning to his some of the tics that drag down even his best films. After making the best-acted film of his career in VERA DRAKE, the one-scene really-overcooked wtf? performance makes its return — a rambling homeless man in this case, joining the guy who never opened his eyes in CAREER GIRLS at head of the Hall of Shame. And the anti-climactic coda that half-heartedly reconciles the last scene with the status quo antebellum (think LIFE IS SWEET, ALL OR NOTHING or SECRETS AND LIES) also makes a comeback. And while I think Marsan’s performance is brilliant, I well understand that some sane people (see Mike above but also Michael Sicinski) see the performance as way over-the-top. Which it is in a way, but does not account for how carefully it builds from one week’s lesson to the next, as his own motivation shifts. We’re seeing the all-heterosexual version of Gay Panic on display here, and subtlety is not what’s called for.

A CHRISTMAS TALE (Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2008) — 8

The actual title for this film could just as easily and accurately be translated “A Christmas Story,” but anybody who expects anything resembling Ralphie’s boyhood memories will be disappointed. This is the family gathering from hell. A passive-aggressive (but not too passive) matriarch with an anti-Semitic streak¹ to boot is dying of some form of cancer that requires a transplant, and the only compatible donor in the family is the semi-estranged son, until one of her grandchildren turns out to be compatible, too. That grandchild is of course the son of another sibling, a woman who despises her mom-compatible-in-this-way-only brother, and this is both a literal bone of contention and a metaphor for all the bones strewn about this graveyard of a family (and one of the most important characters in this family dynamic is in a literal graveyard.) There are other family members gathering for the Christmas reunion, all of whom resent the other family members (or hate one or two in particular), and lots of brittle bitchiness ensues. A CHRISTMAS TALE is enormously entertaining along those lines, like ALL ABOUT EVE or something by Baumbach or Stillman. But what keeps A CHRISTMAS TALE from greatness, though it is my favorite Desplechin so far and is superb in every aspect of execution, is that this is a family that fundamentally is happy in its unhappiness. It doesn’t really feel like much is at stake, as all the characters are content to go through their motions, having found their bitchiness groove. The punches don’t land or are soft, in other words. Leigh makes many more mistakes in HGL than Desplechin does, but despite the same 8-grade, I found his film more vital and intellectually arresting. And one late plot point is literally straight out of ST. ELMO’S FIRE and the reaction of [Ally Sheedy] is, though different here, scarcely more believable.

But this review is already sounding too negative, so let me backtrack to “superb in every aspect of execution.” Desplechin gives the film an elegiac feel with faded pictures and such old-time devices as iris shots, and with choices of details like a harpsichord on the score during a key make-out scene. He uses extra-cinematic devices like (1) family members reading letters to one another to the camera, as if they’re pleading for others (i.e., us) to side with them in family quarrels; (2) having the kids stage a Zorro play, during which every cut to the other family members in the audience draws blood; and most memorably (3) revealing the family backstory via a puppet show. And Desplechin may be inviting us to take a jaundiced view of the very “family reunion haunted by ghosts from the past” genre and narrative, through a character reading aloud from the preface of Nietzsche’s “Genealogy of Morals,” to the effect that seeking after oneself can get in the way of genuine knowledge (though Nietzsche was speaking of “we knowers,” which it’s not clear that anyone in A CHRISTMAS TALE or its audience would be).

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Danny Boyle, Britain/India, 2008) — 4

I dropped a couple of films (neither of which I was terribly interested in) for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE based on strong buzz from Telluride — and what a crushing disappointment, made more crushing in recent days by this film’s winning the Audience Favorite Award (since Toronto is not a juried fest, this is its biggest prize). The central character is poor Bombay slum kid Jamal, who manages to reach the final question on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” leading to suspicion he cheated. The movie cuts between his life story and that TV episode, which each biography chapter explaining how he came into possession of a certain bit of knowledge that enabled him to answer a Millionaire question. Of course, once you’re aware of this gimmick, the film becomes as predictable as a litany and about as entertaining. In fact … it’s worse. Lots of films begin with their conclusions, but (often) in order to lead us along a journey that is the real point of the picture. In the best such cases (my first viewing of SUNSET BOULEVARD), we even forget we’re watching flashbacks to a conclusion we already know. But the structure in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE spoils even that possibility, because every sequence along the way has to lead us back to the end, intermittently throughout. There are absurdities aplenty in the appearances and reapparances of The Girl and in the film’s never actually explaining HOW he got on the show in the first place (particularly if he is as uneducated as portrayed). Even as a picaresque, Jamal’s life story is absurdly … well … representative, as if Jamal is supposedly a cross-section signifier embodying everything important about India. His experience covers Bollywood, anti-Muslim pogroms, working at a call center, the Taj Mahal (though Agra is more than 700 miles from Bombay). And the final scenes had me spitting contempt at the screen — not because it ends happily (nobody could expect otherwise) but because, (1) I knew what the question would be right from the beginning of the film when it first comes up (and it is not believable that *this* question would be the final question on Millionaire; it’s at pre-32,000 level, even for India); (2) the plot twist that allows Jamal to answer the next-to-last question is completely, no-way-no-how-Im-buying-it unbelievable, and (3) even if it were to be the case, “Regis” would know better than to act as he does onscreen. It’s pure writerly contrivance from beginning to end. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE begins with the four-choice question something like “how did he get this far on MILLIONAIRE — he cheated, he was lucky, he was a genius, or it was written.” The answer the film gives us at the end is D, which is certainly true, but not quite in the sense that I think the film meant.
——————————————-
¹ Linguistic aside question #1: For anybody who speaks French — was “my little Jew” ever the ordinary French term for the elbow phenomenon we call a “funny bone” in English?

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TIFF 10 Capsules -- Day 5In "Alex Gibney"

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3 Comments »

  1. We’re seeing the all-heterosexual version of Gay Panic on display here, and subtlety is not what’s called for.

    PLEASE do explain/elaborate on this “interesting” comment…

    Comment by don | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. cannot belive you underscored slumdog millionaire. Obviously you dont catch the whole point of the movie, which is not the whole “i predict the ending ah happy endings bore me im too good for this” crap, but the point of hope and how one endured through miseries and step into a new kind of life through endurance, faith and passion.

    Comment by ihateyou | February 6, 2009 | Reply

  3. Are you just want to make yourself get famous with controversy opinion, or something?! I definitely agree with ihateyou. You don’t… no…, you DO NOT HAVE ABILITY to catch the whole point of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Pffhhh… what was I thinking?! Of course you can’t understand the whole meaning of hope of this film, you’re a conservative American whose life’s too good to see the poor life of third country like India –where its people can’t get credit card easily in order to afford a better lifestyle.

    Comment by -rk- | February 8, 2009 | Reply


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(Review Source)
Life Itself
Kyle Smith
(”Life Itself” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Velvet Buzzsaw is on the surface a satire about the silliness of the contemporary art world, but that realm is pretty much beyond the reach of parody.
(Review Source)
VJ Morton
Life Itself

★★★½ Watched 20 Jan, 2014

LIFE ITSELF (Steve James, USA, 2014, 7)

I went in a little suspicious that it might merely be a pander to film critics and buffs. And while people who watch movies and/or read Sundance blogs pretty much would have to be pre-sold on “Roger Ebert documentary,” Steve James made a film with enough elements of broader interest to be recommended on other grounds and for other folk. Don’t get me wrong: Life Itself is very much about movies, criticism, Gene… more

3 likes

(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Life of Brian” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The supposedly saccharine Baby Boomer epic has dark, cynical undertones.
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
A new book by Monty Python's John Cleese revisits the wide variety of topics he delved into in the course of his two decades as a Cornell professor.
(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Life of Brian” is briefly mentioned in this.)

I am like … SO there, dude

I haven’t gone to the Virginia Film Festival, a four-day Thursday-Sunday fest in Charlottesville, since 2003. It’s not like Toronto or the DC FilmFest at all, which showcase new work. Instead, it has an annual theme and shows an eclectic mix on that theme — classics, new films from the festival circuit, some upcoming prestige releases, indies-and-documentaries, and a silent or two. But the 2004 fest was the weekend before the presidential election, and so getting the days off work was not an option. I forget why I didn’t go in 2005.

But this year — I. Am. Psyched. I got the brochure in my mail yesterday, and the cover page icon said “Revelations: Finding God at the Movies.” The Virginia fest is usually a much more relaxed fest than Toronto — there’s only about 4 or so films or presentations or events going on at any one time. But still, the lineup is so mouth-watering that there’s something worth seeing in every time slot, and dilemmas in a few. There’s classics I haven’t seen (DEVI, I CONFESS); classics I have seen but never in a theater (the DeMille KING OF KINGS, Bunuel’s THE MILKY WAY, and … ahem … ORDET); classics I never get tired of (LIFE OF BRIAN, THE SEVENTH SEAL, THE SACRIFICE), important recent films (THE APOSTLE and THE RAPTURE, which I have seen; IN YOUR HANDS and TRAVELLERS AND MAGICIANS, which I have not); upcoming films (10 CANOES, AMAZING GRACE, 10 ITEMS OR LESS) and several intriguing docs/experiments/presentations (ONE PUNK UNDER GOD, about Jim and Tammy Bakker’s son; GOD OF A SECOND CHANCE, about the black church in DC; the recreation of TRAPPED BY THE MORMONS; Hollywood on prayer; black religiosity)

If you live anywhere near Charlottesville, make plans to spend at least part of the weekend there. I live about 110 miles away; so I will be staying there in town, even though UVa has a home game that weekend.

ADDENDUM: I should make it clear that the festival clearly understand “God” in a very ecumenical way (which is obviously fine in programming a film festival), with films about Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, etc. But by my count, there’s also about six films that set off various of alarm bells in the descriptions and what you can find at the film’s Web site (like A FLOCK OF DODOS and KEEP NOT SILENT).

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(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
The book is hilarious, so you needn't burden yourself with the task of trying to learn from it, but Idle’s rose-tinted spectacles are available for borrowing.
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
PJ Media Because they'll be killed if they do. Duh.During his Monty Python days he poked fun at everyone from the Establishment to Christianity.But thanks to the threat of ‘heavily armed’ fanatics, Michael Palin has admitted there is one comedy taboo he is too scared to break- Islam.The 70-year-old said religious sensitivities have increased so much since his comedy days it would now be impossible to make 1979 film Life of Brian - which satirised the life of Jesus - let alone laugh at Muslims.He said: ‘Religion is more difficult to talk about. I don’t think we could do Life of Brian any more. A parody of Islam would be even harder.‘We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into all that. It’s a pity but that’s the way it is. There are people out there without a sense of humour and they’re heavily armed.’ Mocking Christianity is the safe thing for "edgy" comics to do. Has been for decades.Only one major comic goes anywhere near mocking Islam. Jeff Dunham's puppet "Achmed the Dead Terrorist" is a failed suicide bomber who has already earned a fatwa of sorts. And he doesn't really lampoon Islam in the way that Python once took on the Catholic Church's birth control policies in The Meaning of Life. Achmed is a send-up of suicide bombers who, by definition, aren't really around to make any fuss about it. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': '', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); "Silence! I kill you!" Achmed threatens, Python listens.****See also Kathy Shaidle at PJ Lifestyle: "Michael Palin: Monty Python Would Never Mock Islam" class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/monty-python-star-reveals-why-comics-wont-lampoon-islam/ ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
PJ Media "He's not the messiah; he's a very naughty boy!"OK, so Monty Python's classic Life of Brian, about the confusion caused when a Jewish guy is born the next stable over from Jesus ("What is myrrh, anyway?"), has traditionally been viewed as poking fun at Christianity.But with Muntadhar al-Zaidi, our shoe-chucking correspondent in Iraq, the film takes on crystal-clear shades of today's Arab world. Or is it the other way around?Like Brian Cohen's mum screams to the adoring crowds outside the window, waiting for guidance and miracles from her son, al-Zaidi is not the "noble freedom fighter" come to save the Mideast from Western oppression -- he's a very naughty boy. He committed assault -- in a rather stupid way, at that -- while simultaneously staining his country's reputation. But, of course, he's reaped adulation in the process and brought the followers out of the woodwork.When Brian tries to flee his growing flock, he stumbles and loses a sandal in the process. The followers take this as a message to not be constrained by footwear, but to bare their soles: "The shoe is the sign. Let us follow his example. ... Let us, like him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is his sign, that all who follow him shall do likewise!" The point of that scene, of course, is a commentary on the loony things followers of everymen will do without question, from drinking the Kool-Aid in Guyana to wedding a stranger Polaroid-picked by Sun Myung Moon in a stadium. The sneaker-wielding masses protesting across the Arab world in the wake of al-Zaidi unleashing his size-10 weapons of mass disruption, venerating the journalist with the anger-management problem, show just how true that is.Continuing the farce, a Saudi businessman offered $10 million for just one -- oh, so Brian -- of the shoes chucked at President Bush. Hasan Muhammad Makhafa said the shoe was "a symbol of freedom not just footwear. ... They represent a victory for those who have disgraced the Arabs by occupying their lands and killing innocent people. For me, one of those shoes has more value than my lands and property. I want to bequest it to my children." I'm sure they'd love a fetid loafer instead of the $10 million. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/the-bush-shoe-tosser-life-imitates-brian/ previous Page 1 of 2 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
The Federalist Staff
One of the oldest maxims in journalism is that no one wants to read “dog bites man” stories. Dogs bite people all the time. That’s not news. It’s expected. But when a man bites a dog, that’s a story worth reporting. Most journalists understand this. When the Chicago Cubs don’t make it to the World Series, or when Michael Bay makes another terrible movie, or when more evidence of Bill Clinton’s adventures in skirt-chasing comes out, it’s not news. It’s just what everyone expects. That is why it’s so puzzling that the media can’t seem to tell the difference between “dog bites man” and “man bites dog” stories about sexuality and gender. The fourth estate has developed a particular fascination with “transgender men” (biological women who choose to dress and live as men, and sometimes alter their bodies accordingly). Transgender men are not men in any scientifically meaningful sense of the word. They are genetically and (usually) physiologically female. As such, they often do things that other females do, like get pregnant, have babies, and breastfeed. Yet every time a transgender man gets pregnant, has a baby, or breastfeeds, the media breathlessly report this “dog bites man” story as if it’s news. She’s Not a He, Even With a Beard In its September issue, Time featured a 4,000-word human interest story on Evan Hempel, a 35-year-old who was born female but now identifies as male. Having “come out” as transgender 16 years ago, Evan has a stocky frame, receding hairline, and full beard—the aftermath of testosterone therapy. This spring, she had a baby. That’s the substance of the story. In the article, Jessi Hempel (Evan’s sister) admits: “I’d have no reason to tell you about this moment in my brother’s life were it not for the fact of his gender.” Hempel means “gender” here in the modern sense: self-perception that may or may not conform to biological sex. Under this definition, however, it’s not at all clear why her sister’s gender makes the lengthy story worth telling. “He” is a she, and having babies, last time I checked, is something shes do. Sex, which is an objective and empirically verifiable trait, is the only factor relevant to reproduction. You may think of yourself as a man, a woman, or a toddler in diapers. It doesn’t matter. A healthy female body will not consult its owner’s current gender preference before doing what female bodies do with sperm. A woman who calls herself a man conceiving and giving birth is not a surprise for the same reason a male boxer who calls himself a woman beating the ever-living daylights out of a female opponent is not a surprise. With suffocating pretense, Hempel continues: “Pregnancies like Evan’s—and the many that are likely to follow—will stretch our cultural perceptions of gender norms even further. Americans are just starting to open up to the idea that you may be born into a female body, but believe that you are really a man. But what if you are born into a female body, know you are a man and still want to participate in the traditionally exclusive rite of womanhood?” How does a biological woman having a baby “stretch our cultural perceptions of gender norms”? And what is so newsworthy about a biological woman participating “in the traditionally exclusive rite of womanhood”? The story’s entire raison d’être is this woman’s self-identification as a man, which is supposed to make her bearing a child somehow remarkable and worth several pages in America’s best-known news magazine. This Is Only Shocking If You’re Mental The whole charade is tiresome. Every article about every “man” who gets pregnant follows the same formula of ritual self-delusion: Step 1: Pretend a biological woman is actually a man. Step 2: Express awe and disbelief when she does what women naturally do. Lather, rinse, repeat. One of the stories that established this banal pattern was that of Thomas Beatie, a.k.a. the “Pregnant Man,” who back in 2008 appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show to tell her story. It’s difficult to ascribe the media’s hype over this former finalist in the Miss Hawaii Teen USA beauty pageant to anything but cynical self-interest. “Pregnant Man” sells magazines, newspapers, and air-time. “Pregnant Woman Who Takes Hormones and Surgically Mutilated Her Breasts”? Well, it may sell some grocery store tabloids. In 2012, numerous U.K. outlets touted the story of the first “man” across the pond to “give birth to a baby.” This great hook that sounded like a corny Arnold Schwarzenegger movie was, of course, a facade. No man gave birth, because, as Monty Python so gently reminded us in “The Life of Brian,” men cannot have babies, because they haven’t got wombs. Instead, this was a woman who identified as a man but presumably lived with an actual man (creatures that have been known to impregnate women). Last year, USA Today reported the story of Kayden Coleman with the headline: “A decade into sex-change, a surprise pregnancy.” This woman and her biologically male husband (who says he is gay, for the record), were shocked in 2013 to discover that Kayden’s “bloated tummy” was a baby bump. It’s not immediately obvious why the pregnancy was a surprise, as Coleman chose to leave her uterus intact during her transition, and uteruses—you know—have a purpose. But once again, the story depends on giving readers the impression, at least, that deep down inside, the dog was actually a man. “Kayden is not the first man to have a child,” The Mirror helpfully explains, referring us back to Beatie. They were right about that. Coleman is not the first man to have a child. That man does not yet exist. Luckily, There’s an Easy Fix Earlier this year, The Daily Mail stifled a spark of honesty with the same head-scratchingly misplaced hype: “Transgender man gives birth to baby girl after surprise pregnancy.” This headline, at least, clues readers in right away that the “man” in question is nothing of the sort. Rather, “he” is a petite Icelandic teenage girl, who had evidently done little in the way of “transition” besides changing her clothes and hair style. Nevertheless, her pregnancy is treated as news, worthy of worldwide attention. The Daily Mail adds her father was “a bit confused,” which, I think we can all agree, is an entirely unreasonable response when your daughter declares herself a gay man, has a baby, and then admits, “I’ve never felt 100 percent male.” If this is all hurting your brain, never fear! There is a foolproof test you can use to determine whether a story about a “pregnant man” is actually worth your time. Here’s how it works: If it is not immediately obvious that the gestating or lactating individual in question is biologically male, simply replace the word “man,” or “transgender man,” or “trans otherkin” with “woman.” If the headline no longer reads like news, then it almost certainly isn’t. Having a convenient way of sifting through fake “man bites dog” headlines is helpful. But there is a deeper and much more important reason to cut past the phony pronouns and understand the sad, boring truth behind these non-stories. The correspondence of language with reality—calling things what they really are—is a foundation of communication. If the man did not, in fact, bite the dog, then there is no story. If the “man” who became pregnant and gave birth is, in fact, a woman, then there is also no story. Making up a story is insulting to women, anyway, who alone are able to conceive and carry the miracle of new human life inside their bodies—even if those bodies have been poisoned by male hormones and modified by misguided medicine. Pretending a man can do what a woman can only cheapens our language and loosens our collective grip on reality. ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Life of Brian” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A quick look-in on FashionWorld, the place where up is down and left is right: This year, casting directors want models with a gap between their front teeth. Hey, it works for Anna Paquin. The look is a bold departure from recent standards of idealized beauty that have rewarded curvaceous and perfect-smile models, such as Doutzen Kroes and Miranda Kerr, with high-profile ad campaigns. Instead of perfection, designers now want what casting directors call “characters.” “I think people want to see something different, something off,” says casting director Natalie Joos, who is selecting models for the runway shows of Lacoste and Cynthia Steffe this season. I love the way FashionWorld thinks. Let’s all be totally crazy and out-there and offbeat — in exactly the same way! As in most cases, a line or two of Monty Python clarifies all. A crowd of the easily-led cries, in “The Life of Brian,” “Yes, we’re all different!” (Then one miserable guy mumbles, “I’m not,” and spoils the mood.) ]]>
(Review Source)
Life of Pi
Kyle Smith
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A splendid way to see big-name films and unexpected charmers.
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff

On Friday I took my boys to see the new Ang Lee film Life of Pi. We all thought it was mostly wonderful, and certainly one of the most visually stunning films any of us had ever seen. I’d like to talk about the provocative religious message in the movie, but it’s hard to do that without ...

(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
Klavan On The Culture It'll be a pretty rich but not unexpected irony if the Oscars freeze out Zero Dark Thirty because it tells the truth about waterboarding, and reward Argo because it covers up the fatal incompetence of the Carter administration. Personally, though, I thought the charm of Silver Linings Playbook outweighed either of them, and if I had to choose among the movies I've seen, I'd pick Ang Lee's Life of Pi.Spoiler here: I'll try not to give away the trick to Pi, but if you haven't read the book or seen the film, you might want to move on.I really enjoyed the Yann Martel novel, but in the end the whole Pi deal is really kind of spiritually twee -- cute and dear, I mean. All religions are a path to God; which explanation of life do you prefer?Really?Who cares what you prefer? What about the truth? And what about the fact that the truth tends to be exclusive? That is, if one thing is true, frequently another, opposite thing cannot be true. The sky can't both be red and blue at the same time. God is either there or not, and he either wants you to love your neighbor or to slay the infidel, but probably not both. The theology of Pi is comforting nonsense, when you get right down to it.So while I enjoyed the story of the novel, and while I enjoyed the surprise ending, I couldn't help but give a shrug when it was over. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought, and then pretty much forgot the whole thing.Ang Lee's movie version is different. That is, it's exactly the same -- same story, same trick, same twee approach to theology. But the feel is different. First of all, the thing is just freakin' beautiful. Not beautiful in a heavy-handed way, but it actually captures a sense of the wonder and beauty and terror of nature. The special effects are beyond belief, and not like the special effects in a monster movie; they really mean something. And finally, the choice Lee makes about how to play the ending, which at first put me off, actually serves to give the film a sense of tragedy and depth and sorrow that the book simply doesn't have. It's really a hell of a film. I loved it. I think it's the best by far of the ones I've seen.And hey, speaking of the controversy that, they say, will cost Zero Dark Thirty the trophy, Lee's Brokeback Mountain got similarly smoked in 2005 for showing gay cowboys. Instead they gave it to Crash, which stank. So even though they gave Lee the director statue, they owe him a best picture award.Never mind. I'm a minority of one here, judging by all the previous awards this season. I guess I'll just skip the Oscars and let time prove me right. Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle. Visit for additional comments. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/2013/2/22/a-minority-of-one-id-give-the-oscar-to-pi/ ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Ed Driscoll Creative Cow, the video how-to Website, has a lengthy article titled "VFX Crossroads: Causes and Effects of an Industry Crisis:"The VFX industry is in a crisis. As Life of Pi won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, the venerable facility that created those effects - Rhythm & Hues - declared bankruptcy, and they're hardly the first to close their doors due to financial problems. Debra Kaufman pulls from her 25 years of experience covering the industry to take a close look at how the creators of some of cinema's indelible images are falling prey to dysfunctional business models. Their deep historical roots have also led to visual effects becoming one of the least-profitable areas of film and TV production. How did we get here?It's a fascinating article, and I feel badly for the companies who are tanking.I'd feel even more badly, if Hollywood hadn't spent the last 45 years telling me how evil businesses and capitalism itself was*. As leftwing author/JournoList member Rick Perlstein told Reason magazine back in 2008, while promoting his book Nixonland:My theory is that [the 1967 movie] Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate [sic] how strange and fresh that was.If you think "bourgeois householders" are "the bad guys," chances are, you think bourgeois small business owners are the bad guys as well: var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Hollywood Hates Capitalism - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Edition', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Similarly, the same people who rely on these boutique special effects houses to make their movies look so spectacular have an odd streak of telling their customers not buy their wares. In 2010, James Cameron told the Washington Post that "DVDs are wasteful:" It’s a consumer product like any consumer product. I think ultimately we’re going to bypass a physical medium and go directly to a download model and then it’s just bits moving in the system. And then the only impact to the environment is the power it takes to run the computers, run the devices. I think that we’re not there yet, but we’re moving that direction. Twentieth Century Fox has made a commitment to be carbon neutral by the end of 2010. Because of some of these practices that can’t be changed, the only way to do that is to buy carbon offsets. You know, which again, these are interim solutions. But at least it shows that there’s a consciousness that we have to be dealing with carbon pollution and sustainability. …But Cameron is the guy "behind the three separate Avatar DVD releases in the first freakin’ place," the late, lamented Deceiver.com Website noted at time:There was one released on Earth Day, there’s another coming out for Christmas (in his words, “the all-singing, all-dancing, all-bells-and-whistles DVD”), and the 3D version set for release next year to give people enough time to get rid of their rinky-dink hamster-powered televisions and upgrade to an energy-sucking 3D-enabled plasma screen and the accompanying 3D Blu-Ray DVD player.Plus those 3D glasses produced en masse for theater-goers? Yup, plastic.And don’t forget the Avatar-themed toys and lunchboxes and Halloween costumes and sheet sets available at Wal-Mart.But he’s not the one buying all that crap. You are, so you’re the wasteful one, see. He’s just giving you what you want, and preaching about plastic bottles and energy consumption in the meantime.I think what he really means is: Die, Earth! Die!Not to mention, being quite a bourgeois householder himself: var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'James Cameron - Hypocrite', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); In Commentary this month, Sonny Bunch explores "Hollywood’s New Finger-Waggers:"Hollywood’s critics are in high dudgeon. The motion-picture industry has sunk into a moral morass, they say, one that threatens our national self-understanding and traduces simple decency. Only this time, those critics are not religious conservatives bemoaning the cinema’s handling of sex and violence. Rather, movie studios and the creative class find themselves under assault from their left flank for producing art deemed to be unacceptable for mass consumption and rife with politically offensive messages. The hackles of these new moralists have been raised by three successful and popular films of 2012, all of which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.* * * * * *It is particularly ironic that “ambiguity” has become a bad word to Froomkin and his cohort. Traditionally, liberals tend to elevate themselves above conservatives because they think they are able to view the world with far more complexity than those on the right. In a provocatively headlined 2008 essay for Psychology Today asking, “Is political conservatism a form of mild insanity?” Dr. William Todd Schultz once warned his pupils against adopting the worldview of conservatives: “I always tell my students that tolerance of ambiguity is one especially excellent mark of psychological maturity. It isn’t a black-and-white world.”That essay was cited with joy by many liberal outlets, but the nature of the attacks on Zero Dark Thirty suggests that there is more than an element of projection at work here. Liberals don’t embrace ambiguity; rather, they do not like the moral certainties of conservatives while seeing nothing wrong with their own. When one lives in a bubble of one’s own making—when one resides in the echo chamber, hearing nothing but agreeable arguments and haughtily dismissing opponents as either stupid or evil (or stupidly evil)—art that pierces that bubble provokes a reaction that is not always logical.The critics of these films want popular art to reflect a society of their choosing—one in which the Iranian people weren’t chanting “Death to America!” as our embassy burned and our nationals were forced to play Russian roulette; one in which the efforts of white males to end slavery were slight; and one in which harsh interrogation techniques played no role in the capture of Osama bin Laden.These critics have a contingent in the artistic community. Martin Sheen and Ed Asner have attached their names to a letter circulating among Academy Award voters, begging them to shut Zero Dark Thirty out of the Oscar race. In a masterpiece of concern-trolling—an Internet neologism that roughly translates to disingenuously criticizing someone by pretending to be looking out for their own good—Sheen and his fellow signatories hope to keep the film from taking home Oscar gold because “one of the brightest female directors in the business is in danger of becoming part of the system.” Not to worry, though; for her crimes against the liberal consensus, Bigelow was denied an Oscar nomination for best director, as was Ben Affleck, who helmed Argo.The ascent of this new breed of popular-culture finger-waggers does not necessarily portend the death of criticism on the left. But the closing of the left-wing mind must not be discounted as an aberration and should be fiercely countered, if for no other reason than that assenting to it ensures the annihilation of what little ideological diversity there is to be found in the arts.In the 1990s, with Bill Clinton in office, Hollywood seemed happy to churn out crowd-pleasing effects-laden films every summer, with perhaps the last gasp of reliably bankable stars still in their prime, Harrison and Tom and Clint and Sean and Bruce and Mel. Their films kept the effects houses we mentioned at the beginning of this post employed. After the shock of 9/11, Hollywood worked very hard at alienating much of that same audience. If "Hollywood's New Finger-Waggers," as Bunch calls them, wants to drag the industry even further to left, causing it lose additional audience, they shouldn't be all that surprised when more support services fail as a result.* When it wasn't telling audiences how pointless life itself was.(Bumped to top.) class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2013/3/20/hollywood-sfx-in-crisis/ ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Ed Driscoll Click on most photos to enlarge. If you dare!Pro tip: If you look like anything at all like this when you reach the apex of your vacation, you are definitely doing it wrong.Unfortunately though, that is indeed a photo of me taken on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013, when I was actually much much better than I had been. My wife refrained from taking any pictures at the nadir of this story. All of which is why I, writing this up in retrospect,  think I've just returned from the Apollo 13 of vacations. Or maybe the Fantastic Voyage of vacations, considering that a miniaturized camera and high-tech equipment were sent deep into the nether regions where the Sun. Does. Not. Shine.But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Even before things began hitting the fan, so to speak, in a way, my timing in getting away on vacation was ill-fated: the week that the Obama administration was very visibly melting down, with scandals on all fronts, my wife and I skipped town for a 9-day long cruise through the Caribbean followed by 3 days visiting friends and family in New York, or at least that was Plan A. Still though, unlike El Rushbo, who always claims to think that bad "Progressive" news happens when he's away, I don't think my rep is quite that big enough to say that the Obama-ites deliberately picked this week to implode.The flight out from San Francisco Airport on Wednesday, May 15th was remarkably uneventful, though the in-flight magazines provided by American Airlines were a hoot. There's the base magazine distributed throughout the airplane cabin, and "Celebrated Living," American Airlines' "Premium" magazine, which can be found in their Admirals Clubs, and onboard their planes, in the first and business class cabins. Nothing tells your executive passengers that they're part of a swank, exclusive First Class One Percent Livin’ Large elite group like a last-page magazine profile of the drummer from a heavy metal group, with a toothpick dangling from his unshaven mug:Paging David Brooks -- your idea of "bourgeois bohemians" has officially exhausted itself, along with the rest of the American limousine left. And paging heavy metal: the idea that there's any sort of "rebellion" involved is done as well. Why it's as if Keith Richards had himself photographed endorsing Louis Vuitton luggage. (Oh wait...) class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2013/5/26/voyage-into-volvulus/ previous Page 1 of 6 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
The Federalist Staff
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
With the Oscars right around the corner the spotlight of public attention is about to shine again on Hollywood. In the light of this inquiry, questions about the moral fiber of Hollywood are sure to crop up. The Gold Standard of ethics in North America has historically been the Judeo-Christian worldview and for many the 10 Commandments are at the center of this worldview. Even if a viewer can’t list the 10 Commandments in order they generally have a good sense of when they are being broken. For this reason the 10 Commandments are often used as the guide by which the moral fiber of Hollywood is judged by the average person in the multiplex. Curiously the 10 Commandments are not all about what not to do. Embedded in these ancient commands are also positive elements. If the commandment says “Thou Shalt Not Murder” then it stands to reason that the positive thing to do would be to strive to help and support our neighbor in every physical need. With this in mind, a little look at Oscar favorites, nominated films, and other recent films may be in order. You Shall Have No Other Gods In 2013 Ang Lee won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing for his adaptation of the Yann Martel novel Life of Pi. Life of Pi provides an example of cafeteria style spirituality in film. The Commandment “You shall have no other gods” at its heart calls for spiritual fidelity. In a rather memorable segment of the film the central character Pi Patel tells about his childhood interest in Religion. His interest is diverse to say the least and could itself act as an allegory demonstrating Hollywood’s tricky relationship with the first commandments found within the 10 commandments. Seated around the Supper Table Pi Patel’s father Santosh voices his concern about his son’s religious beliefs saying, “[Y]ou cannot follow three different religions at the same time.” His son Pi responds asking “Why not?” To which his father replies “Because, believing in everything at once is the same thing as believing in nothing.” Pi’s mother defends the 11-year-old, “He is young, Santosh. He is still trying to find his own way.” You Shall Not Misuse The Name Of The LORD Your God The Oscars do enjoy a movie that’s spiritual but not too religious or a film that questions the role of spirituality and religion in society. Philomena, which has garnered a Best Motion Picture of the Year nomination, depicts an odd couple on their own kind of Odyssey. Dame Judi Dench, who plays one half of that odd couple, has received a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Philomena Lee, an Irish Catholic woman who was pressed into giving up the child she bore out of wedlock for adoption. While the film as a whole is often unkind to the Christian faith, within the confines of the characterization of Philomena Lee a picture of positive fulfillment of the commandment “You Shall Not Misuse The Name of The LORD your God” emerges. This is particularly obvious in the way that her character calls upon God in prayer in a faithful way, even when it’s difficult to do so, and ultimately is able to forgive the nuns who took her baby from her. This is contrasted by the other half of the odd couple in the film Martin Sixsmith played by Steve Coogan who is unable to forgive in the name of God and thereby can’t find it in his heart to use God’s name in a proper way. Both Lee and Sixmith are locked in a kind of holding pattern throughout Philomena, neither character is moved much from their starting point. Lee is the woman of faith even in her trouble where Sixmith remains the man without faith. Remember The Sabbath Day By Keeping It Holy Philomena also provides both positive and negative examples of the commandment “Remember the Sabbath Day by Keeping it Holy.” In the opening scenes of the film Sixmith is shown disregarding the value of attending worship services while throughout the film Lee provides a much more positive view on church life and personal devotion amidst her personal struggles. The Second Table Of The Law The first table of the 10 Commandments, which focus on the relationship between God and humanity, is not the bread and butter of Hollywood. The real love of Hollywood when it comes to the 10 Commandments is the second table of the law: human’s relationship with each other, man vs. man, woman vs. woman, man vs. woman and vice versa. There is a reason for this: All good stories are born out of conflict and there can be no drama without conflict. This is where greed, lying, cheating, stealing, murder and poor family relationships come in handy to the Hollywood screen writer and the novelists whose work they often adapt to the big screen. The slate of film offerings in 2013/2014 are no exception to the rule. And Oscar loves a good bit of drama. Honor Your Father and Mother In the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Bruce Dern has garnered a nomination for his role of Woody Grant in the Alexander Payne film Nebraska. Woody and his son David, played by Will Forte (SNL), spend the film traveling together to Lincoln Nebraska, on a road trip from Billings, Montana. Much of the film is about David looking after his father. The relationship between father and son predominates the overall narrative of the film. For this reason the heart of the movie is the commandment, “Honor Your Father and Mother.” From scene to scene, David is shown struggling with this task of honoring his father Woody. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails. Interestingly, Nebraska holds up a mirror to viewers in which they are called to remember that their parents are to be honored even when they are not honorable in the eyes of the world. This is mercy and grace. Nebraska is surprisingly filled with grace–grace for characters who don’t deserve it. Spoiler alert: Nebraska ends with a genuinely positive and tender-hearted fulfillment of the commandment to honor your father and mother. You Shall Not Murder The theme of murder is popular in Hollywood films. But Hollywood didn’t invent murder, it’s been with us from the time of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 and Jesus even says that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). 12 Years a Slave, another of this year’s Best Motion Picture of the Year nominations, is perhaps the strongest recent film dealing with the physical needs of men and women and children. When people are bought and sold and used as implements, life becomes cheapened and the needs of those in slavery are not highly valued. While the film isn’t explicitly about murder, it is very much about the poor treatment of fellow human beings and this is at the heart of the commandment “You Shall Not Murder.” 12 Years a Slave is full of distressing scenes of physical peril. There is a disturbing scene at the house of Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), where Solomon Northup played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role), is lynched by an unhappy overseer. This overseer and his accomplices are sent running away by Mr. Ford’s chief overseer, but he doesn’t cut Northup down, leaving him standing on the tips of his toes. All day, Northup stands there in danger of slipping and breaking his neck. One woman slave brings him a drink of water but the others go about their routine as if Northup is invisible. Children play, slaves walk by, yet no one raises a finger. It’s a very distressing scene. It calls to mind not only how a person is to refrain from murder but also how people are to work to avoid doing anything to hurt or harm their neighbor in his body. The conclusion of the film sees the positive application of this commandment when Northup is rescued out of his slavery and he finally receives the help and support he’s been deprived of. You Shall Not Commit Adultery Last year’s The Great Gatsby by  Baz Luhrmann was snubbed from nominations in some of the most valued awards but did earn nominations for both Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Production Design. One of the major narratives of the film is an illicit extramarital affair, This falls squarely into the territory of a perennial Hollywood favorite when it comes to the 10 commandments “You Shall Not Commit Adultery.” Gatsby, played by Oscar favourite Leonardo DiCaprio, wants to re-live the past by steeling away the wife of another man. Based rather faithfully on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name, the film recounts the scheming of the title character of Gatsby as he works to rekindle the relationship with this other man’s wife. A relationship Gatsby had had in his earlier life. This film is, in part, about the hardships connected with adultery. Many of the central characters in the film are rich and bored and they play fast and loose with their wedding vows and the wedding vows of others who are “less fortunate.” Looking for moments in recent Hollywood films were men and women are shown being faithful to their marriage vows and positively fulfilling this commandment? Look no further than World War Z and Gerry and Karin Lane’s marriage, as played by Brad Pit and Mireille Enos, in last year’s big zombie apocalypse thriller. A marriage, and family unit, that actually grows stronger in the face of trouble and remained the deciding factor in the decision making process of the central character Gerry Lane. Everything hinged on his wife and kids. Or you could look to Matt Damon’s James Granger turning down a very willing Cate Blanchett playing the French art curator Claire Simone in George Clooney’s World War II historical Drama The Monuments Men. You Shall Not Steal While not in the running for any Academy Awards this time around, The Monuments Men is certainly a film about theft, another Hollywood favorite. What on the surface looks to be a Word War II action film ends up being a kind of “heist movie” where one group steals and another group attempts to stop the theft and/or retrieve the stolen goods. This drops squarely in the lap of the commandment: “You shall not steal.” On one hand you have Hollywood’s perennial villains the Nazis taking their neighbor gold (sometimes in the form of gold fillings extracted from the mouths of Jewish men, women and children) and their neighbor possessions in the form of great works of art (including priceless works like The Ghent Altarpiece and Michelangelo’s The Madonna of Bruges), while on the other hand the Monuments Men seek to help their neighbors by protecting their possessions and returning works of art to their rightful owners. When it came to the great works of Art depicted in the film the Nazis were not just stealing from the Jewish people they were stealing from everyone they had under their boot. For the Nazis there was nothing dishonest about their plunder, to the rest of the world this theft was one of the horrors of war. The Monuments Men may not be burning up the box-office but it does portray the struggles inherent in keeping and upholding this commandment about theft. You Shall Not Give False Testimony Against Your Neighbor Actor  Philip Seymour Hoffman who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote in the 2005 film of the same name stared in the quintessential film dealing with lying. 2008’s Doubt details accusations of child abuse by a priest. The whole film has at its core the struggles that swirl around the commandment “You Shall Not Give False Testimony Against Your Neighbor.” The film is a mystery and only fully reveals its answers in the end. Hoffman plays the priest in question and he is joined by his accuser in the film Meryl Streep (who is up for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her part in 2013’s August: Osage County). Doubt also features another of this year’s nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Amy Adams, who is nominated for her role in American Hustle. Where American Hustle revels in the ‘thrill’ of conning people, Doubt deals with the pain and suffering that come with unfounded allegations. With Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent death Doubt is certainly worth a second look, especially when viewed through the lens of this ancient yet timely commandment about truth and falsehood. You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s House, or Your Neighbours Wife, or His Manservant or Maidservant, His Ox or Donkey, or Anything That Belongs to Your Neighbour Hollywood has a bit of a love hate relationship with the end of the ten commandments. When it comes to “You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s House, or Your Neighbours Wife, or His Manservant or Maidservant, His Ox or Donkey, or Anything That Belongs to Your Neighbour,” you can almost hear 1988’s Best Actor in a Leading Role winner Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko from the film Wall Street saying, “[G]reed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.” 2013 was a big year for greed, from Best Motion Picture of the Year nominee The Wolf of Wall Street to Best Motion Picture of the Year nominee American Hustle greed has been good, at least good for the box office. Themes of coveting pop up all over the place in the last year, it may in fact be the biggest theme of the year; from a dragon sitting on a hoard of gold in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to Gatsby in The Great Gatsby coveting another man’s wife, to a movie like last year’s Elysium where selfishness motivates almost every character. Coveting and the greed associated with it is the elephant in the room right. Largely unconsidered is that fact that the flipside of coveting is contentment. Any viewer watching a film like The Wolf of Wall needs to ask the question, “What make a person happy in life?” “what makes them content?” From time to time the 10 Commandments in film can be unevenly presented and/or difficult to fully grasp. What often gets overlooked are the virtues inherent in the commandments themselves: spiritual fidelity, humility, sanctity, honor, gentleness, marital fidelity, trustworthiness, honesty, and contentment. When the viewer sees these things displayed in an Oscar Nominated film or performance, the first thought isn’t “Hey look at that! The 10 Commandments!” Whether the negative or positive elements of the 10 Commandments jump out at you, one thing is for certain if there’s one thing Hollywood like more than conflict and drama it’s a happy or at least hopeful ending. ]]>
(Review Source)
John Hanlon
A novelist (Rafe Spall) is promised a story that would make him believe in God at the beginning of “Life of Pi.” The writer was told by a friend to visit a man named Pi whose life story is so unbelievable the writer must hear it from the... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Life-of-Pi-Poster-105x88.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
Uncategorized Culture The 2013 Academy Awards are now on the books, and the only question left is: which of these movies are actually worth paying money to see? TAC has answers: Argo Winner of Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay: Noah Millman feels Argo backfired as a campaign ad, and misfired as a film. Scott McConnell on the other hand, explains what Argo got right on Iran LincolnWinner of Best Actor and Production Design: Millman was “carried along by the universally excellent performances,” and dives into the tension, dramatic and historical, of the film. AmourWinner of Best Foreign Language Film: Eve Tushnet found Amour a “totally compelling, emotionally devastating movie,” and felt it was misunderstood as pro-euthanasia shilling because it was “a portrait, not an allegory.” Life of PiWinner of Best Director, Cinematography, Original Score, Visual Effects: Rod Dreher found Life of Pi to be “mostly wonderful, and certainly one of the most visually stunning films any of us had ever seen.” He discusses the “provocative religious message in the movie” in a spoiler-filled consideration (you have been warned) and finds “as a Christian I don’t share the film’s pantheistic worldview, but I found it philosophically engaging all the same.” (Update): Noah Millman adds to the list with a consideration of Life of Pi‘s multiple stories, and what stories mean to us in art and faith. Zero Dark ThirtyWinner of Best Sound Editing Noah Millman gives Zero Dark Thirty a deep, thorough consideration and concludes “Don’t go to this movie to learn whether torture was necessary or not to get bin Laden. Go to this movie to understand why we – not just the Bush Administration or the CIA, but much of America – embraced torture.” The Sessions Noah Millman finds The Sessions “a sweet little film … a heartwarming story, and one would have to be a churl not to cheer Mark on, particularly since he is so self-deprecatingly charming throughout,” but “I suppose I’ll have to be a churl,” giving a through-going consideration of all the film’s many merits along with its shortcomings. Beasts of the Southern Wild Eve Tushnet “can tell you it is worth it. The things you’ve probably heard already are true: This is a lush, heart-wrenching fable about a little girl and her daddy, in a rural Louisiana enclave barely clinging to the high side of environmental apocalypse,” then gives the movie a thorough consideration. The Master Millman “still can’t make up my mind what to think about Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, which I saw last night. Not that I’m not sure it was a great film – I know what I think of it. I’m just not sure what I think about it,” ultimately concluding “Something has finally been mastered, but whether it is Dodd or Quell, or the language of self-mastery itself, I couldn’t say.” SkyfallWinner of Best Original Song, and Sound Editing: We didn’t review “Skyfall” per se, but Stephen Tippins, Jr. gave James Bond himself a through review in a recent issue, finding the double-oh agent to be more than a glamorous womanizer, rather “defending the West against itself.” Django UnchainedWinner of Best Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay: Rod Dreher didn’t review Django, exactly, but rather explains why neither he nor The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates plan to see it at all, despite Rod expecting he would enjoy it. Follow @joncoppage// <![CDATA[ !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs"); // ]]> ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
I managed to miss Rod Dreher’s meditation on the movie, “Life of Pi” from this past December, so I’m glad we did this Oscar recap thing to bring it to my attention. And I only saw the movie this past weekend, so it’s on my mind. In any event, what occurred to me on leaving the movie theatre was: does the frame story make “Life of Pi” a better story, or worse? To recap for those unfamiliar with the story: “Life of Pi” – the movie, not the book, which I haven’t read – is a story told by the adult Pi to a writer who has been told to seek him out because he has an incredible story, one that will make him believe in God. Pi, now living in Canada, tells a story beginning with his childhood in India, raised by a rationalist father who is a zookeeper, and a sentimentally religious Hindu mother who tends the gardens around the zoo. The heart of the story takes place at sea. Pi’s family leaves India by ship with their menagerie, intending to sell the animals in Canada and start a new life. The ship is wrecked in a storm, and only Pi and four animals make it to the raft – a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a tiger (the last an animal Pi has been intensely curious about since he joined the zoo). Quickly, the hyena attacks and kills the zebra, and then the orangutan, only to be killed in turn by the tiger. This leaves Pi and the tiger alone in the vastness of the Pacific for much of a year, as they drift, learning to survive, and to survive each other, until they reach the Mexican shore. When the adult Pi is finished telling this story, which we, of course, see depicted (stunningly – all its awards were thoroughly deserved), he adds a coda. Japanese investigators into the shipwreck (it was a Japanese ship) visit the young Pi in the hospital in Mexico, and ask him what happened. Finding his story frankly unbelievable, they demand a story that is less fantastic. So the young Pi tells another story: that no animals survived, but humans: the ship’s cook (a brute we met briefly on ship, played by Gerard Depardieu), a sailor with a broken leg, and Pi’s mother. The ship’s cook, “a resourceful man,” figured out how to survive – catch fish to eat, for example – but he also mercilessly kills the injured sailor (with Pi’s help), and then kills Pi’s mother in an argument. Pi, enraged, then kills him (easily – he feels too guilty to resist), and thus emerged the only survivor. Back in the present, the writer thinks about the correspondences between the animals and the people in the two stories: the orangutan is Pi’s mother, the zebra the injured sailor, the hyena the brutal cook, and the tiger Pi himself – or Pi’s animal instinct for survival, with which he was trapped, but also saved by, on his journey. Then the adult Pi asks the writer which story is better, the one with the people or the one with the animals. And the writer says: the one with the animals. And Pi says: so it is with God. The usual direction discussion takes at this point is to ask: what does that say about religion? And that’s where Rod Dreher goes (ably, I might add). But I want to go another place. What does this say about stories? The story we are told, after all, is neither the story of the tiger nor the story of murder on a life raft. The story we are told is the story of telling a story – or telling two stories, rather – a story which ends with a question about which story is better. Is that metafictional story a better story than a story about a boy trapped on a boat with a tiger? Is it better than a story that contains two stories, but that doesn’t ask you which story is better? Watching the story with my son, he was wrapped up in the story itself. He identified with the boy. He mourned the boy’s extravagant loss. He loved and feared the tiger. He laughed at the flying fish, gasped at the whale – he was in the experience. If that were the whole story, and I, an adult, were to set out to interpret it, I might, possibly, have come to a similar “interpretation” as Pi’s writer interlocutor does. That is to say, I might conclude: this isn’t really a story about a tiger. It isn’t really a story about a shipwreck. It’s really story about survival. Pi’s tiger is his own savage survival instinct. That’s what terrified and attracted him, and that’s what he mourned when it left him upon his return to land. But the metafictional story we are told contains that “meaning,” and frames it as another story. It’s not an “interpretation” – something on a different plane as the story with the tiger. It’s on the same plane – both stories, and one or the other is better. The metafictional frame has an alienating effect. It tells us: don’t forget, this is only a story I am telling. But the meaning undermines the logic of the frame, because “what the story means” is that the better story is the one with the tiger. The one that we react to with primal pity and fear. Which means that the creator of the story, on some level, believes that he himself made the story worse in order to teach us something. And it seems to me there’s something about religion there, something that connects back to the young Pi’s naive refusal to choose between religions. Religion, it has always seemed to me, is a natural human behavior, and it serves a variety of functions for people. One of the most fundamental functions is didactic – it teaches us who we are, what we do, why we do it. But another fundamental function is to provide us with stories within which our own stories – our life narratives – can play out as subplots. It seems to me that when religion performs the first function, when it becomes didactic, it necessarily hobbles the second function. It makes the story worse, by pointing us in the direction of the meaning and purpose of the story, and taking us out of the story itself. One of the points that James Kugel makes at the beginning of The God of Old is that when you read the Hebrew Bible with your eyes open, after peeling away the layers of interpretive interference that built up over millenia, you see how strange the text is. How unlike the God of the Hebrew Bible is from the god of the philosophers – but also how unlike the God of the rabbis or the God of the Christian theologians. And how unlike the Israelites’ response to that God is to our response to what we call “religious experience.” They were in the story. Can we be? If we can, does it help to think about which story is better? Or, if we find ourselves doing that, have we already missed the point? ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Usually, when I do these (too infrequent) double feature features, I connect one current film with a film from the back catalog: “The King’s Speech” with “Richard III,” or “Tree of Life” with “A Serious Man.” But every now and again, Hollywood serves up two movies that are obviously intended by fate to be seen together. This year is one such, and the pairing is “Gravity,” directed by Alfonso Cuarón (director of “Children of Men” and “Y Tu Mamá También“) and “All Is Lost,” directed by J. C. Chandor (director of “Margin Call,” my favorite film about the financial crisis and, hence, a primary object of my envy since I wish I could have written a film that good). I almost don’t feel like I need to explain why. But I will anyway. “Gravity” tells the story of Sandra Bullock, rookie astronaut, struggling home to earth all on her own after space junk cripples the shuttle that brought her to orbit in the first place. Everything that can go wrong does, and at one point she gives up and prepares for death. But her final brainstorm actually works, and, amazingly, she makes it (we presume – the movie ends when she finally reaches dry land but is still far from civilization). “All Is Lost,” on the other hand, tells the story of Robert Redford, wealthy yachtsman, struggling to get back to land all on his own after sea junk (a stray shipping container) cripples the 39-foot sailboat that brought him to the middle of the Indian Ocean in the first place. Everything that can go wrong does, and at one point he gives up and prepares for death. But his final brainstorm actually works, and, amazingly, he makes it (we presume – the movie ends when he is swimming to the surface picked up). Both movies appear to be paradigmatic “man (or woman) versus wild” contests. But both are ultimately more interested in charting an internal spiritual journey than in showing an audience how human beings can win a round in the endless war against pitiless nature. It’s in the differences between those journeys, and between the two movie star protagonists, that the contrast between the films primarily lies. Where one film runs before the wind of our era, the other tacks against it. *     *     * Gravity When I saw “Gravity,” I went into the theater thinking about “Apollo 13,” the Ron Howard film about the successful effort to bring the astronauts home from a failed moon shot. That film focused on the grit and practical ingenuity of the men who made America’s adventure in space possible. It was about a set of virtues, and more specifically about watching those virtues in action. And, because it told the story of a failed mission, it was also (like “Argo,”) very much a movie about America in the 1970s, about certain classic American virtues being pressed into service to salvage as much as possible from a mission that is doomed to fail. But “Gravity” isn’t really that kind of movie – because it isn’t really interested in practical ingenuity. There’s a contradiction at the heart of “Gravity” with respect to realism. Enormous effort has been put into getting the physics right, and that effort pays off magnificently. The film is stunningly beautiful – more than that, it is sublime (to use the Burkean distinction). The opening shot, which must be something like fifteen minutes long, will leave your jaw slack, and when you’ve stopped staring you’ll realize that, amazingly, you’ve been able to keep oriented when there is no up nor down. That’s a heck of a cinematographic achievement. Even when things start to go wrong, and the frame fills with objects moving in trajectories we never see them follow on earth, we still somehow always know where we are. And then there are the little directorial choices here have a huge impact in terms of creating a feeling of realism – for example, it’s amazing how much is communicated simply by massive collisions between space ships produce no sound. Cuarón’s primary commitment in this film is to give us some sense of what movement looks like up there in orbit, and hence to what walking in space might feel like. He succeeds entirely. But what actually happens in the film requires enormous suspension of disbelief. [Spoilers follow.] Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone, doesn’t just survive being thrown from the structure where she’s working when the space debris hits. She makes her way to a space station 100 kilometers away. She crawls inside that station, only to be nearly trapped by a fire that breaks out inside. She escapes the fire into the reentry craft, and figures out how to launch the craft away from the station, only to discover that the chute, which has deployed prematurely, has gotten tangled around the struts of the station. She gets back out and frees the craft from the tangled parachute – in the middle of a hailstorm of space debris that annihilates the space station. She escapes the millions of fragments of flying debris, gets back into the spaceship, only to discover it’s out of fuel. She figures out how to jerry-rig it to fly anyway, and makes her way to yet another space station (a Chinese one). She’s got no thrusters to maneuver with, so she bails out of the ship and pilots herself successfully to that station using a fire extinguisher. She gets into the other station’s reentry vehicle, figures out how to fly it even though all instructions are in Chinese, and finally survives a reentry even though her capsule is tumbling rump over teakettle. That’s rather more than six impossible things to believe before breakfast. Which is fine – this is a movie. But the fact that Stone is able to pull off this series of wildly improbably feats tells us what kind of movie we’re in. For all it’s commitment to realism in the depiction of this strange and hostile environment, we’re not in a movie about what it takes to survive in that environment, in terms of practical knowledge or native virtues. And the proper point of comparison isn’t “Apollo 13” but “Life of Pi.” Early on in the film, we learn that Stone is emotionally dead as a consequence of the death of her young daughter. (She’s not named “Stone” for nothing.) There’s no mention of a husband or any other family; so far as we know, she is entirely alone, nobody looking up at her, waiting for her to come home. (The weakest sequences in “Apollo 13,” by the way, were the shots of the “home front” – none of the astronauts’ wives had any character, and they had nothing much to do but look worried.) But she has a mentor figure: Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), commander of her mission. He draws her out, rescues her from her space tumble, and then heroically (and completely stoically) sacrifices himself so that she might live. Kowalski’s there to remind her of a reason to live, but also to communicate the message that if you know that reason – if your soul is properly oriented – you will always either find a way to live, or face death with his extraordinary equanimity. In the most ultimate sense, your fate is entirely in your hands, and is determined by how in tune you are with the universe. He even appears later as a ghost to give her the crucial insight that enables her to finish her journey – which she finishes flying her ship essentially by intuition, without instruments (since they are all in Chinese anyway). He might as well be named Obi Wan Kenobi. Stone’s personal journey, meanwhile, is clearly signposted as such over and over again. All of the spaceships she pilots have a religious figure above what I can only think of as the dashboard (an icon on the Russian craft, a smiling Buddha on the Chinese – this cheerful ecumenical approach to religiosity is another similarity to “Life of Pi”). When Bullock first makes it into the ISS, she pulls off her space suit and gulps in the air (she had run out just before getting in), then floats, for a moment, before the airlock, in a semi-fetal position, the tube from her suit floating just behind her in the position of an umbilicus. And when she gets back to earth, she blows the hatch immediately upon landing (wouldn’t you know – there’s another fire) and has to escape the capsule into the ocean, shed her space suit skin, and swim to shore. A verdantly Edenic shore – but uninhabited. That emptiness is not an accident. For all that Stone’s journey is supposedly about re-awakening to human connection – getting over the loss of her daughter and finding someone to look up at her and hope that she comes home safely – solitude is fundamental to her journey. The stoic Kowalski, though he won’t stop talking for even a second, is ultimately self-sufficient enough to be content to die gazing at the beauty of the Ganges (note, not the Amazon or the Danube, but a religiously potent river) from space. And one doesn’t get the feeling that he has anybody looking up at him, hoping he’ll come home. At the end, Stone is alive again, and the world is alive as well; she’s no longer in the cold darkness of space. But she is defiantly solitary. Because she’s found what she needs inside her. *     *     * All Is Lost It’s not incidental that an essential self-sufficiency – cheerful, adaptable, ready for any challenge – is our civilization’s paramount economic virtue. And it’s what the Robert Redford character embodies at the start of “All Is Lost,” a radically different film from “Gravity” even though it has a very similar premise. Redford is the only person in the film, and he present himself as quite thoroughly self-sufficent – he must be, or he wouldn’t be sailing the middle of the Indian Ocean without a crew. And he doesn’t even paint a volleyball to talk to; there is virtually no dialogue, far less than in “Gravity,” a film that takes place in a world without air and, hence, without sound. (I assume that a major motivation for Chandor to make this film was just to see if it could be done – to make a nearly dialogue-free, one-man movie. Kudos to him even for trying, but the more impressive fact is that he succeeded.) He’s self-motivated as well – he is not in the middle of the ocean performing any social function, or on any assignment. He’s there because he’s there. In any event, he is alone, and plainly considers himself sufficient as such. And we know that he is supposed to be a representative character, a symbol of our age, right from his name. Which he doesn’t have. In the script, he’s known simply as “Our Man.” What kind of man he is we have to infer, because, unlike “Gravity,” “All Is Lost” declines to give us any backstory. We open on a calm sea in flat, bleak light, and hear Robert Redford in voice over reading a last letter to – well, we don’t know to whom; he names no wife, no children. It is addressed, it would seem, to the universe at large. And it’s an apology, but Our Man doesn’t say what he’s sorry for, what he did wrong or to whom. He says with some pride that he fought until the end, but he wonders whether that means anything. All he knows is that he’s sorry. The letter is almost a perfect inversion of the sentiment on which Ryan Stone concludes her journey. But, as we flash back to the accident that put Our Man adrift, details accumulate that enable us to infer what kind of man he is. His ship is a late-1970s-era yacht, nicely appointed but not particularly up to date. This is a wealthy man, but not a billionaire, and a man who harkens back to an earlier era, when he was in his prime. He wakes to seawater pouring in through a hole in the hull, and ruining his electronics – none of which are waterproof; our first indication that this is not a man actually prepared for any eventuality. It’s a bad break, but Our Man doesn’t panic. He investigates the hole – his sailboat was hulled by an errant shipping container of sneakers. He gets the sailboat off the container and sets to work, methodically, setting the ship right – patching the hull, pumping out the water, and rinsing the salt out of his ruined radio. Then, climbing the mast to repair a broken circuit, Our Man spots a storm coming. He battens down the hatches – and then he shaves, expertly enough that there’s not a nick on him. The shaving scene is crucial for telling us what kind of man this is. He is not shaving to make an impression on anybody else (as, if I may juxtapose the sublime and the ridiculous, Crocodile Dundee did); he’s not preening for the cameras like a character on a Discovery Channel show. (I suspect many will come to this movie expecting a version of that kind of ersatz survivalism – more to the point, I wonder whether Our Man came up with the idea for this voyage by watching too much Bear Grylls.) Because there is nobody else there, nobody to impress but himself. This is a man, the gesture says, of stable habits that have served him well, that he doesn’t intend to abandon in a moment of crisis, and also a man of some personal vanity. And this is the moment that tells us: this man is not going to make it. It’s been fascinating to read the comments by experienced sailors on this film, because they are generally contemptuous of Our Man, calling him a weekend sailor, in over his head, and making one rookie mistake after another. As a non-sailor, I couldn’t possibly see most of these, but it was clear to me watching the film that we were not supposed to infer Our Man’s great skill so much as we were to infer his calm self-confidence – true self-confidence, not mere arrogance. This is a man who has seen successfully through many crises before. It makes sense that he assumes he can handle this one. It also makes sense that he would make rookie mistakes, because he is in over his head. But he makes them calmly, confidently, making the best decisions he knows how all along the way. Another difference: “All Is Lost” is much less invested in showing us the extraordinary environment of the ocean than “Gravity” is in showing us space. That’s partly a function of the different vantage point you have in orbit versus on the ocean’s surface, but it’s also a difference in the stories being told. In “Gravity” we get lots of panoramic footage that places us in context, that displays all the splendor of Earth, the cold vastness of the heavens, and the fragile elegance of our creations that hover between. We have the filmmaker’s God’s-eye view of reality. In “All Is Lost,” by contrast, the camera stays on Redford nearly all of the time, and so we experience the storm from an entirely human vantage point. When Our Man gets tossed overboard, we go over with him, and frankly we can’t see much. When the yacht is overturned by a particularly ferocious wave, we’re below decks with Our Man; the picture tumbles as the floor becomes the ceiling and then the floor again, but we don’t see the vessel dismasted – an obvious shot for a movie about a storm and shipwreck – until Our Man comes up and sees the damage himself. Budgetary considerations were undoubtedly one reason for that choice, but Chandor makes a virtue of necessity. He doesn’t personify nature as an antagonist. Nature is just reality. Once his sailboat is wrecked, Our Man abandons ship into an inflatable life raft, and hopes for rescue. He charts his drift into the shipping lanes between East Asia and the Cape, and stands at the ready when he’s in the zone. But he’s rebuffed by two enormous container ships (the vessels responsible for his desperate situation in the first place) that pass extremely close to his little raft; nobody even notices his flares. It’s perhaps too direct a symbol – the indifference of commerce to anyone tossed overboard – and I wondered: isn’t anybody ever on deck on these ships? But perhaps that’s really the point: there’s almost no crew, and nobody is on deck. The economic system is more like pitiless nature than like anything human. His last hope lost, Our Man prepares for death by sending his empty final message in the proverbial glass vessel (a jar in this case rather than a bottle). And then, an unexpected hope flickers. In the middle of a dark night, he sees a light on the water. He has only one flare left, and, clearly worried it will be insufficient, he lights a fire, setting the lifeboat itself aflame, and jumps into the water. Before the fire is even out, he sinks below the surface, clearly exhausted, and watches the circle of fire and the echoing circle of the moon from below as he sinks. The image is striking, and clearly intended as a symbol – it was the first image in the film to hit me that way, and for that reason it jarred. And, lo and behold, the fire trick works. A small (human-scale) boat comes to rescue him, and, surprised by his sudden good fortune, Our Man swims to the surface, and to safety. It is, again, a reversal of the progression in “Gravity.” Where Ryan Stone learned self-sufficiency from a kind of stoic, that with enough confidence and grit you can overcome any obstacle (or face death calmly when there truly is no way), Our Man learns, finally, his utter insufficiency. He faces death not calmly, but exhausted, emptied, having burned his last earthly refuge and surrendered to the waves. And then, when he has finally given up, he’s saved. I admit, I wasn’t crazy about that ending. It felt like a note of grace that was unconnected to the rest of the film, which didn’t traffic in those kinds of quasi-theological notions. Our Man is deluded about his self-sufficiency, yes, but I didn’t think he was deluded about the pitilessness of the universe. To put it another way, I’m pretty sure Werner Herzog would have let him drown. But if we must carry around a “notion” about the universe, the idea that we have to surrender our earthly hopes to experience the gratitude of salvation sits better with me than the uplift of “Gravity.” ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
Religion Art & Architecture Ideas On Friday I took my boys to see the new Ang Lee film Life of Pi. We all thought it was mostly wonderful, and certainly one of the most visually stunning films any of us had ever seen. I’d like to talk about the provocative religious message in the movie, but it’s hard to do that without mentioning the ending, which puts everything that came before it in a particular light. If you read the 2001 Yann Martel novel on which the film is based, or don’t intend to see the movie, or don’t care about the spoiler, read below the jump. For those who don’t know the plot, here’s a bare-bones outline. The title character, Pi Patel, is a native of India who tells the story in flashback to a journalist in Canada, where he lives in the present day. We see young Pi growing up in Pondicherry as a religiously engaged child. He is raised as Hindu, but with no particular piety; his father is a rationalist and a zookeeper, and his mother holds on to her religion as a link to her estranged family. Later, young Pi encounters a Catholic priest, who teaches him about Jesus. Pi comes to accept Jesus and ask for baptism, but he sees no reason why he should give up Hinduism. Then he begins to practice as a Muslim, yet still considers himself a Hindu and a Christian. The boy’s rationalist father tells him that if he believes in everything, that’s no different from believing in nothing. The father also tells him that he ought to trust science, not religion — but his mother counters by saying that science tells us about the world, but religion tells us about the heart. The family sets out to emigrate to Canada with their menagerie of wild animals, which the father is planning to sell in North America. A terrible storm blows up at sea off the Philippines, sinking their freighter. Pi and four animals, including a Bengal tiger, are the only survivors. Soon enough, only Pi and the tiger are left. They drift together across the Pacific for most of a year, encountering at one point a floating island of carnivorous algae, before at last washing ashore on a Mexican beach. The emaciated tiger wanders into the jungle, leaving exhausted Pi to be discovered on the beach, and taken to the hospital. Two Japanese investigators from the shipping company arrive at the hospital to interview Pi, for the sake of finding out why the freighter sank. After hearing his fantastical tale, they tell him they do not and cannot believe him. It’s just too strange, his story. He insists that it’s true, but they remain skeptical, and ask him to tell them a story that they can believe. Pi then gives a far, far darker account of the freighter’s sinking, and in this one, there are four survivors: the ship’s cook, a sailor with a broken leg, Pi’s mother, and Pi. The cook kills the sailor and Pi’s mother, and cuts their bodies up for food and to use as bait to catch fish. Pi kills the evil cook, who is disgusted by what he has done. But Pi himself is horrified by his deed, even though it was necessary to save his own life. The Japanese visitors say then that the animals from the first story represent the actual people who suffered and died; the tiger represents Pi’s own natural instinct, which horrified him. The story of the lifeboat with the tiger inside and the boy floating on a raft tethered to it, because he (the boy) was afraid of being consumed by the tiger, is, in this reading, a metaphor for the human condition. Satisfied with this account, the Japanese leave Pi’s bedside. In the present day, the journalist asks the older Pi which of the stories is true. Pi turns the question back at him by asking which one he prefers to believe. The tiger story, the journalist says. “So it is with God,” says Pi. And that’s where the film ends. Obviously as a Christian I don’t share the film’s pantheistic worldview, but I found it philosophically engaging all the same. When the boy Pi begins meeting with the Catholic priest, he tells the priest that it makes no sense that a loving God would send his only Son, an innocent man to die for the sins of others. The priest gently tells Pi that God so loved the world that He did exactly that, and that the important thing is not to try to make logical sense of the story, but to focus on the sacrificial divine love at the heart of it. If I remember correctly from the film, the priest explains to Pi that some things are beyond our ability to grasp intellectually, but God comes to us in ways that we, in our limited state, can relate to. The implication, clearly, is that God is beyond all our categories, and our way of talking and thinking about Him and His ways is not the same thing as God. I took the priest to be telling Pi that God desires not to be understood but to be loved, and to show us His love. The world, then, is filled with sacramental mystery, and must be known through the heart. Aside from the heterodoxy of Pi’s pantheism, it seems to me that this is an Orthodox Christian way of seeing things. On the other hand, it is equally plausible that the second version of Pi’s adventure is the true one, and the first one a myth Pi created to help him bear the overwhelming horror of what he endured on that lifeboat — the murder of the sailor and his mother by the cook, and his (Pi’s) killing of the cook to save his own life. It is easy to believe that Pi, a sensitive boy with a religious imagination, had to invent this myth to bear, psychologically, the pain of his trials, and to find transcendent meaning in them. The Japanese visitors could not accept the near-miraculous story to which Pi bore witness. It did not make sense to them. They commanded him to tell them a version of events that they could believe. I don’t know about the novel, but in the film, the truth of what happened in the ocean is left tantalizingly unclear. The older man Pi says he believes God is real and brought him through this ordeal — and even that God sent him that tiger to give him something to care for, to keep his hope alive. I see four possibilities here: 1. Pi is telling the literal truth about what happened, but told the Japanese a conscious lie as an act of mercy when he saw that they could not bear the weight of the miraculous tiger tale, or maybe as an act of self-deliverance (that is, to give them what they want to get them out of his hospital room so he could get some rest). 2. Pi unconsciously created the tiger myth to hide the unbearable truth of what happened on the lifeboat from himself, but told the truthful horror story to the Japanese as a disburdening confession. He then receded unconsciously into believing the myth because it helped him live with and relate to the mystery of evil — including the knowledge of what human beings, including himself, are capable of. 3. Pi knows perfectly well that the tiger tale is a myth, and what the myth symbolizes about himself, nature, and humankind. But he chooses to live by the myth because he recognizes that the facts may be confected, but they tell deeper truths about life, the universe, and God, in a way that finite human beings can relate to. 4. Pi is honestly not sure where truth ends and fiction begins. The tiger tale might have happened exactly as he remembered it. The tale of murder he gave the skeptical Japanese might instead be the truth. He can’t be sure, and there is no way to ever know for certain. But he chooses to embrace the life-giving, hope-inspiring version of what happened on the sea, because it benefits him, including helping him to be a loving husband and father. Personally, I suspect the truth is No. 4, but I’m not sure why. I need to think about it further. Which of the four do you think are correct? Are there any other possibilities that I haven’t thought of? Anyway, each possibility expresses a point of view on what religion is, and is for. Like Pi, we are all survivors of shipwreck, seeking to make sense of what happened to us, and what we are supposed to do now.       ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Well, I suppose not obligatory – nobody’s making me write it – but this is a year where there is a modest amount of drama in the “Best Picture” category, and it’s also a rare year where I’ve seen almost all the major-category nominees. So I should probably say something. This, then, is something. This is a funny year in which there was a large number of worthy films and no single film that is obviously a “Best Picture” film. Compare “12 Years a Slave” to last year’s “Lincoln.” I found Steve McQueen’s film to be far more interesting than Spielberg’s, but also much less-satisfying precisely because McQueen seems aggressively uninterested in providing the satisfactions of a traditional narrative. Or compare “American Hustle” with “Silver Linings Playbook,” David O. Russell’s 2013 nominee. His newer film is much more ambitious, much more complex – and much more of a narrative mess. That makes it more interesting in many ways – but also much less of a “Best Picture” type of film. Both of these films make you think about what they are doing even as you experience them. They don’t exactly carry you along. But that “on a great ride” feeling is a big part of what people love about the movies. So I think both “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle” have a wall to get over to win Best Picture that another film – which I liked less – doesn’t. That film is “Gravity.” Compare “Gravity to last year’s “Life of Pi,” another technically-pathbreaking, spiritually-oriented film about an individual adrift in a hostile environment. “Life of Pi” had a metafictional frame that contained the “message” of the movie, while the main story was a frankly fantastical one. That metafictional layering was clearly intended to make you think, even as the story of the boy and the tiger had a visceral power. “Gravity,” by contrast, keeps you rooted in the experience of the film itself; the “message” is the weakest, least-interesting aspect of the film. That slightness might hurt it, of course; “Best Picture” films are supposed to be important. But I’m betting not. Best Picture is expected to be a contest between these three films, with the other six nominees as dark horses. I have a hard time seeing “American Hustle” win. I definitely preferred “12 Years a Slave” to “Gravity,” but I recognize the substantial technical achievement of the latter. (That long “shot” toward the beginning of the film deserves an Oscar all of its own.) There’s some talk that they may split the Picture and Director honors, Cuarón winning for Director while “12 Years a Slave” wins for Picture, but the funny thing is that what I liked best about both films was the direction, while other elements (particularly the screenplays) struck me as relatively weak. If I were voting, from these nine films, I’d probably vote for “12 Years a Slave,” which is a consequential, powerful but flawed film. There are individual scenes that are going to stay with me forever, even if the film as a whole felt like less than the sum of those scenes. But if I’m predicting, I’d predict “Gravity.” My thoughts on the rest of the “Best Picture” nominees: “Captain Phillips” (which I wrote up here) has stayed with me more for the performance of Barkhad Abdi than for anything else. “Dallas Buyers Club” is the only “Best Picture” nominee I haven’t seen. “Her” (which I wrote up here) has a great production design and a set of really compelling performances, but it is so, so sad, and not, ultimately, in a cathartic way. “Nebraska” (which I took two cracks at, here and here) hasn’t stayed with me as powerfully as I thought it might have. I still think Bruce Dern gave a great performance, and I did love June Squibb, but I worry that the film wasn’t a challenge for Alexander Payne – that it took him places that, mostly, he already knew. “Philomena” I haven’t had a chance to write up, other than in passing in my post from yesterday on religious films. I don’t have too much to say about it; it’s a sweet little film, well-written and well-structured. It certainly benefitted from low expectations on my part; it didn’t sound like something I’d like, and lo and behold, I liked it. I’m sure it’s thrilled to be nominated. “The Wolf of Wall Street” I also haven’t had a chance to write up – and I should. DiCaprio’s performance is technically amazing – that scene where he has to get out the door, down the stairs and into his car while unable to stand up because he’s taken too many quaaludes is a comic tour de force. And Scorsese is absolutely in control of his film. But I found myself falling between the “love” and “hate” camps with respect to the film, in a place of relative indifference. Why? Two reasons. First, the film is too short. I’m entirely serious. People chortled when Thelma Schoonmaker said it was really hard to edit the film down from four hours, but I felt like I could see what she meant. They managed to preserve all these set pieces, but I felt sometimes like multiple peripheral characters never got defined, or got lost, because there wasn’t time to let us understand who they were. And I assume that’s because too much was left on the cutting room floor. The second, more important reason, though, is that Jordan Belfort just isn’t a very interesting person. His story is a boringly self-aggrandizing one. This isn’t really a story about Wall Street, because Belfort was a petty criminal who just made it much bigger than you’d ever expect. It’s like, what would happen if Ricky Roma from “Glengarry Glen Ross” somehow made hundreds of millions of dollars. So, he’d be a jerk on a colossal scale. What else? Not much else. Now, for the other categories: Best Director: Cuarón, for “Gravity.” He’ll get this one whether “Gravity” gets Best Picture or not. Best Actor: Everybody says it’s McConaughey’s to lose, and since I didn’t see “Dallas Buyers Club,” I can’t really venture an opinion. Of the other four nominees, I would probably pick Bruce Dern. Best Actress: Everybody says it’s Cate Blanchett, who has swept every prior award this year. I saw “Blue Jasmine,” but haven’t written it up. I thought she was fantastic, and single-handedly saved the film from being kind of unbearable. I would certainly vote for her. Best Supporting Actor: Everybody says it’s Jared Leto, and again, I didn’t see “Dallas Buyers Club,” so I can’t say. I’d vote for Michael Fassbender from the other four nominees, but I wouldn’t be upset if either Barkhad Abdi or Bradley Cooper won. Best Supporting Actress: I predict Lupita Nyong’o. I’d also vote for her, even though I adored Jennifer Lawrence and think June Squibb is a hoot and a half. Best Original Screenplay: this will probably go to “American Hustle,” and I’m not sure how I feel about that because I feel like the screenplay has loads of marvelous stuff but also real structural problems. On the other hand, it’s a much more interesting screenplay than “Nebraska,” and I actively disliked the writing of “Blue Jasmine” – so maybe I’d vote for it after all. Or maybe I’d vote for “Her,” just for sheer cussedness. Yeah, I’d probably vote for “Her.” I wish I could write in “All Is Lost” – a screenplay with essentially no dialogue. Just for total cussedness. Best Adapted Screenplay: this will surely go to “12 Years a Slave,” which I’m not thrilled about since I think the screenplay is the weakest part of the film. I would probably vote for “Before Midnight.” I really hope “The Act of Killing” wins Best Documentary, because that film knocked me flat – it was by far my favorite film of the year. Would have written it up except Eve Tushnet got there first with the best headline ever (and an excellent review under it). I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve seen none of the Foreign Film nominees. Technical awards: “Gravity” should take the lion’s share of these: Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing and Mixing, Visual Effects. People say it will also win Best Score; I admit, I don’t remember the score. I do remember the score for “Her,” which drove me nuts, and which suited the film perfectly, so I’d vote for “Her.” “Gravity” might also win Best Production Design, but I would definitely vote for “Her.” Costume Design I would vote for “American Hustle;” I don’t really have a view on who will win. What else? Makeup? Feel free to tell me your own predictions in comments. I can still change mine for the pool up until Sunday night. ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
I caught the world premiere of Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martell’s bestselling novel “Life of Pi” this morning. I enjoyed it, it’s one of the most beautiful movies ever made and I think it’ll be a big hit, especially internationally. I look forward to showing it to my daughter….. ….who is four years old. Visually engaging as the movie is, at its heart it has a kind of squishy, multiculti, all-Gods-are-equally-groovy aspect that recalls a 70s Unitarian with an acoustic guitar, a scraggly beard and an earnest expression. My Bluto Blutarsky side wants to pick up that guitar, smash it repeatedly against the wall and then say, “Um, sorry.” Also, for a sumptuous movie to deliver its big finish with a five-page monologue delivered from a hospital bed is, I think, a mistake. But I predict about ten Oscar nominations, though I don’t think it’ll win anything except two or three technical awards. More grownup review coming soon from my colleague Lou Lumenick. ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is such a bore I can’t imagine it’s going to win anything, but on the other hand Daniel Day-Lewis will certainly be nominated. Does he deserve to win? Well, it’d be his third win and he’s still relatively young so I don’t think the Academy will go that far. But I doubt Denzel Washington is going to win for “Flight” either. Who else is there? Anthony Hopkins gets nominated for “Hitchcock” but it’s a fairly broad spoof so I don’t see him winning either. Bill Murray is terrible as FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” He won’t get nominated. Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook”? He doesn’t deserve it, but could get nominated thanks to the magic pixiedust of Harvey Weinstein. Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master”? Wouldn’t be the worst choice on Earth but the general reaction to that film has been hatred. Maybe some underdog comes in at the last minute? Or someone from “Les Miserables” or “Django Unchained,” both unseen by me? Dunno. I think “Life of Pi” gets Best Picture and Best Director nominations. The Academy loves Ang Lee, and this is a really beautiful film. Okay, it’s corny. That never stopped the Academy before. Thanks to Harvey’s efforts, “Silver Linings Playbook” gets Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and (I assume) Supporting Actress nominations. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent and may very well walk off with the Oscar. “Argo” gets Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) nominations. I can’t see it winning because it turns into a cheesy Lee Marvin movie at the end. I don’t see “Lincoln” getting a Best Director nom because the movie’s not very good and the Academy has shown before that it isn’t crazy about Spielberg, but I guess the overpraise by critics will give it enough steam to get an entirely umerited Best Picture direction. I hope not. I don’t see “Skyfall” getting any Oscar love, and I doubt “The Dark Knight Rises” will, but I hope it sneaks into the Best Picture list and I think it has maybe a 25 percent shot. ]]>
(Review Source)
Debbie Schlussel
Blog Posts Movie Reviews Rise of the Guardians“: This animated movie is aimed at kids and families with kids. The animation and 3D are fabulous and amazing. Can’t say as much for the story, which was fine and not objectionable in any way. It’s just that it was dull, and I felt like I’d seen it a million times before. Also, beware that uber-liberal maniac Alec Baldwin voices the Santa character (called “North” in this movie). The story: when the bogeyman (called “Pitch”) turns kids’ dreams into nightmares and makes them stop believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and other imaginary characters. Those characters, including Jack Frost, are the “Immortial Guardians” of children, and Jack Frost leads them to stop this and fight off Pitch. Fine for kids and families. ONE REAGAN ]]>
(Review Source)
Michael Medved
http://www.michaelmedved.com/wp-content/uploads/Life_of_Pi_Review.mp3
(Review Source)
Plugged In
DramaAction/AdventureSci-Fi/FantasyMystery/Suspense We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewIt is Noah's Ark in miniature—a lifeboat floating on the skin of the sea when the world has been lost. Built for 30, the lifeboat holds two: Pi, a Hindu/Christian/Muslim teen who never got to say goodbye to his girlfriend; and Richard Parker, a hungry Bengal tiger who doesn't care. There used to be more. A hyena. A zebra with a broken leg. An orangutan named Orange Juice. All are gone now, killed and consumed. Pi and Parker are alone. They and God. When life shrinks to the space of a lifeboat holding a hungry tiger, it takes on a new character. Each day for Pi becomes an exercise in survival: finding food, catching rainwater, staying away from Richard Parker's claws. He marks his days on the side of the boat, numbering the sunsets with a knife. Slowly he trains the tiger, hoping his mastery over the beast will keep him alive. And as the boat floats through days and weeks and months, a bond grows between Pi and Parker. "My fear of him keeps me alert," Pi says. "Tending to his needs gives me purpose." This is not friendship, not love. But it is something precious and real. They have no doves to search for land. Their flare gun is spent, and neither their resources nor resourcefulness can last forever. And yet Pi believes they float in the cup of God's hand. Perhaps He will carry them home.Positive ElementsThe movie never tells us how long Pi and Richard Parker are adrift in that lifeboat, but the book on which its based (written by Yann Martel) informs us that they spend 227 days together. More than eight months. To survive that long requires something special, and Pi shows us that he's special indeed. Though he has no real skills to speak of, Pi quickly bones up on the essentials with a survival handbook he finds with a few supplies. Naturally, the booklet has little to say about surviving a shipwreck with a Bengal tiger, but he figures out the basics of that too, patching together a raft that floats outside the lifeboat. He spends a good chunk of time there, fishing and collecting rainwater, throwing the occasional meal to the tiger. So we certainly have to laud Pi's resourcefulness. But Pi's far more than a pragmatic survivor. The handbook exhorts him to "never lose hope," and he doesn't. It's that hope, in fact, that buoys the boat as much as its wood does, and it's Pi's sometimes unreasoning sense of grace that allows the story to sail. When in desperation Richard Parker leaps from the boat to try to catch a fish, it would seem as though Pi's problems have been solved: Just let the big cat drown out there. But Pi can't. He finds a way to save the tiger's life (though the tiger would never show the same consideration), offering grace to an animal that certainly doesn't deserve it and will never fully repay it. When both seem to be on the verge of death, Pi sits down next to Parker and puts his furry head on his lap, stroking him, staying with him to what he presumes will be their end.Spiritual ContentThe movie begins with a writer visiting an adult Pi after hearing that the man had "a story that would make me believe in God." But while the potent sense of spirituality that pervades this tale is Life of Pi's greatest strength, it's also what makes it deeply problematic. Pi, as I mentioned when I first introduced him, worships at multiple altars of faith. He was raised Hindu, absorbing the religion's colorful myths as another boy might the stories of superheroes. Several Hindu gods are named, images of them are seen, and Pi explicitly prays to one. But when his brother dares him to drink some holy water from a local church, a priest spots him, observes that he must be thirsty and gives him a glass of less-sanctified water (an echo of Christ being the Living Water, perhaps). From then on, Pi's fascinated by Jesus and fervently embraces who He is and what He represents—while thanking the Hindu god Vishnu for bringing Christ into his life. Later, he comes to appreciate Islam, too—the way the Arabic prayers roll off the tongue, the comfort of the repetitive kneeling and bowing. His father, a science-driven man who declares that all religion is "darkness," kids Pi, saying that if he converts to just three more religions, every day of the week will be some sort of holiday. More seriously, he exhorts him to also pray at the altar to reason. Every decision Pi makes, his father insists, must be based in science and rationality. At the beginning of his lifeboat journey, Pi calls out, "God, I give myself to You. I am Your vessel. Whatever comes I want to know. Show me." He thanks God for all the hardships he endures, for Richard Parker and, when he feels he's about to die, for his life—telling the Almighty that he's looking forward to seeing his family again. During a storm he grows angry, asking God what more He could possibly want or take from him. [Spoiler Warning] When both Pi and Richard Parker are close to death, their boat drifts to a floating island that's completely edible and covered with meerkats. But at night, the island reverses its nature. Instead of feeding visitors, it feeds on them. (All the meerkats flee to the trees at sundown as even the pools of fresh water turn to acid.) Pi interprets both manifestations as gifts from God. He says, God "gave me rest … and a sign to continue the journey." [Bigger Spoiler Warning] When Pi is finally rescued, the Japanese company that owned the cargo ship that sank sends representatives to Pi to find out what happened. Pi tells them the story. Then, when they express incredulity, he tells them another one: In this version, there are no animals on the boat—only people who, it would appear, correspond in some way to the animals. An injured Buddhist has a broken leg, just like the zebra. A vile cook stands in for the hyena. The orangutan, in this version, is Pi's own mother. All are killed. Some are eaten. If we believe the cannibalistic story, we dismiss the Richard Parker story as some sort of psychological device crafted by Pi to deal with the horror of it all. But if we can believe the first telling, we embrace the idea that, with God, all things are possible: That a floating, carnivorous island is a gift not unlike Manna from heaven. If we believe that both stories as true, then the first—like a myth or parable—gives the second meaning and resonance. This uncertainty makes for a fascinating movie that deeply mulls faith while offering other extraordinary but ancillary messages. But without proper mooring, a casual viewer might take away a couple of dangerous messages: One, that all faiths lead to the same God, and two, religion infuses meaning into our lives regardless of whether it's literally true or not. The latter might be akin to embracing a figurative resurrection of Christ (in that He lives in our hearts) while suggesting that a literal resurrection is beside the point. Christianity rejects both of these messages: Jesus unreservedly tells us He is the only way to God, and the Apostle Paul declares that without a literal resurrection, we are to be pitied above all men.Sexual ContentNone. Pi does take a fancy to a Hindu dancer, and the two spend some chaste time together.Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentThe natural world is not a gentle place, and we see evidence of that here. It's a lesson that Pi learns well before he even boards that ill-fated ship. After Pi's father (who runs a zoo) catches his son trying to feed Richard Parker a slab of meat (through a set of bars), he decides to teach Pi a lesson: He ties a live goat to the bars and forces his son to watch as the tiger kills and drags the beast through. (The camera cuts away from the fatal strike. Then we see the dead animal in Parker's jaws.) On the lifeboat, things get far, far worse. The zebra's obviously lame, and the hyena begins attacking the huge beast, nipping on its flanks as Pi and the zebra both scream. (Moviegoers get off easy, though. In the book, the hyena begins eating the zebra while it's still alive.) Then the hyena and orangutan get into it. Though Orange Juice stuns the hyena with a blow to the head, the beast recovers and kills the orangutan. And when the hyena starts crawling for Pi, Richard Parker suddenly reveals himself—lunging at the hyena and killing it instantly. Parker later snacks on a meerkat. We catch a brief glimpse of what appears to be a hippo being attacked by sharks. A sperm whale tangles with a giant squid. Pi pounds a fish with a hammer to knock it out/kill it, apologizing profusely to it afterward. We see the cargo ship sink, killing many. Pi's father and a cook nearly come to blows.Crude or Profane LanguagePi's real name is Piscine Molitor Patel. His schoolmates mock the pronunciation of its first syllable.Drug and Alcohol ContentNone.Other Negative ElementsPi urinates on part of the boat as a way to mark his territory and keep Richard Parker away. The tiger, in response, sprays both Pi's region and Pi himself with a urine blast of his own. Several animals get seasick; we hear them retch and see the hyena vomit in the boat.ConclusionLife of Pi is unlike any movie I've ever seen. It is both beautiful and ugly, profound and problematic. It is rich in conversation starters, and it rebuts, powerfully, the idea that faith is "darkness." It speaks eloquently to the core of what it means to be faithful—to surrender yourself to God, to trust Him, to allow Him to use you as He will. It hints that we should always be on the lookout for miracles, be it a floating carnivorous island or simply the blessing of having food to eat for another day. You could say, then, that Life of Pi contains snippets that might be used as sermon illustrations in almost any Christian church in the world. But it's telling that Pi's first religion was Hinduism, because there's something very Eastern about the manifestation of spirituality here. Maybe that's because when you've grown up with 33 million gods, incorporating one more (Christ) into the pantheon isn't that big of a deal to Pi. Most Christians will agree with Pi's rational, religion-free father when he says that believing in everything is "the same thing as not believing anything at all." Indeed, theologically, the idea that all religions are true is simply not tenable. When we accept Christ as Savior, we accept Him as our only Savior—and we accept Him through a blend of not just what we feel is right, but what is historically, literally true. Life of Pi isn't interested in any of that. To hear Paul Asay talk about Life of Pi on the Official Plugged In Podcast, access Episode #177 from our Podcast page.Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
ang leemovie reviews Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s new Iraq War film “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which arrived for its world premiere in Manhattan Friday night, was billed as a cinematic breakthrough, a technological marvel that would bring us sharper and more lifelike images than we have ever seen on a movie screen before. That promise turned out to be absolutely, and disastrously, correct. It turns out that “lifelike” is exactly what you don’t want in a movie: Movies are supposed to look better than life, which is one of the things that’s transporting and transformative about them. “Billy Lynn,” the story of an Iraq War hero’s day spent at a Dallas football stadium in preparation for a halftime show, in which he and the rest of his infantry squad will serve as glorified props standing at attention behind a gyrating Destiny’s Child performance, was shot in an unprecedented way. Lee, who won Oscars for directing “Life of Pi” and “Brokeback Mountain,” shot the film not only in 3-D but also in ultrahigh-definition 4K, which he said Friday night delivered eight times more detail than an ordinary film, and also at the rate of 120 frames per second. Film is ordinarily shot and projected at 24 frames per second, so that means “Billy Lynn” packs in five times as many images as an ordinary film. So that’s how a film can be made in 2016. The question is: Is that how a film should be made in 2016? The answer is a resounding no. The images are so startlingly like life that it’s as if the actors are appearing onstage before you. It took me several minutes even to register what the characters were saying because I was so distracted by the look. It’s a weirdly disorienting experience, and not at all a pleasing one. Moreover, the sterling quality of the images creates a paradox: Because the presentation is so ultra-real, it somehow becomes ultra-phony to experience. “Billy Lynn” is a technical sensation with a $40 million budget that puts you in mind of a homemade commercial from your local Buick dealer. Reality just isn’t all that pretty, and this movie isn’t an idealized version of reality but the closest we’ve ever come to how ordinary existence looks. Joe Alwyn (left) and Vin DieselSony PicturesThe definition is so sharp, Lee told journalists Friday morning, that he couldn’t put stage makeup on the actors (as opposed to ordinary makeup worn by women) because the cameras would have picked up the artifice. But here’s the thing: Even as handsome a young fellow as Joe Alwyn, the British performer just out of drama school who plays Specialist Billy Lynn, has a face that’s so marked by moles and blemishes that it doesn’t hold up well when blown up to 30 or 50 times its actual size. How many actors’ faces could survive that? OK, here’s one: Kristen Stewart, who plays Billy’s sister and looks great. Moreover, despite the expertise of director of photography John Toll, the Oscar-winning cinematographer who shot “Legends of the Fall” and “Braveheart,” the lighting is flat and lacking in texture, redoubling the everydayness of the images. It’s like looking at a skin flick shot in somebody’s basement: Everything is stripped of all mystery. Nor are the actors aided by the hyper-reality: Everyone comes across as stilted and stagey, even such a wily veteran as Steve Martin, who plays the owner of the Dallas football team whose Thanksgiving Day game provides the backdrop for the halftime show, in which Billy and his friends appear. Every time someone opens his mouth, the lines seem as wooden as daytime television. (Alwyn fares the best because he has very little to say throughout.) The technology Lee uses is so new that only one theater in New York City (the Lincoln Square) and one in Los Angeles are equipped to show this film in all its glory, although other theaters will be able to partially take advantage of Lee’s vision and show the film at a higher definition than usual (for instance at 48 or 60 frames per second). I imagine the film’s look could only be improved by being shown in a less-than-state-of-the-art theater. Nobody goes to movies to be slapped in the face with straight-up reality any more than anyone shows up at a restaurant to be presented with a paper plate, a spork, a can of Dinty Moore and a can opener. Share this:FacebookTwitterGoogleFacebook MessengerWhatsAppEmailCopy ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Life of Pi” is briefly mentioned in this.)
I recommend “Life of Pi,” not for its squishy humanist message but because it’s one of the most beautiful films ever made. I somewhat liked “Silver Linings Playbook” though I thought it became far too sweet as it went along. I hated “Anna Karenina” and walked out after half an hour.]]>
(Review Source)