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Armond White
(”(Stellet Licht) Silent Light” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The late Italian director had charisma and spirit, unlike art-movie nihilist Carlos Reygadas.
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Armond White
(”1001 Arabian Nights” is briefly mentioned in this.)
May his daring at least get Disney’s closed minds to rerelease Song of the South.
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Armond White
(”12 Years a Slave” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Jordan Peele depicts black American identity as a freak show.
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Armond White
(”12 Years a Slave” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Filmmaker Charles Burnett was awarded a career-achievement Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this past weekend. Who’s Burnett? That fair question is part of the Oscars’ ongoing problem, but it’s also part of film culture’s ongoing political crisis. Burnett is an honorable filmmaker whose movies fill the gap left by the racial exclusion of Hollywood studios that refuse to depict black American lives to any regular, authentic, or imaginative degree. But honoring him does not redeem the Academy’s current lack of popularity or relevance. Few people have seen Burnett’s best-known films: Killer of Sheep (1976), which was inducted
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Armond White
Michael Bay and Adam McKay both miss what’s important. Neither an exoneration of Hillary Clinton nor a clear explanation of the events of September 11, 2012, which left four Americans dead at the U.S. embassy in Libya’​s capital, Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is something political pundits almost never understand: It’s a movie. Bay focuses on five former military contractors assigned to protect CIA officers at an annex to the U.S. embassy, who eventually fight off marauding Libyan rebels. In these profiles in courage, actors portray real-life figures (some of them former Navy SEALs) Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), Kris “Tanto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa), and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini). Bay adds a sixth figure, the fictional Jack Silva (John Krasinski), who joins their muscular elite. He is both “brother” (as the former G.I. Joes address one another) and audience-surrogate. On these terms, 13 Hours is undeniably superficial — not an explicitly political film or a factual historical account. Action director Bay works “apolitically,” which is a more complicated circumstance than partisan pundits may be willing to comprehend. The economic motivations of Hollywood make it unlikely that a mainstream movie will dare indulge in political controversy. (Remember how Clint Eastwood played both sides of the aisle in American Sniper?) Historical tragedies usually make it to the screen through sentimental pandering, and that is the case with 13 Hours: Action-movie suspense is combined with stereotypical tough-guy heroism. Even that simplification has its political aspects, although most pundits customarily praise or condemn movies according to what fits their political bias. (Remember how discussions of Zero Dark Thirty ricocheted across both sides of the aisle?) But since many filmgoers are reluctant to consider that all cinema is ideologically loaded (“It’s just a movie!” fanboys insist), 13 Hours can be sold as an “important” action movie without actually saying anything important. Vague introductory titles assert that Libya’s strongman, Moammar Gaddafi, was “deposed.” In a TV clip, President Obama proclaims the end of a “long and painful chapter for the people of Libya” — conveniently disconnecting U.S. policy from regime change there and setting out Libya’s political chaos as a “turf war” among unspecified factions with American onlookers stuck in the middle. (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); Bay is not of the Eisenstein, Pontecorvo, or Costa-Gavras politically motivated school that dramatizes ideological cause and effect. Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan avoid depicting the details that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. “We didn’t hear any protests,” one soldier says. “It was on the news,” another responds — conveniently glossing over the Obama administration’s convoluted propaganda war that first blamed the attack on an American-made Islamophobic video. Stevens (portrayed by actor Matt Letscher) is respectfully described as “the real deal, a true believer, here to win hearts and minds.” From that “due diligence” pretense, Bay proceeds to do his ad man’s thing. In the same way that Bay’s 2001 Pearl Harbor used history for a pseudo-patriotic blockbuster extravaganza, 13 Hours applies an advertising man’s delirium to the depiction of political turmoil. Whatever political-social comment on the Benghazi locale there is in this movie is presented through visual koans: Ambassador Stevens enjoying a large, blue swimming pool, Libyan kids playing on a rusted car hood, rebels shooting holes in an American flag (seen from on high in typical Bay-vision). Adducing these images never leads one to a political assessment. Yet, finally, when the embassy compound is under fire, Bay shifts gears and does a 360 circling of the rainbow-hued siege: An interior shot shows Stevens and staffer Sean Smith fleeing beneath a ceiling of flames. And among the waves of combatants, a video insert of the black ISIS flag can be glimpsed while ammo flashes punctuate the fighting. How else would Hollywood make a contemporary war movie when our media culture routinely dissociates itself from military purpose and commitment? Since Vietnam, Hollywood always looks at the military with either skepticism or contempt for what it stands for. Bay has inherited this cynicism, but, as an advertising aesthete whose fascination with technology has provoked snotty condescension from liberal critics loath to admit their secret regard for materialism and industry, he exults in the paradox of action-movie extravagance. Bay’s real motivation here is revealed when one soldier says the Libyan raiders are coming from “Zombieland,” and, aiming his weapon, shouts: “I feel like I’m in a fucking horror movie!” More Movies Mark Ruffalo vs. White ‘Conservative’ Women The Mummy Unwrapped: American Guilt and Masochism There’s Still Life in The Mummy Bay illustrates the excessive violence of war in imagery that recalls Vittorio Mussolini’s infamous poetry describing bombs as “budding roses.” The best scenes in 13 Hours occur when Bay imagines warfare as spectacle. Soldiers caught behind a windshield during a street standoff take point-blank gunfire in a montage that would do Eisenstein or Peckinpah proud. In a rooftop bombardment, a barrage of mortar shells raises sparks that ignite into star-like twinkles — in dazzling real time. The audience I saw the film with was stunned by this, but I swear all Madison Avenue will gasp. This is the opposite of peacenik imagery — which doesn’t mean Bay is a fascist warmonger, but it makes his appreciation for fighting men’s bravery more convincing than 13 Hours’s superficial characterizations. Bay’s imagery externalizes the men’s stress as it also visualizes wonder, and this works better than the film’s mawkish view of military heroism, which conservative viewers should not fall for too easily. Krasinski’s Silva repeats a passage from Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, which he and his post-9/11 fighter buddies read as religiously as soldiers in WWII movies read the Bible: “All the gods, all the hells, all the heavens are within you.” Worse than warmongering, this nods to the nihilism of post–Iraq War films like The Hurt Locker that demonize soldiers as psychopaths. In an after-battle scene, Bay contrasts a bullet-ridden American flag in a ditch with scenes of Libyan women in black reclaiming the bodies of dead jihadis. Like other post–Iraq War Hollywood movies, 13 Hours tries to have it both ways. *      *      * Hollywood often pays “Support Our Troops” lip service to soldiers, but the industry’s real heroes are hustlers, which explains the unfathomable acclaim for The Big Short. Adam McKay’s satire about the 2008 stock-market crash completes an impulse he first showed in an angry animated sequence in The Other Guys. Now he’s gotten sanctimonious: His white-collar cast keeps overexplaining the crash (a “short” is an investment bet that depends upon a stock’s losing value), then sentimentalizes the crooks who should have known better. Steve Carell, who throws off every drama he makes, plays hedge-fund manager Mark Baum, who represents McKay’s obnoxious moral center along with Christian Bale as an autistic Wall Street whiz, Michael Burry. Clearly, McKay has no real moral compass. His quick-cut visual metaphors, celebrity cameos (Margot Robbie, Richard Thaler, Selena Gomez), inexactitude, and flippancy suggest a disastrously failed Altman panorama. McKay shows no ethics-based approach to greed, only class sarcasm, self-pity, and snide judgment. These narrative tactics combined with inanity show the influence of Michael Moore’s supercilious moralizing. The Big Short’s superficial cynicism concludes with a Haruki Murakami quote: “Everyone deep in their hearts is waiting for the world to end.” McKay is so smug in his self-righteousness (typical liberal arrogance) that he lacks a genuine sense of tragedy. The chatter, the explanations, the cartoon doodles and celebrity asides are nonstop and tedious. McKay can’t even resist interrupting Mark Baum’s grandstanding mea culpa with another narrative tangent. When not sarcastic, McKay is maudlin, with no capacity for empathy. “All the people I respected won’t talk to me anymore except through lawyers,” Baum says. That’s modern Hollywood in a nutshell. No wonder The Big Short has gotten five Oscar nominations. — 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.   ]]>
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Armond White
Armond WhiteMoviesmilitary “I love a man in a uniform,” sang the post-punk British band Gang of Four. That highly danceable tune about political and romantic indoctrination could as well be the theme song of the new Michael Bay movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. It’s the secret in the subtitle that intrigues. 13 Hours pays homage to the team of elite contractors—former Navy SEALS—who defended the U.S. Embassy and a nearby CIA annex on September 11, 2012. Four Americans died in that tragedy, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, but the film doesn’t specifically detail that (or the political controversy surrounding the circumstances of the terrorist siege). It’s really your basic action movie, turning political tragedy into escapism and using speed, energy, strength, force, and courage as romanticized definitions of masculinity. In other words, the actors portraying Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), Kris “Tonto” Paranto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa), Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini) and Jack Silva (John Krasinski) are hot. But 13 Hours isn’t just a testosterone strut down a cat walk. It enshrines a specific type of hypermasculinity as a principle of camaraderie and that makes it gay. “There’s something to be said for the life of men among men,” Marlon Brando memorably said with a southern twang as gay Army Major Pendleton in Reflections in a Golden Eye. Who ever tweeted the scurrilous lie that the lumbersexual beard was on its way out will have to delete that tweet after seeing 13 Hours. The elite soldiers’ facial hair is part of their government-issue sexiness. It’s a visible passcode that denotes their training, camaraderie and fidelity; the common bond, like the patriotic bond, that each of them will fight for and commit to sacrifice. A clean-cut, pants-creased soldier (squaddie, private or gunner) is also a man to respect but 13 Hours’ bearded tribe denotes a measure of experience. In contrast to the Harvard-grad CIA wonks they’re assigned to protect, these grunts are lions. The look of scruff has a sensual quality, alternately rough or soft. Matched to their forceful, disciplined movements and purposed virility this new militarized look provides a sense of character—personality through iconography. They’re all tough looking (even Krasinski, hulkish after from his role on The Office, has man-upped). Still, they're all boys together. The best part of their camaraderie is the jokes they exchange, the confidences they share, the harmony of tenor and bass. Aside from Michael Bay’s amazing, pyrotechnic battle scenes, the best moment in the film comes as Silva watches the short Libyan aide Amal (Peyman Moaadi) put on a helmet, carry a gun, and timidly join the fight. Silva’s look of concern proves irresistible masculine sensitivity. Long-faced, square-jawed Schreiber as Tonto has jock magnetism—the kind that distracts. His relationship to Amal is expressed in a line that is humorous yet heartfelt: “I’m gonna have to break-up with him.” The round of laughter that follows is not from macho bullies but a compassionate, cross-cultural, sexually-open brotherhood. 13 Hours could almost be recruiting poster propaganda. Hollywood’s post-Vietnam attitude toward the military is usually skeptical yet the social option it offers has been real and admirable, especially since the armed forces opened-up after DADT. The repeal of DADT in 2011 also gave access to the role of the soldier for actors to portray with fresh sensitivity. During downtime, the fighters in 13 Hours watch Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder deliver the comic routine “I know who I am. I’m just a guy playing a dude disguised as another dude”—and they all repeat the line. It’s double-edged: embracing the institution as a personal right and also embracing military drag without losing a sense of self. In 13 Hours, these living breathing G.I. Joes are more than just politically correct, they’re also anatomically correct dolls. 13 Hours is out in theaters today. Watch the trailer below: ]]>
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1917
Armond White
Disdain, contrivance, and irony produce fake feeling.
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Armond White
Good movies vs. Netflix cynicism
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Armond White
An introspective retrospective on movie politics and culture
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Armond White
(”20th Century Women” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A critical review of the year’s best and worst films It’s no accident that the very best movies of 2016 challenged the mainstream and were not from Hollywood. Too many American filmmakers have lost the ability to look at human experience without cheapening our responses to it. Our most urgent issues as human beings, and our most sensitive needs as people who think and feel, are betrayed by a culture committed to childish escapism produced to shore up fatuous, fashionable tenets — which then get endorsed by media shills. The year’s Better-Than List has expanded because film culture has exploded beyond homogenous tastes and interests; multimedia competition has only exacerbated our fragmentation. But the point of the Better-Than List is always to inspire critical thinking and encourage personal response against the conformist hive-mind that aims to tame our diverse tastes. The best movies reward cultural courage, making it easier to reject the garbage. The President > Southside with You Mohsen Mahkmalbaf’s epic parable about modern-day revolution in a country resembling Iran offers unexpected insight into the effects of despotism on a ruler and his subjects. Makhmalbaf’s insistence on shared humanity — a leader’s obligation to forgive his public and vice versa — furnishes the humanist critique that American media have avoided for the past eight years. Richard Tanne, instead, dished up another fatuous Obama-origin myth for political sycophants. Being 17 > Moonlight André Téchiné’s exhilarating observation of French and Algerian teens in love anticipates New Europe’s complicated future; Barry Jenkins reduced the black gay American protagonist in his movie to an identity-politics martyr. A humane, visionary work vs. condescending, politically correct propaganda. Sunset Song > Manchester by the Sea Terence Davies’s deeply empathetic Scottish drama (from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel) finds national and ethnic awareness in a woman’s life struggle, while Kenneth Lonergan’s male weepie forgoes empathy for melodramatic clichés that never rise above self-pity. (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); Wiener-Dog > The Lobster Todd Solondz’s symbolic dachshund traverses three tales of human will, observing fragmentation nationwide with breathtaking boldness and humor; Yorgos Lanthimos’s self-congratulatory Kubrick-derivative nihilism mocks civilization. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk > La La Land Ang Lee’s moving 3-D vision of post-9/11 stress shows Americans loving one another as citizens and as soul mates — unlike Damien Chazelle’s childish ode to showbiz vanity. Lee transcends genre to remind Americans of what connects them; Chazelle distorts genre into idiotic escapism then deadens it. Beautiful Something > Moonlight Joseph Graham’s intimate, multi-character cityscape follows the spiritual journey of several Philadelphia gay men, while Moonlight (yes, that con job again) exploits “minority” status to sentimentalize victimization. The personal vs. the pseudo-political. Batman v Superman > Deadpool Zack Snyder continues to find depth in pop myths, making comic-book archetypes reveal our souls. But Tim Miller’s Edgar Wright–lite comic-book sarcasm defies and denies serious fun. Hacksaw Ridge, Knight of Cups, Voyage of Time > Silence Mel Gibson professes faith the difficult way, by defending a conscientious objector’s war experience. Terrence Malick searches for faith in Hollywood (fiction) and throughout history (nonfiction). But Martin Scorsese’s latest protracted remake replaces their conviction and originality with a lapse of cinematic faith. Eisenstein in Guanajuato > Cameraperson Peter Greenaway’s outrageous bio-pic about Sergei Eisenstein, whose impact on cinema is still felt, pairs compassion for the Russian exile’s private life with respect for his art. Kirsten Johnson confuses her ré​sumé as a photographer on PC docs with artistic expression. Genius vs. narcissism. Miles Ahead > The Birth of a Nation Don Cheadle finds inspiration and invention in Miles Davis’s genius, while Nate Parker misunderstands Nat Turner’s insurrection as instruction. History is to teach not repeat. Valley of Love, Don’t Call Me Son > Toni Erdmann France’s Guillaume Nicloux and Brazil’s Anna Muylaert both treat family dysfunction as serious business in two innovative films about the difficulty of parenting gay children, while Germany’s Maren Ade sees parental foibles and inherited perversity as a berserk sitcom. Nicloux and Muylaert go deep; Ade goes too far. Will You Dance with Me? > The 13thDerek Jarman’s previously unreleased record of one night at a London disco in the 1980s survives as a document of assorted human desires unified by popular culture. Ava DuVernay uses the documentary form to showcase today’s race-hustling elites who promote social division through black victimization. Jarman’s joyous, personal interpretation of dance culture makes history; DuVernay’s dubious misinterpretation of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment violates it. Sully > Rogue One Clint Eastwood celebrates true American heroism while reevaluating the cynical disbelief that has infected post-9/11 culture; Garth Edwards depicts the miasma of war as a dull Star Wars episode. An edifying entertainment for adults vs. ends-justifies-the-means propaganda for children of all ages. The Mermaid > The BFG Stephen Chow’s action-fantasy just happens to make ecological points while defending the ethics of the forgotten working class. Spielberg’s political parable is a transparent valedictory salute to Obama’s ruling-class elitism, normalized as childhood fantasy. The most popular film in China’s history vs. an American election-year flop. Kubo and the Two Strings > Finding Dory, Sausage Party Travis Knight responds to the crisis of our rotted pop culture with this fable about the sustenance a boy receives from family memory and hand-fashioned art. It’s far superior to another fishy piece of Pixar sentimentality and Seth Rogen’s millennial update of Animal House raunchiness. Standing Tall > Fences Emmanuelle Bercot’s story of a lost urban white kid in Paris gives an updated view of how society fails then rescues its own. It bests the theatrical and political clichés of August Wilson’s black Pittsburgh family drama. Contemporary humanism vs. cornball politics. Patriots Day, The Finest Hours > Manchester by the Sea Peter Berg’s and Craig Gillespie’s true-life New England adventures feature ethnic sensitivity that redefines American character and the action-history genre. But Manchester by the Sea (yes, that con job again) peddles ethnic smugness. Two classic B-movies vs. indie pseudo-art. Hidden Figures > Elle Theodore Melfi’s pre-feminist heroic trio outperform Paul Verhoeven’s Euro-trash post-feminist heroine. In the former, the personal humanizes politics, while the personal is shallowly politicized in the latter. Love & Friendship > 20th Century Women Whit Stillman satirizes modern morality in Jane Austen drag, while Mike Mills drags viewers through a Sundance reeducation course in “feminism.”  More Movies Mark Ruffalo vs. White ‘Conservative’ Women The Mummy Unwrapped: American Guilt and Masochism There’s Still Life in The Mummy Rules Don’t Apply > La La Land Warren Beatty’s misconceived whatzit briefly confesses the sex-and-business wonderland of his early days in L.A. It’s far more credible and fascinating than Chazelle’s clumsy, priggish, neo-yuppie “musical” (yes, that con job again). Aferim! > Captain America: Civil War Radu Jude’s profane Romanian folktale is also an epic satire (in majestic black-and-white) of how a debased culture rationalizes terrorism, pain, and inhumanity. Marvel attempts the same with its superhero franchise, trivializing the concept of “civil war” the same way Bernie Sanders trivializes the concept of “revolution.” — Armond White is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles. ]]>
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Armond White
And Streep has won an Oscar nod for ranting against Trump. The best thing about Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women is a title that immediately tells us two things: 1) Its sexual politics are dated, and 2) its story will focus on outmoded cultural ideals. This is the same erroneous basis of Millennial social protest, which always imitates past examples. The worst thing about 20th Century Women is that it indeed looks at women through an archaic social lens — the peculiar Obama-era combination of guilt and arrogance that has been widely accepted without thinking, as last week’s unfocussed pink-hat parades demonstrated. In 20th Century Women, Dorothea (Annette Bening), a 55-year-old widow from Santa Barbara, Calif., raises her 15-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), amid the company of several lodgers in her big ramshackle house: two wayward young women (Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning) and a sexy but nonthreatening man (Billy Crudup). The house, a Queen Anne antique that may as well be a social-justice museum, is the site of Dorothea’s social experiment — a homegrown conversion-therapy camp. Each of these idiosyncratic, slightly damaged individuals presents Jamie with life lessons (on menarche, abortion, menopause, masculine aggression) that are like a camp curriculum. This is no mere coming-of-age tale; Mills could also have titled his tearjerker “How to Build a Male Feminist.” Bening’s Dorothea is a post–Betty Friedan, post–Gloria Steinem, post–Germaine Greer version of the Archie comics’ pedant, Miss Grundy. (Mills regularly digresses into anecdotes from the Seventies feminist bible Sisterhood Is Powerful.) Always wearing flowered blouses, with tousled hair and age-lined face and neck, Dorothea is Everymom, but with fascinating actorly props (primarily Bening’s throaty delivery). It’s a master class in laid-back dominance, a Ms. magazine cartoon contrived of equal parts maternal nostalgia and white career-woman regret. I admire Bening’s subtlety: She limits Dorothea’s arrogance to the delicate control she exerts over her tenants and the emotional sway she holds over her son (she salts their relationship with condescension by referring to him as “kid”). But I don’t admire Mills’s maudlin shift when nostalgia for Mom turns into sanctification of the sacrifices that feminist standard-bearers claim all females shared. (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); Another terrible thing about 20th Century Women is Mills’s indie-movie “cleverness”: It presents the “correct” attitudes toward dating, gynecology, and even mourning, during Dorothea’s end-of-life montage. Most offensive is the way Mills mixes his cultural recall with his social attitude. The terrific music track features key ’70s New Wave music: The Clash’s “White Man (In Hammersmith Palais),” Devo’s “Gut Feeling,” and the Talking Heads’ “Drugs.” Especially vexing is the inclusion of Talking Heads’ “Don’t Worry About the Government.” Mills doesn’t understand that the song isn’t just hip nostalgia; one listens past David Byrne’s citizen-eunuch irony to hear an expression of the patriotic faith we’ve since lost. Mills, unfortunately, gives us only the loss, but the song’s willed innocence outclasses Mills’s political presumptions. 20th Century Women is really a politically correct emotional biography of that 21st-century anomaly: a non-gender-specific male. Mills proves he’s an unrepentant attitude-hustler (as in Beginners, his patronizing gay-sympathy film) with the character of handyman lothario William, played with the same mastery that Bening brings to Dorothea. Crudup’s William roosters through the house, studly yet benign. This male cartoon disguises the misandry that is beneath the film’s surface — the sometimes appropriate, inconsolable resentment women can hold toward men. That’s what fueled many of the early-Seventies protests: Men often don’t treat women well, and they often don’t treat men well either. During last weekend’s global hysteria, that truth was never honestly expressed. But Mills ignores the complexity of heterosexual relations by dishing up the oxymoron of “male feminists.” He panders rather than admit the mea culpas of sympathetic males. Those passions were wittily expressed in “Whip Appeal,” the 1989 song by the R&B singer Babyface; better than the out-of-context pop music Mills uses, it combined male awareness of feminism with a guy’s erotic desperation.  Mills is no Babyface (he’s just “whipped”). Neither is he Fellini or Bergman, artists whose woman-fixated movies were never as unsensual as this visually cluttered yet bland scrapbook of old attitudes. Mills also lacks genuine familial instincts such as Brazilian director Anna Muylaert brought to the parenting drama Don’t Call Me Son. Instead, all Mills provides is the sentimental nostalgia of a boy who misses his mom, and he inflates that into an old-fashioned feminist diatribe. Bening’s Dorothea looms over this movie like a scene-stealing diva or a heterosexual version of Auntie Mame. Yet Mills neglects what should logically be Jamie’s ambivalent, gay response to her. 20th Century Women is really a politically correct emotional biography of that 21st-century anomaly: a non-gender-specific male. ***** Despite her impressive performance, Bening was not nominated for an Academy Award this week. That’s inconsequential, but let’s still note the irony of Meryl Streep’s 20th Oscar nomination for another tricked-up performance in Florence Foster Jenkins — an abominable film. No matter how many default nominations Streep receives, she is truly the most overrated actress in film history. Having closed in on Bette Davis’s and Katharine Hepburn’s combined Oscar nominations (without ever equaling their emotional impact or achieving their cultural relevance), Streep is exposed as a phenomenon from an era that, like the Oscars itself, is steadily losing the capacity for artistic discrimination. She’s always nominated for her celebrity, built on the myth that her gift for mimicry is the same as great acting. Who can deny that nominating Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins is little more than Left Hollywood’s congratulation for her Hillary-inspired attacks on President Trump? Such pettiness will probably result in Streep winning her fourth Oscar, so that the hordes who marched last weekend (in a collective-unconscious attempt to once again reclaim the election for Hillary Clinton) can turn the Oscar referendum into another tantrum, once again asserting their juvenile resentment. Streep has given only a handful of performances as effective as Bening’s Dorothea, but you must look past Mills’s sanctimony to appreciate that fact. ***** Extra Oscar note: It was horrible to hear a fatuous TV talking head boast that “a record six black performers were nominated for Academy Awards.” After barfing, my query was: “Is this because they were good or because they were black?” The mainstream media and the Motion Picture Academy have done us a disservice by bowing to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign that intimidated so many to make sure that black performers were nominated for awards. As a result, no one can be sure that this year’s nominations were based on excellence rather than pressure to conform to PC dictates. After the welcome end of the Obama era, Hollywood is left confused. — Armond White is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles. ]]>
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25th Hour
Armond White
(”25th Hour” is briefly mentioned in this.)
If Beale Street Could Talk reduces race to a political formula.
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Armond White
Armond WhiteMoviestrans Tastemakers at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival made producer Harvey Weinstein rethink how to sell About Ray, the transgender movie starring Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon and Elle Fanning.  Now the film is out in the culture, finally opening with a new, transitioned name: 3 Generations. The movie makes better sense after this reassignment. Although 3 Generations begins with Fanning’s character confiding, “All I ever wanted was to be a boy,” the film expands to consider the impact that disclosure has on an already troubled New York family: single mother Maggie (Watts), lesbian grandmother Dolly (Sarandon) and her partner Frances (Linda Emond). Fanning’s Ray (born Ramona) has to wait her turn in the queue for sexual entitlements. Related | The Trans Activist Who Successfully Fought MPAA's 3 Generations R Rating This film’s generational awareness is a welcome change from the mainstream media’s usual treatment of LGBTQ issues as different than other, traditional sexual concerns. Director Gaby Dellal shows an egalitarian interest in the age-old difficulty of achieving sexual and gender realization. Yes, straights deal with it, too. The problem is they’re never asked to be conscious of it.  Maybe it took a female writer-director like Dellal to go there. Her venture isn’t always perfect; there are some uncomfortable lines: “Periods have never been easy on young men.” “His vagina is not a part of him. It’s like a mean trick.” “What’s it like to have a penis?” “I’m not having a shitty day, Mom, I’ve having a shitty existence!” But Dellal and her cast invest these utterances with credible feeling. None are villains when the characters love each other and admit the difficulty of understanding and acceptance. Related | Susan Sarandon Debates Gender Identity & Sexuality in Exclusive 3 Generations Clip 3 Generations moves into unexpected territory when Ray searches for his birth father and uncovers an embarrassing family secret about Maggie’s past (involving two masculine archetypes—virile Tate Donovan and cute Sam Trammell). Dellal’s equally ease with gay matriarchy. Sarandon and her adorable lesbian partner Emond subtly extend and improve on both the Melissa McCarthy lesbian mom film Tammy and Lily Tomlin’s pro-lesbian Grandma. Ray movingly comes to accept his portion of the family’s combined crises. He realizes “I’d like to know these people.” Ray connects to his heritage in an important way that’s often overlooked when some gay films propagandize against the both the Patriarchal and Matriarchal family. Related | Premiere: KT Tunstall Shares 'Fit In' From the Film 3 Generations Film festival touts—that breed of fake journalists who specialize in creating hype—regularly exploit family projection as a progressive tent, especially when dealing with affluent white characters as here, whose middle-class status is considered Hollywood’s norm. Festival hacks cannot be trusted to understand art as sensitive as 3 Generations. These tastemakers are a threat to gay film culture, too. Wanting LGBTQ clichés over Dellal’s multileveled appreciation of the female sexual experience, they’re like tacky drag queens who don’t know chic from Shinola. Elle Fanning’s tomboy sensitivity is chic indeed when Ray cuts his auburn hair to a butch scruff.  But Dellal puts emphasis on Watt’s Maggie who is selfish and impetuous, impertinent and sorry—her impulsiveness is a credible family trait Ray inherits. This credibility was missing from last year’s 20th Century Women. When Sarandon’s Granny asks “Why is ‘normal’ the good? How about ‘authentic?,’” Dellal draws a distinction that’s important for gay filmmakers and filmgoers to consider. She understands that life isn’t all about Ray. The dissolution of family connection would diminish him. Holding on to your family is a radical proposition for a transgender movie in our tastemaker culture.   <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- kWidget.embed({ "targetId": "kaltura_player_0_gpi6uvt9", "wid": "_2197371", "uiconf_id": 37493671, "flashvars": { "doubleClick": { "plugin" : true, "adTagUrl" : "https://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ads?sz=480x360|640x480&iu=/6850/here.out/video&impl=s&gdfp_req=1&env=vp&output=vast&unviewed_position_start=1&url=[referrer_url]&description_url=[description_url]&correlator=[timestamp]&cust_params=cat%3Darmond_white%2Cmovies%2Ctrans%26title%3D3_generations_explores_familys_sexual_awareness%26aid%3D133826", "leadWithFlash" : false, "disableCompanionAds" : true, "debugMode" : false }, "IframeCustomPluginCss1" : '/sites/out.com/themes/out/css/kaltura/kaltura-custom-out.css?123' }, "entry_id": "0_gpi6uvt9" }); //--><!]]> ]]>
(Review Source)
Poster for the movie
Armond White
(”4 Days in France” is briefly mentioned in this.)
LGBTQ

Armond White identified 12 movies that helped outwit Hollywood’s sexual panic. 

Armond WhiteArmond White

Gay filmmaking no longer has to “go mainstream” because, for the past few years, the best new movies have been gay movies. It’s a privilege to chronicle this advance of queer cinema that now dominates movie culture for the first time in film history.

But these twelve pioneering films are not the ones that got the most media attention. Anyone interested in gay experience or gay films already knows to distrust mainstream media’s efforts to exploit and categorize queerness by promoting gay movies as different, and each so-called advance as a breakthrough simply because it finally breaks into the media’s usual indifference.

As the Hollywood film industry goes through its biggest sexual panic since the 1920s, reflecting a breakdown in heterosexual relations, gay filmmakers who previously were swept to the margins by cowardly homophobic critics and gatekeepers, have steadily made the only movies concerned with what it means to be human among humans.

Each of these twelve superb films transcend Hollywood’s condescending approach to gay self-pity disguised as romance. Instead, they share a common idea that goes beyond social-climbing and narcissistic self-flattery: Know Thyself To Know Each Other.

1. A Quiet Passion is Terence Davies’ biography of poet Emily Dickinson starring Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle and Keith Carradine. It is sexually discreet but also stylistically bold enough so that Davies confesses the sensuality and spirituality of his own gay person’s creativity and experience.

 

2. Paris: 05:59: Theo & Hugo by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau is the love story of the year for its PREP-era consciousness and focus on emotional intimacy enacted by Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot.

 

3. Four Days in France by Jerome Reybaud turns a romantic break-up into a rediscovery of personal, national, cultural unity—between two men (Pascal Cervo, Arthur Iqual) and the iconographic countrywomen (Marie France, Fabienne Babe, Nathalie Richard, Laetitia Dosch, Liliane Montevecchi) who share their experience.

 

4. Staying Vertical is Alain Guiraudie’s challenge to the hypocrisy of a society unprepared for a gay man (Damien Bonnard) who’s sought-after sexual identity includes the desire to be a parent.

 

5. My Life as a Zucchini is the year’s best animated film. Director Claude Barras and screenwriter Celine Sciamma (Girlhood) apply childlike purity to gay innocence and self-awareness—what you’ll never get from Pixar.

 

6. Frantz is Francois Ozon’s adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Man I Killed, turning a World War I memorial into powerful fraternal passion.

 

7. The Assignment is Walter Hill’s transgender crime movie in which mad scientist Sigourney Weaver turns a hitman into Michelle Rodriguez, Gender controversy becomes an existential enigma.

 

8. BPM is Robin Campillo’s epic parade of AIDS activism in ‘80s Paris. Its array of emotions, personalities and politics is tragic and euphoric.

 

9. Tom of Finland is Dome Karukoski’s instant-classic bio-pic about the icon of gay erotica (played by Pekka Strang) who made graphic reality of his sexual desire and permanently imprinted the imagination of gay men everywhere.

 

10. The Ornithologist is Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ exploration of gay spirituality as erotically embodied by Paul Hamy, a scientist on a surreal journey through metaphorical wilderness to religious revelation.

 

11. God’s Own Country is Francis Lee’s star-crossed romance between a Yorkshire shepherd and a Romanian immigrant (Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareaneau). It is the year’s second-best love story.

 

12.  Dream Boat by Tristan Ferland Milewski turns a documentary about a gay pleasure cruise into an abstract, stylized and surprisingly sensitive meditation on gay male desire and its discontents.

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(Review Source)
Armond White
(”4 Days in France” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Ten Best Lists are Fake News and have been for years. Peruse local media nationwide in any year — but especially this year — and see the same movies rubberstamped because most reviewers, enslaved to studio publicists, pay attention only to highly promoted movies and then pretend to assess the state of the culture. Readers of this column will be aware of the good films listed below — proof that moviegoers need to be diligent about what they read and what they choose to see in this era of hype and hypocrisy. European films dominate the Better-Than List for reasons too embarrassing
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Armond White
Class confusion is always with us. Our social circumstances are in conflict with our ambitions and desires, and we are often in political denial. This American phenomenon resembles the new decadent cuisine that piles layers of proteins -- and then tops them with fatty bacon. The display of excess flouts good taste while it simultaneously demonstrates a determined, free-wheeling lack of self-control — all of which is embodied by Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald), the overweight lead character of the aspirational comedy Patti Cake$, produced by Michael Gottwald and Dan Janvey. As a plus-sized white female who idolizes black hip-hop celebrities and
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