Longtime film critic/historian Jonathan Rosenbaum has been staying busy since his departure/retirement from the Chicago Reader. In addition to his ongoing DVD column for CinemaScope, Rosenbaum recently wrote a lengthy piece on 100-year-old Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira (yes, he’s still making movies!) for Film Comment, he took part in a “Criticism in Crisis” panel at the New York Film Festival and unveiled his new Web site, JonathanRosenbaum.com.
Presented essentially in blog format, the site features many of his archived Reader reviews (with more coming every week) as well as new musings on myriad film topics, including an essay on cinema trends during the George W. Bush years entitled “Bushwacked.”
Incisive on a number of the levels, the piece — originally written for the latest edition of the Time Out Film Guide — discusses how our rapidly fracturing cultural sphere has impacted movies (and moviegoing) before moving into an investigation of how this development parallels President Bush’s own bubble mentality. (It’s a dismaying turn of events I like to call the Death of Context.)
Of course, Rosenbaum’s diagnosis is often dire, effectively linking Bush’s blissfully ignorant governing techniques with the rapidly changing landscape of serious film culture. Fittingly, he also writes about the various Iraq War-based films that have sprung up in recent years, most of which have garnered disinterest from the public at large while nevertheless providing a vital history the mainstream media has either glossed over or ignored altogether.
And, ever the contrarian, Rosenbaum couldn't help but get in another dig at No Country for Old Men, which he considers the most overrated film of 2007.
That last opinion aside, “Bushwacked” is essential reading.
It is impossible for fans of the classic horror film Carrie, such as myself, to not compare Kimberly Peirce’s new remake to its 1976 predecessor.
Brian De Palma made the original Carrie into a timeless, blood-filled revenge fantasy with his fresh and inspired take on the best-selling Stephen King novel. It is an iconic movie that explores the perils of religious fanaticism, the wonder of supernatural powers and the pain of high school cruelty. The original Carrie is just as heartbreaking as it is it horrifying, garnering the audience’s sympathy for the mistreated protagonist. Sissy Spacek made a damn good Carrie with her natural gaucheness and always frightened, wide-eyed gaze.
Chloe Grace Moretz, on the other hand, is — let’s face it — too cute and self-assured to be anywhere near convincing as the new Carrie. While talented, she lacks the believably awkward touch that Spacek brought to the character with both her appearance and superb acting. Additionally, one of Moretz’s most notable roles as the deadly Hit Girl from Kick Ass made it difficult for me to see her as a vulnerable victim (although it made her violent use of telekinetic powers more fitting). I continually questioned why the Carrie portrayed by Moretz was so outcasted, as she seemed normal albeit a little shy.
The portrayals of Carrie’s high school peers also fall flat. Chris (Portia Doubleday) is an underwhelming ringleader of bullies, not nearly as mean-spirited and malicious as in the original. In fact, her boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell) ends up running the show on tormenting Carrie come prom night, further weakening Chris’ role as a true antagonist. Sue (Gabriella Wilde) is Chris’ remorseful sidekick who has a change of heart and convinces her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to prom.
She does this to make up for what happens in the infamous shower scene, during which Carrie starts her period without being aware of what is happening, fears that she is dying and gets teased by all of the other girls who throw feminine products at her and chant, “Plug it up.” The gym teacher, Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), later lets the girls know just how rotten they are for what they did. Despite this, it is confusing as to why Sue would turn her back on Chris and forgo prom, something so important to her, due to the film not delving far enough into Sue’s personality or guilt.
Julianne Moore gives the only redeeming performance as Carrie’s mother, Margaret. With her unkempt hair and self-inflicted harm, she portrays a compelling religious zealot, tortured by her misguided ideology. Her abuse toward Carrie — slapping her and repeatedly forcing her into the prayer closet — is effectively disturbing. The added opening scene (Spoiler Alert) with her giving birth to Carrie and attempting to murder the newborn provides the audience with more of a background on her character than does the original. She cogently delivers the well-known and heartbreaking line, “They’re all gonna laugh at you,” foreshadowing the soon-to-be telekinetic massacre at Carrie’s helm.
I might have liked Carrie had I not seen the original, as the story stays true to the previous film and is still a haunting tale of abuse and its consequences. The movie is filled with clever religious imagery and is visually pleasing, especially during the massacre scene. However, the ill-fitted cast and lack of ingenuity on the director’s part ultimately disappointed me. While the new Carrie may seem like a fun and appropriate movie to watch with Halloween around the corner, it’s hardly worth the ten dollars it costs to see in theaters. Plus, the 1976 version is currently available on Netflix so there really is no excuse to miss out on the sheer brilliance of the original. Grade: C-
I said almost because there are still a few weeks left (the season traditionally runs Memorial Day to Labor Day) and, more importantly, there are still a handful of movies I've yet to catch — from high-profile studio stuff (like Cars 2, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the latest Harry Potter) to smaller indie offerings (like Buck and Project Nim, not to mention a host of titles that have yet to open here — most notably Miranda July's The Future, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, Azazel Jacobs' Terri and Raúl Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon).
I know we’re in the midst of an economic recession not seen since before The Wizard of Oz — but we only have one Hollywood studio release this week? And the one is 2012, the latest effects-driven, apocalyptic nonsense from Roland Emmerich?
A friend recently asked my opinion about what films the Academy might nominate for Best Picture this year.
“Uh, I have no idea,” I responded.
It's pretty late in the year to be saying that, but, of course, I rarely think about the Oscars until I absolutely have to. Then there's the fact that few of the films released so far this year seem to possess what typically piques the Academy's interest (note that anywhere from five to 10 films can now be nominated).
Cincinnati World Cinema's final screening of The Red Chapel occurs tonight at 7:30 p.m. For the uninitiated, Chapel is an odd documentary about a Danish filmmaker and a pair of young Danish-Korean “comedians” who travel to North Korea to get back in touch with their homeland and to perform for an audience that includes various dignitaries.
Just a heads up that Cincinnati World Cinema tonight continues its screenings of The British Arrow Awards, a collection of British television commercials (or, as they're called across the pond, adverts) that put their American counterparts to shame.
In fact, as I wrote the other day, there is often more creative energy in one of these 90-second British adverts than in a two-hour Hollywood effort.
Ever wonder what happened to the kid who played Chunk in The Goonies?
Wonder no more.
With the rollout of fall's higher-profile “prestige” pictures still a week away (including Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar Hoover biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio as the notorious FBI director), a pair of lesser-known films open here this week that are worthy of your attention.