|max and the believer|
these two excellent films share the theme of the attraction of extreme politics and anti-semitism for young people. max is the story of a young adolf hitler, back from ww1, and his jewish art dealer, played by john cusack. hitler is portrayed with the right combination of humanity and insanity: really he's quite a pathetic figure. but the film is most interesting on art. hitler of course is mediocre and reactionary as an artist, but the dealer keeps trying to read him as a radical, a "futurist," or a purveyor of cool, interesting kitsch. the naivete of the avant-garde, as well as its blindness and the atmosphere of bullshit that pervades modernism makes the aesthetic portion of our program interesting and not completely irresponsible. hitler's own idea is art as politics and vice versa, which is portrayed as the essence of nazism, also something fundamentally interesting and at least partly right.
the believer, which won sundance, portrays a jewish nazi antisemitic skinhead in present-day new york it is one of the best movies i've ever seen, and certainly the script is as intelligent and deep as anything i've ever experienced on the screen. the performance by the lead (ryan gosling) is astonishing: sympathetic and warped and evil and complex and sad and smart. the movie is brilliant on judaism: both its profound power and its severe drawbacks. but it's also connected to something fundamental in the human condition: self-loathing combined with infinite aspiration, the dream of transcendence as a wish for death.
while you're at it, go rent "american history x."
|7.16.03 winged migration|
this is a french documentary produced by a cast of hundreds and i guess fundamentally a product of the french government and the european union. it is ravishingly beautiful. as it follows flying and waddling and swimming and fishing and hunting birds around the world, you feel that perhaps for the first time you actually understand what bird flight is. the film reminds me of leni riefenstahl, which i mean as a compliment: much of the effect is achieved through brilliant, rhythmic editing. but i think the film is compromised fundamentally by issues with honesty. obviously, it was filmed from light aircraft, watercraft etc with amazing telephoto technology. but the conceit is that you are merely seeing the birds; the filmmakers are never present. the idea is to create a magical experience, a pure contact with birds. but had i been making the film i would have indicated, in the film, how it was made, and the presence of the planes would have been explicit. of course, first of all, the behavior of the birds was affected by the presence of the filmmakers, but that is never thematized even for a moment. and there are certainly cooked scenes; faux seasonal changes, i think, and a complete adventure near the end that purports to show a tropical bird escaping from a poacher on the amazon that is palpable jive. furthermore, obviously if you're filming birds from an airplane, you can't come up with the pure sound of beating wings in the absence of engine noise. this means that the entire sound of the movie, which obviously is intended to convey the impression that you're hearing what's happening, is an editing effect. in other words, the purity and magic that they are trying to convey are palpably false, and the magic they aimed at could only have been achieved through honest means. at the beginning, it says that the birds were filmed entirely without special effects. i have a bit of doubt about that, concerning what are apparently satellite images, some of whole hemispheres, in which birds seem visible. but either way it is supposed to convey the claim that this is the truth you're seeing. it's not.
|2.1.03 the two movies|
|11.21.02 creators: eminem, a great american: 8 mile|
Not the Fritz Lang (?) but rather the amazing recent japanimation. Visually, this thing is staggering, an infinite profusion of images that is absorbing on many levels. Even many single frames of this thing would be beautiful, or intense, or creative. But string them together and you have something that has to be seen to be believed. The music is interesting too: great swing among other things, and the climax is the apocalypse to the tune of Ray Charles doing "I Can't Stop Loving You." Mind-boggling.
|3.25.02 in the wake of the academy awards film is a dead art|
|2.24.02 daffy duck and chuck jones, great americans|
|1.8.02 for the tuesday philadelphia inquirer 11-year old boy beats cop|
|12.10 for the tuesday inquirer: the five most annoying people on tv has become an op-ed piece|