Posts Tagged ‘Jim Emerson’s Scanners’

“Wanted”, “Fight Club”…cinema of the depressed

July 24, 2008
Like the Narrator in "Fight Club", corporate shenanigans weigh down on our hero.

Like the Narrator in "Fight Club", corporate shenanigans weigh down on our hero.

Jim Emerson has a post on his blog SCANNERS (here) that talks about how and why the film Fight Club made such a strong impression on him. As the narrator deals with depression so does Emerson. It’s a strongly written piece and one that sums up my feelings not only for Fight Club, but also for my feelings concerning Wanted.

As in most super hero films if you can’t connect with the hero’s dilemma as a normal person you won’t feel as drawn to him trying to break free from that prison he finds himself in. For Wesley, McAvoy’s character, it’s his depression. His inability to feel anything. To feel something – even anger, is a freeing thing. Anger can in fact be a great thing to feel. It’s both Fight Club‘s and Wanted”s notion to take that initial breaking free point and carry it through to an extreme. And they realize that those extremes probably aren’t the healthiest way to deal with things.

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“I Live in Fear” of “The Happening”: The Art of Boldness, Kurosawa, and Shyamalan

June 23, 2008

I Live in Fear

It would be easy to point out Akira Kurosawa’s great films like Rashomon or Seven Samurai as examples of his work, but there’s something to be said about his lesser known films – films that speak volumes and contain moments that are difficult to find anywhere else. He makes as a director and storyteller and he has his actors make very bold decisions. More often than not these choices will make an otherwise mediocre or common melodramatic film quite remarkable and incredibly memorable.

Take for instance Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear starring Toshiro Mifune. Mifune plays Kiichi Nakajima the elderly owner of a foundry. Wanting to preserve his family’s lives he wishes to move them all, lovers and bastard children included, to South America so as to avoid a Nuclear holocaust in Japan. Needless to say this story takes place post World War II. But his children will have none of it and take him to court, so that they can prove their father incapable of handling the family’s fortune.

It’s an interesting enough idea for a film. Kurosawa introduces us to Nakajima’s family through one of the Domestic Court Counselor’s put on the case, Dr. Harada, a dentist played by another Kurosawa mainstay, Takashi Shimura. We follow Harada as he leaves his family dentist business and goes to the court. Next we’re introduced to the squabbling family members, who seem more concerned about how they’ll continue making money for themselves than they are about the wishes of their Father. They are quick to apologize for belittling Harada before knowing who he is. But you still don’t get a sense of who’s film this is. Harada is shot from behind, a silent observer…very meek, humble.

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No Country for Old Men: A critical response

November 30, 2007

No Country for Old Men a critical response

There are SPOILERS here! 

I find that sometimes to further infiltrate the skin of a movie one must read other’s interpretations to help resolve ones own thoughts, and then to create a dialogue. Jim Emerson at Scanners has recently put forth many posts about the Coen Brother’s latest film No Country for Old Men, and I’ll let him say many of the things I could say, as I agree with most of what he puts forth, which can be read in its entirety here. He states with eloquence some of the ideas that permeate the film and some of the problems he sees in other critics interpretations of the film. He begins with this assesment before moving into the film itself.

“No Country for Old Men” has been called a “perfect” film by those who love it and those who were left cold by it. Joel and Ethan Coen have been praised and condemned for their expert “craftsmanship” and their “technical” skills — as if those skills had nothing to do with filmmaking style, or artistry; as if they existed apart from the movie itself. Oh, but the film is an example of “impeccable technique” — you know, for “formalists.” And the cinematography is “beautiful.” Heck, it’s even “gorgeous.” …

But what do those terms mean if they are plucked out of the movie like pickles from a cheeseburger? How is something “beautiful” apart from what it does in the film? (See uncomprehending original-release reviews of “Barry Lyndon” and “Days of Heaven,” for example, in which the “beautiful” was treated as something discrete from the movie itself.) When somebody claims that a movie overemphasizes the “visual” — whether they’re talking about Stanley Kubrick or Terence Malick or the Coens — it’s a sure sign that they’re not talking about cinema, but approaching film as an elementary school audio-visual aid. When critics (and viewers) refer to the filmmakers’ application of “craft,” “technique,” and “style” (can these things be applied, casually or relentlessly, with a spatula?) without consideration of how these expressions function in the movie, we’re all in trouble. A composition, a cut, a dissolve, a movement — they’re all manifestations of craft (or skill), technique (the systematic use of skill), style (artistic expression).

 Great points before he goes further into the themes of the film.

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