August and the summer spectacle film release deluge. I don’t usually write about such films in Reel Deal, but sometimes merit checkmates snobbism. So yes, I would recommend HUNGER GAMES because of its gender politics; having a female action hero changes the way men are portrayed (think James Cameron). THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN is actually a retelling of the original story with additional material. Andrew Garfield is welcome as Peter Parker, less a nerd than Toby McGuire and more every smart high school skinny kid. We learn what happened to his parents which is key to the hero story that revolves around a humanized mad scientist played with cunning aspenger-like intensity by Rhys Ifans. Emma Stone flashes such intelligence with her radiant lodestone baby blues that even the high tech hi-jinks pale if she is anywhere in the frame.
THE DARK NIGHT RISES hands down is one of the best films of the year, mixing superhero genre with Hamlet-like identity crises. Director Christopher Nolan wraps up the trilogy by fusing together the contradictory humanity of Bruce Wayne with the obsessive compassion of BATMAN. A serious script lifts the film and the audience to an engaging adult exploration of quite frankly the meaning of life and what role evil plays in shaping moral and ethical outrage (timely, no? Think Karl Rove as the dark shadow in the real word). Ann Hathaway brings such dimensionality to a very post feminist Catwoman that she literally hijacks the film and eventually our very smitten hero and leaves open the future. Who knows, maybe Nolan will find Robin and make rivalry sparks fly between him and Catwoman. Now that would be so post-modern superhero storytelling.
LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES!
A number of festival favorites are now opening…
COMPLIANCE dir: Bart Layton
Dangerous indie film that dares to look at the Rush Limbaugh world and see just how successful the media, with its worship of sensation and the deification of authority, has undermined “sisterhood is powerful” by turning to the Big Brother voice of the surveillance society that undermines common sense and personal responsibility. That is, for me, the subtext of this small narrative film set in a diner somewhere in the middle of suburban mid-America, reeking of working class people seduced increasingly by tea party generated fear.
A Coen Brothers landscape without the archness of superiority, the story centers around a middle aged waitress and a newly hired blonde bubble head cashier. Age and jealousy aside, these two women get along until someone reports the theft of a woman’s wallet and the suspicion falls on the younger cashier. A police investigator on the telephone instructs the older woman in a series of increasingly invasive interrogation steps on the younger women including sexual humiliation. Under normal circumstances, the woman would never go along, but here she does, for complicated reasons motivated by the phone instructions. It is a chilling look at what has happened to trust and friendship in a security crazed country. To his credit, Layton never sets his characters up for comic relief, but he does leaven the film with a comedic tinge that both relieves as it gnaws on the viewer during the course of the film.
Compliance is carried by the believability of the performances in what should have been an unbelievable story. Delicious with a terrible aftertaste! It is based on a true story.
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES dir: Lauren Greenfield
Another look at what has happened to America as corporations became people and commodifying everything as the norm. David Siegel son of two parents that gambled away a fortune, has become enormously successful by selling a two week vacation to working people who want to pretend they are rich. His timeshare empire is the most successful in the country. We meet his overweight, over siliconed with too much botox wife and her fat, seven kids who live in a squalid life of luxury where take out dinner at McDonald’s is seen on the same grotesque aesthetic level as building the largest private home in America. Spree shopping is a recreational family sport until the bottom falls out of the mortgage market and like his parents, Siegel has risked everything on the big win.
Not pretty or likable, but tragic in the way a clown in a Becket play can be; a harsh but compassionate look at just what is wrong in a consumption crazed and marketed to death country, The one positive thing that emerges is that just like many a family on the opposite end living in poverty, holding together becomes the goal. You may want a strong, stiff drink after seeing this provoking film or a desire to sit down with the Obama financial recovery team and ask them some very hard questions.
KILLER JOE dir: Willian Friedkin
William Friedkin has alway had a fixation for the dark side of life. The Exorcist, Boys in the Band, Cruising and The French Connection are but some of this established Hollywood director’s better known films. Each skims across the surface of how cruel humans can be to each other and the pleasure such acts reward. Now presenting himself at age 76 as an independent filmmaker, Friedkin has finally let the S/M genie out of the bottle and the results are horrifying. Taking a talented cast headed by Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, Thomas Jane Haden, Juno Temple and Emile Hirsch, all of whom are directed to beat each other up in the absence of almost any human emotion except anger. Resulting in the most brutal, violent and misogynist images seen in theatrical cinema today, KILLER JOE makes Tarantino seem like a naughty Disney fantasy director in contrast.
Friedkin has made, to me, because of the lack of any redeeming qualities save the professional craft of his gifted actors, an ugly, pornographic film bordering on a snuff film sensibility. There is not one bit of authentic erotism, despite Juno Temple trying her best to reincarnate Carol Baker’s memorable BABY DOLL. Vile! Avoid at any cost, unless of course this resonates with your sensibility. Freidkin should crawl back into his much rumoured, private dungeon in the basement of his Beverly Hills mansion and shoot home movies and NOT foist them on the public.
(c) jim fouratt reeldealmovies nyc july 24 2012
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