postmodernism

Upstream Color

Warning: Though Shane Carruth has referred to his film as “un-spoilable,” this post discusses the ending of Upstream Color at length. It’s been a little over two weeks since I watched Shane Carruth’s ambitious sophomore feature, Upstream Color, and there are still specific images, moments, sounds and feelings that continue to resonate through my mind. Whether it be the sight of a worm moving through the crevices of a human body, the briefly glimpsed drama of an anonymous couple who made a habit out of creating distance and never reconciled before it was too late, or a man’s poetic gesture of quitting his drone job by watching business papers slowly float down several stories in a hermetically sealed, ultra-modern office-tropolis, Upstream Color is as sleek and expertly polished as it is sneakily affecting. A swimmer recites Thoreau’s “Walden” as she gathers pebbles in an indoor pool. A seemingly benevolent farmer herds and feeds a mundane gathering of pigs in a film in which no quotidian imagery is simply that. Blue and white permeate nature as if color itself was a literal material force of its own. Upstream Color is remarkable in its ability to merge the poetic with the concrete, routinely invoking abstract ideas with specific material symbols. The result is one of the most purely cinematic, well-crafted, and earnestly hopeful films released in the first half of 2013. It displays as much faith in audience intelligence as it does in the idea that a sincerely optimistic message will speak […]

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Criterion Files

Alain Resnais is one my favorite filmmakers, and it’s largely because of his early work. Between Night and Fog (1955), Hiroshima mon amour (1959), and this week’s film, Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Resnais’ late 50s-early 60s work represents a sort of trilogy meditating on the themes of trauma and memory. While these first two films address these subjects specifically in regard to resonating painful memories of WWII (the subject of Night and Fog being concentration camps, and Hiroshima mon amour clearly being Hiroshima), Marienbad’s narrative avenue towards this subject isn’t rooted in globally relevant history. Rather, Last Year at Marienbad switches gears to tell a story of memory loss between two socialites at a baroque hotel, one of whom (the man, played by Girgio Albertazzi) remembers a brief but passionate affair from the previous year, while the other (the woman, played by Delphine Seyrig) doesn’t.

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Hot Tub Time Machine is one of the most profound mirrors of our postmodern culture to be realized on mainstream cinema screens in quite some time. Discuss.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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