Slavoj Zizek

they-live-scenes

When John Carpenter‘s They Live opened in theaters 25 years ago this week, it had the honor of knocking Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers out of the #1 slot. That’s just too perfect, and also it’s also kind of weird to realize that They Live indeed opened at the top spot on the box office chart for the weekend of November 4, 1988. Maybe even weirder than the fact that a U2 concert film debuted just below it at #2. That was a different time for moviegoing, one where a great start like that meant little at the end of the day when your movie still winds up only the 75th highest-grossing of the year. Although the sci-fi film came and went with little widespread notoriety at the time, They Live did go on to become a cult classic of varying levels, the kind revered by movie geeks for being just enough “cheesy” mixed with just enough “awesome,” recognized by academics for being a very direct social commentary on the Reagan years (and the best horror movie satirizing consumerism since Dawn of the Dead a decade earlier) and continually ignored by the mainstream for looking like a cheap, dated B movie. But it’s also a film that has become even more relevant in recent years (and was therefore prescient, as we’ve covered before) due to how it involves a disappearing middle class while the rich and poor grow on opposite sides of the economy, in wealth and population […]

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Oscars Zizek

When Seth MacFarlane, creator of The Cleveland Show and director of the “Pitch” segment of Movie 43, had to bow out of his Oscar-hosting duties at the last minute as a result of a mild case of whooping cough, ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences raised eyebrows when they chose Slovenian philosopher Slovoj Zizek at the last minute to sub in as host of the annual ceremony regularly watched by over 40 million Americans. While an obscure name in most American households and an unlikely choice to emcee the 85th Annual Academy Awards, Zizek is a celebrity in academic circles known for his provocative critiques of Marx and Lacan as well as his prolific production of monographs including Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism, and The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. The typically abstruse scholar turned out to be one of the most entertaining and downright stressful hosts the Oscars have featured in decades, besting recent standard-bearers like James Franco and Paul Hogan. Zizek avoided typical decorum as he strutted out on the stage to tepid applause, wearing a baggy pair of jeans and a brown T-shirt with a discernible ring of sweat under the neckline. It wouldn’t be until the closing song and dance number with Kristin Chenoweth that he deigned to put on a tux.

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The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.  By the end of Breaking Dawn — Part 2, it’s clear that the Twilight Saga, as one long story about vampires, werewolves and a chaste teenage girl, is first and foremost a romance picture. This may not sound like a revelation, but in the past four years we’ve all looked at the series in terms of how it transcends the traditional “chick flick” ghetto to dabble in elements of superhero and horror genres, potentially wooing male moviegoers in the process. Interestingly enough, the finale features a sequence that is very much aimed at fans of genre cinema just before pulling a 180 and concluding with an ending that the same audience will find mushy and sappy as (their personal) hell. While romance figures into most film genres and even dominates the conventional Hollywood denouement for movies no matter what audience is targeted, most of these features are not classifiably romance pictures. The love stories are secondary or even tertiary in importance to plots primarily concerned with adventure or disaster or some treatment of good versus evil. And although there are antagonists strewn throughout the Twilight films, there aren’t really good guys and bad guys in proper terms. Instead there is simply love and family versus threat to love and family. […]

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Criterion Files

Let’s just get this out of the way first. I think Red Desert (1964) is Michelangelo Antonioni’s very best film. Better than L’Avventura, better than The Passenger, and better than Blow-Up (though I’ve never been a huge fan of the latter). In some ways it’s one of Antonioni’s oddest films, and in others it flirts with inaccessibility, but not only is the film beautiful, it’s poignant and explores a fascinating array of themes. It’s heavy, it’s a breakthrough, and it’s profound.

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