I watched the romantic comedy 'Playing for Keeps' a while ago, starring Gerard Butler as an ex-soccer star adrift professionally and romantically, and the less said about that, the better. Soccer is a tough sport to capture on-screen, and an even tougher one to make Americans care about in large numbers -- I know that many of my friends care about the sport with a true fervor, to be sure, but they're islands in a sea of NFL games and NBA hubub, and the eternal MLB schedule.
Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik's 'Killing them Softly' opens this weekend, and it's a film I consider as strained as it is strong -- for every great performance there's a heavy-handed bit of symbolism, and all the subtext is pretty much text. But it -- and a recent Variety article pondering if movies are too long (and, by the way, uh, the answer is "No," thank you very much) -- sent me back to thinking about 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,' Pitt and Dominik's excellent, overlooked previous 2007 release.
There's always the very good question of what, exactly, to watch on Thanksgiving when you're relaxing at home and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- jammed to satiety with food. In the past, I've recommended all-American epics like 'A Bridge Too Far' or Mann's 'Last of the Mohicans,' but this year, I thought of a near-perfect Thanksgiving film -- shot through with the American century, as subject to as many views and interpretations as possible, and as non-linear and trippy as anyone wigged out on turkey-conveyed tryptophan and red wine could ask for: Todd Haynes' 2007 'I'm Not There.'
Last week, I did something incredibly foolish and re-watched what was my favorite film when I was, let's say, 12. That statement sounds a little inverted -- Why would watching a fave film from the past be a bad idea? -- but let me also add that this was a film I had not seen since I was, let's say, 12, and thus one that lived now, as the narrator says at the end of 'The Road Warrior,' "only in my memory." But I had a head cold and Netflix and, you know, these things happen. I was fighting a cold, too, and no one, and I mean no one, who has a head cold ever said, "Hey, let's just get some tea and soup and watch 'Munich,'" you know?
Let us, for now, put aside the question of if Alfred Hitchcock was one of the greatest directors of all time -- he was, but... -- and instead contemplate how no director before or after Hitchcock has been as public, and as perfectly matched to their public persona. Sure, Scorsese and Spielberg and Shyamalan all get out in front of their flicks, to an extent, but not in the clever, in-on-a-joke way that Hitchcock became Hitchcock. It is, interestingly, one of the things that gets in the way of actually looking at the films -- Hitchock's life was more fractured and flawed and unforgiving than that of even most directors. But this new Universal set, 'Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection,' confronts you with such a dense chunk of his filmography so well-presented and restored, in a package as stout as the man himself, that it physically confronts you with his actual work.
Like the caged bird looking to the sky through their bars -- or, less poetically, a kid in a small Canadian town back when we had winter and meant it -- I saw a lot of the world through movies; I saw parts of the world I thought I would never see. And the city you saw on film the most -- in my house, anyhow -- was New York.
It's easy to feel ambiguous about Halloween -- so much delight and so much excess, every sign of joy on the face of a true believer paid for with a grim, hobbled, hollow-eyed walk of shame home on one broken high heel -- in my case, a shame specifically because my "Sexy Ripley in 'Aliens'" costume was, like, totally both interpretive and respectful. But there can be a mid
Around the time I saw the new Ethan Hawke-led horror film, 'Sinister' -- a film a lot of critics seem to like, and, at the most begrudgingly, a film that I wish were better, if that makes sense, as it has some smart things in it -- I was cleaning out my desk in a fit of procrastination. Among the USB keys of Alexandria and product registration cards was a Kodax Max camera, six of its 27 pictures used, its bright disposable body either shining yellow or solid utilitarian black, with a "Develop before 09/2005" emblazoned on it. And while it wasn't a series of reels of Super-8 being dropped off by an elder God who feeds on both story and sorrow as in 'Sinister,' that Kodak Max camera out of nowhere did make me turn my head and ask: Hmm, what's on you?
Looking at the mammoth 'Bond 50' set, it's a little startling to realize how compact a package it is considering it's full of all the films making up one of the more enduring characters and series in the pop-culture canon. The 22 films, starting with 1962's 'Dr. No' and ending with 2008's 'Quantum of Solace,' and even with a blank space for 'Skyfall' when it comes to disc in 2013 -- a nice bit of long-term thinking that demonstrates that for Hollywood, for 50 years, selling Bond has been like buying bonds -- is a solid investment, but better when you keep an eye on them.
And that's the problem with time travel, or at least part of the fun, which is that where you enter into the story may not be where the people in the story are coming into and out, like we discussed earlier. In 'Looper,' time travel works the same as a one-way bus ride to Muncie, if Muncie were 30 years before in the time-and-space continuum and the bus broke every rule of physics as we know it. In 'Primer,' the time machine works in a similar fashion -- never putting you forward, exactly, but rather putting you back so that you can move forward from that back and do everything over again, but different, and since only you have any knowledge of what really happened before, why not change it?