America Alone: Chris Evans as Captain America, surrounded by extra-evil Hydra soldiers. Image courtesy of Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios.
In 2000, filmmaker Alan Zweig gained modest success on the festival circuit with “Vinyl,” a documentary probing the quirks and eccentricities of compulsive record collectors. (“Compulsive” referring not to some guy with a few hundred LPs, but to some guy who rents a U-Haul locker on the edge of town to serve as a supplementary storage archive.) In a highly conversational, and often confrontational manner, Zweig pressed his subjects to spill the beans about their hoarding impulses, their loneliness, and all of their other personal peccadilloes. And it was all intercut with shots of Zweig interviewing himself in a vanity mirror, mining his own emotional depths.
World music is a disingenuous marker for a genre. Besides presuming that popular forms of western (that is, American) music like pop, rock, rap, soul and country-western are something other than of the world, the term “world music” tends to flatten the rich idiosyncrasies and particularities of music coming from all corners of the globe. It makes filing CDs at your local HMV or Virgin Superstore easier. But that’s about it.
As with Henry Hathaway’s 1969 film, Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of “True Grit” (which is really another, truer, adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel) follows a young girl in pursuit of her father’s killer. Played here by new recruit Hailee Steinfeld, the impossibly precocious Mattie Ross hires a surly, drunken, tough-as-nails federal marshal (Jeff Bridges) to help her track the horse thief (Josh Brolin) what gunned down her pappy. It’s a cut-and-dry revenge story, where good guys win and bad guys lose. It’s less a self-aware ode to the studio Western than an inheritor of its most simple and enduring charms. And it’s seductive. Deceptively so.
Excepting the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” remake, or Disney’s blockbusting, multidimensional sequel to “Tron,” is there any film more anticipated this awards season than Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”? Let’s rephrase that, for the sake of brevity. Is there any non-Jeff Bridges film more anticipated this awards’ season than “Black Swan”? Probably not.
Is there anything more reprehensible than white-collar crime? Certainly, there are any number of moral offenses that may trump the impulses of rich white men to make themselves even richer. But even the most egregious of these can be rationalized (rightly or wrongly) through psychological profiling and the ascription of some mental disorder or social disease. But piggybacking on the investments of the working people to defraud them and pay yourself a salary in the hundreds of millions of dollars? Rationalize that. Unless the DSM-IV has a listing for “jackass,” these guys are crooks, plain and simple.
When I phoned Gary Lucas this week he was right in the middle of renewing his Forward subscription. “I’m a religious reader,” he punned effortlessly. He also had his cell phone pressed to his other ear, waiting to buy concert tickets. It comes as little shock that the prolific composer, songwriter, guitar legend and musical Renaissance man is a consummate multitasker.
“The Human Resources Manager” is an odd film. That it was recently announced as Israel’s entry into the Academy Awards’ Foreign Language category, after winning five Ophir Awards including Best Feature, says less about the movie itself than it does about the goodwill accrued by director Eran Riklis for more accomplished features such as “The Syrian Bride” and “Lemon Tree.” Unfortunately, “The Human Resources Manager” measures up to neither.
Before Jack Abramoff was an American super-lobbyist, half-successful restaurateur, and convicted con man, he was a movie producer, known for bankrolling the 1989 Dolph Lundgren actioner “Red Scorpion” (part of Cold War cinema’s deconstructionist, though still violently anti-Soviet phase). It’s appropriate then, that George Hickenlooper’s Abramoff biopic, “Casino Jack,” which premiered last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, should evince such an obvious love of cinema.