Thursday, September 30, 2010
When economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner teamed up to write the 2005 book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, the results were astonishing—a New York Times bestseller, the book sold over four million copies and became a genuine intellectual phenomenon. But the book—an exploration of economic theory in unexpected spheres—wouldn’t seem a likely candidate for film adaptation. The makers of Freakonomics hit on an ingenious approach: get six filmmakers to create an omnibus documentary, each segment tackling a different section of the book. The results are, for the most part, exhilaratingly smart and engaging, a sly and entertaining look at some very heavy stuff.
When the original Iron Man was released two summers ago, the wave of good reviews and positive word-of-mouth were rooted very much in a sense of surprise—who expected yet another tiresome superhero movie to have this kind of wit and intelligence (in addition to, of course, blowing stuff up real good)? There were hints that it might be something special—Jon Favreau was an unusual choice for director (with a background more in character comedy than slam-bang action), and Robert Downey Jr., while firmly on the comeback trail, wasn’t anyone’s idea of an action hero (or anchor for a potential tentpole). But those were risks that could have backfired, and one of the many pleasures of the original film was watching how beautifully those risks paid off.
Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me begins with such a bouncy, stylized opening credit sequence that you might not be quite prepared for what follows. Based on the 1952 novel by Jim Thompson, it is a tough, hard-boiled little picture, cold and brutal and efficient. Its violence and pathology will, no doubt, disturb some audiences (and already has). But the fact of the matter is this: the craftsmanship on display is undeniable, and the black-hearted storytelling, true to the noir novel on which it’s based, pulls in those with the stomach for it.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The story behind Nuremberg is more interesting than much of what is on screen, and that’s the rub. The film—officially titled Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today—was the U.S. government’s official document of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, which lasted nearly a full year between 1945 and 1946. Twenty-five hours of courtroom footage was shot by government photographers, and footage (screened during the trial) was included of the atrocities of the war—both from the Nazis’ own archives, and U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Field Photographic Branch.