Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
In the thirty years since his untimely death, there has been no shortage of documentaries and docudramas concerning John Lennon, and as a diehard Lennon and Beatles fan, I’ve seen them all. So it is with some surprise that I found the American Masters portrait LennonNYC so fresh and inspired; it takes a new angle on its subject, and paints its picture of him with a wealth of rare material and seldom-told tales from lesser-known sources.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Rocky movies, The Wrestler, Cinderella Man, The Champ, The Hammer, Good Will Hunting. Those echoes surround the picture, and sometimes threaten to envelop it; they make it easy to shrug off as an also-ran, a cliché. And, in a macro-cinematic sense, perhaps it is.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Once the dust had settled, one piece of good news emerged from the much-publicized melee between Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and NBC over the future of The Tonight Show: Bill Carter, the New York Times writer whose 1994 book The Late Shift brought to vivid life the last fight for Tonight, was hard at work on a follow-up. The resultant volume, The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy (Viking, $26.95), shares many of its predecessor’s virtues: the prose is crisp, the narrative is tightly-wound, and Carter has a knack for fleshing out and humanizing key players. It is excellent reportage. The (admittedly minor) disappointment is that Carter is so busy playing fair that he doesn’t push past the surface to the analysis that seems the next logical step.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
With Inception, Christopher Nolan has taken the resources and budget of a major studio summer blockbuster, and utilized them to make a complex, challenging, thoughtful, thrilling, and ultimately rewarding film—to basically do everything you’re not supposed to do in a big-budget summer movie. But he did it, and in response, audiences have come out in droves. It’s a massive hit. There ought to be dancing in the streets when this happens.
PFC Juan “Doc” Restrepo is featured in the opening moments of the documentary that bears his name, in home movies that he shot himself; he turns the camera around as he mugs and jokes with his buddies, all about to be deployed to Afghanistan. “We’re goin’ to war, we’re goin’ to war, we’re goin’ to war,” he chants, giddily. He would not make it out alive. His fellow soldiers would eventually build an outpost where they were fighting, and name it after him. It stood in the Korangal Valley, which CNN dubbed “the deadliest place on earth.” American forces had another name for it: “The valley of death.”
Monday, December 6, 2010
There are several different levels of admiration and/or disgust that one can feel about Hugh Hefner, often simultaneously. But the complexity of our feelings about the Playboy founder isn’t really on the table in Brigette Berman’s documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel, which is less an examination of Hefner than it is a celebration of him. Make no mistake, there are things about him worth celebrating, no matter where you stand on the magazine he is irrevocably tied to. But it’s a sliding scale, and for all of its virtues, the primary flaw of Berman’s film is that it sees him in black and white terms: you’re either with him or you’re against him.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I try not to make this about me, but here’s the thing you have to understand about my response to 30 for 30: I am not a sports guy. Not by the longest shot, not even a little. This is not meant as a judgment of those who are; I know plenty of them, and they’re very nice people. But there are few things on this earth less intrinsically interesting to me than watching a sporting event, either live or on television—I can’t help it, it’s just how I’m wired. On top of that, it’s a time management thing; the notion of wiling away three hours of television time watching a football game while there are still Robert Altman films I haven’t seen is, frankly, unacceptable.