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Showing posts from January, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild arrives rather like a children’s book brought to life and projected large.  Unfortunately, with all due respect to the rich history of children’s literature, it doesn’t seem to have come from a very good book.  The source of “Beasts” is, in fact, a one act play entitled Juicy and Delicious, by Lucy Alibar.  The play was adapted for the screen by its author and director Benh Zeitlin.  

It’s an ambitious first feature, and one that shows some promise for its young director.  But as ever, so much hinges on story.  Screenwriter Robert Riskin, several times a collaborator with Frank Capra, who was sick of the director taking credit for his work, apparently once waved a blank page in the other man's face and said, "Put the famous Capra touch on that!"  Well, yes.  Visual medium though it might be, intensely visual though "Beasts" is, writing is still an important part of the equation.  Hopefully director Zietlin, when next applying his own …

Zero Dark Thirty

It's so much easier to see the glory of war from a distance.  From many thousands of miles away or the remove of decades.  So much easier then to speak of greatest generations and by implication the glory of their efforts.  A fairly prominent New York critic has praised Zero Dark Thirty for so thoroughly showing the dark side of war.  As if there were any other side.  Of course, any war will have its varied experiences, its moments of bizarre juxtaposition, its examples of bravery.  But it's a grim, inhumane business.

Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal and directed with brilliant assurance by Kathryn Bigelow, takes us right into the dark heart of the action.  The war in question, in the rather Orwellian Newspeak of the previous (and present) administration, is the "war on terror."  At times this action is quite slow, the following of leads and suspects over many years, the interminable wait to make decisive moves.  At other key junctures, the action is extremely …


Lincoln lives.  Mind you, he does nothing so outlandish in Steve Spielberg's latest film as stalking vampires.  But it is to the credit of this Lincoln thatold Honest Abe is made so credibly real and yet seems no less mythical for the exercise.  Out of the history books. Up from the Tennessee marble of that famous sitting position in his stately memorial.  Down off all those pedestals that bear statues - five in Chicago alone -  of the 16th American president around the world. This 150 minute reanimation succeeds as it does owing to a recipe of roughly one part Spielbergian mastery and several parts Daniel-Day Lewis shape shifting.  If the Irish actor is mentioned in any chat amongst friends or co-workers, perhaps bruited between drinks at a gathering, you're likely to hear some seemingly facile testament to his brilliance.  Well, there are rare occasions when a truth is spoken by, is plainly obvious to all.  Some things, to borrow a favorite term from Mr. Lincoln, which Tony…