Since Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg has been particularly attracted to the historical drama genre, since then producing Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, War Horse, and Lincoln. Those movies range in quality, from displaying acts of valor and nobility in a profound way (Ryan and Lincoln) to overly embracing Spielberg’s weakness of being cloying and excessively manipulative (War Horse). Yet the veteran director, who has spent over forty years exploring the core concept of heroism whether it be through Indiana Jones or Oskar Schindler, has rarely felt at ease as he does directing Bridge of Spies, which like Lincoln before it is honest without being strikingly gooey and sincere without coming across as unabashedly sentimental.
With both A Separation and The Past under his belt, Asghar Farhadi has proven himself to be one of the most formidable directors working today, rivaling Michael Haneke in presenting realism in contemporary film. Both filmmakers excel at presenting deeply unsettling events not uncommon in our day-to-day lives, like divorce or death. But where Haneke utilizes realism to draw out horror and dread from his viewers who know how real the situations on screen are, Farhadi paces his movies like a trial, where the central characters try to untangle a mystery presented before them, receiving every perspective from all parties. Through Farhadi’s meticulous construction and intricate plotting, he has not only created some of the best films of the new decade, but presented some of the most enthralling moral cases in modern cinema history.
“I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit. Now I’m just a narcissist.”
Stephen Colbert uttered this line to Jeb Bush on the premiere of his new show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which is not only notable for the comedian taking David Letterman’s seat but the first time we meet Stephen Colbert as Stephen Colbert. For nine years we’ve known Stephen as the right-wing megalomaniac, not too different from someone like Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, a performance he not only kept on Comedy Central four nights a week but on interviews, in person, and even in front of Jeb’s brother George W. Bush in perhaps the most definitive and greatest moment of the Stephen Colbert persona. What made The Colbert Report so great was how Colbert took a faux-conservative stance in order to help viewers to discover not only the obvious ironies behind the character’s argument but those of the surrounding world (the foundation of Colbert Super PAC shed more light on the medium than any of the cable channels did).
It’s hard to believe, but on Sunday night, after eleven seasons, 137 episodes, and one feature-length film, Aqua Teen Hunger Force has finally ended. For much of its airtime, Aqua Teen was a cultural institution; if not as popular as The Simpsons or South Park it was arguably just as hefty in developing the structure of the millennial animated sitcom. Through the series’ four primary characters, egomaniac Master Shake, the naïve dimwit Meatwad, the genius and parental-like Frylock, and middle-aged slacker Carl, Aqua Teen Hunger Force paved a major road in augmenting the eccentricities of adult oriented animation. Debuting in 2001 (though a rough cut of its pilot premiered a year earlier), Aqua Teen Hunger Force became a cornerstone in the development of Adult Swim, setting up the channel’s residence for surreal non sequitur animation and paved the way for shows like The Venture Bros., Metalocalypse, and more recently Rick and Morty. More importantly, Aqua Teen played a pivotal, if unnoted, role in setting up the basis of webisodes: the series’ 15-minute non-canon episodes laid out the guidelines for internet based television, establishing plot quickly and accelerating jokes at a rapid speed.
Out of all the films I saw in 2014, Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, is the trickiest to boil down. When watching the picture in theaters back in December, by midway through the movie it appeared that half the audience had left the auditorium. Paul Thomas Anderson is no stranger in creating decisive films; back in 2012, I similarly remember viewers grumbling after seeing The Master. Yet Inherent Vice is arguably Anderson’s most polarizing yet, creating a divide between the director’s fans and his diehards.
Okay, this may be late news, but on August 4th, Cinematic turned four years old. I know I haven’t been blogging as consistently as I should have and I don’t want to make any false promises saying that I’ll commit to writing here more often (I’ve already done that too many times in the past). But I’ve always been proud of the work I’ve done here and I think some of the most recent reviews I’ve done, such as for Goodbye to Language and Birdman, are among the best I’ve written. So thanks for every reader who has so much as glanced over a post or continuously followed my writing. In the meantime, I’ve been considering expanding my output on WordPress by making a metal blog, but that’s a conversation for another day.
The Daily Show famously held the tagline “the most trusted name in fake news” that was a parody of CNN’s own slogan. Though Jon Stewart and his writers meant it as a jest, his series really was the best, most important figure in dissecting current events. He turned a series that initially began as a lampoon of typical news series into a full on satire that tackled the pandemonium of the Bush years, the mayhem of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the 2008 financial crisis, and the general discourse causes by news channels such as FOX News. The Daily Show wasn’t just a comedy show, it was a full-fledged satire that became the voice of reason in the chaos of the political world.
As with pretty much everyone else on the Internet, I’m incredibly excited about The X-Files‘ revival, perhaps even more than Twin Peaks‘ reboot. We’ve already got the principal cast returning with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis alongside creator Chris Carter and writers Frank Spotnitz, Glen Morgan, Jim Wong, and Darin Morgan, plus we’ll have Joel McHale and Kumail Nanjiani as guest stars. But here’s perhaps the most surprising and perhaps pleasing news so far: everyone’s three favorite conspiracy theorists, the Lone Gunmen, will come back, with Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, and Dean Haglund set to reprise their roles.
The reason this news may be startling is because (spoilers) the Lone Gunmen were killed off during the show’s final season after preventing a deadly virus from annihilating thousands of civilians, a move that disappointed and angered many X-Files fans. Hopefully there’ll be a logical explanation to the Gunmen’s return alongside the Smoking Man’s survival. The X-Files will return next January.
There’s no need to go over lengths about Jean-Luc Godard’s accomplishments. The famed French filmmaker rivals Orson Welles as the most pivotal figure in the development of modern day cinema and his status as one of history’s greatest directors is unquestionable. However, Godard, particularly in recent years, also represents the stereotype of the European film elitist snob, one who pompously sneers at pop-culture outside his reach and derides anything that in his eyes is unworthy of artistic value. Goodbye to Language unfortunately epitomizes the latter trait, too often hammering down Godard’s “life is cinema, cinema is life” idealism with Euro art-movie tendencies. At times it almost feels like a parody of Godard films with a usual mix of ambiguity and startling jump cuts to an overwhelming point.
A few years back, Steven Spielberg announced that he would be adapting Stanley Kubrick’s legendarily unproduced screenplay about Napoleon into a miniseries. Since then, we haven’t heard any developments but now another Kubrick script may see the light of day: The Downslope, a project the director wrote in 1956 back when The Killing was released. Set during the Civil War, the film follows several battles in Shenandoah Valley between Union General George Custer and Confederate Colonel John Mosby, an epic perhaps in between the lines of Barry Lyndon or Paths of Glory.
It’s no secret that Kubrick’s my favorite director, and while I’d love to see The Downslope see the light of day (alongside The Aryan Papers), director Marc Forster is set to direct the screenplay, divided into three for a trilogy of films. Forster’s main credits include doing that James Bond movie no one liked and World War Z, which despite its surprising box office success was one of the most heavily ridiculed films of 2013. While he’s not a terrible director, Forster doesn’t have the background or sublety to take on the satirical biting edge that defines Kubrick’s work, making the entire project seem misplaced. The Downslope seems to be more suited for a Kubrick prodigy such as Paul Thomas Anderson, but under the hands of Forster may just implode on itself.
But who knows? A. I.: Artificial Intelligence is a misjudged masterpiece in my eyes, and The Downslope may end up being as good as that. On the downside, it could be as messy as 2010 or perhaps just be discarded. But what do you guys think?