There's No Place Like Home Video

Excerpts from this week's "Now and Then," now up on TOH:

"[The Kids Grow Up] requires an examination of your own life in order to wend your way into it. Anyone who has been part of a family will understand Block’s feeling of being unmoored, acknowledge the impossibility of separating oneself from the narrative. This may be why, in the end, the film seems so much roomier than the mere portrait of a family in transition: it jogs the memory, becoming personal for both subject and spectator. It is strewn with the hard, sweet wisdom that family life is one long improvisation in intimacy, full of compromises and wrong turns. Interviewing his father about the experience of parenting, of living, Block captures it in microcosm: 'We don’t know too much,' the father says. 'We learn as we go along. We learn too late, and even then it’s difficult.'"

"Good fun... can be had during Sherman’s March, which carries the unnecessarily weighty subtitle “A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South During the Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation.” But much of the nearly three-hour running time is so slackly paced, so meditative, that the middle 90 minutes might best function as something to keep an eye on while you make soup. There are moments in which even McElwee seems bored. 'Speaking of apple juice,' he asks offhandedly at the one-hour mark, 'is there any bourbon?' I took his advice. I poured myself a drink and read an article about the debt crisis in the Times, and when I came back he was still there, like an old friend who presses on with the story while you grab another bottle of wine."


Spot Check

From a cool project I was involved in this winter, commemorating Requiem for a Dream by engaging writers and artists to discuss a still frame from each of the movie's 102 minutes. I got #38 (see image above):

"So I’m the guy with the glazed eyes in the olive shirt, wearing something between a grimace and a smile, dancing with the blurry, red-haired giantess we call memory. Beating it back, embracing it, dispensing with it entirely, trying to get warm next to it, follow its lead or lead it back to the right steps. It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here, what goes on in my head. As I said, my memory is spotty. Not that it much matters: we’re talking here about a film where haziness is not just a state of mind but a lifestyle choice. From time to time, though, the haze disperses, its horizon opening to moments of piercing clarity. This seems to me a good enough explanation for why someone would study, love, write, drink, teach.

Live: that’s another way of putting it."

Catch the rest of my piece here and the rest of the project here.


Sounds and Furies

From my latest column at Thompson on Hollywood:

"Following every war movie cliché like the Stations of the Cross, Battle: Los Angeles is a punishing fusillade of jostling hand-held camerawork and the tea-kettle screeches of electric ordnance. It plays like the video dispatch of an embedded journalist. Titles acknowledge every change of scenery, while 24-hour news channels provide punditry and a wide-angle of the action. Even the characters’ names are flashed on screen, as though writer Chris Bertolini was too busy plotting which buildings to set aflame to put them in the script. Not that it much matters: two-thirds in and it is impossible to distinguish them. The aliens have more personality...

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) is noisy, too. Here, though, the sound is unsettlingly ambient. Distant reports mix with the patter of acid rain, and high towers release bursts of flame and dirt in a sharp hiss. Foreign wails pierce the perpetual night, an ungodly city’s call to prayer. Floating billboards cry out: move to the Off-World colonies, “a golden land of opportunity and adventure.” Sound this lush sneaks up and envelops you, and all of a sudden the bleakly dystopian Los Angeles of 2019 becomes the only Los Angeles you’ve ever known."

Read the whole thing here: http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/07/18/destroying_los_angeles_from_blade_runner_to_battle_los_angeles_and_the_carm/


Burn, Baby, Burn

My new column at Thompson on Hollywood, "Now and Then," makes its debut today. It pairs reviews of new releases for the home viewer — flicks you can catch now on Netflix, Amazon Video, DVD or television — with fresh takes on the classic, the overrated, the underwatched, and pretty much anything else that piques my interest. This week, the vigilante camp of Hobo with a Shotgun goes up against the Ur-text of the genre, Dirty Harry. Here's a taste:

"Hobo with a Shotgun ends up making Harry Callahan look like Atticus Finch (and Don Siegel like Fritz Lang). Tellingly, it apes the one scene in the earlier film that really sticks in the mind. Hobo’s school bus scene is equally troubling, albeit for different reasons. It won’t ruin it for you, utterly lacking in suspense as it is, to tell you that Slick and Ivan torch the bus with a dozen kids inside. As Slick sets the kiddies alight, Ivan, in dim homage to John Cusack in Say Anything, holds up a boom box playing, predictably, 'Disco Inferno.'

'Burn, baby, burn' is right. I only wish they had done the same thing with the dailies."

Catch the whole thing here: http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/07/11/now_and_then/