It would have been a bummer if a woman with a large hat had been seated in front of me at the IFFBoston screening of Disorder. I regrettably do not speak French (working on it!) and so Disorder‘s English subtitles are pretty vital to the enjoyment of the film. If a lady with a large hat, perhaps inspired to wear such a thing by The Great Train Robbery or that episode of Sesame Street, were to get comfy in the seat in front of me, there’s a chance that those subtitles might have been obscured. I’ve yet to develop social courage or an extendable giraffelike neck (working on it!) and so, yeah, that would have been a bummer.
But, actually, no: Disorder would have been every bit as powerful without the words. Plot-wise there’s nothing too out-of-the-ordinary, and in fact the synopsis runs the risk of sounding heavily clichéd when it’s written down on paper. Vincent, a French soldier fresh back from Afghanistan, has taken a job at a private security company and been tasked with protecting the beautiful wife of the shady rich magnate. His PTSD interferes with this, but when the beautiful wife becomes a target it’s up to Vincent to save her. This admittedly sounds uninspired, but thankfully Disorder is crafted with care and creativity such that synopsis takes a backseat to style.
Continue reading Disorder (2016) →
One of the most egregious snubs in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences concerns last year’s Best Actor trophy, and no, it has nothing to do with Leonardo DiCaprio. Eddie Redmayne walked away with the Oscar for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and indeed his performance was groundbreaking and heartfelt. But it pales in comparison to the tour de force delivered by Body, the Hungarian star of Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, in his role as the tortured, tragic, life-loving, revenge-seeking, slobber-mouthed Hagen. Due respect to Redmayne, but Body’s performance is simply one of the most emotional and drool-covered performances in years.
As a young actor Body was met with obstacle after obstacle as he tried to make ends meet while pursuing his craft. He auditioned for some of the most iconic roles of our time and even received a callback for The Beast from The Sandlot, but the dude who played Mr. Mertle claimed Body was “impossible to work with” and cited the Hungarian-English language barrier as a primary qualm. He was an extra in Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch but soon disowned the film and distanced himself from the creative vision of the entire Air Bud series. Body struggled to be taken seriously as an actor, forced to take work in Iams commercials and as a busboy of sorts in the alley behind an L.A. hotspot.
Continue reading White God (2014) →
Aside from Flags of Our Fathers, “Down Will Come” featured more flags and/or fathers than you’re likely to see in a given hour of televised entertainment. The stars and stripes are littered throughout the Vinci P.D. precinct, various apartments, random billboards (and last week’s episode “Maybe Tomorrow“, which aired one day after the Fourth of July, even had an American Sniper billboard). One of the many, many (many, many, many) guys that Frank Semyon tries to squeeze for extra cash has a little lawn flag sticking out of the pencil holder on his desk. There’s more national imagery in “Down Will Come” than any episode of the second season so far, but at least it’s more subtle than earlier lines like We were working for America, sir, which just land with a leaden and damn-near unpatriotic thud.
But far more interesting are the father-son (or -daughter, in Ani’s case) dynamics packed into the fourth hour, which begins with Semyon and his wife griping over their lack of offspring. Jordan proposes adoption, Frank scoffs at the idea of raising someone else’s
sinner child; Jordan insinuates she might not be able to have children after “the operation”, Frank suggests more tests; ultimately, Frank pushes the issue off because of all of the other stuff he has going down at warp-speed, kicked off by Caspere’s murder and the sudden dissolution of his once-stable empire. Frank’s the kind of guy who needs his empire to sprawl, he needs land, he needs people to know his name, he needs legacy that lasts and refuses to be satisfied until he has it in full. Ironic, then, that a guy obsessed with his own empire can’t figure out what every emperor before him has discovered: those one-off kings who had no offspring to carry on their names? Those guys who stood in as buffers between one massive dynasty and the next? History isn’t so kind to those guys.
Continue reading True Detective 2.4 – “Down Will Come” →
I had the good fortune of meeting Sebastian Junger a few years ago in Boston as he did the press junket for his book War. From mid-2007 to mid-2008 Junger was embedded with a U.S. unit in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan with his friend and photographer Tim Hetherington, and War was one of the many pieces of journalism that resulted from that year. Another was a series of Vanity Fair dispatches collected as “Into the Valley of Death“, which is an excellent companion to War and an excellent account of that year in the Korengal. But the most affecting portrait from Junger’s tour as a war journalist might be Restrepo, the documentary he and Hetherington directed from the thousands of hours of footage they took during the year and ensuing interviews with the soldiers immediately upon their return home.
The Korengal Valley (sometimes spelled Korangal) was at the time dubbed the deadliest place in the world, an overblown-sounding moniker that is nonetheless entirely lacking exaggeration. U.S. troops in the Korengal took fire from Taliban insurgencies every single day, often engaging in five or six firefights between dawn and dusk. For soldiers on a fifteen-month deployment, that’s an unheard-of amount of action. By the time the U.S. pulled out of the Korengal in April 2010, nearly fifty American soldiers had been K.I.A. there. Seventy percent of ordinance dropped throughout Afghanistan during the course of the war was dropped here. In an interview with CNN, Junger describes the Korengal as “the Afghanistan of Afghanistan, too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, too autonomous to buy off.”
Continue reading Restrepo (2010) →
Around the 30-minute mark of American Sniper there’s something that’s not quite a montage, not quite a self-contained series of events, not quite comfortable in that first half-hour of the film. Sniper Chris Kyle spots an insurgent in his scope and he takes him out. A few more lone insurrectionaries crop up, and Kyle fires again. Again. Again. It sounds like a montage, but director Clint Eastwood doesn’t let it play out as such. And it’s fairly quick, cutting from one shot to the next inside the space of a minute and a half. Still, though, there’s something brutal and cold and darkly affecting about this life-of-Kyle in 90 seconds, something that almost singlehandedly elevates American Sniper to the level of a modern classic war film.
I assumed that Sniper would be a lot like The Hurt Locker, judging from the trailers and a few reviews and my admittedly vague knowledge of Chris Kyle’s story. Sniper is a lot like Hurt Locker, to be sure, but it’s not exactly in the way I expected. The similarities, really, are resigned mostly to the aesthetic — and visually, they’re so similar that you might expect Kyle to peek through his scope and spot Will James strutting down the sandy street in his EOD blast suit.
Continue reading American Sniper (2014) →