Tag Archives: Defiance

The Man in the High Castle 1.1

This isn’t the first time that Amazon’s pilot season — which sees the simultaneous launch of a dozen or so opening episodes of a variety of new shows — has been mostly a waste of time. Most of these shows don’t deserve a second episode. Finding The Man in the High Castle, the diamond in this season’s rough, might not be an altogether uncommon occurrence either; Amazon’s Transparent just took home a fistful of Golden Globes, so the streaming service is slowly catching up to Netflix when it comes to quality series.

But make no mistake: The Man in the High Castle is anything but common. Like any great what if? story, only one thing has been changed here. This could easily be our world, the exact one we live in today, if not for this one change; though the America of The Man in the High Castle is utterly unrecognizable, that revisionist tectonic shift was borne entirely of the initial tremor, the single change. That change, admittedly, asks the grandfather of all what ifs: what if the Nazis had won the war?

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Legends of the Fall (1994)

A defense of Legends of the Fall? Really? Is this really what the world needs? Shouldn’t this space be used for something more worthwhile, like an examination of Renée Zellweger’s face? Is a treatise on Battlefield Earth up next? Lest there be any doubt: Legends of the Fall is a deeply, deeply flawed movie full of stiff writing, stiff acting, and a healthy dose of that cringeworthy unexplainable badness reserved for a particular class of film (though, no, not as bad as Battlefield Earth). It’s unbearably soapy, it’s long, and we’re expected to take ridiculously sappy scenes like this with utter seriousness:

Ah, man hugs. Can we ignore stuff like this? Should we? Maybe not. But still, somehow, inexplicably, in spite of stiff writing, stiff acting, unbearable soapiness, absurd sequences like the one above – in spite of all that, Legends of the Fall is one of the most epic standalone sagas ever filmed.

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Defiance (2008)

Defiance was one of the few Edward Zwick movies I hadn’t seen, so the recent addition to the Netflix catalogue was a welcome one. Zwick – helmer of the undoubtedly great Glory and Blood Diamond and the possibly-great-but-jury’s-maybe-still-out Legends of the Fall and The Last Samurai – is a filmmaker who can balance blockbuster epicness and fragile emotional sentiment like few other directors. Defiance is no exception in this regard, although it suffers in ways that some of Zwick’s previous films do not.

Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski, Belarusian Jew and oldest brother to three youngers. The Bielski brothers flee and take refuge in the deep forest when Nazi aggression escalates and their parents are murdered. The forest hides them well enough until more and more refugees hear the tale of the Bielski camp and show up for food, shelter, safety, comfort, destabilizing the small hideout with each new hungry child. As the camp grows more rules and hierarchies must be created and maintained and enforced, and it falls to Tuvia to protect his countrymen against the German threat.

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