The Rear-View Mirror: Housekeeping (1980)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

There is no other year that has such a wealth of movies to choose from than the year 1980. I could fill the whole post just with movie titles, but I will give you only a short list to start from: Raging Bull. The Empire Strikes Back. The Shining. Airplane!. The Blues Brothers. Berlin Alexanderplatz. Ordinary People. Breaker Morant. Altered States. Coal Miner’s Daughter. Atlantic City. Friday the 13th. Used Cars. Shogun Assassin. Little Lord Fauntleroy. Le dernier mètro. Fame. Private Benjamin. American Gigolo. ffolkes. La Boum. And of course the immortal classic Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: TRON (1982)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Like Wargames a year later, TRON tried to get behind that new and slightly unsettling thing called computer. And the more fearful among us somehow thought that that machine would treat us the same way that the first picture cameras would treat us: they would steal bits of our souls. Not that we told anyone that we were afraid of them, but hey, if you get sucked into them (by ways not quite clear), then the frisbee of death would kill you. Or you would get erased. A whole new world of danger. Continue reading

Faint heart, strong ambition

Vice is not a comedy. It’s not a drama either. It has platypus-like qualities, so it’s probably best to describe it as a mash-up of a Michael Moore style documentary and a bumpy farce with a very talented cast. It’s bumpy because it not only jumps around in time, attributes real footage of carpet bombing to Cheney’s daydreams, and suddenly lets fake credits roll at half-time, but also because it’s almost as eclectic as Adam McKay’s earlier opus The Big Short. Consider the scene in which Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) recite from Macbeth in their bed. That’s funny, with an undercurrent of dread. Continue reading

Déjà-Vu is the new Orange

There is a multi-layered irony at work in Russian Doll. To start with, it’s almost as if they airlifted Nicky Nichols out of Orange Is The New Black and gave her a series of her own. What happens in Russian Doll could, in fact, easily be Nicky’s alternate backstory: the protagonist in it, Nadia Vulvokov, is just as sharp-witted and foul-mouthed as Nicky. And then of course, both Nadja and Nicky are played by the same actress, Natasha Lyonne, who must be wholly unafraid of being typecast. Both Nadja and Nicky say what they want and do what they want, and they choose the man or woman they want to have sex with. They both have a drug problem, but Lyonne manages to keep it interesting. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Live/1975-85 (1986)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Bruce Springsteen seems to be a part the bedrock of the music business, but he is the first to admit that he is a fraud. He has never held down a working-class job in his life, he has never seen a factory from the inside. (If you don’t believe me, then go watch Springsteen on Broadway, currently on Netflix.) He is one of the greatest posers ever. And yet nobody sees him that way because he has unearthed something, a kind of poetic common denominator, an idealised, romanticised version of the USA, or of working class life, or of being young – maybe a bit of everything. There is a sense of wanting to get out of this town that he caters to with his music. Or why do you think his biggest hit is called Born To Run? Continue reading

Dog Years

The movie’s title is in English because that is the name of the shop: Dogman. Marcello is a dog-groomer, and he is so good with dogs that he is able to eventually talk down a ferocious pit-bull into a massage. He also looks after dogs when their owners are on holiday and walks them through a run-down seaside town near Naples. The area looks a lot like it’s the same spot where director Matteo Garrone also set Roberto Saviano’s Gomorra (2008). Everyone is poor, it’s a touristy waterfront utterly devoid of any tourists; many buildings are run down or boarded up. It’s no wonder that organised crime is thriving in areas like this. Dogman, however, does not have a lot to do with the Camorra, but is about the people populating the area. There is Marcello the dogman, the gold merchant next door, the owner of the videogame parlor, and the owner of the restaurant where they all meet and talk. Life is hard, but they take it as it comes. Continue reading

Mad Howling in the Red Dark

If you are ready for an agonisingly slow descent into hell, then Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is the film for you. There are many reasons to instinctively refrain from watching it in the first place: yet another Nicholas Cage over-the-top performance; outrageous violence and buckets of blood; killer demons on motorcycles. What’s more, the film might change from one viewing to the next, but for me, it worked because I was in the right kind of mood, and that might prove crucial with movies like this. And I never watched a chainsaw duel I didn’t like. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Love is a free agent. We may say that opposites attract, or that birds of a feather flock together or whatever; we have our kinks and fetishes and predilections and our angsts when it come to relationships and love and sex; we describe ourselves as homo- or heterosexual or polyamorous or bi or as of many colors of the rainbow, but we really don’t know why we fall for this person or that person. It’s a mistery, at its core, that crazy little thing called love. Continue reading

What luck today?

His name is Zain, and he is standing in the office of a police station in Beirut, Lebanon, in his underwear. He hasn’t seen a bath in days and looks malnourished, his face is grey with sleeplessness and worry. The doctor who comes to examine him assesses his age at 12 or 13. Zain himself doesn’t know, his parents can’t or won’t produce a birth certificate – maybe there never was one. Zain, like his siblings and his parents, is an illegal citizen in his own country. Because of the pressure of abject poverty and a war-torn economy, the parents abuse their kids verbally and physically. Zain does what he can to protect his siblings, most of all his younger sister Sahar because he is sure that his parents will try to marry her with a shopkeeper. Continue reading

Throwing down the gauntlet of 2018

It’s saying something if the first thing I remember about the movie year 2018 is not a movie, but a character. Thanos looms large – how could he not? With one fell swoop, Marvel solved its most prominent problem and made very, very sure that we wouldn’t forget their biggest, baddest baddie. He has depth – I believe him when he says that he fulfills his mission partly against his own will, and that it cost him everything. And he – goddamn it – is successful. Of course, my experience of Avengers: Infinity War was deeply colored by my favorite daughter sitting beside me who couldn’t believe that half her favorite MCU characters went up in ashes. Maybe this was this generation’s Bambi. Continue reading