The Rear-View Mirror: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

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!

“Do you want to be like me? Or do you want to be me?”

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse James, as played by Brad Pitt, is a canny creature. He observes the nervous, deferential Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and sees a fanboy, though one whose adoration and longing could easily turn into something else, something darker. If you can’t be your hero, what can you do? You can depose him. You can kill him. Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #14: The End is Nigh

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3It’s September, and the world is coming to an end on this month’s episode. Join Mege and Matt as they talk about the post-apocalypse in pop culture, from Obsidian’s epic role-playing game Fallout: New Vegas via Mad Max: Fury Road to – bear with us on this one – the HBO series The Leftovers. We also discuss Spike Lee’s latest joint, BlacKkKlansman, and talk about Sarah Vowell’s book Assassination Vacation.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Revanche (2008)

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 that guy, Alex, a gopher and bag man for a pimp called Konecny, somewhere in Vienna. One of Konecny’s girls, Tamara, has a secret affair with Alex. They want to escape while Konecny wants to make a high-end call-girl out of Tamara. Alex has to act if they want to have a future together. He decides to rob a bank. What sounds like a movie of the week is actually the Austrian entry for Best Film of 2009 called Revanche, written and directed by Götz Spielmann. Spielmann has said in an interview that he doesn’t know what his movie is about. I respectfully disagree: he knows exactly what he is doing, and his characters are made of flesh and blood and don’t just hurtle from one plot development to the next. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

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!

My first Wes Anderson movie was The Royal Tenenbaums – and I wasn’t a big fan of it. To some extent that may be because I wasn’t yet used to Anderson’s particular cinematic idiom, but at least as much as that I think it’s that Anderson himself was still looking for that idiom. There’s a lot in the film that looks instantly familiar, but my main problem was the way it tried to blend the arch stylistics and Andersonian characters we’ve become familiar with on the one side and poignant drama on the other. There’s one scene in particular, a suicide attempt late in the film, that felt to me like Anderson was flipping a switch: one moment the film’s characters were cartoons, the next we were supposed to take them seriously as characters with depth and genuine suffering. I sat there seeing what Anderson was aiming at, and the scene is effective in itself – but I wasn’t buying it.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Your mission: to file out

Gosh, there is no really bad Mission: Impossible movie, and no really good one, is there? Let me count the ways: the first one, Mission: Impossible (1996), has the courage to kill most of its illustrous cast quite early on, and it has that famous scene wherein a helicopter is chasing a high speed train through a tunnel. That sequence is so preposterously over the top that the rest of the movie sort feels muted in comparison. And if you can make sense of the plot, then you are a better person than me. Continue reading

It’s the pictures that got small

This week I saw my first Hitchcock on the big screen. I grew up in the ’80s, which meant that I first and, more often than not, only saw the classics of cinema on TV – and in the ’80s that meant, what, screens that were 30 inches across if you were lucky? TVs were big, bulky monstrosities, but the screens weren’t particularly big – which was good, really, because television channels broadcast images that were relatively fuzzy. If you sat close enough to the screen so that it filled your field of vision (and you could smell that weird electric smell), what you saw was basically impressionist art.

North By Northwest

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The Cons of Cons

Even though I greatly enjoyed Looper, Brick and, yes, The Last Jedi, it took me until last weekend to check out Rian Johnson’s sophomore film, The Brothers Bloom. It’s a strange film, strongly recalling the arch constructions of Wes Anderson while still breathing with a fabulating, downright sexy verve that’s not frequently found in Anderson’s works. There’s a willfulness to The Brothers Bloom that, in my eyes, makes it the closest of Johnson’s works to The Last Jedi. And, last but not least, it has reminded me of two things:

I love a good con movie.

But I cannot, will not, trust a con movie.

The Brothers Bloom Continue reading