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!
Nobody understands the confidence game better than David Mamet. His movies, most of all his debut House of Games (1989), show you in great detail how his con men entrap, use and manipulate their victims for money, influence, sex, or all of the above. His take on the long con is so simple that he is a playwright first and a moviemaker second; his games only need a stage and a few props. He often enlisted the late Ricky Jay, who was a magician first and an actor second. It’s also proof that more complex things are going on than meet the eye, but the con very often happens in plain sight. The point of any confidence game is this: “It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.” It’s the perpetrator’s choice, and the victim is hopelessly trapped. Some characters know what is happening to them, but can’t do anything about it. Others simply have no clue. There is a cruel purity to such a concept.
Tune in for episode 11 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, in which we visit Westworld, look back at season 1 and discuss whether its Hosts are more human than human. Is the series great, cerebral sci-fi or is it a puzzlebox too far? We also talk about festivals, theatre and otherwise, and pay our respects to the late, great Sam Shepard, by way of Michael Shannon. Continue reading →
Let’s face it: Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is not the best nor the worst movie of the year, or the decade, or of all of movie history. It’s an average piece of art from a filmmaker who, after making Noah in 2014, has used another narrative from the Bible, i.e. the Garden of Eden, mixed it with ecological concerns, and made a mildly interesting story out of it. The main problem I have with mother! is its lack of surprise for all of its two hours. Once you get that the Jennifer Lawrence character is some kind of Eve and ecological earth mother whose universe is the house she lives in, the rest sort of falls into place. The movie has only three kinds of scenes: Lawrence’s point of view, Lawrence in the frame, or shots over her shoulder. It’s the earth mother’s story and how her realm gets invaded by careless, selfish humans. She has built that house herself and will never leave it – the porch is as far as she will go. She can feel the house’s beating heart getting poisoned by unwanted intruders. The invasion is gradual, but unstoppable, and you know well before the end that we will be back at the beginning, where the house is in flames, with the earth mother dying in it, and her husband placing a diamond on its little altar so that the house can heal again. And so on. Continue reading →
In case you were wondering: I haven’t abandoned you or the internet or my “way too late to be of any relevance whatsoever” blog. I’ve just been away, and still am. For the first time in my life, I’m not just witnessing the sheer bigness (biggitude?) of the United States of Thingamy through the TV screen – I’m in San Diego, enjoying the sun, the zoo, the predominantly Democrat people, the 24-hour shop at the gas station that sells juices made up of broccoli, spinach and garlic that nevertheless taste pretty damn good.
I’ve also made it to the fabled American movie theatre, and the first and most important thing to report is this: they show about 2 1/2 times as many trailers as they do back home! (That’s it, I’m moving here…) Okay, the number of trailers may not quite make up for the film that followed them in this instance…
As I may or may not have mentioned earlier, I’m not a Western fan as such… but some films and series that I like a lot happen to be Westerns. I like what you can do with a well established genre – such as showing up the genre’s limitations and giving alternate readings of its archetypes. I love Deadwood and The Assassination of is anyone still reading this title or have you already jumped to the end of the italics? is one of my favourite films of the last couple of years.
Appaloosa, Ed Harris’ second film as a director, could have been made 60 years ago, with little changes. It’s old fashioned. That in itself isn’t bad. What is a shame is that the film becomes way too comfortable with itself, to the point where, even when bad things happen, there is no urgency to the story at all. There’s too much there that is utterly predictable. And most of the characters have the emotional maturity of sitcom characters.
As a result, I sat there thinking, “Nice acting, but I don’t really care.” I didn’t care whether Harris’ character and Renée Zellweger’s golddigger would end up with each other and be happy. I didn’t much care whether any of the protagonists would die before the end. The few bits that made me look up with interest – the quasi-domestic relationship between Harris and Mortensen before it’s broken up by, gosh darn!, a woman is quite nice, and the film’s nicely aware of Harris’ character being rather thick at the best of times – were nice enough, but the overriding thought on my mind as I left the cinema was: “I wonder how many episodes of Deadwood season 4 this could have financed…”
On a slightly different note: Watched the premiere of the US Life on Mars. Was left with a deeply felt confusion as to why to do this remake and a mixture of pity for Harvey Keitel (he looked like he wanted to be somewhere else) and annoyance with him (if he doesn’t want to be there, why is he taking up the space?). I have no problem with remakes on principle – but if they’re as pointless, and joyless, as this one I have to wonder: “How many episodes of Deadwood…?”