Misc. Reviews

Scarface — 5

Full Metal Jacket — 5

A Few Good Men — 3

The Wire (Season 1) — 4

The Wire (Season 2) — 4

The Wire (Season 3) — 5

Blue Jasmine — 5

5 Centimeters Per Second — 5

Google Talks: Salman Rushdie — 3

Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2013: David Simon, ‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’ — 5

FODI 2013: Lawrence Krauss & Peter Rollins, ‘New Atheism vs. New Religion’ — 4

FODI 2013: Panel, ‘Death Gone Wrong’ — 3

‘this emotion was a little e-book’, Tao Lin — 4

Some more catching up on some movie classics I had somehow managed to miss until now. I definitely get what the big deal is about Scarface.

The Wire is a series I’ve been hearing about for years but hadn’t gotten around to yet, which is particularly shameful considering how much I’ve followed and admired creator David Simon’s various writings and public talks. The show really does live up to the hype, and is without a doubt some of the best criticism of the continued War on Drugs, for which the label ‘failed’ is an understatement of abysmal proportions. The characters and writing are brilliant, as is the overall pace and production. I actually surrendered all forms of self control and dignity a few days ago and marathoned the entirety of season 3 in a single day; it really is that good, the epitome of ‘just one more’ addiction. David Simon’s background as a journalist comes through very strong, and is the mechanism driving all the gritty and realistic minutiae that make the show truly singular.

Blue Jasmine was absolutely fantastic, the best Woody Allen in a long while and by far his best cast that I can remember. Cate Blanchett rightfully gets the lion’s share of praise for a perfectly affected portrayal of a genuine nervous breakdown of life-crumbling proportions. Baldwin and Louis CK are very enjoyable and the presence of Sally Hawkins (who I fell completely in love with in Happy-Go-Lucky) pushes the entire film over the top for me in the best ways possible.

5 Centimeters Per Second is easily the best animated film I’ve seen in years, visually pristine and aesthetically wealthy in all the ways needed to carry through to make what would in most hands a bland and cliche trio of vignettes.

I’d never quite say Salman Rushdie is disappointing as a speaker or reader, but he really does just..lose something, when off the page. The writing of his I know (not enough) is the real deal, he studies everything with a writer’s mind and imagination that is childlike yet with the matured patina of someone who has been the target of and answer to some of the most visceral anger and violence on offer in the modern world. His talk at Google about his memoir (that I loved) was all right but nothing terribly interesting to anyone who has read the book or even been enough a follower of his life to want to.

Been slowly working through all of the YouTube recordings of this past year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which is always worth anyone’s time and always offers a genuinely complex range of topics. David Simon’s dark and only slightly hopeful critique of the lack of any social contract at all between America’s capitalistic balloonings of wealth and its people as a whole (i.e., the 99% vs. 1% dynamic) is thorough and emotional and uncomfortable, and I’m afraid that he’s almost certainly right in saying that, on the whole, it’s all going to get much worse before it gets better, and the turning point will be some kind of very real revolt, something along the lines of the Arab Spring meets Occupy Wall Street.

The ‘New Atheism vs. New Religion’ debate/discussion was all right but a bit flat. Lawrence Krauss is a fine speaker and getting better all the time, and represented himself well and did right by, I think, most anyone who could be called part of the ‘movement’. I had never seen Peter Rollins speak before and I get why he’s so popular — young, very charismatic, with a perfect sense for cadence and performance. Sadly, while markedly more enjoyable to listen to than Deepak Chopra, his pseudo-intellectual ramblings are equally hollow. Like Chopra he’s borrowed just enough jargon to weave together some admirable rhetorical stunt-pilotry that goes precisely nowhere — there’s just no there, there. His severely watered-down take on theology makes it so palatable even secularists might find it interesting, but it’s like popcorn, mostly air and quickly unsatisfying past his verbal theatrics.

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