Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013
Her shows the confines and varying dimensions of love -- primarily between a man and his operating system -- as it meditates on whether or not you can truly possess what you love.

Theodore Twombly is a great name. Played by Joaquin Phoenix, Twombly is the physical center of Spike Jonze’s latest effort Her about a man who becomes entangled in a relationship with his operating system (OS), named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The movie takes place in a future version of Los Angeles (though visuals of Shanghai substitute for the city’s sprawl and skylines) where personal letters are ghostwritten by third parties, the job Twombly has been in for years and excels at. He serves as a reserved and lonely everyman, a stand in for anyone seeking love, and you’re drawn to like everything about him. Phoenix embodies the quirky role and we believe in everything about the character, from his laughter to his nervousness to his moustache.


Twombly has been separated from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) for about a year and we find she’s trying to finalize their divorce. Twombly became distant in their relationship, perhaps more absorbed in technology and the artificial connections he makes between the consumers of his letters. He can fondly recall a girl’s broken tooth in a letter between one couple because he’s been their emotional emissary for so long. He doesn’t show much desire to connect with the people around him daily, particularly the oddball receptionist played by Chris Pratt (who may just be the odd coworker you feel uncomfortable hanging around). Amy Adams plays his best friend Amy, and she represents a portion of Twombly’s past when he could connect with humans. Through her and her husband, Twombly gets set up on a date with one woman (Olivia Wilde) that starts off well but closes strangely as she attempts to arrange a follow-up date.


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Thursday, Oct 17, 2013
Walter Mitty doesn't sport much comedy. It doesn't plunge into a character's emotional depths. But it has an adventurous spirit. And that may be reason enough to see the movie.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is directed by and stars Ben Stiller. So you can expect bits of comedy will be sprinkled into the movie, including a laugh-out-loud moment early on when he’s online dating and trying to contact a co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). But it isn’t a pure comedy, or even a purely romantic comedy, at least from my perspective. Its sort of an adventure-driven story of growth for the titular character that develops out of his attempts at online dating—at least in the intro, though there are some familial obligations given later as reasons he couldn’t adventure before. Apparently, in the beginning, Mitty’s profile isn’t complete, and when he calls up the website’s support services Todd (Patton Oswalt) informs him that he should fill out a prompt for ‘been there / done that’. Mitty realizing he hasn’t been there or done that inadvertently finds himself on an adventure chasing down a photo negative from famed Life-cover photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) as he’s trying to court Cheryl and to save his job at Life magazine which is about to transition into a digital online publication (in the film).


By this point it is apparent that Mitty lapses into flights of fancy, tuning out the real world as his mind attempts to release his intrepid spirit through adventurous or explosive scenes. The first such dream has a moment that echoes a jumping scene in the third Bourne movie, as the camera jumps with the actor through the window. But as the slide becomes his focus, Mitty’s reality becomes almost as implausible as his dreams. He attempts to trail O’Connell through Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas and jumps out of a helicopter, recalls his skateboarding days and climbs mountains. The cinematography for these scenes is astounding as it displays these vistas proudly, encouraging a viewer’s own desire to explore the world.


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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013
In our final review from TIFF 2013, PopMatters joins the chorus of praise for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

One of the toasts of this year’s TIFF, just as it was of Telluride where it premiered a few weeks ago, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has quickly established itself as a critic’s darling and, for those who care about such things, an early awards favourite. It’s easy to see why: the film, which might be described as Django Unchained’s graver, wiser sibling, is a powerfully acted, skilfully made prestige picture. It’s history with a very human face.


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Thursday, Sep 12, 2013
Two films about teenage sexuality yielding contrasting results: Bruce LaBruce's Gerontophilia is a hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of a teenager's passion for an octogenarian, while François Ozon's Young & Beautiful is a chic yet tacky take on a teenage girl's decision to prostitute herself.

Geronotophilia
Canada, 2013—Dir. Bruce LaBruce


Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) the dreamy teen hero of Bruce LaBruce’s wonderful latest, Geronotophilia, has a thing for older guys. And by that I mean really older guys, such as those occupying the Corps a Coeur rest home where his mother is working. When Lake also lands a job at this facility it’s like he’s entered the erotic paradise of his dreams: he can’t stop peeping at gowns coming agape and revealing wrinkly male body parts. And his eyes widen with glee when he’s assigned to give a sponge bath to a resident, Melvin Peabody (Walter Boden), with whom he ends up falling in love.


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Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013
At TIFF, Alex Ramon enjoys the deluxe casting in John Wells's film of August: Osage County, especially Meryl Streep's scenery chewin' turn, but finds the material to be too much of a calculated dysfunction-fest.

August: Osage County
USA, 2013—Dir. John Wells


Snorting, cackling and speaking in scary low tones (with impeccable—natch!—Oklahoma twang to boot), Meryl Streep puts on a show in August: Osage County, John Wells’s film adaptation of Tracy Letts’s play, which premiered at Toronto Film Festival on Monday night. As Vi, the bewigged, pill-popping, cancerous matriarch who’s at the centre of the drama, Streep goes all out, delivering a juicily theatrical turn that’s consistently lively and surprising.


Wells has surrounded the mighty Meryl’s scenery-chewin’ exploits with a bunch of big names also doing their thang: there’s Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson as her three daughters, Ewan McGregor as Roberts’s spouse, Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper as her sister and brother-in-law, and Benedict Cumberbatch as their son. Not to forget a brief bonus cameo from Sam Shepard as Vi’s husband, the character whose suicide sets the drama in motion by contriving to bring the extended clan together at the family homestead for a hearty round of ructions and revelations.


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