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Monday, Jan 21, 2013
As we continue with our look at some year end favorites, we stumble upon Quentin Tarantino's latest... and make no mistake about it, Django Unchained is a joy. It's fun and foolish, unhinged and unapologetic.

As he makes his way through the memory bank of recollected movie genres, Quentin Tarantino argues for his place as cinema’s greatest thief. Not that this is a bad thing. Indeed, his legitimate larceny has amped at least two generations of fanboys and girls to revisit past masters in a way no other filmmaker has found. He inspires inquiry, asking for the clueless and clued in to play along with his game of spot the homage. With canvases so broad - crime, WWII, The Shaw Brothers - he’s managed to make his name off the obvious references of those who came before. And yet, like any great chef, he doesn’t merely mimic. He pours over previous recipes, extracting the best bits to turn into his own masterful (and tasty) creations. They may seem similar, but they remain wholly his own.


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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013
Between now and the Oscars, we will be revisiting the films that make the 2012 Awards Season sizzle. This time out, we look at Kathryn Bigelow's amazing follow-up to her previous Best Picture Winner, The Hurt Locker

In 2008, Kathryn Bigelow’s career was at a concerning crossroads. Her last film, 2002’s poorly received K-19: The Widowmaker was considered a major box office bomb, and the heyday of such classics as Near Dark (and for some, Strange Days and Point Break) were decades past. Life is hard enough for a female filmmaker in the male dominated dominion of Tinseltown, let alone for a perceived failure whose best work was a distant memory. Then came The Hurt Locker, and things changed dramatically. Bigelow went from pariah to pioneer, becoming the first woman EVER to win the Oscar for Best Director. Some argued her nomination and victory were part of some calculated mea culpa conspiracy on the part of paternalistic Hollywood. With her stellar follow-up, the amazing Zero Dark Thirty, such silliness should be put to rest once and for all. It’s a brilliant thriller by a more than capable moviemaker, gender be damned.


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Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012
The twist ending in recent films: Delightful? Or Disingenuous?

There is nothing new about the trick or “twist” ending. Long before Pam Ewing ‘dreamt’ an entire season of Dallas or the Ape Planet turned out to be Earth all along, filmmakers and novelists were pulling the rug out from under unsuspecting readers/viewers with their last act switheroos. In general, people like a good plot ploy. Being able to see events in a totally differently light can bring both clarity and a sense of calm. Suddenly, the weird way a character was acting is explained away. Similarly, a side element not easily recognizable quickly comes into focus, arguing for its ability to con you just as easily as the creative wizard working behind the media scrim.


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Monday, Oct 15, 2012
Like science fiction, which requires a solid suspension of disbelief, horror has its inherent limits. It cannot and will not appeal to each and every member of the audience.

It was intriguing to watch. For those of us who love the genre, we knew it was inevitable. Still, with such a strong showing from the international community, it looked like the Ethan Hawke horror film Sinister was going to be something special. Insidious special. The Cabin in the Woods special. Heck, maybe even [REC] good. As it sat in the high 90s on Rotten Tomatoes, it looked like the often maligned movie category was about to score that rarity - a real critical hit.


Then it started. Slowly, then snowballing. As more and more ‘journalists’ added their voices, as the aggregate system over at Rotten Tomatoes started to show its already flawed stripes, the total score for Sinister dropped. First into the ‘80s, then drastically into the high 60s. By the end of the 12 October weekend (where it placed third at the box office), it had landed at a weak 63%. While that’s good in the overall scheme of the genre, it once again argues for a critical constant. Horror remains one of the most consistently marginalized and maligned categories in the history of the artform. More so than any other.


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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012
So where does the wickedness really come from? Is it nothing more than a combination of factors, an internal weakness fueled by far more malevolent outside sources? Well, yes and no.

They say humans aren’t inherently evil. They argue that people learn their malevolent behavior at the hands or influence of another, or through the systematic brainwashing of (or reaction to) the world around them. People can’t be born bad, yet we often argue that they can be blessed with talent, insight, or specialized physical ability. No, evil is left to the specious and supernatural, a place where wicked little children kill their rivals, bad seed style, and the maladjusted take to machetes and murder as a means of making sense of their darkest inner fantasies. There is barely room for the misguided, or in the case of some, the mean-spirited and manipulative.


The notion of bad, and the byplay between right and wrong come to the fore in the two films that arrive at number five on the Sight & Sound list of the Greatest Films of All Time. On the director’s side is Martin Scorsese’s mesmerizing Taxi Driver, the tale of a disillusioned loner who becomes a social vigilante by way of his affection for a teen prostitute. Within the overall collection comes F. W. Murnau’s amazing Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. There, a callous gal from the city twists a poor country farmer into plotting to kill his wife. His reaction to such a challenge changes his life forever. Oddly enough, in each case, the threat of violence (or the actual arrival of same) propel the characters forward. Equally intriguing is how faith in humanity is restored once the true villain is vanquished and morality makes a case for its continuing purpose.


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