Film

With a Bang: PopMatters Fall 2011 Preview

Time to figure out the final few weeks of the movie season circa 2011. Will it be a bust, or go out with a bang?

So far, 2011 has been a pretty mediocre movie year. Of course, this appears to be the argument that everyone makes every year. Critics complain about January through April and then kvetch even more over the dire dumping ground of September. They argue over the value of an overhyped summer movie season and pray that the last few months before the Oscars offer up something remotely redeeming. Most of the time, it happens. Best of lists compiled at the end of August end up overhauled and almost unrecognizable come 31 December while studios continue the shell game, convinced that the vast majority of the movie going public like it that way.

Are they right? Maybe. We don't really seem to mind that our entertainment year is divided up into crap and classics. We complain about the lack of quality at our local cineplex, but tend to balk big time when an arthouse entry tries to sneak its way into the pure popcorn. Over the last few months, much has been made over the Best Picture viable of such early entries as The Help and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Some have even suggested that bloated blockbusters like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, have a shot at Academy accolades. The truth, however, is a bit more intriguing. By the time Santa comes to gift us out of our respective failing fantasies, assumptions will end up as asinine.

History has told us that the Fall truly delivers each season's best, but the question in 2011 is, will that still be the case? Over the next four months we will see our fair share of commercial pandering (Real Steel? Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill?) but we will also see obvious attempts like The Debt, Carnage, Ides of March, J Edgar, and the return of Steven Spielberg with War Horse. Twilight inflicts its bifurcated beginning of the end on the faithful, while remakes and prequels -- Straw Dogs, Footloose, The Thing -- make cinematic nostalgia almost nauseating. Early buzz is bolstering the Rocky meets MMA feel of Warrior and Gary Oldman's turn in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, while pundits have complained that trailers for Dream House and Contagion give away the entire plot.

Of course, whenever you have someone like David Fincher pushing the public's buttons by calling his anticipated adaptation of the brilliant The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo "The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas", you're bound to go out with a bang. Indeed, over the next few months, we will revisit 9/11, see more scatology than humans should suffer through, enjoy overly earnest period pieces and wallow through subdued, somber dramas. From trequels and series start-ups to the "who asked for them" imports (Johnny English Reborn? Really?), the last few weeks of the movie year are never really dull. Unfortunately, with the way in which Hollywood manipulates the creative calendar of late, they are becoming definitive and determinative.

-- Bill Gibron

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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