Film

Who's Minding the Store: 6 February, 2007

It's a week of great ideas vs. divergent execution. Indeed, one of the defining skills for a filmmaker is the ability to translate what everyone agrees is a stellar premise into an equally intriguing movie. Sometimes, the combination creates a classic work of art. But in most cases, the lack of imagination destroys the fascinating narrative foundation, reducing the translation to something miserable and misguided. Luckily, most of the entries in this week's inspiration against implementation contest came up winners. See for yourself as you peruse the titles for 6 February, including our main selection:

The Science of Sleep

When you consider its cinematic pedigree, and its remarkable visual invention, it's unfathomable why more people didn't respond to Michel Gondry's fracture fable. Like an incomplete European version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (his collaboration with Charlie Kaufman) the fascinating French auteur explored the battle between fantasy and reality, and how it relates to love, in a way that was stunning in its message and meaning. Never closing off any avenue of emotion, and using his dualistic characters (named, ironically enough Stephane and Stephanie) to constantly challenge the standard conventions of onscreen romance, Gondry does something very daring with this otherwise whimsical workout. He never offers any closure, instead looking at relationships as they really are – complicated, dense and often open-ended.

Other Titles of Interest

Blume in Love

Using the unique construct of following a divorce lawyer as his own marriage breaks up, counterculture stalwart Paul Mazursky serves up one of his last iconoclastic efforts. George Segal expertly embodies a man incapable of understanding his own role in the dissolution of his relationship. This is the rare comedy that transcends its joke-oriented trappings to find the truth behind commitment and its collapse.

Crossing Delancey

Amy Irving is a good Jewish girl, content with her life. Her grandmother wants her to find a good Jewish man. But she balks when it's suggested she see a yenta (a.k.a matchmaker) – that is, until she meets up with pickle maker Peter Riegert. While things are complicated at first, this romantic comedy overcomes its uniquely ethnic trappings to work as both laffer and love story.

Flag of Our Fathers

It's a brilliant subject for a film – how the famed image of the flag rising over Iwo Jima came about. Oddly enough, Clint Eastwood opted for jingoism over explanation, focusing mostly on the men post-event, and how they were honored, and exploited, for appearing in the photo. Most believe that his companion piece, Letters from Iwo Jima, is the much better WWII testament.

Hollywoodland

In one of the more tragic tales of typecasting ever, B-movie staple George Reeves could never live down his TV's Superman persona. So the kept man finally killed himself – or did he? That's the unusual premise for a detective story dissection of the actor's supposed suicide. Thanks to an amazing turn by Ben Affleck, this occasionally convoluted story shines through.

A Summer Place

Pure processed American cinematic cheese, filtered through an angst-ridden soap style that's awfully hard to resist. More obsessed with sex and hate than clique-ish middle schoolers, this puerile potboiler has the most hissable villain in the entire canon of melodramatic camp. Add in more mindless innuendo, a sulking Sandra Dee and total lack of subtlety and you've got a choice cheddar classic.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Mad Monkey Kung Fu

Okay, it's true confession time. We here at SE&L have never even seen this infamous martial arts movie. We wouldn't begin to know how inventive or thrilling it is. We're not even sure if it has the kind of gravity defying fight scenes that make the genre so sublime. But what we do know is – you gotta love that title! Thanks to a bit of research, we have learned that "Mad Monkey" is a style of combat, and that the movie represents some of the best-choreographed illustrations of the format ever committed to film. While it probably was too much to hope for simian streetfighters kicking the crap out of each other, we'll still line up for a copy of this long out of print chopshocky epic.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

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7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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