12 Years A Slave is, for better or worse, pretty much what you’d expect: a Slavery Movie about how Slavery Was Bad (Really Bad). It’s not a character study of Solomon Northup, a quasi-documentarian reenactment of history, a political allegory for some contemporary phenomenon, a sociological examination of the institution of slavery, a philosophical rumination on the nature of human freedom/enslavement/control/suffering/etc., or even a sentimental memorial a la Schindler’s List. It’s just… the Slavery Movie.
I suppose that’s not the worst thing to be, and I’m glad it exists (and mildly disgusted that it took until the year 2013 for it to get made), and I’m sure it’ll soon join Last of the Mohicans and Hotel Rwanda as a high-school history class standard. It’s certainly not easy to fault on any formal level. But artistically, it’s hard not to feel that something’s lacking.
[quote="Joseph Jon Lanthier (highlights mine)"]Much like Fritz Lang’s M, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty begins with violent death that’s aurally suggested rather than seen, and concludes with a woman’s ambiguously symbolic tears. These disorienting overloads of affect bookend a deceptively rational police-procedural thriller, cataloguing the steps taken by a steely CIA operative (Jessica Chastain) to hunt down Osama bin Laden through a political decade defined by torture and mishap. Hyperkinetic drama trumps context throughout; discussion of Operation Cyclone and even Islam is riskily absent, as though Bigelow were writing history with lightning. The code-named characters meanwhile behave like they’re auditioning for HBO; Chastain’s self-proclaimed “motherfucker” of an agent, who scrawls angry notes on her male superior’s office window (a.k.a. “the glass ceiling”), has an anemically sketched inner life. Yet all of these vernacular tropes form a shrewd, daring rouse. In a move worthy not only of Lang but of Brecht, Bigelow has politicized her pop aesthetics. Her compulsively watchable film brings a global exchange of unthinkable pain down to earth while still retaining the essence of its ineffability. Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately about unknowable cost—not only the cost of keeping a worldwide hegemony afloat with grisly violence, but the cost of maintaining a worldwide entertainment industry with facsimiles of the same.[/quote]
So [i]Zero Dark Thirty[/i] (that’s the same [i]Zero Dark Thirty[/i] that [url=http://nymag.com/movies/reviews/zero-dark-thirty-hobbit-2012-12/]David Edelstein[/url] describes as “borderline fascistic”) is the [i]Starship Troopers[/i] of its generation, and only JJ Lanthier here with his cromulent prose and incoherent metaphors can tell! Who knew? And if you were one of the millions of people who made the connection between [i]Zero Dark Thirty[/i] and German Expressionism – and how could you not? – JJ has you covered there, too. He knows a lot about cinema, you see.
Oh, Slant. It’s this kind of nose-upturned, art-school-socialist pedantry you just can’t fake; and yet, it’s the kind of smug, rigorously pretentious provocation that makes you (occasionally) worth reading.
I wish the animation looked even half as good as that static shot.
A Time to Screw (I love how R1 Hentai feels the need to be retitled to make it obvious that it's porn) has the prestigious honor of being the first anime I have seen dubbed before I have seen it with the original audio. At least I think it does.
Whoever said that critiquing mediocrity is the real test of one’s critical facilities had it right: pointing out good things about particularly good work and bad things about particularly bad work certainly requires skill, but in those cases you start out with enough momentum to hit the ground running right away. Explaining why unremarkable work is unremarkable, though… that’s difficult. You have to make your own momentum, and it’s that strenuous process that teaches you the material components of the thing you’re putting together from scratch. Not having clear binary classifications of “good” and “bad” to fall back on – that’s what forces you to examine just how you distinguish between the two in the first place.
[may expand this post into a full essay at some point in the future]
You know, the more I consider it the more I think that the great and terrible thing about the American cultural ethos is the way in which its subjects are constantly enflamed with the desire for “more”. On the one hand, more power, more wealth, more pleasure; on the other, more freedom, more opportunity, more equality. Both sides of the coin engender a warlike mindset, a life of constant striving doomed never to live up to an imagined ideal; yet both produce world-changing developments. Americans never doubt for a second that simply by being alive, simply by being human, they are entitled to the best the world has to offer. It’s what makes them lead lives of perpetual alienation, anxiety and rage, yet at the same time what imbues them with the iron will to realize ambitions. Would that the ambitious capitalists and snarling social critics might realize they are fruit of the same spiritual tree; and that both in tandem make America the greatest – not the most good, perhaps, but the greatest – nation on Earth.