The Plausibles: The Problems of Make-Belief in the Age of Reason
Belief is a funny thing. Chuck Jones once said about the sense of absurdity in his animated work: “It doesn’t have to be realistic, as long as it’s believable.” It makes you wonder why a coyote surviving a fall from a cliff for the umpteenth time in a row is somehow more “believable” than Tony Montana taking a few bullets more than medically feasible. And now we’re asking ourselves that question: why do the plausibles seem to have less of a problem with Peter Jackson’s fantastical vision of Middle-Earth or the mind-blowing fever dreams of David Lynch? It has to do with context and expectation. A literal-minded audience that watches a Roadrunner cartoon is more than willing to stretch the imagination because all of its action takes place in a wacky universe where a total disregard for logic is part of the fun.
Building a Better Bomb: The Alternatives to Suspense
It’s always a bad idea to argue with the Master. Any sensible person will tell you so. On the subject of cinema, there is probably nothing more foolish and outright uncool than to question Alfred Hitchcock. You don’t question Hitchcock; you shut up, listen and learn. The man didn’t just revolutionize the medium, he wrote the official Book of Rules. Every filmmaker since, especially those with dread on the repertoire, builds on the foundations Hitchcock left behind. Steven Spielberg, Alejandro Amenábar, M. Night Shyamalan, Hideo Nakata: they all owe the one who is commonly referred to as the Greatest Director of All Time.
Like I said: it’s always a bad idea to argue with the Master.
Wish me luck…
The Shape of Substance: Brian De Palma and the Function of Form
Maybe our mothers were right all along. Maybe true beauty really does come from within. Or doesn’t it? At least a considerable part of today’s critical establishment would seem to agree with Mom’s assertion, for the tired “style over substance” rant is currently all too frequently aimed at films that display a dash of visual flair. In fact, some reviewers are so taken by the concept that they will praise a movie’s aesthetic only to lay bare the gaping emptiness underneath. Apparently, looks are deceiving and we’d better believe the critics instead, for according to those who know best, the Holy Grail of cinema lies buried deep below its silver surface where absolutely no one is able see it.
Nighthawks: A Celluloid Fantasia
The rodent gazed at his blood-covered gloves under the gleaming neon light and wondered what the hell just happened. Only moments ago he had been standing on his renowned pinnacle surrounded by roaring ocean, orchestrating stars, comets, clouds and bolts of lightning across the nocturnal sky. Everything after that was a blur, as if a blind rage had taken possession of his body. Now, here he was: Mickey Mouse, standing on a sidewalk of 42nd street, dwarfed by mighty skyscrapers in the City that Never Sleeps. Hello reality.
But where had all the New York residents gone? How did he get here? And most of all: Why was there blood on his hands?
Sunshine and The Cinematic Experience
[The House Next Door]
Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, a sci-fi epic about a team of scientists sent on a mission to reignite a dying sun, is neither a mindless Michael Bay extravaganza nor a chin-strokey affair in the vein of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris. It’s the cinematic oxymoron many of us have been waiting for: the thinking man’s action movie. It also happens to be gobsmackingly stunning, ruthlessly intense, handsomely cast and blessed with a 100% INSANE last act that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but had yours truly grinning from ear to ear. Sunshine is a spectacle quite impossible to put into words, and that’s exactly what makes it brilliant cinema–albeit the kind that’s difficult to defend on theoretical grounds.
Raising Cain Re-cut
[Indiewire's Press Play]
Raising Cain Re-cut is my attempt to approximate Brian De Palma’s original vision of Raising Cain, before the director chose to compromise its structure in post-production. The re-cut uses all of the scenes in the theatrical release and puts them back in the order they were intended, giving rise to a dramatically different viewing experience.