All posts filed under: Cinema

Dragged Across Concrete—A Review

It may very well be that the individual who has been expelled, and who has now become embittered and reckless, will cause us further trouble. ~Freud The kind of trouble to which Freud alluded rears its head in S. Craig Zahler’s brutal new feature film Dragged Across Concrete, an exploration of two characters emblematic of that proletarian section of American society notoriously dismissed by Hilary Clinton as a “basket of deplorables.” Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) are haggard, vulgar, politically incorrect white male detectives who “don’t politick or move with the times.” Consequently, they are not the sort of people whose “truth” our febrile zeitgeist is especially keen on hearing. Ridgeman and Lurasetti are working pariahs on a measly wage; they have paid their dues and followed the rules, and have little to show for it besides bitter disenchantment with the social contract. “One year away from 60,” Ridgeman complains, “and I am still the same rank as when I was 27.” Trapped by his income in a decrepit community, he …

Don’t Deny Girls the Evolutionary Wisdom of Fairy-Tales

The view from moral high ground is best enjoyed after the check (for whatever you’re moralizing against) clears. Rather like animal-rights activists who own a string of steakhouses, Disney film stars Kristin Bell and Keira Knightley spoke out recently against the bad examples they feel Disney princesses convey to girls. (Bell voiced the role of Princess Anna in Disney’s 2013 animated film Frozen, and Knightley stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Disney’s new live action feature, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.) Knightley even used her Nutcracker promo tour to reveal that she’s banned certain Disney films from her own home. The Little Mermaid is one prohibited flick, and Cinderella is another—because, Knightley explains, Cinderella “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her.” Of course, Knightley and Bell aren’t alone in their disapproval. There’s been a war on “princess culture” for some time. Legions of pink-phobic parents all but go into mourning whenever their daughter begs for some glitter-flecked, rosy-hued item in a store—as if it might cast a spell on her, sending …

Representation and the Communitarianization of Cinema

A spate of recent cinema releases—Wonder Woman, Black Panther and, most recently, Crazy Rich Asians—have all been hailed in an almost repetitive, automatic way as ground-breaking. They are all fairly good films, but the reason for this excitement is not their artistry, or even their individual politics, but, at least with left-leaning critics, their portrayal of “powerful women,” “blackness,” and “Asian-ness,” respectively, within a mainstream Hollywood film. For the Left, the mere fact of representation—meaning the depiction of minority experiences and interests, or, more generally, seeing people who look like you—elevates these works to the position of cultural milestones­­­­. ­­­ In the view of the Left, to recognize a diversity of identities in art and culture is to enable self-empowerment and nurture a sense of collective solidarity. Black Panther, the recently anointed poster-child of representation, was even spoken about in spiritual terms when it was released. In an article entitled “I Dream a World: Black Panther and the Re-Making of Blackness,” Renée T. White wrote that “T’Challa [the hero] is a gateway to the past …

‘The Apartment,’ Authority, and Consent

This essay contains spoilers. What can a film made in 1960 tell us about the sexual mores of the present? I found myself pondering this question as I rewatched Billy Wilder’s award-winning drama The Apartment recently. The year of its release is important: as The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver notes in a recent appreciation, the story unfolds during a peculiar cultural moment “on the cusp of the permissive era”; prevailing norms were being questioned rather than taken for granted, and the uncertainty casts the characters adrift in a confusion that almost kills them. But this uncertainty, and the consequent effort with which the characters must navigate shifting standards, offers a complex portrait of human sexual relations and courtship. This is a topic of particular pertinence to our own cultural moment and it makes The Apartment a fascinating artefact worth revisiting. The Apartment‘s intellectual value and emotional urgency are generated, in large part, by the contrast between the film’s two main characters and their surroundings. The traits that make Shirley MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik lovable are those that leave her alienated …