Lawless Heart

After reading an interview with Bill Nighy, where he talked up this little-seen British film, I tracked it down, and I’m glad I did. The storyline can seem reductively familiar: the film follows three men in a small coastal British town, each kind of grappling with their own sense of self and their respective love lives, following the funeral of a man close to all. What makes the film stand out–beyond its excellent performances–is its structure Continue reading Lawless Heart

the ground truth and the road to guantanamo

i’ve been trying to write these reviews for days now. these are troubling movies, not only for what they say about the iraq war and the war on terror, but also for the feelings of identification and alienation they evoked in me.

according to the ground truth, the iraq war’s difference from other wars the US fought consists in the fact that a) the psychological conditioning of soldiers to kill people they don’t hate without inhibition has achieved a phenomenal success, b) the enemy is pretty much indistinguishable from the non-inimical civilian, and c) body armor and surgical technologies save many more lives than in past wars but don’t save limbs, faces, and psyches. what you get is a phenomenal, brutal, free-for-all bloodbath and a lot of seriously damaged veterans. none of this is news to any of us, but filmmaker patricia foulkrod gives these known facts the support of some pretty amazing (and shocking) footage, and a remarkable cast of interviewees. Continue reading the ground truth and the road to guantanamo


Well the big night is here and I haven’t heard a word about it here, nor have I heard anything about an Oscar pool. I attribute it to Arnab’s exhaustion and the fact that the date has been moved up. Some predictions, no better or worse than Bill Murray’s. The Queen will be the suprise winner for Best Picture. why? It has broad appeal, i.e. is middlebrow enough for a general consensus, while the others are too specialized ( Little Miss Sunshine and Babel ), too alien Letters from Iwo Jima ) or too violent/cynical ( The Departed ). Scorsese will win the oscar for Best Director, though this film is the weakest of those he’s been nominated for. Pan’s Labyrinth will be the suprise total winner, getting awards for Best Foreign Film, Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup and Original Score. It will,however, lose best screenplay to The Queen . Children of Men which should have been nominated for Best Picture will win only Best Adapted Screenplay. Babel gets shut out. The highly touted Dreamgirls wins for Hudson, Murphy and Best Song (it has 3 of the 5 nominations–please god let us not hear them all tonight). The main acting goes as expected–Mirren and Whitaker. Whitaker will give the most unusual speech and Ennio Morricone, winning the lifetime award, will charm as with his broken English, as those wacky foreigners do! Jokes will be….lame. Peter O’Toole will be there drunk and Nicholson will shout out something profane.

Television on the down low

So, Reynolds attacked me not too long ago for wallowing about in the mindless fields of television entertainment (I think he used the word pablum). Still, bang for buck I’d choose “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Entourage,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Sopranos,” “24,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Heroes,” and “LOST” (these are the shows I make an effort to see weekly when they are delivering fresh eps), over much of what passes for entertainment in the movie theatres these days. And week to week these shows consistently deliver in ways that even our favorite filmmakers and our favorite boutique indie houses can only imagine. Newsweek has published a very interesting article worth pondering. I think they are on to something.

Ab Tak Chhappan

I won’t do backflips selling this one, but Shimit Amin’s 2004 cop/crime drama is a strong genre piece, with a damn good central performance by Nana Patekar. Patekar’s Inspector is part of a unit whose primary function is assassination; big-shot members of Mumbai’s underworld are singled out, then Sadhu and his men collar them and essentially goad the criminals into resistance, setting up the thinnest rationale for gunning them down. (And, sometimes, skipping the rationale.) Continue reading Ab Tak Chhappan


Breach is a pretty damn entertaining cat and mouse spy thriller–the kind where one is never quite sure who’s the cat and who’s the mouse. Director Billy Ray tells us exactly what’s going to happen in the first 30 seconds (well, John Ashcroft does) and for the next 110 minutes, you’re on the edge of your seat trying to figure out what actually is going to happen. That alone seems worth celebrating. Oh, I don’t know, it’s probably not as good as all that, but we are in the February doldrums (the flaming Nic Cage pic made $15 million on Friday!), and Breach is a smart, unpretentiously ambitious genre flick that works on a variety of levels and is acted to the hilt by Laura Linney, Gary Cole, Ryan Phillipe and, in perhaps his strongest performance in an already stellar career, Chris Cooper. It’s also one of the most virulent pieces of anti-Catholic propaganda I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. Continue reading Breach

13 Tzameti

Grimy, gritty, gut-wrenching–and damn good. A tight little no-budget thriller which starts obliquely, as a poor roofer, screwed out of pay for a job, decides to purloin a letter which promises great fortune for god-knows-what activities. The film locks him into that situation, and then slowly turns the screws (on him, and really on us). The film looks a stark, black-and-white dream, but my favorite thing about it is its resistance to allegorize; the plot has a whiff of the existential, but instead of portentous dialogue director/writer Gela Babluani sticks to stark images and under-played emotions.

I’ve avoided spoilers. But even knowing what was coming I still found it gripping. Put this into my inescapable escapist category: no way out, done with superior style.

September 11

Has anyone else seen this anthology film (I believe it’s been mentioned elsewhere). 11 short films from an international group of directors. Why do I feel that the collection is a failure, albeit an interesting one. Part of the problem lies in the idea of an “international” perspective on the event I think. Is there such a thing? How is it distinguished from an American perspective. This post derives from the thoughtful commentary provided by Gio at our books site and my somewhat less thoughtful response, claiming that Americans understand 911 in a different way than most of the world. Thoughts? Is the event “ours” not “theirs?” If you’ve seen it, any thoughts on individual segments?