Thursday, May 5, 2016

Useless Clatter...JJ Gittes: Exemplar de Noir

About thirty minutes into Chinatown, Jack Nicholson’s JJ Gittes questions Mrs. Mulwray about the death of her husband; specifically, her seemingly blasé attitude towards the event. As a detective pressing for answers, Gittes’ look fits him to a T— three-piece suit, top hat, and a cigarette perched between his fingers. Everything is in its right place, until he utters: “Look. I do matrimonial work. It’s my métier.” Métier? As Roger Ebert also wonders in his Great Movie essay for the film, what is this hard-boiled detective doing with a word like métier? Humphrey Bogart’s Phillip Marlowe wouldn’t be caught dead tossing around a word like that. 


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Useless Clatter...Orson Welles: The Man, The Myth, The Misunderstood

From a rising theater talent to America’s most outstanding auteur, Citizen Kane launched Welles’s career, forming the legacy that exceeds him to this day. Yet, that legacy is one of convoluted crossings. For many, Welles is considered one of the cinema’s finest directors. But to some others though, Welles’ legacy remains alive not though his great films, but through a series of fumbling commercial outtakes preserved on YouTube. In color and occurring decades after Kane, the minute and a half video stars an overweight and seemingly over-served Orson Welles pitifully trying to deliver lines for a wine commercial. The video has over one million hits, and there are two, in which case that number can be doubled. This total amounts to more than that of any trailer for any of his films, including Citizen Kane.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Useless Clatter...2016 Best Picture- Whys and Why Nots

As the Oscar date fast approaches, our Best Picture prediction is growing foggier by the day. Golden Globes and Guild Awards have been spread out amongst the contenders. With no single frontrunner, 2016’s Best Picture race is one of the closest in recent memory. A few weeks ago, Las Vegas released their odds for all of the nominees in the major Oscar categories. With the likes of Leo and Brie Larson dominating the awards season, it seems that most of the categories will offer few surprises. But the granddaddy of them all will be a photo finish.

Posted below are the potential winning odds for each of the eight Best Picture nominees, along with some thoughts as to why they could win and why they might not.

Spotlight 4 to 5
Why: If any film has a lead, no matter how small, Spotlight might claim it- at least according to Vegas. This delicately paced yet unnerving thriller has received nothing but praise since its release, picking up top prizes from the LA Film Critics and the Critics’ Choice. A –listers abound, Spotlight boasts an excellent ensemble cast and a wickedly tight-knit screenplay, two of the Academy’s favorite ingredients. Underdogs searching for truth against the immoralities of an this not the very reason we tell stories and go to movies?

Why Not: Said story deals with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Accolades aside, it’s hard to predict how the conservative Academy voters will react to such abhorrent material. Also, from a purely cinematic standpoint, Spotlight does not exactly dazzle. One critic cleverly compared the movie’s simple and muted style to that of Michael Keaton’s khakis. In the celebration of filmmaking, and with such a dynamic movie like The Revenant hot on its heels, can Spotlight’s substance trump The Revenant’s style?

Notable Victories thus far: Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Critic’s Choice Awards

Monday, January 25, 2016

Useless Clatter...The Hal 9000: Technology That Talks

(Originally posted for
Depictions of the future serve as one of the most alluring aspects of science fiction. Even better is when these cinematic futures become the past. Audiences may relish in the opportunity to nitpick the accuracy of these fictitious creations in the aided benefit of hindsight. (Sorry Back to the Future II, there were no hoover boards yet in 2015. We were still trying to figure out the Segway.)

Unfortunately, 2001: A Space Odyssey does not lend many imaginative depictions of 21st century Earth. Despite a few bone-wielding apes on our prehistoric planet, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as its title suggests, takes place mainly on board spaceships trekking through a limitless and (relatively) unchanging galaxy. But onboard any spaceship, technology is aplenty, often times in excess in sci-fi. Arguably the film’s most intriguing character is no man or ape, but a talking computer- the HAL 9000- stoic and physically lifeless. A novel idea in 1968, but almost 50 years later, HAL would simply join the likes of Siri, Watson and our unnamed Google Maps chauffeur on the ever increasing list of “talking computers.” Thankfully, our reliable trio have yet to cause the mayhem of HAL.