Michael Mann, "Public Enemies" (2009).

Jul 05 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under review

Public Enemies

There’s one flat-out great sequence in Michael Mann’s new film, Public Enemies, the kind that makes you wish you were watching another movie. It’s a spectacular (and poorly thought-out) shoot-out in a lodge in the Wisconsin woods where John Dillinger and Babyface Nelson, the two most notorious gangsters of their time, are holed up. It’s the opposite of those scenes in Thief (1981) and Manhunter (1986), or even on “Miami Vice”, which Mann produced — not those trademark tense scenes shot with paradoxical languor, with still bodies cut by shards of light, but with jittery handheld cameras.

Mann has been proven to be an efficient director of action (see the otherwise bloated Heat from 1995), and his sharp eye is actually aided here by using nothing but digital cameras all throughout. The cameras, practically up people’s nostrils, plunge you into the frenzy of the shootout: heat and light everywhere, the din of gunshot and breaking glass, Tommy guns literally ablaze, the sparks from their muzzles momentarily overexposed and blown out on camera. The gangsters run into the dark forest, and the DV camera makes the woods look alive, swarming with digital motes and jellyfish tendrils of fog. When the sequence ends in a forest clearing — death twitches galore and blood squibs exploding everywhere — you finally exhale. It’s unfortunate that it’s surrounded by over two hours of dullness.

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

From the Wiretaps.

Sep 16 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

A sampling of topics from my e-mail and IM conversations of the last seven days:

- the Joker as the Übermensch

- Gotham = Baghdad

- “Is Batman a Jack Bauer-like Republican vigilante figure, who takes the hatred of the world upon himself to do the necessary work of getting rid of terrorism, or a slightly-more-liberal figure who represents the moral gray zones surrounding every good action?” [quoting my friend Eleanor here without permission]

- “I was just watching Les Miserables… here was the symptom of postmodernity if there ever was one — a musical phenomenon that hit the world globally as the… faith in revolution declined. Now that there ain’t large metanarratives, all we’re left with is Harvey Dent…” [quoting my friend Kiko here, also without permission]

- Alfred as servant and father figure

- the burning of currency and postmodern chaos

- Bruce Wayne is to Harvey Dent what the Batman is to the Joker — or a different configuration altogether?

- Does power still lie in the hands of “the people” (including, paradoxically, the incarcerated), and do they ultimately correct the extralegal excesses of the state?

- The Dark Knight, the new iPhone, queues, obsessive consumer mentality, and the demise of national ritual, secular and otherwise

- IMAX and the aesthetics of scale

- Christopher Nolan quoting Michael Caine in Entertainment Weekly: “Superman is the way America sees itself, but Batman is the way the world sees America.”

- and Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero”

I haven’t responded yet to Gladys’ comments, on female identification and Wanted — it’s over at my American Pop entry — but more food for thought: according to EW, 48 percent of the audience at The Dark Knight were women. (I can hear your answer already, though: “Christian Bale, duh.”)

No responses yet

Guillermo del Toro, “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” (2008) / Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight” (2008).

Sep 16 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

Almost five hours of movies (Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy 2: The Golden Army and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight) and four hours of sleep later, I find that I can barely string together a coherent review. (This is also a break from my usual Two Movies That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other series, because they’re pretty similar.) I’ll leave the real reviews up to Barb, who (we’re such nerds) just posted hers within minutes of my posting this [WARNING: SPOILERS in her entry!] and Oscar, so here are some random notes instead. I tried keeping this under 1000 words, but no dice:

1. As great as Hellboy 2 was, The Dark Knight blows the 2008 summer movie lineup out of the water. Easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I missed seeing Iron Man and Hancock, and sure, that X-Files movie won’t be out for another week or so, but The Dark Knight was simply fantastic. Leave work early, find babysitters, cancel unnecessary meetings, even promise to see Mamma Mia or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 as a trade — just go.

2. The guy at Jack London Square Cinemas told me last night that 600 people were coming to the midnight show. People were lined up before 10 pm, so strategize!

3. Selma Selma Selma, lovely as ever. (My friend Jane once said, “Selma Blair?? Ugh! She looks like some Comp Lit major from Radcliffe!”, or words to that effect, to which I answered, “Exactly.”)

Continue Reading »

No responses yet