Tag Archives: George Clooney

Trailers of the Week — Only “Tomorrowland”

by Gabriel Valdez

Disillusionment. We’re used to trailers that show us magical places full of wonder and awe. A two hour escape into a movie, into a world that changes from beginning to end. That’s appealing.

We’re not use to trailers that show us why we want to escape there so badly. One shot, one little aside – a young girl glancing at the TV – tells me all I need to know about why this movie’s being made. On that TV is a riot, protesters squaring off with police.

We don’t know why this girl is getting out of jail or what her world is like outside this flat gray room. But we do have one detail that connects her existence to ours: disillusionment.

It used to be that young adult movies communicated a child not quite belonging to the rest of society through orphanhood, the death of a parent, or divorce. But we feel it on the back of our necks when we read the news, when we see police firing at protesters, cameramen being beaten just for doing their jobs. None of us quite belong to this society. None of us look at the state of things and imagine: this is what I expected, this is what I hoped for.

Tomorrowland, at least in this trailer, doesn’t communicate a fantastic world very well. It communicates a disappointing one. It communicates a desire for something better, a desire so overwhelmed and constantly assaulted that it can’t even take shape.

Dozens of trailers tell us, “Go here. See this. Feel better.”

This one tells us, “Look around. It’s OK to be overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed, too.”

This is the only trailer we’re featuring this week. That’s an experiment, and runs counter to the purpose of this series, but everything else seems to dilute the impact of Tomorrowland. This is the one that’s got me thinking.

Wednesday Collective — Net Neutrality, There Will Be Clothes, & the Laziest Way to Write Strong Women

ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
Net Neutrality

Corporate Feudalism

Let me preface this by saying I’ve worked as a campaign manager, a PAC fundraiser, a legislative aide, and for a state Democratic party. One phone call to an aide is more effective than 50 signatures on a petition. If you care about any of this, yes – sign petitions. But the biggest difference you can make, the biggest way you can interrupt someone’s day and get stuck in their head and make them bring an issue up to the politician for whom they work – is by calling. Your Senators. Your Representatives. Your Governors.

Petitions take a minute to look at. Form letters can be recognized and filed into a folder you know you’re never going to look at again. A phone call has to be taken by someone, because they never know what the topic’s going to be until they’ve already committed themselves to listen. A petition or form letter may make you feel better, but it has little real effect today. It gives the power to the clicking finger on somebody’s mouse hand. Aides are required to pick up the phone, answer politely, and listen. It puts the power in your voice.

The biggest reason you should be worried about net neutrality is that the Internet isn’t really an owned thing. Anyone can hop on and, with a minimum of trouble and investment, start a website – it’s the ultimate realization of free speech. The net neutrality cases the Supreme Court is sleeping through and legislation Congress is drawing up threaten that.

Essentially, service companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon will be able to double-dip. They’ll charge you for your internet connection, and then turn around and charge websites for their ability to get material to you. What this means to you is that the Internet will start to become prepackaged, like cable TV is. You will be forced into deciding which websites you’d like to pay to access, which plan you’d like to subscribe to, and the open access you have now to every single site on the web will disappear. Small websites and independent ones that can’t pay the service companies will lose their voice.

Service companies will also be able to dictate through bandwidth the political opinions they’d like to support, and will be able to relegate the kinds of independent news sources we most rely upon online to the far corners of accessibility.

I’m not the expert on this. If you haven’t already, learn about net neutrality online. The Washington Post published an infographic that shows how easily Comcast extorted Netflix into paying for a service we (and they) already pay for.

Here’s the ACLU’s rundown of information on net neutrality.

Don’t mistake this with the government’s ill-timed pilot program roll-out of the “Internet Driver’s License,” which would be managed by the government but store your information with subcontracted third parties. I mean, that’s scary, too, the government collecting every log-in and piece of information on you and selling it to third parties, who could then bundle it with other users’ data and sell that to third parties. Nothing like that’s ever gone wrong, has it? But that’s a completely different issue that’s just as scary and threatening, and would only take an extra five seconds to bring up to your Congressperson.

There Will Be Clothes
Maria Bruder

There Will Be Clothes

One reason I push our Bits & Pieces series is to write about the overlooked technical aspects we often gloss over as viewers. Even though we may not select out a piece of set design here or a bit of fight or dance choreography there as conveying a message, these details still burrow into our subconscious.

Clothes on Film is a specialty website that talks about, well, clothes on film. It’s an invaluable resource for costume designers and make-up artists. This There Will Be Blood article is just one of several phenomenal pieces they’ve hosted. Not only can you crash through their archives willy-nilly, you can also peruse their articles by a film’s time period, allowing you to get multiple perspectives on how costume designers find ways to burrow their messages into our subconscious.

The Laziest, Most Offensive Way to Write a Strong Woman
A.E. Larsen

300r Eva Green.tiff

300: 300 Harder is in a tight race with Jack Ryan: Kenneth Branagh Takes a Nap and Brick Mansions (no pun here, I feel bad enough for that movie as is) for worst movie of the year so far. Yes, we’re only four months in, but when the fifth entry in the Paranormal Activity canon can’t even make that list, it means you’ve really had some half-assed films.

300: Shameless Play on Star Wars Titling wasn’t actually a terrible movie. I mean, it was, but it had some neat technical things going for it. Its biggest problem, and its strongest claim to win (lose?) that award at the end of the year, is Artemisia. The Persian general is played by Eva Green, who is the only actor in the whole damn thing who realizes how much camp a movie like 300: Leonidas and Xerxes Escape from Guantanamo Bay really needs. Green (and Lena Headey for all of 2.5 seconds) are the only watchable actors in this.

But the character Green plays is offensive. She’s a strong woman. Well that’s a good start, but why is she strong? Because she was raped as a preteen. Welcome to genre fiction, where men can be strong because they swing Freudian swords around all day, but women can only be strong if they’re sexually taken advantage of. It’s like a trade-off. You can be a weak and virginal female character, but if you want to be strong, you’d better get chained up in the bottom of a Greek ship for years on end while sailors have their way with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Arnold Schwarzenegger being strong in Conan or John McClane being badass in Die Hard because either got raped for years on end as a kid.

A.E. Larsen writes about Artemisia’s historical accuracy, as well as giving his own take on the strong-woman-as-raped-woman issue in a fantastic article that bridges history and social responsibility in filmmaking.

So even though Brick Mansions is the worst-told story of the year, and Jack Ryan: Keira Knightley Can’t Play Every Character in This Scene, Can She? She Can, I Guess is the most boring movie of the year, 300: Screenwriters Please Go F*ck Yourselves is really leading the pack toward the bottom.

The Best Movie You’ll Never See
Sam Adams

Sorceror

At The Dissolve, Sam Adams (he really gets around Wednesday Collective, doesn’t he) interviews director William Friedkin about the best movie you’ve never seen. In fact, catch me in the right mood and I’ll admit that Sorceror, William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Wages of Fear, may be the best movie, period. It has one of the finest endings in cinema. Hell, the whole movie is just one great, big ending. Coming off his success with The Exorcist and The French Connection, Friedkin risked life and limb to shoot an existential, Conradian action movie in the jungle.

Despite being a critical success, it was killed by the release of Star Wars, and Sorceror barely survived. I remember watching a poor VHS copy as a kid, not knowing that most prints had been lost or destroyed over a few short decades. Sorceror was finally remastered and released last month. Watch it, you won’t regret it. And read the interview, though it does contain spoilers.

Adam Sandler as Transgressional Hero
Bilge Ebiri

Adam Sandler test

I don’t know that I agree with this article, but I don’t know that I disagree with it. This is rare. Try it on for size.

The Wily Beast and the Desperate Woman
Hadley Freeman

George Clooney

Freeman tips the double standard in celebrity reporting on its head by comparing media reactions to the engagement of George Clooney to the reactions on the engagement of Jennifer Aniston. He was ‘tamed,’ the wily beast, by one of the world’s most pre-eminent humanitarian lawyers (even though she turned him down twice) while Jennifer Aniston suckered in some poor B-lister I’ve never heard of ‘in the nick of time,’ and he can’t wait to get out of it. You know, all allegedly, because otherwise, writers would get sued. Really, I couldn’t care who’s getting married to whom – I was always rooting for Clooney and Pitt to get it together so they could have an excuse to remake old Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn courtroom comedies – but if you’re going to report on people’s private lives, you may as well be equal opportunity about it.

As Freeman says, “In the world of media, women are tragic and desperate and said, and men are caddish and free. Because the media, apparently, believes that people are like characters in a crap romcom you wouldn’t watch on a 14-hour flight.”

Elegant, Smart, and Classy — “The Monuments Men”

monuments_men

In Roland Emmerich’s global disaster film 2012, the wealthiest people and most important artwork have been preserved on an ark meant to survive the apocalypse. One scientist, played by the excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor, has a copy of an unknown novel that’s barely sold 500 copies. “This book is part of our legacy now,” he says. “Why? Because I’m reading it.” It’s a profound statement about art in a profoundly cheesy (but fun) movie.

What we carry forward, what we find defines our culture’s past, is the art we choose to let survive, and the art that makes it anyway. George Washington crossed the Delaware River to change the fate of the Revolutionary War not on a cold, moonlit night in 1776, but in a painting. That painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, is stamped and reprinted in the pages of every history book I’ve ever seen on the subject. Every day someone sees it for the first time. It gets dozens of historical details wrong, but it may be the single, most famous American image.

George Clooney’s The Monuments Men is based on a group of scholars who took on a thankless task as World War II came to a close. Nazi Germany seized collections of art from conquered nations like Belgium and France. The job of Frank Stokes (Clooney) and his team was to track down the art and return it to its rightful owners. Much of the art was initially transferred to Germany’s wealthy and elite. As Germany lost territory, it often destroyed these works. It was their way of claiming some momentary, spiteful victory in the face of imminent defeat.

Matt-Damon-George-Clooney-Monuments-Men-Movie

Clooney is joined by Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray as a rag-tag group of scholars-turned-soldiers who risk their lives to save this art. Cate Blanchett co-stars as a helpful Parisian researcher. The Monuments Men shouldn’t be mistaken for a movie about battle, however. There are encounters, but they’re episodic and usually take an unexpected turn. There are soldierly deaths, but this isn’t a movie about the horrors of war and what it makes men lose. This is a movie about the things we seek to save.

Clooney and Damon smartly diminish their own roles. Clooney gets some monologues, including a particularly good one opposite a captured German general, but as their band traipses across the French countryside, splitting up and reforming when needed, it’s the everyman qualities of Goodman and Murray that shine through. Murray, in particular, gives us the film’s best scene, and it’s sometimes easy to forget what a genuinely touching actor he can be.

The Monuments Men is a quiet film, but it’s not boring. In its own way, it’s intense. Clooney hasn’t directed many films, but when he does (Good Night and Good Luck, The Ides of March), he makes old-fashioned ones, heavy on story and character, laced with humor. What he offers as a director isn’t a particular visual flair, but rather a deep reverence for his subject matter.

The Monuments Men is better than I expected, an unassuming gem of a film that asks for, and earns, your patience. Thanks to the things that have lasted in our own culture, a poet constantly contemplates “The Road Not Taken,” Aretha Franklin constantly demands respect, and Dorothy is constantly finding her way home from Oz. Every time someone new sees or hears one of these and takes meaning from it, the universe of possibilities expands in their minds. We realize someone else understands what we’re feeling, and that we’re linked to other strangers who share that understanding. Art is how we make sense of the world, how we derive meaning from chaos.

That George Washington crossed the Delaware once to attack the British is a historical detail many will forget. But he didn’t just do it once. He is constantly crossing the Delaware River, every time someone looks at that image, and we are held to a higher standard because of it. This is what art does, and why despots seek first to destroy it. This is what Clooney so elegantly communicates in The Monuments Men. Is art worth a life? There’s no right answer. Is art worth a way of life? I don’t see how you have one without the other.

George-Clooney-and-Matt-Damon-Monuments-Men-Movie

The Monuments Men is rated PG-13 for war violence and smoking.

A version of this review appears in the 2/13 edition of La Vernia News.