Archive

Review: Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s 2015 film, succeeds in part because of its wonderful evocation of the art scenes in between-wars Paris and in 1950s New York. The film is visually lush, with so much wonderful art, vintage photographs and brief film clips, and some very clever fade-ins and fade-outs of individuals within single photographs. Holding the film together is the iconic Peggy Guggenheim, an interesting eccentric whose candor and anecdotes make up for her apparent lack of gravitas and aesthetic acumen. A patron, not an expert At several points the film mades

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Review: Suffragette

Suffragette is a well made film, but might ultimately be the victim of the classic trap of hagiography: two-dimensional characters. The film’s strength— its successful depiction of an era and two of its most important political issues — is to some extent weakened by a somewhat flat characterization. The fiend who manages the women at the laundry is almost comically evil, and reminded me of some Perils of Pauline villain, twirling his evil mustache. Unfortunately, such an over-the-top sexual predator allows the audience to associate 1912 employee sexual coercion with utterly debased monsters, and how

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Review: Leviathan

If you appreciate dark foreign films, speaking thematically, you get it all in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan (2014): the sense of fatalism, quixotic determination fueled by indignation and vodka, the mockery of people hoping that this time the system will work for them, the self-destructiveness of resistance, misogyny, the insecurity of daily life, rapacious governments, collaborationist religion, family tragedy, personal betrayal, and nightmare bureaucracy. The film is also visually dark, using an appropriately bleak palette to show the cold north of Russia, one of those landscapes that by itself suggests struggle and vulnerability. In a derelict

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Confederate and other flags

By now nearly every American understands that it is way past time to take down the Confederate battle flag, whose appearance outside of museums should have ended when Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered April 10, 1865. Confederates lowered the flag then, and their spiritual descendants should accept that. That was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, not the flag of the Confederacy. It was designed to look sufficiently different from the American flag for Confederate generals to tell which units were friends or foes in the smoke of battle, after confusion

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Review: The Wolfpack

New York City is loaded with oddities, and director Crystal Moselle has picked a doozie in making a documentary film about the Angulo family. The Wolfpack is an interesting and engaging documentary, intriguing in what it shows and intriguing in what it intimates. The Wolfpack is what six brothers name themselves, in homage to Marvel Comics and Hollywood, when they finally venture out into New York City after spending almost their entire lives inside a cramped public housing apartment, watching and re-enacting movies. A captivity narrative The film is essentially raw material for a psychological

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Film review: Ex Machina

Ex Machina, the 2015 film written and directed by Alex Garland, is a wonderfully scripted and nicely paced thriller, with good acting and a fine, creepy sort of claustrophobia and menace. The film’s sci fi premise, scale, and CGI are relatively modest, as films go. The central story is not new: a brilliant Silicon Valley type coding and invention genius has secretly created not just breakthrough Artificial Intelligence coding, but robots as well. Nathan is akin to Dr. Frankenstein in wanting to create life, although he does this with cynicism and tech industry hipness. Nathan

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Marco Rubio’s lunatic notion of war

Thank goodness presidents seldom get to put into effect all of their bold, insincere, and self-serving campaign promises. And thank goodness Sen. Marco Rubio is unlikely to ever be president. But if you like cool wars and exciting international crises, and if you wish we would spend lots more on the military than either political party considers prudent, your candidate is Marco Rubio. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in May, 2015, Sen. Rubio promised to “use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space.” Any? The Obama

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The 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon

On April 30, 2015, the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Robert F. Turner published an op ed piece in The Wall Street Journal that purports to dispel myths about the war, but instead perpetuates myths, ignores quite a bit of history, and endorses a relatively recent claim that the Vietnam War was not really a war we lost, but a successful battle within a larger Cold War. Turner should know better, if not from his own experience then from whatever preparation he has done to teach about the war at the University of

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Film Review: Wild

I’m not sure what the fuss is about this film. Even without having read the book on which this is based, we can see that the film is hobbled by its effort to include the book’s journal-writing component, its essential lack of two-person scenes, and by reticence about the central character’s past failures and character flaws. Unlike A.O. Scott of The New York Times, I think the film fails to enrich the character by its brief fragments of back-story. Most of those back-story hints involve the protagonist’s failures and weaknesses, and that back-story is shown

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Review: Uncontested Grounds by William Conelly

These are fine, subtle, graceful, insightful poems, rich in imagery and insight. I’ve been reading them over and over for a month without tiring. Some of these poems are worth the price of the book by themselves, like “Intuition,” which seems to me to be one of the finest examples of dramatic irony since Robert Browning, “Separates,” about the dynamics of a long term marriage, and “Sea Change.” Conelly spent some time in the United States Air Force, not necessarily happily, although I do not know that story. Five of the poems here are war

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