Pre-Code as a phenomenon has never been a secret—it’s an integral slice of film history that emerged like a young racehorse with the coming of talkies, but then voluntarily harnessed and gelded thanks to public protest and threats of government censorship. Ironically, the Code was in one form or another on the books before sound arrived in 1927, but it wasn’t enforced until 1934, which is the window we’re looking through to an infinite parade of half-nude Stanwycks and Harlows … Read More
Frances Ha is a film about a dancer who doesn’t really dance, has a best friend who doesn’t really like her and an apartment she doesn’t really live in. But, she’s pretty okay with it. Frances is—get this—an optimist. I know. But since we normally skew toward the darker side of things here at On The Couch, this week I’m celebrating the optimists of film—those headstrong believers who keep on smiling even though us haters gonna hate.
In his latest film, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, Alex Gibney once again treads a fine line between serious journalism and sexed-up storytelling, offering both a penetrating critique of the way that powerful people protect their secrets, be they in the U.S. government or its most famous whistleblower, Julian Assange, as well as more salacious revelations about the sexuality of the characters involved.
Jim loves the movies of J.J. Abrams so much that it’s wreaking havoc on his fandom hierarchy.
In terms of faithfulness to source material and oversimplification of plot and theme, kids’ movies based on books tend to get a free pass. Historically, they have been taken from fairy tales or novels that were themselves written for juveniles. This is why Disney’s 1996 adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame was and remains so strikingly odd, based on a novel from 1831 that was not written with tots in mind.
Among that subset of the population that cares about such things—a population rivaling that of the Sumatran rhino—there is something like a Delmer Daves revival afoot. Mostly remembered today as a director of outdoor adventure pictures, Daves was unique in his field for the serious, consuming fashion with which he dealt with sex and romantic love, and it’s worth tracing the roots of this.
I’d maintain that the American road movie represents something close to existential within our national self: a concordance of lies we’ve been told, innocences we’ve lost, tall stories we’ve heard, tragedies we long to be free of. That’s what the road, seen so starkly and magnificently in the opening of Scarecrow, means.
Let’s talk about that relative. You know, the one who’s a little off? The one you try not to sit next to at holiday dinners? The one who probably has a UFO story in his back pocket? The mystery behind the new drama Caroline and Jackie is which sister is that one. Yes, they’re throwing a birthday intervention for Jackie (sidebar: ouch), but Caroline is the one dancing solo in the living room, without any music. So, you tell me. … Read More
Get ready for a gross generalization: There are two kinds of documentaries being made today—those about people you know, and those about people you don’t. This spring, plenty of prominent docs about people you know—or many of us know—have hit theaters, from author Philip Roth to tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. There have also been documentaries featuring people you probably don’t know. What’s the difference between these two types of documentaries? A whole lot, and also not very much. … Read More