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Charles Burnett: A True Master

Posted by Pat on August 16, 2015 in Uncategorized |

cbMaybe it’s just part of being a successful artist: you’re proud of the work that made your reputation, but, being an artist, you want to put it behind you and move on to something new. Trouble is, your fans don’t want to let you. If you’re Sting, they sit in the back of the concert hall year after year and holier, “Roxanne!” If you’re Woody Allen, they buy tickets for each new film hoping it will be a remake of Annie Hall.

As frustrating as that kind of response must be for an artist, it could be forgiven in the case of the filmmaker Charles Burnett, whose early movies Killer of Sheep (1973) and My Brother’s Wedding (1983), share a subtlety largely missing in much of his more recent work. Sheep and Wedding managed the not inconsiderable feat of showing black families and communities with their uniqueness intact, and yet not allowing that uniqueness to devolve into the kind of stereotype that overshadows character. The people in those films and in Burnett’s masterpiece, To Sleep with Anger (1990), come across as Read more…

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Hong Kong Film Festival Still Surprises

Posted by Pat on August 6, 2015 in Uncategorized |

hkffAlthough the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) is a noncompetitive event, it is more than a “Best of” World Cinema. This year, the 21st HKIFF (March 25 – April 9) packed an array of fourteen programs, including “Global Images” (new international cinema), director tributes and “Archival Treasures,” which included Louis Feuillade’s ten-episode serial, Les Vampires – all 457 minutes of it!

Since this is 1997 – with the July 1 ‘handover’ of Hong Kong imminent – it was an opportunity to reassess both the past and likely future of HK cinema itself. This was achieved by a three-day international conference (April 10-12) following the HKIFF’s retrospective programme of forty-five HK films, key works between 1947 and 1994, titled “Fifty Years of Electric Shadows.”

For nearly fifty years, Hong Kong has been one of the most productive film centers on earth – alongside Japan, India, and the U.S. – without subsidy. In 1954, for example, with a population then of around three million, HK produced more than 200 features, some in minority dialects but mostly in either Mandarin or Cantonese, the primary ‘competing’ languages. Annual production peaked at just over 300 in the early Sixties. Once seen, some of the more luminous stars of the period Read more…

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SnoreRX Can Help You Manage The Snoring

Posted by Pat on June 25, 2015 in Uncategorized |

Willingly putting a hunk of plastic in your mouth to help curb your snoring problem isn’t the easiest decision to make. There are so many models on the market you have to make sure you do your research and figure out just which one works for you. You also have to consider your budget and the fact that you should replace your snoring mouthpiece every 7-9 months for hygienic and normal wear-and-tear reasons.

You want to make sure that the device you choose doesn’t cause you more problems on top of your snoring: many models on the market are known to cause jaw pain, tooth decay and a host of other issues. These mouthpieces are meant to stop your snoring usually by opening your lower jaw and creating a better flow of air and also by supporting your tongue so it doesn’t fall into the back of your throat while you sleep.

Because of these features you may find yourself waffling between the SnoreRX® and a different mouth piece. To help you choose we’ll go over some of the amazing benefits of the SnoreRX® and let you see for yourself what an amazing piece of technology you might be putting in your mouth is like. It comes highly recommended by this snoring mouthpiece expert.

If cost is one of those things that you are worried about let’s just get that out of the way. While the SnoreRX® is no $20 mouthpiece, it is definitely worth its cost. SnoreRX® is one of the few mouthpieces out there that offers a 30-day money back guarantee. If you decide to put up the cash to purchase this Read more…

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Portrait Of A Classic: The Ice Storm

Posted by Pat on May 17, 2015 in Uncategorized |

poacAng Lee, director of The Ice Storm – whom one would not necessarily regard as a stylist – has conceded that his previous films (Pushing Hands [1992], The Wedding Banquet [1993], Eat Drink Man Woman [1994], and Sense and Sensibility [1995]) lacked a style, in order to make the point that The Ice Storm has one. At his New York Film Festival press conference, Lee noted that the film draws on a photorealist esthetic, adopting an observational approach to the setting. He acknowledged his film’s affinity to Susan and Alan Raymond’s 1973 documentary An American Family, which chronicles the dysfunction and disintegration of a family called the Louds. The family are heavy weed smokers, and use water pipes like these to smoke. The Ice Storm is set in the same year An American Family aired on public television. Read more…

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How To Avoid HP Poweredge Logical Drive Failure?

Posted by Pat on February 6, 2015 in Uncategorized |

pldfDue to corrupt files and the deletion of important data, the Poweredge logical drive failed to work and cause the problem for the user. The best thing is to avoid the situations that cause the failure of the drive. But what are the precautions that we should use to avoid these miss happenings? The first duty to do is make the system of your computer virus free. For that purpose, install a security system that will clean the computer on regular basis or whenever a virus is detected. That will ensure the security of your computer system.

The Poweredge logical drive often fails because of installations of unknown software. So also try to avoid these types of software. Your security system will also help you to detect harmful viruses and that will not allow you to install them. The Poweredge logical drive fails because of accidental deletion of the files from your computer. But that mistake can cause a long-term problem as it results in excessive loss of data. For that purpose, simply turn off your machine and seek the assistance of a company that specializes in recovering the data from an HP ProLiant Server. That assistance will recover all your data and will allow you to use it again in a proper manner. The RAID admin guide is located here.

Lost Data? Here’s What To Do

What will you do once a data was lost? Should you go ahead and send your hard drive for data recovery service? The answer is no. This is only done when a hard drive has Read more…

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La Scorta – You Can’t Lose With Him

Posted by Pat on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized |

lsyclIn American gangster movies, the Mafia usually appears in loud, showy images. Within approaches as different as the high opera of the first two Godfather films (or the feeble comic book of The Godfather, Part III) or Martin Scorsese’s sprightly dance-of-death realism in GoodFellas, the dons and soldiers of La Cosa Nostra parade their brutality and vulgarity, sentimentalize their feelings for their domestic and their criminal ‘families,’ and essentially draw the viewer’s emotional interest to themselves, not to their victims or to the society they manipulate through their primary resource: the fear of death. Read more…

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Montreal’s World Film Festival Continues To Amaze

Posted by Pat on November 5, 2014 in Uncategorized |

mwffThe Montreal World Film Festival screens a vast number of films – most of them European, Latin American, and Asian – while showing few big-budget Hollywood works. Montreal is known as a festival of moviegoers while its rival, the Toronto International Festival, is viewed as more market and industry oriented. One of Quebec’s most prominent producers, Roger Frappier, who also runs TransAtlantique Montreal, has stated that Montreal “shows people that American movies are not the only ones that exist. Read more…

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Was “Bulworth” Worth It?

Posted by Pat on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized |

wbwwiBulworth is the most politically radical film from Hollywood since, well, Warren Beatty’s Reds. It slashes at the two-party system in America, corporate domination of economic life including healthcare, corrupted mass media, and racial injustice. Unlike Reds, which employed realistic techniques to evoke the revolutionary fervor surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, Bulworth is a tragicomedy. Its humor often becomes farce, Read more…

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Are French Directors Fading In Importance?

Posted by Pat on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized |

ardfOf the various French directors that one can place within that loosely defined group known as The New Wave, Jacques Rivette is certainly one of the least well-known in the U.S., although his recent La Belle noiseuse (1991) has changed that slightly. While directors such as Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol were managing, in spite of challenges they represented to the Establishment, to find pockets of acceptance – and commercial distributors – for their work, Rivette remained the true independent, if not totally underground, filmmaker. When Paris nous appartient (Paris Belongs to Us) finally appeared in 1961 after four years of desperate attempts Read more…

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Mike Leigh – British Genius

Posted by Pat on October 5, 2014 in Uncategorized |

mlbgLong before the critical and popular success of Secrets & Lies, Mike Leigh made many low-budget films for television. Most of these subtle and unique works – e.g., Grown Ups (1980) and Home Sweet Home (1982) – depicted the everyday domestic life and relationships of working-class people. These films never received the same critical consideration as Leigh’s theatrically released works, Read more…

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Reviewing In The Company Of Men

Posted by Pat on July 15, 2014 in Uncategorized |

cpothmProduced by Mark Archer and Stephen Pevner; written and directed by Neil LaBute; cinematography by Tony Hettinger; edited by Joel Plotch; music by Ken Williams and Karel Roessingn; starring Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, Matt Malloy and Michael Martin. Color, 93 mins. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

If Neil LaBute were playing poker, someone would want to shoot him. His debut film, in the Company of Men, announces itself as a cutthroat round of stud poker involving two seasoned players and a mark. As the cards are laid it becomes apparent that the dealer is holding a pat hand. Even worse, just before the final bets, the rules change to include wild cards. What begins as a high-stakes game of sexual chance is on closer inspection little more than a (phallic) shell game whose slick gestures hide an elusive thematic pea.

Opening at the tail end of summer’s commercial sludgefest, Company was almost universally hailed as a tough, darkly-etched social satire on empty suits behaving badly for fun and profit. According to the director, the story is a simple case of “boys meet girl, boys crush girl, boys giggle.” Allowing for a certain amount of poetic license – only one boy giggles; the girl does not seem crushed – LaBute’s encapsulation sounds like a screwball comedy gone sour, a post-feminist battle of the sexes in which the side with all the weapons gets skewered.

What transpires is at once more ambitious and less clearly motivated. Two former college buddies perched on the same generic corporate ladder are sent for six weeks to a branch office in a nameless heartland city in order to oversee some vague data installation and training program. Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy) are a typical odd couple: the former is brash, deadly handsome, and verbally adept; the latter is a diminutive nerd replete with glasses, receding hairline, and a bad case of the mumbles. What binds them psychologically are deep-seated grievances against women, what they view as the power to manipulate and humiliate them in romantic relationships. They agree that things are getting out of balance and that there’s going to be hell to pay down the line.

Although they decry the absurdity of not being able to tell lewd jokes at work, the gender competition they imagine is primarily sexual, not economic; strangely, the only women evident in the corporate structure are typists. During a long night of drinking and venting en route to their new assignment, Chad coerces Howard into a scheme in which they will target and mutually seduce a woman from the local office, someone so physically disadvantaged and undesirable that she doubts the possibility of romance. Then they will dump her and laugh about it, Chad explains, “until we are very old men.”

They settle on Christine (Stacy Edwards), a clerical temp who is deal lives with her mother, and speaks with a halting nasal drone. The object in this game of payback is to maintain perfect control, a constant theme as well as emblem of the film’s visual design. As Fate or narrative convention would have it, Howard, and possibly Chad, become emotionally involved, forcing them into same-sex competition and eventual betrayal. By the end, Howard is completely undone, a physical wreck who has been demoted to customer relations and reduced to pitiful groveling in front of an unresponsive Christine.

In what the film passes off as biting irony, it is learned that Chad’s account of his mistreatment by a lover is all a hoax. The suggestion is that, despite an overarching viciousness and anger directed at the social order in general, Chad’s ulterior motive in concocting the seduction scheme has been status envy, the subversion of Howard’s superior position in the corporate hierarchy. In other words, the manipulation of sexual power has served as a cloak for intrafraternal warfare: boys hit on girl, boys fuck each other up, boys exchange job descriptions.

Unfortunately for the narrative logic, the rivalry over who will bed Christine is itself a hoax. Howard is presented as needy, cuddly, and awkwardly sincere, a mixture of Woody and Dilbert. Chad is a tad chilly yet, given that both he and Christine look as though they have stepped off the pages of Vogue, there is scarcely a moment’s doubt as to which guy will get the nod; indeed, the only mystery is why Christine is not the object of more romantic attention. For a while at least, Company sticks to its guns, maintaining a strict perspectival focus on the men (although always slightly favoring Chad as mediator of knowledge). In the body of the film, scenes shift between the two men alone and their various romantic encounters with Christine. She is given no independent life and her feelings about her sudden popularity remain a cipher. There is an admirable rigor involved in the decision to cordon off the victim’s subjectivity.

It then becomes all the more shocking, and inexcusable, when the rules of engagement are broken. In the second of two climactic scenes, Chad admits to Christine that Howard’s revelation of the pact between the suitors is true. After Chad departs, the camera lingers on a two-minute overhead closeup of Christine’s silent agony, the most blatantly mawkish and invasive shot in the entire movie (Oh, did I mention that one-eyed jacks are wild?). The same formal misprision is repeated, and amplified, in the final scene as, weeks later, Howard comes barging into a cavernous bank where Christine is now temping. As he entreats her to give him another chance, his voice is abruptly deleted from the soundtrack, making us privy not only to Christine’s optical but also her auditory perspective.

These calculated lapses in the film’s stylistic program would perhaps feel less damaging were it not for the insistent emphasis on hard-edged, almost clinical disengagement from contact with the characters’ inner lives, a method LaBute refers to as minimalism. The majority of scenes unfold in long-take, fixed-camera, frontal compositions-many from unnaturally high or low angles – which display the two predators like insects in a museum exhibit. The physical environment they inhabit parallels the impersonal, functionless work they presumably perform: not quite colorless but antiseptic surfaces, a series of compartmentalized spaces in which the exercise of gratuitous insult is muffled by an aura of synthetic uniformity (a design stunningly realized by cinematographer Tony Hettinger). The effect is reminiscent of Kubrick’s visions of male technocracy, a comparison heightened by two scenes of male intimacy staged in the executive bathroom – think of The Shining or Full Metal Jacket.

Further, a dynamic tension between aggression and compartmentalization is established by a clipped cadence of six discrete sequences or chapters corresponding to the progression of weeks, bracketed by a prologue and epilogue. Paradoxically, the degree of distance and control inscribed in the image eventually registers as a mirror for the consciousness of control-freak Chad. In this sense, not only is Company’s narrative economy weighted towards Chad’s willful deceptions, its visual patterning corresponds to Chad’s buffed, meticulous demeanor.

Since Howard never has a fighting chance, and Chad is virtually Jack the Ripper in Brooks Brothers garb, it is hard to understand what critics found so controversial, incendiary, or instructive about Company’s discourse on misogyny. Rather than being implicated in the attitudes or behaviors of the schematic seducers, the male viewer can shrug off any stigma of identification by simply dismissing the characters as either patently pathetic or borderline psychopathic. If there is a need to articulate the relationship between masculine self-definition and the wielding of sexual power within the workplace, that goal is surely not achieved by creating characters so exaggerated that any possible defense of their actions becomes moot.

Company does contain one truly incendiary scene, but like much else in the film it turns out to be a red herring. In a private conference, Chad interrogates an African-American intern about a minor infraction, dangling the possibility of corporate advancement if he has the balls. When the intern responds affirmatively, Chad demands to see if they are literally big enough, and after some hesitation – and assurance from Chad that he is no homo – the poor guy obliges. Are we to conclude that Chad’s sexism is integrally linked with racism? That his competition with Howard is actually grounded in inchoate homoerotic attraction? The film pursues neither question; instead, they are merely tantalizing diversions, like the grand flourish of a card sharp as he slides one off the bottom of the deck.

A frequent connection has been made between LaBute’s film and the work of David Mamet, an insight that seems dead-on, if not in the way it was intended. At both his best and his worst, Mamet is a practitioner of what might be called the slippery allegory, in which individual characters are invested with abstract social or psychological or moral attributes. In traditional – as opposed to postmodern – literary allegories such as Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a character who stands for, say, Christian virtue will encounter a series of figures and situations that will test and ultimately define the ideal nature of the abstract concept. In Mamet’s plays and films, there is often the veneer of a hidden parable, some ethical lesson to be derived which remains just hazy enough to allow for conflicting interpretations. The dehumanizing, degrading but also possibly redemptive rituals of persuasion enacted in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) is a useful example. When the social issue at stake is defined too narrowly or clumsily, and the deck of allegorical traits is stacked from the beginning, as in the egregious fakery of Oleanna’s (1994) gender struggle, the house of cardboard figures collapses under its own weight.

Something similar occurs in Company. It is never clear whether the trope of corporate competition as directed by Chad is a displacement for or a generative model of male heterosexual rage. Are these two behavioral trajectories being equated, paralleled, or situated in a causal chain (i.e., the frustrations of mindless, alienated labor produce sexual predation; or alternatively, the inability to find romantic completion leads to cutthroat business tactics)? The deaf typist whose limited powers of speech prohibit dissimulation, the nameless computer application of a nameless corporation located in a nameless city, all conspire to place the drama of In the Company of Men in a suprarealistic realm. Chad and Howard are not to be taken literally, as real people, but as exemplars of…what? The film can never quite decide; there is something up its sleeve and the suspicion is that it is nothing more, or less, than the long arm of patriarchy.

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Review: Disgraced Monuments

Posted by Pat on June 29, 2014 in Uncategorized |

titmThe battle of the monuments rages in Moscow. A year-old statue of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, was blown up last spring. In July, explosives at the base of the massive new memorial to Tsar Peter the Great were deactivated before they could send the monument into the Moscow River. History has not been kind, either to Russians or the French. (Not a bad idea, according to many Muscovites, for esthetic if not political reasons.) Read more…