Creed, 2015 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

It is, on the one hand—or, rather, let’s say, the one glove—a reboot of the original film, with much of the same narrative arc as ROCKY, a similar underdog triumph against the spectacle and expectations of the establishment. On the other glove, however, it is a sequel, the seventh in a long line, which must, much like Adonis in the ring, bear the authority and glory of its forbearers, a feat (not a glove or fist) that it pulls off better than anyone could have anticipated. Yet the film stands on its own two feet, regardless the heavyweight of its franchise, by flipping the racial prejudices and great-white-hope-trope of the earlier films, sublimating the influence of its pedigree to make this classic storyline its own.

More on the film’s racial subtext here: www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/11/how-creed-forever-changed-rocky-series/576757/

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Advertisements

Support the Girls, 2018 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

What does it mean to “support the girls”—a title that is, at the same time, an ethical injunction? It depends on who has the power and means to support: For patrons at the boobs-and-beer/wings-and-breasts Double Whammies (a local, more family friendly Twin Peaks), to support the girls working their barely covered butts off means tipping extra well and keeping to a transactional relationship. For the owners and managers of nationwide chain and competitor Man Cave—which puts its own patriarchal priority right in its name—to support the girls means hiring a team of lawyers to protect (which is to say, claim property of) their bodies from groping hands (though not gazing eyes), keeping to a biopolitical framework. Yet for the general manager of Whammies, Lisa—played to the hilt by an astoundingly dynamic Regina Hall—to support her (not merely “the”) girls means treating them with respect: Yes, money is part of that, as are boundaries of consent, but above all it means never demeaning one another, accepting their humanity and femininity for all its foibles, treating these women (not “girls” at all) with dignity and care and strength.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

In the Heat of the Night, 1967 – ★★★★½ [Movie Log]

SECOND WATCH: In a sense, I wish this felt more dated: I wish the film’s blatantly racist cops felt as out of step today as Q’s funky score, which screams 1968; of course, that the score is so in tune with its era is the point—while the racism may seem extreme by today’s standards (though not unrealistic or unimaginable or even unfamiliar), the film is trying to capture and expose its moment, and it is only by accident (or, rather, institutional inertia) that so little has changed in the past half-century. Then again, in one of the key scenes of the film, Jewison points directly to the slow churn of structural machinery, the continuum of racism across generations (which is one reason, I suppose, that racism and nationalism are such easy bedfellows)—a full century after the Civil War, and there are still plantations and, for all intents and purposes, modern slave owners. To discover the monstrous heart of white supremacy, one does not need to step back time, whether 50 or 150 years; rather, the film signifies how one only needs to step into the American heartland, where such cruel institutions seem eternal, forever of their own moment and ours.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Soylent Green, 1973 – ★★½ [Movie Log]

As dull and unfulfilling as I’m sure actual Soylent must taste, the sense of paranoia and existential threat missing the mark widely, suggesting instead of existential horror at the global threat of megacorporations a pathetic and pedestrian detective plot with an unearned but still striking payoff. While the last act or so is effective—Robinson, in his final role, lifts up the dull drudge around him in the film’s only truly remarkable (so fortuitous as to be unfortunate) scene of metatextual scene—by the time we get there, the viewer is as comatose and apathetic as the victims, whether drinkers or drink, of Soylent. In the end, what might have been a call to action toward a more ecological and progressive political order is mired by a conservative vision of the world—”it was so much better back in the golden days!” (a fantasy that overlooks the current catastrophe’s old roots)—which stupefies any hope for change.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Ready Player One, 2018 – ★★★½ [Movie Log]

The film works best when it flips the script on its god-awful source material, transforming the über-nerd/übermensch lead into a functional human, developing the relationships into more than just fantasy reflections, and critiquing the capacity of entertainment to offer meaningful escape. Rather, in Spielberg’s version, what we need to escape from is escapism itself, learning anew how to commit ourselves to real political, ethical, and interpersonal struggles by confronting the anxiety of our influences.

Rewatch: Its exhilarating successes are the film’s own and its failures stem (largely) from its source material, taking a page right out of the book by repeating the same sickeningly nostalgic and paralyzingly unimaginative gatekeeping geekdumb. At least, stripped of the novel’s tendency to merely catalog references rather than use them, cinema’s capacity for visualizing intertextuality elevates Cline’s doggerel into something fun to look at, though not particularly interesting to think about. In its best moments—those most in line with the ethos of the OASIS, and so furthest from Cline’s limited creativity—Spielberg marshals the material as a starting point to self-reflection rather than self-deception, turning the novel’s navel-gazing into knowing nods to his own career, his influence, and his influences.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939 – ★★★★★ [Movie Log]

The sort of vibrant, thoughtful film that I could (and that I want to) write about at length, praising Capra’s steady direction and Stewart’s subtle performance and Arthur’s tremendous range; yet there is so much here to praise, I want to just focus on one thing—the film’s poor response when it was released.

Recently, I had a student ask if a politician like Beto O’Rourke could be considered contrarian because he presented himself as an honest politician, when we all know that politicians are intrinsically dishonest. The reaction that M.SGtW garnered when it first was released betrays how times have changed and what makes that student’s question so fascinating to me: In 1939, the idea that US Senators were so abysmally, irredeemably corrupt was so shocking as to draw condemnation across the country, with real senators walking out and production companies refusing funding. Not that anyone really disagreed, of course, but merely breaking protocols of civility seemed an anti-American threat to our institutions and standing in the world. There is no better time to criticize politicians then when criticizing politicians—the very heart of the democratic spirit upon which this country was founded—is called unpatriotic by those in power.

How especially telling, then, to compare this film, which has since its release enjoyed a century of parodies and nods and more image savvy politicians claiming as their own rallying cry, with another movie with a similar history: HIGH NOON, at first decried as unpatriotic, then celebrated as an archetype of American politics.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Filmworker, 2017 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

Auteur theory is bunk, and one needs look no further than the oeuvre of cinema’s greatest auteur to see the cadre of collaborators—from Leon Vitali to Jan Harlan—behind every picture. Of course, the commonplace vision of Kubrick as an obsessive, cold, calculating perfectionist, and the fact that he rarely recast the same actors—Vitali being the odd exception—and made films so infrequently as to hardly be able to rehire the same crew, obscures the influence of his collaborators; but as this slight documentary evidences, there is always more than one person behind a camera, and film can only ever be a collaborative medium, the work of which extends long past the wrap party and into even color correcting reprints.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan