The House


The Victors

The secret passion of the cinephile is to find a hidden treasure. It's often a film that wasn't well-received in its day; its makers were beleaguered; and it is definitely, certainly not on DVD. Check all three for The Victors, a 1963 World War II movie in which a battle emerges between a bulging international cast. The movie's director, Carl Foreman, was one of the blacklisted screenwriters that made up the Hollywood Ten, and The Victors was his only director's credit. The New York Times hated it (though Bosley Crowther hated many things), and the Time critic wrote that "Foreman has spent two and a half years producing a faintly vulgar medley nearly three hours long." It didn't help that the previous year's WWII epic, The Longest Day, had earned lots of money and a Best Picture nomination, overshadowing it. To this day The Victors isn't on DVD or VHS. For all these reasons we can call the film a rediscovery. But is it good?

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TAGS: carl foreman, eli wallach, film comment selects, george hamilton, george peppard, jeanne moreau, melina mercouri, romy schneider, rosanna schiaffino, the victors, vince edwards


Avatar

We could come up with a lot of complicated reasons that this, that, or the other film might have a shot at winning against the technological blue elephant in the room, but let's not pretend. Of the two sound categories, this is the one that favors artificially invented environments and sonic fabrications. Though the movie's headlines belong to its heady 3-D splendor, the fully engulfed aural environment of Avatar is every bit the triumph. It couldn't have been easy to invent a sound earth-shattering enough to suggest the destruction of a million-year-old tree. We'll wrestle a little bit more with the alternate nominees when we get to the more finicky sound mixing category, but until then, everything should be coming up Na'vi.

Will Win: Avatar

Should Win: Avatar

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TAGS: academy awards, avatar, inglourious basterds, star trek, the hurt locker, up


Kinatay

In his 2008 film Serbis, Brillante Mendoza used a dilapidated Filipino porn theater, given more or less to open prostitution, to comment on the commodification of the sexual act—not to mention the free market in general. As horny patrons exchanged pesos for blowjobs in the lobby, the extended family that ran (and lived in) the movie house toiled behind the scenes to maintain a dying operation. Deglamorizing intercourse, linking one form of economic debasement with another, intermingling public and private spheres to the point of indistinguishably, Serbis nonetheless offered a certain raucous pleasure in its creation of a vivid self-contained world overflowing with fevered—and not always distasteful—activity.

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TAGS: brillante mendoza, coco martin, film comment selects, kinatay, mercedes cabral, odyssey flores, serbis


Inglourious Basterds

Don't let the results of the WGA sway you too much. Quentin Tarantino, as a non-Guild member, was no more eligible for one of their awards than he is likely to be invited to spit punany poetry on a split bill with Maya Angelou. Which isn't to say he wouldn't jump at the chance, and which isn't to say that he wouldn't have won the WGA were it not for the technicality. It's as obviously difficult to call him an outright frontrunner for the Oscar as it is to bet on Johnny Weir taking first place in any given ice skating competition. No matter how flamboyantly good he may be, no matter how much higher his profile is than just about anyone else's in the medium, there's simply no getting around the fact that there are some judges out there who are just never going to be in his corner. And there are always going to be Academy members who just don't see great screenwriting in a draft that spent approximately six or seven pages on a tavern parlor celebrity guessing game, to say nothing of the moral quandary Inglourious Basterds's irreverent alternate WWII history poses to a group whose voting record almost seems to need Adolf Hitler perpetually alive and well.

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TAGS: a serious man, academy awards, inglourious basterds, quentin tarantino, the hurt locker, the messenger, up


The Hurt Locker

When Up in the Air, praised even by some of its naysayers for its meticulous construction (albeit of the recycled air sort), couldn't swing a nomination in this category, the race for Best Picture suddenly became a little easier to diagnose. Funny, though, that Precious, pegged early on as a frontrunner for the top prize, was able to manage one, even though its purple-ish editing seemed to be one of the few things fans and detractors alike could find common ground on—and yet the film is hardly being discussed as a spoiler in a race that has become all about Avatar, The Hurt Locker, and Inglourious Basterds. Just putting that out there, folks.

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TAGS: academy awards, avatar, district 9, inglourious basterds, precious based on the novel push by sapphire, the hurt locker


The Art of the Steal

Don Argott's suspenseful The Art of The Steal—which delves deeply into the government and corporate takeover of a beloved private institution, the Barnes Foundation, by the city of Philadelphia and the Pew Charitable Trusts among other "charitable" organizations—is propaganda at its finest. The film follows the gripping saga of the art collection of the visionary Albert C. Barnes, who had the foresight to buy up the best of the best by iconoclasts Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse among other masters while the rest of the stuffy art world turned up its collective nose. In turn, Barnes gave the finger to the rarefied museum establishment by founding a school in Merion, Pennsylvania where the artworks—now estimated to be worth $25 billion—would hang above the faculty and students with limited hours open to the public. This didn't sit too well with Barnes's arch-nemeses, the Annenberg family, and the rest of Philly's notoriously corrupt power brokers.

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TAGS: don argott, errol morris, the art of the steal, the barnes foundation


Blind

Last season, Craig Wright wrote a beautiful paean to male bonding called Lady, a sincere, stirring one-acter that chronicled three men (magnificently played by Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, and David Wilson Barnes) on a hunting trip, whose disparate politics and beliefs eventually get the better of them. I guess it was too much to hope that lightning would strike twice in two seasons in the very same space, but it shouldn't have been too much to ask for a play where people spoke to each other instead of hollered like they were trying to hit the back row of Radio City Music Hall. Wright's latest play Blind uses Oedipus as a model to, one supposes, update the tale (though having a guy in a t-shirt and people saying "fuck" doesn't constitute a hell of a lot of updating) of the unhappy queen Jocasta (Veanne Cox) having a most unusual sexual life with Oedipus (Seth Numrich), her son who broods more than Holden Caulfield stuck in a room of malcontents. And a deadpan Maid (Danielle Slavick) is on standby to witness their heinous acts, while secretly shtupping the handsome young king.

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TAGS: blind, craig wright, danielle slavick, lucie tiberghien, oedipus, rattlestick playwrights theater, seth numrich, veanne cox


The Best Comics of the Decade

Alias

[Editor's Note: House contributor Ed Howard has just completed a three-part survey of the Best Comics of the Decade. Below is his introduction to the project, which includes links to each of the posts.]

For the next couple of days, I'll be posting a countdown of the 60 best comics of the last decade, from 2000-2009. I've put a lot of work into this list, which is surely incomplete (I haven't read everything) but nevertheless gathers together what I feel is some of the best work to appear in the comics artform. The list will be posted twenty entries at a time. Numbers 60-41 are here, 40-21 are here, and the top 20 is here. I have written a brief blurb about each comic included, not as a definitive analysis or commentary, but only to provide some suggestion of what each entry is like. I encourage others to chime in with their own choices and commentary as well. Though this probably doesn't need saying, this list reflects only my own personal taste, idiosyncratic as it is. I have attempted to include a wide cross-section of modern comics, but my biases and preferences have surely dictated the relatively small sampling of superhero or autobiographical comics included here, to name two popular genres, as well as the marked dominance of more formalist and experimental artists. I have also made an effort to include only works truly produced and released for the first time during this decade, thus excluding the wealth of older reissues that have come out in recent years. For the most part, each entry represents a single work, though in a few cases I thought some artists were better represented by their complete oeuvres or some combination of similar books rather than a single representative piece.

In making this list, I confirmed my impression that the artform of comics has reached a creative apex in recent years. The comics produced from 2000-2009 are varied and encompass a diversity and general high level of quality previously unimagined for an artform once considered pulpy trash for children. This is a great time to be reading comics, and this list is my perspective on this especially fecund era's most satisfying works.

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TAGS: best of the aughts, only the cinema


Lost Lighthouse

[Editor and Author's Note: These weekly recaps will be cross-posted over at Vinyl Is Heavy. We encourage comments at either joint.]

After seeing four by Dorsky (more later, non-Lost fans), helping my bud Brian haul some keyboards, and fixing a supremely late dinner sandwich, I settled into the couch with the DVR for what amounted to a pretty basic episode with very few answers. But I guess I can't expect the show to live up to the promos, cuz that's what promos do: They whet the whistle. In any case, this lighthouse was cool, but hardly a revelation. Just another component in Jacob's all seeing all knowing apparent benevolence. Okay, so Jacob's been watching these "losties"—in particular Jack—for a while now; not too big a surprise given we've seen Jacob alive (and seemingly well) in the days of man'o'wars and unstylish smocks. Nor should it surprise that Jacob wanted the lighthouse inoperable after all. No, the biggest scare was: Is Jack going to fuck up Hurley?

Of course Jack wouldn't hurt Hurley. Lindlelof and Cuse don't want to lose even more good will with their audience. Besides, Hurley's got to stick around to talk to Jacob's ghost or spirit or whatever. What made the scene shake, though, was how uncool Matthew Fox was: He really got wild eyed. He really sold Jack at the end of his rope. But you'd like to think a dude who was willing to admit he came back to the island because he was broken and was wrong about just about everything since that return (and knows it) had already hit rock bottom. But no. The pile-on continues. Jack's almost a Job. (I don't want to admit the links between Shepherd and who in the bible was a shepherd, or simply what a shepherd is, just yet—but, there, I gave the thought a thought.) And don't get me started on the off island junk of this episode, though there were wrinkles in the otherwise cornball "dad issues" plot. —The main wrinkle, of course, being not Jack's memory problems, and that mysterious scar on his torso, but Dogen showing up at the recital hall; but that was too vague to draw any conclusions from at this point.

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TAGS: emilie de ravin, lighthouse, lost, matthew fox, recap, terry o'quinn


Like You Know It All

The disappointment educed by Like You Know It All is of a qualified sort. It's not that Korean director Hong Sang-soo's latest bifurcated drama about a film director who drinks too much and is short on insight into women, life, and himself is a failure. In fact, in many respects, it's one of his looser, messier, funnier efforts. The problem, rather, is one of familiarity: a repetition of motifs, structure, and thematic concerns that increasingly makes the director's self-conscious inquiries into his own hang-ups and shortcomings (and confused masculinity as a whole) feel like a pony's one trick. Whereas his prior Night and Day's rawness made his perennial examination into screwed-up male behavior invigorating, here the more laidback, reserved, wryly comical tone heightens the nagging feeling that Hong has run out of novel things to say and is thus now content to lackadaisically repeat himself. And, furthermore, all while having his on-screen surrogate—director Ku (Kim Tae-woo), an art-house hit whose films are impenetrable, disturbing, and generally not profitable—deflect those very criticisms by stating that he doesn't know how to make films about anyone but himself.

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TAGS: film comment selects, hong sang-soo, kim tae-woo, like you know it all, night and day







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