The House


Conversations We Have in My Head

As in Vaida's Talks with My Mom, the directness of Conversations We Have in My Head isn't one-sided. This quality indicates a shift in style for Deirdra "Squinky" Kiai, whose 2014 claymation musical, Dominique Pamplemousse in "It's All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!", was a miscalculated combination of comedy and social commentary. Whereas Dominique Pamplemousse treats genderqueer identity as little more than a punchline about bathrooms, therefore pandering to left-leaning smugness, Conversations We Have in My Head connects specific gender and queer themes to a general vulnerability of humankind in relating to others.

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TAGS: conversations we have in my head, deirdra, dominique pamplemousse, Telltale Games


Presumed Innocent

"That lady was bad news." This is one of the many ominous phrases used to describe Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), a deputy prosecutor whose brutal murder lies at center of Presumed Innocent. Detective Lipranzer (John Spencer) uses that specific expression more than once in reference to Carolyn, who was as widely known for her sexual exploits within the district attorney's office as her crafty skills in the courtroom. Lipranzer is only a sideline character in the film, a friend and informant to Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford), the prosecutor tasked with investigating Carolyn's murder who quickly becomes the primary suspect. Nevertheless, Lipranzer's summation of Carol is rife with implication and plays like a recurring melody in a symphony that resounds more profoundly with each expression.

On the surface, Presumed Innocent is a deft portrayal of the systemic corruption embedded in the legal system. Nearly every character manipulates, falsifies, or otherwise distorts as a means of staying one step ahead of the very system whose ethics and ideals they're supposed to uphold, including and especially DA Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy). But pulsing through the film is an arguably darker current concerning sexual politics and power stemming from Carolyn's beauty being regarded with fear and danger. Lipranzer's comments are among many throughout the film that suggest a collective negative attitude toward Carolyn for being a woman who'd sleep with anyone to get to the top. Carolyn's reputation is known even to Rusty's own wife, Barbara (Bonnie Bedelia), who's keenly aware of her husband's previous affair with the victim. For the DA office's men, whose preoccupations with Carolyn despite their own transgressions underline their hypocrisy, Carolyn was only "bad news" because she understood that the system was made to favor men and knew how to advance within it.

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TAGS: alan j. pakula, basic instinct, Bonnie Bedelia, brian dennehy, fatal attraction, gone girl, Greta Scacchi, harrison ford, John Spencer, john williams, summer of 90


True Detective

Everything you need to know about the inconsistencies of True Detective—its strengths and weaknesses this season—can be summed up by the two standoffs that occur in this episode. The first follows directly from the previous episode, and bears the weight of the entire season, as Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) sit across a kitchen table from one another making brief pleasantries over coffees that go untouched on account of the guns they're both holding on one another beneath that mundane kitchen-table surface. The second, between Frank and the suave drug-runner (Benjamin Benitez) introduced without fanfare in last week's episode, is treated as a joke, and ends almost as soon as it begins: "Well, that's one off the bucket list. A Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans." There's admittedly a bit more to it than that, as it comes out that this man has a connection to the deceased Rey Amarillo's crew, and provides proof that Amarillo was set up—by a "white cop"—to provide plausible closure to the Caspere investigation. But without giving us so much as the man's name (his henchman is a silent, posturing cross between Kato and Tonto) or motivation, these scenes are hacky and stylized. This is True Detective at its worst, and toward the end of the episode, a riff on "The Monkey's Paw" is proffered, with the man delivering to Frank exactly what he promised: a glimpse of Amarillo's woman, but of her corpse, freshly butchered by the dealer's crew in a moment of needless, show-off cruelty.

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TAGS: Abigail Spencer, Benjamin Benitez, church in ruins, colin farrell, jon lindstrom, kelly reilly, Leven Rambin, michael hyatt, Miguel Sapochnik, Nic Pizzolatto, rachel mcadams, recap, scott lasser, taylor kitsch, the monkey's paw, timothy v. murphy, trevor larcom, true detective, vince vaughn


Hannibal

When we first see Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), he's sitting in what appears to be a cafeteria, having coffee, looking over a Time magazine with rapt fascination. On the cover is a reprint of William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, one of several paintings the poet and artist produced depicting images of a seven-headed, 10-horned monster from the Book of Revelation. Francis turns the magazine's pages and finds within them an even more striking image in the series, a reprint of the nearly identically titled The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun. The paintings cumulatively dramatize both sides of a single image: In the first, we see the front of a woman as she's descended on by the dragon, and in the second, we're behind them, looking predominantly on the dragon's powerful, startlingly sexualized back, which is rippled with muscle, supporting great sprouting wings and a coiled tail that suggests a phallus. In the first painting the woman is accorded dramatic agency, and our empathy is drawn to her; in the second, she's seen cowering between the dragon's legs, our senses primarily taken with its power over her. It's this power that transfixes Francis.

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TAGS: bryan fuller, hannibal, hugh dancy, jonathan demme, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, manhunter, michael mann, Neil Marshall, nina arianda, Raul Esparza, recap, red dragon, richard armitage, the great red dragon, the silence of the lambs, thomas harris


True Detective

Throughout this season of True Detective, a singular point has been drilled into our heads: "We get the world we deserve." This week, "Other Lives" suggests what we deserve is simply a construct: There's nothing stopping Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) from walking away from his nightclub, poker room, and other enterprises. He may have a design, but as his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), puts it, all the work he's doing to get back to where he was before being robbed is "backslide city." He may not like the term "gangster," but he recognizes in a moment of clarity that it may fit; he can't really put himself above the pimps and dealers he now works with, even if his suits and cologne are fancier. It's no defense to say that "everything they do, they would do anyway," because what's to stop someone from saying the same thing about Frank? "I don't want to see you lose who you've become," says Jordan—and it's not a matter of wealth, but of integrity. Even after all the horrors, he can choose to be a new man; he can set down that drink and forget about earning new land parcels through Catalyst by retrieving Caspere's missing hard drive full of incriminating sex videos. Frank's already survived moving into a smaller, shabbier place; he doesn't have to keep dreaming of the idealized "best of all possible worlds" made popular in Candide. (The theme song hints at this too: To what extent can we really distinguish between levels of happiness? At some point, we must just "Nevermind.")

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TAGS: colin farrell, hbo, other lives, rachel mcadams, recap, true detective, vince vaughn


Hannibal

The most distinctive quality of Hannibal this season is its nearly pure amorality. There might not be another series on television right now in which no interior value system is courted or pandered to, apart from a treasuring of phenomenal aesthetics. Which is to say that we're placed empathetically into Hannibal's (Mads Mikkelsen) way of valuing art pointedly over life. What is one of his succulent human meals but the fashioning of art from the spare parts of someone Hannibal deems beneath him, representing the sort of transcendence that he and Will (Hugh Dancy) often discuss? Creator Bryan Fuller and his remarkable collaborators never try to teach us a civics lesson, so as to justify the show's considerable violence contextually in a manner resembling a more obviously violent cop program that might purport to tell us the hard truth about how life really is (on the streets). Fuller's refusal to apologize for his fantasies or to hedge his bets with a conventional thematic ultimately scans as moral, in a roundabout way. The show's aversion to platitude awakens our senses. Hannibal's images are often modeled after paintings, and that's how one watches the series: with rapt, somewhat distanced appraisal, as one might regard a work hanging up at the Museum of Modern Art. Traditional emotional responses aren't usually courted, bringing into stark relief how superficially Pavlovian those reactions can be—how they're used to paper over mediocre craftsmanship and easy rationalizations. Certain Brian De Palma films achieve this same speculative effect, particularly the really crazy ones that are made strictly for his acolytes (Raising Cain, for instance). But Hannibal now renders even De Palma's work sentimental by comparison.

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TAGS: bryan fuller, Caroline Dhavernas, digestivo, glenn fleshler, hannibal, hannibal rising, hugh dancy, Joe Anderson, Katharine Isabelle, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, recap, red dragon, thomas harris


The Measure of a Man

As the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival celebrates its 50th year, it continues to be a major showcase for Central and Eastern European cinema, as it has been ever since its days as the premier film festival of the socialist world during the Cold War period. From 1959 to 1993, the Czech spa town alternated yearly with Moscow as the site of the most important film festival behind the Iron Curtain, and since then has become the foremost annual destination to see new cinema in Central Europe. Throughout, it's shown some of the best cinema that the Czech Republic and its Eastern neighbors have had to offer, as well as both big budget and independent works from Western Europe and the Americas. This year's selections included ribald comedies from the Czech Republic, documentaries and fictional works both whimsical and dark about Eastern Europe's recent history, and films from the West that have garnered praise and awards elsewhere on the festival circuit. As it was in its heyday in the 1960s, the festival remains an exciting site of cinematic exchange between Eastern Europe and the Western world at a time of mounting economic and political conflict between the two.

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TAGS: alena mihulova, Bolek Polivka, ciro guerra, dalibor matanić, eva neymann, goran markovic, home care, irena pavlaskova, jan saudek, Karel Roden, karlovy vary international film festival, marcin koszałka, nives ivankovic, ostap kostyuk, photographer, sholem aleichem, slavek horak, song of songs, stephane brize, the embrace of the serpant, the high sun, the living fire, the measure of a man, the red spider, vincent lindon


Quick ChangeThe protagonists of Quick Change are so desperate to leave New York City that they finance their exit with a million-dollar bank heist. The meticulously planned robbery is executed with minimal problems and maximum cleverness. The criminals even outfox a veteran police chief (Jason Robards) and the entire SWAT team waiting outside the bank. With bundles of cash taped to their bodies, mastermind Grimm (Bill Murray), his gal, Phyllis (Geena Davis), and his best buddy, Loomis (Randy Quaid), head toward a new life in Fiji. All they have to do is escape from New York.

Unfortunately for them, this is the pre-Giuliani, pre-Bloomberg New York City; it's that scrappy animal the President of the United States once told to "drop dead," and it's not giving up its denizens without a fight. It will throw an ever-escalating series of After Hours-style mishaps at the potential escapees, roadblocks they could have easily avoided had they been more observant. Quick Change chooses this lack of observation as a theme. In its opening scene, Grimm, dressed as a clown for the robbery, exits the subway in front of a huge advertisement for the old MTA "Train to the Plane" Kennedy Airport subway service. This would seem the easiest route of escape, but it's never considered. Grimm's crew will use a car, a cab, a bus, an airport luggage cart, and their tired feet in their suspenseful bid to reach the promised land at JFK.

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TAGS: bill murray, geena davis, Howard Franklin, jason robards, Philip Bosco, quick change, randy quaid, summer of 90, tony shalhoub


Summer of '90: Ghost

GhostAt first glance, Ghost appears designed as a manipulative crowd-pleaser, employing a dim-witted explanation of an afterlife, racial stereotyping as a means for lowbrow accessibility, and violent comeuppances for its villains that neglect to explore how eye-for-an-eye motivations could be viewed as standard procedure for heavenly prosecution. The movie's view of death is perhaps "chintzy," as Jonathan Rosenbaum says, and it's easy to tell early on that Carl (Tony Goldwyn) is responsible for the botched robbery that leads to Sam's (Patrick Swayze) death, which is a gripe that Janet Maslin had. However, neither of these perceptions account for director Jerry Zucker's remarkably fluid narrative pacing, nor how impeccably cast all of the major roles are, with Swayze and Demi Moore, especially, acutely portraying beacons of idyllic, white-collar romance with physical, blue-collar appeal.

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TAGS: black girl, Bruce Joel Rubin, demi moore, ghost, janet maslin, jerry zucker, jonathan rosenbaum, ousmane sembène, patrick swayze, Rick Aviles, summer of 90, tony goldwyn, whoopi goldberg


True Detective

Good and evil have often been described as two sides of the coin that is humanity, and "Down Will Come" certainly puts that theory into practice. As the title's play on words suggests, evil things are all but guaranteed to fall upon us, as cyclical as the physical forces that bring dawn (or light) to each new day. Halfway through this week's episode of True Detective, there's a return to the very first shot of the season—a series of flags flapping on a parcel of land. This time, however, an EPA specialist is on hand to explain to Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) that the flags represent contaminated land. While the detectives don't put it all together, it's suggested to the viewer that Mayor Chessani (Ritchie Coster) has been deliberately polluting the water tables so as to force the families who once farmed on them to flip them to the various illicit organizations in Vinci who will then eventually rezone and resell the properties to the federal government.

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TAGS: colin farrell, down will come, rachel mcadams, recap, taylor kitsch, true detective, vince vaughn







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