House Logo
Explore categories +

Todd Mccarthy (#110 of 12)

Oscar Prospects: Argo

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Argo
Oscar Prospects: Argo

Ben Affleck’s Argo emerged from the Toronto Film Festival as virtually every pundit’s Best Picture frontrunner, its grand reception topping off a heap of baity ingredients. This particular bit of groupthink is particularly disheartening, as those ingredients are, collectively, something Argo itself is never able to soar above. You know the mouthwatering pitch: Based on the impossible true story, this white-knuckle political thriller recounts the daring escape of six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis. Produced by Academy Award winner George Clooney and Oscar nominee Grant Heslov, and directed by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, who also stars, Argo is both a topical drama and a rousing crowd-pleaser. Which, of course, says nothing of the movie’s juicy Hollywood ties, doubling as an offbeat slice of film-biz history wherein a C.I.A. specialist uses a faux sci-fi production as his rescue ruse. On paper, Argo reads like a dream project, and it certainly helps that Affleck stocks his cast with a fine mix of Oscar favorites and of-the-moment faces (alongside Alan Arkin are Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Messina). This is a movie that drums up sight-unseen support, specifically for Affleck, who’s been soldiering forth as a filmmaker and has finally made a film about something. It’s a shame that what he’s made also plays like a thin and shameless Oscar box-checker, and if it were to take the big prize, it’d only amplify the bemused awards-watcher’s cynicism.

The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012: Alps, The Day He Arrives, The Sheik and I, Twixt, & More

Comments Comments (...)

The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012: <em>Alps</em>, <em>The Day He Arrives</em>, <em>The Sheik and I</em>, <em>Twixt</em>, & More
The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012: <em>Alps</em>, <em>The Day He Arrives</em>, <em>The Sheik and I</em>, <em>Twixt</em>, & More

Rounding out its 55th year, the generally celebratory San Francisco International Film Festival seemed to open on a melancholy note, with the deaths of two illustrious film-culture stalwarts still fresh in the memories of local cinephiles: Graham Leggat, who had since 2005 been the San Francisco Film Society’s executive director, succumbed to cancer last year; and Bingham Ray, a veteran force in the indie circuit who’d agreed to take over the position, passed away in January at the Sundance Film Festival. Just as Nietzsche envisioned art as “the redeeming, healing enchantress” that could confront despair, it was up to cinema then to alleviate the event’s potentially mournful mood. Indeed, the titles chosen to pay tribute to the two men—Benoit Jacquot’s unusual Versailles-set drama Farewell, My Queen, which opened the festival in dedication to Leggat, and Carol Reed’s sardonic 1949 masterpiece The Third Man, reportedly Ray’s all-time favorite film—served as reminders not only of SFIFF’s characteristically eclectic selection, but also of its dedication to acknowledging the medium’s past while steadfastly gazing ahead for discoveries.

Farber/Hawks

Comments Comments (...)

Farber/Hawks
Farber/Hawks

[Editor’s Note: Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday and Scarface play this weekend as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s tribute to Manny Farber. Click here (and on the film titles in the article) for more details.]

The auteurist debate is no longer a matter of dispute; the question critics should be asking is not if a director “writes” the film in cinematic terms, but how. Does he create a film in a way that can be told only through cinema, with many conflicting truths happening simultaneously? Or does he film a script, making a linear collection of words into something visible, connecting the dots with a standardized grammar of cinema that was developed in previous films? In the latter situation, one message is illustrated. However interesting this message may be, this is a waste of cinema. (Print conveys one voice in a linear order much less expensively.)

Manny Farber explained the elevated species of this second scenario more explicitly, under the banner of “masterpiece art” or “white elephant art.”

Seattle International Film Festival 2008: Dispatch Six

Comments Comments (...)

Seattle International Film Festival 2008: Dispatch Six
Seattle International Film Festival 2008: Dispatch Six

In this festival where bombs and duds are commoner than April showers and May flowers, it’s practically a gift from God (if not an Act of God) to discover a movie as provocative, thoughtful, heartrending, and soul-stirring as Abdullah Oğuz’s Bliss, a near-great film that showed up last weekend with no fanfare from SIFF whatsoever: There was no advance press screening; no screeners made available—no attendant hoopla of any kind to alert us that something important was in our midst. Yet we found it anyway, an almost full house on Sunday afternoon at Pacific Place, grateful moviegoers moved to applause—and some to tears—at the film’s end.

No Country for Ideology

Comments Comments (...)

No Country for Ideology
No Country for Ideology

1

In 1964, Susan Sontag’s seminal essay “Against Interpretation” was published in Evergreen Review. Not long before, the Cold War reached its peak with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

2

“What the overemphasis on the idea of content entails is the perennial, never consummated project of interpretation,” Sontag wrote. “And, conversely, it is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art.”

Later on in the essay, after attacking the emphasis on the creation of content in a work of art via interpretation, Sontag named a few artists who have had content wrestled from their works:

“Proust, Joyce, Faulkner, Rilke, Lawrence, Gide . . . one could go on citing author after author; the list is endless of those around whom thick encrustations of interpretation have taken hold. But it should be noted that interpretation is not simply the compliment that mediocrity pays to genius. It is, indeed, the modern way of understanding something, and is applied to works of every quality. Thus, in the notes that Elia Kazan published on his production of A Streetcar Named Desire, it becomes clear that, in order to direct the play, Kazan had to discover that Stanley Kowalski represented culture, while Blanche Du Bois was Western civilization, poetry, delicate apparel, dim lighting, refined feelings, and all, though a little the worse for wear to be sure. Tennessee Williams’ forceful psychological melodrama now became intelligible: it was about something, about the decline of western civilization. Apparently, were it to go on being a play about a handsome brute named Stanley Kowalski and a faded mangy belle named Blanche Du Bois, it would not be manageable.”