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Articles in the Cinema and Television Department

Cinema and Television, Headline, March 2011 »

[13 Mar 2011 | One Comment | 1,513 Views]
Don’t Eat Me, I’m Only the Cameraman, Part 4: <i>The Last Exorcism</i>

The Religious Right is also (apparently) a breeding ground for predatory hucksters, grinning matchstick men who Get Religion so long as it gets them into your wallet. What The Last Exorcism does with that stereotype is rather refreshing. Cotton Marcus’s journey of rediscovering faith by confronting the forces of darkness isn’t really anything new, but it is something special. What I think the film communicates, rather than these simple explanations, is that when the chips are down, people have a surprising capacity for nobility. Even people who make a mockery of faith or the credulity of their trusting flock can find the courage to hold a candle to the darkness. There’s heroism in that.

Cinema and Television, Featured, March 2011 »

[8 Mar 2011 | One Comment | 1,494 Views]
<i>True Grit</i>: Return of the One-Eyed Fat Man

Most Coen films are about characters who think they are smart, slick operators who are cleverly manipulating events to their own advantage. So it is with True Grit, in which Mattie Ross thinks she’s corralled the meanest bounty hunter in the Territory into tracking down her father’s killer for her, but once she’s wound him up, paid him, and sent him forth, she finds that the old bastard has a mind of his own. Nothing pans out the way the characters think it should. Not quite. Even within the confines of an established Western classic, the Coens find a way to emphasize the way even the most able, driven, and tough people don’t necessarily get what they want in the way they want it.

Cinema and Television, Featured, Julytember 2010 »

[30 Nov 2010 | One Comment | 4,460 Views]
Alonso’s Fantasma and Nikolaidis’s Morning Patrol

Lisandro Alonso’s post-apocalypse film of art-house demise, also known as Fantasma, climaxes with a lonely man in a movie theater. We spend one hour waiting for this image of a solitary figure watching a bright screen: a torso emerging from one seat among a row of seats and all the other empty rows extending towards the screen where the projected phantoms play. We view the film alongside or from behind the silhouette. He is eventually joined by a man and a woman, but the climactic image of the torso and …

Cinema and Television, Julytember 2010, Subheadline »

[31 Oct 2010 | One Comment | 2,385 Views]
Don’t Eat Me (Part 3): <i>Paranormal Activity 2</i>

Paranormal Activity 2 is, for the sake of descriptive brevity, The Exorcist meets Big Brother. The new film is a Hollywood sequel, for better and worse. Bigger budget = more elaborate effects. For a couple scenes, that works in the film’s favor. Unfortunately, it also means that the craft of the first film has been largely jettisoned in favor of thuddingly obvious setups, a higher body count, and a much more crass sense of what is considered creepy.

Cinema and Television, Julytember 2010, Subheadline »

[8 Oct 2010 | No Comment | 2,415 Views]
<i>Machete</i>: Trailer vs. Film

History will never be able to tell us for sure whether Robert Rodriguez was kidding when he originally made the trailer for Machete. Certainly, the other guys who made fake trailers for 2007′s Grindhouse were kidding; regrettable though it is, we do not live in a world awesome enough to ever see Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS, or Edgar Wright’s Don’t. But unlike these others, Rodriguez announced, almost immediately after Grindhouse‘s debut, that he intended to make Machete for real.

But this announcement didn’t come until after he …

Cinema and Television, Cultural Comment, Julytember 2010, Subheadline »

[25 Jul 2010 | One Comment | 3,798 Views]
Urban Life and Individuality: Boyz n the Hood

Any representation of urban life in Black cinema during the early 90′s would inevitably find itself contending with John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood. The amount of praise Singleton received was enough to make him the first of only two African-Americans to receive an Academy Award nomination for best director.  The rising tide of Black experience in cinema came at a time when African-Americans in poor Los Angeles neighbourhoods were suffering from the internal violence of gang warfare fueled by the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, as well as …

Cinema and Television, May/June 2010, Subheadline »

[30 Jun 2010 | No Comment | 3,378 Views]
Smith in Dragon’s Shadow: <i>The Karate Kid</i>

The Karate Kid is a story of two lost souls, sans fish bowl, and a classic archetype of the surrogate father-son dynamic. Jaden Smith puts his cute kid mojo to work as Dre, who’s uprooted from his childhood home when his widowed mother is transferred to China as part of her job. The local handyman, Mr. Han, takes compassion on him when he’s continually beaten by bullies who are almost as skilled in kung fu as the handyman. Naturally, Mr. Han’s kung fu is better, both because the hero’s journey requires it to be, and because Mr. Han is played by Jackie Chan. As conventional as the story is (and familiar, given that it’s a remake of a beloved 80s classic), it works because it is a completely artless approach to a well-worn story.

Cinema and Television, May/June 2010 »

[3 Jun 2010 | No Comment | 1,972 Views]
The Man of Your Dreams: Sam Bayer’s New <i>Nightmare</i>

Professionally executed from beginning to end, the exact purpose of Samuel Bayer’s New Nightmare (a.k.a. Nightmare Redux) isn’t really clear. Apart from the vibe that it’s trying to be a crowd-pleaser, the precise aim of how it expects to do that is muddy. Barely a remake, it’s more of a retread, gathering up some of the original film’s more indelible scenes, reshuffling them, and dealing them from the bottom of the deck — apparently at random — in an attempt to catch established fans off guard while simultaneously re-entrenching those scenes in the minds of a new generation that might (rather unbelievably) not be at all familiar with the source material.

Cinema and Television, May/June 2010 »

[27 May 2010 | 6 Comments | 50,314 Views]
Playtime’s Favorite War (and Anti-War) Films

The United States celebrates its Memorial Day in honor of fallen servicemen and women on Monday.  In remembrance for all fallen soldiers in countries around the world, we at Playtime have devised their favorites from war and anti-war cinema, all capturing the spirit of human struggle.

Matthew Kessen

Apocalypse Now (d. Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) – Apocalypse Now is, to many, a definitive war movie. The book on which it is based, however – Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – actually has nothing to do with war. The novella’s Kurtz instead goes …

Cinema and Television, Cultural Comment, May/June 2010 »

[25 May 2010 | 11 Comments | 372,722 Views]
Adam W’s Titanic: Now an Internet Disaster

As Playtime guest contributor Adam W. workshopped his article “A Clash of History and Fiction in Titanic” in the Playtime contributor forums, his early draft touched off a heady exchange concerning the role of historical accuracy in James Cameron’s Titanic in particular and in fiction in general.
The Titanic and Historical Accuracy
Daniel Swensen: It seems a trifle odd to me to pick on Cameron for “capitalizing on a disaster still easy to recall for its survivors” when movies like The Longest Day were reliving the battles …