“Wild”: The David Denby Review (The New Yorker, Dec. 8, 2014)

Aha! A fairly recent issue of The New Yorker — Hallelujah!

In this issue, David Denby reviews “Wild,” the film adaptation of the Cheryl Strayed memoir.

Self saw the movie several weeks ago, after which she posted a few remarks on Read the rest of this entry »

David Denby on Jack Ryan (The New Yorker, 20 January 2014)

How self loves an article such as this, the one Denby wrote on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a review that seems to span all the great movie heroes of self’s life (excepting the science fiction ones like Neo and Ripley.  And mugging, self-deprecating ones like Indiana Jones.  And even puppy-ish ones like Luke Skywalker.  But, self, one cannot have everything.  If there’s a lemon meringue pie in front of you, stop pining for rhubarb because whatever)

So, self knows the Jack Ryan movie came out months and months ago.  Maybe even prior to Christmas. Cut her some slack here, dear blog readers.  Since December, self has:

Been to Claremont

Been to Seattle

Been to North Hollywood

And now she’s about to go to the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland.

Not to mention, two writers groups meetings, driving around in a car that failed a smog test four times (white-knuckling all the way) falling into passionate love with fanfiction, applying to a summer writing conference, and writing poems/stories/novellas and anything and everything under the sun involving words.  And of course, madly taking pictures of her garden and so forth.  No wonder it’s taken her six weeks to get just a third of the way through The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

Now to the Denby article.

Chris Pine, he says, is “an enjoyably talented actor” who “gives a successful impression of a man frightened to death.” (And she knows exactly what scene Denby is referring to.  It comes early.  Self will not tell.  Rent the movie on Netflix)

When Denby thoughtfully summarizes the plot (Ryan is in Afghanistan, “his helicopter goes down”), self realized with a shock that she had absolutely no memory of any of these scenes.  She even forgot how Ryan and Keira Knightley’s character met.  But now Denby tells her that Knightley plays “a medical student who is holding out for a date until” Ryan “can overcome the excruciating pain and run like a track star,” which sort of reminds self of Katniss holding back her love until Peeta gets over wanting to kill her.  Ehem!  Kevin Costner is also in this movie (Again, self almost forgot).  Here, according to Denby, he tries “to look mysterious and dangerous by not doing much.” (Note to self: Examine Laurence Fishburne’s performance in the Matrix movies to tease out possible parallels?)

The movie “is set in the new Moscow, which, despite many cutting-edge skyscrapers and a glass-and-metal office of icy brilliance . . . ” (and which, self might add, is flooding the pages of The New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review with literary product, which means it will be years — even, decades — before writers from marginalized communities and 3rd world countries like the Philippines manage to break through) “is pretty much like the perfidious old Moscow that Clancy prized in Cold War days.”

And now, this being David Denby, some background on Tom Clancy:

Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman in Maryland when, in the early nineteen-eighties, he wrote a book, The Hunt for Red October, that Ronald Reagan, with a handsome public mention, turned into a best-seller . . .  He died last October.

Oh. Self didn’t know.

Somewhere in this review is the million-dollar question:  How do the Jack Ryan films stack up against James Bond and Jason Bourne?

James Bond, “no matter who plays him, and no matter what the actor’s age, always seems about forty . . . ”  In contrast, “Jason Bourne does age — his story, as recorded in the three movies starring Matt Damon, was consecutive and heart-wrenching.  Bond and Bourne, one playful, one serious, are both genuine franchise heroes.  Ryan is just a property.”

Denby goes through the list of actors who have played Jack Ryan:  Alec Baldwin (arguably the most handsome Jack Ryan), Harrison Ford (the sturdiest Jack Ryan), and Ben Affleck (Self totally forgot that Affleck even played Jack Ryan).

He also gives credit where credit is due:  to Paul Greengrass, the master of shaky-cam technique, who honed it to such great effect in the first Bourne movie and inspired a whole group of shaky cam practitioners like Doug Liman and Gary Ross. (Self knows there will never ben another like Paul Greengrass.  She saw United 93 in the old Bayshore Century 20, by herself in the middle of the day, and the last five minutes of that movie were as incoherent as food mixed up in a blender. And yet, she groaned. Not out of frustration, but out of sympathy.  Because that is probably what it felt like to be on a plane pointing straight down to the ground.  Anything else — a steady cam, say, with close-ups on the unknown actors who played the passengers — would have been grossly insulting)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Denby on Katniss

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Self knows there’s a new science fiction movie out, one that’s starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.  She’s excited to see it, just hasn’t had a chance yet.

The Pile of Stuff is truly — enormous.

This morning, she reaches in, pulls out a New Yorker, and settles down to read the movie reviews.  Just to show you how old this issue is, the movie being reviewed is The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.

It’s very interesting:  Denby writes that teenagers tend to view the gladiatorial fights-to-the-death literally, while their “elders” think about them metaphorically (“as a metaphor for capitalism, with its terrifying job market . . . ” or “as a satiric exaggeration of talent-show ruthlessness”)

“Distraction,” Denby writes, “is supposed to work miracles.”

(Well, it does, David.  It does.  What can self say?  Distraction is, in fact, a most excellent and potent tool.  Just ask parents of recalcitrant toddlers, beleaguered office managers, conniving politicians, crafty taxi drivers and military strategists, thieves and other people up to no good, magicians, low-lifes, jerks both run-of-the-mill and spectacular etc etc etc)

While the first Hunger Games movie was “an embarrassment,” Denby calls “the first forty-five minutes or so” of Catching Fire “impressive.”

An excerpt from the review:

For Katniss, the pleasure of victory never arrives.  At the very beginning of the movie, we see her in silhouette, crouching at the edge of a pond, a huntress poised to uncoil.  She hates being a celebrity, and she certainly has no desire to lead a revolution.  Jennifer Lawrence’s gray-green eyes and her formidable concentration dominate the camera.  She resembles a storybook Indian princess and she projects the kind of strength that Katharine Hepburn had . . .

As for the rest of the characters, Denby assigns one adjective (more or less) for each:  Peeta is “doleful” and Gale is “faithful.”  Caesar Flickerman is “unctuous and hostile.”

Woody Harrelson gets a little something extra:  As Haymitch, he is a “hard-drinking realist” who nevertheless “guides Katniss through every terror” and “is the core of intelligence in the movie . . .  his glare and his acid voice cut through the meaningless fashion show.”

And that is about all self can squeeze out for now.  Oh Pile of Stuff.

P.S. Can self share a secret with dear blog readers? She longs, longs for the filmed version of Mockingjay, knows it’s not arriving until Nov. 21 this year, and has already decided to clear her November calendar. Yup, that’s right: no travels, no workshops, no classes, even NO WRITING (if that’s even possible). Most of all:  No angst, no domestic crisis, no recriminations, no regrets over things said or unsaid, no self-doubt, no dithering, no envy of others getting NEAs or Guggenheims or MacDowell acceptances, no wringing of the hands, no mundane distractions, no remodeling projects, no Tweets, no literary contests, no reading of book reviews, no compiling of “Best of 2014” lists, no planting, no housecleaning, no shopping whether for essentials or non-essentials (even food), no entertaining of mysterious knocks on the front door or of phone calls from solicitors, no bewailing of personal imperfections, no exaggerations, no facials, no massages, no Vinyasa Flow classes, no research in Green or Hoover libraries etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Quo Vadis, Soderbergh?

There are many things about the David Denby article in The New Yorker of Feb. 11 and 18, 2013 that are worth quoting.

For one thing, it’s about Side Effects, a move self wants to see (The other new movies are A Good Day to Die Hard, which is supposedly terrible, Identity Thief, which is also supposedly terrible, and Safe Haven which self wouldn’t see even if it got rave reviews, which it didn’t)

Denby begins his review by saying that Steven Soderbergh “has made twenty-six feature films in twenty-four years, has just turned fifty . . .  and says that, after his new film, Side Effects he wants to leave movies behind in order, mostly, to paint.”

Self heard about the retirement announcement, nothing official, just trills on the Read the rest of this entry »

Summer of 2012 in Movies

The first movie self saw after getting back from her oh-so-intellectual June in southern Scotland was “Magic Mike.”  Since she’d read the reviews of this movie in The Guardian and The Times, she was naturally all agog to see this film’s representation of American male hot-ness as embodied by McConnaughey, Tatum, and Pettyfer.  Especially since the representation was being delivered by a director like Steven Soderbergh who, self is sure we can all agree, is a recognized authority on tasteful marketing of hot-ness (Exhibit A:  Ocean’s Eleven.  Exhibit B:  Ocean’s Twelve).  And it did not disappoint!  Self’s jaw dropped as she was watching!  She even wanted to go back and see it again, but was unfortunately derailed by homely chores like straightening up the house and watering her garden and doing laundry and cooking fine, delicious dinners for The Man.

Self saw “Total Recall” and liked it.  Naturally, Colin Farrell is a big, big improvement over Arnold.  And Kate Beckinsale —  how self loves this actress’s incarnation into kick-ass.  Time was, a long loooong time ago, when Kate used to play the Plain Jane in Jane Austen movie adaptations.  At least, she did in one movie self saw.  This was, of course, pre “Pearl Harbor.”

Self also saw:  “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Excellent) and “Moonrise Kingdom” (Excellent to the nth)

Then there were those three Filipino films she saw at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (end of June) which she still hasn’t found time to discuss —  hopefully, things will calm down enough for her to pour her heart out.

She really liked “Dark Knight Rises.”  She even got to like Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.  And can’t imagine what a Ryan Reynolds Batman will be like.

She still hasn’t seen “Expendables 2” or “The Campaign” but hopefully will, soon.  And she really wants to see the movie with “Ruby” in the title.

But now she will reflect on Bourne.  The reason for this is that she has been perusing the August 13 & 20, 2012 of The New Yorker (a double issue:  it’s pretty thin, for a double issue), and has read the David Denby review of “The Bourne Legacy.”

When the movie began, self kept imagining Matt Damon playing the lead.  He has a completely different type of face from Jeremy Renner —  more lean, and more ordinary, but also more compelling.  But self liked Rachel Weisz in the role of female sidekick —  she never quite got over the demise of Marie in Bourne 2, and then she was slightly hopeful for Julia Stiles at the end of Bourne 3, but look where that got her.

The best, the absolutely most tension-filled scene in “The Bourne Legacy” is one that no reviewer has yet seen fit to discuss:  and that is the scene where Renner comes over a snowy mountain and encounters a sad-eyed, laconic man living all by his lonesome in a cabin, and they have quite an extended conversation, during every second of which self would turn to The Man with eyebrows raised and hiss:  “He’s gonna pop him now!  Now!”  The solitary man is so out of it that he attempts to read a book after dinner.  No self-respecting spy worth his salt would let a man read a book when he is available for questioning.  But apparently solitary man does not slip so easily into the verbal game thing, for his response is to close the book, stand up, and leave the scene.  Whereupon —  self kept expecting him NOT to show up the next morning, but he showed up.  Then she thought he would NOT show up after cooking breakfast, but again he was there.  Then she thought he would surely try to off Renner when Renner goes somewhere — maybe behind the woodshed, where some very scary meds are being stored in a super-secret freezer — but again, he is there.  There is just no getting rid of this man and his mournful presence!

Here’s self’s favorite section of the Denby review:

In an age of movie magic, the “Bourne” series, even at its most accelerated, stuck to grounded action.  Gravity mattered in all three films; stunt men, falling earthward, were more central than pixels.

Hear, hear!

In addition, Denby says that “The Bourne Legacy” can boast of having “the longest motorcycle chase in the history of wheels.”  But why stop there, David?  It is also, in self’s humble opinion, the BEST long motorcycle chase in the history of wheels.  In no small part because that chase scene takes place on location in Manila.  And, jeez, anyone who’s seen the chaos of a Manila street would know how hard it is to thread anyone through it, much less movie stars like Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz!  That is a singular achievement in and of itself!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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