Saturday, January 12, 2013

"The last one with the dog collar" - The viewing space of 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Spoilers herein. Not a review.

As Zero Dark Thirty goes wide this weekend, the debate surrounding it will not go quietly into the night. While it's on top of the Friday box office, it will be interesting to see if America-at-large flocks to see the movie, and if they do, what their reaction will be.

As far as I can tell, the factions for/against Zero Dark Thirty can be summed up in Glenn Greenwald's lengthy piece for The Guardian, where he argues it offers "zero opposition" to torture, and Sony's Amy Pascal, who argues in tandem with director Bigelow that depiction does not equal endorsement, and that the film is protected by free speech; it is art that examines an ugly subject.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Top 20 Films of 2012

2012 in Review: Who Will Survive in America?

“About the whole ‘no guns’ thing...I’m not sure I feel as strongly as you do.”

“America’s not a country, it’s just a business. Now fucking pay me.”

“I am the President of the United States, clothed in immense power!”

“This is a protest against the future. They won’t hold off the future.”

These quotes and others dangle in my mind as I reflect on the movies that meant something to me this year, partially because they sound like a particularly chilling merger of the films we experienced and the culture surrounding them. As someone who loves studying and writing about these intersections, there were some key and wonderful texts that provoked lots of great discussions among friends and colleagues, even as the world around us seemed dreadfully precarious the entire year.

2012 was a strange year for American cinema. Just as the cultural landscape grappled with the Occupy Movement, a presidential election, and mass shootings in movie theaters and elementary schools, the movies presented alternately rousing (The Avengers) and anxiety-laden (The Dark Knight Rises) representations of that very landscape.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Title Cards and Historical Agency: Thoughts on 'Django'


An opening title card in Django Unchained alerts us we are in "1858 - Two years before the Civil War."

It inspires a double take. The Civil War officially "began" on April 12, 1861, despite the election of Abraham Lincoln and the secession of states beginning in late 1860. One can't imagine Tarantino has allowed such a silly mistake to make it all the way to the final print.

From the very beginning, Django prods our own engagement with what we have learned (and what we have not) about Southern society and its structures on the eve of the country's most horrific bloodbath (fitting, perhaps, that Tarantino's film sinks to deeply disturbing bloody cacophany in its climax). My first thought: Tarantino is in an alternate world. Just like Inglourious Basterds, he will change something about history. He will give us not only cinematic wish fulfillment (the racial role reversals blaxploitation and its brethren encourage), but will challenge cinema-as-history once again. Except, whoops, that doesn't really happen. The Civil War is never mentioned again, nor are the political tensions across the country's various regions.