“Edge of Tomorrow,” Ceaselessness of Yesterday

In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise plays Major Cane, an officer who is accidentally given the ability to relive over and over and over the day before a failed military invasion aimed at wiping out an alien race, dying in the battle every day before learning little by little how to turn the tide of humanity’s impending defeat. The failed invasion comes after these aliens—arriving via a meteor that crash-lands in Germany—have taken over and decimated Europe. The invasion bases itself from England, and joins fronts in Asia and in Italy in what humanity is calling Operation Downfall. If you haven’t already caught on, the set-up is a sci-fi inversion of Operation Overlord (note the wordplay), and there’s a sustained playing and replaying of the beach landing that recalls—sometimes extremely directly—Steven Spielberg’s recreation of the Normandy Landing in 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. This extended and recurring passage—Edge of Tomorrow’s central (perhaps pervasive) action sequence—is the most discomforting repurposing of history since last summer’s Man of Steel leveled Metropolis and confronted us with harrowing 9/11-esque imagery for nearly 45 excruciating minutes. Continue reading ““Edge of Tomorrow,” Ceaselessness of Yesterday” »

Discovery Docs: A New Wrinkle in Non-Fiction Film

From the first movies shown to theater audiences in 1895, such as the Lumiere brothers’ mundanely titled but no less thrilling (at the time) Workers Leaving the Factory and The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, documentary film has had discovery on its mind. Though not commonly termed documentaries until the 1920s, most movies through the budding industry’s first decade were snippets of unvarnished reality that brought the everyday world, or exotic foreign lands, to startling, unprecedented life. Continue reading “Discovery Docs: A New Wrinkle in Non-Fiction Film” »

What’s in a Name? The Semantics of “Ida”

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asks Romeo, then offers an answer: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Unfortunately, as Shakespeare knew, we take names all too seriously, and for Jews especially, the results have been anything but sweet. Starting with its title, the Polish film Ida (Pawel Pawlikowsky, 2014), about the eponymous novitiate nun’s confronting her newly discovered Jewishness in early 1960s Poland, asks us to ponder not only her name’s role in the narrative, but those of the film’s significant others as well. Continue reading “What’s in a Name? The Semantics of “Ida”” »