They’re Here: “Poltergeist” and Franchise Hauntings

Poltergeist (2015)

Releasing one week after Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Poltergeist (2015) represents an altogether different resurrection of a decades-dead film franchise. Whereas Fury Road is a loose sequel to the three Mel Gibson-led Mad Max films (1979, 1981, and 1985), Poltergeist is a more-or-less direct remake of the 1982 film of the same name. Furthermore, Fury Road’s Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 98%, nearly triple the 33% score that Poltergeist has received.

Both films, however, are typical of the contemporary Hollywood trend of attempting to breathe new life into film franchises, both beloved and not-so-beloved. The idea is that making films related to other films that carry name recognition and brand awareness represents less of a financial risk than a film based on an original idea. Film series continuation forms include the direct sequel or prequel, the loose sequel, the reboot, and the remake. Continue reading “They’re Here: “Poltergeist” and Franchise Hauntings” »

What’s Really Missing in “Gone Girl”

Judith Butler may have famously said that gender is performed, but what Gone Girl tackles so emphatically is that, these days, almost everything is performed, but most especially and most oppressively, femininity. It is not merely that modern day women are expected to look good, but that they are expected to be cupcake-baking, soccer-game-cheering mothers while also being suit-wearing, boardroom-leading businesswomen. Women are expected to do everything and look good doing it—and, worst of all, they are supposed to make it look easy. Continue reading “What’s Really Missing in “Gone Girl”” »

On “Gone Girl”’s Margins and the Dissonance of Economic Crisis

Note: This article is written based on one viewing of the film Gone Girl (2014), and it contains spoilers of both the book and the film. Commenters are welcome to contribute to this conversation with their own observations or, if the case may be, correct observations that I have remembered incorrectly.

Director David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn’s new film, Gone Girl, has already produced fervent discourse about its gender politics. Its depiction of men and women doing terrible things to each other has garnered critiques of misogyny (a friend scathingly called it a poster child for Men’s Rights Activist paranoia) and misanthropy. It’s arguably one of Fincher’s bleakest—and oddly, funniest—movies, one that revels in the nastiness of relationships gone awry. Continue reading “On “Gone Girl”’s Margins and the Dissonance of Economic Crisis” »

Lost in Spaces (and Guilt): A Case for Sebastián Silva’s “Magic Magic” and “Crystal Fairy”

On April 18, 2014, Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic (2013) finally received a theatrical release in the UK, prompting a string of new, mostly positive reviews from critics, including a perceptive take from Little White Lies’s Calum Marsh.[1] This release follows Magic Magic being dumped straight-to-DVD in North America, despite screening at a handful of film festivals, including Sundance and Cannes in 2012. In addition, 2013 saw the stateside theatrical release of Silva’s Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and 2012 (2013), but the film managed only 20 theaters in its widest domestic release, despite prominently featuring Michael Cera throughout its trailers and low-scale marketing campaigns. Moreover, while each film was greeted favorably critics, neither managed to make a single critic’s top 10 list from 2013 (readers, correct me if you know otherwise). Perhaps these exclusions stem from each film’s limited exposure. More likely, however, is that neither film received the serious critical attention necessitated to parse through their askew aesthetics, which offer an unusual, though rewarding confluence of acerbic cultural critique and deadpan linguistic humor to, ultimately, disturbing effects. While Silva’s The Maid (2009) hinted at his desired aesthetic aims, these new films confirm and extend them, operating in a manner that synthesizes the sensibilities of 1960’s European Art Films and contemporary DIY cinema, yet transcend any easily proscribed attempt at pastiche because of their cultural specificity and interest in understanding both characters and scenario from the inside-out, beginning with character-driven minutia and culminating in thematic significance. Continue reading “Lost in Spaces (and Guilt): A Case for Sebastián Silva’s “Magic Magic” and “Crystal Fairy”” »

Film Review: Technology Takes You Only So Far – GRAVITY’s Missing Link

If beginnings and endings alone made a great film, then Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity would shoot to the top. The opening’s breathtaking—in beauty, intricacy and duration—long take not only marks a quantum leap in CGI (computer-generated imagery) but also, in its glorious wedding of cinema and outer space, reminds us how the two were made for each other from the start. Continue reading “Film Review: Technology Takes You Only So Far – GRAVITY’s Missing Link” »

Animating the Criterion Collection

Other than several compilations of partly-animated experimental films by director Stan Brakhage, the 1992 CAV Laserdisc of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (1988) remains the only animation title in the Criterion Collection. The CAV-mode Laserdisc format was phased out nearly two decades ago, so why does Criterion, a company that transitions effortlessly between analog and digital formats, allow a masterpiece like Akira to fall victim to obsoletion? And why are other masterpieces, like those by filmmakers Lotte Reiniger, Jan Švankmejer, Jiří Trnka, Oskar Fischinger, Bill Plympton, and countless others, patently excluded from the Criterion Collection? The omission of animation becomes even more apparent as contemporary mediocrities like Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (2007), David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), and even Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1998) see Criterion releases. If there’s room in a cinephile’s DVD case for Steven Soderbergh’s Che (2008) and Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture (2010), then surely there’s room for some of the finest animated films ever produced. Continue reading “Animating the Criterion Collection” »