2017 Updates

2017 in Review: March

This month: ghosts in shells, cop shows, documentaries, and more.

Is APB Different From Other Police Shows?

“The police procedural has been a cornerstone of American television for nearly as long as the medium has existed, going back to Dragnet in the 1950s. Filmmaking styles, the explicitness with which shows are allowed to address their content, and the subject matter explored have evolved in that time, but the core of the cop show remains almost unchanged. Each week, it’s a new case. The cops are good, the robbers are bad, the killer is probably the guest star character actor, etc. The inner lives of the cast of characters aren’t subject to heavy scrutiny, and they always get the perp. This setup is so ingrained in pop culture that it goes unquestioned, but on a fundamental level, it is and always has been out of sync with the reality of crime and punishment in America.”

True/False Review: Rat Film

“A horror movie. A nature documentary. An anthropological study. A history lesson. A social justice statement. All plus more. Rat Film is one of the most original films of the year, fiction or nonfiction, and it made me feel both as if I had learned a semester’s worth of knowledge and bereft of any idea as to how society’s problems can be mended.”

True/False Review: Manifesto

“Blanchett’s 13 total performances (in one segment, she plays both a newscaster and a reporter on the ground) aren’t actory showcases in the way we generally think of something being “actory” in film. She gets a different look (and accent) in each one, and a different mode in which to present herself, but there’s a broadness to each role. This is intentional, since each character is an archetype. The movie is most amusing (and the most engaging) when the winking presentation of the archetype jibes with the content of the manifestos they’re announcing. Cate the newscaster and Cate the reporter talk about conceptual art with the exact cadence people in such jobs use when talking about the weather. The schoolteacher explains film rules to her pupils with gentle patience. It’s arch in a way that feels better-suited to the interpersonal vibe of an installation piece than the collective experience of a theatrical film.”

True/False Review: Gulistan

“Over time, though, the film and its characters draw closer to the fight with Isis. Though that fight is not seen, it is eventually heard obliquely, via distant booms. As the troop of female guerrillas await the green light to enter the fray, they express their hopes, fears, and dreams to Akyol. Their mindset is dramatically removed from what Westerners – Americans in particular – think of when it comes to joining the military. They speak not of wanting revenge or out of bloodthirstiness, but their dream of a free Kurdistan. Their nationalism is aspirational instead of defensive. Gulîstan is their manifesto.”

Adam Curtis Interview

“What I’m doing is like writing an essay. I’m saying, ‘Look, we all know at this present moment that we feel uncertain. We don’t trust what we’re told. We don’t trust those in power over us. We don’t trust that they actually know what’s going on. We know that they know that we know. We’re caught in this loop of distrust.’ I wanted to explain how that happened. To do that, I go back and I find a number of stories. I put them together, and I say, ‘I think this means that. This is how I think it happened.’ I’m not saying this is a comprehensive history. I’m just saying that these are elements which go back to some of the main roots of why you feel as you do. It’s almost like I’m trying to make you go up in a helicopter and look at your own time a bit more.”

Alice Lowe Interview

“It was less about my experience than it was about my fears about pregnancy, and fears about not meeting expectations or not fitting into what is expected of you – and feeling that you have to keep quiet about the way that you feel. It was a cathartic, wish-fulfillment expression of all the things you are not supposed to say or do with pregnancy. I didn’t have to do any research about it, because it was all coming to me. I was meeting a midwife, who sometimes I would find quite annoying. I’d go to prenatal yoga and think, “God, is this what it’s like? Are these the people I have to hang out with now?” Which was scary to me. Then, when I actually made the film, I felt like the fears weren’t there anymore.”

Ghost in the Shell Review

“The way the script approaches the familiar elements of Ghost in the Shell is also rather illuminating on Hollywood storytelling convention. In the original, the Major’s all-artificial body is uncommon but hardly unique. Here, she’s the first of her kind, vastly important to the film’s universe and the central focus of the plot. Contrast this to the original, where she’s just one cop doing her job who comes to understand her antagonist in a way she never expected. There, too, her body represented a possible direction for all of humanity to take, but this was merely an implication, and not something that made her a “chosen one.” 1995’s Ghost in the Shell has plenty of philosophical talk, but it also uses its visuals and what goes unsaid to spur the viewer to ask even more questions on their own. The Major’s past was an enigma there as well, but that’s because it was never addressed at all instead of fixated upon, which actually enhanced her mystery and better helped the audience understand her ambivalence over her identity. This Ghost in the Shell confuses an obsession with individualism with the question of personal identity, which is far and away the most American thing about it.”

Transhumanism and the Promise of the Bodiless Mind in the Original Ghost in the Shell

“The Major defies traditional definitions of gender, in fact, accepting “she/her” pronouns and exhibiting a form we think of as “feminine” but bearing an androgynous face and performing in a neutral behavioral mode in a “male” profession among all-male colleagues. This is not to say that the film denies her femininity or ignores the ramifications of such. In one scene in which Kusanagi, ponderous as ever about her identity, wanders the city, she spots several other individuals who look exactly like her — others in her body’s “line,” so to speak. Here we have both a comment on the commodification of the female body and the most explicit demonstration of digital selfhood. The physical is stripped away, erased by humankind’s capability to mass-produce it. Thus is an individual defined wholly by their mind.”

By Dan Schindel

Born and raised in Maryland and currently based in New York, Dan Schindel is an associate editor at Hyperallergic, freelance culture writer, and available for any copy-editing/proofreading needs you may have. This website was originally a blog called Days of Docs, and chronicled his attempt to watch and review a documentary every single day for a whole year. He was mostly successful at this, and now he knows everything. He puts this knowledge to use by writing about movies, TV, games, books, comics, art, and more.