2018 Updates

2018 in Review: May

This month: beaches, democracy, sailing voyages, two Saoirse Ronan movies, Deadpool, and more.

Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, and Charles Atlas Dissect Modernity

“While Atlas is primarily a video artist, Kruger and Walker are better known for their work in other media. For all three of them to have video installations displayed together is unprecedented. Despite their disparate aesthetics, they work surprisingly well as a whole. The specifics of each piece may not relate to those of the others — Walker’s evocations of black pain are quite different from Kruger’s meditations on relationships — but the overall thematic effect is strong. Sitting in “…calling to me…,” one can absorb its images of slave survival while words in “The Tyranny of Consciousness” about contemporary repression of African Americans echo in from the other room. Exhibited together, the three pieces’ varying concerns become a single, and difficult, conversation about modernity.”

Review: The Seagull

“This sort of treatment of drama emblemizes “more is less.” These elements do not add to the text of the play. It’s not inherently “cinematic” to shake up the environment and add music in an adaptation—that comes from smart usage of the camera. There are great movies that work within a single space (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant), and even filmed versions of plays that have more artistic innovation than many traditional films (Spike Lee’s Passing Strange, or his recent Pass Over). This movie introduces a flash-forward prologue to the original narrative for no apparent reason other than to desperately hide that it was originally a play—and nearly every moment from that flash-forward is re-used when the movie gets up to that point, meaning the opening could be cut without affecting things at all. It’s thoughtlessness.”

“Regardless of their interpretation of his work through this lens, a viewer never gets the sense that Hong’s fictional analogues are used to justify his own actions, or that his work exists as narcissistic therapizing. Your mileage may vary, but I maintain his films work equally well whether you’re aware of their behind-the-scenes context or not. You can still appreciate the singular atmosphere The Day After generates—twisty without being madcap, relaxed without being enervating, kind to its characters and cruel to their foibles. It’s an opportunity to settle into his world.”

Stream the Only Film Ever Shot in Cinemiracle, a Wondrous Widescreen Format from the 1950s
“The opening 15 minutes are presented in a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, with the frame majestically expanding as the Christian Radich first sets sail. The film continually and enthusiastically finds new things to look at and new ways to explore its many spaces. The wide screen can both capture the full breadth of the ship’s deck and make the audience feel like they’re sharing a small common area with the sailors. The crew sticks cameras on sleds to rush through the streets of Madeira, or on the prow of an American submarine as it submerges. A still shot of an island festival dance has room both for the revelers and for basket weavers nearby them, calmly at work. The movie feels not just like a collection of vacation hits but a true-blue first-person adventure, often exhilarating and sometimes breathtaking, like when it surveys the mountains and fjords of the sailors’ home country.”
Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word
“Wenders seems bored, following this man around and watching him make variations on the same feel-good, non-specific statements. Worse, he doesn’t scrutinize the Pope more closely when he uses this same rhetoric to brush off questions about the treatment of women or the ongoing sexual abuse scandal within the Church. But since the movie was pitched and backed by the Vatican, there likely was never any hope of such a critical lens.”
Deadpool 2 casually subverts some of superhero movies’ most toxic clichés

“Despite the films’ marketing, which emphasizes the title character’s outrageousness, the series leans far more heavily on pop culture references, superhero genre in-jokes, and Looney-Tunes-with-gore slapstick for humor, rather than anything overtly “edgy” or “un-PC” — uncomfortably mean-spirited jokes are relatively rare. (Granted, this interpretation relies on the viewer being fine with Deadpool and others getting subjected to truly ridiculous levels of bodily harm, but again, that cartoonish effect leavens the brutality.) In Deadpool 2, this element combines with a story about trying to reach a troubled youth, creating an overall effect that’s legitimately empathetic.”

That Summer is a mode shift for Olsson, less political and far more personal. Where his other films focused on the travails of normal human beings acting in response to the upheaval of larger events, this is nestled inside the solitude provided by the buffer of wealth and status. Even Big Edie and Little Edie, as impoverished as they were, had a certain level of comfort granted by their family connections. Even so, in the company of Jacqueline Kennedy Bouvier and Andy Warhol, the Beales come closest to regular human beings in this film.”

“The film is fighting hard against the interiority of the book. But opening up the world through the flashbacks and expanding the context for the characters’ actions might actually lessen the effect of the story rather than improve it. Much of the film feels like padding, and it may have been better off as a short, in the same way that the book comes in at less than 200 pages. But absolutely no one is willing to distribute shorts, much less put too much effort into them, and so we must get a movie overstaying its welcome, stretching over two hours. This added material does not magnify its emotional impact but dilutes it. A cut of the film solely devoted to the scenes between Ronan and Howle could say the same things in half the running time.”

“Simulation games spark a deep sense of satisfaction in players, though whether that fulfillment comes from constructing a well-managed city or a sadistic murder-filled theme park depends on the player in question. As with all video games, advancements in technology have allowed simulators to become more complex and sophisticated as the years have gone on. But greater “realism” in games has also thrown into sharper relief the gap between the rules of their simulacra and how reality truly works. There is perhaps no better example of this than the political simulation game, and no better showcase for that genre than Positech’s Democracy 3.”

By Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is a writer and editor. He lives and works in New York.