It’s often a good thing when a director settles into his own style, when he reaches a degree of comfort with his voice as a storyteller. It means he can spend less time obsessing over style choices and more time considering what lies at the center of the stories he’s chosen to tell. Not so George Clooney. In Leatherheads and Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney revealed a proclivity towards the atmosphere of Old Hollywood–Old America even. He also showed a modicum of nuance in the way he presented it. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men finds him exploring this inclination more single-mindedly and fruitlessly than ever before.
Tag Archives: John Goodman
To make a kid’s movie that isn’t just a kid’s movie, you have to establish a balance between the simple stuff that appeals to kids on an instinctual level, and the more complex, allegorical stuff that parents want their kids to see. Speed Racer is a boisterous example of this, coupling a potent visual experience with themes of family and honor. At the film’s heart is Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch), a once-in-a-generation driver whose love of the sport is matched only by a steadfast devotion to family. When his roots put him at odds with a corrupt sponsor (Roger Allam), Speed is forced to defy his father (John Goodman) and follow in the footsteps of his disreputable older brother (Scott Porter), threatening his own standing in a series of dangerous, underground races. Along with most of the film’s race sequences, these less-than scrupulous events provide the film’s most exciting moments, and reveal the Wachowskis as not just dynamic, but remarkably efficient filmmakers.
Watch it with kids or don’t, but understand that Speed Racer was created with them in mind. It’s a film with a heart, and a lesson: through anything and everything, your family will be there for you, and you must be there for them.
Without question, the most affecting moment in Flight is the pivotal crash sequence. Less than 15 minutes into the film we are immersed in the visceral bedlam of an airplane hurtling towards the ground. Director Robert Zemeckis points his camera at any and every element of the terrifying situation, from the malfunctioning engines, to the haywire instrument panels, to the panicked passengers, allowing his pilot protagonist—Whip Whitaker—to serve as the calm center. Frequent flyers will almost certainly recall this scene the next time their plane hits some turbulence—a testament to the pure, horrifying authenticity of Flight‘s instigating moment. Unfortunately, once their plane settles back into the clouds, they’ll be left to ponder the rest of the film, and how a stellar beginning could result in such a lackluster finish.
Argo begins with the events at the Iranian US embassy on November 4th, 1979, when protesters—incensed by their country’s inveterate political and societal turmoil—broke through the embassy gates and held the residents there for what would become a 444-day hostage situation. Serving as both setting and character introduction, this opening sequence is one of the most indelible and disquieting beginnings I have seen in the theater in a good long while, and provides us with a trove of useful info, both within the movie and without. Superficially, it pulls us headlong into the story, introducing characters and circumstances in a meticulously edited prologue, while building to a truly frightening climax that sets the whole picture in motion. Incidental to the exposition the scene provides is the realization that this is a seminal moment for Ben Affleck as a director. Argo is a strong film in many ways, yet this opening sequence suggests a caliber of talent not just absent from his first two titles, but altogether unaccounted for. It seems that Ben Affleck the Director is the real deal.