Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Archive for November, 2010

Tweeting the Movies, Sep – Nov ’10

November 30, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

As the month closes, I’m consolidating here all the tweets on all the movies I’ve seen since I boarded the flight to college, in lieu of the fuller reviews that I haven’t found the time to write. I’ll be listing, in alphabetical order, the movies released in the US this year that I’ve seen, then all the others beneath the jump:

ANOTHER YEAR, ’10: Homely, comic, laced with bitter regret; end chapter tips into frost. A gem ensemble. Staunton haunts, Manville improves

CATERPILLAR, ’10: Assaulting, repetitive, too literal in its nationalistic and gendered metaphors; but in historical context, it kinda works

DOGTOOTH, ’09: Achieves the dark, biting horror of parental overprotection and deceit that Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE only feigned to hint at

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1, ’10: Cried within opening minute for Hermione’s self-erasure. Mechanical Cliff’s Notes-ing and scenery porn thereafter

IF I WANT TO WHISTLE, I WHISTLE, ’10: Incessantly follows its unlikable lead, with literal closeups on his back. But his unknowability wears thin

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, ’10: Milks awkwardness for long stretches, often swerves broad/tasteless for laughs. Still raw and tender, though

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, ’10: Mostly linear Apichatpong: not a good sign. At its best when unpredictable, and steeped in folkloric desire

WINTER’S BONE, ’10: Generic plot of cockblocks shifts to meth gang-fueled jolt, deus ex machina, Oscar clip. Sharper in scenes of domestic resilience


Guns and Poses: All That The Matrix Allows

November 01, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Full Essays

The Matrix’s obsession with binaries of costume, group size, violence, sets and props seems to establish it as a rudimentary us-versus-them fantasy of anti-authoritarianism. But unsettling visual parallels linger between its ostensible heroes and villains, driving us to ask if the rebels might not be shackled to enacting a violence as fascistic as the system they are fighting.

The movie aligns us early to both Neo and Trinity by pitting them separately against similar groups of uniformed pursuers. Cornered respectively in a fleabag hotel and in a maze of sterile office cubicles, Trinity and Neo each find themselves approached by policemen and Agents, who enter these scenes sharing space in shots with at least one similarly uniformed colleague (be it police uniform or Agent’s Secret Service suit). Through this visual grouping and their uniforms’ associations with legal authority, the policemen and Agents lose much of their individuality, seeming to hail from a vast conspiratorial network further implied in the Agents’ earpieces. We thus identify with the outnumbered individual in these scenes as they attempt to escape their omnipresent foes and unappealing environs.

As if to confirm our suspicions, the Agents and rebels proceed to subject Neo’s body to dichotomous extremes of physical violence, with contrasting resources at their disposal. When Agent Smith’s deal with Neo falls through, Neo’s mouth magically seals upon a cutaway from the smirking Smith, suggesting the Agent’s gleeful, inexplicable power to silence Neo. His colleagues pinning Neo down, Smith then activates a metal capsule that grows into a spindly, leg-splaying metallic virus that clambers into Neo’s navel as he struggles. By contrast, the rebels’ equipment is relatively low-tech, and their violence harmless: the device Trinity uses to extract the virus is ramshackle and ungainly, and the interior of Morpheus’ ship looks like an industrial basement with old barber’s chairs. Furthermore, the weapons-free fight between Morpheus and Neo, involving parries and near-miss fists, is benignly instructional, while Neo’s failure to leap across buildings is met merely with a rippling asphalt trampoline upon first impact, even as the blunt second impact reiterates the stakes of failure against their enemies. We are thus conditioned to continue seeing the rebels as underdogs and enablers against the oppressive Matrix and its Agents.

However, multiple images within Neo and Trinity’s subsequent rescue of Morpheus invite a troubling comparison between the Agents and themselves. “Dodge this,” says Trinity before shooting an Agent in the head, adopting the very pose taken by a simulacrum of Agent Smith earlier in Neo’s training.  (more…)