Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Trust Anyone Over 30: Parenting and 'The Social Network'

After the neck-and-neck race for the top spot on my list of favorite David Fincher movies that'll perpetually go on between Se7en and Zodiac, The Social Network sits at a solid, comfortable third. For almost any other director, The Social Network would probably qualify as the greatest film they'd ever made, but Fincher's not almost any other director. Technically precise, imbuing his work with an intellectual detachment that rivals Michael Mann (except, perhaps, in Fight Club, but I'll leave the discussion of that piece of work to Film Crit Hulk), and inexorably drawn to antisocial characters focused on overturning or even remaking society, Fincher's produced nearly as many missteps as he has masterpieces, but when his sensibilities mesh with his material, he's on par with any other filmmaker working today.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Completing the Arc in a Single Film: Why 'The Fellowship of the Ring' is My Favorite LOTR film

A series will always have its peaks and its valleys; not only can you not maintain a constant breakneck pace over a multitude of episodes, books, or films, but the very nature of narrative demands the slowing down/regrouping/buildup in equal, or at least relative, proportion. Of course, some programs mistake wheel-spinning for buildup - 24, Lost - but that's another article. Furthermore, narrative peaks don't necessarily correlate to preferential peaks, but again, that's yet another article, maybe the one I write on Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica reimagining.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Committing to the Joke, or Why Ben Stiller Hasn't Helmed a Good Movie Since 'The Cable Guy'

If you've spent much time talking with me about any kind of narrative media at all (mostly movies and TV, but I'm all for talking print and theater), I've probably bored you with my theory about committing to the joke. I believe that, in comedy, as well as innumerable other things, you have to wholeheartedly commit if you want the joke to mean something. Smarmy self-awareness, halfhearted delivery, taking it all back in the end (the "Just Saying" corollary)... all deadly when you want to produce something that actually means something. Craig Ferguson's great at it, Ricky Gervais is [usually] great at it, Louis CK's great at it, The Perry Bible Fellowship, Patton Oswalt, Chappelle's Show, Observe & Report, and more than a few episodes of Deadwood understand exactly what it means to commit to the joke.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reversals vs. Complications - Why the First Mission: Impossible will Likely Remain the Best

I haven't been so invested in an action sequence like the Burj Khalifa sequence in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in... I don't know how long. I understood the stakes (a world mostly free of nuclear radiation), I was invested in the characters (really, Ghost Protocol is stunningly well cast), and I felt like they were legitimately in danger from the moment they stepped into the building until Tom Cruise's pursuit of the arch-villain wound up fruitless, and the sandstorm passed. It was gripping, edge-of-your-seat action in the greatest sense of the words, and the spectacular peak of Brad Bird's live-action film directing debut. Despite this, and all the other things the movie does right or even grandly, Ghost Protocol's going to occupy a comfortable, though distant, second in my personal pantheon of Mission: Impossible movies. My reasoning is simple: the problem that's infected the franchise sequels persists in Ghost Protocol, in that it hangs its plot on complications, rather than the reversals that so permeated the original film and help to keep it fresh even 15 years later.