No God, No Master
Directed and Written by: Terry Green
Well, I didn’t have high hopes.
No God, No Master is a slightly-jumbled but intensely-earnest retelling of the Palmer Raids, Galleanist terror, and, tacked on, an abridged version of the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Our protagonist detective is none other than William J. Flynn, who in real life was considered the US’s foremost expert on anarchists — from a repressing-us point of view — and headed the Bureau of Investigation after the events of the film.
Continue reading No God, No Master (2013) →
Director: David Fincher
Screenplay: Jim Uhls
Based on a novel by: Chuck Palahniuk
Recommended? You’ve already seen it.
Since the first rule of fight club is you’re not supposed to talk about fight club, maybe most of this essay isn’t actually going to be about the movie Fight Club. It’s going to be about Raymond K. Hessel.
I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie.
Maybe you remember the scene where our protagonist (both halves of him) drags one of the only people of color in the whole film out behind the building at his shitty job, puts a gun to his head, and tells him to go back to school to be a veterinarian like he always wanted to be. And half our protagonist (we’ll call this half “Edward Norton”) tells the other half (we’ll call this half “Mr. Cool”) that maybe he shouldn’t go around pointing guns at people. Because, you know, maybe that’s taking it too far.
Continue reading Fight Club (1999) →
Directors: Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi
Writers: Irena Brignull & Adam Pava
Based on: Here Be Monsters!, a novel by Alan Snow
Finally, someone made a movie that does steampunk justice. The Boxtrolls is set in an alternate 19th century with mad inventors and giant robots and an aristocracy more concerned with tasting various types of cheeses than with caring for the poor, and the filmmakers didn’t just glue gears onto everything at random. More importantly, class relations are even more integral to the plot than the clanking machines of madmen.
It’s beautiful and stop-animated. It’s earnest, it’s cleverly-written, and it’s funny as hell without resorting to hidden sex jokes. Instead, the hidden aimed-at-adults jokes are fourth-wall-challenging references made by the henchmen who ponder the moral weight of their actions. Are they the good guys? Are they the bad guys? Despite having clearcut protagonists and antagonists, this film does a good job of examining the difference between good and evil actions versus good and evil people.
Continue reading The Boxtrolls (2014) →
Director: John Waters
Writer: John Waters
Recommended? It’s complicated
Let’s say Cry-Baby wasn’t a movie. Let’s say it was a layer-cake. One of those candy-coated confections that give kids sugar rushes at birthday parties. Hopped up, quick witted, fun with a dash of teen angst. Bad boy Cry-Baby Walker woos good girl Allison in faded Technicolor, making fun of polio vaccinations, air raids and anti-smoking campaigns along the way. To music! (Music!) What’s not to love?
Except, oops, Waters swapped out flour for subtext, slipping in half-hidden subplots that take on race, class, and beauty norms. You bite down and realize the cake’s rich, marbled inside is really microwave meatloaf studded with broken glass. It’s probably good that you’re eating broken glass (metaphorically speaking, of course), because you sure are learning something. The problem is, most people just scrape off the icing and call it quits.
Continue reading Cry-Baby (1990) →
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Writer: Leonard Nimoy
I was reticent to re-watch The Voyage Home simply because it looms so large in my memory of childhood. But with Nimoy’s death, the house decided to marathon Star Trek II-IV, and The Voyage Home did not disappoint.
Star Trek IV is the only Star Trek movie both written and directed by Leonard Nimoy, and stands as the most on point (in my opinion) movie in the franchise.
In case you watched all the Star Trek movies decades ago and can’t remember which one I’m talking about: this is the one where the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to the 1980s to save the whales. It makes explicit the concept that if we don’t save the whales, the entire earth will eventually die.
Continue reading Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) →
Directed and written by: Oliver Assayas
Content Warning: Drug use, police brutality.
Something in the Air is a French film that follows about a six-month period in the lives of several radical high school students. The film—which was originally titled Après Mai in French (“After May”)—is set in 1971 and is primarily concerned with how the students negotiate the decline of the political movement following the May 1968 events. In viewing it, you get the sense that it isn’t just about the characters in the film, but rather is a broader commentary on May 1968, its aftereffects, and even the decline of revolutionary movements more generally. For me, it was worth watching on that level alone and the plot seemed somewhat incidental, although it definitely helps that the story is interesting and is far from being just a political essay converted to film.
Continue reading Something in the Air (2012) →
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer: Michael Mitnick
We enter a brave new world in which war, even violence, has been completely eliminated. Perfect equality has been established. Scarcity, non-existent. Capitalism: poof! Abundance is plentiful, transportation is green, and as for global warming, we’ve got climate control. Sounds pretty great, right?
Wrong. Between killing babies who don’t fit the standard post-birth and euthanizing the old, the citizens of the Community live out a machine-like predetermined existence. As if having their emotions and sex drives biologically neutered through self-injected, mandated chemicals wasn’t bad enough, their place in the workforce is chosen for them by the elders, and they can’t even experience colors or music.
Continue reading The Giver (2014) →
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Written by: Jonathan Raymond
Recommended? That’s complicated.
I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, and I still don’t know how I feel about Night Moves. My informal poll of eco-anarchists (okay, I asked two people) is split right down the middle: it’s an excellent movie except for the end, or it’s garbage the whole way through.
But the thing is, it was still stuck in my head. The very least I can say is that it’s not an inconsequential film. So I tracked down the screenwriter, Oregon novelist Jonathan Raymond, and interviewed him.
I include that interview in full in this review, but the interview is very spoiler-heavy. So there’s a short movie review, the interview, and analysis.
Continue reading Night Moves (2013) and an interview with Jonathan Raymond →
Director: Joon-Ho Bong
Writer: Joon-Ho Bong
Bechdel test: fail.
Trigger Warnings (for the film, not the review): cannibalism, violence, child abduction/labor.
Premise: In the near future, governments across the world decide to dump chemicals into the atmosphere to stop global warming, inadvertently freezing and killing everything and everyone on earth, except for an (un)lucky few who manage to board a train that travels around the entire world once a year. The film takes place about 18 years later.
When I went to see this movie, I had no idea what it was, but when it quickly became clear it was about class war in a dystopian future, it had my attention until the final scene. The poor masses, huddled in the back few carts of the train, led by a man named Curtis, have to travel and fight their way up to the front to confront Wilford, the owner and conductor of the train and the rest of humanity. I would chalk this one up next to V for Vendetta and The Hunger Games in terms of theme.
Continue reading Snowpiercer (2013) →
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Recommended? As a movie, but not for its lessons
Wolverine goes back in time to stop Mystique from killing a scientist who tortures and kills and studies mutants. The scientist is doing these things so that he can build giant machines to kill all the mutants.
I dunno, maybe instead of going back in time to get Mystique not to kill the guy, Wolverine should have gone back in time even further and just killed the guy as soon as he became a violent bigot. Why is it right to go back in time to tell Mystique what she can and cannot do, but not to go back in time and tell Peter Dinklage what he can and cannot do?
I know it’s like, a really big part of the whole X-Men universe, but I just don’t understand why killing is presented as always wrong.
Continue reading X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) →