In some ways, I appreciate Oliver Stone’s turn from a confrontational rabble-rouser to a softer, more contemplative political director.  Not to say he’s terribly successful at the latter, but there’s something admirable in his ability not to turn his George W. Bush biopic into a polemic, and likewise in his Wall Street sequel to not go after banks and trading companies all-guns-blazing.  It’s as though he’s living out that old cliché of the once-raging lefty who gets worn down by time until he looks at the younger ‘rebels’ and smiles with knowing affection at their gumption and vigor, but knows somewhere inside knows it’s a fools game.  Unfortunately it hasn’t made him a very interesting director, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleep’s problems stem from an unfocused, unsure desire to be a decidedly populist yarn about conventional family issues and doing the ‘right’ (in a very broad, centrist way) thing.  I won’t take issue with the movie that could have been, because that’s not what’s here.  I think a gritty drama about money, greed, corporate desperation, and backroom dealings at The Fed could be interesting, but alas, that film has not been made yet. Read the rest of this entry »

The American

September 2, 2010

The “assassin’s last job” film, which is a slightly broader term than my previous favourite, the “assassins slowly crumbling” film, has in its time established a certain set of genre tropes.  They always involve the solo hitman, an emotionally closed off, consummate professional who, like any good loner, sticks to a rigorous routine to reinforce the self-discipline that makes him so damn good at his job.  Something comes up to throw the anti-hero of course, usually a woman but sometimes a child or even an unlikely partner that creates an emotional connection that causes him to get sloppy or call into question his line of work altogether.  It’s a well-worn concept, and was even sent up by Jim Jarmusch in The Limits of Control, where his stoic, meticulous hitman was met by a series of bizarre contacts that felt the need to talk about old films or science or existential crises to the totally unresponsive man.  Still, it’s a remarkably robust set up, yielding an amusing comedy (Grosse Point Blanke), a trashy actioner (Hitman), a decent actioner (Leon), an unexpectedly deep character study (Collateral) and even an outright masterpiece (Melville’s Le Samourai).  Like a jazz standard, it all comes down to the variations of the theme, or as Collateral’s Vincent put it, “behind the notes.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Kids Are All Right

September 1, 2010

A teenage boy, Laser (Josh Hutchinson), has been hanging around a new friend quite a bit recently.  His friend, an unbelievable (literally, he’s so one-dimensional it is almost offensive) douche named Clay (Eddie Hassell) convinces him to look through Laser’s mothers’ bedroom for weed.  They find a vibrator and a porn DVD, and quickly pop it in the laptop to watch it.  For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, the mothers, Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), have it in their heads that their son might be exploring his sexuality with his friend.  Jules, right on cue, barges into Laser’s room to find them watching the porno, which features man-on-man sex.  The mothers sit Laser down, and attempt to broach the subject of his sexuality by asking him if he has anything he wants to ask them.  He asks, quite reasonably, why they watch gay porn.  Nic, the Type A controlling mother tells him that, firstly, they don’t watch it very often, and secondly, he shouldn’t be snooping around their room.  Jules, the more wayward and intuitive mother, weighs in with an amusing and complicated explanation of the sometimes counter-intuitive nature of human sexuality, and that as a lesbian couple they are focused on the ‘inward’ and sometimes get turned on by the ‘outward’.  They resume hinting that he is hiding something, to which he relents and admits that he has met the sperm donor from which he and his sister were conceived.  Responding to the visibly shocked reaction of his mothers, he asks if they thought he was gay.  “No, no, of course not!” they respond. Read the rest of this entry »