Author: Nate Fisher

February 19, 2016 / / Main Slate

The 88th Academy Awards will be held on February 28, 2016. Honoring many of the best American films of 2015, it therefore follows that the Brattle is taking time out of Oscar weekend to screen the best American film of the year, MAGIC MIKE XXL. Gregory Jacobs’s film is the artfully shameless sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s (who serves as XXL’s editor/cinematographer) 2012 clever wrapping of a male stripper movie around a recession-era cautionary tale about young people trying to sort their lives out. You can applaud Soderbergh’s film for its intelligence and even-handed approach to the world it depicts, but in the overwhelming warmth and celebration of love, both of the friendship and physical kind, I find that MAGIC MIKE XXL is the movie I wanted MAGIC MIKE to be.

December 30, 2015 / / Main Slate

The Marx Brothers are not nice. In DUCK SOUP, the freest and most assured of their Paramount output, all characters exist to be objects of scorn and the butt of the Brothers’ jokes. There is no superfluous plot or gentler moments, which can be found in their other works. The film feels instantly less lighthearted than the other Brothers’ films, which resemble more than DUCK SOUP does other frothy parlor room theatrical comedies of their period. The comedy intersects across disparate venues from the war room to the peanut vendor, and from a wealthy mansion to the battlefield. But each character in the film is subject to the same stripping down by the Marx Brothers. Their varying degrees of pomposity are attacked by all three brothers in an attempt to render what they have to say worthless. Everyone from Margaret Dumont’s (she’s terrific) character to the grumpy street vendor present some pillar of established order, and the Brothers take them to task without mercy for doing so. Groucho gets at his most savage and flatly declares his intentions when, stripping down his main rival and Dumont, exclaims “when you get finished on her feet you can start with mine.” Then, stares straight at the audience, “if that isn’t an insult I don’t know what is.” In this same scene, the recipient of Groucho’s attack makes the closest any character comes to a plea for their own dignity, claiming naively “I didn’t come here to be insulted!” Groucho, jumping on the prior line: “That’s what you think.” A scornful sense of destruction pervades the film. The title of the most memorable musical number from HORSE FEATHERS might serve as the mantra for DUCK SOUP: “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

August 10, 2015 / / Main Slate

imitation-of-life-footrub

1959 is often considered to be a time of historical change, particularly in the history of film. The numerical end to the “50s” was the waning period of the Eisenhower administration, and with the rise to popularity of John F. Kennedy, a generational shift seemed in the works. Conveniently, 1959 is also tossed up as the true end of the classic Hollywood studio system and the “golden age” to which it has been retroactively referred. However valid that distinction is, 1959 was definitively the end of the career of Douglas Sirk, who retired after the release of his landmark film IMITATION OF LIFE. The film proved to be the final gem of an under-heralded career still unknown to many, even those with a strong interest in film.

October 3, 2012 / / Main Slate

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – 2011 – dir. Thomas Alfredson

Plot points are forgotten moments after a film ends. We forget most all of it over the next couple days, even with the great movies. Yet the idea that a movie plot should cohere down to its last detail, that every event should have a clearly explained linear causality to the next event remains critical in our understanding of how a movie should function.

July 9, 2012 / / Main Slate

Sherlock, Jr. – 1924 – dir. Buster Keaton

The following is an entirely insufficient attempt to explain what Sherlock Jr is about without using the words “projectionist” or “detective”:

Sherlock Jr is about a man’s (or Man’s) struggle against the destructive forces of the world and their indifference to our petty squabbles and emotional yearnings. It is a film of divergent, diverse forces wreaking havoc on mere mortals, as well as the need for these mortals to develop a realized, physical skill set in order to, if not to conquer and command the forces, at least eke out a living against a smorgasbord of pressures.”