THERE WILL BE BLOOD

By William C. Benker

There Will Be Blood – 2007 – dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

A film such as There Will Be Blood only comes around every decade or so.  It is a picture that transcends the contemporary (and often times, overemphasized) allusions to current issues, eventually revealing the true heroics of man.  Usually, films such as these relish in the battle of man with the world around him.  This time, Paul Thomas Anderson has taken a step back, graciously inviting his audience to participate in his fantastic allusion.  There Will be Blood is our modern American epic.  Already resonating with films such as Citizen Kane, the personal psychology has an intrinsic connection with today’s audience.  All corporate evil aside, this is film is about competition.  To go even farther, There Will Be Blood is an objective look at the driving force of ambition, and the right of man to climb to the top, however he may get there.  It all starts with Daniel Plainview.

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Incantations of Greed – THE HIDDEN FORTRESS

By William Benker

The Hidden Fortress – 1958 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress stands apart from most of his feudal Japan films, primarily due to the near complete absence of war and swordplay.  While the usual mix of steel, flames and water are still present within the film, Hidden Fortress carefully selects the elements Kurosawa wishes to focus on.  The common element that reveals its importance in scene after scene, portrayed in various forms, is wood.  On a quest to smuggle a princess outside enemy lines, samurai general Makabe (Toshiro Mifune) must drag along two greedy peasants to help carry the bounty meant to rebuild the remains of their fallen country.

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THRONE OF BLOOD – The Power of Influence

By William Benker

Throne of Blood – 1957 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The power of prophecy and influence drives Akira Kurosawa’s revitalized Macbeth in Throne of Blood.  In the midst of feudal Japan, Washizu (played by Kurosawa regular, Toshiro Mifune) bears witness to the complete corruption and dissection of himself by his own hand.  Kurosawa’s grim look at the sheer power of outside influence strikes at the heart of Throne of Blood, truly expressing what is sacrificed when one loses himself in another’s foreboding.  The intricate maze of self-deception, paranoia and selfishness leaves little to wonder at beside the rigid forest that guards Spider Web Castle.

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The Long Goodbye: Marlowe Then And Now-Then

By Melvin Cartagena                      

The Long Goodbye – 1973 – dir. Robert Altman

“If being in revolt against a corrupt society constitutes being immature, then Philip Marlowe is extremely immature. If seeing dirt where there is dirt constitutes social maladjustment, then Philip Marlowe has inadequate social adjustment. Of course Marlowe is a failure, and he knows it. He is a failure because he hasn’t any money…A lot of very good men have been failures because their particular talents did not suit their particular time and place.” – Raymond Chandler

In the first shot of The Long Goodbye, Marlowe (Elliott Gould) wakes up as if from a deep sleep. In time he demonstrates he is a stranger in a strange land, an intruder from a different time attempting to grok the  free-floating morality of the sprawling city of twenty-four hours supermarkets and Laundromats, and neo-flower children practicing yoga naked, and new-age healers. Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell) punctuates this temporal dislocation in Marlowe when he refers to the gumshoe as Rip Van Marlowe, the victim of a long sleep that has thrust him into a time and place that has no love for a man of ethics, a man who cares. This is more than can be said for the police, who in typical noir-pulp fashion first arrest Marlowe, then grill him relentlessly for three days about Terry Lennox’s (Jim Bouton) escape to Mexico hours after the brutal killing of his wife Sylvia, and finally cut him loose after Terry’s confirmed suicide down in Mexico. One more for the books in the precinct, but this makes no sense to Marlowe, so it’s up the world-weary knight in tarnished armor to set things right in his mind.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

By Jared M. Gordon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 2000 – dir. Ang Lee

“When in comes to the affairs of the heart, even the greatest warriors can be consummate idiots.”

Ang Lee’s homage to Du Lu Wang’s kung-fu novel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I must confess, did not make an instant impression upon me the first time that I saw it.  The film soars with Lee’s breathtaking direction and cinematography by Academy award-winner Peter Pau, but I found the story meandering and simple.

Of course, I missed the point, discovered only after a re-watch.  The story is indeed simple.  It is the characters who are complex.  This is an ironic movie about opposites: finding through loss.  Gaining through sacrifice.  Joy through despair.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a simple story about masculinity, femininity, and life.
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Good Nightmare: CORALINE

By Jared M. Gordon

Coraline – 2009 – dir. Henry Selnick

“You probably think this world is a dream come true… but you’re wrong.”

From the minds of Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods), with musical accompaniment by They Might Be Giants comes Coraline, a dark, enchanting fable about the worlds we see and the worlds we want.

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