Documentary to check out: “Death By China”

Though the subjects in Peter Navarro‘s patriotic lament for American industry occasionally lapse into fear-mongering doomsday proclamations, this lean, mean documentary nevertheless loosely sketches the growing and troubling issues developing in the US as it exports its manufacturing base on a one-way street. Unabashedly one-sided and hopelessly short of solutions, it nonetheless makes a compelling case for the argument that trade reform with China is vital for a prosperous American future (which obviously has a large impact on Canada as well). If nothing else, would-be filmmakers would do well to watch it as an exercise in creating a compelling evocation of dread. Agitprop cinema rarely has me so fired up. The narrow picture it presents suggests more widely available information on this issue is needed (if anyone knows of any such material I would be grateful to learn of it). I admit I may be taken in by the pathos of this documentary, yet it nonetheless seems an issue worth investigating.
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The Gravitas of Gravity

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Cuarón’s Gravity

(95% Spoiler free, read without caution)

If Kieslowski had ever been inclined to tackle science-fiction, Gravity, I suspect, would have been something close to the film he would have made.

Ostensibly a loose remake of Kieslowski’s first film in the Three Colors Trilogy, Blue (1993), Cuarón’s return to film after an agonizing eight-year absence similarly features a bereaved mother struggling to cope with the loss of a child. Indeed, if I explained it is a film that illuminates the startling vicissitudes between life, death, faith, hope and the universe of human emotion, bound up in a work of sublime grandeur, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was still talking about Blue. Cuarón’s singular feat, however, is the way in which he gracefully navigates between the chaos of the universe and the supreme beauty of its idiosyncrasies that we as mere spectators in a cosmic dance have the supreme fortune of observing, and more amazing still, are sometimes called to participate within. Continue reading

Snippet film review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Despite being shoe-horned into the script, Benedict Cumberbatch‘s rendition of Khan is a performance to savour in Star Trek Into Darkness

I feature the image above because it typifies what J.J. Abrams captures best in his newest trek: impeccable lighting, chic cinematography, sleek mise-en-scene that condenses fifty years of futurist imagery into a single set, and heavy overtones of Kubrick’s seminal science-fiction film rounding out the design. And Cumberbatch stands alone. Giving his all to a thankless and underwritten role, Cumberbatch triumphs as the villain–despite the character being woefully underutilized in a cumbersome and bastardized blow-by-blow of Star Trek II.  It’s a pity then, with nearly half a decade at his disposal, Abrams couldn’t do more with this opportunity than to make a competent action film.

As a standalone action film Star Trek Into Darkness is thrilling, engaging, competently photographed and manufactured to move at a clip pace (if remaining uncomfortably derivative of its 2009 predecessor all the while). As anything other than a guilty pleasure though it’s problematic. Abrams guts the heart and mind out of the Enterprise and her crew to make room for warp chases, laser beams and fisticuffs. Characters and starships alike communicate only in truculent bursts; no small wonder then that the film struggles to amount to anything with all the destruction on screen. Though Abrams has made it quite clear he’s not interested in the ennobling philosophy underpinning Roddenberry‘s vision, by the time he crams in a presumably unintended homage to the climax of Speed one has to wonder where Abrams is boldly trying to go instead. Paramount’s release is notoriously dodgy to boot, with special features spread thin as multiple retailer exclusives.

Read more of my thoughts on this film, especially on the role of Khan in the script, over at my one-shot rant on the film:

And learn more about the situation with Paramount’s Blu-ray release: