Jupiter Ascending Podcast

For what it’s worth, we love Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, and Eddie Redmayne. We’ve even been known to enjoy the output from the Wachowskis’. Who would’ve thought we’d be so frustrated with their collaboration in Jupiter Ascending. Join Judy and Jason as they laugh about the plot, the characters, the action scenes, the bizarre use (and misuse) of bees, and the strange way in which a film called Jupiter Ascending features so many moments of Jupiter falling.

Harry Potter Years 1-3 Podcast

In our second podcast, we reflect on the first three Harry Potter films: Harry Potter & the Whimsical Misappropriation of Turbans, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secretions and Inferences, and Harry Potter & the Expectant Patronus. We reflect on the style of the first two compared to the third, the development of the actors, the refinements in the series, and spend way too much time laughing at our attempt to figure out the logic of the second film.

Check back for two more podcasts giving our once-over to the rest of the Harry Potter series.

“Are you a good flick or a bad flick?”: The Waste of Arguing for Goodness

In 1983 Siskel and Ebert got into a frivolous argument with fellow critic John Simon, then film critic for the National Review and Drama Critic for New York Magazine, over whether Return of the Jedi is a great film or not. I include this piece because it displays the profound emptiness associated with a profession that wastes its time classifying films according to prescriptive judgments. It also reveals that these issues with which we contend in contemporary popular criticism are not so isolated. Though I am undoubtedly on the side of Siskel and Ebert in arguing the technical and affective merits of the original Star Wars trilogy, notice how both sides lapse into strings of non sequiturs when asked if the film is great. The reporter asks “Is this film good?” To which Ebert replies “it excited me, it made me laugh, it made me thrilled, and that’s what a movie like this is for.” I agree with him completely, but this gets us no closer to answering the original question, precisely because the original question is a useless question. Not a good or bad question, but a useless one. Nothing can be made of it. It’s the work of youtube viewer satisfaction tallies, not the issue of prolonged study (though the results could then be tabulated to form the basis of some anthropological observations about cultural responses to art, yet this work would be an abstraction from the original product in question: the film).

The real valuable statements are found precisely in Ebert’s response to the movie. The question “what did this movie do” provokes a more solid and valuable answer than “is this movie good or bad.” Ebert’s remarks are a useful foundation for exploring the film further, while ostensibly acknowledging its intent as an affective rather than intellectual piece of pop art. How did it excite Ebert, and what tools did it employ to do so? How did it thrill him? Arguing whether a movie being thrilling or not thrilling is good or bad is a useless debate. Continue reading

The Highs and Lows of Gorno Cinema vis-a-vis Hostel: Part II (Part 2)

If you haven’t read part 1 of my analysis already, you can read it here:

https://digitaldidascalia.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/the-highs-and-lows-of-gorno-cinema-vis-a-vis-hostel-part-ii-part-1/

My last post detailed the sublime heights to which Roth took the gorno genre, but the attentive (and just about everyone else) will note that I titled the piece highs and lows. And unfortunately for Roth’s critical perception, the low of this genre provokes far greater ire than say a featherweight romantic comedy (though that is far more harmful to both the art of film and culture in my opinion). So what then is the artistic low of Hostel: Part II? (NOTE: My friend Will had a rather ingenious insight about the potential meaning of this upcoming scene, proving that Roth is perhaps the most under-rated director in any medium. Rather than delete my post, I’m leaving it as fodder for discussion, a counterpoint, and I direct you all to continue to the comments.) Continue reading

Recommendation of the Week: Beauty and the Beast (1946)

No, not THAT one, I’m talking about Jean Cocteau‘s sublime rendition, La Belle et la Bete.

Marvel at a visual aesthetic Cocteau himself described as a “soft gleam of hand-polished old silver” as only Black and White photography can provide, courtesy the eye of DP Henri Alekan. Ironically, the film was originally intended to be in colour, but produced just months after the German surrender supplies of any kind were hard to come by.

Dazzling and truly magical, the film is stuffed with some of the most impressive trick photography ever filmed. Come for the opulent romance as only the decadent French cinema of the 40s could provide, stay for the spectacle.

Need one more justifiable reason to watch? Just to be aware of how many films have riffed on its eccentric visuals over the years: Sleepy Hollow (2000), Legend (1985), Labyrinth (1986), most of the romantic bits from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), as well as—and not that it matters— The Phantom of the Opera (2004). Just to name a few.

Useless trivia masquerading as fun fact: Actor Jean Marais underwent five hours makeup each day for his role as the Beast. His appearance would frighten off the local children whenever he arrived on set at the Chateau de Raray, where the castle exteriors were filmed.

Further reading, including clips and informative essays: http://www.criterion.com/films/177-beauty-and-the-beast