Archive for the ‘2005’ Category

Trailerama: Takeshis’

January 29, 2010

Few directors have burned their bridges quite like this. Japanese comedian “Beat” Takeshi became a global cinematic sensation for his deadpan gangster flicks. In what he’s said is a “farewell” to his last dozen films, the actor Takeshi meets a convenience store clerk lookalike, the blonde Kitano. Kitano wants to be an actor himself. Things get really complicated when “Beat” Takeshi Kitano’s onscreen alter ego gets in the mix. In typical Kitano fashion, the bullet ballets are punctuated with tap dance numbers.

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Best of the Decade, No. 98: The Descent

January 7, 2010

The unseen has always been the filmmaker’s best friend and darkness one of their greatest tools. It was something Val Lewton understood when he took over RKO’s B-horror unit. In a decade when Saw and its ilk was showing us more than we cared to see, writer-director Neil Marshall turned the lights down. Six women spend an annual holiday spelunking in the Appalachians. Alas, this day they’ve picked the wrong tunnel to wriggle down. Flashlights and torches reveal bleached bones. Soon the women are being picked off one-by-one by barely glimpsed mutants. Marshall has studied horror and understands it. He knows the women have to be more interesting—and possibly more savage—than the mutants, and they are. He understands that horror–as opposed to say, the western–is a specifically feminine genre. The final girl emerges from the cave reborn, but the past is still determined to have its way with her. Shocking and grimy, The Descent won’t be scrubbed off.

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Best of the Decade, No. 99: Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

January 7, 2010

The Ken Burns Method became an unfortunate byword for documentary veracity in 2000s—Squally’s stomach is still recovering from the treacly use of pictures and voiceover in Seabiscuit. His four-hour epic Unforgivable Blackness, on the other hand, was a genuine scoop lifted from an unreported era of American history. From Galveston, Johnson battled his way to the heavyweight championship in 1908. Disgust at his prowess reached such a height that he literally had to travel around the world to Sydney for his chance at the title—in the process giving birth to the idea of “the great white hope.” His defeat of Jim Jeffries in 1910 led to deadly race riots while feeding black pride. Johnson’s subsequent “fall,” due in part to his taste for white women and sporting lifestyle, remains a paradigm that continues to inspire athletes and expose the nation’s racial fissures. Amid the vintage film and Samuel L. Jackson reading from Johnson’s memoirs, Burns’s narrative thrusts like a haymaker. Obama’s victory in 2008 only made scrutiny of the Johnson myth more essential.

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