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Collapsing Into One Frame: Miami Vice, Time and Luck…

It’s that time.

Yeah.

Badges get flashed, guns come out. Arrests get made. That’s what we do.

So?

So, fabricated identity and what’s really up collapses into one frame. You ready for that on this one?

I absolutely am not.

Time and again, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice returns to the idea of images collapsing into a single frame.

It’s a recurring visual and thematic motif in Miami Vice. Around the midway point, the undercover police note the technique that smugglers are using to get past the complex array of checkpoints and scans set up to secure the border. “What’d you spot?” Tubbs asks their source at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Go-fast boats running that close?” Crockett muses looking at the footage. “On radar they look like one, not two.” The same technique is used later with the jet, which blurs on radar into a single image. More impressively, Mann accomplishes something similar with the camera. Two become one.

This theme of collapse is core to Miami Vice. Watching the film, there is a sense that everything is falling apart, that boundaries cannot hold. This is true of all barriers; the lines that Crockett and Tubbs try to create between their professional and personal lives, the walls set up among the different groups on the inter-agency taskforce, the borders that nominally exist to separate Miami from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It arguably even applies to the boundaries that writers and artists try to impose upon story, with Miami Vice constantly threatening to collapse into itself.

The result is a challenging a provocative piece of work, an ethereal dream-like mediation that reads very much as the inevitable climax of Mann’s meditation on the themes of law and order. Mann’s protagonists typically work to maintain some structure on what they do, to prevent the barriers from completely caving under outside pressure. Miami Vice represents the film in which those boundaries come crashing down.

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Non-Review Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is cold, clinical and Kubrick. Perhaps too much so in places. It is also mesmerising and haunting.

“Do you understand?” Martin asks a confused Steven towards the climax. “It’s a metaphor. My example. It’s metaphorical.” As one might expect from director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is very much couched in symbolism and metaphor. As the title implies, a reference casually suggested by a minor character quite late in the film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer might be best understood as a modern update of Iphigenia in Aulis, the tragedy of the Greek general Agamemnon who was forced to sacrifice his daughter to a vengeful god.

The man upstairs.

However, that is an incomplete prism through which The Killing of a Sacred Deer might be understood. The tale of a patriarch faced with an impossible choice to protect his family from a sinister outside force, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a study of masculinity and responsibility. The film is an interrogation of sex and power through a surreal lens, skewed through psychological horror and pitch black comedy. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is never entirely abstract, but it is very rarely literal. It exists in a surreal and uncomfortable space that enhances the audience’s unease.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an uncanny piece of cinema, an ethereal moral fable that lingers long after its resolution.

Putting the matter to bed.

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Non-Review Review: Epic

Epic looks stunning. While it doesn’t necessarily push the envelope in terms of 3D rendering or animation, it’s often quite beautiful to watch. Even in 3D, the vibrant greens radiate off the screen, with the characters having a pleasant elasticity to them. The action sequences are well-staged and the choreography is generally impressive. However, despite this, Epic winds up feeling rather shallow. Perhaps it’s a result of the decision to develop the world as a priority, rather than the characters inhabiting it.

The story is more a collection of familiar tropes and set-pieces than a compelling narrative, and none of the lead characters are ever developed beyond basic archetypes. There’s the plucky heroine, the roguish hero, the gruff mentor, the free-spirited wise oracle, the drôle accented bad guy, the comic relief and even the kooky dad. None feel of any real substance, which is a problem when you’re executing a plot as straight-forward as this.

It's a slug's life...

It’s a slug’s life…

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Non-Review Review: Dead Man Down

This is intriguing. Dead Man Down feels like a blend of a European revenge thriller with a more straight-forward American crime film. Director  Niels Arden Oplev has established his credibility with his work on the original version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even it I am less fond of the film than most. His first America film is an interesting experiment, even if Oplev can’t quite pull it off as seamlessly as the material requires.

Dead Man Down buckles a bit under the weight of two sets of genre requirements. It is by turns quiet, withdrawn and introspective, but also loud, overwhelming and exposition-filled. These two facets of the film – feeling like the demands of a European film against an American mainstream release – seem to be at war with one another. The result is something that is more interesting than entirely satisfying.

They do make a bloody mess...

They do make a bloody mess…

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Non-Review Review: Seven Psychopaths

“Meta” is a concept that can be very rewarding, but it’s very difficult to do right. Often, it seems a little heavy-handed, a little self-indulgent. The art of writing fiction about fiction can easily descend into a writer documenting his own process, or become clever for the sake of being clever – offering an easy way out of virtually any dramatic situation, and allowing the script to answer pretty much any question with “because the writer says so.” Nevermind that movies about movie are prone to become a little self-congratulatory, or a little too self-focused. Seven Psychopaths never completely falls apart, but it occasionally struggles with these sorts of problems a little bit in the middle. Martin McDonagh has produced a very thoughtful and clever exploration of the traditional revenge film, but the execution feels a little bit too clunky at times.

I understand that this might be the point, but there are times when Seven Psychopaths feels like more of a narrative experiment than a compelling story in its own right. Still, it’s witty and funny and bold and smart and charming. Those attributes aren’t the easiest to come by, and certainly not in this combination. Seven Psychopaths might not be the incredible success that In Bruges was, but it’s a film that takes chances, and which tries to push both the genre and its audience a little out of their comfort zone. It is very hard not to respect that, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was fairly consistent charmed throughout its runtime.

The write stuff…

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Non-Review Review: Total Recall (2012)

Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is a total mess. While the film features some superb production design and some passable action sequences, with an obvious affection for the design of contemporary science-fiction classics, the direction is muddled,the pacing is awkward and the script is constantly tripping over itself. At one point it’s suggested that the lead might have had has memory scrambled during a muddled recall session, the result of procedure started and yet not quite finished. In many ways, that feels a lot like what happens here – a choppy, uneven and unsatisfying movie that is a result of a muddled production and post-production process. “We can remember it for you,” an advertisement for the Rekall service boasts, homaging the classic short story that inspired the film. Unfortunately, they omitted “wholesale”, which is about the only price I could recommend this at.

Where’s your head at?

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Non-Review Review: Total Recall (2012)

Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is a total mess. While the film features some superb production design and some passable action sequences, with an obvious affection for the design of contemporary science-fiction classics, the direction is muddled,the pacing is awkward and the script is constantly tripping over itself. At one point it’s suggested that the lead might have had has memory scrambled during a muddled recall session, the result of procedure started and yet not quite finished. In many ways, that feels a lot like what happens here – a choppy, uneven and unsatisfying movie that is a result of a muddled production and post-production process. “We can remember it for you,” an advertisement for the Rekall service boasts, homaging the classic short story that inspired the film. Unfortunately, they omitted “wholesale”, which is about the only price I could recommend this at.

Where’s your head at?

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