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Non-Review Review: Elvis and Nixon

Elvis and Nixon is a larger than life account of a larger than life meeting between two unlikely legendary figures.

Much has been made of the fact that neither Kevin Spacey nor Michael Shannon bear much resemblance to Richard Milhous Nixon or Elvis Aaron Presley. In fact, the film even makes a point of mentioning it. After a weird encounter at the White House gate, one security guard concedes of Elvis, “He’s taller than I thought.” Of course he is; Michael Shannon is noticeably (about ten centimetres) taller than his character. Indeed, the lack of physical resemblance between the actors and the subjects seems to be the point.

"Yeah, I suppose he KINDA looks like he from an angle."

“Yeah, I suppose he KINDA looks like he from an angle.”

After all, many of the best cinematic Nixons look rather unlike the nation’s thirty-seventh president. Anthony Hopkins and Frank Langella picked up Oscar nominations despite the fact that there was no risk of confusion. The same is true of Dan Hedaya, even if he never picked up an Oscar nomination. Both Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley exist as larger-than-life figures in the American popular consciousness more than distinct individuals; both are recognisable archetypes who seem to speak to the nation’s cultural memory more than its specific history.

Elvis and Nixon realises and embraces this. The film is gleefully and archly ahistorical, to the point that this becomes the point. It is not so much that the line between reality and fiction blurs for director Liza Johnson, it’s that the boundary never existed in the first place. There is no record of what actually happened during the thirty minute conversation, but that’s probably for the best. Nothing could be quite as fun as the mismatched odd couple comedy of Elvis and Nixon.

Photo finish...

Photo finish…

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American Vampire, Vol. 4 (Review)

This October, to get us in the mood for Halloween, we’re taking a look at some awesome monster comics. Check back in every Monday this month for a review of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire Saga.

American Vampireis a wonderful vehicle for Scott Snyder to explore his obvious fascination with the social history of the United States. In this fourth volume of the series, Snyder brings the action into the fifties. The fifties time that seemed to be rife with great social change coming out of the Second World War. However, despite those origins, they would ultimately just serve as a prelude to the more dramatic social developments during the sixties. This collection of issues allows Snyder to hint on a number of familiar themes that fit quite well with the setting, including the conflict between old and new – something that has been at the heart of the series since the very beginning.

Grabbing the snake by the… whatever it is you grab snakes by…

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Severed by Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft & Attila Futaki (Review)

Severed is a distinctly American horror story, feeling like something of a companion piece to author Scott Snyder’s American Vampire or even the work of Stephen King. Set during the dark days of the first world war, it’s an exploration of the darker side of the American Dream, to the point where it’s quite telling that our narrator refers to the anonymous villain merely as “the Nightmare.” It’s rich, sophisticated and atmospheric storytelling, a modern American fable co-written by Scott Tuft and with bone-chilling illustrations from Attila Futaki that are sure to unsettle.

Not too far afield…

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The Movies Made Me Do It: Media Sensationalism and the Influence of Violence on Behavior…

I had the good fortune to watch the first three films in the Scream series last week, and it was quite an entertaining little experience. Well, mostly – the third one kinda sucks, but let’s not get into that here. I picked up on quite  few things I’d missed the last time I’d seen them, about seven or eight years ago, and one of the most interesting themes played with over the course of the series was the idea that violence in films serves as some sort of influence on kids, desensitising and even encouraging the practice of violence upon others. It’s a fascinating topic, one that I personally feel quite strongly about – but, at the same time, it’s a subject so big and so controversial that it’s probably quite difficult to make a new or witty observation upon. Still, the films inspired me to revisit the premise, and to ponder to myself.

A taste for violence?

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Non-Review Review: Wild at Heart

I’ve always had a soft spot for David Lynch, if only because – much like David Cronenberg – you always got the sense that his artistic vision was pretty unfettered by concerns about broad appeal or studio policy or anything like that. There’s a wonderful sense of freedom, in how he works. There’s a great quote from the guys at Pixar that they don’t make movies for kids, they make movies for themselves – if other people happen to enjoy it, well… that’s great too. That sums up a lot of what I respect about Lynch. Wild at Heart isn’t perhaps one of those moments where Lynch’s interests manage to overlap with truly great cinema (as they do, I would argue, for Mullholland Drive, Blue Velvet and The Straight Story), but it isn’t so completely scattershot as to be impenetrable, either.

Dancing in the... highways?

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Non-Review Review: True Romance

True Romance is one of those films I’m surprised never found a stronger audience, even retroactively. It features a screenplay from Quentin Tarantino which really put the future director on the map, but it also features a huge number of pre-stardom appearances from actors as diverse as James Gandolfini, Brad Pitt and Chris Penn. The movie holds together fantastically, but perhaps it works better as a collection of scenes than as a fully-realised movie – but, when the scenes are this good, that’s not necessarily a heavy criticism.

It's Whirley ride...

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