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Non-Review Review: Silence

Faith is a curious thing.

It is a fascinating concept, even (and perhaps especially) for those who lack it or wrestle with it. Pure and untempered faith in the face of a turbulent (and occasionally hostile) world is intriguing. It is something that many long to understand, even if it eludes them. Silence is very much a meditation (or an extended monologue) on the nature of religious belief playing out as a set of conversations and moral dilemmas. Characters wrestle with doubt and uncertainty, and particularly about what their faith means to them.

Easy pray.

Easy pray.

Silence is not a masterpiece or an epic. It is not one of Martin Scorsese’s major works, despite the energy and conviction with which he invests it. It is the weakest film from the director in a very long time, although that sounds very much like praising with faint criticism. Silence is a little too invested in its own dialogue with itself, as delivered through a series of monologues and occasionally through conversation between characters. Silence looks beautiful, but it often feels a little bit like a stunning visual companion to a book on tape.

And yet, in spite of all of this, there is an endearing earnestness to the film. Silence feels like the product of a long and considered reflection on the nature of faith and its place in the world. It never lacks for ambition or vision, playing as a two-and-a-half hour parable about suffering and transcendence. Silence is more interesting than successful, but that is largely because it is so very interesting.

Gotta have faith.

Gotta have faith.

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X-Over: The X-Files & Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who

It goes without saying that The X-Files was a massively influential television show. As early as its second season, the show had launched all manner of imitations and copycats, both inside and outside the Fox Network. It seems quite likely that Fox invested two-and-a-half million dollars in the failed Doctor Who relaunch of 1996 in the hopes of spinning off another cult/mainstream science-fiction hit like The X-Files. It was launched as a two-hour television movie, failing to earn the rating necessary to spin it off into a weekly series.

However, although the 1996 telemovie provides an obvious point of intersection between The X-Files and Doctor Who, the influence of The X-Files can perhaps be most keenly felt in Steven Moffat’s work on the relaunched television series. Moffat is credited as the producer who helped the show to “break” America during his second year as showrunner, and he did so in a number of ways. Perhaps the most interesting is that he leaned rather heavily on The X-Files as a point of cultural intersection.

Shades of greys...

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Start Spreadin’ the News…

It appears that Martin Scorsese’s on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again biopic of Frank Sinatra is back on again. I’ve been following the project during it’s languished history in, if not development hell, at least development limbo.

To be honest, I was most excited about the Robert deNiro iteration of the project. That supporting cast sounded fantastic. Now it’s been confirmed, how do I feel? Well, good, to be honest.
It’s odd that the end of a director’s career would show more breadth than the early years, but the last decade has seen an astonishing broadening of Scrocese’s pallete. We’ve had a Hollywood biopic (The Aviator), a historical epic (Gangs of New York), spiritual drama (Silence), a conventional thriller (Shutter Island) and even an old-style mob yarn (The Departed). Sure he’s experimented before – the seemingly anomolous Age of Innocence now makes sense as a precursor to Gangs of New York, The Doors still stands out as an odd choice in his career – but that string of wildly-variable-in-genre films seems unprecedented. Even the most conventional choice in that lineup (The Departed) seems oddly out of sync with his early mob exploits (Goodfellas, Casino). So, why is this relevant?

After so much variety, I look forward to a bit of vintage Scorsese. A biography of a Los Vegas lounge singer with ties to the mob seems to be relatively familiar ground. This doesn’t mean I’m writing off any of his impressive slate of Oscar-buzz-generating releases already on the horizon – the release of any Scorsese film is cause to celebrate – but this film has been discussed and talked about for so long that it’s hard not to especially anticipate it. Sure, his last “dream project” was Gangs of New York that met with a somewhat muted critical reception, but I felt the director’s love with the material in every frame.

The casting rumours have begun again with many media outlets suggesting Johnny Depp or Leonardo diCarpio. I’m happy with either – I trust Scorcese on this. Both are incredibly competent actors who would do the material proud. I think diCaprio has done his best work with Scorsese – though he did deserve an Oscar nod for Revolutionary Road – and I think that Depp and Scorsese would make a fantastic team. Hell, I’d even trust the director with John Travolta.

It is Scorsese’s dream project after all. I’m just tagging along for the ride.