Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Grime-Coated Wings of “Black Swan” Make For a Worthwhile Viewing

title: Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
director: Darren Aronofsky
cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
one sentence or less: As sleazy as it is arty, “Black Swan,” is worth the price of admission.  Continue reading

A Worthy Legacy for Tron

title: Tron: Legacy (Disney)
director: Joseph Kosinski
cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, Bruce Boxleitner
one sentence or less: A truly extraordinary experience, even if the film itself isn’t.



I’m sure there was a generation of kids who grew up with Disney’s 1982 film, “Tron,” and that those now-grown kids were clamoring for a sequel to that first foray into digital animation. I was not one of those kids. When I saw it, as a sophomore in college, it was like listening to a Yaz record; memorable only as a curious artifact from an earlier cultural time whose echoes still resonant. And yet, I was intrigued when I heard about a sequel and positively enthralled when the first concept images first appeared online in the summer of 2009. I kept abreast of developments and trailers, and walked into the theater with high expectations, some of which were met, others not. Continue reading

A Stuttering King That Begs for Oscars

title: The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
director: Tom Hooper
cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pierce, Michael Gambon, Darek Jacobi
one sentence or less: This excellent tale of friendship between a stuttering prince and an unconventional therapist has a lot of charm to spare.


For public figures, a voice is just as important as an image. Take poor, silent film stars like John Gilbert, a man who fell out of public favor when his high-pitched voice didn’t match the public’s expectations. The search for a voice that suits one’s public persona is the quandary befalling British Prince Albert, Duke of York and stutterer extraordinaire. As the subject of the new film (and Oscar supplicant), “The King’s Speech,” Prince Albert (better known to modern audiences as King George VI and father of Queen Elizabeth II) makes for a surprisingly compelling viewing. Continue reading

Video: A New Man With a Movie Camera?

Happy New Year everyone! Those of us who live on the East Coast of the United States were treated to a post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s Eve gift this year: a two-day blizzard that left over a foot and half of snow in Central Park and over two feet of snow in other parts of New York City. During the maelstrom Astoria, Queens resident Jamie Stuart ventured out to create a short film documenting the trials, tribulations, and beauty of the snowstorm. He sent the film to famed film critic Roger Ebert who posted it on his blog along with a breathless review. In the review Ebert opines that it should win the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short subject for its, “wonderful quality,” homage to Dziga Vertov’s 1929 Soviet Montage masterpiece, “Man With a Movie Camera,” and its, “almost unbelievable technical proficiency.” The film (which is embedded below along with Vertov’s original) is indeed a marvel. It’s a great document of the blizzard (especially for those of us who were elsewhere when the storm hit and stranded in its wake) and the technical skill involved is indeed impressive, but is it the Vertov homage that Ebert claims?

I’m not quite as convinced. Although I see the similarities, Vertov’s film was imbued with such a strident political message that it’s difficult to separate filmic image from political meaning. In Vertov’s critical writings one can see just how important politics were for him and his filmmaking process. In his poetic-essay, We: Variant Of a Manifesto, Vertov writes:

In an art of movement we have no reason to devote our particular attention to contemporary man. The machine makes us ashamed of man’s inability to control himself, but what are we to do if elecriticy’s unerring ways are more exciting to us than the disorderly haste of active men and the corrupting inertia of passive ones? Saws dancing at a sawmill convey to us a joy more intimate and intelligible than that on human dance floors.

While I agree with Mr. Ebert that Stuart does an admirable job at creating an homage to Vertov (especially in the piece’s first minute or so), I hesitate to push the analogy much further than that. It documents a specific event in an interesting way, but isn’t as interested in the underlying politics of man in the mechanical age and the mechanization of society that makes “Man With a Movie Camera,” such a sentient film. That being said, Stuart does get some amazing images and makes excellent use of them. But, what do you think? Is Ebert right? Is it Oscar-worthy, or is he just being hyperbolic?

Stuart’s video and Vertov’s “Man With a Movie Camera,” are after the jump. But first:

Jamie Stuart’s website, The Mutiny Company.

Mr. Ebert’s own take on “Man With a Movie Camera.” Continue reading