Monthly Archives: September 2014

Bonus Genre Month Reviews:The Proposition and Brick

Or: a couple of short reviews I had penned and linked together in one of my patented “just made up on the spot” combinations, namely that they are both products of 2005, they are both depressingly cynical and nihilistic modern reflections of the long history of their respective genres, and they, respectively, fit into the genres I’ve covered in the past couple months: the western and film noir. Again, don’t think too much about why I posted these films together. Just enjoy the ride. 


The Proposition
220px-the_proposition_5The significant resurgence of the Western genre since about 2005 (for reasons I’m not entirely sure of) is one of the few truly surprisingly revelations from the cinematic world to be found this past decade. It’s all the more notable particularly because the Westerns themselves have taken so many different forms, from pure, effervescent myth-making, to black-hearted heaving gasps of grimy moral decay, to slowly gliding, almost Impressionist location tapestries where characters serve merely as extensions of the environment, to plain ol’ rootin-tootin shoot em’ up character studies.

One of the first, and among the absolute best, in this trend was John Hillcoat’s rusty nail mauling of the gaping, open wound flesh wound of Australian history, The Proposition. It wouldn’t emerge the best Western over the past ten years (my vote would probably go to the sensuous The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), but it’s within earshot of the title. Considering the film’s swaggering aimlessness and rough-around-the-edges decay, it may even graze that ear. Continue reading


Upcoming Fall 2014


Hello everyone,

So things are going well here at The Long Take, in that I am, shockingly, keeping (mostly) to the plan I set out to several months ago (excepting that pesky About page I will get to eventually). I’ve been silently patting my back to this effect for a while now, and as a reward for myself, I’m going to flip the script a little and re-arrange things for my sanity’s sake. The National Cinemas feature will continue as planned (as soon as I manage to publish a little special something to conclude the German Cinema month – there’s a reason there haven’t been that many films covered, and rest assured, the total length of the posts will equal those for the British Cinema month) with Japan in October. Midnight Screenings should continue. And the American New Wave should hurtle into its closing six weeks. All the fun, huh?

At the same time, I feel like I’ve done some of my duty toward reviewing old favorites and esteemed classics, and I’d like to let my hair down a bit. Firstly, I have a surfeit of reviews of more modern films I can’t even begin to link thematically (although trying would be fun) and I’d very much like to get them up sans any linking series. My not-so-arbitrary cut-off for random reviews of new films isn’t really that recent at all – 2005, the reason being that 2005 has a special place in my heart when it comes to film. It was the first year I considered myself a “film” person, insofar as being a person who actively cared about film as more than a diversion and pursued it as a hobby or interest proper. Also fittingly, we’re closing in on the ten year anniversary of this year, and it seems fitting to get reviews out in the coming few months to mark the occasion and to allow me to move on to fully covering more literally new films and films I feel more comfortable calling classics.

In addition, when the American New Wave feature comes to a close mid-November, I’ll be using the opportunity to explore some of my other passions, namely music (I’ll probably dabble in writings about video games and television as well, of which I admittedly have much less to say). The bread-and-butter of the site will continue to be film, but I’d also like to widen my gaze somewhat away from only basic reviews and toward more thematic essays or conceptual pieces about film, for instance, as it relates to social justice or critical theory. We’ll see how that goes, of course.

In addition, I couldn’t resist a return to my first love: horror. While I had suspected my weekly Midnight Screenings column would be enough to tackle my horror needs, that feature has become much more chaotic and all-over-the-place than I had suspected. I’m not sure what the plan is yet, but I’d definitely like to return to horror in more full force in the coming month – it is the season after all.

Finally, I’m also planning out some sort of series with the primary goal of reminding people I’m not some old curmudgeon who only likes high-commitment thought-pieces and actually does enjoy plain ol’ fun-time-at-the-movies moving pictures. I’d like to start with an off-the-cuff series about Superhero movies (the current pop culture genre du jour) that will not in any way reflect a substantive series of severe thought but will instead be much lighter and more low-key – perhaps every week I will write one piece containing short capsule reviews on a particular series, that way everyone can know how I feel about that particular cultural trend that has somewhat overstated it’s welcome. But, alas, this is less of a full series than a short time-pass (maybe a month?) until I can gear up for something more serious (making sure to take our pop fluff very seriously indeed)

Perhaps a follow-up to the American New Wave looking at the 1980s is in order? If the 1970s was America’s big coming out party for it’s quickly renewed burst of primal energy, the 1980s were it’s grandstanding stealing and running away with populist entertainment and pushing it as far as it could go commercially (sometimes it seems like we’re still in that particular decade doesn’t it?) So there’s somewhere to start, but I’d definitely like to pursue a series in the upcoming months on bigger-budget, blockbuster films as well as smaller, more escapist fare to counterbalance all of the self-serious depressive-ness that can be found on this blog.

So all manners of treasure small and large are approaching. I hope you are all as excited as I!

And here is where I could reveal my name, I suspect, for the first time. I’m considering being saucy about it and leaving blank as though I’m some mysterious internet figure you’ll never get to know. But I also dislike impersonal blogs very much. So I’ll split the difference for now.



Edit: I shall be continuing the month on “music” related films as planned for this October anyway, albeit starting a bit late, as I discovered reviewing a bunch of superhero series (as I originally planned to take over the music movies month in October) would require a large amount of film watching in a rather short span of time to complement the already rather large amount of film watching in short time periods I do, and I had to say “when” at some point. I shall continue the superhero films series at a later date closer to the end of the year, after I’ve had time to re-watch certain films.

Review: Star Trek and Friends

Star Trek

Star Trek is so light on its feet and cheerfully reckless it is almost impossible to dislike. Except that it does a whole lot worthy of disliking. This is a film wholly dedicated to lean, mean, efficient summer-blockbuster filmmaking. And if it is a decent entertainment for this reason, it sure isn’t interested in doing away with many of the flaws found in modern mainstream blockbusters. Yes, when it came out in 2009 it was the perfect fix for weary summer movie goers tired of sequels and superhero films, and, as the icing on the cake, it filled a void for Star Wars fanboys who couldn’t get over George Lucas’ recent efforts. Except…apparently what they wanted was a rather competent blockbuster so concerned with action it fails to concern itself with anything else. This achieves the rather depressing goal of creating a fairly solid and sturdy action extravaganza, while also somewhat sapping the film of most of its heart and soul. Continue reading

American New Wave: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Updated mid-2017 after another rewatch – such an amazing, amazing film, not particularly violent in a diegetic sense, but one which feels as though violence has been done to it. 

This post being in honor of the film’s fortieth anniversary this upcoming Wednesday, October 1. Here’s to forty more years of soul-deadening terror. 

The story of five nobodies wandering through rural Texas and running afoul of America’s hidden secrets, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is infamously violent, which is curious because it’s hardly violent at all. The body-count is shockingly low and deaths happen mostly off-screen, relegated to the abyssal margins of an already poetically empty screen space, one which seemingly voids participation in a wider social milieu. But if the movie feels violent more than it is violent, that’s because it feels positively disgusting. This is grimy, disturbing filmmaking in every possible way, almost toxically fugitive in its disobedience to propriety. It may be one of the grossest-looking famous movies ever released, somehow both punishingly direct and monstrously, mystifyingly oblique, like it’s showing us everything head-on while veiling more submerged truths about American discontent. The film grain, even for the time, is knowingly poor – it feels like a documentary more than a film, lending it an unsettling and grimy immediacy, but also an evasive sense of ambiguity. The film-grain scratches which are testament to the authenticity of its expression of reality also suggest the film’s curiosity about a reality that is ultimately inexpressible, a sense of horror which is both extremely forthright – sometimes breaking through the film screen itself to confront us head-on – and obliquely suggestive of terrors we aren’t, and perhaps can’t be, privy to.
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Midnight Screening: After Hours

Update fall 2018: Been a few years since I last saw this before the current viewing, but After Hours remains truly unstable, and clearly too brutally crazed to be labeled a psychoanalytic “portrait” of Scorsese, with all the easily-contained clarity and visibility the notion of a portrait implies. After Hours is much more of a working-through than it is a legible work of art; it’s the rattled consciousness of a director obviously exposing himself to nervous tendons in search of transcending them, and it’s gloriously untamed.

Original review:

Like his previous film King of Comedy, 1985’s After Hours is something of an unheralded masterpiece from director Martin Scorsese. It’s certainly non-traditional, being rather aimless and lacking a conventional narrative or even character development. But it’s also obsessive, dangerous, playful, worrisome, and energetic in a way that veers close to satanic. It’s the kind of open-ended film that people often struggle to understand, and others say is only for the enlightened. My opinion – forget about understanding and just let it wash over you and take you along for the ride. I’m not sure even Scorsese really understands what happens to his main character here, but it undeniably meant something to him, and it undeniably affects us. This is not a film to intellectualize –  intellectualizing is what the human mind tells us to do to make sense of event in narrative format, and After Hours is intentionally anti-narrative. While we may want to look at the film in terms of cause and effect, it has other things in mind. It captures like few films the pure chaotic senselessness of human life, how little control we have over our fates, and how narrative cohesiveness is a violent lie we force upon sensory experience so that we can find sense in things which were never meant to be sensical.
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American New Wave: Badlands

Terrence Malick didn’t crash into the film-world – he stumbled into it, but the impression he left wouldn’t convey the truth of it. A philosophy student at Harvard who studied Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger, he went on to teach at MIT after a petty disagreement with his advisor while studying as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford (although in the world of philosophy, everything and nothing is petty). At some point along the way, he decided he felt like making a movie, and the world was never the same. That film, 1973’s Badlands, is so stunningly like every other kids-on-the-run crime film from the American New Wave from a distance, it’s almost comical. But from up-close (or even medium distance), it’s so glaringly apparent that Badlands is the antithesis of the films it’s often compared to (ahem, Bonnie and Clyde) that the initial comparison seems so superficial as to not even be worth noting. Badlands is unlike any film from the period, and American cinema more genuinely. It is a singular experience, and a towering, titanic one.
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National Cinemas: Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas

A note: Technically, Wings of Desire is the only one of these two films in the German language and the only which takes place in Germany, but both are thematically very similar and so interconnected it seemed inappropriate to reflect on one without the other. Plus,  Paris, Texas is a West German/ English co-production. So, despite taking place in the US (and, pointedly, in the most god-damn US state of all, Texas) and being filmed completely in English, it still technically qualifies. Allow me my questionable logic. Things will go easier from here if you do. 
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Double Screamings: Stake Land and We Are What We Are

With the summer release of Jeff Mickle’s new film, Cold in July, set to prove him as a director of considerable skill who’s in it for the long haul, it seems appropriate to look back on his two previous, relatively unknown and under-appreciated films, truly strong efforts both and films any discerning horror fan can appreciate. 2010’s Stake Land and 2013’s We Are What We Are are scary films, but their horror comes not from shocks but slowly building dread (don’t worry, though, Mickle knows how to underline his composed filmmaking in blood-red strokes when necessary) . He doesn’t give us choppy quick cuts. He lingers, letting his characters define his horror and giving us a blood-curdling melancholy.

Stake Land is a post-apocalyptic vampire road-Western about a family of loners who come together to survive, while We Are What We Are is something of a psychological thriller about a cultish family that maintains religious practices long out of time, including a propensity for cannibalism. But they both share a crucial feeling, a sense of hopeless malaise that seeps out of the screen and permeates the environment. Above all, they’re weary films about the struggle to survive in a situation where survival may not be the best option. Continue reading

Film Noirs and Cinematic Scars: Devil in a Blue Dress

xacqjmv07gparzha6reaFirst, a note: If not for plot synopses, I might write twice as many film reviews. A synopsis is that desperate time when I have to actually remember (!) what I just saw in narrative terms and commit violence upon my mental understanding of visual storytelling by reducing it to words on paper (well, internet paper) about the “plot” of a film. I have to pretend as though a paragraph explanation of the “event” of a film is an accurate description of what can make a film good or bad. It is no secret that I am a firm believer that just about any plot description can amount to a terrible film as much as a great one, and that it is the storytelling and not the “plot” that a story makes. So this causes me great dysfunction.

With that out of the way, a follow-up review!
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Review: The Double

Richard Ayoade’s second film is certainly an ambitious affair. Not only is it an adaptation of a famous work of literature, the novella of the same name by Fyodor Dostoevsky, but it’s more an experiment in filmic language than a narrative proper. The story of a man, Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), bored with his life and introduced to another, darker and more aggressive version of his self, the narrative is rather proudly enigmatic and obtuse. Writer-director Ayoade and co-writer Avi Korine run layers around themselves as they subvert their narrative not so much through scripting complication but more through visual chicanery. We do not learn much about what is going on from the script – in some sense, it is an experiment in challenging the audience with a narrative that has no real beginning, middle, or conclusion. We’re left to look to the visuals to save us from our confusion, but Ayoade has other things in mind. Continue reading