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MOON: Back to the Source

I’ve always avoided discussions about genre deaths, but I recently begun to wonder about the position of the science-fiction genre in current cinema, and even gotten to the point of drawing comparisons to the now unpopular western genre. Not for the same reasons – quite the opposite – but because the aesthetics of it has been so saturated with space operas and technophilia entertainment, as this summer is evidence, yet to find the traditional ideological impulses of the genre one has to dig deep through the mud every year to find one or two entries. The genre might look like it is everywhere, but it isn’t. Then, the debut of Duncan Jones with his sci-fi film, MOON, is found; a movie of ideological inclinations and mediative pictures that works against the populist, superficial trends from today’s technophilia films and returns to the source.

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The year 2008 featured two films about revolutionaries in protest, with Steven Soderbergh’s CHE and Steve McQueen’s HUNGER, based on Che Guevara and Bobby Sands respectively. Both films were ambitious in their own right, taking historical figures and using their lives, not for conventional biopic storytelling and to question their places in history, but as pretexts about the experiences and ideals of their respective times. The films weren’t so much about why, but about the how; interpretations about the images and politics left to the viewer based on emotionalism as much as the idealism; as if to live them is to further understand them. Uli Edel’s DER BAADER MEINHOF KOMPLEX, a 2008 German film that retells the early years of the West German terrorist group Red Army Faction (RAF) at the time of the German student movement to the German Autumn (Deutscher Herbst) in 1977, doesn’t attempt to do what Soderbergh and McQueen did. Edel’s choices are sometimes superior, but other times painfully inferior.

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THE HURT LOCKER: The Old, Wild East

Kathryn Bigelow’s THE HURT LOCKER is a rather impressive feature that re-imagines the Iraq War sub-genre as a Western genre film, with celebrated cowboys dressed as admired soldiers, the Middle East cities used as Old West towns. Bigelow tries to reinvent this modern war film by flirting with the realism of the Iraq War and the Wild West mythologies, blurring the film’s identification between them in the intent to create a picture that contains both veracity and romanticism; the shake-cam filmmaking with the adrenaline situations of a ranger in the middle of the deserted town. No interests in politics, nor a moral righteousness about war. “War is a drug” is the film’s popular quote; it isn’t written as a political argument, but as an observation of a culture that celebrates violence.

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Neverland of Superheroes and the World That Doesn’t Grow Up

Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT and Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN represent the peak of the superhero genre, and for the public the most resonant superhero works to date, even if they couldn’t be more dissimilar in styles. Their aesthetics are a contradiction of the other, with Snyder’s images working through a fashion that is colorful and outrageous, with numerous superhero costumes and engaged by considerable CGI; Nolan’s contains a tactile realism that is mostly naturalistic, where real stunts are preferred and costumes aren’t popular. Snyder’s filmmaking is also occupied by cultural music and slow-mo techniques, and Nolan’s is more distant and less vivid. Yet, their stylizations aside, in terms of subtext and thematic thesis, these two couldn’t have more similarities.

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IN THE LOOP: The Bush Era Exploitation of Language

Armando Iannucci’s IN THE LOOP is an immensely comical, incredibly quotable film whose hilarious moments and characters are bound to remain in your head like the images of big, fat rabbits dressed in human clothing on a fucking David Lynch film. Following the footsteps of past satires like Stanley Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE and Rob Reiner’s SPINAL TAP, which both went to become emblematical for their respective generations, Iannucci’s film is identifiable with this period’s technocracy, Rovian politics and half-thought rhetoric, where American and British politicians are at the mercy of their staff’s cellphones and the media’s coverage of their most diminutive words. In the climate of 21st-century politics and war times, it focuses on the chaos of postmodernism, and it is as laughable as it is serious.

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ED WOOD: How Tim Burton was made into Wood because of Batman and Helped Uncategorized Cinema

It has been documented that one of Tim Burton’s toughest times were the productions for his Batman films: 1989’s BATMAN being his “least personal film,” after getting overwhelmed by other interests from the studio, and 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS, in a reverse reaction, more satisfactory for Burton but being a controversial episode that made the filmmaker more of an unpopular name for the studios and public. Indeed, after finding his original Batman film to be the most detached one of his career, it is no wonder that the main demand for his sequel was creative-control. The freedom allowed him to change much more his superhero follow-up, almost from point to point in comparison to the original one, relocating his sense to a different vision – or rather, a return to his more traditionalist style: constant use of miniatures and some obvious constructed sets, a difficult narrative, an odd tone and macabre characters. He was crucified by the fanboys and the studio for his change in vision. As it turns out, “A Tim Burton Film” label isn’t that different from “An Ed Wood film” label.

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PUBLIC ENEMIES: Watching Our Real Dreams

The best moments in Michael Mann’s latest film, PUBLIC ENEMIES, based on legendary criminal John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), come around the last act: Dillinger, under disguise, is inspired while watching himself as the great criminal that he is on a number of photos in a Police Department, and then in the theater watching MANHATTAN MELODRAMA, a film with a resonance to Dillinger’s mode of life. It is a wonderful outside perspective, almost as if the character has stepped out of the frames. In a variety of ways, it is emblematical of Mann’s films: characters whose macho lives are idealizations made into realization; a microcosm for a filmmaker whose digital shooting is all about simulation over illustration. Dillinger, as the film as a whole, are not groundbreaking archivements for Mann, but still work as symbols on his career. That cinema is an avenue not just to see dreams, but that under the right properties, also live them.

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