"Beautiful? Sunsets are beautiful, newborn babies are beautiful. This... this is f**king spectacular! " - Con Air.
#436 | April 10, 2012
[This week's "Retro Active" pick is inspired by Guy Pearce's prison-break heroics in Lockout.] Nicolas Cage is a paternalistic white American god who unites the country's disparate cultural-political schisms while sporting oiled biceps, stringy long hair, a scruffy beard and an overcooked southern accent in Con Air. That may not be immediately apparent from Simon West's 1997 blockbuster, a spectacularly stupid piece of mayhem spawned by Michael Bay's The Rock, which had, a year earlier, legitimized both Bay's more-is-better ethos and Cage's tough-guy credentials. Read more >>
In This Dispatch:
  • What's New: Charlotte Rampling: The Look, Littlerock, The Iron Lady.  
  • What We're Watching: The Conversation Piece, Sleeping Beauty.  
  • Explore: Retro Active - White Hunter Black Heart.
"STARE INTO THE REMORSELESS EYES OF ONE OF OUR MOST INTIMIDATING ACTRESSES AND QUIVER," commands the opening scenes of the British actress' biopic, reported Vadim Rizov (from Doc NYC). The doc takes a multi-faceted view of Rampling's life, discussing not only her turns in The Night Porter, Max Mon Amour, and other films, but also capturing her banter with friends and artists, covering everything from debating age and beauty, to snapping photos, to running through acting exercises. "Rampling exudes the sense of mastery that perhaps a Tilda Swinton could claim—the boundless woman just as comfortable animating a Swarovski-encrusted Dior gown on a catwalk or chairing a Michel Foucault conference panel. How can we ever stop looking?" (Diego Costa, Slant)
Two Japanese sibilings on their way to San Francisco get stuck in a sleepy Los Angeles County town (Litterock). The older brother speaks a little English, the younger sister speaks and understands none, but finds herself drawn to the listless post-teens who become acquitances and love interests. "So when Rintaro (the brother) heads to San Francisco for a few days — taking his English-speaking skills and the film's subtitles with him — Atsuko remains behind," describes NPR's Jeannette Catsoulis. "(Director Mike) Ott uses the threat of violence as a mere layer of mood, keeping his focus on the mutable, and often unspoken, themes of identity and the nature of attempts to explore and redefine it," adds Bill Weber.
Though many agree that the film itself is flawed, few can deny the power of Meryl Streep's Oscar-winning turn as the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. "Streep's performance is so true and so uncannily accurate, so full and so complete in its understanding, that she is fascinating every second she is onscreen...Through meticulous study, Streep gets every external detail of Thatcher's expression and movement and then, through some profound gift of intuition, she gets everything else, the thoughts, the inner life, the strengths and limitations, even the unconscious motivations of the character," writes SF Gate's Mick LaSalle.
The Iron Lady
Also out today: Into the Abyss (also reviewed at Doc NYC); Sleeping Beauty; and The Darkest Hour.

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What We're Watching

The Conversation
In 1974, Luchino Visconti was nearly seventy and had worked as a filmmaker for thirty years. He was in ill health and his most glorious films were behind him. When it came time to make Conversation Piece, which would become his second-to-last film, he needed something fairly simple to shoot, like something that took place in one building. Having hit upon an idea, he called up some of his favorite actors, including Burt Lancaster, who had starred in Visconti's opulent masterpiece The Leopard (1963). The presence of Lancaster in a much smaller-scale Visconti production can only draw... Read more >>

Sleeping Beauty
Australian university student Lucy (Emily Browning) walks into a gleamingly white lab designed to visually sterilize the unpleasant biological realities under examination. A young doctor greets her, offers perfunctory thanks for agreeing to serve as a test subject, and carefully threads a tube down her throat; Lucy's gagging sounds don't evince so much as a glance of concern from a female scientist in the background. The connotations of forced fellatio in an immaculate setting serve as a shorthand summary of Sleeping Beauty: dispassionate experiments in sexual objectification. Read more >>

[This week's "Retro Active" pick is inspired by Willem Dafoe's ignoble expedition in The Hunter.] Clint Eastwood's surgical dissection of the iconic alpha-male persona that made him the '70s biggest box-office draw began as early as 1980's Bronco Billy (if not before, lest we forget the goofball shenanigans of 1978's Every Which Way But Loose and its sequel). Yet that critical modus operandi, which would gradually come to dominate his latter body of work (up to 2008's Gran Torino), began in earnest with White Hunter Black Heart, an adaptation of Peter Viertel's novel based on his experiences as a screenwriter on John Huston's The African Queen Read more >>
White Hunter Black Heart

Iconic Alpha Males


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