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Entries in The New Classics (17)

Tuesday
Aug132019

The New Classics: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

by Michael Cusumano

Scene: Scaling the Burj Khalifa
In the course of writing this column, I eventually got around to asking myself the inevitable question:  “What is the 21st century scene I’ve watched the most times?” 

I knew with certainty that the answer was the Burj Khalifa scene from Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, even if I couldn’t immediately account for the why. Of course you could simply say ”Why not?” It’s already firmly established in the pantheon of great action scenes. But it’s not like the past two decades have seen a dearth of great action filmmaking. Why not “Ship’s Mast” from Death Proof or the centerpiece car chase from Drive? What exactly is it about Tom Cruise pawing his way up the side of the world’s tallest building? 

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Tuesday
Jul302019

The New Classics: Master and Commander

Michael Cusumano here to explore what keeps fans returning for repeat voyages on Peter Weir's 2003 nautical adventure.

Scene: Exploring the Galapagos
Right before the climactic naval battle in Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the story pauses to watch a scientist leisurely wander the Galapagos Islands, collecting lizards and measuring giant tortoises. How many modern adventure films would halt the action dead in its tracks like that? Hell, how many films from any era would resist relegating such a detour to the cutting room floor? I can imagine David Lean including the sequence, but then his version of Master and Commander would probably push the four hour mark.

This adaptation of Patrick O’Brien’s series of novels is less about narrative urgency and more about creating a world to get lost in. Sure, when the time comes to pay-off the naval duel at the center of the plot, Master and Commander delivers in spectacular fashion. But that’s not what keeps the devotees of the film returning over and over again...

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Tuesday
Jul232019

The New Classics - In the Loop

Michael Cusumano here to mark the 10th anniversary of one of the great political satires.

 

Scene: The Meditation Room 
The political operators of Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop live in a world where issues don’t matter and the halls of power are filled with bureaucrats who would gleefully sell out their principles were they not held back by their own incompetence. In this universe, those sad few officials who do manage to take a moral stand are not merely defeated but negated entirely, their feeble protests turned into absurd jokes and swept away in a sea of media noise.

I should add that In the Loop is one of the funniest movies of the 21st Century, but then it would have to be to get away with painting a picture so grim...

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Tuesday
Jul162019

The New Classics - Before Sunset

Michael C here to honor a film with an emotional impact that hasn't diminished over countless repeat viewings...

Scene: The Car Ride
When people talk about the appeal of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy they tend to focus on the enchanting dialogue or the romantic European locations, but I think one of the big reasons this series is so beloved is that it avoids all the contrivances usually deployed to keep couples apart in movies... 

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Tuesday
Jul092019

The New Classics - Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Michael Cusumano's series on the great films of the 21st century through the lens of a single scene.

Scene: Wig in a Box
I distinctly remember the arrival of the poster for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the art-house movie theater I worked at during the Summer of 2001.  The poster is dominated by the image of John Cameron Mitchell’s gender-defying punk rocker aggressively belting out a song, a swirl of glittering make-up and tendrils of blonde wig. More than attention-grabbing, it was attention demanding. I eagerly anticipated the film as I watched the trailer several dozen times during my shifts. As a straight, cisgender man from the suburbs with a lackluster wardrobe, I assumed that it was most definitely a movie Not. For. Me. but as an insatiable movie-devouring college student, I was nevertheless excited for what looked like a wildly inventive, low-budget extravaganza.

And while I was correct about the creativity on display, I was wrong about feeling excluded by the film. Despite sharing zero details with the protagonist’s turbulent life story, it hit me personally in a way I wasn’t ready for...

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Tuesday
Jul022019

The New Classics - Meek's Cutoff

The New Classics is a weekly series by Michael Cusumano, looking at great films of the 21st century through the lens of a single selected scene. 

Scene: Emily takes charge
The lost pioneers in Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff travel with a bird in a cage dangling from the back of a covered wagon. It is a token of happier days, when nature was an ornament that decorated your home, not a force that drained the life from you with its punishing distances and barren terrain.

More than a sad joke, the little yellow parakeet also functions as a poignant symbol for the codes of society the pioneers carry with them into the wilderness, codes which become increasingly absurd in the context of their predicament. Lost, dying from thirst, and led by a guide who is either a charlatan or a mad man, the wagon train’s men still make sure to isolate themselves from their wives when discussing strategy.

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