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Entries in The New Classics (23)

Tuesday
Oct012019

The New Classics - The Florida Project

Michael C. here. When I started this column I made a rule that anything less than two years old was too recent. So for the season finale let's go with a first round draft pic. 

Sean Baker and Willem Dafoe on the set of The Florida Project

Scene: Child Predator
There’s nothing that he can do about it. That’s the guiding principle that drives Willem Dafoe’s Bobby throughout Sean Baker’s heart-rending The Florida Project. He maintains the boundaries he needs to keep up the pretense that he is operating a motel and not a lilac-colored homeless shelter, but we can intuit that he would help more if he could. It’s all in the unnecessary helping of kindness and humor around the edges when he’s laying down the law... 

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Tuesday
Sep242019

The New Classics - No Country For Old Men

Michael Cusumano here to take a fresh look at a film that never fails to reward it.

Scene: The Sad, Strange Death of Carson Wells

Moss: What's this guy supposed to be, the ultimate badass?

Wells: No, I wouldn't describe him as that.

Moss: How would you describe him?

Wells: I guess I would say he doesn't have a sense of humor.

But that’s not really accurate, is it? 

Anton Chigurh displays frequent amusement throughout the Coen’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men. It simply that the humor exists on a wavelength only he can hear. Shortly after making that assessment quoted above, Woody Harrelson’s Carson Wells will learn just how mistaken he is...

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Tuesday
Sep102019

The New Classics: I Am Love

Michael Cusumano here to discuss a film that never fails to floor me.

Scene: Prawns
The story of Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love pivots on a life-changing plate of prawns. It sounds ridiculous until you pause and remember that life is actually like that. One moment you’re having a routine day and the next a flood of emotions is precipitated by an unexpected trigger. These instances are difficult to explain in words, but what are movies for if not the moments when language fails?

Tilda Swinton’s character Emma Recchi doesn’t realize it, but she is primed for such a moment. A Russian who married into an Italian family of great power, she lives a life of comfort and wealth. She is not unhappy, exactly, nor is she mistreated, but her is existence is a cloistered one and she is expected to play the role assigned to her. In the film’s lengthy opening act she oversees a family birthday party that has the coldness of a modern art exhibition...  

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Wednesday
Sep042019

The New Classics - Shattered Glass

by Michael Cusumano

 

Scene: Fact-Finding Trip
The great real life journalism movies tend to focus on stories of monumental impact. Films like Spotlight or The Insider or All the Presidents Men are about reporters tangling with the most powerful institutions in America and uncovering scandals that affect the lives of millions.

And yet, for all their importance, I find myself thinking about those films less frequently than I think about Billy Ray’s Shattered Glass, which details a comparatively minor subject. Why is this story the one that haunts my thoughts? I was not one of Stephen Glass’s readers. Had it not been for the film I might never had heard of the wunderkind journalist who turned out to be a rampant fabulist, publishing at least twenty-seven whole or partly fabricated stories as fact during his time at The New Republic magazine...

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Tuesday
Aug272019

The New Classics: It's Such a Beautiful Day

by Michael Cusumano  

Scene: Immortality
Bill, the protagonist of Don Hertzfeldt’s animated masterpiece It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), is the picture of ordinariness. With only his simple rectangle and line hat to distinguish him, he is every man.

The sweeping classical music on the soundtrack as we are plunged into Bill’s existence briefly tricks into thinking that Bill's life might be an extraordinary one. The film shares some selections with The Tree of Life, released the year before. But where Terrence Malick matched that music to images of equal grandeur, like the creation of the universe and butterflies landing on Jessica Chastain, Hertzfeldt goes in the opposite direction, using symphonies to elevate depictions of the most insignificant events conceivable. Bill’s life is as humdrum as his appearance...

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Tuesday
Aug202019

The New Classics: Inglourious Basterds

Michael Cusumano here to take a break from batting around Once Upon a Time In... Hollywood to look back a decade.

Scene - Chapter 2: Inglourious Basterds 
The Inglourious Basterds marketing team knew what aspects of the film to emphasize ten years ago. 

“A basterd's work is never done” boasted the tag line next to the image of a triumphant Brad Pitt brandishing a machine gun atop a pile of dead Nazis. “An inglourious, uproarious thrill-ride of vengeance!” promised another line. The centerpiece of the trailer was Pitt’s Aldo the Apache jutting his chin into a tight close to declare “I want my scalps!”. The promise was clear. The director of Kill Bill is trading samurai swords for hand grenades.

Rewatching it now, ten years later, I can still feel the chasm between the film that was sold and the film that was delivered. Basterds is a sprawling, oddly-shaped, thesis paper of a movie. And while there is no shortage of violence, it takes a back seat to dialogue, mostly arriving in quick bursts to punctuate long scenes of conversation. At times, Basterds could be mistaken for an adaptation of a stage play, and a foreign language one to boot. 

“Uproarious” though. The tag was telling the truth about that...

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