Tag Archive: The Artist


It looks entirely like an experimental expressionistic film, something created by an aspiring filmmaker in film school, maybe an ambitious effort to create something historical and strange like Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.  Is production and costume designer-turned-director Robert EggersThe Lighthouse simply a horror movie about two lighthouse keepers or can we hope for something bigger, more of metaphor and allegory?  Shot in black and white 35mm film, the initial appeal is for anyone fond of classic black and white Gothic horror It’s billed as psychological horror, but will it feature psychological horrors of today or stick with more reserved terrors that reflect its more tempting, classic appearance?

The Lighthouse stars character actor Willem Dafoe, and co-stars Robert Pattinson in his most public role since the announcement he will don the cowl and cape in a forthcoming Batman movie.  Remember Michael Keaton releasing Beetlejuice, Clean and Sober, and The Dream Team with the new acting range spin to get us prepared to see him on the big screen as the dark knight detective?  Genre niche popularity of the Twilight series and his brief stint in the Harry Potter franchise aside, Pattinson hasn’t had the universal appeal and popularity Keaton had with Night Shift and Mr. Mom, making him a household name.  Can he convince fanboys and fangirls he has what it takes?  Can audiences push the future aside and appreciate The Lighthouse for whatever Eggers is trying to do?

As for Eggers, who co-wrote the story with brother Max, this is his second film after the Anya Taylor-Joy vehicle The Witch.  Here he’s trying that tried and re-tried convention of bringing black and white films to modern audiences.  It often works, as it did with popular and critical success for Paper Moon, Young Frankenstein, Raging Bull, Dead Again, Schindler’s List, The Artist, Logan Noir, and Roma.

Take a look at this nicely moody trailer for The Lighthouse:

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I just finished rereading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut as I go through my idea to reread his novels in the order that he wrote them.  (Why?  Possibly because I didn’t realize Player Piano was his first novel and I wanted to put it in context with what followed it. Maybe a love of order?  Maybe I just wanted an excuse to read Vonnegut.)

As I was reading, a passage from pp. 86-87 of the Dell Paperback, copyright 1963, struck me a little differently, especially due to the news out of Washington, New Jersey and Maryland.  I’ll give you most of the whole thing:

‘He’ll never marry her.’
‘Why not?’
‘I’ve said all I’m going to say,’ she said.
‘I’m gratified to meet an indexer who respects the privacy of others.’
‘Never index your own book,’ she stated.
…(paragraph break)…
Sometime later, Ambassador Minton and I met in the aisle of the airplane, away from his wife, and he showed that it was important to him that I respect what his wife could find out from indexes.
‘You know why Castle will never marry the girl, even though he loves her, even though she loves him, even though they grew up together?’ he whispered.
‘No, sir, I don’t.’
‘Because he’s a homosexual,’ whispered Minton. ‘She can tell that from an index, too.’

I point this out, not because I think Vonnegut is making a moral judgment or an opinion on homosexuality, but rather its place in 1960s America.  In a plane with only a few people on board, homosexuality is something to be whispered about and is not appropriate for regular conversation.  It’s almost fifty years later and now gay marriage is legal in some countries and states, but still not even viewed as decent in others.  In fifty years, that seems a pretty big difference in acceptability, from what I captured in less than a page in a book and then moving to Stonewall, Harvey Milk, Rock Hudson and many other moments as the conversation on gay rights has evolved.

Despite being assassinated in office more than 30 years ago and posthumously awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, there's still no U.S. postage stamp to commemorate the "Mayor of Castro Street"

Fifty years can be examined in two ways. In the view of all of time, it is but a blip.  In the view of a single lifetime, it can be everything. (R.I.P., Whitney Houston, 1963-2012.)

For people fighting against injustice, they can fight their whole lives and never see change.  The Fifteenth Amendment, giving people the right to vote no matter, “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” was ratified in 1870.  The Nineteenth Amendment reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  It was ratified in 1920.

Along the way, both before and after these dates are times where rights for both groups improve and recede and there are many landmarks.  Just looking at one though, 138 years after African Americans had the right to vote, an African American became president.  92 years after women got the right to vote, there has yet to be a female vice-president or president.

Barack Obama, inaugurated as president in 2009, and made the cover of The Amazing-Spider-man

Unless you are very lucky, both of those time spans cover more than one complete life.  Fortunately there is happiness and joy from smaller milestones and hopefully those can make the setbacks of a lifetime more palatable.  To me and I’m sure many others, the U.S. Presidency is one of the ultimate proofs that you can do anything in this world, and until the time you see it done, open doors everywhere still might seem like a pie in the sky idea.  However, even the U.S. presidency doesn’t guarantee that racism or sexism will stop.

Those are the big issues and the important ones as far as equality and kindness to our fellow humans go.  However, generally when we talk about science fiction books, we talk about technology.  We talk about different ways of looking at things (ice-nine!) and future possibilities.  Does every aspect of our life really move that slowly?

In the 1890s, Thomas Edison and Louis Lumiere created the ability to make a motion picture.  Thirty years later came the first “talkie.”  Thirty years later and color pictures are ubiquitous.  Twenty years after that and most homes have a VCR and the ability to watch movies at any time of day in the comfort of their own home.  Ninety years from beginning to end of this timeline, and you see how the world has changed for viewing images, people and places from all over the world as you sit in your comfy chair, though the endpoint could be argued as arbitrary.

Another one I find interesting relates to baseball and F.C. Lane.  Almost 100 years ago, he argued that the press didn’t measure the contributions of baseball players correctly.  Today, after Moneyball and many, many blog posts by intelligent, interesting and rabid fans of the game, we have started to actually measure the contributions of baseball players in that way.

In his 99.5 years, F.C. Lane not only became the first sabermetrician, but wrote about a variety of subjects

In the even broader picture, for music we went from wandering minstrels to prominent people owning musical instruments in their homes. We went from having to know how to play an instrument to have music in our homes to pressed vinyl.  We went from pressed vinyl to reel to reel to 8-tracks to cassettes.  We went from a Walkman to a Discman to an iPod and its increasingly small forms.  Where we used to depend on a single person to crack their knuckles and tickle the ivories around 220 years ago (Mozart died in 1791 and if I remember my Amadeus correctly as my source for history, that’s exactly how life in those times was) we can now hold thousands of songs by thousands of artists in our front pockets.

You haven't heard Mozart until you've heard him in the original 8-track format.

As a friend likes to say, “Change equals death.”  (I don’t think he got it from Woody Allen, but who knows.)  Even on the small things and the things we know we want, it takes us a bit to adapt, to figure out how things work, to make things better.  As The Artist shows, not even the idea to make movies with dialogue was met with universal approval.  But, when change does happen, eventually we all adopt it and it comes to pass as “normal.”

When we look at science fiction, we look at the future, we look at what’s possible and at the same time, we look back to when the book was written to see from where we came.  Those dreams give us a chance to imagine a better world through love and technology in a time that so far to date, is always tomorrow.  (As it says in The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, entitled “What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?”  “Nothing.”)  Those glimpses back sometimes let us know how far we’ve really come and sometimes, it is a little bit more than nowhere.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I love to rank the movies that I’ve seen every year.  I also love to have caveats like this list doesn’t include Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Martha Marcy may Marlene, or Hugo as I haven’t seen them yet and I want to do so.

I rank the movies as I see them and try to figure out where they fit in the whole spectrum of the movies that I’ve seen over the year.  I toyed with showing the top five, then the top ten, then the top sixteen, and then I said, screw it, I’ll just give you the whole list so that you can see it in its full context.  You can see what I see and how they rank against each other in my mind.  One slight mathematical type note – don’t think of this list as a normal distribution.  It could be skewed left or right depending on your vantage point, and in this case has more movies toward the quality side and that have definite cool moments.

So, without further ado, here is my list of movies in the order that I enjoyed them and that I saw released in 2011.

  • Midnight in Paris
  • Melancholia
  • Thor
  • Attack the Block
  • Captain America
  • The Guard
  • Young Adult
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • Insidious
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Rango
  • Bridesmaids
  • Tree of Life
  • Hanna
  • Submarine
  • 13 Assassins
  • Paranormal Activity 3
  • Win Win
  • Drive
  • The Descendants
  • The Trip
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Everything Must Go
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • Source Code
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Paul
  • Unknown
  • Moneyball
  • Contagion
  • Super 8
  • Sucker Punch
  • Hall Pass
  • Cowboys and Aliens
  • I Saw the Devil
  • Horrible Bosses

If I were making a list of the top ten movies of the year to nominate for the Best Picture Oscars (announced Tuesday, January 24th at 5:30 am PT) I’d take the first ten movies. 

However, knowing that superhero movies, action movies, comedies, animated films and horror movies rarely, if ever, get nominated, here is the list of what I would say are the ten best films of 2011 that I think deserve a best picture Academy Award nomination and would have a realistic chance at earning one.

  • Midnight in Paris
  • Melancholia
  • The Guard
  • Young Adult
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • Tree of Life
  • Hanna
  • Submarine
  • Win Win

(Yes, I know that Hanna is pretty much an action movie and Submarine is a darn funny comedy, but they seem like nominated films more than Attack the Block and Bridesmaids.  Also, I’m not paying attention to release date and box office gross, which means it may be even less realistic than just eliminating certain genres of films.)

So, that’s it?  That’s all that I have to say?  It wouldn’t be much of an essay then as it is mainly just two lists.  I think you can find out just about anything you want to find out about the movies by just looking for them online.  You can also find better prognostications as far as the movies most likely to be nominated.  (Hint: The Descendants and Moneyball.)  So, what I’ll give you instead to wrap up the year 2011 in movies is a list of the great moments of these films.  I’ll avoid spoilers and just give you hints of the awesome in no particular order.

Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson meeting for the first time in The Guard.  At the beginning of this movie, Don Cheadle’s character holds a meeting for the police force of a small Irish town to give them more information of a drug-smuggling ring.  The interaction between these two great actors had to have been one of the funniest things I saw all year.

Dancing in The Artist.  I went to see this movie with my good friend Kelvin and we agreed that though we didn’t laugh much, when we left the theater we knew that we had been smiling to ourselves in the dark for the past two hours.  The scenes where Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo danced were the ones that made me smile the most.

The meeting in the garage between Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks in Drive.  I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad.  I’m also a big fan of Albert Brooks, going all the way back to Real Life and Modern Romance.  When these two are in a scene together, you know both have the chops for comic acting and now you can add Brooks to Cranston as far as dramatic acting as well.

Charlize Theron sitting down to write at her computer in Young Adult.  Every time Charlize sat down to write in this film, it struck home.  The struggle to sometimes find inspiration and to reward yourself with a distraction for limited reasons I think parallel anyone that has ever sat and tried to do something creative.

The invention of a meteor distance device by the son in Melancholia.  Picking a moment from this movie is tough, there are cool visuals, there are moments that break your heart and there are parts that are darkly funny.  However, seeing Keifer Sutherland exude so much pride over his son’s invention and the knowledge that we have as an audience makes that moment just about perfect.

The Wire references in Cedar Rapids.  Isiah Whitlock Jr. played Senator Clay Davis in The Wire, you know, that show that all your friends tell you to watch once they’ve seen it.  Well, that show exists in Cedar Rapids and the references they make to it using Isiah made me smile as a fan of both this movie and that awesome TV show.

The meetings between the young kids and the nurse in Attack the Block.  It’s been a bit since I saw the movie, but one thing I liked was the relationship that developed between the kids on the block and the nurse that they accost at the beginning of the movie.  The moviemakers gave it time to develop and because of that, the relationship worked instead of being a cliché.

The battle in 13 Assassins.  It’s a battle for a town with samurais. It may be sacrilege for me to say it, but I think it may top the same scene from Seven Samurai.

The scene about Jeremy Brown in Moneyball.  They use real minor league footage for this scene and it is the one that truly moved me from this whole movie. It was at this point that the characters played by Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt (as Peter Brand and Billy Beane) finally connected with me.

Any scene with the rotating camera in Paranormal Activity 3.  I don’t care what people think of the Paranormal Activity movies.  They spook me out.  The addition of the camera that rotates so that you lose sight of parts of the house heightened my scared anticipation every time they cut to it.

Those are my ten.  Let me know if you have any that you’d add to my list.