Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Hell is a Submarine:

S ubmarine movies are perhaps the most Sartrean films of the war genre: What better place to experience existential hell than a metal tube with no exit? The canned air, twisted spaces, and infernal company of others -- all are fertile ground for despair, especially if the sub in question is the Soviet shitbox that is the setting of K-19: The Widowmaker . With its malfunctioning gauges, leaky pipes, and a nuclear reactor on the blink, this sub adds a lethal twist to that most familiar of war-movie dilemmas: the tension between doing your duty and doing right by your men. Although K-19 serves up the hoariest of sub/war movie cliches -- the dive to crush depth, the Bambi-eyed boy leaving his girl behind, the stiff-jawed tension between a kind captain and an authoritarian one -- K-19 is nevertheless an effective and moving drama. Perhaps it's the kinetic verve of director Kathryn Bigelow or the novelty of a Cold War story told from the Soviet point of view. But it might also have...

Road to Nowhere:

T he film Road to Perdition resembles nothing more than a finely made coffin: all square, burnished heft, a regal showcase for a body painstakingly made up to look alive. The sophomore effort by American Beauty director Sam Mendes, Perdition not only maintains the visual impact of his first movie but expands on it, with exquisitely composed frames and recurring images. But while Mendes' visual storytelling has reached a new height, depth has deserted his characters entirely. They stumble through the film, as waxen and two-dimensional as corpses. And without human warmth and spontaneity, even the movie's most stunning visuals fall flat. Based on a graphic novel, the film is set in the 1930s and follows the fate of two Michaels: a father (Tom Hanks) and a son (Tyler Hoechlin). Over the years, incidentally, Hanks has shifted his image from comic schlimazel to Noble Everyman -- a remarkable transformation topped perhaps only by this latest dip into darkness. (For another flabbergasting...

To Be Frank:

I t takes a lot to make a pug unfunny. With a squashed face, bulgy eyes and oddly dainty legs, a pug is a natural comedian -- especially if he is the pug from the first Men in Black movie. MIB fans may remember him as Frank, the gravelly-voiced, smart-mouth alien masquerading as a dog. In the first movie, he was a brilliant little side joke, a throwaway gag. In the second, he makes an extended appearance -- but in this case, more is not better. In lieu of showcasing new material or a coherent plot, the creators of MIB have decided to trot out old jokes like Frank over and over again until even he, chock full of charm, wears out his welcome. Will Smith is also back as Agent J, a member of the top-secret Men in Black, who "police and monitor alien activity on Earth." This time around, a new evil alien has arrived to carry out a nefarious plan. No one can stop her except J's old partner, K (Tommy Lee Jones), who was the most efficient, expert agent around. Trouble is, K was "neuralyzed"...

Exorcising Kubrick:

A warning to readers: This review reveals elements of the plot of the film Minority Report . M aybe Steven Spielberg is trying to exorcise the specter of Stanley Kubrick. Or maybe he's trying to make sense of their boggling 2001 collaboration, A.I. Whatever the case, Spielberg's latest film, Minority Report , is a much finer recasting of that artistic marriage than A.I. , which was an unhappy tug-of-war (with viewer as rope) between Kubrick's cold, crystalline sensibility and Spielberg's warm and fuzzy one. While many of A.I. 's themes run through Minority Report -- Kubrick's dark, dystopian vision of the future, Spielberg's filmic leitmotif of a boy and his family lost from each other -- this time Spielberg has achieved a more harmonious balance. Minority Report isn't a perfect film: Remember, this is the director who clubs audiences like baby seals to get the tears he wants. But with his latest attempt, it seems as though Spielberg has found a bit of Kubrick's backbone, and that...

No Huddled Masses Need Apply

T he walk to the H street welfare office from Washington, D.C.'s Union Station takes a good 20 minutes, longer if you've got small children in tow. You see manicured gardens give way to empty lots, bottles in brown paper bags, and a grocery store that's fenced-in to prevent cart theft. When you get to the office and ask a few questions about eligibility -- I was inquiring on behalf of a made-up friend, undocumented, with two children born in the United States -- it seems that you will often get the wrong answers. But that hardly seems to matter: If you are an immigrant -- a legal permanent resident, a refugee, or an "illegal alien" -- you probably wouldn't be in the office in the first place because you would be too afraid to apply for benefits at all. "Welfare reform" is an ugly phrase for many U.S. immigrants. The 1996 welfare-reform act included a five-year ban on benefits for immigrants arriving in the United States after August 22, 1996. But many of their children -- the vast...

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