Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Hollywood's Coming-Out

The “gay cowboy movie” has compelled such unanimity of opinion--glowing kudos for its acting performances, its visual sensibility, its sensitivity--that the uniformity of questions about its identity is scarcely surprising. Brokeback Mountain is a clear work in many ways--it sketches out elegant conflicts and storylines with a skill that is as poetic as it is precise, and repeating images, so often abused as emotional shortcuts in films, gain symbolic heft here. So not surprisingly, the discourse around the film seems to be running in similarly neat channels, including the question: Is Brokeback Mountain a gay film? An interesting question, and for all its political necessity, a somewhat irksome one--it smacks of an essentialism ill-suited to the gender-bending that queerness can inspire. But every minority group is concerned with questions of identity, and the ways in which ever-evolving answers fuel both political solidarity and individual understanding. So how to answer this...

Inside Syriana

Lumpy and bearish, his clean lines hidden under a jowly beard and 40 pounds of thick middle he put on for the role, George Clooney is an apt visual symbol for his latest film, Syriana , which is a compelling drama partially obscured by excess. Written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, who also penned the script for Steven Soderbergh's drug-trade drama Traffic, Syriana draws on the multiple storylines and jittery camera style of the previous film, but focuses on a new addiction, the ravenous global market for oil. Gaghan is interested in portraying a system, rather than tracing out a storyline with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It's an ambitious aim, one that explains the director's appetite for crosscutting narratives and enough actors to stage a full-blown musical production. Gaghan presents his viewers with a welter of Gulf princes, Washington lawyers, financial analysts, madrassa students, and CIA agents before drawing out a representative from each group, each struggling to...

No ‘Pulse'

The corner in an empty room, the eerie space behind a computer monitor or TV -- these are birthplaces of the weird, the terrifying, and the inexplicable. Over the past few years, Japanese horror films like Ringu , Ju-On , and Kairo have made much of these odd spaces, frightening hyperventilating masses in Japan and making Hollywood execs themselves hyperventilate over the thought of creating remakes here. The first two have already gotten the Tinseltown treatment; Ringu became The Ring and The Ring 2 , starring Naomi Watts, and Ju-On became the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle The Grudge . The last is just now screening in the States under the name Pulse , but it too awaits the remake reprocessor, this time based on an adaptation by Scream freak Wes Craven. Pulse is a nasty thing -- incomprehensible, dated, elliptical, and repetitive in the extreme. It's also terrifying, for the same reasons. The film's opening has a stripped-down banality to it, with a greenhouse, interchangeable young...

The Joke's On Us

Nothing is sacred for comedian Sarah Silverman, especially not herself. In her performances, her persona is a big, dirty joke, defilement made manifest -- she's a squeaky-clean girl who says the vilest things. Her first feature, Jesus Is Magic , pads out footage of her one-woman concert with skits of the most sordid imaginings: Sarah as Jewish porn-starlet (“Fuck my tuchus!”), Sarah as rock-star bully at a nursing home (“You're gonna die soon!”). But none of these characters compare to her concert “self,” a nice, Jewish girl who tries to conceal her racist narcissism with PC platitudes … but terrible thoughts keep tumbling out. Silverman is the deconstructionist as comic -- if Derrida had held court, she would have been his jester. Her comedy is disturbingly decentered, full of strange shifts and currents. She dawdles with the punch line, stretches out syllables until they are almost meaningless, slips a bit of ick into a parenthetical aside. She plays with the tension between her...

Austen Pouters

Master of the cocked eyebrow and the irony-spiked pen, Jane Austen doesn't seem the sort to have suffered fools silently. What would she think, then, of the creators of Bridget Jones , Bride and Prejudice , and now the most recent Pride and Prejudice ? How would she react upon seeing her keen takes on class and gender treated as feel-good feminist frosting on the inevitable wedding cake? Trenchant of tongue, patron saint of spinster snark -- what would Jane do? Hollywood has been quick to defang Austen, turning her into an old-biddy wit. She did write perfect plots -- effortlessly paced, with enough external twists to mirror inner turmoil and effect internal transformation in her characters. But her narrative conventions were inseparable from her societal analysis -- and that's where her writing gains so much of its power, from the friction between her fairy-tale plotting and her critiques of her society. Hollywood will have just the fairy tales, please. With the crackling banter and...

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