Movies

FutureSex/Class Warriors

In Time is a movie for the attractive, radical redistributionist in your life.

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski
The thing to understand about In Time —the latest from Gattaca director Andrew Niccol—is that it isn’t a good movie. Characters lack compelling motivations, action set-pieces veer from boring to incoherent ( In Time apparently takes place in a world where everyone is an expert marksman), and it’s hard to take Justin Timberlake seriously as an action hero. But for as much as In Time fails as an action thriller, it fascinates as one of the most overtly ideological—and openly left-wing—movies of the year. The film’s premise is straightforward: at some indeterminate time in the future, humans were genetically modified to stop aging at 25, at which point they receive a year of time, which is the world’s currency. Time can be exchanged between people through a touch on the forearm or earned through work, and when you run out, you die. Like most people in this world, Will Salas (Timberlake’s character) is time-poor, lives in the slums, and works an industrial job in order to scrape through a...

A Different Kind of Revenge Film

Writing over at Mother Jones , Adam Serwer makes a smart point about ethnic revenge flicks like Inglorious Basterds and the forthcoming Django Unchained . “The true “revenge” of Inglorious Basterds,” Adam writes, “is in the banishment of a particular stereotype, the idea of the weak, fearful Jew who goes helplessly into the ovens.” The problem with Django Unchained is that African Americans have never had a problem with being portrayed as aggressive and prone to violence. Indeed, that’s the stereotype we’ve worked to reject . As Adam notes, “[A] film in which a slave kills his masters may vicariously avenge a historical injustice, but it lacks the catharsis of defying the accepted narrative that narrowly limits what being black is supposed to mean.” In his eyes, a real black revenge story isn’t Django Unchained , it’s The Cosby Show . I don’t disagree! But I think Adam is a little too neat in dismissing the value of a film like Django Unchained could have in subverting other...

Batman the Gentrifier

In real-life, the superhero's do-gooding would push all the poor people out of Gotham.

Rex Features via AP Images
For Batman fans, this past week was a big one. In addition to the release of Arkham City – the sequel to Arkham Asylum , the world’s greatest Batman simulator – DC released its animated adaptation of Batman: Year One , the Frank Miller-penned story that would define Batman for the next two decades, and form the basis for Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the character. Here’s a trailer: I watched Year One with friends a few nights ago, and one thing that stood out was the sheer whiteness of Gotham City. From mobsters to orphaned children, most Gothamites were white. People of color were present, but they were a distinct minority in most parts of Frank Miller’s Gotham. Of course, this makes Gotham extremely unusual as a major industrial city in the early 1980s, which is when Year One takes place. By this point in American history, most cities had been hollowed out by successive waves of white flight, as middle and working-class whites left the cities for surrounding suburbs. In...

Is Batman Crazy?

Psychoanalyzing the Dark Knight

Over at Alyssa Rosenberg’s blog, a post about the class differences between heroes and villains has become a thread over Batman and his methods. In particular, the commenters are working through one particular question: Is Batman crazy? As the argument goes, it’s not that Batman is insane, per say, but that he has a monomaniacal focus on justice that manifests itself as a sort of pathology, in which his life derives it’s only meaning from the pursuit of criminals. The evidence for this is clear enough: after witnessing his parent’s murder by a common thief, Bruce Wayne pledges to avenge their life by complete devotion to fighting crime through personal methods, eventually donning a Bat costume and using his family wealth to bankroll a career of vigilantism. For the last 30 years, this has been one of the most popular depictions of Batman – a paranoid, distrustful man with a tenuous grasp on reality. Insofar that there have been alternative takes, they come by way of the 1990s animated...

Do Sports Matter?

Jay Smooth notes, in the context of the NBA Finals, that the masses pay well for their opiates and LeBron James broke a cardinal rule of sports by reminding people that they don't really matter: I'm not ready to say "sports don't matter" in a world where terrorists are willing to murder and mutilate World Cup fans because they see national identity as a threat to their plan for a worldwide caliphate. Even here, sports, like any kind of national drama, provide important insight into our own cultural identity and the rage towards James in particular seems like a perfect example of that.

Books on Film: Remembering Andrew Sarris

Growing up in Movieland

A detail from a film strip. (Flickr/miemo)
Andrew Sarris, the influential film critic and champion of the director's voice in filmmaking, died on June 20 at age 83. In this essay from our June 2010 issue, Harold Meyerson explains the critic's role in teaching him to love movies. I grew up in Movieland—Los Angeles' Westside in the 1950s and 1960s. I went to school with the kids of people in the industry, which was so hopelessly uncool, we didn't even talk about it. (The guy with whom I co-edited my high school literary magazine never mentioned that his father had created a well-known sitcom— I Love Lucy . I found out when he wrote about it 30 years later.) A sclerotic studio system was churning out The Sound of Music while we were deciphering Dylan and watching Vietnam burn every night on the tube. When I showed up in New York to go to college, the last thing I expected to study, or love, was the movies. But New York, circa 1968, had other ideas. There was, of course, no shortage of politics to entice me, but by the late '60s,...

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