[Film: Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder, 1950]
Conflated Requiems:

The Flawless, Eery Use of the Protagonist Narrator in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

 

Gloria Swanson Sketch by M.R.P. - Sunest Boulevard - Billy Wilder - narrator

Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

This article is essentially a recommendation (without qualifying remarks) of a film that really needs no introduction: Sunset BoulevardSunset Boulevard - Billy Wilder - narrator. But because I’m in the business of writing things that might interest or entertain you, I am going to approach this recommendation from the following angle: Sunset Boulevard represents one of the best uses of a protagonist narrator in the past hundred years of film.

Using the protagonist as a narrator is a tactic that is abundantly present in the noir genre from which Sunset Boulevard derives many of its tropes. But this technique has varying degrees of success. Most people can name at least one use of the protagonist narrator that probably did not turn out quite like the director envisioned it (a reasonably modern example is Harrison Ford’s narration in Blade Runner, which was entirely removed from the director’s cut and final cut of the film).

When its exposition is not overbearing and obvious, the narrator’s voice can be an inoffensive tool to transition from scene to scene. What sets Sunset Boulevard so far ahead, however, is its use of the narrator (Joe Gillis, portrayed by William Holden) to support the thematic content of the film.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Sunset Boulevard, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder, 1950]
Conflated Requiems:

The Flawless, Eery Use of the Protagonist Narrator in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

was last modified: May 12th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Funny Games, Michael Haneke, 1997]
Unfamiliar Slasher:

How Michael Haneke’s Funny Games Wonderfully Accomplishes the Opposite of Haneke’s Goal

 

Introduction:

Michael Haneke Sketch by M.R.P. - Funny Games - violence, fiction, reality, media

Sketch by M.R.P.

I should start by saying this: unlike nearly every other American film critic, I like Michael Haneke’s movie Funny GamesFunny Games - Michael Haneke - violence, fiction, reality, media. But if you’ve seen either version of the film and you’re ready to get up in arms because you found it patronizing, as did Anthony Lane, or tendentious, as did Mark Kermode, don’t fret. I would probably agree with those complaints as well, if it were not for the fact that, unlike those reviewers, I disagree completely with Michael Haneke’s interpretation of his film.

If you’re reading this article for a recommendation, then I ought to state right at the outset that there are few movie watchers to whom I would recommend Funny Games. It is a purposefully brutal, broadly cynical, and largely humorless tale about unmotivated murder. I recommend Funny Games only to those who already enjoy unconventional horror movies, and to those with an academic or foreign flair to their taste in films.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Funny Games, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film (either version, as, unlike with some other movies I have covered, the English-language remake of Funny GamesFunny Games - Michael Haneke - violence, fiction, reality, media—also by Haneke—is nearly as good as the original).

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[Film: Funny Games, Michael Haneke, 1997]
Unfamiliar Slasher:

How Michael Haneke’s Funny Games Wonderfully Accomplishes the Opposite of Haneke’s Goal

was last modified: April 24th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016]
Unmarketing:

Hail, Caesar! and Why You Should Trust Neither Trailers nor Reviews of the Coen Brothers’ Movies

 

Hail, Caesar! movie poster - Coen Brothers - trailers and themes

Introduction:

There is perhaps no team in Hollywood so consistently reamed in reviews for misconceptions about their films resulting from their own advertising than Ethan and Joel Coen. It happened with Intolerable CrueltyHail, Caesar! - Coen Brothers - trailers and themes; it happened with Burn After ReadingHail, Caesar! - Coen Brothers - trailers and themes; it happened with Inside Llewyn DavisHail, Caesar! - Coen Brothers - trailers and themes; and now it is happening with Hail, Caesar! as well. Whoever is in charge of marketing these movies is doing a comically bad job.

For the most part, the error is clear: The Coens’ nuanced dark comedies and comedic dramas keep being marketed as flat, uncontroversial, plain old comedies. In my personal opinion, the movie of theirs that was most affected by this disconnect between the total levity of the marketing and the deadpan satire of the film is Burn After Reading. But that’s water under the bridge by now, so instead I would like to spend this article saying exactly what Hail, Caesar! is, and exactly what Hail, Caesar! is not.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Hail Caesar!, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016]
Unmarketing:

Hail, Caesar! and Why You Should Trust Neither Trailers nor Reviews of the Coen Brothers’ Movies

was last modified: March 8th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven, 1997]
Poking Fun at Militarism:

How Paul Verhoeven’s Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein’s Novel

 

Introduction:

Starship Troopers movie poster - Paul Verhoeven - Robert A. Heinlein - movie vs. bookStarship TroopersStarship Troopers - Paul Verhoeven - Robert A. Heinlein - movie vs. book—in all of its campy, corny glory—is a hugely enjoyable film. But most of the film’s fans are likely unaware that the novel on which it was based (Starship Troopers by Robert A. HeinleinStarship Troopers - Paul Verhoeven - Robert A. Heinlein - movie vs. book) has almost the literal opposite themes of the movie. Indeed, unlike the blatant anti-propaganda and anti-conformist messages of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s comedic and hyperbolic offering, Heinlein’s 1959 novel is a fascistic and militaristic critique of diplomacy, diversity, and (by extension) peace.

I would make it no secret that I find Heinlein’s novel odious. Its unjustified nationalism is at best short-sighted; its casting of enemy combatants as literal insects is both condescendingly heavy-handed and laughably repulsive; its insistence that large-scale violent armed conflict is the only and best solution to factional disagreements is a demonstrably false assertion; and its premise that only like-minded militarists and willing pawns should have the right to vote in their society is nothing short of frightening. So this article will take a close look at all of the ways that Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers acts directly against the project of Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I hope you enjoy it.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Starship Troopers, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film (or read the book, though the two have somewhat different plots).

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[Film: Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven, 1997]
Poking Fun at Militarism:

How Paul Verhoeven’s Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein’s Novel

was last modified: February 10th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, 2015]
Sudden Awakening:

A Quick Article on the Quick Pacing in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Introduction:

Now, I would like to clarify right off the bat that this is not one of the hundreds of articles grasping for attention by claiming that the new Star Wars movieJ.J. Abrams Sketch by M.R.P. - Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens - pacing criticism is worse than the abysmal prequel movies. Indeed, I consider the new entry in the series to be on-par with—or possibly even slightly better than—Episode VI (putting it just behind V and IV in my overall rankings). But regardless of how much I enjoyed it, I want to talk about one of my two biggest criticisms of the movie, which most commentators (both positive and negative) have been ignoring: the film’s pacing.

My other biggest criticism is The Force Awakens‘ excessive fanservice—with the most egregious example (which graduates from fanservice into the repetition that many have gone a bit overboard in deriding) being the Star Killer Base. But plenty of people have raised that concern. The more technical concern that I have, and most likely the primary reason that I consider it a weaker film than most of the original trilogy, is that its pacing is over-rushed, essentially throughout.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

Continue reading

[Film: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, 2015]
Sudden Awakening:

A Quick Article on the Quick Pacing in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens

was last modified: April 6th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski