[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 Troopers—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. Heinlein) 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: December 20th, 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

 

J.J. Abrams Sketch by M.R.P. - Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens - pacing criticism

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

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 movie 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.

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[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: March 28th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson, 2008]
Bloody, Brilliant:

Let the Right One In is a Touching Tale Full of Cold, Macabre Murders

 

Introduction:

Let the Right One In hands scene - Låt den Rätte Komma In - Tomas Alfredson - Let Me InYou could probably tell from my spirited endorsement of The Marx Brothers’ movies a month ago that I’m hoping to point you all toward areas of the film landscape that you’re missing if you just stick to the past 40 years of Hollywood blockbusters (not that I’m opposed to those either, of course).

Today’s film is in another such area, because it is a Swedish film. If you’re a person who has never watched a movie that was made in a language besides English, then let me take this opportunity to tell you that you are missing out on huge quantities of truly incredible cinema. A case-in-point of what you’re missing out on (and a great place to start, if that unfortunately describes you) is the Swedish horror-drama Let the Right One In. And for a spoiler-free account of why you should make it a priority to check this film out, read on.

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[Film: Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson, 2008]
Bloody, Brilliant:

Let the Right One In is a Touching Tale Full of Cold, Macabre Murders

was last modified: October 22nd, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Brazil, Terry Gilliam, 1985]
1984 with a Sense of Humor:

The Surreal, Wonderful, and Haunting Humor of Terry Gilliam’s Absurdist Masterpiece, Brazil

 

Terry Gilliam Sketch by M.R.P. - Brazil - absurd dystopia satire

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

The holiday season has come to a close, and everyone is back at the office. What better time to talk about Terry Gilliam’s masterful critique of bureaucracy run amok in his 1985 film Brazil? Coincidentally, the satirical events in Brazil take place during the holiday season as well, but the buffoonish consumer society of Brazil‘s universe continue their holiday shopping and eating with bombs going off in the same room.

It is no surprise to me that this movie makes use of tropes from absurdist drama, such as exaggeratedly out-of-order priorities and juxtapositions of high culture and low culture (or refinement and violence), as Terry Gilliam and his erstwhile co-writer Charles McKeown collaborated on Brazil‘s screenplay with renowned absurdist playwright Tom Stoppard (who you may know as the writer of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and co-writer of Shakespeare in Love). Indeed, the entire movie dances with dark comedy as it finds joy in showing us tragic and despicable horrors straight out of Orwell’s 1984, and I find joy right along with it.

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[Film: Brazil, Terry Gilliam, 1985]
1984 with a Sense of Humor:

The Surreal, Wonderful, and Haunting Humor of Terry Gilliam’s Absurdist Masterpiece, Brazil

was last modified: October 3rd, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Stand by Me, Rob Reiner, 1986]
Unromantic Nostalgia:

The Fantastic Rendering of Childhood in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me

 

Introduction:

Stand by Me movie posterIt’s time once again for a movie recommendation, and what better film to recommend for the holiday season than a sensitive coming-of-age story about four childhood friends seeking a corpse? The film in question is Stand by Me, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell as young friends Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern, respectively.

Stand by Me is undoubtedly one of the disproportionately few truly great films in the staggeringly immense catalogue of movies based on the writing of Stephen King. It is a grounded and realistic story of a weird-yet-simple adventure. Yet the impressiveness of its achievement is not its success as a King adaptation; the impressiveness of its achievement is its success as a movie about childhood. For every piece of writing King has penned and seen turned terrible on the big screen, there are at least five failed attempts to capture the experience of childhood, which is Stand by Me‘s greatest strength.

As tempting as it is to dissect what makes this movie great in minute detail, I intend to instead keep this one spoiler-free in the hopes that any and all interested parties will find a way to watch it. Instead, I want to talk about what sets this movie apart from all those other attempts to capture childhood.

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[Film: Stand by Me, Rob Reiner, 1986]
Unromantic Nostalgia:

The Fantastic Rendering of Childhood in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me

was last modified: October 22nd, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski