Jonathan Poritsky

Review: Beowulf

Don’t be an idiot. Go see Beowulf. See it on the biggest flip­pin’ 3D screen you can find. For those of you for­tu­nate enough to live in the cen­ter of the uni­verse, that means the Lowes IMAX at 68th and Broadway.

You have to see this move in the the­ater. It’s that simple.

Robert Zemeckis, a grad­u­ate of the Steven Spielberg School of Showmanship, has put together a rather entic­ing rea­son NOT to wait for the DVD. In the end, that’s all that this film amounts to, but still, that’s quite a feat. It has the thrills for both the action/fantasy fan and the cinéaste try­ing to fol­low mod­ern pro­gres­sions in film­mak­ing. This is the film of the future, but we’re not quite there yet. The tech­nol­ogy is in its infancy, and it is excit­ing to see the pos­si­bil­i­ties of it, even if the intended effect falls flat on its face right now.

As for story, writ­ers Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman have put together a solid, if fool­ish, script. They’re a good match: Mr. Gaiman being a mod­ern rep­re­sen­ta­tive of fan­tasy intel­lec­tu­al­ism, him­self turn­ing into the 21st Century J.R.R. Tolkien; and Mr. Avary hav­ing become Hollywood’s goto man for pulpy comic-booky sto­ries, specif­i­cally in the realm of video game adap­ta­tions. The nar­ra­tive is tight enough, and the tone matches with car­toon­ish form of the film rather nicely. In another director’s hands, per­haps pure gold could have been spun out. Read on…

Review: No Country For Old Men

In crit­i­cal cir­cles it is often men­tioned that for­eign­ers often have the best per­spec­tive to make films about American life and his­tory. This argu­ment will cite Polanski’s Chinatown; Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Wenders’s Paris, Texas; and count­less oth­ers as proof of the notion that American-ness is some­thing best con­sid­ered from afar. However, there are two boys from Minneapolis who throw a lit­tle kink into that tried and true theory.

With No Country For Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen have fur­ther devel­oped their tire­less effort to under­stand what it is to be a cit­i­zen of this qcoun­try and, duly, of the world. In the most basic sense, the film is about chas­ing the American dream, rep­re­sented here, as a bag full of money. There are three men going after a piece of the pie: the every­man, the law­man, and the (not so) dark other. How about we rewind and do that again with more semi-colons: Llewelyn Moss, played with indomitable tim­bre by Josh Brolin; Ed Tom Bell, the once-and-future nar­ra­tor offered up by Tommy Lee Jones and the deep pock­ets beneath his weary eyes; and Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, who will get his own para­graph should you care to read on. Read on…

Best Slogans and Blogsplosion!

While try­ing to gather my thoughts on No Country For Old Men, I couldn’t help but update myself on the lat­est and great­est from the WGA strike. A quick googling will find a num­ber of crit­ics, Jamie Lee Curtis chief among them, who are unim­pressed by the writ­ers’ slo­gans on the picket line. Well, I have cer­tainly found the best one out there, as well as a few oth­ers that are enjoy­able. No sur­prise the win­ner came from the WGAe. Drumroll please:

The Winter of our DISSED CONTENT

(It’s noth­ing against those LA writ­ers, but I am yet to notice Shakespearean puns com­ing from their throngs of rallyers)

Some other decent fare:

Don’t Write Til it’s Right

More Money, More Funny

I Wrote This (I promise it seems more clever scrawled on posterboard)

Nick Counter Hates Puppies and Babies

Ellen Is No Friend of Mine, Because She Crossed My Picket Line

BLOGSPLOSION!!!

Also for your view­ing pleasure…The WGA strike rules are incred­i­bly strict for both mem­bers and non-members. But hey, writ­ing is just one of those things you can do by acci­dent some­times, and writ­ers don’t know what to do with all this free time. So they have turned to about the only for­mat they can work on, the inter­net. Writers are offer­ing up some pretty great blogs, for both news and get­ting some jokes off their chest. Get it while it’s hot folks.

United Hollywood
Late Show Writers On Strike
Scribe Vibe @ Variety

Each of those sites will lead to a ton of other writer-centric blogs. Also check out a new blog devoted to the real vic­tims of the strike, non-union film and tv employ­ees whose jobs are either in jeop­ardy or have already got­ten the axe. Hopefully we can all stay off that list.

Get Back In That Room

It’s a sen­si­tive time, but hilar­ity will get us through it much eas­ier. Below, an hilar­i­ous video that shows how des­per­ate the writ­ers are to get some of that cre­ativ­ity out. Watch closely for the best picket sign around.

Review: Michael Clayton

“I am Shiva, the god of death.”

Michael Clayton is imme­di­ately rec­og­niz­able as a film made by a writer. It is a per­fectly crafted nar­ra­tive, with all the beats and rever­sals hap­pen­ing in the right places. Each char­ac­ter is endowed with a panoply of quirks and rela­tion­ships which we learn at a pace that seems almost sci­en­tif­i­cally mea­sured and applied. It is a for­mu­laic thriller in every sense of the word, and it is all the bet­ter for it.

Tony Gilroy, the film’s first-time direc­tor, slipped into his new role at the top with ease. Having spent nearly his whole pro­fes­sional career as a scrib­bler, he seems to have approached the onus of his new role with two fist­fuls of both trep­i­da­tion and con­fi­dence. By sur­round­ing him­self with some of the most tal­ented peo­ple work­ing in Hollywood today, he man­aged to cre­ate a film that proves to be highly orig­i­nal, won­der­fully famil­iar, and down­right enter­tain­ing. Read on…

What is Animation, Zemeckis?

Outside, the writ­ers’ strike rages on. Going into its sec­ond day, it has now become clear that the bat­tle between the WGA and the AMPTP is unques­tion­ably an uphill one. And I can­not write about film with­out men­tion­ing it. But now that I’ve done that, let’s put our think­ing caps on.

As many of you may know, Robert Zemeckis has been on a mis­sion for most of his film career. A stu­dent of Spielberg’s (read P.T. Barnum’s) school of larger-than-life-cinema thought, Mr. Zemeckis has made a point of uti­liz­ing cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy in nearly all of his films. In this sense, among oth­ers, he has left a pro­lific foot­print in the annals of film history.

His Back to the Future series pushed our imag­i­na­tions to a new limit, while his Who Framed Roger Rabbit? changed the pos­si­bil­i­ties of live actors mixed with ani­mated char­ac­ters. (Remember that last film, it’ll be impor­tant shortly.) Toning down the kid in him, he earned an Oscar for his American opus, Forrest Gump, the first film to take advan­tage of the more real­is­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. When you sit and think about it, the scope of his con­tri­bu­tions is far-reaching. Read on…