As tempting as it is to label Cowboys & Aliens a genre mashup, that path leads to confusion – which goes some ways to explaining the mixed reviews and box office performance. Viewed as a seemingly irresolvable chimera, reactions to the film are akin to the befuddlement that the Saturday Night Live’s “It’s Pat!” sketches exploited for laughs, only with less amusement and interpretive acuity. For reference, consider Firefly, a bona fide mashup of two genres that the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tim Goodman, in his review of the cult TV series, described as “alarmingly opposite.” Here we were presented with an aesthetic that jammed together Western and sci-fi tropes, leading to scenes that played out as Westerns with ray-guns and hovering vehicles. Whedon’s blending of visual vocabularies from two strongly defined genres yielded results akin to the Spanglish that comes from the meld of Spanish and English. It worked, albeit very creakily, but the show’s appeal ultimately emerged from the strong storytelling and compelling character archetypes drawn from Western rather than Science Fiction sensibilities.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – While the press salivates about the box office achievement of the last film in the Harry Potter series, it’s worth noting that, financial success aside, it also represents a victory for cinematic storytelling.
The Hollywood blockbuster has always been vulnerable to film’s version of shock-and-awe: Too much is never enough. After their previous entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the entertaining but ultimately exhausting and overstuffed At World’s End, screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot (and other filmmakers) take mercy on our senses and return to the focused storytelling of the film that started it all, The Curse of Black Pearl.
For nine years, New York and other cities around the world have played host to a scrappy DIY bacchanalia dedicated to drinking up, as the official website puts it, “Art in every aspect of Life.” Still young and independent enough to be considered underground, unlike other DIY-fests that have since sold out, the Drop Dead Festival (DDF) has become an international showcase of iconoclastic musicians and artists from a scene that might loosely fit under the umbrella of goth/death rock/punk if its members didn’t often achieve a more singular, category-defying individuality.
The Western today, like a lone tumbleweed, has the tendency of blowing into the movie-going public’s awareness, provoking a few comments for the sheer novelty of it, then blowing right on out in a return to the fringes of unfashionable genre movies.
Aranofsky’s work, whose manipulations effortlessly and elegantly blur the line between reality and disturbed psyche to create escalating suspense and fascination, again proves him to be the singular kind of director whose vision is capable of overcoming skepticism over the film’s subject matter.
A film like The Illusionist – not to be confused with the 2006 live-action feature starring Edward Norton – presents a challenge in connecting with audiences. Its nostalgia, emblematic of the past giving way to the future, is rooted in yet another staging of vaudeville’s death.
Released in 1982, the original Tron movie has — until geek became chic and, more importantly, profitable — been the sort of quasi-obscure cult item dismissed as video game juvenilia with the same wave of the hand now reserved for comic book movies not directed by Christopher Nolan.
Label a movie “feel-good” and “triumphant,” and you’re liable to conjure visions of a hard-luck sports team elevated by tough-love ministrations or cute animals in danger who win the day through sheer pluck.
To the list of up-and-coming directors with a keen understanding of what makes science fiction such a scintillating canvas for thoughtful speculation — a list that includes Duncan Jones (Moon) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) — one can now add, with some reservation, the name of Gareth Edwards.