I recently attended the Festival Cinema Invisible, now in its third year, which features an array of new Iranian films, all of varying length. What struck me was the generally high quality of many-- but not all-- of the films, not to mention the universality of their subjects.
World War II may have ended in the mid-1940s. The concentration camps were liberated and those who survived the horrors of the era were supposed to get on with their lives. But for many, the war never really concluded. The brutality of the time and the decisions made by individuals of all backgrounds reverberated through their souls, in many cases for the rest of their lives.
These days, more than ever before, baseball-- otherwise known as America's Pastime-- is a truly international sport. According to the Associated Press, 28.1 per cent of current major leaguers were born outside the United States. They hail from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan, South Korea, Australia... And the potential for finding big league talent outside the U.S. is examined in MILLION DOLLAR ARM, the story of a sports agent, played by Jon Hamm, who heads off to India in search of players who just might become the next fireballing big league hurlers.
Two current films, both of which are dramatically flawed, still are well-worth seeing for two reasons: They feature superb performances by their leading players; and they offer insightful depictions of the plights of women during earlier ages. These women may have completely different backgrounds, but their gender-- and how they are perceived within the world they inhabit-- are central to their stories.
With the release of GODZILLA, the latest of countless mega-budgeted, special effects-laden blockbusters that seem to be dominating movie theaters these days, the original screen version of the story is well-worth recalling. This GODZILLA, of course, was wildly successful in its day. It was produced in Japan and released in 1954, and baby boomers may recall that the U.S. edition included added footage featuring a pre-PERRY MASON Raymond Burr. The full title of this version is GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, and the monster in question is a giant, apparently unstoppable fire-breathing lizard who, like so many 1950s sci-fi movie creatures, was the byproduct of nuclear weapons testing run amok.
As of the second week in May, the top four moneymaking films released theatrically in the U.S. in 2014 were THE LEGO MOVIE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, and DIVERGENT. All are big-budget extravaganzas that are fashioned to attract a desired demographic: young people, from grade schoolers to twenty-and-thirtysomethings.
One of the "criticisms," if you will, of the Oscar-winning 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the manner in which the physical abuse of slaves is presented onscreen. In 12 YEARS A SLAVE, the brutality is graphic and in-your-face, which is the style of its director, Steve McQueen. And the question that viewers might have after seeing 12 YEARS A SLAVE is: To emphasize the horror and degradation of slavery, is it necessary to include imagery that is so painful to watch?
These days, Brooklyn is a hot commodity on the American cultural scene. Plenty of films and TV shows not only are set in the New York borough but feature the word "Brooklyn" in their titles. And this, surely, is a smart marketing ploy.
On the surface, two newly-released films are completely different, starting with the personalities and issues of their central characters. Beneath the surface, however, both films are linked in that they effectively deal with the theme of isolation in an impersonal world.