Vague Visages Writers' Room

Vague Visages Writers’ Room: Weekend Vibes 5.4.18

Weekend Vibes is a Friday column about streaming recommendations, new release hype and entertainment events. 

Colin Biggs (@wordsbycbiggs)

Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, based on an unfinished Stanley Kubrick project, received a wide array of reactions when it was first released. Some thought that the “happy ending” was a cop-out, but I’d advise those who dismiss A.I. to revisit the film. The narrative revolves around the odyssey of an android child (Haley Joel Osment) that was abandoned by his owners-parents, which hardly resembles the type of feel-good blockbusters that Spielberg is known for making. The Flesh Fair sequence, in particular, was a recurring nightmare of mine for years. A.I. represented a signal to Spielberg’s detractors that he wasn’t just about the wonderment of cinema — he could also shock and horrify moviegoers. That darkness had been seen before in The Color Purple and Schindler’s List, but sneaking such a bleak worldview into a $100 million blockbuster was a new move for Spielberg. Parental abandonment is a regular motif in his work, but it hadn’t been as potent as when David is forced to reconcile his inhumanity with his genuine want of love. “Why do you want to leave me? Why? I’m sorry I’m not real. If you let me, I’ll be so real for you!” Osment’s soulful performance — beyond his years in terms of maturity — is maybe one of the best offered in a Spielberg film. Meanwhile, A.I. is garnering a critical reevaluation that posits it as one of the Beard’s best. You would be remiss to not jump at the chance to see it again and judge for yourself.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence is now available on Amazon Prime.

Walter Neto (@wfcneto)

Hirokazu Koreeda, one of the most prolific voices of Japanese contemporary cinema, has been using his films to not only depict Japanese society, but to analyze it in all its complexity. The clash between the young and old; the interactions between friends and coworkers; tradition and modernity; how the government fails to provide a functional healthcare system and public education — all of that has already been examined by the director. Now the Japanese maestro turns his lenses to Japan’s justice system with The Third Murder, a courtroom drama about a man (Kôji Yakusho) convicted of murder who then confesses to a new crime. But there’s something wrong with his story; something feels odd. So, even after the confession, the murderer’s lawyer, played by Masaharu Fukuyama, cannot simply accept his client’s fate and tries to figure out what really happened.

Koreeda is less interested in filming a regular courtroom drama and more intent on showing how the crime and subsequent judgments affect the lives of those involved with the case. It’s a different style for the director but still a fantastic piece of filmmaking.

Stefen Styrsky (@stefen_styrsky)

When asked if he followed the Stanislavsky Method, Robert Mitchum — the famously languorous and heavy-lidded actor — once quipped, “I follow the Smirnoff method.” His semi-catatonic style will be on full display for the next two months during the now-running “Robert Mitchum Retrospective” at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre right outside Washington D.C. in Silver Spring, Maryland. This Saturday features the 1948 western Blood on the Moon, a film that positively drips with film noir atmospherics and double crosses, courtesy of director Robert Wise and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca Then on Sunday, it’s The Big Steal (1949), a quick and taut genuine noir from director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry). Mitchum plays army man Duke Halliday, who is forced to chase a fellow soldier that has stolen the base’s payroll and framed Halliday for the heist. The movie reunites Mitchum with Jane Greer, his co-star from the seminal film noir Out of the Past. (The Big Steal was also Mitchum’s first movie after his arrest for marijuana possession a year earlier.) Through June, you can also catch Mitchum’s defining performances in The Lusty Men, Cape Fear and three late career triumphs: The Yakuza, Farewell, My Lovely and The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

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