Amoeblog

My 11 Favorite Films of 2013 (in no particular order): 2. The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

Posted by Charles Reece, January 21, 2014 08:21am | Post a Comment
pervert's guide to ideology poster
The Pervert's Guide to Ideology - Sophie Fiennes (director), Slavoj Zizek (writer)

... and speaking of Zizek, here's more of we got in his and Fiennes' previous collaboration, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. But what could be more entertaining for people who prefer thinking about film (or people) to the object itself than a film about a guy with the same preference? A major feature of criticism is drawing or creating connections between things -- that is, analogical mapping, by which we acquire some insight into the target domain by comparing it to a more familiar source domain. For example, the focused horror at the shark in Jaws shows the way the genocidal grouping of the Jews functioned for the Nazis: all other problems fall aside when there's the immediate danger of Ja(e)ws. My favorite bit from The Pervert's Guide to Ideology is how he reveals the operation of the titular subject itself in the lyrics of "Offcier Krupke" from West Side Story. The gang is perfectly aware of all the liberal social excuses for their delinquency, but continue to act as if determined by impoverished social constraints. Ideology operates as long as we act as if its in control, regardless of our true belief. Relating the song to the explanations given for the recent London riots, he says we are always responsible for how we subjectivize our objective conditions (which is hardly a typical comment heard from leftists). Criticism is just as much an art as what it critiques. It's also just as creative -- often more so in Zizek's case. He's a master cartographer, who's remapped the psychogeography of our pop cultural terrain. 

My 11 Favorite Films of 2013 (in no particular order): 1. The Unknown Known

Posted by Charles Reece, January 20, 2014 07:24am | Post a Comment
the unknown known poster
The Unknown Known - Errol Morris (director)

The title of Errol Morris' latest comes from the one conjoining of terms our former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield, didn't make in his infamous Heideggerian sounding memo: "There are known knowns, the things we know we know. There are known unknowns, the things we know we don’t know. There are also that third category of unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know we don’t know. And you can only know more about those things by imagining what they might be." If you do a web search on "heidegger, rumsfield, unknown known," it'll bring up -- hardly surprisingly -- essays by Slavoj Zizek, one of which is here. As he suggests, the unknown known is what philosophers investigate, those underlying features of our reality which make our navigation of said reality possible, but aren't so readily apparent while we're moving through our lived world.

I performed that search because The Unknown Known reminded me of what Heidegger called tool-being. Normally, when we're using a hammer, we're not really thinking about the hammer as an object with all it's potential objective qualities, but instead as a function of what it's doing for us -- say, hammering a nail or skull. That's what Heidegger called "ready-to-hand." It's only when the tool breaks and no longer functions in its ready-to-hand capacity that we begin to contemplate it as a "present-at-hand," as an object separated from it's predominant instrumental human use. That's where philosophical reflection comes in, and we begin to understand just how ontologically opaque something as seemingly simple as the hammer is. So much of the object recedes from our grasp when we're merely using it for something. That, in a nutshell, is what Morris is doing with the silver-tongued Rumsfield, who conceals more than he reveals. The man had no need of thinking about his bureaucracy's unknown known until Al Qaeda broke it ... or revealed it be broken. Not being a philosopher, he chose to dismiss 9-11 event as an unknown unknown (contrary to the evidence). That act of repression led to the Iraq War, after which we all had to contemplate the unknown knowns, the present-at-hand, of the Bush administration.

11 Best Films of 2012 as Chosen by Me

Posted by Charles Reece, March 24, 2013 10:16pm | Post a Comment
I'm real late with this list, so I decided to just put it up sans commentary. In no particular order:

killer joe poster
Killer Joe - William Friedkin

something in the air poster
Something in the Air - Olivier Assayas

damsels in distress poster
Damsels in Distress - Whit Stillman

the hobbit poster
The Hobbit - Peter Jackson

sound of my voice poster
Sound of My Voice - Zal Batmanglij

holy motors poster
Holy Motors - Leos Carax

killing them softly
Killing Them Softly - Andrew Dominik

project x poster
Project X - Nima Nourizadeh

lincoln poster
Lincoln - Steven Spielberg

One of my favorite films from 2012: Lincoln

Posted by Charles Reece, January 20, 2013 10:16pm | Post a Comment
lincoln poster

Intellectual critics tend to hate Steven Spielberg's films, and Lincoln is no exception. The nastiest laceration I've come across is from one of my favorite social critics, Thomas Frank


Spielberg & Co. have gone out of their way to vindicate political corruption. They have associated it with the noblest possible cause; they have made it seem like harmless high jinks for fun-loving frat boys; they have depicted reformers as ideological killjoys who must renounce their beliefs in order to succeed. This is, in short, what Lincoln is about.

It is true that the film dramatizes Lincoln's greatest achievement by showing the less than pure, even immoral, underbelly of the politics involved: the cajoling, lying, shaming, threatening and bribery. In doing so, it also argues that a radical "killjoy" like Thaddeus Stevens has to publicly repress his own views in order to get things done -- in this case, passing the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery. (Imagine radical voices not being heard in this country! Hard to believe.) Frank condemns the film for what it doesn't show: those times when such morally compromised methods lead to or support political corruption. But he never really gets around to the fundamental point here: politics is always compromised, even when on the side of angels. And contrary to his take, the film does make distinctions in compromise: Lincoln goes beyond the law with the intention of freeing the slaves (who are legally enslaved), but doesn't compromise with the Confederates in order to end the war when it wouldn't serve his (very moral) goal of changing the law. And, more importantly, the film shows us what's needed when democratic compromise breaks down. Adam Smith argued that slavery could be more easily ended under a "despotic" rather than "free government" when it was the "freedom of the free" that was "the cause of the great oppression of the slaves," that is, when "every law is made by their masters, who will never pass any thing prejudicial to themselves." [quoted in Liberalism: A Counter-History, p. 6, by Domenico Losurdo] Sure enough, it was extra-legal measures that vanquished slavery: a war and Lincoln's temporary dictatorship (e.g., his suspension of habeas corpus). For this, his critics called him a despot. They weren't entirely wrong, but he proved to be the kind of despot we needed. We haven't really had Abe the Dictator presented to us in the movies, for which I found the film -- whatever creative license Tony Kushner took with the script -- refreshingly honest.

Best 11 Films of 2011

Posted by Charles Reece, January 8, 2012 11:25pm | Post a Comment
Last year wasn't too good for movies, but it was great for scores. I can't remember a year where I listened and re-listened to so much music from films: Cliff Martinez electronic-based Drive, Contagion and The Lincoln Lawyer; Alexandre Desplat's The Tree of Life and The Ides of March; Alberto Iglesias' The Skin I Live In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy;  and, probably my favorite of the year, The Chemical Brothers' Hanna (much better than Daft Punk's overrated TRON: Legacy). I'll be surprised if any but Desplat gets nominated for an Oscar, though. Another likely Oscar candidate is Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor's The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, which I really liked, but haven't yet had a chance to listen to it independently of the film. And Jeremy Schmidt's analog sound designs for Beyond the Black Rainbow are amazing (somewhere in the territory of Wendy Carlos' The Shining), but I'm not quite sure what's diegetic and extra-diegetic until an album is released.

As for my list of best films: most of these I enjoyed some parts of, while not exactly the whole. I'd say the overall best of the bunch are Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Meek's Cutoff and Super, but my favorite sequences of the year came from Hanna, Drive and Beyond the Black Rainbow.

13 assassins poster kevin graham poster
13 Assassins - Takashi Miike

I never seem to tire of action films questioning when it's appropriate or moral to use violence. As I previously discussed, 13 Assassins does a good job of critiquing the aestheticization of violence while aestheticizing the violence. 

Continue reading...
<<  1  2  >>  NEXT