The Sound of the Devil: Talking with Nicolas Winding Refn

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When I called Mr. Refn this morning, he was dropping his kids off at school. It’s hard to imagine the Danish auteur behind hyper-violent operas like Bronson, Drive, and Only God Forgives as Daddy, there’s a certain kind of pleasant meekness about him which is every so often imbued in his films and, even more, his soundtracks. That kind of vulnerability is also present in the documentary his wife, Liv Corfixen, made My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, where we get to see the director at a point of vulnerability that is, as the title suggested, only a window that Ms. Corfixen really gets to observe.

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Ghost in the Shell: Sam Mendes’ “SPECTRE”

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Bond: Everyone needs a hobby…

Silva: So, what’s yours?

Bond: Resurrection.

Skyfall (2012)


The dead are alive.

SPECTRE (2015)


You only live twice;

Once when you are born

and once when you look Death in the face.

– Ian Fleming, after Basho.

The ideological purpose  of the last three James Bond films have lingered like the smoke trail from a freshly fired gun, and traveling in reverse, it’s only then that the intangible line becomes more solid. Sam Mendes’ SPECTRE is that bullet, firmly establishing that the Daniel Craig Cycle is, and always has been, about James Bond not only as character, but as icon. For Craig’s tenure as 007, it’s not merely about rewriting an imaginary canon, but deconstructing James Bond the cultural institution and construct as a whole.

SPECTRE gives you two directions, neither necessarily mutually exclusive: either Craig’s Bond films are about the emotional arc he travels, or it’s about the relevance of bothering to construct an emotional arc for him in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

You Were Expecting Something Else?: Re-ranking the Bond Themes

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Quantum-of-Solace-1640As I intimated back in 2012, “The Bond Sound” as we know it is mostly a cultural construct that was borne more out of John Barry’s orchestrations from the 1960s than much else to do with the theme songs in and of themselves. But, another few years and another couple of Bond tracks later, and I guess I should regroup and rerank them all, because that’s what you do when a new thing comes out, right? Listicles, man, listicles. My grading criteria shifts from son to song because I was rejected from SPECTRE membership, but it’s on two levels of consideration: a) is this a good song? And b) is this a good song for the Bond films? Because this is what you do when you have a lot of time on your hands. Read the rest of this entry »

Jason Lives: Stephen Winter’s “Jason and Shirley”

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jason and shirleyWhat can I say? The relationship between the viewer and Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason, between Jason and Shirley themselves – and, in turn, what they may or maynot represent – is of the sadomasochistic sort. Pauline Kael called the film “naïve and sadistic”. The latter is true, but sadistic to whom? And masochistic for whom? That’s part of the great game, the urgent imperative of Stephen Winter’s Jason and Shirley. Read the rest of this entry »

“Magic Mike”: The Bible for Masc Bros

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magic-mikeListen up, bros! Grab your red solo cups, your ex-girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s hockey jerseys, and your beer funnels: I’m here to tell you it’s okay to like Magic Mike. It is totally okay to appreciate another bro’s body. As a matter of fact, I do it all the time. In the shower, at the gym, at the gas station bathroom, it is totally okay to be bro-appreciative of another bro’s body. And I think Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike celebrates that masc ideal. Read the rest of this entry »

Suffer the Little Children: Sebastian Silva’s “Nasty Baby”

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nasty-baby_convertedWritten on the surface of Sebastian Silva’s Nasty Baby is a bunch of tenuously cohesive themes and ideas – the fear of fatherhood, the adolescence of adulthood, the struggles of being an artist, gentrification – that are smudged around with red ink thrown on them for good measure to a point where those things are barely discernible at all. To some degree, there’s an admiration to be had for its audacity inasmuch as a drastic tonal shift, but its main selling point and shock value feels rather unearned at the end of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

The Big, Bad Wolf: “Creep” and Gay Panic as Horror 

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 Josef (Mark Duplass) has a penchant for scaring people. With love. It’s kind of an eye roll worthy thing, actually. On the behest of his invitation, Aaron (director Patrick Brice) brings him camera, under the assumption he’ll be filming Josef’s time capsule video for his as yet unborn son Buddy. And, as always when following up with a Craigslist ad, there’s something off. Josef is weird. Josef is odd. With his overbearing saccharine personality that often manifests in inappropriate hugs, lack of awareness of others’ personal space, and explicit outpourings of affection, Josef is kind of a creep. Maybe more implicitly, a straight guy’s nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »