— What Makes Mad Men Great - Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Magazine
Look, there are a lot of things to love about living in Asia, and if this is what I’m choosing to complain about it probably means I’m a little spoiled and more than a little cheap.
That said - damn you, international paywall experiment. I need The Onion as surely as I need oxygen or NBA highlights.
Here’s the text from the screengrab in case it’s too small to read:
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Fantastic piece. Short version: make him go left.
The downside of the 3D re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace really only affects those who see it. Sure, release it in 2D, 3D, WD-40 (really sorry) and it’s still a train wreck that stole more than two hours from me and millions of others in the summer of 1999, and millions since. But aside from the psychological damage brought on by the reminder that it exists, no harm is being done aside from robbing a younger generation of a few bucks.
The upside is that there are few things more enjoyable than reading scorching reviews of a deserving target (Roger Ebert is the master of this; witness his decimation of North*), and the 3D release is bringing out the big knives.
Here’s a sampling, including a review republished to “celebrate” the 3D release:
I can accept that a project this large could sink under its own weight, and that its most pressing issues were too fundamental to the material to have been amended through simple suggestion. But how is it possible that of the hundreds of people materially and emotionally invested in the production of this project, nobody pointed out that maybe Jar-Jar stepping in shit did not belong in this movie?
The re-release of The Phantom Menace opens with that exhilarating blast of John Williams’s famous theme, the Star Wars title zooming off into the distance in 3-D before the familiar text crawl creeps across the starry backdrop, revealing the words we’ve all been longing to see back on the big screen:
"Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute."
Ah, yes. Rewatching this film (for me, the first time since it opened in theaters over a dozen years ago) really makes you admire the gutsiness of returning to one of the most beloved franchises of all time only to open with stalled galactic taxation negotiations.
Wired (1999 review, just republished)
Ewan McGregor (of Trainspotting fame) is extraordinary, but almost every other actor — including Natalie Portman, who stiffly plays Queen “Padmé Naberrie” Amidala — should consider enrolling in theater night school. Child actor Jake Lloyd proves a less-than-convincing “chosen one.”
We can hardly expect that Lloyd, an annoying twerp, will be “the one to bring peace and balance to the Force.”
*Best part of Ebert’s North piece, which actually led to the title of a collection of his most brutal reviews:
I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
Living in Singapore, I catch a lot of movies - even the ones I’m dying to see - later than I’d like. Drive, released months ago but just now available on iTunes, is a case in point.
Two quick thoughts on one of my favorite movies of 2011:
1. I’m not that familiar with the work of director Nicolas Winding Refn, but I’m guessing - and it really is a guess - that he’s a Michael Mann fan.
Los Angeles as a character unto itself, a hazy, dreamlike world with a seedy underbelly. Morally conflicted criminals who live and die by masculine codes. Synth-heavy compositions overlaying nearly wordless action. It’s all there in Drive - but also in Collateral and, for my money Mann’s best film, Heat.
Many examples, but here’s one: seeing Ryan Gosling’s unnamed getaway driver weaving his way through LA freeways brought to mind Al Pacino’s Lieutenant Hanna pursuing Robert DeNiro’s Neil McCauley with a police helicopter overhead, finally pulling McCauley over and inviting him to a historic cup of coffee (the first scene ever shared by these two actors). From the adrenalized soundtrack to the driver POV shots to the sense that the car we’re in is the coolest place in LA at that moment, these scenes share a lot.
The key to Drive’s power, however, is the feel of homage done right, evocative yet distinct. I’ll remember it both for what it reminded me of and for what set it completely apart, and viewers will no doubt be reminded of Drive when they see a certain kind of movie for years to come.
2. The entire cast is fantastic, from an underplaying Gosling to the great Bryan Cranston to a barely recognizable Christina Hendricks. But spare a thought for Albert Brooks, who got absolutely rooked by the Academy.
Brooks reminded me of Bill Murray here. No, Murray hasn’t played any brutal killers lately. But both are legendary comic actors who reveal in their more serious, later career roles the world weariness, the borderline depression, that has always driven their comedy. They have a depth of character that’s hard earned and nearly impossible to fake.
How many Oscars have been given out as glorified career achievement awards? How can you not throw a nomination Brooks’ way for that alone? (Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch Lost in America sometime.)
No show does POV shots quite like Breaking Bad. Here they are in a single video.
Season 5 can’t come soon enough.
Quality control at The Onion must be slipping. Someone there accidentally posted this story to the Wall Street Journal site.