Monday, March 19, 2007

Zizek A Calvinist?

Slavoj Zizek on top form - at Calvin College of all places! Here, he presents a masterful weaving of opposing theological and philosophical ideas with his trademark humour, vulgarity and clarity. Everything's covered, including how German toilets relate to German political beliefs, the structure of enjoyment behind sex orgies, the Book Of Job, Judith Butler, Britney Spears, love, global warming, the horror of tolerance and multiculturalism and the disgust of swallowing your own spit.

This is an absolute must see. Comes in 12 parts:

Why Only An Atheist Can Believe

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Banality of Freedom

The first part of Adam Curtis' much anticipated documentary series, 'The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom', just started screening on the BBC. Here's the summary from an excellent review in the Guardian:

"The central tenet of the argument is that during the cold war an understanding of human nature as suspicious, distrustful and always operating out of self-interest came to dominate political thinking. From that emerged a narrow definition of freedom as "giving people the ability to get whatever they wanted". This kind of freedom has become the central political idea of the past 25 years, but it's a corrosive form of pessimism rooted in a bleak, simplistic view of human nature."

Curtis goes on to take a critical look at economic neoliberalism, cold war strategy and game theory, as developed by John Nash and the Rand Institute, and details their role in fostering a 'banality of freedom' in our inward and individualistic society today. The Guardian says it could be Curtis' most important documentary yet but I'll withhold comment until after it's screened in Australia. In the meantime, you might want to send an email to SBS urging them to show it (

For those who have no idea who Adam Curtis is, here's a little bit of background: A professor of politics at Oxford, Curtis left to begin a career in television at the BBC after becoming tired with the isolation of university life. From there, he went on to make several fascinating documentaries that garnered him high praise and a reputation for exploring the effects of ideas on our contemporary social and political outlooks. He is perhaps best known for the 2004 controversial series, 'The Power Of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear', which argued that US neoconservatives exaggerated the terrorist threat to justify the 'war on terror'. But his best work is undoubtedly 'A Century of Self'. Using masses of archival footage and interviews, 'Century' reveals how Freud's theories of the unconscious were used to manipulate the masses in an age of democracy. As the program develops and the forms of manipulation change, we realise the full extent as to which our desire for self-expression has been commodified by corporations and politicians alike. Without pretention, it is the most mind blowing and important documentary you can watch. The series is free to download here.


A good interview with Curtis re: The Trap from the Guardian.

And TimesOnline has a piece

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

20 Most Anticipated Films of 2007

1. Inland Empire (David Lynch)
June 21

David Lynch's first film since 2002's Mulholland Drive has gathered a mixed bag of reviews (some fantastic, others bored, most confused) but Lynch's extraordinary sensitivity and artistic genius automatically make this a must see film. With Lynch you can be assured of a cinematic experience unlike anything you've ever seen and Empire looks to be no exception. Explaining the plot would be self-defeating but for those who still need some sort of narrative carrot, the film's poster provides a suitably abstract synopsis: "A Woman In Trouble". Judging from the truly disturbing trailer (see link above), this a film that will leave you shaking.

2. Grind House (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez)
May 10

Kicking off with Rodriguez's shlock zombie film Planet Terror and followed by Tarantino's stunt man slasher film Death Proof, Grindhouse is a two-for-one double bill that sounds like a wet dream for the two fanboy directors. But what's most cool about this is how Tarantino and Rodriquez are going all out to create that raw grindhouse experience. There's scratched and faded prints, hard core violence, shifting genres, and even missing reels where for 15 minutes the audience won't know what happened. On top of all that, the films are divided by faux exploitation trailers from Eli Roth and Rob Zombie. This promises to be one hell of a lotta fun.

3. No Country For Old Men (Coen Brothers)
August 2

I'm a huge fan of author Cormac McCarthy so when I heard my favourite filmmaking duo were set to adapt his latest novel I just about had kittens. The Coens are absolutely perfect for this. McCarthy's novel is a Tarantinoesque thriller about a hunter who comes across a drug deal gone wrong and decides to take the money for himself. On the run, he's chased by the FBI (Woody Harrelson), an ageing sherrif (Tommy Lee Jones) and a nihilistic badass assassin (Javier Bardem). McCarthy's dialogue is that quotable, turn-of-phrase wordplay that is vintage Coen, told within a minimalist but haunting existential atmosphere. If done right, this could be one of the best films from the brothers, as well as a magnificent return to form.

4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)
Release Date Unknown

It's taking a while to be released but the reviews that have slipped out have been fantastic. What's most interesting though is the term reviewers are using to describe the film - a "Terrence Malick Western". That's all this fanboy needs to feel weak at the knees! The film also has a reportedly superb performance from Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, James' most trusted friend who eventually betrayed him. It's Andrew Dominik's first film since Chopper and, from the reviews, it sounds like he's chosen to highlight atmosphere, tense silences and abstract imagery alongside a suspensful and tense plot. This could well be a masterpiece.

5. Zodiac (David Fincher)
May 17

Another film that has garnered terrific reviews. Fincher takes an incredibly dense, although stylistically restrained (for Fincher), look at the true story of the San Francisco 'Zodiac' serial killer. The story is told through the eyes of journalists, detectives and one man who became obsessed with solving the clues that the Zodiac spread. This was one of the most famous killers to use the mass media to hint at his identity so the film is just as concerned with symbols, spatial patterns and communication systems as it is with the killings. As a result, Zodiac is reportedly as relentless, obsessive and exhausting as the case it tells. Its superb cast features Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jnr and Chloe Sevigny. I can't wait.

6. Spiderman 3 (Sam Raimi)
May 3

I loved Spiderman 2 for its surprising emotional complexity so I trust Sam Raimi enough to fully deliver on this sequel. This new outing is said to feature three villains, two love interests, and two Spidermans! What more could you want!

7. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
March 29

Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, The Lives of Others has also fuelled great word of mouth. Set in former East Germany, it tells the story of a Stasi agent assigned to spy on a famous actress and her playwright lover, who may have Western leanings. The agent gradually becomes more and more fascinated with the man's life. The directing is supposed to be stunning and the story sounds like an intelligent and moving insight into the history of the GDR.

8. Pirates of the Carribean: At The World's End (Gore Verbinski)
May 24

The second one left audiences on such a cliffhanger I have no choice to make Pirates 3 a must see! Gore Verbinski can always be trusted to bring a welcome intelligence to action scenes and a visceral horror to the special effects. And then there's Jack. If it's as much fun as the last one, count me in.

9. Sunshine (Danny Boyle)
April 12

Danny Boyle's biggest film yet. Fifty years into the future, the Sun is dying and Earth is dying as a result. A team of astronauts is sent to revive the Sun - but the mission fails. Seven years later, a new team is sent to finish the mission. Could be great. Could also be another The Core.

10. Youth Without Youth (Francis Ford Coppola)
Release Date Unknown

Francis Ford Coppola's return to directing after ten years, Youth Without Youth is a passion piece based on the novella by intriguing writer and thinker Mircea Eliade. The story concerns an elderly academic in Nazi ruled Germany who goes on the run after a cataclysmic incident returns him to his youth. Newly endowed with prodigious powers of memory and comprehension, he finds himself face to face with the glory and terror of the supernatural. The film stars Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz and Alexandra Maria Lara. A recent test screening was attended by Spielberg, Scorsese and Lucas among other celebrities. The awestruck response - it was a visionary film but "very very difficult". This could well be Coppola's long delayed return to form. Let's hope so.

The Rest

11. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow)
July 5
Word of mouth on this film about a first date that results in a pregnancy is fantastic. Seems like it'll combine hilarity with intelligent sentimentality similar to Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin. Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan are apparently at the top of their comedic game.

12. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan)
Featuring Anna Paquin as a 17 year old high school student who is convinced she is partly responsible for a tragic accident she witnessed. While trying to set things right, she finds her youthful ideals coming up against a compromised adult world. Kenneth Lonergan's films (You Can Count On Me) are truly heart wrenching but never melodramatic and his latest promises more of his subtlety, compassion and light humour. Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick and Matt Damon also star.

13. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes)
The famous Bob Dylan biopic with Dylan portrayed by numerous actors (and actresses) such as Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale and Ben Whishaw.

14. Snow Angels (David Gordon Green)
Poetic and Malick-like romantic drama starring Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale. Looks beautiful.

15. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)
A coming of age story set in the skateboarding community. Van Sant's powerfully affecting 'Death Trilogy' (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days) make his next film one to watch out for.

16. Across The Universe (Julie Taymor)
A combination of live action and painted, three-dimensional animation, Across The Universe is a love story told during the anti-war period of the 60s. The film is paired with many Beatles songs that defined the time. Looks and sounds beautiful.

17. My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar Wai)
Wong Kar Wai's first American film with Norah Jones in the main role. Also starring Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman, the film is a "soul-searching journey across America to resolve questions about love". I'm not a huge fan of Wong Kar Wai but his original visual style is reason enough to have this film on the list.

18. Away From Her (Sarah Polley)
The beautiful Sarah Polley with her directorial debut about an old couple coping with the wife's Alzheimer's disease. The reviews tell of an extraordinarily moving and mature film. Based on a short story by Alice Munro. Starring Julie Christie.

19. Margot At The Wedding (Noah Baumbach)
Expect more unflinchingly honest familial observations and humour in Noah Baumbach's next film after his critically praised The Squid And The Whale.

20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (David Yates)
July 12
Helena Bonham Carter is the latest British actress to join the Harry Potter series. Here's hoping for an even darker spin on the tale.


Live Free or Die Hard (Len Wiseman)
July 5
Die Hard 4... It's been too long since a genuine tough guy action film graced our screens. Who better to take us there than John McClane? Although this time the bad guy is an "Internet-terrorist organisation". Whaa... Also starring Timothy Olyphant.

Southland Tales (Richard Kelly)
Following its disastrous screening in Cannes last year, Richard Kelly's sophomore effort seems to have crawled under a rock before it's even been released. As a fan of the cult film Donnie Darko, I'd like to say I have faith in Southland Tales, set in a futuristic LA on the brink of disaster, but then I saw the travesty that was Donnie Darko: Director's Cut... Starring The Rock, Stifler and Mandy Moore.




Release Date Unknown

"The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters is an action-adventure epic that tackles the mysterious circumstances that brought Meatwad, Frylock and Master Shake together. An immortal piece of exercise equipment threatens the balance of galactic peace, and it is up to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force to run away from it. Complicating matters, the Plutonians team up with the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past for ultimate control of the deadly device."