Quotes of the Week: Critics on “Expendables 3” and “The Giver”

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm

“The Expendables 3” inspired a lot of geriatric-themed commentary.  Some of it was pretty funny (“a fraternity reunion with the brothers at Alpha Delta Viagra“, “Sylvester Stallone’s jobs program for expired action heroes“).  

The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert had a distinctive and hilarious millennial reference:

“The movie borrows so liberally from other action films that it starts to feel at times a bit like a BuzzFeed listicle.”

My favorite line of the week, though, was from my friend Mark Jenkins, in his review of “The Giver.”

“Jonas lives in a community, called ‘the community,’ that’s any high schooler’s vision of hell: It’s run by guidance counselors.”  

 

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Critics

Mark Jenkins on ‘Margin Call’ — Quoting Me

Posted on October 27, 2011 at 8:00 am

Many thanks to my friend Mark Jenkins for including me in his insightful piece for the Washington Post about the timeliness of the new movie, Margin Call.

As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue and expand, “Margin Call” might seem the right movie at the right time. The psychological drama, which observes roughly 24 hours at a crisis-rocked New York investment firm, is strongly evocative of the 2008 money-quake that shattered major banks and brokerages. But the movie, which opened Friday, may not be set in 2008.

“The actual film has absolutely no time-stamping,” cautions writer-director J.C. Chandor. “The company is unnamed. There are no dates. For me, it was really important that this could have taken place in 2004, in 2005, in 2003. … “Margin Call,” Minow says, “comes at a teachable moment. The Occupy Wall Street movement has reminded people that the perpetrators of the financial meltdown are still doing the same things.”

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Media Appearances

Michael Jackson: How Will He Be Remembered?

Posted on July 7, 2009 at 10:00 am

Michael Jackson was a complex and tragic figure. It seems that his memory is being splintered into a thousand shards. Always a showman and a shrewd manager of his brand, Jackson reputedly insisted that he be referred to on MTV as “The King of Pop,” and in today’s memorial, it is that part of his persona that will be saluted. But it is certain that we are in for an avalanche of sordid, inflammatory, and self-serving revelations from those around him.
I’ve seen two especially thoughtful commentaries that seem to me to be a counterweight to all of the fraught and overwrought media hysteria. The always-insightful Mark Jenkins wrote about the way the media has overplayed Jackson’s impact.

It’s been a long time since Michael Jackson penned a hit song, but he did write one last nationwide sensation: the script the mainstream media has followed since his death. Jackson, we’re told, was the “king of pop,” who had “the biggest selling album of all time,” and “broke MTV’s color line.” Every one of these dubious factoids was devised by Jackson or his agents.

And Stephen M. Weissman, the author of Chaplin: A Life, commented on Jackson’s fascination with Charlie Chaplin. The photo of Jackson dressed up as Chaplin is haunting.

Like Chaplin, Jackson also went on to literally become a world historical figure and iconically beloved to his worshipful fans and admirers. And, like Chaplin, Jackson eventually became enmeshed in scandals that nearly destroyed his career. And also like Chaplin, the nature of those scandals stemmed from their separate cases of arrested emotional development.

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Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Orr and Jenkins on ‘Slumdog Millionaire’

Posted on November 13, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Slumdog Millionaire” is a Dickensian story of orphans in India. The movie is not for everyone. It combines the most harrowing abuse, betrayal, and tragedy with a piercingly romantic fairy tale. It is the story of a young man who is accused of cheating when he wins “Who Wants to Be a Millionare?” because he has no education and lives in the slums. In flashbacks that reveal his whole life to that point we learn how he knew the answer to each question. The movie has one of the most transcendently romantic moments of the year and concludes with a rousing dance number under the closing credits.

Mark Jenkins has an illuminating interview with director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later,” “Millions”), putting this film in the context of favored Boyle themes like sudden riches and the guerrilla filming style in the streets of Mumbai (Bombay).

Jenkins: How difficult was it to shoot in Bombay’s slums?

Boyle: The slums are great! You have to contact the right people to go in there, but once we were there and got to know the people, they’re extraordinary. They’re so resourceful, considering how little they’re given by the state. There’s no toilets, there’s no running water, no electricity. It looks filthy and disgusting, and it is around the edges, but you go in the homes and they’re absolutely spotless.

I think the energy of the film is a tribute to the slums. Everybody imagines people just hanging around, sleeping in the sun and not working. They’re incredibly industrious! Working in these cottage industries, and trading. That’s why they don’t want to move out of these places. Because the land is so valuable now, the municipal councils want to move them out to these tower blocks they built in New Mumbai. But they don’t want to go there. They do forcibly move them, but the people come back. They want to live amongst their own kind. Because what they get from their own kind more than compensates for the bricks and mortar that’s on offer out there. To be in the hub of the city, the maximum city, is priceless.

And Chris Orr’s superb review of the film appears in “The New Republic.”

Working from a script by Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty”), Boyle stages every scene with verve and brio, confidently flashing forward and back from Jamal’s boyhood to his quiz-show appearance to his mid-game interrogation by a police inspector (Irrfan Khan) who suspects him of cheating. Throughout it all, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s camera bounces giddily through the tin-roofed shanties of Mumbai, while Indian superstar A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack throbs seductively. Not since Fernando Mireille’s “City of God” has a film about poverty and violence been told with such extraordinary panache.

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Quote of the Week
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