Roxana Hadadi on “Michael Clayton”

Posted on July 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Copyright 2007 Castle Rock
On the wonderful Roxana Hadadi writes about “the deserved anger” of “Michael Clayton,” a 2007 George Clooney film that seems even more timely today. Her gorgeous writing and illuminating insights make this a must-read.

A hypnotic thriller about a law firm’s “fixer” realizing that the agricultural company he’s defending is involved in a murderous conspiracy, Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton” used George Clooney’s wounded eyes, Tom Wilkinson’s frenzied soliloquies, and Merritt Wever’s soft-spoken melancholy to wonder how much commercial corruption we could fall victim to, and how much blatant immorality we could tolerate. Lauded at the time for its unrelenting tension, its steady pacing, and its sharp script, “Michael Clayton” was a critical darling, topping numerous critics’ best-of lists and netting seven Academy Award nominations, including a win for Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress.

In the years since, though, as various other lauded films from 2007 have been reassessed and reconsidered, “Michael Clayton” has faded from memory. It’s an undeserved dynamic, given that the film has so much to say about how skewed the relationship between American corporations and the people they’re supposed to serve really is—an imbalance that remains as drastic today as it was back in 2007.

The corporate world that “Michael Clayton” depicts is flimsily held together by favors and handshakes, rife with insults and threats. The workers trapped within it are beholden to a class structure that discredits and undermines them, overwhelms them with paranoia, and drowns them in debt. “What kind of people are you?” someone asks Clayton, aghast at the backstabbing and the deceit with which Clayton fills his days. How to fight against that, at the sacrifice of human lives for business interests? By playing dirty.

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Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Roxana Hadadi on the New Western

Posted on July 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm

One of the best essays about film I’ve read this year is Roxana Hadadi’s “Amid the Latest Western Genre Resurgence, ‘Lean on Pete’ and ‘The Rider’ Challenge Cowboy Masculinity in the American West” in Pajiba. She discusses several recent movies, including “Logan,” HBO’s “Westworld,” and “Hell or High Water,” but focuses on “Lean on Pete” and “The Rider.” The Western has always been the quintessential representation of the American spirit of independence, isolation, adventure, arrogance, as well as a way to explore our nation’s deepest conflicts and history of brutality and racism. And, as with most movie stories over the past century, the stories have almost always been about men and from their point of view. Hadadi writes:

The American experience has long been linked to the masculinity of the solitary cowboy, pushing the limits of the frontier. But what happens when there is nowhere left to go?

…Which brings us to Lean on Pete and The Rider, two films that also fit into the Western genre but are less about what the New West represents and more about what it actually is….These are stories about boys on the cusp of being men, each of whom is attempting to navigate selfhood in situations of poverty and desolation, in places where the cowboy code was once enough but isn’t anymore. Where so many Westerns focus on exploring (and romanticizing) the destructive ways that masculinity manifests, Lean on Pete and The Rider are concerned with what happens when those stereotypical markers—violence, sex, and lawlessness—are not only stripped away but are never the right choice at all. If you reject what it is to be a cowboy but you exist in the shadow of that figure, who are you?

You won’t read a better, wiser, or more goregously written essay on film this year.

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Critics Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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