The Dark Knight

By Adam Lippe

dark_knight_18The late, great critic for The New Yorker, Pauline Kael, talked about the manufacturing of the blockbuster and how the product was no longer important, just that it was considered a sellable ride.

The Dark Knight is certainly a viable product: well made, sleek, sturdy, efficient, and yet sort of hollow. Part of the problem is that it is really two films crammed into one; there’s even a logical conclusion at the 90 minute mark. But then the movie varies its scenarios for another hour, exhausting the audience. While I could give credit to writer/director Christopher Nolan for expecting us to stay focused for that long, it would have been far more prudent to simplify.

The first 2/3 of the film is about The Joker, masterfully played in a spectacularly mannered performance by Heath Ledger (who may win an Oscar solely because of his death, comic-book movies never have their acting singled out at award ceremonies, even if his award would be deserved). And the last third is about the conversion of Super D.A. Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart, who is beginning to look like the combover is permanent) from great white hope, to the vengeance minded villain, “Two-Face.”

Because The Joker draws all of our attention, Eckhart’s drama seems like a distracting afterthought, when it would be perfectly valid in its own two-hour film. It is amazing how fast Nolan is able to move through twist after twist and the obligatory scenes where Bruce Wayne (still played by Christian Bale as a glum version of his Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, but without any acknowledgment of his smugness) longs for a normal life, cramming name actors into tiny parts (Nicky Katt is never even lit well enough to recognize, then there’s William Fichtner, Cillian Murphy, Anthony Michael Hall, etc.), which allows Nolan to skip over some elements that don’t make any sense at all, like why would anyone willingly work for The Joker? His elaborate plans would take thousands of manhours, but there’s no money in it and you’ll end up dead, quite quickly. In the end I wasn’t so much entertained or thrilled, I just needed a nap.

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.