Scarlett Street


Scarlet Street is a masterful piece of film noir, featuring pulpy characters and two-faced women. The main character, Christopher Cross, played by Edward G. Robinson, leads us assured and clear-eyed through the film’s moral ambiguities.

Christopher is put under the spell of ‘Kitty’, a sharp dressed girl he rescues from the shadowy arms of a thief after a drinking party with fellow workers. This leads to Kitty and he going out on the spot at a sulky and suave underground bar and results in Kitty making wild assumptions of Chris’ personal life, thinking in cloudy retrospect that he is a wealthy old man.

Chris finds refuge from his brutal life and wife, who hangs a portrait of a double-chinned Welles-looking man, her dead ex police husband, by painting pictures in a small narrow room she “kindly” sets aside for him. These paintings are properties of the con-jobs that Kitty follows up on after their late-night date, with the nudging of her boyfriend, a ruthless and conspicuous thief…

Inception

Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” has penetrated pop-culture’s vein in the 20th Century, creating a suavely paced, intelligent and versatile thriller of the mind. The word Inception is used in culture falsely here-forth, and most people don’t realize that Nolan didn’t invent the word Inception. It means to begin or incite, but in a sense there is a modular meaning to the word now: According to Online dictionaries, the term inception in the realm of science means “the act of instilling an idea into someone’s mind by entering his or her dreams.” And Nolan has incited ideas into many people’s minds: layers of knowledge, of impenetrable realities and uncontrollable human emotions. Though vital, the film could use Fellini as the director of the emotive moments, which consist of long gazes and dream-like stillness, that ultimately seem empty and forced. Without them, the movie would be a structure of constructs, ideas, and tasks; but Nolan at least knows that a movie consisting only of logic like so is not much of a movie at all.

Inception surrounds the circumstance of Dom Cobb, who is an extractor of dreams, performing tasks for corporations against rival companies. He does this with unexplained dream-intervention technology. After a devastating situation of death and sabotage of Cobb’s wife, which he is considered as the main suspect, he must flee from his children and out of the country. Now, after sporadic jobs, he finds a corporate-entity who pronounces shadily that he can return him to his kids for doing one job for him, and this job involves inception, an operation Cobb’s done only once, unsuccessfully. They must incite, meaning actually create an idea instead of removing one, that Robert Fischer wants to break up his father’s empire. To do this, Cobb assembles a mighty team of specialists, Arthur, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the point-man, who finds out information on all persons involved, Eames (Tom Hardy) who can morph into a new body and pretend to be a close person in the dreamers life, and Ariadna (Ellen Page), the young architect student who designs the dream.  The crew conflict with each other and their pasts, especially Cobbs, since it can appear and harm them in a dream, and confront multiple layers of dreaming for the single-goal of an idea.

What is left in the dark, on a cerebral level, is which layer of the dream we are currently watching. Nolan is able to do this without making the viewer frustrated, but I think he fails on the part of human mystery. There is nothing abnormal about the human scenario, only the dream: All that we think or hesitate about before entering the dream is what ultimately does happen: Cobb’s wife, security in Fischers dreams, and the like. But what of the personality of Fischer: What if he was not as easy-going, or melancholy to the point of vulnerability, but instead there was a traumatic shock to the crew. Like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, Fischer could use more subconscious mystery and deceit, maybe with a pinch of Lynchian terror. Yet, this would not compromise to the consistent nature of Nolan’s filmography, which is essentially psychological noir, not abstraction.

On a critical level, the film has flaws. But don’t mistake these as meaning I didn’t or don’t like Inception; I saw it three times when first released and still find it an enticing and unique movie experience. It is truly revolutionary, in fact, as it took in a large gross while still being intelligent and visceral. Filmmakers will hopefully soon realize that people are more capable of understanding what’s on the screen than Hollywood assumes.

Minority Report – Film Review

Although I’m not a surging fan of Spielberg’s movies, “Minority Report” is an overlooked gem in his filmography. It features a super sci-fi atmosphere and a universe as special as it is bizarrely complex.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Tom Cruise leads as  John Anderton, traversing the viewer through a journey of corporate corruption. The film poses a complicated narrative about the various contradictions within the concept of free will. The movie is based off of a short-story/novella by Philip K. Dick, an author who specialized in dissecting the legitimicy of our reality.

Their is a gloomy, closet-light sort of decor to the whole film. It isn’t a romance sci-fi, or even a extremely flashy science fiction movie, but a dark, sometimes depressing outlook on loss; in parts it reminds one of Ridley Scott’s noirish Blade Runner.

In this world, in 2054 A.D., government has the ability to predict future murders and stop them in their mind-dwelling tracks; It’s called the Pre-cog program, and involves three telepathic visionaries of the future outputting  information to the agency.

The troops flee out and arrive at the potential murder area to conflict with the violence. Chief Anderton is the best at his job: Spielberg confidently shows Anderton’s confidence with full frontal views of him moving his arms with virtual information, swinging it, and looking for clues on the motherboard.

The staging is excellent in the way it takes the plot with the utmost sense of importance, even if most of the film is frantic getaways. I don’t think its much of a criticism to say it consisted only of getaways, because each pit-stop is revealing of the times; he’s not hiding behind garbage cans, but getting his eye-removed so he can re-enter his past-employed  building, or finding an elderly women with an odd love for botany.

It reveals the society’s technology all at the same time: Much of this was of Spielberg and crew’s own invention, since Philip K. Dick’s story has little explanation of devices used, and was never one to bother on such descriptivism anyway, being a writer concerned mostly with character and plot.

The film is a masterpiece of super-detective science fiction, wildly synced action sequences and incredible art and concept design. The actors fill out their characters skillfully, including Max von Sydow as the president of the pre-cog program and Collin Farell as a snoopy investigator.

Review: True Romance

True Romance, directed by Tony Scott and written effortlessly by Quentin Tarentino, is a romantic film for all who sit in darkness. It’s a suave and rip-roaring experience into the lives of two young outcasts, comic-book clerk, Clarence, played by Christian Slater, and call-girl Alabama, played by Patricia Arquette. On a lucky occurrence, albeit far from star-crossed, they become hitched in deep and innocent love. The film has the quick, action-like pace that would characterize Tony Scott’s later films, and the performances are all around well-done, complementing the casting at the same time: Christian Slater has a perfect taciturn smile like Travis Brickle, and Patricia Arquette has teeth like fangs, her deadly love shining through her ‘peach-smelling’ smile.

The story starts to roll when Clarence has become comfortable enough with Alabama as to defend her: he asks for her pimps address, and heads over to beat his head in, telling Alabama with proudly counter-suggestive truth, “I’m just going to get your stuff.” He plans for more, and when he ends up getting out with her stuff, it turns out to be a case full of 5k worth of cocaine. Run? Yes. The newly wedded lovebirds flock to Clarence’s fathers trailer, a police officer, and he asks if his dad, played by Dennis Hopper, has heard any talk with his name in it. When nothing shows up, Clarence packs their bags with free-minded joy, ready to live in prosperity.

The film of course has unknown ultimatums involved; Clarence will not see the last of the street thugs from Detriot. But what doesn’t change and what is never unknown, is that Clarence and Alabama are deeply in love, melded by the violence they share together. A touching, morally-ironic film that is a testament to Tarantino’s screenwriting ability.

Review: The Woman In the window

Fritz Lang molded this film with precision and conspicuous irony, creating a perspective filled with tension and wavering beliefs. He puts us directly in the mind of the murderer without voice-overs or scenes of confession. A typically moral professor, played by Edward G. Robinson, hits rock bottom when he makes an impulsive and frightened response to a raging boyfriend of a woman he befriends; it results in the death of the alpha-lover and the consequences, emotionally and sociologically, that ensue.

Proffesor Richard Wanley gets in real trouble after the murder he commits; he is a highly unexpected culprit, and in fact has friends in the police department. When they talk about the case, he becomes jittery and wants to change the subject. But he eventually is taken onto the scene of the crime, where the murderer disposed of the body, and is shown the clues and leads the cops have established, which are entirely against him. The characters are always enticing, especially the motivations of Alice Reed, played by Joan Bennett, who witnessed the crime.

The film is an argument against generalizations in crime. In our justice system, we rely partly on the jury to judge the person to the alleged culprit, and like Lumet’s 12 Angry Men shows, it is not always right. The jury would not pick a fatherly-like proffesor like Richard Wanley to be convicted as a murderer; they would pick a young person with lots of energy and less than a reasonable doubt.

The film seams together its intricacies with tact and skill.