Veers into the ridiculous, ends with a pathologically narcissist transformation, but has the only experimental use of time and action this season. A fight using barricades is a show-stopper. Now playing.
Frontline's four hour, two-night dissection of the financial collapse of 2008. Like its exemplary 1996 post-mortem of the Gulf War, Michael Kirk and Jim Gilmore describe in detail staggering omissions in oversight, clashes of personality, and a stunning presidential leadership vacuum as Bush neared the end of his term. Even more frightening, a majority of banks appeared not to comprehend the full extent of their leveraged holdings, employing companies like AIG to insure their riskiest securities.
The time has come to develop curricula in visual media literacy for all children K-12. For a country as media saturated as ours, it is dangerous not to teach children how images work, why we use them instead of words, how sequencing them alters their meanings, and what lies ahead for language once expression becomes liberated from the alphabet. Media is not a tool to be censored, it is a tool that must expand along every horizon to search for all knowledge yet unkown. Future modes of expression are what will elementally lead us to our next breakthroughs in the sciences and in the arts. Pivotal is the performance of violence, since its essential metaphor is the breaking down of old ways, old systems.
"The United States is the only developed nation without a national curriculum in visual literacy." Douglas Ruskoff Coercion: Why We Listen To What They Say 1999
As a Batman trilogy rooted mostly in despair, only the villains are allowed to take pleasure in their craft. And it's through pleasure that you can identify them, Lucius Fox, Ra's alGul, Talia alGul, Bane, Dagget. The heroes are the ones who suffer. Bruce Wayne has to fake his pleasure for the entire trilogy. With even Alfred playing it for the pure sacrifice of it, we can't be too sure Nolan isn't laughing about all this strained seriousness. He's famously taken a kid's hero and given him only adult concerns: defense contracts, wire-fraud, terrorism, seduction, and despair. These concerns might appear emotionally complex, they are adult. The undercurrent pathos is by way of Frank Miller's teenage form of masochism, it adds weight to all that shadow. The problem is, the emotions get torqued by this distortion: An abnormal desire for pain. The plot may be complex, but that's about it. Nolan divides his identities along very basic lines of 'good' and 'evil' and then makes it seem real. Photographic grain and undigitized physical gags shade a board game's black and white emotionalism.
By hijacking the opening of Star Wars, Nolan introduces his Vader-Bane with one flying vessel taking over another (Bane later crushes a throat a la Darth). Giving his masked villain a highlander's accent, Nolan seems to be hiding an ace Sean Connery in the mixing room, it's no wonder this all looks so Bondish. Bane is a vast improvement over The Joker's shrieking hysterics in The Dark Knight. Hardy's Bane manages to be both sadistic and tender. In every way this is a far superior film to Dark Knight. Nolan shifts from duel to ensemble. He serves up a group of supposed good guys vs. bad guys and switches their camps. He pairs them continuously, like a medieval dance. Devil Lucius Fox and Daughter Miranda Tate team up to both destroy and save Gotham from a similar atom smashing fate from Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne complies with retreading the first film by donning Begins's Ducard's/Ra's's goatee. A clever extended sequence, one of Nolan's best, involves a cater-waitress, a string-of-pearls, lifted fingerprints and a stolen congressman, ending in a dive bar shootout. The pearls were Bruce's mother's; his father's move to protect his wife's pearls became the trigger for their murder. Which means the pearls are the reason Batman exists. Had Joe Chill made it out of the alley with them there would never be a Dark Knight. The pearl necklace in TDKR starts off as a maternal memory that phases into a class struggle metaphor, becoming a window into a criminal's life. Nolan flips meanings when the pearls serve as a tracking device, leading Wayne to a 'benefit' with two potential Ms. Waynes attending. It's clever. It's so clever you start to feel trapped in it without an emotional connection to any one character. The film feels audacious, but so were Godfather III and The Matrix Revolutions, two films that couldn't pull off their muscular tragic deaths of key females. Here there is no 'real' tragedy. A bizarre death scene involving a truck is so strangely acted you aren't sure if Nolan is channeling Trinity just in case it's too much death for the repeater teen crowd.
The film is at its best when the stakes are mostly visible/local and Rises's first 2/3rds are active with a plot worthy of the best card-counter in Vegas. Gravely it slips into the usual foggy exile of third-acts, where the juggling has to pay off and here, unadulterated nonsense takes-over. Police are simplistically trapped underground for months, Bruce Wayne is trapped (with access to CNN) across the planet. A scarecrow's court seems pulled right out of Brazil. Class rebellion is employed as a ruse to armageddon (Nolan reuses the location of a 1920 anarchist's bomb, set in front of J.P. Morgan's old HQ posing here as the stock market). A Gotham under siege is not only ignored by the country at large, but a tired special forces insert merits a C- cinemascore. As Gotham suffers for months, vast resources of a surrounding country (and President) are left largely inert, forcing the audience to plea for Batman's return simply to end the film. A climax subplot involving a bus, orphans and a checkpoint falls as flat as they come. Plot devices from Inception and Begins reappear as well as some new ones: switched bodies & software (one of Nolan's best touches is to fuse the concepts of clean-slate and auto-pilot feeding the ending of Batman/Bruce Wayne). The error lies in the retooled legend of Ra's alGul, boosting the amperage but not the complexity of the villains. Had Bane been a dummy and Talia a digital venriloquist of sorts, then the villains' would be sharing an uncertain border. That's where what will be known as the best comicbook trilogy ever made for IMAX should have gone. Wordplay is at its height in TDKR, think about the double meaning laced in The Dent 'Act.'
Watch the swansong of celluloid in style: At LA's Century City IMAX, both ArcLights and NY's single-theater Ziegfeld and NJ's OMNIMAX Spherical Projection Dome at Liberty Science Center, the largest IMAX dome in the world.
Top: Paul Strand's Wall Street, 1915 Below: Aftermath of the 1920 unsolved bombing of J.P. Morgan Bottom: Same building at top, evidence still visible today.
Non-stop sequencing in a great piece from the New York Review of Books.
Two days before the presidential election results were announced on June 24, Al-Dustor newspaper ran across its front page, in big, bold, black and red print, the headline “The Massacre of the Century,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged plan for Egypt, which supposedly called for assassinations and disorder. The paper cited intelligence sources and a secret meeting of the Brotherhood.
By the pool at the Gezira Sporting Club that morning, a group of retired army generals and high-ranking intelligence officers spoke with assurance of Shafik’s coming win. The officer really in charge of the country, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, commander in chief of the armed forces, “won’t have it any other way,” so it was said. Later that day, when I chatted with a former Egyptian ambassador to Pakistan, he vehemently contradicted them. “It will be Morsi, it’s what the Americans want.”