New Yorker film critic David Denby prefaced his list of his favorite films of the year with a tidbit about Boston on film. Denby wrote:
“In recent American movies, Boston—not New York, not Chicago, not Los Angeles, but Boston—has provided the significant setting and a special urban music of slang, oaths, nostalgia, taunts, affection. The cycle of Boston films began, in 1997, with “Good Will Hunting,” which was written by its stars, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who were childhood friends in Cambridge. Dennis Lehane’s soulful Boston thrillers have served as the basis of Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, “Mystic River” (2003) and Affleck’s directing début, “Gone Baby Gone” (2007). The Boston screenwriter William Monahan wrote “The Departed” (2006), in which Mark Wahlberg, from Dorchester, appears in a supporting role as a fast-talking cop; Wahlberg now stars in “The Fighter,” set in Lowell, just to the northwest of Boston, as the real-world boxer and welter-weight champ Mickey Ward. Earlier this year, Affleck appeared as a Charlestown bank robber in “The Town,” his second film as director, and he plays one of the local executives who get whacked by a downsizing Boston conglomerate in the new “Company Men.” That’s seven major films. Now, you could say that the entire phenomenon is sparked by Bostonian male stars. True, of course, but Affleck, Damon, and Wahlberg wouldn’t get money for these films from the hardnoses of Hollywood finance if the movies weren’t expected to resonate around the rest of the country. So what is the source of Boston’s appeal? All these movies are about white working-class ethnics—Irish Catholics, in particular—who can talk a blue streak, and all of them are about men and women in clans. Families, friends, neighbors. The clan makes you and it threatens to destroy you, and for the heroes (who are all male—Arise, ye daughters of Hibernia!), the question becomes: Do I leave or do I stay? Do I let the clan define me or must I strike out on my own? And for the rest of us, the question might be: Is this neighborhood and ethnic solidarity not only a celebration, an atmosphere of terrific rough talk and family warmth, but a shudder of anticipation, a last united stand in multicultural America?”
A timely question–one I’ll certainly be thinking about. The only shudder here is that Boston becomes, in Denby’s eyes, the last refuge of white America. We all know Boston has a tremendous reputation for racism–but more so than L.A., New York, or Chicago? If Denby wants someone in Boston to make Crash, he shouldn’t insult our intelligence. Even Shaq happily calls Boston home (this is a petty point, I know). And though the whiteys of The Fighter certainly come out clan-like, they’re worlds away from the people in Company Men or even Good Will Hunting. Boston is also home to the highest concentrated number of Brazilians outside of Brazil, another sign on if tremendous diversity which hasn’t yet seen the light of the camera or projector. Yet how right–despite how narrow–Denby’s analysis is will be shaken slightly off balance, I expect, by other films from The Hub, as the city continues its on-screen ascent.
True Grit, dir. Joel & Ethan Coen (2010)
My previous opinions on this blog can attest to my cagey relationship with the Coen Brothers. Some films—like The Big Lebowski—stand out as undeniably great, while others—anything from Miller’s Crossing to No Country for Old Men—seem a little too content with their supposed perfection for me to find them genuinely good. True Grit, though, appears to demonstrate a new direction for the Coen Brothers. (more…)
by Adam Hirsch
They came out about a week ago, but if you haven’t already watched them — you should. In an absolute stroke of brilliance, The New York Times Magazine decided to get fourteen A-list actors in front of a camera for short, silent single-take scenes. It’s called “Fourteen Actors Acting“. (Click the link to follow to it.)
For all of you that went through film school — especially working with a Bolex and 16mm B&W Reversal — a lot of these will feel familiar in the best way. They’re just like those exercises and assignments you had to suffer through while trying to get a grasp on the medium, the ones you overexposed or had your actor-friend drop out at the last minute only to be replaced with your roommate’s drunk friend — only these are perfect little exercises, perfect little displays, and fourteen actors — including Matt Damon, James Franco, Chloe Moretz, Natalie Portman, Javier Bardem and Tilda Swinton — who all seem to understand how less translates to more.
They can remind you why you like this crazy stuff in the first place.
by Jake Teresi
After a record-setting year at the box office, what can we expect in 2010? More of the same. Don’t expect Hollywood to surprise us when things are going so well. Expect more 3D, more talking CGI animals, more lame comedies/soft dramas starring Sandra Bullock.
Not that I’m cynical. (more…)
Films by Stephen Soderbergh fall into two categories—those like Ocean’s 11 that immerse themselves in the high sheen of Hollywood (even when the luster is dark, like Erin Brockovitch), and those like Ocean’s 12, which seem irritated that a place like Hollywood exists at all. The Informant! seems more the latter, though its anger is more focused and smaller.