Month: July 2006

Une Vraie Juene Fille (1976), Catherine Breillat, F

Okay, Catherine, you win. I will dare call your work shock value crap. Now you can call me a boorish slob who can’t recognize art, or can’t relate to the feelings of young women, or whatever you like. I’ve stood up for you twice before (I defended Romance and actually rather liked 36 Filette) but this time I must shoot you down. It’s not that I am shocked by the content of your film (although vomit, urine, vaginal secretions, more urine, chicken blood, semen, chopped up earthworms on pubic hair, even more urine and ear wax aren’t exactly my favorite things to see. . .) but I reject the concept that just showing these things (in close up) blesses your film with the cure-all of brave realism. You are not granted a free pass over things like acting, dialogue, pacing or camerawork just because you dare smack the audience with a big fat glove stating “this is the way adolesence is!!!” Teenage girls masturbating? What a concept! With no story or arstisty (imagine Eric Rohmer devoid of any narrative elegance), even 90 minutes of that gets...

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Tanner on Tanner (2004), Robert Altman, B

Fun to revisit the characters and general gestalt of “Tanner ’88.” It lacks the urgency the original had, this seems much more slapped together. There are some long stretches where you just know they were running around the convention with video cameras, trying to get whatever footage they could — much like Alex Tanner is doing herself. The layers upon layers of reflexivity is kinda exhausting, too — I feel like we’ve been told that we live in a media echo chamber before. Still, the scenes that are prepared are top notch. Garry Trudeau’s observational wit is very sharp and all the performances (particularly Cynthia Nixon, whose Alex Tanner is more the star here than the first time) are dynamite. Wouldn’t recommend it without seeing “Tanner ’88,” but if you do you are sure to like...

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The Naked Time, TOS 1

This is another perfect episode. A rare space contaminant is making everybody drunk! A lot of exciting firsts here. First use of the Vulcan Neck Pinch, first time explicit reference is made to Mr. Spock being half human, also the first time we see Mr. Spock (who is never supposed to be emotional) get all emotional. I betcha when the series was all said and done Mr. Spock probably had more emotional breakdowns due to unforseen space viruses/probes/possessions than any other member of the crew. Also: Mr. Sulu greased down in Vaseline and swinging a sword around! Rrrreaorw! Nurse Chapel makes her first appearance and she has the hots for Mr. Spock. I guess Lt. Uhura’s crush has ended — she’s a tough cookie in this episode, shouting “Sorry, neither!” to Mr. Sulu as he puts his arms around her, also pushing back to Captain Kirk “Don’t you think I would shut it down if I could!!!” Another big first: Scotty needing more time, yet still managing to do what he needed to do in time. Best part is Lt. Reilly making dopey faces and waving his arms around to open the sensor-doors. One of the few examples in all of Trek where people get playfull with the technology. From a design perspective, when will it ever get better than Spock in his environmental suit that was, in fact,...

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Where No Man Has Gone Before, TOS 1

The first Kirk episode shot (the second pilot. . .we’ll get to “The Cage” later) and it is great fun to see the differences. Spock is much more alien-like and the uniforms are different. The bridge is different, too (especially the viewscreen) as are the gadgets. Kirk makes an “intership announcement” and in a big echo-y voice prepares everyone for “leaving the galaxy.” And much of the premise is based on “the phenomenon of ESP,” which, I dunno, just feels like a precursor to Leonard Nimoy’s later career “In Search Of…” Don’t know why they didn’t use this briefing room again, it kinda looks like the one they use on TNG. And McCoy isn’t McCoy — he’s some old man. Also — the only (I think) time we’ll see a phaser rifle. Storywise, similar to Charlie X there is someone on the loose with unstoppable powers. This time it is Helmsman Mitchell, Kirk’s old drinking buddy from the Academy. There is a lot of that not-so-science-minded talk you’ll find in the early episodes (eg Little Blonde Lab Technician) — sexism had yet to be eradicated from the 23rd Century. The main question with this episode: how did they get Hot Lips Houlihan and the dude from 2001’s eyes to be all shiny like...

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Charlie X, TOS 1

Oh, it is tough to be a teenager. Poor Charlie X, sole survivor of a remote colony, brought up by hyperintelligent amorphous beings (the Thasians, if you must know) and blessed with unstoppable powers. He could have anything, but all he wants is Yeoman Rand. Watch Charlie cross his eyes and melt Spock’s 3-D Chess pieces. Watch him make Uhura lose her voice. (Can’t blame him on that one — Uhura can sing, but could there be a more atonal song than her love ode to Spock? I’ve seen this episode 900 times and I still can’t pick out a melody!) Watch him vaporize Kirk’s “workout partner” in the tight red dance pants for “not being very nice.” It’s funny, ’cause the chick Yeoman Rand tries to hook him up with is actually a much hotter core of dilithium crystals than she is. But Charlie doesn’t go for it. Even in space, love is blind. ....

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The Man Trap, TOS 1

The fifth episode shot but the first ever aired. And wisely so. A tremendous amount of fun — a shapeshifting monster is on the loose and searching for salt! Wearing its 60s liberalism on its sleeve the show asks that we not hate the monster for killing us — it’s just his way! (And allusions to the extinct buffalo and by extension the American Indian genocide are peppered in for good measure, too.) But never mind that. There’s a salt vampire on the loose! And McCoy is blinded by his past lust and is powerless to stop it! What I love so much about the early episodes is how the Star Trek world hadn’t yet been scrubbed of its inelegant earthly elements. (Read: Crewman Darnell’s reference to “Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet.”) Also: character arcs that never really went anywhere. Sulu is a botanist here and Uhura has the hots for Spock. Also, the sound effects aren’t quite all there yet. I love the dopey echo when they first get to the Professor’s dwelling. Anyway, this is a top notch episode. Highly recommended. And not just cause the Professor’s wife licks her salty fingers after she touches Kirk’s sweaty...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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