Month: October 2007

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006), Jonathan Demme, A

I watched this movie all alone and still broke into applause. When the movie was over I putzed around my apartment doing other things then realized there was nothing I could be doing that might be better than watching this movie again. Neil Young is completely on top of his game right now. His Living With War is fifty-something minutes of pure catharsis. His film Greendale was, if nothing else, a remarkable achievement. And his Prairie Wind show, documented here, is some of the most emotional music I’ve ever heard. Written months after Young’s father’s death and days before going in for brain aneurysm surgery, Prairie Wind is like a country-folk “A La Recherche de Temps Perdu.” And a lot easier to get through. More than almost any other artist, I go through heavy Neil Young moods. Ann always kinda makes fun of me because when this happens I will listen to ONLY Neil Young. I will usually go first for the heavy Tonights The Night, Ragged Glory, Live Rust-type stuff, but what is so wonderful about Neil is that he has always had toes in two pools. This film, therefore, works in wonderful counterpoint with Year of the Horse, Jim Jarmusch’s lo-fi ode to Crazy...

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Half Nelson (2006), Ryan Fleck, B+

I think it largely depends on who you are that’ll determind what you think this movie is ultimately about. I think it is about the nadir of liberalism and “’60s idealism”, 99.9% dead, ready to give its all for one more try as it self-destructs. The performances by young Shakeera Epps and Ryan Gosling are top notch. Who the hell is this Gosling character? I hear his name a bit. He’s worth the attention. You know, for fifteen minutes I considered being a teacher in the NYC system. It’s true. I even filled out a form and wrote an essay. I did it all online, did no research and probably didn’t copyedit. I figured that if they called me in for a follow-up, that’s when I’d consider it. Well, they called me in for a follow-up but sanity kept me from acting any further. Anyhow good to see and “indie” film that actually is independent. Shot in 23 days. Pretty damned impressive. One thing that ticked me off was how all these Brooklynites had cars. What’s up with...

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Total Recall (1990), Paul Verhoeven, A

Seventeen years old and still unmatched. A perfect piece of entertainment. A “thinking-man’s” action film; also a balls-out intense thinking film. Verhoeven’s formula: constant motion. When there isn’t insane, intense, shocking violence there is humor, or mind-fuck dialogue. Seeing this film at the time was a revelation. Truly anything could happen – there were no rules. Even little side characters like lab technicians are unpredictable, cussing people out and slapping them across the face. There might be more “holy shit!”s per capita in this film than any other. (Perhaps even the superior Verhoeven masterpiece Starship Troopers.) Total Recall is essential viewing for anyone interested to see just how intense the art of cinema can get and still be unbelievably fun. Question, though: who chews the scenery better, Ronny Cox or Michael...

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Cause and Effect, TNG 5

We get into hot and heavy nerd territory here. Trapped in a time-loop that always ends in destruction, the crew must somehow send a message back to themselves using their subconsciousness to break out of the trap. “We should reverse course?” “But what if turning around is what leads us to the problem?” “And what if what I see as red is what you see as blue?” “Far out!” And while I can’t say the ending isn’t a little too tidy, I respect this episode for breaking all boundries and being completely one-of-a-kind. (‘Cause, like, everyone dies forty-seven...

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The Outcast, TNG 5

There are some who say this episode, an obvious metaphor for gay rights, doesn’t go far enough and, in fact, is reactionary. I don’t see it that way. Frankly, I think those who do see it that way lack a fundamental ability for abstract thought. Among the J’naii gender is verboten. A J’naii wants to break free of this and embrace man-loving femininity. While her actions, therefore, seem like ’50s stereotypes, it is all about context. As trojan horse, this is about as good of a pro-tolerance message as you are likely to get out to the general American populace. As an episode, it is pretty good, too. (And Riker gets some action, which is good ’cause Troi just got busy a few episodes...

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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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