Friday May 17th 2013
There’s a lot of fuss made over films that manage to ‘get inside the mind of a criminal’, as though the average cinemagoer might be so unimpeachably ethical that only a storyteller of the highest order could persuade him or her to empathise with a wrong ‘un. Such films cast their audience members as complicit in some act of lawlessness, by aligning them with the perpetrators’ actions, motives and emotions. In Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, that process takes all of 30 seconds, and is so utterly convincing that I’m still not sure whether any of the film’s supposed antiheroes did anything wrong.
As they roam from celebrity home to celebrity home, looting Louboutins and posing for photographs with Paris Hilton’s self-portrait-covered pillow cases, there’s rarely a sense that anything much is at stake. Leader of the pack Rebecca (Emma Watson’s Nicki is more of a comic foil) makes something of a catchphrase out of her frequent reassurance that “everything’s fine”, and most of the time I was inclined to agree with her. After all, the valuables the gang steal go habitually unnoticed by their complacent owners, their celebrity victims have — in many cases — got where they are today by methods scarcely more upstanding, and of course, it’s not stealing when rich, white people do it.
In the minds of the eponymous Ring, breaking into Orlando Bloom’s house and stealing a gold watch is more or less akin to going to a party at his place and taking a photograph of his fridge — it’s a memento, not a cause for legal action. The first name terms they use for the likes of Paris, Demi and Ashton are a glaring clue that there’s no particular division between victim and perpetrator here — both groups exist within the same amorphous Hollywood bubble. So when Marc asks Rebecca, “if I ever became not your friend any more, would you rob me?”, the answer is irrelevant. Some other Rebecca will.
This being a Sofia Coppola film, there are plenty of cameos, but for once they’re all completely justified. When the gang go to an LA club and spot Paris Hilton, shortly before they first investigate her living quarters, we realise that we’re essentially watching a documentary. Sure, Hilton is acting (sort of) and the kids aren’t actually members of the 2008 Hollywood crime syndicate from which the film takes its name, but the dynamic is largely the same. Tomorrow, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang and Claire Julien will be hot properties, and by June they’ll probably wind up back in the same club the scene was shot in, only this time as genuine VIPs. The lines they snort here might be a synthetic substitute, but who’s to say what went down at the film’s Cannes premiere the other night? Coppola must surely be awake to the self-reflexivity of all of this, not to mention the irony of poking fun at Paris Hilton, perhaps the only poster child for nepotism more widely cited than herself.
The late cinematographer Harris Savides locates the film somewhere in the intersection of a Ruben Östlund film and The Sims — all cold distance and static emptiness — but that does little to disguise the fact that this is Coppola’s most brazenly involved film to date, a mess of autobiographical ideas so dense that all pretence of objectivity is soon eradicated. It’s no wonder the bad guys are hard to pick out of a line-up.
Thursday May 16th 2013
A Grand Jury Prize winner earlier this year at Sundance, Fruitvale Station sees Ultra Culture favourite Michael B. Jordan (Steve from Chronicle, Wallace from The Wire) play Oscar Grant, a young Californian who became the victim of an horrific act of police brutality in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009.
It was a clear-cut case, with no suggestion of wrongdoing on Grant’s part, but not satisfied with simply absolving his subject, writer-director Ryan Coogler goes to great lengths (and employs considerable artistic license) to characterise him as a sort of latter-day Jesus, who fills his time exclusively with acts of the utmost virtue. This doesn’t make Grant feel especially human, and — worse still — seems to imply that the crimes perpetrated against him might have been somehow justifiable had he been anything less than a saint.
Here are just ten of the altruistic deeds he commits in the film’s opening hour:
||Wishes his mother a happy birthday no fewer than three times: once by text at the very instant the clock strikes midnight, once on the phone as he offers to buy groceries for her and refuses to accept money for them, and once in person as he throws her a birthday party.
||Unquestioningly loans his sister $300 despite having recently lost his job. Also agrees to buy a birthday card for their mother on her behalf and sign it in her handwriting.
||Shows his daughter how to brush her teeth, instilling within her the importance of rigorous dental hygiene.
||Gives his girlfriend a lift to work, calls her a few hours later to see if she wants to meet up for lunch, and then picks her up at the end of the day.
||Witnesses a dog being run over, carefully carries the animal out of the street and cradles it in his arms for the duration of its final moments.
||Symbolically throws a bag of drugs into the ocean.
||Sees a woman struggling to select fish from a supermarket deli counter. Not only helps her to choose a fish, but also calls his grandmother to ask for her advice on the subject.
||Hands his daughter an extra lunch treat while his girlfriend isn’t looking, and later cheers her up by promising to take her to Chuck E. Cheese’s at the weekend.
||Bribes the doorman of an office building to let a pregnant stranger go in to use the bathroom.
||Orchestrates a utopian (and impromptu) New Year’s Eve party on the subway, attended by members of at least three different races and two different sexual orientations. Generally spreads goodwill throughout mankind.
Thursday May 16th 2013
When it comes to social networking, I pride myself on remaining at the forefront of progress. At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, I documented my time spent queueing in the rain for Romanian arthouse dramas with a heady mix of tweets, Facebook messages and Instagram filters. This year I’ll also be making use of Vine, and — in an effort to prove that even the most impractical of technologies can be co-opted in the name of humblebragging — Snapchat.
If you’re not yet familiar with 2013′s greatest social barometer, please:
Snapchat is an app for iOS and Android that allows you to send
images of your genitals playful video clips to your nearest and dearest, with the unusual caveat that the files delete themselves as soon as they’ve been viewed. This unique service has quickly become a hotbed of genital imagery artistic creativity across the globe.
And so, I’m giving Ultra Culture readers the opportunity to receive
images of my genitals exciting coverage of the Cannes Film Festival direct to their phones for the next nine days, via this distinctive new medium. To count yourself among the lucky few, simply…
Let’s not let this slip away like we did Words with Friends.
Monday May 13th 2013
By now, we’re all pretty much up to speed with the fact that Tom Hanks is a nice man, which is perhaps why he rarely attempts to convince us otherwise on screen. In Captain Phillips, as in so many other Hanks vehicles, he’s basically just a stand-up guy at the mercy of factors beyond his control — in this case: lack of weaponry on-board freighter, Somali pirates, Paul Greengrass.
For a while it was quite endearing to see Hanks stick so rigidly to playing blameless protagonists. His career was a bit like the first season of Entourage: entirely devoid of jeopardy and all the more intoxicating for it. But like that show, Hanks’s schtick started to wear thin as the years went by, and by the time
E got engaged at the end of Season 6 he wrote, directed and starred in the dramatic black hole that was Larry Crowne, it was no longer satisfying to watch him constantly do the right thing all the time.
Has a SINGLE engaging screen character EVER worn a rucksack?
The easiest way to chart the deterioration of Hanks’s on-screen energy is to examine the names of his characters. Where his 80s career gave us such sublime handles as Lawrence Whatley Bourne III, Sherman McCoy and Detective Pep Streebeck, recent years have yielded the featureless monikers Thomas Schell, Robert Langdon and — of course — cheery old Mr. Crowne up there.
So just in case Hollywood finds itself short of ideas in the coming months, here are a handful of additional roles that they’re welcome to cast Hanks in:
★ Tim Mitchell
★ Graham Sharewell
★ Alex Hall
★ Christopher Man
★ James Prince
(James works in real estate.)
★ Gregory ‘Greg’ Baker
★ Peter Avery
★ Joseph Smith
★ William T. Brown
Thursday May 2nd 2013
The first half of Lars von Trier’s impossibly exciting two-part sex odyssey Nymphomanic, starring — amongst others — Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Christian Slater, Kate Ashfield, Willem Dafoe, Shia LaBoeuf, Jean-Marc Barr and Uma Thurman, will be released in the UK by Artificial Eye at some point within the next long while. The film failed to make the March submission deadline for this month’s Cannes Film Festival, so it’s still unknown when and where it’ll premiere.
In case it’s gone over your head, the parentheses represent a vagina.