Zero Dark Thirty, Upstream Color, and the Agony of Anticipation

The Tortuous Torture Debate

The “debate” over the depiction of torture in one of my favorite movies of the year, Zero Dark Thirty, continues apace. I don’t remember the last time a film engendered so much contention before it opened. Perhaps it was The Last Temptation of Christ. Let me state for the record that I did wait until I’d seen that film to call it (and its director) unpleasant names. Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan both made disparaging comments about ZDT before seeing it. They both saw it, and while Sullivan, who had previously called director Kathryn Bigelow a “torture apologist,” is open-minded enough to acknowledge that he was mistaken, Greenwald obnoxiously proclaims it “worse than even its harshest early critics warned,” which…how is that even possible? Based on the jingoistic, cliched warmongering typical Hollywood trash that Greenwald describes, I suspect that he accidentally wandered into a screening of Rambo. ZDT is none of those things, and anyone who’s seen any typical Hollywood action movies will immediately recognize that. Journalist <ahref=” http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/torture-in-kathryn-bigelowszero-dark-thirty.html”>Jane Mayer, meanwhile, may have some insight into the factual information the movie is rooted in, does not seem to have a firm grasp of what makes for compelling cinema. Mayer and Greenwald seem to share a contempt for film-goers (not to mention film critics), and believe that because Bigelow and Boal don’t have characters directly addressing the morality of torture onscreen, the audience will interpret the depiction as an endorsement. Greenwald even expects them to identify with the interrogators and cheer on the brutality. Even though the film portrays these interrogations with stunningly frank brutality and shows no substantial information being gained from prisoners under duress. I’m starting to feel like I don’t want to read another word about the subject, let alone write one, but it’s extremely frustrating to me to see that readers on the “same side” as me on this issue are happy to ignorantly and indignantly dismiss the film because of what self-serving, holier-than-thou people like Greenwald have written. Glenn Kenny is smarter than me and a terrific film critic, so I leave the last word to him.

He is Only the Impostor

I haven’t seen either of Marshall Lewy‘s features, Blue State or California Solo, and both got mixed reviews, but I’m intrigued that Lewy’s production company, Zambry Films, has acquired the rights to Laurie Sandell‘s The Impostor’s Daughter, according to Deadline. It’s a graphic novel about growing up with, let’s say, an unusual Argentine father—an economics professor who made some wild claims about his past, claims which, along with the manifestation of other eccentricities, impacted Sandell’s life as a child and an adult, and which he compellingly documents in the book. Lewy hopes to write and direct the project himself, and I hope he can do it justice.

Up or Down Upstream

Earlier this month, I saw the first teaser trailer for Shane Carruth‘s Upstream Color—his long-awaited, enigmatically titled follow-up to 2004’s Primer. It’s having its premiere at Sundance 2013. Then there was a second teaser. While the first one was punchy and confusing and made me think, “I need to see this movie immediately,” the second one is more ponderous and its score is mildly irritating. So that made me think, “I still need to see this movie immediately, if only to find out whether or not those are really grackles.” Not really, but it’s an interesting contrast. The second one, with its oddly repeating dialogue, has an undercurrent of menace, but could really just be a serious drama about a disintegrating relationship, while the first one is cut much more rapidly, almost like a horror film, and it also, whoah, has a knife, an axe, and a gun. I am a little more jazzed about that one than about the ornithology one. Get it? Jazzed? Ornithology? Anyway, it is conceivably the 2013 movie I’m most excited about.

As for 2012, check back here next week, when I will list my top ten movies of the year. It’s been a pretty good year, I think. MM

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