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Entries in The New Classics (14)

Tuesday
Jul162019

The New Classics - Before Sunset

Michael C here to honor a film with an emotional impact that hasn't diminished over countless repeat viewings...

Scene: The Car Ride
When people talk about the appeal of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy they tend to focus on the enchanting dialogue or the romantic European locations, but I think one of the big reasons this series is so beloved is that it avoids all the contrivances usually deployed to keep couples apart in movies... 

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Tuesday
Jul092019

The New Classics - Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Michael Cusumano's series on the great films of the 21st century through the lens of a single scene.

Scene: Wig in a Box
I distinctly remember the arrival of the poster for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the art-house movie theater I worked at during the Summer of 2001.  The poster is dominated by the image of John Cameron Mitchell’s gender-defying punk rocker aggressively belting out a song, a swirl of glittering make-up and tendrils of blonde wig. More than attention-grabbing, it was attention demanding. I eagerly anticipated the film as I watched the trailer several dozen times during my shifts. As a straight, cisgender man from the suburbs with a lackluster wardrobe, I assumed that it was most definitely a movie Not. For. Me. but as an insatiable movie-devouring college student, I was nevertheless excited for what looked like a wildly inventive, low-budget extravaganza.

And while I was correct about the creativity on display, I was wrong about feeling excluded by the film. Despite sharing zero details with the protagonist’s turbulent life story, it hit me personally in a way I wasn’t ready for...

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Tuesday
Jul022019

The New Classics - Meek's Cutoff

The New Classics is a weekly series by Michael Cusumano, looking at great films of the 21st century through the lens of a single selected scene. 

Scene: Emily takes charge
The lost pioneers in Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff travel with a bird in a cage dangling from the back of a covered wagon. It is a token of happier days, when nature was an ornament that decorated your home, not a force that drained the life from you with its punishing distances and barren terrain.

More than a sad joke, the little yellow parakeet also functions as a poignant symbol for the codes of society the pioneers carry with them into the wilderness, codes which become increasingly absurd in the context of their predicament. Lost, dying from thirst, and led by a guide who is either a charlatan or a mad man, the wagon train’s men still make sure to isolate themselves from their wives when discussing strategy.

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Tuesday
Jun252019

The New Classics - The Hurt Locker

Michael Cusumano here to look back on one of the few classics about the Iraq War on the 10th anniversary of its release. 

Scene: The Daisy Chain Bomb
When Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker hit theaters in the Summer of 2009 it was sold as an all-thrills, zero-politics experience. Here, the ads promised, was a film that wasn’t going to go all Valley of Elah on you with ponderous anti-war messages. The trio of soldiers that make up the film’s central bomb disposal unit never discuss politics. They defuse the bombs, they don’t get to hung up on why they are there in the first place. At no point do any of them sigh during a low moment and wonder, “Man, I don’t even know what we’re doing here...”

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Tuesday
Jun182019

The New Classics - 20th Century Women

Michael Cusumano here to thank you for making this post part of your own personal Mike Mills film today. I'm honored.

image via "books in movies"

To watch a Mike Mills movie is to continually ask, “Why don’t more people make movies with this much freedom?” 

His films deploy everything from news clips to rotating narrators to archival footage from a century ago. The screenplay will jump backwards in time, skimming through the characters’ biographies, or forwards to glimpse the details of their death. The focus can zoom in to the most granular details or out to encompass the entire cosmos. I doubt he will ever make a film that doesn’t include a shot of the stars. At least I hope he doesn’t... 

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Tuesday
Jun112019

The New Classics - Blue Ruin

Michael Cusumano here to nominate a New Classic that doesn't get discussed much around these parts.

Scene: Self-surgery
Nolan’s Batman trilogy is supposed to be the grounded version of the Bruce Wayne mythology, but really, that movie arrived eight years later in the form of Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin.  

Like Bruce Wayne, Blue Ruin’s Dwight Evans (played memorably by Macon Blair) finds himself unable to process the murder of his parents. Unlike the Caped Crusader however, the trauma doesn’t set him on the path to becoming a crime-fighting ninja, so much as it leaves him a haunted vagrant who survives by trash-picking down by the boardwalk. When he embarks on a spree of vigilante retribution, Dwight has no lofty ideas about the betterment of society. It’s more of an indirect suicide attempt... 

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