Indiana Jones — the article’s up!


My article on the Indiana Jones series is now up at Books & Culture.

The first draft was a bit longer than it needed to be, so, among other things, I squished the section on the films’ treatment of family and sexuality down to a single paragraph. Here’s the longer version:

Take sexuality and its relationship to the family. Indy was originally conceived as a Bond-like character, so each of the first three films presented him with a different leading lady — but each film also introduced other characters, seen or unseen, who either complicated these relationships or, at the very least, made Indy less of a loner than Bond. In Temple of Doom, Indy is at his most Bond-like, boldly promiscuous and telling Willie that he has done “years of fieldwork” in “primitive sexual practices” — but the greatest bond in that film is either fraternal or filial, not erotic, as Short Round declares “Indy, I love you!” before causing him the necessary pain that will free him from the spell that Mola Ram has cast on him. The film ends with man, woman and child happily united in a sort of makeshift family.

In Raiders, Indy is a little more intimidated by the women he encounters. He pauses, awkwardly, when a female student makes eyes at him in class, and he is apologetic when he reunites with Marion, an ex-girlfriend several years his junior who was still in her teens during their previous affair. To make matters even more complicated, Marion’s father Abner — now dead — was something of a mentor to Indy, but the two men had a falling out around the time of Indy’s earlier affair with Marion. Whether Indy split with Abner because of Marion or with Marion because of Abner is never clarified, but this background, and the possibility it raises that old wounds can still be healed, gives Indy’s relationship with Marion a deeper resonance than usual.

In Last Crusade, Indy is back to his promiscuous ways, flirting and sleeping with an Austrian archaeologist named Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody). But this relationship gets the shortest shrift of all, as Elsa is soon revealed to be a Nazi double agent, and the primary relationship of the movie is revealed to be the budding reconciliation between Indy and his father. Once again, family trumps mere romance.

So it comes as little surprise that, by the time Crystal Skull comes along, Indy is finally ready to settle down. Near the beginning of the film, there is a funny fish-out-of-water sequence in which Indy, sweaty and clad in his usual adventurer’s garb, roams around a replica of the perfect 1950s suburban neighbourhood. (The replica has been built to test the effects of an atomic bomb on the typical American home; talk about a “nuclear” family!) But as incongruous as this image may seem, domesticity of a sort proves to be Indy’s ultimate destiny: the film reunites him with Marion, who has also been captured by the Russians, and she reveals that Mutt is the son that Indy never knew he had. And so Indy finishes his fourth and presumably final adventure by getting married; the ersatz family of Temple of Doom has given way to the genuine article.

Make of all that what you will!

Canadian box-office stats — September 28

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

My Best Friend’s Girl — CDN $1,580,000 — N.AM $14,529,000 — 10.9%
Burn after Reading — CDN $4,940,000 — N.AM $45,540,000 — 10.8%

Ghost Town — CDN $980,717 — N.AM $9,239,000 — 10.6%
The Dark Knight — CDN $49,770,000 — N.AM $524,465,000 — 9.5%
The Women — CDN $2,220,000 — N.AM $24,079,000 — 9.2%
Righteous Kill — CDN $3,140,000 — N.AM $34,805,000 — 9.0%

Igor — CDN $1,110,000 — N.AM $14,339,000 — 7.7%
Eagle Eye — CDN $2,200,000 — N.AM $29,200,000 — 7.5%
Lakeview Terrace — CDN $1,840,000 — N.AM $25,700,000 — 7.2%
Nights in Rodanthe — CDN $891,979 — N.AM $13,570,000 — 6.6%

A couple of discrepancies: Ghost Town, The Women and The Dark Knight were #8, #9 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #11, #12 and #13 in North America as a whole), while Fireproof, Miracle at St. Anna and Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys were #4, #9 and #10 on the North American chart, respectively (the middle film was #11 in Canada, and the other two films were nowhere in the Canadian Top 20).

Silent Light — in a theatre and on DVD!

Speaking of Victor Morton, I absolutely must link to his detailed, extensive, impassioned and admittedly spoiler-filled review of Carlos Reygadas’s Silent Light (2007) — which, incidentally, has been available on DVD in Canada for the past few weeks.

Morton has posted the review now because the film is currently playing in a theatre in New York. The big screen is definitely the ideal venue for this movie, but if you can forgive the heresy of reducing such mesmerizing footage to a mere YouTube clip, here are the film’s first five minutes — just to give you a sense of what has had viewers like Morton and myself so spellbound:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHTkxYz2cMQ]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Eagle Eye — the review’s up!


My review of Eagle Eye is now up at CT Movies.

Halfway into the film, there is a major, major plot twist that I could have given away in this review, but I didn’t, even though I guessed it over a month ago based on nothing but the trailers. Suffice it to say that if I had been writing this review for people who had already seen the film, rather than people who hadn’t, I would have written it very, very differently.

One extra note. Sometimes, when you write something, you are surprised by the words or phrases that come to your mind, and in this case, I was struck by the final sentences of this paragraph:

I wouldn’t exactly call it suspenseful; just as, say, Paycheck was a non-suspenseful film because we knew that Ben Affleck had foreseen everything and given himself a way out in each and every case, so, too, Eagle Eye is the sort of film in which the forces manipulating Jerry’s life seem so absolutely in-control that we don’t really sit on the edge of our seats, so much as we sit back and wait to see how everything will be explained. Is Jerry nervous and terrified for his life? Heck yeah. But we, sitting outside his life and watching it — at times through the same security cameras that the woman uses — can sense that no task she gives him will be impossible. Somehow, he will always be able to do what she tells him to do.

After typing those words out, it occurred to me that they were remarkably similar to those passages in the Bible where, say, we are told that God will not let us endure any temptation that we cannot handle. Add to this the way the security-camera footage resembles so-called “God shots”, and the way “the woman” on Jerry’s cell phone tells him to jump from an office several storeys above the ground, just as Morpheus asked Neo to make a similar leap of faith near the beginning of The Matrix (1999), and you could almost say that Jerry’s relationship to “the woman”, and the way he is expected to trust and obey her as she watches him from above, has parallels to our relationship with God.

But there is one small problem with this sort of parallel. “The woman” is the villain of this particular story. And to discuss the particular kind of villain that she is, I would have had to get into serious spoiler territory. So I wasn’t really sure where to go with this idea, and since my deadline was bearing down on me, I just forged ahead with some other aspect of the movie.

Later, however, I came across Victor Morton‘s review of the Coen brothers’ Burn after Reading, a spy-movie spoof of sorts that I found amusing in places but didn’t care for as much as he did. And one paragraph of his review in particular jumped out at me:

This universal idiocy is why BURN is the ultimate demystification of the spy movie. The genre has depended on the omniscient The Man for at least the 50 years since the scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST where Leo G. Carroll explains George Kaplan to a roomful of spooks. Always, the premise has been that somewhere there’s someone who knows everything. Even in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, where The Man is the baddie, he still provides the omniscient, omnipotent Center for the movie’s universe because he can see anywhere in the world and do anything. The Man is a secular god that we build in order to overthrow (secularism eating its own young as it were). The Coens blessedly are having none of that.

“The Man is a secular god that we build in order to overthrow”. Yeah, that seems like a good place to start. Even when, as in Eagle Eye, the “secular god” in question has the voice of a Woman.

Fireproof — the review’s up!

My review of Fireproof is now up at CT Movies.

Several websites have reported that Fireproof was not screened for critics, and that may be true where the mainstream media are concerned. The distributor did sponsor lots of grassroots screenings, though, and they sent me a screener, possibly because I was writing a few articles on the film in addition to my review.

Incidentally, Nikki Finke and Box Office Mojo report that the film grossed between $2.3 million and $2.6 million yesterday, and it may be on track to gross over $7 million for the weekend, making it one of the top five films this week. That would give it the biggest opening weekend of any independent evangelical film ever, beating the $6.2 million grossed by Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie on its way to a $25.6 million cume in 2002.

Review: Fireproof (dir. Alex Kendrick, 2008)

Two years ago, there was a big controversy when Facing the Giants, an ultra-low-budget movie produced by a church in the Bible Belt, was rated PG, allegedly for its spiritual content. Pundits and politicians railed against the MPAA and its ratings board for its perceived bias against religious themes, and moviegoers rallied to the film’s defense at the box office, making it one of the most successful Christian movies of all time. But as the debate over the movie’s rating subsided, another controversy emerged. Some Christians praised the film for its positive, family-friendly values, while others condemned it as bad art, a bad story badly told that would only encourage the worst artistic instincts of the evangelicals who saw it.

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